I love this place! After a previous Israel tour program, I extended my stay to continue volunteering in Israel for the Jerusalem Hostel Marketing and Travel Internship. While I was there, I found out that they were voted the 8th Best Large Hostel in the world, according to the Hostelworld.com 2013 hostel awards. With this amazing hostel as my home-base for traveling in Israel, I was able to meet tons of other travelers and do more than I ever expected.
The Old City of Jerusalem is 10 minutes away via a pleasant ride on the light rail or about a 15 minute walk. The vibe in this city is unbelievable. As an atheist American traveler, I was skeptical if I would feel any connection to Jerusalem at all. But, I totally did! Now, I miss this place and I want to go back.
One of the wonderful staff volunteers had her 30th birthday at the hostel. The chef baked a chocolate cake and we celebrated in the lounge. We sang to her and got someone to take this nice photo of us with my camera. That’s me in the back left.
One of the hostel’s events is a Jerusalem pub crawl. Who knew Jerusalem had any kind of nightlife? Sober or drunk, the pub crawl was a great taste of Jerusalem by night. As a staff volunteer, I got to attend for free.
The weather in Jerusalem in February is perfect. The Mt. of Olives has, in my opinion, the best view of the Old City of Jerusalem from above. When I was feeling like going for a walk in the morning, I would frequent the Mt. of Olives. It was really cool to also take the free tour because I could get a clue about what I was looking at.
The Dead Sea is the lowest point of land on Earth. It’s actually below sea level. As a result, the water is very salty because the minerals don’t have any place to flow. The minerals in the water are good for your skin. We rubbed the mud all over ourselves and then we rinsed in the sea. It left our skin feeling nice and smooth. Another unique thing about the Dead Sea is that, due to the high salt content, you can actually float effortlessly on top of the water. I miss it so much!
One block down from the hostel, there is a shuk (sounds like shook). At the shuk, I could buy inexpensive fresh produce, meat, dry goods, and a lot of interesting and unique food. The shuk closes early every Friday and then stays closed until sundown on Saturday for Shabbat, the day of rest. So, on Friday, the shuk was overcrowded with people trying to stock up for the weekend. This bread was a miracle in my mouth!
These hostel guests are helping to make the meatballs for the weekly Shabbat dinner. It’s a welcoming, warm atmosphere. The more you help, the better you feel! The Israeli staff who organize the Shabbat meals are secular but they hold to the traditions. As someone who didn’t practice Shabbat before going to Israel, it was one of my favorite parts of the Israel experience.
I was lucky to be in Jerusalem during the holiday of Purim. I didn’t have any plans like some of the other staff members but that was fine for me. So, I just put on a pirate’s mask and took my camera to the streets! It sounds a bit crazy now that I try to explain it on this photo-blog but this is the holiday when you can just let loose and be a little bit out there![ed] Purim celebrates the story told in the biblical Book of Esther, in which the evil Haman plots to exterminate the Jewish people of ancient Persia, but is foiled by Queen Esther and her cousin Mordecai, who are Jewish. Traditionally the Spring festivals sees people take to the streets in fancy dress while also exchanging personal gifts of sweets and fruits called “mishloach manot” (sending gifts)
Another exciting event was the St. Patrick’s Day party. There was an Irish band and a dance party at the hostel. These Israeli’s were having a blast that night!
One of the sweet benefits of volunteering in Israel with GoEco is that there is a network of several other hostels in the country which can be arranged for a free stay as a volunteer. This is the inside of the beautiful FauziAzar Inn in Nazareth.
[ed] Also home to another one of our great Israel hostel internships!
Mizpe Ramon means Ramon’s view. Ramon is a type of crater that was formed by erosion. It is similar to a canyon but it is enclosed on all sides. There is also a hostel at Mizpe Ramon which is in GoEco’s Hostel network, which means FREE STAY!
There was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to travel to Petra, Jordan while I was in Israel. It is one of the seven world wonders, a city carved out of red stone. It is spectacular. Look a camel!