Notes from Israel



Table of contents

These are the candid, first-hand writings of my trip to Israel to attend a summer school on ‘Data Mining and Cybersecurity for Business Intelligence’ at the Ben-Gurion University in July 2022. The prose is mostly first-person and like a diary entry.

Since I wrote things on the fly and added things later, I’m also sure the grammar isn’t perfect and I switch tenses here and there. These were mostly written for myself and probably lack context at multiple places. I’m leaving it that way since this has been sitting in my drafts for so long, and today, I decided to just go ahead with it instead of waiting for it to be perfect.

The chapters in this blog are divided on the basis of places. So I can say it’s a travelogue. Each chapter contains what I saw and felt about the place. They’re also mostly in chronological order.

Delhi – the journey begins

My flight to Israel was from Delhi, and my flight to Delhi was through a connection flight through Bengaluru. I left early from Chalakudy—my home—for the airport in Kochi at around 5-6 AM to catch the flight around 7 AM. Then on the next flight—a two hour-long one—I got to Delhi.

In Delhi, it took a while to get my luggage, and then I went to my cousin’s place to crash for the day since my flight to Israel was on the next day. Delhi has monuments and places of historical importance scattered across the place, it seems. I even saw a monument which looked like Humayun’s Tomb on the way to my cousin’s place in Ghaziabad.

This trip allowed me to understand the demographic of Delhi a bit—its history and how it has evolved into a modern capital city as we can see right now. The NCR region is quite nicely landscaped and busy.

On the afternoon of July 6th, I got to the International terminal of Indira Gandhi Airport, slightly nervous for my first international flight. I gathered up my courage, checked-in, and completed the security check. In the waiting area, I saw a lot of rabbis and Israelis on the waiting line with us, sometimes speaking in Hebrew on their phones. It was also the first time I saw people like that—people in traditional Jewish clothware. Then we boarded the plane. On the way, two other young Indian dudes came up and talked to me. They introduced themselves and came to know that we were going to the same place for the same program.

It was my first time on a plane that was this big. I didn’t get a window first but later was offered one as the guy who sat there went someplace else looking for a good place to sleep. We received three meals on the flight – which was also something I didn’t expect. On the map on the screen, I saw that we were flying over many countries like UAE and Iran. Outside, it was mostly cloudy.

Shalom, Israel

It was dusk when we landed in Ben-Gurion International airport at Tel-Aviv. And we got our faces and passports scanned by this machine—which was how they handled immigration —definitely indicating that the plane landed in the right place. Since the airport had free WiFi, I called mom. Then, we got down to what I’ll call the lobby – it had big pillars and was designed futuristically. We exchanged some currencies, and looked into how to get ourselves to Be’er Sheva – where our university was. Luckily, we realized that a paper ticket would suffice for the train ticket to Be’er Sheva. The railway station was underground and right where you exit the airport, there I saw a beautiful piano which looked breathtaking. We met this guy who was also going to Be’er Sheva who agreed to help us lost souls out. He had a beard, glasses, and looked like a computer nerd. He said he was coming from Vienna and just wanted to get to his bed at Be’er Sheva. We chatted about India, Israel and many other things. When the train arrived, he got into a seat that was on the upper deck. The train started moving and this was one of the parts where we realized that having no internet in another country is basically an endgame. The train was supposed to stop only at Be’er Sheva after Tel Aviv Central but it stopped at Ashkelon—a station midway—too for some reason, and I went up to him to just make sure that this is not the station. I didn’t know that was the last time I’d see that guy; As after we got out at Be’er Sheva University station, we couldn’t find him.

We started walking towards the university and walked to one of the gates—Gate of The Future—of the campus and found out that we couldn’t get inside the university through that. Since we just had the address—“Dalet Dorms, Alexander Yannai street”—and none of us had internet, we were just walking around, trying to get to the address. I remember we stopped a guy who was jogging and asked him for directions. He helped us out and we finally made it. And Tom—our counselor—was there to greet us. We got to our rooms and slept. In Israel. In Dalet Dorms.

