Israel Travel Blog


10 of the Best Restaurants in Jerusalem

There are so many exciting things about visiting Israel and one of them is definitely the food scene. Israel is an immigrant country, which means that everywhere you look you’ll find dishes that hail from Germany, Tunisia, Russia, Morocco, Austria, Iraq and a few other countries besides. The fact is, your taste buds are in for a great adventure and no more so than in the country’s capital, Jerusalem.Anna Italian Cafe, Jerusalem. Photo fromAnnaItalianCafeInterestingly enough, locals and visitors used to look to Tel Aviv for gourmet and foodie experiences but in recent years, that’s all changed. Jerusalem has suddenly blossomed into a foodie heaven, with an explosion of fantastic restaurants, wherever you turn, and - trust us - there’s something for everyone - meat-lover, fish aficionado, gluten-intolerant, and vegan-friendly besides.Today, we’re going to give you a rundown of the 10 best restaurants in Jerusalem. But before we start, we need to explain to those of you who don’t know a bit about the Jewish dietary laws. They really have an impact on eating out in the city, so it’s good to know in advance what you’re signing up for! Religious (observant) Jews, who make up less than half of Israel’s total population but are well–represented in the capital, abide by ‘halachah’ (Jewish law) and something that is essential for them is the separation of milk and meat. This, in a nutshell, is what is meant by the term ‘kosher’ (though it’s definitely a complicated subject).The Old City of Jerusalem rooftop view.Photo credit: © ShutterstockReligious Jews, therefore, will only eat at restaurants that have certification from a Rabbinical authority. To obtain this, the restaurant must not just keep milk and meat separate (not serving it together in dishes i.e. chicken in a cream sauce) but also keep kitchen utensils in a certain way (to ensure this is done, rabbis will carry out inspections regularly).Moreover, to obtain a kosher certificate, the restaurant cannot be open on the Jewish Sabbath (from Friday at dusk to Saturday evening) as this would involve working and the exchange of money, which is prohibited by Jewish law. It’s important for you to know this, to ensure you don’t arrive at a restaurant on Friday night, anticipating a delicious dinner, and find it in darkness!At the top of each listing, we’re putting each restaurant’s kosher status (whether or not they abide by these laws), and if they are open on Shabbat, to make things easier for you. And one last thing - eating out in Jerusalem is a big trend so we’d advise making reservations in advance, so you don’t end up disappointed. Here you go - and enjoy!View of Jerusalem from the Tower of David.Photo credit: © Shutterstock1. Restaurant Dolphin Yam,Jerusalem (not kosher, open on Shabbat)Located in a preserved building in downtown Jerusalem, this is one of the most popular fish and seafood restaurants in the capital. Dolphin Yam (which means ‘Sea Dolphin’ in English) has a reputation well earned - it’s been in business for over four decades and is renowned for outstanding food, fair prices, and friendly customer service.This Jerusalem restaurant offers all kinds of delicious fish, and an array of seafood scallops, calamari, crab, shrimps, and mussels (all definitely not kosher!). The appetizers are well-known - breads (often focaccia) and salads in huge amounts are brought to your table and, for vegetarians, often a meal in themselves.Other dishes we’d recommend include the roasted head of cauliflower and beef fillet medallions. Although this is a fish restaurant, they do have meat platters (if you’re keen on lamb chops, kebabs, and skewers, with an option to add foie gras). Dolphin Yam has a comprehensive drinks list, including wines from small vineyards in northern Israel. To finish, try the creme brulee or some halva ice cream.Dolphin Yam, Shimon Ben Shatahk 9, tel: 02 623 2272.Aspecialty from the Dolphin Yam restaurant's menu, Jerusalem. Photo fromseadolphin.co.il2. Restaurant Chakra, Jerusalem (not kosher, open on Shabbat)Situated in the city centerthis fine dining restaurant offers fabulous service and a rotating menu, with local wines. Their outside courtyard is perfect for sitting in on a warm summer evening and the decor is as modern as the food.Chakra serves up upscale Mediterranean food, with something for everyone. They have an excellent choice of appetizers, which include chopped liver (a classic Jewish dish), eggplant roasted on an open fire, hummus with green chili, and carpaccio.Mains include tuna tartar, mussels, rump steak, steamed salmon with bok choy, and - for the vegetarians - an artichoke and Reggiano pappardelle, paired with pear, blue cheese, and pecan endive salad. Their excellent wine list includes French and Italian classics with some high-end Israeli wines - Flam, Recanati, and Kastel. Leave room for dessert - their ‘deconstructed lemon tart’ is delicious and the strawberry mega eclair with meringue fingers and whipped cream is to die for. Our tip: try the Jalisco lychee cocktail or one of their excellent grappas. Chakra, 41 King George Street. tel: 02 625 2733.One of the specialties of Chakra restaurant, Jerusalem. Photo from chakra-rest.com3. Angelica Restaurant, Jerusalem (kosher meat)This much-loved high-scale restaurant has a kosher meat menu and offers diners a superb experience, combining exquisite food with exemplary service. The chefs here pay a great deal of attention to presentation and strive to make the food creative. Angelica offers both a dinner menu and a tasting menu for the discerning eater. Appetizers include the chicken liver pate (a classic), smoked trout, beef tartare with capers, and a quail egg. Vegetarians will delight in their mushroom risotto and winter root vegetables. Mains do not disappoint - diners rave about the goose breast, Asado stew, and famous hamburger. The tasting menu costs 290 NIS (92 USD) for five dishes.Some of their best wines come from the Golan Heights and even though this is a kosher meat restaurant, they do serve the lemon tart, chocolate fondant, and ice cream for dessert (which, considering they are not made with milk, are quite delicious). As well as the main restaurant, Angelica offers ‘The Chef’s Room’ (good for private events) and ‘The Stage’ which is ideal for medium-sized groups.Angelica, King George Street, tel: 02-6230056.Kosher Chef Restaurant in Jerusalem - Angelica. Photo fromangelicarest.com4. Mona Restaurant, Jerusalem (not kosher, open on Shabbat)This elegant eatery, situated in a stone building named the Artist’s House, with a tree growing through the indoor part of the restaurant (yes!) is famed for its modern Israeli cooking and a favorite of old-time Jerusalemites. (The Artist’s House, by the way, formerly housed Jerusalem’s famous Bezalel School of Art and Design).Styling themselves as a bistro, of late they have redesigned their menu, which now comprises a larger number of smaller dishes, rather than the traditional ‘appetizer, main, dessert’ idea. Some of these include the New York steak, veal cheek, sashimi with labane (a local cheese) and tomato seeds, and a traditional chicken consomme.Mona’s service is both professional and friendly and the waiters know their stuff - their recommendations are always good. Cocktails have generous amounts of alcohol and the tart tatin is highly recommended. Not cheap, but thoroughly worth it.Mona, Shmuel HaNagid 12 Tel: 2-622-2283.Delicious lunch at Mona Restaurant, Jerusalem. Photo frommonarest.co.il 5. Mamilla HotelRooftop Restaurant, Jerusalem(Kosher but open on Shabbat for cold dishes)Situated on the rooftop of the luxury Mamilla hotel, this fantastic restaurant offers high-quality dining, with spectacular views of downtown Jerusalem thrown in. And let’s face it, there’s nothing like looking down on the Old City, the King David hotel, and the YMCA whilst you sip on a cocktail or indulge in a steak.The Rooftop Mamilla serves a very sophisticated menu, including dishes such as ‘duck in a blanket’, foie gras, sashimi, roasted goose breast, and delicious mushroom risotto for the vegetarians. This restaurant has a reputation for employing knowledgeable sommeliers with a superb array of wines both from Israel and abroad. Their desserts do not disappoint either - try the sorbet on a hot evening or the coconut malabi (a new twist on a classic Middle Eastern dessert).Mamilla Rooftop is kosher but it is actually possible to eat there on Shabbat - there are restrictions (cold food and payment beforehand) but it’s very doable. But whenever you’re going, book ahead, because this is a very popular venue.Rooftop Mamilla, 11 King Solomon Street, 02-5482230Goose breast, asparagus and sautéed green onions in maple sauce,Rooftop Mamilla. Photo from mamillahotel.com6. Piccolino Restaurant, Jerusalem (kosher dairy)You’ll find Piccolino in theNahalat Shiva neighborhood. This no-meat kosher dairy restaurant has a good reputation, friendly service, live music, and delicious soups, salads, pasta, pizza, and fish.The varied menu includes a cheese plate appetizer, various antipasti, and mains that include the truffle and salmon pizza, eggplant parmesan, and arancini (traditional fried Roman rice balls). Fish lovers will enjoy the salad with tuna steak and Norwegian salmon drizzled with a citrus vinaigrette. For dessert, we’ve heard good things about their pecan pie, creme brulee, and cheesecake. And as well as beer and wine, they also serve milkshakes. Yum!Piccolino, Yo’el Moshe Solomon tel: 02-624-4186.A dish from the Piccolino restaurant menu, Jerusalem. Photo from piccolino.co.il7. Anna Restaurant, Jerusalem (kosher dairy)Close to Ben Yehuda Street in New Jerusalem, you’ll find ‘Anna’ in the Anna Ticho House, a historic building with a beautiful interior - it was one of the first homes built outside the Old City, in the 1860s. Serving delicious Italian food with an Israeli twist, it’s a wonderful place to eat lunch or dinner.Anna has a diverse wine list and knowledgeable staff.Chef Nimrod Norman serves up an array of simple yet fantastic dishes including sea bass, salmon, ravioli, and pappardelle. His signature dish - ‘Gnocchi Anna’ - is well-known for its soft, fresh pasta, roasted tomatoes, asparagus, and creme fraiche.And don’t forget to save room for dessert. Whether it’s lemon tart, tiramisu, or key lime pie, you won’t be disappointed - and the espresso at the meal’s end will blow your mind! HaRav Agan 10, tel: 02 645-3746.A dish from the Anna restaurant menu, Jerusalem. Photo fromdualis.org.il8. MachneYuda Restaurant, Jerusalem (not kosher, open on Shabbat)Possibly the hottest restaurant in Jerusalem at the moment, this eatery is located just a stone’s throw from the famous Mahane Yehuda Market and is a must-visit for anyone who loves food. Whatever you choose will be good - salmon gravlax, prime rib, seafood pasta, or a simple polenta ragout. Dishes that diners rave about include Amberjack tartare with a wasabi vinaigrette, oxtail and Jerusalem artichoke, and refreshing gazpacho. Wash it down with one of their famous cocktails or a shot of Arak (a local spirit) and don’t forget to order their chocolate mousse - it’s out of this world.Cooks in a restaurantMachneYuda, Jerusalem.Photo frommachneyuda.co9. Touro Restaurant, Jerusalem (kosher meat)Situated in the picturesque neighborhood of Mishkenot Shaananim, with the Old City and Kidron Valley as its backdrop, this first-class kosher meat eatery will leave you truly longing for more. Known as a fine-dining establishment, service is both attentive and yet relaxed and the staff really do go above and beyond for their guests.For appetizers, we’d recommend the charred eggplant or Asiatic salad. For mains, try the mushroom and chestnut risotto, gnocchi beef fillet, or tagliatelle Alfredo with soy cream. And for dessert? For the risk-averse, there’s a strawberry sorbet but if you really want to push the boat out, order the chocolate bonbon with crema, cherries, and coconut patisserie cream. Costly, but definitely worth it.Touro, Sh.A. Nakhon Street 2, tel: 02 570-2189. A dish from the menu of theTouro Restaurant, Jerusalem. Photo fromtouro.co.il10. Adom Restaurant, Jerusalem (not kosher, open on Shabbat)Adom (‘Red’ in Hebrew) is a restaurant in one of the most beautiful and historic buildings in Jerusalem - the historic train station area. Now known as ‘The First Station’ complex, it is located in Emek Refaim, the heart of the German Colony, a charming and vibrant neighborhood and particularly popular with young people. Adom is a wine bar and restaurant offering a stylish and tasty menu and that, combined with its extensive wine collection and vibrant atmosphere, may be why it’s been voted one of Israel’s top ten restaurants. Adom’s menu changes regularly and on it, you’ll find salads, pasta, fish, seafood, and meat. A cheeseburger from the menu ofAdom Restaurant, Jerusalem. Photo fromwww.adom.restCarnivores will delight in the chicken liver pate or delicious Osso Bucco and vegetarians can feast on vegan shawarma and the ‘Beyond Meat’ hamburger. You can also order fish fillet specials and a variety of seafood, courtesy of the talented chefs Eran Buzaglo and Moti Davis.In terms of alcohol, Adom serves a range of boutique Israeli wines as well as some amazing desserts. We’d be remiss not to recommend you try the kadaif mille-feuille, made with a labane mousse and white chocolate and pistachio ganache. Round it off with grappa and you’ll leave Adom sated and smiling. Our tip: Check out their lunch specials at 69 NIS and 99 NIS respectively. Adom, David Remez 4, tel: 02 624-6242.Interested in Israeli cuisine? Then feel free to join the Carmel Market Food Tour or Israeli Street Food Tourin Tel Aviv, Israel's gastronomic capital. For those wishing to explore Jerusalem, we offer a wide range of Jerusalem toursAdom Restaurant, Jerusalem. Photo fromadom.restaurant
By Sarah Mann

Jews and their Sacred Texts

There is a famous saying that stretches back into time immemorial - that Jews are the People of the Book. This is also one of the things modernIsrael is know for. Now if you ask many people why this is, they will tell you that the saying arose because Jews, historically, have been so committed to learning and reading. And of course, whilst this is surely the case, what many don’t realise is that the expression originated in the Koran - the Muslim’s holy book!Old scrolls of the Jewish Bible and Menorah.Photo byDiana PolekhinaonUnsplash‘The People of the Book’In Arabic ‘Ahl Al-Kitab’, ‘People of the Book’ (in this case, not just Jews but also Christians) were those who lived in Muslim lands and followed monotheism (a belief in one God). Although they were regarded as ‘infidels’ they were also accorded a special status - People of the Book (since they possessed a book that described a revelation from God). As a result, they were tolerated and allowed to practice their own belief system (albeit keeping a rather low profile!)Today, many people associate the term with the idea that Jews have a great love of literature and prize learning above all other things. And whilst this is definitely the case (think of how many Jewish Nobel Prize winners there are, not to mention authors, screenwriters, and scholars) in its strictest sense ‘People of the Book’ refers to the Jews’ relationship with their holy books; their sacred scriptures. What do these sacred texts contribute to Judaism?The sacred texts of Judaism cannot be underestimated and their importance goes far beyond their religious teachings and messages. They refer not just to religion in Judaism but the long and rich history and culture of the Jewish people. Moreover, In Hebrew, there is a term ’Or Lagoyim’ which, basically translated, means ‘light unto the nations’. Originating from the prophet Isaiah, it essentially implies that Jews have a moral and ethical obligation to behave according to the highest standards, in order to set an example. In essence, it is a way of encouraging Jews to act in a way that presents the most positive aspects of Judaism (i.e. justice, compassion, and charity).Father and son praying at the Western Wall. Photo byAnton MislawskyonUnsplashBooks on Jewish Customs and TraditionsIn Israel itself, the majority of citizens are Jews but not all of them consider themselves religious (i.e. believers in God). Their collective outlook is wide-ranging - from secular to traditional and orthodox to ultra-orthodox. However, if you ask many secular Jews if they feel they have a connection to the scriptures, they will say yes, because whilst they do not believe every word that is written in the Bible, they still take the view that it embodies many of the historical, cultural, social and philosophical stories of the Jews over the ages. So, yet, many traditional Jews (i.e. those who do not adhere to strict Rabbinic law but maintain an appreciation for the history and culture of Judaism) have a relationship to the Hebrew Bible. These teachings often have a deep impact on them - however secular they might feel in day-to-day life. This is why, on the major holidays in the calendar, you will see Jews not just in Israel but across the diaspora visiting synagogues, partaking in ancient traditions, and reading from their holy Jewish books. Whatever their private belief systems, they feel bound together by something bigger than themselves, and the stories of Judaism they have learned as children are a big part of this.Kipas for sale at a stall in Safed, Israel.Photo credit © Dmitry MishinThe Books of the People of the BookThere are many kinds of Jewish holy books and Jewish prayer books, used by Jews at prayer in the synagogue and for study in their homes or dedicated ‘yeshivas’ (Jewish seminaries). Today we are going to look at a few of them - how they came to be written, what they mean to Jews, when (in particular) they are read, and what they offer both the scholar and the layperson, in terms of a guide to religion and life itself. Whether it is the Hebrew Bible, a specific prayer book for a holiday festival, a commentary, or an analysis, these texts cannot be underestimated - they are the alpha and omega of the world’s oldest monotheistic faiths.Sacred Texts of JudaismEssentially the most important one - and that which is more read by Jews than any other - is the Hebrew Bible (referred to by Christians as ‘The Old Testament'). How many books are in the Jewish Bible?The Hebrew Bible is organized into three main sections - Torah (‘the Teachings’). Neviim (‘the Prophets’) and Ketuvim (‘the Writings’). This is often referred to by Jews as Tanakh - an acronym derived from the first letters of its three divisions (Ta, Na and Kh). This is what is known as the Hebrew Canon (coming from the Greek-Hebrew word ‘measuring rod’, referring to a sacred body of scripture). The open Tanakh. Photo by © Ri_Yavia PixabayThe TorahThe Jewish Torah is composed of five books - Genesis (Bereshit), Exodus (Shmot), Leviticus (Vayikra), Numbers (Bemidbar), and Deuteronomy (Dvarim). Also known as ‘the Five Books of Moses’ it deals with some of the Bible’s earliest major stories, many of which are incredibly well-known around the world, and read to children at a young age. These include:-God’s creation of the world, in seven days.-Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and their expulsion, as punishment for disobeying God.-Cain and Abel - two brothers who fought, leaving one dead and Cain as the Bible’s first murderer.-Noah and the Ark - when God sent a flood to punish his people, it was Noah who was spared, along with his family and animals, the human race was rebuilt.-Abraham’s journey to the Promised Land (and the Covenant he made with God) and the subsequent ‘Akedah’ (‘Binding of Isaac’)-Moses and the Burning Bush - an extraordinary moment, where Moses stumbled on a bush that was burning but not consumed - the moment Moses was chosen by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt.-Plagues, Pharaoh, the Exodus from Egypt and the Parting of the Red Sea - the extraordinary story of the Israelites’ slavery, the cruelty of the Pharoah, the ten plagues sent by God and the Jews’ flight, in which the Red Sea parted to let them through on their journey to the Promised Land.-The giving of the Ten Commandments to Moses from God, on Mount Sinai-Battle of Jericho - the story of Joshua and his army encircling the city of Jericho and, subsequently, with God’s help seeing the city walls fall.Divided into different ‘portions’ (parashot) they are read throughout the year, in the synagogue. There are 54 of these weekly Torah portions and together they span the cycle of the Jewish year. When the reading is complete, Jews celebrate the festival of ‘Simchat Torah’ which is a ‘Rejoicing of the Law.’A person reading the Book of Ezekiel in the Hebrew Bible.Photo byEran MenashrionUnsplashProphets and WritingsAs well as the five books of Moses, there are the Prophets and Writings, which include famous stories such as Jonah and the Whale, Samson, and Deliah and David and Goliath. These are part of a ‘Masoretic text’ - a Jewish canon. Altogether, there are 24 books in this canon and between them, they make up the entire Tanakh.This Masoretic text was copied and distributed by a group of Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes between 7-10 CE. It is considered, today, to be the authoritative traditional Hebrew text of the Jewish Bible. For sure, it was meticulously assembled and codified. Mesorah refers to markings of the text of the scriptures and concise notes in the margins of the manuscripts. Today, in the Jewish community, there is a stream of Judaism named in this vein - ‘Masorti’ which means ‘traditional’.Among the Dead Sea Scrolls found in Qumran are the most accurate manuscripts of the Masoretic texts of the Hebrew Bible. These are the oldest surviving biblical texts.Qumran Caves, Israel.Photo byKonrad HofmannonUnsplashThe TalmudMeaning ‘teaching’ these are ancient scriptures within which are Jewish ideas, stories, and sayings and this includes the Mishnah and Gemara. The Talmud contains the history of Judaism as well as specific laws and beliefs and religious Jews regard it as a basic tool for learning. One could also say that it is a huge collection of sayings, arguments, and counter-arguments relating to every aspect of life.Talmud means ‘learning’ in Hebrew and many orthodox Jews devote their entire lives to studying it. Scholars believe the Talmud was completed approximately 1700 years after the written Torah was received. Two of the most famous commentators were Hillel and Shammai, who lived in Jerusalem at the time of the reign of King Herod. They became famous for their Talmudic disputes - indeed, the Talmud records over 300 areas of disagreement between them. Today, all over the world, Jewish centers on university campuses are named after Hillel, welcoming students from all backgrounds.Talmud Complete Volume Set. Photo by © Shatishira via PixabayMishnahThe Mishnah is the first major written collection of the Jewish oral traditions and also the first major work of rabbinic literature. Made up of writings and teachings by sages who lived in the period at the end of the Second Temple (and in the 100 years that followed the destruction of the Temple) it is also referred to as the ‘Oral Torah’.The Mishnah is divided into six sections (‘Orders) which are-Zeraim (‘Seeds’) - laws dealing with agriculture.-Moed (‘Seasons’) - laws concerning the observation of the Sabbath and festivals.-Nashim (‘Women’) - laws regarding vows, marriage, and divorce.-Nezikim (‘’Damages’) - dealing with torts, both in civil and criminal matters.-Kodashim (‘Holy Things’) - the laws of the Temple and dietary laws.-Tohorot - relating to purity and the distinction between clean and unclean.A reading Jewish man at the Wailing Wall, Jerusalem.Photo by ©tdjgordonvia PixabayGemaraFrom the Hebrew verb ‘gamar’ which means to complete or finish, the Gemara is the part of the Talmud that looks at a rabbinical analysis and commentary on the Mishnah. The sages who lived in the Land of Israel and also Babylonia (which we now know in modern times as Iraq) continued to study traditional teachings, including the Mishnah.All of their discussions were preserved (either by memory or written down) and later on edited in a form that included the conversations of sages from across the ages. The Gemara came into being because these sages wanted to blend biblical and rabbinical traditions, by explaining the difference between the two in texts. The Babylonian and Palestinian GemarasThere are actually two works known as “Gemara” — the Babylonian Gemara (referred to as “Bavli” in Hebrew) and the Palestinian (or Jerusalem) Gemara (referred to as “Yerushalmi“). Both of them were written using a combination of Aramaic (the vernacular in Babylonian times) and Hebrew. The Babylonian Talmud is considered to be more complete and authoritative. Shulchan AruchSometimes referred to as ‘the Code of Jewish Law’, the Shulchan Aruch (literally ‘prepared table’ in Hebrew) is probably the most influential Jewish book of law, presented in a very straightforward way. Written by Joseph Caro of Safed in Galilee (who came from a Sephardic family expelled from Spain), it is truly a compendium of areas of halacha (Jewish laws). Today, observant Jews will refer to it when deciding how to conduct themselves in many areas of daily life - such as honoring parents, renting an apartment, dealing with illness, and death.Yahrzeit (memorial) candles against the background of a Torah.Photo by ©Ri_YaviaPixabayJewish Books Relating to the FestivalsThere are important books used by Jews on the major Jewish holidays - each one containing a different liturgy and prayers, according to the particular festival. These ‘machzors’ are used on the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement - the holiest day in the Jewish calendar). Many observant Jews also use special machzorim at Pesach (Passover), Sukkot, and Shavuot, which are the three pilgrimage festivals in Judaism.The KabbalahKabbalah, in Hebrew, means ‘reception’ or ‘correspondence’ and today it is regarded as an esoteric and somewhat mystical school of Jewish thought. It sprung up in the 12th century, claiming secret knowledge of the unwritten Torah, and essentially it is divided into three sections - the theoretical, the spiritual, and the magical. It is fair to say that many of these texts are obscure and not easy for readers which are not familiar with Jewish spirituality.The most famous of these texts is the Zohar, a mystical commentary on the Torah written in medieval Aramaic. The Zohar (which means ‘Radiance’ in Hebrew) contains musings on the nature of God and the origins of the universe. According to tradition, the Zohar was revealed by God to Moses at Sinai then passed down orally until Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai wrote it down in 2 CE.However, the general scholarly consensus is that it was written by Rabbi Moshe de Leonard in 13th century Spain. In Kabbalah, letters, numbers, and words are considered to be very powerful and it is clear that the Zohar had a great influence on kabbalah, setting the scene for many subsequent texts. Today, many Jews and non-Jews journey to Safed, in northern Israel, which was historically a center of kabbalah and today is a city of kabbalistic learning.If you are interested in the Jewish sites in Jerusalem and Northern Israel, feel free to join our Jewish tour packages or Jewish-oriented private tours.At the synagogue in the Old City of Safed, Israel.Photo credit © Shutterstock
By Sarah Mann

