Israel Travel Blog


The Galilee (‘ha Galil’ in Hebrew and ‘al Jalil’ in Arabic) is an area of Israel located in the north of the country (as well as a part of southern Lebanon). It encompasses all of the land north of the ridge that stretches from Mount Carmel to Mount Gilboa and south of the east-west part of the Litani river.The Sea of Galilee.Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe Galilee stretches from Acre on the Mediterranean shores (the coastal plain of Israel area) all the way to the Jordan Valley and from the Litani (in the north, partly in Lebanon and also bordering on the Golan Heights) Locals often refer to specific parts of it as being in the ‘Upper Galilee’ and ‘Lower Galilee’.‘Galilee of Nations’‘Galil’ in Hebrew is a unique word meaning ‘district’ and in some biblical texts it is referred to as ‘ha Galil ha goyim’ which means ‘the Galilee of nations’. ‘Goyim’ can also mean ‘gentile’ in Hebrew so this is clearly a reference to ancient times when many non-Jews lived in this region.Today, the area’s population is quite diverse. The majority of the population is Muslim, and most of these are Arab, although there are sizeable Christian Arab and Druze communities. Bedouins and Maronites also live in Galilee and, of course, there are Jewish communities too (often found on kibbutzim and ‘moshavim’).A Boat at the Sea of Galilee, Israel.Photo credit: © ShutterstockGeography of GalileeThe Galilee is set in beautiful hills and much of it is lush and green. Its climate is very warm for much of the year and because its soil is so fertile it is the perfect place to grow fruits and vegetables. Historically, the area was prosperous - in Jesus’ times - barley, figs, grapes, wheat and olive oil were produced in large amounts. All of these are still produced today but advanced agricultural techniques mean you are likely to see many greenhouses filled with subtropical fruit, as well as orchards filled with citrus fruit, as you drive around the area.Nevertheless, The Upper Galilee can have cool nights and even the occasional snowfall in winter, and both parts receive ample amounts of rainfall in the winter so, as mentioned before, the area is rich in agricultural land. Still, summers can be very hot, sometimes even sweltering and humid too. In general, the best months of the year to visit are March to May and October to December, although for much of the year temperatures can be pleasant. The Sea of Galilee itself is 21 km long and almost 13 km wide. At almost 43 km deep, it is 209 metres below sea level which means it is the lowest freshwater lake on earth and the second-lowest lake in the world after the Dead Sea.The view of the Sea of Galilee. Photo credit: © ShutterstockHistory of the Galilee -Israelites, Crusaders and Muslim RuleHistorically, the region was ruled by the Israelites, under the auspices of the tribe of Naphtali. Throughout the times of Jesus, the Galilee was actually run by one of King Herod’s sons, as more of a ‘client state’. Jesus spent most of his adult life in this area so, unsurprisingly, many Galilee Christian sites eventually sprang up. The Hasmoneans conquered the area at the beginning of 2 BCE. Muslims conquered the area in 630 CE.By the 10th century, the Shia Fatimids had taken control, which is how the Druze came to live in the north of the region. During the Crusades, it was an important region, one of the four major ‘seigneuries’ of the Kingdom of Jerusalem.Ottoman Rule, the British Mandate and the War of IndependenceDuring the Ottoman period, Galilee was ruled by the Safad Sanjak - during their rule, many Jews, having been expelled from Spain, moved to this region, mainly to Safed, making it a centre for learning (in particular the esoteric school of Kabbalah).Under the British Mandate, there was a rise in nationalist politics in both the Arab and Jewish camps. After the War of Independence in 1948, the area was divided between Israel and what was then Transjordan. Today, its most prominent cities are Nazareth, Safed, Karmiel, and Afula and Haifa serves as its main hub (as a port city). The city of Safed in the Upper Galilee.Photo credit: © ShutterstockNational Parks in GalileeTel Hazor - this ancient site contains some very impressive ruins including Solomon’s gate, a Canaanite palace and a water system that dates back to the time of King Ahab and supplied local residents with water, even in times of drought.Hula Nature Reserve - a major wet habitat in the Middle East and a fantastic site to see water birds, many of whom spend winter in this region. This national park contains an observation tower, a floating bridge, water buffalo and fallow deer. Walk around the marshes and spy animals hiding and look out for the large grove of eucalyptus trees. Tsipori National Park - this large complex has the remains of sn Roman theatre, a Crusader castle, a Jewish residential quarter, a synagogue and even a Roman villa. Look out for the impressive ancient reservoir which runs for 260 metres underground.Hamat Tiberias - here you can see beautifully preserved mosaics in an ancient synagogue, as well as the remains of a Turkish hammam (bathhouse) dating back to the 18th century. There are also mineral pools you can take a dip in!Korazim - this town, mentioned in the Babylonian Talmud, contains remains that date back from the 3rd and 4th centuries. The beautiful synagogue here was built at the end of the 4th century and was made of basalt, a common stone in Galilee. The beautiful synagogue at Korazim, built at the end of the fourth century or the beginning of the fifth century CE, is made of basalt, the region’s most common stone. The building has an elaborate facade, with geometric patterns carved in the stone.Hamat Tiberias National Park.Photo credit: © ShutterstockArchaeological Sites in GalileeMegiddo - this ancient city (known, famously, in Greek as Armageddon) was one of the most important cities in Canaan and today it is possible to explore its remains, including underground tunnels and a water system.Capernaum - this is the remains of a fishing village of Kfar Nahum from the time of the Second Temple and today houses the remains of an ancient synagogue including stone friezes.Tomb of Rabbi Meir Baal HaNes- this ancient sage whose name is translated from Hebrew as the Miracle Maker, lived at the time of the Mishna ( Oral Torah, 139-163 CE). His tomb is located in Tiberias.Kursi National Park - encompasses the impressive remains of a Byzantine monastery and church. Christians believe it is the site of the Miracle of the Swine mentioned in the Bible.Tsipori Archaeological site.Photo credit: © ShutterstockMuseums in GalileeYigal Allon Museum - located at Kibbutz Ginosarhere you can find exhibits relating to the history, nature, and culture of the Galilee, as well as artworks made by local Arabs and Jews.Janco Dada Museum - established in 1983 in the lovely village of Ein Hod, this small museum is dedicated to Marcel Janco, who brought the Dada movement to Israel.Wilfred Israel Museum - located on Kibbutz Hazorea, near Megiddo, this tiny museum is dedicated to the art of the Far East - here you can see sculptures, paintings and artwork.Upper Galilee Museum of Prehistory - a small site, filled with prehistoric artefacts collected from the Hula Valley, situated in Kibbutz Ma'ayan Baruch.The Artists Village of Ein Hod.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinJewish Holy Sites in GalileeThere are several sites that have a long Jewish history in Galilee. Perhaps the most important is Safed, a town that has been a centre for Jewish mysticism for hundreds of years. Its tiny winding streets are picturesque and it also boasts a beautiful Artists' Colony.Here we can see synagogues that operated until the 6th century AD throughout Galilee.There are a plethora of Jewish holy sites likeBeit Shearim, the Tomb of theProphet Habakkuk, tombs of the most influentialRabbis, like Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, Rabbi Akiva, or the Tomb ofMaimonides (Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon) and Tomb of the Matriarchs in Tiberias.Beit Shearim National Park. Photo credit: © ShutterstockChristian Holy Sites in GalileeThe Galilee is full of fascinating religious sites, mentioned both in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, which are really worth a visit. Jesus ministered primarily in Galilee and many of his miracles were carried out in this region. This is where he changed water into wine, transformed two fishes and five loaves into food to feed 5,000 and walked on water. Today, the Galilee is a popular pilgrimage site for tens of thousands of Christians who, each year, arrive at the famous baptismal siteYardenitwith Chrisitan tour packages.There are many churches to visit around the area too including the Church of the Beatitudes, designed by renowned Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi (where Jesus gave his famous Sermon on the Mount), Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha (where Jesus created food to feed thousands), the Wedding Churchof Cana (where Jesus turned water into wine at the wedding of a poor local couple) and the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter in Capernaum (where Peter once lived).Furthermore, In 2011, the ‘Jesus Trail’ was established, giving pilgrims the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, along with a 60 km (40 miles) network of footpaths, bicycle lanes and roads. Pilgrims begin in Nazareth and hike the journey all the way to the Sea of Galilee, where the trail ends at Capernaum. It is possible to camp along the way, as well as spend the night in local kibbutz accommodation or private ‘zimmers’ (bed & breakfasts).Ruins of the Synagogue of Jesus in Capernaum, Israel. Photo credit: © ShutterstockAround GalileeNazareth - home to Joseph and Mary, the parents of Jesus, the ancient city of Nazareth is where Jesus spent some of his earliest years. It is well worth a visit, not just to see theChurch of the Annunciation (where the Angel Gabriel visited Mary) and the Church of St. Joseph, but also for its shuk (market). Join one of numerous Nazareth tours to discover this biblical city.The Sea of Galilee - a beautiful place to drive around, and dotted with sites along the route, there are all kinds of places to tour here including visits to Magdala, Kibbutz Ein Gev, and a number of historic churches.Camping - there are a number of camping sites in the area, which are ideal for overnight stays - they are relatively inexpensive, with excellent facilities, and afford beautiful morning and evening views over the lake. Camping tents. Photo by I Do Nothing But Love on UnsplashGalilee Attractions and CuisineThe area is full of attractions, including Mount Tabor, Mount Meron, and the beautiful Rosh Hanikra (on the Lebanon border). It is a wonderful place for outdoor lovers, since it is full of hiking trails, and sports lovers can enjoy horse riding and kayaking in the Jordan River.For wine lovers, there are a number of excellent wineries in the region, where you can attend tastings and buy wine, as well as other local produce, such as cheese, olive oil, and chocolate. Cuisine in the region is light and fresh. In the spring, almonds flourish, as do mulberries. Local cheeses are always very popular with tourists, as is the organic produce - try the avocados, sweet peppers, nectarines and dates. In recent years, the concept of ‘foraging’ (searching for wild produce that is then incorporated into dishes) has become popular.Harvest moments in the vineyard. Photo by Árpád Czapp on UnsplashGetting to GalileeThere are three ways to travel to, and around, Galilee - public transport, car rental, and group excursions as well asGalilee private tours.Getting to Galilee by bus - you can travel directly to Tiberias from Tel Aviv, Haifa, or Jerusalem but then things become more difficult - buses in the area do not run regularly and you waste precious time waiting for connections. Some young people do hitch rides in the area.Getting to Galilee by car - renting a car in Israel is not difficult and this will give you flexibility in your itinerary. However, bear in mind a couple of things - firstly, you may find driving in Israel challenging (it is fast-paced and not for the faint-hearted) and secondly, you will have to deal with parking problems (which can really give you a headache in certain areas).Getting to Galilee by tour - the third, and definitely, the easiest option is to book a tour of the Galilee - either in a group or privately. Whether you have one day or several, there are all kinds of options - those that focus on archaeological sites in Northern Israel and historical landmarks in Galilee, those that concentrate on religious/pilgrim aspects, and those that give you a ‘mix’ - a little history, a little nature, and a little theology. Of course, if you decide to take a private Galilee tour, it can be tailored to your specific needs - you set the agenda.However you travel, though, enjoy Galilee!Tel Hazor National Park. Photo credit: © Doron Nissim. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority
Par Sarah Mann

