A Bird’s Eye View of Israel

Israel may not be the land of skyscrapers like some other countries but it does have a number of places where you can get a great view of the famous skylines and natural wonders. Here is a list of some of the best places in Israel to get a bird’s eye view. The list goes from northern Israel to Eilat in the south.Mount ManaraTake Israel’s longest cable car 1940 meters to the top of this mount which is part of the Natfali Mountain range. The mountain top is 750 meters above sea level. From the top you can see the Golan Heights, Galilee, Hermon Mountain, Hula Valley and Israel’s most beautiful farmlands. There are a range of fun activities at Mt. Manara including a mountain slide back to the bottom.Eshkol Tower, HaifaThis is the main campus tower of the University of Haifa on Mount Carmel. The observation deck is on the 27th floor of the 102 meter high tower and gives you sweeping views down the mountain side and across Haifa. It was designed by Oscar Niemeyer and was the first building in Israel to use the curtain wall system. The observation deck is not always open to the general public so call the Hecht Museum ahead of time.Yefe Nof Balcony, HaifaLooking down the beautiful terraced garden passed the golden-domed Shrine of the Bab you can see the city below and the sea beyond that. On a clear day you can see up and down the coast.Azrieli Center ,Tel-AvivThe ultimate observation deck in Tel-Aviv (and perhaps the most famous in the country) is on the top floor of the Azrieli Center Circular Tower, Tel-Aviv’s tallest building. The tower is one of a complex of three towers, a circular, square and triangular tower. The observation deck is completely enclosed and gives you a 360° view of the city below. It is on the 49th floor and also has a kosher fine-dining restaurant. There are telescopes and informative maps indicating the sites below. The observation deck is accessed by elevator from the mall at the bottom of the tower.Rehavam Ze’evi Observation Point,JerusalemThis promenade on the edge of the Mount of Olives looks down over an ancient cemetery. You can look out across the hills of Jerusalem and across the Old City walls to the Dome of the Rock.Mitzpe Rimon Visitor’s CenterRamon Crater bird viewPerched 300 meters above the Ramon Crater this center provides not only an amazing view across the crater and Negev Desert but also informative audio-visual presentations and models of the local geography. There is a rooftop observatory where you can look down onto the dramatic desert landscape.Underwater Observation Tower, EilatEilat underwater observatoryOn a visit to the marine park where there are aquariums, 3D films and many marine related attractions you can also enjoy a view across the Eilat coastline. A distinctive white tower is located at the end of a walkway which juts out into the Red Sea. You can walk up a spiral staircase to the windy top of the tower and look out across Eilat. You can also descend beneath sea level and visit the underwater observation deck!
By Petal Mashraki
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2 min

A Coin Exhibition at the Davidson Center

Coins have always been, first and foremost, a means of payment, but they have also been used to communicate messages. We also look at coins for the evidence they provide for commercial, religious and cultural relations. The coins that found their way to Jerusalem, are testimonies to the importance of the capital as a cosmopolitan center and focus of pilgrimage. In times of peace, Jerusalem attracted visitors, traders and pilgrims of all religions. In times of war, the political and strategic importance of Jerusalem brought invading and conquering armies into the city. All these visitors also left their mark in the coin finds in Jerusalem, especially from the excavations close to the Temple Mount.This exhibition focuses on the international character of Jerusalem, and of the Temple Mount in particular, by showing a selection of hoards and isolated coins discovered during the excavations of Prof. Benjamin Mazar between 1968 and 1977. The wide geographic provenance of these coins extends from the Sasanian empire in Persia, Chartres in France and Carthage in North Africa. The coins provide exceptional insight into the relationships between different peoples, the coins they used and the value they placed in those coins.All the Roads Lead to JerusalemDuring excavations in Jerusalem, and close to the Temple Mount in particular, a large number of coins coming from distant places in the Mediterranean was found. The ten coins exhibited here represent a wide range of mints, periods and materials. Some of the coins are most unusual in our region, such as the silver drachm from Ephesos in Ionia, southwest Turkey; the gold aureus of emperor Tacitus struck in Rome and the bronze follis of the Byzantine emperor Constantine IV minted in Syracuse, Sicily. Other coins, such as Carthage or Ravenna – whose provenance might seem curious – were actually integral part of the coins in circulation during the fifth and sixth centuries CE. Some of the cities mentioned here, such as Constantinople (today Istanbul), Antioch in Syria and Alexandria in Egypt constitute the most common mints from which coins circulated in our region in the Hellenistic through the Byzantine periods. Some of these “foreign” coins also figure in the Jewish tradition. For instance, the silver sheqels and half-sheqels minted in Tyre (in Lebanon), were singled out as the ideal means of payment of the half-sheqel head tax to the Jerusalem Temple.The Sasanian Coin HoardEleven Sasanian silver drachms from the hoard are exhibited here. The hoard was discovered within a drainage channel which was part of the central sewage drain of a large public latrine, built in the Roman period and still in use during the Byzantine period. It seems that the owner lost this handful of coins around 535 CE, at the time he was in the public latrine. The coins in the hoard date from the period between governor Peroz (463-484 CE) to the days of king Khusro I (531-535 CE). The coins come from several cities in Iran, among them Shiraz, Kerman, Ray, Hamadan (Echbatana) and Merv. These types of coins are characteristic of the Sasanian rulers in Iran. On one side is the bust of the king and an inscription in Pahlevic; on the other side is an altar flanked by two priests. Depicted is a sacrifice scene, deriving from Zoroastrianism. Sasanian coins minted before the Persian conquest of 614 CE are quite rare finds in Israel. The coins are evidence of the peaceful relations between the Byzantine empire and the Sasanian kingdom during that period.The Fatimid Coin HoardThree gold Fatimid hoards were discovered in 1968-1969. The hoard exhibited here includes fifty-one gold coins, dinars and quarter-dinars, dated from 982 to 1095 CE. Most of the coins were minted during the last fifteen years of reign of caliph Al-Mustansir (1036-1094 CE). This ruler is known as the one who brought the Fatimid dynasty to its zenith. The high gold content of the coins gives evidence to the dynasty’s prosperous economy. The design on most of the coins is a central “bull’s eye” with three concentric circles of legends around it. The majority of the coins were struck in Egypt and North Africa, in Misr (Cairo, Fustat), Alexandria, al-Mansuriyya and Mahadiyya; a number of coins were struck in Syria-Tripolis, Akko and Tyre. One dinar is not Fatimid but Almoravid, from the city of Sijilmasa in Algeria.The latest coins in the hoardare dated to year 1095 CE, when Jerusalem was under Seljuk rule. Therefore, it seems likely that the coins were brought to the city when the Fatimids reconquered Jerusalem in 1098 CE. A short time later, in 1099 CE, the city was conquered by the Crusaders. Presumably, coins were hidden in this occasion. The uniformity of the hoard, and the historical circumstances, suggest that this is an emergency hoard, abruptly concealed upon the Crusader’s arrival and never recovered by its owner.A Hoard of Feudal French Coins and a Papal BullaA hoard of French coins and a lead papal bulla dated to the Crusader period were uncovered during the excavations in 1968 and 1971. Both exceptional finds are dated to the twelfth century CE and were found in a sector that was under the control of the Order of the Templars. The hoard was discovered in a drain channel; the bulla within a room surrounded by walls of the Crusader period. The hoard yields seventy-five debased silver thin deniers, seventy-four struck in the city of Chartres, and one minted in Blois. The coins are anonymous, most probably dated to the time of count Thibaut V (1152-1191). All the Chartrain coins belong to the same type, depicting a stylized head of a king on the obverse, and on the reverse a Maltese cross surrounded by the inscription: +CARTIS CIVITAS.Similar hoards were discovered in France and elsewhere in the Mediterranean, along the routes used by the Crusaders. Due to the chronic lack of local coinage in the Latin Kingdom’s treasure, European currencies flood the East and circulated alongside with the local coins. The uniformity of the hoard suggests that the coins arrived in Jerusalem from Europe already as a single group, most probably belonging to a pilgrim or knight who deposited them for safekeeping with the Templars. The lead bulla, naming Pope Alexander III (1159-1181 CE) was impressed in Rome. Lead bullas were used as official seals on important documents, and were frequently utilized by officials of the Latin Kingdom. While several bullas have been discovered in our region, papal bullas are extremely rare. This is the first bulla of its type ever discovered in an archaeological excavation. The name of the pope is inscribed on one side; the portraits of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, fathers of the Christian church, appear on the other side, together with abbreviations of their names: S(ANCTVS) PA(VLVS) S(ANCTVS) PE(TRVS). The appearance of this bulla in Jerusalem is evidence to the close relations existing between Rome and the Holy City during the tenure of Alexander III. His papacy is characterized by a large number of edicts issued to the Latin Kingdom in general and the Order of the Templars in particular. It seems most likely that the hoard and the bulla were among the possessions which the Templars abandoned when the city of Jerusalem capitulated to Saladin in 1187.Acknowledgments:Curators: Gabriela Bijovsky, Dr. Hava Katz, Israel Antiquities AuthorityDesign and Production: Studio Avidani, JerusalemProject manager: Gad KlierStudio photography: Clara Amit, Israel Antiquities AuthoritField photography: Israel Antiquities Authority; Dr. Eilat MazarCoin illustrations: Pnina AradArabic translation: Fawzi IbrahimEditing: Dr. Zvi Gal, Dr. Donald T. Ariel, Israel Antiquities AuthorityCoin Loans: Israel Antiquities Authority
By Petal Mashraki
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5 min