4 Days in Jerusalem

“So, when travelling to Israel, how long do you need to spend in Jerusalem?” This is a question we’re asked constantly, in our role as tour operators in Israel, and the fact is, however much time you have, invariably you’re going to long for more. That’s because Jerusalem is quite extraordinary - a city that’s thousands of years old, with every crevice of its Old City walls oozing history. Home to three religions, whether or not you’re a believer, you’re going to find it hard not to be moved after you’ve walked the streets here.The Church of the Pater Noster, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockJerusalem has it all, you see. Historicalandarchaeological sites,museums, religious landmarks, attractions for kids, breathtaking views and restaurants. Many ‘Yerushalmis’ (the Hebrew word for Jerusalem residents) will tell you that they’re constantly discovering new things in their city. And as for the Old City - well, it might be small (less than one square kilometre) but at every twist and turn there’s something to turn your head.Jerusalem is many things - beautiful, complicated, intense, troubled, breathtaking, magical, exhilarating and awe-inspiring - and a must-visit city for anyone visiting Israel. But most tourists visiting the Holy Land have a limited time frame, so what are the top 10 attractions in Jerusalem?Today, we’re going to look at a potential Jerusalem itinerary for someone planning on spending four days in the Israeli capital, a guide of what to see and do in Jerusalem. Four days, in our opinion, is a good introduction…and hopefully, you’ll enjoy it so much, you’ll want to return.The Church of All Nations, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockDay 1. Arrival and looking aroundToday’s a day for getting settled in, perhaps having a stroll in downtown Jerusalem, grabbing some dinner at one of the city’s excellent restaurants then getting a good night’s sleep at one of the best Jerusalem hotels you pre-booked. If you have the time and energy, we’d definitely recommend a visit to the Israel Museum, which is close to the famous Jerusalem landmark of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament).Within the museum, you’ll find (amongst other things) fine art, a sculpture garden, a model of Jerusalem at the time of the Second Temple and the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in the 1940s in the Judean desert and now housed in a stunning purpose-designed building. For dinner, why not treat yourself and book a table at the Mamilla rooftop restaurant, close to the Jaffa Gate? You can enjoy magnificent views of the Old City whilst feeling a fresh Jerusalem breeze on your face. The inner corridor of Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Photo byYanny MishchukonUnsplashDay 2. Getting acquainted with the Old City of JerusalemDay two is all about Jerusalem’s Old City. It might be small but - trust us - if you see even half of what we’re suggesting, you’ll have sore feet by the day’s end. This tiny area is full of iconic landmarks and, depending on your focus, you can spend hours at just two or three of them. Holy sites in Jerusalem are everywhere you look, but here’s some you shouldn’t miss: There are many churches in the Christian Quarter, the most famous of which is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Built on the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, inside you can marvel at the magnificent architecture (the wooden carved doors at its entrance are original, dating back to 326 CE!) the Rock of Calvary, and various chapels (Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Egyptian Coptic) in the magnificent complex.If you want to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, follow the Via Dolorosa, stopping at the Stations of the Cross.Or visit theChurch of St. John the Baptist - recognizable by its silver dome. The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, built in 1898, offers services in English, German, Danish and Arabic.The highlights of the Muslim Quarter have got to be the Suk (the Arab Bazaar) and Temple Mount. Wander the network of alleyways, shop for bargains and grab yourself a black coffee (flavoured with cardamom) and sit and watch the world go by, just soaking up the atmosphere. Whatever you want to take home with you can be found here, including local spices, soaps, embroidery, sweet treats, woodwork and all kinds of beautifully-decorated Armenian pottery.The third Station of the Cross,not far from the Ecce Homo, Jerusalem.Photo byJorge Fernández SalasonUnsplashTemple Mount, also known as Haram esh-Sharif, is dominated by the Dome of the Rock, built by the Umayyad caliphate in 691 CBE. One of theUNESCO World Heritage Sites in Israel, it is probably Jerusalem’s most famous landmark, because of its distinct golden dome.There are many things to see within the compound - fountains, prayer locations and arches - but access to non-muslims is limited so check in advance when visiting is possible, or take a Jerusalem Temple Mount & Dome of the Rock Tour with us, where an experienced guide can help you get the most out of the experience.In the Jewish Quarter, head first to the Western Wall (‘Kotel’ in Hebrew) which is all that is left of the Temple built by Herod the Great. Jews from around the world come to pray here and watching them touching the stones, silently, is a moving sight. For adventure lovers, you can take an underground tour of the Western Wall Tunnels or visit the Tower of David, an ancient Citadel close to the Jaffa Gate (housing a museum) and a symbol of Jerusalem.Another popular area is around the Cardo, which was the main thoroughfare in Jerusalem in Roman times. Stretching from the Damascus Gate to David street, it was built in the Byzantine period, in 6 CE, and some of its columns have even been restored, so you really can go back in time as you stroll along. If all this is a bit overwhelming, and you’re not quite sure what to focus on, why not opt for a mix of everything with our Jerusalem Old and New Tour.Christ Church, the Old City of Jerusalem.Photo byBig G MediaonUnsplashDay 3 - Mount of Olives and Mount ZionThe Mount of Olives lies east of the Old City, close to the Kidron Valley. There are a considerable number of holy sites there, including a number of impressive churches, so choose carefully! Christian sites on the Mt of OlivesAugusta Victoria Hospital - this church hospital lies on the north side of the mount, offering specialised medical care. Within the complex lies the Lutheran Church of the Ascension, identifiable by its 50-metre high bell tower, as well as a meeting centre and cafe for pilgrims.Church of Mary Magdalene - under the jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox church since the 1920s, it was built in 1888 by Tsar Alexander III to honour his mother. The traditional design of the roof (popular in 17th century Russia) includes seven distinctive gilded domes. Church of the Pater Noster is part of a Carmelite Monastery and on its walls are inscribed translations of the Lord’s Prayer in 140 different languages. Dominus Flevit Churchis a small Catholic Franciscan chapel, built on the ruins of a 5th-century Byzantine church. Its iconic design (tear-shaped and with its often photographed window) is down to the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi.Garden of Gethsemane - this is the spot where Jesus prayed before his betrayal by Judas Iscariot and subsequent arrest. Scientists have discovered that the olive trees in its garden are some of the oldest in the world - around 2,000 years!The Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem. Photo byStacey FrancoonUnsplashMuslim holy sites on the Mt of OlivesThe Mount of Olives is holy to Muslims, as they believe it is the site where the Kaaba (the black stone located in Mecca) will return, in order to be reunited with the rock inside the Dome of the Rock (the spot at which Muslims believe the world was created) There is the tomb of Rabi’a al Adawiya,this cleric who introduced Sufism into the world of Islam, as well as the tomb of Mujir ed-Din, a medieval historian.Jewishholy sites on the Mt of OlivesJewish cemetery- Mount of Olives is home to a historic area used as a burial ground for Jews since biblical times. Some of the most important Kings of the Hebrew Bible are buried here and according to Jewish tradition, this is the site at which the messianic era will be ushered in.Tomb of the Prophets - according to tradition, this is where the last three Hebrew prophets are buried - Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi are buried. Mount of Olives, Jerusalem. Photo byAdam KringonUnsplashVisiting Mount ZionThis hill in Jerusalem, just outside of the Old City, is holy to Christians, Muslims and Jews and, in many senses, a metaphor for the entire Promised Land. Some of the sites you may want to explore on Mount Zion are:Christian sites on Mount ZionDormition Abbey - run by a Benedictine Order, this Catholic Abbey marks the spot where Mary, the mother of Jesus, was said to have died. Built by Kaiser Willhelm II, it has a distinctive round shape, a cone-shaped dome and a magnificent mosaic floor. The Protestant cemetery - established by Presbyterian missionaries, this is the final resting place of many Protestants, including Oskar Schindler. Made famous by the Steven Spielberg film, Schindler today is considered a righteous gentile by the State of Israel, for his heroism in saving 1,200 lives in the Holocaust.Dormition Abbey, Jerusalem.Photo byLevi Meir ClancyonUnsplashJewish sites on Mount ZionKing David's Tomb - sacred to Jews, this is the spot which is where it is believed David, the celebrated warrior King of Israel, is buried. The building in which it is housed is designed in Romanesque style and dates back to the time of the Crusades.The Chamber of the Holocaust (‘Martef HaShoah’) - this small Holocaust museum was opened before Yad Vashem in 1949. The walls of the courtyard and passages are covered with plaques that resemble tombstones and erected as a monument to over 2,000 Jewish communities destroyed by the Nazis. Muslim sites on Mount ZionThe Dajani Cemeteries - these three Muslim burial sites are owned by the Dajanis, historically one of Jerusalem’s most distinguished families. The Dajanis also own the compound where King David’s tomb is located (see above). Our tip: if you have a particular interest in the Jerusalem Christian sites on the Mount of Olives, then why not join our Footsteps of Jesus tour? And don't forget about the dress code visiting Jerusalem holy sites.King David’s Tomb, Mount Zion, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockAs night falls, why not head back into central Jerusalem, towards the famous Mahane Yehuda Market on the Jaffa Road? Bustling and chaotic by day - beloved by locals as the best place to buy fruits and vegetables - at night it’s transformed into a cafe and bar venue, where you can grab a drink or have a bite. It’s incredibly atmospheric and - in our opinion - one of the best places to get a sense of what Jerusalem is all about.There’s also the rooftop restaurant at Notre Dame, close to the Damascus Gate, where you can take in breathtaking views of the Old City. They have ‘cheese platters’ which you can pair with fine wines, traditional Middle Eastern food and also steaks/seafood. If you arrive at sunset, you’ll be grateful you did so!Man selling fruits at Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem. Photo byTim MossholderonUnsplashDay 4 - Your ChoiceToday, we’re giving you a few different activity ideas, depending on your interests (and whether or not you’ll be taking kids along with you). City of David - if you’re curious to know where it all began, then why not take a City of David Jerusalem Tour? The original settlement of Jerusalem, it offers a number of attractions, including archaeological experiences in Emek Tzurim national park, walking tours through underground water tunnels that date back 3,000 years and a nighttime show named ‘Hallelujah’.Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum - this is Israel’s official monument/museum to those who perished in the Holocaust. Whilst not a ‘fun’ afternoon out, Yad Vashem is essential visiting for anyone interested in this dark period of Jewish history. The architecture of the museum is stunning and the Monument to the Children particularly moving. As solemn as it is, its emotional, historical and cultural significance cannot be underestimated.Jerusalem Biblical Zoo - for anyone with kids (or anyone who just loves animals) this zoo is a fabulous attraction. The birds and animals all live in conditions that replicate their natural habitats - from the African Savannah to the tropical rain forests. Jerusalem Biblical Zoo.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinThere’s also a ‘petting pool’ for youngsters and a children's zoo, where the kids can feed goats, sheep and rabbits. And just a short walk from the zoo is the Israel Aquarium, featuring all kinds of marine life from the Sea of Galilee, the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.Before you settle into your last evening at your hotel, why not consider visiting the neighbourhood Ein Kerem for dinner? Located in southwestern Jerusalem, this charming hillside village is an oasis of greenery and one of the major Christian holy sites in Israel, since it is believed to be where John the Baptist was born. Ein Kerem’s streets are narrow and charming, filled with cafes, boutique stores, artist galleries and independent jewellery workshops, which you can explore, before heading off to one of their several stylish restaurants. The perfect way to end your last night in Israel’s capital.We hope this suggested Jerusalem itinerary is of help - and if you have less than four days to spare, why not try our 3-day classical Jerusalem package tour? In any event, however long you’re planning to spend in Israel’s capital, be prepared to be blown away…Happy travelling!Convent of the Sisters of Zion, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
By Sarah Mann

