Get to know Jerusalem

The best way to get to know Jerusalem is to spend several days exploring both independently and with an organized tour. Some of the sites and attractions you can discover for yourself while others are better seen with a knowledgeable guide on one of the many Jerusalem day tours. Here are a few ideas on how you can get to Jerusalem.See the Highlights of JerusalemBefore you start delving into the unusual and unique attractions of Jerusalem it is worth seeing thetop 10 Jerusalem attractionsthat all visitors to the city should see. Among the top 10 there are the Western Wall; Church of the Holy Sepulchre; the Mount of Olives and the Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum. Although there are some Jerusalem attractions that all travelers will want to see, your personal top 10 will depend on your interests. If you are a Christian traveler you will probably be drawn towards the churches on the Mount of Olives; the Room of the Last Supper and Via Dolorosa among other Biblical sites. Jewish travelers will want to include other landmarks in their top 10 Jerusalem attraction, for example the City of David; Knesset and the ancient synagogues of the Old City.Jerusalem Old CityIf your time is short and you can only go to one place in Jerusalem then it has to be the Old City. Within the 16th century stone walls, the 1km² city holds Jerusalem’s top attractions. TheOld Cityis also home to the most important Christian, Jewish and Muslim landmarks – the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; the Western Wall and Temple Mount, home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock. Spend your time exploring the narrow lanes of the Old City. In the Armenian Quarter see the exquisite painted ceramics; in the Christian Quarter follow the Via Dolorosa and see where Jesus was crucified; in the Muslim Quarter shop in the traditional market and in the Jewish Quarter see ancient synagogues, museums and beneath the Temple Mount walls.Attractions in New JerusalemDon’t miss out on theattractions in New Jerusalem. Many tourists, especially those short on time concentrate all their sightseeing in the Old City but New Jerusalem has much to offer. Visit the ultra-religious neighborhood of Mea Shearim; the colorful Machane Yehuda Market; the Knesset; the Chagall windows; the Bridge of Strings; the Israel Supreme Court and theJerusalem Israel Museum. New Jerusalem has some incredible malls and the lively Ben Yehuda pedestrian street with outdoor cafes. There are plenty of art galleries, parks like the Wohl Rose Park and the Haas Promenade where you can get an overview of the city. Visit the 130-year restored Old Train Station that is now a hip cultural and culinary hub and spend some time in a local café people-watching.Jerusalem Machane Yehuda MarketIf you really want to experience the lively atmosphere of local Jerusalemites then head for theMachane Yehuda Market. You’ll find stalls selling fresh produce, baked goods, pickles, spices, fish, meat, eggs and about every other type of food you can imagine. Not only that but the market, which has both outdoor and covered sections is home to excellent restaurants. Some of the market eateries are run by top Israeli chefs and others serve up traditional dishes from around the world. Try Ethiopian pita bread; a Georgian pastry; British fish and chips or Spanish tapas. In addition to food the market sells household goods, fashion items and more. Be sure to visit the “doctor” who serves up freshly squeezed fruit drinks made with unusual ingredients that are said to have therapeutic properties whether you want to treat a sore back or a broken heart!Get to Know Jerusalem NeighborhoodsAlthough most travelers limit themselves to the Old City there are several wonderfulJerusalem neighborhoodsworth visiting. Stop in downtown West Jerusalem for excellent food and a vibrant nightlife scene. Near Machane Yehuda Market see interesting street art and one-off bars and restaurants. In the Nachlaot neighborhood see where a former ultra-orthodox traditional neighborhood has transformed into a hip, cosmopolitan hang-out for artists and musicians. The neighborhood has narrow lanes, historic homes with hidden courtyards and a bohemian atmosphere. Musrara is a picturesque neighborhood with many art galleries and museums including The Museum on the Seam that focuses on socio-politically inspired contemporary art. The German Colony is where you’ll find up-market boutiques, charming cafes and restaurants housed in historic buildings with Bauhaus, Ottoman and Templar-style architecture. The Germany Colony’s Emek Refaim Street is the place to people-watch and visit the neighborhood’s best stores and restaurants. Ein Karem is arguably the most beautiful of the Jerusalem neighborhoods. Ein Karem has a village-feel with charming stone houses, window boxes, craft stores, excellent restaurants and several attractions including Mary’s Well and John the Baptist Church.
By Petal Mashraki
3 min

