Israel Travel Blog


Deserts in Israel

Israel receives a great deal of tourism, which is no surprise - it has beaches, nature reserves, archaeological sites, endless places of worship, the exciting city of Tel Aviv and the spiritual mecca of Jerusalem. You can ski in the Golan Heights, dive with tropical fish in the Red Sea, explore Herodian ruins and Crusader towns in Caesarea and Acre and trek for hours in pastoral settings. And that’s before you’ve even got started on the hundreds of museums, art galleries and music venues that are dotted all over the country.The stunning landscape of Judean Desert, Israel. Photo credit: © ShutterstockWhat people often don’t think of, however, when talking about things to do in Israel is spending time in the Israel desert region. So is Israel mostly desert? Indeed, many people don’t actually realise that almost two-thirds of Israel’s landmass is actually desert - beginning in Beer Sheva. This southern city, just an hour and a half’s drive from Tel Aviv is a gateway to three of the deserts of Israel - the Negev, Arava and Zin which stretch all the way down to Israel’s most southern point - Eilat. The fourth, the Judean Desert, can be found east of Jerusalem, extending down to the Dead Sea.The early Zionists, who arrived in Israel at the turn of the 20th century had a vision - to transform the country and, in particular, the empty desert lands. “It is in the Negev that the creativity and pioneer vigour of Israel shall be tested,” said David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister. The deserts of Israel have indeed bloomed in the last half a century. Indeed, more and more Israeli families, today, are trading in city life for the Negev desert.Mamshit, the best restored ancient city in the Negev Desert, Israel. Photo credit: © Doron Nissim. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks AuthorityStarry Nights, Rustic Zimmers and Plenty of Fresh AirThe fact is that the desert part of Israel has low levels of pollution, so not only will you be able to breathe well, you’ll also be able to see more stars at night than you ever imagined. Israel’s south is a paradise for wildlife too - yaelim (ibexes), camels, birds of prey...not to mention springs and oases you can stumble upon, after walking for hours in barren areas. Even better, when the rains have come in winter, the north of the country, the Negev, Arava and Zin areas remain pretty dry (unless you’re witness to some flash flooding which, although potentially dangerous, can also be fascinating to watch).The Negev, Arava and Zin areas are best visited between October/November and March/April before temperatures rise to uncomfortable levels. Days are warm and you may well end up with a suntan, although when the sun leaves the sky and night falls the temperatures drop dramatically, so arrive prepared (with plenty of warm clothes). In the last 20 years, more Israelis have moved south and the result is noticeable - small farms that sell local goats cheese, an artists' quarter in Mitzpe Ramon, with an artisan bakery next door, vineyards set up by enterprising folks, and all kinds of accommodation - from modern campsites and rustic zimmers to luxury hotels and glamping sites in the Israeli desert with every amenity you can think of, and then some! Tourism is booming and the desert is blooming!Shivta, an ancient city in the Negev Desert, Israel. Photo credit: © Doron Nissim. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks AuthorityFrom canyons and craters to hiking trails and chocolate toursToday we’ll be looking at the first three, those covering much of the south of Israel. The fact is that if you’re prepared to get out of your comfort zone, you’ll be overwhelmed by what you see in this part of the country. Whether it’s exploring the astonishing Ein Avdat canyon, admiring the extraordinary views from atop the crater at Mitzpe Ramon and its surroundings, hiking in the desert,or trekking in Timna National Park, with its red-orange coloured rocks, you’ll have an experience many of your friends back home will envy. Finally, get ready for some adrenaline-rush activities too - whether it’s rappelling down the side of a cliff, taking a four-wheel-drive jeep tour, riding horseback, mountain biking, or running a desert marathon - an Israeli desert experience is a treat for the adventurer. And if you’ve got young kids, that’s no barrier either - they can enjoy petting alpacas and antelopes at different farms, taking ‘chocolate tours’ at the Yotvata kibbutz and sleeping in a Bedouin tent on a mattress. Let’s take a closer look at the famous deserts in Israel…Nubian ibexes on the edges of Makhtesh Ramon, Israel. Photo credit: © Jenny Ehrlich1. The Arava Desert, IsraelThe Arava desert, which is divided into the Central and Southern regions, is a valley that begins in the Dead Sea and stretches all the way down to Eilat, bordering Jordan to the east. It covers about 1500 square kilometres and, historically, was part of the ancient Incense Route.The Arava desert climate is, by any standards, harsh and unforgiving. It is extremely dry, with low annual rainfall (around 25-50 mm) and temperatures that can often soar to above 45 degrees in the height of summer. The Arava also suffers from a continuous lack of water - this is not just because of low levels of precipitation but also because there are very few permanent sources of water. Flash Floods, Sandstorms and Extreme Temperatures in the Arava DesertBecause there has been so little rainfall for tens of thousands of years, soil development and rock erosion are very slight. This means the saline content of the soil can be quite shallow and very high in saline. Temperatures also vary dramatically between day and night and summer and winter. As a result, conditions for growing are not optimum and flora and fauna face many challenges. Most plants live in the dry riverbeds (where occasionally there are flash floods) and also have to cope with the occasional sandstorms, which spread across the desert very quickly!Historically, the Arava is home to the remains of several Israeli fortresses at Ein Hatseva (‘Ein’ means ‘spring’ in Hebrew). This spring is a source of fresh water in the area and clearly the area had strategic significance since it was perched on a hill. Many fortresses were built in this area over around 1,000 years, serving as military centres for the area, as well as a spot through which caravans could pass. The Arava Desert landscape, Israel. Photo credit: © Jenny EhrlichNature reserves, solar power farms and birdwatching sites in the Arava DesertSomething else that makes the Arava interesting is that, notwithstanding its inhospitable arid climate, there are still many species that live and thrive in the desert - hyenas, reptiles, scorpions, spiders and an array of unusual birds. A great place to see them is at the Hai-Bar Yotvata Reserve, which is run by the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority. The Hai Bar, about 35 km from Eilat, and located near Yotvata kibbutz, on salt flats, was established with the goal of returning to the Arava and Negev Desert animals that lived in biblical times. These ‘lost’ species are now being bred here and include gazelles, sand cats, ostriches, asses, leopards and wolves. Once grown, many are released into the desert.In terms of employment, many of the Arava’s residents today are involved with tourism and agriculture, using cutting-edge technology to make this barren part of the country fertile. Arava farmers today are involved in vegetable and fruit production, flower growing and all kinds of environmentally-friendly projects, including algae growing, solar power and fish farming.Indeed, many of the kibbutzim in the area - including Lotan, Yotvata, Ketura, Neot Smadar and Yahel - offer tourists the opportunity to look around their premises - between them, they have dairy farms, cafes and restaurants, a ‘chocolate milk’ tour and ice cream making workshops at Yotvata and birdwatching facilities at Lotan. Many of them also offer overnight accommodation in the form of lovely zimmers (rustic cabins, with modern touches, and a hearty Israeli breakfast included the following morning).A Desert Oasis and a Farm in the Arava Desert, Israel.Photo credit: © Jenny Ehrlich2. The Negev‎ Desert, IsraelThe Negev is a desert (and semi-desert) in the southern part of Israel, characterised by rocky brown mountains, craters and wadis (dry river beds that flourish for short periods after rainfall). The Hebrew root of the word comes from the term ‘dry’ and in Arabic, it is called ‘an-Naqab or an-Naqb’ meaning ‘mountain pass.’The Negev Desert is bordered on the west by Egypt and to the south the Arava. Geologists believe the area to be around 1.8 million years old, giving it the distinction of being the oldest discovered surface on earth. Broadly, it can be split into different parts - western and central, northern, a high plateau and then the Arava Valley. The northern part receives a fair amount of rain (around 300mm annually) and its soil is quite fertile, whilst the western part receives less - around 250 mm annually - and has soil that is more sandy. The central Negev receives only 200 mm of rain each year, and its soil is far more impervious. The high plateau - the Negev Heights - is between 370 metres and 520 metres above sea level and has extreme temperatures - freezing cold in the winter and extremely hot in the summer. The Arava, as discussed previously, is the most barren part of the country, with very little rainfall and scorching summer heat.Much like the Arava, there is not an enormous amount of vegetation in the Negev but, still, quite a lot of flora and fauna flourish. If visitors are lucky, they may catch a glimpse of Persian fallow deer, golden jackals, striped hyenas, Arabian oxen and for sure they will see Ibex, who number into their thousands in the area.Sha'alvim, The Negev Desert, Israel. Photo by Julia Gavrilenko on UnsplashThe Negev Desert in Ancient and Modern IsraelIn the Hebrew Bible, the Negev is mentioned in Genesis (Abraham lived there for some time) and Numbers, when Moses sent 12 scouts {spies) on a reconnaissance mission to the Promised Land. Later the northern part was inhabited by the Tribe of Judah and the southern part by the Tribe of Simeon, before being incorporated into the Kingdom of Solomon.Nomads lived in the Negev for thousands of years from the 10th century onwards - they were (and are) known as Bedouins, who were sheep and goat farmers who moved around constantly. Today they still form small communities and many of them offer traditional hospitality to tourists, in the form of visits that include a camel ride, dinner and overnight accommodation.As of 2020, around 700,000 people are living in the Negev desert and that figure is expected only to increase in the next 10 years, as more and more people make the move south - those with farming ambitions, entrepreneurs and people looking for a quieter way of life. Reflections of trees in a puddle, Sde Boker, the Negev desert, Israel. Photo by Vered Caspi on UnsplashTourism has boomed and, as a result, all over the Negev, it’s possible to find accommodation - camping sites, private cabins, Bedouin tents and upmarket hotels (Bereshit, in the Negev Hills, boasts luxurious accommodation overlooking the Ramon crater, some of the rooms even with their own private swimming pools).Moreover, today, some Israelis are taking a leaf out of the book of the Nabatean (an ancient Semitic people) who, years ago, developed techniques of terracing and conserving winter rains. Today, the Negev boasts wineries and goats cheese farms, as well as a popular artists' quarter in Mitzpe Ramon, where tourists can take ceramic classes. So between hiking the Shvil Israel, yoga retreats, high-octane sports activities (rappelling down cliffs and jeep tours) and watching meteor showers in the summer, the Negev really does have something for everyone and is the perfect getaway from Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, since many of its attractions are only 2 or 3 hours drive away, making a short break (or even a day trip) very easy.The Negev Mountain Reserve, Israel. Photo byItay PeeronUnsplash3. The Zin Desert, IsraelThe Zin Desert (also known as ‘the Wilderness of Zin’) refers to a geographic area somewhere between the Arava and the Negev - interpretations differ. Actually, the term used has two different meanings - one biblical and the other modern. Historically, the Zin Desert is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible - firstly in Numbers and then again in Psalms, as the ‘Wilderness of Kadesh’. English translations make a distinction between ‘zin’ and ‘sin’ and, indeed, the ‘Wilderness of Sin’ is mentioned in the Bible as a place close to Mount Sinai.Today, in Israel, the ‘Zin desert’ refers to a southern desert area made famous by the British Explorer Thomas Lawrence, better known as ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. A British archaeologist, diplomat and army officer, his writings about Arab culture and Palestine of the day made him famous (after all, who hasn’t heard of the 1962 film?). Indeed, it was in the Zin desert that he made an expedition and ultimately carried out a survey of the entire Negev desert.Ibex in the Negev Desert, Israel.Photo byAvi TheretonUnsplash‘Neve Tzin’ is also referred to today as an area close to Kibbutz Sde Boker and the Midreshet Ben Gurion (where Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, is buried). Its crags and crevices overlook huge valleys, which are home to all kinds of birds including vultures, falcons and tawny owls - its clifftop walks offer stunning views and the immense wide spaces are the perfect place to take a moment and appreciate the emptiness. To sum up, as you can gather, Israel’s miracle in the desert is not only astonishing but something that, in all probability, will continue to grow. From desert eco-tours in Israel and fish farming to olive farms and vineyards, what was once a barren and inhospitable part of the country has been - and continues to be - transformed. Treat yourself to some time there - whether visiting an olive farm, hiking in Timna, visiting one of the many kibbutzim or camping out under the stars, you’ll come away longing for more.To visit Israeli deserts, join our private tours.Tel Beer Sheva Archeological Site, the Negev Desert, Israel.Photo credit: © Doron Nissim. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority
By Sarah Mann

How to Get from Jerusalem to Eilat

The great thing about traveling in Israel is that it’s a pretty small country, which means that whether you’ve got a few days or a couple of weeks at your disposal, you can still see a great deal. For many tourists, an ideal trip for them in Israel means combining relaxation with culture, beaches with mountains, sea with deserts, and the old with the new.Eilat at night, Israel.Photo credit: © Oksana MatsWell, you don’t get much older than the city of Jerusalem and you don't get much newer than the Red Sea resort town of Eilat! Jerusalem - holy to three major world religions, a city steeped in history and spirituality, a city renowned for its golden Dome of the Rock, ancient stone walls, and tiny, narrow alleyways...a city like no other.You can get lost in Jerusalem, and we don’t mean just in the backstreets of the Old City, but lost in yourself. With its religious landmarks (the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and the Western Wall), its endless museums (of which Yad Vashem and the Israel Museum are must-visits), and its charming neighborhoods (the German Colony, Ein Kerem, Nachlaot near the thriving Mahane Yehuda Market) Jerusalem is fascinating, charming, and sometimes a little ‘intense.’Eilat, on the other hand, is anything but overwhelming. It’s the quintessential ‘fun’ city in Israel, with its sandy beaches, warm Red Sea waters, and endless leisure activities to keep you amused. Whether you want to snorkel or dive, sun yourself on Coral Beach, pet dolphins, rent a jet ski, or even take a day trip to Petra, the ancient Nabataean city in Jordan, and just two hours drive from Eilat. And at night, you’ll never be short of places to eat, drink and make merry. Israel’s most southern city really is the perfect place to kick back after a few long days in the capital. Let’s look at the different modes of transportation from Jerusalem to Eilat, and find out which one is best for you.Incense shop in the Old City of Jerusalem, Israel.Photo byChristian BurrionUnsplash1. How to Get from Jerusalem to Eilat by Bus from the Central Bus Station, Jaffa RoadTraveling from Jerusalem to Eilat by bus is a good option - it’s not expensive (public transport is subsidized in Israel), buses run regularly and the journey is pretty comfortable. You’ll always recognize the national bus service in Israel because their fleet has a distinctive green and white logo - they’re called Egged. The distance between Jerusalem and Eilat is 318 km (197 miles) and, without traffic, the journey takes just over four hours.There is a direct bus 444 from Jerusalem to Eilat - and it leaves from the third floor of the Jerusalem Central Bus Station. There are four buses a day and the bus makes several stops en route, at which you can get out and stretch your legs, take a bathroom break and get a cup of coffee. Tickets cost 82 NIS one way (approx. 25 USD).In terms of availability, you can definitely show up and just hope for the best - either buy a ticket from the counter in the station (all representatives will speak a certain level of English) or simply pay the bus driver in cash when you board. You can also use a Rav Kav card (a green public transport card easily purchased across Israel, onto which you can load credit).However, if you want to be assured of a seat (and the route certainly does get busy just before Jewish holidays and in the summer) you can also order your ticket online, via the Egged website, or by calling customer service on +972 3 694 8888 or *2800.Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinSomething else - in case you can’t get a seat for the direct journey, it’s also reasonably convenient to take a bus from Jerusalem to Beer Sheva (Israel’s gateway city to the Negev desert) and from there change buses. It’s the same bus station, so you won’t have to make a big journey, and it’s full of cafes and bakeries, as well as shops and places to grab a falafel - arguably Israel’s favorite snack.Egged bus 470 leaves from Jerusalem to Beer Sheva at least once an hour and takes an hour and 32 minutes. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you can pick up one of many buses running south - the 397 is direct and takes approximately 3 hours 30 minutes. The cost of the journey this way may be a few shekels more, but nothing significant, and it will give you the chance to see some breathtaking scenery between Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev Hills.Our tip: nearly all of the buses stop at Yotvata in the Arava desert, which is a kibbutz famous in Israel for its fabulous dairy products. There you can try one of their Italian ice creams (for those that prefer non-dairy, they also sell sorbets). They have a restaurant where you can buy lunch and also a shop, which sells olive oil and local Majool dates (a fantastic gift to take home to friends and family).Finally, if you want to break up your journey between Jerusalem and Eilat with some fun, then you can always take a bus to the Dead Sea and Masada - the 486 bus to Ein Gedi is ideal in this respect - and then continue on, a few hours later, or the following day (there are endless accommodation options in the Dead Sea, ranging from camping and kibbutz guest houses to fancy hotels on the edges of the sea itself).A Hotel Swimming Pool Area, Eilat, Israel.Photo credit: © Oksana MatsEgged Buses ScheduleThe Israeli workweek begins on Sunday and runs until Thursday (or in some cases Friday morning). In terms of reaching the Jerusalem Central Bus Station, it is located in the heart of the city, not far from the Mahane Yehuda market, on the Jaffa Road, next door to the Yitzhak Navon central railway station. It can most easily be reached by the Light Railway or different local buses. Inside the terminal are many stores and cafes, so you can begin your journey armed with water and snacks. Take the escalator up to the departure floor (clearly marked in English) and look for the electronic boards or ask a member of staff to direct you.On Fridays, the last bus from Jerusalem heading south will leave no later than 1-2 pm, since Shabbat (the Jewish sabbath) arrives at dusk and does not end until 25 hours later. It’s important to note that between Friday afternoon and Saturday evening, no public buses run in Israel, which means you will not be able to travel. So if you are planning on heading south on Friday, do check the timetable carefully and - just to be on the safe side - give customer service a call to confirm your departure times.All buses to Eilat arrive at the same bus station, which is in the city’s downtown area and from there it is a short walk or taxi ride to many of the hotels and the beach. If you are traveling on the border with Jordan and then continuing to Petra you can either take a private bus or the hourly bus that runs close by (you will have to walk the last 20 minutes, which could be tough in the summer months).Jet skiing in Eilat, Israel. Photo byShalev CohenonUnsplash2. How to Get from Jerusalem to Eilat by Plane from Ben Gurion AirportIf you aren’t a fan of long car journeys, you could consider this option, although bear in mind that you will have to first travel from Jerusalem to Ben Gurion Airport (which takes about 45 by bus or taxi). There are no direct flights from Jerusalem to Eilat. Internal flights from Ben Gurion Airport (Tel Aviv) to Ramon Airport in Eilat take just under an hour and are operated by Arkia and Israir, around every 2 hours. A flight will cost you around 350 NIS (110 USD) one way and it’s definitely recommended if you’ve just arrived in Israel after an exhausting long-haul flight. All flights from Ben Gurion airport arrive now in the new Ramon Airport, which is a 15-20 minutes drive from downtown Eilat and can be reached either by taxi (around 100 NIS / 32 USD) or public bus (4.50 NIS / 1.5 USD). 3. How to Get from Jerusalem to Eilat by TaxiThis is a costly option and if you are going to travel by taxi, we’d recommend booking one in advance (Israel’s Gett Taxi is a very popular app) or asking advice from your hotel concierge. A taxi from Jerusalem to Eilat and from Eilat to Jerusalem could run into the hundreds of dollars - as much as 1500 NIS (approximately 464 USD).Eilat coast, Israel. Photo byJosh AppelonUnsplash4.How to Get from Jerusalem to Eilat with a Private TransferWithout a doubt, the fastest and most convenient way to travel from Jerusalem to Eilat is to book a private transfer. This really is a ‘door to door service’ and gives you complete autonomy over when and where you want to be collected and dropped off. Make sure to use a trustworthy tour operator, who will be able to recommend an honest and reliable driver.The good thing about the private transfer option is that once you’ve agreed on the price quoted, and paid with your credit card, you don’t have to worry about another thing - the company will take care of every detail. And you can choose the itinerary - so if you want to break up the journey in the Dead Sea, Mitzpe Ramon or one of the kibbutzim in the Arava - where you can take tours - the choice is yours. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of your tour operator either and let them know about your specific needs beforehand. Here at Bein Harim, we’re always happy to help - contact us night or day and we’ll get back to you fast, with a competitive quote.5.Petra tour & Leisure Day in EilatThis is an ideal way to combine time in Eilat with a trip to the astonishing ‘lost city’ of the Nabateans - Petra. Start your Eilat-Petra vacation with a free day on the Red Sea, snorkeling, sunning yourself, hanging out with the dolphins at the Dolphin Reef, or enjoying a movie at the IMAX theatre. The next day, join your group, cross the border early in the morning and drive down to Wadi Musa, where you’ll explore Petra. With its red-colored rocks, astounding Treasury and Monastery, and rock architecture, it’s hard to be disappointed at this contemporary Wonder of the World. On the way back to Eilat, as long as there’s time, you’ll be given a quick peek at Aqaba too.Marina in Eilat, Israel. Photo byShalev CohenonUnsplash6.How to Get from Jerusalem to Eilat with a Rental CarRenting a car in Israel is quite easy and not that expensive if you feel like making the journey and being in the driving seat yourself. Jerusalem has quite a number of rental car businesses that will be happy to help you - they include Hertz, Shlomo Sixt, Avis, Budget Eldan, and Tamar. Car rental in Israel can be as cheap as 260 NIS (80 USD) a day so if there are 2 or more of you, it’s not a particularly costly option, particularly when you consider how much freedom it gives you - you can go at your own pace and really act spontaneously.You’ll need nothing more than your international driver’s license and a credit card to start the ball rolling and, if all goes well, you should be driving away within the hour. Alternatively, shop around online beforehand because there are some really good deals to be had if you do your homework. Many cars can be reserved online beforehand with nothing more than a few clicks.It is a 4-5-hours drive from Jerusalem to Eilat, using Route 90, depending on how fast you drive, and whether you make a stop along the way). As we’ve said above, there’s plenty to see along the way - the Dead Sea (the perfect place to have a float and slather yourself in black mud, Mitzpe Ramon (with its breathtaking views of the Ramon Crater and alpaca farm for the kids, and Timna Park (a wonderful place to take a hike) are all highly recommended by us.One thing we would say is that from Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat and the Red Sea, the road can be quite narrow and it does wind around for a while, so drive carefully. We’d actually recommend making this journey in the day if you haven't done it before - making it night could leave you sick or nervous (there are long stretches in the dark). Besides, if you travel in the day, you get to take in the astonishing desert scenery and watch the landscape change color as the day progresses.We hope this article gives you all of the information you need to make planning your vacation in Israel a little bit easier but should you have any questions, just reach out to us any time - we’re at +972 3 542 2000 and info@beinharim.co.il - so don’t hesitate to get in touch. Coral Beach, Eilat, Israel. Photo credit: © Doron Nissim. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks Authority
By Sarah Mann

