Israel Travel Blog


Glatt Kosher Hotels And Restaurants in Israel

It's high season now in Israel and the country is expecting tens of thousands of guests in the next few months, all looking for fun days out, comfortable budget accommodation and great food. And Israel’s really come a long way in the last 20 years - the food scene here is booming, whether you’re a meat eater, a fish-lover, a committed vegetarian or an aspiring vegan.Kosher pizzeria. Photo byNick ClementonUnsplashWhether you’re in the mood for street food (falafel, sabich, shawarma), the great Israeli breakfast - in the form of eggs, jachnun or shakshuka - freshly caught St. Peter’s fish from the Jaffa port or a juicy steak in the Golan Heights, rest assured you’re going to find it in Israel. Jewish dietary laws in the land of IsraelHowever, one thing you should note, if you’re not familiar with Jewish law, is that many hotels and restaurants in Israel operate standards of kashrut - that is, laws that pertain to food. If these hotels and restaurants abide by rules, they will be given a ‘kosher’ classification by the Israeli rabbinate. Not all of these restaurants have this certification but the fact is that Orthodox Jews will always adhere to the Jewish dietary laws which, at their most basic, prohibit the mixing of milk and meat foodstuffs, as well as the prohibition of pork, shellfish and any other animal that does not chew the cud. This means that when looking for somewhere to eat out, they want to be sure the kitchen and foodstuffs are in line with Jewish law, hence this certification.White kippah for Yom Kippur / Rosh Hashanah. Photo byJoey DeanonUnsplashGlatt kosher - what does it actually mean?Just as there are different kinds of Christians, Muslims and Hindus, there are different kinds of Jews. Some Jews in Israel (and in the diaspora) are secular, some are Masorti (traditional) and others are ‘Orthodox,’ ‘modern Orthodox or ‘Haredi.’ Depending on how observant (religious) they are, they may want an even stricter certification than normal, which is where ‘glatt’ comes in.Glatt - more widely referred to as ‘Mehadrin’ in Hebrew and Yiddish - means ‘smooth’. However, when you’re talking about kosher meat, it is an indication that the lungs of the animal are completely unblemished and free of defects - thus adhering to a more stringent level of observance. Do you have to be Jewish to eat at a glatt kosher restaurant?Today we’re looking at glatt hotels in Israel that conform to rigorous standards and display a ‘Mehadrin’ certificate on their premises. If you visit one for lunch or dinner (or to stay) you will probably see a fair number of observant Jews (who live their lives according to the regulations contained in Jewish sacred texts) - from the head covering, to black frock coats and fur hats) there.The good news is that you definitely have to be Jewish (or even a believer in God!) to eat at these restaurants. They are open to the general public - all you need to do is decide, beforehand, if you’re in the mood for meat or dairy, because you will never have both in the same place. Here are a few of our recommendations for glatt kosher hotels and restaurants in Israel…Freshly baked challah bread.Photo byShraga KopsteinonUnsplashGlatt kosher hotels and restaurants in JerusalemOf all the cities in Israel, it’s Jerusalem where you’ll find the kosher hotels in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Eilat and Northern Israel and thebest restaurants which adhere to the strictest standards. These include (but aren’t limited to):Prima Kings, 60 King George - Close to both the Great Synagogue and the Old City, this 213- room hotel is a comfortable and budget-friendly experience, with chef-prepared kosher meals.Jerusalem Gardens Hotel and Spa, 4 Vilna Street -Located on their 12th floor, this small, intimate restaurant offers both panoramic views of the city and terrific kosher food. Not cheap, but a true ‘Manhattan-style’ meat restaurant, with artful presentation and excellent service.Caesar Premier, 208 Jaffa Street - In the heart of the city, this European-style hotel offers comfortable accommodation and a restaurant that can also cater for large events. They pride themselves on their welcoming family atmosphere and their rooftop swimming pool offers separate hours for men and women. Kosher sandwich. Image byBINYOUSSOFfromPixabayThe Waldorf Astoria Hotel, 26-28 Agron Street - This unabashedly luxurious hotel is just 500 metres from the Jaffa Gate, in Jerusalem's Old City, and offers light bites, afternoon tea and gourmet cuisine, all under the supervision of the Jerusalem Rabbinate. They also offer a lavish Shabbat buffet lunch (pre-payment necessary).Rimonim Shalom Hotel, 24 Shakhrai Street - Formerly the Rimonim, the Shalom hotel is close to Ein Kerem and the Malka Mall and offers budget-friendly accommodation. Not only does it have a good restaurant, serving buffet meals, but it also boasts a semi-Olympic-sized swimming pool and a convention centre.The Inbal, 2 Jabotinsky Street - This five-star hotel, located in the very heart of Jerusalem, boasts the ‘O2’ - a meat restaurant which specialises in defining and reinventing Israeli cuisine, courtesy of Chef Nimrod Norman.Leonardo Plaza, 1 Rabbi Akiva Street - For gourmet food lovers, visit here and enjoy fabulous cuisine in one of their three restaurants, each inspired by different traditions. ‘Primavera’ is essentially Italian, ‘Cow in the Roof’ gives you a taste of French classics and ‘Cardo’ is where they serve their breakfast treats. They also host Friday night dinners and an enormous Shabbat buffet, along with fine wines. All supervised by the Jerusalem rabbinate.People praying at the Western Wall. Photo byOndrej BocekonUnsplashLittle House in Rechavia, 20 Ibn Ezra - This newly-renovated stone house in a green peaceful neighbourhood offers a Mehadrin Israeli breakfast and also offers a full Friday night kosher dinner and Shabbat lunch (these have to be pre-ordered).Red Heifer Steakhouse, 26 King David Street- Close to the King David hotel, this upscale meat restaurant offers everything from burgers and meat pizzas to high-end cuts and steaks such as filet mignon. All of their beef is hormone-free and steaks are aged for a minimum of 28 days, on-site.Tzuba Hotel, Kibbutz Tzuba, Jerusalem Hills- Nestled in the Judean hills, just 20 minutes from Jerusalem, this kosher kibbutz hotel in central Israel offers guests both rich buffet lunch (quiches, local farm cheeses, pastries and desserts) and also caters to larger events, such as bar mitzvahs. Fun fact: they actually run chocolate workshops!The Four Sephardic Synagogues, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem.Photo credit: ©ShutterstockGlatt kosher hotels and restaurants in EilatEilat welcomes tourists from around the globe but particularly at Passover and Sukkot, many religious Jews vacation here, and are looking for ‘glatt’ options within their hotel accommodation and when dining out. These include:Dan Panorama,the Northern Beach, Eilat- At this luxury hotel, world-class chefs will prepare you all kinds of culinary delights, including rich breakfasts, varied salads and tasty barbecue meats. Choose from the Dolphin dining room, Marina lobby or Bambou bar. Herods Palace, theNorthern Beach - Meals are a delight at Herods, with not just wow-factor breakfasts (four omelette stations and a dedicated juice bar) but the ‘Four Winds’ dairy lobby restaurant. For dinner, try their gourmet restaurants Tamarind and Tzaparim, which serve delicious, international fusion food. Hilton Queen of Sheba,8 Antibes Street - You have a choice of three restaurants here - all good. The Ebony is a pool restaurant and bar that serves grilled meats and cocktails. Makeda serves rich and yummy breakfasts. And their fabulous Japanese restaurant Yakimon, on the 12th floor, offers not just top-quality Asian fare but stunning views of the Red Sea.Mosh Beach, Derekh Mitsrayim, Eilat, Israel.Photo byYoad ShejtmanonUnsplashIsrotel King Solomon, the Northern Beach - Choose from three restaurants here - the ‘I Cafe’ which offers salads, pastas and deserts, the ‘King’s Table’ which offers tasty buffets and active preparation stands and Angelina, a wonderful Italian restaurant, serving fabulous focaccia, antipasti and pizza.Toy Bar restaurant, 1 Kamen Street - Dairy fare here includes arancini (Italian fried rice balls), delicious focaccia, a range of pasta dishes and cheesecake for dessert. Friendly, personalised service and diners recommend their themed cocktails.Cafe Cafe at the Ice Mall - This kosher dairy restaurant is great both for snacks and main meals, and diners love their Thai noodles and choice of cakes. This particular branch is right next to an ice rink, so you can stop for a milkshake or pizza after you’ve worked up an appetite, zipping around the rink.Antrikot Steak Houser at the Ice Mall - Well-priced burgers and steaks go down a treat here, and the side dishes (particularly the cauliflower) and tahini are raved about. Tasty food and helpful, friendly owners.Eilat's Dolphin Reef, Israel.Photo byMor ShanionUnsplashGlatt kosher hotels and restaurants in Tel Aviv and Central IsraelRegina, HaTachana The Station - Nestled in a 19th-century building, full of original features and beautifully preserved, sits Regina. This kosher meat restaurant, in the heart of HaTachana (the old Train Station), serves tasty and appealing food in a charming setting. Starters include beetroot carpaccio, meat hummus and smoked salmon bruschetta. If you’re in the mood for fish, there is salmon or tilapia (with roasted beans on the side) and carnivores will love the house burger and veal kebab. And fear, not vegans, they have meat-free shawarma and burger made from seitan too. To make the evening go with a swing, order one of their famous cocktails - maybe a ‘Jaffa Special’ or a ‘Regina in the Forest’. Not cheap, but tasty.Lehem Basar, Hanger 14, Tel Aviv Port - This steakhouse is located at the Tel Aviv Port (Namal in north Tel Aviv) close to the sea. Dishes include roasted eggplant, lamb stew, salmon fillet and a range of steaks. Enjoy a delicious sorbet for dessert whilst overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Alter Nativ - 10 Dubnov Street - Under the supervision of the Hatam Sofer, in Petach Tikva, this kosher dairy restaurant is a great place to grab breakfast, tuck into some fresh fish or enjoy a sizzling hot pizza. Even better, they offer free parking to their guests in the evening.HaTachana (the old Train Station) in Tel Aviv.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinPankina, 39 Gordon Street (corner Dizengoff) - In the heart of Tel Aviv, the dairy restaurant Pankina is so good that eaters there say it’s on par with places in Rome. Dishes include tuna tartar, eggplant con mozzarella, Caprese salad and Fettuccia al Porcino e tartufo. The desserts are magnificent - you can’t go wrong with the tiramisu, semifreddo or millefoglie. What’s their secret? Well, apparently, not only do they import many of their ingredients from Italy, but nearly all their staff are Italian too! Don’t miss it.Papagaio - 2 Ha Shunit, Herzilya Pituach - This Brazilian-style table restaurant has an unlimited meat=tasting menu, as well as a regular a-la-carte menu. Located in Herzliya Pituach, inside the Arena mall and close to the boat marina, it’s a good option for those who are staying just outside the White City.Fresh Kitchen - 2 Ha Shunit, Herzliya Pituach - This kosher dairy restaurant is also in the Arena mall. Recommended dishes include salmon, red shakshuka and chocolate cake.People eating at a restaurant in the street in Tel Aviv. Photo byYaroslav LutskyonUnsplashGlatt kosher hotels and restaurants in Northern IsraelAresto, Caesarea Harbour - This upscale dairy restaurant lies next to the Mediterranean and offers spectacular food in beautiful surroundings, overlooking the ruins of Caesaria. Their focaccia - topped with mozzarella and garlic - is delicious, their salads are bountiful and their eggplant roll is to die for. Pasta lovers will adore the lasagna and gnocchi and the red tuna and Denis filet will satisfy any pescatarian. A little costly but worth ditching the diet for.Shaltieli, 6 YohaiBenNun Street, Haifa - The only kosher restaurant on the beach in Haifa, there are plenty of meat dishes on the menu, with a few vegetarian and vegan options besides. The hamburger and chicken come recommended and Shaltiel also screens sports matches and offers hookahs. Despite its casual vibe, you will, however, need a shirt and shoes to gain entry!Nir Etzion Kibbutz Resort, Carmel Mountains - This kosher kibbutz hotel near Mount Carmel has a lobby bar Shirat Hayam, which serves a dairy menu (sandwiches, salads and cakes) and hot, cold and alcoholic beverages. The meat restaurant itself is under the supervision of Rabbi Nachsoni and also boasts a private dining space.A cow in the Mount Carmel National Park, Israel. Photo byYoav NironUnsplashSin Chan, 10 Shimon Dahan, Tiberias - If you’re in the Sea of Galilee area and in the mood for Chinese, then head to Sin Сhan. This excellent Asian restaurant serves great food at prices that are half of what you’d pay in Tel Aviv. The Chicken Szechuan and Pad Thai dishes come highly recommended! Oh, and come with an appetite because the portions are enormous!Kinar Galilee, Moshav Ramot - Boasting plenty of food, breakfast and dinner are buffet style. All meat dishes have the Mehadrin supervision label on them. There are also fish and vegetable options and plenty of healthy food. Lunch is not served here but there is a bar selling light meals and after an enormous breakfast, that may be all you need.Yosko Hummus 23 Ha-Nadiv Street, Zikhron Yaakov - Enormous portions are de rigueur with this family business - order one plate for two people. Try the mushrooms and eggplant varieties!ltos Steakhouse, Golan Heights - With four different meat dishes on offer, as well as plates with grains and vegetables for the non-carnivore, this family-style eatery is close to the Golan’s capital, Katzrin, and a fine place to eat steak. It’s even better if you pair it with one of the local wines on offer.Sea of Galilee, Israel.Photo credit: © Oksana Mats
By Sarah Mann

