Osho Israel International Festival at Giv’at Haviva

The Osho festival has been taking place since 2008; it is a celebration of life and spirituality. Firstly, for those who are not sure, Osho is the name given to an Indian guru, professor of philosophy and spiritual leader called Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (1931-1990). Osho was against organized religion; promoted meditation to music, the importance of humor, creativity and advocated an open attitude towards sex. The movement can loosely be described as one branch of Western New Age thought. The Osho Festival celebrates the teachings of Osho on the green Campus of Givat Haviva, 45 minutes north of Tel Aviv. Giv’at Haviva is a center dedicated to building a socially cohesive society. It is the largest Osho festival in the world.The festival is a moving and spiritual experience for many and influences many lives. The festival takes place over the course of three days during which the campus becomes a small village and vision of a utopic life. Over the course of the three days there are spiritual workshops, a conference of awareness, creative workshops, parties, dancing, relaxation and freedom. There is a large swimming pool, expansive lawns, quiet places to meditate, camping areas, sleeping rooms, kid’s activities and natural vegetarian food on sale. Drawing on the teachings of Osho there are more than 1000 different experiences on offer at the festival in 10 air-conditioned halls and across the green campus. Workshops include dance movement, silence workshops, nutritional awareness, breathing and feeling, yoga, body therapy, meditation and relationship workshops among others. At night there are musical performances on three stages by leading artists and a great festival atmosphere. The range of musical genres includes everything from spiritual music, punk and grove to mellow acoustic and mystical Indian music. The parties beneath the stars continue late into the night.Practical InformationWhere: Giv’at Haviva, off route #574 between Barkai, Gan Hashomron and Harish.When: July/August each year.Cost: Tickets include all festival events approximately 320ILS-420ILS depending when you buy the tickets. This price includes the use of the camp ground. If you prefer it is possible to rent a room on the campus.Contact: 052 888 3040
By Petal Mashraki
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2 min

Beit Guvrin – A Secret Underground World!

Beit Guvrin (or Bayt Jibrin) is one of the most surprising places to visit in Israel as all of its wonder lies below ground! Beit Guvrin or should I say Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park is located near Kibbutz Guvrin off the Beit Shemesh-Kiryat Gat road in the Judean lowlands; the “land of a thousand caves.” The national park encompasses ancient archaeological remains of the Roman town of Maresha; the remains of the 1st century town of Beit Guvrin; a Roman amphitheatre; the remains of a Crusader fortress and countless caves.The Ancient Caves of Beit GuvrinThe ancient inhabitants dug caves in the limestone rock not only to quarry the chalk but also to use the caves as water cisterns, storage space,, dovecotes, tombs and to keep live stock. Highlights of the national park include the Sidonian Burial Caves, where the leading families of the Beit Guvrin Sidonian, Edumite and Greek communities were buried. These caves are the only ones here that are decorated with frescoes. You can see the burial niches in the rock and the intricate paintings of mythical figures, animals and plants. There is a burial cave where musicians were buried and this one is painted with musical motifs. Among the many caves in the area there are about 800 bell caves. Bell caves are, as the name implies, shaped like bells with an opening in the ceiling. Many of these caves are connected by passageways and some were used as columbarium where small niches have been carved into the walls for pigeons. The bell caves were carved out of the soft limestone during the Arabian period and the chalk dug from the caves was used for laying roads. Some of these bell caves are enormous, reaching heights of 18 meters. Today some of these beautiful, spacious and cool caves are used as concert venues. Other caves not to miss are the Polish Cave, a Hellenistic Period cistern; the Oil Press Cave, one of 22 underground oil presses from the Biblical period; the Bathtub Cave used for washing or ritualistic bathing; a partially reconstructed home from c.113BC and the Maze Caves of underground dwellings.There are several routes through the park which can be followed by bike and in some places by car. Visitors to the park can take a map and follow the hike paths through beautiful countryside from site to site seeing the ancient remains and exploring the caves. Each of the caves has been made easily accessible with stairs and hand rails. You can have an amazing day out at Beit Guvrin exploring both beneath the ground and the flora and fauna above ground. There are facilities like toilets, a kiosk and picnic areas.Practical Information:Where: Beit Guvrin-Maresha National Park, Off road #35 between road #38 and Kiriyat Gat.When: You can visit year round. Sunday-Thursday and Saturday 8am-5pm; Fridays and holiday eves 8am-4pm. In winter the site closes an hour earlier. Passover eve, Yom Kippur and Erev Rosh Hashana 8am-1pm.Admission: Adults 29ILS children 15ILS, students 25ILS seniors 15ILS.Contact: 08 6811020Access: There is limited wheelchair access but the Bell Caves, Roman amphitheatre and Visitor Center are accessible.
By Petal Mashraki
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2 min