Best Street Food in Israel

One of the many reasons people travel is to see and experience things outside their comfort zone, and that definitely includes trying new cuisine. And the good news for any ‘foodie’ going to plan a perfect vacation in Israel is that your taste buds are in for a delightful surprise. With its eclectic population (Jews here hail from Europe, Africa, South America and Asia), there’s a dish for every palate and Israeli street food really has its roots in immigrant experience.Food sold outside Mount Zion gate, Jerusalem.Photo byRiaonUnsplashPrepare Your TastebudsMoreover, whilst Israel has really upped its game on the food front (with plenty of high-end fine dining experiences) if you’re on a budget, or simply don’t want to blow a fortune on lunch/dinner, you’re going to be pleased. Whether you’re in the big cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv or tiny towns up in the Galilee or down in the Negev, you’ll be confronted with certain ‘street foods’ that the locals adore, particularly dishes made with simple but fresh Mediterranean ingredients.Cheap, Healthy and FreshVegetarians and vegans will be in seventh heaven. If you’re looking to eat without meat, Israel won’t disappoint you - indeed, you’re going to be amazed at how easy it is to find plant-based foods, without skipping on taste or flavour. And, as you can imagine, the other great thing about Israeli vegan street food is that it’s cheap - for less than $10, you’ll be chowing on dishes that will keep you full for hours (and won’t necessarily wreck your cholesterol levels either!)Today we’re looking at some of the best street foods in Israel - many found in ‘holes in the wall’ in the backstreets and beloved by the locals for their down-to-earth atmosphere and warm welcome. Often run by families, for generations, you’re often going to have to wait in line but actually, that’s a good thing - after all, the longer the line, the better you know the food is going to be! Hungry? Then read on…Shakshuka, a dish of eggs poached in tomato sauce. Photo byUlvi SafarionUnsplashFamous Israeli Street Food1. Falafel - you can’t talk about Israeli street food without first mentioning the humble falafel. For decades, it’s been Israel’s favourite snack and although some will tell you it’s had its day, don’t believe them - you’ll find falafel stands on every Israeli street corner (each with their own ‘secret’ recipe for making this delectable dish).For anyone who doesn’t know, falafel are bite-sized balls made out of chickpeas, flavoured with herbs and spices and then deep-fried, before being placed in a soft pita (which acts pocket) and served with tahini (a sesame seed paste) fresh salads and sometimes even a slice of eggplant thrown in! Falafel is popular all over the Middle East (it actually originated in Egypt, where it was first made with fava beans) and is incredibly popular amongst vegetarians. Every falafel you try in Israel is bound to taste slightly different, depending on how much garlic, parsley and spices are used, but few come away feeling disappointed. Falafels and salad in a takeout box. Photo byPille R. PriskeonUnsplash2. Sabich - hot on the heels of the humble falafel is the sumptuous sabich. This Iraqi Jewish sandwich is made either of pita or laffa, and is made up of egg, potato, salads, tahini, parsley, eggplant and a delicious mango sauce called ‘amba.’ The ingredients are simple yet fantastic and when you bite into one, it’s a veritable flavour explosion. The history of the humble sabich can be traced back to the Iraqi Jews who arrived in Israel in the 1950s. On Shabbat mornings when they were in a hurry to leave for synagogue, they would eat a cold meal of these foods, stuffed in a pita (having cooked the eggplant the previous evening). In the early 1960s, a stand in Ramat Gan (a suburb of Tel Aviv) began selling them and the trend quickly caught on. Today, it’s beloved by Israelis - some of whom enjoy it with hummus and sour pickles. The ultimate sandwich…An Iraqi falafel shop in Jerusalem, Israel. Photo byLevi Meir ClancyonUnsplash3. Hummus - we’re not sure if hummus needs an explanation but here goes…this delicious dip/spread is made from chickpeas, lemon, garlic and tahini and is a quintessential Middle Eastern dish. In Israel, it’s fair to say that hummus isn’t just a food, it’s a way of life. Also, wherever you go in Israel you’ll find people telling you that their town/region’s hummus is by far and away the best! Hummus in Israel comes in all shapes and sizes - topped with pine nuts, sprinkled with sumac and cumin and some partnered with ‘foul mudammas’ (a fava bean dip). You’ll also see locals eating it with slices of raw onion and sour pickles - yes, it sounds very odd but - trust us - a lot of people try it and become instant converts.Hummus is also popular in Arab communities all over Israel, especially in Galilee, Jerusalem and the small village of Abu Gosh and, just like falafel, every place serves it a little differently, sometimes using recipes handed down over the generations. Bottom line - you can’t come to Israel without indulging in a few plates of this delicious chickpea spread…Ingredients for hummus. Photo byNatalia YonUnsplash4. Bourekas - if you want to indulge, and don’t care about the calories, then head for a bourka stand in Israel. These delicious crispy yet flaky phyllo dough parcels are stuffed with all kinds of savoury ingredients before being sprinkled with sesame seeds on their tops. And because they’re small (ergo portable), they’re the ultimate ‘to go’ food in Israel - grab a few, and munch away, morning, noon or night.Originally from Turkey, (the word ‘borek’ in Turkish means ‘pie’) you can find them filled with potato, salty cheese, yellow cheese and spinach. They’re popular not just in Israel but all over the Middle East and particularly with Jews from North Africa, who serve them at festivals and family celebrations. 5. Shawarma - popular across the Levant, this roasted meat (which could be lamb, veal, chicken or turkey) is cooked slowly on a revolving spit, before being cut into thin slices and served in pita/laffa with different sauces. This is not the healthiest of snacks (watch out, arteries) although in Tel Aviv they’ve even opened a ‘vegan shawarma’ joint called Goodness, which promises all the taste without the possibility of a heart attack! Jaffa oranges against the background of an Israeli flag. Photo byBenjamin RascoeonUnsplash6. Malawach - this delectable flatbread is composed of layers of puff pastry (which resemble a thick pancake). The bread is brushed with oil then cooked in a frying pan - it's so buttery, you won’t believe it. Brought to Israel in the 1950s by Yemenite Jews, it was traditionally eaten by them at breakfast and served with grated tomato, a fried egg or even sometimes a drizzle of honey. This flaky bread is not good for your waistline but the perfect treat after a late night out, an indulgent breakfast or simply when hunger strikes!7. Shakshuka - introduced to Israel by Tunisian Jews, this classic North Africa/Middle Eastern dish is incredibly popular amongst Israelis, particularly for breakfast. It’s a simple concept but one that everyone seems to love - eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, onions, garlic and green peppers. Traditionally served with pita bread, it’s incredibly satisfying - spices always vary but prepare to taste cumin, coriander, caraway seeds and even turmeric in your order.Classical Shakshuka. Photo bySara DubleronUnsplash8. Malabi - this traditional Israeli dessert is centuries old and made from rice flour, milk. sugar and flavoured with distilled rose/pomegranate water. It is a traditional Sephardic Jewish dish (Sephardic Jews hail from west Asia and northern Africa) and is served at the end of the holy Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, to break the 25-hour fast. Malabi is also served at Turkish Jewish weddings, as a way of symbolising the sweet life that awaits the new couple. 9. Knafeh - this Middle Eastern dessert is made with spun pasty then soaked in a sweet syrup, before being layered with sweet cheese, nuts and pistachio. It’s particularly famous in Nablus, in the West Bank, where it’s made with their traditional Nabulsi cheese. Whether you eat it soft or crispy, the gooey cheese, sweet taste and orange flavouring are to die for and we’re sure you won’t settle for one piece.10. Halva - this delicious sesame seed candy is beloved by Israelis and the perfect snack if you’re on the go. Mixed with sugar, or honey, it's often flavoured with vanilla or swirled chocolate pieces and look out for the pistachios too! Flaky and dense, you’ll see it sold not just in supermarkets but in huge wedges at food markets (vendors will cut off pieces for you, so you can mix and match!)Halva at the Carmel market shop. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinStreet food in Tel AvivSo, what are the 10 best-kept street food secrets in Tel Aviv? From the Carmel Market to the mean streets of Dizengoff and the alleyways of Jaffa, we’ll tell you…1. Abu Hassan, Jaffa - this family-owned hummus joint in Jaffa has been voted best of its kind in Israel and we know why. Simple and delicious, this is local food at its best and the servings are so large, they can often feed two. A must visit.2. Ha Kosem, Shlomo HaMelech Street - In English, the name means ‘the Magician’ and this downtown Israeli street food joint is an institution. Whether you want falafel in a pita, shawarma in a laffa or chicken schnitzel on a plate, they’ll help you out - and whilst you’re waiting in the long long line, they bring out piping hot falafel balls to keep your spirits up. Our tip: try the ‘rimonada’ (a cold drink made of lemonade and pomegranate juice). 3. Sabich Frishman - always busy with the locals, they’ll stuff your sabich with goodies you can’t imagine and the mango sauce is superb. Worth every minute of waiting and every shekel - and the guy behind the counter will make it as spicy as you like. 4. Mashawsha, Pinsker - this Galilee-style eatery is close to the Tel Aviv beach and specialises in mashawsha. This is a ‘light’ hummus with tahini which has a more airy texture. They also serve falafel balls, jugs of sweet lemonade and excellent knafeh. Great value and friendly staff to boot.5. Dr Shakshuka, Jaffa - known for its Libyan-style home cooking, this place is a real institution. Enjoy breakfast there on Friday morning, whilst lingering over a coffee in their courtyard, before spending time at the Jaffa Flea Market, full of second-hand goodies and hipster bars.A food stall in the Carmel Market, Tel Aviv, Israel.Photo byNicole BasteronUnsplash6. Shmuel - in the heart of Tel Aviv’s Carmel Market, this is the place to go if you want meat - kebabs, chicken breast, liver - and all in pita bread. A great place for a casual lunch - it might be no-frills but the food is 100% authentic. 7. Shlomo and Doron - street food in the Carmel Market never was this good. Creative preparation makes the taste exceptional and the prices are very reasonable. Don’t worry about the basic appearance of the place - this hummus is top-notch, so grab a table outside and indulge. Our tip: if you’re not too full from lunch, try the malabi dessert. 8. Burika Centre - the twist in this snack is that it’s put in a fresh pita, and accompanied by sauces and vegetables. Our tip: try the potato and egg with tahini and tomatoes. Unbelievable! 9. Shakshuka - just off the main drag of the market, you’ll find this unpretentious little place. Their homemade shakshuka is fab and they also do Greek, Italian and Spanish versions! With some of their crusty bread dipped in the dish, you’re going to leave happy. 10. Sabich Tchernikhovsky - prepared lovingly and with great attention to detail, this tiny place is well-known in Tel Aviv. Stand in line, order one then sit on a bench opposite and enjoy it. The fried eggplant is wonderful and if you really want to push the boat out, order one with cheese!Assorted spices stall, Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo byJeremy BezangeronUnsplashStreet food in JerusalemLina, Old City - in the Old City’s Christian Quarter, just off the Via Dolorosa, this popular hummus joint has six tables but is always popular, particularly for its hummus with pine nuts, creamy eggplant dip and crunchy fries. Run by two brothers, who took it over from their dad (his pictures are on the wall) the food is good value for money and super tasty.Arafat, Old City - close to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City, this tiny place has no menu, friendly staff and just a few tables. They only serve two things - hummus and chicken with rice, but no one ever complains! The hummus is creamy, flavourful and made every hour. The only problem is they often sell out early, so don’t arrive after 2 pm!Knafeh cooked in Jerusalem street. Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas on UnsplashStreet Food at Mahane Yehuda Market, JerusalemFalafel Brothers Levy - a renowned spot in the Jerusalem food market, on the corner with Agrippas street, this falafel joint is a legend - the crispy balls are crunchy and flavourful, the pita is soft and the salads are fresh. There’s almost no seating so you’ll have to get it to go, but you won’t be disappointed.Ha Agas - this family business is beloved by locals and vegans alike for their hummus, stuffed vegetables, black lentil patties and vine leaves with rice. Just a few tables inside but there’s always something good boiling in a pot. Cheap, yummy and friendly - it’s a must-try! Our tip: try the hibiscus juice!FishenChips - this fast food joint in Mahane Yehuda Market features the British classic, but without the mushy peas and swapping mayonnaise for salt and vinegar on the chips! Crunchy batter on the outside and soft flaky fish on the inside, you can order either red tuna or cod. There isn’t much seating so head for the benches across from the stand and soak up the market atmosphere.If you want to try Israeli street food, join eitherCarmel Market Food Tour orIsraeli Street Food Tour. Fresh juice stall, Jerusalem. Photo byShalev CohenonUnsplash
By Sarah Mann

Historical Events in Israel - Modern Times

We’re back today, continuing our series of major historical events in Israel. In part one, we looked at major turning points in biblical times - from Abraham’s arrival in the Promised Land, King David and Solomon’s reigns, the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans and the life and times of Jesus. In part two, we explored other important historical events in Israel, ranging from Byzantine and Arab rule, the Crusades, the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate.Israeli flag on a pole, Jerusalem, Israel. Photo byTaylor BrandononUnsplashWe left things at the moment the State of Israel was proclaimed in Tel Aviv by Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, in the Hall of Independenceon 14th May 1948. A few hours later, the state officially came into being, when the British ended their rule. The stage would soon be set for the bloody War of Independence, between Israel and its Arab neighbours, and this - unfortunately - would be the first of many.When it comes to historical events in Israel in the modern era, it’s a tall order to know where to begin. After all, let’s face it, this is the Middle East, and when it comes to politics you could discuss this region for years and still be confused. For sure, Israel has been embroiled in a number of conflicts with its neighbours since the establishment of the state, and whilst it would be convenient to gloss over them, the reality is that these conflicts have shaped and formed the country - and continue to do so, even today. Here are ten of the most important events that we think deserve a mention, in the last 73 years…Independence Hall, Tel Aviv.Photo credit: © Shutterstock1. 1947–1949 Palestine War (aka in Israel as the War of Independence)After the United Nations voted in favour of the partition of Palestine into two states - one Jewish and the other Arab - conflict between the two peoples intensified. The day after Israel declared independence, Arab forces from Transjordan, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Syria attacked. The ensuing war was fought on different fronts - in the north, south and east - and was extremely bloody for both sides.The war took its toll, no more so than in Jerusalem, where a huge battle raged for control of the road (‘corridor’) leading into the city. Other enormous battles took place at Latrun, and in the Sinai. At the outset, Arab forces had the upper hand; by ‘phase two’ the Israelis had recaptured ground and at the end of the war, the Arab armies had been driven out and Israel secured its borders.In the midst of this, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled, or were told to leave by their leaders (depending on whom you choose to believe). It was a terrible war for Israel - 6,373 were killed in action, which amounted to almost 1% of the population. Huge numbers of Palestinians and Arab forces also lost their lives. But the fact is that the State of Israel had survived its birth.The Wailing Wall at night, Jerusalem. Photo bySander CrombachonUnsplash2. The Eichmann Trial - 1961-1962Adolf Eichmann was one of the chief architects of the Holocaust but, for many years, evaded justice, disappearing from Europe after the Second World War. In 1959, news reached Israel that he was still alive and living in Argentina, as ‘Richard Klement.’ Mossad (Israel’s security service) enacted a daring plan, kidnapped Eichmann and brought him to Jerusalem, where he was put on trial for his crimes.The Eichmann trial left the public spellbound as, day after day, survivors stood up in court and told their stories (many for the first time). It marked a turning point in society - up until then, the Holocaust had not been greatly discussed - and the trial bought the horrors to public consciousness. Eichmann was found guilty of crimes against humanity and the Jewish nation and war crimes and hanged in the spring of 1962. His ashes were scattered at sea.Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum.Photo credit: © Shutterstock3. The Six-Day War - 1967This war between Israel and the Arabs took place between 5th and 10th June 1967. After Israel understood that Arab armies were mobilising against her, she carried out a devastating pre-emptive strike on Egypt’s air force (at that time, on the tarmac), and within three days had won the ground war. After Jordan entered the war and began shelling Jerusalem, Israel responded with a devastating counter-attack, Israel recaptured the capital and its paratroopers entered the gates of the Old City and continued onto the Western Wall - the photographs captured are utterly iconic. Simultaneously, in the north, Israel captured the Golan Heights from the Syrians.The outcome was a tremendous victory for Israel and a terrible loss for the Arab nations. Public reaction in Israel was nothing short of euphoric - however, it also marked a new aspect to the ongoing conflict, since more than one million Palestinians in Jordan had been captured and were now under Israeli rule. In the meantime, Yitzhak Rabin was lauded as a hero for his efforts as Defence Minister and Gamal Nassar, Egypt’s President, handed in his resignation. The power balance had indeed shifted.Syrian Fortification, Mt. Bental. Photo credit: © Oksana Mats4. The Yom Kippur War - 1973After their loss of territory (and public face) to Israel in 1967, the Arab armies set about planning a ‘rematch.’ On Yom Kippur - Israel’s most holy day - when millions of citizens were praying in synagogues, they launched a surprise attack on two fronts - the Egyptians in the Sinai peninsula and the Syrians up in the Golan Heights.Israel was caught entirely off guard (it later transpired that they had shrugged off intelligence warnings). For his part, Sadat, the Egyptian Prime Minister, took the view that if Israel was defeated, they would be forced to negotiate for peace (after 1967, they had won a great deal of territory and, thus, held a strong hand). Initially, the Arab armies made impressive gains - after all, it would take Israel several days to become fully mobilised. The fighting lasted from 6th to 25th October, when a ceasefire brokered by the UN came into being. But the cost for the Jewish nation was high - heavy casualties and fury at the government for being caught off-guard. Eventually, Golda Meir, the Prime Minister, was forced to tender her resignation.Remnants of the Valley of Tears Battle, Golan Heights.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin5. War in Lebanon - 1982Tensions on Israel’s border ran high all through 1981, with katyusha rockets being fired into small communities in northern Israel by south Lebanon PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organisation) guerillas. In June 1982, Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon launched ‘Operation Peace for Galilee’ in an attempt to force the Lebanese government to take action against the PLO. Israeli forces went overland, all the way to Beirut, even though Israel’s Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, had ordered the army not to move more than 25 km into Lebanese territory. The Israeli army then besieged Arafat (the PLO leader) and his guerillas, as well as destroyed over 100 Syrian anti-aircraft missiles. The fighting lasted about three months.In the chaos that followed, Israel miscalculated and turned a blind eye when Christian ‘Phalangist’ militia forces entered two Palestinian refugee camps. Hundreds of men, women and children were murdered at Sabra and Shatila and in Israel tens of thousands of people took to the streets, outraged by the massacre. Later, an Israeli enquiry would find Arik Sharon guilty of negligence and he was forced to resign. After the horrors of the Lebanon war, when a new government replaced Begin, they began enacting a ‘phased withdrawal’, though keeping control of a 19 km security buffer zone.Rosh Hanikra sea grottoes on the border with Lebanon, Israel.Photo credit: ©Dmitry Mishin6. The Gulf War - 1991After Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, in the summer of 1990, coalition forces (led by the USA) began an aerial and naval bombardment of Iraq in January 1991. Iraq had made no secret of the fact that it would attack if invaded and promptly responded by firing Scud missiles at Israel. Millions of citizens had to hide in bomb shelters and sealed rooms and donned gas masks, terrified of a chemical attack using nerve agents such as sarin. All in all, 74 Israelis were killed - two directly and the rest dying of heart attacks and suffocation. There was a great deal of damage to property and although Israel never entered the war directly, it came close (at one point, Israeli commandos were about to board helicopters but were persuaded by Dick Cheney, the US Foreign Minister, to lay low).7. The First and Second Intifadas - 1987-1993 and 2000-2005In Arabic, ‘intifada’ means ‘uprising’ or ‘shaking off’ and the two intifadas that took place in Israel between 1987-1993 and 2000-2005 can best be described as organised, grassroots protests by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza against Israel. Broadly speaking, their aim was to end Israel’s occupation of these territories and to create an independent Palestinian state.The First Intifada began at the end of 1987, in the form of throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails by young Palestinians at Israeli troops…military reprisals by Israel were sometimes severe and this led to an escalation of violence, in the form of rifles, explosives and hand grenades. Over 2.000 people died in the First Intifada, at a ratio of 3 Palestinians to every Israeli.Gaza Strip on the map. Photo byCHUTTERSNAPonUnsplashThe First Intifada came to an end after Labour were elected and, under Rabin, the Oslo Accords were signed - the Palestinian Authority was created with the objective of a two-state solution coming into being in the following five years. For a number of reasons (especially the one below), this never came to pass.The Second Intifada was sparked off after the failure of the Camp David Accords (between Bill Clinton, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat) combined with an ill-timed visit by Ariel Sharon’s to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The Second Intifada was drawn out and particularly bloody - many civilians died as well as the military forces. Palestinians took to suicide bombings, which proved to be an effective means of bringing terror into public spaces. The Israeli army responded with tank and air attacks, targeted killings and gunfire. In the five years that it lasted, there were endless bombings of popular spots such as a disco in Tel Aviv, a hotel in Haifa over Passover and a pizzeria in Jerusalem. Crowded buses were also targeted and this ‘cult of martyrdom’ shook the Israeli public substantially.The death toll, all in all, came to around 1,000 Israelis and 3,000 Palestinians, as well as 64 foreigners. Amnesty International condemned the killings on both sides. Dome of the Rock, the Muslim shrine on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel.Photo credit: © Shutterstock8. The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin - 1995Yitzhak Rabin, a decorated military leader and Israel’s Prime Minister, was re-elected in 1992, running on a platform of making peace with the Palestinians. Under his rule, the Oslo Accords were signed, which split the Israeli public into two camps - those who supported peace efforts and those who believed it could only lead to more terror. Many protests were held against Rabin, particularly in Jerusalem and outside his private home in the Tel Aviv suburbs, and the general political climate became tense and even hostile. This culminated in the events of 4th November 1995, when Rabin was assassinated at the end of a huge Peace Rally, supporting the Oslo Accords, in central Tel Aviv.The gunman, Yigal Amir, a far-right religious student shot Rabin three times as he walked down the stairs of the square at which he had been the key speaker. He was rushed to nearby Ichilov Hospital but died soon after arrival. The Israeli public was left in a state of shock and disbelief and Rabin’s funeral was attended by dignitaries from across the world. Famously, Bill Clinton stood up and gave his eulogy, ending it with the now immortalised Hebrew words ‘ Shalom, haver’ (“‘Goodbye, friend’). Amir was put on trial and found guilty. He remains in prison until this day but has still not expressed remorse for his actions. A library and research centre devoted to Rabin was built in Tel Aviv and is open to the public.Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, Israel. Photo byYoav AzizonUnsplash9. The Gaza Disengagement - 2005It was Prime Minister Arik Sharon who put forward (and carried through) the plan of unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip, in 2005. Close to 9,000 Israeli settlers were living in 21 settlements throughout the strip, and in the absence of a peace plan, Sharon decided it was necessary to evacuate the area to improve Israel’s security and status on the international playing field. After the plan was approved by his Likud party, Sharon pushed through the plan, leading to criticism from individuals in his own camp and support from more left-wing elements of Israeli society. Operation Yad L’Achim (‘Giving Brothers a Hand’) gave settlers the opportunity to leave voluntarily, with soldiers offering to help them pack. Most, however, refused.On August 15th, compulsory evacuation began. Some settlers left peacefully but others had to be removed forcibly. Many barricaded themselves into their homes (some threatened to set themselves alight) and had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, out their front doors. After seven days, the evacuation was complete and this brought to an end 38 years of a Jewish presence in Gaza. The territory was handed over to the Palestinian Authority but two years later the secular ruling party, Fatah, was defeated by Hamas (a militant Islamic organisation).An old pier in Gaza.Photo byEmad El ByedonUnsplash10. War with Hamas - 2014 and 2021After Hamas was elected, on a platform that supported the destruction of Israel, Israel responded by declaring it a ‘hostile entity’. Sanctions followed and in the following years, there were a series of rockets fired by militants to which Israel responded with airstrikes, as well as the capture of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, after a border ambush.In the summer of 2014, Israel launched a military operation named ‘Protective Edge’, following the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers. It was a particularly awful conflict, lasting seven weeks with many deaths, both of Palestinian militants and civilians and Israeli soldiers. After a large-scale ground invasion, to destroy a network of underground tunnels built by Hamas, an open-ended ceasefire was announced.In May 2021, after several more years of tensions, another crisis was triggered in Jerusalem, with violence breaking out at Temple Mount. Shortly afterwards, Hamas issued an ultimatum to Israel and when it was refused, launched a barrage of rockets into Israel at 9 pm. An eleven-day conflict continued, which culminated in airstrikes, as part of Operation ‘Guardian of the Walls’. Over 3,500 rockets were fired into Israel in the next eleven days, although 90% of them were intercepted and destroyed by the Iron Dome (an air defence system). By the end of this latest round of conflict, 260 Palestinians (many of them militants), 12 Israeli civilians and one Israeli soldier were dead. Since then, Egypt has attempted to broker a long-term deal between Israel and Hamas but this has not been successful and most believe it is just a matter of time before the next war breaks out.If you are interested in the modern history of Israel, feel free to read our article on historical figures in Israel as well as to join our Golan Heights tours and Tel Aviv tours.Tel Aviv after a rocket attack, 2021.Photo credit: ©Dmitry Mishin
By Sarah Mann

