Most Recommended Ways to Visit Bethlehem During your Trip to Israel

Bethlehem is a "must" destination for all Christian visitors to Israel, and for many non-Christians as well. Bethlehem is the Biblical location of the nativity, where Jesus Christ was born on the first Christmas Eve. Bethlehem has become a household name to most Westerners. Bethlehem is remembered in nativity scenes at school; in Christmas carols (Oh Little Town of Bethlehem) and in Biblical stories of the shepherds watching their sheep that night; the Wise Men (Magi) and the manger that gave Mary and Joseph shelter when there was "no room at the inn." These childhood memories of Christmas tales are what make Bethlehem a magical destination for anyone on a trip to Israel.Where is Bethlehem?Saint Jerome Statue, Saint Catherine Church, BethlehemBethlehem is situated in the central West Bank in the Palestinian Authorities Territory on the southern portion of the Judean Mountains. Although Bethlehem is in the West Bank it is only 10km (6.2 miles) from Jerusalem and can be reached from Jerusalem in under an hour. The journey to Bethlehem takes you across the border (Checkpoint 300) between Israel and Palestine so you will need to take your passport. There is no restriction on passing between Israel and Palestine at this checkpoint as many times as you want. This is generally a safe and friendly crossing and even if traveling alone in a taxi you will probably have no problems at the border.Visiting Bethlehem on FootOK this is only for the hard-core pilgrims who want to retrace Joseph and Mary's steps. The walk is doable but difficult and will take you at least 2 hours following Tel Khai Street out of Jerusalem, joining Bet Lechem Road and on to Hebron Road that leads you to Bethlehem. This route is best done with a group of pilgrims or guide and is not recommended.Visiting Bethlehem by TaxiYou can catch a taxi from Jerusalem to Bethlehem in one of the West Jerusalem taxis with a white number plate which can only drop you at the checkpoint. There you can cross into Palestine and catch a Palestinian taxi with a yellow number plate to Bethlehem or even walk the remaining way which could take about half an hour. Alternatively, you can take an East Jerusalem taxi with a yellow number plate which may be able to take you all the way to Bethlehem. You should negotiate a price before leaving Jerusalem and have the taxi driver wait for you in Bethlehem to take you back to Jerusalem.Visiting Bethlehem with a Rented CarAlthough you can rent a car in Israel and drive part of the way to Bethlehem you cannot take cars rented in Israel into the West Bank or across the border into the Palestinian Territory. This is for insurance reasons as cars rented in Israel are not covered by insurance in the West Bank areas not controlled by Israel. However, you could rent a car in East Jerusalem and drive to Bethlehem.Visiting Bethlehem by Public BusSt. Catherine's Church- the inner part of the Church of the NativitySeveral buses connect Jerusalem to Bethlehem. You can take the Egged #234 from near the Old City of Jerusalem or the Central Bus Station to Checkpoint 300 where you will have to disembark, cross into Palestine on foot and take a taxi or Palestinian bus into Bethlehem. The blue "Arab" Israel bus #21 leaves the East Jerusalem Bus Station on Sultan Suleiman St opposite the Damascus Gate of the Old City. This bus takes a different route than the Egged bus and travels through Beit-Jalla, across the checkpoint and straight into Bethlehem. So this bus route is longer, cheaper and you won't have to change to a Palestinian taxi at the border. You will need to show your ID at the border crossing but will probably be able to stay on the bus. Unless you are looking for an adventure a bus journey is not recommended, it can be unsafe and there can be delays.Visiting Bethlehem with a Guided TourGrotto Over Cave Star Marks Spot, Where Jesus Christ Born - Church of the Nativity BethlehemBethlehem tours leave Tel Aviv and Jerusalem regularly throughout the year. These tours include pick-up and drop-off from your hotel or a convenient point in the city. Bethlehem one-day tours often combine half a day in Bethlehem with half a day in Jerusalem or Jericho or the Dead Sea. With day tours to Bethlehem, you don't have to worry yourself with any of the logistics or the border crossing process. Bring your passport and the tour guide will take care of the rest. On a typical tour to Bethlehem, you will visit Manger Square, the Church of the Nativity, St. Catherine's Church and sometimes the Milk Grotto as well. This may not be the cheapest option but it is definitely the most recommended way to visit Bethlehem in terms of safety and convenience.What is the Most Recommended Way to Visit Bethlehem?Traveling on foot, by bus, taxi or rented car are not recommended. Although this part of the country is usually safe the language barrier, checkpoint crossing and cultural differences can make these methods of visiting Bethlehem challenging. Overall the most recommended way to visit Bethlehem is with an organized tour. Prices are reasonable considering you get transportation, security, convenience and you're accompanied by a knowledgeable guide. For a really special experience take a tour to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and enjoy Midnight Mass in Manger Square.
By Petal Mashraki
4 min

Traveling in Israel Without Planning

Traveling to Israel requires some planning although if you want to you can leave a good part of your time unplanned for exploring the country. There are many people who travel without a plan and simply arrive at their destinations, ask locals and the tourist information office for tips and advice and take it from there. There is very little additional planning needed for Israel as compared to other destinations. However, to make the most of your time it is best to do a little research and give yourself a basic outline for your trip.Basic Planning for Israel that you Can't AvoidTraveling without a plan is great but to make sure you're even allowed off the plane you should check if you need a visa to Israel, and if so get that sorted out. Another part of planning for a trip to Israel that just can't be avoided is knowing which public holidays are happening while you are in the country. Israel's many national and religious holidays often involve a complete shutdown of public transport and attractions. This goes for the 24 hours from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday as well. During Shabbat the open hours and transportation in Israel are limited, and even non-existent in some areas. You should also check out any special events happening while you are in Israel. For example, when Israel hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 2019 accommodation in Tel Aviv scarce and you wouldn't have been able to arrive without booking your accommodation. You also need to plan for the Israeli weather. Throughout the year you will need sun protection, especially in the summer.Do you Need to Make Plans for Security on a Trip to Israel?If you're wondering if you need to make any special plans for security in Israel the answer is no. You will find Israel is one of the safest places you visit; women can walk alone at night in the large cities and feel safe. Israel, unfortunately, has had ample experience of terrorism and conflict so security measures are entrenched in the Israeli psyche. Besides being vigilant Israelis are used to going about their daily business and living full and rich lives without letting any political situation or regional conflict ruin their fun.Having a General Plan for your Israel TripDon't forget to include theDead Sea in your trip in IsraelEven if you don't want to arrive in Israel with a ridged itinerary it is a good idea to consider basing yourself in different regions of the country so you can conveniently explore the nearby sites without traveling long distances each day. I suggest dividing your time between northern Israel, central Israel (Tel Aviv), Jerusalem and southern Israel (Dead Sea or Eilat). Spend a few days based in each of these areas and do your daily sightseeing from there. You might also want to plan for any highlights you don't want to miss – shows, attractions or natural wonders. Some need to be booked in advance to avoid missing. Israel has excellent public transport and plenty to see so you shouldn't have too much trouble just getting up in the morning and setting off for an adventure.How to Travel in Israel without PlanningAn organized group tour in Israel - Most of the services you need in one pack.So if you have covered the essential basic plans mentioned above you can then relax and play the rest by ear. There are a few ways to make an unplanned trip to Israel even better. Once you get to your hotel or hostel have a chat with the reception staff or concierge to get tips on what to see and where to go. They will probably give you a free street map to help you get around if you are in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Connect up with locals and get their input. Wander the streets just people-watching, shopping and spotting the incredible architecture. Spend time on the beach, in parks, pubs, markets or side walk cafes. If you feel like you haven't covered the top attractions, you can always take a day tour. Alternatively if you want to take all planning out of your trip to Israel then join one of the Israel package tours where all guided tours and accommodation are included and organized for you. No stress, no planning, just sit back and let the tour company do all the work.A Little Bit of Planning Goes a Long WayHowever much you want to be a free spirit and arrive in the Holy Land ready to go, a little bit of planning will make your trip more interesting, trouble free and enrich your experience. Have a guide or guide book so that you know what you're looking at when you stare at structures that are 2,000 years old. Plan how to spend weekends when transport and businesses close down and do your longer journeys on weekdays. I also suggest booking at least some of your accommodation as hotels are expensive in Israel and you can find better deals online than in the middle of the night wandering the streets like Mary and Joseph when there is "no room at the inn."
By Petal Mashraki
4 min

