White Night

JFOL (3 of 15)Jerusalem’s Old City is known for miracles that happened thousands of years ago, but a different, more modern type of magic also settles over this neighborhood each year. Not to be confused with Hanukkah, called the Festival of Lights, the nocturnal Festival of Light is an enchanting event that makes you feel like a wonderstruck child again, because it makes the world feel new and surprising and alive again. Madcap musicians dressed like a glow-in-the-dark Tweedlee and Tweedledum play trumpet and snare drum, mesmerizing viewers; lights shoot over pathways, shimmer on the city walls, turn from cyan to violet to carnelian in hanging lanterns and dancing fountains. There are movies in this sound-and-color show, too, short films projected on the stone façades, perhaps telling the story of a computer-animated Adam and Eve or a little boy who meets the Little Prince (and cries whoaaaa upon discovering magic powers of his own). After wandering among the installations, my mom and I stopped at the original Café Hillel for mint tea and sabich, but still there was a sense that something extraordinary was going on, that in this birthplace of all Western religious lore, we had stumbled into a folk tale or fairytale.
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Saline Solution

DeadSea (1 of 13)The Dead Sea is striking to behold, with its saline aquamarine glow, but uncomfortable to actually experience. You’ve seen the pictures of people smiling as they page through newspapers while floating in the unusually buoyant waters, and I can tell you with certainty that these people did not have any open wounds on their bodies, not one single papercut. If they did, they would not be smiling at all, just as I found it difficult to do so with a freshly popped blister on my hand under the surface. The salt along the shores is also unpleasant to walk on, reminiscent of how I imagine hot coals to feel on bare feet, and the water leaves a sticky salt residue once you’ve swum in it. But back outside of the sea (technically lake), the 360-degree views are incredible – mountains on both the Israel and Jordan sides, looking, in the haze of the desert sky, more like paintings on a theatrical backdrop. And when I looked at my blister the next morning, I found that it had all but healed.
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