Catholics in Israel

Tourists who decide to journey to Israel come for all different reasons - sunshine, beaches, hiking trails, archaeological sites, food workshops, and adrenaline-charged activities such as sailing, rafting, and off-road jeep tours in the Judean desert. But one of the biggest attractions of a trip to the Holy Land - whether you’re a believer or not - is the fact that it’s home to three of the world’s major religions - Judaism, Islam, and, of course, Christianity.The dome over the Rotunda (Jesus's Tomb),Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinFor Christians, visiting Israel is often the pilgrimage of a lifetime. Every year, tens of thousands of Christians - both Protestants and Catholics - arrive in Israel, intent on exploring the life of Jesus. They will journey from his birthplace in Bethlehem, onto Nazareth, where he spent some of his early years, then continue to Galilee, where he spent a considerable period of time ministering, before traveling to Jerusalem, where Jesus spent the last week of his life. There, they can retrace his footsteps, from the Last Supper with his disciples, to betrayal and arrest, in the Garden of Gethsemane, then his journey along the Via Dolorosa, to the cross, and finally to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where he was buried and rose again. At any time of the year, but particularly Easter or Christmas, this pilgrimage can be a very moving experience for Christian tourists.View of the Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion, Jerusalem, Israel.Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinChristian Population, Dioceses, Parishes, and Communities in IsraelSo how many Christians live in Israel? The number is approximately 200,000, which amounts to 1.5% of the population. The largest Christian community in Israel is the Greek Catholics (Melkite), who make up 40% of the total. Then you have the Greek Orthodox at 32%, Roman Catholics in Israel at 20%, and the Maronites at 7%. The remaining Christian groups amount to around 1% of the total.Seven of the jurisdictions of the Catholic Churches in Israel overlap with each other - Armenian, Chaldean, Greek Melkite, Armenian Latin (Roman), Chaldean Maronite, and Syriac. At present, there are 103 Catholic parishes in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem, Israel. Photo byStacey FrancoonUnsplashRepresentatives of the Holy See in IsraelThe diplomatic relations between The Holy See and the State of Israel were first established on 30th December 1993. Three weeks later, after the two states adopted a ‘Fundamental Agreement’ a Vatican Nunciature in Israel and an Israeli embassy in Rome were opened. As the Vatican sees it, this ‘normalization’ is, to some degree, a way of promoting better Christian-Jewish relations which, historically, could be described as poor.Israel Catholic Travel GuideToday we’re looking at Catholic influences in Israel - because, for sure, the land of Israel is inextricably bound up with central events in Christian history, particularly the life and times of Jesus. It’s no surprise then that so many Catholics find the idea of a trip to the Holy Landand of visiting the Catholic holy sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Galilee completely compelling.Inside the Dormition Abbey on Mount Zion, Jerusalem, Israel.Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinCatholic Churches in JerusalemLet’s start with Jerusalem, which has a considerable number of Catholic churches and holy sites, including: 1. Church of the Holy Sepulchre - also known as the Church of the Resurrection, this is probably the most famous church in the Old City and presumed to be the site where Jesus was both crucified and then rose from the dead. Custody of the site is shared between the Roman Catholic (also known as ‘Latins’), Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, and Syriac Orthodox Churches.2. Bethphage - situated on the Mount of Olives, east of the Old City, Bethpage is mentioned in the Christian Bible as the place where Jesus sent his disciples to look for a donkey. This donkey (ass) he would later use to ride into Jerusalem in what Christians now celebrate as Palm Sunday. Meaning ‘House of the Early Figs’ Bethphage was built in 1883 and today it is run by the Franciscans.Candles lit in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Jerusalem.Photo credit: ©Dmitry Mishin3. Room of the Last Supper - located on the top floor of King David’s Tomb, the Cenacle is extremely holy for Catholics, since it is considered to be the place where Jesus held the Last Supper. ‘Cenacle’ in Latin means ‘dining room’ but Catholics also refer to the word as ‘retreat’. Today the building is controlled by the state of Israel although the Vatican contests this and says it belongs to the church.4. Dominus Flevit - this Roman Catholic church sits on the Mount of Olives, opposite the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. Although only built in 1955, it occupies an ancient site, standing on the ruins of a Byzantine church that dates back to the 5th century. Designed by the Italian architect, Antonio Barluzzi, its famous window depicts a chalice and cross, within an arch-shaped design. Today, the administration of the church is carried out by the Franciscans.5. Dormition Abbey - on Mount Zion, close to the Zion Gate, this Catholic Abbey belongs to the Benedictine monks and is said to be the spot at which Jesus’ mother, Mary, died. Completed in 1910 by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, the site dates back to the 5th century.Dominus Flevit Сhurch, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock6. Flagellation Church - found in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, near to the Lions' Gate, this Roman Catholic church is part of the Franciscan Monastery of the Flagellation. According to tradition, it is the spot at which Jesus was flogged by Roman soldiers before he walked along the Via Dolorosa, en route to his crucifixion. 7. Garden of Gethsemane - located at the foot of the Mount of Olives, this is an incredibly holy site for Catholics, as it is where Jesus prayed before his betrayal by Judas Iscariot and his subsequent arrest. Next to it is the Basilica of the Agony (also known as the Church of All Nations), built on the foundation of a Byzantine church that dates back to the 4th century.8. Church of the Pater Noster - part of a Carmelite Monastery, this church also sits on the Mount of Olives. On its walls are a series of ceramic tiles, all bordered with colorful flowers, inside which the Lord’s Prayer is written in a wide variety of languages. Entrance to the Church of Pater Naster. Jerusalem, Israel. Photo credit: © Shutterstock9. Church of St. Anne- built in the 12th century, and situated just at the beginning of the Via Dolorosa. St. Anne’s is considered to be one of the most beautiful Crusader Churches in Israel. Today, it is owned and managed by the White Fathers, an Order of the Catholic Church so named because of the color of their robes. 10. St. Peter in Gallicantu - Built on the slopes of Mount Zion, this church is named after the disciple Peter’s denial of Jesus 'Gallicantu’ in Latin, which means ‘cocks crow’ and refers to Peter refusing to acknowledge his relationship with Jesus three times. The church today belongs to the Assumptionist Fathers, a French Order established in 1887 and so named for Mary’s assumption into heaven.11. St. Stephen Church - located on the ancient road to Damascus, just outside the walls of the Old City, this Dominican monastery and French school for Biblical Archaeology, lie on the slope of the hill close to the Garden Tomb. Church of St. Anne, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock12. 3rd Stationof the Cross- this is the point where Jesus fell for the first time, on his walk to Calvary. It is also the place where you will find a Polish catholic church, purchased by Armenian Catholics based in Poland. 13.4th Station of the Cross - according to tradition, this is where the Virgin Mary stood and watched her son Jesus suffer, as he walked with this cross to his death. This is also the location of the Armenian Catholic Church of Our Lady of the Spasm, built in 1881. 14. 5th Station of the Cross - the fifth Station of the Cross is outside the Franciscan Chapel of Simon of Cyrene, and at this popular pilgrimage stop, it is traditional to place your hand inside the imprint where Jesus is thought to have leaned against the wall. 5th Station of the Cross, Jerusalem.Photo credit: ©Dmitry Mishin15.6th Station of the Cross - here sits the Greek Catholic Church of St. Veronica, built in 1866, and today run by the Little Sisters of Jesus. It is believed to be the place where a woman named Veronica wiped Jesus’s face of blood, with a cloth. 16. Church of the Visitation - formerly known as the Abbey Church of St. John in the Woods, this catholic church in Ein Kerem, a hillside village in south-west Jerusalem, is run by Franciscans and honors the visit paid by the Virgin Mary (the mother of Jesus) to Elizabeth (the mother of John the Baptist). 17. Monastery of St. John in the Desert - built next to a spring on a wooded slope, this monastery is also run by Franciscans and is a short distance from Ein Kerem (considered to be the birthplace of John the Baptist).Church of the Visitation, Ein Kerem, Jerusalem. Photo credit:©Dan PorgesCatholic Churches in Central Israel and the West Bank1. Emmaus Church of the Crusaders - also known as the Church of the Resurrection and the Abbey of St. Mary this Benedictine monastery sits in Abu Gosh, a village close to Jerusalem. Traditionally, it is known as the place where Christ first appeared after his resurrection.2. Shepherds' Field - southeast of Bethlehem, in Beit Sahour, this Roman Catholic church is run by the Franciscans. It marks the place, according to Catholic tradition, where Christ’s birth was first announced by the angels.3. St. Lazarus - situated in the town of al-Eizariya (identified with biblical Bethany), this West Bank church is close to what Christian tradition says is the tomb of Lazarus and also the site of the house where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus once lived. 4. Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem - one of the oldest working churches in existence, this is a very holy site for all Christians, who believe its grotto to be the spot at which Mary gave birth to Jesus. Its actual guardianship is shared by three Church denominations - Armenian, Roman Catholic, and Greek Orthodox.Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem.Photo credit: ©Dmitry Mishin5. Milk Grotto, Bethlehem - also known as the Grotto of our Lady, Christian tradition says is the place where the Holy Family found refuge during the Massacre of the Innocents before they could flee to Egypt. The name comes from the story that the Virgin Mary spilt a ‘drop of milk’ on the cave’s floor.6. Emmaus Qubeibeh, Qubeibeh - this catholic church, owned by Franciscans, is about 10 km (7 miles from Jerusalem). Its sanctuary is where, according to tradition, a resurrected Jesus appeared on the road to Emmaus before two of his disciples, Simeon and Cleopas. 7. House of Parables, Taybeh - this is situated in the Palestinian Christian village of Taybeh, about 30 km northwest of Jerusalem. The ‘Parable House’ lies within the Roman Catholic church courtyard and its wooden door is estimated to be 2,000 years old.8. Church of Nicodemus, Ramla - Managed by the Franciscans, since the 16th century the site of this monastery is considered to have been the home of Joseph of Arimathea, who was one of Jesus’ disciples and asked for permission to take him down from the cross and bury him. The Milk Grotto, Bethlehem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockCatholic Churches in Galilee1. Stella Maris, Haifa - this 19th-century Carmelite monastery was built on the orders of Brother Cassini and opened in 1836, ‘Stella Maris’ meaning ‘Star of the Sea.’2. Wedding Church, Cana - also known as the ‘First Miracle Church’ and today operated by Franciscans, it is considered to be the place where Jesus performed his first miracle, turning water into wine at a poor couple’s wedding feast.3. House of Peter, Capernaum - this modern catholic pilgrimage church is part of a Franciscan monastery. Presumed to be the spot at which the disciple Peter once lived, it sits on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.4.Church of Beatitudes - situated on a small hill, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, this church sits close to the ruins of a small Byzantine-era church, dating back to the 4th century. The spot is considered to be where Jesus delivered his Sermon on the Mount.Church of Beatitudes, Israel.Photo credit: © Shutterstock5. Muhraqa Monastery - this Carmelite Monastery is situated at the spot where the Prophet Elijah is supposed to have confronted the false prophets of Baal. Situated in the village of Daliat-el-Carmel, it affords spectacular views of the Jezreel Valley.6. Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth - also referred to as the ‘Basilica of the Annunciation’ this church is managed by Franciscans and stands over the cave which Catholics believe was once the home of the Virgin Mary. Its cupola dominates modern Nazareth and today it is the largest church in the Middle East.7. Church of St. Joseph, Nazareth - this Franciscan church was built in 1914 over the remains of much older churches. According to tradition, this is where the carpentry workshop of Joseph, Jesus’s father, stood.8. Synagogue Church, Nazareth - this Greek Melkite Catholic church lies in the heart of Nazareth and is so named because of a claim that it is the same building that was once the village synagogue in the time of Jesus. Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth, Israel. Photo credit: © Shutterstock9. Church of Multiplication, Tabgha - this Benedictine church is located in Tabgha, on the northwest shores of the Sea of Galilee. It is built on the site of two former churches, dating back to Byzantine times.10. Church of the Primacy of St. Peter, Tabgha - this Franciscan church in Tabgha, also close to the shores of the Galilee, commemorates and is supposed to mark the spot where Jesus reinstated Peter as leader of the Disciples. 11. Сhurch of Transfiguration, Mount Tabor - this church is part of a Franciscan monastery built in 1922 by the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi. It is considered by Catholics to be the site at which the transfiguration of Jesus occurred when Jesus met with Elijah and Moses. 12. Church of St. Peter, Tiberias - next to a monastery in Tiberias, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, this unusual Crusader church is administered by Koinonia Giovanni Battista, a Catholic community in Italy. Its roof is shaped like a boat that has been upturned, which references St. Peter, a fisherman on the Galilee who Jesus eventually chose as his lead disciple.Church of Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel.Photo credit: © ShutterstockIf you are interested in visiting Catholic churches in Israel, feel free to check out our Christian Israel Tour Packages and Christian day tours.
By Sarah Mann