5 Ways to Visit the Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is a must-see attraction for any trip to Israel. This natural wonder is a salt lake at the lowest point on Earth 418m below sea level in southern Israel’s Negev Desert. The Dead Sea is not centrally located; it is 170km from Tel Aviv and 100km from Jerusalem. Once there you can enjoy one of the many Dead Sea beaches, the Dead Sea spas and hotels. The high concentration of minerals in the saline water and Dead Sea mud has health and beauty benefits. Even the sunshine and air in the Dead Sea region are known to have properties beneficial to our health.Public Transport to the Dead SeaThere are no trains that reach the Dead Sea although you could catch a train to Be’er Sheva and from there a bus to the Dead Sea. Alternatively, take the bus from Tel Aviv or Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. The buses stop at Ein Gedi and Ein Bokek, both places where there are things to do near the Dead Sea. The journey takes about 1.5hr-2hrs. Buses leave from the Jerusalem Central Bus Station and from Tel Aviv’s Arlozorov Bus Station. It is advisable to leave early so that you can maximize your time at the Dead Sea. The last bus from the Dead Sea back to central Israel leaves in the late afternoon so be careful not to miss the bus! There are no buses to the Dead Sea on Shabbat or public holidays.Dead Sea ToursThe easiest way to visit the Dead Sea is to join a Dead Sea day tour. There are several to choose from including tours that include stops at other popular sites like Masada, Jerusalem, Jericho, Ein Gedi or Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Some day tours stop at several sites while others give you a full day at the Dead Sea and can offer the option of Dead Sea spa visits or lunch at one of the Dead Sea spa hotels. The Dead Sea is usually included in multi-day package tours that cover attractions across the country.Renting a Car to Drive to the Dead SeaYou could rent a car from anywhere in the country and make the trip south independently. Use a navigation app or GPS device to help you reach the Dead Sea. The steep winding roads through the desert hills are notoriously dangerous and you will need to drive very carefully.Visit the Dead Sea by TaxiIf you are nervous about traveling alone by car to the Dead Sea then it is possible to go by taxi although this is quite an expensive option. Taxis to the Dead Sea should be arranged in advance and can include hotel pick-up. A slightly cheaper option is a shared taxi (mini-bus) run by a private taxi company which departs from major cities. You will then have to find an available taxi to make the return journey or preferably arrange it ahead of time.Take a Private Tour to the Dead SeaOn a private tour to the Dead Sea you can tailor-make your trip by including other sites along the way. Popular destinations often included on a private day tour to the Dead Sea are Jerusalem, Jericho, Qumran or Masada. On a private tour, you will have the driver, an air-conditioned vehicle and a guide who will devote all of his time to you.
By Petal Mashraki
3 min

How to spend a leisure day in Tel Aviv

Many Israel package tours include some free time in Tel Aviv, a magical city with a unique blend of attractions both historic and ultra-modern. You’ll have no problem finding things to do if you have a day at leisure in Tel Aviv.Explore Tel Aviv NeighborhoodsTel Aviv has some diverse neighborhoods each with their own unique character. Among the most interesting Tel Aviv neighborhoods there is Florentin, a hipster hangout with a bo-ho feel in Southern Tel Aviv. The former commercial area has transformed into a trendy destination with quirky bars and ethnic restaurants. The place has a shabby-chic feel with many independent small stores selling everything from art and tie-dye clothing to designer sweets and hand-made jewelry. This is the neighborhood where you can sit for hours in a café people-watching. Another top Tel Aviv neighborhood is Neve Tzedek, originally the first Jewish neighborhood built outside of Jaffa. Today the small homes, courtyards and narrow lanes have been restored and converted into boutique stores, art galleries, chic cafes, eateries and one-off stores. The neighborhood has a small village feel and most buildings are dripping with gorgeous bougainvillea or flower boxes.Visit Old Jaffa and Jaffa PortJaffa is now a part of the city of Tel Aviv-Jaffa; it is the oldest part of the city at the southern end of Tel Aviv’s beachfront promenade. The ancient city of Jaffa is built on a cliff overlooking the Old Port of Jaffa and the sea beyond. Jaffa is associated with the Biblical characters of Jonah and St. Peter. As you enter Jaffa the first sight that meets you is the Jaffa Clock Tower that dates back to the early 20th-century Ottoman era. On the inland side of the main road, you’ll find a labyrinth of market lanes and trendy restaurants and bars. On the right-hand side is the Old Port. Narrow lanes, each named after the signs of the zodiac lead down to the water. The lanes of Old Jaffa are lined with art galleries, small stores, and eateries. You can visit the Jaffa Museum to learn more about the city’s history.Tel Aviv MuseumsYou could spend several days visiting the wonderful museums of Tel Aviv. If you are an art-lover then your best choice would be the Tel Aviv Museum of Art where contemporary and modern art is displayed in a spectacular venue that includes a unique modern building, the main building and the Helena Rubinstein Pavilion. Here you can see works by some of the greatest artists of all time including Chagall, Reuven Rubin, Klimt, Kandinsky, Van Gogh, Miro, Roy Lichtenstein and work by Israeli artists such as Nahum Gutman.Other Tel Aviv museums worth checking out include the Eretz Israel Museum focused on Israel’s heritage, land and culture and the Museum of Jewish People focused on Jewish communities around the world and their traditions.Tel Aviv Free AttractionsYou won’t have to spend much money on your free day in Tel Aviv; just wandering the streets can be enough to keep you busy for hours. On a walk, through Tel Aviv you can enjoy the Bauhaus architecture which has earned Tel Aviv UNESCO statue as the “White City.” You can easily walk to the best Tel Aviv beaches which are located minutes from the city center. The wide sandy beaches line the beachfront promenade the length of Tel Aviv. Another great way to spend your time is at the Tel Aviv Port. This former port has been gentrified and converted to a wonderful outdoor attraction for the whole family. The many markets in the city include Carmen Market and the markets of Jaffa where you could wend away hours taking in the sights and sounds. Take a walk through any of Tel Aviv’s neighborhoods to see Tel Aviv street art by local and international artists. Many of the street artists in Tel Aviv use their art to bring attention to social issues or the human condition.
By Petal Mashraki
3 min

