Israel Group Tours – Everything You Need to Know

Seeing Israel with a group tour is an excellent option for travelers who want to see as much as possible. With Israel group tours you don’t have to worry about logistics, transportation or reading up about the places you visit. The tour company takes care of the details for you! All you have to do is sit back and enjoy the trip. Whether you take a group tour in Israel or not depends on how long your trip is, your preferred style of travel and the places you want to see.What are Group Tours?A group tour is organized by a tour company; tourists from around the world book the tour and are told the time and place to meet for the tour. On the tour day tourists meet at centrally located pick-up points in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Herzliya or Netanya and are picked up by the tour company bus. The tour buses are air conditioned, modern and comfortable. Throughout the tour the group is accompanied by a tour guide. The size of the group can vary but is usually between 16 and 30 people. The tour guide gives you a bit of background information about the places you are going to see and chats with the group on route to the attractions scheduled for that day. At each attraction the guide shares his knowledge about the things you see. On most tours you will also get some free time and a break for lunch in a local eatery. At the end of the tour the tour bus returns you to the pick-up point.What are the differences between a Group Day Tour and a Group Package Tour?A group day tour in Israel (as described above) lasts for one day. You join other travelers for the day and together with a tour guide, bus and bus driver get to visit specific attractions. Group day tours are great for travelers who want a bit of both – guided tours and days when they can discover Israel independently. Israel group tours include transportation, guide service, pick-up and drop-off at a central location. Group day tours are perfect for those destinations that are hard to reach by yourself or when you will benefit from the knowledge and guidance of a professional.A group package tour in Israel is like a series of day tours strung together. The major difference is that the price of a package tour includes accommodation. Some package tours include some meals, activities (like jeep safaris) and airport pick-up or drop-off. Group package tours are perfect for those who don’t want to worry about any of the details of their trip from beginning to end. Group package tours to Israel are a good option for groups of travelers visiting Israel together – church groups, bar mitzvah groups etc. If you are traveling alone you can join other travelers on a group package tour. There are also shorter package tours which last 2-6 days and can be part of a longer vacation.What are the advantages of a Group Tour?On an Israel group tours you don’t need to worry about logistics. No need to tackle bus timetables or car rental contracts; no need to stand in line to pay entrance fees or to negotiate with taxi drivers. You won’t have to navigate the roads or Israeli drivers! On a group tour in Israel you won’t have to choose what the top attractions are as the tour company has done that for you. The tour will take you to the highlights of each destination so you won’t waste your time getting lost or seeing less interesting sites. The tour transportation is air conditioned and comfortable and your tour bus driver will take care of parking.Often we look at landmarks and don’t really understand their significance. However on a group tour your guide will give you the background and history of each place. On group tours you are traveling with other tourists from around the world for the day and can often make new friends. Group tours can get you to places that may be difficult to reach independently. For example you may be nervous about crossing into Palestine to visit Bethlehem by yourself but with a group tour you will feel more secure. Group tours are time efficient, getting you to multiple attractions in one day thanks to good planning by professionals who know the country.What can you see on an Israel Group Tours?Israel group tours cover the whole country from north to south. There are tours to Masada andthe Dead Sea; to Bethlehem and Jericho; to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Acre, Haifa, Rosh HaNikra; to the Galilee and Golan Heights. In addition there are many smaller locations you get to see along the way that you would probably miss if traveling alone. You can even take a one day group tour from central Israel to Petra in Jordan. Some of the group tours are geared towards specific interest groups. For example there are Christian group tours and Jewish Heritage group tours in Israel. Longer group package tours combine several day tours so that you see all of these amazing destinations.
By Petal Mashraki
4 min