Jerusalem Street Art

Think Israel and what comes to mind? A beautiful mediterranean coastline, set against pristine beaches...churches, mosques and synagogues in biblical terrain...exotic fruits and spices in Levantine markets...desert palms, the exotic Red Sea and a shimmering Lake of Galilee? Yes, you’d be right on all counts...because you get a lot of bang for your buck in this country. But what you probably don’t expect to find is a thriving ‘street art’ scene in this part of the world.Think again. Street art has taken Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, by storm in the last few years and whilst the scene isn’t quite as well established as in its neighbor, Tel Aviv, what you can find in this spiritual mecca is quite impressive. So if you’ve had your fill of museums, holy shrines and ancient history, fear not...just grab your camera and head off to one of the areas below to check out the creative scene...TalpiotThis Jerusalem neighborhood isn’t particularly hip and happening, but it is home to some incredible artwork which sprang up after the Walls Festival Jerusalem came to town in the spring of 2018. This international mural festival was held with the aim of using public art as a means of changing the face of urban neighborhoods.Artists from across the globe who displayed there include the Brazilian “Bicicleta Sem Freio” (Bicycles without Brakes). Rouhan Wang from China and Eina and Gan, who go by the name of Brothers of Light (yes, indeed they are brothers). If you look at the Brothers’ enormous orange canvas, you’ll see it’s packed with tiny details that highlight both the local neighborhood and the land of Israel itself. Along with palm trees and camels, you’ll also spy a Dove of Peace (holding an olive branch), the same white bird that was sent out by Noah from his Ark, after the great flood.You’ll also see Hamsas (also known as Evil Eyes) - a traditional good luck charm for both Jews and Arabs - and even a local lottery booth! (Israelis love to play the lotto!)Besides these murals, Talpiot home to the studio of Dan Groover, who paints both bold street art and bright graffiti.The First Station and the Artists' Colonyin the Fall of 2019, street artists from around the world gathered in Jerusalem in a ground-breaking new venture - a collaboration set up to paint a series of murals, as part of the city’s Biennalle. In two months, they produced sixteen pieces on-site - nine at the First Station (ha Tachana Rishona) and seven at the Artist’s Colony (Hutzot ha Yotzer).The First Station is a major center of culture, entertainment and culinary innovations in Jerusalem and the Artist’s Colony is a beautiful lane, close to the Old City’s Jaffa Gate, lined with studios. Artists in the Bienalle venture included Leonore Mizrahi-Cohen (who left Brooklyn for the Holy Land), Itamar Palogi (an Israeli who lived both in Italy and Germany), Hillel Smith (based in Washington DC) and Judy Tal Kopelman (a native of Jerusalem). Combining lush colors with Middle Eastern style, there are Jewish themes running through the designs. Even better, these wonderful, brightly-colored pieces are all staying up permanently, breathing vitality into the area and transforming the spaces... so get down there and take a look for yourself.(Our tip: don’t miss the hand-painted fish!)Mahane YehudaMahane Yehuda is Jerusalem’s biggest market (in Hebrew: shuk). Loud, colorful, busy and full of life from early morning to late afternoon, it’s the best place to buy fruit and vegetables, Levatine spices, and sweet challah bread (a Friday special). Sitting with a small cup of thick, black coffee, in one of its many cafes, it’s the perfect place to watch the locals and really soak up some Jerusalem atmosphere. And at night, the atmosphere is just as busy, with restaurants and bars opening their doors and making it a fun place to grab dinner or a drink.But there’s something else in the market too - street art. But there is a catch - it’s not visible whilst the market is operational. Why? Because it’s painted on the shutters of the stands, which are rolled up from morning to night!So if you’re curious about this recent phenomenon, the best time to wander there is on Shabbat, when the normally-frenetic market is closed.What you’ll see is a mixture of famous faces - some from the past, others contemporary. They are the brainchild of Solomon Souza, a British-Israeli artist and former Yeshiva (a religious study center for young men) student. Armed with spray paint, he begins his craft at night and as dawn breaks, the market shutters hold new and unusual paintings. They first sprang up in 2015, after Souza and his friend Hahn (who eventually took on the role of producer in this “Shuk Gallery” project) decided to liven up the place and get people thinking about the faces they were painting.And indeed you do. Characters as diverse as Mahatma Gandhi (the Indian freedom fighter) and Yehudi Menuhin (the acclaimed violinist) appear close to Rabbi Joshua Heschel (an influential American rabbi) and Hannah Senesh (a Jewish World War II heroine). Biblical scenes stand next to a painting of Steven Spielberg; Albert Einstein isn’t far from Bob Marley, who’s across from Jonathan Pollard. Over the years, Souza has even begun taking requests from local owners, most of whom are more than happy to have their shutters painted! And he and Hahn have grand plans - eventually, they hope that the entire market will be awash with their colorful designs, at which point they can give tours of the market and explain in more detail the stories behind the faces.And if you want to donate, feel free - this is a not-for-profit venture, aimed to bring art to the area and enhance peoples’ experience of a wander through the neighborhood.Our tip: wander there on Shabbat, when most of the city’s residents are at synagogue, at lunch or having a snooze. And if you’re really taken with his work, hop a plane to Goa, India, where he’s currently transforming local villages!Street art - it’s really food for the soul.
By Sarah Mann
4 min