Budget Accommodation in Israel

So you’ve decided to book a trip to Israel? Well, first of all, congratulations - or ‘Mazel tov’ as we say in Hebrew! Trust us, you’re going to have a perfect vacation. Not only is this country full of bucket list attractions - from holy sitesand archaeological remains to sandy beaches, lush green hills and silent deserts - but it’s also a great choice of holiday for the independent traveller. Most people speak English (and many speak it fluently), public transport is widespread and cheap and since Israel is the ultimate ‘start up nation’ you can be sure there’ll be all kinds of modern conveniences to make your trip a pleasure.Jaffa Port, Israel.Photo byFaruk KaymakonUnsplashOnce you’ve booked your flight, arranged your Corona paperwork (welcome to the Brave New World) and bought your travel insurance, the big question you’re going to face is what kind of accommodation to choose. And let’s face it - this is really important because where you choose to sleep is going to take up a considerable part of your budget.Now, one thing we have to admit is that Israel is not a cheap country to visit - and luxury hotels are eye-wateringly costly. Even so, that shouldn’t be a reason for you to avoid visiting, because there are plenty of ways to travel in Israel on a budget one of the best ones being to seek out accommodation that won’t break the bank. And the good news is that there’s something for every price range, whether you’re in the big cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem or roaming around the Galilee or Negev desert.From youth hostels in Jerusalem and cheap hotels in Haifa to private sublets in Tel Aviv, kibbutz accommodation in Galilee, and Airbnb rentals in Eilat, you just have to know where to search, and that’s where we come in. Take a look at some of our recommendations for affordable accommodation in Israel - and once you’ve booked one, hop on your flight and start enjoying yourself! Dead Sea Area, Israel. Photo byItay PeeronUnsplash1. Budget Hostels in IsraelSo fear not if the swanky Waldorf Astoria and ritzy Royal Beach are out of your reach, because there are still plenty of affordable options all over Israel, ensuring you can stay somewhere clean, comfortable and well-situated, without having to take out a mortgage. And the first option is budget hostels.Budget Hostels inTel Aviv, IsraelThe Spot - located in the Tel Aviv Port (Namal), and just a stone’s throw from the beach, the Spot Hostel offers a wide range of accommodation from ‘pods’ and ‘mini rooms’ as well as singles/doubles/family options. Close to the famous Dizengoff Street, and also Yarkon Park, they have a bar, screening room, co-working space and a great local breakfast included in the price. They also offer walking tours of Tel Aviv, beer workshops (!) and ‘open mic’ nights.Florentin Hostel - set in the cool, hipster neighbourhood of Florentin, sandwiched between Neve Tzedek and Jaffa, this modern five-floor building is clean, comfortable and quiet and, according to travellers, has spotless bathrooms! Popular with young backpackers, Florentin Hostel offers travellers the use of a huge terrace, breakfast and free walking tours of Bauhaus Tel Aviv.Florentin, Tel Aviv; Israel. Photo credit: © Jenny EhrlichBudget Hostels in Jerusalem, IsraelThe Post - this hostel has a unique past - the building in which you’ll stay was once the Central Post Office of Jerusalem. Designed by the British Mandate, it was designed in an international style, with touches of Jerusalem design. Walking distance both from Mahane Yehuda Market andJerusalem's Old City, the Post offer dorms and private rooms, as well as a large lounge, recreation room and rooftop bar! They also host bands, workshops and their kitchen is well-equipped.Jaffa Gate Hostel - Set inside the Old City wallsof Jerusalem, and an easy walking distance from the Tower of David, Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall, the Jaffa GateHostel offers both dorms and private rooms, late check-outs, no curfew and fantastic views from their rooftop. Consistently described in reviews as clean, friendly and inexpensive, it’s a slice of peace and quiet in the busy Old City of Jerusalem.The Post Hostel Lobby, Jerusalem, Israel. Photo take from theposthostel.comBudget Hostels in Eilat, IsraelAhla Plus - situated in a modern village in central Eilat (10 minutes from the beach) Ahla Plus offers hammocks, swings, a common lounge and an enormous kitchen. Comfy and stylish dorm rooms and colourful decor throughout, you can hire bikes and obtain helpful information on dive stores in the city, if you want to explore the Red Sea underwater.Budget Hostels in the Galilee, IsraelAviv Hostel - in a charming stone building, just outside Tiberias, this small hostel is just 2 minutes by foot from the Sea of Galilee as well as 2km from Hamat Tiberias National Park. Described as ‘homey’ and ‘comfortable’ the staff are incredibly helpful (even if you arrive late at night!) and also has a terrace/rooftop bar with great views.Sailing Boat at the Sea of Galilee.Photo byDave HerringonUnsplashBudget Hostels in Haifa, IsraelLocated in the charming neighbourhood of the German Colony, the owners of the Haifa hostel - Omer and Danielle - have a reputation for friendliness and the hostel itself is described as well-maintained, extremely clean and with great showers. They offer vegan pancakes with silan (date syrup) for breakfast, and the space has a ‘chilled’ vibe as well as a great co-working space.Budget Hostels in the Golan HeightsLocated in the Odem Forest national reserve, the Golan Heights hostel offers simply furnished rooms with free wifi, a shared living room, lockers and linens and a basketball court outside. Guests can use the kitchen and also the BBQ facilities outdoors. This is a good location if you want to horse ride, cycle, enjoy hiking trails or visit wineries. Mount Hermon, the Nimrod Fortress and the Banias Waterfalls are all within easy distance.Carmel Beach, Haifa, Israel. Photo byYousef EspaniolyonUnsplash2. Cheap Hotels in IsraelUnlike many other countries, the Israeli hotel ranking system doesn’t put much stock in the star category system, arguing that in these times of Tripadvisor, it isn’t a reliable indicator of quality. In any event, whether they’re right or wrong, it’s certainly true that you can read reviews online before you book, and judge for yourself. Cheap hotels in Tel Aviv, IsraelThe Port Hotel - in the fashionable ‘Old North’ of Tel Aviv, and close to the Namal port and Hilton Beach is the Port Hotel, which offers small but modern rooms, all with a private bathroom, flatscreen tv and a mini-fridge. Their roof terrace affords panoramic views of the city and theMediterranean Sea and the buffet breakfast is of good quality. Outside, you’re a stone’s throw from Dizengoff Street and Yarkon Park, and just a short cab ride from the city centre.Savoy Sea Side Hotel - just 2 minutes walk from the beach, and also the Carmel Market, the central Savoy Sea Side offers ‘intimate hospitality with a European flavour. This boutique hotel has a minimalist design throughout, and some bedrooms come with a bathtub. Breakfast is served on the roof terrace and is rich and plentiful. Travellers really seem to appreciate the welcoming staff.Aerial view of Jaffa and Tel Aviv, Israel.Photo byShai PalonUnsplashCheap Hotels in Jerusalem, IsraelThe Annexe - located in the Old City, just 600 metres from the Western Wall (Kotel), this gem of a budget hotel offers small and basic but clean and comfortable rooms each with its own kettle, desk and private bathroom. With its enviable location, it’s very close to some very popular sites, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of all Nations.De Cardo - this small boutique hotel offers real value for money and is close to the Old City, as well as many eateries and bars (some of which are open on Shabbat). They have very affordable family rooms, and whilst facilities are basic, everything is very new and clean. They do not provide food, so you will have to find breakfast elsewhere. The light rail is close by, for travelling around Jerusalem.Sunset in Jerusalem, Israel. Photo byDavid HolifieldonUnsplashCheap Christian Hotels in Jerusalem, IsraelAustrian Hospice - Located on the Via Dolorosa, in the Old City, the Austrian Hospice has been welcoming Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem since 1854 and has a stellar reputation for clean, comfortable accommodation and a hearty breakfast. They offer both dorms and private rooms and can accommodate groups (although you must plan ahead). The view from their rooftop is to die for and they also have a cafe which serves marvellous Austrian food, including schnitzel and homemade apple strudel with cream! Highly recommended.Rosary Sisters Convent Guesthouse - Situated just 5 minutes walk from the Old City, this comfortable and quiet guesthouse is run by nuns, whose profits are donated to charity. Accommodation includes 30 rooms (single, double, triple, some with baths) and dorms. They are clean and simple and everything is spotlessly clean. A continental breakfast is included in the price - lookout for the homemade preserves made of apricots from their garden. They also provide free coffee and tea all day.The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem, Israel. Photo bySnowscatonUnsplashCheap Hotels in Eilat, IsraelPalms Hotel - Palms Hotel offers good value for money, featuring a swimming pool, a children’s club, sun terrace and rooms with air conditioning and mini-fridges. A typical Israeli breakfast is served each morning and the hotel is just 10 minutes walk from the beach, cafes and bars and Eilat’s main shopping area. Cheap Hotels in the Dead Sea Area, IsraelThe Dead Sea doesn’t have too many budget options, but one we would recommend is the Hi Ein Gedi Hostel. Clean and comfortable, it’s a great option, especially for families and the views from the bedroom balconies are fantastic. The breakfast/buffet dinners offer lots of fruits and vegetables and they offer packed breakfasts if you’re setting off early to climb Masada at sunrise! The only drawback is that they’re 30 km from the beach, so you’ll need a car. Floating while reading a book at the Dead Sea. Photo byToa HeftibaonUnsplashCheap Hotels in Galilee, IsraelKibbutz Inbar Country Lodging - Nestled in the Galilee, this guest house/B&B has clean, comfortable lodgings for the independent traveller, as well as an outdoor pool (perfect for the hot months). Its location is excellent if you’re interested in exploring some of the most famous Christian pilgrimage sites in Galilee, including the Sea of Galilee, Nazareth, Capernaum and the Mount of Beatitudes.Cheap Hotels in the Golan Heights, IsraelZimmer Nof L’Hermon - a ‘zimmer’ in Israel is a cabin/suite/private guest accommodation and many of them are quite luxurious. This one is close to Mount Hermon in Majdal Shams, one of Israel’s Druze villages. Whilst not too fancy, it is fully equipped with a kitchenette, flatscreen TV, terrace and garden and the nearby hiking trails are spectacular. It’s also just 40 km drive from Safed, the mystical and charming town in the Upper Galilee, famous for its winding alleys and Artists’ Colony.Ruins of Capernaum Synagogue, Galilee. Photo credit: © Shutterstock3. Sublets in IsraelIn our modern world, we have a lot of options when it comes to finding accommodation and one thing that many people take advantage of now is Facebook, as a ‘marketplace’ to buy and sell. In Israel, it can be an incredibly valuable resource, since there are groups across the country (especially in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem) advertising rooms, apartments and large houses for sublets. Whether you’re looking for a pied-à-terre in the city or a villa up in the Golan Heights, it’s worth looking at what people are offering. As we’ve said before, most Israelis speak excellent English (and sometimes also French, Spanish and Russian) and it’s easy enough to chat with people online, or via WhatsApp.Subletting someone’s home can also give you a real feel for how locals live in Israel - you can ask your host beforehand for recommendations of ‘off the beaten track’ activities that many Israeli tourists never see, and because you’ll probably have access to a decent kitchen, you can make a trip to the local markets (such as the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv or Mahane Yehuda in Jerusalem) to pick up produce for your home-cooked meals.Nimrod Fortress in the Golan Heights. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin4. Airbnb in IsraelWe’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Airbnb here, because for many travellers it’s a simply indispensable resource. Israelis have embraced the ‘rent a room’ (or ‘rent a home’) concept in large numbers and all over the country, there are locals ready to welcome you into their lives, at very competitive prices.The obvious advantage of Airbnb accommodation - apart from being cheaper than most hotels - is that you’ll have an authentic stay and (much like subletting) you’ll hopefully find yourself in contact with friendly locals, who can give you lots of inside tips. Israel’s Airbnb offerings are incredibly varied - from private rooms in a shared house to the rental of tiny studios/apartments, which are functional, affordable and have everything you need to make your vacation comfortable and fun.A street in Acre, Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
By Sarah Mann

How to Get from Haifa to Jerusalem

By North American or European standards, Israel is not a large country. In fact, you can easily travel from one end to another i.e. the Golan Heights to Eilat, in a few hours. Whether you’re using the bus, train, taxi or renting a car, it’s easy to move between cities, which means you can pack a lot into your trip.Haifa Maritime Museum, Israel. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinToday, we’re looking at how to get from Haifa to Jerusalem. Haifa is Israel’s largest city in the north of the country and sits on the Mediterranean coast, on the slopes of Mount Carmel. Within the city itself, there are some fine things to see, including the iconic Bahai Gardens, the German Colony neighborhood (with its Templer houses), Wadi NisNas (with its tiny alleyways, old stone houses, and colorful market), and the National Museum of Science, Technology, and Space.Not too far from Haifa itself are beautiful nature reserves, parks, hiking trails, and also attractions such as Acre (an ancient Crusader City), Rosh Hanikra, in the Western Galilee, with its caves and grottos, and also Nazareth, the city where Jesus’ birth was announced by an angel and where Jesus himself spent many of his formative years.Of course, no trip to Israel would be complete without a visit to Jerusalem, a city of three world faiths and home to some extraordinary museums, places of worship, and archaeological sites. Staying in Haifa doesn’t mean a day trip to Jerusalem is out of the question either, as long as you’re prepared to make an early start. The actual distance between Jerusalem and Haifa is just 120 km (74 miles), which is really quite manageable. Let’s take a look at some of the ways to get between these two cities, and some step-by-step directions to make your journey run smoothly.Haifa View from Bahai Gardens Terrace.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin1. Bus from Haifa to JerusalemIsrael’s public network is cheap, efficient, and modern, and traveling from Haifa to Jerusalem is easy and inexpensive. Without traffic, the journey should take around 1 hour 40 minutes. There are different bus stations at which you can catch an Egged bus (Israel’s national bus line) including Haifa Merkazit Hamifrats/Inter-City Platform, Hof HaCarmel, and the Technion/visitors station.HaMifratz central bus station is the main bus station of the Haifa Bay district. It is next to Haifa's central railway station (see below under the ‘train’ section) and also the Lev HaMifratz shopping mall.Egged bus from Haifa to Jerusalem (№960) leaves from Floor 3 Haifa Merkazit Hamifrats/Inter-City Platform bus station, every 20 minutes. It takes, on average, 1 hour and 44 minutes, and a one-way ticket costs 36 NIS (11 USD).Hof HaCarmel is close to the sea and Haifa’s central bus station. It serves local buses within the city and all Egged buses heading south. Passengers can ask for a free transfer to urban buses when they buy their inter-city ticket to continue from one central bus station to the other one, or into the city. FromHof HaCarmelbus 947 runs less frequently but is also a direct service, taking just under 2 hours. Again, it costs around 36 NIS.Technion - the Israeli Institute of Technology has a visitors center and buses run from there.From the Technion University, it is possible to take the 796 to Mishmar HaGvul junction, walk 3 minutes then catch the 942 to Jerusalem. All buses alight at Yitzhak Navon, the central bus station in Jerusalem, which is adjacent to the city’s light railway (the best way to travel around Jerusalem). Haifa Bay View from Bahai Gardens. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin2. Trainfrom Haifa to JerusalemTaking the train from Haifa to Jerusalem is an excellent way to travel - Israeli trains are comfortable and modern and the service is frequent - every half an hour. At present, it is necessary to change trains at either Tel Aviv Savidor or Ben Gurion Airport stations - there is a connection time of around 11 minutes - before continuing on to Jerusalem. The journey, in general, takes between 1 hour and 42 minutes to 2 hours. Most tourists will wish to alight at Jerusalem’s main train station, Yitzhak Navon. Spacious and modern, it is conveniently located on Jaffa Road, next to the Jerusalem Central Bus Station and the light railway (which runs every 3-5 minutes, both to downtown Jerusalem and the Damascus Gate, in the Old City).Payment can be made by buying a ticket from the cashier's office, by booking through the Israel Railways website, using a green Rav Kav card loaded with pre-paid credit (which can be purchased from any station and many pharmacies and stores in Israel), or the Rav Kav mobile telephone app. The cost of a regular one-way ticket is 42 NIS (around 13 USD). Trains begin running at approximately 5.30 am and the last train leaves Haifa at approximately 21.30, arriving in Jerusalem two hours later (11.30 pm).Trains depart from three stations within Haifa itself - Center HaShmona, Bat Galim, and Hof HaCarmel. The largest of these is HaShmona which is situated at Plumer Square, on Independence Road. The station itself was built by the British under the Mandate, in the Bauhaus style, and opened in 1937.Bat Galim was Haifa’s major train station from 1975 until the early 2000s. It is within walking distance of the port and also the city’s Rambam hospital. Hof HaCarmel - located next to the Carmel Beach central bus station. Situated on Sakharov street - this is the city’s busiest train station. It is within walking distance of two shopping malls and the MATAM high-tech park. The train in Israel does not run between Friday afternoon and Saturday evening (two hours before Shabbat commences and an hour after it ends).Interior of the Israeli train.Photo by Lital Bamnulker on Unsplash3. Getting from Haifa to Jerusalem by TaxiTaxis are plentiful in Israel and it should not be difficult to find one to take you to Jerusalem. You can either ask your hotel concierge to book one for you or call one of the numerous operators in the Haifa area. You should look to pay somewhere between 700-800 NIS (215-250 USD). One of the most popular companies to use is BookTaxi.4. Getting from Haifa to Jerusalem with Private TransferPrivate transfers are very easy to arrange in Israel but it's advisable to book them through a trustworthy Israeli tour operator, who has contacts within the industry and can ensure you will be put in touch with a reputable and honest operator. Once you are satisfied with the quote, you will be charged by credit card and all matters forthwith will be handled by the tour operator, giving you complete peace of mind.At Bein Harim, we are always happy to help obtain quotes for people visiting Israel who need a private taxi - please call us or send us your details on our ‘Contact Us’ form and we will get back to you promptly, with a competitive offer.Taxis in East Jerusalem.Photo by Georg Arthur Pflueger on Unsplash5. Israel Shore Excursions from Haifa PortHaifa is becoming an incredibly popular destination for international cruise liners, and if you have a full day on land, traveling to Jerusalem is a wonderful idea. A ship-to-shore excursion to Jerusalem is really worth considering - you will be picked up at Haifa port by a private guide and whisked off to Jerusalem, giving you time to see world-famous spots, historical and religious landmarks, and even walk on the Mount of Olives. You’ll have a comfortable and interesting experience, and it will all be timed perfectly so you’ll return to Haifa before your ship leaves the port.6. Getting from Haifa to Jerusalem with a rental carRenting a car in Israel is a popular way to see the country. Rental charges are not exorbitant and using a car to get around gives you a level of freedom that nothing else can. Whilst parking can be a challenge in Jerusalem (and it may be advisable to pay for a spot for the day), it’s a fast way to get you from one city to the next. Taking Route 90 (Yitzhak Rabin Highway) will usually take about 2 hours, as long as there is not too much traffic on the road.Popular rental hire companies in Israel include Eldan, Hertz, Shlomo Sixt, and Thrifty, and, on average, renting a car costs around 260 NIS per day. All are convenient to work with, accessible, and competitively priced, and if you shop around beforehand you can get some great deals.View of Jerusalem Old City.Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash
By Sarah Mann

Historical Events in Israel: From the Byzantines to the British

The history of the Land of Israel, from ancient times, through the centuries, and up until present day, is incredibly rich and fascinating, full of twists and turns - no wonder there are no end of books on it. But if you don’t have time to read tomes when planning your perfect vacation in Israel, then let us do some of the hard work for you and give you a ‘potted history’ of the Holy Land.The Knights Halls in the Hospitaller quarter, Acre, Israel.Photo credit: © ShutterstockIn Part One of our series on major historical events in Israel, we took a look at certain ‘stand out’ events in the Bible, recorded in the nation’s first thousand years - from Abraham and Moses at Sinai to the eras of Kings David and Solomon, followed by uprisings against the Romans and the life and times of Jesus.Following on from this, today we’re taking a look at thousands more years of Jewish history, beginning with Byzantine Rule and ending with the British Mandate and plenty in between. From Persians and Crusaders o Arabs and Ottomans, we’ll do our best to give you a timeline on what, when and how in the Holy Land, from 313 to 1948. Ready? Then read on…1. Byzantine Rule in ancient IsraelBetween 313-636, ancient Israel was controlled by the Byzantines. Ruled over by Emperor Constantine, Christianity became widely practised in the Holy Land and churches were built in Jerusalem, Nazareth and the Galilee. The conquered territory was divided into three provinces: Palestina Prima, Palestina Secunda and Palestina Tertia and these provinces were part of the Diocese of the East.The Byzantines practised Orthodox Christianity but, compared to other periods in time, Jews fared well under their rule, at least the early part. This is because they occupied a legal position that was somewhat in ‘no man’s land’. They were not regarded as pagans, nor were they expected to convert to Christianity.Byzantine Cardo, Jerusalem, Israel.Photo credit: © ShutterstockInstead, they were granted citizenship (i.e. legal equality with other citizens) and, for the most part, allowed to worship as Jews. They were not forced to violate Shabbat or Jewish holidays and synagogues were their recognised prayer houses. (However, the ritual practice of circumcision was banned, since it was considered barbaric by the Byzantines).Unfortunately, by the beginning of the 5th century, Emperor Theodosius ruled that Jews were perfidious (since they had rejected Jesus) and forbade them from holding public office and increased their taxes. Intermarriage was forbidden, as was the building of new synagogues. Luckily for the Jews, the Byzantines had other problems within their Empire so enforcement of the last restriction was lax. Consequently, Jews continued to build, and in old synagogues across Israel today, you can find beautiful mosaic floors, depicting Byzantine-style art. Some of the best examples can be viewed at archaeological sites such as Tsipori, Tiberias, Beit Shean and Beit Alpha.2. Persian Invasion to Ancient IsraelAt the tail end of Byzantine rule came an invasion of ancient Israel by the Persians. They were helped by the Jews (who hoped to be ‘delivered’ from their lowly status) and, as a reward for the help, the Persians decreed that they could administer Jerusalem. Unfortunately for the history of Jews in Israel, this ‘halcyon period’ only lasted three years after which the Byzantine army reconquered Jerusalem and expelled its Jewish population.Beit Shean Roman Theatre, Israel. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin3. Arab Rule in Ancient IsraelBetween 636-1099, ancient Israel was conquered by the Arabs, who would rule ancient Israel for the next 450 years or so. Events began with the Siege of Jerusalem in 636, four years after the death of the Prophet Mohammed when the Rashidun army conquered the territory. In the next four centuries, a number of Caliphates would rule, first from Damascus and subsequently from Egypt.Initially, Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem and settle there. They were granted the status of ‘dhimmi’ (non-Muslims protected by law) and this gave them security over their property as well as freedom of worship. Of course, this came at a price - special taxes that they paid - but it certainly safeguarded their lives.However, as time passed, the Jews began to suffer more economic and social discrimination and, as a result, many of them left the country. By the end of the 11th century, the number of Jews in the land of Israel had decreased quite substantially.In the meantime, under the Umayyad Empire, caravan stops, bathhouses and places of worship were constructed, the most famous of which is the Dome of the Rock Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem. Built by Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan in 691, this Islamic Shrine is one of the best examples of architecture and, today, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Constructed on the Temple Mount, its golden dome makes it the city’s most recognisable landmark and, of course, it continues to be a focal point for Muslim prayer.Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount, Israel. Photo byThales Botelho de SousaonUnsplash4. The Crusaders Arrive in the Holy LandBetween 1099-1291, the Crusaders dominated the landscape of the Holy Land. Christian knights and peasants from across Western Europe heeded the call of Pope Urban to take up arms and aid the Byzantines in their struggle to recapture the Holy Land from Muslim control.The Crusades (or ‘holy wars’ as they are also known) were met with an extraordinary response from all sections of society. Military Orders were particularly well represented, including the Knights Templar, the Teutonic Knights and the Hospitallers, who made it their business to protect pilgrims travelling to and from the Holy Land.All in all, there were four major Crusades, the first of which culminated in the fall of Jerusalem and the slaughter of hundreds of its inhabitants, even though the leader Tancred had promised they would be spared. Today, if you visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City, you can still see endless crosses carved into the stone walls, left behind by Knights who took shelter there.As a result, Christian rule was established in the Holy Land. Castles were built in Acre and the Galilee and Crusader states were established far north of ancient Israel. Only in 1181 did Saladin (the first Sultan of both Egypt and Syria) reclaim Jerusalem. In front of the Damascus Gate and the Tower of David, Saladin's army bombarded the ramparts with arrows but only after six days, when he moved to the Mount of Olives, was he victorious.Jews fared little better than Muslims in the Crusader era - thousands were murdered (beheaded or thrown in the sea) and their synagogues. The Crusades set the tone for many more centuries of antisemitism, not just in the Holy Land but throughout Europe.Ruins of Yehiam Teutonic Fortress, Israel.Photo credit: ©Dmitry Mishin5. Mamluk Rule in PalestineBetween 1291-1516, it was the Mamluks who ruled the region. In Arabic, Mamluk means ‘one who is owned’ or ‘slave’ and these non-Arabs (who had, historically, served Arab dynasties in the Muslim world) came from a number of regions including Caucasia, Turkey and from Southeastern Europe.The Mamluks' years in power were marked by a major eradication of Crusader culture in the Holy Land. Not only did they prevent the Mongols from advancing into Syria but they were also extremely cultured - today, in Israel, and especially in Jerusalem, you can still see many of the buildings they designed.Initially, as with the period of Arab rule, Jews were once more granted ‘dhimmi’ status but as time passed, the Jewish community began to shrink. Where Jews continued to live, they were discriminated against in legal matters and forced to pay taxes on all manner of things, including the drinking of wine. Even so, despite these restrictions and laws, the legal position of Jews in the region was still far better than most of their fellow Jews in Europe. Mihrab (prayer niche) cut in the wall near Damascus Gate, Jerusalem. Photo credit: ©Dmitry Mishin6. Ottoman Rule in PalestineLife for the Jews improved considerably between 1517-1917, when the Ottomans conquered the region - in fact, many of the Jews driven out of Europe fled to the Holy Land, since they knew their chances of surviving there were better. Under the Ottomans, there were fewer restrictions for Jews in their daily lives and professions (even though they still had to pay a ‘head tax‘) but many decrees against them were not enforced and some Jews even rose to power in the Ottoman Court, as physicians and economists.Both Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews settled in the Ottoman Empire and many became successful in business enterprises. The Jews were allowed to be responsible for their own courts and schools and held a wide variety of political opinions - some were extremely loyal to the Ottomans, others were ardent Zionists.Ottoman building in Acre, Israel. Photo byShalev CohenonUnsplash7. First Aliyah to Palestine‘Aliyah’ in Hebrew means ‘to ascend’ (or ‘go up’) and is a term traditionally used when referring to the immigration of Jews from around the world to Israel. The First Aliyah (also known as the ‘agriculture aliyah) was a large-scale arrival of Jews to Palestine. Many of them arrived from Russia since waves of nationalism and antisemitism had led to pogroms (organised killings) in their birthplaces. Since immigration to Palestine has occurred before, the use of the term "first aliya" is controversial.The Jewish Virtual Library says that almost half of the settlers (3000 persons) did not remain in the country as they faced financial problems and did not have any experience in farming.A majority of the immigrants did move to cities, such as Rishon LeZion (‘First in Zion’). However, some of them - pioneers as they are now known - established agricultural settlements, particularly with the financial support of Baron Rothschild. These includedZichron Yaakov(nearHaifa), Metulla (in northern Israel) and Rosh Pina (in Galilee).Ohel Ya'akov Synagogue, Zichron Yaakov, Israel.Photo credit: © ShutterstockLife wasn't easy for the pioneers - when you factor in disease, lack of infrastructure, hard physical work and the hot climate, in retrospect it is astonishing how much they achieved with their labours. Nevertheless, the founding of these ‘yishuvs’ (agricultural communes) only served to strengthen their resolve to create a new kind of Jew - one who was both physically and mentally resilient, both a warrior and a farmer!The First Aliyah was also responsible for a resurgence in the cultural life of the Holy Land. Much of this can be credited to Eliezer Ben Yehuda, born in Vilna in 1858 who, after having moved to Jerusalem, vowed to transform Hebrew into a modern language, spoken by the majority of people arriving (at the time, it was only used for prayer).In this period, the National Library was founded and today houses books, photographs, maps and pamphlets and even poems written in the revived Hebrew language(now known as ‘Ivrit’). Incidentally, Ben Yehuda not only wrote the first-ever Hebrew-English dictionary but realised his dream - today, it is the national language of the State of Israel and spoken by almost nine million people! Quite some achievement.Old fashioned farming in the Biblical Garden in Yad HaShmona, Israel.Photo byGeorg Arthur PfluegeronUnsplash8. Second Aliyah to PalestineThe Second Aliyah took place between 1904-1914 when approximately 35,000 immigrants arrived in Palestine. The vast majority were from Eastern Europe (many fleeing pogroms in Poland and Russia) but some were from Yemen. Many of them were pioneers who joined the ‘old yishuv’ i.e. traditional Jewish communities based in Jerusalem, Tiberias, Hebron and Safed and this brought with it considerable urban development (most notably in Tel Aviv, which was founded in 1910).Although a minority of them were ideologically committed, without a doubt they left their mark. They were committed to the establishment of ‘Hebrew settlements’ (run as co-operatives) and many eventually became involved in politics - including Ben Gurion and Beri Katznelson. The framework they created would, undoubtedly, set the groundwork for the establishment of the future state of Israel.9. British Mandate Period in PalestineOttoman rule came to an end after 400 years when the British arrived in town and established the Mandate. The period of their rule lasted from 1918-1948 (from the moment General Allenby walked through Jaffa Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City (becoming the first Christian in hundreds of years to control the city). The British Mandate was a critical period in Jewish history for a number of reasons, maybe one of the most important being that it set the scene for the “Balfour Declaration.” In essence, this was when Lord Balfour, Britain’s Foreign Minister, pledged his support for the establishment of a ‘Jewish national home in Palestine’.The house of Paula and David Ben-Gurion in Tel Aviv, Israel.Photo credit: © Jenny EhrlichThough Israel would not be ‘born’ for some decades, this declaration had a major effect - Jewish migrants began arriving in earnest to Palestine and Jewish institutions began to take shape. However, as violent clashes between Arabs and Jews, unfortunately, became more common, support in England for the Mandate began to wane.Whilst the Mandate survived World War II, support for it was at an all-time low and after Jordan was given independence in 1948, Britain declared they would terminate their Mandate in Palestine on 14th May 1948. In that respect, they did accomplish one of their goals - hours earlier, the Israeli Declaration of Independence was issued. This leads us onto number 10…!10. The State of Israel is ProclaimedOn 14th May 1948, on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, David Ben Gurion read out a proclamation, declaring the birth of the State of Israel. Today this building is a museum and is called the Hall of Independence. Just eleven minutes later, the USA would recognise his decree, soon followed by the USSR. Jews everywhere danced into the street, celebrating joyously, even though they understood that a war with the Arab world was almost inevitable. Although the British army had withdrawn their troops earlier that day, the State of Israel officially came into being at midnight on 14th May 1948, when the Mandate was officially terminated. And then began a whole new era, with the first-ever Jewish state established. Watch this space for Part Three, when we’ll look at some of the major historical events in Israel from 1948 to the present day.Independence Hall where is The Israeli Declaration of Independence was made on 14 May 1948, was the Tel Aviv Museum.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
By Sarah Mann