Israeli Cinema

While on vacation in Israel you might want to see a movie so here is some useful information about Israeli cinemas.What is an Israel cinema like? Israeli cinemas are very much like the ones you would go to in the US or Europe. International movies dominate the screens with most coming from the US and the UK. Luckily for English speaking visitors international English-language movies are subtitled rather than dubbed. So you can enjoy the film just as you would in your home country.The one exception is animated children’s films. These are usually dubbed into Hebrew so ask at the box office if there is also an un-dubbed screening. Israeli cinemas also screen home-grown movies which are in Hebrew and with Hebrew subtitles most of the time. Israeli cinema is of a very high standard especially Israeli comedy. You would probably enjoy an Israeli comedy film even without knowing the language. Screening times are approximately from 10:00 in the morning to the last show at 22:00. Cinema complexes often have later showings including midnight shows. Cinema City complexes have a VIP cinema in addition to the regular cinemas. VIP tickets are more expensive but include an open buffet of movie food like popcorn, coffee, cold drinks, wine, chips, cakes, pretzels and ice cream. In the VIP cinema you get to sit on comfortable armchairs and can even have a blanket if you’re cold!Price of Israeli MoviesYou can book cinema tickets online (but the sites are in Hebrew only) or at the box office. Once you get to the cinema you can line up at the box office and purchase your tickets or use the automatic ticket machine. Tickets can be bought in advance or just before the show starts. Ticket prices are standardized and there is no children’s discount. A regular cinema tickets costs 38ILS, a discount ticket (for soldiers) is 26ILS, seniors 19ILS for Israeli films and 26ILS for international films. 3D movies cost a little more at 45ILS. VIP movies cost 129ILS. Purchasing your tickets online or over the phone cost slightly more and many credit cards offer 1+1 deals. Movies at Cinemateuqe Tel-Aviv cost 38ILS to 41.6ILS.Top Israeli Cinema ComplexesTel-Aviv the CinematequeIn Tel-Aviv the Cinemateque (2 HaArba’a St.)is the best known complex and screens mainly independent films, festival films, foreign language films, classic movies and artistic films. There are 5 cinema theatres at the Cinemateque complex. There is also a Cinemateque in Haifa and Jerusalem. The main cinema complexes in Israel are Cinema City and Yes Planet. Many of the cinema complexes have entertaining décor, life-size figures of famous movie stars and offer other activities in addition to the movies. The cinema complexes are often in malls. One of the most popular and fun complexes close to Tel-Aviv is Cinema City Glilot. The Cinema City Jerusalem (10 Yitzchak Rabin Blvd.) is the largest cultural and entertainment center in the city. It has 8 floors, 19 cinema theatres, restaurants, cafes, other kinds of indoor entertainment and a mall. The corridors of the complex are brightly decorated with film characters, posters and activities for kids.
By Petal Mashraki
2 min

The Ultimate Flea Market – Jaffa Shuk HaPishpishim

There is no other flea market in Israel like Jaffa’s Shuk HaPishpishim; here you will be able to buy everything including the kitchen sink. Jaffa’s Flea Market is about 100 years old. The market is spread across several open streets and closed pedestrian alleys. The vendors display their goods hanging from every surface and spread out as far as they dare to go across the street. You’ll see carpet stores which have spread their carpets out on the sidewalk and into the street; piles of second-hand clothing and new clothes for sale hanging above your head as you walk through the covered alleys.The items on sale include treasure and junk of every kind. Among the items on sale there are old jeans, jewelry, Persian tiles, carpets, furniture, antiques, clothes imported from India, accessories, antique collectors’ items, musical instruments both new and antique, household items, kitchen utensils, toys, make-up, glassware, copper pots and much more. You can find old family photo albums, original art and Judaica. Among the highlights of the market there is Palestine, Land of Israel a store holding items gathered by Amotz Yaakobi over the last 20 years. It includes WWII helmets and propellers. For something less local there is Taos where you’ll be met by life-size statues of Hollywood stars and film characters as well as kitsch, props and décor from Hollywood movie sets. Halleluyah sells musical instruments from around the world including unusual instruments like the Thai wooden frog, an Australian rain stick and darbuka drums. Alma is a jewelry store selling hand-made beaded items made by the store proprietor, Ava Rodan. Sofi is a store for plastic everyday items; Renaissance is a specialty antique store; Cyrus sells wooden sculptures and Niso’s Decorative Goods sells everything trendy and kitsch. Aki is an antique store where the items are genuine and rare while Mansur Carpets sells unique tile carpets made with a special technique.It is not just the goods on sale that attract visitors to the market but the sights, sounds, smells and characters you’ll see on the streets. You will truly feel like you are in the Middle East and for photographers it is a wonderland with unique, unusual characters and cultural oddities wherever you look. On Friday mornings there is a “sub-market” in the southern area of the regular market. Here you will find the really unusual items.Where to Eat in Jaffa Flea MarketOf course no day out in Israel is complete without food and drink and Jaffa Flea Market has its fair share of eateries. Margoza is a café/bakery run by a husband and wife team. While there try their chouquettes cream puff pastry. Capitolina is the place to stop for ice-cream with 32 flavors (9 Olei Zion St.); for vegetarian food try Christopher’s Bar (13 Beit Eshel St.); Chef Zach Melul’s restaurant Elementary is a down-to-earth Mediterranean eatery (7 Beit Eshel St.) and Gibberish stays open all day and into the night (14 Amiad St.). Tzarfati – Fish of the Sea has been serving up fresh seafood since 1949. For Italian cuisine served in an authentic Jaffa atmosphere try Sola (31 Beit Eshel St.). Stop for a drink of freshly squeezed juice at Santo’s Juices or Tamuz.Practical Information:When: The flea market operates from Sunday to Thursday 10am-6pm and on Fridays 10am -2pm.Where: Enter Jaffa from Tel Aviv and when you reach the famous clock tower in the middle of the main road (Yefet Street) head left away from the sea (east) down the narrow lanes and explore to your heart’s content.
By Petal Mashraki
3 min

