Jerusalem Marathon, March 2018

The annual Jerusalem Marathon is one of the Israel top events. The upcoming Jerusalem Marathon will be held on 9 March 2018. This is one of the most beautiful urban running courses in the country as it passes by many iconic and historic landmarks.The unique course is set against a backdrop of thousand-year old structures and offers both urban landscapes and forest-covered hilltop views. The spring weather in Jerusalem in March is perfect for running. Runners come from across the world to participate. Up until 2011 Jerusalem had only held half-marathons but today the full marathon course meets international standards of excellence and attracts approximately 30,000 runners from over 50 countries around the world. Past Jerusalem Marathon winners have come from Ethiopia and Kenya.Jerusalem Marathon Courses 2018Participants in the Jerusalem Marathon 2018 will get a tour of the city. The route takes runners through the oldest parts of the city, along urban routes, through parks and past lush forests. The marathon course starts at the Israeli parliament building, the Knesset. The course takes participants through Mount Scopus where they can see the Hebrew University and Haas Promenade. Runners will get to see the Old City as the route enters the Jaffa Gate and continues through the Armenian Quarter then out of Zion Gate. The route takes runners past the majestic David’s Tower. The marathon course takes runners to the Jerusalem Forest and on to the finish line in Sacher Park. The route is particularly challenging due to Jerusalem’s hilly terrain.Jerusalem Marathon Courses 2018In addition to the full marathon of 42.2 km there will be a half marathon (21.1 km); a 5K competitive race; 5K community race; 800 meter community race; 10K race and family race of 1,7km. All of the courses set off from near the Knesset and Israel Museum on the corner of Derech Ruppin and Eliezer Kaplan Street except for the family race which takes place in Sacher Park, near the finish line.Jerusalem Marathon CoursesIn addition to the full marathon of 42.2 km therewill be a half marathon (21.1 km); a 5K competitive race; 5K community race; 800 meter community race; 10K race and family race of 1,7 km. All of the courses set off from near the Knesset and Israel Museum on the corner of Derech Ruppin and Eliezer Kaplan Street except for the family race which takes place in Sacher Park, near the finish line.Special Jerusalem Marathon 2018 EventsIn addition to the race itself the event will be celebrated with special happenings for the whole community. There will be a Sport & Health Expo held on 6th-8th March open for free to participants and their families. On offer will be commercial stalls selling sport-related items as well as entertainment and food. In addition there will be training sessions, lectures, sports demonstrations and competitions. The runners’ kits will be distributed at the expo. Participants will be invited to a traditional pasta dinner the night before the race.On the day of the marathon there will be a festive atmosphere along the course. Spectators will be able to take part in events and activities as well as enjoying musical performances on stages set up along the route of the marathon. At the finish line in Sacher Park there will be a sports fair and festival with activities including exercise classes, drum circles, Zumba and kickboxing classes. Visitor and participants can also enjoy entertainment and food stalls in the park. There is a traditional pre-marathon run in the Botanical Gardens as well as night runs during marathon week.
By Petal Mashraki
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3 min

Wadi Kelt and Monastery of St. George

The Monastery of St. George is situated on the side of a rough, almost vertical cliff overlooking Wadi Qelt in the Judean Desert. The Wadi or gorge stretches from the outskirts of Jerusalem southeast to Jericho just north of the Dead Sea.Wadi QeltThe Wadi is thought to be the Valley of the Shadow of Death referred to in Psalm 23. The Wadi runs parallel to the ancient Roman road that once led to Jericho. It was along this road that Jesus set the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). Today it is possible to follow a 3 hour long hike route through the Wadi and then ascend to the Monastery of St George.St George Orthodox MonasteryThe monastery’s full name is the Monastery of Saint George and John Jacob of Choziba. As early as the 4th-5th century monks seeking solitude and a place to contemplate God inhabited the caves in this area. During that period there were about 70 monasteries and monastic communities in the region. They chose this location because it is remote and because it is close to a cave associated with Elijah (Kings I 17:5-6). In 420 AD St George’s began as a “lavra” a community of hermits living in caves around a church and communal area. The monks would meditate in their caves and come together for prayer and communal meals. The cliff-hanging monastery complex was founded in 480 by Egyptian monk John Thebes (c.440-c.520). Led by Thebes the monastery became an important religious retreat but in 614 Persians attacked the monastery, slaughtering 14 monks and seriously damaging the structures. During the 6th century a Cyprian monk came to live in the monastery and the monastery bears his name – St George of Koziba.The monastery stood abandoned until being restored in 1179 by the Crusaders and again in 1234 under Frederick II. By 1878 the monastery was once again fully functional and home to a community of monks. A Greek monk called Kalinikos restored the complex over the course of 23 years competing it in 1901. Among the treasures of the monastery are relics of John of Thebes, St George of Choziba and Kalinikos plus several monks and saints associated with the monastery as well as the remains of the monks killed by the Persians in 614.Visiting St. George’s MonasterySaint George’s is an active monastery and home to a number of Eastern Orthodox monks who welcome pilgrims and tourists. The monastery’s remote location is reached via a pedestrian bridge spanning Wadi Qelt from the main car park. The walk up to the monastery is a steep 1km route. On the return journey you can opt for a donkey ride back to the car park. As a religious site visitors are required to dress modestly (no shorts for men and women must wear long skirts rather than pants as well as modest tops that cover the shoulders).Visitors can see the complex’s two churches that hold mosaics, icons and paintings; courtyards; a garden of Cyprus and olive trees and a balcony offering brilliant views. The complex buildings are topped with bright blue domes and there is a bell tower that was added in 1952. Above the monastery further up on the cliff is a cave-church within the grotto believed to have been where Elijah was fed by ravens. A tunnel takes you from the cave-church to the top of the mountain where you can see across the Wadi to an ancient Roman aqueduct.
By Petal Mashraki
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3 min