5 Best Winter Hikes in Northern Israel

Most tourists miss out on the incredible landscapes of Israel but in fact, the Holy Land is crisscrossed with numerous interesting hike routes and has over 60 national parks and nature reserves. Each season nature paints the land with different colors and you can see animals and plants unique to each season. Winter is no exception. Israeli winters are extremely mild compared to Europe or the US and you can easily enjoy hikes across the country and especially in northern Israel. Not only that but with the winter comes rain and hikers can enjoy abundant waterfalls flowing streams and lush vegetation and wildflowers that come alive after a thirsty summer.1. Agamon HaHulaWinter is the perfect time to visit Agamon HaHula (the Hula Lake). Israel is a stopover point for thousands of migrating birds each winter and the Agamon HaHula happens to be one of the most frequented spots for visiting birds. In fact, it is one of the top 10 bird watching places in the world. For the best birdwatching, it is best to arrive very early in the morning or just before sunset. You can hike around the lake following an 8.5km path; cycle or rent a golf cart. You could spend 2-3 hours hiking around the lake. You'll enjoy the sight of huge flocks of cranes and the sound of thousands of wings flapping as they take off. On the route are several lookout huts and areas where you can see turtles, fish, beavers, water buffalo, wild boar and other species of birds. Once this was a mosquito-infested marsh but it has been drained and rehabilitated into an idyllic park. The lake and surrounding area are beautiful even without the birds!2. Nahal AmudNahal Amud is one of the most popular hike destinations in Northern Israel; located near Safed the hike route takes you east following the Amud Stream from Mt. Meron in the west to the Sea of Galilee. The hike route takes 2-4 hours to complete and can be started at either end. If you start at Mount Meron you will encounter more downhill stretches and have to follow a steep path from the nature reserve entrance to the water's edge. The route is mostly under the shade of beautiful trees and you can choose to walk in the stream or on the banks. Winter is the perfect time to follow this popular hike route which gets crowded during the summer. Some points of interest along the way include historic water-powered flour mills and natural pools. There are several points where you can cut the hike short if you want to. You could also take the shortest route and double back to the parking lot.3. Nesher ParkThis trail is within Nesher Park not far from Haifa and is not as frequented as some of Israel's more popular hike trails so in winter you may have it all to yourself. Highlights of the hike include the two 70m-long steel hanging bridges crossing Katia River which only flows in the winter. From the bridges, there are panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and gully below. Within Nesher Park are sports facilities, footpaths, scenic lookout points and the trail itself. The landscape includes pine and oak tree woodlands; strawberry trees and an old stone bridge. Enter the park and access the trail from Heharuv Street.4. BaniasThe Banias is definitely one of the most beautiful areas in Israel and especially in winter when the brilliant green of lush vegetation comes alive. Like a fairy forest out of a children's book, this corner of the country is so idyllic it has been suggested that this was the site of the Garden of Paradise. The Banias National Park is home to several streams and the longest hike trail in the area stretching for 4 hours. Some visitors to the Banias come for the scenery while others are on a Christian pilgrimage to see the place where Peter told Jesus he was the Messiah and Jesus gave Peter his blessing to lead the church. Highlights include the ancient temple ruins; the streams, river and waterfalls. As you enter the park you can pick up a free map and choose which route to follow.5. Carmel Scenic RouteThe Carmel Scenic Route or Derech Nof HaCarmel can be followed on foot; by bike or by car. The route travels through orchards; pine tree forests; hills; valleys and farmlands stretching for about 25km (15.5miles). Along the route, there are views of Jezreel Valley and the Galilean Hills. Hike up from the Nesher Highway to the Carmelite Monastery Deir al-Muhraka where you can take in the views from the monastery balcony. You'll see the Carmel Ridge Forests, carpets of wildflowers, scenic lookout points, rivers, dramatic cliffs and woodlands. The Carmel Forest stretches from Ramat Menashe in the south to Haifa Bay in the north. There are several routes you could follow in this area including the Cyclamen Trail which comes alive with colorful cyclamens in the winter.Winter Hikes in IsraelNorthern Israel is a wonderful place for winter hiking although the entire country offers hiking opportunities from hikes near Jerusalem to desert hikes in Israel. No matter when you visit there are hikes to follow. Each hike in Israel has its own highlights – from the waterfalls of the north and the ancient ruins of the Jerusalem area to vineyards, natural springs and expansive desert vistas.
Par Petal Mashraki

The Churches of Jesus Ministry in the Galilee

The Christian gospels tell us that Jesus spent 3-6 years (27/29 AD – 30/36 AD) preaching in the Galilee, during his ministry in the Galilee he met and recruited his disciples and traveled around the countryside preaching as well as performing several miracles. His Galilee ministry began with his baptism at the site now known as Yardenit. Today several churches mark the significant sites where biblical events occurred in the Galilee.The Wedding Church at Cana, built on the site of Jesus First Miracle, Israel. Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe Church of the House of St Peter, CapernaumJesus based himself in the village of Capernaum (Kfar Nahum) during his Galilee ministry; extensive excavations have uncovered a Roman-era synagogue constructed of black basalt rock which could have been where Jesus preached. In addition, Capernaum was the hometown of Saint Peter (and several other future disciples). St. Peter’s house was used for gatherings of the followers of Jesus during his lifetime and later the site was revered by Christians so that over the years churches have been built above the house to commemorate St. Peter.Today the Church of St. Peter is a modern structure located within the Kfar Nahum National Park. The modern church has been built on the site of St. Peter’s house but raised above archaeological findings. Visitors can peer down through a glass-covered opening in the center of the church and see the excavated house of St. Peter as well as a later 5th-century octagonal Byzantine church. In the tradition of earlier churches, the modern Church of St Peter is also octagonal. Within the structure are motifs of the Sea of Galilee and biblical scenes from Saint Peter’s life.Aerial view of Capernaum, Town of Jesus, Galilee, Israel.Photo credit: © ShutterstockChurch of the Seven Apostles, CapernaumThis Greek Orthodox Church is located on the southeastern edge of what would have been the Roman village of Capernaum; the church is dedicated to the seven apostles named in the Gospel of John. The church was completed in 1931 on the site where the village of Capernaum was relocated following an earthquake in 746 AD. The picturesque church has a white exterior with bright red onion domes. Within the church, almost every surface is covered with intricate and colorful murals.Church of the BeatitudesLocated on the Mount of Beatitudes above Capernaum overlooking the Sea of Galilee is the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus gave his sermon on the mount which contains some of the pivotal teachings in Christianity. The sermon contained the 10 blessings that begin “Blessed are…” as well as the Lord’s Prayer. To mark the site where Jesus gave his longest teaching of Christian principles is the Franciscan Church of the Beatitudes. The church was designed by renowned Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi and constructed in 1938. The church is set in a tranquil garden and the exterior has a covered arcade supported by columns separated by arched openings. The roof of the church has a single central dome. Within the church are stained glass windows featuring the beatitudes and gold mosaics in the dome. The church has an octagonal shape to symbolize the 8 beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11). The church has been visited by Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II.Church of the Beatitudes.Photo credit: © ShutterstockChurch of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, TabghaTabgha is believed to have been the site of the first feeding when Jesus performed the miracle of sharing 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish with 5,000 people who had come to hear him. The Roman Catholic Church is a modern structure constructed on the site of two earlier churches. Elements of the earlier churches have been preserved including a 5th-century floor mosaic in the two transepts featuring plants, animals, and a lotus flower. Near the altar is a mosaic of two fish and a basket of bread. During excavations a limestone slab of rock was found, this now lies under the altar and is thought to have been the table where Jesus shared out the miraculous meal.Church of the Primacy of Peter, TabghaThis modern Franciscan chapel built in 1933 marks the site where Jesus ate with his disciples following his resurrection and also where Jesus reinstated St. Peter who had denied knowing Jesus three times at Jesus’ crucifixion. It is the signature event of Jesus appointing Peter to look over his church that led to the Pope (a successor of Peter) being the leader of the Christian world (John 21:15-19). The church is located on the water’s edge of the Sea of Galilee, there are even stone steps going down to the water. The steps were carved out of the rock c.2nd century. On the water’s edge at the base of the steps are 12 heart-shaped blocks called the Twelve Thrones dedicated to the 12 Apostles. At high tide, the block columns are submerged beneath the water. The church holds the Mensa Christi or the table where Jesus and his disciples ate. Earlier churches that stood on this site have been incorporated into the more recent structure. Remains of the walls of a 4th-century church are visible in the grey stone structure.Inside the Church of the Multiplication, near the sea of Galilee, Israel. Photo credit: © ShutterstockCana Wedding Church, Kfar CanaUnlike the churches mentioned above which all lie on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, this church is in the Lower Galilee between the Sea of Galilee and Nazareth. It was here that Jesus performed his first miracle turning water into wine at a wedding celebration (John 2:1-11).The site of this miracle is marked with a church. It is a Franciscan Catholic church constructed from 1879 to 1883 over the ruins of a 6th-century church and also has a 4th-century mosaic floor with Aramaic inscriptions. The baroque-style church has twin bell towers, and a façade topped with angel statues. There is an arcaded narthex and a pleasant front courtyard. The interior has two levels with a dome above the upper church and a nave on the lower level where you can see part of a Byzantine mosaic. On the lower level is a chapel and museum with artifacts found during the construction.Church of St. George, Kfar CanaNext to the Marriage Church is a Greek Orthodox Church built in 1886, the church holds two of the six jars believed to have been used in the miracle of the wine. Outside the church is a courtyard with palm trees, bells, gazebos, and fountains but the interior is usually closed to tourists.Cana Wedding Church. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
Par Petal Mashraki

Golan Heights

Archeological finds on the Golan Heights, which date as far back as the Chalcolithic Age, include Gamla, the Jewish city destroyed by the Romans during the Jewish Revolt between 67 and 70 CE, and Katzrin, the restored city of the Mishnah and Talmud period. Adjoining the historic Katzrin is the modern Katzrin, a city of over 30,000, well-known for the winery producing the prize-winning Gamla, Yarden, and Golan wines.The Golan Heights.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinThere are two National Parks in the north each with hiking trails. Banias (Caesarea Philippi) is particularly interesting to Christian pilgrims while the excavations at Dan have uncovered the Canaanite and Israelite cities.Majdal Shams, Ein Kenya, Masada, and Bukata are the four Druze villages that came under Israeli control after the Six-Day War in 1967 and were formally annexed by a law passed in the Knesset in 1981. The law was condemned internationally and determined null and void by United Nations Security Council Resolution 497. Most of the Druze on the Golan Heights chose not to become Israeli citizens and maintain close relations with their brethren in Syria. Some of the apples from their numerous orchards are exported to Syria.In 1964 the Syrians began extensive work to prevent the water of the Snir, Hermon (Banias), and Dan rivers from reaching the Jordan River and ultimately the Kinneret.This was contra to international agreements concerning the use of water and threatened Israel’s water source which was at that time dependent on pumping water from the Kinneret.In retaliation for the Israeli attempt to thwart the Syrian efforts, Syria used the entire western ridge which overlooks Israel to fire on Israeli towns and villages in eastern Galilee and on the shores of the Kinneret. Children on the kibbutzim in range of the Syrian shelling lived in underground bomb shelters, coming out to play only close to the shelters.When the Six-Day War began in June 1967 Syria, as the ally of Egypt in the United Arab Republic, increased its bombardment of the Israeli towns and villages from the heights. Due to the strategic and topographic advantage of the Syrian positions and the ineffectiveness of the Israeli bombings Israel was reluctant to undertake a frontal attack on the Syrian bunkers. Some of these can still be seen at the Gadot Memorial Banias Nature Reserve.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinThe Six-Day WarIt was only on the fifth day of the war that Israeli began her infantry advance, directly up the slopes under Syrian emplacements. Within sixty hours the entire plateau, the Golan Heights came under Israeli control. Hoping for a peace treaty with Syria, Israel made no move to annex the Golan Heights. In October 1973, in a surprise attack, the Syrians attempted to retake the Golan Heights and advance into Israel. When the cease-fire agreement between Israel and Syria was signed in May 1974 the Golan Heights were firmly back under Israeli control. Feeling no threat from Israel during both wars, the Druze population of the four villages remained and prospered.Israeli settlement on the Golan Heights began only after the Yom Kippur War when Syria rejected all proposals for direct negotiations with Israel. The town of Katzrin serves as the commercial and administrative center for the kibbutzim and moshavim on the heights.As mentioned above, it was only in 1981, after repeated refusals by Syria to enter into negotiations with Israel, that the Golan Heights, from which Israel had been attacked in 1948, 1964-67, and 1973, were legally annexed.Valley of Tears, Golan Heights.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinWhere is the Golan HeightsThe Golan Heights stretch one hundred kilometers from the Hermon Mountain in the north to the Yarmuk River, which is the border between Israel and Jordan, in the South. The western ridge looks down on the northern part of the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee, hence the ‘heights’.Although there are a number of mountains and extinct volcanoes on the eastern side it was the ceasefire agreements between Israel and Syria that defined the eastern border. Damascus, the capital of Syria is about fifty kilometers to the east; Kuneitra is immediate across the demilitarized zone. Most of the area is mainly a basaltic plateau. At its widest point, passing through Katzrin, the heights are twenty-four kilometers wide.WeatherThe weather in the summer months is peasant during the day and cool in the evening. Holiday-makers can enjoy a variety of activities including cherry-picking, hikes in the many streams, and waterfalls bird watching on the cliffs of the Gamla Nature Reserve.In the winter months, there can be snow on the northern part of the heights, especially on Mount Hermon where there are facilities for skiing. To cater to the many visitors, accommodation is available in hotels, guesthouses, and at private homes offering small but luxurious bed and breakfast suites.Snow in Hermon, Golan Heights.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
Par Petal Mashraki