The next day, we met Sarita (@kosherbackpacker) who worked at the international office and was a sort of coordinator of international events like these, near the university swimming pool. In fact, that was the very second day, in Israel. We first went to the international office and met Sarita and then got access to the swimming pool. I remember wanting to have some coffee from the office since I was hungry and hadn’t eaten anything. The WiFi also didn’t allow voice calls, so calling back home wasn’t possible yet. It was a pretty sunny day. Sarita walked us through what was going to go down in the program and what the university had cooked for us. All of this happened near the grass in the swimming pool – and I remember thinking how different the landscape and the experience is compared to what I would have been doing that day if I was in India. Soon, people from other programs (courses) showed up. Then we went to Agadir—a local burger place and had brunch.

That was the day when I took a photo of people in the swimming pool in the sunshine, which is now the cover photo of my Instagram highlight about Israel.

First meet-up party in the dorm lawns

This happened in the lawn near the dorms and after we were back from Eilat. I think it was on a Sunday and it was dark. That’s the first time we all saw each other. Tom and Sarita had brought mats and we all sat in circles, talked and played many fun games. One game was where we sat in two concentric circles and the folks in the outer circle moved periodically and had to answer a funny question from the folks in the inner circle. I met Bill from Oxford (and all the others – I only remember Yushi’s name now), the Moroccan gang, and Racheli from Jerusalem. I remember Racheli specifically since the place captivated me. I don’t think I saw Racheli ever again.

The university

On the first day, we had a little orientation session for all international students about Israel’s “security situation” and a lot of To Do-s and Don’t-s. After that, we were walked by the woman who was the director of the international programs to the building of computer security where we were met by Asaf. Asaf was our head teacher and he walked us into the class.

The classroom was in a big and modern building like you’d expect. It was my first time in such a diverse class with people from all parts of the world. That was special.

The university had open gyms, giant libraries, cafes, cats, open lawns, fountains and statues. I wandered around everything in awe. The library is someplace I wanted to spend my time on. Therefore, many days after class, I went there to work and walked around the tall shelves. I remember seeing a book which was basically a copy of Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebook and it had all his drawings in it.

Be’er Sheva central park

Attending a Salsa class

We were told that cultural events happen on all days during the common icebreaker session at the big hall near the international office. So, we thought we’ll try the salsa night out. According to the map, it was supposed to be in front of a house-like building at one end of the nearest park (I forgot the name, actually) and we just saw a lot of people there but no salsa. Wondering that we missed it since we were a bit late, we thought we’d explore the park and that’s when we saw people dancing at the center of the park. The class had three types of students: beginner, intermediate and experts – and you graduate by showing up every week. The class was run by a guy in his 40s with a belly, and a European hat and accent. Most of the folks of my gang were more reluctant to try it out than I was. Ultimately, I stepped in and danced for a bit. The thing was that you’d switch partners as you complete one song and thus, I was able to chat with a few Israeli women as well. We bought frozen pizzas that night. And that’s when I realized that almost everyone except me hated it.

Attending the pizza party

The next social event by the international office was at the nearby park. We had some trouble getting there as Google Maps led us to the back of a house and we had to come around it to enter the park. The pizza was delivered a bit early, so we helped Tom lay out the mats for everyone to sit and set things up.

Towards the end, we played a game where you tell a truth and a lie, and others have to guess which one’s what. The British girl Dana said that I’m a psychopath for going very far on the lie on my turn.

There was also a guy in a golf cart riding around the park playing music, which obviously caught everyone’s attention and some folks asked and got on it for a ride around the park.

We had some drinks as leftovers – and I think I took a whole bottle of Coke back home that day.

Bengi’s bar

The next university social event was hosted in the bar nearby, so we had no chance to be late to this. Tom’s dress reminded me of Vidya Vox from the Kuttanadan Punjayile video song.

I expected to have a lot of free food, but it was mostly just rounds of snacks. I didn’t feel hungry later or anything, though.

That’s when we met that girl from South Africa — Lucy. A self-made woman who liked to be around herself. And another girl from MIT.

The bartender’s name was Bar and he offered two free shots at the end. I had whiskey.