Explore the Nonstop City of Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is easily accessible to people across Europe for a short city break or weekend get-away. You could choose to go to another European city but being able to hop over to the Middle East for the weekend is even more special! On a city break in Tel Aviv you can choose to relax and pamper yourself go sightseeing party all night shop til’ you drop or take part in outdoor activities and extreme sports. Tel Aviv is nicknamed the “Big Orange” because the city never sleeps like the Big Apple and it is called the “White City” for its UNESCO-listed Bauhaus architecture. Tel Aviv truly has it all as a city break destination. After a short flight you’ll arrive at Ben Gurion Airport, a 30-minute ride from Tel Aviv. Settle into your hotel and start to unwind. There are hotels to suit all budgets from historic boutique hotels to simple hostels.Relax and Pamper yourself on a Tel Aviv City BreakFor starters there are the stunning Tel Aviv beaches just minutes from the city center you’ll find an attractive promenade running the length of the 13 sandy beaches and the Mediterranean beyond. The beachfront is lined with top restaurants, pubs and hotels. If you want to indulge and pamper yourself Tel Aviv has many excellent spas. You could even go further afield and visit one of Israel’s hot springs at Ga’ash, Hamat Gader, Hamei Yoav, Tiberius or the Dead Sea. At the Dead Sea, you can get unique spa treatments that use the natural minerals and salts found in the Dead Sea water and mud.Tel Aviv City Breaks for FoodiesFoodies will be spoilt for choice in Tel Aviv; there are many top chef restaurants serving world-class cuisine. Many of the best restaurants have brilliant sea views while others are in the heart of the city. Visit the farmers’ market at Tel Aviv’s old port; the fresh produce market and small hole-in-the-wall restaurants at Carmel Market; Levinsky spice market and the gourmet market at the Sirona Center. Don’t leave Tel Aviv without sampling the street food and enjoying a good pita stuffed with falafel and hummus.Having Fun on a Tel Aviv City BreakTel Aviv is home to a great amusement park with thrilling rides for the whole family. There are numerous parks, like Yarkon Park, a safari park and a bird safari. You could chill out at one of the cinema complexes or rent a bike and explore the city. Other places of entertainment in Tel Aviv include Escape Rooms, trampoline centers, playgrounds, climbing walls and much more.Nightlife on a Tel Aviv City BreakTel Aviv truly is the city that never sleeps; nightclubs and bars only really come to life after 11 pm and they continue buzzing until the early hours of the morning. You won’t have to look far to find places of entertainment after dark. Visit underground clubs near Rothschild Blvd. hipster bars in the historic Neve Tzedek neighborhood; arty clubs around HaHashmal Street and the bohemian hang-outs of Florentin. If you’re not into night clubs Tel Aviv has wine bars, ballet, opera, concerts and theatre.Shopping in Tel AvivYour shopping choices in Tel Aviv are numerous and diverse. You could stick to the traditional markets like Carmel Market or the flea market in Jaffa. Visit Nachalat Binyamin market for hand-made arts and crafts. Visit the up-market fashion stores at Kirkar HaMedina or travel to one of the large malls like Azrieli Tower. In Tel Aviv you can find everything from traditional items and locally made goods to international name brands.Outdoor Activities on a Tel Aviv City Break In Tel Aviv you can rent a bicycle and use the many cycle paths; go rowing in the Yarkon River, do water sports at the beach, join locals on a morning jog try yoga at Tel Aviv Port at sundown visit a local gym or make a trip out to the countryside for bird-watching. Tel Aviv locals love exercising outdoors and the parks and beachfront are always full of dedicated fitness enthusiasts.Sightseeing in Tel Aviv on a City BreakTel Aviv Museum of ArtTel Aviv has excellent museums including the Museum of Art, Design Museum Holon, Bauhaus Museum, Museum of the Jewish People and the Eretz Israel Museum. There are historic landmarks including the site where the Declaration of Independence was signed on Rothschild Blvd. and the houses of famous artists and political figures. Don’t miss Jaffa, now a joint municipality with Tel Aviv this ancient port city has narrow lanes flanked by stone houses leading down to the water’s edge, excellent restaurants, markets, art galleries and museums. Also visit Sirona, a restored German Templer settlement and the American-German Colony neighborhood.Seeing the Rest of Israel on a Tel Aviv City BreakThere are plenty of tours in Israel from Tel Aviv that take you to locations across the country including to Jerusalem, the Galilee, Golan Heights, Dead Sea and more. This way you can see more of the county without having to bother with logistics and transportation issues. The day tours include a complimentary pick-up from Tel Aviv and return you at the end of the day. All you have to do is choose your destination and book the tour, the rest is taken care of for you.
By Petal
4 min

A Unique Society to Israel, the Kibbutz Community

A kibbutz, a unique collective community, that exists for over 100 years in Israel only, was established during the pioneering era at the turn of the 20th century. Kibbutzim were founded for settling the land through agricultural co-existence, and with its resident members formed part of the diverse ideological base on which the state of Israel, for 40 years before its creation, was built. There were different ideological movements, that formed agricultural cooperatives which embraced different political affiliations.Such a community formed a fully economical, sustainable and socialist based society, “all for one and one for all”, as part of the foundation of the Zionist movement, and its dream of settling the land of Israel, creating and establishing the homeland for the Jewish people. This was made possible by Jewish immigrants from Europe, North Africa, Russia. Many who fled oppressive regimes, survived atrocities, lost entire families and came to build a new life in Israel.Kibbutz community, based on egalitarian and social cooperation, its values and ethos, takes care of its members’ needs for their entire lives, providing vocation, occupations, homes, health services, education, and sustaining a communal lifestyle built on the community and individual needs, mutual and reciprocal. Various ideologies, religious practice, traditions, values, vision and political entities differentiated between numerous kibbutz movements.The kibbutz today has adjusted to the 21st century – lots of communities are privatized, and considerably fewer exist in its original or economic communal form. In the 21st century, the kibbutz community has become privatized in many aspects, some have even completely ceased to exist, meeting member’s specific needs and re-examining the individual’s needs. Until 1970 children grew up fed, clothed, lived and slept in children’s houses seeing their parents for a few hours each afternoon, from immediately after birth. Since then, housing was adjusted in size to accommodate children living with their parents, and families as a nuclear unit, under 1 roof, redefining the family unit and its part in the collective.The needs of the individual and community are addressed by the elected governing body, but all kibbutz members still have the voting right for all issues that affect them personally and collectively. The kibbutz as a community caters to the needs of the aged, until their passing. Many of them have an elderly population of up to 20 % of the entire member population, who are no longer productive working members but have their needs catered for, by virtue of having been part of the kibbutz all their lives.In recent years, kibbutzim have also created small, adjacent outside housing communities to strengthen them with a younger population ensuring their future existence. Young couples can build and buy homes, which are privately owned, and can fully enjoy communal services education, etc and a countryside lifestyle which they would not be able to afford living in major cities in the center of the country.The kibbutz system has proven its ability to move through the ages and remain relevant in Israeli society, however varied and distant it may be from the original nucleus of its formation.
By Jenny Ehrlich
2 min