A Great Outdoors Day Trip around Haifa

The Haifa region is one of the most beautiful in the country; it is blessed with forest covered mountains, valleys, rivers, the sea and vibrant cities. Here is an idea for a fun family outing to get a taste of Israel’s countryside and have an adventure. If you are coming from the Tel Aviv drive up the coastal road (route #2) passed Herzliya, Netanya and Caesarea. All the way you will have gorgeous Mediterranean Sea on your left and farmlands on your right. Turn onto route 70 at the Zichron Yaakov Interchange; at the Fureidis junction connect with route 4 traveling north. After about 20 minutes you will see Nahal Mearot on your right.View of Haifa from the top of Mount Carmel.Photo by Ste Ben8 on UnsplashNahal MearotOnce you reach the end of the cave there is a short film showing the dramatized life of a family of prehistoric cave dwellers. Just outside the Nahal Cave, you can see where one of 84 buried prehistoric skeletons was found. Next to the entrance of each cave, there is an information board with illustrations showing how the caves were formed and explanations in English and Hebrew.When you have enjoyed the fresh mountain air and views from the mountain slopes it is time to continue the day’s adventure. Continue north on route 4 until route 721 takes you east up into the Carmel Mountains. You’ll be surrounded by greenery as you wend your way along narrow roads clinging to the mountainsides.This route takes you through Mount Carmel National Park In 1989 a massive forest fire swept across the Carmel Mountains destroying 790 acres of natural forest. Again in 2010 a forest fire erupted across Mount Carmel and raged for 4 days claiming the lives of 44 people. 17,000 people were evacuated and 9,900 acres of forest were destroyed.Since then major projects have been initiated to replant trees across Carmel. A drive through this area; through the heart of the disaster area will show you that the forests are again thriving. Look out along the way for the mountain top memorial to those who lost their lives in the fire. The monument is a beautiful sculpture that can be seen from far away. Turn onto Route 672 which takes you past the Haifa University campus and make a sharp right onto route 705 which will bring you to the JNF Eagle Park or KKL Nesher Park.Haifa view from the Bahai Gardens' Terrace. Photo by Piotr Musioł on UnsplashNesher Park – The Hanging BridgesKids will love this short hike which takes you down a level footpath through the vegetation along the edge of a wadi (dry river gully). Looking up you can see the tall university building; the tallest building on the Carmel Mountain which looks down over Haifa. The footpath brings you to a 70-meter steel cable suspended bridge crossing the gully of Nahal Katia.The gully flows with water during the winter. Cross the bridge and then decide if you want to descend into the gully for a longer route or make a circular route crossing another suspension bridge a little further along to bring you back to where you started. In the gully, there is a quaint stone bridge that takes you further down to a woodland area where there are benches, picnic spots, and lookout points.The whole route takes about an hour to complete. Continuing on your day trip return to route 672 and wend your way down the mountainside into the city of Haifa. Route 672 reaches a fork in the road where you take the right-hand route 23 along Bikurim Street, HaAsif Street, and then left onto Sderot Kish which becomes Yefe Nof Street. Park your car on Yefe Nof when you see signs to the Ba’ha Gardens and follow the path downwards.Sailboat at Haifa Bay.Photo by Fr. Daniel Ciucci on UnsplashBa’hai Gardens, HaifaThe Ba’hai Gardens were built as a setting for the shrines of the founders of the Ba’hai faith. The Ba’hai faith is a monotheistic religion based on the teachings of the Bab and Bah’a’u’llah; prophets who received revelations from God. The Ba’hai accept the validity of other faiths and have a unique worldview.There are 450 plant species in the gardens which stretch for 1km on the northern slope of Mount Carmel in the heart of Haifa. From the top to the bottom of the 19 garden terraces it is 225 meters and at its widest point, the gardens are 400 meters wide. There are three access points to the Ba’hai Garden – from Yefe Nof Street above the upper gardens and shrine; from Hatzionut Avenue which is on the same level as the Shrine or from the bottom of the gardens at the plaza on the junction of Ben Gurion Ave and Hagefen Street in the German Colony.At 61 Yefe Nof Street, there is a viewing balcony where you can have a panoramic view of the terraced gardens and the bay of Haifa. Descending along paved paths through the gardens from the crest of Mount Carmel towards the Shrine of the Bab you will see the amazing terraces of formal and informal gardens. Halfway down the garden is the Shrine of the Bab a solemn holy site and a symbol of Haifa. The small Grecian-style shrine has a distinctive gold dome and white walls. Below the shrine, the garden terraces continue flanked by twin streams of cascading water, bridges, and steps.The Shrine of the Báb, Haifa. Photo by Ameer Basheer on UnsplashMore Sites along the WayIf that is not enough for one day or if you want to swap one of these sites for another there are many other great attractions in the area. You could visit the former British detainee camp in Atlit; the artists’ village of Ein Hod; the Haifa Science Museum or spend time on one of Haifa’s beaches. You could also follow this itinerary in reverse order.Practical InformationNahal Mearot: Admission: Adult 22 ILS, child 10 ILS, student 19 ILS, senior 11 ILS. Open Hours: Sun-Thurs 8 am-5 pm; Friday and holiday Eves 8 am-4 pm. Closure an hour earlier in winter. Information: 04 9841750/2Nesher Park: Admission: Free. Open Hours: Visit in daylight hours.Ba’hai Gardens: Admission: Free. Open Hours: Outer Gardens 9 am-5 pm daily; Shrine and Inner Gardens 9 am-noon. There are walk-in tours in English at noon every day except Wednesdays and also at 1:30 pm on Saturdays. Other tours in Hebrew, Russian and Arabic are held at 10 am, 11:30 am, 12:30 pm, 1:30 pm, and 2 pm daily except on Wednesdays. The site is closed on the Ba’hai holidays and temporarily in rainy weather. Note: As a religious site please dress modestly and act with respect at the Ba’hai Shrine.For a real taste of local life in Haifa and its surroundings, book a private Haifa tour!Bahai Gardens, Haifa.Photo by David Holifield on Unsplash
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Camping Around the Sea of Galilee

When you camp around the Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) you are literally camping “around” the Sea of Galilee as you can see from the campground names which are usually identified with the name of the beach they occupy. Israelis love to camp and you can find campgrounds suited for families and others more suited to youngsters. Here we have listed some of the facilities on offer at each site but there may be more facilities.Camping Around the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Adam Sherez on UnsplashTake into account that during the Israeli school holidays the campgrounds get very full and very noisy with individual sound systems and all-night gatherings around a BBQ. But another thing about Israelis is they love to include all those around them so you won’t be left out. Camping is a great way to meet the locals. There is no ideal location to camp on the Kinneret as the total distance around the Sea of Galilee is 55 km so everything is pretty close. Whether you want to be close to Tiberias would perhaps be the only factor to consider in terms of location. Otherwise, choose the style of campground you prefer and the one with the facilities you need.Jordan Park CampgroundThis campground is run by the JNF (Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael or KKL) and is within Jordan Park which covers 250 acres northeast of the Kinneret alongside the eastern channel of the Jordan River. It is one of the area’s largest campgrounds. The campground is free to enter if you walk in but there is a fee per car. At several points in the park, there are streams from the Jordan River, and some deep enough to swim. Here you can find electricity outlets, lighting, restrooms, showers, water coolers, camping tables, a small amusement park, mini-market, lawns, and a place to pitch your tent. Uba Kayak, a popular kayak rental business is located in the park. You can kayak on the Jordan River from here. Nearby there is an opportunity to go horseback riding. This is considered a unique campsite and is operated from April to November.Tiberias. Photo by Thalia Tran on UnsplashAmnon BeachLocated near Kfar Nahum at the northern end of the Kinneret this campsite has many facilities and is popular with Christians who recognize this site as Capernaum. Tents and caravans can use this site and there are picnic tables, benches, shaded areas, showers, restrooms, and parking.In the summer there are water sports and attractions for the kids. You can enjoy a buffet breakfast from the beach cafeteria and if you keep Shabbat you can pre-order food for the Sabbath. You can rent mattresses and chairs from the cafeteria as well. The beach is not serviced by a lifeguard. Price of camping (at time of publication) 150ILS per car for 24 hours.Bereniki BeachStretching for over 2.5 km to the west of the Sea of Galilee this is a quiet beach near Tiberias which is popular with Israeli families and youths. It has shady trees, night lighting, showers (cold water only), restrooms, cafeteria, tables, umbrellas, chairs (no charge), BBQ stands, and campers are allowed to play music.There is a small area which is serviced by a lifeguard and swimming is only allowed in this area from 9 am to 5 pm. The rest of the beach is an unofficial beach and swimming is at your own risk. The beach is wheelchair-friendly. Here as with many of the camp beaches, you pay for the parking rather than the camping. It costs 5.9ILS for each of the first 3 hours and 2.1 for each hour after that so 24 hours camping would cost you 61.8ILS.Shores of the Sea of Galilee, Israel.Photo credit: © ShutterstockDugit BeachThis campsite is located on the northeastern side of the Sea of Galilee and is considered one of the most beautiful beaches surrounded by a picturesque forest. Here you can canoe, sail and partake of other water sports. There is room for tents, a mini-market, cafeteria, and restaurant. There are cold water showers, restrooms, lighting, and lifeguard service. Playing loud music and even bringing loudspeakers into the area is strictly forbidden. Here (like most of the Sea of Galilee campgrounds) you pay for the parking (62ILS for 24 hours) and can then camp. The fee is by the hour. The campsite is wheelchair accessible and chairs and tables can be rented.Gofra BeachOffering room for up to 300 tents this campground on the eastern shore of the lake 2km north of Ein Gev has restrooms, showers, a mini-market, cafeteria, camping equipment, small refrigerators for rent, playgrounds, and moorings for boats. The facilities and accommodation options are expansive. The site only operates during the spring and summer.There is daily cleaning of the beach, lifeguard service, BBQ stands, and a beautiful 1,500-meter long beach, and a small forest. Access to the beach is only on foot. This campsite is suitable for caravans or you could rent one of their caravans for 250ILS for 24 hours. You can even rent a tent which has 6 mattresses, chairs, and tables.View of the Sea of Galilee.Photo credit: © ShutterstockGreen BeachThis is a Blue Flag beach and one of the most beautiful in the area. This beach-park campground is 3km north of Nof Ginossar on the northwestern side of the Sea of Galilee. It is a well-kept beach with lawns up to the sand and shady trees. There are parking, showers, restrooms, camping tables, lighting, and a convenience store.The park operates year-round. Animals, jet skis, sound systems, and generators are prohibited. It is possible to rent tents, mattresses, tables, and chairs. One tent, a table, and 4 chairs will cost you 245ILS for the night. You can bring your caravan to this campsite or rent one (750ILS-1799ILS). The campground offers several deals like tent, mattress, chair, table, and breakfast for 119ILS per person.Haon BeachThe campsite is next to the Haon Holiday Village, south of Kibbutz Haon and the beach is shared by guests of the Holiday Village and campers. The beach runs for 1km and there is a lifeguard service. There are restrooms, showers, tables, benches, umbrellas, refrigerator rental, electrical outlets, and BBQ stands. There is wheelchair access to the campsite but no organized wheelchair access to the water.Camping supplies.Photo by Brina Blum on UnsplashJordan-Kinneret BeachThis beach runs for 0.5km and is a family beach campground. For this reason, it is a quieter beach than others and amplifying sound systems are prohibited. Playing music (not using an amplifier) is allowed from 8 am to 11 pm. There is no lifeguard service. The campground offers restrooms, showers (with 24 hours hot water), picnic tables, a mini-market, refrigerator rental, lighting, and a place to recharge mobile phones. The campsite is not suitable for wheelchair access.Lavnun BeachThe Lavnun Beach is a string of three beaches together with Halukim and Kursi so there are three areas for pitching a tent. The site offers water sports (kayaks, water skiing, paddle boats, etc). You will find drinking water, a place to wash your dishes, ball courts, a restaurant, cold water showers, a place to recharge mobile phones, and an exciting, young atmosphere.This beach is popular with the young Israeli crowds so expect plenty of noise especially during the Israeli holidays. Israeli teens like to camp here and bring their karaoke machines, so expect an all-night party. There is a lifeguard service but limited wheelchair access. Cost is approximately 70ILS for 24 hours for parking and camping.Water sports at the Sea of Galilee. Photo credit: © ShutterstockSussita BeachJust north of Ein Gev this beach is about 0.5km long on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee and is managed by the Ein Gev Kibbutz. It is named after a car that used to be produced in Israel and has sentimental significance for a lot of Israelis. This is an unofficial beach so there is no lifeguard service and swimming is not allowed.The campground operates from April to the end of October. Groups camping on the grass area near the beach should be pre-arranged but you can pitch your tent on the beach as well. There are tables, restrooms, shade, lighting, showers, and a cafeteria. The beach is not wheelchair-friendly as there are 11 steps down from the parking lot to the beach. The cost of camping here is 100ILS per car.Tzinbari BeachThis is one of the Kinneret’s most famous beaches and campsites, it is a venue for many summer festivals. The beach runs for 1km and there is a lifeguard service in a small central area from 9 am to 5 pm. Here you will find water slides, a baby's pool, electrical outlets, lighting, a place to pitch your tent, indoor lodging, beach umbrellas, shade, chairs, locker rooms, cold water showers, a place to recharge mobile phones.There are also restrooms, water sports, lighting, a restaurant, loads of parking, and wheelchair access is limited due to stones and pebbles plus reaching the water requires going down several steps. Amplified sound systems are not allowed in the southern part of the area which is indicated by signs.Sunset view at the shores of Kinneret. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
Par Petal Mashraki

