Things to Do Near the Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is the main attraction in the Dead Sea region but there are many fascinating and unique attractions near the Dead Sea. Here are just a few of the top Dead Sea attractions worth including in your travel itinerary.MasadaMasada is a rock outcrop or mesa, characterized by steep cliff sides and a flat summit. Masada is just minutes from the shore of the Dead Sea; it rises majestically from a flat plateau in the Judean Desert. Masada is famed as the site of an ancient palace fortress built on the summit by King Herod in about 30 BC. The fort complex included many beautifully constructed buildings consisted of palaces, a bathhouse, dovecote, store rooms and more. Many of the fortress structures have been excavated and thanks to the remote location and dry climate they have survived well. Visitors come to Masada and take a cable car to the summit to tour the ancient remains of Herod’s fortress. Alternatively visitors can climb the steep side of Masada along the Snake Path.Masada has a second claim to fame. About a hundred years after King Herod built his fortress Masada was the site of the final Jewish holdout against the Romans in the First Jewish-Roman War (66-73 AD). A group of Jews retreated to the summit of Masada and remained there held under siege by the Romans. When the Romans eventually reached the summit they found that the Jews had chosen to take their own lives rather than be captured and enslaved. This historic event has made Masada a symbol of Jewish dedication to freedom and a refusal to relinquish national independence.Ein GediThis beautiful oasis not far from the shore of theDead Sea covers 14000 dunam. The nature reserve has lush vegetation and four spring-fed streams as well as Instagram-worthy waterfalls. Ein Gedi is a sanctuary for birds and animals like the rock hyrax and Nubian ibex. It is also home to plants and trees from various environments including Sodom applerees,jujube and poplar trees. Visitor can walk along several paths and hike routes and even take a dip in the streams. One of the most popular hike routes is along the Arugot Stream where there is a wet and a dry route. Both routes take about 2-3 hours and end at a beautiful waterfall. Not far from the nature reserve is Kibbutz Ein Gedi. Here you can find botanical gardens, archaeological excavations, accommodation and the Ein Gedi Eco Park.QumranQumran is best known as the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. These ancient scrolls bearing the earliest copies of Biblical texts were found in eleven caves close to Qumran. Visitors can see the caves but the scrolls themselves are housed in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum. Qumran is also an archaeological site where remains were found from the Hellenistic period (c.134-104 BC). Later the ancient settlement was destroyed by Romans in 68 AD. Visitors can view the excavated settlement within the Qumran National Park.Lot’s WifeAlong the Dead Sea shore you will see many solidified salt rock formations. The most famous of these is called “Lot’s Wife.” Lot’s Wife is a pillar of salt near Mount Sodom. It is named after a character. From the Biblical story of Sodom as told in Genesis 19. The city of Sodom was rife with sin; God sent his angels to destroy the city but Lot was given a chance to escape with his family. The only condition was that they flee and don’t look back. Lot’s wife disregarded this command and as they left Sodom she looked back at the city. Instantly she turned into a pillar of Salt.Qasr al YahudQasr al Yahud (Castle of the Jews) is a baptismal site on the Jordan River in the Palestine Authority Area of the West Bank north of the Dead Sea. This is the traditional site where John baptized Jesus. It is also thought to be where the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. The site has been made accessible to visitors and it is possible to be baptized here in the same place just as Jesus was so many years ago.
By Petal Mashraki
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3 min

