Traveling to Israel

Israel is almost back to normal, following the COVID pandemic, and most restrictions have been lifted. At present only visitors traveling with pre-arranged groups are permitted to enter Israel, but (if all goes according to plan) by July 2021 all travelers complying with certain conditions will be welcome to Israel. Bein Harim tours will be available from August 2021. International visitors must fill in an online entry form; have a COVID vaccination or recovery certificate, and a negative PCR COVID test at least 72 hours before their flight. On arrival, they must take a Serological COVID test at the airport.

Israel has visa exemption agreements with over 90 countries (including the USA and UK). Many national airlines and charter airlines have regular flights to Israel. When traveling to Israel, pack for warm weather, and occasional chilly nights. Dress casually, but bring some modest clothing for visiting religious sites. Israel is a modern country where stores carry Western brands, and you’ll be able to find any items you’ve forgotten to pack.

Plan your itinerary to include a few Israel day tours intended for independent travelers who want the input of a knowledgeable guide, or to visit hard-to-reach places, like Masada, or Bethlehem. Alternatively, take an Israel tour package that covers all your time in Israel, from the moment you land at Ben Gurion. Tour packages include accommodation, transportation, and sightseeing, as well as a few free days.


The Most Recommended Trips to Israel

Israel may be a small country but it is packed with some of the most fascinating historic sites; natural wonders; sites of religious significance and vibrant modern cities. There is so much to see; delicious foods to try and unique people to meet that you could stay in Israel for years and still not cover it all! To help you plan your time in Israel here are some of the most recommended trips for travelers that want to discover the magic of this magnificent country. Whether you visit Israel as a Christian, Jew or Muslim; whether you have come to explore the culture, history or natural wonders there are a few must-see sites that every visitor to Israel should include. Must-see Israel destinations are Jerusalem; Tel Aviv; the Dead Sea and Sea of Galilee. If you have more time, then include Bethlehem; Masada; Jericho and Eilat in the south plus Caesarea; Haifa; Acre; Rosh HaNikra and the Golan Heights in the north.Most Recommended Israel Trips for ChristiansTrips to Jerusalem for Christians - Christians traveling to Israel should make a beeline for Jerusalem, a city packed with Biblical landmarks. One of the most popular trips in Israel follows in the footsteps of Jesus. On the Mount of Olives see the Garden of Gethsemane; Church of All Nations; Pater Noster, where Jesus taught his followers the Lord's Prayer and Dominus Flevit, where Jesus looked out across Jerusalem. In the Old City of Jerusalem, you can explore the Armenian Quarter; walk through the Jewish Quarter, home to the Byzantine Cardo and stop at the Western Wall, the most sacred Jewish site in the world. Walk along the Via Dolorosa, a route that Jesus walked as he carried his cross towards his crucifixion at Calvary. Today Calvary, as well as Christ's tomb is within the massive 4th century Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Just outside the walls of the Old City is Mount Zion, site of the Room of the Last Supper. If you have more time you could visit the modern city of Jerusalem; the Holocaust Museum; Israel Museum; Machane Yehuda Market and Jerusalem's archaeological sites.Trips to Bethlehem for Christians – On your trip to Israel you could consider combining a half-day trip to Jerusalem with a visit to either Bethlehem; Jericho or the Dead Sea. Bethlehem is a town in the West Bank Palestinian Authority Area and so most travelers choose to visit Bethlehem with a guided tour for safety and convenience. In Bethlehem, you can stop in Manger Square and spend time in the Church of Nativity, which was built around the Holy Grotto where Jesus was born. In the adjacent St. Catherine's Church, there are underground chambers holding shrines and memorials. While in Bethlehem stop at the Milk Grotto where it is said that Mary nursed baby Jesus.Trips to the Galilee for Christians – Galilee is second only to Jerusalem for its concentration of Biblical sites. Travel through the verdant countryside of rolling hills, farmlands and forests to the Sea of Galilee. You can travel around the shores of the sea stopping to see where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount on the Mounts of Beatitudes; Capernaum, where Jesus lived during his ministry; Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine and Tabgha, site of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish. All of these Christian sites are marked by beautiful churches. Nazareth, the town of Christ's childhood is also in the Galilee and today is home to the Church of Annunciation where an angel Gabriel told Mary of her future child. While in Nazareth visit the Church of St. Joseph, built on the site where the Holy family once had their home and Joseph's carpentry. Your Israeltripcould include being baptized in the Jordan River at Yardenit at the foot of the Golan.Most Recommended Trips for Jewish Travelers in IsraelTrips to Jerusalem for Jewish Travelers - Like Christian travelers Jews visiting Israel will want to spend time in Jerusalem where so much Jewish history unfolded. Highlights for Jewish visitors to Jerusalem include the Western Wall and the Tomb of King David on Mount Zion. While in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City you can visit four 17th-18th century Sephardic synagogues. Delve deep into the history of Jerusalem and go underground to the excavated City of David, the original Jerusalem settlement dating back to the Bronze Age and Iron Age. Some trips to Israel combine a day in the Old City with a visit to Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum. The museum holds an overwhelming amount of authentic documents, historic photographs, artifacts and video testimonials from Holocaust survivors. Jewish travelers will no doubt be interested in seeing the Knesset, Israel's parliament building and the Mount of Olives where there is a 4,000-year-old Jewish cemetery facing the Old City. From the Mount of Olives, you can look out across the Old City to Temple Mount where the holy Jewish Temple once stood and also see three monolithic ancient Jewish burial tombs in Kidron Valley.Trips to Southern Israel for Jewish Travelers – Jews have an intrinsic connection with Israel; almost every landmark in Israel has some significance for Jews – be it Biblical, historical or modern. Jewish travelers should make a trip to Masada, a rock outcrop rising out of the Judean Desert and overlooking the Dead Sea. Visitors can take a cable car to the summit of Masada where King Herod built a massive palace-fortress in 31-37BC. Much of the complex has survived thanks to the dry climate and remote location. Masada was also the site of a significant event in Jewish history during the First Jewish-Roman War (73-74AD) when Sicarii Jews took refuge on the mount. They remained on Masada, under siege by Roman troops until the standoff ended in a mass suicide as the Jews chose to die rather than submit to the Romans. Visitors can combine a trip to Masada with time at the Dead Sea; a visit to Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered and perhaps also visit Ein Gedi, a modern kibbutz, nature reserve and desert oasis. Trips to Northern Israel for Jewish Travelers – A top recommended trip to the Galilee and Golan for Jewish travelers focuses on attractions like the Shalom Observatory; Katzrin, where there is an excavated Talmudic-era Jewish village; the Golan Antiquities Museum where you can learn about the ancient Jewish city of Gamla and Mt. Bental, site of abandoned Syrian bunkers and trenches.A Classic Trip Along Israel's Mediterranean CoastA classic trip to Northern Israel includes a drive up the coastal road, stopping briefly in Caesarea to see where Herod built his port city 2,000 years ago and a stop in Haifa to marvel at the breathtaking Baha'i gardens which cascade down Mount Carmel on 18 perfectly symmetrical terraces. A little further up the coast is Acre, one of the most interesting and beautiful old cities in the country. The Old City has been built and rebuilt over the years with the Crusaders and Turks leaving a lasting impression. On your trip to Israel be sure to visit the Old City Market and the underground Crusader city in Acre. Continuing up the coast to the most northerly point on the border with Lebanon you can visit Rosh HaNikra, a complex of white limestone sea caves.Trips for Fun and Sun in IsraelIf you're not coming to Israel for the culture, history or religious sites then you should head for Tel Aviv, a vibrant modern city with a dynamic nightlife and parties that end as the sun comes up. In Tel Aviv, you can party all night and spend the days on the beach, in local sidewalk cafes, bars, art galleries and markets. Tel Aviv has a thriving LGBT community and the city is extremely inclusive and cosmopolitan. When you've had enough of the "Big Orange" head south to Eilat, Israel's ultimate beach resort city on the edge of the Red Sea. Here there are endless beach attractions, watersports, resort hotels; a dolphin reef and even a mall built around an ice rink. Eilat is also a tax-free port so it's perfect for shopaholics.Recommended Trips for a Pampering Tour of IsraelIf you'd rather not negotiate the public transport system or battle on the highways with Israeli drivers, then spoil yourself with a private guided tour on your trip to Israel. If you take a private tour of Israel, you can pick and choose the destinations that interest you most; you can determine how much time you spend in each place and you will have a driver at your disposable to get you to and from each attraction. Private tours offer a recommended itinerary which you can then adapt to suit your interests and schedule. The same goes for cruise travelers arriving in Haifa or Ashdod where you can take a private guided tour straight from the port to your chosen destination and be back in time to join your ship for departure.
By Petal Mashraki