Things to Do Near the Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is the main attraction in the Dead Sea region but there are many fascinating and unique attractions near the Dead Sea. Here are just a few of the top Dead Sea attractions worth including in your travel itinerary.MasadaMasada is a rock outcrop or mesa, characterized by steep cliff sides and a flat summit. Masada is just minutes from the shore of the Dead Sea; it rises majestically from a flat plateau in the Judean Desert. Masada is famed as the site of an ancient palace fortress built on the summit by King Herod in about 30 BC. The fort complex included many beautifully constructed buildings consisted of palaces, a bathhouse, dovecote, store rooms and more. Many of the fortress structures have been excavated and thanks to the remote location and dry climate they have survived well. Visitors come to Masada and take a cable car to the summit to tour the ancient remains of Herod’s fortress. Alternatively visitors can climb the steep side of Masada along the Snake Path.Masada has a second claim to fame. About a hundred years after King Herod built his fortress Masada was the site of the final Jewish holdout against the Romans in the First Jewish-Roman War (66-73 AD). A group of Jews retreated to the summit of Masada and remained there held under siege by the Romans. When the Romans eventually reached the summit they found that the Jews had chosen to take their own lives rather than be captured and enslaved. This historic event has made Masada a symbol of Jewish dedication to freedom and a refusal to relinquish national independence.Ein GediThis beautiful oasis not far from the shore of theDead Sea covers 14000 dunam. The nature reserve has lush vegetation and four spring-fed streams as well as Instagram-worthy waterfalls. Ein Gedi is a sanctuary for birds and animals like the rock hyrax and Nubian ibex. It is also home to plants and trees from various environments including Sodom applerees,jujube and poplar trees. Visitor can walk along several paths and hike routes and even take a dip in the streams. One of the most popular hike routes is along the Arugot Stream where there is a wet and a dry route. Both routes take about 2-3 hours and end at a beautiful waterfall. Not far from the nature reserve is Kibbutz Ein Gedi. Here you can find botanical gardens, archaeological excavations, accommodation and the Ein Gedi Eco Park.QumranQumran is best known as the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. These ancient scrolls bearing the earliest copies of Biblical texts were found in eleven caves close to Qumran. Visitors can see the caves but the scrolls themselves are housed in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum. Qumran is also an archaeological site where remains were found from the Hellenistic period (c.134-104 BC). Later the ancient settlement was destroyed by Romans in 68 AD. Visitors can view the excavated settlement within the Qumran National Park.Lot’s WifeAlong the Dead Sea shore you will see many solidified salt rock formations. The most famous of these is called “Lot’s Wife.” Lot’s Wife is a pillar of salt near Mount Sodom. It is named after a character. From the Biblical story of Sodom as told in Genesis 19. The city of Sodom was rife with sin; God sent his angels to destroy the city but Lot was given a chance to escape with his family. The only condition was that they flee and don’t look back. Lot’s wife disregarded this command and as they left Sodom she looked back at the city. Instantly she turned into a pillar of Salt.Qasr al YahudQasr al Yahud (Castle of the Jews) is a baptismal site on the Jordan River in the Palestine Authority Area of the West Bank north of the Dead Sea. This is the traditional site where John baptized Jesus. It is also thought to be where the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. The site has been made accessible to visitors and it is possible to be baptized here in the same place just as Jesus was so many years ago.
By Petal Mashraki
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3 min

The Second Temple

The Second Temple was a sacred Jewish place of worship on Temple Mount in Jerusalem from 520 BC to 70 AD. Temple Mount was the site of a First Temple until 586 BC; the Second Temple and today is the site of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Temple represented a divine presence on Earth and the place where heaven and Earth meet. Only in the Holy Temple could sacrificial worship be performed in accordance with the codes of the Torah. Construction of the Second Temple is referred to in the Book of Ezekiel; Ezra 1:1-4 and Chronicles 36:22-23.History of the Second TempleFifty years after Babylonians destroyed the First Temple in c.587 BC they were vanquished by Persians. King Cyrus II of Persia gave permission for the Temple to be rebuilt. Under Governor Sheshbazzar attempts were made to start the project. Only in 522 BC when Zerubbabel became governor was work on the Temple continued by exiled Jews returning to the Levant from Babylon. Construction of the Temple continued in 521 BC under Persian King Darius I. Two Jews from Judea, Ezra and Nehemiah were a major force in the reconstruction. This early modest version of the Second Temple was completed in 516 BC. In the following years the Jews and Palestine were ruled by the Persians, Greeks and Romans yet they continued to keep their faith and worship at the Temple.In 163 BC the Greek ruler Antiochus erected a statue of Jupiter on the altar of the Temple. For three years the temple was profaned in this way until the Jews revolted. It was at the end of the Maccabean Revolt (167-160 BC) that the story of Hanukah unfolded. Storming and retaking the Temple the Maccabees found only a small jug of blessed oil to lite the Menorah. A miracle occurred and the oil lasted seven days until new oil could be obtained to light the Temple’s Menorah. During a brief period of Jewish rule by the Hasmonean Kingdom (140 BC-116 BC) the Temple was refurbished. Starting in 20 BC Herod took it upon himself to extend and refurbish the Temple complex although maintaining the character of Zerubbabel’s Temple. He undertook several mammoth building projects in Palestine wanting to cement his place in history. The Second Temple was his masterpiece. This final version of the Temple is the one we remember today as a grand, elaborate complex. The Biblical story of Jesus clearing the Temple of money changers took place at the Second Temple on Temple Mount.Destruction of the Second TempleThe Temple stood for 420 years from 349 BC to 70 AD. Jews across Palestine began to revolt against the Roman authorities in 66 AD. Jews were drawn together to fight their common enemy. The Romans led by Titus decided to aim at the heart of the Jews – the Temple. The Jews were outnumbered and defeated. Later the Romans built a pagan temple on the site of the former Second Temple.Features of the Second TempleAt its height the Temple covered 450 acres and was 100 cubits (about 45 meters) tall. The Roman historian Josephus described the Second Temple as have in 10 entrances; several courtyards; ritual baths; a place for sacrificial animals and the Holy of Holies. Among the features of the Temple there was the golden Menorah; a golden altar for incense; and the heart of the Temple – the Holy of Holies (Kodesh HaKodashim) or the Inner Sanctum.The Second Temple TodayToday Temple Mount is no longer the site of a Jewish temple. Those who want to learn more about the Second Temple can visit the Davidson Archaeological Park where remains of the destroyed temple have been excavated alongside the retaining wall of Temple Mount. If you visit the Israel Museum you can see a scale model of the Second Temple and Second Temple Era Jerusalem. Since the destruction of the Second Temple on Tisha b’Av according to the Jewish calendar Jews have mourned the loss of their Temple which is mentioned in several prayers and numerous Biblical references. Tisha b’Av is a day of fast and Jews pray for the reconstruction of the Third Temple on Tempel Mount.
By Petal Mashraki
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3 min

