Israel Travel Blog


The Best Luxury Hotels in Israel

Are you planning a vacation in Israel? If so, the country is waiting for you! After two long, exhausting years, people are desperate to travel abroad again and many of us are so worn down from the pandemic that we’re ready to splash some serious cash about, ensuring that we get a holiday that ticks all of our individual boxes. And, honestly, there’s never been a better time to treat yourself - let’s face it, you deserve it.The Jaffa, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel. Photo fromwww.marriott.comTreat Yourself - You Deserve It…Luckily, Israel can oblige in this sense, that being because in the last decade it’s raised its ‘accommodation game’ substantially. Today, there are luxury hotels scattered across the country, all able to satisfy the most discerning traveller’s needs. Whether you want a city break (think historic Jerusalem and hipster Tel Aviv), a peaceful retreat (the tranquil Sea of Galilee and the empty, silent Negev desert) or cocktails and dance clubs at the Red Sea, you’re spoilt for choice. That’s because, in the last decade, Israel’s raised its game, with a series of sophisticated and stylish luxury hotels.Why Stay at a Luxury Hotel in Israel?We all need a vacation periodically - to rest our body and our mind, not to mention have a little fun. And whilst some people think that staying in a luxury hotel is a waste of money, we’d disagree…because it’s going to give you certain amenities and benefits that really make your time away that much more special, in terms of comfort, facilities and service.Luxury hotels mean top-end mattresses, soft bed linen and fluffy pillows, not to mention 24-7 housekeeping services. They’re going above and beyond in their facilities - whether it’s infinity pools, high-end toiletries, afternoon teas, champagne and chocolate in your room on arrival or even a butler service. Within them are fine-dining restaurants, cocktail bars and coffee lounges designed with your enjoyment in mind. And, of course, luxury hotels in Israel always put an emphasis on world-class service - from the General Manager to the bellboy, everyone is working to ensure your expectations are not just met but actually surpassed. Today, we’re looking at luxury hotels in Israel that really have the ‘wow’ factor. And whilst we want to stress here that our opinions are entirely subjective, the ones we’re recommending here all come highly recommended - by our friends, colleagues and TripAdvisor! If you don’t believe us, book a private day tour in Israeland then add it on as a treat to yourself. After all, you only live once! Here we go…The Scots Hotel Tiberias outside view, Sea of Galilee, Israel. Photo from www.scotshotels.com1.The Inbal Hotel, JerusalemThe Inbal is a luxury luxury hotel in Jerusalem, located in the heart of the city, a stone’s throw from the famous Montefiore Windmill and within walking distance of the Old City, and Emek Refaim (the German Colony). Catering to a wide variety of clients - tourists, business travellers, families and couples looking for a romantic getaway - Inbal offers its guests sophisticated elegance, combined with comfort and warmth - all provided by their knowledgeable staff.With 335 beautifully-designed rooms (some with balconies and views overlooking the Old City), you can choose between deluxe doubles to spacious suites and some accommodations have connecting doors. The decor is decidedly minimalist, spacious and airy, with all the amenities you’d expect including a coffee machine, bathrobes, quality toiletries and little extras like chocolates left on your pillow. Facilities include a fitness centre and huge pool, a top-level spa, artisan and boutique stores, executive lounge, concierge service and free underground parking. Their ‘Kids Club’ offers activities and workshops for toddlers and young children throughout the day, making this hotel an ideal choice for young families.In terms of cuisine, the breakfast buffet is plentiful, with cheeses, yoghurts, eggs and freshly-baked bread and muffins. (You can actually sit in their garden, whilst eating). Inbal also offers a kosher meat fine dining experience at their ‘02’ restaurant, under the watchful eye of chef Nimrod Norman. With ribeye minute steaks, lamb shank and gourmet hamburgers, carnivores will be in their element. For vegetarians, there is ‘The Lounge’ serving salads, pizza and pasta, salmon and some local dishes besides. Our tip: try their baklava and black coffee if you need an afternoon ‘pick me up’ - it’s delectable.The Inbal Hotel, Jerusalem. Photo fromwww.inbalhotel.com2. The Jaffa Hotel, Tel Aviv-JaffaThe Jaffa is housed in a historic building, which was once both a French hospital and monastery, and its design is nothing short of a triumph. Combining stained glass windows, vaulted arches and remains of a 12th century-era wall with contemporary furniture, eclectic light fittings and Damien Hirst art, its location couldn’t be better - the beautiful Jaffa port, charming artists quarter and Levantine flea market are all just a stone’s throw away.The Jaffa opened in 2018 and offers 120 rooms and suites, some within the historic structure and others within the modern new wing. The look is ‘high ceilings and neutral colours, and the restful effect is evident. Nice touches include bespoke mirrors, coffee capsule machines and backgammon boards.The Jaffa Hotel offers a beautiful spa but for those who prefer the outside, there’s a shady courtyard and a restful pool, with a cocktail bar that sets up at midday. In terms of dining options, it’s less Middle Eastern and more North American/Mediterranean. As well as a classic buffet breakfast, there’s ‘Golda’s Deli’, where you can enjoy bagels with lox and tuna melts. Their restaurant ‘Don Camillo’ (which is not kosher) is a tier above most Italian restaurants in Tel Aviv, which is reflected in the price, but the food is delicious - we’d recommend the Dover sole or wood-grilled lamb chops. With its personable staff and enviable location (close to the beach and a short cab ride from the heart of Tel Aviv), no wonder it’s taken the neighbourhood by storm!The swimming pool in Jaffa, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel.Photo from www.marriott.com3. The Queen of Sheba, EilatThe Hilton Queen Of Sheba Hotel is an upmarket, luxury hotel located in Eilat. Just a two-minute walk to the beach and the glorious Red Sea, it boasts 480 rooms, a number of restaurants, a spa, gym, outdoor