The Israel National Trail

Criss-crossing the entire land of Israel, and stretching just over 1000 kilometres (around 630 miles), the Israel National Trail (‘Shvil Israel’) is the kind of experience every hiker will remember for years after. National Geographic have listed it as one of the world’s “most epic” trails and when you hike it you’ll understand why...it marries mountains with desert, coastal plains with green fields, snow-capped hills with warm waters in the Red Sea, Roman and Crusader ruins with Arab/Druze villages...basically, it’s a taste of everything the land of Israel encompasses.Rare OpportunityIt also offers the hiker something else too - a chance to understand more about the Biblical significance of the land as well as the opportunity to meet Israelis from every walk of life...not just those whose villages and towns you’ll pass through, but those who will aid you practically, as you continue on your journey. (But more of that later.)The trail itself is easily marked in colorful stripes - blue white and orange - and is the brainchild of Avraham Tamir and Ori Dvir, who love hiking and nature. Inaugurated back in 1995, first and foremost its aim is to give hikers the chance to experience Israel in its most natural settings. What’s also great the National Israel Trail is that you don’t have to complete the entire stretch. If you're not an expert hiker, or you only have a few days to spare, that’s fine - you can focus on one particular part of it or even take day trips. But for any ardent hiker, between 4-6 weeks will need to be set aside in order to complete the entire stretch.Trail AngelsOn a practical level, strong boots, snacks and a hardy water bottle are all must-haves, particularly for when you’re in remote areas of the trail. The SPNI (Society for the Protection of Nature) sells high-class topographical maps, in English, with an emphasis on the hiking trails - they are an invaluable resource!There’s also more good news - all along the route, you’ll be able to call upon the services of “Trail Angels”. These wonderful people provide hikers with a place to shower/sleep, kitchen facilities and quite often dinner, or at the very least a coffee and a chat, in their homes. Getting to meet locals in their natural habitat? It doesn’t get much more authentic than this! Some Trail Angels also partake in a water-burying scheme (in the desert areas) which really comes in handy when you’re half way through your day and parched.It’s up to you whether you want to work your way up or down the country, but since trekking in Israel’s summer can be unbearable, we suggest you begin your journey in the autumn or winter. Here’s an example of an itinerary, beginning in the south, in mid-February.Timna, the Arava and the NegevStart your journey in Eilat (on the tip of the Red Sea), and spend your last day of ‘freedom’ on the beach, enjoying views of Jordan, Egypt and Saudi. With its endless palm trees and clement waters, it’s the ideal place to enjoy some R&R.Trekking through the Eilat Mountains, and the Arava desert, pass through Timna Park - 15,000 acres set in a valley shaped like a horseshoe, surrounded by Mount Timna and some very steep cliffs. The geology is quite fascinating (our tip: look out for the Pillars of Solomon, two sandstone columns that tower above you). Heading up through the vast desert expenses, you’ll pass Kibbutz Neot Samdar (they sell excellent vegetarian produce) and arrive in Mitzpe Ramon, a small town that sits on the edge of the magnificent Ramon Crater. (It’s actually possible to hike, bike or take a jeep tour inside the crater).About 35 kilometers north, you’ll arrive at the Midreshet Ben Gurion, an intimate community that boasts scientific institutes, the burial site of David Ben Gurion (Israel’s first Prime Minister) and some striking views of Wadi Zin. Call upon Trail Angel Arthur du Mosch, who leads tours of the desert, is an expert horse-rider and actually caught a leopard in his home, many years back!Judean HillsJudean DesertHead north through the Negev to the Yatir Forest, Israel’s largest forest which, despite receiving very little rainfall, is home to some of the country’s most varied woodlands (including a unique eucalyptus with red blossoms). Enjoy some archaeology - the Yatir Ruins (associated with the Biblical city of Jatti). From there it’s into the Judean Hills. Don’t miss the breathtaking views inside the ‘British Park’ and sites such as the Luzit Caves, Kidon Ruins and Monastery of Beit Jamal. Trek through dirt tracks, pass caves and look over Highway 1, which served as a battleground in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. The trail continues through the Sharon coastal area, including Tel Aviv. The ‘White City’ (named after its Bauhaus Buildings) can be a good place to enjoy a couple of day’s rest, some good coffee and sandy beaches.Carmel and the GalileeIt’s then north to the Carmel...an incredibly lovely part of the trail, with wondrous views of the Galilee and steep ravines in which you can hike. The path runs through Kibbutz Yagur, where you’ll find more helpful Trail Angels. Dip your feet in the Nakhash Stream, sip at your water bottle and breathe in the clean air.Further north, you’ll arrive at Mount Tabor, rising up from the very flat Jezreel Valley. Green all year round, it provides magnificent observation points. (Our tip: don’t miss the caves and the Greek Orthodox/Franciscan churches).Mount Meron, the Yesha Fortress and the Upper GalileeAbout 70 kilometers north, just after the spiritual center of Safed, you’ll arrive at Mount Meron which, at 500 meters above sea level, is Israel’s largest peak. It is home to ‘Elijah’s Chair’ (a huge lectern-shaped rock which is rumored to be where the great prophet sat). Parts of the area are a protected nature reserve - and don’t miss the village of Meron either (where you’ll find the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai).Another 30 km north, you’ll arrive at the imposing Yesha Fortress - built by the British during the Mandate period. Today it’s used by the Israeli border police. Hike up the path that leads to a splendid panorama of the Hula Valley below. On your left, you will see the villages of Metula and Kiryat Shmona and, across the Valley, the Golan Heights (whose peaks might even still have snow on them).You will also find at the site a plaque that remembers the 28 men who died fighting here in the War of Independence (our tip: don’t miss the small grove nearby that has 28 trees planted in memory of the men).The last part of the trail - the Hula Valley, Upper Galilee and Naftali Ridge - will see you hiking when spring has truly arrived - with luck you will have blue skies and sunny days, and all around you will be fields carpeted with brightly-colored crocuses. On the eastern side of the Rmim Cliffs, the trail will afford you views of planted forests (after the Second Lebanon War, a reforestation project was undertaken). Don’t miss the Saadia Scenic Lookout, the Menara Cliffs and the Shepherds Spring.And by then, you’re homeward bound and you can honestly say you know the land of Israel a great deal better!
By Sarah Mann
5 min

The Design Museum Holon

Ten years ago, it’s fair to say that the Israeli city of Holon (not even 20 minutes drive from Tel Aviv) wasn’t on the itinerary of many tourists. But a decade later, all that has changed with the opening of the country’s first Design Museum. Since March 2010, this small but intriguing space has fast established itself on the world map, promoting design and contemporary culture not just to professionals and aspiring design students but also to those with no formal background in the subject.Iconic DesignSet up with the aim of acting as a dynamic and vital institution, the Design Museum encouragers designers and students to use the building as a creative resource, as well as a space to showcase their work. But it’s more than that - it’s also an architectural gem and a fine place to spend an hour or two, enjoying the ever-changing program of exhibits and workshops and also just walking around this iconic space.At the helm of the initial plan to build this space was renowned architect and industrial designer Ron Arad whose passion for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum shone through in the initial sketches. The result? Nothing short of ‘wow.’ From a distance, this is a structure that grabs your attention; as you draw closer, it becomes even more impressive. Hues of red, orange and purple accost your eyes - in front of you are huge bands of metal, six of them in fact, all made out of weathering Corten steel, and swirling in front of you like ribbons.Wandering through the Design Museum in Holon is, indeed, a true immersive experience. Not for nothing did America’s Conde Nast Traveller Magazine describe it as one of the new seven wonders of the world!Design and DialogueArad’s design is deliberately ‘fluid’ and aims to start a dialogue with you, from the moment you begin wandering through the building. Most visitors begin in the large gallery at the top and stroll through the space until they reach the smaller, more intimate gallery, below. The museum also boasts a design hall, a significant number of exhibition spaces, room for workshops and even a design lab. The upper gallery is lit naturally, taking advantage of the semi-transparent roof which, innovatively, filters the sunlight coming through. And whilst the building is mainly comprised of reinforced concrete, clever use of light and steel make it far less ‘brutalist’ in style than you would imagine.The CollectionsThe museum’s permanent collection is made up of all kinds of artefacts, which include furniture, lights, models, textiles, shoes, jewelry and limited-edition objects. And within this collection, four distinct areas can be found - Older Israeli designs (from the 1930’s until 2000), contemporary design (from 2000 to the present), works by up-and-coming students of design within Israel and an international contemporary design section. As well as the permanent collection, the Design Museum also offers visitors a series of temporary changing exhibitions...in the last few years, Bedouin art, 3D printers and couturiers such as Issy Miyake and Yohji Yomatoto have all been on show. The museum also aims to pique the visitor’s curiosity, with exhibits on the history of bicycle, chair and eyewear design. These collections are set up in two different spaces - the Design Lab and the Collections Window, both of which give the visitor an opportunity to view artefacts at close quarters.At present, the Design Museum’s most talked-about exhibition is “State of Extremes” (following on from the inaugural “State of Things” in March 2010). The world is changing dramatically, it argues, with its inhabitants never more polarised - in terms of climate crisis, political ideology and social media. “State of Extremes” aims to show that design has the potential to “reveal, critique, resist and mitigate...serving as a call for moderation.”“Family Saturday”Tying into this subject, the museum is currently holding ‘Family Saturday’ activities, which are designed for kids between 6 to 12 years old. Firstly, you are taken on a tour of the museum. Led by a guide, every family member will be given short, fun tasks to complete and encouraged to become a ‘design detective’ in order to solve them. Afterwards, both parents and kids attend a workshop where they are encouraged to work together to create light fittings - but only out of eco-friendly materials. The fact that we only have one planet, and that our surroundings have to be cared for and preserved, is the theme running through the activity. This is 90 minutes well-spent, by any accounts and an excellent way to introduce children to the subject of climate emergency!And if you’re more into fashion than extremity, don’t worry because the upcoming exhibition (due to open in June 2020) is dedicated to...evening gowns! In spaces set up throughout the museum, the exhibit will chart the history of couture from the days of 17th century France to classic and contemporary cocktail dresses. Expect to see on display an array of elegant and beautiful creations from Israel’s leading fashion designers.Holon’s Design Museum is open Monday to Saturday and tickets can be booked online. It has a cafe and is wheelchair accessible. By car, from the Tel Aviv center, allow 20-30 minutes. There are also buses running regularly.Design Museum Holon, Pinkhas Eilon St 8, Holon, 5845400
By Sarah Mann
4 min