How to Get from Ashdod to Tel Aviv

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re either in Israel or planning a visit so let’s first say ‘welcome - you’re going to have an amazing time!’ Israel’s relatively small by North American or European standards but it has an enormous amount to offer and, because it doesn’t take hours and hours to drive between cities, that means you’ve got more time to enjoy yourself - whether it's exploring historical sites, wineries, nature parks, pristine beaches, Crusader fortresses or Herodian ruins. A ship dragged anchor at Ashdod, Israel. Photo by Felix Tchverkin on UnsplashThe other thing we should say, off the bat, is that Israel is very well developed in terms of its infrastructure. The roads and highways are in good condition and public transport is pretty cheap and, for the most part, efficient. This means if you don’t want to stay in one place (and most people don’t) you’re going to be able to move around with little fuss and maximise your free time.In this article, we’ll be looking at how to get from Ashdod to Tel Aviv, a distance of just 35 km (22 miles). Both cities are situated on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and have fantastic beaches, marinas, boardwalks and plenty of options for lunch and dinner.Tel Aviv, Israel’s biggest, and just a short drive from Ben Gurion airport, is a must-see for any tourist in Israel. Situated, like Ashdod, right on the seashore, it’s full of trendy restaurants, lively bars, cute cafes and charming neighbourhoods, not to mention a wealth of museums, art galleries, theatres and live music venues. So, without a doubt, spending a day (or several!) in the "White City" won’t disappoint.So here below is you plenty of information on the various ways you can travel between these two cities - whether it’s taking a bus from Ashdod to Tel Aviv, booking a train journey, using a private or shared taxi, booking a ship-to-shore excursion from your cruise ship or putting your foot down in a hire car. Once you’ve read through the options, you’ll have a better idea of which one is right for you, so you can plan a trip that suits you.Tel Aviv Beach Promenade.Photo credit: © Shutterstock1. How to Get from Ashdod to Tel Aviv by BusIsrael’s bus service is modern, comfortable, inexpensive and reasonably efficient. Taking a bus from Ashdod to Tel Aviv by bus is a good option, with buses running regularly from early in the morning (6 am) until late at night (11 pm). If you don’t travel in rush hour (7-9 am and 4-6 pm) the journey will likely take about 50 minutes. The bus number you need is 320 and is operated by Veola. A one-way ticket from Ashdod to Tel Aviv costs approximately 10 NIS (3 USD) and you can pay the driver as you board. There is also a second bus departing from Ashdod to Tel Aviv, numbered 280, which can drop you at Tel Aviv’s second bus station, in the north of the city.Another popular way to pay for buses (and trains) is by using a Rav Kav card. These small green cards can be purchased easily all over Israel (in all bus and train stations and sometimes in stores and pharmacies). Once you’ve bought one, you can load it with credit or buy a daily/monthly ticket. Just swipe it in front of the electronic device next to the driver, when you board the bus and it will automatically deduct the payment, showing you on the receipt how much credit you have left. For more information, check out the official Rav Kav website.The Ashdod Festival of the Nations and Their Tastes.Photo credit: © Oksana MatsAshdod Central Bus StationThe Ashdod Central Bus station is located on Menachem Begin Boulevard, in the heart of the city, and an 18-minute walk to the Marina. Check inside with information to see which platform the bus departs from (there are signs in English and staff who can point you in the right direction). Tel Aviv Bus StationsTel Aviv’s Central Bus Station (Tachana Merkazit) is located in the south of the city on Levinsky Street. The bus will drop you on the building’s sixth floor and after that, there are a number of possibilities to continue your journey - either by private taxi, shared yellow van taxi, (see below), or the local Dan buses, which run all over the city. The Levinsky bus station is also a gateway to cities around Israel, and also operates buses that run every two hours down to Eilat, for those wishing to travel on, for a trip to Petra, Jordan. Tel Aviv’s second bus station (‘Terminal 2000’) is in the north of the city, on the corner of the Namir Road and Arlozorov streets, conveniently located next door to the city’s Savidor railway station. It is a half an hour walk to the beachfront and you can also take intercity buses on to Jerusalem and Haifa.Saint Peter's Church, Jaffa, Israel.Photo credit: © Shutterstock2. How to Get from Ashdod to Tel Aviv by TrainTaking the train from Ashdod to Tel Aviv is an excellent way to make the trip - it’s fast and efficient and trains leave reverie 15-20 minutes at peak time. The journey itself takes between 50-60 minutes, depending on which of the three Tel Aviv stations. A one-way ticket costs 20 NIS (approx 6 USD) and trains run from 5 am to 11 pm.Ashdod Ad Halom railway station is in the Ad Halom area, near the eastern entrance to the city. The station contains a small beverage and refreshment kiosk and you can buy tickets there from machines (using different language options) or at the counter or online through different smartphone apps. Tel Aviv has three stations - Savidor, HaShalom and HaHaganah. Savidor is situated on the corner of Namir Road and Arlozorov street in the north of the city. It’s next door to the Terminal 2000 bus station (see above). HaShalom is the train station closest to the Azriel Towers and many large offices in the city centre. HaHaganah is Tel Aviv’s most southern railway station and is located about 400 metres from the Tel Aviv (Levinsky) Central Bus Station.The interior of the Israeli train.Photo by Lital Bamnulker on Unsplash3. How to Get from Ashdod to Tel Aviv byPrivate TaxiTaking a private taxi in Israel is easy - you can either flag one down in the street, book one through an App (such as Gett) or order one from a reputable taxi firm (your hotel concierge can help you). The cost of a private taxi from Ashdod to Tel Aviv will probably be somewhere between 230-420 NIS (70-130 USD). It is customary to tip the driver 10-15%, depending on how helpful he is. You can also travel from Ashdod to Tel Aviv with a sherut (shared taxi service).4.How to Get from Ashdod to Tel Aviv with a Private transferPrivate transfers are very easy to arrange, but we advise you to book them through a trustworthy tour operator, to ensure you will be put in touch with a reputable and honest operator. You will be given a price and if you are satisfied with it, you can pay by credit card and from then on all matters will be handled expertly by the company and you don’t have to worry about a thing.At Bein Harim Tourism Services, 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.A building inRothschildBoulevard, Tel Aviv.Photo credit: © Shutterstock5. Shore Excursions from Ashdod PortMaking a shore excursion from Ashdod Port to Tel Aviv is a great way to spend your free day since you can be in Tel Aviv within an hour and have plenty of time to see many of the sights that this buzzy, fashionable city has to offer. With Ashdod Port Cruise Excursions, as soon as you step onto dry land, you will be met by a private guide and within minutes you’ll be in a comfortable vehicle, heading off to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.In less than an hour, all things being equal, you’ll be in the ‘White City’ of Tel Aviv (so named for its fabulous Bauhaus buildings) and the next few hours are yours. There’s so much to do, you won’t be disappointed - stroll along the boardwalk and admire views of the Mediterranean, take a bike tour around the city, or wander along the famous Dizengoff Street, known for its cafes, restaurants and boutique stores.There’s also a number of beautiful small neighbourhoods that are lovely to explore - the Kerem (close to Tel Aviv’s famous Carmel Market), Neve Tzedek (with its charming houses and tiny alleyways) and, of course, Jaffa, one of the world’s oldest cities, famous for its port (where Jonah fled God and, for his trouble, ended up in the belly of a whale), a charming artists quarter and the famous Jaffa flea market, where you can hunt for bargains before eating lunch in one of the many lovely cafes around. Finally, we promise that when you book with Bein Harim we’ll get you back to your ship in good time for your departure. (Just for the record, if you want to travel to Tel Aviv from your cruise ship independently, please note that the bus terminal is about 6 km from the port so walking there is not possible. You can, of course, grab a taxi, (which should cost about 50 NIS (15,5 USD) and take a few minutes) or even bus number 2, which costs 5.30 NIS and will take about 15 minutes.A street in Jaffa, Israel.Photo credit: © Shutterstock6. How to Get from Ashdod to Tel Aviv with a Rental a CarRenting a car in Israel is a wonderful way to see the country on your own terms. You can decide how long you want to spend in a city and also stop off on the way if the mood takes you. Prices for car rental in Israel are quite reasonable and, with a car, you have a level of freedom that no other kind of transport affords you. Moreover, since there is no public transport in Israel from Friday afternoon to Saturday evening (the Jewish sabbath), options for moving around are limited - obviously, when you have a car, this is not a problem.Driving from Ashdod to Tel Aviv, via Route 4, without too much traffic should take you around 45-55 minutes. Just bear in mind that parking in Tel Aviv is notoriously difficult to come by - free parking is almost impossible to find and even parking lots can get crowded on weekends. Of course, if you are patient (and ready to pay up!) you will always find somewhere to park but if you want to save money (and hassle) you can always park just outside the city and travel by public transport.One way to do this is to park up in the north of Tel Aviv, near the Tel Aviv Port (Namal, Reading area) where there is some free parking, then just catch a bus/sherut/taxi into town. For the adventurous, there are also bikes and electric scooters that can be rented easily, with just the swipe of a credit card!Well-known rental hire companies in Israel include Eldan, Hertz, Shlomo Sixt, Hertz, Eldan and Thrifty. Prices can be quite competitive and, on average, renting a car should cost you around 260 NIS (80 USD) per day. All of the representatives you encounter will invariably speak good English but you might also want to shop around online beforehand - there are always bargains available so why not take advantage of them?Enjoy your journey!Aerial overview of Tel Aviv Port (Namal parking).Photo by Shai Pal on Unsplash
By Sarah Mann

