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This summer I spent 3 great weeks in my home country, Israel. While the original summer plan consisted of visiting Italy for a week and a few other countries, I decided it was finally time to take the plunge and visit my homeland, which I haven’t been to in 2 years.
I also visited Aruba and Curacao earlier in the summer (June) and if you missed those amazing trip please have a look.
Although to some people, not visiting your homeland isn’t a big deal, to me it was. Not seeing my mom, middle sister and all my good friends for 2 years is far too long. You’d be surprised just how much has changed in those 2 years for most of my friends. Many got married and already have a baby. Meanwhile, Miss.Cohen here visited over 30 countries in those 2 years. So it was definitely time to catch up with everyone.
The Struggle is Real…
It’s always such a struggle for me to decide what I want to invest my money on; a new country or going back to a country I was born at and have visited over two dozen times. It was a decision I’ve been going back and forth with for so long but if there is a time to visit Israel, for anyone, it’s during the summer. The entire country comes to life! The beaches are packed, the sun is shining and the streets are busier than ever. There is also great concerts and festivals.
Work Vs. Wants
I probably had planned to go to Israel 6-8 other times in the past 2 years and it just didn’t work out. Last year during the summer I was invited to Sri Lanka. This year, when I thought I was going to go to my good childhood friend’s wedding, I was invited to Aruba by the tourism board in June. So once again I had to change my plans. I then planned to go again at the end of June because I didn’t want to miss Britney Spears performing in Israel but then I got insanely sick. There was always something going on until I literally said F*** it! I’m going NOW! In August, for my birthday. Because really, what better way to spend your birthday than with the ones you love.
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So I booked my flight to Israel on August.9th and in less than 24hrs I was already in Israel. I got there just in time on August.11th at 9:45pm to celebrate my birthday at midnight with my family which was on August.12!
Like always, so last minute, so spontaneous, always trying to make the impossible possible.
I knew if I wasn’t gonna go this summer, I was probably not going for another year and I couldn’t bear the thought of not seeing my mom, sisters and friends for that long.
My mom is pretty amazing, I was so disappointed and sad that she didn’t show up at the airport because I missed her so much and couldn’t wait to see her face. Instead, my baby sister Almog and my middle sister’s boyfriend picked me up (she was at work). When I finally got to my mom’s house, I was so excited and happy! She made me 3 beautiful birthday cakes, lol not just one.
My mom makes cakes for a living, so when your mama loves making cakes for a living you get 3 birthday cakes on your birthday! haha. She also decorated the living room with beautiful balloons and even managed to find balloons that spelled out my name in Hebrew, Hofit. I’m not sure how she had the time to do all of this with less than 24hrs notice, but she’s a magical mom. This was also the reason she didn’t show up at the airport because she was prepping for my birthday, what a cutie.
The next morning she killed me by making a breakfast feast with all my favorite things! Then I headed to Tel Aviv — one of my favorite places in the entire world. My sisters asked me what I wanted to do for my birthday and I said the beach in Tel Aviv. There is no better way to spend your summer Saturday in Israel than by going to the beach. Everyone and their mom goes to the beach on Saturday, it’s packed beyond belief. We also hit up a few cute spots that I loved in Tel Aviv and then had dinner at one of my favorite restaurants.
I always make such big deals about birthdays, but this year, I only cared for the simple things in life. The ones that most people have all year long and I only get to enjoy sporadically.
So what was my plan for the summer in Israel?
I’m not sure that I really had a plan except for spending some quality time with my family, friends and at the beach. I never really get to vacation and do nothing, even when that’s the goal, it never really works out that way because traveling is my job. However, I think Israel is the best vacation spot for me, probably because my goal is different. I’m not running from attraction to attraction. I’m like running from one friend to the next.
Traveling to Israel is so different for me than traveling anywhere else in the world. It’s my home, it’s where most of my friends live, it’s the place I’ve done every attraction there is (almost) and have seen everything a million times.
I almost look at it as a way of recharging my soul’s battery more than anything else. Eating my mom’s food, hanging out with my 2 sisters, catching up and laughing with old friends, remembering where I came from, going back to all my favorite places and reminiscing about good old memories and childhood memories.