Top 10 Kosher Restaurants in Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is a real foodie destination with restaurants serving food from around the world plus thesavoury local delicacies. You’ll find kosher and non-kosher restaurants in the cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv. If you “keep kosher” you can look out for the kosher sign outside Tel Aviv restaurants or ask the proprietor for their kosher certificate. Kosher restaurants in Tel Aviv serve either meat or dairy based food. Kosher Tel Aviv restaurants are closed on religious holidays and the Sabbath. Here are some of the top Tel Aviv kosher restaurants.1. Lechem Basar - Hangar 14, Tel Aviv PortThis restaurant is called Meat and Eat (Bread and Meat in Hebrew); it serves up delicious meals made from fresh local ingredients with a focus on quality cuts of meat and breads freshly baked in the taboon oven. The Menhadrin kosher restaurant has a second branch at the Tachana complex. On the menu are dishes that highlight meat and bread but combine them with many delicious side dishes. One of their popular dishes consists of a freshly backed loaf of bread stuffed with ground beef or lamb and smothered in tahini sauce. If you’re not in the mood for meat there are other menu items like white fishceviche and quinoa salad.2. Blue Sky by Meir Adoni - 10 Eliezer Peri St.This chef-owned dairy restaurant is situated on the roof top of the Carlton Hotel with stunning sea views. The menu will delight non-meat eaters and even carnivores will find themselves not missing meat. The kitchen uses only the very best ingredients – artisan cheeses, fresh fish and quality oils and vegetables.3. Mike’s Place - 14 Ha-Arba’a St.Note that there is a chain of Mike’s Place restaurants and not all of them are kosher. This one however gives you the classic Mike’s Place hospitality and atmosphere with kosher food as well. There is a casual American sports bar atmosphere in this bar/restaurants. You’ll also get live entertainment, good beer and classic pub grub. On the menu are dishes like chicken wings, fajitas and burgers. Prices are reasonable and Mike’s has been said to serve up some of the best burgers in the city.4. Lumina by Meir Adoni- 10 Eliezer Peri St.Lumina is the baby of Chef Adoni, the Golden Boy of Israeli cuisine and one of the judges on a famous TV cooking reality show. The bistro-style eatery serves Adoni’s interpretation of traditional Jewish dishes. Adoni serves up complex dishes with many elements which bombard the senses with color, aroma and flavor. Here you’ll find foods from a number of different Jewish traditions around the world – from the Yemenite kubana bread to the Asian sea Carpaccio, fish and chips, Hungarian crepe and Moroccan couscous. A true blend of traditional Jewish foods from around the world but with an Israeli slant. Lumina is on the first floor of the Carlton Hotel facing the Mediterranean.5. Goshen - 30 Nahalat Binyamin St.This well known eatery on the trendy pedestrian market street of Nachalat Benyamin serves up large portions of meat and tons of flavor. The restaurant menu reflects Goshen’s Jewish roots but the emphasis is on the meat! The kitchen uses meat aged in a cold-cabinet at the restaurant entrance. Whether its veal, lamb or aged Prime Entrecote you’re craving this is the place for true carnivores. The restaurant has subdued lighting, an intimate atmosphere and a large window looking onto the kitchen.6. Maganda - 26 Rabbi Meir St.This small down-to-earth establishment has been in business since 1965. The family run restaurant is in the home built by their grandfather back in 1927 in the Yemenite Quarter. The restaurant food was inspired by their mother’s cooking. The eatery serves up no-frills grilled meats and classic Israeli side dishes. Prices are extremely reasonable and the menu is extensive. On offer are typical Israeli meals found in Israeli homes and Israeli street food restaurants. You can fill up on Israeli comfort food for under 100 ILS with mouthwatering dishes like chicken hearts, goose livers, lamb chops, falafel, stuffed peppers, stuffed vine leaves, humus and endless Israeli salads.7. Deca - 10 HaTa’assiya St.If you’re craving fish this is the place to visit. The gourmet dairy chef restaurant has a range of dishes on the menu but is best known for its fish dishes. The French-inspired menu includes mouthwatering dishes like bouillabaisse soup, red tuna fillet, salmon sashimi and grilled vegetables. Their desserts are to die for like the tiramisu and the malabi crème. The décor adds to the dining experience. There is exposed concrete, crisp white tablecloths, subdued tones and a high ceiling. In these tranquil surroundings you can drool over fish garnished with okra, chickpeas, roasted eggplant and onions all sautéed in yogurt with wild oregano.8. The Chinese Wall - 26 Mikvah Yisael St.This is the best kosher Chinese restaurant in the city. The décor is simple with just a few red lanterns but the food is top of the line. Surprisingly the quality food is not over priced. The restaurant uses handmade wontons and egg noodles. Expect to find all the classic Chinese dishes made in the traditional way. Try the dim sum, dumplings or the potsticker.9. West Side - 19 HaYarkon St.Try the gourmet Asian cuisine at this chic restaurant. Housed in the Royal Beach Hotel facing the sea. West Side excels in classic seasonal gourmet dishes like goose confit and beef filet.10. CÀ PHÊ HANOÏ - 3 Malchei Israeli St.Bite into the Bo Buns, Gua Baos or Nems to be transported to Vietnam. The delicious French/Asian fusion food (with an Israeli twist) is served in traditional bamboo baskets and the décor compliments the vibrant atmosphere. The food is innovative and a multi-sensory experience. The kitchen uses locally sourced ingredients together with ingredients imported from Vietnam.
By Petal Mashraki
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4 min

How to Save Money on a Trip to Israel

Here are some top tips for saving money if you are visiting Israel on a budget. You can save money in many small ways when you travel to Israel. Make your trip to Israel low-cost using these budget travel tips.The Old City of JerusalemVisit Israel in the Off-Season but not During HolidaysIf you travel to Israel in the off-season you will get cheaper airfares and cheaper hotels. Unlike some countries Israeli attractions do not close down in the winter. You’ll find it is business as usual throughout the country no matter what time of year you visit. Not only that but the weather is hot most of the year so traveling off-season will not mean missing out on outdoor activities. Be careful not to book during one of the Israeli national holidays when prices soar, hotels are booked up and attractions are crowded.Free Attractions in Israel One of the best ways to discover Israel is simply to take a walk through the streets or countryside. You can enjoy many sites for free in Israel like the Old City in Jerusalem where you can see the Wailing Wall, Dome of the Rock and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre all for free. In Tel Aviv you can enjoy Jaffa and the Bauhaus architecture of Tel Aviv just by going for a walk. The same goes for rural areas where there are well signposted hike trails to follow for free. Israeli beaches are free and there are many beautiful parks to enjoy for free.There are almost no free museums in Israel although some museums are free for those under 18 years. Visitors can tour the Baha’i Gardens in Haifa for free and in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem there are a few free guided walking tours. Some tickets to attractions in Jerusalem can be bought as “bundle tickets” giving you entrance to several places with the same ticket.National Parks CardIf you enjoy the outdoors and if you will be visiting several national parks it could be worthwhile buying a National Park membership. You will need to work out if this is cheaper than paying individual entrance fees depending on the places you want to visit. For example Masada (cable car not included), Bet Guvrin, Caesarea and Ein Gedi are national parks. You can buy the tickets from the entrance of any national park. Available tickets include the Blue Card which allows you entrance to three sites within two weeks for 78 ILS; the Green Card which gives you entrance to six sites within two weeks for 110 ILS and the Orange Card which gives you unlimited visits within two weeks for 150 ILS.Israeli Public TransportIsrael has an excellent public bus system which can get you to most parts of the country. The train system is rather limited yet reasonably priced. You can save money by avoiding taxis and sticking to public transport. There are “sherut” buses, which are shared minibus taxis that travel a set route but will pick up and drop off travelers anywhere along the way. Sherut buses can be useful especially on Shabbat when bus services are limited. If you have chosen to rent a car then shop around for the best gas prices. You’ll find different prices depending on the gas company and depending on whether you fill-up your gas tank by yourself or have the petrol attendant do it for you.Budget Accommodation in IsraelLike other top travel destinations Israel offers a wide range of accommodation options from luxury hotels to hostels and even Airbnb. Try the Airbnb options as well as IYHA hostels which are of a high standard and well located for tourists. You can get cheaper hotel accommodation in Israel by traveling in the off-season and shopping around for the lowest price online.Eating in Israel on a BudgetIsrael has some amazing street food; you’ll find humus, shawama and falafel available at very reasonable prices. If you eat mainly from Israeli falafel and shawama “fast food” outlets instead of sit-down restaurants you’ll save a lot of money. For a snack or coffee try Cofix, a chain of coffee shops where all the prices are kept at about 5 ILS. You can also buy your meals at a local market. In Tel Aviv visit Carmel Market and in Jerusalem try Machane Yehuda Market. At Israeli markets you can find low-cost fresh produce, cheese, baked goods and more.Guided Group ToursTo get to some attractions it can be more convenient (and even cheaper) to join a group day tour. Day tours include pick-up and drop-off from a central location, transportation, entrance fees and the services of a knowledgeable guide
By Petal Mashraki
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3 min

