May 24 — Day 1
Current Location: Neve Ilan Hostel, 20 minutes South East of Tel Aviv
My roommates and I woke up at 6:50 am to get dressed and head downstairs for breakfast at our hostel. If you’ve never had an Israeli-style breakfast buffet before, let me set the scene for you: delicious veggies, cucumber feta salads, and all sorts of pastries both sweet and savory are just a few of the highlights of the yummy spread. The delicious breakfast made the early wakeup much easier. After a sun-soaked stretch on the patio of the hostel, we boarded the bus and drove to Tel Aviv (if the Espresso hadn’t woken me up yet the music-playing-energy-filled bus ride certainly did). To start the day, we visited the Coastline and enjoyed the classic markers and sites of Tel Aviv. We walked up Herzl Street while our awesome tour guide, Ronen, taught us all about the history of Tel Aviv and an introduction to the history of Zionism. I found it most interesting to learn about Theodor Herzl and Ahad Ha’am, and their opposing views on the purpose of a Jewish State. I can not eloquently explain the intricacies of their differences, but I found an interesting article on the subject: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10835-010-9119-6?noAccess=true
After a few hours of touring, we were introduced to the 6 AWESOME Israeli peers who have joined our trip! We played a mini speed dating game to get to know one another better. Most members of our trip are ages 20–21, though the total spread of ages is 18–26. It has been so awesome to learn about people’s different backgrounds and unique life paths: nurses, retired pro-athletes, backpackers on a gap year, and more. After getting to know one another better, we headed to downtown Tel Aviv to split off for 3 hours of Tel Aviv exploration time + lunch!
My friends and I decided that we wanted to see the Tel Aviv beach and have lunch on the water, so we hiked a mile over to the coastline. Along the way, we saw delicious fresh fruit stands, beautiful designer shops, and more. We felt very immersed in the city, chatting with locals and seeing downtown life in action. We settled in for lunch at La Mer, a DELICIOUS spot right on the beach! I ordered a roasted eggplant dish which came on a plate of authentic tzatziki and topped with veggies — a 10/10 meal! After lunch, we walked down to the beach and met up with other friends from our trip. It was at this time that we faced a small dilemma: we didn’t have our bathing suits. Despite the attire, I couldn’t resist a dive into the Mediterranean sea. Accompanied by two of my friends, we ran straight into the water for a swim. A group of Israelis were playing volleyball in the water and we asked to join. After a couple of rounds of intense water volleyball, it was time for us to head back to the group.
The next scheduled activity was a “silent disco”. A “silent disco” entails everyone wearing headphones playing music, without the music itself being played out loud. We walked over to the middle of a mall, and I realized this was no ordinary silent disco. There was an activity leader from the company who lead us in dances, and then started to lead us dancing around the mall! We went into the streets and danced and sang all around downtown Tel Aviv. Everyone on the streets loved (and was very confused by) our dancing and singing. This activity was definitely a group favorite.
For dinner, we headed to a shakshuka restaurant and shared a family-style array of all sorts of yummy dishes, from shakshuka to veggie potato salad. We ended off a long, awesome day at the hostel to catch up on some much-needed sleep.
(The picture above is 7 U of M kids on my trip! Go Blue baby!)