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 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 about 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 halfway 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 expanses, 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 HillsThe Judean Desert, Israel.Photo credit: © ShutterstockHead 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 days’ 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 that 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 Naftali 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 Manara Cliff, 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

Ideas for a Day Tour in Netanya

The city of Netanya, also known as the Israeli Riviera, is on the northern Mediterranean coast of the Sharon coastal plain of Israel. Netanya is the largest city on the coast between Tel Aviv and Haifa and is known for its international atmosphere, perhaps due to the large population of French residence. The city’s location places it within easy access of both the attractions in the north and central Israel. Nature lovers can also find beautiful parks and reserves like the Black Iris Reserve and Ramat Poleg just outside the city and a chance to participate in outdoor activities like horse riding and hiking.Netanya is a beach resort city with wide stretches of sandy beach along the length of the city. A series of promenades run parallel to the beach with stores, restaurants, cafes, playgrounds, sports facilities, art galleries, and benches. 12km of beach run along the edge of the city and visitors can try a number of water sports just off the coast. One of the many Netanya beaches which offers water sports, kayak hire, and has a Dive Shop and Hapoel Marine Sports Club is the Amphi Beach. Herzl Beach is great for families as the beach is lined with outdoor cafes and playgrounds. From the beachfront, a pedestrian street takes you into the city center.Along this street and into the city you will find unique boutiques and stores selling a range of goods. Part of Netanya’s charm is the small-town feel of the stores which are run by the owners rather than being impersonal big-name brand chain stores. For the brand names and international chain stores rather head for Netanya’s mall. View of Netanya.Photo by Shai Pal on UnsplashIn the Netanya mall, you’ll find up-market fashion boutiques, entertainment, and eateries. For a taste of the Middle East and a totally different shopping experience visit the Netanya market. There is a daily open-air fresh produce market with stalls selling exotic spices and produce straight from the farms. In the industrial area (which is not far from the city center) you’ll find an outdoor market selling all manner of goods – clothing, shoes, household goods, accessories, jewelry, and more.Netanya has several museums including the Museum of Yemenite Jewish Heritage where you can learn all about this unique culture and their history. The Beit Hagdudim (Jewish Legion) Museum looks at the history of the Jewish Legion during World War One. Netanya has many small art galleries each displaying unique Israeli art. When the sun goes down Netanya offers nightclubs, music clubs, theatre, and beachfront strolls along the many promenades.
By Petal Mashraki

5 Must See Sights in Israel You Probably Didn’t Know about

Any tourist to Israel knows the obvious “must-see” sights like Jerusalem and the Dead Sea but if you’re looking for something special, visit these unique sights:1. Pundak (Kushi) 101101On the Arava Highway 101km from Eilat this roadside diner has grown into a local legend. The site now offers restaurants, exhibits of snakes, turtles, monkeys, crocodiles, and iguanas as well as the chance to get your photo taken on a camel or donkey. Peacocks roam freely and there is a kid’s playground and activities. The site is covered by bamboo roofing and wooden structures and is open 24 hours a day.2. Nachal AlexanderAlexander Stream meets the MediterraneanThis river runs for 45km and meets the Mediterranean Sea near Kfar Vitkin at Machmorit Beach. You can follow the river from the beach inland towards the Turtle Bridge and Turtle Park. The park gets its name from the softshell turtles which inhabit the waters here. They eagerly come to the banks of the river to greet visitors together with schools of catfish. The park has sitting and picnic areas as well as a playground.3. Machane Yehuda Witch DoctorMachane Yehuda marketIn Jerusalem’s Machane Yehuda market you can find Uzi-Eli Chezi, nicknamed the “witch doctor” he prepares and sells juices specifically designed to treat mental, spiritual, and physical ailments. In his small stall he concocts drinks according to your special request: do you need something to calm you, make you happy, help you find a husband, or treat your skin condition. In his colorful way, he will select the right fresh fruits, herbs, and vegetables to combine into your juice. His concoctions are inspired by ancient Jewish writings and his most famous mix is one of etrog and gat (khat) juice. So if you are suffering from a broken heart, dandruff or impotence visit the witch doctor for a mix of date, ginger, pomegranate, yogurt, gat, or passion fruit!4. Bat Caves (Ma’arat Hateumim)Near Bet Shemesh, there are large Karst-formed caves inhabited by hundreds of bats. As you enter you may not even notice them until your look up. The bats seem totally used to the humans who stare up at them. Take along a flashlight to help you navigate the cave entrance.5. Tefen Open MuseumThe drive to this remote location will give you stunning views of the mountains. You may feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere but suddenly you’ll come across the Tefen Industrial Zone which is in fact a museum complex. The industrial area is spotted with interesting sculptures and installations on the lawns. There are also a number of indoor museums including an Antique Car Collection, a glass studio, the Art of Industry Museum, the Museum of German-Speaking Jewry, and a Ceramics Museum. The complex is between Carmiel and Ma’a lot on Route 854.
By Petal Mashraki