The Twelve Tribes of Israel

There are many things to love about Israel - months of endless sunshine, a beautiful Mediterranean coastline that boasts pristine beaches and clear waters, endless nature reserves and national parks, art galleries and museums, Crusader fortresses, boutique vineyards, and plenty of opportunities for adrenalin lovers, in the form of kayaking, jet-skiing, surfing, and rappelling.The farm of Netiv HaAsara, Israel. Photo byLevi Meir ClancyonUnsplashOf course, Israel is also one of the world’s top destinations for pilgrims. Home to a diverse population that includes Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Druze, there’s no shortage of places of worship to visit. Jerusalem’s Old City is, in itself, a place you could spend days, if not weeks, exploring.Packed full of historical sites including the Western Wall (the last remaining wall of the Second Temple, which was destroyed in 70 AD), the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (built where Christ was crucified, buried, and resurrected), and the Dome of the Rock (which Muslims believe Mohammed flew over, en route to Mecca) each step you take is a journey back in time.A Land of HistoryAnd for history lovers, Israel is an incredible holiday destination. Whether you’re curious about the Israelites, Roman, Crusader, Mamluk, or Ottoman period in this country’s history, you won’t run out of things to see. What we’re looking at today is just a tiny part of this history, but something extraordinary in its own right - the story of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, which is told in the Bible in the form of the extraordinary story of Jacob (son of Isaac, and grandson of the patriarch Abraham).Whilst the time period of this story is ancient - circa 1200 BCE - the impact of it cannot be underestimated because, today, Orthodox Jews still consider themselves to be descendants of these tribes. There are also many other communities across the world, including Christian Assyrians, Afghans, Mormons, Ethiopians, and American Indians who also claim to be descendants of ‘lost tribes’ too. Yes, it’s really quite a story!Mount Arbel, Israel. Photo byDave HerringonUnsplash.The Hebrew Bible and the 12 Tribes of IsraelAccording to the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible, as some Jews call it), the twelve tribes of Israel were the descendants of Jacob, one of the three great patriarchs of the Jewish religion. Jacob who (as we said above) was the grandson of Abraham (‘the father of the faith’ ) bore twelve sons, through his two wives, Leah and Rachel, and his concubines, Bilhah and Zilpah. It would be these sons who - collectively - formed the tribes.What were the names of the 12 tribes of Israel?The names of the men who formed the twelve tribes of Israel were (in order of age): Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin. Unfortunately, Jacob was known to show favoritism - the most beloved of his sons was - without a doubt - Joseph, and this favoritism would set the scene for the extraordinary family saga that is told in the first book of the Bible, Genesis.The Jordan Valley, seen from the top of Mount Sartaba. Photo by Eddie & Carolina Stigson on UnsplashThe 12 Tribes of Israel in the BibleJealous and consumed with rage at the favorable treatment meted out by their father to his second youngest son, things came to a head when Jacob gave Joseph a resplendent coat of many colors. His ten elder brothers could bear it no longer so sold Joseph into slavery, returning home to tell their father that he had been killed by a wild animal. In the meantime, Joseph was taken to Egypt and, after a cruel twist of fate, imprisoned, where there he languished until he became known for his ability to interpret dreams. Summoned by the Pharaoh and able to explain Egypt’s current prosperity (and, furthermore, predict seven upcoming years of famine) he was appointed to a high place in court. From beloved son to slave to prisoner to viceroy, Joseph had survived. Even more astonishing, when his brothers appeared in Egypt, years later, searching (like all of those around them) for grain in the midst of a famine, Joseph chose not to take revenge but to forgive them. Joseph stayed at court (at this time, the Israelites were not in slavery).In Genesis, it is said that when he was about to die he asked those around him to promise him that after God took them out of Egypt, they would take his bones with them and bury them in the Promised Land. Many centuries later, his wish came true when his remains were buried in Shechem (also known as Nablus). It really is one of the most unforgettable stories in the Hebrew Bible. No wonder Andrew Lloyd Webber made a musical out of the story!Mini model of ancient Jerusalem. Photo byLevi Meir ClancyonUnsplashAn Israeli family tree - partitioning out the landAfter the Israelites fled Egypt, were saved by God, who parted the Red Sea, then wandered in the wilderness for decades, they finally arrived in the Promised Land. Each of the twelve tribes (descendants of Joseph) was assigned a section of land by Joshua, who had assumed a leadership role after the death of Moses. The tribe of Judah settled in the area south of Jerusalem and, with time, became the most important and powerful of all the tribes. From Judah would come the great King Solomon and then King David. Moreover, it was also prophesied that the Messiah would come from this tribe. The tribe of Levi also produced some notable descendants, including Moses, his brother Aaron, Miriam, Samuel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Ezra, and Malachi. As well as the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, some modern Jews are classed as Levites, to indicate their connection with the religious functionaries who, at one time, were High Priests in ancient Israel. Here’s a map of the twelve tribes of Israel to give you an idea of which parts of the land they all inhabited.The Dead Sea aerial view, Israel. Photo bySergey MazhugaonUnsplashThe 12 Tribes of Israel in Jewish and Christian TheologyAs stated above, according to Jewish theology, the Messiah - when he comes - will be descended from the Davidic line and David came from the Tribe of Judah. For Christians, there is no less importance attached to this particular tribe - Jesus was descended from the tribe of Judah and, indeed, is often referred to as ‘the Lion of Judah’.According to the Christian Bible, where the twelve tribes of Israel are referred to in both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus anticipated that when the Kingdom of God was established, his disciples would “sit on thrones, judging the twelves tribes of Israel.” The imagery of the 12 Tribes - The Chagall Windows of JerusalemIf you are in Ein Kerem, a green and leafy part of Jerusalem (which was home to John the Baptist), and curious about art, then it’s worth making a detour to the hospital there, named Hadassah. In the facility’s Abbell synagogue there’s something quite astonishing - and that is twelve stained-glass windows.View of the Western Wall, Jerusalem. Photo byIlanit OhanaonUnsplashDesigned by the acclaimed artist Marc Chagall these windows depict what some consider to be ‘heraldic symbols’ for each of the twelve tribes. According to Jewish Kabbalists (Kabbalah is an esoteric school of Jewish thought, which evolved in Safed in northern Israel, in the 16th century), the prayers of the Israelites will reach the gates of heaven (also 12 in number) according to the original tribe of each worshipper. So, if you hold fast to this mystical theory, Chagall’s stained-glass windows represent these twelve gates and when individuals pray in this synagogue in Jerusalem, this will give them direct access to heaven.After you’ve seen the windows, you can stroll around Ein Kerem itself. Meaning ‘Spring of Vineyard’ in Hebrew, it’s a tranquil oasis, nestled in a valley, which is incredibly beautiful. Visit the Franciscan church of John the Baptist (built on the site where it is thought he was born) and Mary’s Spring, and if you’ve got the energy continue onto Bethlehem, which is just 12 km away (about a 25 minutes drive).Family of religious Jews dressed in black walks through the Old City of Jerusalem. Photo byMaayan NemanovonUnsplashANU Museum of the Jewish People in Tel AvivTelling the original and ongoing story of the Jewish People, this fantastic museum in Tel Aviv gives visitors access to interactive exhibits, displays of rare artifacts, and cutting-edge history-telling. Established to connect Jewish people with their roots and reinforce not just personal but also collective memory, ANU Museum of the Jewish People presents a 4,000 old story - the story of the Jewish people, told through their faith, culture, deeds, theology, and humanity.Recounting the incredible story of the Jewish people back to ancient times, here you can find out much about the Tribes of Israel. ANU is also an excellent museum to learn more about Jewish migration, centers of Jewish life that sprung up around the world (London, Paris, New York, Buenos Aires), the history of Jewish literature, art, and culture, the rebirth of the Jewish people after the Shoah (Holocaust) and the establishment of the State of Israel.A camel in the Negev Desert. Photo byCole KeisteronUnsplashDid the 12 Tribes actually exist? From where did they even originate?The modern scholarship really has no one opinion about the origin - or even the existence of the Twelve Tribes. Many different schools of thought exist, all purporting different theories. That they were a group of independent, nomadic desert tribes, united for political or military reasons? Were they a confederation of Israelites that existed between the period of the Judges and Monarchy? Or were they simply groups of people named after different locations in the Land of Israel? As to their origins, many historians even argue that there is no conclusive proof that any of these tribes, were actually the sons of Jacob and Leah.For sure, It is hard to answer the above questions and no doubt controversy will continue as to how they came to be. And yet, as a concept the ‘twelve tribes of Israel’ is very much alive in Jewish and Israeli identity. Religious Jews feel connected to them through the Hebrew Bible. And although secular Jews may not believe in God, many still feel connected to the tribal idea, since it is heavily bound up in Jewish history, folklore, art, literature, politics, and geography.A Jewish boy visiting the Western Wall in Jerusalem, Israel.Photo byLevi Meir ClancyonUnsplash
By Sarah Mann

Shabbat in Israel

Shabbat, put simply, is the centrepiece of Jewish life, wherever you live around the globe. It is a day of rest, occuring every week between Friday evening and Saturday evening, and although it is not technically a Jewish festival, it has great importance, because it is considered to be a holy time for religious Jews. For non-religious Jews, shabbat may not be celebrated as strictly, but it is still commonly observed and, for many, a lot of preparations are made to welcome it, especially when it comes to preparing meals.Challah bread for Shabbat.Photo byEvgeni TcherkasskionUnsplashWhat is Shabbat?Actually, some Jewish sages have even argued that the observance of the Jewish sabbath is the most important thing a Jew can do - more important than fasting on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) even. Shabbat literally means, ‘he rested’ in Hebrew and many rabbis have argued that without this ‘enforced’ period of rest each week, no creativity would be possible. And however seriously you take religion, the fact is there is a great purpose to a day of rest - it really makes sure that we don’t burn out.Why is Shabbat such an important day in Jewish law?Shabbat is incredibly important in Judaism because it commemorates God’s creation of the universe, as described in the Torah (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible), one of the most sacred Jewish texts). In the second of these, Exodus, we learn that Shabbat is a reminder of the day God rested, after six days of hard work. “Six days you shall work but on the seventh day you shall rest.” For this reason, Shabbat is considered a day of holiness and peace, hence the term ‘Shabbat shalom’ (‘a peaceful sabbath’) that Jews say to each other, in the lead-up to it. Shabbat also commemorates the events of the Exodus, when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, freeing them from slavery under the cruel Pharoah. Indeed, Shabbat is referred to in holy books as a ‘Queen’ whose presence graces every home on this day. Friday night services include psalms and the haunting melody of ‘Lecha Dodi’ (‘Come my Beloved’) in which Shabbat is referred to as a bride.Shabbat, therefore, is really a chance to stand back from the chaos of daily life and give pause before welcoming this ‘Queen’. And this is why many Jews make such an effort in their preparations for the day - wearing fine clothing, eating special foods, and ensuring that their homes are sparkling clean. After all, who would welcome royalty any other way? According to the Torah, the sabbath is a delight and if Jews observe it diligently, they will surely be afforded a place in the world to come. Entry of a synagogue in Jerusalem.Photo byLevi Meir ClancyonUnsplashWhen does Shabbat begin and end, both in Israel and around the world?The Jewish calendar is not solar, but solar-lunar, which means that all religious holidays/festivals in Israel and around the world begin at sunset. This is also the case with Shabbat, which begins at sunset on Friday evening and lasts until Saturday evening when three stars in the sky are visible. In terms of the exact time Shabbat begins, religious Jews tend to consult a calendar, according to where they are in the world, which gives the precise time of beginning and end (by the minute).Are there special rituals to welcome and say goodbye to Shabbat?Yes - and the most important is Shabbat candle lighting. Traditionally, it is the woman of the house who does this, around 18-22 minutes before Shabbat officially begins, as a way of ushering in this holy day. After the candles are lit, she will close her eyes, and recite a special prayer. Once this has been done, Shabbat has officially begun and no work can be carried out until its conclusion. (For more about what constitutes work, see below). After a short Friday night service, there will be blessings before dinner begins, made over two loaves of bread and a goblet of wine. The following evening, just before Shabbat ends, many Jews observe the ritual of ‘havdalah’. This means ‘separation’ in the Hebrew language, and is a way of distinguishing the holiness of this day from the rest of the week. Using wine (or grape juice), spices (often kept in a box), and a braided candle, the ritual concludes with the singing of ‘Eliyahu haNavi’ (‘Elijah the Prophet’), who Jews believe will usher in the age of redemption. Finally, everyone wishes each other ‘Shavua tov’ which means “May you have a good week to come.” Take a look at this fun video entitled ‘How to Havdalah’ to get a better idea of what goes on! Family of religious Jews dressed in black walks through the Old City of Jerusalem.Photo byMaayan NemanovonUnsplashWhat is a typical ‘Friday night’ Shabbat meal?Whilst there’s not one ‘typical’ food that’s served on Shabbat (because Jews from around the world have different culinary traditions) there are a few ‘tried and tested’ dishes that you might see on a Friday night table. You’ll always see challah (which is a braided semi-sweet bread) and sweet (‘kiddush’) wine, over which blessings are made. In the homes of Ashkenazi Jews (who originated from Eastern European), you’ll often be served delicacies such as chopped liver, gefilte fish, kugel, chicken soup, and cholent (a slow-cooked stew). In Sephardic homes (Jews who came from North Africa/Asia/Spain) you might be served stuffed vegetables, vine leaves, couscous, kibbeh (croquettes filled with lamb or minced beef), and baked cod and tahini cookies for dessert. Because of Jewish dietary laws, if you are served meat at a meal then there will be no dairy on the table…If you are invited to dinner, therefore, it’s good to check ahead to see if your hosts keep kosher (and if they are serving a meat meal, not to bring a dessert made from cream or butter…!) You can also play it safe by bringing flowers or a bottle of wine (most wines served in stores in Israel are kosher but you can always ask beforehand…)Freshly baked challah bread. Photo courtesy of www.freepik.comHow do Jews celebrate Shabbat in Israel?This is a good question and very much depends on how religious the family is. Although Israel is a ‘Jewish state’ and Jews are the majority of its population, not all Jews believe in God. However, it’s fair to say that it’s very traditional to attend a family dinner on Friday night. In a religious home, there will be singing and prayers; in a non-religious home, the kids may eat with their parents and then go out to a cafe or bar for the night! One thing that is for sure, however, is that from Friday night to Saturday night, it’s a time to relax. Religious Jews will attend prayer services at a synagogue on Shabbat morning, eat a lunchtime meal, and then a ‘seudah shlishit’ (third meal). Non-religious Jews may go hiking, meet friends for coffee, go to the beach, or simply chill out with Netflix. To each his own - since Shabbat is a day of relaxation and this means many things. Furthermore, if you spend a Shabbat in Jerusalem and then a second in Tel Aviv, you’ll really notice the difference. The majority of Jews in the capital observe Shabbat, and the majority of those in the ‘Non-Stop City’ don’t. That’s why, in Jerusalem, you’re more likely to see empty roads and families on their way to synagogue in the morning. And in Tel Aviv, you’re more likely to see people in coffee shops and restaurants, meeting friends for brunch, or heading off to swim, sunbathe or even join the folk dancing that goes on every Saturday morning on the promenade.Silver plated Shabbat candle holders. Image byRi ButovfromPixabayAccording to religious law, what activities are forbidden on Shabbat?This is another good question and the ‘list’ or forbidden activities is many. Essentially, there are 39 categories of things that are not permitted, including carrying, cutting, burning, writing, tearing, planting, harvesting, building, and weaving. There are certainly different interpretations of these laws, depending on how religious the Jewish person is, but - for sure - an observant Jew will not use a telephone, travel in a vehicle, watch television, or shop on this day. So is it forbidden to use electricity on Shabbat? To drive a car? To use money?According to the ‘halacha’ (religious Jewish law), all of the above are forbidden. This is why observant Jews will not carry a wallet on the way to synagogue on Shabbat, and always walk to and from prayers. In a religious Jewish home, timers will be set in advance, for lights to be turned on and off (so that there is no need to do so manually). Large water urns are heated beforehand, so tea and coffee can be made, and hot plates are de rigueur, in order to ensure food is not served up cold!The Western Wall in Jerusalem with an Israeli flag in the foreground. Photo byBenjamin RascoeonUnsplashAre there any exceptions to the list of things that are forbidden on Shabbat?Yes, - according to Jewish law (Halachah) it is not just allowed but considered mandatory to ‘break the rules’ on Shabbat if it is for the purposes of saving a life. Without a doubt, it is necessary to call a doctor or drive someone to receive medical attention, if they are taken ill on Shabbat. And, of course, many Orthodox Jews in Israel work as doctors and nurses in hospitals. Of course, whilst they are still giving care to patients, they will still refrain from things such as using their mobile phone (unless necessary) or switching on a light (they may ask someone who is not observant to do this for them).Another extremely interesting (and pertinent) example of violating Shabbat to save a life is of rabbis in Ukraine, recently, who spent Shabbat on the telephone in their offices. Throughout their holy day, they were busy organizing transport that would allow people in their city as quickly as possible (because of the military fighting in the vicinity).Shabbat candles.Image by @al-exfrom FreeImagesWhat kind of activities are encouraged on Shabbat?Shabbat, says the Hebrew Bible, is a time for relaxation, to put aside work and daily worries. It is a time to be with family and friends, to catch up with the week’s events, to read, eat, sleep, and basically wind down. Observant Jews will often take a walk in the afternoon or go and meet friends at their houses nearby. Jews who are traditional (but do not obey all restrictions) may drive to a nature park for a hike or picnic. In Israel, secular Jews flock to the beach for much of the year. The whole point of Shabbat, essentially, is to ‘switch off’ from the world and recharge your batteries, doing whatever you enjoy most.Are there buses and trains running in Israel on Shabbat?Although less than half of Israel’s Jewish population observe Shabbat to the letter of the law, since the establishment of the state there have been arguments about its nature, and if public transport should be allowed on this ‘day of rest.’ In most of the country, it’s not possible to use public transport (particularly in Jerusalem, where not only will there be no buses or light railway, but you may even struggle to find a taxi driving in the main city during the day - this is where phone apps come in handy! A Jewish boy praying by the Wailing Wall, Jerusalem. Photo byJonny GiosonUnsplashSo if you are planning on making a trip over the Friday-Saturday period and you don’t have your own car, you will have to plan accordingly. However, in recent years, in cities like Tel Aviv, which are much more liberal, new initiatives have come into force, organized by the local municipality. Beginning every Friday evening - around 6 pm - and continuing until Saturday evening - six different bus lines are operational. They run out to different suburbs from the center, all passing through major roads in Tel Aviv, and - even better - they are free of charge.Unlike regular bus services, they are a little less frequent (every 20-30 minutes) but it’s a pretty effective system, for instance, if you are in north Tel Aviv and don’t want to walk all the way to Jaffa on Saturday morning (which would take 50-60 minutes) you can simply hop on a bus on Dizengoff Streetandbe dropped off either at the Jaffa Port or the Clock Tower, close to the Jaffa Flea Market area. The same is true if you’re staying in the suburbs of Ramat Gan and Herzliya - there are buses that will bring you straight into the center of Tel Aviv.Are there any organized tours that run on Shabbat?Absolutely. Whilst there are tours dedicated specifically to Jewish themes (and some of them are built around Shabbat in Israel) you can always find day trips around Israel and tour packages where exploration will continue on Saturdays. Many of our Jerusalem tours (especially walking tours in the Old City) take place every day, not to mention excursions to Bethlehem, the Dead Sea, Masada, and the Judean desert (where Bein Harim offers jeep tours for the adventurous).Havdalah set with kiddush cup, spice cup, and candle holder. Image by @tovflafromFreeImagesCan I attend a Shabbat service, whilst in Israel?Again, yes. In fact, many synagogues will be happy to invite you along, whether you are Jewish or not. Of course, it might be advisable to call ahead first, just to check on formalities, but it’s quite likely that if you talk to someone in the congregation, you will also, afterward, be invited to a Shabbat meal (Israelis are extremely friendly and hospitable people!) There are many places to attend Kabbalah Shabbat Friday night prayer services, not just in the big cities but also in small communities. Many of the synagogues have websites where you can find email addresses and if you call up, most people have a decent command of English. Also, remember to dress appropriately according to how observant of Jewish law the community is - if it is an orthodox synagogue, a woman might be comfortable wearing a dress instead of pants. Enjoy your Shabbat in Israel and if you’d like more information about our Private Jewish Tours or Jewish tour packages around the Holy Land, don’t hesitate to contact us.Religious Jew with tefillin on his forehead prays in the Old City of Jerusalem.Photo byMaayan NemanovonUnsplash
By Sarah Mann

