Vegan Travel: Nazareth, Israel and the Spectacular Sea of Galilee

Nazareth, Israel; the Jordan River, and the Sea Of Galilee area had always held a special spot in my heart because of their biblical significance. It was such a surreal experience that I actually had the opportunity to visit the region during my recent holidays in the country. During the last full day of my visit to Israel, I did indeed journey to the area. I was excited for the final day tour of my vacation to commence!

As with all of the days of my super busy week, my breakfast meal was one that I had purchased during the prior evening. From the vegan-friendly casual restaurant “Caffe Yaffo” (Caffe Yaffo), I devoured a yummy vegan chocolate ‘finger” sweet treat for my breakfast. It was topped with nuts and a drizzle of sweet syrup.
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When the tour guide picked us up in his bus, we were fortunate enough to drive through the popular beachside roadway. Gordon Beach is one of the most gorgeous, white sand beaches in Tel Aviv; while the adjacent street is lined with a row of beautiful palm trees. Music venues and nice restaurants are located up and down this main thoroughfare.
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As we drove further away from the city, our guide pointed out the many historic and biblical sights along our route. One of first locales that crossed our path was “tel Meggido” (Armaggedon hill) and the “Plains of Armaggedon. While it appears peaceful and even scenic at this point in time, “Book of Revelation” Scripture refers to the “Battle of Armaggedon” taking place during “end times”. Christians believe that Jesus will return to Earth and defeat the anti-Christ here.
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The town of Nazareth was our first stop in the Galilee region. This ancient biblical village is the boyhood home of Jesus. Pilgrims flock here each year to visit sites associated with his childhood period and adult years.
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We first visited the site which is believed to be the childhood home of the Virgin Mary where the angel Gabriel appeared to her with the news that she would conceive Jesus, the son of God. The current building was constructed in 1969 over a destroyed Byzantine and Crusader site. The lower level grotto is believed to be where she lived. The original shrine was built around the 4th century in the cave which was the Virgin Mary’s home. According to Roman Catholic tradition, her Annunciation took place here as well.
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The intricately detailed entrance door of the church depicts many scenes in the life of Christ and his mother.
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The interior of the basilica is a large space with stained glass windows, checkered flooring, pillars bearing cross symbols, and an altar.
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On the left side behind a protective metal fence, is the stone cave where Mary lived. An altar resides in the foreground.
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We headed next to the Church of Saint Joseph. Tradition holds that it is built over the site of Joseph’s carpentry shop. Although no evidence exists to prove this assertion, it is indeed built over a biblical period cave system.
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Ruins of a home and ancient water cisterns in the limestone rock are visibly present.
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Religious gift shops abound in this old biblical town.
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Our guide made a brief stop in the village of Tiberias to allow us some time view the amazing Sea of Galilee from a scenic overlook spot. What a glorious panoramic view it was!
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As we drove through the small town of Kafer Cana, we recall that this was the location of Jesus’s first miracle: the turning of the water into wine at a wedding feast. The exact spot where the mystery took place is unknown. Nonetheless, passing through the town was a heartfelt experience.
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Though our tour group did not make a stop there, our guide pointed out the location of the Mount of Beatitudes through the bus window. The hill is where Jesus preached his inspiring “Sermon on the Mount”. The exact spot is not truly known. However, a site near Tabgha is has been honored for over 1,000 years.
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As we progressed further along our route, the guide also pointed out the spot that is thought to be Mary Magdalene’s home. The area is being excavated near Tiberias by the Sea of Galilee. Archaeologists unearthed the ruins of an ancient village dating back to the time of Christ.
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Our group arrives at Tabgha in mid-morning to visit the Church of the Multiplication on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The church onsite here commemorates Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand with five loaves of bread. The earliest church depicting this miracle was erected around the year 380. Persians destroyed the original Byzantine structure in 614AD. However, excavations in the 1930’s uncovered mosaic floors and the current church is built on this floor plan from the 5th century Byzantine church.
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The floor tiles depict loaves of bread in front of the altar. Original 5th century mosaics occupy the tiled flooring throughout the church.
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A sign is shown honoring the many miracles and biblical events at Tabgha.
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Jesus’s town of Capernaum was next on our day’s agenda. This Sea of Galilee village was Jesus’s home during much of his ministry. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were the apostles living in Capernaum.
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Excavations at the Capernuam site uncovered what is believed to be the home of apostle Peter. A church built above the ruins, honors him.
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A Jewish synagogue dated around the time of Christ was excavated and its walls were revealed. The location of this grand synagogue is likely situated where Jesus first taught his followers! The ruins date several centuries after the time of Christ. However they are situated on what is believed to be the spot of the town’s main synagogue where he would have preached.
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A servant of a centurion was healed by Jesus in this ancient village. The centurion is thought to have built the synagogue that was unearthed here. This where Jesus gave a sermon on the “Bread of life”.
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Our morning tour completed, we were ready for lunch! We were fortunate enough to dine by the shores of the Sea of Galilee. St. Peter’s Restaurant is a spacious venue that offers a buffet-style meal. Many options were available for vegans and confirmed by the staff. I savored a wonderful plate of salads(carrots, corn, cucumbers, sweet potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes, zucchini,), hummus, and the fabulous local pita bread.
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The chef also prepared potatoes cooked in oil for me. Reasonable prices, a tasty variety of vegan food, and an envious seaside view makes this restaurant a must during everyone’s holiday!
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My tummy full with a hearty and scrumptious meal, I was ready to take on the remainder of the day’s itinerary! We drove past additional lovely vistas of the Sea of Galilee on our way to our next stop.
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A welcome sign greeted us upon arrival at the Yardenit site on the Jordan River. This particular location along the Jordan, is believed to be the section of the river where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.
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The narrow and windy lengthy river bore a gorgeous greenish hue. Lush trees, plants, and shubbery bordered its waters.
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I rented a long white robe and immersed myself into the waters to re-affirm my baptism into my Christian faith. I was given a touching and momentous certificate authenticating my re-affirmation of faith.
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Along the banks of the river, a gift shop offers souvenirs such as “Jordan River water”. I purchased a bottle of the sacred waters, along with a refreshing orange juice made with the delectable local oranges.
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Our day tour had concluded with amazing views of the Sea of Galilee as we drove onward back to Tel Aviv.
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Before we left the region, we glanced through our tour bus window and beheld Mount Tabor. The mountain resides in the Jezreel Valley, to the west of the Sea of Galilee. Early church leaders felt that this was the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Noways, it is uncertain whether or not this is the case. However for those who believe so, one is indeed awestruck to actually see this biblical site in person.
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We arrived back in Tel Aviv by evening. I was very fortunate to arrange a get together with one of the top vegan food journalists in Israel: Ori Shavit. She is also a strong supporter of animal rights. Ori created the website “Vegans On Top”, as well as the “Israeli Vegan Dining Guide” (Israeli Vegan Dining Guide). We met up at Nanuchka Restaurant in Tel Aviv. While we were enjoying the meal, Ori mentioned that Israel’s vegan scene has been expanding rapidly over the past four years. Even non-vegan restaurants have vegan offerings. People care about animal rights. Even the suburbs are starting to embrace the vegan lifestyle. Politicians and musicians are getting on the vegan bandwagon as well. Ori even offers vegan cooking classes to local residents.
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Nanushka (Nanuchka Restaurant) is an all-vegan restaurant serving traditional Georgian food. Ori and I sampled several appetizers, while discussing the vegan dining scene across Israel, which has been growing by leaps and bounds! We started with the lavash bread accompanied by tahini spread and olive oil for dipping. This was a superb start to my meal!
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A couple of appetizer trays arrived shortly afterwards. We feasted on Pchalli(seven healthy Georgian salads – spicy eggplant, Badridghani, Charhaly, Mangold, Tetry, Lobio, and Dolma).
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Beet salad with Kamali plum sauce, leaves of beetroot, kolrabi, and green beans with almonds, were all cooked to perfection and presented in an elegant display on a silver platter. The delicious appetizers made me excitedly anticipate the main course which was about to arrive on the table!
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The main entree was a plate of traditional Georgian dumplings. Spinach and Nut Hinkali are stuffed dumplings served with a soy yogurt dipping sauce. I really enjoyed this flavorful, gourmet meal of traditional Georgian cuisine.
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To complete my meal, I ordered Natia, a traditional Georgian dessert. The crepe pastry was filled with walnuts and raisins, and served with sorbet. It was an absolutely delectable treat! My dining experience at Nanuchka was magnificent. This restaurant serves gourmet vegan food at its finest!
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Ori and I next proceeded to Zakaim (Zakaim Restaurant) for some appetizers and side dishes. As we further discussed the expanding vegan dining scene in the country, we selected a few menu items to order. Zakhaim proudly uses locally sourced vegetables. Their decor consists of recycled and second hand items, which give the space an eco-friendly comfortable ambiance. We started with the “Green Bag” appetizer. The small paper bag contained fresh wood sorrel greens with an apple ‘perfume”. Their menu is filled with creative dishes such as this.
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A delectable and savory chickpea mash arrived at our table moments later.
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Next, we enjoyed some okra in a tangy tomato sauce with garlic and hot green pepper. Another tasty winner!
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Our final side dish for the evening was a zesty kale, mango, and almond salad. It was exquisite! Such a great combination of flavors!
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As dinner was winding down, Ori and I enjoyed our discussion on the favorable and exciting vegan dining trend occurring in Israel! I feel appreciative to have spent some quality time meeting with one of Israel’s top food journalists discussing the growing vegan scene in the country.

