Hi!! I’m Justin Schuble, or better known as @dcfoodporn. I am a full-time food and travel Instagrammer, so I have seen some pretty amazing places. But as a Jew and serious hummus-lover, Israel holds a special place in my heart. I was lucky enough to go on a special foodie trip with Birthright Israel and a few of my closest friends--@everything_delish, @eastcoastfeastcoast, and @thenaughtyfork--on the trip of a lifetime! Not only did we eat some delicious food, but we took a deeper look at the significance of Israel’s history and current state and formed deeper connections to each other and the land that I didn't even think was possible. I wish I could’ve taken you all with me, but since that wasn’t possible, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite moments:
Waking up before sunrise is not something I would typically include in any list of my favorite activities. But let me tell you something. This is one of the coolest things I have ever done...ever. We woke up at 3am in order to make our way from Tel Aviv to Masada in time to hike the mountain for sunrise. The hike up was gorgeous. It felt like the sun was rising with us, and it was a really special experience. Once we got to the top, we watched the sun continue to rise over the Dead Sea, and it was unlike anything I have ever experienced. We then explored the grounds atop the mountain and learned a lot about the history of Masada, which was an ancient fortress.
Food Tour of Mahane Yehuda Market
I love a good food tour. I always associated Jerusalem with the Old City and the incredible history that lies within its walls, However, it was fascinating to see the life that goes on in the rest of Jerusalem that was build around its beginnings. Jerusalem is a lively city with an incredible food scene, and Mahane Yehuda Market, which is part of that scene, is a must-see. In just a few blocks, we were able to experience food from all over the world. A few highlights were the Khachapuri from Hachapuria and the Chocolate Rugelach from Marzipan.
Druze Breakfast at Mona’s Kitchen
I went into this trip with pretty minimal knowledge of the Druze people. But having breakfast at the home of a Druze couple was incredibly moving. We arrived hungry and open-minded and left on the brink of tears after hearing about how loving, loyal and caring the Druze community is. A few of those tears were probably from how insanely good the food tasted.
Floating in the Dead Sea is something that has been at the top of my bucket list for a while. It's the lowest place on Earth, and the water contains such a high ratio of salt to water that just about anything will float...including a soggy box of pizza. The Dead Sea is a must. Not only does it make for a great photo, but it also does wonders for the skin. Rub the mud on your skin, trust me. One warning - the water is extremely salty, so don't stay in for more than 10 minutes at a time, keep the water away from your eyes or any open wounds (please don't shave before you go) and rinse off right after you get out.
Visiting the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem
While this trip was definitely focused on food, a trip with Birthright Israel is bound to have a spiritual and religious impact as well. I don't consider myself to be a very religious person, but I do feel an unspoken connection to the Jewish community. Being in Israel with Birthright Israel reinforced that connection, and visiting the Western Wall was an especially powerful moment for me. We began our day in the Old City listening to the Game of Thrones theme song as our tour guide Mitch explained the long history of Jerusalem and how, in a lot of ways, it's like a real world King's Landing. We then explored the winding streets of the Old City. I was in awe of how beautiful it was, with endless alleys and corridors. We ended our visit with a moment at the Western Wall. The cracks of the wall are filled with notes, which are eventually collected and buried so that they are never destroyed or thrown away. It's like leaving a piece of yourself at the wall, and it's a really powerful and emotional experience.
Food Tour of Ha'Carmel Market in Tel Aviv
I feel like calling something a "food tour" is an excuse to eat way too much in a short period of time, and that's exactly what we did at the Shuk in Tel Aviv. And I loved it. The market is bustling with locals shopping for their groceries and tourists looking to take it all in. The main stretch of the market is busy and beautiful, but make sure to venture into the alleys that intersect it, because a lot of the best food can be found there. One of my favorite bites was the Romanian Kebabs from Mitch. You could taste the love and time that was put into the food. And the pickles they served it with were some of the best I've ever had. We also got this crazy ice cream cone to beat the heat.
To see more of my crazy food and travel adventures, make sure to follow me on Instagram @dcfoodporn.