How to Plan Your Perfect Vacation in Israel

There’s nothing we all look forward to more than a good vacation and after a year of Corona, we’ve never needed one more than now! Of course, life after the pandemic means we’re a lot more health-conscious and we want to stay as safe as possible when travelling abroad. That’s why Israel, whose vaccination record is the envy of the world, is a great choice. Here are a few tips from us on how to make it a trip you’ll never forget:Jerusalem courtyard.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin1. Vaccines and Travel InsuranceLet’s start with the question on everyone’s mind - what are the Corona regulations? Well, first of all, and it probably goes without saying, all visitors will need to have been vaccinated. From 23rd May 2021, along with a Vaccination Certificate (or Certificate of Recovery), you’ll be able to enter Israel but only as part of an organized tour package. It is hoped that by July, this will be extended to individual travelers.The following guidelines apply to all tourists:No more than 24 hours before you fly, fill out a passenger statement form - once approved, you will have entry clearance.Take a COVID-19 PCR test at least 72 hours before departureAfter arriving at Ben Gurion airport, show both the entry clearance and negative COVID-19 test result to staff.Take another COVID-19 test at the airport, as well as a serology test (to show that there are antibodies in your blood).If the results are good, you’re free to start enjoying yourself! Don’t forget to carry a copy of your Vaccination Certificate on you, whilst traveling, to show where necessary. We should also point out that Israel has a healthcare system that is the envy of the world so, in the event that you do feel unwell, you will be assured of first-class treatment (by the way, nearly all medical professionals here speak excellent English). Just make sure you have comprehensive cover from a good travel insurance policy.Tourist at HaBonim Beach, Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin2. When? Low or High Season?Another excellent question. Israel has a subtropical climate, with long, hot summers and cool winters (although not too much rain and quite a few sunny days). If you love the heat (and sunning yourself on a beach) and then July to September will suit you perfectly (remember that in Jerusalem, the heat is dry but on the coast, it is more humid). However, if you want to hike in the Negev or Arava desert (or ski at Mount Hermon!), then the winter months will suit you better.The high season in Israel isn't just the summer though - it also includes the Jewish holidays (Passover in April and the High Holidays in September/October). Prices will be higher than and attractions busier. As a rule of thumb, spring and fall are always recommended for a vacation, with plenty of blue-skied and sunny days, allowing you to travel in shorts and sandals and eat outdoors at night. And if you want to travel in January and February, whilst it may be a little more cold and rainy, it still won’t resemble the wintery months of Europe - and there will be less of a crowd at the major attractions.Spring in Latrun, Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin3. Plotting an ItineraryA lot depends on how long you’re coming for - 7 days or 2 weeks in Israel- and it is never enough. At present, you need to travel as part of an organized tour package which actually has many advantages in any event - the services of an experienced tour guide, the chance to see a lot in a short space of time, pre-booked accommodation and the opportunity to make new friends. Whilst it’s possible to pack a lot in, over a week, we’d recommend one of Israel and Jordan tour packages, which, as well as offering you all kinds of Israel attractions, include a free day (useful for relaxing, shopping, and sunbathing!) and a day trip to the ancient city of Petra in Jordan.View from Rosh Hanikra, Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin4. Choose your Travel Style/PartnerOnce you’ve booked your vacation, think about what kind of trip you want it to be - are you a solo traveler, a couple, a family, interested in a historical/archaeological tour, or visiting as a pilgrim?Solo travelers - hopefully, by July 2021, solo travel will be permitted once more. Israel’s a very easy country to explore alone - almost everyone speaks English and public transport is cheap and air-conditioned. And if you do find yourself wanting either the services of a guide or a bit of company, there are a wide range of day tours in Israel to choose from.For couples - if you’ve rented a car, why not spend a couple of nights at a zimmer? These privately-owned units can be found all over the country, and are often quiet, pastoral, and very romantic - the perfect place to get away from it all.For families - Israel's an incredibly child-friendly destination. Whether it's a museum, nature reserve, water park, beach, or zoo, your kids are bound to have a ball.For historians - if you love history or archaeology, you’ve hit the motherload. Classical tour packages give you the opportunity to explore extraordinary sites such as Jerusalem,Rosh Hanikra, and Masada.Pilgrimage - a visit to Israel is often a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Christian pilgrims and Christian tour packages are a fantastic way to enjoy what is bound to be both an emotional and moving journey, whilst you walk in the footsteps of Jesus.Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin5. Visas and FormalitiesFor many visitors, obtaining a visa for your Israel vacation is not an issue. In such cases, entry for 90 days is automatic (don’t forget your Corona Vaccination Certificate!) It is a good idea to check and see if you are on the list of countries with which Israel has an Exemption Agreement. If you are not, you can find further information about visa applicationson the country’s Foreign Affairs dedicated page.Tourists in Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin6. Booking AccommodationIsrael has all kinds of accommodation available - from luxurious five-star hotels and romantic zimmers, to self-catering apartments, youth hostels, campsites, and even Bedouin tents! Kibbutz accommodation gives visitors a chance to see how Israelis live, as does renting a small apartment in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, where you will quickly get to know the neighborhood. Many places offer a reasonable cancellation policy, and never more so than now. When booking any kind of accommodation make sure to check that you can cancel your stay at short notice - flexibility really matters!Nimrod's castle.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin7. Transportation in IsraelTraveling around Israel is easy, whether you prefer public transport, taxis, car rental, or the services of a personal driver, it’s up to you. From Ben Gurion airport - taxis can be found by a stand outside the entrance to the arrival gate. There is also a reasonably priced train service that runs frequently to all major cities in Israel. Airport transfers are an excellent idea for those who want peace of mind.Buses and trains - public transport in Israel is good - buses run often and are cheaply priced - a good idea is to buy an electronic green Rav Kav card and load it up with the money. The new train route between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem takes only 29 minutes and at a cost of 21.50 NIS ($6.50) is a bargain. Please note that there is no public transport on Shabbat (i.e 2 hours before Shabbat begins on Friday and an hour after it ends on Saturday). Of course, if you aretraveling in Israel as part of a guided tour, this won’t be a problem.Taxi in Jerusalem street.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinTaxi - you can hail taxis on the street easily or use the ‘Gett’ app.Renting a car - this is easy and not too costly.Guided tours in Israel- to maximize what you can see in a day, and skip the hassle of driving, why not take a guided day tour? All of our guides are experienced and knowledgeable and we use comfortable air-conditioned buses (ideal in the hot summer months).Sataf Forest, Judean highlands.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin8. Top AttractionsIt’s hard to know what to see first in Israel. Jerusalem is a must, of course - both the Old City, which is home to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Western (Wailing) Wall, Dome of the Rock and many other places of great historical significance. Outside the ancient walls, the Israel Museum (a treasure trove of art, sculptures, and home to the Dead Sea Scrolls) and Yad Vashem (Israel’s incredibly moving Holocaust museum) are must-visits. Nor should anyone leave Jerusalem without a visit to the lively, bustling Mahane Yehuda market. In the north of the country, the Sea of Galilee and the many pilgrim sites (the Mount of Beatitudes, Capernaum, Yardenit) are always popular, and a short drive north, to the Golan Heights, is a delight in itself, not just for the scenery but as a chance to explore some boutique wineries. On the coast, don’t forget Haifa (with the impressive Bahai Gardens) the beautiful Crusader City of Acre and Caesarea, with its impressive Roman ruins. Jerusalem rooftop view.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinNo trip to Israel would be complete without a swim in the Dead Sea and a visit to Masada, the ancient fortification located high in the Judean desert. Ascend by cable car (or if you’re fit, climb up the winding path) and enjoy outstanding views. If you like the desert, Mitzpe Ramon (with its crater) and Timna Park in the Arava are perfect hiking spots and from Timna, Eilat, on the Red Sea, is just a hop, skip, and a jump.Don’t forget to spend a couple of days in Tel Aviv too. The White City as it is known, because of its beautiful Bauhaus buildings, is packed with cafes, restaurants, small stores, fine museums, and some phenomenal beaches (all with their own unique flavor). With its wonderful promenade (Tayelet) from which you can walk all the way from the Old Port (Namal) to historic Jaffa, local coffee shops, and lazy beat, Tel Aviv is the ideal way to end your perfect vacation.Tel Aviv coastline.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin9. Calendar of Local EventsThere are cultural events happening year-round in Israel, so whatever time of the year you visit, the chances are that there will be something great to see, hear or do. If you’re in Tel Aviv in the spring, don’t miss the Annual ‘Leila Levan’ (‘White Night’) where the city comes to life with free performances in every neighborhood - jazz, opera, klezmer, and cover bands - from 8 pm until 5 am. Or why not catch some free opera in Yarkon Park (a huge green space in the city’s north), along with the locals? If you like to dance, don’t miss the Batsheva troupe, whose home is the Suzanne Dellal Center in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood, or a show at the Cameri Theatre (we’d recommend ‘The Wandering Israeli’). You should also try and visit the impressive amphitheater at Caesarea and enjoy a performance by some Israeli or international singer. And for jazz aficionados, you can’t do better than make a trip down to the Red Sea - their annual Jazz Festival in Eilat offers world-class music with spectacular views thrown in for good measure. In Jerusalem don't miss the Israel Festival with 3 weeks of performances around the city, as well as the Jerusalem Festival of Light.Jerusalem Knights Festival-2018.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin10. A Little HebrewWhilst almost everyone in Israel speaks some English (and many speak it fluently) it’s always a good idea to learn a few words and phrases beforehand. Not only will it make your life a little easier, but you can have fun at the Israeli ‘shuks’ (markets) when bargaining for souvenirs. Modern Hebrew looks intimidating (especially because of the way it's written!) but once you’ve learned a few expressions, you’ll be surprised at how simple it can be. You’ll also be amazed at how pleased locals are to hear you making an effort - there’s nothing like thanking someone in their own language to put a smile on their face. Check out our Hebrew-English dictionary for visitors for some tips.Banias Nature Reserve.Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe choice between traveling on your own andpre-arranged tour packagesis often a pain. Israel’s a small country so it’s easy to cover a lot of ground quickly, but there’s no doubt that it punches above its weight in every respect - weather, food, landmarks, scenery, cultural events, and pristine beaches. Whether you’re a culture vulture, a foodie, a pilgrim, or a sun-lover, there’s a perfect vacation waiting for you.
By Sarah ,Mann