A tour in the Jaffa Market

To get a feel of real Middle Eastern character there is nothing better than a tour in one of Israel’s traditional markets or shuks. Perhaps one of the most atmospheric is the Jaffa shuk in Jaffa which is right next to Tel Aviv. The Jaffa flea market consists of several parts. There is a long street where each store front spills onto the sidewalk selling antiques, some genuine and some genuinely junk.Here many avid antique collectors scourge the second hand furniture stores, Persian carpet stores, and bric-a-brac stores which sell mainly old things rather than antique things. One street over there is a covered bazaar, a narrow row of vendors sell from hole-in-the-wall stores an assortment of clothing, old and new, jewelry and second hand goods. The clothes and other items for sale hang above your head and on every available stretch of wall. Outside in the open air the Jaffa market continues with household goods, DIY equipment, ceramics, toys, musical instruments and even the kitchen sink. You will also find local places to eat in this area which is safe to walk about in even if you are on your own.
By Petal Mashraki
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1 min

A visit to the Jerusalem Shopping Malls

In Israel a mall is referred to as a “canyon” pronounced the same way as the Grand “Canyon”. You will find many Israeli brands, international brand stores and a wide range of entertainment opportunities in the malls. Jerusalem in particular has a number of large and impressive malls.Malcha MallLocated in the affluent south west Jerusalem Malcha neighborhood this is the city’s largest shopping mall. The mall has more than 250 stores spread over three levels with a total of 37,000m² of commercial space. The stores include Zara, H&M, Office Depot, Mango, SuperPharm, Toys R Us and supermarkets. In addition to the stores there are service oriented businesses like banks, tailoring services, ATMs, opticians, money changers, hairdressers, florists, post office and spa treatment services. You can even find play areas here and a synagogue as well as cinemas. There is a huge food court which is completely kosher. There is parking for up to 3,000 cars, the first two hours are free and after that each hour costs 5ILS. Open hours are Sunday to Thursday 09:30 – 22:00 and Friday 09:30 – 15:00. The mall is closed from 15:00 on Friday until an hour after sundown on Saturday and until 23:00 on Saturday night.Mamila MallLocated next to Jaffa Gate of the Old City this is one of the most attractive malls in the city. The mall consists of a central promenade with boutique-style stores on either side. Following the mall promenade from the entrance on King David Street all the way to the end you will be able to walk right into the Old City. There are two levels to the mall which also connects to a luxury hotel. There are a number of cafes with outdoor seating; the café’s on the upper level have great views onto the Old City. Mamila Mall is open from Sunday to Thursday 10:00 to 23:00; Friday 09:30 to 15:30 and on Saturdays from one hour after sundown until 23:00. The mall parking is free for the first hour, 12ILS for each consecutive hour (or 3ILS for each 15 minutes) and alternatively 48ILS for the whole day.Center 1 MallLocated at the Central Bus Station this is a very convenient mall to reach. The mall has two floors with about 70 stores spread over 15,000m² of commercial space. There is covered parking for a fee. The mall is geared towards the Orthodox Jewish community with all of the food outlets being Kosher Mehadrin (Glatt) and the lady’s only gym, Lady Giraffe Gym is located here. Perhaps the biggest plus point of this mall is that you can wait for your bus in the air conditioned mall! The mall is open Sunday to Thursday 10:00 to 21:00, Friday 10:00 to 15:00 and on Saturday from an hour after sundown until midnight.Lev Talpiot MallThis is a mall for those looking for plenty of activities as there are a number of great places of entertainment especially for the young and young at heart. The mall is located at 17 Haoman in the Talpiot neighborhood and has about 90 stores. The entertainment venues are concentrated on the roof top where there is mini-golf, trampoline bungee, water ball (where you are inside a giant ball rolling on the surface of the water) and a dance bar. The mall is across the street from a movie complex. The mall has a bowling alley, restaurants and cafes. The mall is open Sunday to Thursday 09:00 to 20:30; Friday from 09:00 to 14:30 and Saturday from half an hour after sundown until 23:00.
By Petal Mashraki
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3 min