Jerusalem Light Railway

If you ask people around the globe which city they best associate with Israel, chances are they’re going to answer ‘Jerusalem’. And for good reason. Jerusalem is an extraordinary and quite unique city, not just in Israeli terms, or even Middle Eastern terms, but for millions of people across the globe.Picture of the Jerusalem Light Rail on Jaffa Street, Israel.Photo byLaura SiegalonUnsplashJerusalem - A Unique CityHome to three of the world’s most holy religions - Christianity, Judaism, and Islam - it’s a place just oozing history. All around there are reminders of the past - from the Crusaders, Persians, and Byzantines to the Muslims, Ottomans, and British Mandate. Thousands of years of history - just waiting to be discovered.And the other good news is that because Israel is so small, covering ground between cities is incredibly easy and makes day trips a piece of cake. If you’re coming from Tel Aviv, for instance, it’s 38 minutes by train and 40-60 by car. Even journeying from further north - say, Haifa - is relatively stress-free when you look at the number of trains Israeli Railways puts on each day.Cathedral bells, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem. Photo byChristian BurrionUnsplashThe Must-Visit CityAlthough Tel Aviv is definitely the nightlife, foodie, and beach capital of Israel, Jerusalem can hold it on in many other ways. It has world-class museums, art galleries, music venues, and places of worship. And, of course, the Old City, which is a must-visit attraction in Jerusalem. There is, however, one small practical matter, to be addressed - what’s the best way to get around? Good question. Well, the answer is simple - the Light Railway. The fact is that bringing your car into Jerusalem is a huge headache - parking is scarce and costly, and you’re likely to get stuck in traffic jams too. Buses are frequent and definitely an option, but they are also subject to the terrible traffic that builds up at certain times of the day (particularly in the city center). Nor is Jerusalem a city for biking in the way Tel Aviv is - it’s way too hilly! Electric scooters have caught on either (we’ve no idea why) and because the city is quite spread out, walking from, say, the Damascus Gate to Ein Kerem is a very long journey!Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, Israel. Photo byStacey FrancoonUnsplashUrban Transport for a 21st century JerusalemSo - yes - that leaves just one option…the light railway. And to tell you the truth, there are few people (either Israelis or visitors) that don’t love it. It’s convenient, fast, reasonably priced, runs long hours, and comes every few minutes. A combination of train and metro features, it’s taken the capital by storm - so much so that a similar system is now being built in Tel Aviv.It wasn’t long back that Yerushalmis (the name for the locals) would complain bitterly at having to make car journeys within the city - it could be very miserable, and however long you thought it would take, it always took longer. Not that building it was a piece of cake either - the disruption, noise, and pollution caused many headaches. But all good things come to pass - and the Light Railway was one of them. Today it’s ‘the’ way to travel in Jerusalem - cheap, efficient, and clean, all you need to do is hop on with your ticket and be whizzed away to whatever place you’re visiting - the Old City, Mahane Yehuda Market, Yad Vashem or the downtown shopping area.Today, we’re going to delve a bit deeper into the history of the light railway and its practicalities today - where it runs, what it costs, when it operates…so that by the time you arrive in the capital, you’ll be in the know and ready to start exploring. Let’s begin.Shop in the Old City of Jerusalem.Photo byChristian BurrionUnsplashHistory of the Railway in JerusalemDiscussion about building a light railway in Jerusalem went on for decades before a plan was actually enacted! Indeed, Theodor Herzl, who was the first real visionary of the establishment of a state for Jews, even imagined the project. The Ottomans looked into the idea, as did the British, but it took more than fifty years after Israel was created for work to begin on the project.Construction began in 2002 and lasted for eight years, in which time there was notable disruption to the roads, particularly Jaffa Street, which runs through the city center. Establishing a light railway also entailed the building of a bridge (see below) as well as quite a few other renovation projects. Not only was it hoped that the project would ease conjunction, as trams glided smoothly around the city, but it also envisaged the Jerusalem Central Bus Station and railway station next door being easily accessible to the line. View of the Western Wall and of Temple Mount. Photo credit:©Dmitry MishinThe Chords Bridge, JerusalemThe Chords Bridge (which also goes by the name of the Bridge of Strings) was built in order to accommodate the Light Railway’s red line; today, it is one of Jerusalem’s most notable landmarks. Easily observed from many parts of the city, it’s the first thing you see when approaching the capital by road since it is located at the entrance to the city.Designed by renowned Spanish architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava, the Bridge of Chords is a cantilever bridge, consisting of 66 steel cables. Designed not just for transport purposes (easing the enormous road congestion the city was grappling with) it was also envisaged, by Calatrava, as a way to enhance the ‘skyline’ and to encourage discussion about modern design.Indeed it has. Today, it’s a structure you either love or hate. Calatrava designed it to resemble the Biblical King David’s harp, with the cables as the instrument's strings, although if you look at it from afar, it could also be regarded as a ship’s sail or a tent in the desert! Its striking design, for sure, has made it a major tourist attraction. And on a practical note, the Spaniard kept pedestrians in mind every step of the way - next to the bridge, across which the Light Railway runs, is a glass-sided pedestrian walkway, allowing you to cross easily from one side to the other, particularly convenient if you’re heading towards the Central Bus Station.Light rail captured in the Chords Bridge, Jerusalem. Photo byShraga KopsteinonUnsplashRoute and lines of Jerusalem Light RailAt the moment, there is only one route currently running through the city - the red line. Nevertheless, other lines are envisaged (blue and green) and construction plans are in the works, in an attempt to connect the entire city to the network. Furthermore, a project to extend the red line out to Haaddash hospital has already begun.The current line is almost 14 km long and has 23 stops along the route. It begins at Mount Herzl (where the famous Israel Defense Forces Cemeteryis located) and runs to Pisgat Zeev, running all of the way through the city center (on the Jaffa Road).From one end to another, it stops close by many places of interest for tourists, including Yad Vashem (Israel’s Memorial to the Holocaust), the Central Bus Station (where buses and trains to all parts of the country leave from), the Mahane Yehuda Market, downtown Jerusalem, the Old City (both at the Jaffa Gate and Damascus Gate) and close to the Hebrew University.Byzantine Cardo in the Old City of Jerusalem.Photo credit:©Dmitry MishinHow Much Does it Cost and How Do I Buy a Ticket?The cost of a ride on the light railway is 5.90 NIS, whether you travel just a couple of stops or the entire route. Your ticket is valid for 90 minutes from the time you but, unlike the buses in Jerusalem, it is not transferable. There are three ways you can buy a ticket - through the machines, next to the tracks, via a green Rav Kav card, or through an app on your smartphone.Machines - at every tram stop you will see machines and this is where you can buy a paper ticket. Instructions are in Hebrew, Arabic, and English and you can pay either with cash or a credit card. Please note that the screens are not a touchscreen - this means that to operate them you have to press the buttons at the side! Machines accept both coins and notes (usually!) Rav Kav Card - purchasing one of these little green cards when arriving in Israel is really a smart idea. The Rav Kav card is both magnetic and electronic and can be purchased at many places, including all bus and train stations around Israel. Once you have one (either with your name on it, if you're staying in Israel for a while and can provide the appropriate documentation) or an anonymous card, you can load it up with money whenever you choose. Aerial view of the Temple Mount, Jerusalem. Photo byRobert ByeonUnsplashYou can buy in denominations of 30 NIS, 50 NIS, or higher amounts and it’s also possible to buy a monthly ticket, whereby you can make unlimited rides. Just ensure that your card is loaded up before you board the light railway because, once you are on the tram, you cannot purchase credit.Smartphone - since 2021, it’s been possible to pay for a ticket using your phone and this has become an incredibly popular option (especially for younger people, who live and die by this instrument!). The advantage of the Moovit app is that you don’t have to commit in advance to what kind of ticket you’d like (single, day pass, week pass, or month pass).You simply put in your credit card details beforehand and the app will calculate what you are due (so, for instance, if you take 5 rides in a day, the app will place a ‘cap’ on how much you pay).Simply upload the app to your smartphone then sign up, and put in your card details. This will let you launch the app when you board the tram.Your phone’s camera will be notified and you can hold it up to the QR sticker close to the door or the tram (or bus, if you are using a bus). Once you have scanned it, you will receive validation (and often hear a beep and see a green light). It is your responsibility to scan your phone and, by law, the driver or ticket inspector can ask to see proof that you have paid.Сloseup of ceramic pomegranates in the Jerusalem market. Photo byNixx StudioonUnsplashLight Railway PracticalitiesThe Jerusalem Light Railway runs every few minutes, which means that you won’t have to boil or freeze, whilst waiting on a platform for the next tram to show up. As stated above, you must buy a ticket before boarding and validate it once you board. Ticket inspectors patrol the line’s route on a regular basis and if you are stopped and do not have a valid ticket you will be fined on the spot.Don’t risk jumping on if you’re in a hurry - just buy your ticket and wait a few minutes - it could save you a hefty fine! Many Israelis are not skilled at waiting patiently, so don’t be surprised, when you are trying to alight, that crowds will attempt to board whilst you’re still trying to step down. Stand your ground!What Hours Does the Light Railway Operate?The Light Railway operates from early in the morning until late at night, in Jerusalem. The first trains set off at 5.45 am and the last at midnight. These times are valid for Sunday to Thursday. Between Friday afternoon (1-2 hours before sundown) and Saturday evening (an hour after sundown), the light railway does not operate.This is because it is Shabbat and no public transport operates in Israel on the Jewish Sabbath(that is the light railway, Egged public buses, and the rail service). The same is true for religious holidays (which, like Shabbat, begin at dusk and run until the following day at dusk). Make sure you check the timetable online, beforehand, if you are unsure, otherwise you will end up having to hail a cab (which could end up rather costly). Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem, Israel. Photo byStacey FrancoonUnsplashPicking Up the Light Railway on Arrival in JerusalemIf you're coming by bus or rail from another part of the country then you’re in luck - the tracks are a stone’s throw from both the central bus station and the Yitzchak Navon Train Station (which are next door to each other). When you alight, you will see escalators that will either take you up or down to the ground floor. The complex also has stores, a pharmacy and coffee shops, a bakery, and fast food stands), as well as a number of spots at which you can pick up a Rav Kav card. Simply walk outside the main entrance and head to Jaffa Road - which is adjacent to and actually in sight of the station. It’s really just a 1-2 minute walk. The result is a seamless transport experience.In conclusion, the Jerusalem Light Railway has revolutionized travel in the capital, not to mention making it easier for visitors arriving in the city to connect quickly and without fuss to trams that can whisk them around the city in no time at all. Our view? Leave your car at home and take advantage of 21st-century public transport. And enjoy Jerusalem! Of course, if you wish to travel hassle-free, it's better to join one of the organized Jerusalem day tours or book Jerusalem tour packages.Views of the light rail at Yekutiel Adam station in Jerusalem, Israel.Photo byLevi Meir ClancyonUnsplash
By Sarah Mann

Israel’s Best Family Hotels

Taking a vacation in Israel never disappoints, but there’s a big difference between touring Israel alone or with a partner/friend and bringing the kids. When you’ve got little ones in tow, not only are you going to be constantly looking for activities to keep them busy, but you’re also going to want to find accommodation that’s family-friendly.A little boy swimming in the hotel pool.Photo byAlexandr PodvalnyonUnsplashIsrael - the ultimate family-friendly vacation spotLuckily, Israel is a country that’s not just set up for kids' activities but it has a culture that actively embraces families. Israelis love children and the family is at the heart of everything in this country, so chances are it’s not going to be too difficult for you to find accommodation and family attractions in Israel that are geared towards the little ones.Accommodations for all budgets in IsraelWe won’t deny it - Israel’s not a cheap country to visit, and the fact is that finding somewhere to sleep each night is a huge chunk of your holiday cash. The good news is that, in recent years, hotels have become more aware of the budget-conscious family, and many of them are really making an effort to keep their prices reasonable, as well as offering plenty of activities to keep kids entertained.Of course, if you do want to splash the cash, there’s no shortage of classy joints to book, that will - along with the ‘regular’ features of a pool, cable TV, and free wifi - offer other special services, particularly babysitting and kids clubs, so that you can have a holiday too! Doing a bit of research to find out the best family hotels in Israel can take time, so we thought we’d make it easier for you and give you a few suggestions.Below, we’re setting out plenty of options in all of the major Israeli cities - from budget to mid-level to luxury - because we know one size doesn’t fit all and that price is often important. And before you take the plunge, don’t be afraid to shop around, online or by giving them a call. You never know when you’ll be able to pick up a special deal, which will make your vacation even more pleasant…A boat with three people at Jaffa Port, Israel. Photo byFaruk KaymakonUnsplashFamily-friendly hotels in Jerusalem1.YMCA Three Arches Hotel - This Jerusalem landmark, famous the world over for its bell tower, is a tried and tested favorite when it comes to accommodating families. It’s a fusion of old-world charm and modern conveniences, with lots of friendly staff and a wonderful garden, complete with stone pathways, around which you can stroll.This hotel is considered ‘three-star superior’ with rooms featuring views of the garden and King David Street (named after the biblical king). There is free wifi and cable TV and a fitness center complete with a pool and jacuzzi. Breakfast can be eaten on the outside patio and guests are also welcome to climb the bell tower, for extraordinary views over Eternal City.Address: YMCA, 26 King David Street, Jerusalem. Tel: 02 569-2692.2.Hillel 11 Hotel, Jerusalem -A stone’s throw from King George Street, in the heart of West Jerusalem, this is a good value-for-money option, particularly if you’ve got two more kids, since Hillel 11 offers larger rooms which contain one or two sofa beds, along with a double bed. There are plenty of cafes and restaurants nearby, and both Mahane Yehuda Market and the Old City are within easy walking distance. Some of the rooms have fridges in them (which is a nice touch, since breakfast is not available in the hotel). Convenient and budget-friendly.Address: Hillel 11, 11 Hillel Street, Jerusalem. Tel: 02 540-2225.3.Leonardo Plaza Hotel, Jerusalem- Located on King George Street, close to the Great Synagogue, this is the place to come for some luxury. Leonardo Plaza is a five-star hotel with 270 rooms, all tastefully designed. Facilities include a large pool, a fitness center, a dining room (serving a fabulous Israeli breakfast), and the kosher chef restaurant Primavera for lunch and dinner options. There’s even a library, where you can sit and read to your heart’s content, whilst your offspring are in kids' clubs (board games for the youngsters and games consoles for the teenagers!)Address: King George St. 47, Jerusalem. Tel: 02 629-8666.View of the Western Wall, Jerusalem. Photo byIvan LouisonUnsplash4.Ramat Rachel Resort, Jerusalem- Located near Talpiot and just a fifteen-minute drive from the center of Jerusalem (as well as public buses outside, that run every 20 minutes), the Ramat Rachel resort offers comfortable accommodation in pastoral kibbutz surroundings which are guaranteed to put you in a relaxed holiday mood.The landscaped gardens have shady pine trees, and the kids can enjoy tennis courts, a playground, and a pool (complete with snack bar), whilst adults can sneak off to the spa, for some relaxing treatments. Rooms are spacious with lovely views and the kibbutz restaurant serves an excellent breakfast (full of fresh ingredients) as well as child-friendly buffet lunches and dinner. They also offer a packed lunch service, if you’re going out for the day.Address:Ramat Rachel, Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, Jerusalem. Tel: 02 670-2555.5.St. George Hotel, Jerusalem- This upscale hotel is just a four-minute walk from the Shivtei Israel light railway station and a ten-minute walk from the Old City, which makes it perfect if you want to exploreJerusalem’s holy sitessuch as theChurch of the Holy Sepulchre, theVia Dolorosa,Temple Mount, and theWestern Wall.The staff are very helpful and speak excellent English (and French!) and the family rooms here are comfortable and contemporary. One of the best features of the hotel is its rooftop pool, which offers incredible views of Jerusalem. The upstairs restaurant also has local live music, periodically, which kids may enjoy!Address:St. George Hotel, Amr Ibn Al A’as Street 6, Jerusalem. Tel: 02 627-7232.Family relaxing in the hotel room. Photo byJonathan BorbaonUnsplashFamily-friendly hotels in Tel Aviv1. The Royal Beach Hotel, Tel Aviv - Whilst this is by no means a cheap option, this five-star hotel isn’t just luxurious but goes out of its way to accommodate families, especially with its suites (which range from between 50 to 90 square meters). The hotel has a contemporary and urban feel and prides itself on its service.Not only is the Royal Beach a stone’s throw from the beach, as well as endless other attractions in Tel Aviv but it also has a fantastic pool and a kid’s club that is run by both professional and caring staff. Finally, the breakfast is raved about by everyone who comes to visit - in the vein of ‘it could feed an army.’Address: HaYarkon Street 19, Tel Aviv. Tel: 02 627-7232.2. Arbel Suites Hotel, Tel Aviv - This pleasant and low-key three-star aparthotel sits just behind the famous Dizengoff Street and, just a few minutes walk from Gordon Beach, is very family friendly - actually they are a family business themselves. View of Tel Aviv seaside from Jaffa. Photo byAdam JangonUnsplashEach apartment has free wifi, air conditioning, a fully-equipped kitchen, and both high chairs and baby bathtubs are available upon request. Bikes are free for guests so you can take your kids on a city tour! Some of the suites have both a double bed and two sofa beds, so they really are accommodating. Oh, and the breakfast is terrific! Great value for money.Address: 11 Hulda Street Tel Aviv. Tel: 03 522-5450. 3. The Spot Hostel, Tel Aviv-With a tagline of "offering something for everyone" the Spot Hostel is a lot more comfortable than your average hostel, and with its fantastic location, close to both the Namal Port and Park Hayarkon, and a short bus ride to Jaffa is a great choice for families looking for clean, comfortable accommodation at a price that won’t break the bank.The Spot offers family accommodation (two rooms that interconnect) and their facilities are enviable, including a fully-stocked kitchen, laundry room, screening room (keeping both kids and adults happy), and their famous ‘Lager & Ale’ bar which serves drinks, snacks, and traditional pub grub. Oh, and if there’s a budding musician or comedian in your group, look out for their ‘open mic’ nights.Address:HaTa'arucha Street 3, Tel Aviv. Tel: 03 790-7477.Aerial view of Tel Aviv Old Port. Photo byShai PalonUnsplashFamily-friendly hotels inGalileeThe Lake House Kinneret - If you’re in Nazareth or Galilee and looking for family-friendly accommodation, then this could be a good choice for you. They’ve recently had a complete renovation, so the decor is very new and modern, and their suites can accommodate between 4-5 people - great if you’re a family. A pool and a big breakfast are also part of the deal, plus a spa if you want to pamper yourself.The Lake House Kinneret is directly on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, affording wonderful views and its location is good too - the Hamat Tiberias National Park (with the famous hot springs) is just an 8-minute drive, and if you want to look at religious sites in the area, it’s less than an eight-minute drive to Church of the Primacy of St. Peter or the Tomb of Maimonides.Address: Ha'Marchatzaot Road, Tiberias. Tel: 04 672-8500.Family-friendly hotels in Eilat1.U Coral Beach Club, Eilat - All Inclusive - Even though there are so many things to do in Eilat, if you want a relaxed holiday where you don’t have to plan activities, this all-inclusive hotel is a fantastic choice. Close to the beach and also the Underwater Observatory, there’s everything here you need, if you’re not in the mood to leave the complex!U Coral Beach offers comfortable and spacious ‘junior family’, excellent and varied food options (you can eat as much as you want), an open bar (with alcoholic and soft drinks) as well as nightly entertainment. As for the kids, there’s a separate heated pool for the youngsters, complete with slides, a kids club, table tennis, and a private beach with volleyball, archery, and snorkeling equipment.Address: Almog Beach Marina, Eilat. Tel: 08 635-0000. Eilat, Aquapark.Photo byMichal IcoonUnsplash2. City Apartments, Eilat - These apartments are both clean and well-equipped, offering great value for money in Eilat. The location is excellent (very close to the beach), the management is very helpful and there’s a reasonably-priced supermarket nearby if you want to prepare light meals or breakfast for yourself, rather than eating out every day.The apartments come in different sizes, and all are equipped with bed linen, towels, and the basics in the kitchen. They are also close to the shopping mall and the owners are happy to help with information regarding food and drink (since they do not have a restaurant on the premises).Address:Neviot Street 23, Eilat. Tel: 08 633-8361.Family-friendly hotels in BethlehemGrand Hotel, Bethlehem - If you're visiting Bethlehem, then the Grand Hotel is a good choice, offering family-friendly hospitality as well as a warm welcome and lots of help with getting around town. They have family rooms, all of which have air conditioning and a minibar, free wifi and a refrigerator and there’s a 24-hour front desk and a comfortable lounge.The Grand Hotel also offers a Mexican Mariachi restaurant, the first of its kind in Palestine actually! And if you want to sit and relax with the kids, their cafe serves delicious salads and cakes, made on the premises. The Grand Hotel is a short walk from the Church of the Nativity, the Milk Grotto, and Manger Square.Address: St. Paul VI Street 69, Bethlehem. Tel: 02 274-1440.Magi Bethlehem Scene Christmas ball ornament.Photo byRobert ThiemannonUnsplashFamily-friendly hotels at the Dead SeaThe Daniel Hotel at the Ein Bokek stretch of the Dead Sea is a very comfortable hotel if you’re in the neighborhood, and has plenty of facilities to keep the kids happy. One of the best Dead Sea beaches is three minutes walk away and the pool has both indoor and outdoor pools, as well as a wellness area with a hot tub, sauna, and gym.The family rooms are spacious and clean, with comfy beds, and overlook either the Dead Sea itself or the Edom Mountains. The food (both breakfast and buffet lunches and dinners) is consistently good and the hotel offers nightly performances and shows. The staff really do their best to make you feel welcome. Our tip: Get to the pools early - they are popular and the sun loungers are often taken by 11 am! Incidentally, whilst the Dead Sea is one of those must-see places in Israel, for adults and kids alike, the good news is that there’s not just salty water to float in when you’re in this area - with a car, it’s a quick drive to the ancient fortress of Masada and the beautiful nature reserve of Ein Gedi, where you can hike and splash around in waterfalls.Address: Ein Bokek, Tamar, Dead Sea. Tel: 08 668-9999.The Dead Sea Shore from above. Photo byArtem BelinskyonUnsplash
By Sarah Mann