What You Need to Pack for Your Next Trip to Israel

So you’ve booked your ticket to Israel - well, congratulations on your impending trip. Now, all you need to think about is packing your suitcase! For first-time visitors to this country, it’s often a bit of a dilemma, wondering what essentials to bring and whether it’s better to play it safe or travel light and buy on the road. If you do decide to travel light, you’re well set because Israeli is a highly-developed country with all kinds of western amenities. Just be aware that they might be more expensive to buy there than at home (Israel is not the cheapest of countries). In the meantime, to help you navigate the ‘suitcase dilemma’ we’ve compiled an ‘Ultimate Travel Essentials Checklist’. The items we talk about below are really a ‘must’ and they won’t just keep you safe and healthy, but they’ll also keep you good-tempered! Here we go:Backpacker in Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin1. Don't Forget Your DocumentsAlong with your passport (and a visa, if necessary) bring copies of documents relating to your medical insurance and COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate. You should also bring personal prescriptions for any medication you take, should you need to consult a doctor whilst on vacation. All of these can be saved electronically (as backups) or copies can be left with close friends and relatives back home. Keep a copy of your passport in your suitcase too, just in case, and unless you need to cross your passport at a border (if you are travelling to Jordan, to visit Petra, or crossing a checkpoint, on a tour of Bethlehem or Jericho, lock up your passport in your bedroom or hotel safe. Your tour operator will probably have sent you confirmation emails of your trip and any additional Israel day tours you’ve booked, so keep a copy of these too. Packing a suitcase. Photo credit: ©Francesca Tirico2. Sun ProtectionIsrael is a very sunny country, with long, hot summers and, in the Negev desert, plenty of sunshine in the winter too. Eilat, on the Red Sea, is a great place to soak up the rays in December and January, and actually averages 360 sunny days a year! So don’t forget to pack sunglasses, a hat (preferably wide-brimmed), plenty of sunscreen, and aftersun (aloe vera) too. If you run out, look in your nearest ‘Superpharm’ - a nationwide chain - where most of the staff speak English and will gladly help you find what you need. If you’re a sun worshipper, then grab yourself a lounger and umbrella and head to the beach - Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Netanya, and picturesque spots all the way up and down the coast boast white sand and clear water - perfect for relaxation. If you’re more of an active type, make sure to see the sun rise or set in a dramatic location. You can take a day tour, climbing Masada early in the morning (then continue on to the Dead Sea for some ‘floating time’) or walk through narrow alleyways in the Old City of Jerusalem, before watching the sunset over the walls from atop the Mount of Olives.Tourist at Rosh Hanikra, Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin3.Devices and GadgetsWe’re all socially connected these days and most visitors in Israel will want to arrive with their smartphones, tablets, and cameras. A phone charger is essential and maybe even a power bank if you are planning on using your iPhone or Samsung to take many photos throughout the day. Before you fly, you might want to download a few Travel Apps to your phone to give you tips on a currency conversion, local directions, Hebrew phrases, and digital journaling. In the old days, people carried small travel dictionaries but now it’s all within a short scroll - take a look at our Hebrew dictionary if you want to learn the basics! Israel has so many wonderful photographic opportunities too - from historic sites to the coastline, mountains, and deserts to vineyards and hot springs, so if you’re a keen amateur photographer, you’re going to be in your element.Rosh Hanikra Grottoes, Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin4. Eye Mask, Ear Plugs, and a Basic First Aid KitWhether it’s to help you sleep at night, or to block out noise when you’re traveling with a group on a tour bus, a fold-up eye mask and some earplugs are a no-brainer. We’d also advise packing a basic First Aid Kit - a small bag or box containing pain relief, antiseptic cream, band-aids, anti-diarrhea/anti-histamine medication, and a small bandage and safety pin. If you’re traveling in Israel on an organized tour package then your guide will most likely have all these things to hand but it’s good to be prepared in any event. As we’ve said before, the pharmacies in Israel are excellent and nearly all staff speak English, so you can always stop off when in a city center, to pick up anything you might need.Scattered pills. Photo credit: © HalGatewood.com on Unsplash5. Essential ToiletriesWe’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, there’s a lot of sun in Israel and the summers can be super hot (and, on the coast, humid). Between the months of May and September, most Israelis shower several times a day, just to stay sane! Don’t forget your deodorant, skin moisturizer, and a good lip balm too (it can be windy in the Golan Heights and the sun can be a real beast in the Negev and Arava deserts).Whether you’re exploring the Acre and Caesarea coastline, touring in the Galilee, or trekking in Mitzpe Ramon’s crater you’ll need good sunscreen and Aloe Vera for any sore skin at the end of a long day. And if you’ve forgotten your favorite moisturizer, don’t panic - you can purchase a wide range of Ahava beauty products on any Dead Sea tour.The Dead Sea.Photo credit: © Shutterstock6. Swimsuit or Swim TrunksThere are a lot of misconceptions about Israel and one of them is that the entire country is a desert, with its citizens using camels for their daily commute! But whilst the Negev and Arava deserts do cover a lot of landmasses, Israel is actually home to four seas - the Mediterranean, the Dead Sea, the Red Sea, and the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).Since it’s possible (and highly recommended) to swim in all of them, don’t forget your bathing suit, bikini, or swimming trunks, or treat yourself to something made by Gottex, the top-tier, luxury Israeli brand made famous by the pioneering female entrepreneur Lea Gottlieb. Floating in the Dead Sea in one of her creations means you’ll be stylish as well as super relaxed!Tourist floating in the Dead Sea.Photo credit: © Shutterstock7. Reusable Water BottleThis one is an absolute must, and we aren’t kidding. We all associate summer with beaches, sunshine, and fun excursions, and no more so than in Israel, where many people spend hours of their free time outdoors. If you don’t drink enough water, you could end up dehydrated and suffering from a nasty case of heatstroke. In the summer months, it’s advisable to try and drink at least 2 liters of water a day, to make sure your body has sufficient fluids to keep you healthy.Carry a water bottle that you can easily refill, and top it up at the numerous fountains you’ll see on beaches, in parks, and throughout shopping areas. In the meantime, don’t forget to enjoy Israel’s many bodies of water: the Jordan River (perfect for a kayaking trip), Ein Gedi waterfall and Baths (a lush oasis close to the Dead Sea), and the stunning Ein Avdat canyon, with its water pools, in the Negev. There are also Hamat Gader hot springsin Galilee, the gorgeous Banias waterfalls, and also Lake Ram near Mount Hermon. Tourist with a reusable water bottle. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin8. Sturdy ShoesIf you’re not planning on being a Beach Bunny, chances are that you’re going to want to be exploring some of the endless historical and archaeological sites around the country. Whether you visit them alone or as part of aJerusalem day tour, such as ‘Walking in Jesus’s Footsteps’ or ‘Underground Jerusalem’ you’re going to need sturdy footwear for what’s involved.If you’re planning on trekking in the Negev or Arava desert (and especially if you’re hiking in Mitzpe Ramon) don’t hesitate to bring good hiking boots - they will be a lifesaver! In general, if you’re exploring cities like Tel Aviv and Haifa, or archaeological sites like Caesarea and Tsipori, you’ll be able to manage with sneakers or support sandals, as long as you don’t attempt to climb over a Roman aqueduct or down a Crusader tunnel!Men's shoes on the wall of a house in Acre, Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin9. A Good BookIt’s always worthwhile to keep some printed matter close to hand - whether it’s a guidebook, a captivating novel, or perhaps something specifically to do with Israel. If you’re curious about the Jerusalem childhood of one of Israel’s most famous novelists - Amos Oz - then pick up a copy of his extraordinary autobiography, ‘A Tale of Love and Darkness.’ For a historical account of the early pioneers, you could do worse than Israeli historian Tom Segev’s ‘The First Israelis’ which deals with Israel’s first year of statehood. For something a little lighter, go for the hip writer Etgar Keret - ‘The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God and Other Stories’ is witty, intelligent, and painfully honest. There are also numerous books written on the subject of Jerusalem (historical, theological, and political) but for those who really like a tome, you can’t do better than Simon Sebag-Montefiore’s eponymous ‘Jerusalem.’ All of these are available at branches of Steimatzky, a leading bookshop in Israel.The Bible book of Ecclesiastes. Photo credit: © Sincerely Media on Unsplash10. Comfortable ClothesChances are you’re going to be exploring when in Israel, whether it’s nature reserves and deserts, museums and galleries, or historical and religious sites. Comfortable clothing is a must - and if you’re arriving any time between May and October, cotton is your best bet because otherwise, you’ll sweat profusely. A large hat (with a wide brim), T-shirts, light trousers (not denim), and shorts are all essentials. Israelis are quite casual in their dress and so you won’t need to resort to formal attire for dinners, even when out at costly restaurants. It’s not uncommon for men to arrive at dinner in shorts in Israel and ties are rarely seen! Women can enjoy wearing lightweight dresses and short tops and skirts in Tel Aviv although in more religious cities like Jerusalem it is advisable to lower the hemline! You’re also going to need some relatively ‘modest attire’ for any religious sites you visit. In the Old City of Jerusalem, you should cover your shoulders (and wear a skirt below the knee) when visiting somewhere such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, as a matter of respect. At the Western Wall, volunteers will offer women a scarf to drape over their shoulders and men a kippah (skullcap) to put atop their head, before approaching the Wall to pray or observe those at prayer. The same goes for any visit you may make to a mosque or Arab city, which are generally quite conservative in terms of social norms - when in doubt, cover your arms and legs! Now start packing for an unforgettabletour of Israel!Kippahs in Bazaarin Safed, Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
By Sarah Mann

Do You Need a Visa to Visit Israel?

Luckily nationals from 96 countries do not need to arrange a visa for Israel before leaving their home country. However it is important to make sure you can travel to Israel visa-free before you book your air ticket. Here is a breakdown to help you understand Israeli visas.Different Types of Israeli VisasIsrael offers a number of different types of visas depending on the purpose of your entry into the country. Visas for Israel include an Immigration Visa; A/1 Temporary Resident Visa; A/2 Student Visa; A/3 Clergy Visa; A/4 visa for spouses and children; B/1 Work Visa and a B/2 Visitors’ Visa. The Immigration Visa and A/1 Temporary Resident Visa are only applicable to a person immigrating to Israel. An A/2 Student Visa is for those coming to study in any institution in Israel and is valid for up to one year with multiple entrances and exits. An A/3 Clergy Visa is for clergymen coming to Israel to perform clerical duties for their religion by invitation of a religious organization in Israel. A clergyman coming on holiday or on a pilgrimage would require a regular B/2 visa not an A/3 Clergy Visa. The A/4 Visa is for the spouses and children of those with an A/2 Student Visa or an A/3 Clergy Visa. A B/1 Work Visa is for those who have approval from the Ministry of the Interior to work as an expert or artist in their field in Israel. The B/2 Visitors’ Visa is the one which tourists receive.Do You Need a Visa for Israel?Nationals from many countries do not require a visa and can stay in Israel for up to 90 days visa-free after which you can apply for an extension at the Ministry of the Interior. Among the countries with bilateral agreements with Israel allowing visa-free visits are the USA, Britain, Australia, European nations, Russia, South Africa, Canada, Philippines, Iceland, Singapore, Hong Kong, most South American countries, Japan and New Zealand. Check the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs website to find out if nationals from your country can visit visa-free for 90 days. If you require a visa you will have to apply for a B/2 Visitors Visa.Israeli Visitors VisaTourists, volunteers, business people coming to Israel for meetings, Hebrew language students and visitors to Israel from countries which do not have a bilateral agreement with Israel will have to apply for a visa at their local Israeli Consulate in their home country. The visa allows you to visit for up to 90 days and does not allow you to work in Israel. When applying for an Israeli visa you will need a passport valid for at least six months after your stay in Israel; a filled and signed application form; a photocopy of your passport; proof that you can support yourself financially while in Israel (such as a bank statement from the last three months); an air ticket to and from Israel; two passport photos and the application fee.You should receive your visa within two months. Due to the fact that many Arab and predominantly Muslim countries do not grant entry to people with an Israeli stamp in their passport, travelers are now issued with a stamp on a separate piece of paper which must be kept in your passport for the duration of your visit in Israel.
By Petal Mashraki