Top 10 Attractions for Kids in Israel

If you’re visiting Israel with kids you’ll find that they enjoy most of the famous attractions just as much as the adults like Jerusalem’s Old City, the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. However there are some attractions that are specifically geared towards children and will please them even more!Children’s MuseumIsrael’s most famous children’s museum offers a number of tours through the museum suited to various age groups ranging from 2 to 11 years old. Each tour follows a specific theme: For 2.5-4 year olds there is A Trip with Yanshul (owl-cat) where visitors learn about friendship. This age group can also take the Following the Butterflies tour which takes kids into a world of reptiles and introduces them to Zig Zag, a reptile character who doesn’t want to grow up. For 4-6 year olds there is the Journey to Restore the Kingdom of Time. This route introduces kids to the cycle of life. 6-8 year olds go into the Magical Forest on a journey led by a mischievous elf where kids learn about emotions and feelings. The 8 to 11 age group have a tour route called Aliens. The most famous of the museum’s experiences is Invitation to Silence for kids over 9 years old. The entire tour is conducted in silence and introduces kids to the world of the hearing impaired. The tour is led by deaf and hearing impaired guides. Dialogue in the Dark is similar to Invitation to Silence but deals with the world of the visually impaired. This tour is led by blind or visually impaired guides. Dialogue with Time deals with old age and is led by guides over 70 years old. All of these tours must be booked ahead of time.Safari Park and ZooIsrael has a number of zoos but the only safari park is in Ramat Gan. At the Safari Park Ramat Gan there is a section where animals can be seen in their “natural” environment as visitors drive through on a “safari” and there is also a conventional zoo. The Safari also has special tours at night and in the early morning. Another interesting Israeli zoo is the Biblical Zoo in Jerusalem. This zoo features animals which are mentioned in the Bible.Weizmann Institute Clore Garden of ScienceThis is a very kid-friendly museum completely outdoors and hands-on. Kids can learn about scientific principles by experimenting with sound, water, vibrations and weights. The interactive museum is in the heart of the prestigious Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot. It challenges visitors to question their perceptions and enhance their understanding of the laws of nature and science. There are nearly 80 hands-on exhibits to demonstrate principles like solar energy, gravity, waves, sound and more. Also within the 10,000m² facilities there is a geodesic dome – an ecosphere where ecology is taught through demonstrations about microclimates and plants.Gan GarooThis is a zoo completely devoted to Australian animals and specifically kangaroos. Kids can get up close and feed the animals. They will see kangaroos roaming around freely and will be able to meet Cassowary, flying foxes, koalas and other Australian animals and birds. Gan Garoo also offers overnight camping in the park, a bush maze, aborigine cultural shows and tours through the park .Genesis LandGo back in time to the Biblical Era in the heart of the Judean Desert. This is the land where the Biblical Patriarchs lived. Visitors are met by Abraham’s manservant Eliezer who tells you about his homeland and lifestyle. You are then invited to put on typical 1st century smocks and head coverings before setting out on a short camel ride down to Abraham’s tent. Having dismounted your camel you will be invited into Abraham’s tent for some fresh dates, nuts and water before helping to make pita bread on an open fire. All of this happens in the most stunning desert landscape. The attraction also offers workshops, special meals for groups and desert camping.Kfar KedemAt Kfar Kedem the whole family can take part in hands-on, interactive activities like making bread, pressing olives for oil and cheese making as it was done in ancient times. Visitors are given 1st century smocks and head coverings to get in the mood and make the experience more authentic. Then you can go on to take a donkey ride, visit the pastures and see how wool is made and making the traditional olive oil and pita bread. Kfar Kedem (ancient village) is set in the lush Galilee countryside not far from Nazareth and visits must be booked in advance.Nazareth Jesus VillageJust outside Nazareth at Nazareth Village a 1st century village has been completely recreated. This attraction is geared towards Christian visitors who want to get insight into the life Jesus might have led in Nazareth. The staff are in 1st century costume and there are people demonstrating traditional crafts and chores. Visitors are given 1st century-style clothing to wear so they complete the picture of an ancient village as they walk around the site. You can see inside a typical Biblical era home, take part in various day-to-day 1st century activities and learn about the lifestyle of the villages. As part of the experience visitors will learn about Jesus and his teachings and see Biblical stories come to life. You can add a Biblical meal to your tour to complete the experience.AcreThe ancient city of Acre (or Akko) was an important port city for thousands of years. Greeks, Romans, Crusaders, Mamluks and Ottomans all left their mark here. You can explore the ancient Knights’ Hospitaller Fortress, walk through hidden underground tunnels used by the Templars, see an ancient Turkish bath house and an enchanted garden. There are a number of set routes through the Old City of Akko retracing the footsteps of Napoleon, the Ottomans, Crusaders and others. Kids will love the many passages and secret rooms beneath the ground. Above ground there is a bustling market among the ancient houses and through the cobbled lanes. At the end of the market street you will reach the old port where there are short boat excursions and restaurants.Rosh HanikraKids will love going down in a cable car into a 200 meter network of passages through white limestone caves as the sea laps up against the edges of the caves. Through the openings in the caves you can see the sea which reflects the white cave walls and takes on a gorgeous turquoise hue. There are legends of pirates using the caves to store their loot and many stories of how these caves served various armies in the past.Ma’alit HaZmanJerusalem’s Time Elevator takes you on a journey through 3,000 years of Jerusalem’s history. The 4D experience is exciting and educational. Visitors get 3D glasses and watch a 3D movie while experiencing special effects like moving chairs, wind and splashes of water. Some of the important historic events covered include the destruction of the 1st century Temple, the Roman conquest and the birth of Christianity.
By Petal Mashraki
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5 min

Top 10 Activities for Kids in Israel

Israel has amazing weather and incredible natural beauty which means that there are plenty of outdoor activities and exciting ways to keep kids entertained. Kids will love the top attractions in Israel like the Old City of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea but there are attractions which will give kids a chance to run around and have some hands-on fun!1.Kayaking and River Rafting in IsraelThere are two main locations in Israel for river rafting and kayaking, one is from Kibbutz Kfar Blum and the other from Kibbutz HaGoshrim; both are on the River Jordan and Hatzbani River. The rafting and kayak sites are set in lush green countryside and they offer all the equipment and variations of rafting and kayaking for the whole family. Anyone over five years old can take part and there are routes with instructors and routes that you can navigate by yourselves. There are raft boats for up to 6 people and kayaks for 1 or 2 people. The routes take 1-2 hours. Both sites have toilets, showers, snack bars and attractions for kids.2.Mey KedemGo for a daring adventure walking though an ancient water tunnel which extends 280 meters. 2000 years ago King Herod devised this engineering wonder to bring fresh water from Tzabirin Spring to the Roman city in Caesarea. The complete water system stretches for 6km but visitors can walk through 280 meters of the tunnel with water up to their knees. The adventure starts in Alona Park near Binyamina and visitors can see a short introductory film as well as get a tour of the water tunnel. It takes about an hour and you should bring a flashlight.3.Ein Gedi Nature ReserveJust west of the Dead Sea, off route 90, is this oasis in the desert, it boasts two streams which flow year round and lush vegetation surrounding this rare water source in the driest area of the country. The water and vegetation attracts animals and visitors can see ibex and cute hyrax (dassies) among the reeds, ferns and rock cliffs. There are a number of walking trails through the reserve including one alongside the Ein Gedi Stream and the David Stream. You’ll see waterfalls, gorgeous natural pools and the surrounding flora and fauna. Kids can take a dip in some of the streams and pools and will enjoy seeing the many animals.4.EilatThe whole city of Eilat is a wonderland for kids, from the ice skating rink in the middle of a mall to the diving with dolphins and gorgeous beaches. Take a few days to explore this ultimate resort city. Kids can go on camel rides in the desert, swim with dolphins or spend the day doing fun water sports like water skiing, motor boating and jet skiing.5.Old City Jerusalem RampartsKids will love walking along the ramparts high above the Old City walls. From here you’ll have brilliant views and a chance to teach kids a bit of history as they pretend they are defending the city. You’ll be able to circle the city and look down into some areas where tourists rarely go like the Armenian compound. The walls were constructed under Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century and have played an important role in the city’s history ever since. It isn’t possible to completely circumvent the Old City as there is a break at the Jaffa Gate and the Temple Mount section is closed. However you can start climbing the ramparts at the Jaffa Gate and continue on to the Zion Gate and Dung Gate. Alternatively access the ramparts from the Damascus Gate and walk on to the Lions’ Gate.6.Israeli Water ParksThere are several great water parks in Israel including Yamit 2000 in Holon; Shefayim near Natanyia; Sahek Ota in Emek Hefer (the only water park which operates year round) and Maimeidon in Tel Aviv. In addition there are several smaller water parks. Most of the parks open just for Jewish holidays and the summer months. As with water parks in other countries there are great water slides, open lawns, kid’s pools and wave pools.7.Amusement ParksIsrael’s most iconic amusement park is the Luna Park in Tel Aviv; it boasts many exciting rides for all ages. The Luna Park has bumper cars, carousels, a high Ferris wheel as well as thrilling roller coasters. Superland is another popular amusement park located in Rishon LeZion where there are wet and dry rides as well as three roller coasters and many exciting rides.8.Ice SkatingThere are ice skating rinks in Israel from Canada Center, Metulla in the extreme north to the Ice Mall in Eilat on the Red Sea. The professional ice skaters train in Metulla while the Eilat rink is in the middle of a shopping mall and is the largest rink in the country. You can also find an ice skating rink in the heart of Tel Aviv alongside the Luna Park. Tel Aviv’s iSkate is open to everyone over 6 years old or 3.7 meters tall. Jerusalem has a new ice rink in the Jerusalem Cinema City which is scheduled to open in 2017.9.Israeli BeachesAll along the Mediterranean coast you’ll find ideal beaches for the whole family. Whether you’re based in Tel Aviv, Hertzlyia, Natanyia or Ashkelon there are endless sandy beaches to choose from. For something a little more unusual visit the Dead Sea beaches or the Sea of Galilee beaches.10.Dig for a DayWith so much history in Israel there are constant archaeological excavations in progress. You can join in one of these digs for a three hour session that includes digging, sifting and analysis of the findings. This all takes place at the National Park of Beit Guvrin where you can crawl through the unexcavated cave system. The Dig for a Day program is for adults and kids aged 5 to 14 years. While here you can explore the amazing natural caves in the national park.
By Petal Mashraki
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4 min