Must-Visit Museums in Jerusalem

For a country as small as Israel, it sure does pack a punch when it comes to museums and nowhere more so than in Jerusalem. So after you’ve explored the Old City, enjoyed the buzz of the Mahana Yehuda Shuk and are looking for some culture, where should you begin?Well, frankly, you’re spoilt for choice but if you’re short on time, here are some of the must-visit museums in the capital that we can’t but help recommend. And if you don’t see them all? Well, you’ll just have to return to Israel…!The Israel MuseumIf you’ve only got 2-3 hours to spare, then it really has to be spent here. Ranked as one of the world’s leading museums, it is packed full of treasures relating to Jewish art, archaeology, dresses, coins, jewelry and everyday artifacts (to name but a few). It also boasts two particularly extraordinary (and muse-see) exhibits, The first is a stunning white dome, reflected in a pool of water that surrounds it, and the home of the Dead Sea Scrolls (discovered in 1947 by a shepherd boy, in the caves of Qumran). Considered a landmark of modern architecture, it is designed to express spirituality and signifies a ‘sanctuary’ of sorts.The second is the Model of Second Temple Jerusalem. Designed by the scholar Professor Avi-Yonah, and measuring around 1,000 square meters, this is an outstanding reconstruction of Jerusalem. It reveals the uniquely Jewish character of the city, particularly the Temple Mount. Note the Herodian architecture and visualise how the city looked, back in the time of Jesus!You can easily spend an entire day at the Israel Museum, but as a minimum allow 2 to 3 hours. There are also free guided tours, a beautiful outdoor sculpture garden and numerous temporary exhibits.Yad VashemMaking a visit to the world holocaust remembrance center is an unforgettable part of any visit to Jerusalem. Using state-of-the-art resources, Yad Vashem (which, in Hebrew, means ‘a monument and a name’) tells the story of the holocaust from a uniquely Jewish perspective, making the stories of those who survived (and the millions who also perished) come alive through testimonies, possessions and artifacts.Designed by the architect Moshie Safdie, the building represents a prism-like structure, bringing in daylight from above through a 200 meter-long glass skylight. 180 meters long, in the form of a spike, it is supposed to portray the complexity of the Jewish peoples’ situation. The entire museum complex is built out of reinforced concrete, with different heights and angles of light. Within the museum, there are exhibits, galleries and some particularly poignant areas including the Children’s Memorial, the Hall of Names and the Hall of Remembrance. It is hard not to shed a tear whilst watching survivor testimonies on video, or viewing the yellow stars Jews were forced to wear by the Nazis. Yad Vashem is an essential viewing - to commemorate the past and safeguard the memory of those who perished in such a dark period of Jewish history.Tower of David MuseumAlso known as the Jerusalem Citadel, this museum is located close to the Jaffa Gate (in the Old City) and tells the story of Jerusalem from a historical perspective, but using a range of illustrative techniques (films, lights, and 3D models). Chronicling the city’s history (beginning in the second millenium BCE), you soon realise how Jerusalem came to be so important to the world’s three largest monotheistic faiths. If you can, book a ticket for the unique ‘Night Spectacular’. Sophisticated technology project brightly-colored screened images onto the stone walls of the Old City, all whilst accompanied to original music, bringing the story of Jerusalem to virtual life.From the top of the tower, enjoy panoramic views of the city, including the Judean Desert, Mount of Olives and the Dead Sea.Bible Lands MuseumThis archaeological museum, with its priceless collection of antiques, takes you on a journey through the Ancient Near East, giving you a unique insight into the people and tribes who inhabited the lands of the Bible. Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian, Greek and Roman cultures...western society has been enriched by their endless accomplishments in fields as far-reaching as technology, writing and commerce. Verses from the Bible are displayed next to artifacts and the explanations of our current customs (and how they are derived from ancient societies) are comprehensive. With its changing exhibitions, lectures and gallery talks, it really is a gem of a collection. Tip: don’t miss the Classical Courtyard or the Roman Frescos Room (the paintings are believed to have come from a suburb of Pompei).NB: the tour in English begins every day at 10:30 am.Islamic Museum of ArtFounded in the 1960’s by Vera Bruce Salomons, a woman ahead of her time, this museum houses one of the most important collections of Islamic art worldwide.Made up of six galleries, this outstanding collection consists of rugs, ornaments, jewelry, pottery and ancient pages of the Qu’ran - all reflecting the grandeur and beauty of Islamic life across the ages. Don’t miss the basement level, where you will find one of the most important watch collections in the world (belonging to Vera’s father, David). Particularly beautiful is the clock of Queen Marie Antoinette - made up of 823 parts, all in gold!The museum also hosts cultural events and promotes dialogue between Jews and Arabs, acting as a bridge between the two cultures.Ideal to visit if you want a break from the tourist circuit.Bloomfield Science MuseumMuch like Madatech in Haifa, this museum is great for kids, with education and interactive exhibits that bring science to life! Their demonstrations, hands-on workshops and intriguing performances change constantly - and any child is bound to love ‘Lunar Landing’ (commemorating 50 years since the Moon Landing) or the games in the ‘machine’ room...This is an ideal place to bring the kids, not just to teach them about science but to bypass a rainy morning or sweltering afternoon in Jerusalem.
By Sarah Mann
4 min

Things to Do and See Near Tel Aviv

Once you’ve arrived in Tel Aviv, it’s easy to stay put - with its sandy beaches, endless independent cafes and hipster neighborhoods, many tourists never venture outside the city. But that’s a pity because there’s plenty to do just a short distance away from the White City. So if you’re looking for a few hours away from the hustle-bustle, here are a few suggestions.RamleMost tourists never venture to Ramle, and that’s a shame because it’s really worth a visit. Just half an hour south-east of Tel Aviv, this working-class city is ethnically diverse - Jews, Muslims and Christians co-exist comfortably (with the city’s 60,000 Jews coming from over 50 different countries, including Ethiopia, Argentina and India). Ramale also has a fair few attractions, including a bustling market, a beautiful church, an old tower and - wait for it - the chance to take an underground boat ride!Yes, indeed. In the 1960s, in the midst of constructing a nearby highway interchange, workers stumbled upon Ramle’s Old City (dating back over 1000 years). And what they found was astonishing - colorful mosaics, ceramic jars (with inscriptions in Arabic) jewelry and gold bars and coins (which are on display today at the local museum).Most impressive of all - arguably - were the deep cisterns and drainage canals. Today, a highlight of any tour of Ramle is a visit to the Pool of Arches, an outstanding example of Muslim architecture. Built in 789 CE by the Caliphof Baghdad, it was originally a large aqueduct, with an almost square basin. Today, you can take a gondola ride (well, a rowing boat!) through this underground lake, sailing past stone columns which hold up a beautifully- arched ceiling.It is astonishing to think that this Pool or Arches has survived almost 1,200 years (in which time there was an enormous earthquake in Ramle, which destroyed much of the city).Our tip: eat lunch at Maharaja, an authentic and cheap Indian eatery close to the market. You can also pick up spices and Indian sweets there.Alexander WineryFounded in 1996, this family-owned boutique winery in the heart of the Sharon region has won international awards for its cellars, and is a wonderful place to sample wines. Their guides are known for being friendly, engaging and knowledgeable and the winery itself is set in beautiful surroundings.The tasting room itself has plenty of space and for 100 NIS you will receive a selection of wines, olives (marinated in their own olive oil), bread and cheese. Yoram Shalom, the charming proprietor, left his job as a photographer with Israeli television to open the vineyard and is often around to show visitors around and answer questions about the business.This family regard wine-making as a labour of love and when you take a tour here you learn just as much about the people involved in the process as you do the wines themselves. Only 30 minutes drive from Tel Aviv, it’s a fantastic way to spend a few hours.Derech Hefer 15, Beit Yitzhak-Sha'ar Hefer.Design Museum, HolonOpened in 2010, this intriguing museum is the first of its kind in Israel devoted exclusively to design. Dreamed up by the acclaimed architect, Ron Arad, the Holon Design Museum aims to act as an engaging experience both for children and adults, as well as those who have no background in the subject.Divided into two spaces (the Design Lab and the Collection Windows) it showcases objects as diverse as chairs, eyeglasses, jewelry and a do-it-yourself sundial for the kids! The exterior of the museum is particularly striking - comprised of five sinuous bands of red Corten weathering steel, these ‘ribbons’’ both support the structure and give it a ‘flowing’ feel.Ben Shemen ForestAn oasis of greenery in Israel’s center, this forest is only 30 minutes drive from Tel Aviv (about half-way to Jerusalem). Full of pine trees and cyclamen, it is the perfect place for a family day out, since it has picnic areas, bicycle trails, and beautiful scenic trails too. Around the forest are observation points, as well as areas of archaeological interest (eg. graves from the era of the Maccabees).If you’re feeling ambitious, head off on the Anava Trail, 25 kilometers long (and circular) which passes the Monks Valley and gives you great look-out opportunities across the surrounding area.Moreover, if you visit on Friday or Shabbat, whilst it will be busy you’ll also have an opportunity to pick up food and drink first from one of the stalls at the main parking lot - freshly-baked laffas and some local beer are a great way to begin a hike! Directions: From Highway 1, turn East at the Ben-Shemen Interchange to Maccabim and Re’ut (route 443).Shefayim Water Park, NetanyaShefayim Water Park is about a 30-40 minute drive north of Tel Aviv and the ideal place to bring the kids in Israel’s long hot summer months. It boasts 22 different slides, (including a slalom), a wave pool or tubing track. There is also a large pool and a separate pool for young children.Shefayim has quite a few numbers of cafes and restaurants (moderately to expensively priced) but you are allowed to bring your own food and drink, so why not think about a picnic? Please note, however, that glass bottles are not allowed into the park. There’s plenty of shaded areas (and astroturf to sit on) as well as a paintball area, if you get tired of splashing around on the slides!The park is open daily from May to October but it’s advisable to call ahead as occasionally it is booked out for private group events. Also, take into account that it’s a very popular attraction so it can get very crowded.Our advice? Buy your tickets online, in advance, and arrive at least 30-45 minutes before the park opens. Then when you walk in, head straight to the large pool and grab a sunbed with an umbrella! Once that’s bagged, you’re set for the day.Directions: Drive north towards Netanya on Highway 2 and exist at Kvish HaHof, ten minutes north of Herzilya.
By Sarah Mann
4 min