The Best Way to Explore Galilee from Jerusalem

Travelers to Israel who base themselves in Jerusalem will want to see the country. Although Israel is small it is still over 150km-200km from Jerusalem, depending on where in the Galilee you want to visit. This journey can take about 2.5-3 hours. If you have booked a package tour covering the country then you will have a way of getting to the various destinations across Israel. If traveling independently you will have to figure out the best way to see the Galilee from Jerusalem. Here are a few suggestions to help you plan your Galilee excursion from Jerusalem.Use Public Transport to go from Jerusalem to the GalileeYou can get a bus from Jerusalem central bus station to Tiberias, on the edge of the Sea of Galilee. The journey takes about 2-3 hours. Tiberias is a good place to base yourself and from there you can either hike around the Sea of Galilee or take further buses to the various locations. If you plan to make it a day trip then this could be problematic. You will spend much of your time waiting for buses and traveling on buses. You will have to leave very early in the morning if you plan 3 hours there and 3 hours back by bus. It doesn’t leave you much time on a day trip. Alternatively, you could make it a longer trip and stay overnight. It is advisable to research the places you want to visit and figure out how you will get public transport from place to place in the Galilee before you actually leave Jerusalem.Galilee Tours from JerusalemIn addition to package tours that cover several days, several destinations and accommodation there are also day tours from Jerusalem to the Galilee. If you prefer not to travel on a package tour then day tours to difficult-to-reach or distant locations are the perfect solution. You could join a group day tour from Jerusalem to the Galilee or even take a private tour and tailor-make your itinerary. Tours from Jerusalem to the Galilee include pick-up and drop-off at your hotel or a convenient location in Jerusalem. The tour then takes you north in air-conditioned transportation and stops at several of the Galilee’s famous locations. The tours usually have a theme, for example, Christian landmarks around the Sea of Galilee; the Galilee and Golan or Jewish heritage sites. There are also Galilee tours from Jerusalem that include places like Caesarea; Safed; Haifa; Nazareth; Acre or Rosh HaNIkra.Rent a Car to Travel from Jerusalem to the GalileeHaving your own car can be a very convenient way of traveling but it suits only a certain type of traveler. You’ll have to negotiate unknown roads; cope with Israeli drivers and find parking once you reach the larger cities like Tiberias, Nazareth, Acre and Safed. The advantage is that you can pick and choose where to stop and what to see. The disadvantage can be the price and the fact that you will have your attention on the road instead of being able to sit back and enjoy the journey. Without a guide you will have to know which places to visit and how to get there. Car rental is readily available in Israel but be sure you have included all the extras and taken into account all the restrictions. Check what time you can return the car as you will be traveling quiet a distance and may not be back in Jerusalem until late. Some car rental companies in Israel close at 5 pm and there are different hours on Shabbat and national holidays.
By Petal Mashraki
3 min

The Second Temple

The Second Temple was a sacred Jewish place of worship on Temple Mount in Jerusalem from 520 BC to 70 AD. Temple Mount was the site of a First Temple until 586 BC; the Second Temple and today is the site of the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. The Temple represented a divine presence on Earth and the place where heaven and Earth meet. Only in the Holy Temple could sacrificial worship be performed in accordance with the codes of the Torah. Construction of the Second Temple is referred to in the Book of Ezekiel; Ezra 1:1-4 and Chronicles 36:22-23.History of the Second TempleFifty years after Babylonians destroyed the First Temple in c.587 BC they were vanquished by Persians. King Cyrus II of Persia gave permission for the Temple to be rebuilt. Under Governor Sheshbazzar attempts were made to start the project. Only in 522 BC when Zerubbabel became governor was work on the Temple continued by exiled Jews returning to the Levant from Babylon. Construction of the Temple continued in 521 BC under Persian King Darius I. Two Jews from Judea, Ezra and Nehemiah were a major force in the reconstruction. This early modest version of the Second Temple was completed in 516 BC. In the following years the Jews and Palestine were ruled by the Persians, Greeks and Romans yet they continued to keep their faith and worship at the Temple.In 163 BC the Greek ruler Antiochus erected a statue of Jupiter on the altar of the Temple. For three years the Temple was profaned in this way until the Jews revolted. It was at the end of the Maccabean Revolt (167-160 BC) that the story of Hanukah unfolded. Storming and retaking the Temple the Maccabees found only a small jug of blessed oil to lite the Menorah. A miracle occurred and the oil lasted seven days until new oil could be obtained to light the Temple’s Menorah. During a brief period of Jewish rule by the Hasmonean Kingdom (140 BC-116 BC) the Temple was refurbished. Starting in 20 BC Herod took it upon himself to extend and refurbish the Temple complex although maintaining the character of Zerubbabel’s Temple. He undertook several mammoth building projects in Palestine wanting to cement his place in history. The Second Temple was his masterpiece. This final version of the Temple is the one we remember today as a grand, elaborate complex. The Biblical story of Jesus clearing the Temple of money changers took place at the Second Temple on Temple Mount.Destruction of the Second TempleThe Temple stood for 420 years from 349 BC to 70 AD. Jews across Palestine began to revolt against the Roman authorities in 66 AD. Jews were drawn together to fight their common enemy. The Romans led by Titus decided to aim at the heart of the Jews – the Temple. The Jews were outnumbered and defeated. Later the Romans built a pagan temple on the site of the former Second Temple.Features of the Second TempleAt its height, the Temple covered 450 acres and was 100 cubits (about 45 meters) tall. The Roman historian Josephus described the Second Temple as have in 10 entrances; several courtyards; ritual baths; a place for sacrificial animals and the Holy of Holies. Among the features of the Temple there was the golden Menorah; a golden altar for incense; and the heart of the Temple – the Holy of Holies (Kodesh HaKodashim) or the Inner Sanctum.The Second Temple TodayToday Temple Mount is no longer the site of a Jewish temple. Those who want to learn more about the Second Temple can visit the Davidson Archaeological Park where remains of the destroyed Temple have been excavated alongside the retaining wall of Temple Mount. If you visit the Israel Museum you can see a scale model of the Second Temple and Second Temple Era Jerusalem. Since the destruction of the Second Temple on Tisha b’Av according to the Jewish calendar Jews have mourned the loss of their Temple which is mentioned in several prayers and numerous Biblical references. Tisha b’Av is a day of fast and Jews pray for the reconstruction of the Third Temple on Temple Mount.
By Petal Mashraki
3 min

