Having shipped my motorbike from Greece to Haifa in northern Israel, I took a plane to Tel-Aviv, stayed a couple of days, and didn’t think much of the place, another city by the Mediterranean. Not as interesting as most, it felt like a huge construction site with tower blocks rising up everywhere, surrounded by shoddy small unkept buildings and dirty streets. I’m accustomed to this type of city, I just didn’t expect it in Israel. I’m told it’s a party city, but that’s not what I wanted. Maybe I missed the interesting parts, I assume there are some?
After the ridiculous time it took to get my bike out of Haifa Port, I was more than ready to explore the country. I rode north, first along the coast, then east, along the Lebanese border up through the mountains to the Golan Heights. Although it was very hot I loved the remoteness. I then started riding south down the Syrian border. 5 years earlier I rode my bike in Turkey along the northern Syrian border and then into Iraq around the northeastern border, my thoughts were consumed with the terror the Syrian people had endured over those years, and the many Syrian refugees I’ve met in various countries! I stopped my bike on the highest mountains and looked out across the desert into Syria. Not all overland adventure riding is fun. On so many occasions it challenges my emotions. I’ve laughed, cried and been angry to share a few!
I had been told Boris Johnson had been to a Kibbutz in the 1980’s, I found out which one and headed south down into the low desert plains. The kibbutz had ceased to be a traditional commune where everyone works as a collective, however I was welcomed by everyone and offered great hospitality by Reggie, who moved there from England in 1960 with her husband. I spent the afternoon learning so much about the history of the kibbutz and the wider country. Nobody could remember Boris, but they said how the vast majority of Israelis support both Trump and Boris. Reggie didn’t.
I rode further south through the blistering heat to Jerusalem. I stayed there a couple of days exploring the old city. The history and religious context was fascinating. However, I was far more interested to explore Palestine. The old city was full of tourists, I assumed on a pilgrimage, and many hundreds of young military personnel. They were in groups of about 20, being lectured or preached to by a combination of other military people and rabbis. The shear numbers felt uncomfortable. Whilst I found the architecture and reason people visit fascinating, I was bored. The people didn’t engage with me like I’ve been accustomed to.
I left Jerusalem and eagerly headed to the West Bank. I was keen to experience both crossing the border through ‘The Wall’, and life inside for this enclosed community.
Having spent time with the wonderful Palestinians, I continued east through the Judaean Desert to the Dead Sea. As I descended to over 400 metres below sea level, the temperature didn’t stop rising. I found a hotel and crashed out. After the obligatory floating in the Dead Sea, I headed south again, through the Desert to the far south of Israel, where I could hopefully cross the border into Jordan. The heat was unbearable at times, I must have drank so many litres of water.
My travels are ‘all about the people’, and whilst everyone in Israel was friendly, I felt and heard much negativity about all of their neighbours. I had conversations with Israelis about their history and the future, however it was always tense, with anger and talk of future conflicts. Politically, Israel is one of the few very ‘right wing’ countries I’ve been to. I was left in no doubt that they thought America was their saviour and only with fighting and sanctions (from America) would anything change. However, I think the vast majority of people are just getting on with their lives, but ask questions and the mood changes.