|I may look like I’m posing, but I’m really trying to get into the fetal position and not faint.|
It was only our second day in Israel. We had such big plans, so much food to eat, so many pictures to take, so much ground to cover. But then it was all thrown off when I got really sick, fainted, and spent part of the night in the emergency room.
The day started simply enough with a drive from Tel Aviv to Kibbutz Maagan Michael. This was the start of Abraham Tours’ Caesarea, Kibbutz, and Arab Village 2-Day Tour. We spent the morning touring the kibbutz and had lunch in the communal dining room. Afterward, we drove to Jisr az-Zarqa, an Arab fishing village.
I was so excited to explore Israel’s only Arab village on the water. Despite its location, Jisr az-Zarqa is no resort town. You wouldn’t be alone if your first impression of the town made you think it was poor, a bit run down, and maybe even not safe. Jisr az-Zarqa has a lot going against it. The highway that passes by doesn’t even have an exit for the town, so if you want to visit, you have to go quite a bit out of the way.
We came to this village because Abraham Tours, along with Juha’s Guesthouse, is trying to make Jisr az-Zarqa a tourist attraction and bring it out of poverty and into popularity, similar to what has been done for Nazareth. Progress has already been made. For instance, the people of the town used to burn their trash in the middle of the streets, causing black acrid smoke and the inability to travel through. Now they burn the trash outside of town. Also, when outsiders came to visit, the children used to run away, not being used to seeing strangers in their town. Now the children greet visitors in the street and smile. Don’t be surprised if they yell towards you, “Jews!” Because this is an Arab town a bit off the beaten track, the only other people they know of are Jews, so they think all visitors are Jews.
As we walked along the streets of Jisr az-Zarqa learning more about the town and people, we stopped at a small store for some snacks and drinks. I was starting to feel tired and assumed it was jet lag kicking in. I decided to get a Coke for some sugar and caffeine. I took a few big gulps, but started to feel even funnier.
We continued wandering through the town, leaving the busy main thoroughfare to the quieter neighborhood streets where kids ran around and played ball, where we got inquisitive glances which turned into smiles when we smiled and said hello. We saw new construction amongst the already established homes with laundry hanging to dry. Some little girls who yelled “Jews!” at us were excited to be part of a selfie with one of our fellow travelers, Jenn.
We took a turn and started heading along a sandy trail towards the water. The trail was leading us to the fishing part of Jisr az-Zarqa. I started to feel hot even though it was cold outside, I was breaking out into a sweat, and I felt slightly dizzy and nauseated.
We were surprised to learn that there are remainders from Roman times here. A significant portion of a Roman aqueduct runs across the shoreline towards the water.
Another Roman remnant is a small piece of a mosaic floor peeking out from the sand. I knelt down, partially to examine the mosaic more closely, but mostly because crouching helped relieve the dizziness and nausea, if just for a moment.
By the time we got to the rocky cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and the fishing boats of Jisr az-Zarqa, I knew it was no longer a matter of if I was going to throw up, but of when. I just hoped it would wait until we got back to the guesthouse.
As we started walking down the hill towards the fishing boats and fishermen, I realized I wasn’t going to make it. Did I mention we were traveling with a group of nine other people, all of whom we had just met that morning, many of whom would be with us through much of our journey through Israel? They had barely met me. I really wasn’t ready to puke in front of them all. And I didn’t want to be the cause of their day ending early or messing up anything that was planned.
I finally lost the good fight and had to duck behind a rock mass to relieve my stomach of some of its contents. Or actually, a lot of its contents. Thankfully this was done without our travel mates having to see. Rome came to check on me in the midst of my bout of sickness and I quickly reminded him that beets were part of my lunch before he worried that things were worse than they actually were.
Hoping that would be it, we caught up with the others. Rome explained to our tour guide Genevieve what was going on. She started to provide Rome with walking directions back to Juha’s Guesthouse. I tried to assure her I would be okay with a weak smile on my face, when a wave of sickness hit me again. I desperately tried to find a place that would shield me from view, but there was nothing and I found myself doubled over, puking into the sand in front of the others as well as the fishermen sitting along the beach who, just a few seconds earlier, had been enjoying the calming view of the sea.
Genevieve, extremely anxious, offered to call someone from the town to pick us up and drive us back to the guesthouse immediately. We accepted. Not to get too graphic, but I then realized it was imperative I reach a restroom ASAP. There was one in a building on the beach. A concerned Genevieve warned me that it would not have the amenities I was used to, but I didn’t care. I was greeted by a small bathroom which became enveloped in complete darkness when I closed the door, equipped with a toilet and a sink, and a spray nozzle in place of toilet paper.
When I emerged, a gentleman had arrived in his car, completely unknown to us, ready to drive us back to the guesthouse. Rome and I got in and I prayed I wouldn’t have another incident during the drive. When we pulled up to the guesthouse, thankfully incident free, I pulled out some money and offered it to the gentleman whose name we hadn’t even learned. He looked at it, then up at me, shook his head, and said no, he wouldn’t take it, he hoped I felt better, and welcome to Jisr az-Zarqa.
