Israel Part 3: Action-Packed Drive to Tel Aviv

Cute animals and delicious food ahead! This was one of my favourite days of my trip, bar the talk by a “vegan” who wasn’t really a vegan. Below is a video of the wraps being made in Pekiin, in beautiful 4K. Enjoy and hope you don’t get too hungry!

We had to wake up at about 4 AM because we had to be out of Tiberias really early because they were blocking the streets because of a marathon. Waking up early is no fun and it wasn’t avoidable, but the reward is doing a lot of activities. I find that when you keep busy when travelling, your trip feels longer.

I try to see the positive side of things and the plus was seeing the sunrise on the way to Peki’in. I love looking out the window on the tour bus and I really felt like I was in California, one of my favourite places in the world.

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The sunrise from the tour bus

Peki’in is a town that is mostly Druze. Druze is a religion that is an offshoot of Islam that incorporates beliefs from a bunch of different philosophies. Israel is home to 150,000 Druze and they mostly live in the north of Israel.

 

A sign talking a bit about the town and the view of the town.

Peki’in is a city full of history and significance. One story our tour guide told us (heavily paraphrased by me):

There is a theory that Jewish people have lived there since between 530 BCE and 70 CE. According to the Talmud, a few rabbis hid in a cave for 13 years to seek refuge from the Romans. When the Romans ruled, Torah study was forbidden.

According to the tour guide, if they were all found and killed, Judaism may not exist. Rabbis taught the religion to people and kept it alive. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai’s survival was credited to the miraculous appearance of a carob tree and a spring of water, according to the Talmud.

 

The cave

After hearing this story, we walked down some stairs and went to a town square, where there was a fountain with a statue holding the Druze flag.

 

The statue and town square

Because we got up early, we didn’t have much for breakfast. All we got from the hotel was a packed breakfast, but I decided to save room for the street food that would be there. Our tour guide was saying that the food would be incredible and really authentic, much better than the hotel breakfast.

The meal was totally vegan and a good deal, 20 shekels (about 5 euro)ย  for a fresh crepe filled with hummus, salad, za’atar, and stuffed grape leaves. I have a video of it being prepared and you can see it embedded in the top of the post or you can click on this link.

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I don’t always take selfies with food, but when I do, it’s with good food.

After breakfast, we walked around town. We saw a lot of stone buildings with blue accents. This provided me many great photography opportunities since I love the colour combination and the boldness of the blue.

What stood out most to me was this one building decorated with toys and this other building with a staircase on the side. Our tour guide said that one way you could tell it was a Druze home was because of that feature.

 

Architecture in Pekiin

We were rushed back to the bus and on to our next stop, a village that was made up of all vegan and vegetarian residents. Our famous guest speaker was this Israeli former NBA player who is (supposedly) vegan. Pretty exciting because it is great to see vegan athletes. Vegans are often stereotyped as weak because “where do you get your protein?”

We get to the town and we are greeted by a few dogs. We then walk to the basketball player’s house. This was one fancy house. Wouldn’t mind living here. As I walked in, I saw books for sale. I didn’t think too much of it in the moment, but yeah, I can see how this is another sales pitch. I was expecting some sort of demonstration and to be shown around more, but no, this was just a presentation.

In the basketball player’s living room, a bunch of seats were set up. I chose to sit near the fireplace because it was a bit chilly.

The talk was one of the more disappointing parts of the trip, and everyone agreed with that. During the talk, we find out that the basketball player and his wife are not even vegetarian, so we felt misled.

Kind of like when you are served something supposedly vegan, but ‘oh, you eat dairy products, right?’ The worst part was when they claimed that fish didn’t have feelings. I was spacing out during the talk because I felt there was a lot of spiritual pseudoscience and the basketball player and his wife had some cats in the backyard. Gotta love cats, they make everything better!

The best part of this stop was seeing the cats and dogs in the neighbourhood.

 

Like these two! So cute!

We had an impromptu unpacking discussion on the bus after this talk and people on the group were given a chance to speak their mind, but the rule was to only speak for yourself and not make broad statements on behalf of the group. For the most part, people disagreed with the guest speaker, but to different degrees.