Jerusalem Southern Wall Excavation

Since the 1960s excavations in the area of the south-west side of Temple Mount in Jerusalem have uncovered remarkable remains from the Second Temple (516 BC-70 AD) which stood on Temple Mount. Part of these excavations included what would have been the southern retaining wall of Temple Mount. The Southern Wall Excavation Site is accessed from the Dung Gate in Jerusalem’s Old City. Just past the gate is an archaeological park which includes the Southern Wall, the Southern Wall Museum and a Visitors Center.The Second Temple was originally built in 516 BC but was drastically altered and expanded under Herod the Great from 37 BC to 4 BC. It was during this reconstruction that the southern side of Temple Mount was fortified. The southern retaining wall of Temple Mount would have risen 32 meters above street level and run for a length of 281 m. The Temple and almost all of the Temple Mount structures were destroyed by the Romans during the Jewish Revolt of 66 AD-70 AD.Herodian StreetRunning the length of the wall would have been a paved street lined with stores. Along the wall remains were uncovered of an 8 meter wide street now known as the Herodian Street. When the Herodian Street was discovered it was cleared of a mountain of rubble that had accumulated over the almost 2,000 years since the temple’s destruction. On one side of the ancient Herodian Street the massive Temple Mount Southern Wall rises 32 meters and on the other side of the street a wall was uncovered with openings where there would have been stores. Here pilgrims could buy offerings to sacrifice in the temple and also visit the money changes. It may have been here in these stores that Jesus “cleared the temple courts of people selling cattle, sheep, doves and people sitting at tables exchanging money” (John 2:1322). As the Roman’s set about destroying the temple in 70 AD they would have toppled down massive stones onto this street. Above the stores we can see the remains of the base of a staircase.Robinson ArchHalfway up the side of the Southern Wall are the remains of the Robinson Arch (named after the researcher who discovered the arch in 1838). The arch was part of a large bridge structure which allowed access from the lower city to the Temple Mount. The arch was part of a 13 m wide and 19 m high walkway giving pilgrims access from the Herodian Street up a wide flight of stairs to the south-western Temple Mount entrance. This would have been one of three such bridge walkways into the temple. Only the small section of the arch attached to the Southern Wall and the base of the staircase have survived.Trumpeting PlaceOn the southwest corner of the Southern Wall a large slab of stone was found inscribed with the Hebrew words meaning: to the trumpeting place to proclaim. This could refer to the place where a priest would stand on the walls and blow a trumpet to announce the approaching Shabbat. The stone may have been thrown down from the temple walls during the destruction.Ritual BathsWhile excavating the Southern Wall many ritual baths (mikvah) were found. The baths are located close to the walls and were built according to Jewish laws. The baths would have been used by thousands of pilgrims to purify themselves before they entered the temple.Later Structures at the Southern WallThe Al-Aqsa Mosque was built in 705 AD and stands along the inside of the Southern Wall; you can see the mosque’s distinctive silver dome above the wall. Along the Southern Wall it is possible to see the remains of several structures from the later Arab Period including a number of Umayyad Palaces.
By Petal Mashraki
3 min

