Donald and his husband, Kurt were so much fun to have on our Tel Aviv Gay Pride trip earlier this summer! Read on to learn about Donald’s experiences with Zoom Vacations in Israel!
Zoom: Why did you decide to go to Israel with Zoom Vacations?
Donald: Israel was always on our list of places to visit. However, it felt too overwhelming to plan a trip to a country with so much history - How to plan the right balance of culture, great food, sightseeing and relaxation. I had never been on a tour where everything was planned for me. Zoom provided the perfect balance.
Zoom: Did you make new friends on this trip?
Donald: Definitely. It was a great combination of couples and singles from all over the US, plus a fabulous couple from London. I look forward to seeing this group in their native cities and on our next Zoom vacation.
Zoom: You came with your husband. Were you able to get enough alone time, in addition to time spent with the group?
Donald: My husband Kurt and I were able to spend several nights just the two of us having dinner, strolling through the local neighborhoods and going out for drinks at local spots, while at the same time, we always felt part of the larger group.
Zoom: How do you think this trip would've been different if you had done this on your own rather than with Zoom's gay group?
Donald: If we had booked the trip on our own, we would have seen many of the key sites in Israel and we might have had a guide for certain portions of our journey. However, with Zoom, we had one dedicated guide for the entire trip, plus 5 other local guides for the particular day's activities - A spice market guide, a guide to local graffiti artists, one near the Golan Heights, one in Bethlehem and another at Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. Each with their unique personalities, charm and enthusiasm for their particular area of expertise.
We also wouldn't have laughed so much or met so many new friends or sang along to the music videos in the luxury van on the way back to hotel.
Zoom: What was your highlight of the trip?
Donald: Masada and the Dead Sea. I had heard so much about these places growing up. They exceeded my expectations.
Zoom: How was the food throughout?
Donald: Throughout the entire trip, the food was amazing. We had a first night rooftop meal in Jerusalem that was a perfect way to kick off the trip.
Breakfasts at hotels in Israel are buffet style. The amount of food from breakfast could last the entire day, and it was scrumptious . Of course, that didn't stop us from eating delicious lunches at local markets with interesting back stories about the proprietors told to us by our guides.
Our last night we went to the home of a local couple who cooked a fantastic sit-down meal for the 15 of us. Their love for cooking and for each other was clearly evident in this magical evening.
Zoom: Did you have any epiphanies about Israel?
Donald: Israel has the most important sites from so many religions. It was so interesting to be with such a diverse group. We were all gay, but from different religious backgrounds - Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim. The discussion we had while visiting these sites, the follow up conversations in the van later on and the continued discussions over drinks back at the hotel was something I hadn't anticipated. No one was arguing any particular point. We were just educating each other on what we had learned during our childhoods and opening our minds to different perspectives of certain historical events.
Zoom: You had a very meaningful moment during the trip. Can you share with us a bit about it?
Donald: It is customary to leave a note at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. I wrote a very personal note asking for Strength for my family and placed it in The Wall.
The next day we went to the Yad Vashem. It was a very emotional morning for everyone. Bryan wanted to change the mood slightly and had us stand in a circle. He then randomly handed each of us a small rock with an inspirational word written on one side. My rock said “Strength”. Coincidence? At that moment, it felt like something much more.
Zoom: That was a beautiful moment that we will always remember at Zoom as well. So, where would you like to go next with Zoom Vacations?
Donald: Peru. Bryan told us so many exciting things about that trip. It's next on our list.
Zoom: Anything else you would like to add?
Donald: I enjoyed the spontaneity. Some of the folks had dinner one night and enjoyed the Israeli wine. They were told it came from a local winery. The next day, we went to that winery. It was not on the itinerary, but Bryan was able to make it happen. A well planned-out trip, but with the ability to pivot and add exciting things at the last minute. That's why I enjoyed the Zoom Vacation so much. Looking forward to the next one.