Discover the Natural Wonder of Rosh Hanikra

For a truly unforgettable experience in Israel take a break from the popular tourist attractions in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and head north to discover some remarkable natural wonders. In the extreme northwestern corner of the country not far from the Israeli/Lebanese border along the coast is a place called Rosh Hanikra (“Head of the Grottoes”). Rosh Hanikra is about 10km north of Nahariya.Rosh Hanikra is a natural geological rock formation of grottoes and caves in 36.5 meter high white chalk cliffs on the edge of the Mediterranean. For thousands of years the sea has been crashing against the white cliffs and over time the chalk has eroded from the force of the beating waves to form a labyrinth of grottoes and caves. The tunnels have a total length of 200 meters. The caves branch off in several directions, connecting and interconnecting at various points. The reflection of the blue sea against the white cliffs within the grottoes makes the sea look a stunning turquoise and the cave walls pristine white. The entire area has plenty to offer nature lovers with several national parks and beaches.History of Rosh HanikraRosh Hanikra has been a useful site for traders for hundreds of years. Ancient armies and merchant caravans would have passed by the caves between Syria, Lebanon and Israel to Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula and Africa. At one point it is believed that pirates used the caves to hide their loot. In World War II allied forces blasted railway tunnels through the chalk rocks in an attempt to create a train route connecting Cairo to Istanbul. The railway was a strategic element in the defense of the British Mandate which felt threatened by the pro-German Vichy French forces in Lebanon from 1940-41. The rail route never reached fruition. In 1948 the Jewish Palmach force destroyed the Rosh Hanikra bridge to prevent weapons being transported from Lebanon reaching Arab forces who were fighting the UN Partition Plan. Repairs were later thought to be too expensive and the tunnels became obsolete and were sealed off. Not far from the caves themselves is the place where an armistice agreement was signed between the Israeli and Lebanese in 1949. The border between Lebanon is called the Blue Line and there is still a border crossing between the two countries near Rosh Hanikra which is only used by UN forces.Visiting Rosh HanikraFor many years the only way to access the caves was from the water and divers could visit the caves. Today tourists can access the caves and tunnels easily via a cable car which takes you down into the caves where there is a clearly marked route. The cable car is said to be the world’s steepest cable car and it has a gradient of 60°. The route takes you passed caves which are open to the sea and you can feel the spray of the water. There are caves with hundreds of stalagmites and glowing pools of water. Visitors can walk the 200 meter route through the caves.There is an audio presentation about the caves which is screened in the old British Mandate railway tunnel. There is a promenade – the Berton Promenade, which runs from Achziv (where there is a gorgeous beach) to Rosh Hanikra. This route offers amazing scenery with the sea on one side and the natural vegetation on the other. The 3.5km promenade offers great views of the sunset and along the way you are likely to see wild flowers and small creatures. In July and August you could see the sea turtles laying their eggs on the beach. On Saturdays a mini-train takes visitors along the promenade from Achziv to Rosh Hanikra and back. There is a commentary on the train which does not operate in winter and takes about 40 minutes to complete the journey. It is also possible to rent bicycles in the Rosh Hanikra National Park and ride along the promenade. It is also possible to rent golf carts to explore the promenade.Practical DetailsWhere: Rosh Hanikra is at the northern end of highway route #4; 10 minute drive north of Nahariya.Open Hours: the caves and cable car of Rosh Hanikra are open Sunday to Thursday and Saturday 9am-6pm as well as Friday 9am to 4pm. In very bad weather the caves are closed.Prices: Adults 45ILS; children (3yrs-18yrs), seniors, handicapped visitors and soldiers 36ILS. Combination ticket for Rosh Hanikra+golf cart/bicycle 72ILS.Liked this article? If you do, feel free to Join our One day Caesarea, Haifa, Acre, Rosh Hanikra tour
By Petal Mashraki
3 min

The Bezalel Academy of Art and Design

Every Friday 150 Israeli artists set up their stalls along the pedestrian Bezalel Hakatan Street in Jerusalem to display and sell their creations. The event attracts approximately 10,000 visitors each week. The market is popular with locals and visitors alike who come to browse the amazing variety of arts and crafts on offer and enjoy the atmosphere. Among the stalls you will find handmade jewelry, decorative arts, organic skin care products, gifts, Judaica, paintings, sculptures, mobiles, handmade leather products and much more. The list of items on sale continues with wooden pieces, metal work, handmade musical instruments, handmade clothing, crafted toys, ornaments, woven items, textiles, glass work, drawings, photography, ceramics and design. If you are familiar with the Tel Aviv Nachalat Binyamin market then this is similar. This is the perfect place to find unique souvenirs and memorable items to take home with you instead of the run-of-the-mill souvenir store items.The fair is an opportunity for artists to interact with their clients and meet the public. The artists are usually the ones behind the stalls selling the items and they are always willing to strike up a conversation about their work. The fair was first held in 2009 and since then has become a popular feature of the local community and a Jerusalem tradition. There is an incredible atmosphere at the fair with regular street performers and musicians livening up the event. The fair has also become the site for social awareness groups to set up stalls and explain their viewpoints in an effort to recruit volunteers. Of course no Israeli gathering is complete without food so you will find cafes and stalls providing delicious cuisine as well as stalls selling honey, olive oil and other food items.Bezalel Academy of Art and DesignThe market is appropriately located adjacent to the famous Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. This famous establishment was founded in 1906 and has produced some of Israel’s leading talents. The name of the school and the street comes from Exodus 31, 1-5: “the Lord said…I have chosen Bezalel…to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of crafts.” Graduates of the prestigious school have spearheaded Israeli design. Today about 2,000 students are enrolled in Bezalel studying for their undergraduate degrees in various art related fields.Bezalel Arts and Crafts Fair, JerusalemWhere: Between Schaltz pedestrian street, Bezalel Hakatan Street and the Schieber Park in Jerusalem; not far from Ben Yehuda street promenade on the edge of the Nahlaot neighborhood.When: Every Friday about 9am-3pm and until 4pm in summer.
By Petal Mashraki
2 min