How to Order a Taxi in Israel

There are plenty of ways to travel around Israel - between cities you can use public Egged or Metropoline buses, catch a train or rent a car. Within cities, there are also excellent local bus services that run from early in the morning until late at night, as well as city bikes and electric scooters that can easily be rented, with nothing more than a credit card.Taxi sign.Photo byMarkus SpiskeonUnsplashHowever, there are always going to be times when nothing but a taxi will suit you! Whether you’ve just arrived at the airport after a long haul flight and you’re jetlagged, or you’re in a rush to get across town, whether you’re laden down with bags of shopping or it’s 2 am and you’re coming out of a trendy Tel Aviv cocktail bar, grabbing a cab is going to be the fastest and most foolproof option.In this article, we’re looking at the hows, wheres, and whys of taking taxis in Israel - whether hailing them on the street, ordering them through phone apps (or through hotel services/tour operators), or ‘going native’ and sharing them with locals. With all of this information at your fingertips, you’ll be able to make the decision that’s best for you and your wallet...which will only improve your mood and your trip to Israel!1. Regular private taxiPrivate taxis are plentiful and easy to order in Israel, whether you want to book one in advance, particularly from Ben Gurion airport to Tel Aviv, or simply just flag one down on the street. A taxi in Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinTraveling by taxi from Ben Gurion AirportThe taxis at Ben Gurion Airport operate under the supervision of the Israel Airports Authority and are all registered and regulated. After you pass through customs and walk out into arrivals, head through the main door and walk straight ahead. This is where the taxi stand is located.The taxis are easily recognizable with their distinct black and yellow taxi sign on their rooftops. The taxi fare you will pay to whichever city in Israel you are traveling to has a legally fixed price. This will depend on the time of the day that you are traveling (after 9.15 pm there is a surcharge of +25%). There will also be an extra charge for more than 2 passengers and if you have a large amount of luggage you may have to pay another 5-10 NIS. Taxi drivers also charge an extra 5 NIS when leaving the airport.In general, a taxi into Tel Aviv should cost you anywhere between 120 - 180 NIS and, without traffic, the journey should not take more than 30 minutes. It is normal to tip around 10% for a regular taxi ride and perhaps to increase it to 15% for anything above or beyond (i.e. help with luggage). There are reduced rate licensed taxis on Level 2 at Terminal 3 but the airport does not recommend you use them. There are also unauthorized taxi drivers operating in the area and we would not advise taking them, since they might compromise your safety or present you with an ‘extra’ charge at your destination.Ben Gurion Airport, Israel.Photo credit: © Maria MurashovaCatching a cab in the street in IsraelIt is still common practice to hail a taxi on the streets in Israel. There are two ways to set the price: A) Ask the driver to turn on the meter - this is a good way to ensure you do not get overcharged by someone unscrupulous. The meter should begin at 13 NIS, which is the standard minimum charge in Israel between 5.30 am and 9 pm. Drivers are also obliged to present you with a receipt at the end of the journey, should you ask for one.B) Negotiate a fee with the driver before you get into the taxi. Make sure you agree on a fair price for both of you, so there are no nasty surprises when you arrive at your destination. In general, it is usually better to insist the driver uses the meter, and drivers are legally obliged to switch it on if you ask. Of course, many will try and convince you it is not necessary - but you are well within your rights to insist. Ordering a taxi through companies/hotel concierges in IsraelYou can always ask your tour guide, or the concierge at the hotel, to call you a taxi. They will know reputable local firms with honest and reliable drivers, who will not try and overcharge you.Tel Aviv street with a parked taxi, Israel.Photo byDaniel LermanonUnsplash2. Sherut Taxi (“Service Taxi”) in IsraelService taxis (in Hebrew ‘Moniot Sherut”) are brightly-colored minivans that run throughout the bigger cities in Israel and also between major cities. Basically, they are shared taxis which accommodate 10 people. Yellow in color, on their front windscreen you can see their number and this shows what route they are taking.Sheruts are privately owned and run which means that, unlike public buses and trains, they do run on the Jewish Shabbat, and this is a major plus for anyone who wants to travel on Friday afternoon/evening or Saturday.In general, these yellow shared taxis follow the same routes as the major bus lines in the city they are in. In Tel Aviv, for instance, the two most common sheruts are numbers 4 and 5, which more-or-less replicate the routes of the two major bus lines, running from the Central Bus Station past Rothschild Boulevard, Ben Yehuda, and Dizengoff Street and through the heart of the city.The way it works is incredibly simple - simply raise your hand and hail one, as you would a private taxi. The driver will pull over and open the door using a large handle from his seat. Once you’ve climbed in, just grab a seat. You can pay the driver yourself (in cash) but a time-honored Israeli tradition (which some love and some hate) is to hand the money to the person in front of you, who passes it forward. Your change will come back the same way! Unlike buses, there are no fixed stops with service taxis so they will let you off wherever you like, along the route. Just tell the driver the corner or spot, you want to alight and he will pull over and drop you at the side of the road. Something else about this method of transport is that it tends to be a bit faster than using a bus (since it’s transporting fewer people and generally stopping at fewer stops). Some people find them a bit cramped and it’s definitely harder to board one if you have a lot of luggage but, in general, it’s a convenient way to travel and much cheaper than taking a private taxi.Tel Aviv roads at night. Photo by Shai Pal on UnsplashService taxis (monit sherut) within citiesAs stated above, sheruts tend to run on major streets - either check online for their routes, ask a friendly local (Israelis love to help!) or just keep an eye out for their yellow color, which makes them so noticeable. Tel Aviv numbers 4 and 5 begin at the Central Bus Station on Levinsky street - on the ground floor, just around the corner from the main entrance. Service taxis (monit sherut) at Ben Gurion AirportWhen you walk out of the airport’s main arrival door, at Terminal 3, walk straight until you come to the road. There you will see a private taxi stand. Look to the right and you will see a bus stop and different yellow vans. On the front of their windscreen, they will have the destination written on them. Jump in and pay (your luggage will go in the back) - the van will set off as soon as it’s full. There is no need to tip the driver when you reach your destination; this is included in the price. These sheruts go to Jerusalem and Haifa (not Tel Aviv) and run 24 hours a day. There are also sheruts from Jerusalem to Ben Gurion Airport.Please note that there are no sheruts from Ben Gurion to Tel Aviv. However, you do have other options - private taxi (starting at 120 NIS), Israel Railways - a one-way ticket to the center costs 14 NIS - or bus 445 that leaves from a stop close to the Jerusalem shuttle. Although it leaves only once an hour, it does run through the city center, and along HaYarkon Street, next to the beach and all of the hotels there. Taxis in East Jerusalem.Photo by Georg Arthur Pflueger on UnsplashIt also costs a mere 9 NIS. From Ben Gurion Airport or central Tel Aviv to Eilat it is possible to book a service taxi that accommodates up to 10 people usually - a good way to do this is through your hotel or concierge or a trusted tour operator like ourselves. It is also possible to book a private transfer from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem - this is the most costly option but once you are happy with your quote and have paid by credit card, there is nothing else to worry about. No doubt about it, this is the ultimate hassle-free choice.Service taxis (monit sherut) between cities in IsraelYou can take monit sheruts between the big cities - the most popular route is Tel Aviv to Jerusalem but shared taxis also run to Netanya, Haifa, Rishon le Zion, Ashdod, and Rehovot. They leave from the Levinsky Central Bus Station in Tel Aviv and from the corner of Ha Rav Agan and Ha Rav Kook streets, close to Zion Square in Jerusalem on weekdays. On Fridays and Saturdays the sherut only pick up in Jerusalem either at HaNevi'im and Monbaz corner or they move a couple of blocks to HaRav Agan and HaRav Kook streets.Fares of service taxis (monit sherut) in IsraelService taxis have a fixed price, no matter how many stops you go, which is almost the same as public buses. However, be aware that on Shabbat you may have to pay a few shekels more. Jerusalem thoroughfare near Mamilla Mall.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin3. Apps: Gett, Yango, Uber in IsraelBooking a taxi using an app on your smartphone is increasingly popular now.Yango Taxi Israelis an app where you can set your destination and see the estimated cost of your ride almost immediately. You can also track your ride in the App and see exactly when it will arrive. It’s an easy-to-use service that works both on Android and iOS telephones. Yango lets you book a ride with multiple destinations and can also suggest alternative pickup points to reach your destination faster and at a cheaper price. Because the price is upfront, it will stay the same, even if you are delayed by traffic.Gett - About 8,000 of Israel's 25,000 cab drivers now use Gett, an Israeli company once known as Gett Taxi. Gett Taxi app in Israel does not actually own taxis or employs drivers but simply takes a fee for introducing passengers and drivers, and acting as a third-party for payments. Like Yango, the system is transparent so passengers can’t be overcharged. Also, it’s easy to pay by credit card.Uber - Uber is smaller than Yango or Gett so response times might be a bit longer but ordering an Uber driver costs 8 NIS from the time you get in the car then 1 NIS for every minute you spend in it, plus 2 NIS for every kilometer.Ordering a taxi with an App. Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash4. Private Transfers in IsraelPrivate transfers in Israel are a very comfortable way to travel between cities and are not difficult to arrange. However, we do advise that you book them through a trustworthy tour operator - this means you’re likely to get an honest price and a reliable driver. Once you have been told the price and agree that it is fair, your credit card will be charged and everything afterwards will be taken care of, meaning you won’t have to deal with any aspect of the journey. At Bein Harim, we are always happy to help with private transfers - 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.
By Sarah Mann

Music of Israel

Israel is a long way from its 100th birthday but in the last century, all kinds of influences have combined to create a very diverse and unique musical culture in the country. From enthusiastic amateur singers, cabarets, and small choral societies in the 1920s, to the establishment of the Israeli Philharmonic after the state was created, stretching onto the 1990s, when almost a million Russians emigrated to Israel, many of them excellent musicians, the music scene has been popular!Amusician playing bass guitar at a concert, Israel.Photo by Anton Mislawsky on UnsplashToday, Israeli opera, jazz, and pop music are also forces to be reckoned with, so if you’re traveling to Israel, you can be sure of finding a ticket to something very exciting. Moreover, not just Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa but many other cities and small towns sponsor their own choirs and hold annual music festivals in Israel. Whether it’s a small recital, a full-scale symphony performance, Madonna performing in Yarkon Park,an Israeli folk singer giving a concert in the restored Roman theater at Caesarea, you can be sure of finding incredible musical performances the length and breadth of the country.What Defines Israeli Music?So, what are the characteristics of Israeli music? That’s a hard question to answer! There are all kinds of global influences, for sure - including Russian folk songs, Eastern European Klezmer band traditions, Yemenite ballads, Hasidic melodies, and, of course, the enormous influence that Arabic music has had. And that’s before you even begin to factor in Greek, Ethiopian, central European, and Latin American influences. Of course, that’s to be expected - after all, if Israel is the ultimate melting pot, then why should its musical heritage be any different? Since immigrants began arriving in the Holy Land at the turn of the 20th century, they have been looking for ways not just to express themselves but also to define the ‘national spirit’. This has resulted in a wealth of talent - whether it’s classical, jazz, folk ballads, or pop and rock, the music scene in Israel is incredibly diverse.Beautiful old violin on a red tablecloth, Israel. Photo by Leonid Portnoy on UnsplashNational Musical Instruments of Israel:The history of musical instruments in Israel is a long and rich one. It is fair to say that music played an integral part in the local culture - cymbals and tambourines were used to celebrate joyful occasions, lyres and harps were played at royal concerts, and trumpets were sounded to remind people of momentous events and to celebrate victories.Several musical instruments in ancient Israel are specifically mentioned in the Bible, whilst others are referenced in historical manuscripts. These include: kinnor - this ancient Jewish lyre is also known as King David’s harp since it is the instrument the famous Israelite played. It is Israel’s national instrument and a spiritual instrument for Christians. The Roman Jewish historian Josephus describes the kinnor as having 10 strings, constructed out of a sheep's small intestine, and played with a plectrum (pick). However, the book of Samuel in the Hebrew Bible states that David played the kinnor "with his hand".Shofar - shaped like a horn, this Hebrew trumpet was blown to summon people to prayer, war, or solemn ceremonies. It was also blown by the Cohen priests to mark the beginning of the Jewish New Year and the tradition continues in synagogues around the world today, each Rosh HaShanah.David Playing the Harp Before Saul, Jerusalem, Israel. Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe shofar is mentioned several times in the Bible. These include the book of Joshua, where the blowing of the shofar was part of the battle to capture the city of Jericho, and in the book of Judges, where it was sounded by Gideon and his warriors in order to terrify the opposing army. Shofars are made out of ram’s horns and, indeed, make a powerful sound (almost like a blast) when blown.Oud - this stringed musical instrument was played regularly in medieval times and is still popular today, in Islamic culture. It is the parent of the European lute, usually with 11 strings grouped in six courses. It has a deep, pear-shaped body, a relatively short neck, and a fretless fingerboard. In Arabic, it means something close to ‘wood stick’ or ‘flexible stick’. It is still played today at traditional music concerts in Israel and the Middle East.Kanun - this stringed instrument can be played either solo or as part of an ensemble and its origins go back to before the birth of Christ. Also part of the lute family. Arabic kanuns are usually made with five skin insets that support a single long bridge, resting on five arching pillars. They have ornamental sound holes called kafes and are played sitting or squatting, plucking the strings with tortoiseshell picks.Darbuka - this goblet-shaped percussion instrument is still widely played in Islamic classical and folk music throughout North Africa, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Lutes, flutes, and bells were also commonly used in biblical times. Daniel, the prophet of Jehovah, wrote of the orchestra of King Nebuchadnezzar - their instruments actually included the pipe, the zither, and the bagpipe!Oud, the traditional musical instrument of Israel, similar to modern lutes. Photo by Youssef Abdelwahab on UnsplashThe History of Music in IsraelMusic has always been an integral part of the country, beginning with the pioneers who arrived from Russia and Europe. As they built the land, they were encouraged to sing - and in groups. Public ‘sing-a-longs were a popular pastime, especially in the kibbutz, because many of the leaders of the day thought it would promote the ‘national spirit.’Today, Israelis young and old still love to sing these songs - particularly out on hikes and sitting around bonfires. This mixture of patriotism and nostalgia for the early days of the state is something many visitors to the country really do find fascinating and touching.Musical cabarets in the 1920s and Aliyah in the 1930sCabarets became popular in British Mandate Palestine in the 1920s and were responsible for the fame of quite a few artists, including Shoshana Damari (a famous Yemenite singer who began her career at ‘Li La Lo’ in Tel Aviv - a cabaret that revolved around drama and satire.By the 1930s, the political tide was turning and the rise of fascism meant Jews were no longer safe in Germany and wider Europe. Many fled and some of them arrived in Palestine - and the country gained an orchestra as a result. In 1936, the Israeli Palestine Philharmonic made its debut, under the leadership of Arthur Toscanini. (Shortly after, a radio orchestra was set up (today it is known as the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra) and the concerts it broadcasted were soon attracting tens of thousands of listeners).Since 1948, the Israeli Philharmonic has gone from strength to strength and is now recognized on the global stage. It even rises above politics from time to time - in the 1980s it performed on the Israel-Lebanon border, playing to audiences on both sides of the fence, who had come to enjoy the concert!Evgeny Zlatin, an Israeli pianist, Jerusalem Academy of Music. Сourtesy photoThe Israeli Conservatory of MusicOne of the oldest and most prestigious institutions in Israel, this Tel Aviv Conservatory was founded in 1943 and serves today as a center to nurture the talent of young musicians in Israel. It boasts a music library, a state-of-the-art concert hall, and a separate wing for opera and chamber music classes.The Jerusalem Academy of Music and DanceThe Conservatory is one of three institutions that make up the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. It offers all kinds of educational programs in music for students from preschool through to graduate level in Israel.What Kind of Music Will I Hear in Israel?If you travel around Israel, you’ll hear all types of music - in the open-air markets, in restaurants, on the local and intercity buses (Israeli drivers love to sing and play music whilst they’re on the road!), in religious services, national ceremonies and just on the streets in different neighborhoods.These musical genres range from ‘Eastern’ (meaning that which originated in Arab-speaking societies), Hasidic (religious music which has its origins in Eastern Europe, especially Poland), Iraqi Jewish music, Ladino songs (which began in Spanish-speaking societies), Yiddish (secular in origin, and often part of ‘Klezmer’ bands) Israeli-Arab (with an emphasis on long, melodic notes) and modern-day Israeli pop.Daria Zlatina, an Israeli pianist, Jerusalem Academy of Music. Сourtesy photoMizrahi - in Hebrew ‘mizrach’ means ‘east’ and this kind, of music, is associated with Sephardic Jews. The movement began in the 1950s, with performances by locals in neighborhoods in which Jews from Arab countries mainly lived. They performed songs in Hebrew but in an Arabic style (on traditional instruments). By the 1970s, Mizrahi musicians like Avihu Medina and Zohar Argov had become very popular and, today, Mizrahi pop is the most common and prominent form of pop music in Israel.Hasidic and Orthodox Jewish music - the Hasidic movement began in the second half of the 18th century in Eastern Europe and placed a great emphasis on expressing joy through song and dance. Today, Hasidic music can be heard at simchas (celebrations) such as weddings and bat mitzvahs, as well as at the Rabbi’s table {the ‘tisch’).Hasidic music has a number of genres including niggunim - religious Jewish songs (or tune) sung in groups, often quite repetitive, using sounds such as “lai, lai, lai”, “bim-bim-bam” or “ai, ai, ai” instead of actual lyrics. Some can be woeful and others very joyful. Niggunim are central to worship in Hasidic Jews life, and a soulful reflection of how mystical intense prayer can be.Iraqi Jewish musicin Israel - in the 1930s, Iraqi musical groups were almost always Jewish! Today, in Israel, this continues in the form of beautiful Arab music, including love songs, folk chants, and traditional music.Tamar Eisenman, Israeli rock and folk singer and songwriter. Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinLadino music in Israel- Ladino was the language of the Spanish-speaking Jews, throughout medieval times, with music in the form of ballads sung by women in a dramatic style, either in private or during celebrations. Yiddish music in Israel - this kind of music is sung in the language of the Jews from the tiny villages of Eastern Europe - Yiddish, It includes songs from Yiddish theatre, Klezmer bands, and songs modeled on French melodies and German lieder. Klezmer dance tunes, ritual melodies, and virtuosic improvisations were often played at weddings. Today, Klezmer is making somewhat of a comeback and, in fact, an international Klezmer festival is due to be held in August 2022 in Jerusalem, featuring musicians from around the globe.Israeli Arab music - these melodious songs have become increasingly popular in the country in the last 20 years. One of the most popular on the scene is Ziv Yehezkel, who seems to have captured the hearts of Arabs in Israel. Now, after Israel’s signing of the Abraham Accords with Bahrain and the UAE, it’s quite likely to mean new inspiration for Arab music singers in Israel. Sarit Hadad, an Israeli mizrahi singer.Photo credit: ©Dmitry MishinSecular music in Israel - in recent years, many modern artists and pop singers from Israel have broken onto the scene, not just within the country but the wider international stage. Some of the more famous include: Etti Ankri - Born of Tunisian parents, this singer has become famous for her moving and emotional songs and is also called the ’contemporary voice of Israel’. Ofra Haza - an icon in Israel and known in the west as ‘the Israeli Madonna’ Haza became famous for her Yemenite songs and after representing Israel in the Eurovision Song Contest, her song ‘Im Nin'Alu’ itself became a Top 20 hit in the UK.Dana International - after winning the Eurovision Song Contest in 1988 with her hit song ‘Diva’, this once Drag Queen and proud transexual singer shot to fame and her songs were soon being played at every dance venue in Israel and every gay bar across Tel Aviv! Netta Barzilai - well known simply as ‘ Netta’ this singer shot to fame after winning an Israeli tv competition - her prize was to compete at the Eurovision Song Contest in Lisbon. There, in May 2018, she won the contest with her song ‘Toy.’Musicians performing atJerusalem Knights Festival, Israel. Photo credit: ©Dmitry Mishin
By Sarah Mann