Events in August 2022 in Israel

Well, summer is back with a vengeance and whether you love or hate the hot weather, the fact is that unless you’re going to hide away in the air conditioning, you’ll be looking for things to do in Israel. And in this respect, you won’t be disappointed because, post-Covid, there’s plenty going on in the country, whether you’re looking for music in Israel, art, performances, or just chill-out time.Exhibition "Art of Enchantment", Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv.Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinAugust 2022 in Israel promises to be busy - Ben Gurion Airport is seeing thousands of tourists arriving every day, heading for the miles of white sandy beaches, the Old City of Jerusalem, the lush green hills of the north as well as the ever-popular Petra excursion in Jordan. We’ve put together a few ideas for things you can do this summer, whether you’re having a chillout vacation in Tel Aviv, exploring the beauty of the Galilee and Golan, or star gazing whilst camping at the breathtaking crater in Mitzpe Ramon. Enjoy yourself! Events in August 2022 in Tel AvivShlomo Artzi in concert - 5th August, Charles Bronfman Auditorium. Shlomo Artzi is, for sure, up there with some of Israel's greatest singers. He’s been around for a long time now - close to five decades - but still packs out auditoriums and outdoor theater in Caesarea with his timeless songs. This summer he’s performing in Tel Aviv on 5th August at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium, close to Rothschild Boulevard.If you manage to snap up a ticket you’re in for a special time because he never fails to charm audiences with his music and lyrics. And if you can’t pick up a ticket, don’t worry - he’s performing the following week in Kiryat Motzkin, north of Haifa, so you can take a weekend break, see the Maestro and enjoy Mount Carmel too.Converted Roman Theater in Caesarea, Israel. Photo byJoshua SukoffonUnsplashTuesday Blues - every Tuesday at 6 pm, Jaffa Flea Market - There’s no better place to spend a summer’s evening than in Jaffa, the beautiful - and ancient - city which you can walk to easily from the center of Tel Aviv. As well as the promenade, port and Artists Quarter, a tour of the Jaffa flea marketis a must.And every Tuesday night in August, at 6 pm, there are free blues performances in the market area, which is also full of cafes, bars, and small boutiques - a great place to mingle with old friends and new, enjoy a cold beer or a fresh juice and generally kick back.Events in August 2022 inJerusalemPuppet Theatre Festival - throughout August - Back by popular demand comes the Train Theatre who are going to be given a number of wonderful performances at their annual Puppet Theatre Festival in Liberty Bell Park, in Jerusalem, between 18th and 22nd August. This is a great family event and one that both kids and adults can enjoy. Whether you’re at ‘A Dot of Light’ (telling the story of braille), ‘The Hungry Sandwich’ (which incorporates elements of clowning into the performance), or ‘Puppet Jam’ which is a kind of edgy cabaret event, you’re going to come away with a warm, fuzzy feeling.View of the Western Wall and Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem.Photo byAnton MislawskyonUnsplashHutzot Hayotzer Fair - 15th to 27th August - Unlike the coastal plain of Israel, Jerusalem (which is high in the hills) gets a delicious breeze on summer nights, which makes it a delightful place to wander when the sun goes down. So why not head over to one of Jerusalem’s most beloved venues, the Sultan’s Pool, between the 15th and 27th of August and enjoy their annual arts and crafts fair. There, you’ll find all kinds of creations for sale (indeed, Hutzot Hayotzer, translated from Hebrew to English, actually means ‘The Creator Steps Out’). Enjoy nightly musical performances, have a glass of wine, and breathe in some fresh Jerusalem air as you stand at the foot of the two-thousand-year-old city. It really doesn’t get much better than this.Events in August 2022 inHaifaNorthern Wind -Israeli Art from the Museum Collection, Haifa Museum of Art - A northern wind is blowing through the collection of Haifa’s Museum of Art this August, where you can check out a number of works based in Israel’s biggest city in the north of the country, as well as the surrounding areas around the Carmel area.Haifa has a unique identity - as a port city, many immigrants arrived by ship, before and after the creation of the State of Israel. Historically, it’s also a city steeped in activism - it has a long history of supporting workers' rights and is also very mixed, a place where Jews and Arabs live and work side by side.The Baha'i World Centre in Haifa, Israel. Photo byShai PalonUnsplashEvents in August 2022 in GalileeSafed Klezmer Festival - 9th to 11th August 2022 - The Safed Klezmer Festival is back - and it’s a fantastic opportunity to hear young musicians from around the world play this very unique kind of Jewish music, which began in the shtetls of Eastern Europe and was often played at weddings or joyous Jewish holidays such as Purim and Simchat Torah. Klezmer has really made a comeback in the last decade and in the beautiful and mystical town of Safed in the Upper Galilee, between Tuesday 9th and Thursday 11th August over 90 bands will be performing in the narrow streets and alleyways. Head north and discover your inner joyfulness!Events in August 2022 in the Negev DesertMitzpe Ramon Film Festival - 23rd to 26th August. Mitzpe Ramon might be a small town in the Negev, but it’s home to a mighty fine crater Makhtesh Ramon, which affords splendid hiking and rappelling opportunities, as well as nights spent under starry skies. This desert center is also attracting more and more young creative Israelis, who’ve moved there to be part of a small but vibrant community.As a result, their annual film festival is now in its third year and taking place between 23rd and 26th August. Take a trip down to the desert, reconnect with the elements and enjoy some of the screenings on offer…And if you’re looking for something particular, feel free to contact us by email or telephone - here at Bein Harim we’ve been in business for over 30 years and offer organized tours, day trips, and private tours customized to your needs.A sunset over Ein Yorkeam Wadi. The Negev Desert, Israel.Photo byAvi TheretonUnsplash
By Sarah Mann

Laila Lavan in Tel Aviv 2022

There’s a saying attributed to Tel Aviv - that it’s the city that never sleeps. Well, this coming Thursday, it really will be true. Back by popular demand (after the pandemic kept us all off the streets) is Laila Lavan - which, translated from the Hebrew, means ‘White Night’.Jaffa Port, Israel. Photo byFaruk KaymakonUnsplashWhat is Laila Lavan?Laila Lavan - White Night - is an event that takes place every year, across Tel Aviv and Jaffa, where the city basically hosts a range of musical and cultural events which are free to the public and continue on into the wee small hours, with a couple of them actually culminating at sunrise the following day.When is Laila Lavan?This year, it’s taking place on Thursday 30th June. Where exactly in the city does Laila Lavan take place?All over. Seriously. Whether you’re in the Old North (close to the Tel Aviv Port), wandering Rothschild Boulevard, hanging out in Neve Tzedek, or bopping around Jaffa, you’ll find an event to join. And, as we said before, it’s all funded by the municipality so it’s not just an amazing night out, but it really won’t break the bank either.Jaffa Clock Tower, Israel. Photo byYaroslav LutskyonUnsplashWhat time doesLaila Lavanactually go on until?Put it this way - if you’re a night owl, you’ll be in your element. Some events begin earlyish by Tel Aviv standards (around 8 pm) but many go on until 2 or 3 am, and things such as sunrise yoga happen (as the name suggests) only when the sun makes its debut, around 5 am the following morning. So whether you want to catch some early events and be in bed long before midnight, or head out after midnight and party until the wee hours, it’s your choice. What kind of events does Laila Lavan play host to?Every year it differs, but you can expect a wide range of events and performances across Tel Aviv. In the past, the city has thrown open the doors of some of its museums, the Opera House puts on outside performances, there are cover bands playing all down Rothschild, jazz and klezmer concerts dotted across the city, as well as street events, food festivals and beach parties in many neighborhoods. Even better, shop and bar owners are giving late licenses, so you can grab a bite after midnight, or a cocktail at 4 am! The stairs lead to Kedumim Square and St Peter's church in Jaffa. Photo byJeremy BezangeronUnsplashWhat’s on at Laila Lavan 2022?To date, we know of quite a few different events taking place (although there are bound to be many more we haven’t even heard of yet). These include:1. Rothschild Boulevard - there won’t just be all kinds of bands, but also street performers, circus acts, and dancers almost always dressed in white. Rothschild Boulevard runs from Allenby Street all the way up to the Habima Theatre and this is always a place where people will flock, on White Night. Just be prepared for it to be absolutely packed!2. Jaffa- Jaffa will be buzzing, with the Jaffa Flea Market (‘Shuk HaPishpehsim) and the many cafes and bars around it open until the wee small hours.3. Bauhaus Buildings - many of the Bauhaus buildings in Tel Aviv will be lit up and it will be possible to take guided tours through them.4. Headphone Party - the traditional dance party (complete with headphones) will take place at Rabin Square. Put them on and prepare to boogie - only you can hear the music, but you’ll be surrounded by fellow dancers (and some bemused on-lookers too).Aerial view of Tel Aviv Port. Photo byShai PalonUnsplash5. Tzuk Beach - usually starting between 1-2 am, take a blanket (and a bottle of wine) and enjoy a concert packed with Israeli singers. What can be better than sitting next to the Mediterranean Sea and listening to fabulous Israeli music?6. Suzanne Dellal Centre - there’s usually a street party in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood, centered in the plaza outside the Suzanne Dellal Center. This is a charming area, full of tiny side streets, beautiful houses, and stylish bars.7. Gordon Beach - you’ll be sure to find dancing at Gordon Beach, one of Tel Aviv's best beaches, which in the past has hosted ‘Bollywood in White’ style events.8. Sunrise Yoga - as well said before, sunrise yoga is a popular activity at Laila Lavan and usually takes place at the Tel Aviv Port (the Namal). A really fantastic way to end your cultural experience.Finally, we’d warn you that on a night like this, the streets are going to be very crowded. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times (it is summer in Israel, after all), and put on some comfy shoes. Buses are often caught up in traffic and bringing your car into the city is a mad idea, so get prepared to tramp the mean streets. Have a great time!People enjoying sunset at Tel Aviv Beach.Photo byDaria DyachenkoonUnsplash
By Sarah Mann