Top 10 Kosher Restaurants in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is a real foodie destination with restaurants serving food from around the world plus thesavoury local delicacies. You’ll find kosher and non-kosher restaurants in the cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv. If you “keep kosher” you can look out for the kosher sign outside Tel Aviv restaurants or ask the proprietor for their kosher certificate. Kosher restaurants in Tel Aviv serve either meat or dairy based food. Kosher Tel Aviv restaurants are closed on religious holidays and the Sabbath. Here are some of the top Tel Aviv kosher restaurants.1. Lechem Basar - Hangar 14, Tel Aviv PortThis restaurant is called Meat and Eat (Bread and Meat in Hebrew); it serves up delicious meals made from fresh local ingredients with a focus on quality cuts of meat and breads freshly baked in the taboon oven. The Menhadrin kosher restaurant has a second branch at the Tachana complex. On the menu are dishes that highlight meat and bread but combine them with many delicious side dishes. One of their popular dishes consists of a freshly backed loaf of bread stuffed with ground beef or lamb and smothered in tahini sauce. If you’re not in the mood for meat there are other menu items like white fishceviche and quinoa salad.2. Blue Sky by Meir Adoni - 10 Eliezer Peri St.This chef-owned dairy restaurant is situated on the roof top of the Carlton Hotel with stunning sea views. The menu will delight non-meat eaters and even carnivores will find themselves not missing meat. The kitchen uses only the very best ingredients – artisan cheeses, fresh fish and quality oils and vegetables.3. Mike’s Place - 14 Ha-Arba’a St.Note that there is a chain of Mike’s Place restaurants and not all of them are kosher. This one however gives you the classic Mike’s Place hospitality and atmosphere with kosher food as well. There is a casual American sports bar atmosphere in this bar/restaurants. You’ll also get live entertainment, good beer and classic pub grub. On the menu are dishes like chicken wings, fajitas and burgers. Prices are reasonable and Mike’s has been said to serve up some of the best burgers in the city.4. Lumina by Meir Adoni- 10 Eliezer Peri St.Lumina is the baby of Chef Adoni, the Golden Boy of Israeli cuisine and one of the judges on a famous TV cooking reality show. The bistro-style eatery serves Adoni’s interpretation of traditional Jewish dishes. Adoni serves up complex dishes with many elements which bombard the senses with color, aroma and flavor. Here you’ll find foods from a number of different Jewish traditions around the world – from the Yemenite kubana bread to the Asian sea Carpaccio, fish and chips, Hungarian crepe and Moroccan couscous. A true blend of traditional Jewish foods from around the world but with an Israeli slant. Lumina is on the first floor of the Carlton Hotel facing the Mediterranean.5. Goshen - 30 Nahalat Binyamin St.This well known eatery on the trendy pedestrian market street of Nachalat Benyamin serves up large portions of meat and tons of flavor. The restaurant menu reflects Goshen’s Jewish roots but the emphasis is on the meat! The kitchen uses meat aged in a cold-cabinet at the restaurant entrance. Whether its veal, lamb or aged Prime Entrecote you’re craving this is the place for true carnivores. The restaurant has subdued lighting, an intimate atmosphere and a large window looking onto the kitchen.6. Maganda - 26 Rabbi Meir St.This small down-to-earth establishment has been in business since 1965. The family run restaurant is in the home built by their grandfather back in 1927 in the Yemenite Quarter. The restaurant food was inspired by their mother’s cooking. The eatery serves up no-frills grilled meats and classic Israeli side dishes. Prices are extremely reasonable and the menu is extensive. On offer are typical Israeli meals found in Israeli homes and Israeli street food restaurants. You can fill up on Israeli comfort food for under 100 ILS with mouthwatering dishes like chicken hearts, goose livers, lamb chops, falafel, stuffed peppers, stuffed vine leaves, humus and endless Israeli salads.7. Deca - 10 HaTa’assiya St.If you’re craving fish this is the place to visit. The gourmet dairy chef restaurant has a range of dishes on the menu but is best known for its fish dishes. The French-inspired menu includes mouthwatering dishes like bouillabaisse soup, red tuna fillet, salmon sashimi and grilled vegetables. Their desserts are to die for like the tiramisu and the malabi crème. The décor adds to the dining experience. There is exposed concrete, crisp white tablecloths, subdued tones and a high ceiling. In these tranquil surroundings you can drool over fish garnished with okra, chickpeas, roasted eggplant and onions all sautéed in yogurt with wild oregano.8. The Chinese Wall - 26 Mikvah Yisael St.This is the best kosher Chinese restaurant in the city. The décor is simple with just a few red lanterns but the food is top of the line. Surprisingly the quality food is not over priced. The restaurant uses handmade wontons and egg noodles. Expect to find all the classic Chinese dishes made in the traditional way. Try the dim sum, dumplings or the potsticker.9. West Side - 19 HaYarkon St.Try the gourmet Asian cuisine at this chic restaurant. Housed in the Royal Beach Hotel facing the sea. West Side excels in classic seasonal gourmet dishes like goose confit and beef filet.10. CÀ PHÊ HANOÏ - 3 Malchei Israeli St.Bite into the Bo Buns, Gua Baos or Nems to be transported to Vietnam. The delicious French/Asian fusion food (with an Israeli twist) is served in traditional bamboo baskets and the décor compliments the vibrant atmosphere. The food is innovative and a multi-sensory experience. The kitchen uses locally sourced ingredients together with ingredients imported from Vietnam.
By Petal Mashraki
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4 min