How to Get from Haifa to Tel Aviv

If you’re visiting Israel, whether it’s for the first time or the tenth, the chances are you aren’t going to want to stay in one place. And why should you? Israel has it all - beaches, archaeological sites, wineries, places of worship, nature trails, mountains, deserts and so much more besides.View of Bahai Gardens, Haifa.Photo credit: © ShutterstockTo give you an idea of the size of Israel, it’s about equivalent to the US state of New Jersey or half the size of Switzerland. Its total area is 22.145 square km (8.630 square miles) of which 21. 671 km is land. Israel is bordered by Lebanon to the north, Egypt to the southwest, Syria to the northeast, Jordan to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the west.And something else that’s really great about travel in Israel is that the country has a highly developed infrastructure - highways and public transportation in Israel are both modern and efficient, making it easy to move around - and reach one end of the country from the other - quickly and with not too much effort. This means that even if you’re just in the country for a few days, you can see several areas without wasting too much of your precious time.In this article, we’ll be looking at how to get from Haifa to Tel Aviv. Haifa is the ‘capital’ of the north of the country and a real Mediterranean city, perched on the slopes of the lovely Mount Carmel. Historically a port city, and today very mixed (Jews and Arabs continue to live and work together here) it’s a lovely place to visit or even spend a few days.Within the city itself there is lots to explore - the Wadi Nisnas neighborhood, with its bustling market and small alleys, the German Colony (home to the German Templar movement, over a century ago) and, of course, the world-famous Bahai Gardens (affording spectacular views of the city), with its perfectly manicured lawns and shimmering gold dome. Haifa Maritime Museum, Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinOutside Haifa, less than an hour’s drive from the city you can find nature reserves, the Crusader City of Acre, the Herodian ruins of Caesarea, Druze villages, charming vineyards, rustic zimmers (upmarket ‘cabin style’ accommodation, usually in pastoral settings), Nazareth (where Jesus spent many of his early years) and the Sea of Galilee. And if you want to head as far north as possible, there’s also Rosh Hanikra, with its spectacular caves, close to quiet and pristine beaches. Of course, we haven’t yet mentioned Tel Aviv - Israel’s largest and most lively city, in the heart of the country, close to Ben Gurion airport and also situated on the shores of the Mediterranean. Just 92 km (50 miles) separates the two cities, so traveling between the two is really very easy - whether you want to go for a few hours, make a day of it or take a mini-break in the ‘White City’ giving you time to explore its cafes, boutiques, Bauhaus architecture, and excellent restaurants.Below, we’d like to give you some detailed information on the different ways to make the journey - taking the bus from Haifa to Tel Aviv, catching a train, a private or shared taxi, using a private transfer, opting for a shore excursion from your cruise ship or simply renting a car. This will give you a better idea of how to plan, for when you arrive in Israel and start planning your trip around the country. The distance from Tel Aviv to Haifa is approximately 94 km.The Bahai Temple in Haifa.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin1. Getting from Haifa to Tel Aviv by BusIsrael’s bus service is modern, comfortable, inexpensive, and reasonably efficient. Traveling from Haifa to Tel Aviv by bus is a popular option since buses leave regularly. If there is no traffic on the road, the journey should take between 1 hour 15 minutes and 1 hour 30 minutes, and a one-way ticket costs 24 NIS (approx. $7.50).Haifa Bus StationsThere are two different bus stations at which you can catch an Egged bus (Israel’s national bus line) including Haifa Merkazit Hamifrats/Inter-City Platform and Hof HaKarmel 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 910 leaves Haifa Merkazit Hamifrats/Inter-City Platform bus station from Floor 3, every 20 minutes and runs directly to Tel Aviv Central bus station. It takes between 60-90 minutes and a one-way ticket costs 21 NIS (6,5 USD). You can pay the driver in cash when boarding or use your Rav Kav Card. View of Haifa Bay from the top terrace of Bahai Gardens.Photo credit: © ShutterstockIt will drop you directly at the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station (see below). It is also possible to alight on the Namir Road, at the Arlozorov (Savidor) bus station, if you are heading to the north (rather than south or central) Tel Aviv. Buses can also drop you further down, at the Azrieli Centre (ideal for connections with the HaShalom railway station).The green Rav Kav cards are used widely in Israel - they can be purchased either at bus and train stations or stores and pharmacies in cities and towns. It is possible either to pre-pay specific amounts (with cash or credit cards) or purchase daily/monthly passes. For more information, take a look at the official Rav Kav website.From Hof HaKarmel, bus number 910 can also be caught. Also known as the Carmel Beach bus station, it opened in 2003. Passengers are entitled to receive a free transfer to urban buses when they buy their intercity ticket to continue from one central bus station to the other one, or into the city.Banana Beach,Tel Aviv.Photo by Daniel Klein on UnsplashTel Aviv Bus StationsTel Aviv’s Central Bus Station is located in the south of the city on Levinsky Street. The 910 bus alights at the seventh floor and from there it is possible either to take a private taxi, a yellow van shared taxi / monit sherut (see below) or Dan local buses to your destination. The Levinsky bus station is a gateway to cities around Israel, and also operates buses that run every two hours down to Eilat, for those wishing to connect on for their trip to Petra, Jordan. Tel Aviv’s second bus station is in the north of the city, on the corner of the Namir Road and Arlozorov streets, next to the Savidor Railway Station. It is close to the Ramat Gan Bourse, as well as a half an hour walk to the beachfront. Many local buses run from this station around the city, as well as out to Ramat Aviv and the university, as well as intercity buses onto Jerusalem and Beer Sheva.2. Getting from Haifa to Tel Aviv by TrainTaking the train from Haifa to Tel Aviv is highly recommended. It’s a fast, frequent and very efficient way to travel and trains leave every 20 to 30 minutes, making it easy to change your plans at the last minute. And because, on Israel Railways, you can buy a ticket at the last minute and it won’t cost you any more than if you book it in advance, you don’t even have to worry if you’re delayed - simply take the next train!The journey from Haifa to Tel Aviv takes approximately 1 hour 4 minutes on the fastest train, which runs directly between the two cities. There are also slower trains, which take up to 1 hour and 26 minutes. A one-way ticket costs 31 NIS (approx $9.50) and trains run from 5.25 am to 11.35 pm. A train is also an excellent option if you’re time conscious since you won’t have to factor in traffic jams and tailbacks which, unfortunately, are very common on the main highway during commuter hours.Yachts in Jaffa Port.Photo credit: © ShutterstockHaifa Train StationsThere are three train stations from which you can begin your journey from Haifa to Tel Aviv - Center HaShmona, Bat Galim, and Hof HaKarmel. HaShmona is the largest of the three and is located on Independence Road, at Plumer Square. The station opened in 1937 and was built by the British (under the Mandate) and has a Bauhaus design.Bat Galim was Haifa’s primary train station from 1975 until the early 2000s. If you are staying close to the port or coming from Rambam - the city hospital - this station is within walking distance. Hof HaKarmel situated on Sakharov Street is the city’s busiest train station. It is conveniently located next to the Carmel Beach central bus station and walking distance from the MATAM high-tech park.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. Please note, much like the bus services, there are no trains in Israel on the Jewish sabbath. From two hours before Shabbat commences (Friday afternoon) and an hour after Shabbat ends (Saturday evening) public transport in Israel does not run. Israeli train.Photo by John Adeoye on UnsplashTel Aviv Train StationsSavidor (Arlozorov) - this is located at the intersection of Namir Road and Arlozorov street and is next to the bus station, providing quick access to local buses. From here, it's a quick journey to Tel Aviv University and north Tel Aviv. HaShalom is the train station closest to the Azriel Towers and many large offices in the city center. HaHaganah train station is Tel Aviv’s most southern railway station and is located about 400 meters from the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station (Tachana Merkazit).3.Getting from Haifa to Tel Aviv byPrivate Taxi / Shared Taxi (Monit Sherut)Taxis in Israel are easy to come by - you can either hail them in the street, use one of the many operators in Haifa or Tel Aviv (ask your hotel concierge or check online) or book a taxi from Haifa to Tel Aviv directly through an app such as Gett. You should look to pay somewhere between 700-900 NIS ($215 to $280) for the drive.Another useful service in Israel is the monit sherut from Haifa to Tel Aviv (in Hebrew this means ‘ shared taxi’). These little yellow vans are operated privately and seat 10 passengers. They run between cities and you simply get in and pay the driver. The only ‘catch’ is that they don’t leave until the van is full, so if you’re the first one in you might have to wait a few minutes. The upside to the monit sheruts is that because they are not state-operated, they operate on the Jewish sabbath. They are an excellent option for those who wish to travel late Friday or on Saturday. Sheruts in Haifa can be found in HaNevi’im street in the Hadar neighborhood and run to Tel Aviv’s Levinsky Station. Expect to pay a few shekels more than you would for a bus ticket.Cozy streets of Old Jaffa.Photo credit: © Shutterstock4. Getting from Haifa to Tel Aviv with a Private TransferPrivate transfers are a comfortable way to travel between cities and in Israel they are easy to arrange. However, we do advise that you book them through a trustworthy tour operator - this means you’re likely to get a fair price and an honest driver. Once you have been given the price and are comfortable with it, your credit card will be charged and everything afterwards will be taken care of, meaning you won’t have to deal with any aspect of the journey. At Bein Harim, we are always happy to help with private transfers in Israel - 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.5. Israel Shore Excursions from Haifa PortHaifa is a famous port and, as the years have passed, has become an increasingly popular destination for a cruise. So if your ship is stopping in northern Israel for the day, making a trip to Tel Aviv is a fantastic idea. With shore excursions from Haifa Port, the moment you disembark, you will be met by a private guide and set off quickly for Tel Aviv.Just over an hour later, traffic permitting, you’ll be at your destination, giving you several hours to explore this buzzy, cosmopolitan city.Take a stroll along Rothschild Boulevard and admire the Bauhaus architecture, wander the streets of the charming Neve Tzedek neighborhood, book a tour to the Jaffa flea market or simply stroll along the boardwalk and enjoy lunch at one of the many fantastic restaurants in the city. With a ship-to-shore excursion from Haifa to Tel Aviv, you can really make the most of your free day and, rest assured, we’ll get you back up north in plenty of time before your scheduled departure.Lifeguard Station, Tel Aviv. Photo credit: © Shutterstock6. Getting from Haifa to Tel Aviv with a Rental carRenting a car in Israel is an excellent way to see the country, leaving you in control of when and where you travel. It is not incredibly expensive to rent a car (indeed, prices are quite competitive) and the freedom it gives you is unparalleled - you can travel before dawn breaks, on Shabbat, and to the tiniest villages in the Galilee and Negev desert that public transport won’t get you to.Parking in Tel Aviv, however, can be an enormous headache so if you are planning on driving from Haifa to Tel Aviv, think about either paying to leave the car in a lot (although it won’t be cheap). Alternatively, there is some free parking up at Reading, in the north of the city, near to the Tel Aviv Port and you can then take a bus, electric scooter, taxi, or even bike into the city.Driving from Haifa to Tel Aviv, via route 90 (Yitzhak Rabin Highway) will take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half (depending on how much traffic you encounter and how fast you drive!) Popular rental hire companies in Israel include Shlomo Sixt, Hertz, Eldan, Thrifty, and, on average, renting a car costs around 260 NIS (80 USD) per day. All of the representatives will speak good English and their hubs are accessible. Take a look beforehand online - if you shop around, there are some great deals to be had.Namal (Tel Aviv Port), Israel.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
By Sarah Mann

Fruit and Vegetable Picking in Israel

Farming is a big deal in Israel. No, seriously! The first Jewish immigrants to the country (decades before the State of Israel was established) went not just to cities like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv but also to remote areas across the country, with the deliberate aim of settling and cultivating the land. Whether it was the barren Negev desert or swampy malarial parts of the Galilee and Jordan Valley, they were determined to make things grow.Lemons are grown in Israel.Photo by Dan Gold on UnsplashToday, just over a century later, for Israeli farmers living on kibbutzim and moshavim (collective and semi-collective settlements) their work is, in some ways, still a way of fulfilling the dream their forefathers had of being a free people in their own land. Israeli farmers, today, are not just growing produce to be self-sufficient but they also feel a strong connection to their land. Oh, and they’re contributing to Israel’s economy too!And when you travel out of Israel’s big cities, you can see the fruits of their labor (no pun intended!) everywhere. Israel’s a world leader in new and innovative agricultural techniques (think hydroponic tomatoes and vertical farming) and when you’re in the Golan Heights, the Galilee, or even the desert, you’re never far from a vegetable field or a fruit orchard.Cherry orchard in Israel.Photo credit: © Oksana MatsEvery Israeli child learns about the ‘halutzim’ (pioneers) in school and one really fun and creative way to keep that tradition alive is by taking them on a day trip to one of these places to pick vegetables and berries. Fruit picking and vegetable picking are an activity that’s great for all the family. After all, whether you’re old and young, it’s nice to be out in the fresh air, plucking something straight from the ground or tree.It’s also incredibly rewarding, as a parent, to teach your children that fruits and vegetables don’t grow in the supermarket. Whether it’s strawberries, cherries, beets, or carrots, the feeling you get as you (literally) get your hands dirty, is a fantastic one. And the best part? Not only do you get to pop a few fruits in your mouth (all you can eat, very often) but you take a basket or two home at the end of the day. Fruit and vegetable picking (katifim) is very popular in Israel. Let’s have a look at some of the places you can pick fruits, vegetables, and berries in Israel, take tours of the local areas you’re in, and also find overnight accommodation in Israel on the farms themselves or in the locale.Tomato greenhouse, Israel.Photo by Benjamin Rascoe on UnsplashBustan Bereshit Farm, Golan HeightsLocated in the Golan Heights, this is probably the largest fruit picking site in Israel. With around 100 dunams of land at their disposal, you can pick all kinds of seasonal fruits, including raspberries, gooseberries, blackberries, sweet and sour cherries, apples (all varieties, even from Asia), figs, grapes, peaches, and nectarines. Once you’ve paid your entry fee, shuttle buses will transport you out to the fields and then you can get picking, straightaway! Admission is 37 NIS (12 USD) and includes a tour in a tractor car for the entire family. Bustan Bereshit also offers a variety of attractions - rope-climbing, horseback riding (and pony riding for younger kids), an ‘animal corner', and even baking classes.There are shady areas at which you can relax and picnic, as well as a cafe selling coffee and light refreshments. There’s also a store that sells all kinds of produce made in the Golan. Bustan Bereshit, Ein Zivan. Tel: 04 688 3512.Picking cherries, Israel.Photo credit: © Oksana MatsStrawberries Meshik Farm, Hod HaSharon, Central IsraelJust half an hour's drive from Tel Aviv is this wonderful strawberry farm where there are all kinds of delicious strawberries. Even better, each year they introduce a new variety, so if you come back you’ll never be bored. It’s a little bit more expensive than your average fruit-picking farm but definitely worth it. Tut Meshek, Asirey Tsiyon St, Hod Hasharon. Tel: 052 591 2244Hapardes Hakasum, Central IsraelJust 15 minutes drive from Tel Aviv, close to the city of Petach Tikva, lies HaPardes Hakasum. Pardes means ‘ orchard’ in Hebrew and this is a good place for the whole family to spend time. As well as guided fruit picking Israel tours, they also have craft tables, a petting zoo, soft play, and a pita-making class. The function hall is a good place to hold a birthday party for a group of youngsters. HaPardes HaKassum, Hashlosha 1, Kfar Ma'as. Tel: 050 2566 0206.Picking berries, Israel. Photo credit: © Oksana MatsMeshek Levy - Sha’al Berry Picking, Golan HeightsNestled in the Golan, this farm is run by the Levy family, and here you can pick all kinds of wonderful fruits, including figs, sabras (Israel’s national fruit) and clementines, sweet and sour cherries, blueberries, mulberries, Chinese dates, and both red and yellow raspberries. The site is open from May to October and offers competitive picking prices. There’s a cafeteria, offering light bites and a sandbox and animal petting corner for young kids. All produce sold is kosher mehadrin and the site is closed on Shabbat. You can also camp at the Levy family’s moshav (they have a dedicated site) or if you’re looking for a little more comfort, book one of their rustic cabins. They also offer jeep tours and night safaris...a real adventure for those who like to live dangerously…Meshek Levy, Sha’al, Golan, Tel: 052 460 0465.Dates on a plate.Photo by Mona Mok on Unsplash‘Farming Circus’ Moshav Yogev, Emek Israel, Central IsraelAlways popular with kids, here your kids can enjoy themselves in more ways than one. This agricultural circus is unique in Israel in that it teams up agricultural activities with a circus show - hilarity, juggling acts, and even a ride on a unicycle! The moshav has organic gardens and if you take the tour, it includes a visit to their greenhouse, where you can learn more about their Italian planting hydroponic system. In the winter, you have the chance to pick all kinds of vegetables, including beetroot, cabbage, broccoli, carrots, lettuce, kohlrabi, and potatoes. You pay for entry to the circus and then have the option after to pay to pick. Agricultural Circus, Moshav Yogev, Emek Jezreel. Tel: 073 374 4211.Blueberry Picking. Photo by Ava Tayler on UnsplashThe Orchard, Moshav Beit HillelMoshav Beit Hillel lies on the banks of the Hasbani river, about 3 kms from Kiryat Shmona in the Golan Heights. It’s a great place to pick your own vegetables and seasonal fruits, and the guides give a lot of detail. After you’ve picked your produce, you can make salads and drink tea. There’s a picnic area with benches, a coffee shop and a good Italian restaurant called ‘Cheese’ (we’d recommend trying the gnocchi and, for dessert, their delectable cheesecake). They also offer bike trips along the Snir River and Kfar Blum kibbutz, close by, can organize kayaking tours. Moshav Beit Hillel, Upper Galilee Tel: 052 525 7671.Banana farm. Photo by Tistio on UnsplashShvil HaSalat FarmDown in the Negev, ‘Shvil ha Salat’ (which means’ Salad Trail’) is the perfect opportunity to tour greenhouses and eat your way through them at the same time! In their Tomato Greenhouse, you learn about how these sweet treats grow upwards and in the Greenhouse of Flying Strawberries, you’ll find out why water and a certain kind of soil make them such a tasty fruit. And don’t miss the Orchard or Chinese Oranges either - afterwards, you can make necklaces out of the fruit!Shvil HaSalat also offers kids the opportunity to bake bread with olive oil and za’atar (a local spice) with Bedouins, then head off to the Field of Carrots, where the whole family can pick a bunch of these orange goodies, then take them home and make them into juices, soups or lunch snacks. Fun and nutritious! Shvil HaSalat, Nachal haBasor, Negev region. Tel: 08 998 2225.Cabbage picking.Photo credit: © Oksana MatsKtofoti, Bethlehem of Galilee, GalileeLocated in the Galilee near Kiryat Tivon, around 10 ms north-west of Nazareth, this self-picking farm is a wonderful place with all kinds of fruits and veggies - think strawberries, cherry tomatoes, lettuces, potatoes, carrots, onions, cauliflower, and even artichokes. There are also guides in the fields, who are very helpful. Entrance is 45 NIS (14 USD) per person (which includes anyone over two years old) although every fourth family member pays 40 NIS (12,5 USD).You then pay 30 NIS per family basket or 20 NIS for a small basket. Everybody above two years old must purchase a ticket). And every fourth family member pays 40 NIS. Moreover, you pay 30 NIS per family basket or 20 NIS for a small basket. It’s not super cheap but a lot of fun and, if you look on the web, you might find some coupons, giving you a discount.A cup of raspberries.Photo by Julia Potatoes on UnsplashKurlender Farm, Golan HeightsSituated high up in the Golan region, the Kurlander farm, on the banks of the Hasbani river, has been run for decades by three generations of farmers. They operate a state-of-the-art dairy farm and, for young families, this can be a wonderful day trip. Their English-speaking guides are helpful and informative and on any tour, everyone gets a taste of their chocolate milk and some samples of cheese. You’re even given the opportunity to learn to milk a cow, and the kids can bottle feed the calvers!Kurlender also sells grapefruits, tangerines, and oranges in the winter, and other produce made locally including honey and olive oil. Oh, and if you travel there on Friday you can sample one of their famous ‘Galilee breakfasts’ - a delicious dairy feast! There’s plenty of accommodation nearby, including a guesthouse, zimmers and even a spa.Carrot picking.Photo by Harshal S. Hirve on UnsplashBe’er Tuvia, Negev regionWhen it comes to flowers, who doesn’t love anemones and buttercups? These gorgeous buds, also known as Ranunculus (‘Nuriot’ in Hebrew), tend to flower at the end of April, for about a month. Visiting this place is therefore the perfect springtime activity. Be’er Tuvia is a moshav near Kiryat Malachi, which is about an hour 10 minutes drive from Tel Aviv. The entrance is 40 NIS per family - for this, you will be given some scissors and a plastic can (to put the flowers you’ve picked). If you don’t want to pick, you can just pay 20 NIS and take photos of the masses of red, yellow, pink, and white flowers that surround you. You won’t be disappointed.To learn more about farming in Israel, feel free to read this article. If you would like to visit a farm in Israel, please book one of our private tours.
By Sarah Mann