Explore Haifa

Set on the Mediterranean, and sloping down a mountain, Haifa is Israel’s third-largest city and the center of the county’s north. It might be smaller and less assuming than Tel Aviv, and perhaps doesn’t offer the ‘wow’ factor of Jerusalem, but it does have a charm all of its own.Many tourists skip Haifa or just spend a few hours there, to see the world-famous Bahai Gardens (with their beautifully-manicured flower beds and fountains) but that’s a pity because Haifa (and the surrounding area) has a great deal to offer the visitor. Here are some of its top attractions, many of which are family-friendly and ideal for a morning or full-day out...Madatech - Israel’s National Museum of Science, Technology and SpaceHoused in a magnificent building that dates back to the Ottoman empire and was the original home of the Technion (Israel’s world-famous university), the facade itself is sure to delight every architect lover. Inside, Madatech offers all kinds of activities relating to science and technology - gravity, optics, mirrors, telescopes to name a few, and the exhibits are designed in such a way that children will love it and adults will find it equally fascinating. Many of the exhibits are set up not just to be looked at but engaged with - kids can play with water, gears and pulleys, check out flying machines and even try out a crash simulator! Madatech is the kind of museum that encourages kids to partake in hands-on scientific experiments that are both thrilling and challenging. Want to build an eco home or understand prisms of light? You’re in the right place. And there’s even something for toddlers - a mirror maze!You can purchase tickets online and a family card works out at good value. Even better, the museum is free of charge each Wednesday (unless that day falls upon a national holiday).Stella Maris Lighthouse and Carmelite MonasteryDating back to the seventeenth century, this beautiful lighthouse suffered severe damage in World War I although afterwards it was restored. During World War II, the British Army (who were ruling Israel under the Mandate) rented it from the Carmelties, in anticipation of a Nazi invasion. In the event, they stayed on until 1948, when the State of Israel was declared and since then the lighthouse has been used by the Israeli Navy.The Stella Maris Lighthouse is a wonderful place to watch the sunset and whilst it is closed to the public, it’s easy to find a beautiful spot nearby and enjoy the view.Near the lighthouse is a Carmelite Monastery, built over a cave in which it is said Elijah the Prophet once lived. This large and imposing building today serves as a pilgrimage center for tourists who come from all over the world and the church itself houses a collection of antiques. Inside, you will find a lovely cupola and ornate altar, along with statues of Mary and Jesus, wall mosaics and icons. (Fun fact: the monastery once served as a hospital for Napoleon’s soldiers).There is also another monastery in the Haifa area - Muhraka Monastery - which is 27 kilometers away and situated in the tiny Druze village of Daliat al Karmel.Carmel National ParkThis lovely national park, which makes up a large area of the Carmel mountain range - offers visitors a great day out. With its rivers, cliffs, hills and vales and Mediterranean flora and fauna, it is an ever-changing ecological area.It has many different hiking trails (all easily marked and quite reachable). The scenic look-out points are simply magnificent and it is beautiful at any time of the year (in the spring, the grass is a carpet of brightly-colored flowers...in the winter, rain can make it particularly verdant).Historically, the Carmel Park was inhabited by humans dating back 100,000 years ago and, since then, archaeologists have discovered over 200 ‘living’ areas. Around the park, there are special areas set aside for studying and maintaining the delicate ecology, making it a perfect place to hike, stroll or come with friends and family for a picnic. There are many amenities, including a restaurant, playgrounds, bicycle paths and a Druze hospitality center that serves tea and snacks. Admission cost - 20 NIS.Louis PromenadeOne of the best places to wander and gaze out over all of Haifa has to be the Louis Promenade on Mount Carmel. Stretching along the top of the city, it’s an excellent look-out point and also well-located, being close to museums, hotels and shops where you can buy souvenirs. Locals love this place - in the morning you’ll see elderly people chatting, in the afternoon people jogging and, at night, couples strolling on a romantic date. And since Israel is a Mediterranean country, boasting long, hot summers, the promenade is an ideal spot to find a bench and soak up some rays.The Hanging Bridge at Nesher ParkFor the sporty, the active and those who thrive on adrenalin rushes, this has to be the ‘go to’ Haifa attraction. Located on the northern side of the Carmel, south of the town of Nesher, this park offers a magnificent central feature - a seventy-meter suspension bridge that stretches across the Nahal Katia river.Made out of steel ropes and strong beams, it sways as you cross it (warning: stepping on this bridge is not for the faint-hearted). Designed to blend into the natural features of the park, as you walk across (clutching the sides!) the views of the forest are quite awe-inspiring.If you’re not into this kind of high-octane activity, simply enjoy the breathtaking views of the entire area (the forest, the Carmel and the Mediterranean) from their observation deck. But for those who like adventure, this feeling of ‘simply hanging’ between the sky and the ground must be something very special. An engineering marvel which makes for a fine excursion!The German ColonyNo day in Haifa would be complete without a stroll in the fashionable German Colony, with its red-tiled roofs and stone buildings (built by the Templars in the 19th century). With a wide selection of cafes and restaurants, it’s the perfect place to grab a bite and watch the world go by.
By Sarah Mann
4 min