Jordan Valley

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

5 Day Trips from Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is located in the center of Israel and has highway and public transportation links to cities across the country. Luckily Israel is not that big so you can easily base yourself in Tel Aviv and make day trips to other destinations. Take a look at these Tel Aviv day trips which give you a good variety of top tourist destinations and less obvious day trip choices.Jerusalem from Tel AvivJerusalem is one of the must-see destinations in Israel and is only an hour away (depending on traffic) from Tel Aviv. If you are taking a day trip from Tel Aviv then don’t waste any time and start your trip with a walking tour of the Old City. Most of Jerusalem’s top attraction are in the Old City; here you can see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Western Wall and Temple Mount where the Dome of the Rock stands. In the Old City there are many interesting stores, eateries, museums and other places of interest.You can go into the “new” city and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the capital or alternatively visit the churches on the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives is home to the beautiful Church of All Nations, the Russian Orthodox Church, Pater Noster Church, the Chapel of the Ascension and Dominus Flevit Church. Families might like to visit the Biblical Zoo and others might be interested in visiting Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum or the Israel Museum.Dead Sea and Masada day trips from Tel AvivNo trip to Israel is complete without a visit to the Dead Sea which lies 87 km south of Tel Aviv. This unique body of water is the lowest point on Earth. The Dead Sea water is three times as salty as the ocean. The mud that lines the banks and floor of the Dead Sea is rich in minerals that can benefit your general health and specifically your skin. Being the lowest point on Earth it is also the furthest point from the sun and so you can avoid the dangerous sun rays and just get the benefits of the sun. The Dead Sea air is also good for your health as it hashigh levels of oxygen and is pollen-free.While you are in the Dead Sea region you can visit Masada which is only a short drive away. Masada is a “mesa” or flat-topped rock outcrop which rises majestically out of the desert. Masada’s summit was the site of an ancient Roman palace complex and many of the structures have survived. Masada was also the site of a significant event in Jewish history and is a symbol of Jewish devotion to national freedom and faith. Visitors to Masada can take a cable car (or walk up the Snake Path) to the summit and tour the remains of the palace complex. Zichron Yakov from Tel Aviv , Zichron Yakov is often overlooked by tourists but it is worth making the day trip from Tel Aviv, especially if you enjoy wine! Zichron Yaakov is about an hour’s drive north of Tel Aviv. The small town is surrounded by lush forests, vineyards and mountains; in fact it is somewhat similar to a typical European village. The quaint town was established in 1882 and most of its historic buildings have survived. There is a stone-paved shopping street lined with one-off stores including those selling homemade confectionary; locally made textiles and handmade paper. You’ll also find art galleries, museums and many cute eateries. Zichron is one of Israel’s main wine-making towns. While here you can tour the Carmel Winery and the nearby Binyamina Winery and Tishbi Winery.Zichron Yakov from Tel AvivZichron Yakov is often overlooked by tourists but it is worth making the day trip from Tel Aviv, especially if you enjoy wine! Zichron Yaakov is about an hour’s drive north of Tel Aviv. The small town is surrounded by lush forests, vineyards and mountains; in fact it is somewhat similar to a typical European village. The quaint town was established in 1882 and most of its historic buildings have survived. There is a stone-paved shopping street lined with one-off stores including those selling homemade confectionary; locally made textiles and handmade paper. You’ll also find art galleries, museums and many cute eateries. Zichron is one of Israel’s main wine-making towns. While here you can tour the Carmel Winery and the nearby Binyamina Winery and Tishbi Winery.Petra, Jordan from Tel Aviv , Petra tour from IsraelBelieve it or not you can even take a day trip from Tel Aviv to Petra in Jordan and be back in Tel Aviv the same evening! There are organized tours which start in Tel Aviv with a short flight down to Eilat Israeli’s southernmost city. From there tours continue across the Israel/Jordan border and on to Petra. Petra is a UNESCO site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The city was created about 2300 years ago when the Nabataean people carved Petra’s buildings out of the red-hued desert cliffs. The ancient structures have survived and include temples, tombs and homes each with intricately carved facades and cavernous interiors.On a tour to Petra you can learn about the ingenious water gathering system the Nabataeans used to keep Petra’s 20,000 residents supplied with water. Also learn of the trade routes which passed through Petra and the civilizations which inhabited Petra after the Nabataeans left. At the end of the day visitors are taken back across the border to Eilat for the return flight to Tel Aviv.Herzliya from Tel AvivIf you fancy a short day trip from Tel Aviv to a place close by then Herzliya is a good choice. It is also a great destination if you want to relax and get some retail therapy. Drive just 20 minutes north of Tel Aviv to reach the stunning beaches of Herzliya. While you’re down by the water check out the Herzliya marina and its adjacent Arena Mall. Herzliya has several great malls including a large Outlet Mall, the Arena Mall at the marina and the Shevat HaKochavim Mall (Seven Star Mall). Opposite Shevat HaKochavim is a great park with amazing tube slides and playgrounds. This park also has areas which have been left in their natural state and a park café where parents can sit while their kids play. Finish off your relaxing excursion to Herzliya with a movie at Cinema City Glilot, a cinema complex with stores, eateries and over 20 movie theatres.
By Bein Harim Team
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4 min

