After 2 flights, 15 hours in the air and little to no sleep, we arrived in Tel Aviv, jet-lagged but still excited and grateful to be making this trip. To best adjust to the 8 hour time difference, our group starting touring straight from the airport. First stop, Sarona Gardens and Market.
The first to settle in Sarona Gardens were German Christians in 1871. in 2015, the trendy Sarona Market opened. At 8,700 square meters with 91 shops and restaurants, it is Israel's largest indoor culinary complex. .
Another thing I couldn’t help but notice in this lovely garden - wild parakeets! But as I learned, these Ring-Necked Parakeets are actually an aggressive invasive species!
One last stop on our way to the hotel - Rabin Square and the Ytzhak Rabin Memorial - so named as this was the spot where former Prime Minister Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated on November 4, 1995.
I barely remember our dinner, at this point going nearly 30 hours without sleep, except that it was delicious traditional Middle Eastern cuisine!
Fortunately we got a solid 9 hours of sleep and began our first full day refreshed and ready to take on Tel Aviv and Jaffa.
Our first stop Friday morning was the Ayalon Institute - a secret bullet factory that operated between 1945 and 1948. Now it's a museum!
Even though Israel was still under British rule, a top secret underground plant was built at Kibbutzim Hill, 13 feet below the Kibbutz (a community farm).
Our guide explained how the laundry room hid not only the secret entrance but the noise from the factory below!
The bakery had a larger hidden entrance beneath the oven to move equipment!
During the first few weeks of the Israeli War of Independence, the only ammunition used came from the secret factory - in total, more than two million bullets were manufactured over 3 years until Israel gained statehood in 1948. In 1987, the factory was turned into a museum, keeping many original structures.
Our next stop, the ancient port city of Old Jaffa. Here we admired the the architecture, archeological sites (there are more than 35,000 in the entire state of Israel!), and the delicious Middle Eastern cuisine.
As if that weren't enough, we spent an hour at the Nachlat Binyamin Market, admiring the lovely handcrafted art - yes, Sara bought the dreidel!
Friday night is Shabbat (the sabbath observance). We spent it at an outdoor service in the park in the lovely community of Ra'anana, along with the community members of Kehillat Ra'anana - one of less than 3 dozen reform congregations in the country.
As we made our way back to the hotel we were beckoned by the urge to splurge - with gelato so sinfully rich, it was was a delightfully decadent way to wrap things up. Thankfully tomorrow will be a lazy day at the beach!