Souvenirs in Israel

If you’re a first time visitor to Israel, not only are you going to be bowled over by the sheer variety of places to visit and things to see, you’re also going to be tempted at every turn by things to buy. And why not? After all, picking up something for yourself by which to remember your trip is a great idea.Assorted souvenirs at Jaffa flea Market, Israel.Photo byTamara MalaniyonUnsplashBut as well as souvenirs from Israel for yourself, what about your friends, family and colleagues, especially those who haven't visited, but are curious about the Holy Land. What are you going to bring back for them? Well, don’t worry - you aren’t going to return home empty-handed. An enormous number of different arts and crafts are produced in the State of Israel, including Judaica, jewelry, sculptures, ceramics, cosmetics, textiles and apparel. Today, we’re going to look at this history of how these items came to be popular and where you can purchase some of them, on your next vacation in Israel…The History of Arts and Crafts in IsraelThe history of arts and crafts in Judaism is an interesting and unusual one. According to the rabbis who penned the Talmud, obeying the laws that God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai is not in itself enough - it is also a great deed to carry out the rituals of prayer and worship in a way that is beautiful. As a result, many things associated with Judaism - both in the synagogue and in the home - were made as crafts, over the ages.These included menorot (candelabrum), mezuzot (the small ‘boxes’ that Jews attach to their doorposts, with a miniature biblical scroll inside), kippot (the head coverings that observant Jews wear) and many other ritual objects. Today, they can be found in stores across Israel, particularly in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and they make wonderful gifts for anyone you know back home who care about their Jewish heritage.In more contemporary times, whilst the British Mandate ruled Palestine, between 1917-1948, the crafting of metal jewelry, by new arrivals from Yemen, became very popular. At the same time, because of the large number of German immigrants who arrived in the Holy Land in the 1930s and 1940s, ceramics became popular. This was because many of those who arrived were potters, and soon established studios to carry out their profession.Traditional Jewish Menorah. Photo byLuis GonzalezonUnsplashToday, in Israel, you’ll see statues everywhere - not just in museums but in public life, in installations, along the cliffs of the crater in Mitzpe Ramon, outside Ben Gurion airport, all around the big cities and also dotted throughout the countryside. Indeed, there are many artists on kibbutzim and moshavim (agricultural settlements in Israel) who take advantage of their space to build workshops and sell their wares to people visiting. Weaving and textile production are also popular in Israel - indeed, as some have commented, Tel Aviv was a textile centre long before high tech came to town. The history is fascinating - because over the ages Jews were not allowed to join trade and craft guilds, textile and wholesale manufacturing became one of the few industries where they could earn a living.Jewish traders in Morocco and Spain, throughout the centuries, imported cotton and silk and were also well-known for their weaving. And in Austria and Germany, before World War II, the majority of department stores and retail businesses were owned and run by Jews. Not surprisingly then, when immigrants began arriving in Palestine / Israel, they brought with them their experience and skills, which is why their craftsmanship became renowned for its quality.Today, in Israel, both Jewish and Arab communities also have a history of wood and leatherwork. Israeli Arabs, in particular, have a long tradition of carving out of olive wood, as well as basket weaving, fine embroidery and glassware. There are also famous sculptors and artists such as David Gerstein (known for his metal statues) and Kadishman, well known for his colourful paintings of sheep! One thing is for sure - creativity abounds…Jewelry at the flea market in Jaffa, Israel.Photo credit: © ShutterstockTraditional Souvenirs in IsraelIf you want to err on the side of tradition, you can ‘play it safe’ and start your souvenir hunting in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital and home to stores both in downtown west Jerusalem as well as the enormous, bustling, vibrant market scene in the Old City.Judaica is constantly a popular gift from Israel and the number of Judaica souvenirs may quickly overwhelm you. As we mentioned above, if you’re looking for religious artefacts, then there are too many to mention - candlesticks, Kiddush cups (in which Jews bless their wine), challah trays (on which the delicious Friday night bread is served up). Hannukiot (the candelabra lit especially to commemorate the ‘Festival of Lights’ in the winter) embroidered bags for men to carry their ‘tallit’ (prayer shawl) and even beautifully decorated ‘seder plates’ for the Passover holiday.The Israel Museum in Jerusalem doesn’t just have a world-famous collection (including the Dead Sea Scrolls) but a wonderful gift shop, with many of the products inspired by different eras in the Holy Land. There, you can pick up vintage posters from the 1930s, books, stationery, accessories for the home and even beautiful paperweights, spelling out ‘Ahava’ (Love, in Hebrew) in the shape of the famous statue in their sculpture garden.Jewelry Souvenirs from IsraelJewelry souvenirs from Israel make a great gift - jewelry is something many women and young girls love receiving and whether you’re looking for a traditional or modern piece. How about a Hebrew name necklace? Or a pair of contemporary-style earrings from an up and coming artist in the Jaffa Artists Quarter? Star of David pendants are, for obvious reasons, very popular, as well as rings (which can come with biblical inscriptions). Pieces made with an Eilat stone (a beautiful shade of blue-green) also make wonderful souvenirs.Dead Sea salt island. Photo byKonstantin TretyakonUnsplashDead Sea CosmeticsYou can’t come to Israel and not go home with a souvenir from the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth and a place where all kinds of wonderful bath salts, mud packs, hand and foot cream, body lotions and moisturisers are on offer. Trust us, they smell amazing, and are also fantastic for your skin, since they contain local minerals such as magnesium, sodium and potassium from all around the area. Not only are these products made from top-quality ingredients, they’re vegan, gluten-free, and also eco-friendly (taking care not to pollute the delicate eco structure in the area) and their manufacture uses sustainable and green methods at every turn.Christian Souvenirs from IsraelYou are going to be spoilt for choice picking out religious souvenirs from Israel - whether you’re in Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nazareth or the Galilee region, there are an endless number of gifts from Israel you can pick up to take home with you. Jerusalem - walking through the streets of the Old City of Jerusalem is one of the things that people say is the best part of their vacation to Israel, and as well as the astonishing number of religious sites (churches, mosques and synagogues) there’s also a fantastic shopping opportunity. Traditional wooden Christian souvenirs in Jerusalem gift shop, Israel. Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinThis enormous Bazaar is packed to the gills with beautiful souvenirs - rosaries and crosses, soaps, Armenian pottery, traditional sweets like baklava and halva, and meaningful gifts for young adults, such as communion cups.Bethlehem - Bethlehem is the birthplace of Jesus and something that’s really worth picking up for a Christian friend is a wood carving of the Nativity scene. Also look out for incense, olive oil soap and icons depicting Jesus at the Last Supper.Nazareth - Nazareth is the city where Mary was visited by the Archangel Gabriel and where Jesus spent many of his formative years. After you’ve explored the Nazareth churches, go to the market and look out for the excellent local honey, scented candles and olive wood art.Galilee - when travelling around Galilee, the visit to the baptismal site of Yardenit is a must. Whether you’re a Christian pilgrim who wants to be ritually immersed in the Jordan, or simply a curious onlooker, this place is magical. It also has a large restaurant and an equally large store, with all kinds of Christian souvenirs. These include holy water from the Jordan river, crucifixes, anointing oil, religious candles and precious metal crosses.Icons and Judaica items in an Israeli gift shop.Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinCool Souvenirs from IsraelThere’s always going to be a friend or family member you know who likes something a little unusual in the way of a gift. Don’t worry - there are plenty of cool souvenirs in Israel to take home. In particular, we’d suggest a wander around Tel Aviv’s hippest (and often hipster) neighbourhoods, where you’ll see all manner of unusual items on display.Bauhaus Centre - Tel Aviv’s Bauhaus Centre, established to promote Bauhaus architecture and design in the ‘White City’ has a fantastic book and gift store in the heart of the city, on Dizengoff Street. Whether you’re looking for original Bauhaus items or something more contemporary, you’ll find something very unusual! Some of their most popular products include smooth-papered coffee table books, posters of 1930s ‘White City’ buildings, fridge magnets of historical figures in Israel (think Ben Gurion, Theodor Herzl, Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan), coffee coasters, sterling silver miniatures, and attractive and stylish clocks, bookends and pens.Jaffa Flea Market, Israel.Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinJaffa Flea Market- the ‘Shuk haPishpeshim’ - or ‘Jaffa flea market’ in English - in this historic area inJaffa, is adored by locals and visitors alike and a great place for a morning or afternoon out. Open six days a week, it’s the perfect place to rummage for bargains as well as hunt in vintage stores.Friday morning and afternoon is when it really comes to life - as well as the shopping, there are street musicians, funky bars playing all kinds of music, coffee shops to spend a few hours in and plenty of good eateries, where you can try some authentic Middle Eastern food - particularly hummus, shakshuka and knafe.One part of the market is strewn with tables, where you can poke around to your heart’s content, looking for old jewelery, postcards, badges, clothes, and toys. Some of the things are in pretty good condition too - the merchants arrive here at 5 am usually and the serious bargain hunters show up around 7-8 am but if you’re patient and a little lucky, you’re probably going to be able to find something ‘local’ to take home with you.A Jaffa cafe, Israel.Photo credit: © ShutterstockAs well as bargain hunting, there are a number of great vintage stores, selling furniture, light fixtures, retro posters of the State of Israel, beautiful rugs, and all kinds of accessories that wouldn’t look out of place in your home. Warning - these vintage stores aren’t particularly cheap, but the chances are that anything you do pick up is really going to be authentic. So if you’re the kind of person who prefers ‘mismatch’ to ‘department store’ then head here.Nahalat Binyamin - twice a week, next to the Carmel Market (Shuk haCarmel), artists around Israel set up their stalls for this special craft market, which sells all kinds of handmade goods. Whether you’re looking for jewelry, a puzzle game, a clock with the outline of Charlie Chaplin, or some local soap, this is where you should come. All of the stall owners are obliged to sell only their own products, so not only are you supporting local businesses but you can be sure that whatever souvenir you take home really is made by hand.David Gerstein Gallery - as mentioned above, David Gerstein is an internationally-recognised sculptor and one of his famous statues is a fantastic souvenir to take home with you. Whether you like the guy on the racing bike, the butterfly, a traditional ‘hamsa’ or something romantic like ‘1000 kisses’, these beautiful, vibrant pieces will add a certain something to any home and won’t fail to impress the recipient. Hamsa with Home Blessing Sale at Carmel Market, Tel Aviv.Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinFood Souvenirs from IsraelThey say that Israel is the land of milk and honey, so why not take back some kind of sweet treat as a souvenir? Israel is famous for producing Medjool dates (grown both in the Arava desert and the Jordan Valley) and something else worth picking up is ‘silan’ which is a marvellous date honey syrup. Halva - a sesame candy (similar to fudge, but made from a nut or tahini base, instead of butter) is also delicious and easy to pack in your suitcase.Olive oil is produced all over the Galilee region and is top quality - from mainstream types to boutique brands, which you can order online or pick up whilst on a day trip or driving tour in northern Israel. And, finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Bamba - Israel’s favourite snack. Adored y babies, kids and adults alike, this peanut-flavoured treat is utterly moreish - and incredibly light to pack (which means you can buy plenty of it). Enjoy whatever you buy - and enjoy your trip to Israel!Spices sale at Carmel Market, Tel Aviv.Photo credit: ©Dmitry Mishin
By Sarah Mann