Jaffa Flea Market Culinary Culture

The Jaffa Shuk HaPishpashim (flea market) is a vibrant, dynamic area with lots to see and many exciting stores and stalls. In the last few years the area has become not only a fun and unique place to shop and people watch but also a hidden gem for foodies. In among the junk and antiques are several outstanding restaurants some of which are housed in historic buildings and serve both local and international food. Here are just a few of the many Jaffa Flea Market’s finest dining establishments.Puaa, 8 Rabi YohananThis unique restaurant/café is in the heart of the flea market. It was established in 1999 and is named after the owner. The place is magical, with décor featuring many authentic antiques and memorabilia including the furniture, pictures on the walls and tableware. The menu is unpretentious and the food wholesome and homely yet unique and innovative. There are dishes like broccoli and cashew pasta, spinach with raw tehina and faro and date syrup salad. There is a good selection of Israeli boutique wine. On Tuesday nights you can get amazing fish and seafood cooked on the grill situated on the outside porch and in winter there are live performances on Thursday evenings.Fleamarket, 7 Rabi YohananThe décor of this restaurant will take your breath away. The eclectic furniture comes from flea markets in Israel and abroad; the ceilings are high and the walls feature exposed brick and dark wood. Fleamarket has a large bar with an open kitchen. The restaurant is managed by top Israeli restaurateurs led by Shy Gurevitch. Fleamarket serves a mainly seafood and Asian menu with several local and European dishes. The restaurant has a breakfast, brunch and evening menu. At Fleamarket they give some classic Israeli dishes a gourmet twist like adding truffle to Israeli shakshuka. They also give an Israeli twist to some International classics like adding mangold to eggs Benedict. The menu reads like a European fine dining establishment with dishes like beef Carpaccio, sea bream tartar and mushroom and truffle risotto. There are kid’s dishes and vegetarian dishes as well as a good selection of alcohol and cocktails.Sifo, 3 Nachman StreetThis is one of the more recent additions to the Jaffa flea market culinary scene yet it has been attracting the attention of local foodies. It is located down a narrow lane full of character. The restaurant was opened in 2011 and is run by Chef Idan Mezner. As the name implies they specialize in seafood – si (sea) fo (food). The flavors and styles of the dishes are diverse including fusion dishes which blend Middle Eastern flavors with international flavors. Diners have the option of eating from the cold kitchen, hot kitchen or the chef specials and desserts. Popular dishes on the menu include the fish patties with Ethiopian tahina, the red mullet fish in Arak and the kubbeh soup with seafood.Leimech, 11 Amiad Street, Shuk HaPishpushimIn among the market stalls is this modest street bar. The bar was named after Noah’s father in the Bible who lived to an incredible age of 777; maybe because he took things easy and enjoyed a good drink like this bar’s patrons. The bar serves Thai beer on tap and simple dishes from the Far East and Middle East. The bar often hosts live musical performances.Yasso-Saloniki, 4 Olei Zion, Shuk HaPishpushimThis Greek restaurant celebrates the Greek culture in every way – from the décor and music to the menu. On the walls are framed photos of the owner and his family plus some celebs that have eaten here.Onza, 3 Rabbi Hanina Street, Shuk HaPishPushimThe tables of this popular seafood and Greek restaurant spill out onto the cobbled streets of the market. It is always buzzing with people coming here for the food, music and atmosphere. Indoors there is a large bar and a few tables while on an upper level you’ll find an area for large groups. The atmosphere is created by great music, dim lighting and the upbeat vibe. Food is prepared by Chef Yossi Shitrit and on the menu you’ll find fish, seafood, meat and vegetarian dishes. Don’t miss happy hour on Saturdays from 4pm to 6pm.Charcuterie Restaurant, 3Rabbi HaninaYou’ll smell the delicious aroma of BBQ meat before you even reach this restaurant. The chairs and tables are spread out over the cobbled stones of a narrow lane as diners wait to sample delicious smoked and barbequed meat as well as handmade sausages. If you’re a confirmed carnivore then this is the place for you. If you prefer fish or pasta you can find some non-meat dishes on the menu as well. The best time to come here is on weekends after 10pm when the music is loud and the crowd turns the place into a street party.Lima Nippo, 6 Rabbi TanhumWhere Japan meets Peru! Lima Nippo is a sleek fine dining establishment with refined décor and artistically presented food. The menu includes Japanese and Peruvian fusion dishes, a new trend in the culinary world. When Japanese immigrated to Peru in the 20th century the Nikkei cuisine was born. Dishes on the menu include pineapple duck, beef tartar with miso and truffle sauce, ceviche and sashimi.
By Petal Mashraki
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4 min