April 2015 Events in Israel

April is a great time to visit Israel, not only is the weather perfect but there are many events and religious holidays. Here are the top events, holidays and happenings in Israel in April 2015.April 3-10 – Passover, across the countryPassoverThe Jewish Passover holiday lasts for 8 days. The first day of Passover is kept like a religious Shabbat – it is a non-working day, stores and places of entertainment are closed. Most Jewish Israeli’s spend this first day with their families. During the rest of Passover everything is open and Israeli kids have a school holiday. Some companies work half-day throughout the Passover week. The one difference which visitors will notice is that bread and products made with flour are almost completely unavailable. Many restaurants now make bread and rolls without flour during Passover and in Arab cities and some remote stores you will still be able to get bread. At the end of the week-long Passover holiday there is another one-day religious holiday observed like a Shabbat. As you can see from the following list there are many events, activities and festivals during Passover so it is a great time to visit Israel. With all Jewish holidays remember that the holiday begins at sundown the night before and continues until sundown on the day of the holiday. So for example this year Passover begins at sundown on 3rd April and continues until sundown on the 4th April.April 2-5 – Easter, JerusalemIf you are in Jerusalem on March 29th then you can join in the procession which goes from the Mount of Olives, through the Old City to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Priests and Christians from around the world carry palm fronds, sing, pray and chant as they make the procession. Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday) is on the 2nd April, traditionally the Patriarch of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre washes the feet of his priests mirroring the actions of Jesus as he washed his disciples’ feet. There are special prayer services in many churches especially in the Old City of Jerusalem.On Good Friday (3rd April) you can join in the procession of people who follow the Via Dolorosa through the Old City. This is the route Jesus took carrying his cross towards his crucifixion. The procession ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is unique and once-in-a-life-time experience for Christians visiting the Holy Land. Easter Sunday on the 5th April is marked with the Catholic Easter Mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Protestants hold a service at the Garden Tomb early in the morning and watch the sunrise. At noon the Ceremony of the Holy Fire is held in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, church bells ring, candles are lit and there is a spiritual atmosphere throughout the Christian Quarter of the Old City.April 6-8 – Stone in the Galilee Sculpture SymposiumStone in the Galilee Sculpture SymposiumIf you want to get out of the city and see a little of Israel’s magnificent countryside then take a trip to Ma’a lot Tarshiha. Ma’a lot Tarshiha lies inland from Nahariya. It is a city established in the 1960s by merging the Arab town of Tarshiha with the Jewish town of Ma’a lot. On the edge of the city is the beautiful man-made Lake Monfort with landscaped gardens surrounding it. At this annual symposium sculptors from Israel and abroad create sculptures from large blocks of Galilee stone. The creations are displayed near the lake. Each year there is a theme to the symposium and this year it is “Futuristic Stone Sculptures.” After seeing the sculptures you can enjoy the beautiful surroundings. There will be arts and crafts stalls, food on sale, activities for families and much more. For more details see the Ma’a lot Tarshiha website – maltar.org.il.April 5-8 – Ein Gev Music FestivalThis annual Hebrew song festival has been held for more than 70 consecutive years at the Ein Gev Kibbutz on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The festival features live musical performances by well known, and lesser known singers. The music is mainly Israeli music and choral singing. In addition to the musical portion of the festival there will be activities in the port area, children’s shows and mini-train rides around the kibbutz. The kibbutz is one of the most beautiful in the area and has many facilities for visitors including a restaurant, camping and guesthouse.April 10 – MimounaWhen Passover is finished as the sun goes down on the 10th April religious Jews who have abstained from eating bread or other foods containing flour for an entire week celebrate with the Mimouna! Mimouna is a Moroccan tradition with singing, dancing, traditional Moroccan costumes and lots of delicious food. Each city organizes a Mimouna in tents, parks or halls but perhaps the most impressive place to join in the Mimouna is at Gan Sacher, Jerusalem. The evening starts with the Moroccan women kneading dough, then they prepare the traditional mofletta, fried crepe-like dough that is then smothered with honey. Although it is essentially a Moroccan tradition today Israelis from all ethnic groups join in. Some people hold a Mimouna party in their homes and it is traditional to leave the front door open and welcome in all guests without invitation.April 7-11 – Zorba the Buddha Festival, Ashram DesertThis 5 day festival includes workshops, parties, concerts and a gathering of fun and peace loving people. The motto of the festival is “Think Less, Feel More!” The festival is a celebration of the whole being. The festival will be divided into several areas. The in the main area you can explore meditation with live music, see performances and take yoga classes. Other areas of the festival include breathing rebirthing workshops, Osho workshops, alternative therapies including tribal fusion and hi Kong. There will be theatre, role playing, yoga, healing circles, Shamanism workshops, music for the soul, health workshops, acrobalance, Sangha and much more. Entrance to the festival is for those over 21 years looking for silence, meditation and peace. The Ashram is in the Shitim settlement on route 40. For more information call 052-5443349 or visit the Ashram website.April 16 – Holocaust Memorial DayHolocaust Day is a normal working day and your travel plans won’t be disturbed too much by this day. There are ceremonies and the laying of wreaths at certain memorials throughout the country but kids go to school and adults go to work. Like all Jewish holidays Holocaust Memorial Day starts the night before at sundown on the 15th April and ends at sundown on the 16th April. At 10am on the 16th an air-raid siren is sounded across the country and everyone, no matter where they are or what they are doing, stops and stands still for a minute in memory of those lost in the Holocaust.April 5-9 – Holon Design WeekA variety of events and exhibitions will be held for the whole family at the Design Museum Holon. This will be the 5th year that the event has been held. There will be two new exhibitions on display as well as a selection of the museum collection. In addition to the exhibitions at the museums there will be design exhibition in the municipal galleries around the city. At the Israel Center for Digital Art in Holon there will be a sound exhibition and the Israel Cartoon Museum will also be launching a new exhibition. During Design Week there will be activities at the Holon Institute of Technology as at the Mediatheque Complex Holon. During Design Week entrance to the Design Museum will be reduced to 20ILS for adults and kids up to 18 years old enter for free. For more details about events and exhibitions contact the Holon Design Museum at +972 7 32151515 or at info@dmh.org.il.April 23– Israel Independence Day (Yom HaAtzmaut)Israel Independence Day (Yom HaAtzmaut), across countryIf you like to party then this is one of the best days of the year to visit Israel. In each city the municipalities set up public stages and there are live performances. The streets are decorated and there are food stalls, entertainment, bright lights and lots of fun. In the larger cities nightclubs hold special parties all night long and the next day if you are not sleeping off a hang-over there are more activities. The parties are from sundown on the 22nd April.
By Petal Mashraki
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6 min