The plan for the evening was to be guests of the guesthouse owners for dinner in their home. They would be preparing a traditional Arab dinner for us. There was no way I was going to make it, but I figured with some rest I’d be fine, and I wanted to at least see pictures and hear descriptions of the food, so I sent Rome off with the others. I stayed behind and slept, drank a little water, and tried to feel better.
When the group came back from dinner, Rome asked me if I wanted to come out and say goodbye to Genevieve as we would have a different guide in the morning. I pulled on my boots and slowly walked outside. As I was waiting to talk to Genevieve, I started to feel a little woozy and sat down on a rock wall. It just got worse, so I stood up to go back into the guesthouse. I recall stumbling along the porch, weaving back and forth and grabbing at the wall and bamboo shade, and attempting to punch in the code to open the door.
I woke up to my feet being propped up on a chair, and I wondered why people were trying to awake me from my wonderfully deep sleep. As I became more aware, I realized that I was laying on the ground, my head and shoulders on the floor of the guesthouse room, my legs out on the porch resting on the aforementioned chair. Later Rome would tell me that when he ran up, I was frozen on the ground, eyes open, hands and arms clenched.
Genevieve called for an ambulance. While we waited, she made sure Rome gathered our passports and printout of our travel insurance. When the ambulance came, the EMTs took my vitals and started asking questions. They gave me the option of whether or not to go to the hospital, but I said that if they suggested it, I wanted to go. Rome got in the ambulance with me, and Ahmed, the owner of Juha’s Guesthouse, followed behind in his car.
This was my first ever ride in an ambulance. The EMT that rode in the back with me struck up a conversation. I learned from him that the Jisr az-Zarqa beach has great tide pools and otters can frequently be spotted in the water.
When we arrived at the emergency room, the EMTs waited with us, as well as Ahmed, until I was finally put into an ER bed. I also had to pay the ambulance bill, which was 485 shekels, or $131.
|Caught in the act of taking photos by the ER doctor.|
The ER doctor came to see me and ordered some blood tests and an IV. Yet another first for me, one I had really hoped to avoid. Ahmed waited a couple hours, but when the doctor told him it might still be a few more hours, he asked us if we were okay with him leaving, and he gave us his phone number so he could come pick us up when I was released.
The doctor determined that I had acquired some sort of stomach bug and that being sick had caused me to become severely dehydrated. Once I felt a little stronger and was able to walk on my own two feet, I was released from the hospital, a little after midnight. We called Ahmed who said he would pick us up in 15 minutes and we paid the hospital bill, which was 1,283 shekels, or $346.
As Ahmed drove us back, we thanked him for everything and told him that all things considered, the hospital experience had been good. He shared with us that it was one of the worst hospitals in Israel, which surprised us. It felt similar to the hospital near our house, where Rome had spent almost a week after his appendectomy.
|The humble Juha’s Guesthouse.|
The next morning, I joined the others for breakfast and everyone was happy to learn I had returned from the hospital. Ahmed came to check on us, and he had also let Abraham Tours know what had happened, as they called us via his phone to check on me and to offer to take us back to Tel Aviv if we wished. While I was still feeling pretty weak, I really didn’t want to miss what was planned for the rest of our time in Israel. So continue on we did and had an amazing trip, though you won’t be reading any food posts because I just wasn’t able to enjoy food for much of the trip.
When we got home from Israel, it was time to work on getting reimbursed from our World Nomads travel insurance for the medical costs. World Nomads doesn’t require that a claim be submitted immediately thankfully, so we were able to wait until we returned home. Once I submitted the claim, I received a request for copies of our round trip itinerary, itemized bill, medical report, and payment documentation. The request that surprised me was that for proof of submitting the medical expenses to my primary medical insurance and their Explanation of Benefits.
I assumed my health insurance wouldn’t cover an international medical expense. After all, isn’t that what travel insurance is for? Truth be told, it kind of irritated me, but I submitted the expenses to my health insurance company, Universal HealthCare. Imagine my surprise when after a couple weeks I received a response that $429 of the $477 claim would be covered! I submitted the information to World Nomads and in about a week I received a check for the remaining $48.
We learned quite a few lessons from this experience. Listen to your body. If you get sick, make sure you stay hydrated and get some electrolytes. Make sure everyone in your party knows where the passports and travel insurance documents are. Know the local emergency numbers. Learn what your health insurance covers and consider supplementing with travel insurance. But what we will always carry with us from that day is the extreme kindness that can be received from total strangers, which made a situation that could have been extremely scary into an unfortunate incident that turned into a story we could share.
Thank you to Abraham Tours and Abraham Hostels for hosting our trip to Israel and making this post possible. As always all opinions are our own. This article contains affiliate links. If you purchase through them it costs you nothing extra and we earn a small commission which goes towards running this website and bringing you more travel stories.