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Written by Helen Petty

After a 7 am flight from St. Louis, a six-hour layover in Newark , plus one overnight 10 hour flight to Tel Aviv on the biggest airplane I’ve ever seen we finally made it to Israel! It took some time to get out of the airport because of the new Covid procedures, a PCR test AND a blood serology test, but we were all so happy and grateful to be here. We immediately met our guide Yona and he has quickly become one of my favorite people. His depth of knowledge is incredible.

After a very short time in isolation, we got our negative PCR tests and had our first “real” meal in Israel at Dr. Shakshuka. Every dish was incredible and when I glanced to my left, I realized that Dr. Shakshuka himself was sitting just a table away. Dinner was followed by a walking tour where we learned about the history of Jaffa and saw a lot of cats. Mike was stuck in isolation still waiting for his results, but he and Jen made the best of it with dinner we sent over from Dr. Shakshuka, enjoyed on the rooftop of our hotel.

The next morning after an incredibly delicious Israeli breakfast, we visited a secret ammunition factory from the pre-state era. Hearing about the courage and dedication of such young Jews striving to help in the creation of a state and protect their community was truly inspiring. We then took a short Segway tour (no one was injured!) along beautiful Tel Aviv beach. Lunch was in the vibrant Carmel market. Some of the best pita I’ve ever had! All the fruits and spices were truly a delight for the senses.

Our final activity of the day was a graffiti tour in Florentin. Our guide Aaron actually went to Wash U. Small world! We toured blocks and blocks of incredible and provocative street art and got to hear the story behind many of the pieces. It was truly another side of Tel Aviv and really made me appreciate how multifaceted the city is. That evening, we walked along the port and found a place outside for dinner. I really enjoyed watching so many different people expressing their Judaism in different ways – young orthodox couples out for dinner, families walking the boardwalk, a minyan gathering right outside on the boardwalk for evening prayers and reciting the shema, a group of young school children getting a picture with us, “the tourists”, for a scavenger hunt…the list goes on and on. I can’t believe this was only day 2!