Startup tour at HiTech park

On one of the final days of class, we had a startup tour of two companies in the HiTech park of Be’er Sheva. I don’t remember the name of the startup unfortunately, and wasn’t able to find it even though I looked it up multiple times. Some things I remember is that I asked the CEO some questions, had cookies from the counter, and took a photo of a person working there and put it up as my Instagram Story as the wall had a good quote on it.


We went to Eilat on a bus – and we hopped on one from Be’er Sheva central. Eilat is the southernmost city of Israel and it opens to the Red Sea. I don’t remember whether that was the day we got our Rav Kav (public transportation cards) cards, but you had to get one to get on a bus ride that big; the bus ride was long enough such that you don’t tap the card inside the bus, but talk to the driver about where you want to go and he’d print the tickets for you. The bus went through the city and slowly went out of the suburbs. The bus had WiFi, so I talked to mom on the ride. Soon there was arid landscape everywhere. Almost an hour in, we saw a flying object and we were thrilled, but as we got closer to it, we realized that it was a blip or whatever you call that, and not a drone. And that was above what it looked like a nuclear facility with fences. Hours later, as we got near Eilat, some soldiers came into the bus and checked everything was alright to them.

At Eilat, we briefly tried to get on a Bird e-bike. Firstly, when I got out of the bus, I was confronted by a lady who was trying to sell us hotel rooms. There was also a guy I met on the bus, I believe, who told me to come to this party at a club (forgot the name now – but I did look for the club during the time that proceeded, hoping to find the guy again). When we were climbing up and up from the shoreline, we saw Jordan all lit up on the other side – which was a sight to behold. We got to our AirBnb, went outside again, bought frozen pizzas and cola, talked and exquisitely planned for the next day. I had a plan to wake up and catch the sunrise but ended up talking to Abhijit (my friend) for a long while about a whole lot of stuff on all spectrums.

Coral Beach

The next morning, we went to the coral beach. There, I almost died in the ocean, experienced the Israeli desert heat, and saw a DSLR camera after a long time. The ocean swim was just extreme. We tried to swim in the ocean and I was trying to stay alive by holding the buoyant wires. I survived that with a lot of bruises (I think that’s the right word) and played on the beach for a while. That’s when I picked up a couple of rocks and pebbles. The public shower room was also something else that I distinctly remember the sunshine there. Then, we just got back on the bus back to Be’er Sheva.

On our way back, at the bus station, we met a guy who was high on weed who said it’s alright if the paper he’s holding falls down, as he can pick it up. After that, we had food from that cafe run by an old man whose son works in the Air Force. The food was a bit expensive, but they let us put tables together and all were a nice bunch of people. The cafe also had a nice view of the ocean. On the way back, a soldier and his girlfriend were right to me in the backseat. I wanted to strike a conversation with him, but didn’t gather enough courage. I listened to Andrew Huberman’s podcast with Jocko Willink during the journey and occasionally checked instagram since I had posted the picture of the blue sea of the red sea. When the bus stopped at a station midway in the desert for the passengers to refresh, I remember getting hit by the driest wind I’ve ever been hit with. The desert is extreme. I thought about the ancient humans who crossed the deserts.

The walk back from the main bus station at Be’er Sheva to the dorms was pretty eventful – we saw parks, residential buildings and many other things. We were also carrying the laundry bag with everyone’s wet clothes. The city was deserted on the way back since it was shabbat. Got back and slept, I guess.

Be’er Sheva city

The city looked so unlike the image that I had generated in my mind looking at Google Maps.

One of the best incidents that I remember is when a dude from Be’er Sheva bought me a Fanta when I talked to him. The guy was crying and I had asked him what’s going on. This was at the small supermarket near the bar that was at Alexander Yannai St. I could look up the name and come back. I think the dude said that he had a tough day or something. I think that’s the day we went to the burger place and had the most expensive hamburger ever. Also my first Heineken. This was on one of the nights where we went out to eat and explore.

The university also took us out some days later. We were told to get to the bar in Alexander Yannai at 9 p.m or something. It was the day at the market. What caught my eye instantly was the wall art over there. The tour guide, who was a guy who said have traveled to Varanasi and all said that the guy in the wall art was some sort of a revolutionary figure. In another instance, he also said that Indians know Mossad well. I remember that, as Yushi—my friend from another class—asked me what Mossad is. On this trip, we had a lot of free food. I remember having some sort of a drink from a shop that looked real shady, fish and some beef at the end on a table, falafel. Then, exploring the old city with Yushi and Bill after the day at the market. I remember the day being extremely hot. We sent Bill home with the watermelon. Yushi and I first went to a place which looked like a river that had dried up, and then to see the museum, but it was closed. Walked around for a while in the sun, got an iced coffee and got on a bus back.