Attractions in Tel Aviv for Hipsters

Hipsters are always looking for cool unusual things to do no matter if they are in their local neighborhood or on vacation. Even Tel Aviv has its hipster hang-outs and hipster clubs, pubs, cafes and attractions. Here are some great ideas for hipsters in Tel Aviv.Hipsters love the urban vibe, melting pot of cultures, indie music, alternative styles, non-mainstream fashion from vintage to thrift stores and organic artisan food. These gentrified bohemians will feel right at home in Tel Aviv.Tel Aviv Hipster HotelsTel Aviv is full of hipster-friendly hotels like Brown Hotel TLV where there is a hot bar scene and worn leather wing chairs in the lobby. Mendeli Street Hotel is a chic beach-side hotel popular with solo hipster travelers who enjoy the integrated local art and the boutique feel of this remodeled 70s Brutalist building.Tel Aviv’s Hipster NeighborhoodsYou’ll find yuppie hipsters hanging out in cafes in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood. This is a picturesque part of the city with many restored historic buildings. The neighborhood boasts quaint book stores, art galleries and trendy bars along Shabazi Street.Neve TzedekFlorentin is Tel Aviv’s ultimate Hipster neighborhood and it has been compared to New York City’s Brooklyn. Florentin took second place in a list of top international Hipster neighborhoods. The neighborhood even inspired a television series about the cool young residents of this area. If you ignore the more run down parts of Florentin you can enjoy the many cozy cafes, friendly bars and delicious food with local artists, students, foreign residents and up and coming entrepreneurs. Check out Taxidermy Bar with its unique décor or mellow at The Pasaz Allenby. Rothschild 12 is a good place for free live entertainment and urban-chic while Satchmo is the place to go for hip jazz. Tel Aviv has some innovative art museums and independent galleries; many are located on Gordon Street. In Holon hipsters will love the Design Museum and the Israeli Museum of Caricature and Comics. Hipsters should also check out Shenkin Street for bohemian chic, Rothschild Boulevard and the organic farmers’ market at Tel Aviv Port.Hipster Nightlife in Tel AvivFlorentin is also the neighborhood to head to when the sun goes down as the best nightclubs are here including Hoodna. Radio EPGB is a bar for trendsetters but it is not easy to find and so maintains some of its exclusive feel. You’ll hear great music like the Beatles, Don McLean and Radiohead and on Sundays there is a drag show. HaMinzar at Allenby 60 is one of the cool hipster bar/restaurants in Tel Aviv. It is an unassuming space but the food is delicious and the people fascinating.Tel Aviv is literally hipster heaven. Everywhere you look there is some cool individual trying something new or reinventing what already exists in the most hip and indie way.
By Petal Mashraki
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2 min

Banias

The lush green surroundings of the Banias River forever put to rest the mistaken notion that Israel is a desert! In this popular northern nature reserve, the snow and rain soaked up by 2,800-meter-high Mount Hermon emerge as the chilling headwaters of the Jordan River. Mint, bramble and willow grace its banks, shaded by majestic oriental plane trees. Furry coneys sun themselves on the rocks, warblers chirp in the thickets and kestrels tend their nests in the cliffs.The ancient niches and inscriptions in those cliffs inspired archaeological excavations that revealed massive temples and walls. While touring the ruins, visitors learn how the ancient Greeks identified this site, with its shaded pools, cascades and rivulets, as the home of nature-loving Pan. They built a shrine to this mischievous demi-god, naming it Paneas, which in the Arabic pronunciation became Banias.Touring routes at Banias range from about 45 minutes to two hours, taking in both its magnificent remnants of the past and its natural wonders. In Roman times Herod the Great built a temple near the spring, and his son Philip embellished what by then had become a city, naming it Caesarea Philippi. That is the New Testament name for Banias, where Jesus charged Peter with founding the Church (Matt. 16:13–20). High above the spring, the Druze faith maintains a holy place to Elijah the Prophet. In medieval times the Muslim city that stood here was also home to Jews and Karaites and was eventually fortified by the Crusaders.
By Petal Mashraki
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1 min

