Certain words echo in the traveler’s ears while visiting Israel, and the words conjure up images of water. They speak of ancient water sources: Ein Gedi. Ein Kerem. Ein Prat. Ein Avdat. Ein Yael.
Ein: A spring. Water gushing forth…in the Judean Desert, at the site of a nature reserve, in the Negev, near the Old City of Jerusalem.
One’s guide speaks of the wadi and points here and there. Wadi: A dry riverbed until it rains and then the waters flow, filling the valleys and cisterns. From the springs (ein) to the riverbeds (wadi) to the running streams at Banias in the Golan Heights, to the water trail of the Ein Kelt in Nahal Prat, water is the lifeblood of the land.
The cruise ports of Haifa and Ashdod welcome travelers from ports throughout the Mediterranean Sea to Israel’s beaches, which rank among the best in the world. At the beach, a traveler’s thirst for this water is quenched. Pedicured toes sink into the warm sand and breezes whisk across the water’s surface, catching a man’s shirt, a woman’s hair or a child’s toy. A lady scans the shore for shells. Young people surf.
A drive from the cruise ports takes travelers to Caesarea Maritima, the ancient city and harbor built by King Herod the Great and adjacent to his Circus where he hosted gladiator fights and chariot races.
From Herzliya to Tel Aviv-Jaffa, travelers enjoy the Mediterranean portion of the Israel National Trail. This six-to-eight-hour trail is an easy journey along gorgeous landscapes and natural vistas. As one approaches Tel Aviv-Jaffa, the beachfront promenade reveals luxury hotels, the new Opera Tower and miles of shops and cultural centers.
Farther north along the coast, visitors discover the gardens of Haifa and the majestic mountain range of Carmel overlooking the Mediterranean. Ashdod wishes them well and sends them on to Jerusalem.
Haifa prepares travelers for the ancient Mediterranean port of Akko, where they encounter Crusader-era sites, and Galilee, a smaller sea where the feeling is spiritual. Some would say holy. They step onto their hotel balconies and listen to voices of fishermen, authentic voices that could be a thousand years old, voices riding the sea-wind. And the visitors contemplate childhood stories from sacred scriptures. They simply must go down and walk among the rocks and climb into boats of the Kinneret, where they sense the lifeblood that changes them. Old couples hold hands. Lost faith is rediscovered. And fishers still throw out nets and draw them up again.
Travelers don’t follow the roads as much as they follow the water. They pass through the Jordan River Valley until they see the salt and know they have found the earthly spa that surpasses all others.
This is the Dead Sea. They float and come out with new skin. The salt is rinsed away, and they marvel at the change. Restoration. Rejuvenation. Regeneration. They laughed when their bodies floated. Now, they laugh again and dash off to the mud for a facial or full-body treatment. Tonight, they will sleep in the spa hotel, and it will be the best sleep of their lives.
Some travel south to the Red Sea at Eilat, where they scuba dive with the dolphins and explore the reefs. Then these waters transport the visitor back north, to the ports that take them home again. Israel may seem to be the land of desert and heat, dry sands and rock formations, but coursing throughout the land is its lifeblood. It is the ancient seas—the Mediterranean and Galilee, the Dead and the Red.
The heavens feed the seas, as do the underground springs. And the waters of Israel feed the human soul as well. Just as the Book of Ecclesiastes suggests, the waters flow repeatedly. And as long as that truth remains, the soul will long to return again and again. I made this journey last month. We missed our connecting flight and arrived four hours late. Our luggage was somewhere in Toronto. But these are the trials every traveler experiences at one time or another.
We climbed into the car and made our way for a Jaffa beach, where we pulled off our shoes and ran to the water. Instantly, I was healed. The lifeblood surged through me as the waves splashed against my rolled-up pants. I opened my arms to the wind and renewed my vows. I will come every year.
Do you need a day at the spa? The Dead Sea tops them all.
Do you need a spiritual encounter? The Sea of Galilee heals the soul.
Do you need an underwater adventure? Eilat beckons.
And if you need to feel alive again, the shoreline from Tel Aviv to Carmel awaits.
Come, discover the ancient seas of Israel.