Eilat Attractions

Eilat Attractions
By Petal Mashraki
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1 min

Tiberias Marathon January 2018

The Tiberias Marathon 2018 is one of the most anticipated Israel events. The race is officially called the Tiberias International Winner Marathon. It is also known as the Sea of Galilee Marathon as it takes place on the shores of this famous sea in northern Israel. The Tiberias Marathon 2018 is one of Israel’s top events and constitutes the Israel Open Championship. The 2018 race will be held on the 5th January 2018 and will be the 41st Tiberias Marathon. In addition to the full marathon there is a 10k run and special festive happenings.The Tiberias Marathon 2018 CourseOver 2,000 runners are expected to take place in this major sporting event. The route starts and finishes in the city of Tiberias, the largest city along the shore of the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee). The marathon course travels around the Kinneret from Tiberias on the western shore, along the southern shore and to Kibbutz Ein Gev on the eastern shore before doubling back and returning to Tiberias. Part of the route takes runners along the recently paved Barniki and Shikmim Beaches, right on the edge of the water. Participants can choose to run the full marathon; a 10 km race or a half marathon of 21 km. The marathon route takes you past breathtaking scenery with the beautiful Sea of Galilee on one side and the mountains, pastures and forests of the Galilee and Golan on the other. The race takes runners through the Jordan Valley past ancient historic landmarks and across the Jordan River.This is a road running marathon but most of the course is through rural landscapes. It is winter in January in Israel and so the weather is cool and perfect for the run.Sea of Galilee Marathon Special EventsIn addition to the run there will be other sporting events and happenings. As with other major sporting events around the world there will be water stations for the participants; music playing in the background and a festive atmosphere.Stalls will be offering a variety of sporting goods and other market-type goods. Participants can enjoy a pasta feast on the night before the race.Practical DetailsIf you would like to participate in the Tiberias Marathon or get additional information then you can check out the Tiberias Marathon website which has a Hebrew and English version. The marathon will take place on 5th January 2018. The full and half marathon will start at 7:30 a.m. and the 10K run will start at 7:55 a.m. The final date for registration is 31 December 2017 and the entrance fee is 285 ILS.
By Petal Mashraki
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2 min

Old Jaffa and Jaffa Port

When people refer to Old Jaffa they are talking about the restored ancient city perched on a cliff at the southern end of Tel Aviv’s beachfront promenade. Jaffa Port lies directly below Old Jaffa; an historic gateway to the Holy Land which has also been significantly restored. Both these two Tel Aviv-Jaffa attractions offer endless things to see and do. For the last 6,000 years Jaffa Port has welcomed travelers, immigrants and armies. The city is associated with the legends of Andromeda and the Biblical figures of Jonah and St. Peter. The city has been ruled by Egyptians, Philistines, Alexander the Great, Romans, Napoleon, Muslims, Crusaders and the Ottomans. Each has left its mark on the city. Today Jaffa is home to a mixed population of Christians, Jews and Muslims.Discover Jaffa PortIt is possible to walk from Tel Aviv’s beachfront promenade all the way to Jaffa Port. At the southernmost point of Tel Aviv is the Charles Clore Park. From here the Sea Wall Promenade leads you all the way to the old port. Jaffa Port has Old Jaffa as a backdrop; built on the cliffs overlooking the water. Today the port no longer welcomes pilgrims and travelers by water but it is a port for fishermen and sail boats. You can walk along the edge of the water and imagine Jonah setting sail for Tarshish; Jaffa oranges being shipped from here across the globe or the first Jewish immigrants arriving in Palestine. As you walk out on the pier look back at Jaffa and see the red and white striped lighthouse. You can also look up towards St Peter’s bell tower.The buildings and former warehouses on the waterside have been renovated and repurposed to hold restaurants, bars and shops. One of the most fascinating sites at Jaffa Port is the Nalaga’at Center, a not-for-profit center for the deaf-blind community. At Nalaga’at (Please Touch) there is a theatre company comprised of sensory-impaired actors and a restaurant where you eat in the dark and are served by visually impaired waiters. The Jaffa Port Market is a new gourmet food market housed in a repurposed hanger together with shops, restaurants and galleries. On Fridays from May to October there are special outdoor events held for the public including live musical performances, workshops for kids, arts and crafts stalls and even dance classes.Discover Old JaffaOld Jaffa is built from pristine cream-colored stone similar to the Old City of Jerusalem. The windows of Jaffa homes are painted bright blue and window boxes overflow with colorful blooms. Visitors can discover trendy restaurants, picturesque alleyways, historic churches, archaeological remains and a unique artists’ colony.When you arrive in Old Jaffa’s central Kdumim Square you will see a magnificent fountain with stone characters representing the zodiac signs. Each of the alleyways in Old Jaffa leading down to the port are named after a zodiac sign. On Kdumim Square you will find the Old Jaffa Visitors Center. Here there is the “Images of Jaffa” , a multi-sensory experience which introduces visitors to the history of Jaffa. The center also holds archaeological remains from Jaffa’s ancient past. In the restaurants that flank the square you can find delicious culinary delights from Middle Eastern cuisine and seafood to Yemenite and French food. Some of the restaurants offer brilliant views across the sea all the way to Tel Aviv’s beachfront. From Old Jaffa you can look out to sea and spot Andromeda’s Rock. This group of rocks jutting out of the water is associated with the Greek legend of Perseus and Andromeda. Andromeda had been chained to the rocks as a sacrifice to the sea monster Cetus when Perseus rescued her. Attractions in Old Jaffa include the Home of Simon the Tanner where St. Peter is said to have spent the night. While here he had a dream which was interpreted as a message from God telling Peter that non-Jews should be welcomed into Christianity. Jaffa is the site of Ramses Gate which has survived 4,000 years since Egyptians ruled Jaffa. The intricately carved gate was once part of a grand Egyptian palace. Make a wish on the Wishing Bridge as you enter Park HaPisga. In the park there are several works of art and canons left here by Napoleon in 1799. Visit St Peter’s Church built in 1654 and dedicated to the saint who visited Old Jaffa.The narrow stone alleyways of Old Jaffa are lined with over 50 galleries, design stores and art studios. Among the most well known galleries there is Adina Plastelina, the Ilana Goor Museum and a gallery of Ethiopian art. Artists live and work here, displaying and selling their creations to the public. The Antiquities Museum of Tel Aviv-Jaffa is housed in an Ottoman-era building. Here you can see archaeological remains excavated in Jaffa. When the sun goes down Old Jaffa comes alive with restaurants and cafes. People come to Old Jaffa at night to enjoy the cool sea breeze, beautiful surroundings and the view across the sea to Tel Aviv’s glittering lights.
By Petal Mashraki
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4 min