Herodian Quarter

The Herodian Quarter is preserved within the Wohl Archeological Museum in the Old City of Jerusalem. In the 1970s excavations began on an area that came to be known as the Herodian Quarter. This was an exclusive, expensive neighborhood inhabited by the temple priests and aristocracy during the Second Temple Era (516 BC-70 AD); during the rule of Herod the Great and during Jesus’ lifetime. This is the largest surviving indoor site from the Second Temple Era that can still be seen today.The Herodian QuarterExcavations revealed a compound of six luxury properties adorned with mosaics and frescoes in a prime location on a hill overlooking the Temple Mount. The houses would have been two stories high but today most of the remains are from the houses’ cellars. Experts concluded that the Herodian Quarter residents were wealthy by the quality of the materials used in the construction and the quality of the art that decorates the floors and walls. Artifacts uncovered included terra cotta dinnerware; flasks used for wine; stone utensils and imported amphorae for wine. Burnt houses were uncovered from when a large fire swept through the city a month after the destruction of the Second Temple.Archaeologists concluded that at least one of the homes belonged to a Jewish priest who would have served in the Second Temple; this earned the neighborhood the name “Quarter of the Priests.” A well-preserved mikvah (Jewish ritual bath) was found in the Cohen’s house as well as an engraved depiction of the Temple’s Menorah (sacred seven-branched candelabra).The discovery of the Herodian Quarter is significant in our understanding of the life of the wealthy during the Second Temple Period. It gives us insight into the extremes of the rich and poor in Jerusalem at the time. The vast gap between the wealthy Jews and the poor would have been one of the contributing factors to the conflict which culminated in the Jewish Revolt and the destruction of the temple in 70 AD.Visiting the Herodian QuarterThe Wohl Museum is located in today’s Jewish Quarter below ground level. Visitors to the site walk along raised walkway above the excavated areas. The main part of the excavated site concentrates on three of the original six mansions – the House of Measurements; the Middle House and the Western House. You can see the houses’ storage rooms; reservoirs; ovens and decorative elements of the architecture. The House of Measures covers an area of 600 m² and includes a large balcony facing Temple Mount. Together with the archaeological remains of the houses themselves there are displays of uncovered artifacts including colorful pottery and decorative items. Also on display is a model of one of the houses as it would have looked on the eve of the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD.
By Petal Mashraki
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2 min

Jerusalem Southern Wall Excavation

Since the 1960s excavations in the area of the south-west side of Temple Mount in Jerusalem have uncovered remarkable remains from the Second Temple (516 BC-70 AD) which stood on Temple Mount. Part of these excavations included what would have been the southern retaining wall of Temple Mount. The Southern Wall Excavation Site is accessed from the Dung Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City. Just past the gate is an archaeological park which includes the Southern Wall, the Southern Wall Museum and a Visitors Center.The Second Temple was originally built in 516 BC but was drastically altered and expanded under Herod the Great from 37 BC to 4 BC. It was during this reconstruction that the southern side of Temple Mount was fortified. The southern retaining wall of Temple Mount would have risen 32 meters above street level and run for a length of 281 m. The Temple and almost all of the Temple Mount structures were destroyed by the Romans during the Jewish Revolt of 66 AD-70 AD.Herodian StreetRunning the length of the wall would have been a paved street lined with stores. Along the wall remains were uncovered of an 8 meter wide street now known as the Herodian Street. When the Herodian Street was discovered it was cleared of a mountain of rubble that had accumulated over the almost 2,000 years since the temple’s destruction. On one side of the ancient Herodian Street the massive Temple Mount Southern Wall rises 32 meters and on the other side of the street a wall was uncovered with openings where there would have been stores. Here pilgrims could buy offerings to sacrifice in the temple and also visit the money changes. It may have been here in these stores that Jesus “cleared the temple courts of people selling cattle, sheep, doves and people sitting at tables exchanging money” (John 2:1322). As the Roman’s set about destroying the temple in 70 AD they would have toppled down massive stones onto this street. Above the stores we can see the remains of the base of a staircase.Robinson ArchHalfway up the side of the Southern Wall are the remains of the Robinson Arch (named after the researcher who discovered the arch in 1838). The arch was part of a large bridge structure which allowed access from the lower city to the Temple Mount. The arch was part of a 13 m wide and 19 m high walkway giving pilgrims access from the Herodian Street up a wide flight of stairs to the south-western Temple Mount entrance. This would have been one of three such bridge walkways into the temple. Only the small section of the arch attached to the Southern Wall and the base of the staircase have survived.Trumpeting PlaceOn the southwest corner of the Southern Wall a large slab of stone was found inscribed with the Hebrew words meaning: to the trumpeting place to proclaim. This could refer to the place where a priest would stand on the walls and blow a trumpet to announce the approaching Shabbat. The stone may have been thrown down from the temple walls during the destruction.Ritual BathsWhile excavating the Southern Wall many ritual baths (mikvah) were found. The baths are located close to the walls and were built according to Jewish laws. The baths would have been used by thousands of pilgrims to purify themselves before they entered the temple.Later Structures at the Southern WallThe Al-Aqsa Mosque was built in 705 AD and stands along the inside of the Southern Wall; you can see the mosque’s distinctive silver dome above the wall. Along the Southern Wall it is possible to see the remains of several structures from the later Arab Period including a number of Umayyad Palaces.
By Petal Mashraki
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3 min

