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.


Israel Bucket List: Top Tourist Attractions in Israel

Your Israel bucket list should include all the best and most visited Israel tourist attractions. The country may be small, but there is a lot to cover. With a history going back thousands of years, there are must-see archaeological sites and ancient structures. The Promised Land is home to a wealth of religious sites that shouldalso be on your Israel bucket list. Discover Israel’s natural wonders, the vibrant urban culture, and its endless beaches. It is a travel destination with something for everyone. Start planning your trip today by adding these top attractions to your Israel bucket list.Explore Israel’s Historical and Archaeological SitesSuccessive civilizations have passed through the Holy Land, each leaving their mark. Discover the magnificent Ottoman buildings, the ancient Canaanite cities, Crusader castles, and Byzantine churches. You’ll be inspired by impressive archaeological sites and unforgettable historic places. Add a few of these to your Israel bucket list.Jaffa Port. Photo credit: © ShutterstockJerusalem Old City- This is without a doubt the highlight of any Israel bucket list. Within the walled city are unforgettable sacred sites one can enjoy with or without a guided tour. The Old City is the number one must-see attraction in Israel.Western Wall- A visit to the Western Wall in Jerusalem is an unforgettable experience and a must-do for everyJerusalem tour. This remarkable ancient wall is the most sacred Jewish site in the world.Western Wall Tunnels- The Western Wall continues beneath the Old City of Jerusalem. Join atourand discover the hidden section of this 2,000-year-old wall.City of David- On the City of David Jerusalem Tour you’ll explore the excavated city built by King David and see unbelievable ancient water channels.Caesarea - Here King Herod built an impressive port city with a hippodrome, palaces, temples, and an amphitheater you can still see on a Ceasarea tour, that today hosts performances by major artists.Acre Old City- This remarkable Old City has an awe-inspiring underground Crusader city. Visitors say that Acre is one of the most unforgettable experiences in Israel.Tower of David - Today the ancient citadel houses the Tower of David Museum which traces the history of Jerusalem through archaeological artifacts.Discover Breathtaking Nature Reserves and National Parks in IsraelThere are over 400 nature reserves and over 80 national parks in Israel. If you’re a nature lover, you’ll be enchanted by the diverse landscapes, from lush green farmlands and forests in the north to barren deserts in the south. Follow the many hike trails through spectacular scenery and tour unique natural wonders.Masada.Photo credit: © ShutterstockMasada- You can explore the dramatic 2,000-year-old fortress built on Masada’s plateau summit on one of the guided Masada tours. The view from the summit across the Dead Sea is spectacular.Ein Gedi - Nestled among the cliffs of the Judean Desert is the Ein Gedi oasis. Here there are picturesque waterfalls and natural springs flow through thick vegetation.Beit Guvrin - This remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Site holds hidden caves, ancient Roman quarries, burial tombs, and the remains of the Biblical city of Maresha.Tel Megiddo- The archaeological mound of Megiddo is the traditional site of Armageddon. Don’t miss the chance to explore this incredible archaeological site.Mamshit- At Mamshit National Park you can see the remains of an awe-inspiring Nabatean city that used to be a stop along the ancient Incense Route.Timna Park - Discover the wonders of Timna Park in southern Arava. The park has archaeological remains and rock formations that have to be seen to be believed.Banias- This nature reserve in northern Israel has jaw-dropping scenery. The heavenly surroundings include Israel’s largest waterfall, streams, and woodlands one can see on Galilee and Golan Heights tour.Ready for the Best Beach Resort in the Middle East?Israel tourist attractions are not all to do with culture, archaeology, and the Bible. It is also a paradise for beach-goers that want to bask in the sun. Check out the excellent beaches along Israel’s Mediterranean coast, at the Sea of Galilee, in the Red Sea resort city of Eilat, and at the Dead Sea.The Dead Sea resort. Photo credit: © ShutterstockTel Aviv Beaches