Things to See and Do in Acre

Acre is one of the most fascinating and beautiful cities you could visit in Israel. It is reminiscent of the Old Port of Jaffa and of Jerusalem as the Old City of Acre is also built from magnificent stone. The Old City is “living history”; the ancient houses within the Old City walls are still occupied and alive with activity. Almost all the things to see and do in Acre are located in the Old City on the edge of the Mediterranean. The Old City of Acre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On arrival in Acre head straight to the undeground Crusader City.Nargilas (hookas) at Acre Port.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinAs you approach the Old City on your left will be a car park next to a Police Station. At the far end of the car park is the entrance to the Enchanted Garden or Festival Garden an entrance courtyard to the Hospitaller Fortress. The courtyard is surrounded by walls and you enter through an arched doorway in the wall. Inside you are immediately covered by the shade of massive, ancient trees and in the center of the courtyard is a beautiful fountain.In the garden, you can find the ticket booth where you buy tickets for attractions in Acre, Western Galilee, and Upper Galilee. It is also the site of the Visitors Center and Reservation Center. Purchase your tickets here for several sites which can be explored from here. With your ticket, you get a free audio guide (you have to leave your ID as a deposit). Your ticket includes a 7-minute film introducing you to the sites of Acre which is screened in the Visitors Center. From the Enchanted Garden head into the Hospitaller Fortress.Inside the Crusader Citadel, Acre.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinHospitaller Fortress, AcreThe military monastic order of the Knights Hospitaller was dedicated to caring for the sick and specifically pilgrims who had arrived in the Holy Land from Europe to visit Holy sites. The Hospitallers constructed their fortress from the late 12th century to the early 13th century. The Hospitaller Fortress also called the Knights’ Hall was created when the Hospitaller Order was forced to move their headquarters from Jerusalem to Acre during the Second Crusader Kingdom (1291-1191) because of Muslim forces occupying Jerusalem. They constructed two or three floors around a central courtyard as well as an underground reservoir and sewage system. Visitors enter the cool first floor of the Hospitaller Fortress as the upper levels were destroyed by later Muslim conquerors. The ancient chambers are expansive with dramatic arches above each entrance. In the Hospitaller refectory, you can see massive 3 meter thick pillars supporting the groin-vaulted ceiling. The central courtyard covers 1200m² and is surrounded by arches supporting what was the upper level. You can see a long ramp leading down into the courtyard. This was for riders to enter on horseback. The Northern Hall is divided into 6 smaller halls and has a 10-meter high barrel vault ceiling supported by arches. The Sugar Bowl Hall is similar. It was constructed over the reservoir which was divided into two interconnecting halls. The courtyard ofHospitaller Fortress, Acre.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinSugar production utensils were found in the storeroom; the Hospitallers were leaders in the sugar industry. The Hall of Pillars covers 1300m² covered by an 8-meter high groin-vaulted ceiling supported by square stone pillars. This was the Hospitaller conference room and storage room. You can also walk along the Southern Street of the Hospitaller Complex and visit the Hall of the Imprisoned. While in the Knights’ Fortress you can visit the Okashi Art Museum where temporary exhibitions are on display within the historic halls. Perhaps the most exciting section of this site is the narrow, low ceilinged escape tunnel that the Hospitallers carved out of the rock from their fortress to the sea. This is the only section of the complex which is not wheelchair accessible. Once you follow the tunnel to the end you will reach an open area where there is a small souvenir store. Through the store, you reach the Turkish Bazaar. The Hospitallers are not to be confused with the Knights’ Templar who built their acre fortress in another part of the Old City during a different period of history.Ceramics for sale at the Acre Old City Market. Photo credit: © ShutterstockTurkish Bazaar, AcreAcre Old City Market (also known as the Turkish Bazaar) is today a gentrified quaint narrow stone lane lined with restaurants and specialty stores housed beneath arched entrances which once would have been Turkish stores. You can grab a bite to eat or continue on to your right to the Turkish Baths and Citadel or your left to the main Market Street.Heading back through the Turkish Bazaar you reach the main market street/Via Regis/Kings Way which runs north to south from the entrance of the Old City to the port. This would have been the main throughway during the Crusader period. Here you can enjoy the local color, buy souvenirs, eat delicious local sweetmeats and dine in authentic restaurants. It is not geared towards tourists but rather the local community coming to buy their vegetables, fish, meat, clothing, and household items. At the southern end of the market street is Chaim Parchi’s home ( former al-Jazzar’s Minister of Finance and the Pasha’s right-hand man during the 18th-19th century), and the Ramchal Synagogue.Ramchal Synagogue, AcreThis synagogue is named after the Acre Rabbi who lived here from 1743 to 1747. In 1758 the Bedouin ruler Dahar el-Omar took over Acre and confiscated the building which was one of the finest in the city. He constructed the el-Mualek Mosque on top of the synagogue. The Jews were given a replacement building north of the mosque. The new Ramchal synagogue was much smaller and today it has been restored and can be visited by the general public.A street in Acre Old City.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinUnderground Prisoners Museum, AcreIn the former Citadel, the British set up their prison where they held members of the various Jewish underground resistance organizations. The Jews were fighting for an independent Jewish state and to get rid of British Mandatory rule. Among the prisoners was Zeev Jabotinsky, Commander of the Jewish Defense of Jerusalem.Other “guests” in the prison were members of the Haganah and Etzel including Moshe Dayan, Moshe Carmel. The museum features statue figures of prisons arranged as they would have been when imprisoned. The prison offers a comprehensive introduction to this period of history and the Jewish resistance groups which fought for the establishment of Israel.Hammam al-Basha (Turkish Bath), AcreVisitors enter this restored 18th century Turkish Bath from a small courtyard. Each visitor has an audio guide and enters with a group every half hour for a half-hour visit. The Turkish Bath was an addition to the city during the Ottoman Period. The leading Pasha al-Jazzar made many changes to the city turning it into a powerful stronghold. Visitors to the Turkish Baths see an informative film in the first room (summer dressing room) where traders visiting Acre would come to relax and wash. Then you move on to the intermediary rooms where traders would get massages and special treatments. Finally, there is the large steam room with a fountain in the middle and a magnificent ceiling with small air holes. Throughout the baths, there are statues of bathers in various activities.Hammam al-Basha (Turkish Bath), Acre. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinAcre PortOnce you reach the Acre port you can take a boat excursion out to sea or a pleasant ride in a horse-drawn carriage. The port area is lined with restaurants and cafes. The port was first mentioned in 527-525BC when the port was a base for a massive fleet. During the Muslim Period under Sultan Muawiya, the sea walls were fortified and a large shipyard was built here. Soon the Egyptians took the port and undertook further renovations. In the Crusader period, the port was an essential link to the west. Next, the Ottomans took the city and the port fell into disrepair and was used mainly by fishing boats until being rejuvenated under Daher el-Omar. The port was destroyed when shelled by the British and Austrians in 1840. The Acre Port has long been an entry point for pilgrims arriving in the Holy Land. From the Crusader Period onwards Acre became a major port and this continued into the early 20th century.Templars Tunnel and the Tunnel ExperienceThe Templars were a military-monastic Christian order originally based in Jerusalem on Temple Mount (hence the name). When Salah al-Din conquered Jerusalem in 1187 they relocated to Acre. They built a fortress on the edge of the sea protected by two towers. Today the remains of the Templar fortress are beneath the water at the southern end of the Old City. A 350-meter long tunnel runs from the port where the fortress would have stood inland beneath the Khan a-Shune and almost reaching the Khan al-Umdan ("Caravanserai of the Pillars"). Part of the tunnel is hewn from natural rock and other parts are covered with a semi-barreled dome. Visitors can enjoy animated screenings throughout the tunnel. The screenings reveal interesting stories about life during the Crusader Period.The Templars' Tunnel, Acre. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinAl-Jazzar MosqueThis is the largest mosque in Israel outside of Jerusalem. It was constructed during the Turkish Period and inaugurated c.1781 in the early period of Al-Jazzar’s rule of Acre. The architecture incorporates Byzantine and Persian styles. It has a beautiful green dome and minaret. The mosque was called the white mosque because of the dome that was once white but now painted green. The Al-Jazzar mosque holds Sha’r an-Nabi a lock of hair from the beard of the Prophet Muhammad. Before entering the mosque you will see a small circular “kiosk” topped by a green dome constructed for dispensing cool drinks to the worshipers. Next to the mosque are the family tombs of El-Jazzar and his successor Suleiman Pasha. If you are interested in visiting other mosques in Acre there is El-Raml Mosque, El-Mualek Mosque, El-Majadalah Mosque, El-Bahar Mosque and El-Zeituna.Tomb of Cafarelli, AcreIn 1969 the tomb of Caffarelli was discovered in what is today the Yad Natan Agricultural College. Caffarelli was a colorful character and an engineer in Napoleon’s army. He lost his left leg in a battle in Europe but continued to serve the French army. The popular general was nicknamed “wooden leg” and “dad on crutches” by his soldiers.Caffarelli was one of the engineers tasked with designing Napoleon’s attack on Acre. He was wounded by a Turkish sniper shot and had to have his arm amputated up to the elbow. Unfortunately, the wound turned gangrene and he died two weeks later. Napoleon visited Cafarelli on his deathbed. The French Embassy in Israel holds an annual memorial ceremony by the tomb.Acre Seafront. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinAcre ChurchesThere are several charming churches in Acre. San Andreas Church is an early 18th century Greek Orthodox Christian church. The Crusader Period church was built when the community settled in the southwestern part of the city. Next to the San Andreas Church is the Maronite Church. The Maronites are said to have descended from the Armenians and they were banished from Acre at one point only to return under the rule of Fakhr al-DinII. He allowed the Maronites to renovate their church in 1666. Next to their church is the Notre Dame de Nazareth Monastery. Terra Sancta Church is a Franciscan church. It is believed that the founder of the Franciscan order, Francis of Assisi visited Acre in 1219. Records from 1673 show thatFakhr al-Din II allowed the Franciscans to settle in Acre and build their church and monastery. The church has a distinct red steeple. St. John’s Church is adjacent to the lighthouse and is used by the Franciscans. It is thought to have been constructed in the 18th century and today is Acre’s only functioning Latin-Catholic church. The Greek Orthodox church of St. George is thought to have been the first Christian place of worship in Acre. It was established during the Ottoman Period. The church has a richly decorated traditionally Eastern Orthodox interior.View of Acre from the ramparts. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinOr Torah Synagogue (Tunisian Synagogue/Jariva)This Tunisian synagogue was constructed in 1955 and inspired by the El-Ghriba Synagogue in Djerba. The building's interior has rich mosaics and 140 stained glass windows. The mosaics depict scenes from the Bible, Palestinian flora and fauna, the Israeli Army, and more. It is a one-of-a-kind structure because of the interior decoration and has four floors and 7 Torah arks.Khan al-Umdan (el-Omdan or Pillars Inn and Clock Tower)This is the country’s best-preserved khan (the Persian name for caravanserais or inn where travelers could rest on the various ancient trade routes). The khan was built under el-Jezzar’s rule in 1784 and was one of four such khan’s in Acre. The khan has multiple columns which earned it the name Caravanserai of Pillars or Inn of Columns. The granite columns were brought to Acre from Caesarea and Atlit. Later this was where Bah’aullah of the Baha’i faith would receive guests. A clock tower was added in 1906 in honor of Ottoman Sultan Abd al-Hamid’s silver jubilee. The Jaffa Clock tower was built for the same purpose. The khan is open 24/7 to visitors and is a major performance venue during festivals.Wooden masks on the wall in Acre Old City.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinShrine of Baha’u’llah and Bahai GardensMost visitors to Israel know about the Baha'i Gardens in Haifa but in Acre, you can see where the Baha’i prophet Baha’u’llah lived for 12 years and was buried. The major sites here are the Manor and the Shrine of the Prophet. The shrine is the holiest site in the Baha’i faith and when believers pray they face this site. Baha’u’llah was born in 1817 in Iran and despite his superior position in the Sheikh’s court he chose to devote himself to the poor. The mansion covers 740m²; the ground floor was built in 1821 and the upper floor was added by a prosperous merchant in 1870. The merchant fled from Acre during a plague in 1879 and the property was acquired by Baha’u’llah. Similar to the Haifa gardens the Acre Baha’i gardens are exceptional.Treasure in the WallsThis Ethnographic Museum displays artifacts in the northeastern walls of the Old City of Acre. The walls were originally constructed during the Ottoman Era under el-Jazzar following the failed siege by Napoleon in 1779. The Commander’s Tower now holds an exhibition of life in Galilee during the 19th-20th century. The artifacts on display include furniture, locks, clocks, and household items. One wing of the tower has been turned into a recreation of historic artisan workshops and market stalls including a blacksmith, hat maker, pharmacy, and carpentry.Visit Acre with a group day tour or book an individual excursion in Acre with a private guide.Cannons in Old Acre walls.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
Par Petal Mashraki