Israel Day Tours from Herzliya

Herzliya is a coastal city about 30 minutes north of Tel Aviv. It is a popular beach destination as well as having several excellent shopping malls, a large marina and beautiful parks. Many travelers to Israel base themselves in Herzliya at one of the beachfront hotels so that they can get maximum use of Israel’s stunning beaches. From Herzliya it is possible to take excursions across the country, returning to your Herzliya hotel in the evening. In fact you don’t even have to travel into Tel Aviv to join Israel day tours as there are pick-up points at Herzliya hotels. You can go straight from your hotel to the tour bus and have a day of guided sightseeing then be returned to your Herzliya hotel doorstep in the evening.Israel Tours from Herzliya HotelsIsrael is a small country and you can take day tours from Herzliya to almost all destinations across the country. Among top destinations for day tours from Herzliya, there is the Dead Sea, Jerusalem and the Galilee. The tours to various locations leave daily and are offered in several languages (depending on the tour).Jerusalem Tours from Herzliya HotelsAfter your Herzliya pick-up travel to the City of Gold and tour the new and Old City. See where Jesus walked the Via Dolorosa and place a prayer note between the huge stones of the Western Wall. Some Jerusalem tours also include a stop at the Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum; some take you to the places where Jesus once stood and other tours explore the underground City of David. There are half-day Jerusalem tours and tours that combine Jerusalem and other destinations in one day. Visit Jerusalem and the Dead Sea in one day or Jerusalem and Bethlehem in one day from Herzliya.Masada and Dead Sea Tours from Herzliya HotelsThe most southerly point day tours from Herzliya reach is Masada and the Dead Sea. On these tours, you will get to travel through the Judean Desert descending below sea level. Take a cable car to the flat summit of Masada and have a guided tour of the remains of Herod’s ancient fortress. The afternoon is spent on one of the top Dead Sea beaches before returning to Herzliya. Some of the tours south stop at the ancient Biblical city of Jericho and at a baptismal site on the Jordan River. For something really special take a Judean Desert jeep tour from Herzliya.Nazareth and Sea of Galilee Tours from Herzliya HotelsThe most northerly point day tours from Herzliya reach is Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee. These tours are perfect for Christians who can see numerous Biblical sites but the tour also suits non-Christians that just want to see the northern landscape. Visit the Church of the Annunciation and St. Joseph’s Church in Nazareth and see Biblical locations along the edge of the Sea of Galilee.Caesarea, Acre and Rosh HaNikra Tours from HerzliyaTravel up the Mediterranean coast from Herzliya and stop in several remarkable locations. Tour the excavated Roman port city of Caesarea; drive through Haifa to see the Baha’i Gardens; see the Crusader’s underground city in Acre and enter the sea caves at Rosh HaNikra.Bethlehem Tours from Herzliya HotelsChristian travelers staying in Herzliya can get a day tour from their Herzliya hotel to Bethlehem. This tour stops at several fascinating Biblical locations and ancient churches including the Church of the Nativity which encompasses the Holy Grotto where Jesus was born. There are also tours from Herzliya that combine a visit to Jerusalem and Bethlehem in one day.
By Petal Mashraki
3 min

Guide to the Jerusalem Old City

If you were to choose just one place to visit while in Israel it should be the Old City of Jerusalem. Packed within the 450 year old city walls is 1km² holding some of the country’s top attractions.The Old City is an exciting, exotic, spiritual and fascinating world of narrow cobbled alleys, mosques, churches, eateries, markets and more. The Old City remains as it was thousands of years ago and people still live and work here in the ancient buildings. Among the wonders of the Old City are the most important Jewish, Muslim and Christian religious sites in the country.Brief History of the Old City of JerusalemIt was here in Jerusalem that the ancient Jewish temples were built and where Jesus often visited and eventually was crucified. Golgotha, the site of Jesus crucifixion is within the Old City marked by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. King David conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites in the 11th century BC and established his kingdom. Muslims took the city in 637AD and in 1099AD the first Christian Crusaders arrived. The city changed hands several times and saw pilgrims arriving to the various religious sites. The Old City walls we see today were built under Ottoman leader Suleiman the Magnificent in the 1500s. Up until 1860 all of Jerusalem was within the Old City walls, then the first neighborhood beyond the walls was established and the new city grew into the modern metropolis we see today. But within the Old City walls time seemed to stand still. From 1848 to 1867 the Old City was ruled by Jordan and no Jews were allowed to visit or live in the Old City until it was retaken by Israel in the Six Day War. Jews returned to the city and it was repopulated with people in all four of the Old City’s quarters. The city has remained a tourist attraction and a pilgrimage site for Muslims visiting Temple Mount, Christians visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Jews visiting the Western Wall.Overview of the Old CityThe Old City is surrounded by fortified walls and it is possible to walk along the ramparts. Visitors enter the Old City through the wall’s seven gates (there are actually eight gates but one is closed). The Old City is divided into four uneven quarters – the Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian quarters. The division is not with walls but rather the quarters flow one onto the other. In each quarter there is a distinct character; you’ll see people in traditional dress in each of the quarters – Hasidic Jews in their black coats and black hats in the Jewish Quarter, nuns, monks and friars in their habits in the Armenian and Christian Quarters and in the Muslim Quarter the traditional keffiyeh headdress and long kaftan-type jalabiyyah. In each of the quarters you can buy souvenirs, taste ethnic food and see art and architecture unique to that quarter’s culture, religion and history.Christian QuarterThe Christian Quarter in the northwestern of the Old City has the New Gate, Jaffa Gate, Damascus Gate and the junction of David Street and Souk Khan el-Zeit at its corners. This quarter is home to approximately 40 holy sites but the star of the quarter is without question the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The church is a beautifully ornate and cavernous structure with many small chapels and intricate art work. The church dates back to at least the 4th century and houses the site where Jesus was crucified at Calvary, the tomb where he was buried and resurrected and the last four Stations of the Cross. The church is shared by the Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Armenian Orthodox churches as well as the Syriacs, Ethiopians and Egyptian Copts to a lesser extent.Jewish QuarterJews have inhabited the Jewish Quarter almost continuously since the 8th century BC. Parts of the Jewish Quarter have been excavated to reveal ancient Roman remains including the Cardo, which would have been the colonnaded main street during Jesus’ lifetime. The star of this quarter is the Western Wall; the last remaining part of the 2nd Holy Jewish Temple which was destroyed in 70AD. The Western Wall (Kotel) opens up to a large plaza and Jews come from across the globe to worship here. Local Jews worship at the Western Wall as they would at a synagogue. You can place a prayer note with your personal message to God between the large stones of the Western Wall.Muslim QuarterThe largest quarter of the Old City is home to the Muslim population (and a few Jewish families). It has narrow cobbled lanes that are a bustle of activity. Within this quarter there is the Temple Mount, this is where the ancient 1st century Jewish Temple stood and today it is the site of the beautiful Dome of the Rock which covers the Foundation Stone from where Muhammad is believed to have ascended to Heaven. The Dome of the Rock has a distinctive golden dome which is a symbol of the city. Also on Temple Mount is the al-Aqsa Mosque, Muhammad’s destination in the Night Journey and the Dome of the Chain a free-standing dome and the oldest structure on Temple Mount. The Western Wall Tunnels run beneath the Muslim Quarters and the Muslim Quarter has several Roman and Crusader remains. The Muslim Quarter has a lively market or “shuk” where you can find a huge rang of goods. The Via Dolorosa runs through the Muslim Quarter and is home to the first seven Stations of the Cross.Armenian QuarterThis is the smallest quarter of the Old City. It is home to Christian Armenians who arrived in Jerusalem in the 4th century AD when Armenia adopted Christianity and Armenian pilgrims came to visit the holy sites and settled here. The Armenian Quarter centers on St. James Monastery and the 4th century Cathedral of St. James which houses the Jerusalem Patriarchate of the Armenian Apostolic Church. (Pop trivia: This is where Kanye West and Kim Kardashian held their daughter, North’s christening in 2015) The Armenians have their own distinct culture, religious traditions and language. The Jerusalem Armenians are famed for their distinctive hand painted tiles, tile murals and handmade ceramics. You can buy ceramics in several stores in the Armenian Quarter and see street signs made from the brightly painted Armenian tiles.Must-See Old City Sites You can safely wander the lanes of the Old City discovering hidden gems around every corner. But just so you don’t miss any of the essential attractions here are a few must-sees:The Western Wall in the Jewish QuarterChurch of the Holy Sepulcher – Christian Quarter.Dome of the Rock – Temple Mount, Muslim QuarterAnd now for something special in the Old City….Dei res-Sultan Ethiopian Monastery accessed via the 9th Station of the Cross on the roof of a medieval annex in the Christian Quarter.Shopping in the Old City Market.Walking the Ramparts of the Old City walls.The Tower of David (Jerusalem Citadel) at Jaffa Gate, a museum, archaeological site and sound and light show.Mamila luxury shopping street – Northwest of Jaffa Gate.Follow the Via Dolorosa retracing Jesus’ route as he carried his cross towards Calvary.Join today to our wonderfulJerusalem Temple Mount & Dome of the Rock Tour.
By Petal Mashraki
5 min