stretch for 14 kms along Israel’s Mediterranean coast. A wide promenade runs parallel to the sand, and there are plenty of beachfront amenities. Alma Beach is where you can hang out with hipsters.Gordon Beach has volleyball courts and a saltwater swimming pool. Frishman Beach is a favorite with families. Bograshov Beach is often crowded with people enjoying beach activities and Hilton Beach is popular with the LGBT community.Dead Sea Beaches are a completely unique experience; there is nothing like it in the world. The Dead Sea Relaxationtour gives you time on one of the Dead Sea’s best beaches. The Dead Sea should be on every tourist’s Israel bucket list. Kalia Beach has facilities and a beach bar. Biankini Beach is famed for its traditional Moroccan restaurant. Neve Midbar Beach is a quiet beach frequented by a young crowd. Ein Gedi Public Beach has a campground and Ein Bokek Beach stretches out in front of the top Dead Sea hotels.Eilat Beaches are definitely the place to go for fun in the sun. Eilat offers water sports, top resort hotels, and an incredible waterfront. Bar Beach is popular for snorkeling and diving. Nine Beach is a trendy beach with a lounge bar and music. Kishuski Beach is best if you want to do water sports. Dekel Beach is great for the whole family. Mosh Beach is the “in” place for tourists yearning for the beaches of Goa. Dolphin Reef Beach is a full-service beach with a restaurant on the sand, and an enclosure where you can see dolphins coming and going from the open sea. You can even swim with the dolphins.The Land of Milk and Honey plus Falafel, Hummus and WineNo one will blame you for putting on a few pounds when you visit Israel. The country’s local cuisine is a melting pot of flavors. Indulge in mouthwatering street food, and splurge on fine dining in Israel’s top chef restaurants. Discover the delights of Israeli cuisine on a Carmel Market Food Touror visit Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market. Israel’s food scene includes kosher and non-kosher eateries.Satisfy your taste-buds with must-try Israeli foods like:A plate of hummus, a traditional Middle Eastern spreadSabich - “Sabich” is a traditional Iraqi Jewish pita sandwich stuffed with fried aubergine (eggplant), hard-boiled egg, potato, herbs, spices, salad, and tahini or hummus.Malabi - a dreamy, creamy milk-based pudding with roots in Persia. The basic ingredients are rice, sugar, rice flour, and milk.Knafeh - a classic dessert from the Arab kitchen. Sweet pastry is soaked in syrup, layered with cheese, and flavored with rose water.A legend tells that the dish was prescribed by doctors, to satisfy the hunger of caliphs during Ramadan.Hummus - a popular Israeli street food made from chickpeas. Try the best Tel Aviv hummus on an Israel Street Food Tour.Falafel - a classic Israeli street food of deep-fried chickpea balls. It is just one of the many vegan foods in Israel. Israel has even been called the most vegan-friendly country in the world.Wineries - Israel has hundreds of wineries ranging from large enterprises to small boutique family companies. Spoil yourself with a wine tour or include wine tasting in a private Golan Heights Tour. Some top Israeli wineries include the Golan Heights Winery, the Tishbi Winery in the quaint town of Zichron Yaakov, and the Carmel Winery founded in 1882.Israel's Top Museum’s and Cultural VenuesIsrael’s multi-cultural society means diverse theater, music, and dance. There are many museums packed with treasures that include works by world-famous artists and celebrated local talents. Learn about the country’s history and culture and see exhibits from foreign cultures in Israel’s diverse museums.Israel Museum. Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockDance - See performances by the world-renowned Batsheva Dance Company at the Suzanne Dellal Center and attend the Israel Ballet. Mayumana combines dance, music, and acrobatics.Art Museums - The Tel Aviv Museum of Art is the country’s largest art museum, with an impressive collection. The Jerusalem Israel Museum is Israel’s most important museum.Cultural Museums - Yad Vashem is the country’s Holocaust museum and memorial in Jerusalem. You can visit this museum on a Jerusalem Old and New Tour. The Haifa Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art promotes Japanese culture.Performance- Habima Theater is the country’s national theatre. Gesher Theater was founded by