Amazing Spring Break Tours to Israel

You can spend your spring break doing many things. Chances are, there are pretty good partying going on wherever you came from, and if you think of Israel as your spring break destination, it means you want more. You want to party, sure, but for you that’s not enough. So let us tell you how you can combine your big chill with a spiritual journey, in one of the most amazing Israel tours offered by BeinHarim Tours.Masada: The Epic MountainMasada, an ancient Jewish fort seating on top of a square shaped mountain in southern Israel, is known as a place where Jewish warriors fought Roman soldiers until the bitter end; rather than surrender and convert, the people of Masada chose instead to take their own lives and remain faithful to their God.If you were to come by Masada during the sunrise, you might be surprised by the amount of praying people you will see. Masada is not just a mountain; it is a monument of great spiritual importance. While there are means of transportations to the top of the mountain, many tours prefer to take the longer way and make the challenging climb to build Masada as a spiritual journey which makes it absolutely unique.What to see: during the evening, an impressive multimedia light show takes place on the Masada site and retells the story of the battle for Masada.Where to eat: Taj Mahal resturant, located in Ein Bokek, is a great eastern food place with cheerful atmosphere and unique dishes. Located at Leonardo Inn Hotel in Ein Bokek.Where to stay: Harrods Dead Sea hotel is close to both Masada and the dead sea. The hotel is known for its spectacular design and great service, and is completely Kosher.masadaThe Dead Sea: The Earth’s Lowest Point is also Its Most RelaxingThe Dead Sea is a beautiful and unique place. Considered the lowest point on earth’s surface, the Dead Sea is filled with helpful minerals, great views and great weather. Because of its proximity to Masada, nearly every day tour of the ancient city is supplemented by a visit. If you like combining exciting travel with relaxation, make sure to get a tour of Masada that includes the Dead Sea.What to see: the best thing to do is go on a hike. Get yourself a guide and go hit the mountains!What to eat: Auvers, a restaurant located in Ein Gedi kibbutz, stands in front of an impressive and ancient baobab tree and serves some of the best food in the area. The restaurant is located in the Ein Gedi Hotel.Where to stay: David Dead Sea Spa Resort is a professional hotel which had become a favorite for many Israelis because of its great service and short distance from the dead sea.the dead sea
By Petal Mashraki

Medical Tourism in Israel

More and more people are seeking medical treatment abroad no matter which country they live in. Those in developing countries look for more advanced and better quality medical care in other countries. And those in first world countries like the USA and Western Europe look for cheaper medical care abroad – but still of a high standard. Israel appears to offer both reasonable medical fees and top quality medical professionals.The Medical Tourism Index issued by the International Healthcare Research Center recently named Israel as one of the top medical tourism destinations in the world. Israel took first place for “best patient experience” and third overall out of 25 medical tourism destination. Approximately 50,000 medical tourists arrive in Israel each year many come from Eastern Europe but there are also patients from the US and UK. Among the most popular treatments, procedures and medical care for medical tourists in Israel is orthopedic procedures; cancer treatments; plastic surgery; infertility treatment (Israel has a high percentage of success in this area); cardiac surgery (particularly Bypass surgery) and diabetes.Those suffering from Seborrhoeic dermatitis or psoriasis often come to Israel not only for conventional hospital treatment but also to take advantage of the natural beneficial properties of the Dead Sea. Those with rheumatological complaints and lung disease also benefit from treatments based on the Dead Sea mineral salts, sulphur springs, attenuated ultra-violet radiation, Dead Sea mud and the high oxygen content of the Dead Sea atmosphere.Medical tourism in the Dead seaThe attraction of Israel as a medical tourism destination comes down to several factors:Price – Not only is medical treatment cheaper in Israel than in other parts of the world but the hotels, airfare and miscellaneous expenses are also low in IsraelMedical Professionalism – Israeli doctors are highly respected and known for their abilities; they are constantly fine tuning of their skills through research and further study. Israel in general is known as a country where medical breakthroughs are frequently made. Unfortunately Israel has suffered several wars but this has given doctors the circumstances to practice and perfect their expertise in the fields of orthopedics and trauma related injuries.Israel – When choosing a medical tourism destination the patients have to take into consideration that they will need time to recuperate. So the surroundings and the country itself need to be appealing. Israel offers sun shine, endless attractions, and tours to every corner of the land. Israel holds deep religious significance to Jews, Christians, Muslims and those of the Baha’i faith.If you are considering traveling to another country for medical care then research the medical services offered in Israel and consider that you will be having a vacation in a stunning location once your medical procedure is over.
By Petal Mashraki