On the way to lunch, the tour guide played a song he remembered hearing from his childhood, because his parents were hippies. Hippie music, you say? I’m all ears! The song was “I Don’t Eat Animals” by Melanie Safka, who famously performed at Woodstock. I knew one other song of hers, “Brand New Key”, which is extremely catchy and I sometimes catch myself singing.

I don’t think the majority of classic rockers are vegetarian, but it is always great to hear a veggie anthem, especially from almost 50 years ago because that’s the best era of music. Hmm maybe I should write a post about vegetarian and vegan rock stars. What do you think?

According to the International Vegetarian Union’s bio on Melanie Safka, she became a vegetarian and health nut when her mum explained why she is a vegetarian. There’s even a picture of her kissing a cow on an album cover.

While we were on the bus, we were listening carefully to the lyrics, but some of the people were scrutinising these lyrics:

“A little bit of wholemeal, some raisins and cheese”

Honestly, I think even with these lyrics, we must keep in mind that it was extremely difficult to even go vegetarian during the 60s and 70s. There were not a lot of options in the US. I wouldn’t say that the 60s and 70s were a wonderful time for foodies. The pictures in the cookbooks didn’t look appetising and they had an obsession with Jell-o. Why? I guess if I lived in the 60s, I’d live off of vegetable fried rice and raw fruits and vegetables.

My uncle has this one story of how he went to a Chinese buffet with his vegetarian hippie friends and they caved as soon as they saw the chicken and prawn dishes. I’m guessing they either didn’t have much willpower or there were no (good) vegetarian options.

Also, the dairy industry has gotten a lot worse since the time the song was written. Dairy cows are not treated well. I’m not going to go into it because I don’t want to open a pandora’s box.

We also know a lot better now about what negative effects consuming too much dairy has on the body. We also have better dairy substitutes and more food options than before. So many non-dairy milk options, if soy milk doesn’t float your boat. By far, this is the best time to be a vegan.

In all fairness, cheese and milk don’t kill a cow, but it certainly isn’t the best for them. Considering the time period, this is a really progressive song. Let’s not look down on vegetarians, because if anything that will discourage them from going vegan and make them think we are a bunch of crazies.I admit, that is one reason I didn’t go vegan sooner. One vegetarian group I’m a part of on Facebook has this nice rule about how we don’t act all sanctimonious about our diets.

The better way is to not be too pushy. Explain why you’re a vegan, civilly, and share your favourite recipes. There’s bound to be some that have crossover appeal.

Buddha Burgers was hyped by our tour guide in the previous days. There is only one location left in Israel and it’s in this shopping centre. There used to be a location in Tel Aviv, but that closed down.

It is a totally vegan restaurant that serves burgers, seitan shawarma, and salad. Most of the group either opted for the burger or the seitan shawarma. The burger came with chips and would have been more filling, but I’m glad I picked the shawarma. Why would I travel to Israel only to eat a veggie burger? I wanted an escape from American/European food and I have never eaten shawarma. I enjoyed it, but I wish it came with chips or a salad. Overall I’d give it an A-, yes had to take off a few points because of the lack of a side dish. I’m usually not a person to eat wraps, but I enjoyed this one.

 

Are you hungry yet?

The final stop before getting to Tel Aviv was the hyped Freedom Farm Sanctuary. This was one of the main events because it’s not a place that Birthright groups go. We are only the second Birthright group to visit and it is not open to the public yet. Because it’s a sanctuary, and not a petting zoo, there are some rules. You needed to wash your hands and leave any food in the bus and close your purses because the animals are curious. The other rule was to hold out your hand kind of like you’re going to throw a ball underhand, but you’re not moving it, and they will approach you. If you stick out your hand, it might look like you’re going to hit them, and many of the animals had traumatic experiences with that.

 

Awww alert! ๐Ÿท๐Ÿฑ๐Ÿฎ๐Ÿ“๐Ÿ๐Ÿ‘

This was my first time visiting a farm sanctuary and I really liked it. I think it was the best activity of the trip. It reminded me why I no longer eat meat. The animals were much happier here than at a farm. Many of these animals were abused before they were rescued and some of them were disabled. Again, this was one of the things I wish we had more time to do, but it’s okay.

 

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This was all of us after seeing the cows, except we couldn’t do that.

Next chapter, Tel Aviv!

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