On the same day, I went into Yushi’s room to have the watermelon. The Moroccan girl brought red wine. Yushi’s roommate helped us get a knife and cut it. That dude from Turkey also showed up later towards the end to have a slice. That’s when he told me about his extremely busy schedule. Later, I went back to my room.

The old city

On another day, we explored the old city of Be’er Sheva. There were music shows, dance shoes, and all sorts of things going on. I remember getting a coffee with Abhijit and visiting Tom’s shop. Tom makes handicraft and embroidery. Right near it, was another shop with a guy playing the guitar who smiled when I took a video of him.

Food street

The next university social event was ‘food street exploration’. The guide was a woman with blue coloured hair – @tamaray. She walked us though the back entrance of the university (which was the meet-up point), through the street near it which opened to the falaffel shop at one end of the food street. That’s when I came to know about Abraham trees and the biblical references of Be’er Sheva, and how Abraham had once camped somewhere here underneath a tree which is now called the Abraham tree. We firstly had hummus and pita at the restaurant and then beer at the end.

Was looking up a bit about the history of Be'er Sheva and saw that a teeny bit of the population were "Cochin Jews", and I looked that up too and found that the earliest Jews were in India from King Solomon's time- that's such a long time ago. Wow!

— aswin c 🎋 (@chandanaveli) July 14, 2022


Jerusalem was an unforgettable experience that exceeded my wildest expectations. This is mainly due to the fact that I was very much looking forward to visiting the city.

We went to Jerusalem on a train in the afternoon. We got a train from Be’er Sheva and it took around an hour to reach there. From the train station, which was underground, the escalator just kept going up. At each time where I thought this was it—where I thought we were at the top—there was another one on the other side. And finally, we got to the surface and a banner read “Welcome to Jerusalem” in a number of languages.

It felt amazing. Yes, I was very excited about the visit since I’ve heard so much about the place, and that must’ve acted as a placebo.

The train station opens to a street which has a light rail station. In the street, Jewish evangelists were giving out little almanacs. We got on a light rail, then on a bus, to our AirBnb.

I still remember bits and pieces of that journey. Firstly, it was a bit cold, adding to the magical essence. Then there were archetypal Jewish faces all around. It felt like a teleport to another world. Through the windowsill I saw beautifully landscaped green open spaces, parks and public pianos here and there. Just like any other European city. On the bus, I saw a beautiful couple whose faces I’ll never forget.

The AirBnb we stayed in was a two-story house with a lot of good stuff: a foosball table, a refrigerator with a lot of food, oven, coffee machine and beautiful beds. We cooked rice that night with some special masala. I was feeling very tired and almost slept without having dinner. But I ended up having it and sleeping after talking with everyone.

The Western Wall

At the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites for the Jews, we had booked for a tour guide at around 9PM. And getting there was probably the most eventful, magical and scariest part of the whole journey, when I think about it now.

We got off the bus somewhere near the center of the city and the plan was to walk to the destination. Around us were old-fashioned buildings, offices of world-famous organizations and orange-lit streets. Since we had a long way to go, some of the folks in our group started walking fast and slightly running, and we ended up getting lost. I was in the bunch that mostly walked, and we continued moving in a direction that looked like the right way. Soon, we got near the iconic streets of Old Jerusalem. Almost all the shops were closed and small pathways which ended into the main ones were enveloped with creepy darkness and ominous silence. It felt like tunnels. I remember the yellow lights from incandescent bulbs on the top of the arches above the streets which just went on and had doors on either side which opened to what looked like chambers from another era. Still pretty much directionless and lost in this new world, we ran around the old city paths at night. Honestly, when I look back at it now, it should’ve been avoided considering the instability of the place. Towards the end of this experience, we met some Israeli soldiers who were guarding and blocking the street. They said at the other end of the street is Palestine and the Dome on The Rock (Muslim pilgrimage site) they’ll only let Muslims in from that point. They were kind enough to let us know about the direction to the Western Wall.