pool and - unbelievably - a shopping mall! Located on the north shore hotel area, close to the promenade it is, by far and away, one of the resort’s most comfortable and stylish hotels.The decor of the hotel is very grand - domes and turrets with a wing that alone has more than 200 rooms. The high ceiling lobby boasts a mosaic floor, depicting all kinds of biblical animals. And if you like cats, you’ll be in your element because images of them are all over the hotel. The rooms are of a good size, many with marble bathrooms and balconies facing the sea. Some even have jacuzzis. As you ascend or descend in their see-through gold-edged elevators, enjoy the view of the atrium. Breakfast is something visitors at the hotel rave about - they serve a wide selection of both sweet and savoury dishes, as well as an array of cheeses and high-quality coffee. ‘Ebony’ - the pool restaurant and bar - serves grilled meats, salads, shakes and cocktails. ‘Makeda’ offers a wide variety of international buffet dinners. The Chicago Grill services both appetisers and evening meals and on the 12th floor, Yakimon is for sushi lovers. And if you’re a night owl, you can grab light snacks at Axum, the hotel’s late-night bar. For fun, you can take advantage of their fitness centre, spa, pool table, games room (with ping pong), pool, sauna and - of course - a very indulgent spa. Staying at the hotel also gives you access to the Neviot beach next door, with complimentary beach chairs and towels. Queen of Sheba Eilat Hotel, Israel. Photo from www.queenofshebaeilat.com-israel.com4. Six Senses Shaharut, Negev DesertSituated on a dramatic cliff overlooking the Arava valley in the Negev desert, Six Senses Shaharut salutes and honours its wilderness setting. Just an hour’s drive from Eilat and two hours by car from the Dead Sea, it offers traditional desert hospitality in out-of-the-ordinary comfort.The design of this luxury desert hotel was inspired by the Nabateans, nomads who lived here 2,000 years ago and were also responsible for building the ancient city of Petra. Six Senses was built in such a way that it might ‘blend’ into the surrounding desert landscape and the materials used reflect this - stone, wood, copper and teak all feature in the furnishings (which incidentally are all artisan).The accommodation consists of 60 suites and villas, all wonderfully designed in a rustic style and either situated around a communal pool or boasting their own private pool (the three-bedroomed Private Reserve comes not just with its own pool but also a pizza oven and chef service!). Bedroom amenities are thoughtful - complimentary snacks, a yoga mat, walking sticks and bath products made especially for the hotel, using camel and goat milk.The fine dining experience at this luxury desert hotel means that food is both refined and healthy, with many seasonal and organic products used in the dishes (purchased from local farmers). Drawing on the culinary traditions of the Middle East and the Mediterranean, diners have a number of options. Midian offers the very best of traditional Israeli cuisine, Edom View offers mezes, the poolside grill services both butcher’s cuts and homemade ice cream and the Jamillah bar is the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail at sunset.Six Senses Shaharut also offers a number of original activities and experiences, including sunrise yoga, hikes, star gazing outings, 4x4 off-road jeep tours and camel treks. The emphasis is on the guest’s experience being integrated with nature - entertainment is often in the form of local musicians, at the on-site amphitheatre. And since the setting here is so tranquil, it’s no surprise that this luxury hotel also offers a Wellness Programme, including retreats, a hammam and aerial yoga. Our verdict - simplicity and luxury combined!Six Senses Shaharut, Israel Resort & Luxury Spa in Negev Desert. Photo fromwww.sixsenses.com5. The Scots Hotel, Sea of GalileeSituated in Tiberias and overlooking both the peaceful, beautiful Sea of Galilee (‘the Kinneret’ in Hebrew) and the Golan Heights, Scots Hotel is situated in a beautifully-preserved old building, formerly known as the Scots Mission Hospital. Today it welcomes visitors with plenty of ‘Highland Hospitality’, from the arrival drinks it serves to live music performances in their whisky-themed bar.This luxury hotel and spa boasts sixteen renovated rooms, all constructed out of basalt rock and with high ceilings. The decor is traditional but all the extras you need are in your room, including high-end toiletries, plasma tv, ‘coffee corner’ with a chaise lounge and a Nespresso machine. The rooms are suitable just for two, which is why this hotel is frequented more by couples and older people, than families with young children.The Scots Hotel oozes refinement and grandeur and whilst just a stone’s throw from the promenade, has a large and lush, three-tiered garden, giving visitors a chance to enjoy hours of tranquillity. It boasts a gym, pool and excellent spa with a range of ‘wellness’ treatments and their famed Scottish-themed Ceilidh bar serves 80 different kinds of whisky!For many visitors, the highlight of the stay is the cuisine. The Scots Hotel serves sumptuous gourmet buffets, both at breakfast and dinner. The Torrance restaurant draws on gourmet traditions from around the globe with a hint of Galilee flavour. Dishes are made with local produce, using herbs from the hotel garden and fruits, vegetables, preserves and wines all from local farms. The hotel also offers culinary workshops, where chefs from across the world come to show off their skills and impart their skills and knowledge.One thing to note is that the Scots Hotel does not operate a kosher kitchen (which is somewhat uncommon in top Israeli hotels) so expect an array of dishes both in the morning and evening that include dairy products, fresh fish and seafood and prime meat cuts. The desserts are also fabulous so leave room for the end of your meal! Our tip: if you feel like being alone, retreat to the library/reading room upstairs. It’s a fine place to settle down with a good book…We hope this article has intrigued and inspired you to pamper yourself and make a trip to one of the above. Finally, if you book a private touror an Israel tour package with Bein Harim and wish to add some of these luxury hotels in Israel to it, for an overnight stay, don't hesitate to contact us.The Scots Hotel Tiberias, Sea of Galilee, Israel.Photo fromwww.scotshotels.com
By Sarah Mann