Eilat Desert Marathon 2017

The Eilat Desert Marathon 2017 starts in the desert and ends on the shore of the Red Sea in Israel’s resort city Eilat. This run takes you through stunning scenery unlike any other course. The breathtaking landscape along the route offers desert, sea and mountains. The race is a full body and soul experience. The Eilat Desert Marathon is run in November, the beginning of Israel’s winter season. Weather is pleasant and you won’t feel the sweltering heat of the desert. The Eilat Desert Marathon 2017 will be held over the course of three days 16-18 November. The 17th November will be the main running day. Together with the races themselves there will be other activities.The full marathon route is for experienced runners only and is classified as “extremely” difficult. However runners of all levels of fitness from professional athletes to children can take part as there are several routes. The routes of the Eilat Desert Marathon start on the Herods Hotel promenade in Eilat. The route of the full marathon takes you up Roded Creek, through the Tuchin Valley and into the Shchoret Mountains. This is where runners can experience the most beautiful views across the surrounding desert. The race ends back at the Herods promenade.Lineup of Events for the 2017 Eilat Desert MarathonThe marathon opens with a ceremony and distribution of kits to participants on the 16th November. There will also be a fascinating Paleo Market, activities for kids and the family run. In the evening of the first day there will be cocktails in the lobby of Club Hotel Eilat; a short briefing for participants; pasta dinner and entertainment. Early the next morning the full marathon; half marathon; 10 KM and 5 KM will set off one after the other. For those not running there will be more market stalls, kid’s entertainment and family activities.At sundown the awards will be presented and you can join in desert yoga as the sun goes down. Later that evening there will be musical entertainment a movie screening and a crazy desert party.On the final day of the Eilat Desert Marathon, Saturday November 18th, visitors and participants can take part in a myriad of activities and enjoy the stunning attractions of Eilat. You can go diving at the reef, do some tax-free shopping, join organized activities and tours.Routes of the Eilat Desert Marathon 2017There is a 300 m family fun run on the first day of the marathon. The second day of this three day event is the main running day. The 42.2 KM marathon is the first race of the day starting at 6am. Soon after the 21.1 KM half-marathon; 10 KM and 5 KM runs set off. The 42.2 KM is the longest of the Eilat Desert Marathon races. It is intended for experienced runners. Professional runners should note that the course is not measurable to AIMS standards.Whether you are coming to cheer on the runners, participate in a race or just have fun this is one of the top events in Eilat’s calendar and not to be missed.Register here!
By Petal Mashraki
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2 min