How to Choose a Great Tour Operator in Israel - 11 Tips

So you’ve decided to visit Israel. Well, first of all, congratulations - you’ve made a fine choice. This is a country that has something for everyone - historical and religious sites, culture galore in the form of museums, are galleries, high-quality guided tours, theatre and live music, not to mention mountains, deserts and miles and miles of beautiful coastline. Finding ways to spend your days here is no problem.Tourists on a Bahai Gardens tour, Haifa. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinThe big question is, if you’re coming in a group, then how do you go about choosing a good tour operator? Google a search and you’ll be confronted with a wealth of information that can, all too quickly, become overwhelming. As tour operators ourselves, we know how important it is to make a good choice of the company because, let’s face it, from the moment you land, you’re going to be in the hands of these people. Here are a few things we think are worth taking into consideration before you press the ‘book now’ button…1. Check if the Tour Operator is Registered with the ITOAMembership of the Israel Incoming Tours Operators Association means that the tour operator is both professional and reliable, using qualified and only licensed tour guides. IOTA membership means you can have peace of mind, knowing that the organization you’re booking with has passed a credibility test.Jerusalem courtyard, Old City.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin2. Don’t Necessarily Go with the Lowest PriceWhen a price looks too good to be true, that means it probably is. Sure, grabbing a bargain is a great thing, but if you aren’t careful, you could end up spending more in the long run because you haven’t read the fine print. In some cases, cheap prices mean that you’ll be paying your own entrance fees, be limited in terms of pick up and drop off points, and may even end up compromising on the quality of your accommodation and guides.Another thing is that higher prices don’t always mean you’re being fleeced. Reputable tour operators work with fleets of buses and a maintenance supervisor (rather than cheaper operators, that may be leasing smaller vehicles). And, of course, licensed, accredited tour guides are going to have higher fees - but you’re paying for their knowledge and experience. Our advice? Check carefully as to what is and isn’t included in the price, before you make your decision because cheap in the short term could be costly in the long term.Byzantine Cardo, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin3. Do Your Research. Check the Reviews on Trip AdvisorIf 90% of the reviews you read are positive, then it’s pretty safe to say that the tour operator is trustworthy. Ask around too - maybe you have friends or colleagues who’ve been in Israel and they can recommend someone? Hearing first hand about someone’s trip, or reading a well-written review, will give you crucial insights into the company you are looking at. So take your time when looking around - because carrying out some homework will always pay dividends.4. Define Your Specific NeedsThere are so many different kinds of Israel tourson the market - and one size never fits all. Some people don’t mind being in a large group….other travelers seek something smaller and more intimate. Certain travelers want a trip that’s packed full of historical sites and places of worship; others want more ‘fun’ attractions such as wine-tasting and a chance to shop. Entrance to the Tower of David, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinAsk yourself what you really want. Are you looking for a tour that takes you to museums and galleries, with group dinner each night? Or are you looking for something with a bit of free time included, letting you spend occasional afternoons or evenings alone? Also, check with the tour operator if there’s flexibility in the schedule, or whether you’re committed to the entire itinerary. Equally importantly, ask if it’s possible to be collected or dropped off in another city, if you’re arriving before the group, or departing after them.5. What’s Their Customer Service Like?Customer service is probably one of the most important things you’re going to be looking for when making a decision about a tour operator. First and foremost, make sure that there will always be a direct phone number you can call, 24/7 if any problems arise. It’s essential to be able to speak to a real live human too, rather than an automated service that some companies use out of hours. Also, find out what the tour operator’s policy is if an outing can’t take place, because someone in the group is late for morning pick-up, or the tour bus breaks down? Check reviews too - when people feel let down, they will often write about it publicly. The Western Wall, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Shutterstock6. Are They Tech-Savvy?Not all tour operators in Israel have an online booking system that is constantly being updated, in real-time. When you use a reputable company, they have access to very smart, unique software, which ensures that the moment you book, you're confirmed, which means you know you’re on the list. This gives you real peace of mind.7. Are All the Major Attractions You Want to See Included in the Tour? Whether you’ve been to Israel before or it’s a ‘once in a lifetime trip for you, you’ll want to know that a fair few of the attractions you want to see are included in the trip. This is where choosing the ‘right’ Israel tour package comes in - for pilgrimstours to Jerusalem, Nazareth and the Galilee are all key.Multiplication Church, Tabgha.Photo credit: © ShutterstockFor history lovers, visits to Roman and Crusader sites like Caesarea and Acre are a must. For culture vultures, a visit to Jerusalem’s Israel Museum will be imperative. And for many, no trip to Israel would be complete without a day in Tel Aviv, the Non-Stop City, with its Bauhaus architecture, thriving food scene, and lively nightlife. Choose carefully - because even in two weeks you won’t be able to see everything! 8. Take a Look at the About Us Pageon the Website. This will give you in-depth information on how long they’ve been in business, what services they offer, and if they collaborate with other travel companies around the world (always a good sign). A reputable Israeli tour operator won’t have anything to hide - after building up their business over the years, and learning from their mistakes, they will not fear transparency!Gamla, an ancient Jewish city, Golan Heights. Photo credit: © Shutterstock9. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Lots of Questions. A good tour operator will be happy to answer all of your questions. After all, you’re the customer and you’re paying for this experience, so it should measure up to your expectations. Check to make sure that all of the main attractions you want to see are included. Ask what happens on free days and if you’ll need to budget for your own lunches and dinners. Double-check on what’s included and what is not. And feel free to ask away about who is leading your trip - a tour guide can really make or break your trip! What’s the conclusion then? Well, we might be biased but we think you could do far worse than to consider Bein Harim Tourism Services for your tour operator. We are, indeed, a member of IOTA, and with our own fleet of minibusses and supervisors (under the eagle eye of a maintenance officer) you’ll travel in comfort. The vast majority of reviews about us on Tripadvisor are positive, so you can book with confidence. And we offer a round-the-clock service, for any problems or mishaps that may arise, which means you have complete peace of mind, should anything go awry.Tour of Masada.Photo credit: © Shutterstock10. Test of TimeSomething else about us that’s important for you to know is that we’ve been in business a long time. Bein Harim was established in 1993, which lets you know we’re not a ‘fly-by-night’ company. We’re well known for our high-quality tours, all offered at affordable prices, and our years of hard work and listening to the customer mean we’ve built a well-deserved reputation. We work with small and large groups, classical Israel tour packages, Christian, Jewish and Muslim trips, Petra and Jordan tours,airport transfers,and ship to shore excursions. We can pick you up and drop you in a number of cities, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Herzliya, and Netanya, as well as Ben Gurion airport.And for those interested in traveling privately, if you book a private tour with us, we can customize it according to your exact requirements. If you want to visit a boutique vineyard in the Golan Heights, visit a chocolate-making workshop in Jerusalem or abseil down the side of the crater at Mitzpe Ramon, we can make it happen. We want to make sure our customers don’t just have a wonderful trip but go home telling other people about it. Brochures and websites are important but we think you can’t beat word of mouth. Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock11. Don't Compromise on the Quality.To sum up, whether you’re a Christian pilgrim, a history buff, or a culture lover, we’ve got a tour that’s right for you. From theDead Sea and Masada Day Toursto ‘Petra from Eilat’ we can make sure you have a holiday you’ll remember for years to come. We operate a highly sophisticated booking system too, allowing you to book tours that are 100% guaranteed to depart, the moment you receive confirmation. And, as we’ve mentioned before, should any problems arise, we’re here for you night and day.So if you’re looking for a tour operator that has the passion, dedication, and experience you expect, why not take a look at some of our Israel and Jordan tour packages on offer? We’ll be happy to talk to you, either on the phone or by email, and answer all of your questions.Blooming almond in Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
By Sarah Mann

Traveling in Israel Without Planning

Traveling to Israel requires some planning although if you want to you can leave a good part of your time unplanned for exploring the country. There are many people who travel without a plan and simply arrive at their destinations, ask locals and the tourist information office for tips and advice and take it from there. There is very little additional planning needed for Israel as compared to other destinations. However, to make the most of your time it is best to do a little research and give yourself a basic outline for your trip.Basic Planning for Israel that You Can't AvoidTraveling without a plan is great but to make sure you're even allowed off the plane you should check if you need a visa to Israeland if so get that sorted out. Another part of planning for a trip to Israel that just can't be avoided is knowing which public holidays are happening while you are in the country. Israel's many national and religious holidays often involve a complete shutdown of public transport and attractions. This goes for the 24 hours from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday as well. During Shabbat the open hours and transportation in Israel are limited, and even non-existent in some areas. You should also check out any special events happening while you are in Israel. For example, when Israel hosted the Eurovision Song Contest in 2019 accommodation in Tel Aviv scarce and you wouldn't have been able to arrive without booking your accommodation. You also need to plan for the Israeli weather. Throughout the year you will need sun protection, especially in the summer.Do you Need to Make Plans for Security on a Trip to Israel?If you're wondering if you need to make any special plans for security in Israel the answer is no. You will find Israel is one of the safest places you visit; women can walk alone at night in the large cities and feel safe. Israel, unfortunately, has had ample experience of terrorism and conflict so security measures are entrenched in the Israeli psyche. Besides being vigilant Israelis are used to going about their daily business and living full and rich lives without letting any political situation or regional conflict ruin their fun.Having a General Plan for Your Israel TripDon't forget to include theDead Sea in your trip in IsraelEven if you don't want to arrive in Israel with a ridged itinerary it is a good idea to consider basing yourself in different regions of the country so you can conveniently explore the nearby sites without traveling long distances each day. I suggest dividing your time between northern Israel, central Israel (Tel Aviv), Jerusalem and southern Israel (Dead Sea or Eilat). Spend a few days based in each of these areas and do your daily sightseeing from there. You might also want to plan for any highlights you don't want to miss – shows, attractions or natural wonders. Some need to be booked in advance to avoid missing. Israel has excellent public transport and plenty to see so you shouldn't have too much trouble just getting up in the morning and setting off for an adventure.How to Travel in Israel without PlanningAn organized group tour in Israel - Most of the services you need in one pack.So if you have covered the essential basic plans mentioned above you can then relax and play the rest by ear. There are a few ways to make an unplanned trip to Israel even better. Once you get to your hotel or hostel have a chat with the reception staff or concierge to get tips on what to see and where to go. They will probably give you a free street map to help you get around if you are in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Connect up with locals and get their input. Wander the streets just people-watching, shopping, and spotting the incredible architecture. Spend time on the beach, in parks, pubs, markets or side walk cafes. If you feel like you haven't covered the top attractions, you can always take a day tour. Alternatively if you want to take all planning out of your trip to Israel then join one of the Israel package tours where all guided tours and accommodation are included and organized for you. No stress, no planning, just sit back and let the tour company do all the work.A Little Bit of Planning Goes a Long WayHowever much you want to be a free spirit and arrive in the Holy Land ready to go, a little bit of planning will make your trip more interesting, trouble-free and enrich your experience. Have a guide or guide book so that you know what you're looking at when you stare at structures that are 2,000 years old. Plan how to spend weekends when transport and businesses close down and do your longer journeys on weekdays. I also suggest booking at least some of your accommodation as hotels are expensive in Israel and you can find better deals online than in the middle of the night wandering the streets like Mary and Joseph when there is "no room at the inn."
By Petal Mashraki