Top 10 Tourist Destinations in Israel

Don’t leave Israel without seeing these top tourist destinations1. Jerusalem Old City, JerusalemWithin the ancient walls of Jerusalem’s Old City you can see the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Wailing Wall, Via Dolorosa, the Armenian Quarter, Dome of the Rock and many more of Israel’s top sights.2. Bahai Gardens, HaifaHaifa’s top must-see sight is the garden which cascades down 18 terraces on Mount Carmel, at the top of the garden is the white Bahia Temple. The gardens are maintained impeccably with bright seasonal flowers and landscaped patterns.3. Jaffa Port, Tel-AvivJaffa today has been renovated and preserved, the high stone walls and narrow lanes which balance on the cliff are used for specialty art galleries, restaurants, a small museum and an observation point where you can look back across the water to Tel-Aviv. Visit the flea market and antique stores here and be sure to bargain.4. Sea of GalileeThis inland sea is where Jesus performed many of his miracles like walking on the water and the feeding of the multitude. The fresh water sea is perfect for boat trips and for swimming and is surrounded by stunning countryside. Along the edges of the sea of Galilee are various Biblical sites and small quaint chapels.5. Dead SeaThe Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth a visit here is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The sea’s unique salinity (8.6 saltier than the sea) makes the water thick and almost oily so that you can’t sink. You can float in the Dead Sea and benefit from the rejuvenating qualities of the highly concentrated minerals.6. Red Sea, EilatHire a snorkel or take a dive in the crystal clear Red Sea. The coral reefs, tropical fish and even dolphins make this a site not to miss.7. Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, JerusalemThe world’s best Holocaust museum housed in an innovative modern building, the museum holds thousands of documents, photos, video testimonials and artifacts from the darkest time in the history of the Jewish people.8. Church of the Annunciation, NazarethSee the place where Mary and Joseph lived and where the archangel revealed to Mary that she would soon carry the son of God. One of the most moving features is the display of images of Madonna and baby Jesus from around the world. The mosaics and paintings show the holy family as black, white and Asian according to how the Christians in those countries envision them.9. Acre Old City, AcreEnter the narrow cobbled lanes of this walled port city which is alive with people bustling through the market, this is real living history. The labyrinth of lanes leads you from the entrance down to the water’s edge.10. Ramon CraterWhen driving down from the center of Israel to Eilat the road passes this Crater which is 40km long, 500 meters deep and 10km wide. From Mitzpe Ramon on the northern wall of the crater you can look down on the magnificent desert landscape.It must be said that Bethlehem would have been on this list but officially it is in Palestine and not Israel. Caesarea, Tel-Aviv and Masada also narrowly missed the list!
By Petal Mashraki