Camping Around the Sea of Galilee

When you camp around the Kinneret you are literally camping “around” the Kinneret as you can see from the campground names which are usually identified with the name of the beach they occupy. Israelis love to camp and you can find campgrounds suited for families and others more suited to youngsters. Here we have listed some of the facilities on offer at each site but there may be more facilities. Take into account that during the Israeli school holidays the campgrounds get very full and very noisy with individual sound systems and all night gatherings around a BBQ. But another thing about Israelis is they love to include all those around them so you won’t be left out. Camping is a great way to meet the locals. There is no ideal location to camp on the Kinneret as the total distance around the Sea of Galilee is 55km so everything is pretty close. Whether you want to be close to Tiberius would perhaps be the only factor to consider in terms of location. Otherwise choose the style of campground you prefer and the one with the facilities you need.Jordan Park CampgroundThis campground is run by the JNF (Keren Kayemet L’Yisrael or KKL) and is within the Jordan Park which covers 250 acres northeast of the Kinneret alongside the eastern channel of the Jordan River. It is one of the area’s largest campgrounds. The campground is free to enter if you walk in but there is a fee per car. At several points in the park there are streams from the Jordan River, and some deep enough to swim. Here you can find electricity outlets, lighting, rest rooms, showers, water coolers, camping tables, a small amusement park, mini-market, lawns and a place to pitch your tent. Uba Kayak, a popular kayak rental business is located in the park. You can kayak on the Jordan River from here. Nearby there is an opportunity to go horseback riding. This is considered a unique camp site and is operated from April to November.Amnon BeachLocated near Kfar Nahum at the northern end of the Kinneret this camp site has many facilities and is popular with Christians who recognize this site as Capernaum. Tents and caravans can use this site and there are picnic tables, benches, shaded areas, showers, rest rooms and parking. In the summer there are water sports and attractions for the kids. You can enjoy a buffet breakfast from the beach cafeteria and if you keep Shabbat you can pre-order food for the Sabbath. You can rent mattresses and chairs from the cafeteria as well. The beach is not serviced by a lifeguard. Price of camping (at time of publication) 150ILS per car for 24 hours.Bereniki BeachStretching for over 2.5km to the west of the Sea of Galilee this is a quiet beach near to Tiberius which is popular with Israeli families and youths. It has shady trees, night lighting, showers (cold water only), rest rooms, cafeteria, tables, umbrellas, chairs (no charge), BBQ stands and campers are allowed to play music. There is a small area which is serviced by a life guard and swimming is only allowed in this area from 9am to 5pm. The rest of the beach is an unofficial beach and swimming is at your own risk. The beach is wheelchair friendly. Here as with many of the camp beaches you pay for the parking rather than the camping. It costs 5.9ILS for each of the first 3 hours and 2.1 for each hour after that so 24 hours camping would cost you 61.8ILS.Dugit BeachThis campsite is located on the northeastern side of the Sea of Galilee and is considered one of the most beautiful beaches surrounded by a picturesque forest. Here you can canoe, sail and partake of other water sports. There is room for tents, a mini-market, cafeteria and restaurant. There are cold water showers, rest rooms, lighting and life guard service. Playing load music and even bringing load speakers into the area is strictly forbidden. Here (like most of the Sea of Galilee campgrounds) you pay for the parking (62ILS for 24 hours) and can then camp. The fee is by the hour. The campsite is wheelchair accessible and chairs and tables can be rented.Gofra BeachOffering room for up to 300 tents this camp ground on the eastern shore of the lake 2km north of Ein Gev has rest rooms, showers, a mini-market, cafeteria, camping equipment, small refrigerators for rent, playgrounds and moorings for boats. The facilities and accommodation options are expansive. The site only operates during the spring and summer. There is daily cleaning of the beach, lifeguard service, BBQ stands and a beautiful 1,500 meter long beach and small forest. Access to the beach is only on foot. This campsite is suitable for caravans or you could rent one of their caravans for 250ILS for 24 hours. You can even rent a tent which has 6 mattresses, chairs and tables.Green BeachThis is a Blue Flag beach and one of the most beautiful in the area. This beach-park camp ground is 3km north of Nof Ginossar on the northwestern side of the Sea of Galilee. It is a well kept beach with lawns up to the sand and shady trees. There are parking, showers, rest rooms, camping tables, lighting and a convenience store. The park operates year round. Animals, jet skis, sound systems and generators are prohibited. It is possible to rent tents, mattresses, tables and chairs. One tent, a table and 4 chairs will cost you 245ILS for the night. You can bring your caravan to this campsite or rent one (750ILS-1799ILS). The camp ground offers several deals like tent, mattress, chair, table and breakfast for 119ILS per person.Haon BeachThe campsite is next to the Haon Holiday Village, south of Kibbutz Haon and the beach is shared by guests of the Holiday Village and campers. The beach runs for 1km and there is life guard service. There are rest rooms, showers, tables, benches, umbrellas, refrigerator rental, electrical outlets and BBQ stands. There is wheelchair access to the campsite but no organized wheelchair access to the water.Jordan-Kinneret Beach This beach runs for 0.5km and is a family beach campground. For this reason it is a quieter beach than others and amplifying sound systems are prohibited. Playing music (not using an amplifier) is allowed from 8am to 11pm. There is no lifeguard service. The campground offers rest rooms, showers (with 24 hours hot water), picnic tables, mini-market, refrigerator rental, lighting and a place to recharge mobile phones. The campsite is not suitable for wheelchair access.Lavnun BeachThe Luvnun Beach is a string of three beaches together with Halukim and Kursi so there are three areas for pitching a tent. The site offers water sports (kayaks, water skiing, paddle boats etc). You will find drinking water, a place to wash your dishes, ball courts, restaurant, cold water showers, a place to recharge mobile phones and an exciting, young atmosphere. This beach is popular with the young Israeli crowds so expect plenty of noise especially during the Israeli holidays. Israeli teens like to camp here and bring their karaoke machines, so expect an all night party. There is life guard service but limited wheelchair access. Cost is approximately 70ILS for 24 hours for parking and camping.Sussita BeachJust north of Ein Gev this beach is about 0.5km long on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee and is managed by the Ein Gev Kibbutz. It is named after a car which used to be produced in Israel and has sentimental significance for a lot of Israelis. This is an unofficial beach so there is no life guard service and swimming is not allowed. The campground operates from April to the end of October. Groups camping on the grass area near the beach should be pre-arranged but you can pitch your tent on the beach as well. There are tables, rest rooms, shade, lighting, showers and a cafeteria. The beach is not wheelchair friendly as there are 11 steps down from the parking lot to the beach. Cost of camping here is 100ILS per car.Tzinbari BeachThis is one of the Kinneret’s most famous beaches and camp sites, it is a venue for many summer festivals. The beach runs for 1km and there is life guard service in a small central area from 9am to 5pm. Here you will find water slides, a babies pool, electrical outlets, lighting, a place to pitch your tent, indoor lodging, beach umbrellas, shade, chairs, locker rooms, cold water showers, place to recharge mobile phones, rest rooms, water sports, lighting, a restaurant, loads of parking and wheelchair access is limited due to stones and pebbles plus reaching the water requires going down several steps. Amplified sound systems are not allowed in the southern part of the area which is indicated by signs.
By Petal Mashraki
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6 min