Jerusalem at Night: 7 Spots You Really Should Visit

Jerusalem is an extraordinary city, and in this statement, we do not exaggerate - few people who visit here leave without feeling moved. Whatever your age, faith or cultural background, it’s a city that has the power to bewitch - at any time of the day or night. Whether you’re exploring the Old City, visiting Jerusalem museums, wandering the cobblestoned streets and narrow alleyways of its endless neighbourhoods, or simply sitting in a coffee shop, watching the locals walk by, you’ll be endlessly fascinated.Mount Scopus night view of Jerusalem, Israel.Photo bySander CrombachonUnsplashToday, we’re looking at things to do in Jerusalem by night, when sunlight gives way to dusk and, all over the city, landmarks light up. Whether it’s walking along the Via Dolorosa, en route to the Wailing Wall, strolling along Jaffa street, stopping off to grab a bite at Mahane Yehuda Market, or paying a visit to the extraordinary Israel Museum (which is open until 9 pm each Tuesday) we think you’ll remember your experiences for years to come.And one other thing - just like tourists are often concerned about the security situation in Israel, but once they arrive feel incredibly safe, the same is true of the streets of the capital. Whilst the city is ‘shared’ by Jews, Muslims and Christians, your risk of being robbed or hurt is much lower than in other major cities around the globe. Not to mention that the locals are incredibly friendly, and love to help, in the event that you need directions, assistance or simple advice!That means if you’re looking for something to see in Jerusalem at night, after the sun goes down, fear not - all you need to do is put on your walking shoes. Let’s take a look at some of the attractions in Jerusalem that await you, on a night tour of Jerusalem. You’ll have no trouble finding fun things to do in Jerusalem at night. Even better, none of these activities will cost you a dime.Let’s begin…Jerusalem skyline at night. Photo byLavi PerchikonUnsplash1. The Kotel / Western Wall / Wailing Wall, JerusalemThe Kotel (also known as the ‘Wailing / Western Wall’) is the holiest place in the world for all Jews and one to which most aspire to visit, in their lives. Located in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, it is an exposed section of a much longer retaining wall, which is 57 metres (187 feet) high. But this is not any wall - it is the remaining wall of the Second Temple, built by King Herod (known as the Master Builder of his time).The Western Wall is so holy to Jews because it lies close to Temple Mount (inside the wider compound of Al Aqsa Mosque) but because of visiting restrictions, the closest to it that Jews can pray is the Western Wall. Temple Mount is where Jews believe the third (and final) Temple will be built, when the Messiah comes, and for believers, it is the place where God manifests his divine presence. The Foundation Stone, within the Mount, is also the place Jews believe creation began and where Abraham was ordered to sacrifice his son, Isaac. This is why, when Jews pray, it is always in the direction of the Wall (and Mount). Entering into the large plaza and catching sight of the Western Wall is an extraordinary experience for anyone visiting Israel. Up close, you will see men and women (in different sections) touching the stones, swaying in prayer and placing notes to God within the stones’ crevices. The site is not just free but open 24 hours a day - the only ‘condition’ for entrance is a modest dress - women should not have bare shoulders or legs and men should cover their head with a kippah (if you do not have one, you will be given one at no charge).Truly, there is something magical about visiting this Wall after the sun has gone down. Illuminated, and with Jews there at prayer at all hours, it is a good place to sit quietly and in awe. The best night, arguably, to visit is Friday at dusk when many Jews gather there to dance, sing, and usher in Shabbat (their Sabbath). The prayers they offer have been recited by Jews for centuries, and sitting there gives you the ideal opportunity to learn more about this tradition, as well as enjoy the soulful melodies and even spontaneous dancing!People pray at the Western Wall at night.Photo bySander CrombachonUnsplash2. The Jerusalem Chords BridgeThe Chords Bridge (also known as the Bridge of Strings) is a cantilever cable-stayed bridge that, today, is one of the city’s most eye-catching landmarks. Visible from many parts of the capital, it sits at the entrance to the city (it is the first thing you see when you arrive by road) and is currently the tallest structure in Jerusalem.The Chords Bridge was designed by the Spanish architect and engineer, Santiago Calatrava, and took six years to build. With its 66 steel cables, its design is a fusion of old and new - much like Jerusalem. If you look at it from a distance, it resembles a ship’s sail but (as inspired by the Spaniard) it can also be interpreted as a harp (the harp that King David played in the Bible story) or a tent in the desert.Calatrava deliberately designed the building with pedestrians in mind (fun fact: he doesn’t own a driver’s licence) and the bridge, made of concrete, steel and Jerusalem stone - has a glass-sided pedestrian walkway. This means that you’re able to walk across it from Kiryat Moshe to the Jerusalem bus station area. Oh, and it’s also illuminated, which makes it even more beautiful to visit by night.The Jerusalem Chords Bridge by Santiago Calatrava. Photocredit: © Dan Porges3. Yemin Moshe, JerusalemOverlooking the Old City, Yemin Moshe is surely one of Jerusalem’s charming and picturesque neighbourhoods. It also has a wonderful history - it was one of the first residential neighbourhoods established outside of the Old City Walls, at the end of the 19th century.Yemin Moshe’s existence owes itself to the famous financier and philanthropist Moses Montefiore, who hailed from England. In his lifetime, he made seven trips to what was then Palestine and was so impressed with what he saw that he made vast financial contributions in order that medical clinics and educational institutions could be set up. On his final visit, he set up a fund to be used for the building of six neighbourhoods, to alleviate some of the unsanitary conditions within the Old City at that time. One of these was Yemin Moshe and, erected in 1892, it boasted synagogues, communal cooking facilities and 137 houses, not to mention stunning views over the Hinnom Valley.Today, it is truly an iconic Jewish neighbourhood, in which many artists live. They are bound by only one condition - that they maintain the quarter’s original character. So if you want to visit this beautiful area at night, feel free, but remember that it’s an area that’s quiet and genteel, so try to respect the privacy of its inhabitants. The ‘stand out feature’ of the neighbourhood, save for its cobbled streets and beautifully manicured gardens, is the famous Montefiore Windmill. Originally designed as a flour mill, it was used as an observation point in the War of Independence and has huge cultural significance for the neighbourhood.There’s a small building next door in which is a replica of the carriage Montefiore used to travel in, on his journeys. Yemin Moshe is also close to the King David Hotel and YMCA if you’re in the mood for a drink or dinner afterwards.Yemin Moshe neighbourhood, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin4. Mahane Yehuda Market, JerusalemThe Mahane Yehuda Market ("shuk" in Hebrew) isn’t just the best place in town to come and buy your fruits and vegetables - it’s also one of the hippest places to spend an evening. Located between Jaffa Street and Agrippas streets, it has two main open ‘passages’ and in between lots of narrow alleyways and, when night falls, you’re in for a treat.Historically, when the stall owners went home, the market was deserted but all that’s changed in the last 10-15 years, with the advent of a wide array of bars, cafes and live music. By far and away the best evening to visit is Thursday when it’s jam-packed with locals who don’t have to go to work the next day.There are so many places to grab a bite or drink that you’ll be spoilt for choice, but some of the ones we’d recommend include:Beer Bazaar - big microbrewery fans, this joint stocks over 100 different kinds of beer and plenty on tap besides. Que Pasa - the tapas here have become a big hit - although there’s no meat served, there are plenty of small fish, vegetable and dairy dishes, including mullet, porcini bruschetta, sardines and tortilla. They also host local musicians, giving you a chance to enjoy some live music.Meorav Yerushalmi - for all the carnivores out there, this is the best place in town to get a famous Jerusalem mixed grill. All of their delicious meat is stuffed into a pitta (salad and fries on the side!) The portions are enormous and the queues long and if you get there after 11 pm, they may well be sold out! Azura - this family-run, wallet-friendly spot has been in business for 25 years and we know why - they serve Iraqui, Kurdish and Tunisian dishes at a very decent price. Whether you want hummus, shakshuka, meatballs or chicken stew, you’ll leave sated and happy.A fruit stall at Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem. Photo byRoxanne DesgagnésonUnsplash5. First Station (Tachana Rishona), JerusalemClose to the German Colony neighbourhood, the First Station is yet another place that’s hip and happening, both with locals and tourists. Historically, it was the last stop on a train line that ran from Jaffa to Jerusalem but fell into disrepair after the service was discontinued. In 2013, all that changed, when the site was renovated and transformed.Today, it’s a fantastic cultural and entertainment venue, where all kinds of city events, international festivals and food markets are held. The old rail yard is now covered with wooden decks and incorporates old parts of the architecture (the ticket hall, concourse and old station house). Inside, you’ll find pubs, restaurants, food stalls and vendors with their carts. There are many musical events and performances and, particularly in the summer months, it’s a wonderful spot to spend an evening.Colourful tents atFirst Station (Tachana Rishona), Jerusalem.Photo credit: ©Dmitry Mishin6. Mishkenot Shaananim, JerusalemAdjacent to Yemin Moshe, and meaning ‘Peaceful Dwelling’ this was Jerusalem’s very first neighbourhood, built outside the walls of the Old City, on a slope above the Sultan’s Pool, which affords you fantastic views of Mount Zion. Today, this historic spot is very popular with artists, and as you walk around you will see many venues showcasing culture and art. (There’s also a lovely guesthouse there if you’re looking for somewhere tranquil to lay your head!)The smaller of the original buildings is now home to the Jerusalem Music Centre and Convention Centre, an international cultural institution. Since Yemin Moshe is so close to it, many regard the two neighbourhoods as being ‘merged’. Just like its counterpart, Mishkenot Shaananim it is home to lovely gardens, charming narrow roads and wonderfully-restored residential buildings. And, of course, look out for the windmill!Mishkenot Shaananim neighbourhood, Jerusalem.Photo credit: ©Dmitry Mishin7. Kikar Safra, JerusalemThis city square, located in downtown Jerusalem, is home to the city’s municipality complex. Its exact location is the once ‘seam line’ between East and West Jerusalem, which was precisely why it was chosen - to demonstrate that the city should serve all residents. Built in 1993, it couldn’t be more different than the previous structure, which was constructed in 1867, in the Ottoman Empire era.At the primary entrance, from Jaffa Road, you will see a fountain, rows of palm trees and a huge sculpture named ‘Archimedes Screw’. Nearby is the Daniel Garden. The entire plaza is about 4,000 square metres and is surrounded by buildings all used by the city. Kikar Safra is a popular place for Jerusalemites to meet each other, and it’s also known for hosting fairs, festivals and political demonstrations. Fun fact: this square is the spot to which sports fans always flock when their city’s team wins a prominent basketball or football trophy. It’s also the spot where the largest Sukkah (huts roofed with branches) is built, each Fall, at the festival of Sukkot.Safra Square, Jerusalem.Photo credit: ©Dmitry Mishin
By Sarah Mann