At the Western Wall, the guide took us through the insides of the wall, which is now properly preserved and being excavated. The guide talked about how this was 2000 years old with a tone like it’s one of a kind, and I thought about the temples in Tamil Nadu and nearby which are as old and magnificent as this. We saw a place which was once a sewer, and was used by the Jews who were escaping the Roman conquest of Jerusalem. They had found a Gladius—the iconic Roman sword used by the gladiators and many coins, indicating that the folks who were trying to escape were slaughtered at the end of the sewer tunnel. Then we visited a synagogue which was also inside the wall—which was also pretty holy and quiet.

Outside, I saw something that I haven’t seen elsewhere: a woman preaching the Bible, like we’ve seen in the old films. She was talking loudly and had attracted a few folks around her. She was charismatic and her movements were captivating enough to hold my attention for a couple of minutes.

Then, we decided to get dinner at a shop nearby. We were a group of 7 people and yet only bought a few pitas and hummus, which the shop owner didn’t like and made us pay more. Another person who worked at the shop was on our side and gave us a few cups of lemon juice for free. Abhijith decided to not let things slide that way and went up to the nearby police kiosk and asked for help. They came down, talked to the shop owner and made him pay back the extra money.

That night, incredibly moved by the surreal experience in the city, I started writing down what I had in my mind, which ultimately ended up as the caption for an Instagram post.

King David’s fort

King David is King Solomon’s father. He is one of the first famous rulers of Jerusalem and the First Kingdom of Israel, if I recall correctly. So, his fort has been there for a long time and has been overruled by countless empires.

I think the whole palace was made of limestone as it was all yellow-orange. At the top of the fort, there was a point from where you could see many important landmarks of the city: The Hebrew University, the churches, etc. I remember that as there was a picture of the view on a board nearby with the places labeled in it.

There were a lot of guides and maps for free, which I took back home as souvenirs.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

We visited the church where Jesus was cruxified and the empty tomb. The church was tall, ancient and had big wooden doors. Even though the city had people from all parts of the world, I felt like they all were truly present here. Some people were taking pictures, some were praying and some were crying in disbelief.

That was when the notion and fact that “Jesus was here” finally crept into me. I was also aware that I was living the dream of millions of Christians worldwide. After getting outside the church, I sent pictures to my friends who were true believers as a good gesture.

Overall, the visit to this church was different from any other place.

The market and the old city

The market is a huge place with all sorts of things. The market, rebuilt for modern times, still carries the echoes of its long past. It’s practically a maze and extremely busy. We bought halwas and a couple of postcards and souvenirs. It was expensive, but I don’t regret it.

We then wandered around the old city, through many historical places like the street where Jesus was taken on the cross, Mary Magdalene’s birthplace and so much more. I like exploring historical places and that was the time of my life.

Mount of Olives

Mount of Olives is where Jesus Christ was resurrected. We went there after the day we roamed through the old city. It takes quite a while to get there if you’re walking from the Old City, as you have to walk out of the city walls, and then climb it.

Climbing this mountain was a much more arduous task than we thought and it was extremely tiring enough that we bought a BLU (an energy drink) right after we got to the top. At the top, I expected to see a lot of people and maybe an old church, but all I saw was what looked like a mosque and complete silence. We sat around there and watched the sunset after walking around the place a little. From the other side of the mountain, we saw what looked like proper Palestine as we saw a wall and a lot of tiny houses in the distant plains.

What’s also interesting is that on the way back from the hill, we got on a bus and they didn’t ask us to pay for the ticket. The news was that this bus was unofficial and was run by the Muslims in Shabbath. It doesn’t really make sense why, when I think about it now. But it sure was free.

The Holocaust memorial

We visited the Holocaust memorial on our final day at Jerusalem. It was boiling hot and what we had in the morning was just some slices of watermelon. From the bus stop, we had to walk a while to get to the memorial, and we got lost in between for a while. The path to the place was beautiful and on a hillside with trees on both sides of the road. At one point, we saw some parts of the city below the hill and it was a sight to bestow. Afterwards, we got there and saw a lot of sculptures, flames and blocks with names sculpted on it. There was a hall just for the children who died, too. It was quite a moving experience for me, overall. And the fact that they’ve built such a good memorial was even more.