Things to see and do in Safed

Safed (Tsfat or Tzfat) is a quaint city perched on the highest hill top in the Galilee. Safed Old CitySince the 16th century the city has attracted spiritual and religious leaders and is considered one of Israel’s Four Holy Cities. It is also known as the birth place of Kabbalah, a mystical Jewishdiscipline and school of thought.The picturesque city with breathtaking views has attracted many artists who come here to capture the serene scenery and spiritual atmosphere. Wednesday is market day when the streets come alive with an outdoor market. Foodies visiting Safed should find out about wine tasting tours of local wineries like Abouhav, Dalton and Golan Wineries and about tours of the local cheese factories including HaMeiri and Kadosh Cheese.Safed Tourist Board Visitors CenterMake your first stop in Safed at the Tourist Visitors Center here you can pick up maps and details of any special events. You can also see a short film about the history of Safed in Hebrew, English or French. In addition the Center has an excavation site underneath the building. Here you can see several layers of the city which has been repeatedly rebuilt following destruction by war, earthquakes etc. You can walk through a tunnel which was once street level and see rooms on either side including one with an excavated Jewish ritual bath (mikvah).Artists QuarterThe Artists’ Quarter is a network of narrow cobbled lanes with ancient stone buildings on either side; within each of the small entrances to the buildings are stores, artists’ workshops and galleries selling unique Safed art work. The art is primarily paintings, silverwork, weaving, Judaica and jewelry – all handmade. Bet Yoseph Street is the main street of the Artists’ Quarter here you can watch the painters, sculptors and jewelry makers at work. One of the most popular and unique forms of art you will find here is micro-calligraphy. Artists use tiny Hebrew letters (often text from a sacred book or the Bible) to form the shapes of the images they are creating. Using only the letters of the Hebrew alphabet they create a picture. Many of the art in the Artists’ Quarter incorporate symbols of the Kabbalah. Some of the galleries are collectives where the work of several artists is displayed together. These include the Olive Tree Gallery and Soul Art Gallery. The Canaan Gallery displays woven pieces (prayer shawls, scarves etc) made using traditional loom-weaving and brightly dyed yarn. These traditional methods were brought to Safed by the Spanish Jews when they arrived here escaping persecution in Europe.International Center for Safed Kabbalah Visitor CenterIf you are interested in finding out more about the mystical beliefs of Kaballah then you can find all the answers here. The center is in a restored historic building in the Old City of Safed. The center screens audio visual presentations entitled: What is Kabbalah; The Holy Ari; Safed in the 16th Century; The Zohar and Kabbalah in the Modern World. There is a 15 minute film about the history of Safed and the Kabbalah in Safed. The Code of the Universe presentation introduces visitors to positive thinking and the code of Hebrew letters. The center provides arts and crafts workshops about Kabbalah art and ways of expressing yourself through visual arts. From the roof top you can get brilliant views across the region. The center offers meditation sessions, exhibitions of local artists, interactive media stations and the sale of Kabbalah products.Abuhav SynagogueThis 15th century synagogue is named after the Spanish Rabbi Isaac Abuhav from Toledo and the architectural design is according to Kabalistic tenets. Rabbi Abuhav didn’t personally come to Safed but designed the synagogue while still in Spain. His follower and pupil Rabbi Ya’acov Beirav built the synagogue according to the Rabbi’s instructions when he arrived in the city in the 1490s. Beirav became one of Safed’s leading sages. The synagogue suffered damage from an earthquake in 1837 but the southern wall where there are three Arks (where Torah scrolls are kept) survived. The bimah (stage where the reader of the Torah stands) has six steps representing the six working days of the week. One of the synagogue’s Torah scrolls which is kept in the Ark is said to have been written by Rabbi Abuhav and to be the oldest Torah scroll in the city. Another of the synagogue’s scrolls was written by 16th century Moroccan Rabbi Solomon Ohana a Kabbalist from Fez. The synagogue decoration includes frescoes of musical instruments used in the Temple of Jerusalem, the symbols of the 12 tribes of Israel and work by artist Ziona Tagger.Ashkenazi HaAri SynagogueSephardic Jews who arrived from Greece in the 16th century constructed this synagogue in honor of Rabbi Isaac Luria (1534-1572) who was known as Ari. Luria was a leading Kabalistic sage who arrived in Safed in 1570 and prayed at this synagogue. This is considered perhaps the oldest synagogue in the country. During the 18th century East European Jews (Ashkenazi) arrived in Safed and began using the synagogue, hence the name. In 1837 the synagogue was destroyed by an earthquake and only rebuilt 20 years later. The synagogue’s main feature is a colorful Holy Ark (where Torah scrolls are kept). The Ark is carved from olive wood in the style of Eastern European synagogues. The craftsman was a non-Jew and unaware of the Jewish law against creating images of the human form. So he carved a human face on the Ark. To make the Ark “kosher” the face was changed into the face of a lion, in reference to Ari (Aria in Hebrew is Lion).Sephardic HaAri SynagogueThis synagogue is one of the oldest in the city; it was constructed as early as 1522 and was originally used by North African Jews and called the Eliyahu HaNavi Synagogue. The same Rabbi Luria as mentioned above, who was associated with the Ashkenazi Ari Synagogue also enjoyed praying here. He would especially enjoy the view of Mt. Meron from the synagogue window. It is said that the Ari would like to sit in a small alcove in the synagogue studying his Kabbalah and that the Prophet Elijah would appear before him. The name of the synagogue was changed in the 17th century to honor the Ari. Most of the original synagogue was destroyed by earthquakes in 1759 and 1837 but then rebuilt in 1840 thanks to donations by Italian Jew Yitzhak Guetta. During the War of Independence and the siege of Safed in 1948 holes were drilled in the wall of the synagogue facing the surrounding Arab villages. The holes were used of observation and shooting.Stam Center Safed (Otzar Hastam of Safed)According to Jewish law the ritual texts, Torah scrolls, tefillin and mezuzah parchments must be written in a specific way, by a specific person and with specific materials. A Sofer Stam, is the name given to the person trained to write the Holy texts. Stam is an acronym of the words Torah, Tefillin and Mezuzot. There are hundreds of laws related to the writing of Stam texts. The laws dictate the type of ink, shape of each letter, type of quill and even that the scribe must be pure, having just come from the ritual baths (mikvah). At the Stam Center you can learn about the laws related to the writing of Holy texts and even try your hand at writing the text yourself using a 3D practice quill, parchment and ink. There is a multi-sensory audio-visual presentation to give visitors an overview of the Kabalistic properties of the Hebrew letters and the laws and customs related to the writing of Holy texts.Meiri House MuseumFollowing the 1837 earthquake the Meir Mizrachi family from Iran immigrated to Safed and settled in this 16th century house. The family changed their name to HaMeiri and established a dairy in the bottom half of the house. The Meiri family established the first dairy in Israel and this house museum was founded by a member of the Meiri family, Yehezkel Ha’Meiri. Over the years the house was also used as the Beit Din (Rabbinical Court); as an orphanage during WWI and as a non-religious Hebrew school funded by Baron Rothschild. Prior to the establishment of the State of Israel the house served as an arms depot for weapons of the underground Jewish organizations Haganah, Etzel and Irgun. The building was also used to train the underground fighters and as a guard post between the Jewish Quarter and Arab villages. On display are objects related to life in Safed in the 19th and early 20th century. To help get a better understanding of the city’s history there is a timeline of key events in the Safed Jewish community over the years. There are furniture, documents and household items. You can see portraits of key personalities from the history of Safed. Visitors can see the museum displays, recreated rooms and the dairy. During holidays there are guided tours and reenactments.Safed Candle Factory The history of the Safed candle factory goes back more than 18 years. Candles are made here from beeswax and sculptured into artistic shapes and figures. The candles are hand-dipped and some are made into the traditional woven candles used in the Jewish Havdala ceremony and into Hannuka candles and Shabbat candles. The factory also makes paraffin candles which are brightly colored and decorated. The sculptured beeswax candles by artist Chaim Grees are particularly popular. There are candles resembling Biblical scenes and Biblical figures. The candle makers pride themselves on the use of environmentally friendly materials. You can see the candle store next to the Ari Ashkenazi Synagogue.Rozenfeld Doll MuseumThe Doll Museum is located in the artists’ Quarter, here you can see dolls dressed in traditional costumes from around the world and from different eras. The displays are divided into three sections, Jewish costumes, folklore costumes from around the world and European costumes. The owner of the museum hand-crafts the porcelain dolls taking three months to produce each one. She creates them in proportion to a natural human body. She then paints the dolls and puts the doll’s body parts together. All of the dolls’ body parts are movable. The costumes are also hand-made and hand-sewn and trimmed. In all there are about 100 dolls on display at the museum in the Estham building at the entrance to Joseph Caro Street.Citadel (Metsuda)The highest point of Safed is Citadel Hill. There are well maintained walking paths going through Citadel Park which covers the hill and amenities like toilets and playgrounds have been provided. The views from Citadel Hill are breathtaking. It is also an historic site where you can see the remains of a Crusader castle. The remains are now part of an archeological park and excavations are still under way. Archeologists have uncovered a round tower from 1188, a bell-shaped cistern, a Crusader water cistern, a Mamluk gate tower and a hidden passage. Since the Roman era the hill has been a sought after strategic point and ever since there have been several battles between forces fighting for control of the hill. There is a memorial for fighters who died in a battle here during the War of Independence.SarayaAt the top of Aliyah Bet Street is a 300 year old white stone building which was originally built by D’har El Omar, a powerful Bedouin leader when he ruled over the Galilee in the 18th century. He chose to build his residence on this strategically high piece of land. His rule came to an end in the 1700s and the Turkish took possession of the “Saraya” and later it became their headquarters until the British took over. Under the Ottomans the clock tower was added. The Saraya became the British headquarters following WWI and Jews were given shelter here when the Arabs plundered the city. The Saraya became the Arab seat of authority until 1948 when the Lehi organization bombed the building breaking the Arab hold on the region. Following Israeli independence the Saraya was rebuilt and became the Israeli Army Headquarters. Today the Saraya is a community center where there are the Noam Synagogue, a music conservatory, Hebrew language lessons, a museum on Jewish life in Hungary before WWII and a courtyard which is used as a concert venue. The bells in the clock tower have been restored and can be heard across the city every 15 minutes.Karo SynagogueThis synagogue was once the seat of the most important Rabbinical court or council in the country. The only clue we have today of the synagogue’s glory days as a Rabbinical court is the 30cm high step up to the Bamah (stage/platform). The head of the Rabbinical council was Rabbi Karo best known as author of the Shulchan Aruch; a book which lays out Jewish laws for daily living. This book is still the go-to authority for many Jewish households. In the lower part of the synagogue hundreds of students would gather to study Religious texts. Together with other great Jewish Rabbis the religious council would make Jewish laws which were respected throughout the Jewish world. Karo also organized a soup kitchen around the side of the synagogue to feed the poor. The kitchen is used today to provide meals for Torah students. One of the highlights of the synagogue today is the set of Torah books which line the book shelves covering the walls. Many of the books are 100 years old and some date back to Karo himself in the 16th century. The synagogue’s Holy Ark holds three Torah Scrolls from Persia, Iraq and Spain which are on display to the public. The synagogue has many points of interest from the entrance way to the layout of the furniture.Museum of Hungarian Speaking JewsJews from around the world have come to settle in Israel, one of those groups are the Hungarian Jews. For 1,000 years Jews lived peacefully in Hungary; following the Holocaust the Hungarian Jewish communities were devastated. The museum is dedicated to showing Jewish life in pre-war Hungary. It highlights the activities of Jewish resistance movements during WWII and the Soviet occupation. There are photos of Hungarian Jewish communities, artifacts, uniforms, arts and crafts, Judaica and a model of the Dohany Great Synagogue in Budapest.
Par Petal Mashraki