Dance in Israel

Dance - one of peoples’ favourite pastimes…an activity, hobby or passion that individuals the world over take pleasure in. And in Israel that’s no exception - people have been dancing in Israel before it was created! There are mentions of dance in the Jewish sacred texts (today, Jews dance and rejoice with Torah scrolls at the festival of Simchat Torah) and this kind of expression has always been an important part of communal life, particularly weddings!.Dancing girl, Tel Aviv, Israel.Photo byOr HakimonUnsplashThe modern origins of dance in Israel can be traced back to the waves of immigration that began just the beginning of the 20th century. Jews from all over Russia and Eastern Europe who had Zionist sympathies brought with them the dances of their mother nations. This really led to the movement of ‘folk dancing’ - a way for individuals to express the culture they had learned as children.Today, dance in Israel incorporates all kinds of styles and techniques from traditional to contemporary. Dancing to music sung in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ladino, dance has taken on two major forms - traditional folk dancing and dance as an art form (using professional choreographers, stage productions, and trained artists). One thing we do know, however, is that whether you want to dance or watch a dance performance, you’ll be able to do so almost anywhere in Israel. Let’s have a closer look at all things to do with this wonderful activity…Market Dance, a ballerina in the Carmel Market.Photo byLiel AnapolskyonUnsplashFolk Dancing in Israel (Rikudei Am)Folk dancing has a long and colorful history in Israel - as a form of dance, performed to songs in Hebrew, it has been around for over 100 years. The beginnings of it can be traced back to pioneering Jews who arrived in the country in the 1880s, then the turn of the century, and later in the 1930s. In the ‘Aliyahs’ (periods when many Jews arrived in what was then called Palestine ) by these diaspora Jews, the desire for communal dancing increased, very much in line with the desire for the creation of a Jewish state. Dances brought to the Promised Land by these European Jews included the polka, rondo, and hora and it was the third of these that eventually became Israel’s ‘national dance’. The hora itself (a circle dance) was and still is, today, an iconic dance in Israeli folk dancing culture.Performed at festivals and celebrations, and set to Israeli music - folk, klezmer, or (most popularly) the tune of ‘Hava Nagila’ - it is danced at practically every wedding or bar mitzvah celebration both in Israel and in Jewish communities around the world. The hora was also made incredibly famous after the State of Israel was created, when Jews in Tel Aviv and across the land broke into spontaneous hora dancing, to mark their joy at Ben Gurion’s Declaration of Independence. Today, Israeli folk dancing is still very popular, with groups all over the country dedicated to its preservation. It’s also wonderful for tourists to watch in places like the Tel Aviv Beach Promenade, on Saturday morning, when locals gather by the Gordon Beach and perform folk dances for two or three hours, to the delight of passersby!Israeli folk dance (rikudei am), Karmiel, Israel.Photo credit: © Dana LifanovaBallroom dancing in IsraelIn recent years, ballroom dancing has become very popular in Israel, in part because of an interest in an ‘old’ hobby and in part because of shows such as ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ The studio in Ramat HaSharon (close to Tel Aviv) named ’Arthur Murray’ has made a name for itself teaching enthusiasts ballroom and Latin dancing.There is also a ballroom dancing academy open in Ashdod, a city home to many Russian immigrants who loved the pastime, back in the country of their birth, and took it up with gusto here. In recent years, Israel has even competed in ballroom dancing world championships! With more and more classes on offer throughout the country, it seems like the stereotype of ballroom dancing being an aristocratic, older person’s hobby - is finally being laid to rest.Ballroom dancing.Photo byPreillumination SeThonUnsplashContemporary dance in IsraelGaga - the most famous kind of contemporary dancing in Israel today has got to be ‘Gaga’. No, that doesn’t refer to anyone gone mad; rather it’s an innovative modern dance movement developed by the Batsheva Dance Company (see below, in ‘Dance Companies’) under the directorship of Ohad Naharin.Gaga is hard to define but essentially it’s a dance technique that focuses on physical bodily sensations, communication, and creativity. The Gaga method offers dancers the opportunity to develop stamina along with coordination, by exploring speed and form. Gaga, says Naharin, is both playful and powerful and, every year, dancers from around the world arrive in Tel Aviv, to learn more about it. Gaga performances are often given at the Suzanne Dellal Centre in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood and, in these trying Corona times, they also offer classes online.Earth Dance - Earth Dance in Israel is held each year (on the same day as similar Earth Dance events across the globe) in the tranquil Galilee region. This social, musical, and family-friendly event offers numerous activities, including dance performances from all kinds of traditions (think African, Indian, South American, and Asian…)Flash Mob Dance - the flash mob dance craze has reached many parts of the world, and Israel is one of them. For anyone who doesn’t know, this is when a group of people all gather together in a public space and then break into amazing dance routines in front of an unsuspecting public. Flash mobs have become increasingly popular in Israel in the last ten years and are often very well organized and a delight to watch. Here’s a flashmob dance event in Jerusalem that took place close to the Jaffa Gate and the Mamilla rooftop restaurant.Dancing students at the entrance of Suzanne Dellal Center. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinDance festivals in IsraelKarmiel Dance Festival - this world-famous dance festival first took place in 1987 and, since then, has been held annually, each July, in the charming town of Karmiel in northern Israel. Originally established as a festival for Israeli folk dance, their offerings have expanded widely over the years and now include performances from troupes across the world. Showcasing Israeli music and dance (think ballet, modern, hip-hop, folk to say the least) it brings dancers together from across the world, with no regard for age, skillset, faith or creed.Two major competitions take place within the festival - one involving folk dancing and the other choreography. Corona permitting (!) the festival will take place sometime this summer, on 5-7 July 2022.Activities will take place at venues across Karmiel, and will certainly include extended dance sessions, original productions, and new artistic creations, including a production that is put on on the last night, featuring hundreds of performers.You don’t have to dance either - you can go and watch, and enjoy some street food and live music while you’re at it! Our tip: don’t miss the opening act - a pageant in which thousands participate, accompanied by all kinds of musicians and orchestras. Karmiel Dance Festival at night, Israel. Photo credit: © Dana LifanovaTel Aviv International Dance - this annual festival has been taking place since 1999 each summer and runs for at least a week. It is held at the state-of-the-art Suzanne Dellal Centre, in Neve Tzedek, one of the city’s most beautiful and charming neighborhoods. This Tel Aviv festival showcases both Israeli and international dance companies and choreographers, and hosts between 2,000 and 10,000 attendees per day. Last year, there were 25 performances, 8 premieres and 13 new productions by Israeli artists, as well as 3 performances for young children and their parents.Jerusalem International Dance Week - this festival aims to promote Jerusalem as an international dance space and to make visible high-quality, contemporary Israeli dance to the top international festivals worldwide. The showcase events and the international choreography competition were founded in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2011. Events are held at the Machol Shalem Dance House, and include original works of contemporary dance which, year after year, excite audiences from across the spectrum. Room Dances Festival, Israel- held both in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, this festival was established by Amos Hetz, 32 years ago. A performer and choreographer himself, he wanted to offer a platform for artists who wanted to create an intimate space between them and their audiences. The festival is usually held in November and runs for 3 nights, and this year’s event aims to focus on solo dancers/small ensembles who will perform in venues without a partition between stage and audience.Ballerina on the stairs in Tel Aviv. Photo byLiel AnapolskyonUnsplashDance Companies and Teachers in IsraelThe Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company (KCDC) - directed by Rami Be’er, who is well-known in the dance world for his unique choreographic skills, this world-famous dance company performs across the globe. Based in the beautiful location of Western Galilee, they also offer intensive summer dance programs (two, four, and six weeks) for both high school and university students.KCDC was founded by the late Yehudit Arnon, in 1973, who - back then - had no idea how famous it would become. Today, in the ‘Dance Village’ there, the emphasis is on fostering excellence and creating a space for international dancers. They also offer special projects and guided tours.Vertigo - this modern dance company, based in Jerusalem, was established in 1992, by Noa Wertheim and Adi Sha’al. They perform works both by Wertheim and independent choreographers from Israel and around the world. Located on Bezalel Street, in the downtown part of the city, they also offer workshops, training, and classes.Dance neon sign. Photo byGeorgia de LotzonUnsplashBatsheva - this world-famous company, situated in Tel Aviv, was founded by the legendary Martha Graham and Baroness Batsheva de Rothschild, in 1964 and really was a consequence of the growing interest in modern dance in the USA at that time.Dancers were trained in the Graham technique, although their performances often ended up being most unlike their American counterparts. In 1990, Ohad Naharin was appointed as Artistic Director and is probably best known for his introduction of the “Gaga’ method (see the section above, in ‘Contemporary Dance.’)Batsheva’s Tel Aviv home is at the Suzanne Dellal Centre in Neve Tzedek and today is at the forefront of modern international dance.Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollock Dance Company - this eponymous dance company was established in 1992 and is also based in Tel Aviv, performing at Suzanne Dallal. They have 12 regular dancers and are known for their unique performances, particularly when it comes to choreographers.Yasmeen Godder Dance Company - Yasmeen was born in Jerusalem but moved to New York City at 11, and graduated from the High School of the Performing Arts, then moving on to study with Martha Graham. After returning to Israel, she settled in Tel Aviv where she now teaches concert dance. Her works have been performed in France, Germany, and the USA, and in 2007, she established the Yasmeen Godder Studio in Jaffa.Ballerina in Tel Aviv.Photo byLiel AnapolskyonUnsplashDance Schools in IsraelThe Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance - as well as its extensive music programs, Academy has a dedicated dance department, focused on producing dancers, teachers, and choreographers who have a broad background in performance, instruction, and creative activity. They offer both theoretical and practical training and a state-of-the-art building in which to learn both dance and movement techniques.Mehola - this dance school has five branches across Israel and offers unusual and modern repertories for children to learn. These include folklore, jazz, hip hop, musical, and even ‘Zionist’ themes. There are also classes in fields such as character dancing, technical polishing, and character development. International Ballet School, Tel Aviv - with both children and adults divisions, this ballet school’s philosophy is that the dance should be able to express their individuality. Set up in 2017 by Nicholas Barez, it offers local and international families alike a unique opportunity - to learn the French classical ballet technique in a very multicultural environment. Ballerina at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Photo byLiel AnapolskyonUnsplashThe school runs two language sections - one in Hebrew, the other in English/French. These two then merge into a single English-speaking program for those aged 12 and above. They also offer intensive courses at Hanukkah, Passover, and in the summer.Fresco Dance - Established in 2002 by Yoram Karmi, this Tel Aviv-based company performs regularly throughout the year in Israel and also abroad. They have produced dance pieces that premiered in the Israel Festival in 2007/2010 and in festivals around the world. Placing their emphasis on technique, as well as individual style and character, they give performances both for adults and children.Bikurey Ha’Itim Dance - both a dance school and university, this Tel Aviv center offers part-time and full-time courses for students aged 18-22. Their evening classes are open to the entire public, giving you a chance to practice your Brazilian moves, the Lindy swing, Argentinian tango, Cuban salsa, and even a little ballroom!If you are interested in Israeli culture, feel free to read more articles devoted to theatre in Israel, music of Israel, and sculpture in Israel.Tango dancers.Photo byPreillumination SeThonUnsplash
By Sarah Mann