Christmas in Bethlehem

Christmas in Israel can be magical and a truly spiritual experience. There are services in local churches (mainly in Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem) as well as services held at the locations where Christmas events took place. Many tour buses leave Jerusalem on Christmas Eve to services in Shepherd’s Fields where an angel appeared to the shepherds on Christmas Eve. The tours continue to the Lutheran Church in Bethlehem and end off at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem for the Midnight Mass.Of all the Christmas celebrations in Israel perhaps the largest and most moving is at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, where gather in Manger Square to be a part of the celebration of Jesus’ birth on the spot where the events unfolded.Roman Catholics celebrate on the 24th December at Saint Catherine’s Church in Bethlehem, as well as on the 5th and 6th of January when the Epiphany is commemorated. Greek, Coptic, Romanian and Syrian Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on the 6th of January in Bethlehem. In Nazareth there are Christmas Eve parades and firework displays as well as church services. In all over 90,000 foreign visitors arrive in Israel annually to celebrate Christmas.Christmas in Bethlehem includes processions through the streets, carol singing and religious services which can all be an extremely spiritual experience. It is important to remember that throughout the rest of Israel you could probably not even notice that it is Christmas as unlike America and Europe the streets and stores are not decorated, there is no Santa ringing a bell outside shops and Christmas music cannot be heard in the streets.Book a tour to the Christmas Eve in Jerusalem & midnight mass in Bethlehem
By Petal Mashraki
2 min