On the bus back from the memorial, I recall seeing a Malayali in the bus. I did not initiate a conversation with him.

Tel Aviv

The trip to Tel-Aviv was part of the university’s social event. Thus, we got there on the bus and Yael was our tour guide. She walked us through the streets, bought us Golda ice cream, and talked a lot about history. Two places stand out in my memory the most: the person who’s considered as the founder of the city – a poor guy from Jaffa who stayed here near the Tel Aviv area started the first business, and the place where Ben-Gurion—the president—did a speech after the state of Israel was formed. Yael explained how the speech is now taught to everyone in school. We then hit a vegan restaurant, and finally at a juice shop near the beach and they let us off. We then got a bus to our AirBnb. The AirBnb host was super nice and she had a great apartment: guitar, a great balcony, a lot of plants, diagrams of places on the wall and a lot of books about animation. The best thing about the AirBnb host was that she was also an artist and she had a lot of watercolor art in the bedroom—which I posted as my Instagram story. I told her that I was into art as well and she suggested that I can use some of her paint and do something with it, but as a gallant man, I politely declined. Something about her was really captivating because she was pursuing a lot of interests: she was doing computer animation, art, and most recently game development. She felt like a happy hippie. At night, we went to this restaurant which was in the city on a bird e-bike. It was scary. We had spaghetti or something, and then we roamed the city for a while, and then we got back. While we roamed the city, we saw a lot of street art (graffiti. Tel-Aviv is known for that), a lot of bars and city lights. It felt like I was in a global city. When I got back, I remember feeling very tired.

The next day, we went to the city center. It had a lot of tall buildings, trees and cars moving on streets that were carefully designed. We got a croissant for breakfast at a street side cafe. I don’t remember what we did after that.

On the final day, we left for Haifa. We went to the main bus station where there was a lot of graffiti. I also saw a lot of African people there and I thought it must be one of the closest places where they could get a job and European experience. We bought coffee and some sort of bread.

The beach

Riding through the highway near the beach on a Bird (e-bike) made me feel like I was traveling through the future. Then I bought a large cup of beer–a Carlsberg–and I needed to put some effort into finishing that. At the end, I had just left it on the bench when there was only a little left. There was also a beachside gym with ropes and all sorts of equipment where you can do all sorts of workout. It was pleasurably warm and I remember being shirtless like the rest of the folks when it got sweaty. When I think about it now, I cringe. That’s also when Abhijith taught me how to punch. It was the first time I punched on anything all my life. When it was time to go, I remember having some bruises and marks from the blood clotting.

Riding on an e-bike alongside the beach in Tel Aviv last weekend honestly felt like riding through the future: bike lanes along the walkways with traffic signals, people cruising on Teslas and other electric vehicles; people running, skateboarding, exercising and simply relaxing

— aswin c 🎋 (@chandanaveli) August 3, 2022

I remember laying on the floor (which was a concrete elevated platform), staring at the sky in Tel Aviv beach, alongside the Mediterranean. Unforgettable.


Jaffa looks like an old Italian city from the 80s with old buildings and narrow streets and the Mediterranean on one side. It has its own steep curves, bridges, churches and mosques. We were there to catch the sunset. We walked around and explored the place a little. In the process, we found a little hill where people were sitting, sleeping and chilling. A family was having a bit of a feast a couple yards in front of me and Abhijit.

The sunset, sipping BLU - the cheapest drink we could find. On the right hand side, i.e North, you could now see Tel Aviv all lit up.

Abhijit, Pavani and I tried to get a bus instead of the Bird unlike the rest of us after the sunset. That wasn’t a great decision as we took some time and a lot of walking to get one. But eventually we got back home.

Dead Sea

We went to the Dead Sea with the university and we firstly visited a family who has lived near the dead sea for almost 40 years. She talked to us about how there was nothing back then before tourism arrived and almost no vegetation. She showed some pictures from her album which I had put as an Instagram Story.