Hanukkah in Israel

Each year Jews celebrate the holiday of Hanukkah which is often called the “Jewish Christmas” because it occurs in December. If you happen to be in Israel during Hanukkah you will be lucky enough to share in this special celebration. Unlike Christian holidays the date of Hanukkah changes each year because of the Jewish lunar calendar. This year, 2017 the eight day Hanukkah holiday falls on the 12th to 20th of December. In Israel Hanukkah is a week-long school holiday but there are no days observed like Shabbat so all attractions and stores remain open as usual. There are many special events put on to keep Israeli school kids busy and to entertain locals and visitors alike.What is Hanukkah?The Hanukkah holiday celebrates an event which took place in the 160 SBC. During that time Palestine was ruled by Greek-Syrians and Jews were persecuted. Jews were forbidden to worship, many were murdered, scrolls were burnt and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem was desecrated. A small group of Jews rose up against their oppressors and fought back in the “Maccabean Revolt.” The Jews were victorious and proceeded to restore the Temple and rededicate it. Part of rededicating the Temple was lighting the Menorah (a seven-lamped candelabra) which had to remain lit eternally. When the Maccabees came to light the Temple’s Menorah they found that only a small jug of the required pure olive oil remained. The oil should have been sufficient only to light the lamp for one day. However a miracle occurred and it remained lit for eight days by which time more oil had been found.To commemorate the events of Hanukkah Jews light candles on an eight-armed candelabra (called a Hannukia). On the first night of Hanukkah one candle is lit and each successive night an additional candle is lit until all eight are lit. In addition there is a 9th candle in the middle of the Hanukia which is used to light the others. The symbols of Hanukkah are light, oil, the hanukiah and the dreidel – a spinning top.How is Hanukkah celebrated in Israel?Bearing in mind the symbols of Hanukkah you will see a lot of fried foods (commemorating the miraculous oil) in Israel during Hanukkah. The most famous Hanukkah food is the doughnut or sufgania. This is a round doughnut with no hole in the middle but instead it is filled with jam. Every café, restaurant and kiosk will be selling sufganiot. These days there are many different kinds of sufganiot, from chocolate to alcohol flavored! An estimated 24 million sufganiot are eaten in Israel each Hanukkah. The symbol of light and the hanukia can be seen in Israel during Hanukkah. Each Israeli household displays a hanukia on the windowsill.Special Events in Israel during HanukkahHanukkah ShowsDuring the Hanukkah holiday in Israel there is a plethora of theatrical productions, musical shows, concerts and dance productions geared towards families. The most famous of these Hanukkah shows is the Festigal, a spectacular extravaganza of bright costumes, comedy, music and dance. Top Israeli performers often appear in the Festigal. The Festigal is held annually in Tel Aviv. A more recent addition is Motek Shel Festival which is the same idea but geared towards a younger audience.Hanukkah ToursSpecial walking tours of Jerusalem and the religious city of Bnei Brak are organized so that you can see the many hanukiot displayed in the windows of private homes. This kind of Hanukkah tour takes place at night and includes walking through neighborhoods where many hanukiot are displayed.Lighting of the HanukiaEach city has a large hanukia set up in a public square. The hanukia is ceremoniously lit on the first night of Hanukkah. On the subsequent nights of Hanukkah the city’s hanukia is often lit automatically. The most famous of the candle lighting ceremonies you can see takes place next to the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. Each year on the first night of Hanukkah a torch Relay starts in the city of Modi’in and travels to the Western Wall in Jerusalem where the giant hanukia is lit.Museums during HanukkahMost museums hold special themed exhibits or workshops during Hanukkah. Science museums often hold demonstrations of light experiments. Other museums display artistic variations on the hanukia or hold kids workshops where they can create their own hanukia, spinning top or candles.You will definitely find special events and activities relating to Hanukkah at the Children’s Museum in Holon; the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv; the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem; the Israel Museum in Jerusalem; the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and at the Tower of David Museum in the Old City of Jerusalem. The Bloomfield Science Museum holds an annual MakeLight exhibition.In addition there is the Museum of Edible Oil Products in Haifa which naturally ties in with the Hanukkah theme. The Hasmonean Village recreates the Hanukkah story each year; the Ein Yael Oil Festival is held in Jerusalem.Hanukkah Parties in IsraelOf course the Israelis party whenever there is a good excuse! And Hanukkah is no exception. You will find bars, pubs and clubs across the country holding Hanukkah parties throughout the holiday.Holiday of Holidays HaifaThe Haifa municipality holds special events on weekends throughout December. The Holiday of Holidays activities and shows celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and Eid al-Fitr.
By Petal Mashraki
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4 min