It was time to call it a night, as I had to catch an early flight back home to the USA the next day. When I arrived at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv the following morning, I noticed a sign in the food court that quickly caught my eye. One of the airport takeaway restaurants offered a “Vegan Israeli Breakfast” on their menu! I was unable to order it however, as they had run out of the main ingredients. For those who are fortunate enough to purchase it, the Israeli breakfast consists of a chickpea omelette, salads, and bread.
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I did purchase the vegan apple pastry that the same restaurant offers. It was a yummy breakfast treat!
applepastry

The first leg of my connecting flight brought me to Leonardo Da Vinci Airport in Rome, Italy. During the brief layover, enough free time gave me a chance to grab some lunch. In the food court, I found a restaurant serving up some Italian specialties. I opted for the gnocchi, with a side of salad. This potato gnocchi entree in tomato sauce was indeed vegan and a really delicious meal!
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A lovely vegan pasta entree was served for dinner that evening aboard my Alitalia flight. A side salad and mixed fruit bowl accompanied the main course.
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During the final leg of my flight, a tasty bowl of fruit was served for an evening snack, along with a small salad.
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Visiting the Holyland of Israel was the “Trip of a Lifetime”! I was so elated to visit the biblical sites that I had studied and read about in Scripture. The beautiful churches, sites associated with Jesus and miracles, ancient ruins, and other sacred destinations created wonderful and poignant memories for me. The pristine and gorgeous waters of the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, and the Tel Aviv beaches are definitely a must-see on any tourist itinerary, as well. The entire region felt so safe and calm, in my experience.