Then we went to En Gedi. En Gedi is a national park and is basically Disneyland for Israelis and everybody goes there even with their kids. It involved a lot of walking, and finally a waterfall. The tour guide was Yael again. I remember trying to photograph the cap of Sophia—the girl from Estonia—since the cap was pretty.

Finally, we went to the Dead Sea. I remember trying to soak it in the most and forcing it to be a core memory as I’d not probably not have a chance to do this again. It was around 40C out on the beach – hot enough for normal folks to not be able to stand there in the sand for more than 5 seconds. Yushi from Oxford and Abdul from Morocco helped take pictures of each other on my phone. In around an hour, we went to the nearby shop to buy some food. I also remember having Yushi’s chicken on the bus back.


If I recall correctly, we went to Haifa by first getting on a bus to Tel Aviv and then to Haifa after getting breakfast—a piece of bread—from Tel Aviv bus station.

Perhaps, it was the food, but something made me physically unwell while on that bus. When we got where the AirBnb was, we couldn’t believe this was our AirBnb as it was right in the city center. And you had to walk through a dungeon to get to the apartment – which was beautiful. The apartment was a two-bedroom apartment with well-furnished and painted walls. Everyone felt so nice about the apartment. The room I slept in was so well designed and had a lot of wooden furniture. The dining table was also so cute and futuristic. Next morning, I video-called my mother before we had falaffel right from the shop nearby. The train system in Haifa was amazing: it was a one way, one-line underground transit system.

I went to this church too and attended mass or whatever that happens in the evening. There was a Bible that you could pick up, but it was in Hebrew. I also visited The Haifa museum of art, which had installations similar to the Kochi biennale.

At night, we celebrated my birthday. It was a small chocolate cake. It was my first proper birthday party, too!


We went to Akko from Hafia on a ship the next day. We walked to the shore, hit a supermarket on the way, bought some bananas (which I later ate while waiting on the deck of the ship), and saw an Indian flag on the way. We saw a submarine while getting on this huge ship to Akko. I listened to many songs including Supermarine from the movie Dunkirk on the ride. Akko was just like the Old City of Jerusalem, but on a seaside. I recall watching men carry sacks of flour from a small ship to a building nearby. Instances like that plus how the buildings looked, gave the impression that the city was stuck in the past. In Akko, there was a tourist attraction named “Templar’s Tunnel” but it was a bit too expensive for us. The most interesting part was everyone spoke Arabic.

By noon or something we got on a Train back to Be’er Sheva from Akko. On the train, I remember the sun coming through the window and reading Abhijith’s copy of Zero to One. The bus to that station might’ve been the last bus you ever got on. It was a small minivan.


I don’t know why we decided to go to Tiberias, when I think about it now. This was the time where I felt the most insecure, lonely and wanted to get back home. This was due to the fact that there were missile attacks from Gaza happening down in the southern part of the country. The swimming pool that we had been to in the university had been closed down due to the “security situation”, there were sirens in Tel Aviv and we later came to know that folks in Be’er Sheva had to run down to the bunkers once. It just wasn’t the best time to be.

Tiberias is a city on the banks of the lake Galilee, which has a rich history and has Biblical references. This was a place that was far away from the cities you’ve heard of and the buildings and everything looked dusty old. Even the AirBnb we stayed in was also an old apartment with no WiFi or a TV. There were also not many shops nearby.

I remember feeling so far away from home. It wasn’t exactly homesickness, you see I didn’t feel like this while in Tel Aviv or any other city. Perhaps, it was the silence, the lake with mountains at the horizon with little lights blinking here and there. Perhaps, it was all of them.

On the way back, we had Shawarma at a place near the lake. We didn’t expect to see the shop open and it was also cheap. I remember I also called dad from that place. On the other side of the lake were mountains and lights lit up here and there as time got towards the night.

On the next day, we went to the lake—calm and serene—and a place with Roman ruins which had hot water springs. It was a real protected monument where we had to take tickets. But I think we were the only folks there. It had a few old houses which were Roman, I believe. After walking around and taking a lot of pictures, I read The Motorcycle Diaries a bit while sitting on the grass, thinking about the fact that Jesus Christ may’ve walked around here 2000 years ago.