Tel Aviv Markets

Experiencing Tel Aviv's markets (shuk or souk) is a must on any visit to Israel. All of your senses will be stimulated by the cacophony of sounds; delicious and strange aromas; spices and clothing in every color of the rainbow and the diverse mix of people on the streets. Tel Aviv has markets to suit all tastes and preferences; there are elegant and sophisticated markets; rough and dirty market; markets where the focus is on food and others where you'll just want to people-watch and hang-out with local hipsters. At Tel Aviv markets you'll find produce fresh from the farms; gourmet delicacies; clothing; rip-offs of luxury brands; authentic handmade textiles and junk with a few hidden gems to be discovered. Visit any of these Tel Aviv markets for an experience to remember.Carmel Market (Shuk HaCarmel) – For Rough and Ready Day to Day ShoppingOne of the Carmel Market stallsTel Aviv's most famous and central market, Shuk HaCarmel is the market visited by most tourists to Tel Aviv. The Shuk runs along HaCarmel Street from Allenby Street towards the beach, ending at a park near the Intercontinental Hotel. The market is usually very crowded with streams of people going in both directions; it's loud and a little grubby (authentic). Stalls on both sides sell groceries, fruit and vegetables, clothing, meat, fish, sweets, spices, household goods, toys, rip-off luxury items, jewelry, perfume, gadgets and more. Shuk HaCarmel has become a hot spot for foodies who come to sample the food sold at eateries and cafes, each with their own unique dishes. Some of the eateries double as street bars where patrons stand on the sidewalk. The food on offer comes from multiple cultures and is often a fusion of many. Don't hesitate to wander through the side streets that lead off the shuk's main drag. Here you'll find hole-in-the-wall eateries, bars, beautiful crumbling buildings and some small unique stores and stalls.Sarona – For Sophisticated Gourmet Goods and Elegant SurroundingsSarona is a restored German Templar Colony originally established in 1871. Today the historic buildings house sophisticated stores and up-market restaurants. In the complex is the Sarona Market; an indoor culinary market with stylish décor reminiscent of La Boqueria in Barcelona. With a focus on food and kitchen products Sarona is cleaner; more expensive and less crowded than other Tel Aviv markets. The specialty goods on sale make it a destination specifically for buying and eating food and not for souvenirs or people watching. If you are a foodie, then Sarona is a must. The products on sale come from across the globe and are diverse in their flavors and cultural origins. Some of the stalls are operated by top Israel chefs and the adjacent restaurants are also gourmet. Unlike most other Tel Aviv markets, Sarona is open seven days a week including Saturdays. There are regular special events such as cooking demonstrations and musical performances.Levinsky - For Hipster Hang-Outs and Ancient Spice StoresThe Levinsky Market in the Florentin neighborhood was once the "bad" end of town; then it morphed into a bohemian neighborhood and finally into a gentrified haven for hipsters with some of the old neighborhood charm thrown in. In the 1950s the market vendors were mainly Iranian and Iraqi Jews selling spices. Now a new generation has blended old with new and stalls sell a mix of traditional market goods and modern necessities. You'll find stores selling Middle Eastern spices from large sacks that spill out onto the sidewalk; dried fruits and nuts; household goods and everyday items. Several restaurants and cafes spread out across small tree-covered plazas and some eateries have even gained a faithful following with customers lining up along the street. Enjoy traditional foods from different cultures from Tunisian sandwiches to Polish salted herring.Jaffa Flea Market (Shuk HaPishPashim) – For Antiques, Junk and Hidden TreasuresThe Shuk HaPishPashim is perhaps the most unique market you can find in Tel Aviv. At first glance the market offers heaps and heaps of junk – some stalls look like they have been stacked high with all those bits and pieces everyone has in one of their kitchen draws. On closer inspection some of the market stalls sell genuine antiques; others sell second-hand goods in bad condition and some of the stalls sell a mix of the two – so you have to dig out the good stuff. Here you'll find vintage items; authentic antiques; classic furniture; souvenirs; home appliances; top designer stores; musical instruments; accessories; car parts; art work; jewelry; and clothing – new and second-hand. Like most of Tel Aviv's markets Shuk HaPishPashim has become a popular foodie destination. After nightfall the market stalls shut down and the place turns into a vibrant nightlife destination with lively bars and chef-style restaurants.Nahalat Binyamin - For Arts, Crafts, Bauhaus and Parisian-style CafesHandmade craft,Nahalat Binyamin MarketRunning parallel to Carmel Market and connected by several lanes is Nahalat Binyamin, a wide, pedestrian-only street lined with Bauhaus houses and some pretty impressive graffiti art as well. The stores in the buildings along Nahalat Binyamin mainly sell fabric but the real attraction is the market set up along the street each Tuesday and Friday. The stalls specialize in handmade arts and crafts and you'll often find the artist or designer manning the stall. Some of the items on sale include wind chimes, handmade soap, unique handmade jewelry, paintings, toys and organic products. This sophisticated market is somewhat reminiscent of European markets. The outdoor cafes along the street will remind you of a romantic European movie with picturesque bougainvillea dripping over the buildings, umbrellas and bustling waiters serving brunch. Nahalat Binyamin has a more relaxed atmosphere than Carmel Market; here you can linger, enjoy an ice-cream or coffee; watch street performers and get to know local artists.More Tel Aviv MarketsBelieve it or not, there are even more markets in Tel Aviv! In an addition to the top Tel Aviv markets listed above you can also explore Bezalel Market for budget items on King George Street; Shuk HaNamal, an indoor farmers' market at the old port; Dizengoff Square antique market on Tuesdays and Fridays; the Greek Market in Jaffa; Rothschild Allenby Market for high-end cuisine and the Friday market on Givon Square for vintage everything.
By Petal Mashraki
4 min

48 Hours in Tel Aviv - How to Get the Most of Two Days in Tel Aviv

Well, it’s official - Tel Aviv has just been named by Forbes as the second best city in the world to visit in 2020 (disclosure: the White City was only beaten by Sin City...aka Las Vegas). And for anyone who’s visited here, this decision will come as no surprise. With its miles of pristine, sandy beaches, eclectic foodie scenes and diverse neighborhoods (historic and hipster) you’re spoilt for choice with ways to enjoy yourself. Here’s our guide to 48 action-packed hours in Tel Aviv, a taste of a city that we guarantee will leave you longing for more.Day 1:Namal PortStart your morning at the Namal Port. Originally built in the 1930’s and used to store Israel’s most successful export - Jaffa Oranges - the hangers are still in evidence. Today, however, it’s more of a commercial hub, with a wonderful boardwalk, plenty of fashionable stores and restaurants and a Friday Farmer’s Market that sells high-end local produce.After you’ve wandered the area, grab a coffee or ‘limonada’ (Israelis take theirs with mint) and begin strolling south, along the promenade (‘tayellet’) along the endless beaches. Each has its own unique flavor (some are popular with surfers or dancers, others with dog-lovers of the gay community) but all have fine white sand, clear water, benches to sit and take in the view and even free workout stations (incredibly popular with the locals, who love to stay in shape).Yemenite Quarter and Shuk ha CarmelThe Carmel MarketAfter around 45 minutes, you’ll hit the Yemenite Quarter, a maze of alleyways, part-renovated, part-dilapidated, but full of charm. Wander the narrow streets then make your way into the Shuk ha Carmel, Tel Aviv’s most lively and colorful market which is a hive of activity before the Jewish Shabbat begins on Friday night.Take in the Levantine smells, purchase some local spices to take home, then grab lunch at Shlomo and Doron (a grandfather and grandson team) renown for their affordable hummus, and delicious vegan toppings. Afterward, sit with the locals at Beer Bazaar, one of the market’s most popular hangouts, which stocks over 100 different craft beers from around the country. It’s always lively, with occasional musical performances as the day wears on. Walk five minutes down to the beach and watch the sun go down over the Mediterranean.Rothschild BoulevardRothschild BoulevardAfter a quick nap, take an early evening stroll along Rothschild Boulevard, one of Tel Aviv’s most iconic streets, crammed full of Bauhaus buildings, a style that originated in 1930s Germany and which gave Tel Aviv the name of ‘White City’.There’s no shortage of good restaurants in the neighborhood - we’d recommend Cafe Noir, a long-established European-style bistro, with seating areas that cater both to romantic dates and those inclined to a more buzzy atmosphere. It’s rumored that they serve the best chicken schnitzel in town, but don’t take our word for it!Stroll home leisurely whilst watching Tel Aviv’s young crowd head out for fun - the city has one of the most enviable nightlife scenes in the world and it’s rumored that things rarely get started before 2 am!Day 2:JaffaBegin your day in the ancient port of Jaffa, with a history that stretches back 2,000 years. Wander the narrow streets (named after zodiac signs) and pop into some of the many art galleries in the neighborhood. Walkthrough the Abrasha Park (with its stunning views) - this area is home to St Peter’s Church (with its Spanish baroque style), the ‘Gate of Faith’ statue (made of marble from the Galilee) and the ‘Smiling Whale’ sculpture. A short stroll away is the Jaffa Flea Market and whilst the second-hand section is closed on Shabbat, there are plenty of stores, cafes and restaurants to enjoy. For lunch, we’d recommend the quirky Pua, which has been around forever but retains a special charm. The food is fresh and simple but moderately priced and beautifully served, and the portions are enormous. Moreover, it offers plenty of vegetarian and vegan options (including pumpkin dumplings, red tahini and fried cauliflower). Don’t hesitate to order a jug of their lemonade to go with your meal. (Fun fact: every piece of furniture in the restaurant is for sale...).Neve TsedekNeve TsedekFrom Jaffa, take a leisurely stroll along the beachfront to Neve Tsedek, one of Tel Aviv’s oldest and most picturesque neighborhoods. Wander down Shabazi Street (the main thoroughfare), peruse the boutiques and jewelry stores then pop into the Anita gelateria for a sweet treat, or enjoy a coffee at Suzanna, a long-standing local haunt with a lovely garden in which to sit. Neve Tsedek is also packed full of cultural treasures including the Suzanne Dellal Centre (a cultural center, which is home to Israeli dance) and the Rubin Museum (who painted in a style similar to that of Matisse and was occasionally referred to as the ‘Gaugin of Palestine!’)Dizengoff StreetSpend your evening on Dizengoff Street which, like Rothschild Boulevard, has to be experienced. Named after the city’s first mayor, it has a bit of everything - fine-dining, casual coffee shops, glamorous cocktail bars and it’s the newly-renovated central square, complete with fountain, chairs and trees that provide shade in the scorching summer months.Enjoy a ‘Happy Hour’ cocktail at Spicehaus (a ‘concept’ bar where the staff dress as pharmacists and the skeleton at the door reminds of your old school biology lab). Drinks are served, appropriately, in potion bottles of three sizes - and we recommend the Istanbul-Louisville Express (with gin, lychee, aloe vera and rose flavoring). Then, a stone’s throw from the bar, have dinner at La Shuk, serving elegant, Mediterranean food (think fresh seafood, kebabs and a medley of vegetable dishes). This is a hot spot (with a patio that’s perfect for people-watching) so be sure to make a reservation in advance.Dizengoff is always lively on a Saturday night, and so if you’ve any remaining energy, there’s always going to be a bar or coffee shop to wile away your last hour or two.
By Petal Mashraki
4 min