Countdown to the Maccabiah Games

Summer’s here in Israel and what do you think of? Beach days, sunning yourself under umbrellas on the shores of Tel Aviv, with regular dips in the Mediterranean. Nature hikes in the Galilee, cooling off in waterfalls and springs along the trails. Fresh breezy evenings in Jerusalem, gazing at views of the Old City from nearby rooftop bars.Green and yellow tennis ball on water.Photo byKevin MuelleronUnsplashOr, for sports fans and adrenaline junkies, something a little more exciting? Yes, it’s that once-every-four-years moment that’s upon us - and we’re not talking about football’s World Cup. Rather, the Maccabiah Games are being played in Israel this July and the perfect opportunity to get a feel for this ‘Jewish Olympics’ that’s taking place in a number of cities across the country.Want to know more?What are the Maccabiah Games?The Maccabiah Games are a leading international sports competition, also fondly referred to as the “Jewish Olympics”. Much like the more well-known Olympics, they take place every four years under the supervision of the Maccabi World Union. In fact, they are easily the biggest regularly-held international event in Israel. As well as being a fabulous sporting occasion, their aim is also to promote the centrality of the State of Israel in the lives of Jewish people from around the world.Water polo player. Photo byCHUTTERSNAPonUnsplashWhere did the name of the Maccabiah Games originate?Good question! ‘Maccabiah’ (or ‘Maccabi’ as its often pronounced and written) was a Zionist youth movement that was set up in 1929, encouraging sports and physical activity amongst the Jewish people. Historically, Judah Maccabee (Yehuda Maccabi) was one of the Jewish ‘guerilla leaders’ who drove the Seleucid Greek occupiers out of Judea in 139 BCE.As a result of the Bar Kochba rebellion, he freed the Jewish freed from slavery and they were then able to celebrate one of the most well-known Jewish festivals - Hanukkah at the Temple in Jerusalem. The son of Mattias, the High Priest of the Hasmonean Family, was a military genius and utterly fearless. In fact, he and his brothers-in-arms were described by the Greek General Bacchides himself as ‘stronger than lions, lighter than eagles and faster than bears.” Today, the ‘Maccabiah’ is run under the banner of the Maccabi World Union (MWU) which runs youth and sports organizations across the world, dedicated to physical excellence and also the furthering of Jewish identity. The MWU has its headquarters in Israel.Chess set. Photo byRandy FathonUnsplashWhen did the Maccabiah Games begin?Quite a while ago in fact - as far back as 1932! The history of how they came to be is pretty interesting in itself - they were the idea of a man named Yosef Yekutieli who, after hearing about the 1912 Olympic games, began fantasizing about the idea of a similar event, but for Jews in Palestine. After spending the next decade putting together this idea, he presented a proposal to the Jewish National Fund in 1928, arguing that the games could be held every four years to commemorate the 1800th anniversary of the Bar Kochba Rebellion (see above). With the blessing of the then British High Commissioner of Palestine, Sir Arthur Wauchope (on the basis that it hosted Arab and British Mandate athletes, as well as Jews) the Macabiada was set for the spring of 1932!Fun fact: this was the age of newspapers, not TV, internet, and social media. So a group of intrepid Jewish promoters set off across Europe, in 1930, to promote the event. They cycled through Greece, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Belgium, and France and then continued onto Great Britain, encouraging Jews to come to ‘Eretz Israel’ for the first Jewish sporting games. Their dreams were realized between March 28th and April 6th, when the first games took place. They were such a success, that it seemed clear they had a future! Relay runner.Photo byBraden CollumonUnsplashHow do the Maccabiah Games operate in Israel?Within the games themselves, there are four different competitions taking place - Juniors, Masters, Open, and Paralympics. If you’re between the ages of 15-18, the Juniors is for you. Masters work according to different age categories (keen to include older participants) and the open category tends to have no age limits and runs according to the international rules of each particular sport. In the Paralympics, a number of events, including wheelchair sports (such as basketball) and swimming, are represented, as well as a para table-tennis competition and half-marathon. Athletes compete as part of a national delegation i.e. Brazil, Australia, France, and as well as the games themselves, participants have a chance to travel around Israel and meet not just its citizens but Jews from all other parts of the diaspora.The aim, essentially, is to combine the fun of competitive sports with an appreciation of the land of Israel - fusing history, culture, and experience! And it’s important to point out that whilst the games are truly competitive, they also promote other very important values - those of intellect, the pursuit of excellence, and fair play.Swimming competition. Photo bySerena Repice LentinionUnsplashWhen are the Maccabiah Games being held this year?This year’s event is being held from 12-26th July, with the opening ceremony being held at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium on 14th July 2022. Approximately 10,000 athletes from 80 different countries will be participating in more than 40 different sports competitions.Even more astonishing, entry to watch all of this is free! As well as the ‘obvious’ sports, like swimming, tennis, and squash, also included are gymnastics, chess, ice hockey, bridge, lawn bowls, water polo, and even ten-pin bowling!Host CitiesBecause there will be so many events, and so many attendees, it’s not practical for everything to be held in one city, which is why different parts of Israel, all with good facilities, will be holding events. The three big cities, of course, where you can travel to watch are Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Haifa. For detailed information about what’s going on, it’s a good idea to take a look at the Maccabiah Games website. Of course, once you’re in any one of these places, there are so many other things to do and see, should you have the time or inclination. Here are a few ideas of the many ways to spend several hours (or, indeed, several days!) in Israel’s capital, the 24/7 Party City Tel Aviv or Haifa, perched on the Carmel mountain in the country’s north.Shop in the Old City of Jerusalem. Photo byChristian BurrionUnsplashMaccabiah Games 2022 in JerusalemYou could spend days, weeks, even months in Jerusalem and never stop exploring. The Old City alone is a place packed with thousands of years of history. Walking from quarter to quarter - Christian to Muslim to Armenian to Jewish, you’ll be overwhelmed by sights, smells, and sounds - for there is no city as holy as Jerusalem.Top Jerusalem attractionsinclude the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the spot where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected), the Western Wall (the last remaining structure of King Herod’s Second Temple, and a focal point for Jews across the world, and Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock, where Muslims believe Mohammed made his famous ‘Night Journey’ en route to Mecca.Outside of the Old City, Jerusalem has many charming neighborhoods including the Germany Colony, Ein Kerem, and Nachlaot, which boasts the lively and bustling Mahane Yehuda Market. The city is also home to the world-famous Israel Museum, which boasts outstanding art, a Sculpture Garden, a model of the Second Temple, and the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, which are housed in a specially-designed building.Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount, Jerusalem. Photo byStacey FrancoonUnsplashMaccabiah Games 2022 inTel AvivIf Jerusalem represents all that is holy, then Tel Aviv surely stands for all that is fun. No, seriously, there’s a reason it’s called the ‘Non-Stop City’. There’s no shortage of things to do and see as well as coffee shops, restaurants, bars and fantastic nightlife in this city, not to mention the ‘playground’ of kilometers of white sandy Tel Aviv beaches.There really is too much to do in Tel Aviv. Stroll the charming Rothschild Boulevard and admire its Bauhaus buildings. Take a food tour in the Carmel Market, then afterwards wander through the Yemenite Quarter, and stare at the tiny old houses. Sunbathe all day, enjoy a cocktail before dinner, dine at one of Tel Aviv’s trendy restaurants then party the night away at a cool club.Spend time exploring Jaffa’s narrow backstreets, Artist’s Quarter, and the famous Jaffa Flea Market. Or simply hire a bike and cycle through the city (it’s full of bike lanes) or along the promenade, affording you spectacular views of the Mediterranean. Unlike Jerusalem, this city is flat, so you won’t end up terribly out of breath!Bahai Gardens, Haifa, Israel. Photo byAmeer BasheeronUnsplashMaccabiah Games 2022 in HaifaHaifa doesn’t have the spirituality of Jerusalem or the fast pace of Tel Aviv, but you’d be unwise to overlook it. Not only is it a ‘real’ Mediterranean city, hilly and overlooking the sea, but there’s also plenty to see within a short car drive or - if you don’t fancy driving - an organized day trip.Within Haifa itself, you can explore the old German Colony (established by the Templars in the 19t Century), enjoy falafel in Wadi Nis Nas (an old Arab neighborhood), and take a tour of the astonishingly beautiful Bahai Gardens, which slope down the hill as far as the eye can see.Outside of Haifa, why not visit Caesarea, the ancient city built by King Herod, the Master Builder, where you can explore aqueducts and Roman theatres, or head north to Acre, a Crusader City with a glorious past, and plenty to enjoy, including excellent fish restaurants.The Western Wall or Wailing Wall, Jerusalem. Photo credit: ShutterstockEast of Haifa it’s an easy journey to Nazareth, holy to Christians as the place where Mary was visited by Angel Gabriel, and then onto the Sea of Galilee. It was here that Jesus did much of his ministering, performing miracles, and recruiting his disciples. You can visit any number of Galilee churches on the shores of the sea as well as the baptismal site at Yardenit. And if you want to venture even a little further, a trip to the Golan Heights is a fine way to spend a couple of days - full of boutique vineyards, nature reserves, and outdoor activities (skiing on Mount Hermon in the winter, kayaking on the Jordan River in the summer).Come and see Israel for yourself - enjoy the Maccabi games and everything else this amazing country has to offer. Feel free to contact us if you’re interested in taking one of our Israel tour packages or day trips around the country - we’re here to offer you a discount coupon (10%discountBH), answer your questions, and help make your trip memorable.Lifeguard station on the Tel Aviv waterfront.Photo byGuy TsroronUnsplash
By Sarah Mann

Escaping the Heat in Israel

Vacationing in Israel? Coming to Israel any time soon? Fantastic. The rainy season in Israel is long gone and now the worst of the pandemic seems to have abated, everyone is traveling again. Indeed, it looks like flights are going to be even busier than usual - no doubt because people really want to take a long-deserved vacation after enforced time at home!Palms in Jerusalem. Photo byIlanit OhanaonUnsplashAnd here in the Mediterranean, Israel remains a popular spot for tourists. It’s got everything you need for summer fun - beaches that stretch up and down the coast, full of white sand and clear water, nature reserves where you can hike, national parks such as Masada, where you can look at archaeological remains from thousands of years ago, and Eilat, on the Red Sea, which is ideal for anyone who wants to dive, snorkel, jet ski or drink cocktails and party at night!Beaches, nature, holy sites, and - hot weather!Israel’s also got deserts (which are great for trekking in), an extraordinary crater at Mitzpe Ramon (millions of years old), lush vegetation in the Galilee, and boutique vineyards in the Golan Heights.Not to mention Crusader castles, Herodian theatres, ancient villages, and a multitude of holy religious sites (churches, mosques, and synagogues everywhere you look).But something else Israel has is hot weather. And we aren’t joking. When we say ‘hot’ we mean ‘hot’. And it can get extremely hot here in the summers, which are long and sometimes feel endless. Locals have all kinds of strategies for dealing with the heat (because they’ve grown up with it) but for those visiting, it really can be overwhelming. And combined with humidity on the coastal plains, if you aren’t careful, you can end up wiped out - fast.Lifeguard Post on Tel Aviv beach. Photo byVladimir AnikeevonUnsplashHow to escape the heat in Israel?Writing this as someone who’s lived in Israel quite a long time now, I’d say (and so would everyone around me) that it’s certainly possible to have a fantastic time in the Holy Land at the height of summer. However, you really do need to prepare yourself, both physically and mentally, especially if you’re coming from a climate that isn’t known for long, dry summers.Today, you’re going to be reading about ideas my colleagues and I have come up with, to keep you from going mad when the mercury soars. We’ve put together a list of tips for you, helping you to keep cool in Israel, whether you’re at the beach, exploring fortresses, hiking in nature reserves, or exploring ancient cities like Jerusalem, Jaffa, and Acre. So get prepared - to stay cool and then to enjoy!Sun protection - it might seem obvious but we had to start with this one. Whether you’re having a day of fun at the beach, kayaking on the Jordan River, or exploring the Old City of Jerusalem, you really have to protect your skin. Essentials (and they really are) to pack for your next trip to Israel (or buy here, if you are traveling light) include:A tourist in Israel wearing a wide-brimmed hat.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinHat - protect your head, with something wide-brimmed if possible. Baseball caps are ok but they won’t give you the same level of protection. Or pick up a ‘tembel hat’ - it’s an Israeli national symbol, used by the first Zionist pioneers. Shaped like a bucket, and meaning ‘foolish’ in modern Hebrew, it fell out of style in the 1980s but is actually making a bit of a comeback!Long-sleeved cotton shirts - these are perfect not just for protecting your arms but, at a pinch, can be used as head protection, if you lose your hat! Cotton (or linen) is what you’re looking for, and, ideally, in white, to deflect the sun. Israeli fashion designers are wonderful, so maybe you should consider a shopping trip?Sunscreen - the higher the number the better. The sun can be a real beast in Israel in July and August and even just 20 minutes outside without protection can leave you red and sore. Slather it on - regularly.Water - few locals leave home in the summer without a bottle of water. Either pick them up at Israeli supermarkets or corner stores or buy a reusable water bottle and fill it as the day continues - there are public drinking fountains all over Israel, in parks, beaches, and museums. Person holding a bottle of water.Photo byBluewater SwedenonUnsplashUmbrella - if you’re at the beach, hire an umbrella or buy one of the very popular ‘tarps’ that you can pitch. You’ll be grateful for the shade.Cover-up swimsuits for kids - Israel’s beaches are a perfect (and quite cheap) day out, but if you’ve got kids in Israel, we’d advise putting them in swimsuits that cover as much of their bodies as possible. They’re easily purchased all over Israel.Icecream - Israelis love ice cream and, in the summer, the lines at the parlous are long! Whether you want something traditional, or ‘out there’ in terms of an odd flavour, you’re bound to find it, whether you’re in the big cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem or towns and villages in the Galilee or the Negev Desert.Ben & Jerry’s has been sold in Israel for a long time, and still is, although the political fallout from a decision they made not to sell ice cream in the West Bank has divided locals. They don’t have many parlours but it’s widely available in supermarkets and small stores.Golda - Golda, is arguably Israel's most popular ice cream brand at the moment, with over 30 franchises across the country. With lots of flavours, made by hand and even options for vegans, it’s got to be worth a try! Our tip: try the halva and pistachio.Tel Aviv has a wide array of small ‘boutique’ ice cream stores too, including Anita in Neve Tzedek, Arte onNahalat Binyamin and Otello on the famous Dizengoff Street. All of them also sell sorbets, which are particularly good at cooling you down on a hot day.Tourist approaching a small waterfall in Ein Prat, Israel.Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinCold Drinks in IsraelIced Coffee - Israelis love coffee and in the summer, drinking it with ice is the way to go. You can order ‘cafe kar’ which means ‘cold coffee’ (with milk, sugar and ice cubes). Or a ‘Barad’ - meaning ‘hail’ in Hebrew - it’s more like a slushie and is especially popular with kids. Ice pops - words like ‘Artik’ and ‘Kartiv’ are synonymous with summer in Israel and refer to any kind of milk or water-based sweet treats on sticks. The fruit-flavoured ‘Eskimo’ popsicle is not to be missed and the watermelon flavoured one is a delight too! Water - as we said above, carry water with you everywhere! Refill bottles from the tap (water is safe to drink in Israel) or pick up flavoured and fizzy brands at cafes and corner stores. Public Water Fountains in IsraelDrinking water is what’s going to save you on a hot summer’s day in Israel. And if you don’t want to spend a fortune in the ‘makolet’ (local grocery stores) then keep your eyes peeled for the endless water fountains you’ll see in public places all across the country. Iced coffee in a cup. Photo byValeriia MilleronUnsplashWater ParksWhat better way to spend a day of fun than at one of Israel’s water parks? Meymadion - if you’re in Tel Aviv and want the kids to burn off some energy but have had your fill of the beach (!) try this water park. The largest of its kind in Israel, it stretches over 25 acres and is filled with water slides, from the ‘simple’ water tube channel to the ‘Slalom’ ‘Meteor’ and ‘Cannon’ slides. They have six pools, which means kids of all ages have a lot of choice and there’s a huge picnic area and lots of shady spots where you can admire the surrounding Ganei Yehoshua park. And, of course, there are plenty of inflatables in the water, for floating around and chilling out.Aqua Kef - on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (or, as Israelis call it, the ‘Kinneret’) this water park is simply fabulous.Full of floats and slides, you can have a lot of fun climbing up and then falling down back into the water and as long as your children are aged 6 plus, they are allowed in! The ‘Family Park’ offers all kinds of facilities, including jumping towers, bridges, climbing walls, ladders and trampolines. They also have ‘Olympic’ and ‘Extreme’ areas for the more adventurous.Water park slides. Photo byAlaa AlbahranionUnsplashNational Parks in IsraelIsrael has an extraordinary number of nature reserves, which are incredible places to have a day out. Many are also filled with streams and waterfalls, which offer sharp relief from blistering heat, especially if you’ve been trekking for a few hours.Popular national parks include Banias (in northern Israel) where you can hike ‘the Hanging Trail’ and walk across a boardwalk before arriving at the waterfall, which comes from the Hermon mountain. (If you’re a keen photographer, go up to the observation deck). Ein Gedi is also another firm favourite for hiking. Located close to Masada and the Dead Sea (about an hour’s drive from Jerusalem). This nature reserve is nothing less than a lush oasis in the middle of the desert in Israel, complete with hiking paths, spring-fed streams and waterfalls. For some of the top water hikes in Israel, take a look at our website and blog.Day Tours in IsraelBooking a day trip in Israel, or any kind of organised tour around the country, is a very good idea for anyone that doesn’t want to drive, doesn’t want to travel solo in Israel or is interested in learning more about Israel’s history and culture. Israeli guides are fantastic - many you’ll meet haven’t just had excellent training but also years of experience with groups, and they also bring their personal knowledge to the job and are always happy to answer unusual questions!Waterfall in Banias National Park, Israel. Image © ShutterstockMuseums in IsraelFinally, an incredibly good way to stay out of the heat is to visit a museum. Israel’s full of them (we aren’t joking) and not only are museums in Israel air-conditioned (sometimes so heavily that you’ll need a sweater!) but plenty have cafes and restaurants in Israel where you can eat, making sure you have a few hours - ideally at the height of the day - out of the sun. As we said, you’ll be spoilt for choice but some of the ones we can’t help but recommend include:1. Israel Museum - located in Jerusalem, close to the Knesset (the country’s Parliament) is truly a world-class museum and a must-visit for anyone who wants to know more about the country. Established in 1965, the Israel Museum been significantly expanded in the last decade and is home to around half a million objects, as well as a sculpture garden, and replicas of synagogues from Italy and India. Don't miss a fantastic model of the Second Temple and, of course, the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are housed in their own specially-designed building named ‘The Shrine of the Book.’ Moreover, the Israel Museum has a beautiful gift shop and two restaurants - one serving meat dishes and the other milk (in accordance with the Jewish dietary laws).The Israel Museum Of Science Technology & Space, Haifa, Israel.Photo byKelly TelleronUnsplash2. Eretz Israel Museum - situated in Tel Aviv, this treasure of a museum, has all kinds of ancient relics, eight permanent exhibitions and sites such as Mosaic Square (full of beautiful mosaic floors). Eretz Israel also has a planetarium (perfect for kids), and a cafeteria.3. Madatech Israel National Museum of Science, Technology and Space - if you’re in Haifa, and want to learn more about science, this is a great place to visit and, if you have kids, it’s particularly good because it’s very hands-on, and chock-a-block full of interactive exhibitions (crash simulators, solar power and acoustics and waves displays will leave them enthralled). There’s also a cafeteria and a special play area for kids.If you want to take a day tour or organised trip around Israel with Bein Harim, feel free tocontact us- we’re at the end of the phone and email constantly - and the good news is that all of our buses are air-conditioned, so you won’t swelter on the way to your destination!Children on a tour in one of Israeli national parks.Photo credit: ©Dmitry Mishin
By Sarah Mann