Welcome to Eilat Ramon Airport

The Ramon Airport (also known locally as the Eilat Ramon airport) is a new and modern airport, situated in the Timna Valley, in Israel’s Arava desert. Opened officially in 2019, it is approximately 18 km north of the city of Eilat, directly on the Red Sea.The bridge connected to the plane at the airport terminal. Photo by VOO QQQ on UnsplashThe Ramon Airport is Israel’s second-largest airport, after Ben Gurion airport (close to Tel Aviv). It can be reached directly from Highway (Route) 90 and serves as the southern gateway to Israel, as well as acting as the country’s primary diversion airport.History of the Eilat airport before RamonThe old Eilat airport was established in 1949, a year after the creation of the State of Israel. During Operation ‘Ovda’ the Negev brigade captured Eilat (which was then named Umm Rashrash), famously raising the flag there. A few months later, the Air Force paved the first runway so that light aircraft could take off and land there, ensuring Eilat was not cut off from the centre of the country. The airport was actually close to the water, in what would later become the beginning of ‘downtown’ Eilat.Until the 1970s, the area did not really increase in size but as the years passed, tourism increased and Eilat expanded from a small fishing village to a destination both for Israelis and international tourists. By the 1990s, it was clear that having an airport at the entrance to the city centre was a safety concern so the government drew up plans for a new airport, to be constructed in a more open space. On 18 March 2019, the old Eilat airport stopped receiving passengers and air traffic was moved to the new, modern, Ramon airport.People queuing at check-in at the airport. Photo by Phil Mosley on UnsplashWho was Ilan Ramon?The Ramon Airport in Eilat is named after Colonel Ilan Ramon, an Israeli fighter pilot who was also Israel’s first astronaut. After a distinguished career in the Israeli Air Force, he trained at NASA and, between 1997-2003, logged 15 days, 22 hours and 20 minutes in space. On January 16th 2003, along with six other crew members, he set off on the Columbia - this was a dedicated science and research mission. Although not a religious Jew, in space he ordered kosher food and observed the sabbath, famously remarking: "I feel I am representing all Jews and all Israelis. In total, the crew conducted approximately 80 experiments. Tragically, he and his colleagues were killed when, on 1st February, the space shuttle Columbia exploded and disintegrated, during re-entry, just before its scheduled landing. Four days later, his body was found, as well as remains of some objects he had brought with him, including - remarkably - excerpts from his personal diary. Ilan Ramon was posthumously awarded a Medal of Appreciation from the IDF Chief of General Staff and buried in Israel in a military funeral attended by both the Israeli Prime Minister and the President of Israel.An antelope in Arava Desert.Photo by Dennis van Lith on UnsplashLocation of Ramon AirportThe Ramon Airport is located approximately 18 km north of Eilat, close to the beautiful Timna Valley Park in the Arava desert. With Highway 90 directly outside the airport, this means that passengers can be in Eilat within 15 minutes. Public transportation from Ramon Airport to EilatFrom Ramon airport to Eilat, there are several ways of travelling:1. Getting from Eilat Ramon Airport to Eilat by bus - this is by far and away from the cheapest option. Four different lines, all operated by Egged, run regularly to and from the airport: Route 30 - from Ramon Airport to Eilat Central Bus Station, every 20-30 minutes (5.30 am to 11 pm); Route 50 - from Ramon Airport to Eilat’s hotel area and the Taba border crossing with Egypt (5.15 am to 8.45 pm); Route 31 - from Ramon Airport to Eilat’s northern neighbourhoods (5 am to 8 am); Route 32 - from Ramon Airport to Eilat’s southern neighbourhoods (5 am to 8 am). The cost of a ticket is 4.20 NIS (approximately $1.30)2. Getting from Eilat Ramon Airport to Eilat by taxi - there is a taxi rank situated outside the terminal building and from there you can easily find a taxi. A standard fare for this 15-20 minute Ramon Airport to Eilat taxi ride is approximately 100 NIS ($25).3. Getting from Eilat Ramon Airport to Eilat with car rental services - car rental agencies can be found in the main terminal, close to the arrivals section. These include Hertz, Budget and Avis to name but a few. Car rental in Israel is ideal if you want a certain level of independence on vacation, or if you want to explore. Whether you’re looking for a small, economical model, a larger family car, a convertible or even a 4X4 for off-road desert trips, the airport’s car rental representatives are all very helpful and speak excellent English, making the process fast and smooth.4. Private transfer - If you arrive at Eilat Ramon Airport within the framework of your Petra 1-Day Tour from Tel Aviv with Flightsyou will be picked up by a company representative who will drop you off at the Arava bordernot far from Eilat on your way to Jordan.Driving a rental car. Photo by Why Kei on UnsplashGetting From Jerusalem toEilat Ramon AirportThe distance from Jerusalem to Ramon airport is approximately 301 km.1. Getting from Jerusalem toEilat Ramon Airport by bus - there is no direct service from Jerusalem to the airport, but it is possible to travel from Jerusalem to Beer Sheva by Egged bus and then transfer - with the minimum of ease, within the terminal - onto another bus, which will take you directly to Ramon airport. Bus lines 446 and 470 run regularly between the two cities and a one-way ticket costs approximately 26 NIS ($8) From there, bus 397 runs directly to the airport - it leaves about once an hour but it is advisable to check the schedule beforehand.2. Getting from Eilat Ramon Airport to Jerusalem by taxi - this is a more costly option since the journey takes close to 4 hours from door to door. If you hail a taxi at the rank, your bill could be an eye-watering NIS 1500 for the ride (466 USD).3. Getting from Ramon Airport to Jerusalem with Ramon Airport car rental services - Israel has a number of good car rental companies, including Hertz, Shlomo Sixt and Europcar. 4. Getting from Eilat Ramon Airport to Jerusalem with a private transfer - this is a comfortable and convenient way to make the journey, since when you book through a trustworthy tour operator, once you have reserved your service and paid, everything is taken care of. To find more about private transfers with Bein Harim, feel free to call us or write to us via the “Contact Us” form.Timna National Park. King Solomon's Pillars. Photo credit: © Oksana MatsFrom Tel Aviv to Eilat Ramon AirportThe distance from central Tel Aviv to Ramon airport is approximately 327 km.1. Getting from Tel Aviv to Eilat Ramon Airport by plane - it is surprisingly easy to fly from Tel Aviv to Eilat - there are several direct flights to Ramon Airport each day, leaving from Ben Gurion airport with Arkia and Israir airlines.2. Getting from Tel Aviv to Eilat Ramon Airport by bus - there is no direct bus from Tel Aviv to Ramon airport but, as with Jerusalem (see above), it is possible to connect by taking bus 390 (to Eilat) from Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station (on Levinsky Street) to Rotem Junction/Oren then transferring to bus 397, which will drop you at the Ramon airport. The 390 bus leaves every 2 hours. The 397 bus runs every 1-2 hours. For schedules and connections, please check with the Egged bus website.3. Getting from Tel Aviv to Eilat Ramon Airport by taxi - a four-hour taxi drive from Ramon airport to central Tel Aviv will, like Jerusalem (see above) be expensive and run into large sums. 4. Getting from Eilat Ramon Airport to Tel Aviv with car rental services - again, as above, car rental is an excellent option for the independent traveller and a number of agencies will be able to assist you, once you find yourself in the Arrivals area.5. Getting from Eilat Ramon Airport to Tel Aviv with a private transfer - again, this is a comfortable and convenient way to make the journey, since when you book through a trustworthy tour operator, someone else takes care of the logistics. To find more about private transfers with Bein Harim, feel free to call us or write to us via the “Contact Us” form. We will be happy to provide you with a competitive quote.Eilat Bay view from the Hotel. Photo by Boris Izmaylov on UnsplashParking at Eilat Ramon AirportThere are four parking lots at the front of the terminal - for taxis, for the general public, for employees/authorised personnel and for rental vehicle companies. Parking does have a charge, which is 5 NIS (1.5 USD) per hour and 25 NIS (8 USD) for a flat rate per day. Services at Eilat Ramon AirportThe passenger terminal at the airport consists of an area of ​​about 30,000 square meters and is large enough to accommodate approximately 2 million arrivals each year. Airport facilities include a large lounge, restaurants and snack bars, duty-free shops, VAT refund counter, synagogue, play area for young children and a cell phone charging station. At the entrance to the terminal, and around it, are parking areas for taxis and private vehicles, as well as car rental companies, a public transport area and stops for shuttle buses.International & domestic airlines at Eilat Ramon AirportRamon Airport services encompass a growing number of airlines, including Wizz Air, Ryan Air, Finn Air, Lufthansa, Transavia and Pobeda to European destinations, as well as Russia. Israir and Arkia both operate several domestic flights a day, to Ben Gurion Airport in central Israel. It is expected that in the next year or two, more airlines will begin flying to Ramon airport, including Easyjet.Passengers entering a Ryanair plane. Photo by Portuguese Gravity on UnsplashTravelling from Eilat to PetraTours to Petra from Eilat are easy to take since Eilat shares a border with Jordan and from Aqaba (12 minutes drive from the border) it is less than two hours drive to Petra. Petra is one of the world’s great wonders, an ancient Nabatean city, famed for its astonishing Treasury, pink-red coloured rocks and magnificent desert scenery. Whether you have just a day free or want to spend more time there, hiking its trails and marvelling at its archaeology, taking an organised tour to Petra from Eilat is highly recommended - all visas, accommodation and tickets can be arranged for you, making your stay comfortable and your trip unforgettable.
By Sarah Mann

The Jordan River

The Jordan River is located in the Middle East, stretching down from the Sea of Galilee all the way to the Dead Sea. Shared by Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, it lies in a structural depression and has the lowest elevation of any river in the world. Beginning at the Syria-Lebanese border, where the Banias River of Syria and the Hasbani River of Lebanon meet, it begins its journey flowing south to Mount Hermon.Yardenit baptismal site, the Jordan River, Israel.Photo credit: © ShutterstockFrom the peaks of Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights (Israel’s most northern point), it forms subterranean waterways which turn into springs, continuing on down into the fertile Hula Valley. There, it turns into one river - the Jordan - arriving at the Sea of Galilee (the ‘Kinneret’ in Hebrew) before winding its way down to the Dead Sea, where it empties.The etymology of the Jordan RiverThe Jordan River (or River Jordan) is known in Hebrew as ‘Nahar ha Yarden’ and in Arabic as ‘Nahr Al Sharieat’. There are several theories as to the origin of its name. One is that it is related to the Egyptian word ‘ ye or’ (meaning ‘big river’). Another is that it hails from the Semitic ‘ Yard-on’ (meaning ‘flow down’). It’s also the case that ‘den’ may be linked to the Akkadian word ‘dannum’ (which means powerful).The first historical evidence of the name is when it appears as ‘Yardon’ on Egyptian papyrus, dating back to the time of Ramses II. Arabic writings at that time also refer to the river as ‘ Al-Urdunn. After the Crusader era, locals began referring to it using the Arabic term ‘Nahr Al Sharieat’ (‘the watering place’) and this was actually recorded by geographers in medieval times.Shores of the Jordan River, Galilee.Photo credit: © Jenny EhrlichHistory of the Jordan RiverIn the 19th century, the Jordan River was explored by boat by men such as Christopher Costigan, Thomas Molyneux, and William Francis Lynch. Mark Twain visited the Jordan River as part of his trip to the Holy Land in 1867 and commented: “It is only 90 miles long and so crooked that a man does not know which side of it he is on half the time. In going 90 miles, it does not get more than 50 miles of ground. It is not any wider than Broadway in New York.” After the War of Independence and the creation of the State of Israel, in 1948, the Jordan river marked the border between Israel and Jordan, from the southern part of the Sea of Galilee down to where the Yabis River flows into it. However, after the Six-Day War, in 1967, when Israel conquered the West Bank, the Jordan River began serving as the ceasefire line as far south as the Dead Sea.Geography of the Jordan RiverThe Jordan River is more than 360 km (223 miles) long but because it winds and twists, the actual distance between its primary source and the Dead Sea is less than 200 km (124 miles). It is part of the East African Rift Valley, which runs from Turkey, via the Red Sea, into eastern Africa.The valley is narrow and long and lies lower than the surrounding landscape - in some parts, the land can be 900 meters higher than the river. In places, it resembles more of a creek than a river - less than 2 meters deep and 10 meters wide. The walls of the valley can be bare and steep but are broken by gorges of water. By the time it arrives at the Dead Sea, it is at the lowest elevation of any river in the world - almost 420 meters below sea level. Have a look at the Jordan River map to get a better idea.The Jordan River at Yardenit, Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinImportance of the Jordan River as a Water SourceUntil the first decade of the 21st century, the waters of the Jordan River had been the largest water resource for Israel; lately, desalinated seawater from the Mediterranean Sea has taken over this role. Israel's National Water Carrier, completed in 1964, has delivered water from the Sea of Galilee to the Israeli coastal plain for over four decades until prolonged drought led to abandoning this solution in favor of desalination.Until the beginning of the 21st century, the waters from the Jordan were essential for Israel. However, in more recent years, and with the advent of technology, desalination projects mean that the majority of Israel’s drinking water is now recycled from sewage plants. By 1964, Israel had been diverting water from the Sea of Galilee to a National Water Carrier, using a pump. In the same year, Jordan built a channel diverting water from the Yarmouk (a tributary) to the East Ghor Canal. Syria also has reservoirs to channel water from this tributary. As the years go past, more of the Jordan river's waters are being used for manmade purposes - around 70% to 90%. This, of course, is having a detrimental effect on river flow and the ecology of the area.Qasr Al-Yahud Church on the shores of the Jordan River.Photo credit: © ShutterstockReligious Significance of the Jordan RiverMentions of the Jordan River in the Bible are many - in fact, it is mentioned more than 185 times. This is not surprising since the Jordan River is revered both by Jews and Christians. In the Hebrew Bible, the river is first mentioned in Genesis, when Jacob crossed it with just a staff, before receiving the blessing of God. In Exodus, Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, before conquering Jericho. Crossing the Jordan, for them, was a step towards freedom, the waters representing liberation from oppression. The Jordan River is also mentioned in the context of different battles, led by Gideon and Saul. The prophets Elisha and Elijah were both associated with the river (Kings I and II) - Elisha told a man to bathe there to rid himself of leprosy and Elijah lived near the Jordan for some time. Moreover, both of them are purported to have crossed the Jordan river, miraculously.In the Christan Bible, the Jordan River was the location that set the scene for the ministry of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist preached there regularly and baptized those who asked for repentance. Indeed, for Christians, It was at the Jordan where God proclaimed his love for Jesus and the Spirit.According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus himself came to the river to be baptized, not to ask for repentance but to ‘fulfill all righteousness’ In the Gospel of Luke, there is a recounting of the Holy Spirit descending upon Jesus immediately after his baptism. At the same time, Luke tells of a voice that came from Heaven addressing Jesus with the words: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."After the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the Jordan River is perhaps the most sacred spot in Israel for Christians to visit today.The person holding the Bible. Photo by Timothy Eberly on UnsplashIsrael’s Two Baptismal SitesThere are two different baptismal sites in Israel, to which thousands of pilgrims flock each year, either as visitors/spectators or as participants in an actual Jordan River baptism. The first - Qasr al-Yahud - is situated close to Jericho, which can easily be combined with trips both to Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. The second - Yardenit - is up in the north of Israel, in Galilee.Qasr al-Yahud Baptismal SiteChristians believe that this was the spot where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, at a spot on the east bank of the river named Bethany Beyond the Jordan. It is said that John lived here and where Jesus sought refuge after being threatened with his life in Jerusalem.Tradition also has that it is the spot where the Israelites (led by Joshua) crossed into the Promised Land, after their exodus from Egypt. Around 300 years later, the prophet Elijah crossed the same river, but in the opposite direction. According to his disciple Elisha, he then ascended heaven in fiery chariots.Qasr al-Yahud fell under Jordanian control after the War of Independence therefore visitors to Israel could not access it. Between 1967 and 1884, it was still almost impossible to visit, since it lay in a ‘no man’s land’ surrounded by landmines and barbed wire. Today, it is possible to be baptized in these waters and the site is particularly popular with Greek Orthodox, Franciscan, Coptic, Russian Orthodox, Ethiopian and Syriac pilgrims - particularly at Easter and Epiphany. However, facilities are somewhat limited - here are some benches at which people can eat (visitors will need to bring their own food) and take shelter. There are also changing rooms, but pilgrims will need to bring their own robes. There are also several chapels, churches, and monasteries south of the site. Entry to Qasr al-Yahud is free.The Jordan River at Qasr al-Yahud Baptismal Site.Photo credit: © ShutterstockYardenit Baptismal SiteSituated on the banks of the river Jordan, on the southern shores of Galilee, Yardenit is a beautiful tranquil setting and each year welcomes over half a million tourists and pilgrims. This is the place where Jesus spent much of his life ministering, therefore it is infused with spiritual and religious significance, and visiting here is always a very moving experience for Christians. Yardenit was built by the Israeli government as an alternative pilgrimage site to Qasr al-Yahud since for long periods of time the former site was inaccessible. Arriving at Yardenit, visitors will see an account of Jesus’ baptism, as recounted by the Gospel of Mark. This is written on the ‘Wall of Life’ in 80 different languages. The grounds themselves are green and scenic, and the riverbanks teem with wildlife. There are quiet areas for contemplation and prayer and baptisms take place throughout the day, which visitors are welcome to watch. White baptismal robes are available for purchase and there is also a restaurant and well-stocked gift shop. Entry to Yardenit is free. To visit Yardenit and Qasr al-Yahud, feel free to book our Nazareth and Galilee tour and Jericho, the Dead Sea, and the Jordan River Tour.Wall of Life at Yardenit Baptismal Site.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
By Sarah Mann