Following the Gospel Trail

In Israel you can literally follow in the footsteps of Jesus, visiting the many locations where he preached, lived and died. The Gospel Trail (also called the Jesus Trail) is a moderate hike route which has been devised linking several significant points mentioned in the Gospel so that those following the trail can not only enjoy the gorgeous countryside of northern Israel but also visit Biblical sites. The Gospel Trail runs through the Galilee, often called the cradle of Christianity because it was here that Jesus grew up and where he returned to preach during his ministry. Jesus grew up in Nazareth and later based himself in Capernaum during his ministry when he went from village to village preaching God’s word.The Gospel Trail opened in 2011 today it covers 60km of sign posted footpaths and roads which trace historical and Biblical routes where Jesus is believed to have walked when he left Nazareth for Capernaum on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. The sign posts which mark the route are hewn into basalt rock to blend into the natural surroundings. Each sign post features scriptures relating to the Biblical events which took place at that location. Along the way there are also information stands, picnic sites and benches.It is possible to follow the trail on foot, bike, by car or combine those using different forms of transport on different stretches of the trail. You can choose which segments of the route you follow according to your interests and your fitness level. There are even stretches of the trail which are wheelchair accessible.The Gospel Trail RouteThe Gospel Trail runs from Nazareth to Capernaum. The route begins at Mount Precipice, on the southern outskirts of Nazareth and travels through valleys and limestone hills via Beit Qeshet Oak Reserve, Magdala, Tabgha and finally reaches Capernaum on the edge of the Sea of Galilee. The route incorporates pathways which have been used by shepherds, travelers, farmers and merchants since ancient times. The route ends at the Capernaum Center from where you can reach the Sea of Galilee where a dock has been constructed so that followers of the trail can pray at the water’s edge and enjoy the breathtaking views across the water.Gospel Trail Points of InterestNazareth – The city where the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her of her future pregnancy and son. It is also the city where Jesus grew up. One of the highlights of Nazareth is the Church of the Annunciation.Zippori National Park – This was the administrative capital of the Galilee in Jesus’ lifetime. In addition to the amazing nature there is an archeological site dating back to the 2nd century. It is most famous for its Byzantine mosaics in an ancient synagogue floor.Cana – Here Jesus performed his first miracle turning water into wine. Visitors can see the Wedding Church and museum.Ilaniya – This small Jewish community was one of the earliest farming community settlements. Today the community offers visitors a model 20th century farm, the ruins of a Byzantine synagogue and some ancient caves.Roman Road – The route crosses an ancient Roman road which would have been used by Jesus. During his lifetime it was a major thoroughfare running east to west.Kibbutz Lavi – One of only a few orthodox religious kibbutzim; it was founded in 1949 and today is known as a major producer of synagogue furniture.Horns of Hattin – A decisive battle took place here between the Crusaders and Saladin in 1187. From the double hills there are brilliant views across the Galilee.Nebi Shu’eib – The site of the traditional Tomb of Jethro, father-in-law of Moses. Today the site is marked by a large Druze mosque and complex.Arbel National Park – There are gorgeous views from these dramatic cliffs where the Romans conquered the Hasmonean rebels.Migdal – This is the site of the ancient town of Magdala, the home town of Mary Magdalene. Here there are several Roman-era ruins.Sea of Galilee – Israel’s largest fresh water lake is also the site of many Biblical events. It was here that Jesus walked on water and calmed the storm. Today you can take short cruises on the lake, swim and enjoy the beaches.Jesus Boat – A 1st century fishing boat was discovered in the Sea of Galilee; it has been preserved and is on display at Kibbutz Ginosar.Tabgha – Visit the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes and see where Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection.Mount of Beatitudes – This was the site of the Sermon on the Mount. Today the mount is topped by a beautiful church.St. Peter’s Primacy – This church on the water’s edge was built in 1933 and marks the site where Jesus made Peter head of the church. The church holds the Mensa Christi, a slab of rock thought to be where Jesus sat with his disciples.Capernaum – Jesus based himself in Capernaum while preaching in the Galilee and there are several mentions of Capernaum in the Bible. This is also where Jesus performed a number of miracles and where you can see St. Peter’s House.You can continue on from Capernaum to visit the city of Tiberius, the Jordan River, Mount Tabor and Mount Precipice as a continuation of the Gospel Trail.
By Petal Mashraki
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4 min

Tel Aviv’s Vegan Restaurants

Vegans visiting Tel Aviv won’t go hungry. In fact the city is considered one of the best vegan-friendly cities in the world. Israel has about 200,000 vegan residents, most of who live in Tel Aviv. Vegan in Hebrew is “tivoni” and the concept is generally understood so feel free to ask in restaurants if they have anything tivoni. Here are just few of the many vegan restaurants in Tel Aviv.Tel Aviv Vegan RestaurantsNanuchka, 30 Lilienblum Street – One of the most interesting additions to the vegan family is Nanuchka, a traditional Georgian cuisine restaurant. For many years the popular restaurant served meaty Georgian dishes until the owner became a vegan in 2014 and converted the restaurant to vegan-only. Now they continue to serve Georgian food but all vegan. The restaurant has a great atmosphere with Communist Era memorabilia and poetry adorning the red walls.Falafel Banin Johnny, 2 Tchernikhovski Street – This is your chance to taste traditional Israeli fast food. Falafel is made primarily from humus beans but this restaurant offers the dish with the usual frills like salad and fries plus some gluten-free options.Buddha Burgers, 86 Ibn Gvirol and 21 Yehuda HaLevy– This eatery is a veteran vegan establishment. They serve made-to-order veggie burgers made with a mix of beans, quinoa and rice. You can have soy cheese added to your burger which is rare in Israel because of the kosher laws.Taste of Life (Taam Hachaim), 35 Ben Yehuda – This vegan (and mostly organic restaurant) is run by the Hebrew Israelite community, also called the Black Hebrews. They are a group of African Americans who believe they are descendents of the ancient Israelites and have a thriving community in Israel. They are usually English speaking and the menu is in Hebrew and English. There is a wide selection of light meals like salads, sandwiches and desserts.Zakaim, 20 Simtat Beit HaSho’eva – This Persian inspired vegan restaurant is often voted the best vegan restaurant in Tel Aviv. The dishes on offer are based on classic Persian cuisine and the menu is ever changing. The relaxed yet chic décor and open kitchen with eclectic furniture make this a unique and inviting restaurant.Café XoHo, 17 Gordon – This is a popular hangout for Tel Aviv’s expat community. It is a cozy café with a laid back atmosphere where you are welcome to bring your laptop and use their free WiFi. The food is all natural and all homemade daily. The menu includes vegetarian and vegan options – but a lot of vegan options. The menu is labels so that you know which dishes are vegan and which are vegetarian.HaShawarma HaTivonit (Vegan Shwarma), 81 King George Street – Try the American-style pizza, Middle Eastern classics, Israeli food and fast food, all vegan. This establishment used to be called The Vegetarian Shwarma before turning completely vegan. You can get vegan schnitzel, vegan burgers, fries and other fast food.Hatol HaYarok (The Green Cat), 7 Levontin Street – This is a vegan pizza and Italian food joint dishing up delicious pizza which uses cashew-based “mozzarella cheese” which is prepared on the premises. The pizzas are topped with things like yam, seitan, olives and vegetablesHerzog, 48 Ibn Gabirol Street – This restaurant has only recently opened and serves vegan tapas and Mediterranean food prepared by one of Tel Aviv’s top chefs, the owner of Maavar Passage. They are open Monday to Friday from 12:30pm to 4:30pm.Miss Kaplan, 18 Eliezer Kaplan Street – This is a completely vegan eatery in the gorgeous Serona shopping complex. They serve modern dishes and many flavorsome dishes. It is headed by well known vegan blogger/chefs – Orit Shavit and Shirel Berger.Rainbow Pitta, 88 Ibn Gvirol Street – Typical Middle Eastern and Israeli food is served here – vegan-style. This is vegan fast food and they serve take-out. They are closed on Saturdays.Anastasia, 54 Frishman Street – This vegan café serves small meals, great breakfasts, drinks and cakes. They make their own almond, rice and soy milk and serve strictly no junk food. There are also gluten-free items on the menu and raw food items. The café also has a little store selling vegan foods.The Green Roll, 30 Montifiori Street – Try the vegan Japanese food here including sushi, and organic freshly squeezed juices. Vegan sushi is something really special and worth trying. Also try their raw desserts.Tevaleh, 106 Bograshov Street – This restaurant serves Middle Eastern classics and Israeli food as well as freshly squeezed fruit juices. They have a seated area plus they sell take-out. It is the second of two branches of this restaurant (the first is in Kfar Saba). Among the popular juices is a wheatgrass drink.Greek Shack, 18 Yedidya Frenkel – This vegan bar is located in the hipster/bohemian neighborhood of Florentine in South Tel Aviv. They serve American-style food including sloppy joe, philly cheese steak, schnitzel, cheesecake and kebabs – but all vegan.Tenat, 27 Chlenov Street – Here you can try Ethiopian vegan and gluten-free food. There is a great ambiance in this eatery with Ethiopian and jazz music playing in the background. On Monday nights there are live jazz performances.Alegria, 165 Ibn Gavirol Street – this is a specialty vegan store and restaurant where you can find vegan artisan cheese like cashew-cheddar and other mouthwatering delights. There are daily specials, vegan burgers, salads and sandwiches. There are also spreads, breads and pastries on offer. This restaurant is closed on Saturdays.Seeds, 97 King George Street – Try a vegan pizza or one of the Middle Eastern dishes. This is also a bakery where you can get a variety of pastries. Also find frozen foods and pre-packed frozen vegan meals for take-away. One of their most popular items is iced coffee.Dosa Bar, 188 Ben Yehuda Street – Great Indian street food; one of the most popular dishes served is South Indian dosa, a gluten-free pancake with different savory fillings. The dosa comes with soup, a salad and chutney. There are also several delicious desserts. This restaurant is closed on Saturdays.
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4 min

