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  • Writer's pictureManuela Lenoci

Terra Santa trip: 4 days between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

Holy city of all monotheistic religions the first. Modern city full of culture, entertainment and nightlife the second. The two faces of the holy land between modernity and tradition

I had purchased flights to go to Tel Aviv on New Year's Eve 2021. Unfortunately due to Covid-19 restrictions I was forced to postpone albeit reluctantly. As soon as Israel reopened its doors to vaccinated foreign tourists, I got on the first flight to discover this country.

That Israel is one of the most historically controversial nations that has ever existed is known by now to everyone. It is the birthplace of the 3 great monotheistic religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, which have influenced world history.

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What few people know, however, is that there is a strong connection between this land and Apulia, born many years earlier, when in order to fulfill the Aliya Bet, literally "the ascent," the journey of the Jews to the Promised Land, the first ship departed from the port of Monopoli, in the province of Bari, Apulia, on August 21, 1945.

It was the Dalin led by Enrico Levi from Padova, and it housed 37 Jews on board. There were more than 21,000, over the course of three years, who made the voyage of hope in 56 boats that sailed to Europe (loaded with Jewish survivors of Nazi extermination).

A detail that of the city of Monopoli, my town, the one in which I grew up, which struck me quite a bit and which I learned about during the opening of an exhibition at the Jewish Museum - Jewish Museum Lecce curated by Fiammetta Martegani (curator of the museum Eretz Israel, Tel Aviv) From the Mainland to the Promised Land: Aliya Bet from Italy to Israel" .

If you have not been there yet, I recommend you visit the Museum. It is located inside a medieval building with a late Renaissance and Baroque appearance, on the site where the 15th-century synagogue once stood, in the center of Lecce's old Jewish quarter

Connections with Tel Aviv

We planned our trip at the end of May departing from Bari, finding among the Ryanair offers a flight at 89 euros roundtrip to Tel Aviv (Tuesday, May 24, 2022 3:15 p.m. - Saturday

May 28, 1835 ).

In aereo:

Ryanair is the only low-cost airline that operates flights to and from Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport twice a week. Flights are currently scheduled only from Bari departing on Tuesdays at 15:35 and Saturdays at 13:45. The flight takes 3h providing for 1h time difference. Tel Aviv District is 1h ahead of Italy.

Useful Information.

The official currency in Jerusalem is the Israeli Shekel. Euros are accepted everywhere, you can also pay conveniently by credit card. The only places where you have to pay in local currency are museums or archaeological sites, but even there in many you can pay with a credit card. Tel Aviv is one of the most expensive cities in the world.

First stop Jerusalem

As soon as we landed in Tel Aviv we rented a car to get to Jerusalem, which is 40 minutes from the airport.

Those who come to the Terra Promessa come to see the Holy Sepulchre, the Stations of the Cross, the neighborhoods of Jerusalem, Galilee, the Dead Sea, the desert, Tel Aviv, in short, dream like me, to know this land by following the traces left by Jesus, retracing the places of his Passion, death and Resurrection.

Immediately afterwards people discover the gastronomic offerings is a good reason to appreciate the Holy Land even more. Here the word kosher is definitely at home. (It means "suitable"). My first contact with the city of Jerusalem was precisely with Kosher cuisine, having just landed just before dinnertime. We asked for a table at the restaurant and were asked whether we were observant or not (Kosher?).

In the restaurants there are areas dedicated to kosher and those dedicated to non-observant.

Falafel, hummus, ptitim (Israeli couscous), pita, tahina, sabish, shakshuka, burekas, halva recipes and offerings similar to those in Arab countries only they are prepared according to the religious rules of observant Jews.

Rabbis, prelates and Catholics like to frequent the kosher restaurant where each recipe is a "modern interpretation of biblical dishes" (cit Corriere della Sera).

We dined the first night at Cafe Rimon in Jerusalem, appreciating all the specialties this cuisine could offer us.

Jerusalem by night was soon after the real discovery. The Capital of Israel over the years has become a city where nightlife entertainment is possible. It has westernized, becoming in some respects, much more modern than some of the better known Western cities.

Clubs and bars are open late into the night.

We for example sipped good wine while chatting with some Americans we met that evening at a bar near our Ibis Style Jerusalem City Center hotel

The bar was a very small but cute little place, and it had struck me that it opened from midnight until 6 am.

discovering Jerusalem

The next morning we ventured out to discover this Land by entering the Old City of Jerusalem through one of its 8 gates, Jaffa Gate, the most famous. It is the only access available in the western part of the walls; these walls have protected the city for more than 2,000 years and are 12 m high.

In the past this gate gave Jewish and Christian pilgrims access to Jerusalem, but today it gives access to the Arab market (suq) in the Muslim quarter, and always from here we set out to discover the holy sites.