The Mountain to Valley Relay Race – April 2018

The Mountain to Valley Relay Race 2018 is one of the top Israel events to be held on 26-27 April 2018. This will be the 10th annual Mountain to Valley (M2V) race. M2V is a 215 km group relay race which takes place over the course of about 20 hours. Although the race offers a competitive and non-competitive category there are no monitory prizes. Instead participants take part for the social interaction, personal challenge and to enjoy the stunning scenery of this unique race.Mountain to Valley Relay Race RoutThe race starts in Tel-Hai. The route takes you through the Hula Valley, past the Sea of Galilee, the Beit Netofa Valley and the Menashe Mountains.The finish line is in the Yizrael Valley near Timrat. The route is divided into 24 segments each measuring 5-12 km.Teams of 4, 6 or 8 runners take turns running the segments in a rotation order.Due to the nature of the run which takes place over the course of about 20 hours runners can sleep in a car or hotel when it is not their turn to run. The race takes place during day and night hours and so some runner will be running in the dark. This is a truly unique race experience. Runners should have flashlights and luminous vests to help them on their way through the dark. Runners can be accompanied by an assistant runner. Most of the race is run along trails and off-road. Along the route roads are not closed to traffic and so runners need to be very careful. It also means that the runners can be accompanied by a vehicle. The vehicle is used for carrying food, water, assistance and as a place to rest.Mountain to Valley Relay Race 2018 Routes and CategoriesThe race has competitive and non-competitive categories. Running teams are classified according to the number of runners (8/6/4); whether the runners are all women, all men or mixed and whether the team is competitive or non-competitive. Competitive runners must run on a rotation basis with each runner resting while all the other runners have a turn to run. With non-competitive teams it doesn’t matter the order of the runners or number of legs each team member runs.Teams can register for the race online. Teams can determine their own starting time from Tel-Hai and the line-up of starting times will be staggered. The first team will head out on 26 April at 6 a.m. and the last team will set off at 2 p.m. There will be a closing ceremony on 27 April at 10 a.m.
By Petal Mashraki
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2 min

Guide to the Jerusalem Old City

If you were to choose just one place to visit while in Israel it should be the Old City of Jerusalem. Packed within the 450 year old city walls is 1km² holding some of the country’s top attractions. The Old City is an exciting, exotic, spiritual and fascinating world of narrow cobbled alleys, mosques, churches, eateries, markets and more. The Old City remains as it was thousands of years ago and people still live and work here in the ancient buildings. Among the wonders of the Old City are the most important Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious sites in the country.Brief History of the Old City of JerusalemIt was here in Jerusalem that the ancient Jewish temples were built and where Jesus often visited and eventually was crucified. Golgotha, the site of Jesus crucifixion is within the Old City marked by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. King David conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites in the 11th century BC and established his kingdom. Muslims took the city in 637AD and in 1099AD the first Christian Crusaders arrived. The city changed hands several times and saw pilgrims arriving to the various religious sites. The Old City walls we see today were built under Ottoman leader Suleiman the Magnificent in the 1500s. Up until 1860 all of Jerusalem was within the Old City walls, then the first neighborhood beyond the walls was established and the new city grew into the modern metropolis we see today. But within the Old City walls time seemed to stand still. From 1848 to 1867 the Old City was ruled by Jordan and no Jews were allowed to visit or live in the Old City until it was retaken by Israel in the Six Day War. Jews returned to the city and it was repopulated with people in all four of the Old City’s quarters. The city has remained a tourist attraction and a pilgrimage site for Muslims visiting Temple Mount, Christians visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Jews visiting the Western Wall.Overview of the Old CityThe Old City is surrounded by fortified walls and it is possible to walk along the ramparts. Visitors enter the Old City through the wall’s seven gates (there are actually eight gates but one is closed). The Old City is divided into four uneven quarters – the Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian quarters. The division is not with walls but rather the quarters flow one onto the other. In each quarter there is a distinct character; you’ll see people in traditional dress in each of the quarters – Hasidic Jews in their black coats and black hats in the Jewish Quarter, nuns, monks and friars in their habits in the Armenian and Christian Quarters and in the Muslim Quarter the traditional keffiyeh headdress and long kaftan-type jalabiyyah. In each of the quarters you can buy souvenirs, taste ethnic food and see art and architecture unique to that quarter’s culture, religion and history.Christian QuarterThe Christian Quarter in the northwestern of the Old City has the New Gate, Jaffa Gate, Damascus Gate and the junction of David Street and Souk Khan el-Zeit at its corners. This quarter is home to approximately 40 holy sites but the star of the quarter is without question the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The church is a beautifully ornate and cavernous structure with many small chapels and intricate art work. The church dates back to at least the 4th century and houses the site where Jesus was crucified at Calvary, the tomb where he was buried and resurrected and the last four Stations of the Cross. The church is shared by the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian Orthodox churches as well as the Syriacs, Ethiopians and Egyptian Copts to a lesser extent.Jewish QuarterJews have inhabited the Jewish Quarter almost continuously since the 8th century BC. Parts of the Jewish Quarter have been excavated to reveal ancient Roman remains including the Cardo, which would have been the colonnaded main street during Jesus’ lifetime. The star of this quarter is the Western Wall; the last remaining part of the 2nd Holy Jewish Temple which was destroyed in 70AD. The Western Wall (Kotel) opens up to a large plaza and Jews come from across the globe to worship here. Local Jews worship at the Western Wall as they would at a synagogue. You can place a prayer note with your personal message to God between the large stones of the Western Wall.Muslim QuarterThe largest quarter of the Old City is home to the Muslim population (and a few Jewish families). It has narrow cobbled lanes that are a bustle of activity. Within this quarter there is the Temple Mount, this is where the ancient 1st century Jewish Temple stood and today it is the site of the beautiful Dome of the Rock which covers the Foundation Stone from where Muhammad is believed to have ascended to Heaven. The Dome of the Rock has a distinctive golden dome which is a symbol of the city. Also on Temple Mount is the al-Aqsa Mosque, Muhammad’s destination in the Night Journey and the Dome of the Chain a free-standing dome and the oldest structure on Temple Mount. The Western Wall Tunnels run beneath the Muslim Quarters and the Muslim Quarter has several Roman and Crusader remains. The Muslim Quarter has a lively market or “shuk” where you can find a huge rang of goods. The Via Dolorosa runs through the Muslim Quarter and is home to the first seven Stations of the Cross.Armenian QuarteThis is the smallest quarter of the Old City. It is home to Christian Armenians who arrived in Jerusalem in the 4th century AD when Armenia adopted Christianity and Armenian pilgrims came to visit the holy sites and settled here. The Armenian Quarter centers on St. James Monastery and the 4th century Cathedral of St. James which houses the Jerusalem Patriarchate of the Armenian Apostolic Church. (Pop trivia: This is where Kanye West and Kim Kardashian held their daughter, North’s christening in 2015) The Armenians have their own distinct culture, religious traditions and language. The Jerusalem Armenians are famed for their distinctive hand painted tiles, tile murals and handmade ceramics. You can buy ceramics in several stores in the Armenian Quarter and see street signs made from the brightly painted Armenian tiles.Must-See Old City Sites You can safely wander the lanes of the Old City discovering hidden gems around every corner. But just so you don’t miss any of the essential attractions here are a few must-sees:Western Wall – Jewish Quarter.Church of the Holy Sepulchre – Christian Quarter.Dome of the Rock – Temple Mount, Muslim Quarter.And now for something special in the Old City….Dei res-Sultan Ethiopian Monastery accessed via the 9th Station of the Cross on the roof of a medieval annex in the Christian Quarter.Shopping in the Old City Market.Walking the Ramparts of the Old City walls.The Tower of David (Jerusalem Citadel) at Jaffa Gate, a museum, archaeological site and sound and light show.Mamila luxury shopping street – Northwest of Jaffa Gate.Follow the Via Dolorosa retracing Jesus’ route as he carried his cross towards Calvary.Like the Old City? Join today to our wonderful 1-day tour to Jerusalem!
By Petal Mashraki
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5 min