Sports in Israel

Sports in ancient Israel are mentioned in the Bible although some practised by Egyptians and Greeks were condemned by the sages for involving pagan practises. But others were definitely ‘kosher’ e.g. running. Although sport was not supposed to detract away from the idea of studying the Torah (Jewish Bible), there are dissenting ideas. Rabbi Kook, for instance, argued: "When the holy people will be physically firm and strong, holiness will prevail in the world.” The theatre in Caesarea is also evidence that sports were popular, back in the day.Kitesurfing in the Red Sea, Israel. Photo by Raimond Klavins on UnsplashMajor sports in Modern Day IsraelThe sports tradition in more modern times has continued, particularly with football which first came to the Holy Land under Ottoman rule. In 1928, the Palestinian Football Association was formed and the British Mandate of Palestine national team played Egypt in 1934 in a World Cup qualifying game (they lost - and badly!) After the creation of the State of Israel, they were renamed as the national team of Israel and their first match as an independent nation was against the US Olympic Team. So what are the most popular sports in Israel? Well, we’d have to say football and basketball for starters.Israel’s Premier League was started in 1999, and today is a member of UEFA. The national stadium, first located in Ramat Gan, was where games were originally held but today games are usually played at Bloomfield Stadium, in Tel Aviv. Football (soccer), arguably, is Israel’s national sport today, just edging out basketball in the popularity stakes. ‘Ligat Ha Al’ - the Israeli Basketball Premier League - makes up the top 12 basketball teams in Israel and was set up in 1954. It is well-known in Europe and in recent years they have had more links with the NBA in North America.Surfers at Alma Beach in Tel Aviv.Photo by Zoltan Tasi on UnsplashThere are also many other sports that are popular in Israel - swimming, rowing, tennis, chess, boxing, figure skating, and gymnastics. Golf is a relatively new sport in Israel but there is a full-sized course in Caesarea. Baseball became more popular in the 1990s, and today there’s a very successful ‘Baseball for All’ program running in Israel, which encourages Jewish and Arab Israeli students in 6th grade to play together three times a year. Indeed, Israel was only just pipped to the post (by the Netherlands) in the European Baseball Championship in September 2021.Martial arts are very much enjoyed, particularly Krav Maga (a self-defense and fighting system, developed by the Israel Defence Force). There’s also Kapap - a ‘fusion of different fighting styles like boxing, judo, jiu-jitsu, and knife combat. Extreme sports in Israel are also becoming more popular. Whether you want to rappel down the side of the Ramon Crater, a canyon in the Golan Heights, or sandboard in the dunes of the Negev desert, there’s a tour for it. The bicycle race Giro d'Italia in Israel.Photo by Yoav Aziz on UnsplashWater Sports in IsraelWith its fabulous Mediterranean coastline, the Sea of Galilee, and the beautiful Red Sea besides. Israel is a paradise for anyone who loves water sports. Diving - there’s no better place to dive than Eilat, with its clear waters, stunning coral reef, and shoals of brightly colored tropical fish. For beginners, there are authorized PADI courses available and for more experienced divers Eilat Coral Beach is a great spot to explore. For those nervous about going underwater, it’s also fun to snorkel. Jet skiing - available both in Eilat and the Sea of Galilee, either take a trip out with an instructor or rent your own! Trust us, it’s an extremely exciting experience. Stand Up Paddle Boarding - this sport is growing in popularity - these boards look much like surfboards but are infinitely more stable, so you move around without tipping over precariously. Ideal for exploring on flat water, you’ll see both locals and tourists out on the Mediterranean, enjoying themselves in this way.Sea Kayaking - If you want to go out on open waters such as lakes, bays, or the Mediterranean Sea in Israel, Because they are long and narrow, they’re great for negotiating waters. Sailing - it’s easy to hire a yacht in Israel and spend a few hours on the sea, topped off with a wonderful sunset. Clubs in Tel Aviv and Herzliya rent out vessels from a few hours to a week...so get set!Swimming in the Jordan River, Israel. Photo credit:© Jenny EhrlichBeach Sports in IsraelMatkot - this is, unofficially, Israel’s national beach sport and much loved by the locals. It’s a wooden paddleboard game, where two players smash the ping pong-sized ball back and forth and observers hope they don’t lose an eye when the ball goes astray!Beach Volleyball - also very popular in Tel Aviv.On summer Saturday mornings in particular, at Gordon Beach, you’ll see plenty of young, attractive people (dressed in very little) getting fit, by way of the free courts there.Sports Events and Festivals in IsraelThere are so many to choose from, it’s hard to know where to begin but here are a few we can’t resist mentioning...The Maccabiah Games are held every four years - essentially it’s a quadrennial Jewish Olympics, bringing together the most promising Jewish athletes from around the world. First held in 1932, It is the third-largest sporting event in the world, with 10,000 athletes competing and hosts open, junior, master, and disabled events.The games were named after Judah Maccabee, a Jewish leader who defended his country from King Antiochus. Today, the torch that lights the flame at the opening ceremony takes place in Modiin, his birthplace. The Maccabiah Games recognizes all 28 current Olympic sports, as well as chess, netball, and cricket! Women in Yoga Project, Israel. Photo by Mor Shani on UnsplashTel Aviv MarathonUsually taking place in February, this is a huge event, both for locals in Tel Aviv and runners around Israel. Over 40,000 people have been participating in the last years and because Tel Aviv is quite compact, the marathon passes through many parts of it. Starting in the north, at Yarkon Park and culminating in the south, in Jaffa, it’s a great day out, either as a participant or just a spectator.Jerusalem MarathonTaking place a month after Tel Aviv’s marathon, in March, back in 2013 Women’s Running Magazine this was chosen as one of the top 10 international spring running events worldwide. And whilst Tel Aviv is very flat, Jerusalem is incredibly hilly so this is a very challenging marathon, even for experienced runners. The good news is you can choose the length of your run - and the astonishing views of Jerusalem are to die for. Because it takes place at the beginning of spring, weather conditions are also good. Have a look at this video, to see for yourself.Beach volleyball in Tel Aviv, Israel.Photo by Kai Pilger on UnsplashFrom North to South - Marathons Across IsraelThere are also many more marathons in Israel, held in all parts of the country. There’s one in the Dead Sea, where you’re literally running the lowest race on earth! The Sea of Galilee event is the oldest of its kind in Israel (45 years old) and has a flat course. The Crane Race, in the Hula Valley, offers a variety of marathons (half, 19k, 5k, and family events) around Hula Lake, where you can see thousands of cranes migrating. And let’s not forget the ‘Volcano Run’ in the Golan Heights. Beginning in Mount Hermon and ending at the Yarmuk River, you can enjoy running up and down five peaks, past a dormant volcano and breathtaking views. Probably not for the fainthearted! The desert marathon is held in Eilat, beginning in the desert and ending on the shores of the Red Sea. The Bible marathon recreates a run mentioned in the Bible, with its starting point at Rosh Ha’ayin (once Eben Exer) and ending at Shiloh (an ancient Сity of the Tabernacle). And let’s not forget the Arad-Masada race - beginning in the desert and ending at the foot of Masada, it’s renowned for its ‘afterparty rave’. After all, isn’t a dance party the perfect way to end this kind of race!People exercising on sports ground in Tel Aviv, Israel.Photo credit: © Jenny EhrlichTel Aviv Night RunHeld annually in October, this 10k race is fantastic fun - and unique in Israel because it’s held at night. It’s a tradition for anyone who runs to wear neon clothes (pink, yellow, green), and anyone over 14 can sign up. The route is completely urban and with thousands of people cheering on the runners, it’s a fantastic experience. It begins at Rabin Square, Rothschild Boulevard, down trendy Dizengoff, and into the finish area at Yarkon Park. Oh - and then there’s an all-night celebratory party with music and dancing - Tel Aviv style!Sail Tel AvivSail Tel Aviv is Israel’s largest maritime sports activity, and runs from between two to four days, usually in the spring, celebrating all things to do with the sea. Held next to the beach, it’s free for the public and involves many different kinds of competitions and activities. Come and look at the sand sculptures and the photography exhibitions, grab a bite, listen to some music. If you’re brave, you can even sign up for the open experience day with SUP, kayak rowing, and boat sailing! Israman Eilat and Ironman TiberiasA full & half Iron-Distance Triathlon takes place in Eilat, in January and another arduous one in Tiberias, by the Sea of Galilee, in November. So if you’re up for swimming, biking, and running, you know where to go!Skaters in Tel Aviv. Photo byYoav AzizonUnsplashSovev Tel Aviv Bike FestivalUsually taking place in October, around the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, Sovev Cycle Tel Aviv offers the participant three different routes - the 8km (for beginners and family), the 21 km (for anyone in good shape), the 40 km route (if you’re experienced) and the 60km (for masters of the sport!) Bara Epic IsraelTaking place in northern Israel, between the Crusader city of Acre and the Sea of Galilee, this event is designed for avid mountain bikers! The race routes change annually, to make sure long-term participants never get bored (!) and range from 75 to 100 km per day. It’s all very challenging, with the idea to finish within a designated time limit. If you like spectacular scenery and something to test your stamina, this is an ‘epic’ choice! Here’s a short video, to give you a taste of how exciting it is.Israel RideThis great fundraising ride, where all proceeds benefit environmental charities, takes place in the Arava desert and lasts 5 days. Whether you’re an experienced cyclist or want a more ‘recreational’ experience, there’s a route for you. The crew supporting you organize local accommodation, hearty food, and a chance to learn about the ecology of the area, and the challenges environmentalists there face. Shabbat is a day off too, so you’ll get to spend some quality time with your fellow riders. Old and young are equally welcome too.Skiing in Mount Hermon, Israel.Photo credit: © Evgeny BrizeliWheels of LoveThis charity cycling event takes place in southern Israel, often in the Arava desert, and whether you choose the three or four-day routes (the offroad is a little more challenging) the monies you raise will help an incredible cause - ALYN, which is a Jerusalem Hospital caring for children and adolescents. Mud Run Tel AvivFor those who are looking for a bit of levity, there’s nothing more fun than the Mud Run. Beginning at Ganei Yehoshua in Yarkon Park, you can challenge each other in an obstacle race of either 2, 5, or 10 km, and very few finish in a clean state. As the organizers say ‘Get Ready to get dirty!’Among other major sports in Israel are martial arts, sport fishing, and sky sports.Finally, Bein Harim is happy to help if you want to join a private or group day tour, whilst taking part in a sports event in Israel. Feel free to contact us, by phone or mail, to talk more about your needs. We’ll be delighted to help.
By Sarah Mann

Farming in Israel

Israel is a land of beaches, mountains and holy sites, but it’s also a land of lush green fields, vineyards and olive groves. And since the turn of the 19th century, when immigrants began arriving from Europe, bringing with them a wealth of knowledge about farming techniques, the agricultural system in Israel has gone from strength to strength.Sweeties growing in Israel. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinOstensibly, you wouldn’t be surprised - after all, Israel has a typically Mediterranean climate and fertile soil, making it ideal for the establishment of farms. But when you bear in mind that over 50% of the country is desert terrain, and only 20% of the land is naturally arable, you then begin to realize how remarkable Israel’s farming achievements are.World-Class Agriculture and Cutting Edge Farming Techniques in IsraelFrom hydroponic farming (think cherry tomatoes - an Israeli invention!) to koi farming, from avocado, oranges, grapefruit, and apples to date palms, olive groves, antelopes, and alpacas, and even snails, Israeli farming is today, a highly developed industry. Below, we’ll be taking a look at how farms took shape in the land, over the centuries, how farming techniques have evolved, and some of the products they yield today. We’ll also take a look at some of the numerous farms you can visit across Israel - from high up in the Galilee down to the Arava and Negev deserts, and not just learn about the products (and even taste them) but to stay overnight in guest accommodation.Israeli farm.Photo credit: © Oksana MatsFarming in Israel - From Ancient to Modern TimesWhen did agriculture begin in Israel? Well, some archaeologists think as long ago as 23,000 years! Evidence points to the development of rural settlements - hamlets, villages, and farms - some with fields and some with terraces, many having access routes to markets. Archaeologists have also excavated digging tools and stone objects, as well as olive and wine presses. From as long ago as the Bronze Age, it is clear that every aspect of the inhabitants’ lives revolved around the cycles of nature. In fact, the Gezer Calendar, written on a limestone tablet in the 10th century, actually records the annual schedule of agricultural work. In the Bible, of course, Israel is famously referred to as the land of ‘milk and honey’ and compared to Egypt (beyond the Nile) and the Arabian desert, it truly was. The ancient Israelites feasted on wheat, olives, grapes, barley, pomegranates, and figs, not to mention melons, lentils, cucumbers, and chickpeas. Barley was harvested in May, grapes were picked in August, and olives were harvested in the Fall. A relatively dry climate and hilly terrain provided valleys for growing (Jezreel in the north and the Sharon in the South) and springs close to Jericho made it possible to plant around the Jordan.A lychee farm in Israel.Photo credit: © Oksana MatsThe Kibbutz and MoshavIsrael is also known across the world for its kibbutzim and moshavim. The kibbutz is a collective community, where all wealth is jointly owned and was traditionally agrarian. Today, many have privatized and are highly successful - Ein Gev, in the Galilee, has banana plantations, an Israel-type model dairy farm, and an ostrich breeding program. Yotvata, in the Arava desert, has a huge milk products factory, supplying millions of Israeli children with their much-loved ‘choco’ (fabled chocolate milk).The moshav in Israel is also an agricultural settlement, but here all of the members are individual farmers who live together. Historically, the farmers would share equipment and avoid hired labor but today many Israelis who are not farmers buy land there and build their own private homes.Built on land owned by the Jewish National Fund, the moshavim historically represented a middle ground between privately owned settlements and the communal kibbutzim. Today, many are still involved in Israeli farming ventures including grape cultivation, chicken rearing, dairy production, and beekeeping.A ripe harvest in one of the Israeli kibbutzim.Photo credit: © Oksana MatsModern-Day Farming Techniques in IsraelToday, Israel is hailed as a global leader when it comes to advanced farming techniques - think hydroponic, vertical, and robotic farming practices. In its most simple form, hydroponics ‘skips’ the soil, finding different materials to support the plant roots and grow the crop directly, in water-rich with nutrients. This means farmers can grow and produce food anywhere in the world, at any time of the year, as well as netting higher yields using fewer resources. You also don’t have to wait for ‘the season’ or worry that your crop will be lost due to bad weather! Smart Design that Improves Productivity in the Midst of a Pandemic!The Israeli farmer is also becoming adept with the techniques of vertical and robotic farming. Vertical farming in Israel allows farmers to grow crops in vertically stacked layers. One Israeli agri-tech start-up in Raanana (about 40 minutes drive from Tel Aviv) - VerticalField - created these farms in urban areas, using technical expertise and smart design geoponic technology. Equally innovative is Israel’s robotic system that automates greenhouse tasks, at the same time gathering data (to improve quality). In the pandemic, for instance, many Israeli farmers worked with robots, operating the software from their homes. This meant the number of staff at greenhouses could be kept to a minimum and social distance maintained!Equally fascinating are the start-ups that have revolutionized milk production in Israel, using robots that will completely automate the production, at a much lower cost than normal. This kind of technology and scientific know-how is being exported all over the world so that farms in South East Asia and South America can improve their own practices when it comes to feeding and milking cows. Blossoming almond grove, Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinUrban Farming and Revolutionary Restaurants!This is also a growing trend in Israel, particularly in the big cities. ‘Green in the City’ is at the forefront of all kinds of aquaponic and hydroponic solutions, including hothouses on the roof of the Dizengoff Mall shopping center in central Tel Aviv! Cucumbers, mint, lettuce, kale, and green onions are amongst the many things people can pick up from baskets (there are no sellers, it works on an honor system).Tel Aviv Restaurant L28 even took it one step further - the produce they use actually comes from their rooftop kitchen. Urban agronomy involves sunlight, insects, and chemistry but it really can work, as they’ve proved. They also have a ‘wet well’ using hydroponics) to grow greens on the menu! What Kind of Farms Can You Find in Israel?Where do we begin? Fruits and vegetables? Animals? Spices? Delectable cheeses? Here are a few of the farms that have really made a name for themselves in the last few years, and have become popular both with locals and people coming on a trip to Israel. Antelope Ranch, Arava Desert - this farm/ranch is great for kids, as they have a ‘Noah’s Ark’ and a mini-safari. The place is full of antelopes and zebras, different birds, and surrounded by desert hills. You can camp here or take a private ‘zimmer’. A real African experience in Israel!Olive grove in Latrun, Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinHerb and Spice farm, Kibbutz Hulata, Galilee - here you can buy over 200 types of herbs, spices, and medicinal plants, all grown locally in Upper Galilee. With over 50 years of experience, this family knows all about growing, drying, and blending herbs, using traditional methods. Desert Olive Farm, Sde Boker - this is more of a getaway than a farming experience! Here, you can experience the Negev desert, either by staying in an Indian tent, an African ecological cabin, or a luxurious suite, as you enjoy the peace of the desert by day and the bright starry skies at night.Kornmehl Farm, Negev desert - located in the Negev Hills, this is a great place to come if you love goat’s cheese, a new variation of a French classic. Anat and Daniel rear goats who roam freely and are not fed antibiotics and their artisanal cheeses are to die for! Alpaca Farm, Mitzpe Ramon - overlooking the Ramon Crater in Mitzpe Ramon, in the Negev, this farm is guaranteed to be a hit with the kids, who love to pet these South American animals. This is a working farm, with the wool from these furry creatures used to create unique items of clothing, and as you walk around you are even welcome to feed the alpacas and llamas! There are also 20 horses available for riding…!Antelope ranch in the Negev Desert, Israel. Photo by Dennis van Lith on UnsplashEin Camonim - in Israel’s Upper Galilee, this is another goat farm in Israel that’s been going since the late 1970s and boasts an excellent restaurant, where you can try all kinds of classic cheese. They also make their own olive oil using ancient stone presses. Try their all-you-can-eat vegetarian gourmet buffet, which includes freshly baked bread. The kids are also welcome to pet the goats…Shvil Hasalat, Negev - located down south in Israel’s Negev desert at moshav Talmei Yosef, here you can take a 3-hour tour, led by Uri Alon, an international agronomist). You’ll stop at places such as strawberry and tomato greenhouses, orchards of Chinese oranges, and a herb section and after an explanation of how it all works, you’ll get to pop some of the fruits in your mouth!Hava and Adam Farm - equidistant between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, this farm gives young adults the chance to learn more about sustainable living and permaculture, by volunteering on their organic farm. They put an emphasis on personal development too and provide long-term programs for those who are interested in working on the land long-term. Mandankoi, Kibbutz Magan Michael - up on the coast, less than an hour’s drive from Tel Aviv, you can tour this Israeli fish farm, which is a leader in koi breeding. A great place to learn about - and purchase - all kinds of tropical fish.Crocoloco Crocodile Farm, Arava - Located 140 km north of Eilat, in the barren desert, this farm is run by a South African couple who are crazy about a certain kind of reptile. They offer guided tours and lots of fun facts for kids about these amazing creatures and if you’re lucky you’ll even get to hold a baby one in your hand! Educational and fun.Vineyard in Israel.Photo by Amos Bar-Zeev on UnsplashChampignon Farm, Western Galilee - founded in 1982 as a family business, today this farm employs a wide range of workers including agronomists, growers, maintenance workers, and exchange students. They’re growing all kinds of edible mushrooms using unique methods that yield high-quality crops, and the produce tastes amazing!Vered HaGalil, Western Galilee - lovely farm accommodation in charming, rustic cabins, with beautiful views looking down on the Sea of Galilee. Guests can enjoy horseback riding at sunset too. This unique farm stay in Israel has 120 dunams of greenery and orchards, so you’ll really be able to relax in peace and quiet.Kurlander Farm, Moshav Beit Hillel - up in the Golan Heights, this fantastic state-of-the-art dairy farm is run by three generations of the Kurlander family. Take a tour and learn all about newborn calves, learn about the secrets of milk production and enjoy some tasty chocolate milk. Kids can pet and feed the animals and you can take home fruits and olive oil too. If you call ahead, you can arrange a visit to their orchards and olive groves. Tours are held each day at midday. Davida Animal Farm, Yish’i - not too far a drive from Jerusalem, this charming farm is a great place to bring young children, with admission price including a petting corner and horse riding and bouncy houses. Kids can also have a ‘tractor experience’ and watch goats being milked. A good place to bring a picnic - they have tables in the shade!The Camel Ranch, Dimona - not too far from Beer Sheva, this is a chance for kids to learn more about camels...you can actually take a trip out into the desert on them. The owners are kind and serve you mint tea too! Our tip - try the ice cream - it’s made from camel milk! For those that want to make a weekend out of it, they offer simple clean accommodation, with kitchen facilities and you can sit out by a bonfire at night, after dinner.If you are interested in visiting some Israeli farms, consider joining Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley Farm Private Tour.Old-fashioned farming in the Biblical Garden in Yad HaShmona, Israel. Photo by Georg Arthur Pflueger on Unsplash
By Sarah Mann