What I ended up doing?
Believe it or not, visiting Israel for 3 weeks isn’t that long at all! In fact, it’s probably my second shortest trip, with the exception of visiting 2 years ago to audition for a big TV show in Israel, which lasted a week.
To read that article check out: How Auditioning For A Reality TV Show, Led Me To Making My First Palestinian Friend
Since leaving the country at the age of 8, I always visit Israel for a minimum of 4-5 weeks and sometimes end up even visiting for 2 months, but somehow, that’s still never enough. I can’t explain it for those who haven’t been there but those who have know, you can never get enough.
So I did my norm, went to the Dead Sea, visited my hometown, went to Tel Aviv almost every day, spent alot of time at the beach, went to Caesarea. I attended a red carpet event with one of my good friends. I really wanted to go to Jerusalem but didn’t feel like it was the safest choice because of recent events in Jerusalem, which totally made me sad, but what can you do…
I did get to do a few things I’ve never done before which is always exciting like…
Riding A Camel
For years riding a camel was always on my bucket list and oddly enough it took me 32 years to do it.
I grew up in the desert and for some reason never got a chance to do it. I think when I was younger there were more camels in Israel. On the way to my hometown, Arad, after passing a big city called Beer Sheva there is a 30mins drive to Arad, BUT in between Arad and Beer Sheva for years many bedouins(arabs) lived in the desert in tents. They were always known for owning many camels, goats, horses and sheep. So I’d see them through a car window but we never stopped to see them closely. The Bedouins have changed their old traditions; of living out of their tents and being desert gypsies into actually building real homes and with that, all the camels disappeared throughout the years.
SO on the way to the Dead Sea, I took a route with my friends that I normally don’t take and found them and was so excited! I think the biggest shocker was how high up you are when you’re on top of a camel! I never thought about it or realized it since my entire life I’ve ridden horses. This was high AF!
The camel ride was only 20 shekels which is basically $5 and yay, bucket list item check!
The Ramat Gan Safari Zoo
This was literally mind-blowing to me! I will write a whole article about this place, but as a quick inside. I was randomly invited to a blogger’s event at the Ramat Gan Safari Zoo, which I haven’t been to since I was probably 5-6 years old. Clearly, I remembered nothing from there because the moment I arrived I was completely shocked! In order to get to the actual zoo, you have to drive through a wildlife safari in your own car! I was blown away to all the amazing wildlife there was there. I fell in love with Zebras on a whole new level and well, you just have to watch the vlog to see it all happen BELOW!
I was also fortunate enough to be able to feed wild giraffes which was amazing and super cool! and I got to visit the animal hospital on the property which was really fascinating.
This place was AMAZING and also pretty mind-blowing personally! This was something I’ve been dying to do forever and a half but the only way of getting here is by car.
So what is Mini Israel? It’s a miniature park/theme park but without rides. It’s basically a park with life-size monuments, important buildings and places in Israel but shrunk into life-size models. It’s not insanely small as I thought it would be, it’s actually the perfect size. Anyone who has traveled throughout Israel or grew up there, knows almost all the places in park, including myself. You have famous monuments from Tel Aviv, Hafia, Jerusalem and so much more. They had the airport with planes that actually move, the Western Wall in Jerusalem and gosh I can go on and on.
Walking through the park, just made me realize what an amazing country I have. We have sooo much to offer for anyone who’s looking for anything. We have desert life, city/metropolitan life, beaches, nature, forest, historical monuments, in the winter we even have places that it snows. The place is just amazing and if you’re going to Israel and don’t have time to visit every city, this place will give you a good feel for it all.
I’ll be making a video of this place too. So stay tuned for that.
Overall my summer flew faster than I had expected. I never wanted it to end, but all great things come to an end, sadly. It was amazing seeing all my amazing friends, hanging out with them, visiting all my favorite spots, spending time with my family and doing things that I never did before. I’m not sure when I’ll be back again. My life is almost hectic and so last minute, but at least I got that trip in my soul to last for the next year, I hope. xoxo