How to Travel from Israel to Petra, Jordan

When visiting Israel it is a pity to miss out on one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the ancient city of Petra which is just across the border in the Kingdom of Jordan. Here is a brief guide about how to make the trip from Israel to Petra and back again in as little as one day (although you could stay overnight in Jordan if you preferred). Since the signing of a Peace Treaty in 1994 the Israelis and Jordanians have a neighborly relationship and Israelis as well as tourists who are guests in Israel are free to cross the border for a day or more. Some visitors even choose to extend their visit and go on to the Jordanian capital of Amman before returning to Israel.If traveling with a guided tour you will change tour buses at the border from an Israeli tour bus to a Jordanian tour bus and if traveling independently you will have to change from an Israeli taxi to a Jordanian taxi when you cross the border. Travelers crossing in their own cars need an international driving license and vehicle license (translated into English if not already in English). The actual process of crossing the border can take longer than you might expect and depending on a range of issues it can take anywhere from one to three hours to complete the crossing. For this reason if traveling independently try to leave early. All travelers arriving with a group must leave with the same group. Note that current regulations are subject to change so check with your tour company or embassy before setting off to the border.What is Petra?Petra is an ancient city carved out of rose-colored rocks by the Nabataean civilization as early as 312BC. The city is in southern Jordan on the slopes of the Biblical Mount Hor (Jebel al-Madhbah). Petra has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its 27 intricate carved structures like temples, tombs and public buildings carved out of the rock and for the ingenious water conduit system. During the Nabataean period Petra was a major stop along the trade route which ran from the Arabian Peninsula and Egypt up to the Mediterranean and Syria. In the years following the decline of the Nabataean civilization Petra was also inhabited by Romans ad Christians who both left their mark in the form of a Roman amphitheatre and Byzantine Churches. Petra is also called the Lost City as it remained hidden for many years before being rediscovered in 1812. In 1917 T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) led the Arabs in a revolt against the Ottomans at Petra.Jordanian VisasNationals from many countries do not require a visa for Jordan; check with the Jordanian embassy in your country or Israel to see if your nationality can travel visa-free.King Hussein Bridge (Allenby Bridge crossing) – Foreign nationals cannot get a visa at the border and must be pre-arranged through the Jordanian embassy.Wadi Araba – As of January 2016 those traveling outside of a group tour will no longer be able to get a Jordanian visa at the Wadi Araba crossing in Eilat and will have to pre-arrange a visa at a Jordanian embassy. If you have pre-arranged your visa at the Jordanian embassy there is no visa fee at the border but you need to pay the $65 border tax. Israeli tour groups can still get visas at the Arava border crossing. If traveling with an Israeli tour group you don’t need to worry about the visa situation as your tour company will take care of the details and let you know of any requirements. The crossing involves a visa fee of approximately $60 and on reentry into Israel there is an exit tax from Jordan of approximately $13.Allenby Bridge Crossing (King Hussein Crossing) – Visas must be pre-arranged through the Jordanian embassy but those traveling with an Israeli tour group can have their visa arranged by the tour company.Crossing from Israel to JordanThree border crossings connect Israel and Jordan: the Sheikh Hussein crossing, Allenby (king Hussein) crossing and the Wadi Arava crossing in Eilat.1. Allenby Crossing (King Hussein Bridge Crossing)This is the nearest border crossing to Jerusalem, just an hour away; 5km east of Jericho and 57km from Amman. The border crossing is open for travelers to Israel Sunday-Thursday 8am-8pm for entry and 8am-2pm for departures from Jordan plus Friday-Saturday 8am-1pm. The crossing operates throughout the year except for the Jewish Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and Islamic Feast of the Sacrifice (Eid al-Adha). The crossing is divided into a Departure Hall for Palestinians, Arrival Hall for Palestinians, Departure Hall for Tourists and East Jerusalem Citizens and Arrival Hall for Tourists and East Jerusalem Citizens. This crossing is for Palestinians and tourists but is prohibited for Israeli citizens.2. Sheikh Hussein CrossingLocated in the north of Israel close to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee this Israeli/Jordanian border crossing is 90km from Amman. It is open Sunday to Thursday 8am-10pm and Friday-Saturday 9am-8pm.3. Wadi Araba CrossingThis is the most common border crossing used for tourists visiting Petra from Israel. This border crossing is located in Eilat on the shore of the Red Sea and is 324km from Amman. This border crossing services Israeli and foreign tourists who travel on foot or in a vehicle. The Wadi Araba crossing is open Sundays-Thursdays 6:30am-8pm and Friday-Saturday 8am-8pm. This crossing is closed on the Islamic New Year (Hijra) and Jewish New Year (Yom Kippur). Entrance visas are not issued at this border crossing to individual travelers and should be arranged at the Jordanian embassy in your country or in Israel. People traveling in Israeli tourism company group tours do not require entry visas for this border crossing. If you make arrangements 24 hours in advance (or travel with a guided group which arranges it for you) and have a pre-bought entry ticket to Petra Archeological Site or official entry documents you do not have to stay the mandatory 24 hours in Jordan.4. Across the Red SeaRecent changes to regulations have caused some tour companies to include a tour to Jordan and Petra via the Red Sea and Aqaba. Israeli tourists are taken across the Taba border crossing in Eilat between Egypt and Israel. From there there are regular ferries across the Red Sea to the Jordanian port city of Aqaba. It takes about 45 minutes to make the ferry crossing. From Aqaba tours proceed to the ancient city of Petra.Liked this article? Join Our One day Petra tour
By Petal Mashraki
4 min

