Four-by-four of the Levant (1)

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I got a question from a friend on the blog about my  preferences when it comes to the four Levantine countries – Israel, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. The question about which of the four I love the most comes from time to time, and I never know how to answer. Shouting out the name of one of them seems at least as unfair as saying one of the four children is above the other, and I love him more than the rest of them. At the same time, this question leads to the necessity of comparison of the uncomparable.

I love each one of the four deeply, and each one is unique and special to me

Just like with the children. It is because I have experienced both good and bad moments in each one, I shed my tears and rejoiced beyond measure at some point in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria as well. Let me, therefore, share some of those priceless moments and experiences from each one of them, and let us limit it to four items per each country. They will not necessarily be my favorite four sites in the country, though some of those ideas might serve as a recommendations on what to see there.

ISRAEL

It comes first in the alphabet, so I mentioned it as the first one, without making its primacy a statement of any kind. And these are four of Israel (again not in any particular order):

1. Dead Sea Nights

I used to be coming to the Dead Sea once in a week, but I never enjoyed it more than during Shavuot of 2009 when I spent three days (and two nights) at its Ein Bokek beach, sleeping at the lifeguards hut and keeping waking up to the noise Beduin youngsters were making while swimming in the darkness. The heat during the day (it was late May) was almost unbearable, while the nights were just lovely, air filled with salt and minerals.

2. When the Plane Approaches

Eilat. I prefer not spending Shabats there as no planes are flying during this day of rest. But just as the end of Shabat comes on Saturday night, a plane after plane keeps landing at it airport, located in the very heart of the city. Standing next to the Mall haYam, I feel like this huge bird is approaching to pick me up and carry me away. Scary and wonderful at the same time.

3. Negev Desert Highway

By far my favorite part of the country, with its amazing serenity and vastness. Knowing, that the highway to the right is already behind the Jordanian border, and I am driving while watching Jordan on my right hand side, is an amazing feeling. This one I guess is hard to describe, so you need to just believe me that it is cool :-).

4. Israeli Skirts

If Israel gave me any piece of life advice, it is this one: Wear a skirt, you will look much more feminine. I heed the advice, follow it, and I rarely put pants on nowadays. Skirts (and dresses) are amazing, and one place to learn about it is in Israel.

JORDAN

1. Where Bible Comes to Life

Jordan is MY Bible-land. Strangely enough, I do not feel it as much in Israel as I do in Jordan, and I cannot help but think of Moses and all his troubles with the disobedient Israelites as they were passing through in their quest for the Promised Land. I sense it in Wadi Musa where he stroke the rock to get the water. I imagine the sides of the Kings Highway being covered with manna when I ride by in the morning. I think of his last days and what he felt when seeing the land which his feet was not to ever stand upon.

2. Zaatar-o-Zeit

Mmm… the taste of the freshly baked bread, of which pieces I break and dip in the olive oil and zaatar spice. Nothing else to add, this one you just have to try on your own!

3. Amman Love Affair

This means love affair WITH, not IN Amman … I spent six weeks which I did not plan to spend, in Amman in 2011. Living in the west Amman and commuting to work every morning – it made me, for a short moment, one of Ammanis. I dearly and deeply love this city with its great little shops where bread rolls are not counted but sold by weight, and where oranges dry up on their trees on the balconies. If I had to live for the rest of my life in one of the Levantine capitals, let it be this one.

4. Jordanian Sunsets

The most stunning pink color I have ever seen is the pink of the desert sunset in Jordan. Period.

To be continued for Lebanon and Syria! Stay tuned!

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