5 Day Trips from Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is located in the center of Israel and has highway and public transportation links to cities across the country. Luckily Israel is not that big so you can easily base yourself in Tel Aviv and make day trips to other destinations. Take a look at these Tel Aviv day trips which give you a good variety of top tourist destinations and less obvious day trip choices.Jerusalem from Tel AvivJerusalem is one of the must-see destinations in Israel and is only an hour away (depending on traffic) from Tel Aviv. If you are taking a day trip from Tel Aviv then don’t waste any time and start your trip with a walking tour of the Old City. Most of Jerusalem’s top attraction are in the Old City; here you can see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Western Wall and Temple Mount where the Dome of the Rock stands. In the Old City there are many interesting stores, eateries, museums and other places of interest.You can go into the “new” city and enjoy the hustle and bustle of the capital or alternatively visit the churches on the Mount of Olives. The Mount of Olives is home to the beautiful Church of All Nations, the Russian Orthodox Church, Pater Noster Church, the Chapel of the Ascension and Dominus Flevit Church. Families might like to visit the Biblical Zoo and others might be interested in visiting Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum or the Israel Museum.Dead Sea and Masada day trips from Tel AvivNo trip to Israel is complete without a visit to the Dead Sea which lies 87 km south of Tel Aviv. This unique body of water is the lowest point on Earth. The Dead Sea water is three times as salty as the ocean. The mud that lines the banks and floor of the Dead Sea is rich in minerals that can benefit your general health and specifically your skin. Being the lowest point on Earth it is also the furthest point from the sun and so you can avoid the dangerous sun rays and just get the benefits of the sun. The Dead Sea air is also good for your health as it hashigh levels of oxygen and is pollen-free.While you are in the Dead Sea region you can visit Masada which is only a short drive away. Masada is a “mesa” or flat-topped rock outcrop which rises majestically out of the desert. Masada’s summit was the site of an ancient Roman palace complex and many of the structures have survived. Masada was also the site of a significant event in Jewish history and is a symbol of Jewish devotion to national freedom and faith. Visitors to Masada can take a cable car (or walk up the Snake Path) to the summit and tour the remains of the palace complex. Zichron Yakov from Tel Aviv , Zichron Yakov is often overlooked by tourists but it is worth making the day trip from Tel Aviv, especially if you enjoy wine! Zichron Yaakov is about an hour’s drive north of Tel Aviv. The small town is surrounded by lush forests, vineyards and mountains; in fact it is somewhat similar to a typical European village. The quaint town was established in 1882 and most of its historic buildings have survived. There is a stone-paved shopping street lined with one-off stores including those selling homemade confectionary; locally made textiles and handmade paper. You’ll also find art galleries, museums and many cute eateries. Zichron is one of Israel’s main wine-making towns. While here you can tour the Carmel Winery and the nearby Binyamina Winery and Tishbi Winery.Zichron Yakov from Tel AvivZichron Yakov is often overlooked by tourists but it is worth making the day trip from Tel Aviv, especially if you enjoy wine! Zichron Yaakov is about an hour’s drive north of Tel Aviv. The small town is surrounded by lush forests, vineyards and mountains; in fact it is somewhat similar to a typical European village. The quaint town was established in 1882 and most of its historic buildings have survived. There is a stone-paved shopping street lined with one-off stores including those selling homemade confectionary; locally made textiles and handmade paper. You’ll also find art galleries, museums and many cute eateries. Zichron is one of Israel’s main wine-making towns. While here you can tour the Carmel Winery and the nearby Binyamina Winery and Tishbi Winery.Petra, Jordan from Tel Aviv , Petra tour from IsraelBelieve it or not you can even take a day trip from Tel Aviv to Petra in Jordan and be back in Tel Aviv the same evening! There are organized tours which start in Tel Aviv with a short flight down to Eilat Israeli’s southernmost city. From there tours continue across the Israel/Jordan border and on to Petra. Petra is a UNESCO site and one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The city was created about 2300 years ago when the Nabataean people carved Petra’s buildings out of the red-hued desert cliffs. The ancient structures have survived and include temples, tombs and homes each with intricately carved facades and cavernous interiors.On a tour to Petra you can learn about the ingenious water gathering system the Nabataeans used to keep Petra’s 20,000 residents supplied with water. Also learn of the trade routes which passed through Petra and the civilizations which inhabited Petra after the Nabataeans left. At the end of the day visitors are taken back across the border to Eilat for the return flight to Tel Aviv.Herzliya from Tel AvivIf you fancy a short day trip from Tel Aviv to a place close by then Herzliya is a good choice. It is also a great destination if you want to relax and get some retail therapy. Drive just 20 minutes north of Tel Aviv to reach the stunning beaches of Herzliya. While you’re down by the water check out the Herzliya marina and its adjacent Arena Mall. Herzliya has several great malls including a large Outlet Mall, the Arena Mall at the marina and the Shevat HaKochavim Mall (Seven Star Mall). Opposite Shevat HaKochavim is a great park with amazing tube slides and playgrounds. This park also has areas which have been left in their natural state and a park café where parents can sit while their kids play. Finish off your relaxing excursion to Herzliya with a movie at Cinema City Glilot, a cinema complex with stores, eateries and over 20 movie theatres.Find moretours from Tel Aviv
By Bein Harim Team
4 min