Top Attractions of the Galilee

The Galilee can be divided into the Upper Galilee, Western Galilee and Lower Galilee; each has its own charm and attractions. The Galilee is characteristically lush and green with many streams and lakes to cool yourself. It was also here that Jesus spent the years of his ministry and the area is full of significant locations which appear in the Bible. In addition to the top attractions at the Sea of Galileelisted below there are numerous nature reserves, hiking paths, places to ride horses and wineries.Church of Annunciation, Nazareth.Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe Best Attractions in Lower Galilee (Nazareth area)Church of the Annunciation - the Basilica of the Annunciation was built on the site believed by Roman Catholics to be where Mary was visited by the Angel Gabriel who told her of her impending pregnancy and future son. The church is said to be built on the grotto which was Mary’s childhood home in Nazareth. There were earlier churches on this site but the present structure was built in 1969. The most impressive part of the church is the courtyard where there are mosaics featuring the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus. The mosaics come from Christian communities around the world and each depicts the Holy figures as they see them for example the Japanese Madonna wears a kimono.St. Gabriel's Church of Nazareth - this is one of two Churches of the Annunciation in Nazareth, established in the Byzantine era and rebuilt in the Crusader era and later again in the 18th century. The church is built over the natural spring which Eastern Orthodox Christians believe to be where Mary was informed by the Angel Gabriel of her future son. On the ground level of the church, you can see the water running into a well. The church boasts a colorful wooden “templon” screen painted with religious icons. On the ceiling are murals and a golden chandelier.Interior of the Annunciation Chruch, Nazareth.Photo credit: © ShutterstockNazareth Village - this open-air museum is a reconstruction of biblical Nazareth featuring elements of village life in Galilee at the times of Jesus. Here you can see homes, olive presses, figures dressed in traditional period costumes, and see demonstrations of traditional crafts and domestic chores from 2,000 years ago. The site offers an interactive experience where you can try your hand at different activities.Mensa Christi Church of Nazareth - this Franciscan church was built in 1861 and is famed for the Table of Christ, a granite slab believe to be the rock Jesus used as a table when dining with the disciples after his resurrection. Today the slab forms the church altar. The church has recently been restored including the mosaics and dome. Although the church is locked most of the time it can be visited on request. The name Mensa Christi is also associated with a church in Tabgha, the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter.Ancient Bath House of Nazareth - The bathhouse is nestled between Mary’s Well and the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Gabriel in the shade of a tall ficus tree. When excavated artifacts were uncovered dating back to the ancient Roman era. Today there are guided tours of the caldarium, heated tunnels of the hypocaust, and the former furnace. There is a permanent exhibition about the excavations and above the site is a store selling local handmade craft items.Church of St. Joseph- this Romanesque church stands above the grotto thought to have been Joseph’s home and workshop in Nazareth. The church which stands here today was constructed in 1914 over the ruins of earlier churches. In the crypt, you can see mosaics, an ancient water pit, and 1st-century grottos.Capernaum, the town of Jesus.Photo credit: © ShutterstockMount Precipice - just south of Nazareth on the cliffs of Mount Kedumim is Mt. Precipice overlooking the Jezreel Valley and Mount Tabor.On the mount, excavations uncovered the remains of prehistoric settlements and 18 layers of ancient civilizations. One of the findings was a group of 13 Neanderthal skeletons dating back 50,000 years. On the top of the mount are several ancient tombs, cisterns, and a mosaic as well as breathtaking views. Mt. Precipice is mentioned in the Bible in Luke 4 16-30 when Jesus is driven from the synagogue and crowds threatened to throw him from the cliffs.Mount Tabor - just 9km east of Nazareth is the Mount of Transfiguration where the Old Testament tells of the battle between Barak and the Israelite Deborah. Christians believe this to be the site of the transfiguration of Jesus. Today the mount is a popular hiking and hand gliding site. Visitors can go to the hilltop church Franciscan Basilica or the Greek Church on the eastern slope.Capernaum- situated on the shore of the Sea of Galilee began as a small fishing village during the Hasmonean dynasty (c.140BC- c.116BC). It is mentioned in all four of the Gospels as the hometown of St. Simon Peter, James, Andrew, and John. Jesus is said to have taught in the synagogue, cured a Roman Centurion’s servant, and cured a possessed man. Today the village is known for the archaeological discovery of two synagogues built on the same site during different periods.One is a 4th-century white limestone structure and the older synagogue was built of local black basalt rock. Today visitors can see the ancient ruins of Capernaum within an excavation site where there is also a Late Roman synagogue and the octagonal-shaped church built above the excavated house of St. Peters. Within the church, you can look down through an opening in the floor and see the excavated house. The complex includes the ruins of Byzantine homes and early Roman houses.Megiddo (Armageddon). Photo credit: © ShutterstockTiberias - the capital of Galilee is one of the four Jewish Holy cities; it is located on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Today the city has many modern attractions, boat excursions, a craft market, and luxury hotels. Tiberius is also the site of a Greek Orthodox Church at the southern end of the modern city which used to be an Ottoman city. You can see the walls of the 18th-century Ottoman city which run right down to the water’s edge. There is an open-air museum of ancient artifacts among the high-rise hotels and at various points in the city, you can see the remains of the ancient Ottoman walls. Hamat Tiberias National Park is a spa of hot springs which was used as far back as the Romans. At the site, there is a small museum in part of the original building and a synagogue dating back to the 3rd-5th century AD with a magnificent mosaic.Tiberias has a famous cemetery with graves of both Jewish and Muslim deceased. The Greek Orthodox Church and Monastery of the Apostles is a religious complex where there are three chapels, St. Peters, Mary Magdalene's, and St. Nicholas’. The tomb of Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon (Rambam or Maimonides) is located in Tiberias. Rambam is a revered Jewish sage and rabbi who died in 1204. Other sites in Tiberias include the Crusader’s St. Peter Church; the Citadel, now housing an art gallery; the Antiquities Museum; the excavated Jewish Court complex of 19th-century synagogues and the Scottish Compound, now a hotel and church which was once the 19th-century Scottish enclave.Mount Precipice.Photo credit: © ShutterstockJordan River - It is possible for Christians to be baptized in the Jordan Riverat one of the sites which claim to be where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. Although there is another baptismal site further south this is perhaps the most popular. Here there is a visitor’s center where you can buy a white robe to enter the water and get a certificate attesting to your baptism. There are steps and railings to help you get in and out of the water.Wedding Church - Cana is the town where Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding feast (John 2:1-11). The town of Cana is also referred to several times in the Bible in other contexts. The Franciscan Wedding Church commemorated the иiblical miracle, it was constructed in 1879 on a site where ancient stone wine jars were found. A nearby Greek Orthodox church is an alternative site of the miracle.Tel Megiddo - this tel or hill was a strategically important location in ancient times as it overlooked trade routes and the Jezreel Valley. At one point it was an important city-state and approximately 26 layers of ruined ancient civilizations have been found during excavations of the tel.The Greek name for the site is Armageddon and it is said to be the site where the final battle will take place during the end of time according to the Book of Revelations. Visitors can explore the archaeological site, enter through a Solomonic gateway; see an ancient altar; a grain pit; stables, and a complex water system with a 35-meter deep shaft and tunnel. There are also the remains of what may be the oldest remaining church in Israel.Jesus Trail- if you love to hike and want to really get to know the Galilee first hand then you can follow this hiking trail which links significantChristian sites in Galilee.Along the route, you will encounter Cana, Nazareth, a Roman Road, the Sea of Galilee, Tabgha, and Mount Tabor among other sites.Sea of Galilee. View from Photo by Johnnie Cohen on UnsplashThe Best Aattractions in Upper Galilee (Safed Area)Safed Visitors Center - not only can you get maps and info at this center but you can see a permanent exhibition, an excavation site under the building, and a short introductory film to the history and culture of Safed.Abuhav Synagogue - this Safed synagogue dates back to the original structure of the 1490s. The rest of the synagogue was constructed after an earthquake in 1837 destroyed most of the structure. The synagogue was built according to the Kabbalistic principle, there are ancient scrolls kept here and the walls are decorated with beautiful frescoes.Ashkenazi HaAri Synagogue - built in honor of Rabbi Isaac Luria, also known as the Ari. Luria was a Kabbalistic Rabbi who arrived in the city in 1570 and prayed in this synagogue. The highlight of this Safed synagogue is the beautifully painted Ark where Torah scrolls are kept.Sephardic HaAri Synagogue - this Safed synagogue is thought to have been built in 1522. Rabbi Luria also prayed here regularly. Legend has it that the Prophet Elijah would appear before the Rabbi as he sat studying here and enjoying the view of Mt. Meron. Meiri House Museum - the Meiri family settled here after immigrating from Iran in 1837. They established the country’s first dairy in this 16th-century house. The house has a fascinating history and was used for many purposes over the years. See a timeline of events in Safed history, see authentic furniture and historic household items and documents.Karo Synagogue - this historic building in Safed was once the headquarters of the rabbinical court and here Rabbi Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch, together with other religious leaders laid down Jewish law.Mount Beatitudes.Photo credit: © ShutterstockInternational Center for Safed Kabbalah Visitor Center - have the Kabbalah experience, just like Madonna, Kushner, and other celebs. This ancient Jewish mystical belief is based on the religious book The Zohar. Here you can see audio-visual presentations, use interactive media stations, learn about Kabbalistic art and get brilliant views from the roof of the historic building which houses the center.Artists’ Colony, Safed - Wander the narrow cobbled streets with ancient stone buildings on either side. In the stores, you will find art galleries, Judaica, hand-made jewelry, pottery, weaving, and paintings all inspired by the spirituality atmosphere of Safed.Stam Center Safed - here you can learn about the art of writing holy texts for Torah scrolls, mezuzot, and tefillin. A writer of these texts needs to be highly skilled and follow strict rules. See a multi-sensory audio-visual presentation and learn about the mystical meaning behind Hebrew letters.Sea of Galilee - perhaps the highlight of any trip to the Galilee is a visit to the Sea of Galilee or Kinneret. The main source of Israel’s large freshwater lake is the Jordan River which flows in at the northern end and out at the southern end. The sea will be familiar to Christians as the site of many significant biblical events. Many chapels and churches on the seashore mark these events.It was here that Jesus walked on water, that he went to sea with the fishermen, and where they performed several miracles like calming the sea. Today visitors usually start their exploration of the Sea of Galilee in Tiberius, the largest city on the seashore. You can participate in water sports, swim, take boat excursions, use the beaches for camping or just enjoy the tranquil setting. You might like to enjoy a delicious meal of freshly caught fish from the Sea of Galilee.The Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fishes, Tabgha, Israel. Photo credit: © ShutterstockChurch of Mount of Beatitudes- the church on the summit of the Mount of Beatitudes marks the site where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. Although earlier churches stood on this site the present church was commissioned by Benito Mussolini and designed by Antonio Barluzzi. The church has an octagonal shape representative of the eight Beatitudes. Inside there are beautiful mosaics and the roof bears an impressive dome.Domus Galilaeae - this modern church shared the peak of the Mount of Beatitudes and was completed in 2000. It is a large complex used for Christian seminars and conventions.Hula Valley - located above the Sea of Galilee, with the Hula Lake at its heart. The Hula Nature Reserve is a wetland and home to tens of thousands of aquatic birds. It is both a stop for migrating birds and home to local species. Visitors can walk along hiking trails and over floating bridges across the swamps or observe the birds from special “hides” or blinds. At the Oforia Visitors Center visitor can see a model of the Hula Valley, multimedia presentations with special effects, and dioramas. There are interactive computer screens with quiz questions.Manara Cliff - in the Upper Galilee, near the Lebanese border, this mount overlooks the Hula Valley. Visitors can hike or take a cable car to the top of Manara Cliff for amazing views. At the top of the mount, there are various attractions like arts and crafts for kids and extreme sports activities. To get down from the mount you can hand glide, hike, cycle, take the cable car, or take the super cool toboggan all the way down. Manara is popular with extreme sports enthusiasts who can try snappling, climbing, archery, and omega.Mount Meron - this is the highest peak in Israel (not including the Golan Heights) and the site of the highest nature reserve. Although not all the mount can be hiked there are marked paths in some areas. The mount has religious significance for the Jewish community as it is the site of the Tomb of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi) a 2nd-century sage. On the anniversary of the Rabbi’s death on the Jewish holiday of Lag BaOmer thousands of people gather on the mount to pay homage at the tomb.Rainbow in the Hula Valley.Photo by Shalev Cohen on UnsplashThe Best Attractions of the Coastal PlainRosh HaNikra grottoes - these chalk cliffs and sea caves are located on the border with Lebanon in the Western Galilee on the edge of the Mediterranean. In addition to having a fascinating history that includes pirates, arms traders, British troops, and a secret railway the site is simply breathtakingly beautiful.Visitors descend the white chalk cliff by cable car overlooking the sea and enter a 200-meter labyrinth of caves that have been formed over centuries by the water beating against the stone. The reflection of the white caves makes the water appear milky turquoise. In the vicinity are a number of nature reserves.Mount Carmel -Mount Carmel in northern Israel, near Haifa, is one of the world's 500 UNESCO bioreserves. It is home to unique plants, trees, and animals. Lots of hiking trails offer a plethora of activities and are accessible year-round. The word “karmel” is supposedly a compound of “kerem” and “el”, meaning "vineyard of God". In Jewish, Christian, and Islamic thought, Elijah is associated with Mount Carmel, and it is believed that he sometimes lived in a cave there.Limestone Grottos of Rosh Hanikra.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
Par Petal Mashraki