Russian immigrants. The Cameri Theater is housed in the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center.Music- Classical concerts can be seen at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium and the Felicja Blumenthal Center. The Israeli Chamber Orchestra performs at the Enav Cultural Center.Add Some Exciting Experiences to Your Israel Bucket ListMake the most of your trip to Israel with some unique activities, unusual attractions and, outdoor sports. To help you find some of these special travel experiences join a tour like the Tel Aviv Bike Tour, the Nachalat Binyamin Graffiti and Street Art Tour, or the Jaffa Flea Market Tour.Bahai Gardens in Haifa. Photo credit: © ShutterstockHere are some fun attractions and activities available in Israel:The Baha’i Gardens are breathtaking landscaped gardens that roll down the slope of Mount Carmel in Haifa. The colorful gardens are home to the Shrine of the Bab.Rosh HaNikra cave system is close to the Lebanese border. The stunning white limestone sea caves can be reached by cable car.Mitzpe Ramon is a settlement in the Negev Desert, near the massive Ramon Crater. Mitzpe Ramon is a popular place for stargazing, thanks to the clear desert skies.Shvil Israel is the National Trail that crosses the entire country from north to south. Hiking enthusiasts will love this picturesque trail that passes through a variety of landscapes.What’s on Your Israel Bucket List?Get your Israel bucket list ready and start planning your trip to the Holy Land. Whether you’re passionate about history, a nature lover, looking for a trendy urban experience, or if you just want some fun in the sun, Israel has something for everyone. Israel tourist attractions will tick all the boxes for the perfect getaway. Go ahead, treat yourself to an adventure in Israel.
By Petal Mashraki

A Guide to Israel’s Holy Sites

The land of Israel (‘known as ‘Eretz Yisrael’ in Hebrew) may be the homeland of the Jewish people, but it is also home to Baha'i Faith followers, Christians and Muslims. Many of the ancient landmarks in the country are holy to them too, so let’s take a look at some of Israel's holy sites, and see what significance they have to their respective pilgrims:The Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock.Photo credit: © ShutterstockJerusalem Christian Holy SitesMulti-denominationalChristian holy sites in Jerusalem1. Church of the Holy Sepulchre - Famous for being the place at which Christ was crucified, buried, and resurrected, this site was built by Constantine the Great in 326 CE. In the heart of the Old City, Its magnificent interior contains the tomb of Jesus, the anointing stone, and Calvary itself (with two chapels, one in which visitors can view the Rock of Golgotha). It is regarded by all Christian denominations as an extremely sacred site.2. Tomb of the Virgin Mary - Located in the Kidron Valley, at the bottom of the Mount of Olives, this is believed by Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox to be the burial place of Mary, the mother of Jesus.3. Church of All Nations- The Church of All Nations (also known as the Basilica of Agony) is a prominent Roman Catholic church perched on the Mount of Olives. Its interior is lined with golden mosaics depicting the suffering of Jesus and it is said that this is the spot at which Jesus prayed, before his arrest by the Romans. Its distinctive dome and Corinthian columns hint at its Byzantine heritage.4. Dormition Abbey - Built in the 5th century, this Benedictine community lies on Mount Zion, just outside the Old City. It was on this spot - according to tradition - that the Virgin Mary died.5. Garden of Gethsemane - This garden has great significance in the Christian tradition, as it is supposedly the place where Jesus prayed before his arrest and subsequent crucifixion. Gethsemane (which means ‘olive press’ in Aramaic) has several olive trees in its garden.Church of all Nations, Mt. Olives, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Shutterstock6. Via Dolorosa - This processional route, known as the Sorrowful Way, passes through the Old City, tracing the path that Jesus is thought to have walked en route to his crucifixion. Stations of the Cross mark certain events along the route and each Easter, on Good Friday, thousands retrace the path. Eastern Orthodoxholy sites in Jerusalem7. Church of St Alexander Nevsky – this Russian Orthodox Church is built