The country has quickly been gaining the reputation of being one of the most vegan-friendly countries in the world. I was impressed by the quantity, quality, and variety of the vegan dining options available. From a vegan cheese shop to a multitude of vegan ice cream shops to incredible local cuisine at vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants, Israel aims to please on the vegan front and does so successfully! A vegan shoe, clothing, and accessories designer “Roni Kantor”(Roni Kantor) also calls Tel Aviv “home”. Her collections are found in vegan shoe stores across the globe, and are also available for purchase online.

I will always cherish my visit to beautiful Israel. Whether you are a devout religious person, a vegan cuisine devotee, or a lover of spectacular beaches and seas, this a country that should most definitely be on your future travel list!

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Vegan Travel: Sightseeing at Masada and Floating in the Dead Sea, Israel

Soothing healing waters. Floating without effort. These are the images that come to mind when thinking about the Dead Sea. On my fifth day vacationing in Israel, that is where my journey led me. The morning began with a chocolate croissant pastry for my breakfast that I had purchased during the prior evening at the vegan Anastasia’s Restaurant (Anastasia’s Restaurant) in Tel Aviv. The flaky pastry with it’s chocolate-y filling tasted fabulous!
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The tour bus arrived promptly at 7am for my day’s tour of Masada and the Dead Sea. We drove past mile after mile of the expansive Judaean Desert. Though the modern highway cuts through the desert making it easy for transportation vehicles, the ancient hills of sand still stand, as they did in biblical times.
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Along the desert road, we spot a local mammal called an “ibex” strolling in groups along rock ledges or greenery. It is common to see them here, munching on desert brush.
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Local fruit trees such as pomegranate or fig are found as well.
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Moving along towards our destination, we begin to catch a glimpse of the stunning Dead Sea through the tour van windows.
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Our guide points out the Qumran Caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found between the years 1946 and 1956. Some of the manuscripts are biblical, while others are non-biblical writings. The religious scrolls play a major significance for both Christians and Jews. They are dated between the mid Second Temple Period (3rd century bce) and before the destruction of the Second Temple(70ce). Mainly made of papyrus, the scrolls were written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and some Greek.
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A closeup of the caves exhibits an opening where archaeologists entered to explore the findings.
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Onward we drove, as we finally began to catch views of Masada from our van.
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We are indeed in the Dead Sea region, as the signage clearly indicates that this is “the lowest place on earth” (elevation-wise that is).
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When we arrived at Masada, our group proceeded to embark onto the gondola ride to the top. Masada is a fortress atop a rock cliff, located at the western edge of the Judean Desert. From within the gondola, I was able to get an upclose look of the peak.
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A panoramic view of the walkway and steps to the fort entrance came into view, as well.
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We were even able to sight the spectacular Dead Sea.
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When our group arrived at the top of the hill, we disembarked from the cable car and proceeded to stroll about the fortress. We steadily climbed up the steps that led to the ancient fortress site. Jospehus Flavius wrote the only account about the Jewish people rising up against the invading Romans. Built by King Herod around 37AD, it was originally a refuge for himself, complete with a palace, storerooms, and water cisterns. He was made King of Judea by the Roman rulers. Around the year 66CE, the Jewish people overthrew the Romans and captured Masada for themselves. During the year 74, the Romans succeeded in breaching the fortress walls. Rather than submitting to the Romans once again, the Jewish people decided to commit suicide instead. Two women went into hiding and thus told their story later to Flavius.
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Original paint still displays its brilliant colors and hues on the fortress walls.
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Walled passageways led us to the fortress storerooms. Two aisles of lengthy halls join to a central corridor in the storeroom complex. A number of jars that had once contained oil, wine, grains, and food have been excavated.
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We next encounter the ancient steps that led up to the isolated palace.
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A glorious view of the Dead Sea we behold from there!
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A few outlines in the earth are spotted overlooking the palace foundation. These markings represent the outline of the Roman base camp.
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I pose for the camera atop the fortress overlooking the stunning sea!
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King Herod’s exquisite palace is found isolated atop the massive hilltop fortress grounds. Several pillars still stand along the perimeter of what was a large room. Elegant terraces for living quarters and entertainment venues comprised the property.
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His circular balcony is mainly intact.
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Local birds enjoyed perching on the fortress walls.
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The palace rooms contained tiled flooring in beautiful multi-color patterns.
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A large bathhouse showcases various baths and a hotroom.
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The bathhouse contains colorful mosaic floors and frescoed walls.
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Lunch time had arrived and we were famished! The Herodian palace and fortress behind us, we made our way towards the cafe restaurant at the base of Masada visitor center. My meal from the buffet consisted of couscous, mixed veggies (zucchini, squash, onions, celery), rice, carrots, and salad. Pita bread accompanied my entree. The cafeteria lunch was quite good.
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As we drove through the region on our way to the spa center, we caught additional glimpses of the magnificent Dead Sea.
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We arrived at the Dead Sea resort in the heat of the afternoon. The warm waters contain minerals and mud that are very calming and therapeutic to the skin. Due to the high concentration of salt, visitors easily float. I enjoyed my time in the salt rich water, soaking in a mud bath of the world’s most abundant source of natural salts. The gift shop onsite offers a vast array of Dead Sea products, such as soaps, moisturizers, and much more. I purchased Dead Sea bath salts and a mud mask.
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Our day tour had thus concluded and we returned back to our starting point in Tel Aviv. My evening began with a visit to Alegria specialty food shop (Alegria). This vegetarian and vegan shops sells vegan cheeses, sauces, cookies and cakes, and other food items such as veggie lasagna. The manager showed me various favors of vegan cheeses to sample, such as gouda and blue cheese. The variety of vegan cheeses was truly impressive! Each one was phenomenal in taste! I highly recommend that vegan travelers to this region make it a point to visit this superb shop.
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Homemade sauces are showcased in refrigerated cases and on shelves.
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Raw cheesecakes made with vegan cheeses are for purchase.
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Raw snacks and sweets are available as well. I purchased a raw goji berry treat for the following day.
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Next on my night’s agenda was a visit to Vaniglia Ice Cream shop (Vaniglia Ice Cream Shop). Several unique and colorful vegan flavors displayed in the glass case.
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I purchased a combo chocolate and mango ice cream in a sugar cone. It was superb!
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For my dinner meal, I dined at Buddha Burgers (Buddha Burgers), a popular vegan burger restaurant in Tel Aviv. I selected the baked cauliflower appetizer mixed with cheesy garlic sauce, the chia burger main entree with sprouted lentils, mung beans, buckwheat, brown rice, and chia on whole wheat bun, with lettuce, tomatoes, and vegan cheese spread with thousand island dressing. My burger was delicious.
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I washed down the meal with a wonderful juice of mango, pineapple, and carrot with parsley.
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Before heading back to my accommodations, I needed to purchase a breakfast food for the following day. I stopped by Caffe Yaffo (Caffe Yaffo) for a take-away option. My purchase was a “Crunchy Chocolate Finger” in a vegan caramel sauce.
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Just as I have been experiencing the entire week, Israel continues to please on the vegan food scene! My day’s tour of Masada and the Dead Sea was superb! Walking back to my hostel for the night, I looked forward to the following day’s tour of Nazareth and the Galilee region.