Israel Day Tours from Herzliya

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

Israel Group Tours – Everything You Need to Know

Seeing Israel with a group tour is an excellent option for travelers who want to see as much as possible. With Israel day tours you don’t have to worry about logistics, transportation or reading up about the places you visit. The tour company takes care of the details for you! All you have to do is sit back and enjoy the trip. Whether you take a group tour in Israel or not depends on how long your trip is, your preferred style of travel and the places you want to see.Masada and the Dead Sea tour. Photo creditֶ: Dmitry MishinWhat are Group Tours?A group tour is organized by a tour company; tourists from around the world book the tour and are told the time and place to meet for the tour. On the tour day, tourists meet at centrally located pick-up points in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Herzliya, or Netanya and are picked up by the tour company bus. The tour buses are air-conditioned, modern, and comfortable. Throughout the tour, the group is accompanied by a tour guide. The size of the group can vary but is usually between 16 and 30 people. The tour guide gives you a bit of background information about the places you are going to see and chats with the group on route to the attractions scheduled for that day. At each attraction, the guide shares his knowledge about the things you see. On most tours, you will also get some free time and a break for lunch in a local eatery. At the end of the tour, the tour bus returns you to the pick-up point.Jerusalem Old and New Tour. Photo credit: Dmitry MishinWhat are the Differences Between a Group Day Tour and a Group Package Tour?A group day tour in Israel (as described above) lasts for one day. You join other travelers for the day and together with a tour guide, bus, and bus driver get to visit specific attractions. Group day tours are great for travelers who want a bit of both – guided tours in the Holy Land and days when they can discover Israel independently. Israel group tours include transportation, guide service, pick-up, and drop-off at a central location. Group day tours are perfect for those destinations that are hard to reach by yourself or when you will benefit from the knowledge and guidance of a professional.Agroup package tour in Israel is like a series of day tours strung together. The major difference is that the price of a package tour includes accommodation. Some package tours include some meals, activities (like jeep safari in the Judean Desert), and airport pick-up or drop-off. Group package tours are perfect for those who don’t want to worry about any of the details of their trip from beginning to end. Group package tours in Israel are a good option for groups of travelers visiting Israel together – church groups, bar mitzvah groups, etc. If you are traveling alone you can join other travelers on a group package tour. There are also shorter package tours which last 2-6 days and can be part of a longer vacation.Jerusalem Old City Tour. Photo credit: Dmitry MishinWhat are the Advantages of a Group Tour?On an Israel group tour, you don’t need to worry about logistics. No need to tackle bus timetables or car rental contracts; no need to stand in line to pay entrance fees or to negotiate with taxi drivers. You won’t have to navigate the roads or Israeli drivers! On a group tour in Israel, you won’t have to choose what the top attractions are, as the tour company has done that for you. The tour will take you to the highlights of each destination so you won’t waste your time getting lost or seeing less interesting sites. The tour transportation is air-conditioned and comfortable and your tour bus driver will take care of parking.Often we look at landmarks and don’t really understand their significance. However, on a group tour, your guide will give you the background and history of each place. On group tours, you are traveling with other tourists from around the world for the day and can often make new friends. Group tours can get you to places that may be difficult to reach independently. For example, you may be nervous about crossing into Palestine to visit Bethlehem by yourself but with a group tour, you will feel more secure. Group tours are time efficient, getting you to multiple attractions in one day thanks to good planning by professionals who know the country.Nazareth and Sea of Galilee tour. Photo credit: Dmitry MishinWhat Can You See on Israel Group Tours?Israel group tours cover the whole country from north to south. There aretours to Masada and theDead Sea tours; trips to Bethlehem and Jericho; tours toJerusalem, visits to Caesarea, Acre, and Rosh HaNikra; as well as to the Galilee and Golan Heights. In addition, there are many smaller locations you get to see along the way that you would probably miss if traveling alone. You can even take a one-day group tour from central Israel to Petra in Jordan. Some of the group tours are geared towards specific interest groups. For example, there are Christian group tours and Jewish Heritage group tours in Israel. Longer group package tours combine several day tours so that you see all of these amazing destinations including Jordan.Golan Heights and Safed Tour. Photo credit: Dmitry Mishin
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 Save Money on a Trip to Israel