Via Dolorosa

I still can't believe I walked this Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.

It is better known as the Way of the Cross, marking the path that Jesus Christ followed from his condemnation to his crucifixion.

Photo credit:

With map in hand we walked through it all stopping at the most important stations.

There are 14 total, only that the first "nine Stations of the Cross" are located on the street, outside. While the remaining five are located inside the Holy Sepulcher, All together, they symbolize the key moments of Christ's Passion.

Walking through it all, we passed through every corner, even the smallest corner of the old city.

Chiesa del Santo Sepolcro

We reached it by following the route of the Via Dolorosa, since the last five stations are located right inside it, The Basilica is always crowded with pilgrims and tourists.

Unlike other places of worship, there are no metal detectors or controls of any kind and especially no places forbidden to non-Christians. It is the most important church in Christendom, and even if you are not a practicing believer or churchgoer, it leaves you stunned and intoxicated with multiple positive feelings.

The Stone of Unction, also known as the Stone of Anointing.

Immediately visible at the entrance of the Basilica is the Anointing Stone: a stone slab where millions of the faithful commemorate the moment when hrist’ body was laid down after being removed from the crucifix and prepared for burial.

I was excited and also knelt down to touch the slab with my hands.

Even now I feel dazed thinking to the emotion I felt at that moment.

I looked around and witnessed disarming acts of faith, especially in that Covid period (May 2022) when touching until recently had been a crime.

Coinciding with the first weekend when Israel was open to tourism, it seemed to me as if the world had stopped before Covid.

I saw believers sprinkling aromatic oils on the stone and laying their hands and any other kind of object on it and I repeated the same gestures together with them in respect for the sacredness of the place where Jesus' body was laid and anointed for burial.

The Holy Sepulcher

At some point you come to the circular structure that surrounds the Holy Sepulcher: The Aedicule of the Holy Sepulcher or the Rotunda. (14th Station)

I waited in line for an hour to get in and it was forbidden to take pictures.

This is also the conclusion of the Via Dolorosa, with the 14th station - The body of Jesus is placed in the tomb. An empty tomb. Humble. Dark. I wept before it.

Calvary or Golgotha

It is reached by going upstairs down flights of stairs.

I didn't immediately understand what it was, then asking people in line I understood that I was at the site of Jesus' crucifixion If we imagine the movies they show us on TV or in the cinema during Easter or Christmas, everything is completely different

Golgotha, the famous calvary hill where Jesus was crucified, and later resources became Imposing and lofty, far from the common stereotype of crosses with Jesus and the two thieves.

An altar, like a fireplace, under which hidden by gold candelabra is a pit.

There, underneath, was the cross of Jesus (12th and 12th stations). I touched it.

Western Wall or Wailing Wall

Before arriving in Jerusalem I imagined that the Wailing Wall was the most famous attraction to see . This is indeed the holiest site in Judaism and the true spiritual center of the Jewish people.

Separate entrances for men and women, metal detectors at the entrance, the area dedicated to women was crowded yet I managed to get in and make my way through a crowd of praying women, aloud eager to touch the wall or deposit a prayer.

It is truly imposing and is 488 meters long and 19 meters high,

The wall is what remains of the ancient Temple of Solomon, destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. during the siege of Jerusalem. Every year it attracts thousands of worshippers who come here to pray, or simply meditate with their foreheads resting against the wall.

A magical but very simple place. Prayed. Touched with hand and forehead.

Yehuda Market

Often called the "Shuk," market in Israel. It is a short walk from Jaffa Street and offers a huge assortment of produce as well as being really frequented by people of many different ethnicities. We were enchanted by a smoothie made with freshly squeezed fruit, taken after a long day out walking around. It cost like 30 shekels (just over 10 euros) a glass. It is absolutely worth going there, for the incredible colors and spices you can find.

eating and sleeping in Jerusalem

We stayed two nights at from Ibis Style Jerusalem City Center.

However, if you can find a place, I recommend sleeping here Casa Nova as well.

We dined the first night at Cafe Rimon and the second at one of the best street food in the area where really, we found the best falafel at Ben Sira Hummus

Second stage Bethlehem - Nativity

In the West Bank region is the Palestinian city of Bethlehem.

In these 4 days of "Israel express" we also went for around trip day tour of Palestine.

It is only 10 kilometers from Jerusalem but you need a passport to visit, by passing the "check points" with armed soldiers on both sides of the borders.

This is the most curious and contradictory thing about this trip.

We took more than two hours to get out of Bethlehem. For no apparent reason they had closed the checkpoint and we could no longer exit through the only access we knew.

After an hour of wandering around by car, we got in the wake of a tour bus. A true act of faith! Behind it we went through the whole city, got stuck in traffic, but then we made it.

In Bethlehem, the monument that attracts the attention of pilgrims and visitors is the Church of the Nativity, built over the famous Bethlehem cave where, according to the Bible, Jesus was born.