How to Plan 7 Days in Israel

Thanks to Israel’s compact size it is possible to cover the whole country in about a week. Of course you won’t see everything but a week is long enough to see the highlights and get a good overview of the whole country. If a week is all you have then you could either take a guided tour each day to a different part of the country or do it alone. Traveling independently the best way to get around is by renting a car although you could also do it using public transport. Here is an idea of a typical 7 day Israel itinerary.Day One – Tel AvivArriving at Ben Gurion rent a car and make your way to one of the excellent Tel Aviv hotels. Depending on what time you arrive you can start exploring the city. Check out the beachfront and maybe have a typical Israeli meal of falafel or shawama. Take a walk through the historic neighborhood of Neve Tzedek to see the Bauhaus architecture and enjoy the hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv’s open-air market – Shuk HaCarmel. If you are into art Tel Aviv has an excellent art museum otherwise you might like to visit HaTachana, a restored historic train station which has been converted into a shopping and entertainment venue. Sarona is another shopping complex created out of a number of buildings from a 1871 German Temper colony. Of course there is the old port of Jaffa; the perfect place to end your first day in Israel at one of the seafood restaurants overlooking the Tel Aviv coast. Don’t worry if you don’t fit everything in as this itinerary includes another day in Tel Aviv at the end of the week.Sleep in Tel AvivDay Two – Sea of GalileeMake an early start on day two and follow the coastal road north all the way to the Galilee. Along the way you will pass many interesting cities and villages and you will have the Mediterranean Sea on your left most of the way. On the journey north you will also see some of Israel’s finest farm lands and pass through breathtaking greenery. The area around the Sea of Galilee is one of the most beautiful in the country. There is greenery, historic and religious sites as well as the gorgeous sea where you can swim, do water sports and go on short cruises. This is also the area where Jesus spent his ministry years going from village to village preaching. There are several gorgeous churches commemorating Biblical sites around the Sea of Galilee. Base yourself in Tiberius then drive around the Sea of Galilee visiting the Mount of Beatitudes (site of the sermon on the Mount); the House of Peter at Capernaum; Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes and the Church of St.Peter’s Primacy at Tabgha and Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine. You can stop at Yardenit to get baptized at the same place in the Jordan River where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. If you have no interest in religious sites then there are other attractions around the Sea of Galilee. Follow some of the many hike trails; go out on the water; explore the city of Tiberius; visit the forests and waterfalls in the Golan Heights or the thermal pools at Hamat Gader. End your day with a delicious fish dinner in one of the Tiberius restaurants overlooking the sea.Sleep in TiberiusDay Three – Haifa, Acre, CaesareaLeave Tiberius and make your way south stopping at the ancient city of Acre (Akko) which was a strategic port city during the Crusader, Mamluk and Ottoman periods. The old city of Acre has survived and has a lively market plus cavernous underground structures built by the Crusaders. The city is also home to some picturesque mosques and a quaint port. Continue on a little further south through Haifa where you can stop to see the famous Bah’ai Gardens. These gardens or the Hanging Terrace Gardens cascade down Mount Carmel is 19 terraces planted with brightly colored flowers and shrubs. At the top of the gardens is the gold domed Shrine of Bab and an observation terrace where you can look out over Haifa Bay. A little further south is the ancient city of Caesarea. Today modern Caesarea is a prestigious residential city and home to the rich and famous but along the coast are the ancient remains of a former Roman port city. The old city was built by Herod the Great in c.25-13BC and many structures have remained including a perfectly preserved Roman amphitheatre, aqueducts, Roman mansions and from the later Crusader era there are fortress walls and other structures. Continue on to Jerusalem to spend the night.Alternatively you could spend this day exploring the sites of Nazareth before driving back to Jerusalem.Sleep in JerusalemDay Four – JerusalemStart your day in Jerusalem with a tour of the Old City and the many sites within the ancient walls. Visit the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and walk the Via Dolorosa retracing Jesus’ footsteps on route to his crucifixion. While in the Old City you could walk the ramparts, visit the Tower of David, the Dome of the Rock, see the ancient Roman main street, the Cardo and enjoy the many markets. On leaving the Old City head for Yad VaShem the Israeli Holocaust museum. Depending on your interests you could stroll through the modern streets of Jerusalem; visit the Ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Meir Sha’arim, see the Israeli parliament, the Knesset or visit the Israel Museum.Sleep in JerusalemDay Five – Dead SeaLeaving Jerusalem drive south into a completely different landscape. Whereas the north is lush and green, southern Israel is mainly desert. On the drive south you’ll pass by Mitzpe Ramon which overlooks the Ramon crater, the world’s largest “makhtesh” similar to a crater formed by a meteor. The crater is 40km long, 2-10km wide and 500 meters deep. Drive on to the Dead Sea where you can float in the water, sun yourself on the Dead Sea beaches and buy the famous Dead Sea cosmetic and health products. If you wish there is the desert oasis of Ein Gedi on the edge o the Dead Sea where waterfalls, greenery and wild animals can be seen. Driving south towards Eilat you could fit in a visit to Masada if you so wish. Continue driving south to the southernmost point of the country; Israel’s number one vacation spot the beach resort city of Eilat. Spend the night there and if you have the energy you could even enjoy Eilat’s nightlife before going to sleep.Sleep in EilatDay Six – EilatWake up to a glorious day by the Red Sea. Today is for relaxing and recharging your batteries. Make a beeline for the beach and enjoy the sun, go swimming, diving or snorkeling in the crystal clear Red Sea. The Red Sea has many coral reefs just off the coast and you can easily see the tropical fish and coral by just swimming a few meters out to sea. Other things to do in Eilat include visiting the Dolphin Reef, a unique attraction where dolphins swim freely between the open sea and an enclosed area. You can dive with the dolphins or relax on the Dolphin Reef beach, swim alongside the dolphins and watch them getting fed. Eilat has a unique shopping mall with a huge ice rink in the center; there are short cruises; excellent seafood restaurants; a camel range; a beachfront promenade and many luxury hotels. At the end of the day you can either stay in one of the excellent Eilat hotels or leave your rental car here and take the half hour flight back to Tel Aviv and sleep in a Tel Aviv hotel.Sleep in Eilat or Tel AvivDay Seven – Tel AvivSpend your last day in Israel doing some final sightseeing in Tel Aviv. Perhaps relax on Tel Aviv’s amazing beaches or do some last minute souvenir shopping.As the week in Israel comes to an end take a flight back home from Tel Aviv and start planning your second trip to the Holy Land.
By Petal Mashraki
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5 min

