Going into Tel Aviv from Jerusalem is like going from Utah to Las Vegas. For such a small country, the two largest cities are night and day: you have the religious, conservative, shops-close-at-six Jerusalem to the East and - just an hour away - you have the liberal, sex-shops-galore Tel-Aviv on the Mediterranean coast.
Being in Israel during Jewish holiday season was not quite like how I pictured it. Rosh Hashana, or the Jewish New Year, basically meant everything in the country would be closed for almost 3 DAYS: busses, trains, restaurants, just about everything came to a halt.

Tel-Aviv was a diamond in the rough though as bars, clubs, and some stuff stayed open. For the most part, it was a good time to take a beach day or two. That is until I realized everybody in Israel decided to do the same thing.
Rules? What rules?
Walking along the coast, I felt like I was in some European city rather than the Middle East. Israel certainly has a European vibe to it, especially its prices. Did I mention I paid $11 for chicken nuggets and fries at McDonalds?
Stuck in the hostel on Jewish New Year, a few of us got together and decided to cook ourselves our own Rosh Hashana Dinner. Not being the greatest cook in the world, I happily contributed some steamed corn. 
We also had a few rooftop parties throughout the new year.
Coincidentally, the next day I ran into Sasha (from the Jerusalem concert) again and his friend Vanya from Germany and we took a day trip to Akko, a fortified crusader-era city on the coast.
Never in my life have I laughed as much as I did hanging out with Sasha. On the train ride back, we grabbed a few beers and I laughed for over three hours - my face was numb.
The next day, we got lost somewhere in northern Israel and, for the first time ever, we tried hitchhiking.
Surprisingly, we were picked up by an awesome Israeli girl, Aizee, who took us to Caesarea - a Roman city named after Julius Caesar. There is no way in the US a young woman would pick up two male hitchhikers!
We climbed the ruins and even took a swim out in the sea. The Mediterranean was actually nice and cool for once.
I took a trip to the Israeli-Lebanon border which, until recently, was pretty dangerous with all the fighting. Today, they have a cable car that takes you to the top of the mountain that both countries claim and protect. It's so odd being in a historically war-plagued place during a time of peace.
The mountain diving the two countries is unique in the sense that it's made of limestone and, as a result of thousands of years of erosion, has grottos (water caves) underneath.
Back in Tel Aviv, it was almost impossible not to be social. The city, after all, is known for its parties and night after night, I ended up in yet another party on the rooftop with a new group of interesting people.
Between crazy nights here and there, I made time to visit the Holy Baha'i Gardens in Haifa - the headquarters of the Baha'i Faith - a religion I had never even heard of.
I also took Sasha's recommendation and took a trip to Masada - a 2000 year old Jewish city on a mountain top - the last one to fall to the Romans in 73 AD.
The story of the city is rather romantic. Masada was the last Jewish city to fall to the Romans after a seige that lasted months. When the Roman soldiers finally broke in, they discovered an empty city as everyone had killed themselves rather than to become Roman slaves. I'm pretty skeptical about the accuracy of the story, but it's certainly heroic to imagine.

The 45-minute climb to the top of Masada is pretty brutal, but after Petra, I felt like I could do anything. I woke up at 4 am and did it right before sunrise. Watching the sun peek through the mountains on the Jordan side of the Dead Sea was remarkably peaceful.
My last few nights were spent hanging out with Mikkel and Martin from Denmark, Damien from South Africa, and Eve from Germany. We drank and smoked shisha just about every night and on the last night, one thing led to another and before I knew it, we were shaving heads by the stairs.
Never did I think I would be partying - or even drinking - on my trip. But when you're in Tel Aviv, I guess you could say that's a part of the sightseeing!
I slowly hitchhiked my way back to the Israeli border via an American guy I met. I can't help but to feel a little sad every time I leave a country and close another chapter in my adventure book. At this point, I can't believe I've blazed through 5 countries already (I do count Palestine). I also can't believe I've met so many people!

I will certainly miss all the good times had in Israel!
Up next, Egypt! This is where the African chapter begins!!
Logan
9/25/2012 01:00:14 pm

met 74 people, that's a lot!
I finally realized Sasha is a guy!
good luck for the coming Egyptian adventure, be aware of unsteady situation over there.

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Sasha
10/5/2012 09:44:27 pm

...yes I'm a guy! :D

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Rachel L.
9/28/2012 09:10:04 am

You took some beautiful pictures :) Glad you're having fun!

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