We rented a car and we chose to travel to the Palestinian tow by ourserlves.

The best way to get to Bethlehem from Jerusalem is by cab ( not all cabs are allowed to cross the border, so it is best to ask the driver before boarding) or by purchasing an organized excursion to Jerusalem. (I suggest to contact Judith from Secret Gardens, she is amazing)

Another thing you cannot miss is the Graffiti drawn Wall (8 meters high) that marks the border between Israel and Palestine. The graffiti painted on it refers to freedom and the absence of freedom and the relationship between Israel and Palestine. There is also graffiti by Banksy.


After leaving Bethlehem, we went toward the Dead Sea.

I dreamed of bathing in these waters and jumped in after almost 2½ hours in the car to get there.

The Dead Sea is a unique place in the world, famous for its natural properties. You float in this sea. You can't even hinder the floating process., it just makes you stay afloat without any difficulty.

You can even read a book while floating. Its waters are the saltiest in the world.

I imagined it to be an overwhelmingly beautiful place, but then seeing it I realized that it is worth the experience that makes you do more than anything else besides the colors of the sunset.

It is located between Israel, the West Bank and Jordan. The Jordan River is the only source of water for the Dead Sea. It is a salty sea. It contains 30 percent, of salt so there are no signs of life in and near its waters: plants, fish or microorganisms, as is immediately perceived by the nonexistent vegetation around it.

About the Dead Sea: it is 70 kilometers long and is located in a large depression about 420 meters below sea level, a depth that has earned it the record for being the lowest place on Earth.

Grand final in Tel Aviv

Moving from the Dead Sea to Tel Aviv (in just under 3h drive) we saw the landscape and lifestyle change dramatically. I honestly did not think before we left that Tel Aviv could be so alive and fashionable. In fact peop'le says "In Jerusalem you Pray, Tel Aviv you Play." We arrived on Thursday evening. the day before Shabbat "the rest" which begins with sunset on Friday and ends with sunset on Saturday. We stayed in a sea view Selina Beach Hotel downtown. When we arrived, traffic was at a standstill and there were really a lot of people on the streets and in the clubs. It seemed like it was New Year's Eve because of how many people were out having fun. Tel Aviv is a multiethnic destination, I will tell you then what things I did in two days .

The climate is Mediterranean and pleasant all year round. We stayed in May therefore the temperatures were perfect. I therefore recommend visiting in the spring or around September/October.

Lungomare & spiagge

Tel Aviv's waterfront is one of the longest in the world and is in the city.

We like the sea therefore this area had seemed the best place from which to explore the city. In fact, this is where most of the metropolitan life takes place.

We walked most of the waterfront to Yaffa (the must-see market) and slept in the grass, under the shade of a tree. Really relaxing and great.

For lunch and sea bathing we stayed at Banana Beach.

Very central and well attended.

The food great as always. In addition to the Falafel and typical local salad, I discovered a fantastic culinary combination, Watermelon and Greek feta, which I have also repurposed in Puglia during my dinners.

For dinner we went to Port Said, also Yafo area, the trendiest tapas bar in Tel Aviv. We went back there twice. The atmosphere is fantastic. Accomplice to the weather and the friendliness of the bar tenders, we eat outside, on the tables under the porches , but often also on the steps next to the bar with great background music.

Giaffa o Yafo

Jaffa (Yafo in Hebrew) the old City of Tel Aviv but also its most historic neighborhood.

This is where I spent most of my time during the very short stay in Tel Aviv (in fact we promised to return soon).

The old city is filled with many alleys and Ottoman houses. It is populated by so many artists and is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Tel Aviv. Take a walk through the Hapishpeshim souk (the marketplace) and visit the Franciscan Church of St. Peter, where Napoleon is suspected to have stayed after taking the city.

At lunch at Yafo's the next day, I met fellow journalist Fiammetta Martegani (curator of the Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv). She is from Milan but has lived in Tel Aviv for 12 years

We met in Puglia and we get soon in connection. We are both lovers of good food (Apulian and international). Local Italians consider her the coolest party queen in the area, I let her guide us on a tour of the city and to taste one of the best Hummus in Tel Aviv.

We met at Shimon the Soup King. In the heart of Yafo a Lebanese restaurant frequented mainly by locals. In short an authentic experience .hummus , falafel and pita fabulous.

Among nice places to eat I also suggest Romano house, they say it is one of the best pizza in Tel Aviv. And for a taste of Italy a good coffee to drink at TAMATI COFFE.

Also to sip on the street

Small tips: Tel Aviv is so expensive

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Welcome to my world

I am an Apulian journalist, 

A little travel, a little fashion and a little FoodLover, this blog is definitely full of many contents that talk about my thousand adventures in Puglia and its surroundings.

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