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Vegan Travel: The Sights and Tastes of Bethlehem and Jericho, Israel

My fourth day in Israel began with a delectable apple crumble for breakfast. I had purchased it the prior evening at Cafe Louise (Cafe Louise) in Tel Aviv. The restaurant offers a few vegan food items on its menu at a reasonable price. They offer healthy cuisine.
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As always, my tour guide from Ben Harim Tours arrived promptly at 7am for a group tour of Bethlehem and Jericho. Our first stop of the day was at the Judaean Desert “sea level” point, along the highway from Tel Aviv to Jericho.
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We passed by the Inn of the Good Samaritan by the highway. It is located near the site of the inn described in the New Testament bible parable. Built in the 19th century by Christians, the site was created for Christian pilgrims to experience the bible story visually. The Good Samaritan, according to the bible, was someone who passed by a wounded man that was robbed on the road to Jericho. The Samaritan bandaged his wounds and brought him to an inn to take care of him.

After our jaunt through the desert, we arrived in the town of Jericho. We continued to drive until we reached “Tell es-Sultan”. This is where the ancient city of Jericho lies. The ancient town can also claim to be the oldest city in the world and the lowest point on earth. A beautiful fountain and its tiled pavement states likewise.
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A couple of peacocks strutted by us, one spreading his gorgeous green-blue plume before our eyes.
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We marched up the dirt steps to the top of the tel(“hill”). From this vantage point, we caught a splendid glimpse of the city below us, while palm trees stand tall in every direction.
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Glancing to our left, we see Mount Temptation, where Christ was tempted by the devil during his 40 days fast.
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A Greek Orthodox monastery clings to the side of the hill. To its right, lies the fortress of King Herod.
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The frame and foundation of ancient Jericho houses are found on the excavated hilltop.
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The ancient city walls have been uncovered as well.
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Heading down the hill, additional Bronze age structures are exhibited.
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We exited the tel excavation site and proceeded to Zacchaeus tree in modern Jericho. According to Scripture, the tax collector Zacchaeus climbed this sycamore tree to see Jesus when he arrived in town. Jesus noticed him in the tree and called him by name and told him that he will visit his home. This visit from Jesus had such an impact on Zacchaeus, that he decided to give half of his wealth to the poor.
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Beside the tree, a vendor sells local nuts. What a nice surprise to find a vegan snack to alleviate my mid-morning hunger pangs!
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We hopped on the tour bus and continued our journey towards Bethlehem. During our drive, we noticed many nomadic Bedouin tribes had erected tents and aluminum frame temporary homes scattered along the main highway in the desert.
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Upon our arrival in Bethlehem, we walked through the arched entrance to our first stop.
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The Church of the Shepherds contains a lustrous grotto representing the angel that appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of Christ. A 7th century bishop visiting there, had noted the burial places of the three shepherds in the church.
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The fields outside of the church are believed to be where the shepherds stood when the angel visited them.
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The lower level church is where the shepherds heard the angel proclaim “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and good will to men” (Luke 2-14). This cave was also the shepherds’ tombs.
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Our group then headed over to the Milk Grotto.
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An Orthodox priest guards the chapel.
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We see the corner section of the lower level where Virgin Mary is said to have nursed baby Jesus. Her milk is said to have flowed onto the cave rocks. Faithful believers take some of the rock powder and place it in their mouths, as it is thought to produce miracles.
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Lunchtime had arrived for us. Our guide had arranged for us to dine at “Christmas Bells Restaurant”(Christmas Bells Restaurant) in Bethlehem. The restaurant offers a huge selection of items with their buffet. Many of the entree and side dishes were indeed vegan. The vegan-savvy waitstaff told me which items were vegan. I feasted on a delicious plate of rice, baked potatoes, carrots, string beans, eggplant salad, cabbage salad, carrot salad, and cauliflower.
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After our tasty and hearty lunch, we passed by Manager Square on the way to the Church of the Nativity. Many Christian pilgrims of the Greek Orthodox, Armenian, and Roman Catholic faiths travel to the famous Manger Square for Christmas Eve celebrations and caroling.
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Constantine and his mother Helena commissioned the Church of the Nativity basilica in 325AD over the site located over the cave where Jesus was born. Byzantine Emperor Justinian built a new basilica in 565AD, after Samaritan revolts had destroyed the original church by fires.The church is currently administered by the Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, and Roman Catholic churches.
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The entrance leads to a huge hallway where we walk through an Orthodox chapel. We then enter the Chapel of the Manger. This is the place where it is thought that Jesus lay in the manager as an infant.
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Following the Manger visit, I proceed to the Grotto of the Nativity. This underground cave beneath the basilica consecrates the site where Jesus was thought to be born. A 14-pointed silver star surrounded by silver lamps, commemorates and reveres the exact spot of his birth. The 14 points represent the 14 generations from Abraham to David, from David to Babylonian captivity, and from captivity to Jesus. As a devout Christian, I especially felt emotional and in awe at this poignant site.
Jesusbornspot