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

Best Desert Hikes in Israel

Israel has snow-capped mountains; rolling green meadows; lush valleys and stark desert landscapes. Israel's deserts are concentrated in the southern half of the country and include the Judean Desert, home to the Dead Sea; the Negev Desert covering about 16,000km²; more than half the total land area of the country and the Zin Desert also known as the biblical Wilderness of Zin.There are numerous hike trails in Israel's deserts with various levels of difficulty and different lengths. The deserts offer a unique look at a fascinating ecosystem with spectacular flora and fauna; picturesque waterfalls and endless awe-inspiring views. It is best not to hike in the desert alone and you should always follow the well-marked hike trails. Bring plenty of water and wear a hat when hiking in Israel's deserts. The best way to experience Israel's deserts is to follow one of these exhilarating desert hikes in Israel.Red Canyon HikeThis is one of the most breathtaking desert hikes in Israel. The Red Canyon is part of Wadi Shani which starts in the Sinai Desert in Egypt and crosses into Israel. Over the course of thousands of years, the elements have carved through the red sandstone rocks creating this natural canyon. There are a few places along the trail where you need to use metal wedges and ladders to get through the narrow canyon. The trail is at its best from November to April when the weather is slightly cooler. You can take the 5km route or the easier 2km route from the trailhead parking lot. You'll pass a few dry waterfalls and take some sharp turns in the narrow canyon which is less than 2 meters wide at some points. You'll reach a junction where there are black markers that will take you back to the starting point if you want to take the short hike. Otherwise, continue following the green markers into the Wadi. The loop trail should take about 3 hours to complete.Ein Gedi Nature ReserveA hike through the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve; an oasis in the Judean Desert, is one of the most enjoyable and greenest hikes in Israel. The reserve is home to the Arugot Stream and David Stream. There are several trails of different lengths and levels of difficulty ranging from a family-friendly 2km trail to a challenging 10km hike trail. Much of the shorter route is along wooden walkways or well-trodden paths that are not too challenging. You'll feel like you're taking a hike in northern Israel, surrounded by lush vegetation, trees, and abundant streams and waterfalls. The short Nahal David hike from the park entrance to David's Waterfall takes just 30 minutes. The rest of the hike involves tougher terrain, a twisting route through a narrow canyon, and some steep climbs. You'll also find sections where it is easier to wade through the streams than stay on the path. Continuing through the canyon you'll reach a spot where a natural opening in the rocks creates a "window" overlooking the Dead Sea.Wadi Qelt HikeThere are plenty of hikes near Jerusalem but if you want to experience the desert then Wadi Kelt (also known as Ein Prat or Nahal Kelt) is an excellent choice less than an hour from the capital. Starting at the trailhead in Ein Prat Nature Reserve parking lot the scenic route has a total length of about 9km but there are shorter versions of 1-5km. The best time to hike through Wadi Qelt is December to March. Most of the hike is through rocky terrain and there are some parts where metal handles have been hammered into the rock to help you. You'll go through a gorge with steep cliff sides and find natural pools you can swim in. Stop at Ein Prat, the biggest spring in the valley; enjoy small waterfalls; ancient aqueducts, and the 330AD hanging Faran Monastery on the southern cliffs. The highlight of this hike is at the end of the trail when you can look up at the Greek Orthodox Monastery of St. George that was built precariously clinging to the cliffs. End the hike by returning the way you came or taking a shortcut along the top of the canyon where you can look down on the famous monastery on the opposite cliff.The Nekarot Horseshoe Hike Trail through the Ramon CraterMakhtesh Ramon (Ramon Crater) is a phenomenal massive crater formed by erosion. It is 40km long, 500m deep, and 2-10km wide. Enter the Makhtesh Ramon Nature Reserve for the best experience of the crater on the southern edge of the Negev Desert. This huge natural indentation in the landscape has vibrant colored rocks, a variety of plant life, and unusual geographical formations. Take the Nekarot Horseshoe Trail loop through the crater. At a little over 6km, this trail should take about 3 hours and is suitable for families. The trail takes you past the Saharonim Spring where pools of water bubble up from the ground; past families of agile ibexes on the rocks and steel white chalk cliffs. Depending on the season you may have to swim, wade or walk through water-filled canyons. See Ardon Mountain in the distance and enjoy the deafening silence of the desert.Ein Avdat National Park Hike TrailsEin Avdat is part of the Zin Wadi or the Biblical Zin Wilderness in the Negev Desert. It is home to the largest natural spring in the Negev and a stunning 2km-long hike trail. This short hike takes you from the Ein Avdat National Park entrance to the beautiful natural pools and back again. If you are looking for something a little longer then hike to the spring water pools and instead of doubling back climb to the top of the cliffs and return via Marl Wadi of Havarim. This 10km hike is for moderately fit hikers and is best followed from December to March. The highlight of both the short and long hikes is the chain of three Ein Avdat spring pools. The first pool (Ein Ma'arif) has cascading waterfalls; the second, Ein Avdat has a 15m-high waterfall and an 8m-deep pool; the final pool is beautiful Ein Mor. When you leave the pools you can take the vertical ladder up the cliff and head back to the starting point through gentle hills that have multiple shades of golden brown.
By Petal Mashraki