10 Restaurants with the Best Views in Israel

Israel’s landscape includes modern urban skylines, vistas of rolling green hills, vineyards, seascapes, arid desert landscapes and skylines of ancient cities with steeples and domes. So with all these amazing vistas it is no wonder that there are several restaurants in Israel with breathtaking views. Here is a run down of some of the best restaurants in Israel with stunning views.1.2C, Tel AvivLocated on the 49th floor of one of the Azrieli Towers this restaurant provides diners with a view of Tel Aviv’s urban skyline. The restaurant offers a Mediterranean-gourmet menu which is kosher serving meat dishes. The circular Azrieli Tower is one of three towers – a triangle, square and circle it is also the tallest building in Tel Aviv. The minimum order is a main course but there are also business lunch deals. The food is said to be as good as the view with quality ingredients in classic dishes with a local twist. However make sure you call ahead to book a table next to the window otherwise you won’t have much of a view.2. Kofi Anan, Mount BentalThe name of this restaurant is a play on the name of the former Secretary-General of the UN, Kofi Annan and the Hebrew word for cloud “anan”. The restaurant is perched on the summit of Mount Bental overlooking the Syrian hills and Syrian border beyond the Golan Heights. From here you can also see Mount Hermon, Kibbutz Merom and the expanse of the Golan Heights. It is said to be the highest restaurant in Israel at 1,165 meters above sea level. The rural location and breathtaking views have made this dairy restaurant iconic. The restaurant is dairy only but is open on Shabbat. The food is basic and includes soups, sandwiches, home-baked goods, cakes and picnic basket fare.3. Roof Top Restaurant, JerusalemThis restaurant is virtually on the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem just 50 meters away on the roof of the Mamila Hotel. From the outdoor terrace you have unobstructed views into the Old City. Unlike some of the other restaurants on this list you will probably have a great view from almost every table in the restaurant. The menu features grilled meat, fish, salads and pasta using fresh ingredients and innovative twists on classic dishes. The kosher dishes include seared red tuna with vanilla soy sauce, sweet chili and green soy beans. The atmosphere is sophisticated, intimate and perfect for a full meal or drinks.4. Aladin, JaffaThis small romantic restaurant in the old port of Jaffa seems to be perched on the corner of the old city walls directly above the sea. Get a seat on the outdoor terrace from where you have a view across the sea passed Andromeda’s Rock to the Tel Aviv coastline. You can see all the way from Jaffa to Tel Aviv along the famous beachfront. The restaurant is housed in a 600 year old structure with authentic ancient architecture, antique lamps and has been serving satisfied customers for the last 40 years. Aladin serves up non-kosher Mediterranean dishes like freshly caught fish, grilled meat and salads.5. Red Sea Star, EilatThis restaurant is not perched on a high mountain top but rather it is beneath the Red Sea! To reach the restaurant you need to walk across a 70 meter long bridge taking you off shore, across the water to a structure shaped like an up-turned shell. There is outdoor seating above the water or you can go down five meters beneath sea level and sit at a table next to one of the 62 window. The view is of coral reefs, aquamarine water and tropical fish. The floor plan of the underwater level is shaped like a star and the décor matches the surroundings. The menu includes meat dishes and sea food dishes.6. Gazebbo and Al HaMayim, HerzlyiaIf you go down to the Sharon beach in Hertzlyia and immediately to your left you will see a restaurant literally on the beach and above it what appears to be another restaurant. Upstairs is Gazebbo, a casual bar/restaurant which comes alive at night and below Al HaMayim (on the water), a restaurant for beach users. Al HaMayim will serve you in your swim suit and even bring your food to you as you sun yourself in a lounge chair on the sand. The food at Al HaMayim is non-kosher basic Israeli fare with a few Mediterranean specialties. You’ll find