Purim in Israel

If you’re lucky enough to be in Israel during Purim you will enjoy the festive atmosphere, parties, fancy dress and parades. Purim is perhaps the most joyous Jewish holiday. Purim in Israel occurs in March or April – the date changes each year as it is determined by the Hebrew lunar calendar and not the Gregorian calendar. Purim 2018 will be celebrated from 28 February – 2 March; Purim 2019 will fall on 20-21 March and Purim 2020 will be celebrated 9-10 March. Although Purim is a Jewish holiday it is not observed like a Shabbat in Israel and businesses and attractions have regular open hours. Purim is a normal working day in Israel although it is a school holiday. Purim in Israel is celebrated by secular and religious Jews alike.What is Purim?Purim Purim celebrates an event in Jewish history which is told in the Biblical Book of Esther. In about 357 BC the king of Persia, Ahasuerus scoured the land for the most beautiful women to make his wife. The woman chosen was Esther, cousin and ward of Mordechai. Esther was forced to marry the king but she hid the fact that she was Jewish. Shortly afterwards Mordechai heard of a plot to assassinate the king and he had it reported and stopped. Meanwhile the villain of this story, Haman was appointed Prime Minister and he undertook to get rid of all the Jews. He had them draw “lots” (Pur in Hebrew, hence the name of the holiday) to decide the day of their annihilation. Hearing of Haman’s plansMordechai sent a message to Esther asking her to appeal to the king for mercy for the Jewish people.That night the king could not sleep and so he sat up reading from the Royal Chronicles. Here he read of the time Mordechai saved him from an assassination attempt. In the meantime Haman had decided to haveMordechai hung for not bowing before him. So Haman had gallows erected and went to the king to ask permission to hang Mordechai. The king asked Haman how such a loyal man should be honored. Haman, thinking the king was referring to him said the man should be dressed in fine clothes and led on horseback through the streets. The king ordered Haman to give Mordachai this honor. Although furious Haman had no choice but to follow the king’s orders.How is Purim Celebrated in Israel?Next Ester appealed to the king, told him of Haman’s plan and asked for mercy on her nation. The king ordered Haman hung from the gallows that had been built for Mordechai and Mordechai was made Prime Minister. Although the king’s decree could not be rescinded he gave the Jews permission to defend themselves. The Jews killed their enemies on the 14th of Adar and on the 15th they rested and celebrated. A holiday was established in memory of this historic victory.The religious community fasts on the day before Purim. At the end of the fast, after nightfall Jews gather in synagogues to hear the reading of the Book of Ester. After synagogue and the following day there are celebrations, parties and parades. The parades take place in almost all Israeli cities and are often before the actual day of Purim or a few days later, depending on the weather and day of the week.Purim Traditions in Israel Purim Foods- Hamantaschen (also called oznei Haman or the ears of Haman in Hebrew) are triangular cookies filled with poppy seeds, jam or chocolate. In Israel you will see these delicious cookies on sale at every bakery and supermarket.Gift Giving- It is traditional to give food hampers (mishloach manot) to friends, family and those less privileged than ourselves. These hampers usually hold wine, cookies, chocolate, nuts and other goodies.Fancy Dress- Kids and adults in Israel dress up in fancy dress during Purim. There are Purim fancy dress parties in bars, pubs, night clubs and private venues. The symbolism of the costumes is to show that God was behind the Purim miracle but his involvement was masked.Getting Drunk- Believe it or not it is even a Purim tradition to get drunk! This originates from a passage in the Talmud which states:” A person is obligated to drink on Purim until he does not know the difference between “cursed by Haman” and “blessed by Mordechai.” So it is a “mitzvah” or good deed when you drink too much during Purim!Things to See and Do in Israel during PurimThere are many special events in Israel during Purim. Purim is one of the most exciting holidays for nightclub. There are many fancy dress parties held in top nightclubs across the country. The main attraction during Purim is the Adloyada or Purim Parade. Parades are held in most cities but the most famous Purim parade takes place in Holon, a short drive from Tel Aviv. The parades include parade floats, costumed performers, dancing and music. Be’er Sheva also holds a great Purim event in the streets of the Old City.Purim in Tel AvivThe main Purim event in Tel Aviv is a street party held in Kikar HaMedina. It is a huge event with live musical performances, market stalls, dancing , singing and great food. Tel Aviv is also the site of the Purim Zombie Walk. Locals (and visitor) dress up as zombies and walk through the streets starting on the corner of Ben-Zion Blvd and King George Street.Purim in JerusalemPurim is celebrated a day early in Jerusalem and other “walled” cities but the celebrations continue throughout the Purim week. To enjoy Purim in Jerusalem head for Safra Square for family-friendly events like circus acts, a costume competition and arts and crafts workshops. There will be performances by top Israeli musicians and TV stars. In Jerusalem’s Sacher Park there will be a fun event with food stalls, music and live shows from 10am. Special Purim events are held at a number of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv museums including the Israel Museum, Bloomfield Science Museum and the Tower of David Museum. Although most of the Purim parties have yet to be announced you will probably find Purim fun at Jerusalem’s Nachalot Street Party. This street party is on Nisim Bachar Street, Jerusalem and entrance is free.
By Petal Mashraki
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4 min