Israel's Red Sea

Israel’s famous for many things, including religious landmarks, archaeological sites, vineyards, nature reserves and deserts. But what about its waters? Many people think instantly of the Mediterranean Sea if they envisage travelling to Israel for a beach holiday but there’s another option too - and a great one -The Red Sea.Kitesurfing in Eilat, Israel. Photo by Mor Shani on UnsplashWhere is the Red Sea located exactly? In the heart of the Middle East, sharing its marine waters with Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Sudan, Eritrea, and Djibouti. An inlet of the Indian Ocean, it lies between Africa and Asia and the connection to the ocean is in its south, through the Gulf of Aden and the Bab el Mandeb strait. The etymology of the nameSo why is the Red Sea called the Red Sea? Well, ‘Red Sea’ is a direct translation of the Latin ‘Mare Rubrum’, the Greek ‘Erythra Thalassa’ and Arabic ‘Al Bahr Al-Ahmar’’. Geographers think it was so named because of the bright red-coloured flowers CyanobacteriaTrichodesmium Erythraeum that can be seen near the water's surface. Some geologists suggest that it refers to the mineral-rich red mountains. Historians have pointed out that it borders the Egyptian Desert which the ancient Egyptians called ‘Dashret’ or ‘red land’. It is also possible that the name derives from the Himyarite, a local clan whose own name means ‘red.’Ship in Eilat, the Read Sea, Israel.Photo by Dana R Shavit on UnsplashHistory of the Red Sea.Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and IsraelitesIt was the Ancient Egyptians who began the earliest known explorations of the Red Sea, whilst seeking commercial routes. One we know took place circa 2500 BCE and another 100 years later. In the book of Exodus, in the Hebrew Bible, the story is told of the journey the Jews made from Egypt to the Promised Land, fleeing slavery under a cruel Pharoah. Led by their leader, Moses, the Israelites miraculously crossed through a body of water called the ‘Yam Suph’ (in Hebrew this refers to the Red Sea), which parted before them. According to the narrative, the Egyptians chased them but God wrecked their chariot wheels and the water then returned, drowning the entire army. As for where Moses parted the Red Sea and his people crossed it exactly? Today, most scholars and archaeologists think it was around the ‘Aqaba finger’ area.In the 8th century, the Persians made reconnaissance missions to the area and soon after Greek navigators did the same. The Romans favoured the area as a way of trading with India and the Red Sea also became an important stopover on the mediaeval Spice Route. Sunset over the Red Sea.Photo by Eric Weber on UnsplashIn 1798, France, under the leadership of Napoleon, invaded Egypt and, in doing so, took control of the Red Sea. Napoleon failed in his conquest but one of the people who took part in the invasion - an engineer named Jean-Baptists Lepere - reinvented the plan for a canal. The Pharaohs had built several in ancient times but none had stood the test of time. After the Suez Canal opened, in 1869, the French, Italians and British shared the port. By the end of the Second World War, however, the Americans and Soviets became the dominant powers but after the Six-Day War in 1967, the canal was closed for eight years.Now, after many quiet years, the Red Sea is becoming an important trade port again - the Suez Canal links it to the Mediterranean and the Bab el Mandeb straits. This makes it an economic artery - more than 10% of seaborne cargo sails through its waters every year.Bordering countriesIsrael, Egypt and Jordan border the Red Sea on the northern shore, Saudi Arabia and Yemen border it on the eastern shore and Sudan, Egypt and Eritrea border it on the western shore. This makes the Red Sea of huge strategic importance - it lies between the continents of Africa and Asia, separating the Middle East and the Far East as well as Asia and Europe.The aerial view of the harmless whale shark in the Red Sea, Eilat, Israel.Photo by Et Yan on UnsplashGeology of the Red SeaThe Red Sea is part of an extensive rift system that includes from south to north the oceanic Sheba Ridge, the Gulf of Aden, the Afar region, the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aqaba, the Gulf of Suez, and the Cairo basalt province. The Red Sea valley cuts through the Arabian-Nubian Massif. This was a continuous central mass of Precambrian igneous and metamorphic rocks that formed deep within the Earth under heat and pressure more than 540 million years ago.Oceanography of the Red SeaThe climate of the Red Sea is the result of two very different seasons; a northeasterly monsoon and a southwesterly monsoon. The Red Sea is the world's most northern tropical sea and home to over 1200 species of fish and around 10% of these have been found nowhere else. The many shallow shelves are also full of marine corals. There are also extensive shallow shelves, all noted for their marine life and corals, Acropora being the most common kind (it grows fast - up to a metre long - if not disturbed). There are no dangerous sharks (i.e. man-eaters) in the waters, but occasionally divers will see grey reef sharks. The world’s fastest fish also lives here - the sailfish can swim at speeds of up to 109 km (68 miles) per hour! Tropical fish that can be seen in the Red Sea include the clownfish, butterflyfish, Spangled Emperor, parrotfish, lionfish. Watch out for blue-spotted rays, giant Moray eels and barracuda, as well as turtles, the Titan Triggerfish and the long-nosed hawkfish.Fun fact: the pretty red and orange coloured clownfish was the inspiration for Disney’s ‘ Finding Nemo’. They live amongst rare anemones and whilst their jaws are not large, they can be aggressive when trying to protect their young, inflicting a few small bites on the odd diver!Hills in the Eilat area, the Red Sea coast, Israel.Photo by Josh Appel on UnsplashOilfields and mineral resources of the Red SeaThe Red Sea is quickly developing a reputation as one of the world’s largest offshore oil production areas. Historically, there have been many challenges to drilling - it has a rough seafloor, topography, complicated geology under thick salt deposits and also a delicate ecosystem. All this, as well as substantial drilling costs, meant that it was left untouched until recently.The company Saudi Aramco was the first to use a deepwater rig in the Red Sea after a 2009 seismic study indicated the presence of natural gas. In 2010, Sudan started drilling its first offshore exploration well, off their coastline. Canadian Oyster Oil and Gas Co. is now active in Djibouti, where there has been little exploration activity up to now. And after Israel and the United Arab Emirates established ties as part of the Abraham Accords, a ‘pipeline deal’ was signed to bring crude oil from the UAE to Eilat.The ecosystem of the Red SeaThe Red Sea has a delicate ecosystem and thriving biodiversity. This is mainly due to the coral reef ecosystem. It stretches for almost 2000 km (1,240 miles) along its coastline. Some of the reefs are thousands of years old and in Egypt, some are protected by the government (such as Ras Mohammed National Park). Unfortunately, whilst Red Sea coral reefs are known for their incredible heat tolerance and resiliency, they are now becoming increasingly threatened as a result of origin seat temperatures and overfishing.Dolphin Reef Beach, Eilat, Israel.Photo by Silviu Georgescu on UnsplashFacts and figuresThe Red Sea’s maximum width is 306kms (190 miles), its greatest depth is 3,040 metres (9,974 feet) and its area is approximately 450,000 square km (174,000 square miles). High surface temperatures combined with high salinities makes the Red Sea one of the hottest and saltiest bodies of seawater in the world. The average water temperature in the summer is 26 °C (79 °F) and 15 °C (66 °F) in the winter. Around 40% of the Red Sea is very shallow - less than 100 metres (350 ft). And 25% of it is less than 50 metres (164 ft) deep! Another fun fact: the Red Sea is approximately 35% saltier than most other seas, which gives it unique health benefits (the saline concentration is thought to improve blood circulation). The Red Sea TourismTourism is a thriving industry in the Red Sea with resorts like Eilat (Israel), Aqaba (Jordan) and Sharm El Sheikh (Egypt) all extremely popular, year-round. Sunshine is abundant, even in the winter, and it is quite possible to swim comfortably in the waters in January and February. It’s also easy to visit Petra from Eilat, as part of an organised tour - crossing the border from Eilat to Aqaba is not difficult and from there it is around two hours to the magnificent Nabatean city.Eilat Underwater Observatory, Israel.Photo by Marcin Czerniawski on UnsplashThings to do in EilatEilat is a very popular destination for tourists, with the Red Sea a big draw for swimmers and snorkelers.Things to do in Eilatinclude boats with glass bottoms (you will see all kinds of colourful tropical fish), rent kayaks, as well as extreme water sports activities - jet skiing, water skiing, banana boats, tubing and parasailing. Not to mention Eilat Coral Beach and Dolphin Reef.For divers, the Red Sea is a true paradise. In Eilat, the Red Sea diving resort, the diving territory is quite small and the sea drops off so close to the shore that in just a few minutes the water can be 20-40 metres deep. Divers can explore the Nature Reserve (where the Moses Rock is located), as well as the Neptune Tables. For those who love wrecks, there is a Satil, which is 45 metres long and lies about 25 metres deep. Surrounded by soft corals, it is very well preserved.Egypt is also a popular Red Sea diving spot, with resorts like Dahab (famous for the Blue Lagoon) and Sharm el Sheik (40 km from the Thistlegorm - a British steamship sunk by German bombers in 1940 and today a popular dive wreck). Tourist in Eilat area, Israel.Photo by Josh Appel on UnsplashCoralWorld - the Red Sea AquariumThis really is a window onto the Red Sea where visitors can actually go underwater and see a reef without even getting wet! The Underwater Observatory was built in 1975 so visitors could learn more about the Red Sea in a new and innovative way. There are no nets around the towers, so all of the marine life you see has come to the reef naturally! Visitors can see sharks, manta rays, stingrays, all kinds of colour and amazing schools of the tropical fish way up close. There is also a brand new Aquadome and the opportunity to see animals being fed. The aquarium is open every day of the year, save for the Jewish Day of Atonement. Dolphin ReefAlong with CoralWorld, this is one of Eilat’s top attractions and an amazing and unique chance to get up close and personal with a group of bottlenose dolphins who choose, of their own free will, to make this Reef their home! Set on the shores of the Red Sea, it is an ecological site unique to Israel - it has floating piers and observation points at which you can observe these magnificent creatures.The more adventurous visitor can also choose to snorkel or dive with the dolphins, and there are workshops that families love. The Reef also has a beautiful botanical garden and pond.Eilat beachfront.Photo by Boris Izmaylov on UnsplashRed Sea Jazz FestivalFirst held in 1987, the Red Sea Jazz Festival is an annual event, usually held in the last week of August. Running for four days, it hosts performances by accomplished jazz musicians, from Israel and also around the globe. There are workshops on offer and nightly jam sessions. Some of the artists who have performed in recent years include the Mingus Dynasty, Mory Kante, the Latin Groove Orchestra, Rick Margitza and Franck Ansalem. The festival draws audiences of up to 70,000 and has proved so popular that in 2010 a Winter festival now runs each year, for 3 days.Eilat can be easily reached both from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, either by Egged public buses or car rental (approx. 4 hours driving time from each city to the Red Sea). For more information, feel free to read the article How to get from Tel Aviv to Eilat. You can also spend a day in Eilat on your way to Petra with one of the numerous tours to Petra and Jordan.
By Sarah Mann