The #1 Museum in Israel

The Israel Museum in Jerusalem is without doubt the best museum in Israel. If you visit just one museum while in Israel it should be this one. Israel has many fascinating museums covering a broad spectrum of subjects but the Israel Museum is in a league of its own. In addition to the overwhelming permanent collections the museum is constantly hosting temporary exhibitions and holding workshops, special events, performances and activities.Israel Museum WingsThe museum is divided into three main sections – Jewish Art and Life; Archaeology and Fine Art. The wings are accessible via a new gallery entrance pavilion. Visitors can move intuitively through the collections following the timeline of human history and culture from prehistory to contemporary. Each of these sections is subdivided into many other areas.Jewish Art and LifeIn this wing of the museum you can see artifacts from Jewish communities across the globe and throughout history from the Middle Ages to present day. The aim of this section of the museum is to give insight into Jewish life, both its sacred and secular aspects. There are five themed areas and includes a Synagogue Route where the interiors of historic synagogues from Asia, Europe and the Americas have been relocated. There are also items which teach of the Jewish life cycle through the ritual ceremonies of birth, marriage and death. There is a collection of rate illuminated manuscripts and contemporary art and judaica.ArchaeologyThis wing focuses on the ancient Land of Israel and the people of different faiths and cultures which have inhabited the land. The displays are exhibited chronologically in seven “chapters” from prehistory to the Ottoman era. Historical events, cultural achievements and technological advances are highlighted. There are also thematically grouped exhibits which focus on unique aspects of the region and the cultures of Israel’s neighbors.Fine ArtVisitors can see a wide range of art in this wing of the Israel Museum. The museum’s collection is interdisciplinary and encompasses works from across the globe and through the ages. Sections in this wing include European Art, Contemporary Art, Oceania, the Americas, Modern Art, Israeli Art, Photography, Architecture, Drawings, Prints, Arts of Africa and Asian Art. There are art installations which represent different themes and common threads in human culture.The Youth WingThe Ruth Youth Wing is the heart of cultural education programs at the museum. It has many interactive displays and activities for kids. This wing is bright and exciting in order to entice young visitors and spark interest in art and culture. The Youth Wing is a magical place where kids can find artistic stimulation.Shrine of the BookA visit to the Israel Museum is not complete without seeing the Shrine of the Book, a unique white dome-shaped building which holds the Dead Sea Scrolls – the oldest Judo-Christian texts in existence. Also within the Shrine of the Book is the 10th century Aleppo Codex, the oldest complete Bible in existence. The scrolls were discovered by chance in caves in Qumran, close to the Dead Sea. The building itself is an architectural wonder. The white dome shrine covers a structure which sits two thirds beneath the ground and is surrounded by a reflecting pool. A black basalt wall stands across from the dome. The white of the dome and the black of the wall represents the imagery found in the Scroll of the War of the Sons of Light Against the Sons of Darkness. The white dome is also an abstract representation of lids which covered the clay jars which held the scrolls in the caves.Second Temple ModelAt the museum there is a 50:1 scale model which covers an acre and recreates ancient Jerusalem as it would have appeared in 66AD at the height of Roman rule in the Holy Land and during the Second Temple Era. At the time, just prior to the Great Jewish Revolt which led to the destruction of the Temple, Jerusalem was home to 50,000-80,000.Billy Rose Art GardenOne of the most magical places on the museum grounds is this picturesque garden. It was designed by Isamu Noguchi in the spirit of a traditional Japanese Zen garden. There are many architectural features including gravel covered ground, crescent-shaped sections, exposed concrete and water features. The garden is the setting for sculptures by 19th -20th century artists including Auguste Rodin, Henry Moore, Emile-Antoine Bourdelle, Pablo Picasso and James Turrell among others.Practical Information: Where: Derech Ruppin 11, Opposite the Knesset, 9171002, Jerusalem, Israel.Contact: 02 6708811Open Hours: Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays 10am-5pm; Tues 4pm-9pm; Friday and holiday eves 10am-2pm; Saturdays and holidays 10am-5pm.Admission: Tickets can be bought online or at the box office but discount tickets (seniors, children, soldiers, disabled, repeat visit tickets, Jerusalem resident tickets) can only be bought at the museum box office. Adults – 54ILS; students 39ILS; children and teens (5yrs-17yrs) free on Tuesdays and Saturdays otherwise 27ILS; seniors, disabled and repeat visits within three months 27ILS; Jerusalem residents 46ILS; 1+1 special deal for Leumi card holders and 50% for Isracard holders. Tickets to the museum are valid for two years from the date of purchase.
By Petal Mashraki
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4 min

Go Down to Jaffa Port

Most tourists who visit the ancient city of Jaffa remain on the top of the cliffs where the Old City is built out of beautiful stone. There are many interesting attractions in the Old City of Jaffa plus a church, great fish restaurants and quaint lanes with specialty stores. However if you follow those meandering lanes downwards you will find yourself coming out on the water’s edge of the actual port. The Jaffa Port underwent a complete facelift in 2012 when it was cleaned up and new businesses moved into the revamped hanger that stands near the water. The dream was to create a food market similar to the ones at Tel Aviv Port and the Serona complex however the market didn’t really get off the ground. The port failed to become a top destination and is still a hidden gem to most!As you immerge from the lane which leads down to the port you will be just a few meters from the water. A jetty juts out into the water where you can get brilliant views of the Tel Aviv coast. Local boys like to show off their acrobatic skills jumping off fishing boats into the water and couples often come down here to get their pre-wedding photos taken. After you’ve enjoyed the waterside you can continue exploring the businesses along the water’s edge.The NaLagat (Please Touch) Center is run by and for the hearing and visually impaired. The center has a theatre where you can see performances by hearing impaired actors about their challenges. There is also a restaurant called Black Out in the center where the diners sit in the dark and are served by visually impaired waiters. The center holds workshops and activities to teach about how handicapped people experience the world.In the large modern hanger alongside the NaLagat Center there are a number of businesses, an ice-cream shop and fine dining restaurants. The best thing to eat if you dine here is fish; specialty fish restaurants use fish which was probably caught in the waters you see from the windows. There are also several art galleries where local artists display their creations. There are several retail outlets including the Women’s Courtyard at The Port where Israeli designer clothing is sold at outlet prices. On Fridays in the summer from 10am to 5pm there is free live entertainment; market stalls; family activities and yoga lessons all free or for a small fee. The “Almina” Theatre presents children’s theatre productions for a small fee and offers workshop activities for kids after the show.
By Petal Mashraki
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2 min