Gearing up for Tel Aviv Pride

It’s June and summer is upon us in earnest. Moreover, after two long years of Corona, visitors are back in Israel in earnest and none more so than those who’ve turned up this week for the famous Gay Pride parade, culminating this Friday.Love is Love Gay Pride poster in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo byYoav HornungonUnsplashTel Aviv Pride - Taking to the Streets to Celebrate!Since its humble beginnings, around 25 years ago (when, in 1997, fewer than a thousand people turned up for a ‘Love Parade’, Tel Aviv Pride is now one of the city’s biggest events in the year and one of the most popular Prides throughout the world. So much so that many tourists arrive here not just for the parade but for all kinds of gay-friendly events that take place in Israel before and after - it’s not just one day of celebration but several - this year between 8th and 12th June 2022.Same-Sex Couple Rights in IsraelIsrael has a great record when it comes to supporting sexual equality - for sure it’s got the most progressive culture and legislation in the Middle East. It’s also fair to say that Tel Aviv is probably one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world - when you come and visit, don’t be surprised to see two men pushing a buggy - the LGBTQ community here can adopt kids and fertility treatment is widely-available (and not costly, indeed often free).As well as enjoying rights as parents, same-sex couples in Israel also have the same medical, pension and inheritance rights as heterosexual couples. And since 1993, discrimination in the military has been formally outlawed, which means you can be ‘out’ and serve in the army, navy and air force.Rainbow flag lighting over Tel Aviv city hall building for Tel Aviv Pride.Photo credit: © ShutterstockTel Aviv - the Ultimate Gay-Friendly CitySo there really is a lot to celebrate in Tel Aviv, which is a very liberal city. The mayor, Ron Huldai, emphasised this back in 2017 at the Parade, stating that the city “will continue to be a lighthouse city - spreading the values of freedom, tolerance and democracy to the world.”And if you come to Tel Aviv for Pride, not only will you be spoilt for choice in terms of Tel Aviv restaurants, bars and gay-friendly hotels, but you’ll also get a chance to see City Hall (in Rabin Square) lit up in rainbow colours to celebrate, not to mention Pride rainbow flags on every street corner. Where and When is Tel AvivPride2022?The Pride Parade this 2022 isn’t in its usual spot - in the past, it always began in Gan Meir (the home an LGBTQ community centre). This year, it begins at the Sportech Centre on Rokach Boulevard 22. It will wind its way all throughYarkon Park towards Joshua’s Garden. There are going to be more floats than ever this year too, which - if the participants have anything to do with it - are bound to be creative, colourful and festive! After the parade itself, an enormous afterparty is planned, which will probably involve dancing and music going on late into the night. “The Love Stage” party and concert has famed Australian DJ Iggy Azalea in charge of the music, as well as plenty of Israeli singers including Harel Skaat, Anna Zach and Shahar Saul.Gay Pride Tel Aviv, Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinSpending a Few Days in Tel Aviv?Still, coming to Israel for Pride isn’t just about the parade…there are endless things to do in the ‘Non-Stop City’ - from exploring Bauhaus architecture to rummaging in theJaffa Flea market, cycling Rothschild Boulevard or soaking up rays on one of the city’s beautiful beaches.Tel Aviv has all kinds of charming neighbourhoods to wander in too, including the vibrant Kerem HaTeimanim (the Yemenite Quarter) which sits next door to the Carmel Market, the city’s biggest and most lively market, selling everything you can imagine from fruits and vegetables to household goods, flowers and clothing. It’s also home to all kinds of street stalls selling world foods, the famed ‘Beer Bazaar’, hummus joints (hummus is a food locals just can’t get enough of) and coffee shops. On Friday afternoons, a few hours before Shabbat comes in, the ‘Shuk ha Carmel’ is bustling like you can’t imagine, and a great place to grab a drink and engage in some people-watching.LGBT Rights Poster.Photo bySharon McCutcheononUnsplashFrom Day to NightBy night, Tel Aviv is home to some incredible restaurants - the variety of foods is astonishing, from Israeli street food (think falafel, sabich and shawarma) to high-end Chef restaurants, where plates aren’t cheap but the experience you’ll have will wow you. Whether it’s sushi, tapas or contemporary Israeli cuisine (courtesy of famous chef Haim Cohen who runs the restaurant ‘Yaffo-Tel’) you’re bound to leave bowled over.And if you’re less of a foodie than a party animal, don’t fear because, with cocktails bars like Bell Boy, the Imperial Bar, Spicehaus and Concierge, you’re going to see a side of mixology you never knew existed. Finish it off with a trip to a club - The Block, Breakfast Bar or Sputnik - and that’s a night well spent! Day Trips outside Tel AvivFinally, although Tel Aviv is an incredible city, there’s so much more to Israel than just its largest city. The other good news is that Israel is a small country which has excellent and well-connected public transport links. Or you can book a private transfer from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem if you prefer comfort.Whether you want to take a train, hop on an Egged bus or rent a car in Israel, you can be in another part of the country in no time at all.Indeed, travelling from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem became even simpler in the last couple of years, thanks to the opening of a fast train which links the Non-Stop City with the Holy City in just 40 minutes.Folks preparing for sunset on Tel Aviv beach during Pride festivities 2018. Photo byGuy TsroronUnsplashNon-Stop to Holy GroundOnce in Jerusalem itself, you can hop on the light railway and be at the gates of the Old City in less than 15 minutes. Walking through the four quarters of this historic place is something that should not be missed. For Christians, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the spot at which Christ is assumed to have been crucified and then rose from the dead. For Jews, a trip to the Western Wall (the last remaining wall of Herod’s Second Temple) is incredibly moving. And for Muslims, the Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount are the place at which it is believed Mohammed flew over on his night journey to Mecca. There’s also plenty to do and see in the more modern part of Jerusalem - take a trip to Mahane Yehuda Market, the city’s lively market, visit the world-famous Israel Museum or take a tour of Yad Vashem, the country’s monument to Holocaust survivors. Jerusalem may not be ‘non-stop’ in the way Tel Aviv is, but it has an atmosphere few fail to experience and wonder at.We like you too, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel. Photo byYoav HornungonUnsplashDay Trips to the Dead Sea and MasadaOf course, if you’re travelling independently but don’t want the hassle of renting a car, would like to learn more with the service of a guide or are just looking for some company, then taking an organised day trip in Israel is a great way to see more of the country.The Dead Sea and Masada, which are high points of any tourist’s visit, are easily reached within a day (especially if you set off from Jerusalem) and combining floating in salty water at the earth’s lowest point, with exploring an ancient Herodian fortress, makes for a fine day out. (Our tip: if you want a first-hand account of the day trip to Masada and the Dead Sea we offer, take a look at our blog post written by Sarah Mann, talking about travelling with a group there).Trips to Northern Israel and Jordan from Tel AvivNorthern Israel is also very beautiful at this time of the year - whether you’re at the Sea of Galilee (full of historic churches), in Acre (an ancient Crusader city) or further afield, in the lofty Golan Heights - you’ll be amazed at how beautiful and tranquil this part of the country is.And finally, for the more intrepid adventurer, we also run trips to Jordan - for 3 days or more - giving you the chance to explore the ancient Nabatean city of Petra, carved out of rocks that turn colour throughout the day. Jordan and Israel have friendly relations and it’s an easy journey from Eilat to Petra(not available at the moment), in an air-conditioned bus, with a guide who’ll deal with all the Jordan visa formalities at the Jordan-Israel border crossing.So whether you’re staying in Tel Aviv for Pride or want to see a bit more of our country than the non-stop city, enjoy yourself. And if you need any more information on any of the trips and tours we offer, don’t hesitate to contact us.Now go and celebrate!Rush hour in Tel Aviv is a sight to behold.Photo byShai PalonUnsplash
By Sarah Mann

Summer in Israel

Yep, it’s that time of year again - the rains are long behind us, the skies are clear and blue and the days are stretching endlessly ahead of us. It may only be May in Israel now but we know summer’s on the way - in fact, it’s positively round the corner. Everywhere you look, you’ll see flowers blooming - poppies in the Galilee, jacaranda in Tel Avivand roses in Jerusalem.El-Mona Gardens, Gulis, Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinIs it hot in Israel in summer?Take a trip to the big city markets in Israel - such as Shuk HaCarmel or Mahane Yehuda - and everywhere you look you’ll see strawberries, watermelon, apricots, and nectarines. In Tel Aviv and all along the coast, you can even take an evening stroll in nothing more than a light shirt (in Jerusalem - which is high in the hills - you’ll need a sweater but there will still be a delicious breeze).Casual Israeli fashion comes into its own - no one dresses formally in Israel so expect to see lots of women in colorful sundresses and men in t-shirts and shorts (with the obligatory sandals, to finish off the outfit). But by June and July, it will be hot. And we mean hot! Summer in Israel is always fun.What is summer in Israel?With the average summer temperature in Israel (hitting 30 degrees in Jerusalem or more and the humidity of Tel Aviv making for a sweaty experience), you might want to factor in afternoon naps, so you’re fresh as a daisy for long lazy evenings out. Of course, if you’re a beach bunny, Israel is the perfect place to be between mid-June and late September - and for the cost of a sun lounger and umbrella, you can wile away your days next to the Mediterranean.But when you’ve had your fill of the beach? Well, that’s why we’re here - to point you in the direction of other ways to enjoy your Israel vacation - by hiking in a nature reserve, checking out a new museum exhibition, taking a food tour, exploring some wineries, trying out some of the endless water sports on offer or simply sitting in a sidewalk cafe, watching the people go by. Not to mention the special events and festivals in Israel that always pop up here in the summer. Without further ado, let’s have a look at ways to spend your summer vacation in Israel. Enjoy!Akhziv National Park, Israel.Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinCultural Events and Festivals in Israel in summerFestival of Light - Running throughout June of this year, Jerusalem’s Festival of Light promises to bring the Old City to life, by illuminating the city walls and cobbled streets with all kinds of light installations. Whether you know this extraordinary part of the world well or it's your first time in Israel, there, you will surely be captivated as you make your way along the different tracks (all marked in varying colors), in and around the Old City. The festival is a fantastic way to see Jerusalem by night, and also boasts guided Jerusalem tours, shows, and performances from guest artists.Jerusalem Wine FestivalThe annual Jerusalem Wine Festival will take place at theIsrael Museum in mid-August and, like every year, is bound to be a great social event. Showcasing (and celebrating) some of Israel’s best wines, as well as a few international offerings as well, go along not just for the wine and cheese but also to enjoy the musical offerings and the ambiance of the beautiful outdoor Sculpture Garden, where it is hosted.Laila Lavan (White Night) in Tel AvivTel Aviv literally stays open all night at this festival (which, in Hebrew, means ‘White Night’) and the city comes to life, with endless musical performances, dancing, galleries open until the wee hours and sunrise yoga at the beach. It’s all free and it’s incredible fun - just take a long afternoon nap so you can fit in as much as possible. This year’s date is expected to be between the end of June and the beginning of July - watch this space. Most probably, July 1, 2022.People clinking wine glasses. Photo byKelsey KnightonUnsplashThe Pixies in ConcertIf you’re a fan of American Alternative Rock, then you’re in luck because of the iconic band.The Pixies in Israel, are performing in Tel Aviv on Monday 22nd July at the Expo Centre. With their infectious melodies and reputation for screeching vocals and searing guitar chords, this is a concert you really don't want to miss. The Upper Galilee Voice of Music FestivalIf you love chamber music, then head north for the Upper Galilee Voice of Music Festival, held in Kfar Blum in the Upper Galilee, running from 28th June to 2nd July. In scenic surroundings, enjoying performances by artists both from Israel and around the globe. And in addition to the main event, there will also be a children’s festival, with unique workshops for the youngsters. National Parks in IsraelIsrael has an extraordinary number of national parks and nature reserves, all full of fantastic hiking treks, amazing flora, and fauna, and surrounded by streams and waterfalls that never cease to delight their visitors. Some of the ones we’d recommend most highly include:Akhziv National Park - this gorgeous area has sea turtles, rock pools, lagoons, steep sandstone cliffs, and an ancient fishing village. There’s also a lovely bathing beach, picnic facilities, and a nice camping area if you want to spend a few days out in nature. The Rosh HaNikra National Park includes the famous underwater caves, with a cable car ride for fun! Tourists at Nesher National Park, Israel. Photo credit: © Dan PorgesGan HaShlosha - close to the Jordan Valley, near Beit Shean, is this well-known nature reserve, boasting all kinds of bathing pools whose waters come from springs in the nearby Amal River. The water is a comfortable 28 degrees all year round and is a wonderful place to come and soak. Surrounded by palm trees and lush greenery, it’s arguably one of Israel’s most beautiful spots. The park also has a tower and stockade, and an archaeology museum, and isn’t far from Mount Gilboa, if you want to do some serious hiking!Ein Gedi - on the eastern edge of the Judean desert is this marvelous nature reserve, and it’s perfect to explore, either alone or combined with a trip to Masada and the Dead Sea. Here, water flows year-round and you can trek through baths, natural pools, waterfalls, and canyons. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the fabled leopard that supposedly lives in this oasis. Ein Gedi is full of lush vegetation, all kinds of flora and fauna, and an easy drive from Jerusalem.Caesarea - this national park is home to magnificent Herodian ruins, including impressive Roman aqueducts, bathhouses (complete with mosaic floors), an ancient harbor, and the remains of both a hippodrome and theater (where summer concerts are often held at night). Nearby are lovely beaches, where you can picnic and swim. Caesarea is an easy day trip from Tel Aviv, and can also be combined with a visit to Haifa.Banias - flowing down from Mount Hermon, the crystal clear waters of Banias make it a top pick for nature reserve lovers. Although you can’t swim in the waters, walking along the suspended circular walkway and seeing the amazing waterfalls up close, make it a great day out. There are two entrances to Banias, both with their own ticket booths, and a range of trails, depending on how much of a challenge you want. Gan Hashlosha (Sahne) National Park, Israel. Photo credit: © Manu Grinspan. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks AuthorityCamping in IsraelIf you’re traveling to Israel on a budget, then a fun and affordable way of doing it is by camping. All over the country, you’ll find well-equipped and reasonably priced camping grounds, so whether you want to hike in the Negev, explore a fortress in the Golan Heights or wake to the sounds of the Mediterranean waves, somewhere between Tel Aviv and Haifa, there’s a site that’s right for you.In our opinion, camping around the Sea of Galilee is really one of the most beautiful ways to spend a few days. The area is lush and green, but it’s also full of attractions - churches and synagogues, the famous Yardenitbaptismal site, and a huge water park, which is the perfect activity for kids.Water Sports in IsraelIf you’re not into sedentary holidays, then partaking in some of Israel’s many water sports is the perfect way to enjoy yourself. There’s kayaking on the Jordan River, after which - if you’ve still got energy - you can take a jeep tour along the border with Syria. If you’re down in Eilat, and you’re licensed, then you can’t take a dive along its coral reef (or, if you prefer, just hire a snorkel and fins). There are also jet skis for hire, all around this Red Sea resort, not to mention the opportunity to take an organized trip to Petra since Eilat is slap bang on the border with Jordan.Snorkeling at the Red Sea. Photo byArtem KniazonUnsplashDay Tours in IsraelDay tours are a great way to see Israel and their advantages are many - you have the services of a professional guide (so you will learn a lot), transport is taken care of (so you don’t need to rent a car and cope with the sometimes chaotic roads) and you’ll fit a lot into one day (ok, they start early, but that means you really do get to see a great deal). Spots like Masada and the Dead Sea and the Galilee and Golan Heights aren’t that accessible by public transport, so being driven there on a comfy air-conditioned bus really makes sense. Taking an organized day trip in Israel is also a great idea if you’re a solo traveler and want to meet other travelers. At Bein Harim, we offer a wide variety of group and private tours, as well as Israel tour packagesand if you’re interested in booking one, don’t hesitate to contact us or check out Bein Harim's Instagram page for photos of our many destinations.Сaesarea Port, Israel.Photo credit: © ShutterstockBeaches in IsraelThe fact remains that beaches in Israel are still one of the biggest draws of this country. Stretching endlessly along the coast, whether you’re up in the north, close to Acre, slap bang in the center in Tel Aviv, or down in the south, nearer to Ashdod, you’re always going to be able to find a beach that suits you down to the ground.Israeli beaches are almost always free and are usually good for amenities - cafes and restaurants, showers, changing rooms, toilets, and play areas close by for kids. You’ll also see plenty of workout stations, where you can tone up your abs or get a cardio session for free. And that’s before you’ve even dipped a toe in the water. When spending a day at the beach, you’ll also see the locals in their element, playing matkot (a quintessential Israeli game, which involves two bats and a ball, and lots of yelling!) and volleyball (the locals are friendly, so feel free to ask to join in). The Mediterranean in Israel is gorgeous in the summer and at the height of July and August, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re in a warm bath when you jump in the waters. And if you’re not a fan of water, just rent a chair and parasol, put on your sunglasses (and plenty of lotion), and kick back with a book or your headphones. Carmel Beach, Haifa, Israel. Photo byYousef EspaniolyonUnsplashMuseums in IsraelFinally, for days when the mercury is sizzling inside the thermometer, you can always take refuge in one of Israel’s museums or art galleries. There are so many, including the world-famous Israel Museum, in Jerusalem, where you can see a replica model of the Second Temple, sculptures in the outside garden, and the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, which are housed in their own specially-designed building. There are also underground Western Wall Tunnels to explore, close to the Western Wall, the Tower of David, and, of course, the narrow alleyways of the Old City, and its four historic quarters.Tel Aviv comes into its own too with the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Yitzhak Rabin Center (telling the story of the late Prime Minister and his relationship with the State of Israel), and the Museum of the History of Tel Aviv, exploring the fascinating backstory to this city which was born as late as 1910 but is now as modern as modern can be. There are also museums worth exploring in the north of the country, including MadaTech in Haifa, which is ideal if you want your kids to learn about science in an interactive and engaging way.If you are in Israel for the summer, go ahead and book some guided tours with a decent tour operator.The Israel Museum Of Science Technology & Space, Haifa, Israel.Photo byKelly TelleronUnsplash
By Sarah Mann