On the Road in Israel: a Hebrew-English Dictionary for Visitors

So you’re off to Israel on a long-awaited holiday? Firstly, congratulations, you made a fine choice and, trust us, you’re going to love it. Secondly, a small tip. Whilst this is a country where many people (especially the younger generation) speak English fluently, and everyone connected with the tourist industry will be able to help you out, at least to some degree, it’s always useful to know a few phrases. And more than just being useful, you’ll see how appreciated your words are when you utter them - Israelis are proud of their Hebrew language (‘Ivrit’ as it is known), so if you go to the trouble of learning a few words and expressions, you’ll really reap the rewards!Hebrew signs inJudean Hills.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinBefore we start, a little about the history of modern Hebrew because it's actually a fascinating story. Something that really sets Israel apart from other nations is that it has a revived language as its national tongue and that is definitely thanks to Eliezer Ben Yehuda, a Lithuanian immigrant who was the driving force behind its ‘comeback’. Taking the view that the Jews could not become a united people in their own land unless they had a modern language of their own, from the day he and his family arrived in Jaffa (in 1881) he insisted that they speak only Hebrew - a Hebrew that he was going to ‘recreate’ out of the ancient language of the Bible! Ben Yehuda really took the construction of this new modern language seriously. He would not even respond to his children if they did not use the words he was constructing, even when they cried and told him they did not understand! This story is still recounted to every young school child in Israel. He coined all kinds of new words and even put together a dictionary, to promote the use of the language in the fields of journalism, science, and literature. Today, we see the fruits of his labor - Hebrew isn’t just a language of prayer, but a tongue heard on every street corner. What an achievement!Street name sign in three languages in Jerusalem.Photo credit:© ShutterstockWhilst Ben Yehuda clearly had to improvise in many instances (there were no cars or newspapers in biblical times!) you can trace the etymology (origin) of many words easily, as many are referred to in the Bible as geographical places. Jerusalem literally means ‘City of Peace’ (from ‘shalom’) and Jaffa (‘beautiful’) is derived from Japhfet, the name of one of Noah's sons' who built the city after the Flood. Beit Shemesh (in the east) means ‘House of the Sun’ and Mitzpe Ramon (home to Israel’s astonishing crater, with its panoramic views) is ‘lookout’. Many spots are also named after water (‘Ein Gedi‘ means ‘ Spring of the Kid’) or named after species mentioned in the Bible (‘Ein Tamar’ means ‘Spring of the Date Palm’).Jerusalem literally means "City of Peace" in Hebrew.Photo credit:© ShutterstockBut, for now, back to your trip. You’ll need, at the very least, some basic words and phrases whilst touring in Israel ... words like ‘shalom’ (hello, goodbye, and peace) ‘bevakasha’ (please) ‘todah’ (thank you) ‘lehitraot’ (goodbye) and ‘al lo davar’ (you’re welcome) are always helpful, as are phrases to do with how much something costs, where the bathroom is (always an essential!) and how to order something in a restaurant. Here, let’s take a look of this lovely video by Yaara, one of the sweetest Hebrew teachers on YouTube that we know, with her ‘25 top words’ to get you started.Once you’ve mastered the basics, let’s go onto a few words and phrases that will really come in handy when you’re on a tour of the Dead Sea and Masada, discovering the capital's rich history with a City of David & Underground Jerusalem Tour, or thirsty whilst on a tour in the Golan Heights! ‘Mayim’ is a real essential - it means water and you should be drinking lots of it, especially if you’re here between May and October. ‘Glida’ is another favorite - it refers to ice cream and wherever you go in Israel you’ll see it for sale - especially in boutique parlors where you can find exotic Middle Eastern flavors, such as halvah, saffron, cardamom, and star anise.Sliced halvah cake ("ooga")at the Carmel market shop.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinThere’s also ‘yam’ - sea in Hebrew - and ‘tayelet’ - which means promenade (Israel’s beaches have beautiful promenades, perfect for strolling, with the Mediterranean Sea waves lapping nearby) before you head off to sample some Middle Eastern cuisine in a local ‘misadah’ (restaurant). Israel is famous for plenty of dishes besides the ubiquitous falafel (fried chickpea balls served in pita bread) and one word we’d really recommend not forgetting is ‘dag’ (which in Hebrew, means ‘fish’) - because the local catches are wonderful.‘Salatim’ - salads - are also a fine choice and they come in all colors and flavors, using making use of local produce such as ‘hatzilim’ (eggplant) ‘rimonim’ (pomegranates) ‘gvina’ (cheese), and egozim (nuts). Don't forget to drizzle some ‘tahini over your food too - a sesame seed paste that’s delicious and nutritious and which is universally known here. And for dessert, try a couple of ‘sabras’ - they are the Israeli national fruit (spiky on the outside and sweet on the inside - just like the people of the country, as they say).The sea ( ‘yam’) in Acre, Israel.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinA few more words for good measure: ‘Tiyul’ means ‘trip, ‘haaretz’ means ‘the land or Israel’ and ‘madrich / madricha’ are your tour guides (depending on whether they are male or female). So once you’ve got the hang of these words, why not try them out on your ‘siyurim madrichim baaretz’ - guided tours in Israel. Fun fact: Israel is a nation of polyglots, and it’s quite likely that your tour guide will speak more than just Hebrew and English (many Israelis grow up in homes where Arabic, Turkish, French, Spanish, and even Yiddish are spoken!)Bein Harim guide on an tour to Masada.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinFor anyone whose Hebrew is a bit better than basic, we’d really recommend listening to ‘Streetwise Hebrew’ by Guy Sharett. What makes this podcast really special is that Guy takes an innovative approach to learn words and phrases, by using Israeli music (old songs and new), graffiti, and a bit of slang too! Fun fact: Guy’s native tongue is Hebrew, but apart from being fluent in English, he is also familiar with Arabic, Aramaic, Latin, Italian, Dutch, and Indonesian. This podcast is so much fun that you might even be tempted to learn more Hebrew once you’re back home. Go on - have a listen! After learning Hebrew with this original technique, you might also be interested in a Tel Aviv graffiti and street art tour which is certainly a must for all contemporary art lovers.Tourist taking pictures of Tel Aviv graffiti.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinAnd how could we talk about Hebrew words without throwing in a few phrases for when you’re in the local markets, looking for unusual foods, local crafts, and souvenirs for your friends back home. The ‘shuk’ (‘market’ in Hebrew) is a central feature of any town or city and is a must-visit, and if you take a tour you’ll get a lot of history thrown in for good measure. Jerusalem has the fabled Mahane Yehuda, Tel Aviv has the Carmel market, Jaffa has the vintage ‘Shuk Hapishpishim’ (Jaffa flea market, an organized tour recommended), and the Crusader city of Acre has a vibrant Old City market. In all of them, you can wander for hours, and soak up the exotic atmosphere, better with a guided market tour.Spice stall at Tel Aviv's Carmel Market.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinIn terms of what to buy, you’re completely spoilt for choice - spices are always a good choice, not to mention halva, Medjool dates, and Dead Sea mud packs for your face, which are guaranteed to leave your skin invigorated. There’s also all kind of religious artifacts on offer - Judaica (menorahs and Hannukiahs, for placing candles), Shabbat tablecloths and silver mezuzahs (which religious Jews affix to their doorposts) and, for pilgrims on Christian tours of Israel olive wood crucifixes, rosary beads, and even bottles of water from the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Vintage posters from the 1920s, depicting travel to the Holy Land, Armenian pottery, and olive oil are also fun buys. And the good news is that in these markets, you can always haggle (it’s actually expected). So, for starters, try: “Kama ze oleh?” That’s “What’s the cost?” in Hebrew, and is always a good opening gambit. With any luck, you’ll grab yourself a bargain as well as improving your vocabulary. Enjoy your trip to Israel and, as we say in Hebrew, “B'hatzlacha!” (“Good luck!”)Olivesstall at Tel Aviv's Carmel Market.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
By Sarah Mann

How to Choose a Private Tour Guide in Israel

It is important to choose a private tour guide in Israel carefully to make sure you get the most out of your trip. Not all tour guides are created equally! There are many fly-by-nights, self-appointed “guides” that could charge exorbitant fees and ruin your holiday. Your time is valuable and on a trip to Israel, you’ll want to make the most of it. Private guides are generally more expensive than group tours but they are worth every shekel. With a private tour guide you’ll get one-on-one service; a trip tailor-made for you and luxury air-conditioned transportation. Having a private guide means you can make a personal connection with the guide and talk freely, asking any questions you may have without 30 other tourists in the group! Here are a few tips about how to find the best possible private tour guide for your trip to the Holy Land.What Makes a Good Private Tour Guide in Israel?There are some qualities in a private tour guide that you can’t know in advance. Although by choosing a private guide from a reputable tour company and by discussing the trip ahead of time you can get a feel for your guide’s character. An ideal private tour guide should be punctual; organized; have enough energy to get you through the day; have a sense of humor and patience. The best private tour guides are local and have extensive knowledge of the country. Unlike guides on group tours, Israel private tours should be flexible so that you can stay longer at a place if you want to or skip a site if you see something more interesting along the way. A good private tour guide knows when to give you room to look around by your selves (for example in a market, on a beach, while enjoying lunch, or at a religious site). You want a private tour guide that respects your space. Some tour guides never stop talking while others don’t say enough. A good tour guide knows just how much information to give you at each site and when to be quiet and let you soak up the atmosphere.Choose a Professional Private Guide from a Reputable CompanyProfessional tour guides in Israel are trained and issued a tour guide license by the Ministry of Tourism. Israeli tour guides undergo lengthy training, they have to pass an exam and if they intend to guide children or drive a tour vehicle there are additional courses. With a reputable tour company, their credentials should appear prominently on their website. Israel has several well-established tour companies that employ only certified guides and supervise the guides to make sure they keep a high standard of work.A private tour guide from a reputable company will have a whole support team to provide him with all the transportation, marketing, up-dates about attraction, customer service, an accounting department, and more. Your private tour guide will be able to concentrate on giving you the best possible tour without having to worry about accounting, marketing, and logistics which are taken care of by the tour company office. Using a reputable tour company will put your mind at rest as you will always have someone to contact if things go wrong.Choose a Private Tour Guide Who Speaks Your LanguageIsrael is a land of immigrants; when the state was established Jews came from across the globe to settle here. The multi-cultural society means that you will have no problem finding a tour guide that speaks your language. Whether your native tongue is Russian, French, Spanish, English or even Mandarin there are private tour guides in Israel to serve you. If you are English speakers, then make sure your guide speaks a good level of English and will not have to um and ah looking for the right words when explaining things. Having a private guide that speaks good English will make all the difference to your trip. Your guide should also have a good command of Hebrew in order to talk to the locals.Choose a Private Guide that Suits YouYour private guide’s job is to show you the things that interest you as well as a few gems that only a local would know about. Before arriving in Israel you should discuss your preferences with your guide and settle on a basic itinerary. Most private guides that work with larger companies already have recommended itineraries that they can offer you in order to make planning your trip easier. You can discuss the suggested itinerary and adjust it according to your travel style and interests. If you prefer to travel at an easy-going pace and stay longer at each site, then let your guide know in advance. If you are one of those travelers that like to move fast and see as much as possible the guide should be aware of that too. Tell your private guide your specific interests – do you want to see Christian landmarks; natural wonders; Jewish heritage sites; sites from modern history or perhaps a little of everything. Have a good discussion with your private guide and tailor-make your trip before the day of the tour. This will save time and make your tour day run more smoothly.Choose a Private Tour Guide that Will Give You Something ExtraSo when you’ve found a private tour guide that meets all the above criteria there should still be something extra, something special that makes your guide stand-out. Hopefully, your chosen guide will be friendly and excited about showing you his country. Some of the best tour guides will share a few private anecdotes and insights into life in Israel. The benefits of a private tour guide in Israel don’t end when the tour comes to an end as your guide can recommend the best restaurants; local experiences and other sites in Israel that you might want to visit. Hopefully, your time in Israel will be magical and you’ll leave with good memories having been introduced to the Holy Land by an excellent private tour guide.
By Petal Mashraki