The Mountain Top City of Safed

Safed(Tzfat) is often overlooked by tourists but is another fascinating corner of this amazing and diverse country. The mountain top city of Safed in the Galilee is known as the Birthplace of Kabbalah, the ancient mystic side of Judaism. The city is in the clouds perched 900 meters above sea level; it has a spiritual and mysterious atmosphere and is steeped in history. Its location offers gorgeous mountain views, the weather is mild and there is even snow in Safed in the winter.The History of SafedA legend tells us that Safed was established by the son of Noah after the flood. During the Roman era it was a fortified Jewish town and it is mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud as one of five elevated locations where bonfire would be lit to announce the timing of the new moon and festivals during the Second Temple era. The city was a Crusader city in the 12th century and the site of the largest Knights Templar fort in the Middle East. In the 13th century the Egyptian Mamluk Sultan Beibars took the mountain top city but a community of Jews remained further down the mountain. The Muslim city grew and new structures were built; this continued into the Turkish Ottoman era when Safed was the capital of the Safed Sanjak (district). The Seraya Ottoman fortress has survived.After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492 many respected rabbis settled in Safed including Kabbalists Moshe Kordovero, Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz, Isaac Luria and Joseph Caro. During the 16th century Safed became known as the center of Kabbalah thanks to the many learned Jewish scholars in the town and Safed’s close proximity to the area where Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (Rashbi) wrote the Kabalistic Book of Zohar. Although still a Muslim town there was a strong Jewish community. In 1577 a Hebrew printing press was established in Safed and there were 32 synagogues in the town. Safed was affected by an earthquake in 1759 and again in 1837 and the town also suffered at the hands of Druze rebels and the plague. Moses Montefiore visited Safed several times and helped finance the repair of the town.During the British Mandate Jews and Arabs continued to live in Safed under tense relations. By 1948 and the establishment of the Jewish state Safed was home to about 1,700 Jews and about 12,000 Arabs. A battle ensued when the Muslim Arabs attacked the Jewish Quarter; after an intense conflict the Jews prevailed and almost all the Safed Arabs fled. In the 50s and 60s the city became known for its artists’ colony; Jewish artists from around the world settled here to enjoy inspiration from the beautiful scenic surroundings and spiritual atmosphere. In the 2000s many Ethiopian and Russian Jewish immigrants settled in Safed joining the predominantly Ashkenazi Jews and adding to the diverse culture of the city. The city remained a place of religious learning and spiritual enlightenment and has a community of both religious and secular Jews as well as small Russian Christian and Maronites communities.What is Kabbalah?Kabbalah is a Jewish discipline and school of thought consisting of esoteric teachings intended to explain the relationship between man and God; the nature of the universe and the meaning of existence. It is the philosophical study of the nature of being through Jewish writings; the origin of evil; the role of man; reincarnation and the concealed and revealed God. Kabbalah has become more widely known in recent years thanks to well known followers like Madonna and Justin Kuchner.Visiting SafedAny visit to Safed should start at the Tourist Information Center on Alkabetz Street. The center provides information to tourists as well as hosting several impressive exhibits and an introductory film about Safed. The Tourist Center encompasses excavated homes from the 1500s which are open to the public for free.The Old City of Safed is built of stone similar to Jerusalem with narrow cobbled lanes flanked by stone houses. There are ornate arched entrances to the homes, colorful wooden shutters on the windows, bright window boxes, domed ceilings and other features reminiscent of a Spanish Kahal (Spanish Jewish Quarter) of the Middle Ages.The Safed Artists’ Quarter consists of several lanes with artists’ studios, stores and galleries. Most of the art work is inspired by the Kabbalah, Torah or the general spiritual feel of the city. The works include paintings, drawings, textiles, metalwork and sculptures. There are also handmade candles, religious items, Judaica, glassware, handmade musical instruments and microcalligraphy where a picture is created using minute Hebrew letters and texts from the Bible as the lines and shapes in the design.Safed’s has two famous synagogues with similar names both of which are top tourist attractions. The Ari Synagogue is named after Rabbi Isaac Luria (The ‘Ari Hakadosh‘) who arrived here in 1570 and developed the Lurianic Kabbalah which teaches that secrets embedded in the Torah can reveal how to strengthen our relationship with God and our fellow man. The synagogue has a small alcove where the Ari is believed to have sat and studied with the spirit of the Prophet Elijah.The Gerigos Synagogue was built by Spanish Jews who had adopted Christianity under duress during the Spanish inquisition and arrived in Safed via the Greek island of Gerigos. On arrival in Safed they were not readily accepted by Safed Jews and built their synagogue on the outskirts of the city. The Ari would come to the field next to the Gerigo Synagogue to sing Psalms on a Friday afternoon welcoming the Sabbath. Following the Ari’s death the Gerigos Jews were accepted into the Jewish community and their synagogue was renamed Ari Ashkanazi after Ari’s Ashkanazi mother. The Ari Ashkanazi Synagogue holds the precious Elijah’s Chair where traditionally the godfather would sit during a baby’s circumcision ceremony. Tradition holds that if an infertile couple sits on the chair they will be blessed with a child within the year.The Joseph Caro Synagogue is named after Rabbi Joseph Caro a 15th century Spanish exile who had settled in Safed. He is believed to have been charged by God with the task of compiling an easily understandable yet comprehensive book of Jewish Law which would insure the continued practices and customs of the Torah by Jews at the time. It is believed that God sent an angel to sit with Caro in a Safed cave where he wrote this summery of Jewish Law called the Shulhan Ariuch. Rabbi Caro was head of the Rabbinical Court in Safed. The Joseph Caro Synagogue was built on top of the cave where he wrote the Shulhan Ariuch. The synagogue has an ornate handmade wooden Ark (where the Torah scrolls are kept) and it is possible to see the famous cave beneath the synagogue.The Abuhav Synagogue is an ornate place of worship with a domed ceiling painted with Kabalistic images. The synagogue holds ancient Torah scrolls which are still used in religious services including a 100 year old scroll written by Rabbi Abuhav.If you have time include a visit to Safed in your Israel itinerary, you won’t be disappointed!Liked this article? if you do, you are welcome to join our one day to tour to Safed.
By Petal Mashraki
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5 min