Events and Festivals in Israel in June 2022

As spring turns to summer each year, Israel comes into its own, which is why June can be a great month to visit the country. The weather is already very warm but not as roasting hot as it often is at the height of summer. And while the rains are long gone, evening strolls are utter perfection - in Israel you can eat outside, take long walks along beaches and seafronts at night (grabbing a drink at the endless cafes and bars on the sands) or just sit around and people watch.Beach at Rishon LeZion, Israel. Photo byAviv Ben OronUnsplashIn a Mediterranean Mood?And if you’re less in the mood for a city break, in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or Haifa, there are ample opportunities to explore the country - it’s not yet high season which means the roads won’t be too jammed and you can still get off the beaten track and head to nature reserves and waterfalls, which will be a lot more crowded the following month. Yes, we can say without hesitation that June is an ideal month for a trip to Israel.June in Israel - a Holiday with a Bit of EverythingThe fact is that Israel has a bit of everything, which means you can ‘pick and mix’ on a break here. In Jerusalem, arguably the world’s most holy city, you can spend days exploring religious and historical sites, wandering the tiny backstreets of the Old City, before heading to dinner at the famous Mahane Yehuda Market.In Tel Aviv, you can take a Bauhaus tour, learning more about the extraordinary architecture of the ‘White City’ as you walk the boulevards. Or hire a bike and cycle all the way from Tel Aviv Port (Namal) in the north to the Jaffa Port in the city’s south, taking in a tour of Jaffa Flea Market, visiting the Artist’s Quarter, and then grabbing some local food - hummus or fish - whilst you watch the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea.In June of this year, there are plenty of cultural events and festivals, as well as musical performances, in the big cities - a huge draw for culture vultures.Hiking by the Dead Sea. Photo byJonathan GamburgonUnsplashAnd for the Adrenaline Junkies?In the Negev, although hiking is not recommended in the hottest hours of the day, you can bask in the silence, enjoy the tranquillity of early morning sunrises, or explore the Ein Avdat canyon, Timna Valley Park, or the breathtaking crater at Mitzpe Ramon later in the day. And in the north of the country, there are all kinds of adventures for adrenaline junkies - from 4x4 jeep tours in the Golan Heights, discovering Crusader castles and fortresses, and kayaking trips on the Jordan River - perfect for those who don’t like to sit still.So if you’re looking to take a break and want a holiday destination that gives you a bit of everything, look no further. Whether you want to sun yourself on a beach, cool off periodically in the Mediterranean, explore archaeological sites in Jerusalem, hike in the Golan, or learn more about wine from some of the many boutique vineyards in the Galilee, you won’t be disappointed.And, as we said before, the weather is perfect - it will be warm, but not too hot, with cool breezes as day turns to night. Without further ado, let’s take a look at what’s going on in Israel this June 2022…all over the country!Vineyards in the Golan. Photo byLevi Meir ClancyonUnsplashEvents in Israel in June 2022. The Jewish Festival of ShavuotShavuot is a Jewish festival that commemorates one of the most important events in Jewish history - when God gave Moses the Torah on Mount Sinai. But it’s also a harvest festival, marking the wheat festival in the land of Israel, according to the Hebrew Bible.Shavuot is a holiday that everyone in Israel loves to celebrate - there are events going on all over the country. The main traditions are to eat dairy foods (think cheese, blintzes, and hummy cheesecakes) and, for Orthodox Jews, to attend synagogue where you sit up all night at a learning group (‘Tikkun Leila’).Shavuot is especially popular on kibbutzim and moshavim in Israel (agricultural settlements) where the ‘first fruits’ of the harvest are gathered. Locals love visiting these places and tourists will enjoy the activities, traditional Israeli folk dancing, and tractor rides for the younger members of the group!Shavuot this year is from 4th-5th June (since the Jewish calendar is solar-lunar in nature, all holy days begin in the evening). And, just to bear in mind, there is no public transport at this period, so if you want to get out of the city, you will have to rent a car in Israel.Cheesecake, traditional Shavuot food. Photo by Sebastian Coman Photography on UnsplashEvents in Jerusalem in June 2022Design Week - Held at the Hansen House, this year between 23rd and 30th June, the Jerusalem Design Weekis now in its eleventh year. Considered to be the country’s leading public design event, it’s expecting over 40,000 visitors and 40 events, showcasing the work of both Israeli and international designers. Each year, there is a central theme, looking at unique aspects of Jerusalem and Israel, incorporating the idea that the unusual cultural landscape in the country lends itself well to the idea of exploring important global issues. This year, the subject is time! The week promises all kinds of shows and events, as well as musical performances and ‘pop up’ food and drink offerings. An event to inspire!Hanan Ben Ari Concert in Jerusalem, June 2022On 22nd and 23rd June this year, the Israeli singer and songwriter Hanan Ben Ari will be performing at two concerts in Israel, both at the Sultan’s Pool in Jerusalem. And Ben Ari is an unusual guy - because he is from an orthodox background (he studied in a religious seminary, married young, and had six kids!) but performs in front of co-ed crowds and even writes songs for female songwriters!Moreover, his own music transcends stereotypes - it’s a fusion of rock, soul hip hop, and religious pop and his lyrics deal with a wide range of subjects, including literature, religion, pop culture, and social commentary. Hanan Ben Ari preaches tolerance and empathy and is making a real name for himself, so why not grab yourself a ticket and see for yourself what all the fuss is about?Shop in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel.Photo byChristian BurrionUnsplash‘Divine Food’ exhibition at the Israel Museum, JeruselemJune is your last chance to catch the ‘Divine Food’ exhibition that’s been running at the world-famous Israel Museum for a while now. Showcasing unique pieces from the Olmec, Maya, and Aztec civilizations from Central America, all highlighting the way maize, cacao, and agave became food staples, you can also see an astonishing reconstruction of a Mayan Temple. It’s a great way to learn how these crops were cultivated, and something extra about the Gods of that era. Included in the price of the ticket is entry to the entire museum, giving you the chance to explore the Second Temple model, enjoy some beautiful fine art, wander in Sculpture Garden, and - of course - marvel at the Dead Sea Scrolls, housed in their own bespoke building. Events in Tel Aviv in June 2022Gay Pride Week - Pride week in Tel Aviv is, arguably, one of the highlights of the month, taking place every year in early to mid-June. After a long-drawn-out pandemic, with crowds forbidden or kept low, Pride is back - and it’s going to be big! Tel Aviv is unofficially known as the gay capital of the Middle East and the Pride parade here is one that people from all over the world flock to.Throughout the week, which runs 5th to the 10th of June, there will be events all over the city, culminating on Friday morning, when tens of thousands of people will take to the streets, waving flags, dancing, singing, and cheering on the guys and gals on the many floats. The parade begins at the LGBTQ center in Gan Meir and is very family-friendly - kids aren’t just welcome but loved! And, of course, expect a few after parties!Gay Pride in Tel Aviv, 2018.Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinTLV International Student Film Festival (12-18 June 2022)Tel Aviv International Student Film Festivalis one of the largest festivals in the world for student films and is attended by many from around the globe. Each year, in June, hundreds of lecturers, students, and well-known persons in the cinema industry descend on Tel Aviv for a chance to see new films and meet up-and-coming producers. Run since 1986 by film students from the University of Tel Aviv, this Israeli project includes premiere screenings, workshops, films, special events, and conferences taking place each day, all at the Cinematheque, just a three-minute walk from the Sarona Complex, historically settled by the German Templars and today a popular area to eat and drink. Tel Aviv Vegan Festival (7-9 June 2022)Tel Aviv’s unofficially known as the vegan capital of the world, due to its ever-growing number of vegan restaurants serving only plant-based produce. So for anyone that follows a vegan diet, taking a holiday here is really very easy - whether you’re looking for traditional Israeli street food, light bites, or high-end cuisine, you’ll find it in this city.The annual Vegan Festival in Tel Aviv this year takes place between Tuesday 7th and Thursday 9th June, at the Sarona Complex in the heart of the city. It’s a veritable paradise for vegans and foodies alike - last year, there were over 100 stalls from restaurants and stores across Israel and, now Covid has waned, over 50,000 people are expected to attend this free event. So whether you fancy some non-dairy ice cream, a yummy poke bowl, or just the opportunity to learn more, put this date in your diary!Bread toasts with avocado, banana, tomato.Photo byElla OlssononUnsplashMovement Archery and Zen Acrobatics (23-25 June 2022)From 23rd to 25th June this year, in Tel Aviv, Tom Weksler and Roser Tutusaus will be holding a Movement Archery workshop. Having established ‘Wonderground’ in 2019, the partners focus on creations that deal with movement, dance, and other art forms.At this workshop, you can learn about posture, balance, imagination, and space. The two of them have taught all across the world and between them have years of experience in art and dance forms, working with companies such as Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak and Guy Nader & Maria Campos.Laila Lavan, aka ‘White Night’ (1 July 2022)Technically it's not June, but we can't help mentioning ‘White Night’, one of the biggest nights of the year in Tel Aviv, with the city coming to life as the sun sets, and events continuing on through the night until the sun rises again. Yes, things really do go on through the night - but then what would you expect from Tel Aviv which is aptly named the Non-Stop City?Many stores and restaurants that would normally close at 10 pm will be open much later. All over the city,Tel Aviv museumswill be free to the public, as well as musical events - think jazz, opera, klezmer, rock, and plenty of cover bands, who’ll perform up and down the famousRothschild Boulevard.In keeping with past events, there will also be activities for kids, dancing at the beach, street artists performing in the Jaffa Flea Market vicinity, and yoga at the Namal port, as the sun rises. The fact that all these events won’t cost you a penny means you’ve no reason not to pick a few that take your fancy (and make sure you’ve had a long afternoon nap before you head out into the 24/7 atmosphere…) If you are interested in Jerusalem tours or Tel Aviv excursions, feel free to contact us.Lifeguard station on the Tel Aviv waterfront. PhotobyGuy TsroronUnsplash
By Sarah Mann

May in Israel - What's Going On?

Springtime in Israel, particularly the month of May, is an absolutely fantastic time to visit the country. The rainy season has long passed, the sunshine is plentiful but it’s not terribly hot yet, in the way it can be in the high summer. With endless opportunities to enjoy the beach, explore the country and eat dinner outdoors on cool, breezy evenings, some would say it’s the perfect month to plan your perfect vacation in Israel.Sunset in the south of Israel. Photo byShai PalonUnsplashVisit Israel in the Spring!It’s also the ideal season for swimming in the Mediterranean Sea (the water is very pleasant), hiking inGalilee or Golan Heights, where flowers are blooming, visiting some boutique vineyards, or spending a few days in Jerusalem. If you’re there, why not wander the narrow alleyways of Nachlaot before grabbing a bite in theMahane Yehuda Market? There are also endless special events in Israel taking place - concerts, exhibitions, festivals, and one-off performances. If you’re down in the party city of Eilat, after a day of jet skiing, hanging out at the Dolphin Reef, or exploring nearby Timna Park, enjoy a cocktail by the Red Sea in Eilat, with breathtaking scenery in the form of desert mountains behind you.Here are a few of our recommendations for things to do in Israel in May - there’s something for everyone, trust us, so take a look at the list and get packing.Gray Dolphin in Eilat, Israel. Photo bySilviu GeorgescuonUnsplashJerusalem events in May 2022Jerusalem is the world’s most holy city for three major religions and a place packed full of historical sites, archaeological digs, and cultural treasures. And there is plenty going on there in May 2022.Jerusalem International Book ForumRunning from 15th to 18th May in the charming neighborhood of Mishkenot Shaananim, a stone’s throw from the Old City, Jerusalem International Book Forum is a week of professional and intellectual gatherings, with people from all different backgrounds across the world showing up in the capital. The forum offers workshops, panel talks, interviews, and social gatherings, looking at subjects such as podcasts, audiobooks, literature for young adults, and how to publish in a post-Covid world. With almost every event held in English, it’s the perfect event for anyone who loves books.Where: YMCA (26 King David Street) and Mishkenot Shaananim Conference Centre Flag of Israel at the Wailing Wall, Jerusalem. Photo byIvan LouisonUnsplashInternational Museum DayInternational Museum Day falls this year on the 19th of May and those participating in Israel (specifically in Jerusalem) and offering free entrance include the Bible Lands Museum, Bloomfield Science Museum, the Museum of Islamic Art, and the world-famous Israel Museum.Established with the intention of exposing the public to the cultural wealth of museums, it’s a great way to raise awareness of the place of the museum in our society, and not just for adults but for children too. The Israel Museum, in particular, is bursting with treasures, including the Model of the Second Temple, the beautiful Sculpture Garden, replicas of ancient synagogues, and the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, housed in a dedicated building.There are also free guided tours that take you through the four wings - Archaeology, Fine Arts, Jewish art and life, and the Youth Wing for Art Education, as well as a chance to see current exhibitions on masks, food, and castles! Fun fact: Did you know that there are more museums, per capita, in Israel than anywhere else in the world?Where: In museums across Israel (check website for details)The Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockJerusalem Day, all across the City of Jerusalem (28th-29th May 2022)Jerusalem Day (‘Yom Yerushalyim’ in Hebrew) begins on the evening of 28th May and ends the following evening. Commemorating the reunification of the city, after the Six-Day War in 1967, today the capital takes center stage. There’s plenty in store for anyone visiting Jerusalem, including Jerusalem tours, tastings, live music, workshops, and an enormous parade (complete with floats, featuring veterans, local Yerushalmis, and Christian supporters of Israel).It’s a wonderful thing to see, with stages set up in city parks, old-time singers belting out the classics (including Naomi Shemer’s ‘Jerusalem of Gold’) and the kids will love it too since there’s plenty of face-painting on offer! And if you want to learn more about the history of Jerusalem, from the time of King David, head down to the Jaffa Gate - the parade always goes past the walls.Where: Across central Jerusalem and outside the walls of the Old City, at the Jaffa GateEntry of a synagogue in Jerusalem. Photo byLevi Meir ClancyonUnsplash“Which Came First? The Story or the Egg?” Exhibition at the Israel Museum, JerusalemRunning at the world-famous Israel Museum in Jerusalem, this exhibition focuses on prize-winning children’s books illustrator Hilla Havkin. Now she’s painting stories - on ostrich eggs! - and more than 20 of them are on display in this exhibition, each one focusing on a different story - including giraffes, bats, balloons, and kites. As the eggs rotate, surprises abound. What a wonderful exhibition!Where: The Israel Museum, Ruppin Boulevard 11, JerusalemSovev Cycling Event, Jerusalem (Friday 13th May 2022)If you love cycling, love Jerusalem, or love both, then Sovev is for you! This May, to celebrate spring, the city’s largest cycling event takes place, with routes that will take you through pastoral scenes, urban landscapes, and astonishing historical sites. There are three routes - 10km, 40km, and 50kms - and thousands of participants will join. Make sure to register early!Where: The gathering point for everyone is at the First Station in the German Colony.A palm tree in Jaffa, Israel. Photo byReiseuhuonUnsplashTel Aviv events in May 2022After a day at thebeach in Tel Aviv, stroll on itspromenade,learn about Bauhaus architecture in the White City or rent a bicycle and cycle toJaffa. You can also join one of the Tel Aviv special events listed below.DocAviv, Tel Aviv (26th May - 5th June 2022)Beginning on 26th May and running for 10 days, Docaviv in Tel Aviv will be showcasing a range of documentaries, many being their world premieres. Whether you’re interested in history, art, language, family, or politics, there’s going to be something there to intrigue you. This year’s opening film is ‘The Devil Speaks; Eichman’s Lost Confession’ which shows reels of footage of the infamous Nazi, talking to a journalist in Argentina, before his celebrated capture by the Mossad.Where: Cinematheque, 5 Ha’arba’a Street, Tel AvivEat Tel Aviv - A Tel Aviv Food Festival(8th May 2022)The ultimate festival for foodies, Eat Tel Aviv brings together many of Israel’s top chefs in one place, all attempting to woo visitors with their creations. For several days, down at Charles Clore Park, close to the Neve Tzedek neighborhood, you can enjoy live music, fantastic food trucks, and innovative dishes. Some of the top restaurants in Tel Aviv participate here, including Manta Ray (seafood), Vicky Cristina (tapas), and Dixie (burgers) as well as plenty of celebrity chefs. Tastings and street food. What’s not to like?Where: Charles Clore Park, Tel AvivJaffa port area. Photo byShai PalonUnsplashRooftop Yoga at City Hall, Tel AvivEvery Thursday beginning at 6 pm, at City Hall, next to Rabin Square, yoga lovers gather together, to enjoy an hour or two of free yoga classes and sessions on the roof of the municipality. Apart from the fact that there are great views over the city, it’s a good way to meet new friends.Where: Tel Aviv City Hall, Rabin Square, 66 Ibn Gvirol StreetWhite City Bauhaus Tours, Tel AvivEvery Friday at 10 am, beginning at the Bauhaus Center on trendy Dizengoff Street, a classic Bauhaus Tour takes place, beginning with an introductory movie and a map. You’ll then set off with your guide, and also armed with stereo headsets, connected to their microphone.You’ll be taken around the oldest boulevards and streets in the city - including Rothschild, Ahad Ha’am, and Nahmani - and learn about the history of the White City’s most prominent buildings in this style, built in the 1930s and ’40s by German Jews, who arrived in Tel Aviv just before World War II. The cost is 80 NIS (25 USD).Deep Purple Concert, Tel Aviv (Sunday 22nd May 2022)Founded in 1968, Deep Purple is truly a pioneer of the heavy metal scene (they also won a Guinness Record award for being the world’s loudest band). Next month, they will be performing at the Menorah Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, to the delight of their many fans in Israel. So get ready for a night out, with a bunch of hard rock lovers.Where: Menora Mivtachim Arena, Tel AvivBlack horse carriage in Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo byAvi TheretonUnsplashEvents in Northern Israel in May 2022Whether you’re hiking in Galilee, tasting wines and cheeses on the farms of the Jezreel Valley, or kayaking down theJordan River, the Holy Land is waiting for you!Shivat Roim Dairy, northern IsraelBefore Shavuot arrives (in early June), why not head north to Shirat Roim (‘Shepherds Song’) up in the Galilee. It’s a boutique dairy, making fantastic sheep and goat cheeses, all without preservatives! It’s so good, it’s won prizes in Europe for its fabulous products. At their dairy on Kibbutz Lotem (near Karmiel), you can see the entire process (the making and the ripening), attend a workshop, and taste some samples. The ‘House of Cheese’ which is next door is open to the public on weekends and holidays. Yum! Where: Shirat Roim Dairy, Kibbutz Lotan, Western GalileeKayaking on the Jordan RiverThis is a really good activity for May because the weather is fantastic - not too hot and not too cold. It’s also a great experience for adults and kids - and the Jordan River is perfect for kayaking. Slide over small cascades, as your guide directs you through thick vegetation. Enjoy the fabulous views - the river banks are green and peaceful and if you’re lucky, you might even see a turtle!Where:the Jordan RiverView of the Golan Heights from Mount Bental.Photo credit: © ShutterstockYom Ha’Atzmaut (aka Israel Independence Day)Taking place this year on 4th-5th May, this is one of the most joyful days of the year, with celebrations that kick off at dusk and last through the night, followed by more celebrations the following day, in the form of a traditional Israeli ‘mangal’ (barbeque) at the beach, or in your friend’s back garden.All towns and cities in Israel have festivities, which include fireworks and concerts. In Jerusalem, there is the traditional torch-lighting ceremony atMount Herzl, attended by dignitaries, and in Tel Aviv, there’s a huge gathering atRabin Square(the square named after the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin) with dancing and music.The following day, if you’re not a fan of barbeque, you can enjoy free entrance to certain museums, includingYad La Shiryonin Latrun (Israel’s official memorial for fallen soldiers) and theHall of IndependenceonRothschild Boulevard, where David Ben Gurion read out the famous Declaration of Independence in May of 1948.Where: Events all across the countryFireworks at the end of the 70th Independence day ceremony on Mt. Herzl. Photo byLavi PerchikonUnsplashJeep Tours, Golan HeightsThere are plenty of jeep tours you can take in Israel, but one we’d highly recommend is run by the company ‘No Other Land’ up in the Golan Heights, based on Kibbutz Merom Golan. It’s not just a great chance to explore northern Israel but really to see how locals, especially on kibbutzim, live in this part of the country.Guided by Ilan Shurman, who not only served in the IDF as a paratrooper but also holds a degree in Israel and Middle East Studies, he’ll give you plenty of history and geopolitics, with trips out to Qunietra (today a ghost town) and a stop outside one of the Israeli bunkers close to the border with Syria. This is a perfect family attraction and teenagers in particular, tend to love it!Where: Kibbutz Merom Golan,No Other Land Jeep Tours.International Yoga Festival in Israel, May 2022Israelis love yoga (seriously!) and this year, between 12th-14th May 2022 an enormous festival is taking place in the north of the country. Featuring teachers, lecturers, musicians, and workshops, people will gather together to learn and practice their skills for a long weekend, in the most pastoral of environments.A woman doing advanced yoga pose. Photo byARA CHOonUnsplashThe ‘yoga village’ at which it will take place is atGan HaShlosha National Park, one of Israel’s most beautiful nature reserves, which is located close to Mount Gilboa. The surrounding streams and astonishing waterfalls lend themselves to an atmosphere of happiness and tranquillity…and the festival is even promising a special ‘water compound’ with special sessions.The International Yoga Festival, along with all of the usual the ‘yogie’ activities, will feature music shows, a kid’s compound (complete with fun activities and shallow swimming areas), food stands (many of which are promoting vegan food), and a great artist’s fair, where you can purchase jewelry, clothing, and art.Wine Tours in the Carmel MountainsIsrael’s full of fabulouswineriesand what better thing to do than to take a tour of one, whilst enjoying the astonishing scenery? The Carmel Winery was founded by Baron Edmond de Rothschild in 1892, with the aim of helping farmers earn a long-term living, rather than relying on more simple crops.The Centre For Wine CultureinZichron Yaakovprovides guided tours and this includes a wine shop, restaurant, two specialist-tasting rooms, a small cinema, and a barrel room in an underground cellar. And Zichron itself is a lovely little town, so take a stroll afterwards on its midrachov (main pedestrianized street) or even head off toHaifa, which is just 30 minutes away.Where: Carmel Wintery, 2 Derek Ha Yekev, Zichron YaakovInterested in special events in Israel, private orday tours in Israel?Feel free to contact us!Flam Winery, Eshtaol, Israel.Photo byEli LevitonUnsplash
By Sarah Mann