Christian holidays in Israel

As with other Christian communities across the globe Israeli Christians celebrate the traditional religious holidays although as a Jewish country the Christian holidays are not national holidays. If you want to enjoy Christian holidays in Israel you should head for the largest Christian communities which congregate in Nazareth, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Israel is home to a number of Christian denominations including Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Ethiopians and Copts as well as other smaller denominations. Sometimes the denominations celebrate the Christian holidays on different days and have additional holy days unique to their faith.Christmas is observed by most Christians on December 25th. Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 6th– 7th 2014 with a procession from Jerusalem’s Old City to the Monastery of Mar Elias and on to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem where midnight services are held. Armenians celebrate Christmas on January 19th.Palm Sunday (April 13th 2014) is celebrated by Catholics and Protestant Christians who walk from the Mount of Olives down into the Old City as they sing and hold palm fronds. The Orthodox and Armenian communities together with other Christian denominations enjoy a procession through the Holy Sepulchre with palm fronds.Good Friday (April 18th 2014) sees Christians following the Via Dolorosa through Jerusalem’s Old City. Other ceremonies are held at the Garden Tomb.Holy Saturday sees the Patriarch perform the Ceremony of the Holy Fire as he lights a candle in the tomb and soon the church is full of Christians holding lit candles.Easter Sunday (April 20th 2014) the Orthodox Armenian and Catholic communities attend mass in churches across the country including the Holy Sepulchre. Protestants attend the Sunrise Service at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem.Easter Monday at Emmaus is marked by masses in various Catholic churches and some pilgrims make the 30km walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus-Latrun for mass.Ascension Day (28th-29th May 2014) is celebrated by Catholics at the Chapel of the Ascension, a midnight mass continues until morning followed by a procession to Viri Galilei and back.Pentecost (June 8th 2014) is celebrated 50 days after Easter when the Holy Spirit descended to the Apostles.Exaltation of the Holy Cross is celebrated by Catholics (14th September 2014) with mass at Calvary in the Holy Sepulchre; an Orthodox (26th-27th September 2014) evening procession goes from the Chapel of St. Helena in Deir el-Sultan to the Holy Sepulchre and the Armenians (28th September 2014) celebrate with morning Divine Liturgy in St. James Cathedral, Jerusalem.In addition to the above Christian holidays in Israel Catholics celebrate many additional feast days and events including: the Eve of Epiphany (5th and 6th January 2014); the Feast of the Annunciation (24th-25th March 2014) is celebrated with a procession through Nazareth to the Church of the Annunciation where vespers are held and mass the following day; the Visitation of the Virgin Mary (31st May 2014) is celebrated in Ein Kerem and Jerusalem culminating with a procession through the Christian Quarter; Nativity of St. John the Baptist (24th June 2014); on Assumption Day (August 15th 2014) Catholics gather at the Church of the Domination on Mt. Zion; Nativity of Mary (8th September 2014) is celebrated with mass at St. Anne’s Church in Jerusalem and the celebration of the Immaculate Conception (8th December 2014).Additional Orthodox Christian holy days include the Feast of St. Basil (January 1st 2014); the Feast of St. Simeon (16th February 2014) is celebrated in the house of St. Simeon in Katamon, Jerusalem; Dormition of the Theotokos (August 15th 2014) and the Nativity of Mary (21st September 2014) celebrated in Jerusalem’s St. Anne’s Church.The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the finding of the head of St. John the Baptist (9th March 2014) at the monastery on the Mount of Olives with morning services.The Ethiopian Orthodox Christian community celebrates Timkat (January 19th 2014) in Jerusalem Old City’s Ethiopian Church. Many of the events mentioned for Orthodox Christians are observed by the Ethiopian community.In addition to the other Christian holidays the Armenian community celebrates the Feast of St. James the Minor (11th January 2014) with a service in St. James Cathedral in Jerusalem; the Feast of St. Vartan the Warrior (24th February 2014) is celebrated with morning services in St. James Cathedral and the Feast of the Holy Cross of Varak (12th October 2014) is celebrated in the Holy Sepulchre.
By Petal Mashraki
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3 min