Our group spent some time at a local gift shops to make some purchases and our day tour of Bethlehem had soon after concluded. During our visit to Bethlehem in Palestine, I felt really safe. Nothing I encountered or saw made me feel unsafe or that danger was “in the air”. It was a calm and happy visit. The region seemed quiet and peaceful and everyone was going about their daily business, as usual. We arrived back in Tel Aviv to go our separate ways. I was ready for something to eat, as evening had arrived. My first stop on my vegan food journey was an ice cream shop Capitolina (Jaffa Flea Market, 9 Olei Tzion) in Old Jaffa’s bustling flea market area, near my hostel. I purchased a really superb chocolate and berry ice cream in a sugar cone. The artisan shop uses fresh ingredients from nearby markets.
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A safe and convenient bus ride away, I arrived at the all-vegan Anastasia Restaurant (Anastasia Restaurant) for dinner. The restaurant serves up eclectic and creative dishes in a great atmosphere. Diners may choose to eat outside on their patio, while enjoying the healthy food that the restaurant offers. My entree was a flavorful and delectable Macadamia Crepe with stir-fried vegetables and tofu.that consisted of roasted veggies and tofu in in palm and rice vinegar.
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For my dessert, I selected the vegan tiramasu. This vanilla raw cake with chocolate mousse coconut cream, topped with cashews was absolutely superb!
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There was just one additional vegan food item that I had to purchase at Anastasia Restaurant. I ordered a vegan chocolate croissant pastry as a take-away for my next day’s breakfast.
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Upon arriving back at my hostel, I reminisced about my wonderful day of sightseeing at the incredible biblical sites in Bethlehem and Jericho. I looked forward with anticipation to the following day’s tour of Masada and the Dead Sea.

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Vegan Travel: The Sights and Vegan Food in Old Jerusalem and Tel Aviv

I began my third day in Israel with a scrumptious breakfast that I had purchased the prior night from Village Green (Village Green Restaurant). Chef Onri was kind enough to prepare the sweet and savory treats in advance, due to the fact that my day tour would start before the restaurant opened for breakfast. My delicious breakfast consisted of a carrot spelt muffin and a huge spelt pastry with spinach and homemade cheeses(cashew, almond, soy). I really enjoyed both of these! The spinach bread was accompanied by two sauces: one sweet and one spicy olive tapenade. Absolutely superb! The vegan restaurant offers some wonderful breakfast menu items such as pancakes or scrambled tofu. They also offer burgers, pizza, and quiche on their day menu; and crispy tofu, seitan fingers, and more on their evening menu. A shop within the restaurant sells jams, teas, and various other products.