Honeymooning in Israel - Where Romance and Adventure Make for the Perfect ‘Marriage’

We all know that planning a wedding takes effort which is understandable since for many people it’s the most important day of their life. But what about what comes afterwards? How do you want to begin your married life and what factors do you take into consideration when it comes to planning the first trip you’ll take together? Choosing a destination that ticks the right boxes is incredibly important because this isn’t just a holiday, it’s your honeymoon!Just married. Photo by Derek Thomson on UnsplashWhere Modernity and History Come TogetherWe might be a bit biased, but we think Israel is the place of honeymoon dreams. It’s a modern, developed country with every amenity you could wish for, combined with oodles of history and culture. It’s small enough to travel around easily but incredibly diverse in terms of landscapes and climates. There’s extraordinary nature, astonishing archaeological sites, history at your fingertips and miles and miles of pristine white sandy beaches and aquamarine Mediterranean waters to enjoy.Yes, whether you’re a sun worshipper, a culture buff, an avid nature lover or a city slicker, Israel has it all. With four climate zones, you can ski in the Golan Heights in the morning and dive in the Red Sea at night...or hike in a crater at sunrise and be overlooking a Crusader castle by sunset. With its blue flag beaches, hip hotels, fabulous cuisine and breathtaking scenery, Israel is one of the best honeymoon destinations, and here are a few of the ideas we have in mind, to help convince you...View of Safed against the backdrop of the Sea of Galilee.Photo credit: © Shutterstock1. All Coupled UpThere’s nothing more appealing for many Israelis than the prospect of heading off to a ‘zimmer’ for a romantic weekend in one of the country‘s most beautiful areas - the Galilee - and for honeymooners, we think this is a perfect idea. The word Zimmer comes from the German ‘room’ but this unique accommodation goes way beyond that. Zimmers are self-contained units that often take the form of cabins and are rustic yet luxurious, with hot tubs, stylish furnishings and extravagant breakfasts. Pastoral and private, there’s no better place to begin your married life than in these rural retreats, with no one but you and your beloved - oh, and the birds, of course!A house in Safed,the highest city in Galilee and in Israel.Photo credit: © Shutterstock2. Urban LivingFor city lovers who yearn for an ‘urban’ holiday, then Tel Aviv fits the bill nicely. With its hip boutique hotels, stylish fine dining scene combined with the romantic backstreets ofJaffa and the smart boutiques of the Neve Tzedek neighbourhood, it’s a great choice for a honeymoon in Israel.The city has all kinds of stylish hotels, many with rooftops that offer stunning views of the skyline and bars where you can enjoy a coffee by day and an aperitif before dinner. By day, stroll the Rothschild Boulevardand tiny streets,soak up the atmosphere; by night, lounge at a cocktail bar, before eating al fresco at some modern Mediterranean spot then dance until the wee hours at one of the city’s hottest clubs.Neve Tzedek.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin3. Sunrises and SunsetsHolding hands and watching the sunrise over Masada, in the magnificent Judean desert has got to rank as a seriously romantic activity. On any Israel tour, a trip to the ancient fortress of Masada is a must, but climbing it early in the morning really is a wonderful idea. Sitting atop the ruins, as the sun hits your face, before taking a cable car back to the bottom and heading off to the Dead Sea for a float in the world’s lowest body of water adds a touch of fun to the activity too. Slather yourself in mud, or even take a spa treatment at one of the hotels on the promenade. You can also combine all three, by taking an organised Masada Sunrise and Dead Sea Tour,which includes time at Ein Gedi - hiking, animal spotting and a refreshing dip in David’s Waterfall. Similarly, why not enjoy a sunset in the beautiful north of the country, in the Golans (nature, history and a foodie’s delight), or on a boat trip around the Sea of Galilee? Or atop an abandoned fortification at Mount Bental, on a private tour of the Golan Heights? This part of the country is renowned for its spectacular landscapes and beautiful wildlife (eagles, deer and jackals). You can climb the Nimrod Fortress (the largest Crusader-era castle in Israel) or take a detour to the Hamat Gaderhot springs. The area is a paradise for foodies too, with its locally sourced cheeses and olive oils as well as several chocolatiers providing sweet treats for locals and visitors! Wine lovers are advised to visit one of the boutique wineries and indulge in some tastings. All of these private tours are custom-made too, so it’s entirely up to you where you travel...Sunset in Tel Aviv.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin4. Out of the Comfort ZoneIf you’re in Israel to relax but want a few activities thrown in, save for the classical day tours or private excursions, why not step out of your comfort zone and try something you’ve never tried before? Head south to the Negev desert, to stargaze and look for meteors at the amazing Mitzpe Ramon crater, before experiencing some local hospitality in the form of a night in a Bedouin tent. Or take a hike around Timna national park before heading to Eilat for some diving or snorkelling in the Red Sea.There’s also plenty of hiking in the Negev desert, and a trip to the spectacular Ein Avdat canyon, near Kibbutz Sde Boker (home to Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion) is well worth it. If you’re looking for more ideas, take a look at our Israel tour packages page, to inspire you.Traditional Bedouin flatbread getting baked on a tabun in the Negev desert.Photo credit: © Oksana Mats5. A Little Bit of LuxuryEveryone loves pampering and what better time for it than on an Israel honeymoon? The country has some incredibly luxurious hotels, and we’d recommend indulging in at least one or two nights in them! Jerusalem boasts the Waldorf Astoria, the pinnacle of style with its eclectic and elegant architecture and furnishings. Try their afternoon tea - it’s to die for. Or head to King David, with its stunning views over the Old City and palatial limestone walls. In Tel Aviv, we’d recommend the Norman - luxurious bedrooms, fine dining and the famous ‘Library Bar’ - perfect for an evening aperitif. We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention ‘the Jaffa’ too - a modern luxury set in 19th-century grandeur. With its minimalist style, sumptuous bedrooms, lavish bathrooms and all kinds of luxury amenities, this is - by and standards - a ‘lifestyle’ hotel, and perfect for newlyweds.Rosh Hanikra Grottoes, Israel.Photo credit: © Shutterstock6. Roots SchmootsIf you are Jewish, it might be a dream of yours to hold your wedding in Israel but if that’s not possible, then come here afterwards - as part of the Honeymoon Israel.This unique project offers young couples, just married or in the early years of their union, a nine-day subsidized honeymoon in Israel program. The idea is to give them an immersive travel experience and - whatever their personal backgrounds - make them feel at home both in the country and in the Jewish community.The trip around the country involves outings to the top tourist spots in the country as well as unusual experiences i.e. eating dinner with locals that you wouldn't get on a classical Israel tour package. There will also be time to explore alone, with your partner and, of course, at the end of the nine days you are free to stay on longer if you want to see more of the country.Banias National Reserve.Photo credit: © Shutterstock7. Adrenaline RushIf you’re a couple that craves excitement, then an Israeli honeymoon won’t disappoint. With miles and miles of coastline and rivers too, there are all kinds of water sports - sailing, surfing, kayaking on the Jordan river and jeep safari tours through rugged desert terrain. Explore the tunnels on a tour of the City of David and Underground Jerusalem, or head off to Acre, another Crusader City, with its stone walls and winding streets.For the truly adventurous, explore some of the country’s caves - Sorek (the Stalactite Cave) in the Judean Mountains has wooden walkways which make it easy to explore. Malcham, close to the Dead Sea, has huge spaces and vertical shafts over 400 feet deep! Or what about the Maresha Caves in Beit Guvrin National Park, in which you can find cisterns, olive presses and burial caves of the Phoenicians.Beit Guvrin National Park. Photo credit: © Shutterstock8. Small PleasuresTake pleasure in the small things! If you’re in Tel Aviv, eat ice cream on a hot day (the city has some fabulous artisan gelaterias) take a stroll on the beach promenade (‘Tayelet’), hunt for vintage items in Jaffa’s flea market then have lunch at Jaffa port, watching fisherman pull in their catch. Hire a bike and explore the city by cycling the boulevards or head to Yarkon Park and rent a paddleboat, which you can take all the way down to Luna Park (what’s more romantic than a ride on a Ferris wheel at night?). Also, consider a Jerusalem tour package - have a guide walk you through the Old City, from one ancient spot to the next, soaking up an atmosphere that’s 2,000 years old. Jerusalem might not have beaches and 24/7 activity, but it has a charm all of its own.City of David Archaeological site.Photo credit: © Shutterstock9. Getting LostFor those who like to live on the wild side, head to the central railway station of the city you’re staying in, buy a ticket to a place with the most exotic or unusual sounding name you can find and take a day trip there. Wander the streets, grab some street food and get lost. Just remember not to miss the last train home! Here are a few of our recommendations, on the ‘unusual’ front:Ein Hod - a charming artist’s village on the foot of a hill in the Carmel, between the mountain and the sea! It doesn’t just offer accommodation either - there are workshops for those with a creative inner spirit!Ein Kerem - this tranquil village in the west of Jerusalem will delight every honeymooner - full of history, its lush vegetation is downright gorgeous (and if you’re there in February, look out for the almond blossom).Caesarea - famous for its Herodian architecture, the city also boasts the Ralli modern art museum - filled with Spanish and Latin American art, its Moorish courtyard is the perfect place for honeymooners to sit and swoon over each other.Safed- magical and holy, wander through the ancient streets and let yourself be enveloped by its mysterious and intoxicating atmosphere. Don’t forget to visit the Artist’s Quarter while you’re there.Safed street.Photo credit: © Shutterstock10. Do as the Locals DoThis one sounds rather odd, but why not just ask a local? Israelis are notoriously friendly and apart from loving to help, they love to give advice! They also have opinions on everything - particularly the best places to see in what they consider to be the greatest country in the world.They won’t name the tourist spots either - they’ll tell you about the places they grew up in, went to as teenagers, or travelled en route to their army base! Places like the underground water cisterns in Ramle, the Druze village of Daliat-el-Carmel, and the Latrun monastery. They are all hidden tourist gems and most visitors to Israel never make it to them. To sum up, then, we think that you’ll love taking a honeymoon in Israel. The adventures the two of you will have in this exciting, beautiful and unusual country are ones you are guaranteed to love and the memories you’ll make we think will stay with you for years to come. Congratulations on tying the knot and see you soon!The Wedding Church at Cana, where Jesus performed the miracle of turning water into wine.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
By Sarah Mann