Christmas in Israel 2017

People are often confused about how and even if Christmas is celebrated in Israel. On the one hand Israel is a Jewish country and on the other hand Israel was the setting for the nativity. Israel is home to the landmarks and locations mentioned in the Bible including those of the first Christmas. Christmas in Israel is a magical and once-in-a-lifetime experience for any Christian traveler. However Christmas celebrations in Israel are different to the ones you may be used to. While Christians celebrate the birth of Christ in December, Jews celebrate Hanukah. Often these two religious holidays coincide and visitors can enjoy the celebrations of both events.Christmas in IsraelChristmas is not an official national holiday in Israel. You won’t see streets, stores or homes decorated with Christmas decorations unless you visit one of the few Christian communities. The Israeli city with the highest number of Christian residents is Nazareth. Other Christian communities can be found in Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter; in Jaffa; Haifa; Ramla and a small community in Southern Tel Aviv. Only in the large cities will you see Christmas lights. Christians (and all other faiths) are free to worship and express their beliefs in Israel.Where to Experience Christmas in Israel?Christmas in JerusalemIf you are in Jerusalem you will find many churches in the Old City celebrating the holiday. The most important of these churches is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Throughout the Christmas season there are special religious services held in the Holy Sepulchre and other Jerusalem churches. Some of the churches present carol singing and concerts. The Christ Church in the Old City holds an annual Christmas concert. The Jerusalem YMCA hosts special Christmas events for the whole family in the week running up to Christmas Day. At the YMCA there are concerts, markets, kids’ activities and workshops. Try to catch the Armenian Christmas procession through the Old City in January (they celebrate Christmas later than most denominations). In the village-like community of Ein Kerem you can also see signs of Christmas.Christmas in NazarethChristmas is most evident in Nazareth where there is an annual Christmas Market, special celebratory events, church services, Christmas lights and a huge Christmas tree in the city center. The municipality holds a Hanukah-Christmas concert the week before Christmas in the Nazareth Industrial Park. On the day before Christmas there is a parade through the streets of Nazareth (3:30 p.m.); a firework display in the evening (5:30 p.m.)and Christmas mass in the Basilica of the Annunciation in the evening(7 p.m.).Christmas in RamlaRamla is usually overlooked by tourists but it is a city shared by Jews, Muslims and Christians. You can find churches and Christmas services in Ramla; the largest Christmas service in Ramla is at the Franciscan Parish Church of St. Joseph.Christmas in Tel AvivIf you want to party on Christmas Eve the place to be is Tel Aviv. Most pubs and nightclubs in Israel hold Christmas Eve parties even though those celebrating are almost all Jewish. As the Israelis say “any reason is a good reason to party…” In Jaffa Christmas is celebrated with a Winter Festival and Christmas Market at the Jaffa Port. A large Christmas tree is erected and you may see firework displays. The market runs from 15th December to 8th January. There are often Christmas parties and events at the Armenian Church of St. Nicholas. There is an ever-growing refugee and immigrant community in South Tel Aviv. Most of these immigrants are Christians and have small but strong church groups.Christmas in HaifaHaifa is home to Jews, Christians and Muslims. The municipality celebrates the Jewish holiday of Hanukah, the Christian holiday of Christmas and the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr with their Holiday of Holidays events. There is a packed schedule of special events throughout the city celebrating the different cultures and their traditions through art, theatre and music. Holiday of Holidays is held on the weekends in December. The Haifa municipality also decorates the streets with Christmas lights and erects a Christmas tree in the city center.The First Christmas in IsraelAs most Christians know about 2017 years ago Mary and Joseph made their way from Nazareth in the Galilee to Bethlehem where they had to register for a national census. Mary was pregnant at the time with the future Christ. On arrival in Bethlehem they found all available accommodation full. An inn keeper took pity on them and offered to let them stay in his manger. In those days the manger would have been a cave near the inn where animals were kept. It was here in Bethlehem that Jesus was born on the first Christmas Eve.Other New Testament locations in Israel include the sites of Jerusalem – the Mount of Olives; the Temple Mount where the Holy Jewish Temple stood; the Via Dolorosa, the route Jesus took bearing his cross to his crucifixion and the site of his crucifixion and burial. In Northern Israel there are more Christian sites including Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee, Mt. Tabor, Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaum and more. If you spend Christmas 2017 in Israel you can take the opportunity to see these Christian sites as well as those in Bethlehem.Christmas Israel ToursIf you are coming to Israel specifically to experience Christmas “where it happened” then the best thing to do is join an organized tour to Bethlehem. There are organized tours which include sightseeing in Jerusalem on the day before Christmas. In the evening the tour continues from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. On route you will see the setting for Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. As you near Bethlehem your tour guide will point out the fields where shepherds would have watched their sheep all those years ago on the first Christmas Eve. On arrival in Bethlehem you can join Christians from around the world in Manger Square. Alongside the square is the Church of Nativity which encompasses the Holy Grotto believed to have been the “manger.” Inside the church a Midnight Mass is held and in Manger Square the service is shown on large screens.If you would rather tour the sites of Bethlehem, Jerusalem or the Galilee before or after Christmas Eve you can do that too. As Christmas is not an official national holiday in Israel there are organized tours on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and even New Year’s Day. Tours to Christian sites including Bethlehem are held every day of the year except on some Jewish holidays. On a Bethlehem tour you would see the Holy Grotto in the Church of Nativity; the Church of St. Catherine and the Milk Grotto. Christmas tours to Israel include Jerusalem and take you to all the Christian sites of the city.
By Petal Mashraki
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5 min

The American-German Colony, a Tel Aviv Hidden Gem

If you want to discover a really magical hidden gem in Tel Aviv then visit the American-German Colony. This small Tel Aviv neighborhood of just a couple of streets has unique houses built over 150 years ago by American settlers. Each structure has a fascinating story to tell about the Americans and the German Templers who took up residents after the Americans abandoned the Tel Aviv neighborhood. There are 10 wooden houses with two floors; a porch and facades featuring wooden carved details. This tiny Tel Aviv neighborhood is sandwiched between Jaffa and Florentine.The American Colony Tel AvivIn 1866 a group of 157 men, women and children of the Christian Lovers of Zion left Maine and traveled to Palestine. Their mission was to develop the Land of Israel and prepare Palestine for the establishment of a Jewish nation in the Promised Land. As soon as their leader George Adams had purchased land they began building one of the first neighborhoods outside of the walls of Jaffa.They built in the New England wood and clapboard-style using prefabricated structures they had brought with them from Maine.Their settlement was not easy. Many died, the land was difficult to farm, there was fighting among the settlers and their resources were limited. Just two years after their arrival there were only approximately 24 of the original American settlers remaining.The German Templer Colony Tel AvivA few years after the Americans abandoned the fledgling Tel Aviv neighborhood the German Templers arrived in Jaffa in 1869. They bought the abandoned colony homes and took up residence. Led by Pastor Hoffman the Templers aimed to prepare Palestine for the Second Coming. A large property at#8 Auerbach Street was sold to the Templers in 1871 and became Tempelstift, the Templer headquarters which is known today as Beit Immanuel. In 1904 the Templers built the Immanuel Church. During the Second World War many of the German Templers in Palestine became Nazi sympathizers and were expelled by the ruling British. The abandoned colony fell into disrepair. By the 1980s the American-German Colony houses were scheduled for demolition. Thanks to the efforts of American historian Reed Holmes and his wife Jean Carter the colony was preserved.What to See and Do in the American ColonyBeit Immanuel/ Hotel du ParkThe Tempelstift was constructed at #8 Auerbach Street in 1873 housing the Templer offices, community hall and school. In 1878 the Templers moved their headquarters and sold the property to Baron Plato von Ustinov (the grandfather of actor Peter Ustinov). Ustinov added a second floor to the building and made further architectural changes. Ustinov took up residence on the top floor and the building became the luxury Hotel du Park in 1895. It hosted many famous guests including Emperor Wilhelm II in 1898. Later the hotel was sold to the London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews. In the 1970s the property became a gathering place for Messianic Jews. Today it is a guesthouse, mission and community center. Beit Immanuel Guest House has a room which holds displays on the history of the American-German Colony.Grand Hotel/ Jerusalem HotelAnother of the standout buildings is the Grand Hotel constructed by the Drisco brothers alongside the Hotel du Park at #6 Auerbach Street. The three storey building was the first stone structure in the Tel Aviv neighborhood. It was later bought by Ernest Hardegg, the son of one of the original Templer settlers and he renovated the property and reopened it as the Jerusalem Hotel. The Jerusalem Hotel operated from 1870 to 1940 and was the first luxury hotel outside the Jaffa walls. The historic hotel has recently undergone intensive renovations and will soon reopen as the Drisco Hotel.Norton HouseThe home of Ackley Norton at #4 Auerbach Street was one of the largest homes in the neighborhood. Norton was a wealthy ships’ captain and many festivities and parties were held in his home. The two storey wooden house built in 1866 became a religious mission in 1926; it housed the first state-sponsored haute-couture brand, Maskit in the 1950s and later the legendary Keren Restaurant. The Norton House will soon reopen as part of the newly renovated Drisco Hotel.Immanuel ChurchThe Immanuel Church on Be’er Hoffman Street towers above the low-level homes of the colony. It was a later addition to the community, completed in 1898. Not long after its completion the church became the German Evangelical Church serving the Templers and Evangelists in the community. The restored and renamed Immanuel Church has been home to the Norwegian Lutheran church since 1955. The church is open to visitors Tuesday to Friday 10:00 to 14:00.The Maine Friendship HouseThe house at #10 Auerbach Street was built in 1866 by the original American settlers using one of the wooden structures brought from Maine. In the 1890s the Templers doubled the size of the house with a stone addition. Jean and Read Holmes purchased the old colony house in 2002 and began restoration. Today it is the Maine Friendship House and site of a museum focused on the American Colony. The museum displays authentic items from the American settlement period including farming equipment and a wooden board carved with the initials of the house’s original owners. You can tour the house and watch an introductory film about the American Colony. The Maine Friendship House is open Friday noon to 15:00 and Saturday from 14:00 to 16:00.
By Petal Mashraki
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4 min