Wadi Araba Border Crossing

When visitors come to Israel, depending on how much time they have they often want to combine their stay in the Holy Land with a trip to one of its neighbouring countries - Egypt or Jordan. And whilst Egypt has the lure of diving spots, it’s Jordan that most tourists head to, for a chance to see the magnificent lost city of Petra, nestled in the desert.Tourists on a day tour in Petra, Jordan. Photo credit:© istockphotoTravelling in Israel and BeyondIndeed, in the last ten years, there has been an explosion of interest in tours to Petra - it’s an archaeological/historical/geological/engineering wonder, that’s for sure, and with it being reasonably close to Israel, there’s no reason not to take a couple of days to travel there and experience one of the seven new Wonders of the World. Travelling to Jordan OverlandIsrael has three border crossings with Jordan - in the north, the centre and the south of the country. Most tourists opt for the third one, at the edge of the city of Eilat. It is known as the Wadi Araba or the Yitzhak Rabin border crossing. In this article, we're going to take you through the entire process - travelling from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, down to Eilat, located on the Red Sea. Then, from Eilat to the actual border crossing, we’ll go through the hows, wheres and whys - what time the border opens, what time the border closes, how much a visa for Jordan will cost you and how to continue onto Petra, Wadi Rum or Amman, once you reach the other side! OK. Are you ready to find out more?A jeep tour in Wadi Rum Desert, Jordan. Photo credit: © istockphotoHow do I get to the border with Jordan from central Israel?Travelling from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and other parts of the country is not too difficult, since Israel is a small country with well-developed infrastructure. Essentially, there are three ways - public transport (in the form of an Egged bus), rental car (easily available) or a short flight from Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv to the Ilan Ramon, which is 15km from Eilat.Egged is the national bus company of Israel (its green buses are a familiar sight, all over Israel) and they run to Eilat regularly from the big cities. Getting from Tel Aviv to Eilat or from Jerusalem to Eilatwill take around 5 hours and a one-way ticket will cost you around 70 NIS. Buses leave every 2 hours and begin running at 6 am.Eilat is approximately 397 km from Tel Aviv, and 352 km from Jerusalem so, if you don’t hit traffic or stop for coffee, you could technically arrive in 4 hours. There are a number of car rental companies you can turn to - Budget, Shlomo Sixt, Hertz and Eldan included - and prices can be quite competitive, especially if you shop around on the internet.Flying from Ben Gurion to Ilan Ramon airport is your fastest option - it’s a quick and painless 55 minutes in the air and you only have to be at Ben Gurion an hour before departure. Both Arkia and Israir offer regular domestic flights which can start from 150 NIS one way (approx. $46).Al-Khazneh, the Treasury temple at night, Petra, Jordan.Photo credit: © istockphotoHow do I get from the Ilan Ramon airport to the Wadi Araba border crossing?You’ll land in Eilat’s new airport, Ilan Ramon, which is a state-of-the-art facility that opened recently. Located just 15 km north of Eilat, it will take you about 20 minutes to travel from the airport to the city centre. You can journey there either by private taxi (which you can find at a stand outside the building), order anairport transfer beforehand (best done by using a reputable Israeli tour operator like ourselves) or use public transportation in Israel. If you’re taking a taxi, you can ask the driver to drive you straight to the border. You should expect to pay anywhere between 130-150 NIS (40-47 USD) for the entire journey (feel free to bargain) and the journey should take around 20 minutes. Ordering a private car will cost more - anywhere from 200-300 NIS (62-95 USD).If you’re taking public transport, you can use numbers 30, 31, 32 and 50, which all stop at the Eilat Central Station. These public buses run every 20 minutes from the airport to the city. Once you’re in Eilat, you can then pick up their hourly bus in the direction of the border crossing. The only ‘problem’ is that it will drop you around 1.5 km from the border. This means if you have a lot of luggage or are travelling in high season (when it’s very hot) it might not be a good option.However, the cost of using public buses means that you will be able to travel all the way from the Ilan Ramon airport to the Araba/Rabin crossing for less than 10 NIS/ 3 USD (which is very reasonable, in price terms). If you’ve come in a rental car, the good news is there’s a large parking area close to the border where you can leave your car for free (it is forbidden to take an Israeli car into Jordan).Wadi Araba/Yitzhak Rabin border crossing, Israel.Photo credit: © istockphotoIs the Wadi Araba/Yitzhak Rabin border crossing currently open?As we all know, Covid restrictions are changing constantly. At the height of the pandemic, this border was sometimes closed entirely and at other times working on limited opening hours (09.00 to 13.00). But the good news is that, yes, as this goes to publication, the Wadi Araba/Yitzhak Rabin border is currently open for tourists. At present, these are the guidelines you need to follow, in terms of the Corona situation:1. You will need to show proof of a negative PCR test that you have taken no more than 72 hours before crossing the border. The test needs to be carried out by a recognised institution - home tests are not acceptable. There are many clinics and shopping malls across Israel at which you can take this test.2. You must present then a confirmation of entry form to Jordan - of course, it can be filled in online.3. When you arrive at the Jordanian side of the border, you will be asked to take another PCR test. You will have to pay for the cost of this test.Whilst things seem to be moving in a forward direction, vis a vis the pandemic, to save you major time, energy, cost and frustration, we strongly advise that you check with the Israeli authorities before you set off for the border.Camels in Petra.Photo credit: © istockphotoWhat are the operating hours for the Araba/Rabin border crossing?Regular working hours at Israel’s southern border with Jordan are: Sunday to Thursday 06.30 - 20.00; Friday and Saturday 08.00 to 20.00. Please note that the border crossing is closed on two of the major Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). Additionally, when political tensions arise between Israel and its neighbours, the border may be closed at short notice. If you’re planning on travelling to Jordan from Israel during an ‘outbreak of conflict’ then keep up-to-date with the local news.Is it possible to buy a visa on arrival at the Araba/Rabin border crossing?The good news is that, for the majority of people, it is very easy to purchase a visa for Jordan on arrival at the border. This can be paid for either with cash or a credit card (see below). Woman in the dunes of Wadi Rum, Jordan. Photo byKaram HamadnehonUnsplashWhat are the facilities like at the Araba/Rabin border?The facilities at this crossing are very modern! As mentioned before, there is a free parking lot close by, vending machines (for buying drinks and snacks), a currency exchange stand and a decent Duty-Free section, stocked with perfumes, alcohol and chocolate. The Araba/Rabin border crossing is also accessible for disabled people. At the car parking lot, there are spaces reserved for those with disabilities. Additionally, the Yitzhak Rabin terminal has passages that have been widened so that wheelchairs can be pushed through with ease. (Wheelchair use is free of charge).There should also be luggage porters there, if you need help.How much will a Jordan visa cost me?At the time of writing this, a visa to enter Jordan will cost you 40 JOD (which is approximately $56) a double-entry visa will set you back 60 JD ($85.00 USD) and if you, by chance, need a multiple-entry visa, expect to pay 120 JD ($170). A bridge in Eilat. Photo credit: © istockphotoWhat happens once I’ve left the Israel side and arrived in Jordan?Once you’ve arrived at the Jordanian side, you will have to show proof of your Corona test from Israel and then a subsequent PCR test, carried out by the Jordanian officials. You will then need to purchase your visa (see above). Once you have a visa, and all your Corona work has been deemed to be in order, you will pass through to the exit terminal. If you are travelling with a group, this will be where you rejoin your guide/bus.If you are travelling independently, you are going to find yourself at the mercy of a ‘taxi cartel’ that operates between the border and Aqaba. It is only a 12-minute journey but there is no public transport, so you really have no other option than to pay the set fee of a taxi.This can be anywhere between 10-12 JOD. Simply tell the taxi driver to take you to the bus station in Aqaba, you can then find monit sheruts (ten person vans) that operate regularly, and will take you on to Petra or Amman. The Jordanian flag.Photo byYazan obeidatonUnsplashCan I take a Guided Tour to Petra?Yes, you can, and this is something we’d recommend for many reasons. If you take a group tour to Petra, there are many things you won’t have to deal with - visa and language issues, haggling for a taxi to take you from the border to Aqaba, finding transport onto Petra, looking for accommodation and - of course - queuing up for your entrance tickets (in high seasons, the lines can be very long).You’ll also have the services of an experienced guide - someone who speaks fluent English (or perhaps even French, German or Spanish) but knows Arabic too, which is really helpful. He or she will know all the ins and outs of your trip, how to make things go smoothly from start to finish and of course, will always be there in the event that a problem arises.If you book one of Bein Harim’s guided tours to Petra and Jordan from Eilat, a bus will pick you up from central Eilat and take you directly to the crossing. Once there, you will be met by one of our representatives, who will assist you in dealing with the practicalities of crossing. It is a quick and painless way of dealing with the international border, and many people who have taken our trips say that it’s one of the best things about travelling with a guide - knowing that any potential difficulties will be taken care of.Having said that, it is possible to travel to Petra independently - just be aware that you may encounter some hassles along the way, in terms of bargaining for transport, from the border to Aqaba and then onto Petra itself. It will also require more time, of course.A hotel in Wadi Rum, Jordan.Photo byNikolay HristovonUnsplashCan I cross back from Aqaba to Eilat?Absolutely. The border crossing works both ways - just take a taxi from Aqaba to the border and, once there, present your passport to the Jordanian authorities. Depending on how many days you have spent in Jordan, you will be asked to pay an exit tax of 10 Jordanian dinars. However, if you have both arrived and are departing from this crossing, and you have stayed more than 3 nights, this tax will be waived. In terms of Corona paperwork, you will need to:1. Present a confirmation of entry form to Israel:2. Show proof of a negative PCR test to the Israeli authorities. This needs to have been taken not more than 72 hours before entry to Israel & to Jordan and, as with above (crossing into Jordan) cannot be a home test.3. Take a PCR test at the Israeli border, before being granted permission to travel on into Israel.Now all that remains is to wish you a good journey!Boat in the Red Sea, Eilat.Photo credit: © istockphoto
By Sarah Mann