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Promptly at 7am, my guide arrived and then we were whisked away to the day’s tour of Old Jerusalem. The tour van first made a stop at the Mount of Olives. From a different vantage point than the prior day’s City of David tour, we saw the panoramic view of the Temple Mount, with the shiny gold Dome of the Rock glistening in the sunlight.
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The tour van then proceeded to Old Jerusalem. We arrived at the Lion’s Gate, one of seven gates in the old city walls of Jerusalem, located in the east wall.
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Our first stop was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre within the Christian Quarter of the Old City. This was one of the top sites that I was looking forward to visiting the most and one of my vacation highlights. The site is venerated as Calvary where Jesus was crucified. The church grounds is also thought to be the place where Christ was was buried and resurrected. The last four stations of the cross from the Via Dolorosa path, representing Jesus’ Passion are found in the building. Greek Orthodox of Jerusalem are headquartered here, although the building is controlled by several Christian denominations. During the 2nd century, Roman emperor Hadrian had a temple built here to hide the burial place of Jesus. Christian emperor Constantine, replaced the temple with a church around the year 325.
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A cross lays outside the entrance, depicting Christ’s crucifixion.
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Upon entering the massive church building, visitors first encounter the Stone of Anointing, where Jesus was anointed. According to tradition, this is the spot where Joseph of Arimathea prepared Jesus body for burial.
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Towards the back of the ground level rotunda, a small chapel is found. Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Armenian churches maintain control over it. The two room chapel is believed to hold a portion of the stone that sealed Jesus tomb and the tomb itself.
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The first stone is visible from outside the chapel entrance.
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A stairway leading to Golgatha is located south of the altar. I climbed the steep stairway to the second level. Here I found the site of Jesus’ Crucifixion. The main altar belongs to the Greek Orthodox and it is there that the Rock of Calvary (the 12th Station of the Cross) is found. The rock is visible under a glass covering on both sides of the altar. Faithful visitors may kneel down under the altar, place their hand inside a hole, and touch the rock which is believed to mark the spot where the cross was raised. To the left of the altar is a statue of Virgin Mary which is believed to be the location where Jesus body was removed from the cross and given to his mother.
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My tour group then exited the church after an emotional and profound biblical experience. Our guide led us through a maze of tunnels and passageways of Old Jerusalem’s Christian and Jewish Quarters. A multitude of gift shops line the streets.
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We arrive on the Via Dolorosa. This “Way of Sorrows” street is thought to be the path that Jesus walked as he carried his cross on the way to his crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. Christian pilgrims honor this 600 meter route from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to Antonia Fortress. Nine Stations of the Cross mark this windy path, while five additional ones are located within the church.
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As we make our way through another tunnel to the other side of Old Jerusalem, I notice the yellowish stone houses with their lovely flower covered windows and gardens.
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Our group stops for a lunch break at Panoramic View Cafe(130 Aftemos Market) restaurant that our guide pre-selected. Fortunately, when he inquired about the falafel sandwich ingredients, the staff assured him that it was indeed vegan and fried in separate fryer of vegetable oil. My falafel sandwich topped with salad, in a large pita bread was really good. I washed it down with some orange juice, which is very popular in Israel. Jerusalem is quite vegan-friendly! You also get a spectacular rooftop view of the city.
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From the rooftop dining area where we ate, overlooks a glorious panoramic view of Old Jerusalem.
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Pillars stand among the Roman market ruins in the old city. We strolled through the Byzantine Cardo which was Jerusalem’s main road during the Roman era.
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Crossing through the Zion Gates, we passed the Church of Saint James in the Armenian Quarter.
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Street vendors were selling a tasty assortment of vegan-friendly dried fruits and nuts.
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The old city comes alive with yellowish stone homes and shops, accented with vibrant colorful flowers in the gardens.
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We arrive at the building located over the spot which is believed to have been occupied by the Room of the Last Supper. It is housed on the second level. The lower level is by tradition, thought to be King David’s tomb.
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Our group entered through a side door.
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The current building is thought to be built sometime between the 12th to 14th century. The “Cenacle” (Upper Room) is where Jesus ate his last Passover meal, the disciples feet were washed, Jesus appeared after his resurrection, and where the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples during Pentecost.
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We then wandered down to the Church of the Dormition or “Dormition Abbey”. The original structure was a Byzantine basilica, built by the bishop of Jerusalem in the 5th century. The modern building was erected by architect Heinrich Renard of Cologne, Germany after he discovered the foundation of the war-ravished earlier church. The new foundation was laid in the year 1900. Tradition holds that the Virgin Mary died here. In Orthodoxy and Catholicism, death is referred to as “sleeping”, hence the name “Dormition”. Catholics believe that her body and soul ascended into heaven from here.
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The inside of the church is gorgeous with its icons and religious symbolism.
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Names of disciples are spelled out in the tiled flooring.
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The crypt of the Virgin Mary lies beneath a lower level in the church.
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Our day tour had completed by early evening. However, when we arrived back in Tel Aviv, my night had just begun! I decided to stroll along several of the spectacular coastal beaches, from Jaffa port up to Jerusalem Beach near central Tel Aviv.

Some sections had a wooden boardwalk, while further up the shore, visitors walked on paved pathways.
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Palm trees dotted the skyline, along the way. It was a beautiful and soothing sight!
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Sunset was drawing near during my journey by foot.
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A few of the beaches possessed cabanas for sun-bathers to take a relaxing break.
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The lengthy, white sand beaches gave vacationers a spectacular spot to frolic and enjoy the water’s refreshing touch.
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Finally, the sun had set. Magnificent shades of orange and yellow rays shimmered over the waters.
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After a lengthy walk along the shore, my thoughts turned to dinner. I dined at a restaurant called “Puaa” (Puaa Restaurant) near my Jaffa hostel. One of the specials that night was listed as “I’m Vegan and I like it”. This delicious plate consisted of beets, leeks, black beans, tomatoes, string beans, carrots, and squash.
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Hopping on the local bus made it quite easy for me to go about town during the evenings. After dinner, I went directly to Cafe Louise (Cafe Louise) to pick up a treat for the following morning’s breakfast. My apple crumble selection would fill me up before the next day’s tour would begin.
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Tel Aviv is a mecca for vegan ice cream! This evening, I headed to Leggenda (Leggenda Ice Cream) for this cool summery treat! I chose a cup of fig and lime ice cream. The lime and fig taste were superb!
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I noticed yet another vegan-friendly ice cream shop in the neighborhood! Iceberg(Ben Yehuda St 108) proudly displayed a “vegan” sign on their window.
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I peered inside to check out the expansive variety of vegan flavors.
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It was time to call it a night and get back to my Old Jaffa Hostel. Another day of incredible sightseeing in Israel had been a both and poignant and joyful experience. My longtime dream to see and experience the biblical sites of Jerusalem had come into fruition on this day.
And Israel was continuing to please as a very vegan-friendly country. Upon arrival back to my hostel, I looked forward with anticipation to the following day’s exploration of Bethlehem and Jericho.