Tel Aviv Neighborhoods Guide

Tel Aviv’s many neighborhoods each have a distinct character and exploring them can add a new dimension to your vacation. Some of the Tel Aviv neighborhoods have become top Tel Aviv attractions. Here is just a sample of some of the most interesting Tel Aviv neighborhoods you could visit.Florentin This neighborhood in southern Tel Aviv used to be a commercial and industrial area before being reinvented as a trendy party destination. Although it is now the site of quirky bars, clubs and restaurants it is still shabby and raw. Florentin is undergoing gentrification and will no doubt soon lose all its crumbling buildings, dark alleys, scum and street art to be replaced by slick apartment blocks. The neighborhood is inhabited by cool young artists, students and immigrants. Nearby is the Levinsky Market where you can pick up spices sold in huge sacks.Neve Tzedek This was the first Jewish neighborhood settled outside the walls of Jaffa when Tel Aviv was just being established. For years it stood neglected but over the past few years has undergone a complete facelift. Today the historic buildings are restored and gentrified. Many of the homes here are single-story houses with inner courtyards. The homes boast secret gardens, bright window boxes and trees, vines and bougainvillea which completes the village-look. Many of the historic buildings have been repurposed into boutique, funky restaurants, galleries and cute cafes. Nearby is Shuk HaCarmel, the beach and the Tachana.Jaffa Don’t miss a visit to Jaffa which is a joint municipality with Tel Aviv yet has a completely unique character. On one side of the main throughway, Yefet Street you’ll find a labyrinth of lanes lined with flea market stores. Their goods overflow onto the sidewalk and the atmosphere is vibrant and bohemian. Also on this side of the street are many trendy chef restaurants. On the side nearest to the sea you can explore the restored Old Jaffa Port. This neighborhood is entirely built of stone similar to Jerusalem stone. The houses flank narrow stone lanes and are built on a hillside overlooking the Mediterranean. If you follow the narrow lanes down towards the small port you will discover Jaffa’s artists quarter. Find small galleries, art studios and artist’s shops along the lanes which are all named after the zodiac signs. This neighborhood has multi-cultural residents and Jews, Christians and Arabs live side by side.Lev HaIrIf you want to see some of Tel Aviv’s many Bauhaus buildings then you should take a walk through Lev HaIr. The neighborhood’s main thoroughfare is Rothschild Blvd. This long, tree-lined boulevard is lined with restored historic and Bauhaus buildings. There are sidewalk cafes, boutiques, restaurants and even Independence Hall. This hip bourgeois neighborhood is bike-friendly and perfect for relaxing in one of the parks or on one of the sidewalk benches. The neighborhood is upscale and popular with locals who have time to just hang out. You’ll see a pop-up library, old men playing petanque and yuppies enjoying a caffeine fix. Lev HaIr is also home to Tel Aviv’s Culture Square where the national theatre and Helena Rubenstein Pavilion of Contemporary Art are located. Lev HaIr is bordered by several other interesting Tel Aviv neighborhoods you might like to discover including Neve Tzedek, Florentin, Montefiore, Kerem HaTeimanim and Shabazi.
By Petal Mashraki
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2 min