10 of the Best Restaurants in Jerusalem

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

Jews and their Sacred Texts

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

4 Days in Jerusalem

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

Best Street Food in Israel

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

Historical Events in Israel - Modern Times

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

Catholics in Israel

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

Budget Accommodation in Israel

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

10 Rainy Day Activities in Israel - Having Fun Inside

The fact that Israel has such a warm and pleasant climate for much of the year is a huge reason it sees so many tourists. Like many Mediterranean destinations, it's blessed with beautiful sandy beaches, clear blue waters, endless cafes with outdoor seating, and plenty of sunshine. Indeed, between May and November, it’s rare for the entire country to see a drop of rain. View through the rain-specked window, Israel.Photo byRaimond KlavinsonUnsplashHowever, whilst rainy days aren’t common in Israel, they do still exist, and so if you are visiting in the winter and there’s a sudden downpour, what should you do? Well, you might not be able to hike, swim or cycle around but the good news is this is a country with plenty of indoor activities to keep you amused for hours.Below, we’re looking at things you can do that are amusing, entertaining, educational and will keep you dry whilst the wind blows and the rain pours. Whether you’re in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa or one of the small villages in the Negev or Galilee, we’re sure you’ll enjoy them. Hey, you won’t just learn something new but you might get so hooked on it that you’ll try it again. And then you’ll be thankful for the bad weather because if it hadn’t rained, you might never have headed indoors in the first place…A girl watching the rain. Photo byJorge RomanonUnsplash1. Visit a Planetarium in IsraelReady for an experience that’s ‘out of this world?’ Well, look no further than a trip to Israel’s most well-known planetarium, in Tel Aviv. Situated inside the Eretz Israel Museum, you’ll enjoy a fantastic show, whilst sitting in revolving seats! Learn about different galaxies and enjoy a ‘flight’, where you can explore the universe, each one with its billions of stars (which live, die and then are born again).English performances are available (check ahead of time).The venue also offers a show on Galileo and the modern telescopes.The planetarium accepts children over the age of 6, so it’s a great family attraction. There’s also ‘Madatech’ in Haifa, which is perfect for science lovers. Inside, you’ll find all kinds of hands-on experiences including a planetarium, interactive exhibitions, a robotics centre, 3D science films and even an innovation centre, that combines science with art.Starry sky.Photo byJoshua OhonUnsplash2. Crack the Code at an Escape Room in IsraelEscape Rooms are a global phenomenon - they’re perfect for any age, have clever designs and are wonderful if you want a bit of intellectual stimulation, as well as a fun day out. Since they’ve taken off in Israel, you’ve got so many to choose from, but here are three we’d recommend:‘Aladdin and the Magic Lamp‘- located in Haifa, kids will love searching for clues in the Sultan’s Palace and finding the magic lamp!‘Trapped’ - perfect for those who don’t scare easily, this Jerusalem escape room finds you in a blood-soaked lab, and with just an hour to save the lives of you and your friends.‘Mossad’- For aspiring secret-agents, there’s no better place to head than Tel Aviv where, in groups of 2-6, you’ll be put through your paces, with some serious assignments, to find out of you’ve got what it takes to takes to be an Israeli ‘James Bond’. Red escape room neon sign. Photo byZachary KeimigonUnsplash3. Defy Gravity with some Indoor Skydiving in IsraelA short drive from Tel Aviv is the city of Rishon LeZion and there you’ll find ‘Flybox’. It’s a new attraction in Israel which is becoming increasingly popular and it’s nothing short of indoor skydiving! Thought up in the 1990s, it is an ‘extreme sport’ but in a controlled and safe environment and, even better, it’s not just for adults - kids can try it out too.How does it work? This gravity-defying activity works by letting you hover over a wind tunnel - you enter by a lift which is generated by fans installed at the top of the tunnel that lifts the air. The tunnel compresses the air and increases the speed up to 275 km (170 miles) per hour. The tunnel you ‘fly’ in is see-through and 13.5 km here, meaning others can watch you as you soar through the air.As ‘Flybox’ says, it’s a perfect activity for couples, families and small groups alike and suitable for anyone aged 5 and up. You don’t need any experience or skills - there’s an instructor there to advise you, and ensure your safety and comfort and someone else will be keeping an eye on your airspeed. Get ready for take-off! Skydiving at Flybox, Israel.Photo from: www.flybox.co.il4. Take Up Indoor Rock Climbing in IsraelIf you’re the sporty type but don’t want to get soaked, then try I Climb, which is the largest indoor climbing group in Israel. They have six locations in Israel, including Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa. Their gyms give you the opportunity to lead climb, boulder, top rope and use an auto belay and, additionally, they offer a special climbing experience for kids.There’s also ‘Performance Rock’ in Tel Aviv, which is the first climbing wall in Israel devoted just to the bouldering method. The wall has more than 100 climbing routes (‘bouldering paths’ or ‘problems’) and there’s a wide range of levels and steps to discover. You don’t need any previous experience - just show up and progress through the ranks!A girl on a climbing wall. Photo byJonathan J. CastellononUnsplash5. Attend Cooking Classes in IsraelThere’s nothing more satisfying than learning to cook a new dish, and Israel’s full of cooking experts who are ready to share their expertise with you. Galilean Cooking Workshops - nestled in the Galilee, in northern Israel, this company offers you a chance to experience some real Middle Eastern hospitality, in a local’s home. Whether you want to be the guest of Druze, Christian or Muslim hosts, you’ll be assured of a warm welcome - the programme involves two hours of a cookery workshop. There you will get hands-on instruction in how to prepare traditional dishes before a sit-down lunch, where you try what you’ve made. It’s a great way to spend a few hours and not only will you improve your cooking skills - learning how to make food with fresh ingredients - but you’ll also get an idea of how locals live in the Galilee.Cooking workshop.Photo byMax DelsidonUnsplashLehem Zeh (‘This Bread’) - situated in Yeroham, in the Negev Hills, and just a 20-minute drive from Beersheba, this venture was established by Ariel Pollock Star, who moved to Israel from Cincinnati, USA and couldn’t find bagels in her local bakery so began making her own. The enterprise took off and she then established a collaborative cooking workspace, which she shares with other women-led ventures. Join her workshop and you won't just learn how to make these New York delights, but you’ll take six of them home with you (plain, sesame and onion - something for everyone!)Dan Gourmet in Tel Aviv -fantastic if you’re more than a beginner - they offer all kinds of food classes including Asian, Italian, pastries and the popular ‘Who’s Afraid of Fish?’ Nor will they be offended if you ask them questions about traditional Jewish cooking! Cooking with garlic. Photo byokeykatonUnsplash6. Enjoy a Ceramics Workshop in IsraelDown in the Dead Sea, you’ll find the studio of Estee Barak, who’s been making ceramics for over 30 years. Not only does she exhibit but she also offers workshops both in decorating ceramics and pottery throwing. Learn how to decorate a plate with Japanese firing methods or make your own pot on a wheel! Workshops last around 2 hours and can also be combined with a day trip to Masada and Ein Gedi.There’s also Keren Or’s lovely studio in Zichron Yaakov, close to Mount Carmel and Haifa, which offers workshops for couples, families, groups and individuals. Try your hand at ceramic sculpting, painting on plates/pots already fired, or have a ‘pottery for two’ afternoon tailored to your specific requirements. She also offers ‘team building’ days, for anyone who’s in need of workplace motivation!K-Clay ceramics studio, Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin7. Ice-Skating in IsraelUp high in northern Israel sits Metula, which is a charming little town right next to the border with Lebanon (on a clear day, you can see for miles). In 1995 an activities and sports centre opened here and as well as swimming pools, a bowling alley, saunas and a shooting range, it offers an Olympic-size skating rink. Yes, and one that actually meets international standards) and with seating for over one thousand people.So for anyone who wants to have fun on the ice, this is the place to come - you can bring your own skates, rent a pair or simply sit and watch professionals practising with their trainers. (And if skating whets your appetite, and it’s a really cold winter, then take a short drive over to Mount Hermon on the Golan Heights…ok, it’s not inside but when snow falls, it’s a wonderful place to come and ski!Ice Peak, Holon - just 20 minutes drive from Tel Aviv, this skating rink is very organised and makes for a great family activity in Israel. Modern, clean and well-maintained, your ticket gives you access to the ice for 45 minutes at a time (your time slot will depend on the colour of the bracelet you’re given).Girl tying skates on.Photo by Matthew Sichkaruk on Unsplash8. Book a Chocolate or Candy-Making Workshop in IsraelHow many of us don’t like a sweet treat, now again and again? Well, if you’ve ever wanted to learn how to make some delectable sugary creations for yourself, attending a chocolate or candy-making workshop is the perfect rainy-day activity in Israel. Sarina Chocolate - about an hour’s drive north of Tel Aviv, on Moshav Ein Vered, feel free to indulge yourself. Childrens’ workshops take 2 hours and include making lollipops and chocolate paintings; adult workshops take around 3 hours and include learning how to create pralines, truffles and chocolate fondue! ToMoCandy - also not far from Tel Aviv - in Raanana - check out ToMoCandy. Here you can learn how to make vegan-friendly, gluten-free rock candy, at one of their fun and interactive workshops. Create your own personalised candies, and take home lollipops and two jars of your own handcrafted sweet treats. Perfect for birthday events as well as rainy days!Making chocolate cakes .Photo byToa HeftibaonUnsplash9. Indulge at a Spa in IsraelOn a grey and gloomy day, everyone deserves a treat, so why not indulge yourself at a spa? Israel has so many good ones but the two we’d recommend are in the north and south of the country. Carmel Forest - this little slice of paradise is nestled up in the Carmel, and offers one of the best spas in northern Israel, if not the entire country. For anyone who wants to escape the rain (and also anyone who’s stressed, tense or overloaded with life’s responsibilities) this is the place to head. Not only will you enjoy hospitality in a luxurious session but you’ll eat incredibly well. Carmel Forest offers wet and dry saunas, treatment rooms, a solarium, Turkish bath, swimming pool and jacuzzi and in addition to a range of spa treatments there are all kinds of health and wellness workshops on offer too, led by experts.Bereshit Mitzpe Ramon - with its spectacular location, overlooking this extraordinary Makhtesh Ramon Crater in the Negev desert, Bereshit is one of Israel’s top hotels. Not only does it have fabulous desert views, gourmet restaurants and beautifully-designed rooms, it also boasts a luxury spa. Like the Carmel Spa, it’s owned by the Isrotel group so you’re assured of high-quality service here.A woman getting a relaxing massage in a spa salon. Photo byengin akyurtonUnsplash10. Hang Out at a Bowling AlleyFinally, how could we miss out on the ultimate, fun rainy-day activity that everyone loves? Yes, it’s bowling. Israel has plenty of modern bowling alleys, well-designed with huge display screens and shiny alleys, so why not head off to one of them for some fun? It’s a great activity for the family, for groups and even for ‘date night’ (with a little alcohol thrown in). Arbel Bowling, in Netanya, is perfect for a fun night out and they also have an arcade, mini bumper-car area and laser tag activities.There’s also ‘Good Lanes’ in Maale Adumim, close to Jerusalem, which offers events for children’s birthdays, including pizza and refreshments and a special gift for the birthday boy or girl. And fear not adults, their bowling alley is also available for a private hire - enjoy pool tables, a lounge area, karaoke, a large projector screen and your choice of music. WIth ten electronic lanes, you can make a real party of it.Bring on the rain!If you are not afraid of the rain, join a day tour in Israel operated by Bein Harim. Bein Harim tours depart every day, rain or shine!Two sets of bowling pins. Photo byKarla RiveraonUnsplash
By Sarah Mann

How to Get from Haifa to Jerusalem

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

Historical Events in Israel: From the Byzantines to the British

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