Part One of the roadtrip can be found here.
Day Two of the twin roadtrip started early (maybe too early, after having finished a bottle of wine the night before). Since we had already mastered our way out of Jerusalem the prior morning, we got onto the highway quickly and uneventfully.
We were heading in a more northward direction than our last drive, so we came to a different check point. This one looked a lot more serious. The soldier who stopped us was older and male and asked me a series of questions about where we were going, where we were staying in Jerusalem, where we were from and how we came to know each other if she was Greek and I was American. We were asked to pull the car over for a full search. Twin and I were ushered into a small building, where our passports were taken to be scanned, our purses were x-rayed, and we walked through a metal detector. Meanwhile, outside, a man with a large German Shepherd was searching our car. We stood around, mute and nervous for no good reason, until they handed us our passports and wished us a good trip north.
We drove for about two hours, past orange groves and greenhouses and small towns and a whole lot of desert.
Our first stop was the ancient city of Tiberias. Being the first Israeli city outside of Jerusalem that I had visited, Tiberias seemed modern (ironically) and subdued. It reminded me of a quiet, Middle-Eastern version of a beach town, the perfect place to go to escape the craziness of Jerusalem every once in a while. The Kinnaret (Sea of Galilee) looked a lot of the Dead Sea, which isn’t all that surprising considering they are both large lakes surrounded by desert and mountains. Instead of seeing Jordan at the opposite shore, we could see Syria.
Roxanne and I lunched on the boardwalk overlooking the sea. Kebabs are always a good choice.
From Tiberias, we drove west to the Mediterranean. It was during this portion of the drive that I nearly nodded off, probably from eating too many kebabs for lunch. Twin resorted to hand-feeding me chocolate chip cookies to keep me awake. Once we reached the turquoise water, I was revived. It was the first time I had seen the Mediterranean since Greece, Roxanne’s homeland.
After a long walk down the boardwalk, we reached the ancient walled city of Akko. I felt transported to another country entirely. Arabic was clearly the dominant language. Colorful mosques and minarets reached up from behind the sandy buildings. Everyone seemed to know one another, laughing and shaking hands and smiling. Because my twin is indescribably awesome and cultured, she ordered us coffees and apple shisha in Arabic. People are always thrilled to find out that little blue-eyed Roxanne can speak their language, and they respond with courtesy (and sometimes discounts). We sat in a plaza among mostly Arab men, smoking shisha and chatting. I saw the Akko equivalent of a party bus trot by about a dozen times– a horse and carriage, usually carrying families with young children, blasting upbeat Arabic music. Almost like a Colombian chiva.
Akko remains my favorite city that I visited in Israel, for its energy and kindness and apple shisha.
A short drive down the coast took us to Haifa, a bustling port city full of young people (but sorely lacking in English road signs). The main reason for our stop in Haifa were the Baha’i Gardens. In an ironic twist, the headquarters of this relatively young religion are housed in a country whose residents are not permitted to join the faith.
After maneuvering through the city using solely Roxanne’s intuition, I was shocked to see a rolling Versailles-like hillside emerge in the middle of the urban jungle. The lawns are stunning, symmetrical, impeccably green. At the base of the hill is a fountain in the shape of a lotus flower with black pools for petals. While we were taking pictures, a car full of college boys drove by and yelled “shaloooom!” with winks and smiles galore. Definitely more modern than Jerusalem, I thought.
We didn’t linger long in Haifa because we wanted to save our last bits of daylight for the ruins at Caesarea (or is it Quesariyya?). There isn’t much I can write about this place that photos don’t speak more eloquently.
We considered stopping in Tel Aviv on our way back to Jerusalem that night, because what 25 year-old goes to Israel and doesn’t party in Tel Aviv? Me, apparently. We drove straight through the city (thinking we were lost the whole time) and headed back toward Jerusalem, hungry and tired. As our little car wheezed and whined up the massive hills leading to Jlem, I realized that I felt relieved to be going back “home” (or at least to Roxanne’s home). Jerusalem is magnetic.
It was only then, at the tail end of our adventure, that I had my sole freak-out-session of the entire trip. Want to know how to terrify a Jersey girl and a Greek? Tell them to pump their own gas. We practically sputtered into the gas station a few blocks from twin’s house, with the you’re-running-on-empty-you-idiot sign flashing emphatically. I pulled in with the gas tank on the wrong side, and nearly lost my kebabs having to pull out and reverse the car into another lane at the gas station. I’m pretty sure at some point I screamed, “Isn’t there a MAN around here who can just freaking do this for me?” Feminism died a little bit that day, and for that I am sorry.
After a nice gentleman on a motorcycle heard my cries and helped us fill up the rental car, we drove home to eat dinner and collapse in bed.
I wouldn’t have made it out of the parking lot that morning if it wasn’t for Roxanne’s patient and scarily accurate navigating. Somehow, despite the gaps in seeing each other, the miles between us, and the vastly different directions our lives have taken us, we always return to being “twins” within minutes of being together (meaning we creepily finish each other’s sentences and could probably achieve world domination with our incredible teamwork). I couldn’t ask for a better best friend with whom to explore the world, one little roadtrip at a time.
You can follow Roxanne’s journey at Stories of Conflict and Love.