Jordan Valley

The Jordan Valley stretches along the Jordan Rift Valley with the Upper Jordan Valley running from northern Israel through Hula Valley and to the Sea of Galilee’s northern shore and the Lower Jordan Valley running from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea in the south. The “Jordan Valley” often refers just to the Lower Jordan Valley. The valley forms the natural border between Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west.The valley has steep escarpments on both sides; abundant water sources including the Jordan River; an agricultural climate and rich fertile soil. In the lower regions of the valley towards the Dead Sea the terrain changes and is mostly arid, hot desert. The lowest part of the valley is at the Dead Sea, where the shore is 400 m below sea level, the lowest point on Earth. The Jordan River runs the length of the valley from its sources in northern Israel south into and out of the Sea of Galilee and further south into the Dead Sea.Inhabitants of the Jordan ValleyThe valley is home to 7,000-11,000 Jews and 56,000-65,000 Palestinians. Large communities include about 28 Jewish cities like Beit Shean, Megiddo, Mehola, Ma’aleh Ephraim, and Bekaot. There are about 10 Palestinian citiesincluding Jericho. Jericho is one of the largest Palestinian cities in the Jordan Valley.Jordan Valley in the BibleThe Old Testament refers to the Jordan Valley several times mentioning its fertile lands and miracles that took place in the valley. When the Israelites crossed over the Jordan River into the Promised Land they arrived in the Jordan Valley at Qasr el-Yehud. It was at the same site that Christians believe John the Baptist baptized Jesus. This site is now a tourist destination where it is possible to be baptized in the Jordan. Another possible baptismal site is Yardenit located further north near the Sea of Galilee.History of the Jordan ValleyThe Jordan Valley became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1486. World War I ended Ottoman rule in Palestine and the British and French divided the spoils resulting in the Jordan Valley becoming British territory in 1918. The land east of the Jordan River became the Emirate of Transjordan and the valley west of the river was part of the British Mandate of Palestine.In 1947 following WWII the UN assigned the northern portion of the valley to the new Jewish state and the southern portion to a new Arab state. However, the surrounding Arab nations did not support this plan and attacked Israel sparking the 1947-48 Israeli War of Independence. During the war, Israel managed to push back the invaders on all fronts however the Jordanians managed to keep control of both sides of the Jordan Valley along the West Bank/Jordanian border. From 1948 to1967 Jordan controlled the valley and prohibited Jewish settlements. In the 1967 Six-Day War Israel captured most of the Jordan Valley.The Jordan Valley TodaySince the 1967 war relations have been good between Jordan and Israel across the Jordan Valley. In the 1990s the Oslo Accords gave Israel administration over most of the valley and placed about a quarter of Palestinian territory of the West Bank within the Jordan Valley. Over the years several Jewish settlements have been established in the Jordan Valley’s Israeli-administrated “Area C” while the Palestinian government controls all areas of the valley in “Area A.”Israel is reluctant to give up the Jordan Valley because of its vital water sources and its high ridges which offer a natural defensive barrier. If war were to break out between Israel and its neighbors to the east the Jordan Valley would be a vital defense line. Today there are border posts in the Jordan Valley into the Palestinian West Bank and the Allenby Bridge Border Crossing into Jordan. The valley’s beauty and historic landmarks make it a popular destination for travelers.
Par Petal Mashraki


Safed (Tsfat) is a city in the Galilee built on hilltops surrounded by idyllic countryside. Safed’s high elevation gives the city warm, pleasant summers and cold winters often with snow. Safed is one of Israel’s four sacred Jewish cities.History of SafedSafed is identified with the 1st-century fortified town of Sepph and is mentioned in the Talmud as one of the elevated towns where fires were lit to indicate the new moon during the period of the Second Temple. Under the Crusaders in the 12th century, Safed was the fortified city of Saphet and the Mamluks turned Safed into an administrative center for the region. The Ottomans made Safed their capital of the Galilee and since the 16th century, Safed has been associated with Kabbalah Jewish mysticism.Safed and JudaismSafed street.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinIn the 16th century, Rabbi Isaac Luria (1531-1573) headed the Kabbalah movement in Safed and the city has remained a center of Jewish mysticism and study. The primary Kabbalistic text, the Zohar states that the Jewish messiah will reveal himself in Galilee and probably Safed. Points of Interest in SafedSafed’s Old City consists of meandering stone-paved narrow lanes flanked with stone houses. The Old City is divided into a Jewish Quarter and the Artists’ Quarter. The steep hillside means that stairways are necessary in some places to connect street levels. Window boxes bloom and vines adorn many of the buildings. The ruins of the former Crusader and later Mamluk fortress stand on the edge of the Old City. Safed’s Artists’ Quarter is home to artists who work and sell their creations along the lanes of the Old City. Their work is unique, often inspired by the Kabbalah. Many artists are attracted to Safed by its extraordinary beauty, the tranquil countryside, and the spirituality of Safed.In the Jewish Quarter, you can visit a number of historic synagogues (there are 32 synagogues in this neighborhood) including the two synagogues named after Rabbi Isaac Luria (known as Ari after his initials in Hebrew). Other noteworthy synagogues include the Abuhav Synagogue and Yosif Karo Synagogue named after the author of the book Shulchan Aruch.Abuhav Synagogue, Safed. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
Par Petal Mashraki