Emmaus

Israel is an fantastic country to visit, whatever your background and faith, but for Christians there is incredible significance in making a journey to the Holy Land. Whether wandering through the narrow streets of the Old City of Jerusalem and gazing at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, visiting the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, where the Angel Gabriel informed Mary she was with child, or exploring the Galilee, where Jesus spent many of his later years ministering, the experience is usually a very profound one.An NRSV Bible open to the title page of the New Testament. Photo byTim WildsmithonUnsplashOf course, as well as the ‘must see’ Christian holy sites in Israel, there are also many places more out-of-the-way, which are imbued with religious significance. One of these is Emmaus and although it is not particularly well-known, it has a fascinating history. Not only is it linked to the resurrection of Jesus but, in recent times, archaeologists have excavated remains that point to it possibly being the site where the Ark of the Covenant was placed. Let’s take a look at the background of this place to try and understand more about its significance for scholars, archaeologists, and also modern-day Christian pilgrims.Etymology: What does Emmaus mean?The name ‘Emmaus’ is thought to be a Hellenized (Greek) version of the Hebrew name Hammath. The name Hammath comes from the root חמם (hamam), meaning to be warm and in modern-day Hebrew is used to describe hot springs. A spring of Emmaus (Greek: Ἐμμαοῦς πηγή), or alternatively a 'spring of salvation' ( πηγή σωτήριος) can be found in Greek sources. Emmaus is mentioned by this name in two Midrashim (Rabbinic/Biblical interpretations) - Midrash Zuta for Song of Songs and Midrash Rabbah for Lamentations and Ecclesiastes. Historically, Emmaus was a relatively common name in the Levant and even today, across the Middle East, many sites are called Hama, Hammath (e.g. Hamat Gader), and other variations on this theme.Silhouettes of man and woman near a cross. Photo byJunior REISonUnsplashEmmaus in the Christian BibleEmmaus is mentioned in the third of the Gospels (the Gospel of Luke) as the place at which Jesus appeared to his disciple Cleopas and a friend, who were walking on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus (possibly a distance of between 10-12 km). According to Luke, the story takes place on the day of Jesus’ resurrection. The two disciples had heard that the tomb where Jesus had been buried was now empty and were discussing the matter. Luke goes on to state:And it happened that while they were speaking and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him … as they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on further. But they urged him, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is declining." So he went in to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him. Luke also recounts that after the three of them ate supper at Emmaus, Jesus scolded the two of them for their lack of belief and taught them about the prophecies of the Messiah. Emmaus is not mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew or John; in the Gospel of Mark a similar story is mentioned, but with no particular reference to Emmaus.Red Bible on a wooden table. Photo byTim WildsmithonUnsplashWhere was the exact location of Emmaus?Historians have debated this question hotly for many years and the answer is, we don’t really know because references to its precise location are quite vague and in manuscripts of the Christian Bible there are references to at least three different distances between Emmaus and Jerusalem. Among the contenders are the sites of Emmaus Nicopolis / Imwas, Al-Qubeiba / Castellum Emmaus / Chubebe / Qubaibat, Kiryat Anavim / Abu Gosh, Coloniya, El-Kubeibeh.Emmaus Nicopolis / ImwasThis site is the oldest of the possible locations and, today, many Christian pilgrims regard Emmaus-Nicopolis as the place at which the disciple Cleopas and his friend encountered Jesus after he had risen from the dead. It was Eusebius of Caesarea who first raised the idea of Nicopolis as the site of Emmaus.Eusebius was a Greek historian whose account of the first centuries of Christianity is a landmark text for historians. Jerome, who later translated Euebius’ book, insinuates that there was a church in Nicopolis, built in the house of Cleopas, and this was where Jesus and the two disciples broke bread together. Other sources that talk of Emmaus include the first book of the Maccabees, the writings of the Roman historian Josephus and accounts from the late Roman, Byzantine, and early Muslim eras.In the modern era, it was the explorer Edward Robinson who was first said to have found the location of Emmaus - he believed it was the Arab Palestinian village of Imwas, close to the Latrun Monastery. Imwas was destroyed in 1967 but before then it was situated close to the Judean hills, about 23 km from Jerusalem via the Kiryat Yearim ridge.Latrun Trappist Monastery, Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinThe Walk of EmmausToday, many of these pilgrims, as a way of recreating this journey, set out to walk the route called the ‘Emmaus Hike’. This begins at the Saxum Visitor Centre (just outside of the village of Abu Gosh), runs for 20 kilometers, and has a number of different trails. Just as interesting, part of the route pilgrims take today was once a Roman road that connected Jerusalem with the port of Jaffa, and it is more than 2,000 years old. Along the trail, there are a number of interesting archaeological sites, including the remains of a Byzantine basilica.Al-Qubeiba / Castellum Emmaus / Chubebe / QubaibatAnother possible location for Emmaus is the town of Al-Qubeiba, northwest of Jerusalem. In Arabic, it means ‘Little Domes’. In 1099, a Roman fort by the name of Castellum Emmaus was discovered there although historians do not believe it was named ‘Emmaus’ at the time Jesus lived. By the 12th century, the Crusaders had named the site ‘Small Mahomeria’ (as opposed to ‘Large Mahomeria’ which stood near Ramallah). In 1335, the site was taken over by the Franciscans, who began organizing pilgrimages there each year and in 1902 built a church there.By the Second World War, the British Mandate held prisoners of Italian and German heritage at Emmaus Qubeibeh and between 1940-1944, the archaeological Bellarmino Bagetti carried out excavations there. He found a number of artifacts from different periods - Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, and Crusader - and subsequently carried out some explorations.Olive groves around Latrun, Israel.Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinAbu Ghosh / Kiryat AnavimThe village of Abu Gosh is situated about 12 km from Israel’s capital, in the middle of the Kiryat Yearim Ridge, with Nicopolis on one side and Jerusalem on the other. The explorer Edward Robinson (see above) estimated that it dates back to the Crusader era and considered it to be the best-preserved ancient church in Palestine. When the 1940s excavations were carried out, archaeologists found ‘Fontenoid’ which was a site the Crusaders regarded as Emmaus, before they reconsidered and accepted Nicopolis as the ‘authentic’ Emmaus.Abu Gosh itself is situated in an area of Israel where some of the earliest humans lived - excavations have shown habitation dating back to the Neolithic period. Today it is famous for its excellent hummus (many Israelis will admit to having driven long distances to eat there) and its famed choral music festival, taking place twice a year, in the spring and the fall.In this festival, choirs and musicians not just from Israel but across the world come to perform in two of the churches in Abu Gosh. As has been commented, the opportunity for Jews to visit a Muslim community and hear music in a Christian place of worship is really an excellent example of working towards peace. Judean Hills, Israel. Photo byBenjamin GrullonUnsplashEmmaus / Colonia / Motza / Ammassa / Ammaous / Khirbet MizzaSituated between Jerusalem and Abu Gosh, also on the Kiryat Yearim Ridge Route, is Colonia. It was referred to in the Hebrew Bible, in the book of Joshua, as ‘Mozah’ and in the Talmud as a place where people came to cut down tree branches to celebrate the harvest festival of Sukkot. The historian Joseph Flavius wrote in ‘Antiquities of the Jews’ about the Maccabean Revolt, and in this instance mentions a city named Emmaus, which seems to link up with the idea of Emmaus being Nicopolis (in terms of its distance from Jerusalem). However, in ‘The Jewish War’ he talks of a second location from Emmaus, where Roman legions settled after the First Jewish Revolt. Latin manuscripts talk of ‘Amassa’ and Greek manuscripts ‘Ammaous’ but once the Roman legions (‘colonia’) had arrived, these names were soon forgotten. The name ‘Colonia’ survived for a long time - the Jerusalem and Babylonian Talmud both refer to ‘Qeloniya’ (the Aramaic term for Colonia) and in Arabic, the name still exists, in the form of ‘Qalunya’. In 1881, William Birch (who was part of the Palestine Exploration Fund) identified what he called ‘Motza’ as the Emmaus mentioned in the Gospel of Luke. Less than 2km to the north is a ruin named Khirbet Beit Mizza, which some scholars believe to have been the biblical Mozah. Contemporary excavations now place Mozah at Khirbet Mizza.The Gospels set from Alabaster Co.Photo byLauren KanonUnsplashTouring Emmaus todayNorth of Emmaus’s church complex you can find a very well-preserved Roman bath complex. Archaeologists believe it is in such a good state because the structure was considered holy by Muslim conquerors, and built a cemetery around its edges over the years. It is possible to visit Emmaus today by car - the entry fee is very small and it is just off Highway 1. Alternatively, it is possible to take a private tour of Jerusalem and/or the Judean Hills area - you will be able to customize the tour exactly to your needs and visit there for as long as you desire.
By Sarah Mann

Top Attractions in Eilat

Lying at the very bottom of Israel, nestled on the coast of the Red Sea, lies the city of Eilat. Today, a premier vacation spot, it wasn’t always this way - indeed, until the 1970s it was nothing more than a quiet fishing village. However, as Israel became an increasingly popular tourist destination, this tiny spot began growing into the resort it is today - complete with luxury Eilat hotels, excellent cafes and restaurants, and all kinds of attractions.Eilat Coral Beach, Israel. Photo credit: © Doron Nissim. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks AuthorityYear-Round Sun and Year-Round Fun!And with its year-round warm climate, it’s the perfect place for anyone (Israeli or tourist) to head if they’re seeking sunshine, beaches, warm waters and plenty of fun, both for kids and adults. The Eilat weather is a big draw too - in the winter months, temperatures are extremely pleasant (between 21 and 25 degrees in the day), which makes it an ideal place to escape grey winter climes. And in the summer, even though it’s the hottest spot in Israel, it’s still a popular place to head for some ‘R&R’...Long Weekends and Chillout Vacation in EilatSince Israel’s a small country, travelling the length and breadth of it is not too difficult. Eilat is within easy travel distance of both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where many tourists spend their time. Public buses run regularly (and are inexpensive), driving down from the centre of Israel to the tip will take around 5 hours and flying directly between Ben Gurion airport and Eilat Ramon airport is circa 45 minutes. So it really is a place you can visit for a long weekend! Below we’re taking a look at some of the most popular things to do in Eilat, from water sports to camel riding, jeep tours and hiking in the nearby mountains, and even hopping over the border to Jordan, to visit the lost city of Petra or explore the fascinating Wadi Rum desert, made famous by Larence of Arabia.Reefs at Eilat Coral Beach, Israel. Photo credit: © Assaf Zvuloni. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority1. Underwater Observatory ParkFor anyone interested in marine life (young or old) this has got to be on your list of ‘must see’ things in Eilat. The Underwater Observatory Park is a fantastic way to learn about life under the sea without even getting wet, and there are enough displays inside to keep you occupied for ages!There are over 35 aquariums (with more than 800 species of rare fish and marine creatures), some of them only found in Eilat! Kids also love the ‘Shark Pool Complex, where - as they walk through a transparent tunnel - it's possible to gaze at these astonishing creatures, up close and personal!The observatory is also home to manta rays, giant turtles, jellyfish and even the Googly-Eyed Glass Squid. It’s hard to believe that you’re just six metres below sea level, as you watch so many species in their natural habitat. For an additional cost, you can also take a trip out in one of their glass-bottomed boats, or visit the ‘Aquadome’ and learn more about the humpback whale. Wow…2. Eilat Coral Beach Nature ReserveThe Eilat Coral Beachnature reserve is also a national park and the northernmost shallow-water coral reef in the world. Extending for 1,200 metres off the coast of Eilat, it is an ideal place for snorkelers and divers to explore marine life - its delicate natural habitat is full of colourful fish as well as astonishing plants. On land, the beach is well cared for and the nature reserve guards helpful, the showers and restrooms are clean and pleasant and there’s also a snack bar. Underwater enthusiasts…this attraction is for you!People getting ready for snorkellingat Eilat Coral Beach, Israel. Photo credit: © Doron Nissim. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority3. Dolphin Reef in Eilat, IsraelEilat’s ‘Dolphin Reef’ has got to be on your bucket list - it’s a magical, extraordinary and unique way of enjoying a few hours with these magnificent creatures, watching them frolic and swim that’s not just natural but also belongs to them. The ‘reef’ is home to a number of bottlenose dolphins (as well as their offspring) who ‘choose’ to live here (i.e. there are no nets to keep them in). The owners have done this deliberately, to foster the idea that the bond created between visitors and dolphins is truly authentic.Once you’ve entered, there’s a secluded beach, hammocks and structures where you can sit and wait for the dolphins to appear - some will swim up to you, so you can actually pet them. It’s possible to sit very close by and watch, as they are fed. It’s also a wonderful place to relax, with a book, or a drink from the beach bar, staring out at the Red Sea.It’s possible to snorkel in the area (and there’s plenty to see) and for the truly hooked, there’s also the opportunity to dive with the dolphins…you’ll get a wetsuit and flippers and be taken out by a professional. The Dolphin Reef is perfect for a day out - whether you’re a family with young children, a couple who are looking for something romantic to do or simply someone who loves these intelligent and adorable animals.Dolphin Reef Beach, Eilat, Israel. Photo bySilviu GeorgescuonUnsplash4. Camel Riding in Eilat, IsraelTaking a camel ride is something many people dream about when planning a trip to Israel. Well, just a few kilometres from Eilat’s the Red Sea are mountains and deserts, so this is a no brainer. The ‘Eilat Camel Ranch’ offers visitors the chance to take a journey through the Arava desert, enjoying clean air, panoramic views and tranquillity. The silence as you trek is extraordinary - and all the camels they use are female (apparently more well-behaved than the males!), well-fed and trained, and very friendly. Visitors can choose from four different treks - we’d recommend the two-hour sunset ride, with a cheese platter to follow!P.S. For serious adrenalin junkies, they also offer a ‘Rope Line’ which consists of 700 metres of routes, including swings, climbing nets and ziplines.5. Snorkelling and Diving in Eilat, IsraelEilat is a veritable paradise for anyone who likes to snorkel or dive. All the way down from Coral Beach nature reserve to the border with Egypt is full of coral and just a few metres down, you’ll be able to see as much as if you were 30 metres below! When you dive in Eilat, you can also walk straight into the water - so no boat is necessary.Freediver-girl snorkelling across the sea.Photo byIsrael GilonUnsplashBecause the water is so clear, in one short dive you might see a host of tropical fish and dolphins besides! Although Israel only has a tiny part of the Red Sea (compared to other surrounding countries), it’s pretty magical. If you’ve already passed your test and have a PADI licence, it’s very easy to rent tanks and other equipment from one of the many dive centres in the area. You can, of course, just dive with your buddy but there are many trained guides who can take you out to spectacular places, including some wrecks.Two of the best of the wrecks, we think, are Satil and Yatush. Satil was an Israeli navy speedboat from the 1960s, and today is home to numerous schools of fish. You can explore the missile launching area, the bridge and the engine room. Yatush is deeper down (around 28 metres), so you’ll have less time to spend there, but that gives you ample opportunity to enjoy the tropical fish and corals when you descend. Prepare to be overwhelmed - Eilat’s waters contain so many species, including triggerfish, clownfish, butterflyfish, lionfish, scorpionfish, frogfish, sea snakes, moray eels, octopus and barracuda. Some lucky divers might even spy a whale shark in the summer months. And because the water is so clear, you won’t feel deprived if you’re simply snorkelling, rather than diving. Grab those fins, masks and tanks…Red sea, Eilat, Israel.Photo byVitaliy PaykovonUnsplash6. Jeep Tours in the MountainsIf you’re the adventurous type, then we’d definitely recommend a jeep tour into the Eilat mountains, with a 4x4 vehicle. Driven by a professional and knowledgeable guide, you’ll spend several hours exploring desert landscapes in the Eilat Mountains, including the Red Canyon, Doum Palms, Ein Evrona Nature Reserve, Wadi Raha, and the Flamingo Pools. If you go later in the day, you may also be able to spot animals that only come out into the desert once the sun sets…7. Visit Jordan - Petra, Wadi Rum & AqabaEilat is just a hop, skip and a jump from the border with Jordan, so why not consider making a trip to one of Israel’s neighbours? Jordan’s most popular attraction, by any stretch of the imagination, is Petra, which - located in the south of the country - is just two hours drive from the border, making a day trip to this Lost City quite possible. Wadi Rum, Jordan. Photo byLior DahanonUnsplashIf you take a Petra tour and leisure day in Eilat, you can combine fun and history! After sunbathing, coral reef exploration and some cocktails at sunset, spend the next day exploring this Nabatean gem, complete with Treasury, Monastery and rose coloured rock formations. Wadi Rum - this astonishingly beautiful dessert is also known as the ‘Valley of the Moon’ and is a valley cut into sandstone rock and granite. It was made famous by Lawrence of Arabia and is home to caves, canyons and springs. It is a great destination for adventurous travellers, since you can hike, rock climb, take 4x4 jeep tours and horse rides. It’s also popular to sleep there in Bedouin camps, where traditional dinners are provided.Aqaba - Just a 12-minute drive from the Yitzhak Rabin border, Aqaba makes an ideal day trip. Like Eilat, it’s situated on the Red Sea and offers the visitor an interesting combination of city life, beach life and history. Like its neighbour, it’s also a good place to enjoy water sports and sunbathing and there are also plenty of shops, as well as places to eat authentic local food.Al-Khazneh (The Treasury), Petra, Jordan.Photo bySnowscatonUnsplash8. Desert explorationThere’s plenty to see in the nearby desert including: Timna, one of the Arava desert’s most popular attractions and no wonder. About 25 km north of Eilat (a short drive, by bus or rental car), it sits in 15,000 acres in a valley shaped like a horseshoe, surrounded by dramatic steep cliffs. As you hike around, you’ll see wondrous rock formations, naturally formed millions of years ago (look out for ‘the mushroom’) as well as an ancient copper mine. Unbelievably, there’s also a lake (yes, a lake!) at which you can take shade. Yotvata Hai-Bar - About 35 minutes drive from Eilat (by bus or car) lies the Hai-Bar, a phenomenal nature project, designed to bring back animals to this area that were once extinct in Israel (particularly the Arabian oryx and Asian wild ass). Spread out over 3,000 acres, it is home to snakes, Griffon vultures, sand cats and even spotted leopards. The Hai Bar is divided into three areas. The first is where herbivorous creatures live, the second includes carnivores such as wild cats, hyenas and leopards (as well as birds of prey and lizards/snakes) and the third is a darkroom area, where you can watch creatures in their nocturnal state (such as bats). Because the reserve is open only during the day, the hours are reversed, so you will see activity!Hai-Bar Yotvata Nature Reserve, Israel.Photo credit: © Doron Nissim. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority9. Hiking in the Red Canyon, IsraelThe Red Canyon provides hikers with an easy and accessible trek, with the ‘classic’ trail just 2 km (which means you can take kids along). Just a 20-minute drive north of Eilat, it gives you the opportunity to enjoy natural canyons. Named because when the sun hits the sandstone, it turns a reddish colour, it’s amazing to think that these rocks were carved by wind and water over thousands of years.Our tip: if you want a hike that’s a little more challenging, follow the ‘black trail’ (which goes along two creeks and affords wonderful photo opportunities). This trail should take about 1 hour 30 minutes to complete.10. Shopping in Eilat, IsraelWhen all else fails, why not go shopping? Eilat has a reputation for being the cheapest place in Israel to shop - that’s because it’s in a free trade zone which is exempt from VAT. This means that prices here are very competitive, so whether you’re in the market for beach attire, Judaica, Dead Sea products or Medjool dates from one of the nearby kibbutzim, the bill is most likely going to be cheaper than anywhere else in Israel. Get out your wallet!Moutains near Eilat.Photo byGregory AtkatsonUnsplash
By Sarah Mann