The Incredible St. George’s Monastery

For thousands of years people have sought solitude in the desert; a place of peace and contemplation. So it is understandable why throughout history religious sects have chosen to build their retreats and monasteries in remote desert or mountainous regions. St. George’s Monastery is the perfect example.The monastery is located in Israel’s Judean Desert in Wadi Qelt (Nahal Prat or Kelt River Canyon), a valley in the Israel-controlled eastern West Bank. The valley runs from Jerusalem to Jericho and the monastery is about 9km from Jericho and 20km from Jerusalem.The monastery appears to be clinging to the side of a steep cliff. The monastery is one of the most magical sights you will see on your travels. It will amaze religious travelers and those interested in history, archeology, architects and sociology. The monastery blends into the rock face and overlooks a lush garden with Cyprus and olive trees in the deep and narrow gorge of Wadi Qelt. The monastery is one of five monasteries in the Judean Desert.A Biblical LocationThe location has religious significance as Wadi Qelt is thought to be the Biblical Valley of the Shadow (Psalm 23) and it lies parallel to the old Roman road to Jericho where the parable of the Good Samaritan was set (Luke 10:29-37). The monastery is thought to be close to the cave where Elijah was fed by ravens (Kings I 17:5-6). St. Joachim (Mary’s father) is said to have stopped in a cave nearby to grieve over the barrenness of his wife St. Anne. An angel came to him in the cave to tell him that they would soon have a child.History of St. George’s MonasteryThe monastery complex dates back to the 4th century when a small group of Syrian monks sought solitude in the wilderness as the Biblical prophets did. They settled here because of the various religious associations with the location and specifically the cave of Elijah. In 480AD an Egyptian called John of Thebes established a chapel which became the monastery and by the 6th century it was a well known spiritual center. The monastery is named after Saint George of Choziba a Cyprian monk who lived in the monastery during the 6th century. The monastery was a meeting point for hermits who lived in nearby caves. They would gather at the monastery for weekly mass and religious events. In 614 the monastery was destroyed by the Persians the monks were massacred. During the Crusader era (1179) there were attempts to restore the structure but it again fell into disuse until 1878 when a Greek monk, Kallinikos began restoring the monastery. He completed the task in 1901. In 1952 the bell tower was added with its distinct aquamarine dome and in 2010 access to the monastery was improved by the laying of a new road.The monastery is still inhabited by a small group of dedicated monks who live according to ancient traditions.What is there to see?On a trip to the monastery you should dress modestly and act with respect as it is still a place of worship. You will see a Greek flag flying as the remaining residents are Greek Orthodox monks. The monastery is a welcoming and inviting place; like an oasis in the desert the resident monks will make you feel at home. Unlike many monasteries female visitors are welcome thanks the precedent set by a Byzantine woman who arrived at the monastery wanting to be healed and claiming that the Virgin Mary had directed her there. Although much of the structure has been restored the chapel remains in its original form. The monastery is built on three levels with two churches within the complex – the Church of the Holy Virgin and the Church of St. George and St. John. Both churches are rich with religious paintings, icons and mosaics. The Church of the Holy Virgin has a magnificent Byzantine mosaic featuring a double-headed eagle in black, red and white. There are 12th century doors in the church’s iconostasis. The Church of St. John and St. George has a 6th century mosaic floor and in the reliquary there are the bones of the monks massacred by the Persians in 614AD and the tomb of St. George. The crypt also holds the remains of the original five Syrian hermits who established the monastery with John of Thebes. You can follow the stairs from the inner courtyard down to the Cave Church of St. Elijah. There is a basket on a rope which is used to hoist supplies up to the cave. The cave has a tunnel which acted as an escape route to the top of the mountain. There is a balcony on the inner courtyard where you can look down on Roman aqueducts on the other side of the valley.How to Get to St. George’s MonasteryIf you want to explore the Wadi on your visit to the monastery then follow highway #1 from Jerusalem and take left at Mitzpe Jericho then left again and left at the T-junction. Here you can stop for views of the Wadi and follow a path down to the valley bed to see the remains of the aqueduct bridge. About 450 meters further on is a wooden bridge which crossed Nahal Prat with the Ein Qelt pool on your left. From here you can hike west along the stream to a series of pools in Lower Nahal Prat or go east following the red trail for 2km until you get to the St. George Monastery. Alternatively the monastery is not far from the Jerusalem-Dead Sea highway and from there you can reach the monastery entrance gate. From the gate it is about a 15 minute walk to the buildings. The monastery welcomes guests from Monday to Saturday 9am to 1pm and is free to enter. It is safe to travel to the monastery but probably better to take an organized tour rather than traveling solo – just in case you get lost in the wilderness!
By Petal Mashraki
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4 min

Ein Gedi: Israel’s Desert Oasis

As you drive down towards the Dead Sea you will pass a modest sign indicating that you are about to pass Ein Gedi (Ein=spring and Gedi=baby goat). Don’t miss the opportunity to see this magical oasis where water flows abundantly among lush vegetation, right in the middle of the desert just a few minutes from the Dead Sea. The Ein Gedi Nature Reserve and National Park has made the site’s waterfalls, rock formations and vegetation accessible to the public by creating a deck walkway through the attractive landscape and sign posted hike trails. The park covers 140000 dunam and includes Nahal David and Nahal Arugot two natural spring-fed streams which flow all year-round as well as Shulamit Spring and Ein Gedi Spring. The abundant water in such a dry environment is used for bottled water and for local agriculture. Alongside the nature reserve is Kibbutz Ein Gedi.Ein Gedi’s 5000 Year HistoryThis special place has a rich history which goes back to Biblical times. Ein Gedi is mentioned in Chronicles II 20:2 (called Hazazon Tamar in the Bible) as the place where the Ammonites and Moabites met before fighting King Josaphat. It is also mentioned in Genesis as an Amorite city; in Joshua as a city of the Judah Tribe; in Ezekiel as a fishing village and in Samuel I as the place where King David hid from King Saul. In Song of Songs the desert paradise is also mentioned. During the ancient times Ein Gedi was a source of balsam (a valuable sap extracted from a local tree and used as perfume and for healing in ancient times) which was exported throughout the Greco-Roman empire. The Roman historian Josephus Flavius also mentions Ein Gedi as one of the villages raided by the Jewish Sicarii inhabitants of Masada.Starting from the seventh century BC there was a Jewish village here for 1200 years. In the 3rd century they built a synagogue and the mosaic floor has survived until today. The mosaic features images of the ancient irrigation system, palm trees and plants.Flora and Fauna of Ein GediThe nature reserve is home to many types of plants including the Sodom apple tree, acacia, poplar tree and jujube. While here you are likely to see Nubian ibex, nimble creatures resembling goats which can climb along narrow cliff ridges. There is also the rock hyrax which is similar to a large guinea pig. These little creatures follow visitors as they walk along the walkway and wait for tidbits to eat.Kibbutz Ein Gedi AttractionsA short walk from the nature reserve oasis is Kibbutz Ein Gedi, established in 1956. The kibbutz is home to a beautiful botanical garden and the Ein Gedi Eco Park (a zoo and environmental education center). The kibbutz also provides accommodation to tourists with stunning views across the Dead Sea.Hiking at Ein GediThe national park has three main hike trails as well as several minor trails. The easiest route is the Lower David Stream Trail and leads to the David Waterfall and a natural pool where you can take a dip (about 1.5hrs). The Upper David Trail is for more experienced hikers and goes up to the Ein Gedi Spring and David Waterfall. The two main hike routes for visitors to the reserve are the David Stream and Arugot Stream routes. These are easy circular hiking routes of about 4km with many places to stop and bathe.When, Where and HowReach Ein Gedi on the Dead Sea road #90 between the desert and the western shore of the Dead Sea. An average visit lasts from 1.5 hours to a full day and the best seasons to visit are in spring, winter or fall. In the summer the temperatures can be scorching. The reserve is open April to September 8am-5pm and October to March 8am-4pm. The entrance fee is 29ILS for adults and 15ILS for children. If you just want to see the ancient synagogue the entrance fee is 15ILS for adults and 7ILS for children. Nearby attractions include the Dead Sea, Masada and Qumran. You can shop at the nearby factory shop for Dead Sea products and you can stay overnight at one of the luxury hotels at Ein Bokek or at the Ein Gedi Kibbutz Guesthouse, the field school or camp by the Dead Sea.Liked this article? Join our one day tour to Masada and Ein Gedi Reserve
By Petal Mashraki
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3 min

5 weekend Tips

Bein Harim Staff offer you some tips for the weekend1. relax2. go to the beach3. read a good book4. enjoy the company of good friends5. travel! join for a tour with us and get to know new places and new people! let’s start it!enjoy the weekend!!
By Petal Mashraki
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1 min