How to Travel Israel on a Budget

Budget travel in Israel is possible with careful planning. You can avoid the tourist traps and instead enjoy your Israel vacation without worrying too much about going over budget. The major cities have plenty to see without paying entrance fees; cheap-eats are in abundance and even day-tour prices are reasonable.Travel to Israel Off-SeasonAs with all travel destinations, it is cheaper to travel off-season. For Israel, this means avoiding the national holidays and the July-August summer high season. During any of the holiday periods and in summer prices of airfares and hotels are higher. Don’t worry about traveling in the shoulder or low-season as Israel has good weather throughout most of the year and attractions stay open year-round (except some that close on national holidays and Saturdays). Another way to get low-cost flights to Israel is to check-out flights to the new Ramon Airport near Eilat.Budget Accommodation in IsraelLow-cost accommodation in Israel includes couchsurfing which is popular in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. There are plenty of hostel options but even the hostels are a bit pricey in Israel. Luckily many of the hostels are centrally located and of a high standard. You can find hostels along Tel Aviv’s HaYarkon Street opposite the beach or in Jerusalem’s stunning Old City or historic YMCA. Try to book accommodation that comes with a free breakfast or alternatively with access to a kitchen. This will cut down on your food expenses.Budget Transportation in IsraelIsrael has an extensive bus system that is reasonably priced. You can reach most parts of the country, even the smallest communities on the Israeli bus system for just a few shekels. For example, the cheapest way to travel from central Israel to Eilat is by bus. The next cheapest transportation option is a sherut taxi or a shared taxi. Sherut taxis are mini-buses that run along popular routes or take you directly to your address. The only draw-back is that the sherut will stop for all passengers thus making it a long journey. There are sheruts between the major cities and inner-city routes in large cities like Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa that follow a set route. Although not as extensive as the bus system Israel’s train system is also useful for reaching some locations and is budget-friendly. You will also find that many of Israel’s cities are walkable.Eating on a Budget in IsraelIsrael has some of the healthiest street food in the world – and plenty of it! You can’t go far on any street in Israel before coming across a falafel stall, hummus shop or shawarma restaurant. You can indulge yourself with the delicious street food options and still keep to your budget. Also make use of Israel’s wonderful markets like Carmel Market in Tel Aviv and Machane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. Here you can buy fresh produce and other ingredients to make your own meals.Israel Daily ToursOne way to save money and time is to take the occasional daily tour to locations that are harder to reach by public transport. Of course, there is the added advantage that you will have a tour guide telling you all about the various landmarks and arranging all the transportation logistics. For example, Bethlehem and the Dead Sea are both locations that are more difficult to reach than places like Tel Aviv and so why not rely on a local tour company to do all the hard work. There are Israel daily tours specially designed for budget travelers.Free Attractions in IsraelAlthough Israeli museums are relatively expensive you can enjoy many of Israel’s top attractions simply by walking the streets. Wander through the narrow streets of Jerusalem’s Old City and discover the quaint churches and Biblical landmarks like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Western Wall. You can enjoy many free attractions in Israel including the beaches, markets, religious landmarks and natural wonders like the Sea of Galilee.And more hot budget tips for travel in Israel….If you’ll be in Israel for an extended period buy a local SIM card. Ask in one of the many phone stores or even at the airport on arrival. Alternatively, you could make use of the extensive free WiFi options in Israel. Almost every café, restaurant, hotel or store will have WiFi.If you’re shopping in an Israeli market be sure to haggle over the price.Alcohol is expensive in Israel so you could do what many Israelis do and get your alcohol in the local supermarket instead of in a pub or nightclub.
By Petal Mashraki

A Unique Society to Israel, the Kibbutz Community

A kibbutz, a unique collective community, that exists for over 100 years in Israel only, was established during the pioneering era at the turn of the 20th century. Kibbutzim were founded for settling the land through agricultural co-existence, and with its resident members formed part of the diverse ideological base on which the state of Israel, for 40 years before its creation, was built. There were different ideological movements, that formed agricultural cooperatives which embraced different political affiliations.Such a community formed a fully economical, sustainable and socialist based society, “all for one and one for all”, as part of the foundation of the Zionist movement, and its dream of settling the land of Israel, creating and establishing the homeland for the Jewish people. This was made possible by Jewish immigrants from Europe, North Africa, Russia. Many who fled oppressive regimes, survived atrocities, lost entire families and came to build a new life in Israel.Kibbutz community, based on egalitarian and social cooperation, its values and ethos, takes care of its members’ needs for their entire lives, providing vocation, occupations, homes, health services, education, and sustaining a communal lifestyle built on the community and individual needs, mutual and reciprocal. Various ideologies, religious practice, traditions, values, vision and political entities differentiated between numerous kibbutz movements.The kibbutz today has adjusted to the 21st century – lots of communities are privatized, and considerably fewer exist in its original or economic communal form. In the 21st century, the kibbutz community has become privatized in many aspects, some have even completely ceased to exist, meeting member’s specific needs and re-examining the individual’s needs. Until 1970 children grew up fed, clothed, lived and slept in children’s houses seeing their parents for a few hours each afternoon, from immediately after birth. Since then, housing was adjusted in size to accommodate children living with their parents, and families as a nuclear unit, under 1 roof, redefining the family unit and its part in the collective.The needs of the individual and community are addressed by the elected governing body, but all kibbutz members still have the voting right for all issues that affect them personally and collectively. The kibbutz as a community caters to the needs of the aged, until their passing. Many of them have an elderly population of up to 20 % of the entire member population, who are no longer productive working members but have their needs catered for, by virtue of having been part of the kibbutz all their lives.In recent years, kibbutzim have also created small, adjacent outside housing communities to strengthen them with a younger population ensuring their future existence. Young couples can build and buy homes, which are privately owned, and can fully enjoy communal services education, etc and a countryside lifestyle which they would not be able to afford living in major cities in the center of the country.The kibbutz system has proven its ability to move through the ages and remain relevant in Israeli society, however varied and distant it may be from the original nucleus of its formation.
By Jenny Ehrlich

How to Get from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem

Tel Aviv and Jerusalem are Israel’s two largest cities, as well as being huge tourist centres, meaning that the majority of visitors want to see both. Luckily, the two cities aren’t far apart - in fact, by European or North American standards, travelling between them is easy and cheap. Making a day trip takes minimal effort (indeed, some Israelis commute between the two cities five days a week) and whether you want to plan ahead or just wake up and decide to head off, it’s your choice. Here, we look at some of the different ways you can make the 54 km (33 mile) journey.A statue of King David playing harp, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock1.How to Travel Between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem byBusThe Tel Aviv to Jerusalem bus service is highly recommended since it’s inexpensive and efficient, with buses leaving every 15 minutes from early morning to late at night. The Egged company runs this very popular service and if there is no traffic your journey should take between 45-55 minutes. If you want to know if it’s safe to travel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, then the answer is a resounding yes. Bus drivers are trained to high standards and, moreover, if any kind of problem arises, someone will inevitably offer you assistance - Israelis are very hospitable people and love to help! There are two central bus stations in Tel Aviv that operate this service:- The Central Bus Station (Tachana Merkazit) located on Levinsky Street in the south of Tel Aviv, close to HaHagana train station. This operates bus line 405- The Terminal 2000 station, on Namir Road/Arlozorov Street, in the north of Tel Aviv, which operates line 480.Either you can pay the driver when you board the bus (cash is fine) or use a Rav Kav card. These cards can be purchased at many points in the city and loaded up with credit which can be used on buses within the city as well as longer journeys around the country. You can also buy a ticket beforehand from a machine (most machines have an ‘English’ option) or a staff member at one of the counters. The cost of a one-way ticket is 19 NIS and there is a discount if you buy a return-trip ticket.All buses arrive at the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, which is very close to the main highway and the Bridge of Chords. From here, it is very easy to navigate your way around Jerusalem - either by bus, the light railway (which runs all the way down to the Old City), or a taxi. The Jerusalem bus station also has an array of shops selling clothes, electronic goods, and food/beverages, so if you're desperate for a coffee or you’ve forgotten your phone charger, never fear.As with all cities in Israel, there is no public bus service on Shabbat i.e. from Friday afternoon until Saturday evening, after dark.Old City market, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Shutterstock2.How to Travel Between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem by TrainAfter decades of talks that came to nothing and plans that regularly collapsed, the high-speed rail link connecting Israel’s two largest cities opened in 2019. The Tel Aviv to Jerusalem train is, without a doubt, a fantastic way to travel between the cities - it’s a direct service, using a spacious two-level train and it takes between 36 and 43 minutes, depending on which of the three Tel Aviv stations you depart from. These stations are:- Savidor Center - like the Terminal 200 bus station (see above), Savidor is on the corner of Namir Road and Arlozorov Street.- Shalom train station - close to the famous Azrieli Towers, this station is located on the HaShalom Interchange on the Ayalon Highway - HaHagana railway station- the most southern of the three stations is also located on the Ayalon Highway, north of Highway 1 and 200 meters easy of the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station.A one-way ride costs 23.50 NIS and for much of the day, the train runs every 15-20 minutes. As with the Egged buses (see above) you can use your Rav Kav card or buy tickets from cashiers or machines in the station. You will arrive at the state-of-the-art, Yitzhak Navon station in Jerusalem, complete with modern design, vaulted ceilings, and beautiful wall mosaics. It’s also one of the world’s deepest stations (80 meters deep) and conveniently located on Jaffa Street, with access to city buses, taxis, and the famed light railway, which will transport you to downtown Jerusalem and the Old City in just a few minutes. Jerusalem light railway, Israel. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin3. Taxi - Shared or PrivateIn all of the major cities in Israel, you will see small yellow vans standing at their main bus stations. These are called ‘sheruts’ and basically, they are ‘shared taxis.’ They take 10 passengers and are not owned by the government, which means that they run on Shabbat (unlike Egged buses and trains, which stop between Friday afternoon and Saturday evening). All you need to do is climb in and pay the driver in cash (22 NIS). Once the seats are all filled, off you go! (Bear in mind that you might have to wait a few minutes for the sheruts to fill up). Sheruts leave from the Tel Aviv Central Bus Station on the ground floor, just outside the main entrance, and can drop you either close to the Jerusalem bus station or downtown, close to Tzion Square and a short walk from the Old City.For more comfort (and if you’re willing to pay a premium) then it’s possible to take a private taxi from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Either ask your concierge to arrange this service for you or download the Gett Taxi app (as yet, there is no Uber in Israel). Expect to pay around 350 NIS door to door (and more at night or on Shabbat). Buses on Mount of Olives, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock4. Private TransferA Tel Aviv to Jerusalem private transferis a comfortable and convenient way to travel and is easily organized through a trusted tour operator. You will be driven in a vehicle that is comfortable and air-conditioned and, of course, if you wish to make a detour along the way (to visit the village of Abu Gosh, for example, or grab a cup of coffee at the ‘Elvis Diner’ then that’s your prerogative). You should expect to pay around 700 NIS for this service.5. Organized Trips to JerusalemIf you’re based in Tel Aviv, but want to visit Jerusalem and see as much as you can in a set period of time, it’s really worthwhile considering one of the many Jerusalem tours on offer. Taking a guided trip in Israel really takes the hassle out of everything - you’ll have a driver, a guide and - whether it’s one, two, or three days - the chances are you’ll get to see quite a bit more than if you’re traveling under your own steam. There are all kinds of Israel day tours and Jerusalem tour packages available - whether you want to explore the Old City, visit ancient churches, wander the world-class Israel Museum or take a stroll in the vibrant, bustling Mahane Yehuda market, there’s something that will suit you. Jerusalem is a city that offers a taste of everything - culture, history, architecture, food, and scenery. It’s probably one of the most extraordinary cities you’ll ever visit so soak it up.The Wailing Wall, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin6. Rent a CarRenting a car in Israel is not difficult - there are plenty of companies around and prices are reasonable. GalCal, Hertz, Shlomo Sixt, and Hagar are some of the most reputable names, and booking via their websites (all in English) is easy. All you need is your international driver’s license, your passport, and a credit card. Allow about half an hour to sort out the paperwork and then you’ll be good to go.There are two major routes that you can take - either Road 1 or Road 443, via Modiin. Traffic is notoriously bad on these roads early in the morning and later, after the workday ends, so try and plan your journey in quieter hours, otherwise, your journey could double in time. Also, bear in mind that parking is limited and expensive in Jerusalem itself, so if you’re visiting just the Old City itself (rather than combining your city trip with a tour of Masada and the Dead Sea for example), you’ll be better off using public transport or taking an organized Jerusalem tourfrom Tel Aviv.Montefiore Windmill, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
By Sarah Mann