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

Christmas in Israel 2017

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

Famous Archaeological Sites in Israel

Israel’s history dates back thousands of years and, all across the land, are magnificent and moving historical sites, giving visitors a taste of life in the Holy Land from across the centuries. Whether Roman, Byzatine, Crusader or Ottoman, ancient artifacts, structures and holy sites are in great supply and tours in Israel are easy to book and an ideal way to get the most out of your time here. Even better, in such a small country, you’re never never far from famous archaeological sites, whether you’re in the north or south, near a city or far from the crowds. So, region by region, let’s take a look at what historical sites this country offers:Cardo, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinJerusalemTemple Mount - holy both to Jews and Muslims, as the site where Abraham offered his son to God and Mohammed flew above the city top en route to Mecca, this is a must-see tour to Jerusalem. Visitors can access this walled compound via the Old City’s Mughrabi Gate - better with a guided Temple Mount tour and view all kinds of ancient structures, save for the Dome of the Rock (which is open only to Muslims).Western Wall and Western Wall Tunnels - the Western Wall (‘Kotel’) is the last remaining wall of the Second Temple and, therefore, incredibly sacred to Jews. Equally magnificent are the tunnels that run 488 meters beneath it, complete with vaulted arches, long corridors, and an aqueduct. Not to be missed!Davidson Archaeological Park - Located next to the Western Wall, here you can find structures from the First and Second Temple, Byzantine and Crusader era. Visitors can walk a street that was trodden by thousands of Jerusalemites, from 2000 years ago, as well as watch presentations at the adjacent museum.City of David - older than the Old City itself (circa the Early Bronze Age) this site is full of surprises, including underground tunnels, the pool of Siloam, the Gihon spring, and walls dating back to 8 BCE. Old Jerusalem at its finest, this is a wonderful and famous archaeological tour and highly recommended.Church of the Holy Sepulchre - site of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, this is the holiest of sites for Christians but a fascinating and moving site for any tourist. With its spectacular interior and enormous wooden doors, this is a place that every visitor - whatever their faith - to Jerusalem must see.Cardo- the north-south thoroughfare of Roman and Byzantine Jerusalem.Today you can see the fragment of the excavated Cardo in the Old City - solid columns, beautifully decorated capitals, as well as the flagstones that paved the main street.Tower of David Museum. Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe GalileeTsipori National Park - located just outside of Nazareth, Tsipori (meaning ‘Bird’ in Hebrew) offers visitors the chance to view the remains of a Roman theatre, cobblestone streets, mosaic floors, a ritual bath, and synagogue from Byzantine days. A gem of a tour in Galilee.Beit Shean National Park - On the edge of the Jordan river, this often overlooked site boasts magnificent ruins from the old Roman city, stroll down the reconstructed Cardo, explore a bathhouse, central monument, and truncated bridge and, after sunset, enjoy a fabulous audiovisual presentation.Tel Megiddo - Once one of the most important cities in Canaan, today you can find a city gate and palace, temple area, and the “Aegean tomb'' which dates back to Late Bronze/Early Iron Age. White mustard flowers and marjoram herbs grow here too!Beit Shearim - nestled in the Lower Galilee, this ancient site is home to a basilica, olive press, a ‘number of Coffins Cave’, and hiking trails. Known for its famous rabbi Yehuda Ha Nasi, it was also once the seat of the Jewish High Court (the ‘Sanhedrin’).Capernaum - one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites for Christians, visit the synagogue where Jesus preached sermons and the Church and House of Peter, with a glass floor through which to peer. Any tour of Galilee is not complete without a visit here.Capernaum, Corinthian capital with Menorah. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinCentral IsraelBeit Guvrin - Dating back to the First Temple period, this site boasts Roman mosaics and an amphitheater, as well as a Byzantine church. It also is home to some fantastic underground caves, some of which are linked by underground tunnels. Herodion Park - this marvelous complex is home to the famous King’s summer palace, as well as a labyrinth of underground caves. Built as a fortress, on a historical tour you can find an ancient synagogue, a Jewish ritual bath, and the stones of a mausoleum that may have belonged to Herod himself (though archaeologists aren’t quite sure!)Tel Gezer National Park - Situated halfway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, this city dates back 3000 years and excavated finds include monumental stones and the ‘Gezer Calendar’ (an inscription on a limestone tablet, probably written in the age of Solomon).Tel Jericho - just north of Jericho and the Dead Sea, the