Tel Aviv’s Most Picturesque Neighborhood – Neve Tzedek

Neve Tzedek (“oasis of justice” in Hebrew) is not only one of Tel Aviv’s oldest neighborhoods it is also thought to be one of the most beautiful. Neve Tzedek is located south east of Carmel Market and was established in 1887 as the first Jewish neighborhood built outside of the walls of Jaffa. A group of families decided to leave the confines of Jaffa where conditions were crowded and set up their own community which soon grew as other Jewish families joined them. They built the neighborhood with low-rise buildings along narrow streets incorporating elements of the art nouveau and later Bauhaus architecture. By 1909 the neighborhood had expanded to such an extent that Tel Aviv was born. Over the years as new developments were built people moved away from Neve Tzedek and the area became run down. Only since the 60s the municipality has invested in restoration and preservation of the historic buildings. The area has been restored to its former glory and attracted chic boutiques, trendy cafes and art galleries. The cobbled streets and historic buildings have gained a new lease on life and have been completely gentrified. The window boxes drip with brightly colored flowers, trees bring greenery into the streets and the architecture alone is breathtaking. Each house features some unique element of Bauhaus or Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) architecture.Neve Tzedek is famed for its exquisite architecture, cultural legacy and village-within-a-city feel. The neighborhood lives up to its name, being a peaceful oasis in the busy metropolis. The neighborhood is perfect for exploring on foot and you can often see groups taking walking tours through Neve Tzedek.In the first half of the 1900s the neighborhood was home to writers and artists including Brenner; Nobel Prize winner Agnon and artist Nachum Gutman. Today artists, writers, public figures and performers are still attracted to the neighborhood. Actress Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman and Batman V Superman) has a home here.See and Do in Neve TzedekAlthough you will enjoy just wandering the streets of Neve Tzedek there are several highlights. The Rokach House at 36 Simon Rokach Street was one of the first houses built in the neighborhood by Shimon Rokach whose son Israel Rokach went on to be Tel Aviv’s second mayor. The Suzzanne Dallal Center on Yahieli Street is the city’s official dance center and the site of a tree-shaded piazza where there is a cafe. The dance center is housed in a former school building constructed in 1908 in the Bauhaus style. Chlouche House at 32 Shlush Street was the first house built in Neve Tzedek in 1886 by Aharon Chlouche today it is an art gallery. Visitors can go up to the roof top terrace for brilliant views. The Nachum Gutman Museum is located in the artist’s former home in Neve Tzedek and Samy D is a ceramic studio worth visiting. For designer stores, boutiques and art galleries wander down Shabazi Street. Shabazi is the neighborhood’s main street but be sure to explore the smaller lanes which branch off.Once you have had your full of architecture, culture and shopping relax in one of the many Neve Tzedek restaurants or cafes. The eateries have the most beautiful settings in tranquil courtyards, historical buildings or with sidewalk seating.
By Petal Mashraki
2 min

Beit Guvrin National Park

Also known just as Guvrin Park or “land of a thousand caves” this is a hidden gem and a must-see site for those looking for something unusual in Israel. Guvrin is located 13km from Kiryat Gat and has recently been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Beit Guvrin National Park covers about 1,250 acres in the Judean Lowlands.Beit Guvrin caveThe hills in this area are made mostly of chalk covered by hard rock (nari). Many cultures over the centuries have dug away at these rocks creating openings beneath the ground to use for a number of purposes. Once they got through the hard layer of rock it was simply a matter of hollowing out the chalk to create caves. Over the years a labyrinth of subterranean caves grew into a complex network. The park encompasses the ancient settlements of Maresha and Beit Guvrin. The First Temple Era (586BC) town of Maresha (mentioned in Joshua 15:44) stood on this site which was then settled by Edomites followed by Sidonians and then Greeks. Maresha became a Hellenistic city and at the time many of the caves were created. The Jewish Hasmonean King John Hycanus I conquered the city in 113BC and by 40BC Maresha had been destroyed by the Parthian invaders.Beit Guvrin became the primary settlement in the area, as we learn from the writings of Roman historian Josephus Flavius. The city continued to thrive as a Roman ruled Jewish city until the destruction of the Second Temple (70AD) and the Bar-Kochva Revolt (132-35AD). Under the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus the city became Eleutheropolis and was declared a “city of freemen” and became a municipality. The Byzantine period saw Christian churches built in Beit Guvrin and under the following Muslim rule most of the caves were created. During the Crusader period the Byzantine St. Anne’s Church was rebuilt (1136AD). Each of these civilizations has left their mark. The site can be visited at any time of the year although in the spring you can see the blossoming wild flowers. Expect to spend about 1.5-2 hours here. The park is open April to September 08:00-17:00 and October to March 08:00-16:00. Entrance is 29ILS for adults and 15ILS for kids. The trail and picnic areas are wheelchair accessible. For more details check-out the Israel Nature and Parks Authority website.Highlights of a visit to Beit Guvrin National ParkFirstly the beautiful open countryside of the Judean Lowlands offer an opportunity to get out into open air and do some hiking or biking. In addition you have the amazing archaeological findings which include a Byzantine church, subterranean cisterns, mosaics and public baths.Columbarium – This breathtaking underground room from 200BC spans 30 meters. On the walls are almost 2,000 niches which were used to house the pigeons which were used for food, sending messages and their droppings were used for fertilizer.Maze Cave – 30 interconnecting caves which visitors can walk through.Greek Sidonian Burial Caves – Dating back to the 3rd century BC the caves were Hellenistic family tombs and are decorated with wall paintings of mythological creatures, hunting scenes and cultural elements.The Bell Caves – There are about 800 bell-shaped caves beneath the surface in Guvrin Park although many more have yet to be uncovered. They date back to the 4th to 9th century. The extracted chalk would have been used for building and road making. The most spectacular is 5 meters high with a large opening in the ceiling which lets light pour in, this hole would have been used to extract the chalk. Today the Bell Cave is used for special events and classical musical performances.Roman Amphitheatre – One of only four Roman amphitheatres in Israel, it could once seat 3,500 spectators.St. Anne’s Church – the Byzantine Era church was rebuilt by the Crusaders in the 1100s. An elegant semi-circular stone dome remains.
By Petal Mashraki
3 min