Jericho

Fed by abundant springs and close to the Dead Sea, Jericho is probably the oldest city in the ancient world, with archaeological discoveries on the tel going back between eight and ten thousand years. The readily available fruit of the oasis tempted the ancient nomadic hunter to settle. Trading the salt, without which man cannot live, from the Dead Sea provided a source of wealth.The first recorded conquest of Jericho, the tel, was by the Children of Israel, under the leadership of Joshua (Josh. 6:1-21) over three thousand years ago. Centuries later the city moved to its present place at the foot of the tel. Close by are the excavated remains of a Hasmonean and Herodian palace, including theatre and hippodrome, as well as a later one of the Arab Omyyad dynasty .Towering over Jericho is Mount Qarantal where Jesus was tempted by Satan (Mat 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13).
By Petal Mashraki
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1 min

How to Save Money on a Trip to Israel

Here are some top tips for saving money if you are visiting Israel on a budget. You can save money in many small ways when you travel to Israel. Make your trip to Israel low-cost using these budget travel tips.The Old City of JerusalemVisit Israel in the Off-Season but not During HolidaysIf you travel to Israel in the off-season you will get cheaper airfares and cheaper hotels. Unlike some countries Israeli attractions do not close down in the winter. You’ll find it is business as usual throughout the country no matter what time of year you visit. Not only that but the weather is hot most of the year so traveling off-season will not mean missing out on outdoor activities. Be careful not to book during one of the Israeli national holidays when prices soar, hotels are booked up and attractions are crowded.Free Attractions in Israel One of the best ways to discover Israel is simply to take a walk through the streets or countryside. You can enjoy many sites for free in Israel like the Old City in Jerusalem where you can see the Wailing Wall, Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre all for free. In Tel Aviv you can enjoy Jaffa and the Bauhaus architecture of Tel Aviv just by going for a walk. The same goes for rural areas where there are well signposted hike trails to follow for free. Israeli beaches are free and there are many beautiful parks to enjoy for free.There are almost no free museums in Israel although some museums are free for those under 18 years. Visitors can tour the Baha’i Gardens in Haifa for free and in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem there are a few free guided walking tours. Some tickets to attractions in Jerusalem can be bought as “bundle tickets” giving you entrance to several places with the same ticket.National Parks CardIf you enjoy the outdoors and if you will be visiting several national parks it could be worthwhile buying a National Park membership. You will need to work out if this is cheaper than paying individual entrance fees depending on the places you want to visit. For example Masada (cable car not included), Bet Guvrin, Caesarea and Ein Gedi are national parks. You can buy the tickets from the entrance of any national park. Available tickets include the Blue Card which allows you entrance to three sites within two weeks for 78 ILS; the Green Card which gives you entrance to six sites within two weeks for 110 ILS and the Orange Card which gives you unlimited visits within two weeks for 150 ILS.Israeli Public TransportIsrael has an excellent public bus system which can get you to most parts of the country. The train system is rather limited yet reasonably priced. You can save money by avoiding taxis and sticking to public transport. There are “sherut” buses, which are shared minibus taxis that travel a set route but will pick up and drop off travelers anywhere along the way. Sherut buses can be useful especially on Shabbat when bus services are limited. If you have chosen to rent a car then shop around for the best gas prices. You’ll find different prices depending on the gas company and depending on whether you fill-up your gas tank by yourself or have the petrol attendant do it for you.Budget Accommodation in IsraelLike other top travel destinations Israel offers a wide range of accommodation options from luxury hotels to hostels and even Airbnb. Try the Airbnb options as well as IYHA hostels which are of a high standard and well located for tourists. You can get cheaper hotel accommodation in Israel by traveling in the off-season and shopping around for the lowest price online.Eating in Israel on a BudgetIsrael has some amazing street food; you’ll find humus, shawama and falafel available at very reasonable prices. If you eat mainly from Israeli falafel and shawama “fast food” outlets instead of sit-down restaurants you’ll save a lot of money. For a snack or coffee try Cofix, a chain of coffee shops where all the prices are kept at about 5 ILS. You can also buy your meals at a local market. In Tel Aviv visit Carmel Market and in Jerusalem try Machane Yehuda Market. At Israeli markets you can find low-cost fresh produce, cheese, baked goods and more.Guided Group ToursTo get to some attractions it can be more convenient (and even cheaper) to join a group day tour. Day tours include pick-up and drop-off from a central location, transportation, entrance fees and the services of a knowledgeable guide
By Petal Mashraki
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3 min