January 30, 2014

Yoga, Culture & Hummus. ~ Rachelle Tratt

A Soulful Adventure: Destination Israel

How do I sum up how I feel about Israel into one article? How can I possibly find the words that will adequately measure my heart’s capacity to love a land and its people so deeply?

There is magic in the air that exists in Israel, in the land, in the culture, in the food and in their eyes that you just can’t put in words.

I will try my very best, but I first have to take you back a few years.

It all started in 1978. My mom and dad fell in love while working on a kibbutz (hippie farm) in Israel. They moved to the States, had three children and, when I was nine years old, my mother passed away. As a child, I always knew Israel would be a big part of my life. I used to dream about following her footsteps and learning about her through the land.

For the past three years, I have listened to my heart, stepped outside of my comfort zone, and began living my life. I have traveled to Israel five times in those three years. Since my first trip, I’ve had the privilege of guiding young adults in Israel, building community, volunteering, teaching yoga, embarking on a 30-day hummus challenge, and developing my business.

My experiences in Israel have been deeply spiritual and life enhancing, all paving the way for this very moment in time. I knew the second I landed, I felt it in the air, I saw it in the people’s eyes, and heard it in the language: that I was home.

A home to many, a spiritual mecca for all walks of life, Israel is rich with beauty, cultural diversity, and possesses a spirit that is contagious that lives within its people. When people find out I have just returned from traveling to Israel I get the question, “Do you feel safe there?” My answer is a resounding, “Yes”. I feel safer there than I do walking the streets of Venice Beach, California at night.

It’s easy to jump to conclusions when it comes to the Middle East. When the news is saturated with stories of war and political tension, it’s hard to focus on anything else. My second answer now is, “Experience it for yourself. Come with me in June.”

It has become one of my purposes in life to share the beauty of the land, the cultural richness and to change the view of Israel that media so falsely portrays.

A place where people are greeted with, “Achi”, meaning ‘my brother’. Where the hummus is served warm with a side of fresh pita. Israel is unique for many reasons. At 8,019 square miles, Israel is smaller than New Jersey. With welcoming vibrant people, energetic cities, Mediterranean beaches, desert life and nature all around you. You can find anything and everything in Israel.

The world’s only Jewish and democratic state is home to sites sacred to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Jerusalem is the official capital and holy city to these religions. Holy sites include the Temple Mount, Western Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque. Keep in mind that there is more to Israel than religious heritage and complex politics. It’s in the people; it’s in the history; it’s in the culture; it’s in the hummus.

Regardless of what religion you follow, if any, you can’t help but feel spiritually connected when walking through history on ancient cobblestone streets. Feeling what I love to call, “the old cobblestone magic” in the Old City. Walking through the colorful and vibrant shuks (marketplace) in the old city, with kids running around and vendors yelling, “Yalla, come buy from me” (yalla means “C’mon” in Hebrew slang), you can taste history. You feel the mixture of deep spirituality and religious divide, as Jerusalem is a religious melting pot.

So you got the Jerusalem vibe.

Then there’s Tel Aviv: the sexy city that never sleeps. Bustling with vibrant energy with the beach right there to jump into, Tel Aviv is one of my favorite places for its nightlife, museums, amazing restaurants and cafes, artists, hip, modern, and sexy cool. National geographic actually named Tel Aviv, “One of the worlds best beach cities”.

Yoga has become really popular in Tel Aviv and you can find studios all over the city to practice in. From Ashtanga, to Bikram, to meditation, to all types of dance and movement. I have had the privilege of teaching and practicing at various studios throughout my travels, and the highlight this summer was teaching pop up rooftop yoga classes at sunset, which was truly magical.

Israel is also made of up of desert life: in the most southern part of the Negev Desert, while to the east, the Dead Sea beckons with the saltiest body of water on earth and, at 1,388 feet below sea level, the lowest elevation on the surface of the planet. In the north, the Galilee region has green hills and valleys, home to the renown Israeli wine and olive oil country. Along with amazing wine, and locally produced olive oil, Israel is also the ‘Land of Milk and Honey’. The Mediterranean climate helps with Israel’s agricultural ingenuity and helps produce an incredible array of organic produce that is served throughout the country.

Israel invented drip irrigation, which has helped the world conserve millions of gallons of water a year. Israel is also known for its innovation and has the largest number of start-ups in proportion to population in the world.

“Hummus and falafels weave together our history of love.”

I hope to continue to be able to bring light to life in the Middle East and inspire people to step outside of their comfort zones, to see the bigger picture of it all, and maybe enjoy a bowl of hummus or two along the way.


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Assistnat Editor: Ffion Jones / Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Authors own

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