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Vegan Travel: Vegan Meals and Biblical Sights in the City Of David – Jerusalem

I awoke bright and early in my Old Jaffa hostel during my first full day in Israel! Since my tour guide would arrive by 7am, there was no time for me to get breakfast at a local restaurant. The seasoned traveler in me understood that it was imperative for me to pick up a breakfast meal option during the previous evening. Thus the prior evening, I had purchased a halwa pastry at vegan-friendly bakery “Piece of Cake” (Piece Of Cake Bakery). The sales staff are familiar with which items are vegan. Some vegan items are on the shelves, while others are kept in the glass display case. My halwa pastry was wonderful! The sweet treat was a nice size portion.

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En route to Jerusalem, our tour guide brought us to an interesting cafe for mid-morning snacks and beverages. The Elvis Inn (Elvis Inn Cafe) is a popular tourist stop. The restaurant offers freshly made sandwiches, beverages, and snacks. The sitting area is surrounded by Elvis Presley memorabilia. I settled on a falafel and hummus sandwich with several toppings(salsa, greens, veggies) in a pita bread. The falafel and hummus were really tasty! The pita bread was amazing: much fluffier and fresher than in our own supermarkets abroad!
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We arrived in Jerusalem within a couple of hours of leaving Tel Aviv and the highway restaurant snack stop. Our guide led us to the top of the Mount Of Olives to experience the panoramic view of Old Jerusalem and what a spectacular view it was! The incredible vista includes the Temple Mount of the Old City. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have roots here. The golden Dome of the Rock is where Jesus was presented as a baby in the temple. Arab tradition states that this commemorates prophet Mohammed’s ascension into paradise. The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism where God’s presence is revealed. The first temple built by King Solomon is thought to have resided here, then demolished by the Babylonians. King Herod re-constructed the Temple. During the Second Temple period, it functioned as an economic center of the city. The Mount is significant to Christians because Jesus spent time in the Temple as a boy, spoke out against corruption of those who used it for their own monetary gain, and prophesied its destruction in the year 70. History holds that it stands between the biblical mountains Mount Moriah (where Abraham almost sacrificed his son Isaiah) and Mount Zion(where the Jebusite fortress was founded). The Jebusites had settled the city prior to the conquest of King David and thus the city was originally known as “Jebus”.
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Moving on from the Mount Of Olives, our group left the tour van and proceeded to walk into the Old City Jerusalem. From a distance, we could see the Church of All Nations. The location is believed to be built over the rock where Jesus prayed in agony before he was betrayed by Judas and arrested, on the night before his crucifixion. The church, completed in 1924, is the third one erected on this site. Adjacent to the church on the foot of the Mount of Olives, is the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus went to pray with his disciples, the night before he was crucified.
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The Church of the Dormition is thought by Christians to be the location where the Virgin Mary “fell asleep”. A Byzantine church built on this site was destroyed by the Persians in AD 614. The current church was constructed in the year 1910.
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Our guide pointed out the Jerusalem Archaeological Park to our right. The exhibit contains a wealth of archaeological artifacts from the period of the first and second temple such as giant stones that fell from the Temple Mount during the destruction of AD 70, the original steps of the 2,000 year old gate, and the Herodian street. Even Bronze Age Canaanite structures are found in the park.
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King David’s Tomb was the next stop on our agenda. His tomb is located on the first level of the building, while the Room of The Last Supper is located on the second level. David is noted for being the second king of Israel and according to Scripture, the Messiah would be descended from him. Christians, Jews, and Muslims rever David and Jesus.
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Outside of the building, stands a golden statue of King David playing an instrument. He was also a distinguished warrior, poet, and musician, who composed many of the psalms.
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We made our way through Old Jerusalem’s Zion Gate into the Jewish Quarter. Winding alleys and narrow streets with white stone facade homes and businesses greeted us with every step.