5 Best Winter Hikes in Northern Israel

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

Best Desert Hikes in Israel

Israel has snow-capped mountains; rolling green meadows; lush valleys and stark desert landscapes. Israel's deserts are concentrated in the southern half of the country and include the Judean Desert, home to the Dead Sea; the Negev Desert covering about 16,000km²; more than half the total land area of the country and the Zin Desert also known as the Biblical Wilderness of Zin.There are numerous hike trails in Israel's deserts with various levels of difficulty and different lengths. The deserts offer a unique look at a fascinating eco-system with spectacular flora and fauna; picturesque waterfalls and endless awe-inspiring views. It is best not to hike in the desert alone and you should always follow the well-marked hike trails. Bring plenty of water and wear a hat when hiking in Israel's deserts. The best way to experience Israel's deserts is to follow one of these exhilarating desert hikes in Israel.Red Canyon HikeThis is one of the most breathtaking desert hikes in Israel. The Red Canyon is part of Wadi Shani which starts in the Sinai Desert in Egypt and crosses into Israel. Over the course of thousands of years, the elements have carved through the red sandstone rocks creating this natural canyon. There are a few places along the trail where you need to use metal wedges and ladders to get through the narrow canyon. The trail is at its best from November to April when the weather is slightly cooler. You can take the 5km route or the easier 2km route from the trailhead parking lot. You'll pass a few dry waterfalls and take some sharp turns in the narrow canyon which is less than 2 meters wide at some points. You'll reach a junction where there are black markers that will take you back to the starting point if you want to take the short hike. Otherwise, continue following the green markers into the Wadi. The loop trail should take about 3 hours to complete.Ein Gedi Nature ReserveA hike through the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve; an oasis in the Judean Desert, is one of the most enjoyable and greenest hikes in Israel. The reserve is home to the Arugot Stream and David Stream. There are several trails of different lengths and levels of difficulty ranging from a family-friendly 2km trail to a challenging 10km hike trail. Much of the shorter route is along wooden walkways or well-trodden paths that are not too challenging. You'll feel like you're taking a hike in northern Israel, surrounded by lush vegetation, trees and abundant streams and waterfalls. The short Nahal David hike from the park entrance to David's Waterfall takes just 30 minutes. The rest of the hike involves tougher terrain, a twisting route through a narrow canyon and some steep climbs. You'll also find sections where it is easier to wade through the streams than stay on the path. Continuing through the canyon you'll reach a spot where a natural opening in the rocks creates a "window" overlooking the Dead Sea.Wadi Qelt HikeThere are plenty of hikes near Jerusalem but if you want to experience the desert then Wadi Kelt (also known as Ein Prat or Nahal Kelt) is an excellent choice less than an hour from the capital. Starting at the trailhead in Ein Prat Nature Reserve parking lot the scenic route has a total length of about 9km but there are shorter versions of 1-5km. The best time to hike through Wadi Kelt is December to March. Most of the hike is through rocky terrain and there are some parts where metal handles have been hammered into the rock to help you. You'll go through a gorge with steep cliff sides and find natural pools you can swim in. Stop at Ein Prat, the biggest spring in the valley; enjoy small waterfalls; ancient aqueducts and the 330AD hanging Faran Monastery on the southern cliffs. The highlight of this hike is at the end of the trail when you can look up at the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. George that was built precariously clinging to the cliffs. End the hike by returning the way you came or taking a short-cut along the top of the canyon where you can look down on the famous monastery on the opposite cliff.The Nekarot Horseshoe Hike Trail through the Ramon CraterMakhtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater) is a phenomenal massive crater formed by erosion. It is 40km long, 500m deep and 2-10km wide. Enter the Makhtesh Ramon Nature Reserve for the best experience of the crater on the southern edge of the Negev Desert. This huge natural indentation in the landscape has vibrant colored rocks, a variety of plant life and unusual geographical formations. Take the Nekarot Horseshoe Trail loop through the crater. At a little over 6km this trail should take about 3 hours and is suitable for families. The trail takes you past the Saharonim Spring where pools of water bubble up from the ground; past families of agile ibexes on the rocks and steel white chalk cliffs. Depending on the season you may have to swim, wade or walk though water-filled canyons. See Ardon Mountain in the distance and enjoy the deafening silence of the desert.Ein Avdat National Park Hike TrailsEin Avdat is part of the Zin Wadi or the Biblical Zin Wilderness in the Negev Desert. It is home to the largest natural spring in the Negev and a stunning 2km-long hike trail. This short hike takes you from the Ein Avdat National Park entrance to the beautiful natural pools and back again. If you are looking for something a little longer then hike to the spring water pools and instead of doubling back climb to the top of the cliffs and return via Marl Wadi of Havarim. This 10km hike is for moderately fit hikers and is best followed from December to March. The highlight of both the short and long hikes is the chain of three Ein Avdat spring pools. The first pool (Ein Ma'arif) has cascading waterfalls; the second, Ein Avdat has a 15m-high waterfall and an 8m-deep pool; the final pool is beautiful Ein Mor. When you leave the pools you can take the vertical ladder up the cliff and head back to the starting point through gentle hills that have multiple shades of golden brown.
By Petal Mashraki
4 min