Blog Entry

My brief time in Israel

June 2022

Diane Byrnes is the CEO of Freedom Tours NW Inc and an avid traveler; she has visited fifty-five different countries and maintains her sense of adventure and curiosity by exploring the world. Most recently she traveled to Israel, a historic and influential portion of the world. This area nurtured some of the earliest known civilizations and helped develop some of the most pivotal innovations such as writing, the wheel, and agriculture. Diane returned from her trip excited and willing to share stories about her trip.

The following paragraphs contain information gathered from an interview with Diane. During the interview, Diane expressed her delight with the experience and hopes to be able to offer the tour in the future with Freedom Tours NW. She invites anyone to join her if this is something that they would enjoy. We are taking feedback from our customers; we want to know if a trip to Israel would be an exciting journey to offer in the future.

The tour spanned nine days while visiting over five different cities. The most impressive locations and experiences during her free time are the subject of the interview and the aim of her future tour ambitions. The first location was Capernaum, the experience was memorable because she was able to feel the freedom of rowing in open waters and reflect on the historic importance of the location which truly made this a one-of-a-kind experience. Following Capernaum was Masada, located on top of a mesa. The site is widely known for holding the last point of resistance after the fall of Jerusalem. After visiting this site, the Dead Sea followed; a place known for containing more salt than the ocean. The novelty of the Dead Sea lies in its breathtaking landscape a of barren desert, and vast empty sea. Lastly, her experiences during her free time which includes dinning, exploring, and purchasing souvenirs.

The sun rose at 7:22 am on Saturday, February 12th. The morning was described as a typical cloudy winter Washington day, with a high temperature of 55. Our local Washington environment would prove to be a stark contrast to Tel Aviv. The temperature that day was described as similar, however, an increase in sunlight was apparent and welcomed.

After leaving the airport she was transported via charter bus to an incredibly historic hotel named the Sea of Galilee with over 600 years of operation. The view from the hotel allowed guest to soak in the beauty of the sun rise and sun set over the Sea of Galilee.

On a typical day, Diane recalls waking up to an inspirational view of the sea of Galilee. Breakfast was taken care of within the hotel at 6:30 AM, followed by a new activity with approximately 5 – 6 miles of walking. She revealed that when it comes to recreating her experience, she would reduce the amount of walking considerably and begin the day later in the morning.

On Tuesday, February 15th, Diane visited the first stop on our list, Capernaum. Capernaum is an ancient city on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. During the first century, the town was one of the main trading villages in the Gennesaret area, recognized as a vibrant and prosperous part of Palestine. During this period, it is estimated that it was home to approximately 1500 people. Today, Capernaum is mostly recognized as a biblical village, located in what is now Kfar Nahum where the town attracts thousand with its renown history and claim of being Jesus’ second home during a period of his life.

Diane spoke about this stop with great elation, she recalled that Tuesday the 15th was a clear and beautiful day, the temperature was not extreme in any way, maybe 50 degrees as she recalls. The environment that morning over the sea was calm and welcoming. The guide explained that the breeze could be avoided in the morning, thus making it the best time for sailing and rowing. Soon after arriving, a calming and relaxing boat ride was waiting for her and other visitors. During this time, she mentions that all guests had time to reflect on just how historic their morning routine was. It is widely known that this sea is where Jesus was said to be able to walk on water. She reminisced on how truly unforgettable this experience had been for her.

Following Capernaum was Masada, a location which contains ruins that are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Masada is an ancient mountaintop fortress; this fortress represents historically the last stand against the Roman empire after Jerusalem fell in 70 CE. Masada’s location is in the southwest coast of the Dead Sea, located 1,424 feet above sea level. An archaeological excavation took place during 1963 - 65 which revealed the entire mountaintop and allowed others to excavate and discover palaces, storehouses, roman camps, a synagogue, and ritual baths.

Diane recalled that arriving to Masada from her hotel took a short 45-minute drive south. Once there, she was greeted by an amazing view of ruins on top of a mountain. A gondola is utilized to transport passengers, providing all visitors with a breathtaking view to the summit. Visitors can walk around and view the juxtaposition of the ruins and the surrounding geological environment. Once at the summit, walking and exploring is encouraged. Guests can view ruins and walls that are about waist high, bath areas, kitchen areas, and a large mansion. As far as merchants at the top, there was none. She explained that absolutely no selling of anything was allowed as it was all left behind at the bottom in the gift shop.

Our last stop in the interview was the Dead Sea. The dead sea is known for being one of the saltiest lakes in the world, containing roughly eight times more salt than most seawater. The only organisms resilient enough to inhabit its waters are bacteria and fungi. However, this sea is a hidden gem as its inhospitable waters expose the beauty of colors found in the surrounding environment.

Diane described water like nowhere else, a water where one could swim without worries of underwater predators or drowning. The sea appeared to be a veil of blue that contrasted beautifully with the surrounding desert. She explained that the density of the water is so different from other waters she had visited in the past. The surrounding beach was described by her as empty of street vendors, the only visible area where souvenirs could be purchased were found in shops from far away buildings. As Diane described the area further, she deeply appreciated the beauty and decided that this location is a must visit when exploring Israel.

Her free time during the trip was spent exploring the area, taking notice of small details during her walks such as the similarities Israeli streets shared with Egyptian streets. I asked her about traveling via public transportation, she explained that public transportation was available and relatively easy to navigate as a language barrier did not exist, making reading bus routes possible. However, she preferred walking when on her own and during the main events, sites were too far to use local buses.

On one occasion, during her free time, she walked and explored the city in search of interesting souvenirs until coming across a vendor that had beautiful coin purses for sale. Experience has taught her to negotiate with vendors as they tend to increase their prices on tourists. The vendor explained that the asking price was ten dollars, so she proceeded to negotiate for a better price. A back-and-forth exchange between her and the vendor took place until they finally settled on a fair value.

Experiencing Israel came along with trying novel foods as well. When asked about cuisine, Diane responded “there was no pork, little beef, and we only ate meat maybe twice. A little bit of chicken was served on occasion. Fried egg plant, fresh bread, and spices were always welcomed and good. In fact, they did a lot of spices, their food was not bland, not one bit. Also, a lot of people purchased coffee; they even went to special places to the buy coffee. Lastly, I notice that they have more varieties of olives and dates than anywhere else.”

The plans for a tour back to Israel is on the table. A few aspects of her tour would be different, and others would stay the same. The conversation of adding more American dishes to the tour was mentioned, as her experience of the food was good, but having familiarity occasionally would have made it better. This and other things would be modified but it all depends on the interest we receive from our customers was her opinion on the matter.

If you’ve enjoyed reading about her experiences and would like to participate in helping us decide whether a visit to this this beautiful and historic region should be planned, we are happy to take your input. With your help, we could begin gathering information about possible interest which would lead to us constructing a tour to this historic part of the world. Please send us an email or give us a call with your feedback, thank you so much for your time and we hope to see you soon.