Israel Christian Tours to Jerusalem

All Christian visitors to Israel should include Jerusalem in their itinerary. There are Israel Christian tours which take you to the most important Christian landmarks in Jerusalem as well as giving you an overview of the city. If you have seen the most famous Christian attractions in Jerusalem and would like to see other sites you have a few options. One of your options is to take a private tour of the city. With a private tour you can tell the tour guide what you are interested in seeing. You can plan your private tour according to the Christian sites you have not yet seen. There are also a number of group tours which take you to unique attractions in Jerusalem.Special Christian Tours of JerusalemThe most important Christian landmark in Jerusalem is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. There is a special tour which focuses exclusively on this church. You spend your time in the church getting an in-depth look at the many shrines, historical sites and art work within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.Church of the Holy Sepulchre.If you happen to be in Jerusalem over the Easter period you can join a tour which follows the Palm Sunday procession. This emotionally-charged event sees hundreds of Christians retracing Jesus route as he entered Jerusalem. The procession is accompanied by leaders of the church and there is singing, chanting and praying along the way. People in the procession carry palm fronds, placards and musical instruments. If you are in Jerusalem over the Christmas period you could join a tour to Bethlehem for Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve at the Church of the Nativity.There is a Jerusalem tour titled “In the Footsteps of Jesus”. This tour includes sites on the Mount of Olives which are not included in a classic Jerusalem tour. You get to visit the Church of Patre Nostre, the Dominus Flevit Church, the Church of All Nations and the Garden of Gethsemane. Within the Old City this tour visits more sites that are usually not included in a standard tour of Jerusalem. You will visit the Church of St Anne, the Pools of Bethesda and the Convent of the Sisters of Zion.Whichever of the Israel Christian tours you choose you will see authentic location where Biblical events took place. Jerusalem is truly the most fascinating and interesting of the destinations in Israel.
By Petal Mashraki
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2 min

Bethlehem’s Top Attraction

One of the most popular tours to Israel is to the city of Bethlehem. This sacred Christian city is one of the top things to do in Israel. Visitors usually choose to take an organized tour to Bethlehem rather than traveling independently due to the fact that Bethlehem is in the West Bank. Reaching Bethlehem involves crossing a border and heightened awareness of security. The Church of the Nativity is Bethlehem’s top attraction and one of the most popular places to visit in Israel.Site of the Nativity, Bethlehem The Church of the Nativity marks the place believed to be where Jesus was born. It was on this spot that the nativity story unfolded. Arriving in Bethlehem for a national census Joseph and the pregnant Mary found no room available. Eventually they were offered to spend the night in an inn keeper’s manger where he kept his animals.In the 1st century animals were often kept in caves near or behind the family home. For this reason the “manger” which is encompassed by the Church of the Nativity is in fact a grotto. People often envision the manger as a barn and are surprised to find that it was a small cave or grotto. In the heart of the Church of the Nativity is the Sacred Grotto. A silver star marks the site on the ancient stone floor within the grotto.History of the Nativity SiteThe earliest mention of the manger site in Bethlehem was by Justin Martyr in c.160 AD followed by mention by Greek historian Eusebius of Caesarea. The structure we see today was commissioned by Christian Roman Emperor Constantine and his mother St. Helena in 326 AD. The church was built around the Sacred Cave. The original structure was replaced in 530 AD by a larger church but parts of the Constantinian floor mosaics can still be seen.Miraculously the church was not destroyed when the land came under the rule of the Persians and later Muslim rulers. During the Crusader era of the 11th century Baldwin I and II were crowned in the Church of the Nativity. Under the Crusaders the church was renovated and redecorated. The church remained untouched under the Mamluks and Ottomans although precious marble was removed by the Ottomans for use in construction on Temple Mount. Today the church is shared by the Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Churches.Highlights of the Church of the Nativity, BethlehemFeatures of the church to notice include the Door of Humility, a small entrance floor designed so that you have to bow to enter, thus showing respect. The Ottoman doorway was also intended to prevent looters entering with their carts. The church nave is lined with 44 columns each with paintings of saints and Mary with baby Jesus. The paintings date back to the Crusader era. The majestic columns are made of pink-hued limestone and date back to the 4th century structure. Also see the remains of 12th century wall mosaics and the 6th century baptismal font. Before leaving the church see the 6th century bronze gates at the southern and northern entrances to the Grotto.
By Petal Mashraki
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2 min

Welcome to Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport

Ben Gurion Airport (Tel Aviv airport code TLV) is Israel’s main airport located 19 km from Tel Aviv’s city center and 40 km from Jerusalem. The airport is among the top five airports in the Middle East thanks to its excellent design, service and because it is one of the world’s most secure airports. The security at Tel Aviv airport is high priority due to the delicate political situation in the region. In 2004 the airport opened after extensive renovations, modernization and the addition of Terminal 3. Today the airport has two terminals; Terminal 1 for domestic and low-cost international flights and Terminal 3 for international flights.Ben Gurion Airport ServicesAt the Tel Aviv airport you will find travel agent representatives; car rental companies; ATMs; a place to buy a local mobile phone SIM and convenience stores. There is an excellent information desk and customer service counter. You will find signage in English, Arabic and Hebrew. There is multi-level parking for both temporary and long-term parking. Throughout the Tel Aviv airport there is free WiFi. The airport is fully accessible. There is an airport synagogue.Tel Aviv Airport FeaturesThe airport’s stunning duty-free hall has a circular design with a dramatic ceiling-to-floor waterfall in the center. There are duty-free stores selling a range of local and foreign products. While you do some shopping and wait for your flight you can enjoy a meal or drink at one of the restaurants and cafes. Throughout the airport the ceilings are high giving an open-plan spacious feel. Although there are no hotels in the airport complex there are several hotels near Ben Gurion in Tel Aviv.Ground TransportationArrival and departure routes from Tel Aviv airport are via private vehicle, taxi, public bus and train. There is a pick-up and drop-off point for passengers and an easy to find taxi station right outside the arrivals hall. You can catch the Ben Gurion airport train to cities across the country including Tel Aviv city center, Jerusalem and Haifa. If you have a layover in Ben Gurion you can arrange a day tour where you are picked up and dropped off at the airport. Travelers on a package tour are usually picked up at Ben Gurion.
By Petal Mashraki
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2 min