Churches of Nazareth

Nazareth, in northern Israel has one of the country’s largest Christian communities; it was the Holy Family’s Biblical home town where Jesus spent about 25 years of his life. The modern city has about 30 Christian places of worship several built over holy sites marking where Biblical events took place.Church of the AnnunciationPerhaps Nazareth’s most famous church, this basilica stands on the spot believed by the Roman Catholic Church to be where the Angel Gabriel appeared before Mary and told her she would have a son who would be the son of G-d. The Greek Orthodox and Coptic Church have alternative annunciation sites in Nazareth. The church that stands today was constructed in 1969 over Byzantine and Crusader churches which were also constructed to commemorate the site of this holy event. The church has two levels the lower level is an excavated Roman-era dwelling or grotto believed to have been Mary’s childhood home. The remains of the earlier Byzantine church and Crusader church can be seen in the grotto. The grotto has a 5th century floor mosaic and holds an 18th century altar next to two 4th century columns. There are stairs leading to a small cave called Mary’s kitchen, from there an exit leads to the courtyard. The upper level serves as the parish church. The Upper Church has a 51.8 meter high cupola which lets in natural light. In the church courtyard there are 43 mosaics depicting Mary and child, each mosaic comes from a Christian community in a different nation around the world. Each figure of Mary is depicted with the physical characteristics and traditional dress as the country the mosaic came from, so for example the Singaporean Mary has slanted Asian eyes.St Gabriel Greek Orthodox Church of the AnnunciationNot to be confused with the Greek Catholic Orthodox Church this church is located in downtown Nazareth near Mary’s Well and according to the Greek Orthodox tradition was the site of the annunciation. Several churches have been built and then destroyed over this holy site; the present church was constructed in 1767 on the ruins of a Crusader church. The church has a simple exterior with a tall thin bell tower while the interior is more elaborate. There is a traditional Templon, or dividing screen separating the hall of the church from the altar area. The screen is of carved wood and decorated wood panels with brightly colored paintings of religious icons and scenes from the Bible. The spring where Mary went to draw water is located in the crypt of the church and still flows today. Visitors can see the well and 1,000 year old steps leading down to the spring. The grotto walls are cool and you can hear the gentle flow of the water and see grooves in the side of the well where the ropes holding buckets must have dug into the stone.Greek Catholic ChurchThis church constructed in 1887 stands in the Nazareth old market adjacent to the Synagogue Church. The Greek Orthodox Catholics or Melkites are a separate denomination to the Greek Orthodox having split from the church in 1724. Today the Melkites make up about 25% of Christians in Israel. Visitors enter the church through a gated courtyard; the Synagogue Church is entered through the same gate. Inside a traditional Templon or decorated screen separates the altar area from the main body of the church. Above the screen are paintings of religious icons. The interior is predominantly white with art work and gold decoration. There are elaborate chandeliers and a gold painted wooden priest’s chair imported from Greece. The exterior has two tall bell towers. Within the Melkite compound is a school, guesthouse and convent.Synagogue ChurchSynagogue ChurchAs Jesus spent part of his childhood in Nazareth, in his parent’s Jewish community, he would have prayed in a synagogue thought to have stood where this church now stands. The church is located in the center of the Old City marketplace adjacent to the Greek Catholic Church and is administered by the Melkite Greek Catholics. The Bible tells us that it was here that Jesus proclaimed he was the Son of G-d. His claim to be the Messiah enraged the people who then led him to the Mount of Precipice where they attempted to throw him to his death. A 12th century Crusader church is located two meters below ground level and visitors need to descend seven steps to reach the simple church. The unadorned church interior has exposed brickwork and a stone altar.Church of St. JosephThis church is built over the traditional site of Joseph’s home and workshop and over a cave used in the Roman era for food and water storage. The site was identified as the Holy family’s home and Joseph’s workshop as early as the Byzantine period when it became a place of worship. Then during the Crusade period a new church was built on the site and following its destruction in 1263 it was rebuilt in 1754. The present structure was constructed in 1914 on the earlier churches. Visitors can descent into the grotto beneath the church where there is an altar and the remains of the previous structures.Church of Our Lady of Fright The ruins of this Franciscan church (1882) stand on a barren hillside overlooking the city. It is said to mark the spot where Mary stood when she watched in fear as her son Jesus was led by the townsfolk to the edge of the mountain to be thrown to his death. The people were angry that Jesus had proclaimed himself to be the Messiah but they didn’t succeed in killing him as he “…passed through the midst of them went his way.” Luke 4:22Christ Church ,This is a Protestant-Anglican church constructed in 1871; it was the 2nd Anglican Church to be built in Palestine. The church’s original design included a tall steeple which was never completed due to lack of funds. The cross shaped church has a traditional Gothic Revival design. Today the church has a congregation of about 40 families and there are services in Arabic every Sunday.Salesian Church,A major part of this church’s beauty is in the breathtaking location on a ridge overlooking the city; it is possible to walk from the church down into the city center. The large white church was constructed in the French neo-Gothic style and has twin towers on the façade. Within the church is a life-size statue of Jesus as a young boy created by sculptor Bognio. There are beautiful large stained glass windows which flood the space with natural light and a high vaulted ceilings supported by pillars made of clusters of columns. The church is administered by the Roman Catholic Salesians founded in the 19th century by Saint John Bosco. The cavernous church has great acoustics and is often used for concerts and recitals.Mensa Christi ChurchThe Jesus Table Church was constructed in 1861 around a piece of chalk rock believed to have been the table on which Jesus ate with his disciples after his resurrection. (Mark 16). The rock bears marks made by pilgrims as early as the 17th century. The quaint dome roofed church has a stone tablet above the entrance which features the date (1861); the Franciscan symbol of the 5 crosses and another of the hands of Jesus and Francis of Assisi crossed over a crucifix. The mensa Christi is mentioned in several places in the Bible and is also associated with a location in Tabgha.
By Petal Mashraki
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5 min

Culinary tour attractions – Max Brenner

While in Israel you will most likely want to try the local cuisine but apart from falafel, shawama and tachina Israel also has delicious chocolate. Perhaps Israel’s leading chocolatier is Max Brenner who has a line of chocolate products sold in most Israeli specialty stores. In addition to the store bought Israeli chocolates you can also indulge in a visit to Max Brenner’s chocolate restaurant where nearly everything is related to chocolate. Not only the usual chocolate drinks and deserts but also some main course chocolate specialties like chocolate pizza! The chocolate pizza is made of a pastry base, dark chocolate sauce and sprinkles of white chocolate.Not only the menu is unique but the store’s interior design is reminiscent of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with chocolate filled pipes running along the walls and ceiling, barrels of cocoa beans and dispensers offering chocolate in all its variations. Coffee aficionados will also enjoy the range of coffee based drinks in the chocolate restaurant.You can find the Max Brenner restaurants in Tel Aviv, Hertzalia, Rishon Lezion and Natanya. The restaurant is not kosher (because it’s open on Saturday not because of the food) and of course kid friendly!
By Petal Mashraki
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1 min