chips, humus, schnitzel, calamari, toast, kebabs and more as well as alcohol. Enjoy the laid back music, the sunsets and the gorgeous sea views. It doesn’t get more relaxed than this. Upstairs at Gazebbo the food is also non-kosher but the cuisine is of a more sophisticated level. It is a chef restaurant with a seasonal menu offering an extensive menu of delicious dishes from sashimi to roast beef and lentil salad to truffle soufflé. Try the platter of pickled sardines, taramosalata, gravlax salmon, tuna salad, olives, pickled lemon, beetroot salad, and cream cheese for under 100ILS.7. Dag al HaDan, Upper GalileeAt this restaurant you don’t look down on the view but rather you are surrounded by the stunning views in all directions of lush forest alongside a bubbling brook. In fact two rivers flow through the restaurant – the Dan and the Hatzbani Rivers. The restaurant seating is on decks literally on the water and the trout on the menu come from the local fisheries. Diners are surrounded by the sound of birds, trees heavy with fruit and wild vegetation. This is truly a slice of Garden of Eden. The trout is prepared in a variety of ways and served with standard side dishes.8. Hellena, CaesareaFrom the balcony of Hellena, and through the large windows you can look out over the ancient port of Caesarea and across the Mediterranean. The sea views include the remains of the old Roman port. The food at Hellena is prepared by Chef Amos Sion and includes contemporary and classic Mediterranean dishes using local raw ingredients. The menu includes locally harvested fish, vegetarian dishes, gluten-free dishes and favorites like goose liver Terrine with pistachios and Uzbekian raisins with Muscat soaked pears. Other favorites are Norwegian salmon, Arab style fish stew, pork ribs, scallops and shrimps in Arak sauce and black mussels in champagne-butter sauce. As you can see from the menu this restaurant is non-kosher and offers the full range of seafood. Leave room for the tehina ice-cream or almond custard with grenadine sauce. If you fancy something a little simpler there are also delicious pizzas on the menu.9. Beresheet, Mitzpe RamonMitzpe Ramon is a town on the edge of the Negev Desert. It overlooks the Mikhtesh Ramon crater, a 40km long, 500 meters deep and 10km wide crater formed thousands of years ago by a meteor or volcanic activity. The Beresheet Hotel holds a prime location on the lip of the crater and offers luxury accommodation and spa services as well as a superior dairy restaurant and a meat restaurant; both of which are kosher. The daily restaurant is in a lounge area while the meat restaurant is more formal. From all areas of the hotel you have views across the crater and Negev Desert including the restaurant. The restaurant is 800 meters above sea level and from the terrace there are unparalleled views. The architecture of the hotel is designed to blend in to the surroundings and the emphasis is on creating a peaceful and relaxing oasis.10. Rama’s Kitchen, Jerusalem HillsThis unique restaurant is nestled in the heart of a spice farm facing the Jerusalem Hills. The restaurant first served up food 19 years ago and now only opens on weekends. The breakfast is simple yet amazing. The restaurant has become a culinary landmark. The décor mirrors the down-to-earth menu. There are wooden decks surrounded by the spice farms flourishing crops overlooking stunning landscapes. The kitchen uses contemporary western techniques and traditional Arab and Mediterranean ingredients. On the menu are dishes like smoked goat cheese flatbread with coriander pesto and fresh figs and almonds. The non-kosher restaurant also serves up fish confit; beetroot tahina and quail egg shakshuka. So that you get a chance to try all the delicious dishes there is a brunch and dinner tasting menu. In addition to the brunch, lunch and dinner menus there is a campfire menu which includes a rack of lamb, whole Jaffa red snapper or duck breast cooked on the bone. The menu changes with the seasons and reflects the restaurant’s close connection with nature. All fruits and vegetables used are organic and locally grown. Freshly picked wild flowers adorn the tables which are made of rough wood and the serving crockery is hand-crafted ceramics.
By Petal Mashraki
6 min

