map of the route

I arrive in the evening at Ben Gurion airport and take a cab to my Warmshower hosts Arie and Evelyn. The two are experienced travelers themselves and, beside great food and comfortable bed, provide a lot of helpful information about traveling by bicycle in Israel and invite me to stay at least two nights with them. So I visit Jaffa and Tel Aviv on the first day. Arie joins me on my ride out of Tel Aviv.

Graffiti in Tel Aviv Tel Aviv seen from Jaffa Mahmoudiya Mosque in Jaffa

I follow Aries route suggestion and cycle North along the coast first. Partly I follow the Israel Trail on sandy tracks which are hard to ride in the rain. The sand grinds in the gearbox. Green monk parakeets are often seen.

On the way, I visit the ruins of the ancient harbour of Caesarea, which has been build by the biblical king of Herodot. The computer animation in the museum is really impressive. A few kilometers south of Jaffa, I stop at a kind of kibbutz for the night. The only guesthouse there would not accept cards. The owner instead recommends to camp at a quiet picnic place in an old olive orchard not far away. That works out very well. Jackals howl in the night.

monk parakeets Caesarea
Caesarea Night asylum

In Haifa, I get a replacements for my crumbling bike shoes. Other than that, I only take a few photos from the famous Bahai Gardens and the old city center. Much more, I'd like to see the ancient city of Acre. Unfortunately, there is no dedicated bike road. Instead, I have to follow the busy highway with all its traffic lights. Traffic noise hunts me today, and the old town of Acre is crammed with cars and scooters. Like Jaffa, Acra is an Arab town within Israel, with an own, distinct feeling compared to the Jewish settlements.

Bahai Gardens On the road to Acre
View onto Acre In the old town of Acre

It is Friday, so from the afternoon until Sunday most shops will be closed for Shabbat. I still ride up towards Rosh Ha Nicra, yet have little success finding me a nice place to camp. Instead, I book a room in Rosh Ha Nicra, just a stone throw away from the Lebanon. Shakals already roam the roads when I arrive in the sleepy settlement.

White rocks of Rosh ha Nicra

I follow the border to the Lebanon through lush forested hills. Mongoose sitting on the rocks, shakals rush away when they spot me. Every once in a while I can look behind the fence, where the country looks rather like a rocky dessert. An orange cats joins me the next night on a picnic place before I cross the Jordan river.

Border to Lebanon Mongooses Wire-fenced settlements and wineyards

It is a long climb up the Golan heights through vast, barren and windy pastures. From the Coffee Anan on Mount Bental I watch into Syriah before I rush down to biblical Sea of Galilee. After Gesher Benot Ya'aqov I leave Route 91 to follow a beautiful dirt road along the Jordan river with cows and ancient ruins.

Climbing up Golan heights Top of Mnt. Bental
Jordan valley and distant view of Lake of Gennesaret Sea of Galilee

Those who've read the bible know the area is full of biblical places. I visit the church of the primacy of St. Peter and pay a visit to the excavation site of ancient Magdala before moving on to Tiberias. The hot springs at the end of the city are declared National Park that features some outdoor pools, showers and picnic tables. A family sings lovely songs from Rainbow gatherings and play on a guitar.
At the southern end of the lake Galilee is another camping spot, directly on the Jordan river. The path here is part of the Israel National Trail, and I meet a guy from Brazil who's been hiking all the way from the North.

Church of the primacy of St. Peter
replica of the oldest Tora stone in ancient Magdala

Out here on the quiet Jordan river banks, everything feels biblical. Back on the busy main road, I move on the Bet She'An to visit the big excavation site with impressive Greek, Roman and Byzantine legacies. A night in real bed and a hot shower feels great.

Out here on the quiet Jordan river banks, everything feels biblical. In the Ruins of Bet Sha'An Ruins of Bet Sha'An

On the next day, I cycle on to Jericho into Palestine areas. Crossing the border post here is no deal at all (for me). Still there are vegetable fields and date trees, yet there's a feeling of the dessert already. on a break at a gas station, a young man presents me with a box of sweets and welcomes me to Palestine.

After the checkin in my hotel, I decide to go for a walk. A man talks me into a ride in his car in Jericho and talks a lot about the city, about his friend on the refugee camp and his cupping treatments. I lose my credit card in his car, luckily I kept his phone number. Mohamed returns instantly to the market place where I left the car. I find the card underneath the seat, and Mohamed insists to drive me to the next ATM that rejects to give me money. With all the talks and the fuzz I left the card in the ATM. Its been all crazy enough but Mohamed still insists that I meet his friend with the cupping in the refugee camp. So I give in, enjoy the treatment in the ghetto like area and have a small diner on a street restaurant on Mohameds costs before he brings me back to my hotel.