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Lucky us! A Bar Mitzvah procession was making its way through the streets! Leading the way were the musicians.
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Next, the young man celebrating his Bar Mitzvah walked under a white awning, surrounded by family and friends, some bearing desserts.
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As we wandered through the streets and narrow alleyways, we noticed that many homes and businesses bear a “hamsa”symbol plaque or carving. The outstretched hand symbol signifies protection against evil.
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Remains of prosperous aristocratic and priestly residences are found in the Upper City of Jerusalem. This is where we next visited. Because of its lavishness, it was named the “Herodian Quarter”.
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Original stone walls, tiled floors, and intricately detailed pottery are exhibited, showing the glory of the time period’s aristocratic elegance.
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Burnt fragments of the house roofs are displayed within a glass case. The timeframe is from the destruction of the Second Temple period.
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Another home with clearly defined rooms comes into view at a lower level of the excavated park.
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Quite a few glass cases display pottery, tools, and crafts from the Herodian Quarter period.
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Upon exiting the archaeological park, we strolled by a lovely outdoor cafe in the Old City Jewish neighborhood. A Hasidic Jewish gentleman in traditional attire walks by us.
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Lunch time had arrived for our tour group. Fortunately for me, the Quarter Cafe Restaurant (Quarter Cafe Restaurant) where our tour guide brought us for lunch was vegan-friendly. Diners select items from a cafeteria-style buffet. Prices are reasonable. The manager at the restaurant was very familiar with the vegan diet requirements. I feasted on falafel, homemmade Jerusalem hummus with whole chickpeas, tabouli salad, Israeli salad with tahini, carrot and sesame salad, cabbage salad, and wheat bread. A refreshing strawberry, banana, and apple juice accompanied my meal. My vegan lunch meal was really delicious! Nothing beats fresh, homemade food in its region of origin! The Jerusalem hummus version consists of whole chickpeas on top. Another plus was that the dining area overlooked a breathtaking view of the Temple Mount!
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After a hearty and tasty meal, we headed to our next destination. The Wailing Wall is a small part of the western portion of the walls surrounding the Temple Mount. This western segment of the wall is the holiest site in Judaism, outside of the Temple Mount itself. King Herod The Great is believed to have built it. Jews come here to pray.
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Religious Jews and tourists alike leave prayer notes in the wall crevices.
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The excitement was building as we headed towards our next destination! Our group arrived at the gates of the much anticipated “City Of David” underground tour in Old Jerusalem. King David left Hebron about 3,000 years ago to arrive at Jerusalem.
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Excavations have uncovered what is believed to be King David’s palace. Several rooms of various sizes were found.
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What appears to be a column from his palace, has also been found during excavation.
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On the hill outside, remains of period homes are visibly apparent.
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To the lower right side of this two story stone home, one notices an ancient toilet.
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Pomegranate trees still bear fruit here, as they did all those centuries ago.
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A sign notifies us that we are about to encounter Hezekiah’s Tunnel as we progress further below ground level.
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We descend down into the underground City Of David on a narrow stairway.
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We encounter multiple cave rooms and tunnels. Eventually we arrive at a darkened small nook with flowing water. We have reached Gihon’s Spring! This was Jerusalem’s main water source for over 1,000 years. King Hezekiah’s 2,700 year old water tunnel was an impressive accomplishment.
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We exited the massive underground city and headed back to our point of origin in Tel Aviv, as our day’s sightseeing tour had now concluded.
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My day was far from done! The evening was beckoning me to explore Old Jaffa Port and then proceed to central Tel Aviv for more vegan food encounters! First up was a local juice cafe in Jaffa. “Juicy” (in the Jaffa Flea Market area) displays colorful and plentiful fruit selections. I opted for a smoothie with mango, melon, pineapples, and dates with soymilk. It was wonderful.
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The Old Jaffa Flea Market is a popular activity for locals and tourists alike. Antique shops, art galleries, clothing and jewelry boutiques and cafes line several of the neighborhood streets.
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On Jaffa’s main street a clock tower proudly stands, surrounded by shops and restaurants. The tower was built in the early 20th century to commemorate the silver jubilee of Ottoman Sultan Abd al-Hamid II’s reign.
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I proceeded to make my way towards the oldest and most historic neighborhood of Old Jaffa, making a brief stop at the stunning beach. Speaking of Jaffa’s port location, Every child knows the bible story of “Jonah and the whale”. This one of the reasons for which Jaffa is recognized.
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One of the first landmarks that presents itself in Old Jaffa is St. Peter’s Church. The towering brick facade and belfry makes this the largest and most unique structure in Jaffa. The church was built here because of Jaffa’s significance in the bible. Saint Peter raised Tabitha (one of Christ’s followers) from the dead in Jaffa. Thus the church is dedicated to him.
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I encountered a labyrinth of biblical period stone walkways and alleyways before me.
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Finally, I found what I was seeking in earnest; the house of Simon The Tanner! Apostle Peter was staying at Simon’s house in Jaffa and received a prophetic vision to preach to the gentiles.
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I continued to meander through additional lovely stone passageways.
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From an overlook vantagepoint, I gazed upon Adromeda’s rock to my furthest left. Mythology claims that Andromeda was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to a sea monster, but was saved by Perseus.
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Evening was turning into night as I headed back to the “newer” neighborhoods of Jaffa. The beach with its skyline yet again looked beautiful in the glow of the lit buildings.
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Thanks to outstanding public transportation, it was convenient and cost-effective for me to take a city bus into central Tel Aviv for dinner. Restaurant dining for dinner meals seem to occur at a late hour in Israel. It is not uncommon to find diners eating between 10pm and midnight. Taste of life (Taste Of Life Restaurant) is a vegan restaurant offering organic, homemade, natural, low sodium meals by the Hebrew Israeli community. The meal prices are quite reasonable. Menu items include comfort foods such as pastas, veggie burgers, quiche, and stir fries.
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On Thursday evening, jazz musicians perform. This evening that I visited, a gentleman was playing soft jazz on the keyboards.
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My vegan dinner entree was the potato casserole with soy cheese , potatoes, and dried dill; with a small salad. I really enjoyed each flavorful bite!
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A chocolate and vanilla shortbread cookie was my dessert of choice. This tasty treat satisfied my sweet tooth cravings!
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Before going back to the hostel, I had to make one more stop. The staff of Village Green Restaurant(Village Green Restaurant) had kindly offered to prepare a couple of breakfast items for me, so that I would have something for to eat prior to the next day’s early morning tour pickup time. The restaurant had asked me to arrive by 10pm to pick up my pastries. The all vegan restaurant is a popular breakfast spot. I purchased a carrot muffin and savory spinach and cashew cheese pastry with two spicy sauces for my next day’s breakfast.

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What an exciting first full day I had in Israel! I enjoyed my tour of the underground excavations at the City of David; Old Jerusalem’s Jewish, Muslim, and Armenian Quarters, the Christian biblical sites, the Wailing Wall, and my time exploring Old Jaffa. Israeli’s fairly recent declaration of vegan-friendliness was definitely living up to its reputation! I called it a night and waited in eager anticipation for the following day’s tour of Christian biblical sites in Old Jerusalem and more vegan-friendly dining!

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