Theatre in Israel

Israel’s a land of beaches, mountains, seas and nature trails, endless religious and historical landmarks, archaeological sites and museums that deal with so many different themes. But it’s also a nation of culture lovers - which is why the performing arts are so well-supported. Whether you want music, fine art or theatre, both the big and small cities won’t disappoint. Even better, when it comes to theatre, there are so many choices for the visitor, including performances in Hebrew, Russian, English and even Yiddish!Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinToday we’re going to be looking at the lively and active Israeli theatre scene. Whether it’s contemporary plays, classical productions, performances at the Romantheatre in Caesarea, or under the stars in Jerusalem, there’s an exciting and dynamic ‘scene’ in the country. Israel is also a veritable melting point which means the actors, directors, and playwrights you’ll come across here hail not just from the Levant but all across the globe. From professional repertory and international musicals to regional plays and amateur companies, devoted audiences can expect a treat when they book tickets. Let’s start with a brief history of how it all began...History of the Theatre in IsraelThe first-ever Hebrew theatre in Israel was a group called ‘Lovers of the Hebrew Stage’ who performed actively in the Holy Land between 1904-1914. In the years of the British Mandate, when many Jewish immigrants were arriving in Palestine, many of the plays performed were themed around Jewish history and the trials and tribulations of being involved in ‘building a new country’. Habima,a theatre group founded in Moscow, arrived in Tel Aviv in 1928, delighting audiences with a production of ‘haOtsar’ (‘the Treasure’), a Yiddish to Hebrew translation of Shalom Aleichem’s Der Oytser. Settling in the city in 1931, a theatre was built and opened in 1945.Habima Theatre, Tel Aviv.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinOld and New Themes - from Shakespeare to LevinAfter the creation of the state, theatre in Israel flourished, combining native and international narratives. Playwrights such as Hanoch Levin, Moshe Shamir, and Nissan Aloni began exploring subjects pertinent to the new, fragile state, particularly the impact of the Holocaust and the current state of play between Israel and the Arab world. Over time, international classics also became popular in Israel - Shakespeare, Moliere, Samuel Beckett, and Tom Stoppard to name but a few. Today, Israel’s theatres have a reputation that is well-deserved, drawing on eclectic themes and promoting young actors and actresses. With a growing number of students studying acting in high school and the exciting atmosphere that exists on stages across the country, the future indeed looks bright for Israeli theatre. Let’s now have a look at some of the most well-known theatres in Israel:Theatre curtain.Photo by Rob Laughter on UnsplashTop Theatres in JerusalemJerusalem Theater - This landmark structure opened in 1971 and houses a number of open spaces, which perform all kinds of cultural activities. The complex consists of five halls - the Sherover Theatre can seat 970 and the Henry Crown Concert Hall 760! Located in Talbiyeh, it hosts over 600,000 visitors each year.Khan Theater - This theatre is a leading repertory-creator in Jerusalem, producing 4-5 new critically acclaimed plays each season, as well as its repertoire of 10 ongoing productions. They perform classical, modern European, and American plays, as well as Israeli dramas and, are considered by critics as the theatre that has produced the most groundbreaking works in recent years. Without a doubt, it is a real cultural center in the city. The Train Theater - Formed in 1981, this artistic puppet theater for children promotes creation and innovation. Every summer, it puts on the International Festival of Puppet Theater, bringing together puppeteers, viewers, artists, and festival directors from Israel and around the world.Caesarea Roman Theatre.Photo credit: © ShutterstockTop Theatres in Tel AvivHabima - Habima first opened in 1945 but was rebuilt and reopened in 2009 - today, located at the top of Rothschild Boulevard, it is considered a world-class theatre. Most productions are performed in Hebrew but often translated simultaneously into English, making it accessible for thousands of tourists. It has produced many critically acclaimed plays, both classic and independent, and today visitors can also enjoy a number of musicals on offer there, including Les Miserables and Mamma Mia.Gesher - The Gesher Theatre was founded in 1981 by new immigrants who had arrived in Israel from the USSR. It is one of the few bi-lingual theatres in the world, performing with the same troupe in Russian and Hebrew alternately. Today most of the productions are in Hebrew, but it has a very unique and artistic feel to its productions. Many of its plays have been hailed as remarkable and outstanding and today it is regarded as one of the most innovative theatres in Israel.Jaffa Theatre - The Jaffa Theater promotes intercultural dialogue, bringing together people from Jewish and Arab backgrounds, in an atmosphere of mutual respect. The theatre is a great advocate of reconciliation and peace and puts on many productions that deal with identity and ‘belonging’.Roman Theatre in Caesarea.Photo by Joshua Sukoff on UnsplashThe Cameri Theatre - The Cameri, founded in 1944, is one of Israel’s leading theatres and, to date, has staged over 600 productions, in front of thousands of people. Based in central Tel Aviv, each year, they present around 15 new plays to Israeli audiences, using an accomplished cast and well-known directors (five of whom have been awarded the Israel Prize for contributions to their field). Suzanne Dellal Center -Established in 1989 in the charming Neve Tzedek neighborhood, the Suzanne Dellal Centre offers a diverse number of performances, festivals, and events that relate to the world of contemporary dance and performing art. Suzanne Dellal is also home to the world-famous Batsheva dance troupe, with Martha Graham hired as its first artistic director, back in 1964. The Stage - This is home to a performing arts community in Tel Aviv that operates in English. They run large and small productions, all on a voluntary basis. Their claim to fame is a production of the notorious ‘Vagina Monologues’ and they also offer writing, directing, acting, and improv workshops as well as stand-up comedy and ‘open mic’ nights. If you are looking for an English-language theatre in Israel with English-speaking actors, this one is not to miss.Students dancing near the entrance to Suzanne Dellal Center.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinImprov Theater Israel - Founded in 2007 by Anna Preminger, this is currently the home of Israeli improvisation theatre. Tmu-Na -This small community theater and performance center, features fringe and avant-garde performances in central Tel Aviv. Yiddishspiel - Yiddishpiel was established in 1987, its aim being to restore and revive the rich language of Yiddish, spoken by millions before World War II and part of a rich, Jewish cultural tradition. They have a rich and diverse repertoire, including classic works by Shalom Aleichem, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Shai Agnon.Founded by Shmuel Atzmon-Wircer, to date over 100 new productions have been staged and the theatre has also gained international recognition, performing in festivals around the world. Since their beginning, they have traveled to London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, and Vienna to perform.Malenky - This company was founded in 1997 by a group of immigrants from the old USSR and its forte is the adaptation of classical literary works. Malenki means ‘small’ in Russian but there’s nothing insignificant about these actors. Currently, they perform both in Russian and Hebrew and their repertoire includes ‘the Bastards Story’ (based on Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’), ‘About the Sin’ (based on Dostoyevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment), and ‘The Stranger’ (based on the novel by Albert Camus). Market Dance, Carmel Market, Tel Aviv.Photo by Liel Anapolsky on UnsplashTop Theatres in HaifaHaifa Theatre - Founded in 1961, with the support of Abba Hushi - the mayor at that time - this was the first creative urban theatre in Israel. Undoubtedly, it expanded the cultural horizons of Haifa - and today acts as a creative home for young directors and original playwrights. (Fun fact; famous Israel playwrights Hanoch Levin, A B Yehoshua, and Danny Horowitz all began their professional lives here).Al-Midan -Founded in 1994, by a group of Arab-Israelis, this Haifa-based theatre serves as the artistic community for Arabis in Israel. With its two halls, its plays are performed only in Arabic and use both young Arab performers who have just graduated from Israeli drama schools, in collaboration with seasoned actors from the community.Theatre at CaesareaCaesarea isn’t just a magnificent national park, at which you can see extraordinary examples of Herodian architecture. It’s also home to a huge theater where, every summer, theatergoers come to enjoy concerts and plays under the stars. What once was a place where thousands watched Sophocles being performed is now a major venue for international performers. Not to be missed! To visit Caesarea join one of numerous Caesarea tours.Ballerina in Tel Aviv.Photo by Liel Anapolsky on UnsplashIsrael Musicals and Musical Theatre in IsraelThe King and I, Rent, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and The Sound of Music are some of the many musicals that have proved to be huge hits in Israel. Many Broadway shows make it here, both in large and intimate venues and enjoyed both by Israelis and those whose native language is English!Theatre Festivals in IsraelEach year, Israel holds a number of fantastic theatre festivals, to which thousands of people - both locals and tourists - flock. These include:Musrara Mix Festival - Usually held in February, and held in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Musrara (between the east and west of the city), this runs for three days and hosts a number of Israeli and international artists, as well as students from the Naggar School of Art. All events are free to the public, and visitors love walking through the narrow streets of the area, meeting locals, and enjoying all kinds of artistic performances.Puppets.Photo by Ray Harrington on UnsplashFestigal - Performed annually since 1981, Festigal is a wonderful musical show with many well-known actors and singers in Israel performing across Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Haifa. It begins with a musical, then comes a break, in which the audience vote for their favorite song. The second half consists of a concert. Held at Hanukkah time (December), it’s incredibly popular with children and each year it adopts a different theme. Acre Fringe Theatre Festival -Since 1979, the marvelous Crusader City of Acre has been home to an international fringe festival, which is held in the days that fall between the beginning and end of Sukkot (the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles), in the Autumn. Acre, with its ancient port, narrow alleyways, and eclectic architecture, is the perfect place to stage productions.Held at the Knight’s Hall (the Hospitaller Fortress), the stunning archaeological backdrop intrigues and mesmerizes visitors. It is Israel’s biggest theatre festival and is known to be a hub of creativity - it hosts companies from around the world and also boasts street performances and many activities for children. Enjoying theatre in a city like Acre was never this much fun...Acre Port.Photo by Daniel Newman on UnsplashJaffa Fest - Running since 2018 and held in the beautiful city of Jaffa, this festival hosts a number of music and theatre productions. Initiated by the Gesher Theatre, since 2020 it has been including a variety of content created for digital broadcasting in Hebrew, English, and Russian.Masrahid Festival - Held annually, at the Acre Theatre Centre, this festival performs plays in Arabic with simultaneous translation provided in Hebrew, opening the event up to millions of people who want to watch original works and understand more about Arab and Palestinian culture. International Puppet Festival - Taking place each July in Holon (just outside of Tel Aviv), this festival began in 1995 and is organized by the Israeli Puppet Centre. It hosts workshops for professionals and amateurs and gives performances by locals and international artists alike. Even better, most events are free...Bat Yam Festival - This annual festival takes place every August, close to the beach (on the boardwalk) in Bat Yam (a city just south of Tel Aviv-Jaffa). Running since 2005, it’s all about street theatre - and this street theatre is edgy, risky, and happening. The audience is people who happen to be walking there and performers have the job of making them look up and take notice. If you’re lucky, you’ll even see some acrobatics!To be able to visit any particular show or theatre in Israel, please consider joining aprivate tour.The Wandering Israeli Show, Cameri Theatre, Tel Aviv.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
By Sarah Mann

Mountains in Israel

The geography of the Holy Land is incredibly diverse - you can actually dive with tropical fish in the Red Sea, cycle through the Arava and Negev deserts, swim and sunbathe by the Mediterranean Sea all in the space of a day, if you get up early. Something else that’s amazing about Israel is just how many mountains it has. Many tourists aren’t aware of this - they imagine sun, sea and sand, without knowing that within an hour or two’s drive of both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv it’s possible to find amazing places to climb and hike.Masada Cable Car, Israel.Photo credit: © ShutterstockMountains in Israel are also imbued with religious significance, important to Christians, Jews, and Muslims alike. From Mount Sinai, where God gave Jews the Ten Commandments, to the Mount of Temptation(where Jesus battled with Satan), great drama takes place. No less so either in the Quran - in Islamic history, the small hills of Al-Marwah and Al-Safa are the locations between which Muslims travel back and forth during their famous pilgrimage known as the ‘Hajj.’And for those less interested in history and more in sport, Israel’s a great place to visit if you’re athletic. Whether you want to hike,indulge in some rock climbing, take off on a mountain bike action in Israel, ski and snowboard on Mount Hermon, or rappel down the sides of the Mitzpe Ramon crater in the Negev desert, there’s a tour guide waiting to arrange your excursion in Israel.Below we’re looking at some of these mountain ranges, what makes them important to the pilgrims who visit there and why you should think about visiting a few of them on your trip to Israel.Mount Arbel near Tiberias. Photo credit: © Dan PorgesMountains and the Hebrew BibleMount Carmel -This coastal mountain range in Haifa is, at its highest point, 5454 m above sea level. The name dates back to biblical times and comes from the Hebrew word ‘kerem’ (‘vineyard’), referring to the mountain’s fertility. Its most important reference in the Old Testament is in Kings 1, where Elijah confronted the false prophets of Baal.Mount Gerizim - Located in the West Bank, just south of Nablus (Shechem) Mount Gerizim rises to 880 m and is the twin of Mount Ebel, which sits to its north. The mountain is mentioned in Deuteronomy 11, as the site where God was to give his blessing to the Jewish people - and this ceremony was subsequently performed in the time of Joshua. Gerizim is also mentioned in the writings of the Roman historian Flavius Josephus and in the rabbinical Talmud. Mount Gilboa - The Gilboa Ridge runs to around 80 km and rises to a height of 650 meters above sea level. Close to the Great Rift Valley, its slopes are steep and ideal for hiking when in Israel. It is also home to several springs, including Ein Harod and Ein HaShlosha and these are very popular both with tourists and locals.Overlooking the Jordan Valley to the North and the Jezreel Valley to the south, Mount Gilboa is where Saul (Israel’s first King) died (by falling on his own sword) in a battle against the Philistines. When David heard this news, he wept and cursed the mountain.Hai-Bar Carmel National Park. Photo credit: © Manu Grinspan. Published with permission of the Israel Nature and Parks AuthorityMount Hazor - Located in the West Bank, with Samaria to its north and Judea to its south, Mount Hazor reaches over 1,000 meters at its peak. In Hebrew, ‘Hazor’ means ‘courtyard’ and refers to the wall enclosures that people constructed here in ancient times. In Joshua’s day, it was regarded as the ‘head of all the kingdoms’, and accounts from the Dead Sea Scrolls suggest that this is the place where Abraham built an altar and prepared to obey God’s word and sacrifice his son Isaac.Judaean Mountains - Also known as the Hebron hills, the Judean Mountain range stretches from the foothills of Judea to parts of the Jordan Rift Valley, including important cities such as Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, and Ramallah. Reaching a height of just over 1,000 meters, they formed the heart of the Kingdom of Judah, where the first Jewish settlements emerged.After the death of David’s son, King Solomon, the ten northern tribes separated from Judah, and Jerusalem remained the capital of the kingdom of Judah, which continued until 587/586 when the Babylonians conquered it. This majestic mountainscape is also where David hurled a stone at Goliath and Bar Kochba led a revolt against the Romans. Today, it is a wonderful place to hike, enjoy a wine tour/picnic and visit numerous archaeological sites.Judaean Desert Mountains. Photo by Amit Lahav on UnsplashMount Betarim -This mountain is sacred to two faiths - according to Jewish tradition, it is the spot at which God made his covenant with Abraham and according to Muslim tradition, it is where God commanded Abraham to sacrifice four species of birds, before bringing them back to life.Сity of David - More than 3,000 years ago, King David left Hebron for a small hilltop city known as Jerusalem; he would later establish it as the capital of the tribes of Israel. Years later, his son Solomon built the First Temple there and, as a result, this hilltop became one of the Holy Land’s most important sites.Mount Sinai (in Arabic, Jabal Musa) lies on the Sinai Peninsula of Egypt, rising 2,280 m high, and surrounded by even higher peaks. It is, of course, famous as the spot on which God gave the Israelites (via Moses) the Ten Commandments. Mount Nebo rises 710 m high and is situated in Jordan. It is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as the place at which God gave Moses a view of the Promised Land.Breathtaking Sunrise at the top of Mount Sinai in Egypt. Photo by Vlad Kiselov on UnsplashMountains and the Christian BibleMount of Beatitudes - Overlooking the Sea of Galilee, this is the place where Jesus was supposed to have given his famous Sermon on the Mount. The exact site is not known but pilgrims commemorate the event at the Church of the Beatitudes, built on the slope of the mount and close to the Tiberias-Rosh Pina road. Mount Precipice - Located just outside of Nazareth, and almost 400 m high, this mountain offers wonderful views of the surrounding area, as well as beautiful walking paths known by pilgrims as the ‘Gospel Trails’. According to the Gospel of Luke, an angry mob attempted to throw Jesus off this mountain, after his bold sermons in the area.Mount of Temptation -Rising to 360 m above sea level, and offering wonderful panoramic views of the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, this is the spot - near Jericho - at which tradition holds Christ was tempted by the Devil. You can reach the summit only on a steep path, passing by a monastery that literally ‘clings’ to the face of the cliff.Mount of Transfiguration - According to the Gospel of Matthew, this is the spot at which Jesus underwent his transfiguration - his face shone like the sun and his clothes turned white. Its actual location is unknown - it could be Mount Tabor or Mount Hermon.Mount Tabor - Located in Galilee, at the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley, although it is not mentioned specifically in the New Testament, Mount Tabor is assumed to be the location of Jesus’s transfiguration (see above).Mount of Beatitudes Church, Sea of Galilee, Israel. Photo credit: © ShutterstockMountains of Jerusalem‎Mount of Olives - The Mount of Olives (in Hebrew’ Har HaZeitim’ and in Arabic ‘Jabal Al Tur’) sits east of and next to Jerusalem and is named after the olive terraces that cover the slopes. Referred to frequently both in the Old and New Testaments, it is a sacred spot for Christians, Jews, and also Muslims, and also home to a prominent cemetery.First mentioned in the Bible as the “ascent of the Mount of Olives”, it is also mentioned in the book of Zechariah at the end of days prophecy. For Christians, it is the spot where Jesus spent time in the last week of his life, particularly at the Garden of Gethsemane (where he prayed before his arrest) and also as the spot from which he ascended to heaven. For Muslims, the Mount of Olives is where the Kaaba - the black stone from Mecca - will one day return. Temple Mount (Moriah) - Also known as Haram al-Sharif and Al Aqsa, this hill in Jerusalem is venerated both by Jews and Muslims. For Jews, it is the place where the divine presence manifests itself and where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac. For Muslims, it is the site of Mohammed’s ascent to heaven, in 7 CE. Located just above the Western Wall, in recent years its sovereignty has become hotly contested.Mout of Olives with the Church of Dominus Flevit, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockMount Zion - Situated just outside the Old City Walls, Mount Zion is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible (in conjunction with the City of David and also Temple Mount) but today its name refers to the Western Hill of ancient Jerusalem. The word ‘Zion’ certainly has emotional connotations for Jews...it is where God dwells, is King, and has installed his King. Mount Scopus - At 825 meters high and situated in north-east Jerusalem, Mount Scopus has historically been a strategic point (‘scopus’ in Latin means ‘lookout’) and used by the Romans and Crusaders, as well as the scene for modern-day battles. Between 1948-1967, Mount Scopus was protected by the UN as an Israeli enclave within Jordanian territory. Today it offers panoramic views of the city and is home to the world-famous Hebrew University.Mount Herzl - Named after Theodor Herzl (the founder of modern Zionism) and also known as Har haZikharon (the Mount of Remembrance) this hill is home to Israel’s national cemetery and also other education and memorial facilities. It is a site of great importance in Israel, being where the state ceremony for the conclusion of Memorial Day and the beginning of Independence Day takes place each year. To its west, sits the Yad Vashem Memorial to the six million murdered in the Holocaust.Dormition Abbey, Mount Zion. Photo credit: © Sofia EmeliyanovaFamous Mountains in Northern IsraelMount Hermon - Mount Hermon (or Jabul al-Sheikh, "Mountain of the Sheikh" in Arabic) is a cluster of hills in the Lebanon area, with peaks that sit between the border of Syria and Lebanon. The United Nations is in control of the buffer zone at the top, separating Israel and Syria and its southern slopes are home to a ski resort that is popular with Israelis, though Mount Hermon's weather is characteristic of fog.Mount Heman soars to 2814 above the sea and is the highest mountain in Israel, surrounded at its base by a number of small Druze villages. Historically, Mount Hermon has been known as a holy place, a snow-capped hill, and also a mountain of great military (strategic) importance. Its springs at the base of the mountain form into streams that eventually make up the Jordan River.Mount Bental - Located in the Golan Heights, Mount Bental rises 1,170 meters above sea level and provides amazing views of Mount Hermon and the Golan. The overlook is managed by Kibbutz Merom haGolan, the first of its kind established after the Six-Day War in 1967.In 1973, in the Yom Kippur war, this mountain was home to an enormous tank battle and as a result of the huge casualties (100 Israeli tanks were reduced to 7, under extreme enemy fire) was subsequently known as the ‘Valley of Tears.’Valley of Tears, Golan Heights.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinMount Arbel - Situated near Tiberias, in the Lower Galilee, this mountain boasts beautiful hiking trails that lead to a fortress-like building, the remains of an ancient synagogue, and stunning views of the Golan Heights. The caves dug into Mount Arbel’s cliffs were historically used as a hiding place for Jews fighting their enemies - the historian Josephus writes of the last Hasmonean rebels who lived in the cliffs and were eventually defeated by the Romans. Mount Meron - Located close to Safed in the Upper Galilee, Mount Meron has great significance for Jews, being particularly famous for the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and a huge annual celebration of the festival of Lag B’Omer. It is mentioned in the bible as the spot at which Joshua defeated the Canaanite kings and some Jews also believe a cave nearby holds the remains of the famous rabbis Hillel and Shammai.The Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
By Sarah Mann