A tour to the Israel Wax Museums

Admittedly Israel is not a leader in Wax Museums, unlike most capitals of the Western world neither Jerusalem not Tel Aviv have an official Madame Tussauds. However there is a wax museum in Eilat, there was one in Tel Aviv and soon there will be a new wax museum in Israel.Eilat Wax Museum, 4 Derech Yotam, EilatEilat’s Wax Museum is located in the IMAX Complex. A combo ticket can be bought for IMAX screenings and entrance to the wax museum. The museum displays more than 150 life-size figures of famous personalities from Israel and abroad. The figures include Robert De Nero, Freddy Mercury, Beatles and Angelina Jolie. There are also figures from legends, mythology and fantasy as well as real-life oddities from the Guinness Book of Records. Well know film characters include those from Star Wars and Johnny Depp’s character from the Pirates of the Caribbean. The figures include famous scientists, musicians, pop idols, politicians and cultural icons. Among the Israeli figures there are Itzhak Rabin and Ben Gurion.Former Tel Aviv Wax Museum, Shalom TowerThe Tel Aviv Wax Museum was founded by Shai Meyer a member of the family responsible for the construction of the Peace Tower or Migdal HaShalom. For many years the Wax Museum was a major attraction in the city. In 1995 the museum closed down due to financial difficulties however some of the figures have survived and can still be seen together with an exhibition about the history of Tel Aviv on the mezzanine floor of the Shalom Tower. The figures which have survived and are in good enough condition to be on display are those of Hebrew poets Bialik, Alterman, Penn, Goldberg and Shlonsky. There is also the figure of iconic Israeli actress Hanna Rovina. The figures have been positioned around a table as if enjoying a get together at a Tel Aviv café.The original wax museum had fallen into disrepair. However this Hannuka an innovative initiative was taken when volunteers went door to door collecting unused and partially used candles to be melted down and used to repair and build wax figures for the museum. The museum is scheduled to undergo a major facelift and redesign. It will then reopen in a new location and will be on a par with other wax museums in Europe and the USA. Stay tuned for news of the opening of Israel’s new wax museum.
By Petal Mashraki
2 min

Advertizing campaign to encourage Christian tourism from North America

There is currently a new advertizing campaign being launched to encourage Christian tourists from North America to visit Israel. The new campaign is costing the Israeli Ministry of Tourism $1.5 million and will be using all forms of media including the Internet. Specific Christian groups like the Evangelical Christians and Roman Catholics will be part of the target market and there will even be advertizing in Spanish aimed at the American Hispanic Christian population.Israeli tourism statistics have been rising in the last few years with incoming tourism breaking records each year starting in 2009 and continuing through to 2011, the Ministry of Tourism hopes that with this new campaign the records can once again be broken. There is already an ongoing campaign aimed at the general public which has been running in America called “Visit Israel. You’ll never be the same” but this new campaign is aimed specifically at the Christians who already comprise 40% of Israel’s incoming tourism. Israel is the ultimate Christian travel destination, no country can rival the significant Christian sites that Israel, and the neighboring Palestinian West Bank (which is accessed through Israel) offers. It was here that Jesus was born, grew up and taught, it is also where he was finally crucified. Thankfully many of the historic and Biblical sites still exist and Jerusalem in particular has a wealth of Christian sites which are unmatched.
By Petal Mashraki
1 min

