Here I am on a hill overlooking Jerusalem. This picture was taken Saturday April 8. Saturday was Holy Saturday, the day before Easte for Christians and if you are Jewish, you are in the middle of Passover this year. The city is full of people celebrating with their families.

We are staying in the city of Tel Aviv (map at link), which is located on the Mediterranean coast. It’s a relatively new city. The first settlement here was in 1909. Tel Aviv is sometimes referred to as Tel Aviv-Yafo, with the “Yafo” referring to the old city of Jaffa. Jaffa is known for its association with the biblical stories of Jonah, Solomon and Saint Peter. What was Jaffa has been kind of absorbed by Tel Aviv, which has a population today of just under half a million people.

Israeli Countryside – picture from Bill Steffen

The picture above shows Israeli countryside. Rainfall here is seasonal, with virtually no rainfall during summer and occasional heavy downpours and thundershowers in winter. The average rainfall for June, July and August is zero, while an average January brings over 5 inches of rain. So, coming out of the wet season in early April, the land is green and growing.

Here’s some flowers for sale. We saw semi-hardy flowers like geraniums planted around town and they can survive most winters here.

The hottest temperature ever recorded in Tel Aviv (airport) was 116° and the lowest was 29°. The average high temperature in July is 86° with the sea breeze keeping the temperature considerably cooler at the shore, as opposed to the hot interior of the country. Israel is about the size of New Jersey.

Average rainfall for Tel Aviv is around 21″. For Grand Rapids, it’s about 37 inches. The water temperature of the Mediterranean Sea falls to around 63 in mid-winter and rises to 84 in mid-August. Over a 30-year period, snow only fell one time here in Tel Aviv.

Jereusalem is farther inland. In a straight line it’s 34 miles from Tel Aviv and driving it’s about 42 miles and takes about an hour on Highway 1.

At the “Elvis Presley Rest Stop”

Along the route, we stopped at the Elvis Presley Rest Stop. There are dozens (perhaps hundreds) of pics. of Elvis – with Elvis tunes playing in the background. You can get food and drink and Elvis merchandise.

A small part of the food that was out for breakfast

The food…wow! First of all let me say that Tel Aviv is an expensive city. The costs rival Tokyo and New York. The three of us had a hot dog, chips and a drink at a place on the beach and the cost was over $40.

This is the second most I’ve ever paid for a hotel room. The shekel is the unit of currency, but pretty much everybody takes the popular charge cards and you’ll find some that take U.S. dollars and do the exchange rate for you.

The above pic. was a small part of the breakfast buffet that comes with the hotel room. There are fruits, vegetables, every kind of breakfast food imaginable and many new foods that I was unfamiliar with and had to sample. Plus, since you’re paying for it, you feel like you have to take advantage of it. So, we eat and eat and eat!

More of the breakfast buffet at the hotel

We were among the first down for breakfast Saturday morning, because we had to catch the tour that would take us east into Jerusalem. They had something for everybody, for every diet restriction and lifestyle choice. Tel Aviv is known for having many vegan options, too.

If you look out over the city of Jerusalem, most of the buildings look the same color. That’s because many of the buildings are built of the same material, limestone.

In fact, municipal laws in Jerusalem require that all buildings be faced with local Jerusalem stone. Jerusalem stone is frequently used in contemporary synagogue design, to create a simulation of the Western Wall or as a backdrop for the Holy Ark.

A Pentecostal church in São Paulo, Brazil, ordered $8 million worth of Jerusalem stone to construct a replica of the Temple of Solomon, or Templo de Salomão that stands 180 feet tall.

Gayle and I on a hill overlooking Jerusalem

Morning is just breaking here in Tel Aviv and new adventures await…so I’ll have to continue this thread later. Happy Easter and a joyous Passover from the Holy Land.