Things to Do at the Sea of Galilee

Visitors to Israel tend to make a beeline to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem but many miss out on one of the country’s most beautiful attractions – the Sea of Galilee (the Kinneret in Hebrew). To get a sense of the diverse natural wonders of Israel you really should make a trip north to Galilee.Paddleboarding on the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Erez Gavish on UnsplashThe Sea of Galilee covers about 102km², 28km from north to south and 10km from east to west. If you want to drive, walk or cycle around the lake it has a circumference of 53km. It is called Kinneret from the Hebrew word for violin or lyre because the lake’s shape resembles a violin.This is also where Jesus spent his ministry preaching in nearby villages and it was here that Jesus walked on water and performed several other miracles. The Kinneret is the country’s reservoir for fresh water and as the water level rises and falls depending on the rainfall so the country watches in anticipation to see if there will be a water shortage each summer. There are a lot of things to do at the Sea of Galilee:1. The Holy City of TiberiasThe largest city on the shore of the Kinneret is Tiberias; the Jewish Talmud was written in Tiberias. Visit the holy city of Tiberias and take a relaxing walk along the Tiberias Promenade. There is a small flea market near the water’s edge and you can enjoy a fish dinner overlooking the water.At the southern end of the Tiberias Promenade, there is a nightly sound and light show which lasts 15 minutes and is performed at 8:30 pm and 9 pm or 10 pm. The multimedia show is free and projected onto two large water screens. The scenes created on the screens highlight the history of the region and are accompanied by classical music and dancing fountains.Rocky Shore of the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Chris Gallimore on Unsplash2. Yardenit Baptismal SiteYardenit is a point at the southern tip of the Kinneret where the lake meets the Jordan River. It was here that Christ was baptized by John the Baptist. Today it is possible for visitors to get baptized in the same waters. At the Yardenit Visitor Center, you can get a white robe, be baptized, and receive a certificate attesting to your baptism. There is an alternate baptismal site further south at Qasr al-Yahud.3. Mount of BeatitudesThe Mount of Beatitudes (Har HaOsher in Hebrew) overlooks the Sea of Galilee and was the site of the Sermon on the Mount. Today a beautiful church crowns the mount; the octagonal church represents the eight beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11) and was built in 1938.4. The Biblical Village of TabghaIn Tabgha, literally on the water’s edge is the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes where Jesus fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish. The original church was constructed in the 5th century and has since been restored. The original floor mosaic has survived. Also in Tabgha is the Church of St. Peter’s Primacy where Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection.The Jordan River at Yardenit Baptismal Site.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin5. Capernaum -The Town of JesusYou can visit Capernaum, on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. This biblical town has several ancient churches and synagogues including the church of St. Peter’s House. A modern octagonal church surrounds the remains of St. Peter’s house which can be seen through the glass floor.6. The Jesus Boat at Kibbutz GinosarThe Jesus Boat is a 2000-year-old fishing boat that was uncovered on the bed of the lake during a drought in the 1980s. It is now on display in the Jesus Boat Museum (Yigal Allon Center) on Kibbutz Ginosaron the western side of the Sea of Galilee. Other parts of the museum display art by local Arab and Jewish artists of the Galilee and showcase art that depicts the culture, history, and nature of the area.7. Kibbutz Ein GevOn the east shore of the Sea of Galilee is Kibbutz Ein Gev where there are activities for the whole family, a beach, accommodation, and restaurants. There is also an anchor museum and an art gallery. You can take a 30-minute tour of the kibbutz on a mini-train and learn about the establishment of the kibbutz in 1937 and the everyday life of the kibbutz.A column with Inscription, Capernaum, Israel.Photo by Phil Goodwin on Unsplash8. Camping and Water Sports at the Sea of GalileeThere are several beaches on the shores of the lake as well as campgrounds where you can set up your tent just a few meters from the water. Camping around the Sea of Galilee is a must for all nature lovers. You can try a number of different water sports on the Kinneret including water skiing, kayaking, kite surfing, windsurfing, canoeing, and sailing. The top beaches around the Sea of Galilee are Tzemach Beach in the south and Ein Gev Beach on the east coast. At Gai Beach, Luna Gal, and Tzemach there are water parks.9. Hot Springs near the Sea of GalileeVisit the hot springs of Tiberias where there are ancient Turkish baths fed by natural springs. The thermal mineral pools are both inside and outdoors and there are heated swimming pools, hot tubs, and spa treatments. Not far from the Sea of Galilee is Hamat Gader Hot Springs another thermo-mineral spring complex on the same site that the Romans built their baths 2,000 years ago.10. Cruise Ships on the Sea of GalileeThere are tourist cruise ships that make short excursions from Tiberias. There are large boats that can carry up to 165 passengers to all ports around the lake. These boats resemble the fishing vessels used in Galilee in the times of Jesus. Cruises to Christian sites around the Sea of Galilee are also possible.Boat cruise on the Sea of Galilee.Photo credit: © ShutterstockWhile You’re in the Area….Just a little further afield into the Golan Heights, south to the Jordan Valley, and into the Bethsaida Valley there are more wonders to discover like the lush forests and vegetation around the River Jordan. One of the areas nearby is so beautiful it is believed to have been the Garden of Eden.The Galilee is crisscrossed with hike and cycle trails all clearly marked. Other nearby things to see and do are at the Jordan Park, Naharayim, Bethsaida Nature Reserve, and the Jesus Trail – a 65km hike trail from Nazareth to Capernaum.Liked this article? Join a One Day tour to the Sea of Galilee.View of the southern part of the Sea of Galilee, Northern Israel. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
Par Petal Mashraki

The Best Way to Explore Galilee from Jerusalem

Travelers to Israel who base themselves in Jerusalem will want to see the country. Although Israel is small it is still over 150km-200km from Jerusalem, depending on where in the Galilee you want to visit. This journey can take about 2.5-3 hours. If you have booked an Israel package tour covering the country then you will have a way of getting to the various destinations across Israel. If traveling independently you will have to figure out the best way to see the Galilee from Jerusalem. Here are a few suggestions to help you plan your Galilee excursion from Jerusalem.Sailing on "Jesus Boats", Sea of Galilee. Photo credit: © ShutterstockUse Public Transport to Go from Jerusalem to the GalileeThe distance from Jerusalem to Galilee is approximately 150 km depending on the route you take. You can get a bus from Jerusalem's central bus station to Tiberias, on the edge of the Sea of Galilee. The journey takes about 2-3 hours. Tiberias is a good place to base yourself and from there you can either hike around the Sea of Galilee or take further buses to the various locations. If you plan to make it a day trip then this could be problematic. You will spend much of your time waiting for buses and traveling on buses. You will have to leave very early in the morning if you plan 3 hours there and 3 hours back by bus. It doesn’t leave you much time on a day trip from Jerusalem to Galilee. Alternatively, you could make it a longer trip and stay overnight. It is advisable to research the places you want to visit and figure out how you will get public transport from place to place in Galilee before you actually leave Jerusalem.Traveling by bus. Photo by Christian Wiediger on UnsplashGalilee Tours from JerusalemIn addition to package tours that cover several days, several destinations, and accommodation there are also day tours from Jerusalem to Galilee. If you prefer not to travel on a package tour then day tours to difficult-to-reach or distant locations are the perfect solution. You could join a group day tour from Jerusalem to Galilee or even take a private tour and tailor-make your itinerary. Tours from Jerusalem to Galileeinclude pick-up and drop-off at your hotel or a convenient location in Jerusalem. The tour then takes you north in air-conditioned transportation and stops at several of Galilee’s famous locations. The tours usually have a theme, for example, Christian landmarks around the Sea of Galilee; Galilee and Golan tours, or Jewish sites in Northern Israel. There are also Galilee tours from Jerusalem that include places likeCaesarea,Safed,Haifa,Nazareth, Acre, or Rosh Hanikra.Art gallery in Safed, Israel. Photo credit: © ShutterstockRent a Car to Travel from Jerusalem to GalileeHaving your own car can be a very convenient way of traveling but it suits only a certain type of traveler. You’ll have to negotiate unknown roads; cope with Israeli drivers and find parking once you reach the larger cities like Tiberias, Nazareth, Acre, and Safed. The advantage is that you can pick and choose where to stop and what to see. The disadvantage can be the price and the fact that you will have your attention on the road instead of being able to sit back and enjoy the journey. Without a guide, you will have to know which places to visit and how to get there. Car rental is readily available in Israel but be sure you have included all the extras and taken into account all the restrictions. Check what time you can return the car as you will be traveling quite a distance and may not be back in Jerusalem until late. Some car rental companies in Israel close at 5 pm and there are different hours on Shabbat and national holidays.Traveling with a rented car.Photo by Scott Osborn on UnsplashVisit Galilee LandmarksThere are a plethora of Christian sites in Galilee where Jesus grew up and where he spent his ministry traveling from village to village preaching the word of God. The Christian sites of Galilee should not be missed! They have great biblical significance and are surrounded by Galilee's stunning scenery. A good way to plan a trip to the Galilee that covers all Christian sites is to spend at least two days in the region. If your time is limited then spend a day touring just the Christian highlights along the shores of the Sea of Galilee (Kinneret in Hebrew). Your trip to Galilee will probably start with a drive up Israel's Mediterranean coast past attractions like Caesarea and Haifa. Turning inland you'll travel through the Valley of Armageddon (Megiddo), where the prophesized Final Battle is predicted to take place during the End of Times. From here you have a view of Mount Tabor, the site of the Transfiguration.Traveling over rolling green hills and past lush farmlands you'll look down on the Sea of Galilee nestled in an idyllic valley. Starting at the southern end of the sea move up the western shore past the city of Tiberias. The Sea of Galilee is where Jesus walked on water (John 6:19-21) and where he calmed the storm (Matthew 8:23-26).The Church at Mount of Beatitudes, Galilee, Israel.Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe Most Famous Christian Sites in GalileeStop in Magdala, once a small fishing village and home to Mary Magdalene. Travel a little further along the shore to Ginosar, a modern-day kibbutz in the shadow of Mount Arbel. The kibbutz is home to the Yigal Allon Museum which holds the Jesus Boat. During the 1986 drought, the Sea of Galilee's water level dropped dramatically revealing the remains of this 1st-century fishing boat buried in the bed of the lake. The fishing boat would have been the same kind of fishing vessel used by the disciples. The Bible tells us how Jesus crosses the water, landing in Ginosar where the people touched the fringe of His cloak and were cured of their ills.One of the most delightful Christian sites along the shore of the Galilee is Tabgha, the site of the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish. Originally a 4th-century chapel was built here to mark the site of the miracle. A Byzantine Nile-themed floor mosaic has been preserved in the Church of Multiplication along with a large rock where Jesus may have stood as he performed the miracle.Nearby is the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter; the traditional site of Christ's 4th appearance after his resurrection (John 21:1-24) and where he conferred primacy on Simon Peter giving him leadership over the church. Another incredible Christian site on the shore of the Sea of Galilee is the Mt. of Beatitudes crowned by a unique church, designed by Antonio Barluzzi in the 1930s to mark the place where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount.Korazim National Park, Upper Galilee. Photo credit: © Yuval Gassar. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks AuthorityAlso visit Capernaum, once the hometown of Peter, Andrew, John, and James. Here Jesus based himself during his ministry; exorcised demons and healed the slave of a Roman centurion. The main Christian sites in Capernaum today are the excavated Byzantine village; the remains of a 1st-century synagogue and an octagonal church built around the remains of what is believed to have been Saint Peter's home.If you'd like to venture to the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee, at the foot of the Golan Heights you can stop at Kursi, the site of the miracle of the swine (Luke 8:26-39). Here you can see the ruins of a large Byzantine monastery and church and see the remains of a 5th-century church mosaic floor. If you are with a tour you will probably also venture up into the Golan Heights to visit places like the Shalom Observatory; former Syrian fortifications and Katzrin where there is an excavated and reconstructed Talmudic-era (4th-8th century) village.At the southernmost point of the sea where the River Jordan flows out of the Kinneret is the baptismal site Yardenit. Tours stop at Yardenit where it is possible to be baptized in the Jordan as Jesus was. Also visit Kfar Cana, famed as the site where Jesus attended a wedding and changed water into wine. The 19th century Wedding Church commemorates this miracle and encompasses the remains of Byzantine mosaics from an earlier 5th-6th-century church. The church holds two ancient stone jars similar to those used to hold wine during the biblical era.The easiest way to see these Christian sites is to take a one or two-day tour like the Sea of Galilee, Cana, Magdala & Mt. of Beatitudes Tour.Yardenit baptismal site, near the Sea of Galilee.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
Par Petal Mashraki
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