What to Expect from Israel Weather

The short answer to “what to expect from Israel weather” is sunshine! The weather in Israel is generally hot, sunny and pleasant most of the year. If you are planning a trip to the Holy Land you probably won’t encounter any problem with the weather in Israel.From about April to October there is continual sunshine and from November to March the weather is cooler with occasional rain storms and cloudy days. December to February are the wet months and July and August are the hottest months. Tel Aviv has an average of 3300 sunshine hours a year.Tel Aviv, Haifa, Herzliya and Natanya WeatherAlong the west coast of Israel (Tel Aviv, Haifa, Natanya) the weather is hot and humid in the sunny months and mild and rainy in the winter. You can enjoy the sea breeze which helps to cool down the coast. The average temperature in Tel Aviv is about 14(°C)-18(°C)in January and 26(°C)-30(°C)in August, the country’s hottest month. The sea is warm enough for swimming from about June to November.Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth WeatherInland cities like Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth which have elevated locations experience colder winters than the coast. The winter is still mild compared to Europe but it does get cold. In January and February the elevated cities and the Golan Heights mountain range can experience snow. The weather is particularly chilly in Jerusalem at night. During the hotter months of the year the inland cities do not have the same high level of humidity as the coast. Average temperatures in Jerusalem are about 6(°C)-12(°C)in January and 20(°C)-29(°C)in August.Israel Weather North and SouthThe weather in northern Israel is hot in the summer but the cooler months are similar to those in southern Europe. The mountain tops can be covered in snow and the rainfall allows for the thriving farmlands and vineyards. In Tiberius on the edge of the Sea of Galilee average temperatures are 8(°C)-17(°C)in January and 23(°C)-36(°C)in August.In the southern region of Israel there are dry deserts which experience harsh summers and hot winters spotted with heavy downpours. Summer is not the best time to visit southern Israel and the temperatures are unpleasantly hot. In Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city the best time to visit is not necessarily in the hottest months of July and August. You can enjoy a sunny beach holiday in Eilat in spring and autumn. Sunshine is virtually guaranteed year-round in the Dead Sea and Eilat regions. Average temperatures in Eilat are about 10?C-20?C in January and 26(°C)-38(°C)in August.SharavDuring the summer months Israel can experience heat waves, called “sharav” or “hamsin.” The air becomes dry and extremely hot as the wind blows in from the Egyptian desert. Temperatures can reach about 40(°C). The sharav usually ends with a down pour of rain which settles the heat and dust providing relief from the heat.When to Visit Israel and What to PackYou can enjoy a sunny holiday in Israel virtually year round. Just be prepared for cloudier days in the winter months and the occasional rain. No matter when you visit be sure to pack a light sweater, light jacket or sweat shirt for the cooler evenings. If you will be based in Jerusalem or the Golan Heights warmer evening clothes are even more important.
By Petal Mashraki

The Israel National Trail

Criss-crossing the entire land of Israel, and stretching just over 1000 kilometres (around 630 miles), the Israel National Trail (‘Shvil Israel’) is the kind of experience every hiker will remember for years after. National Geographic have listed it as one of the world’s “most epic” trails and when you hike it you’ll understand why...it marries mountains with desert, coastal plains with green fields, snow-capped hills with warm waters in the Red Sea, Roman and Crusader ruins with Arab/Druze villages...basically, it’s a taste of everything the land of Israel encompasses.Rare OpportunityIt also offers the hiker something else too - a chance to understand more about the Biblical significance of the land as well as the opportunity to meet Israelis from every walk of life...not just those whose villages and towns you’ll pass through, but those who will aid you practically, as you continue on your journey. (But more of that later.)The trail itself is easily marked in colorful stripes - blue white and orange - and is the brainchild of Avraham Tamir and Ori Dvir, who love hiking and nature. Inaugurated back in 1995, first and foremost its aim is to give hikers the chance to experience Israel in its most natural settings. What’s also great the National Israel Trail is that you don’t have to complete the entire stretch. If you're not an expert hiker, or you only have a few days to spare, that’s fine - you can focus on one particular part of it or even take day trips. But for any ardent hiker, between 4-6 weeks will need to be set aside in order to complete the entire stretch.Trail AngelsOn a practical level, strong boots, snacks and a hardy water bottle are all must-haves, particularly for when you’re in remote areas of the trail. The SPNI (Society for the Protection of Nature) sells high-class topographical maps, in English, with an emphasis on the hiking trails - they are an invaluable resource!There’s also more good news - all along the route, you’ll be able to call upon the services of “Trail Angels”. These wonderful people provide hikers with a place to shower/sleep, kitchen facilities and quite often dinner, or at the very least a coffee and a chat, in their homes. Getting to meet locals in their natural habitat? It doesn’t get much more authentic than this! Some Trail Angels also partake in a water-burying scheme (in the desert areas) which really comes in handy when you’re half way through your day and parched.It’s up to you whether you want to work your way up or down the country, but since trekking in Israel’s summer can be unbearable, we suggest you begin your journey in the autumn or winter. Here’s an example of an itinerary, beginning in the south, in mid-February.Timna, the Arava and the NegevStart your journey in Eilat (on the tip of the Red Sea), and spend your last day of ‘freedom’ on the beach, enjoying views of Jordan, Egypt and Saudi. With its endless palm trees and clement waters, it’s the ideal place to enjoy some R&R.Trekking through the Eilat Mountains, and the Arava desert, pass through Timna Park - 15,000 acres set in a valley shaped like a horseshoe, surrounded by Mount Timna and some very steep cliffs. The geology is quite fascinating (our tip: look out for the Pillars of Solomon, two sandstone columns that tower above you). Heading up through the vast desert expenses, you’ll pass Kibbutz Neot Samdar (they sell excellent vegetarian produce) and arrive in Mitzpe Ramon, a small town that sits on the edge of the magnificent Ramon Crater. (It’s actually possible to hike, bike or take a jeep tour inside the crater).About 35 kilometers north, you’ll arrive at the Midreshet Ben Gurion, an intimate community that boasts scientific institutes, the burial site of David Ben Gurion (Israel’s first Prime Minister) and some striking views of Wadi Zin. Call upon Trail Angel Arthur du Mosch, who leads tours of the desert, is an expert horse-rider and actually caught a leopard in his home, many years back!Judean HillsJudean DesertHead north through the Negev to the Yatir Forest, Israel’s largest forest which, despite receiving very little rainfall, is home to some of the country’s most varied woodlands (including a unique eucalyptus with red blossoms). Enjoy some archaeology - the Yatir Ruins (associated with the Biblical city of Jatti). From there it’s into the Judean Hills. Don’t miss the breathtaking views inside the ‘British Park’ and sites such as the Luzit Caves, Kidon Ruins and Monastery of Beit Jamal. Trek through dirt tracks, pass caves and look over Highway 1, which served as a battleground in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. The trail continues through the Sharon coastal area, including Tel Aviv. The ‘White City’ (named after its Bauhaus Buildings) can be a good place to enjoy a couple of day’s rest, some good coffee and sandy beaches.Carmel and the GalileeIt’s then north to the Carmel...an incredibly lovely part of the trail, with wondrous views of the Galilee and steep ravines in which you can hike. The path runs through Kibbutz Yagur, where you’ll find more helpful Trail Angels. Dip your feet in the Nakhash Stream, sip at your water bottle and breathe in the clean air.Further north, you’ll arrive at Mount Tabor, rising up from the very flat Jezreel Valley. Green all year round, it provides magnificent observation points. (Our tip: don’t miss the caves and the Greek Orthodox/Franciscan churches).Mount Meron, the Yesha Fortress and the Upper GalileeAbout 70 kilometers north, just after the spiritual center of Safed, you’ll arrive at Mount Meron which, at 500 meters above sea level, is Israel’s largest peak. It is home to ‘Elijah’s Chair’ (a huge lectern-shaped rock which is rumored to be where the great prophet sat). Parts of the area are a protected nature reserve - and don’t miss the village of Meron either (where you’ll find the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai).Another 30 km north, you’ll arrive at the imposing Yesha Fortress - built by the British during the Mandate period. Today it’s used by the Israeli border police. Hike up the path that leads to a splendid panorama of the Hula Valley below. On your left, you will see the villages of Metula and Kiryat Shmona and, across the Valley, the Golan Heights (whose peaks might even still have snow on them).You will also find at the site a plaque that remembers the 28 men who died fighting here in the War of Independence (our tip: don’t miss the small grove nearby that has 28 trees planted in memory of the men).The last part of the trail - the Hula Valley, Upper Galilee and Naftali Ridge - will see you hiking when spring has truly arrived - with luck you will have blue skies and sunny days, and all around you will be fields carpeted with brightly-colored crocuses. On the eastern side of the Rmim Cliffs, the trail will afford you views of planted forests (after the Second Lebanon War, a reforestation project was undertaken). Don’t miss the Saadia Scenic Lookout, the Menara Cliffs and the Shepherds Spring.And by then, you’re homeward bound and you can honestly say you know the land of Israel a great deal better!
By Sarah Mann
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