Sultan’s Hill, as it is known, holds a huge tower and remains of the world’s oldest city. You can also drink water from the spring nearby and gaze at Mount Nebo, where Moses viewed the Promised Land, before his death.Tel Lachish - Located in the Judean Hills, this ancient, fortified city has a rich past and is an ideal tour for anyone interested in Biblical archaeology. Excavations there have uncovered a palace, two Canaanite temples, and an Assyrian ramp and the panoramic views of the desert are tremendous. Beit Guvrin Caves. Photo credit:© ShutterstockThe Coastal PlainCaesarea National Park - This Herodian city was once a major port and is a “must visit” - it boasts frescoes, sculptures, a Hippodrome, and beautifully preserved mosaic floors. It also contains a magnificent Roman amphitheater, which hosts musical performances by famous Israeli artists, every summer.Acre Crusader City - a tour of Acre is something no visitor to Israel should miss. With its preserved city walls, mosques, citadels, baths, underground tunnels, and views of the Mediterranean, no wonder it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Tip: Don’t miss the Knights’ Halls of the Hospitaller Fortress, after lunch at a fish restaurant on the harbor. Apollonia-Arsuf National Park - Situated on a cliff, overlooking the Mediterranean, this settlement was founded by the Persians in the 5th-6th century. Stroll around the remains of a Roman villa and Crusader castle, and soak up the past, even though Tel Aviv is just 15 km away!Carmel Caves - Just south of Haifa lie these impressive caves, evidence of life in the Lower and Middle Paleolithic Ages. Walk trails - ‘Prehistoric Man’, botanical and geological - then watch a video presentation. Finally, enjoy spectacular views of the Carmel coastal plain at this World Heritage site.Tel Dor - once a Canaanite city and, in Hellenistic times, an impressive fortress, this is another hidden gem to explore on the Carmel coastline. A perfect spot to drink in the wide-open spaces and savor the uninterrupted views of the Mediterranean. Apollonia National Park. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinThe Dead Sea and Southern IsraelMasada National Park - Perched on a steep hill, overlooking the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea, this ancient fortification is a highlight in any tour of Israel. Transport yourself back thousands of years, as you explore the remains of a Herodian palace, storehouse, bathhouse, mosaic floors, and enjoy panoramic views for miles on end. By far and away a must-visit attraction.Ashkelon National Park - this site’s treasures include a wall dating back to the 12th century, a Roman basilica, rampart, and ancient wells. Moreover, you can enjoy natural sand dunes and a beautiful beach (with excellent bathing) at the same time!Mamshit - explore the remains of a Nabatean city here, including a city gate, ancient tower, churches, houses, and even a bathhouse. Mamshit overlooks the beautiful Negev hills. Fun fact: ‘mamshit’ is the name of a drink made from milk, honey, and dates.Ein Avdat National Park - above the Tsin stream in the Negev lies this impressive site. Avdat, an ancient Nabatean city, boasts a Byzantine bathhouse, a Roman burial cave, and two churches. The views of the desert are quite spectacular.Qumran National Park - at the foot of the Judean desert, Qumran is home to ancient buildings that point to a distinctly communal living style, as well as an aqueduct, pottery workshop, and stables! Tip: look out for the ritual purification pools, close to the dining area.Ashkelon National Park.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinThe Golan HeightsGamla - this fortified city is often referred to as the Masada of the Golan! Situated on a high ridge, crossing two gorges, Jewish rebels once bravely fought Roman soldiers here. (Fun fact: Gamla got its name from ‘camel’ since the hill on which it sits is shaped like that very animal!)Nimrod Fortress - dating back to the Middle Ages, and located at the foot of Mount Hermon, this is the largest Crusader castle in Israel. With its steep cliffs, and at 760 meters high, it’s perfect for hiking and exploring, as well as enjoying picturesque sunsets with views all the way to Syria!Katzrin - just 13 km from the Sea of Galilee step back in time and explore this ancient village, complete with the synagogue and excavated houses (inside which you can view agricultural tools and others). Transport yourself to Byzantine times in this veritable time capsule!Tel Dan - nestled in the Hula Valley and close to the Jordan River, this site contains Bronze Age ramparts, tombs, and an intact mud-brick gate. They are all evidence that, historically, ‘Dan’ was a religious center for the Kingdom of Israel.Banias - At the foot of Mount Hermon lies Banias (‘Panias’ in Arabic), historically an important Christian center. Excavations after 1967 have uncovered the remains of a sanctuary complex dedicated to the god Pan. The surrounding area, with cliffs and springs, is also perfect for a nature walk Ruins of Ancient Buildings in the National Park of Gamla. Photo credit:© Shutterstock
By Sarah Mann
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