Sunset in the outskirt of Jericho Christmas in Jericho Main roundabout in Jericho

Luckily, I get the credit card back on the next day. I visit the excavation sites of ancient Jericho (Tel el Sultan) and marvel upon the layers of city defenses found here from 12(!) millennia. Well, without that impressive computer animated documentary video, it would have been just rubble...
Another site, Hishams Palace was a ambitious project of the Umayyad kings 1200 years ago with a spa and all sorts of things. However, just after it was finished, an earthquake ruined it and the dynasty vanished.

Tel el Sultan Hishams Palace
Mosaic in Hishams Palace Mount of Temptation

The forecast for the mountain range of Jerusalem and Bethlehem predicts rather cold and rainy days. And I'm not in the mood for tourist crowds celebrating Christmas up there, so I stick to the dessert. After a brief visit to Wadi Quelt with the St. George monastery I cycle back to the Jordan river and leave the Palestine territory. At the biblical site of John the Baptist, the small river is the frontier between Israel and Jordan.

Wadi Quelt with St. George monastery Site where Jesus has been baptised

At the Dead Sea, I enjoy a sensation of zero gravity while floating in the salty water for a bit. Afterwards, I am filled up with impressions. So I skip the site where ancient Tora rolls were found just a few decades ago, and push on through the dessert along the Dead Sea.

At the Dead Sea At the Dead Sea At the Dead Sea

The highway is busy and seems endless today. Crumbling colorful table mountains to the right, the Dead Sea to the left - no picnic spots, no water and hardly any settlements. It turns out I have to ride until En Gedi, where I reach an official campground just after sunset. It is mostly Israelian families that camp here on concrete with their family tents or rent the clamping tents and camper vans. I easily make new acquaintances in the restaurant and learn a lot about the area and the kibbutzim in the Arava dessert. And it rains at night.

On the next day, I hike a loop to picturesque Wadi David with its waterfalls. Mountain goats and ibex roam the hills close to the big well. The area has been occupied since 7000 years, as excavations proofed. Due to the rain (in the dessert) there is a severe danger of flash floods here in the dessert wadies. As well, I miss the opportunity to lit the Hanukkah fires. Instead I enjoy a stroll though the kibbutz that is a botanical garden itself.

En Gedi from above
Ibex En Gedi Botanical Garden

From En Gedi, it is two more days to Eilat where I wanted to meet Kathrin on New Years eve. The art kibbutz of Neot Smadar is located not far away from Eilat and approves my request to volunteer for a few days. After a long day ride on the barely avoidable busy highway, I make it to Hatseva in the middle of a extensive agricultural area. Asians return from work on the backs of pickup trucks. Hatseva is a so called Moshav, kind of kibbutz. As I learn from some Philippines on the next day, people from Cambodia, Philippines and Thailand come to Israel to study agriculture, and in return help in the fields.

It is raining in the dessert on the next morning. Since a have an appointment with the people from Neot Smadar, I push on. The constant headwind lowers my mood. Is that the second last day of my journey to the promised land, I mutter. By lunch time, I arrive with tired legs at an oasis with funny wooden artwork, a restaurant and a shop. Some young folk welcome me in. I enjoy a delicious Pide with egg, eggplant and hummus. Meanwhile, it keeps raining. If I did not want to stay here for a day or two, I am asked by Avid who sells fire-proof teapots and Hila, who runs a stall with frozen yoghurt. The music box plays Hotel California by the Eagles, and I decide to stay. Hila shows me the former spa house where I can sleep, and Josh hands me a spare warm blanket to the cold dessert nights .

Arrival at Kushi 101 Cosy shelter

It keeps raining for two more days. I get to meet the family, the friends and famous Kushi himself who asks me if I would stay for a wek, a month or a year. It is fun to chat with everyone and help out here and there. There are nomads, druse, conservative Jews and all kinds of people working together here. Beside she shops and the restaurant, there is a camel and two donkeys for kids to ride. Once upon in time, Kushi has had a casino here, and a zoo that was famous for a two headed snake. Still, he is legend in Israel and many people come just to visit this oasis.
In the evening, we'd gather in front of the shops to talk and maybe play some guitar. Hila invites me to prepare Shabbat pastries. Later I attend the Shabbath diner, actually getting to know some Jewish traditions.

On New Years Eve, I leave Kushi 101 towards Eilat, only 60 more kilometers away. The songs Avid played in his teapot shop linger on in my ears. Now that the rain has stopped, I try to ride some bumpy gravel roads for a while. In Eilat, I have booked an AirBnb accommodation for the next nights. My better half Kathrin arrives later in the evening. After almost 5 months, we are reunited and celebrate New Year. For the next two weeks, we will be traveling together (without the bicycle) and then return to Switzerland.

Idan Amedi: Chelek MeHazman
Idan Amedi: Nigmar

Hallo Welt