Biblical Tours in Israel

Every year, tens of thousands of people come on trips to Israel. Their reasons are varied - pristine beaches on Mediterranean coastlines, endless sunny days with beautiful blue skies, museums and art galleries, hiking trails, boutique vineyards and a foodie scene that’s taken the world by storm.Dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem. Photo byAdam KringonUnsplashIsrael - Land of the BibleBut, for many visitors, the most important reason to visit is to take a biblical tour of the Holy Land - to see the many beautiful and extraordinary sights connected with the history of the country. Israel is a melting pot, and home to people of many faiths - Jews, Christians, Muslims…and for each, there are places that are incredibly important.Walk in the Footsteps of JesusFor Christians, a tour of biblical Israel is often the trip of a lifetime, giving them a chance, literally, to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and visit many of the places mentioned in their holy book. Whether it’s Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, Nazareth, where he spent his early years, Galilee, where he ministered and recruited his twelve disciples, or Jerusalem, where he was arrested, crucified, buried and then resurrected, taking a biblical tour in Israel will not disappoint.Even better, for anyone curious about archaeology, the land of Israel is literally bursting at the seams with fascinating sites, dating back hundreds, if not thousands of years. Places of worship, fortresses and ancient cities that were built in different eras (Roman and Herodian, Byzantine, Crusader, Arab, Mamluk and Ottoman) are easily accessible and can really bring history to life before your very eyes.The Church of the Transfiguration, Mount Tabor, Israel. Photo byJoshua LanzarinionUnsplashThe History of Christians in IsraelThe history of Christian communities in the Holy Land dates back to the life and times of Jesus. After his death, the Apostolic church - particularly around Jerusalem - remained Judeo-Christian but after 130 CE, when Emperor Hadrian established Jerusalem as the Roman city of Aelia Capitolina, the church changed its composition.Today, when exploring Israel, in particular Jerusalem, it really is possible to see a chain of continuity and survival of the Christian community in the country, despite the war, natural disasters and endless conquests. Many of the churches, convents, shrines and monasteries that pilgrims visit are sites associated with the earliest times of Christianity, back in Herodian and Roman times, and really give the visitor a sense of how Jesus lived.In this article, we’ll be looking at the biblical side of Israel - places of worship dating back thousands of years, their architectural styles, and what their particular traditions were. This will help you understand what different Christian communities exist in Israel today, and how they have not just survived the centuries, but are thriving. We’ll also give you an idea of the ‘must sees’ on your visit, as well as famous archaeological sites in Israel. Direction sign showing the way to the Garden Tomb, Jerusalem. Photo byJonny GiosonUnsplashHow Many Christians Live in Israel today?In 2022, Israel’s population stood at just under 9.5 million people. The majority of these are Jews, with a sizeable Muslim community, and then smaller communities, including Christians and Druze. Today, Christians account for about 2% of the country - about 182,000 people.Approximately 76.7% of Christians in Israel are Arab and Christians make up 7% of Israel’s Arab population. Most of these people live in areas such as Haifa, Nazarethand Jerusalem, so for anyone coming on a biblical tour of Israel, these cities will surely be visited.The Christian community in Israel can be broken down into four basic groups - Orthodox, Catholic (Latin and Uniate), Protestant and Non-Chalcedonian (Monophysite). Apart from the Armenian church, most of these communities use Arabic as their lingua franca and many of them may well be the earliest descendants of Christians born in the Byzantine period.What Places Should I Visit on a Biblical Tour in Israel?Israel is a small country, with very many sites of interest for Christians. However, if you really want to get the most out of your visit, taking an organised day tour or private tour is a good way of seeing a great deal in the shortest time. You’ll also have the services of a professional guide, whose job it is to answer every last question you have. The good news is that it’s easy to take an organised tour of biblical sites in Israel, as well as specific Christian tour packages. They run regularly and in many languages and set off both from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, so all you need to do is find one that suits you. Here are a few of the top holy sites in Israel we’d recommend, with links to specific tours you can take…Pilgrims lighting candles in the church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Photo byPeter AschoffonUnsplashThe Biblical Sites of JerusalemArguably the holiest city in the world, there is no shortage of sites to see in Jerusalem - in fact, you could spend weeks, if not months, exploring the churches and Christian sites of the Old City of Jerusalem. Divided into quarters (Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian), the Christian quarter is the second-largest and most marvellous place to explore, wandering through its narrow alleyways. The Christian quarter of the Old City is most easily entered through the Jaffa Gate and is a huge draw for most visitors, with a wealth of attractions which include: The Church of the Holy Sepulchre - the most sacred site in the world for Christians, it is filled with magnificent artwork, shrines and altars and can hold up to 8,000 people. The original structure was built by the mother of Constantine the Great, on what she considered to be the hill of Golgotha and the tomb in which he was subsequently placed.Inside, pilgrims can walk up a small staircase to the Place of the Crucifixion, and also see the Stone of the Unction, where tradition holds that Jesus’ body was prepared for burial here. All year round, pilgrims flock here, and in the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday the Christian quarter of the Old City takes on a more serious (and subsequently joyful) tone. Jerusalem Biblical garden, Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinFun fact: as you explore the church, pay attention to its stone walls, in which you will see inscribed thousands of tiny crosses. These were made by the Crusaders, who took shelter here after making their holy pilgrimage from Europe. Via Dolorosa - in Latin meaning ‘the Path of Sorrow’ in Latin is the traditional path Jesus took en route to his crucifixion, stopping at points along the way which are now known as ‘Stations of the Cross.’ Established in the 18th century, it runs through the Old City, beginning close to the Lions' Gate and ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It is a place of contemplation and prayer, and comes alive particularly on Good Friday, at the annual procession. Temple Mount - this walled compound within the Old City, houses the famous ‘Dome of the Rock’. Whilst the debate usually focuses on Jews versus Muslims, it certainly has religious significance for Christians too, since it was here that Jesus came, studied, learned and argued with the leaders of the Temple at that time (an act which, it is argued, led to his eventual arrest and killing).Temple Mount, Jerusalem, Israel. Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas on UnsplashMount of Olives, JerusalemEast of the Old City, Mount of Olives is the place where Christians believe Jesus ascended into heaven. It is a very special place for believers and home to many interesting sights, including the Church of All Nations - also known as the Basilica of the Agony, and built on the ruins of a 4th-century basilica and a 12th century Crusader chapel. The beautiful interior is built on Corinthian columns and a mosaic, portraying Jesus as a mediator between God and man.Dominus Flevit - this Roman Catholic church offers splendid views of the Temple Mount and is the spot at which Jesus stood and foresaw the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, before weeping (the church’s name actually means ‘the Lord Wept’). Designed in the shape of a teardrop (representing Jesus’ tears) its impressive western window (which looks out on the Old City) makes for marvellous photographic opportunities.Garden of Gethsemane - at the foot of the Mount of Olives, this is the spot at which Jesus prayed and was later arrested, the night before his crucifixion. Church of the Pater Noster - meaning ‘Our Father’ in Latin, the importance of this church is bound up with Jesus’ teaching of the Lord’s Prayer here, to his disciples. Indeed, throughout the cloister and church, you can see beautiful ceramic plaques on which this prayer is translated into no fewer than 140 languages. Mount of Olives, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe Biblical Sites of BethlehemChurch of the Nativity - one of the oldest working churches in the world today, was first built by Emperor Constantine in 4 CE over the grotto where, according to Christian tradition, Mary gave birth to Jesus. Walking down two flights of stairs, a fourteen-point silver star marks the exact spot where the Son of God came into the world.Today, custody of the Nativity Church is shared by three denominations - Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian and - of course, it is a focal point of any tour, Each year, on Christmas Eve, there are celebrations in Bethlehem as well as a public mass, attended by thousands, which is held in Manger Square.Shepherds' Fields- situated in Beit Sahour, about 1km east of Bethlehem, this is the spot where - according to Catholic tradition - angels announced the birth of Christ. Nearby is the Shepherd’s Field Chapel (adorned, inside, with beautiful frescoes depicting the nativity scene) and also the Greek Orthodox chapel of Dar El Rawat.Mar Saba Monastery - dating back to the 5th century, this Greek Orthodox monastery overlooks the Kidron Valley and, to this day, maintains many of its traditions (including forbidden entrance to women, past the main entrance). Its thick walls and small windows are reminiscent of a fortress, and its remote location, around 15 km from Bethlehem, and down a steep road, means it is difficult to reach independently, thus best seen as part of a private tour.The interior of Nativity Church, Bethlehem.Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinThe Biblical Sites of Jericho, the Dead Sea and MasadaIn biblical times, it was the city of Jericho where Joshua fought his famous battle and, in the words of the song, ‘the walls came tumbling down.” Here also lies the Mount of Temptation which is where Jesus was tempted by the devil. Not too far away lies the ancient fortress of Masada, one of Israel’s top attractions and full of astonishing Herodian excavations. Built as a palace for the King, it stands atop a mountain, overlooking the wilderness of the Judean desert and really takes one’s breath away. From there, it’s an easy journey - by car - to the Dead Sea, where you can float in the salty waters and slather yourself in black mud (which is excellent for the skin!). Because public transport is rather limited in these areas, by far and away the most convenient way to see these places is with a Masada group tour or a private tour. The Biblical Sites ofNazarethChurch of the Annunciation - this is where the Angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and announced to her that she would conceive and bear Jesus, the Son of God. It was founded around the same time as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity and has a splendid basilica, designed by Italian architect, Giovanni Muzio. Outside the courtyard is decorated with beautiful mosaics, donated by communities from across the globe. Church of St. Joseph - close to the Basilica, this Franciscan Roman-Catholic church was built over the remains of much older churches. According to tradition, it stands above what was once the carpentry workshop of Joseph, the husband of Mary.Donkey in Nazareth, Israel. Photo byJonny GiosonUnsplashThe Biblical Sites of GalileeAny highlight of an Israeli biblical tour has got to be a trip to the Galilee, in northern Israel. This is where Jesus spent much of his time ministering and performing miracles - turning water into wine, raising the dead, walking on water and transforming two fishes and five loaves of bread into sufficient food to feed a crowd of 500 people.Church of the Beatitudes-- this is the spot at which Jesus gave his famous ‘Sermon on the Mount‘. Built on the site of a 4th century Byzantine church, its octagonal design represents the eight beatitudes (‘blessings’) and, inside, seven virtues - charity, faithy, hope, justice, prudence, temperance and fortitude) are symbolised on the mosaic floor. Yardenit - located at the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee, on the banks of the River Jordan, this is where Christian pilgrims from around the globe come to be baptised, replicating the baptism that Jesus undertook by John the Baptist, thousands of years earlier. Capernaum, a biblical village in Galilee, Israel. Photo byJoshua LanzarinionUnsplashChurch of Multiplication - located in Tabgha, a church and monastery were built here in the 5th century to commemorate the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. Parts of the exquisite mosaic floors (which are rare in Byzantine churches) were unearthed in archaeological excavations, and depict the flora and fauna of Galilee.Megiddo - In the New Testament, Megiddo is referred to as Armageddon and, according to prophecy, it is the spot where a great battle will take place at the ‘end of days’ i.e. before the Second Coming of Jesus. Today it is a splendid national park, full of archaeological finds including an 80- metre long aqueduct that supplied this ancient Canaanite city with spring water. An excellent way to see it is on a private tour of Megiddo and Nazareth.If you are interested in biblical sites in Israel, feel free to join one of our Day Christian Tours or a Christian Israel Package.Mount Precipice, Nazareth, Israel.Photo byShalev CohenonUnsplash
By Sarah Mann