Couples Vacation in Israel

Israel is a fantastic destination for a couples get-away, there is gorgeous countryside, exotic deserts, crystal clear sea, sandy beaches, romantic restaurants and many unique places to stay. Avoid the large hotels during the Israeli school holidays when Israeli families take over with screaming kids in tow. Stick to the smaller, intimate boutique hotels, B&BS and rural hideaways or the exclusive city hotels. Here are a selection of top romantic things to see, do and experience as a couple in Israel.Where to Eat and Where to StayIsrael has so many small and intimate mamma and papa establishments that you are bound to discover your own favorite romantic restaurant. However a few of the most famously romantic Israeli eateries include Cavalier, a French restaurant in Jerusalem; Zuni with its balcony seating in Jerusalem; Adora in Tel Aviv and Shiri Bistro in the quaint town of Rosh Pina. Aladin is a restaurant perched on the cliff of Old Jaffa with views of the sea and coastline all the way back to Tel Aviv. If you want to indulge yourselves then try Max Brenner’s Chocolate Bar is Herzalia. You will feel like you are walking into Charlie’s Chocolate Factory!To find a secluded and intimate “zimmer” try searching on zimmeril.com where they list many romantic B&Bs where the room is a separate suite in the garden or surrounded by beautiful foliage. These zimmers are geared towards couples looking for some quality time along. They often have candles, a Jacuzzi, soft lighting, chocolates and wine to make the occasion even more romantic. Other renowned romantic hotels include the prestigious King David Hotel in Jerusalem overlooking the Old City; the French chateau-style romantic suites of Bayit Bagalil in the Upper Galilee and the Herods Hotel in Eilat.Top 10 Romantic Things to do in IsraelSpa Experienceisrael-SPA-stone-massageIsraeli’s love spas! You will find a spa in every reputable hotel as well as spa treatments offered in the smallest of B&B. In every mall and on every high street there are day spas offering couple’s treatments which usually include an aromatic bath together, snacks and massages. Carmel Forest Spa Resort is the crème de la crème of Israeli spa experiences. Nestled in the greenery of the Carmel mountains overlooking Haifa they offer indoor and outdoor pools and a myriad of pampering spa treatments. Israel also has a few hot spring resorts including Ramat Gader’s Spa Village Hotel in the Golan Heights.Wine TastingWineIsrael has over 80 wineries, some on the doorstep of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Some of the wineries welcome guests without a prearranged appointment and others require a booking. The wineries offer tours and wine tastings. There are 5 main wine making regions in this small country – Galilee-Golan, Shomron, Samson, Judean Hills and the Negev. Among the wineries which welcome visitors there is the Neot Semadar Winery, Dishon River Winery and the Agada Cheers Winery.Banias – The Garden of EdenIf you are outdoor types take a trip to the Golan Heights and the Banias a natural spring surrounded by lush vegetation. This is said to have been the Garden of Eden. The Banias or Hermon Stream is within a National Reserve and there are marked routes for you to follow through the forests, over Roman bridges, passed Crusader ruins and ultimately you will reach the romantic Banias waterfall.Desert ExperienceDesertIf you’re up for an adventure why not stay in a Bedouin tent overnight and enjoy true Bedouin hospitality in the desert. Kfar Hanokdim is one of the places where you can have a Bedouin desert experience which includes camel rides, meals and overnight accommodation. If you are less keen on the overnight stay then you can always just go for an early morning or late night camel ride across the desert. Mitzpe Rimon is a romantic place to start your desert adventure. This elevated ridge overlooks the Ramon Crater, a magnificent sight which will take your breath away. You could stop just for the view or stay at one of the romantic hotels at Mitzpe Rimon.Endless BeachesIsrael’s long Mediterranean coast offers wide sandy beaches, some of which have lifeguards on duty and others which are more secluded. A few favorite beaches for lovers include Beit Yannai; Aqueduct Beach in Caesarea and Dor Habonim beach. Take your loved one down to the beach to watch the sun set.Renew your VowsJerusalem is a holy city for Jews, Muslims and Christians and it is home to so many exquisite churches. Why not find your favorite church and renew your vows.Shopping in YaffaThis one might be more for the women than the men but it can make a romantic outing. Yaffa is the site of an outdoor antique and junk market. It is perfect for bargain hunters or newlyweds looking for unusual items for their new home. If you like shopping then you are not alone as Israeli’s love shopping. You will find many malls, stores and markets across the country.Eilat DivingEilat in general is a wonderful destination for couples; it has the beautiful translucent water of the Red Sea, luxury hotels, water sports, beaches, TAX free shopping, attractions, spas and even a mall with an ice rink in the middle. For something really special go on a diving excursion and explore the coral reefs together.Wohl Rose Garden JerusalemTake a romantic walk through this fragrant rose garden where there are more than 15,000 rose bushes and 400 varieties of roses. There are benches along the path where you can sit undisturbed and have a few romantic moments.Hot Air BallooningHot Air BallooningTake an early morning hot air-balloon ride from Kibbutz Ruhama over the northern Negev. The company taking you into the air can provide breakfast or champagne for your romantic trip above the Holy Land.
By Petal Mashraki
4 min

El Al with special travel packages for the European gay community

Israel’s national El Al Airlines officially began marketing travel packages targeting Europe’s gay community on Monday, in cooperation with the Tel Aviv Tourist Association and the city’s Rov Hair faction.The special packages include a round trip from Europe, and a three-night stay in a Tel Aviv hotel, starting from the attractive price of €250 ($332). According to tourism branch sources, this is the first time El Al takes such a direct and upfront approach to gay tourism, that is courted around the world by travel agencies and airlines due to the great profit potential found among this population. On average, gay tourists spend more time vacationing than non-gay tourists and are known to be bigger spenders.The special packages will be marketed in a no less unique way: Thousands of gay Israelis surfing the Atraf dating website were urged to invite their homosexual friends from Europe to vacation in Israel and enjoy an array of events taking place during Gay and Lesbian Pride Month this June. The events will peak in Tel Aviv’s pride parade, that will be bigger and better than ever this year as part of the city’s centennial celebrations. If the campaign is successful, hundreds, if not thousands of gay tourists from Europe are expected to flood the city for the first time since the pride parades started.Tel Aviv’s gay community welcomed the joint initiative with El Al. Travel agent Russell Lord, who specializes in bringing gay tourists to Israel, said on Tuesday, “Since the campaign was launched yesterday, I’ve received many positive responses from gay tourists from Germany, Switzerland, Holland and Greece, and I didn’t believe there would be such quick responses. “So far, gay tourists have avoided coming to Israel because of the expensive flights and because there were no long weekend packages available, only week-long or 10-day packages. Thanks to this campaign, I believe that many gay tourists will come to vacation in Tel Aviv, and we certainly welcome El Al’s taking on the task.” El Al’s spokesperson’s office said the company “is cooperating with the Tel Aviv Municipality and the Hotel Association in a variety of offers for various crowds, in order to promote tourism to Israel”. Tel Aviv City Council member Rabbi Naftali Lobert said in response to the report: “This is a disgrace. Just as El Al was sensitive to the ultra-Orthodox community and refrained from flying on Shabbat and serves kosher meals, it shouldn’t take part in this. And in general, this whole pride parade – it would be better to watch a show at the circus than this parade.”
By Petal Mashraki
2 min