Historical Events in Israel: From Abraham to Bar Kokhba

When visitors arrive in Israel today, they are often surprised to see an incredibly modern country, with gleaming highrises, raved-about cuisine, renowned academic and scientific institutions, and a booming hi-tech industry. Stereotypes about locals riding around on camels and not speaking English are quickly crushed as they realize that Israel is at the forefront of so much innovation, particularly the bustling beach city of Tel Aviv, with its 24/7 action.View of Tel Aviv from Jaffa. Photo byReiseuhuonUnsplashWhat makes this even more amazing is that Israel is an incredibly young country - not even an octogenarian in people terms! Created in May 1948, a huge amount has been achieved in these 73 years and who knows what lies ahead? But what about important historical events in Israel long ago?The fact is that whilst Israel, in many respects, is an incredibly modern country but it’s steeped in extraordinary history - it’s everywhere you go, in its seaports, Herodian cities, Crusader castles, Roman defenses, and Old City walls. Ancient Israel is thousands of years old, and in the time before it took for David Ben Gurion to declare independence in Tel Aviv, a great deal happened.We realize that, whether you’re a first-time visitor to Israel or you’ve been here many times, this can all be a little confusing, which is why we’ve decided to put together some ‘Top Ten’ list covering what we think are some of the most important events in ancient Israel’s long, chequered and glorious history. We are not scholars, so we’ll try and keep it succinct, but - remember! - Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the Land of Israel. Here goes…Part One of our ‘Historical Events’ series, beginning with Judaism’s beloved Patriarch, Abraham.Cows in Shaar HaCarmel National Park, Israel. Photo credit: © Oksana Mats1. Abraham arrives in the Land of IsraelIt was Abraham, the father of monotheism (a belief in the One God) who was the first protagonist in the fateful story of the Jews. Commanded by God to leave his birthplace, he set off on a long and arduous journey to the land of Israel.Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (his son and grandson) would become the three Patriarchs of the Jewish religion and the Hebrew Bible is filled with extraordinary stories about their lives. These include God’s blessing of Abraham (to make him the father of a great nation), the binding of Isaac, and Jacob’s stealing of his brother Esau’s birthright.Jacob would go on to have 13 children, 10 of whom would be founders of tribes of Israel. In the latter part of his life, famine forced the Israelites to migrate to Egypt, where Jacob would finally be reunited with his beloved son Joseph (owner of the fabled coat of many colors).Cave of the Patriarchs (Sanctuary of Abraham), Hebron, West Bank. Photo byDan RosensteinonUnsplash2. The Ten Commandments are given to MosesIn terms of major historical events in Israel, this really has to be up there. It was at Mount Sinai where Moses, Judaism’s most important prophet, received the Torah (which in Jewish terms means the first five books of the Hebrew Bible), including the Ten Commandments. These are considered to be the blueprint for the ethics and worship in Jewish life up until today - they are the laws that Jews (and also Christians) strive to abide.Without a doubt, Moses was an extraordinary hero of the Jewish people, who led the Jews out of slavery in Egypt (famously parting the Red Sea with his staff) and led them, after many years of wandering, to the Promised Land. As he stood at Sinai, he entered into a covenantal relationship with God and, as a result, delivered God’s words to his people. Moses is considered to have been the only person who ever saw God ‘face to face’ (atop Sinai) and his actions are also indicative of a renewing of God’s covenantal relationship with Abraham, long before.Sunset on Mount Sinai. Photo byVlad KiselovonUnsplash3. The Eras of King David and King SolomonThis really was a golden era, by any standards. Named ‘the United Monarchy’ period, it refers to the United Israelite kingdom of Israel and Judah, during the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon, whose story is told in the Hebrew Bible. Scholars estimate that it lasted between 1047 BCE and 930 BCE. Under King David’s rule, the Judean dynasty was founded and all the tribes of Israel were united. Born a shepherd boy, he famously slew the giant Goliath with nothing more than a slingshot, then served at King Saul’s court as an aide. After going into hiding and living as a fugitive and “Robin Hood’ figure, he was anointed King at the age of 30. Following this, he conquered the city of Jerusalem, established it as Israel’s capital, and made the Ark of the Covenant the focal point of the city. David was a talented musician, poet, and lyricist, many of the biblical Psalms are ascribed to him and in prophetic literature, he is the forefather to the Hebrew Messianic Age. In Jerusalem today, there are endless references to David - his tomb, King David’s Tower, and the underground City of David, which is 3,000 years old.King David’s Tomb, Jerusalem, Israel. Photo credit: © Oksana MatsEven the Bridge of Chords (a striking architectural masterpiece, located at the city’s entrance) has been deliberately shaped to resemble his harp (its cables representing strings). After his death at 70, his son Solomon replaced him as King. Known for his ruthlessness in dealing with political opponents, he appointed close friends in positions of government and reinforced his position as King through military means (infantry, cavalry, and chariotry). Solomon was also both a master builder and a sage (hence the phrase ‘ the Wisdom of Solomon’). He was responsible for the erection of the First Temple of Jerusalem, the national and spiritual center of the Jewish people, as well as an enormous building program throughout the entire nation. Deemed wiser than any other sage, the Hebrew Bible's Book of Proverbs tells the famous story of his adjudication between two women, each claiming to be the mother of a baby, and his profound conclusion. Moreover, the ‘Song of Solomons’ - also in the Hebrew Bible - is an extraordinarily beautiful love poem, attributed to him. Today, Solomon is revered both in Judaism and Christianity for his wisdom and is regarded by Muslims as a prophet.Solomons pillars, Timna Park, Israel.Photo byRaimond KlavinsonUnsplash4. HellenismIn 332, the land of Israel was conquered by Alexander the Great, a brilliant Greek leader and a great force in history. He ushered in an era of Hellenism (rule characterized by the culture of ancient Greece). However, the Jews fared better under him than they had done under the Romans and came to an ‘arrangement’ with them. The ‘pact’ they made was that in return for paying taxes and behaving in a loyal fashion towards him, they could remain autonomous.On the positive side, Jews survived (i.e. were not slaughtered en masse, as they had been in Roman times). The flip side of their acquiescence was that the door was opened to Greek culture and a certain level of assimilation. It also led to the creation of a tax system that was so corrupt, the Jews hated it long after Alexander had died.5. The Maccabees RevoltBetween 167-160 BCE, a revolt by the Maccabees took place against Hellenistic influences and the Seleucid Empire. King Antiochus IV introduced a number of repressive anti-Jewish measures, including making the Second Temple a site of a pagan cult. A group of Jewish fighters, led by Judas Maccabeus (Judah Maccabee) and they even had an early victory, capturing Jerusalem.Although Judah was killed in a subsequent battle, eventually the Greeks were expelled from Jerusalem and the Maccabees went on to establish the independent Hasmonean Kingdom, which ignited a sense of Jewish nationalism.Ben Shemen Forest near Modiin, where the Maccabees Revolt started. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin6. Jewish independence under the Hasmonean monarchy.The subsequent period, which lasted until 63 BCE, saw the Jews living independently in the Hasmonean kingdom. It was an extremely unstable dynasty and the Hasmoneans were not conventionally Hellenistic, rather a ‘national monarchy’. Initially triumphant, Jewish life flourished but eventually, their reign became quite corrupt and within a few decades, Rome’s power began to be felt. Eventually, the Hasmonean dynasty fell, leading to the installation of Herod the Great as King, who made Judea into a Roman client state. 7. The Capture of Jerusalem by the RomansA dark period in Jewish history, in 63 BCE the Roman General Pompey captured the city of Jerusalem and installed a puppet king. Friction ensued and three years later culminated in the First Jewish Revolt. By the spring of 70 BCE, Jerusalem was besieged by General Titus. The Romans cut off supplies to the city by encircling the walls, quickly driving the Jews inside to starvation. By August of the same year, the Romans were inside the Old City, ransacking and burning as they went, and then massacring many of the remaining population. They subsequently destroyed the Second Temple (today, only a trace of it remains, in the form of the Western Wall). The Romans celebrated their victory by building the Triumphal Arch of Titus at the foot of the Palatine Hill, in Rome’s Forum.The Roman rule would continue for hundreds of years, with King Herod (who became one of the most powerful monarchs in the Roman Empire), who remodeled the Temple. After his death, ancient Israel would come directly under Roman administration, and great suppression of Jewish life, culminating in the defeat of ancient Israel's last Jewish outpost, Masada (see below).The Judean Desert view from the top of Masada Fortress, Israel. Photo byDaniel LeeonUnsplash8. Jesus of Nazareth’s Ministry in the GalileeJesus, regarded by Christians as the son of God, spent his formative years in Nazareth but the latter part of his life - between around 20-33 BC, traveling around the Galilee, ministering. After being baptized in the Jordan River, by John the Baptist, he recruited his twelve disciples and began preaching in synagogues, casting out demons and healing people.He is known for miracles such as calming seas and walking on water, feeding a crowd of 5,000 with two fishes and five loaves, turning water into wine at a wedding, and raising a man from the dead. Today, all around the Galilee are places of extraordinary importance for Christians (theGospel Trail), including the Mount of Beatitudes, near Capernaum and Tabgha.Here Jesus gave his famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’, the ‘Wedding Church’ at Kfar Cana and Yardenit baptismal site.Eventually, Jesus left Galilee for Jerusalem, where he was betrayed by his disciple Judas, and crucified by the Roman authorities, before rising from the dead, three days later.Capernaum, established during the time of the Hasmoneans, Israel.Photo credit: ©Dmitry Mishin9. The Jewish Revolt at MasadaThis ancient desert fortress, built by King Herod, located on a plateau in the Judean desert and close to the Dead Sea, was a place that would truly be remembered in history for years to come. Meaning ‘Support’ or ‘Strong Foundation’ in Hebrew, it was at Masada that the Jews there made a last heroic stand against the Romans.In 66 CE, the Jewish leader Eleazar Ben Yair fled Jerusalem (for Masada, to command a group of Judean rebels. Once the Romans had destroyed the Temple, they turned their sights to Masada, the last community (with just under 1000 rebels living there). Led by the military leader Flavius Silva, thousands of Romans built camps at the bottom of the fortress, as well as a siege wall and a ramp, by which they planned to storm through. The rebels held out for two years but in April 73 CE, it became apparent to them that they had lost. Rather than surrender and be captured as slaves, they followed the instructions of Bey Yair and committed suicide en masse. For several centuries, Masada remained uninhabited although, during the later Byzantine period, a group of monks built a monastery there. Two centuries later, when the Muslims conquered the region, the fortress would be abandoned once more. Today, Masada is one of Israel’s most famed attractions and is beloved both by tourists and Israelis.It is a popular site for touring, military commendation ceremonies, and bar mitzvahs (the ritual where a 13-year-old Jewish boy comes of age). Its opulent palaces, storerooms, Roman baths, and extensive water system make it a site of major archaeological importance in Israel and at an emotional level, Jews identify with it as a symbol of courage, resilience, and hope.Ruins of Masada Fortress, Israel. Photo credit: © Shutterstock10. Bar Kokhba’s uprising against RomeThis rebellion by Jews in Judea was led by Simon Bar Kokhba and was fought against the Romans sometime between 132-136 CE. It was the last of three major wars the Jews fought against the Romans. After Emperor Hadrian had spearheaded a series of measures to hellenize the region (including the outlawing of circumcision and the erection of a temple to Jupiter over the remains of the Jewish Temple) Bar Kokhba and his followers stormed the Roman colony of Aelia in Jerusalem. Eventually, the battle between the Jews and the Romans became so fierce that Hadrian himself visited from Rome and ordered 35,000 men to fight the rebels. Gradually, the Jews were worn down and in 135 CE Bar Kokhba, himself was killed, in Bethar, southwest of Jerusalem. The rebels were quickly crushed, Judea was abandoned and the Jews were barred from entering their holiest city.To be continued.A man riding a donkey on the road to Jerusalem. Photo byIva RajovićonUnsplash
By Sarah Mann

The History of Cinema in Israel

For a small country, Israel has not just a thriving film industry but a nation of cinema aficionados. Indeed, even in the era of home streaming and Netflix, you’ll find movie theatres across the country packed out, both for blockbusters and small, independent films. Whether it’s a film by a local director or the latest James Bond, Israelis will be there…and this is reflected in famous Israeli movies competing internationally and winning many awards over the years.Cinematographer’s room.Photo byNoom PeerapongonUnsplashIn Israel today, the population is just under 9 million people but there are 10 film schools and seven international film festivals held each year! Even though cinema attendance has declined in the last 30 years (well, this is true of almost everywhere in the world today), film directors are still hard at work, producing works that showcase Israel across the world as a vibrant, modern nation, not without its dilemmas but constantly changing.The History of Cinema in IsraelBefore the state was established, there were many cinemas in Israel (see below), initially silent movies. Baruch Agadati established the AGA Newsreel and directed an early film called ‘This is the Land’ in 1935. Also, the children’s author Zvi Lieberman had two of his books turned into films and one of them - ‘Over the Ruins’ - is considered to be a ‘landmark’ in the history of cinema in Israel. After Israel came into being in 1948, different genres of film emerged. These included:1. Documentary / Propaganda films in Israeli cinemaThese were filmed for several purposes - not only were they informative (letting Jews around the world see how the new state of Israel was faring), but they also served as a means of persuasion i.e. encouraging Jews to emigrate, not to mention attracting donations. Two of the most important of these filmmakers were Ya’acov Ben-Dov and Lazar Dunner. The latter was responsible for the short color film entitled ‘A Day in Degania’, showcasing the first established kibbutz in the country, in the Galilee. In 1953, the Israeli Public Information Administration was established and subsequently produced many propaganda films - they dealt with current affairs, news to do with agriculture and health. These films gave foreigners a glimpse into Israeli Society and were a powerful tool of instruction.Сinema Sign. Photo bySamuel Regan-AsanteonUnsplash2. ‘Bourekas’ films in Israeli cinemaThese ‘comic melodramas’ were popular in the 1960s and ’70s. Often real tearjerkers, they played on ethnic stereotypes of Ashkenazi (European) and Mizrahi (Sephardic-Arab world) Jews and stuck to a predictable format. In general, this would involve a canny, street-smart Mizrahi man trading insults with a conceited, cold, arrogant Ashkenazi man. Whilst highly popular, with their slapstick humor, they were also criticized for being ‘shallow’ and ‘low brow’. Today, they are no longer made but many have obtained cult status, including ‘Sallah Shabbati’ by Ephraim Kishon, ‘The Contract’ directed by Menachem Golan, and ‘Hagiga B’Snuker’ by Boaz Davidson.3. ‘New Sensitivity’ films in Israeli cinemaStyled after the new wave French movement, this genre of film was popular in Israel in the 1960s and 1970s. Promoting both artistic and aesthetic values, it was a somewhat modernist style. Films at this time included “The House on Chelouche Street” by Moses Mizrahi, “Hole in the Moon” by Uri Zohar, and “But Where Is Daniel Wax?” by Abraham Zeffer.A spectator in the cinema. Photo byKaren ZhaoonUnsplashMovie Theatres in Israel - Past to Present‘Kolnoa Eden’, Tel Aviv - The Eden cinema dates from the turn of the 20th century and was one of the earliest cinemas built in Tel Aviv. It was founded by Moshe Abarbanedl and Mordechai Wieser in 1914, even though residents of the neighborhood (Ahuzat Bayit) objected strongly.During the First World War, it was closed by the Ottoman government but reopened under the British Mandate and was a true center of social and cultural activity. It even served as a live venue in 1923, when it hosted ‘La Traviata’ performed by the Palestine Opera! It remained popular into the 1950s and 1960s but closed its doors in 1974. Mograbi Cinema, Tel Aviv - The Kolnoa Mograbi (Mograbi Cinema) was an art deco cinema that opened in 1930, in central Tel Aviv. For years it was, arguably, the city’s most famous cinema and during holidays people often gathered in front of it - indeed, after the 1948 partition and establishment of the State of Israel, it was one of the places where locals broke into spontaneous dancing and cheers of joy. It remained a city landmark for decades afterwards but, following a fire in 1986, it was demolished.Cafe Lorenz, Tel Aviv - In 1905, Cafe Lorenz opened to the public in Jaffa Road in the neighborhood of Neve Tzedek, with the Lorenzo family screening films there and 20 years later, the Kesem Cinema (‘Magic Cinema’) was housed there for a short period. Turned on projector.Photo byJeremy YaponUnsplashEsther Cinema, Tel Aviv - Built in 1930, it opened as the ‘Dizengoff Square’ cinema (because of its location but the following year was renamed ‘the Esther Cinema’. Built in the Bauhaus style of architecture (popular in Israel in the 1930s, because of the number of German Jewish architects who had arrived in the city), it was commissioned by Esther and Moses Nathaniel. Very modern for its day, it had seating for 1000 people, air conditioning and a cafe. Soon, it became a social and cultural hub, holding lectures and political meetings too. What makes this building special even today is that it was restored and renovated, made into a boutique hotel called ’Cinema’. Great care was taken to keep the exterior in keeping with the 1930s and inside you can see the original staircase, chandeliers, and a display of projectors and movie posters. It is fair to say that, today, this building is one of the most striking in Tel Aviv.Alhambra Cinema, Jaffa - Located on Jerusalem Boulevard in Jaffa, and designed in Art Deco style by Elias Al-Mor, this cinema opened in 1937 and was named after the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain. Owned by Palestinians, it was used as a cultural institution as well as a cinema, then as a theatre in the 1960s. After being abandoned for a long time, it was restored in 2010 and now is home to the Scientology Centre. People watching a movie in a movie theatre. Photo byKrists LuhaersonUnsplashCinema International, Jerusalem - This silent movie theatre opened in Jerusalem on Jaffa Road in 1912. Housed in Feingold House, it screened silent feature films but with no regular showings - it all depended on how many tickets were sold! Smadar, Cinema Jerusalem -Situated in Jerusalem, in the German Colony, this cinema opened for commercial screenings in 1935 and was soon known as the ‘Orient.’ Jewish management took it over (since originally it had been a German-owned business) and after 1948 it was purchased by four young soldiers, three of whom were later bought out by the fourth, a movie lover called Arye Chechik. It became a real family business - he sold tickets and worked the projector, whilst his wife sold sweets at a nearby stand!The Armon, Haifa -Moshe Greidinger opened this cinema in 1935 - a building that could seat 1,800 and in art-deco style. Soon it became the hub of Haifa’s entertainment scene, being used not just as a movie theatre but also as a music venue for the Israeli Opera and Israeli Philharmonic.Clapboard plays an important role in the video production process. Photo byJakob OwensonUnsplashMovie Theatres in Israel TodayToday, many of the small, independent cinemas in Israel have closed down, since they cannot compete financially with the big multiplexes, in the form of ‘Cinema City’ and ‘Yes Planet’. However, that does not mean that there is no demand for independent productions - on the contrary, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa are all popular, and not just on a day-to-day basis but for the film festivals they hold.Cinematheque Tel AvivOpened in the spring of 1973, and located within walking distance of the historic part of the city, Tel Aviv Cinematheque and movie archive boasts five screening halls. It shows all kinds of films, both Israeli and international, and hosts a number of festivals. In the fall of 2011, its ‘sister’ the Israeli Cinema Centre opened next door to it. This wing is much larger than the original and boasts three screens, a library, and a restaurant. Cinematheque JerusalemThe Jerusalem Cinematheque was opened in 1981, the brainchild of George Ostrovsky, Lia van Leer and the then-mayor of the city, Teddy Kollek. Situated at the Valley of Hinnom (on Hebron Road), it boasts spectacular views of the Old City. With four screening halls and the growing film archive, the Cinematheque is a real treasure for all movie fans. Screening a mixture of commercial, Israeli, and international films (as well as gems from its archives) it regards itself as a leading platform for the promotion of local cinema. Its Film Archive preserves and showcases films from the beginning of Israeli cinema until modern times and is an exciting venue both for established and up-and-coming film directors. People at the movie theatre. Photo byErik WitsoeonUnsplashCinematheque HaifaThe Haifa Cinematheque was also established by Lia Van Leer and her husband Wim, but long before its Jerusalem counterpart - actually in the early 1950s. Today it offers visitors the choice of 40 plus films each month, screened in two different theatres. These include old and new films, restored prints, and retrospectives.Recognized Israeli Film DirectorsThere have always been classic Israeli films that are loved by its people, but until the last 20 or so years, they didn’t really break onto the world scene. All that has changed now and more and more tales of life in Israel, focusing both on the secular and religious worlds, as well as politics, music, and love, are ending up on the big screen. Ari Folman was nominated for an Oscar in his groundbreaking ‘Waltz with Bashir’, following the story of an Israeli soldier who battles mental health issues after fighting in the first Lebanon war. Eytan Fox became famous after his film ‘Song of the Siren’ (in 1994) was released, taking a comic look at an Israeli woman’s convoluted love life in the midst of the Gulf War. In 2002, ‘Yossi and Jagger’ was released, a touching portrayal of two men in love, whilst in the midst of their army service. And in 2006, ‘The Bubble’ aired a very personal film for Fox who, openly gay, wanted to deal with the subject of coming out of the closet.‘Footnote’ by Joseph Cedar, was released in 2001, and later won the ‘Best Screenplay Award’ at Cannes. Exploring the troubled relationship between a father and son who both work at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, it is both touching and poignant. Black and silver cameras with film reels. Photo by昔日少年寻不见onUnsplashCinema Festivals in IsraelIsrael holds a number of film festivals each year, which are well-attended. And because of its fascinating history and people, there’s a story to be had on every street corner, which means there are plenty of Israeli directors at the screenings too. The oldest of these festivals is the one held in Haifa, which began in 1983 and is held every year around Sukkot time (between September and October). Not only are there all kinds of screenings, but each night there is a program of cultural events, which includes outdoor film screenings, live music, and an artists’ market close by.Hot on the heels of Haifa is the Jerusalem International Film Festival (JIFF) which was first held in 1984. Ever since, each July, it screens between 150 and 200 films, giving both locals and tourists the opportunity to see some of the finest films that have just been made. A cinema sign, crafted into the ironwork.Photo byNick FewingsonUnsplashNor is Tel Aviv shy in this department, especially when it comes to documentaries. Docaviv, (the Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival) was founded in 1998 is the largest festival in Israel, drawing audiences of up to 40,000. And there’s also TLVFest, which focuses on films related to the LGBTQ movement, supporting pluralism in one of the world’s most gay-friendly cities.Moreover, there is the Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival, which promotes young filmmakers, starting out in the industry. Each June it shows more than 200 short films from around the globe and its prizes are highly coveted. Held at the Cinematheque, events include masterclasses, exhibitions, conferences, and artist workshops. Running now since 1996, it has developed a real reputation for innovative cinema.If you are visiting Israel for one of these film festivals and would like to organize a day tour or private tour within the country, please feel free to contact us by phone or email. We are always happy to help!Cool looking movie theater popcorn bags. Photo byCorina RaineronUnsplash
By Sarah Mann