Health benefits of The Dead Sea

Many want to visit the Dead Sea as it is an iconic site and one of the most amazing wonders of the world. People want to be able to say they’ve been to the “lowest point on Earth”. But another, and arguably more important reason to visit the Dead Sea is that it can be good for your health. For thousands of years the Dead Sea environment has attracted visitors who come to enjoy its health promoting properties.Dead Sea SunAt approximately 417 meters below sea level the harmful solar rays have further to travel and thus are filtered on their way through the air, by air molecules, water vapor and aerosols (minerals). This leaves only the useful and beneficial rays which reach the Dead Sea. The region has pleasant weather with sunny days almost the entire year.AirThe air in the Dead Sea environment has a high oxygen density of 15% above the average levels. The air is also dry, virtually allergen free and there is little humidity so that those with repertory problems find it easier to breath. The air at the Dead Sea is specifically healthy for those with asthma. The high concentration of bromine and magnesium in the air relaxes and relieves tension.WaterThe highly saline water of the Dead Sea has a unique composition of minerals and therapeutic salts. The water is 32% salt as compare to the salt level in ocean water of 3%. When you swim in the sea your skin is stimulated and nourished easing joint ailments, relaxing the nerves and stimulating the circulation system. The saline density prohibits the body from sinking so that you can relax (mentally and physically) while floating on the water.Dead Sea MudPeople floating in mineral rich Dead Sea water The mud which forms the sea bed and the banks of the sea, contains the same rich mineral mix found in the water so that this handy natural skin “mask” can be smoothed over the skin to allow the minerals to be directly absorbed. The mud stimulates blood circulation and can help those with rheumatism. The sea and mud contain sulfur, magnesium, calcium, chloride, sodium, bromide, potassium and other trace elements. In all there are 21 essential minerals and 12 are unique to the Dead Sea.A combination of the air, filtered solar rays, mineral rich water and mud can be beneficial to those suffering from skin diseases, specifically psoriasis, arthritis and dermatitis. The Dead Sea benefits not only your health but your looks as the mud and water cleanses and softens your skin. You’ll find that after a visit your skin will feel and look rejuvenated. The benefits don’t have to end when you leave the Dead Sea as Dead Sea products are sold around the world and at the Dead Sea itself. At the Dead Sea you can even buy bags of the black mud to take home with you!Some tour options to The Dead Sea >>
By Petal Mashraki
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2 min

Hot Events in Israel this July!

July is perhaps the best time to visit Israel if you are looking for amazing events, parties, shows and fantastic weather. Here is a line-up of just a few of the events in Israel this July.2-16 July – Cirque du Soleil-Quidam, Nokia Arena, Tel Aviv.This world famous multidiscipline performance of circus acts, acrobatics, music, lighting effects, dance and magic will be in Israel for the second time.3 July – DJ Armin Van Buuren, Nitzanim BeachJust a short drive south from Tel Aviv is the Nitzanim Beach where you can dance the night away to the sounds of DJ and radio show host Armin Van Buuren who won Word’s Best DJ for four consecutive years.9-17 July – Jerusalem Film Festival, Jerusalem CinematequeJerusalem Film FestivalSee a selection of international films as well as top Israeli films premiering at the Jerusalem Film Festival. There will be guest speakers from abroad representing the international film industry as well as special events in and around the Cinemateque.13 July – CocoRosie, Gesher Theatre, Tel AvivThis sister duo from the US turns heads with their unique folk rock music. Their style is a blend of many musical genres and they have earned a cult-like following since forming their band.22-24 July – Bobby McFerrin and Chick CoreaFour performance venues – Herzliya Zappa Club, Rishon LeZion, Live Park Amphitheatre Tel Aviv and Binyamina.For jazz fans this is an opportunity to see two legendary greats perform together. McFerrin is a 10 time Grammy winner and Corea is the world’s most influential jazz performer. McFerrin is best remembered for his hit “Don’t Worry Be Happy.”27-31 July – In-House Jerusalem, in private homes and neighborhoods in JerusalemAudiences are invited in to unusual venues and private homes in Jerusalem to experience unique performances. Seven neighborhoods will host the happenings which include multi-media performances, sound and light shows and home cooked meals. It is a great opportunity to see local life and small communities.28-30 July – Lo BaShamyim Festival, Upper GalileeThis unique festival looks at Jewish thought and culture through music, art, live performances and guest speakers from the religious world in the spirit of Judaism. The event will include music, panel discussions, guided tours of the Galilee and more.28-30 July – Karmiel Dance Festival, KarmielThis annual dance festival presents a wide range of dance styles including classic, jazz, modern and folk dancing. You can join in workshops, be in the audience or enjoy the magical atmosphere in the city while festival events are held all around.30 July – Suede, Yad Eliyahu Arena, Tel AvivBritish rock band Suede bring back the 90s with their popular songs like “Beautiful Ones “ and “Saturday Night.”31 July – Among the Vineyards, Merom HaGalilThis festival is held annually on the Israeli “Valentines” day or the day of love – Tu b’ Av. The festival presents a range of musical performances by top Israeli artists and bands. Festival events include tours of the region, tastings of the many organic and fresh produce from the Galilee and a farmers’ Market. Events take place in a number of small villages throughout the Merom HaGalil region in the Upper Galilee.
By Petal Mashraki
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2 min

Ice-Skating in Israel

Although Israel is a hot country you can escape the heat and have some fun at several ice rinks spread throughout the country from the extreme north to the extreme south.Canada Center, MetullaThis is Israel’s oldest and best known ice rink; it is where the professional skaters train. All of the professional skating competitions in Israel are held at this Olympic standard rink. It is possible to take ice skating lessons here or just come for fun. The center has other sporting facilities including a great indoor pool.Open Hours: 10:00-16:00 Monday to SaturdayPrice: 85ILS or 75ILS online for entrance to the rink, skate rental and entrance to the center’s indoor pool.ISkate, Gate 8 Luna Park, Tel-AvivThis 500m² rink is attached to the Tel-Aviv Luna Park amusement park. The rink provides lockers, protective gear and skate rental. The rink is attractive with winter-themed decoration. Private lessons are available.Note: Only people over 6 years old and taller than 3.7 meters can skate here.Open Hours: 15:00-22:00 Monday to Friday and Saturdays 10:00-22:00Price: 67ILS for the first hour, 35ILS for the second. You can “freeze” your time and use the remaining time on your ticket at a later date within the same month.Ice Park EilatEilat’s ice rink is at the center of a huge mall under a large domed ceiling. The upper level of the mall is open to the rink so that you can look down on the ice from above. This is the largest complex of its kind in the world. The Olympic size rink is 1,800m². Throughout the open hours there is music and even ice skating performances every couple of hours. Alongside the rink are other attractions like a mini-amusement park, video arcade and a “snow-globe” play area for little kids. The rink surpasses the Metulla rink and will probably become the venue for future competitions. There is a skate school where you can take lessons.Open Hours: Sunday to Friday 10:00-23:00 and Saturdays and holidays 10:00-24:00Price: 76ILS
By Petal Mashraki
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2 min