The whole town had an abandoned-town feel making you feel like you shouldn’t be here.


The bus took us through a road parallel to the shoreline all the way to the top.

The cliff and the view from it was breathtaking. The Mediterranean, draped in sky-blue, was just lying there in serenity.

Then, we took the tickets—which were quite a bit expensive—and went into the cable car which took us to the bottom of the cliff. There were three major things to see there: a movie theater inside a cave where a documentary about the history of the place was running, a small restaurant, and the natural caves which are partially filled with the water from the Mediterranean and people in Kayaks.

This place was once home to an elaborate plan of the British to connect Africa through a railroad. However, the plan was foiled as Israel got independence, I believe. What remains now here are huge tunnels and a couple of rails.

Our tour guide for the day was a funny old man, and I couldn’t understand what he was saying at most times. He was passionate about a story where there were shots being fired from boats in the sea at some occasion in the late 50s or 70s. There was also a French tour guide from another gang who talked really funnily in a French accent.

Last day and the flight back

I remember walking around the dorms, near the grass and underneath the trees, listening to Joe Rogan’s podcast with Naval Ravikanth and thinking about what I’m doing to myself, and imagining the future I’m building. I felt powerful and powerless at the same time.

We obviously had to clean our dorms up and give it back the way they gave it to us. And before we leave, we have to get it checked with Tom or someone from the office – that was the law.

I met an American who was in the American Air Force on the train to the airport. He was going to Tel Aviv to party. He was a geologist and had a tattoo of that little hammer that excavators use. He was also into mushrooms. After talking to him, I was convinced that I should try something out when I get back. But unfortunately, the feeling didn’t persist.

At the airport, before check in, a couple of officials had a chat with us to make sure that we’re clean. They picked two random people from our group, questioned them separately and checked whether the information that they gave checked out. After that, there was an individual interview as well, where I remember them asking me whether I had delivered something to the country. After that, and after signing up for Air Suvidha—a form the Indian government had made it mandatory for people coming into the country to fill, we checked our bags and went in. I remember the person who checked us was a young lad in his late 20s. My second bag, which was a backpack that didn’t look normal enough to be checked in as luggage, so I had to go to another guy who checked it out and told me to take it as cabin luggage.

Then we went to a McDonalds, had some food and waited until the gate opened.

On the flight back, I was seated next to an Israeli couple who were visiting India for the first time and going to Manali the next day. We talked about a lot of things: my experiences in their country, and how cheap it’s going to be in mine. At the end, when the plane landed in Delhi, I almost wanted to ask for their contact—an Instagram or something—but ended up just saying goodbye and walking away. I hope they liked India.

After touching down, we took a couple of selfies and everyone was on their way. We had chai after so long. I could turn on my Jio network now, and it felt nice to be back home.

Waiting in Delhi for my flight was more tiring than I expected. I listened to podcasts, songs and even tried to sleep for a while until I could check in. The waiting area had these futuristic chairs that you could sleep on. I could get on one only towards the end of my time there, but even those few minutes were relaxing. There was an Indian-American couple with kids there who were talking loudly and that’s when I got my first-hand experience of “loud Americans”.

Right next to me on the flight back to Kerala, was a man from Canada who was visiting home for the first time in years. On my left was a Malayali girl, obviously an international student who didn’t look like she wanted to strike a conversation.

It was around 8:30 p.m when I got to Kochi. I collected my bags and walked outside. Walking with a trolley bag and a backpack, outside the building where all the people wait for their loved ones to arrive, I felt like I did something and now I’m back home. I got to Chalakudy where I was greeted by my mom.

Only after unpacking everything I realized that I have lost my journal: a small hardcover book where I’ve occasionally written down some things in a diary-like format since my first day of college. I felt a bit bad about that at first, but eventually found peace with its fate.

Things pass. It was time to rush back into my college again.

Closing thoughts

It’s a lot of things. Although now I can’t put my finger on what exactly has changed, this trip changed so many perspectives inside me – about travel, work, culture and life. The changes are multi-faceted and complex, just like every other experience in life itself.

I’m glad and grateful to have had the chance to attend this program and visit Israel.

Thank you for reading.