over the remains of what historians believe was the ‘Judgment Gate’ where Jesus passed on his way to Calvary.Oriental Orthodoxholy sites in Jerusalem8. Cathedral of St. James - This 12th-century Armenian church lies near the Zion Gate and was constructed in 1163 during the reign of Queen Melisende. According to tradition, in its walls is buried the head of St James the Great and the body of St James the Less.Protestantholy sites in Jerusalem9. Lutheran Church of the Redeemer - This Evangelical church is of part German heritage and was founded in 1898 in the presence of Kaiser Wilhelm II. The church has a prominent bell tower and visitors walking up the circular staircase are afforded astonishing views of Jerusalem at forty meters. 10. The Garden Tomb - popular with Evangelical and Anglicans, the Garden Tomb is a non-denominational site with a rock-cut tomb. Located just outside the Old City Walls, some Protestants consider it to be the site of the burial and resurrection of Jesus.To see the complete list of holy sites in Jerusalem feel free to read this article.The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. Photo credit: ©Jenny EhrlichGalilee and Northern Israel Christian Holy Sites1.The Jordan River - The Jordan River has great significance in the Bible as it is the border of the land that God gives to the Israelites. Flowing through the Sea of Galilee and down to the Dead Sea, it is not just a boundary and a crossing but, in Christian terms, a metaphor for rebirth and salvation. Today, pilgrims around the world come to be baptized here (see Yardenitbelow).2. Nazareth - This famous town is home to the Church of the Annunciation, which was built on the spot where the Virgin Mary was visited by the Angel Gabriel. This breathtaking Basilica is 50 meters high and home to the Grotto of the Annunciation and Mary’s Well, where Mary was told she was going to give birth to the son of God, Jesus.3. Cana - This small village in Galilee is the spot where, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus turned water into wine at the marriage celebration of a poor couple.4. Mount Tabor - Mount Tabor is widely regarded as the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus as, according to the Gospels, this was the place that Jesus was ‘transformed into light’ and spoke to Moses and Elijah the Prophet.5. Tsipori - According to tradition, this spot - close to Nazareth - was the original home of Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne. It is also the place at which Joseph and Mary settled with Jesus, on return from Egypt.Sea of Galilee. Photo credit: © Shutterstock6. Sea of Galilee - This famous spot is where Jesus calmed a terrible storm, walked upon the water, and caught large numbers of fish. Jesus preached here for much of his adult life and recruited his disciples, who were fishermen, from the area.7. Capernaum - On the shores of the Sea of Galilee, this town was a center for the activities of Jesus and his second home - he performed several miracles here (including healing a paralyzed man) and also visited the synagogue.8. Tabgha - This ancient church dates back to Byzantine times and is full of astonishing mosaics that show plants, animals, and geometric patterns. It is famed for being the place at which Jesus performed a miracle, transforming 2 fishes and 5 loaves into food for 5,000 people.9. The Mount of Beatitudes - Situated on Mount Eremos, this is believed to have been the spot at which Jesus gave his Sermon on Mount. Its Roman Catholic Franciscan chapel has a marble veneer and gold mosaic in its dome. 10. Yardenit Baptismal Site - Yardenit lies on the banks of the Jordan River and some Christians believe that this was the site at which Jesus was baptized. Today, thousands of pilgrims come here to be ‘reborn’ in its waters.Capernaum, the town of Jesus.Photo credit: © ShutterstockJewish Holy Sites in Israel1. Tomb of King David - Located near the Zion Gate in the Old City, near the Abbey of the Dormition, this is one of the top Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem, as it is regarded as the burial place of King David. 2. Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetery - The Mount of Olives is home to an extraordinary Jewish Cemetery, which is over 500 years old and contains somewhere between 70,000 and 140,000 tombs with many notable rabbis and zionist leaders buried there. It also contains the tombs of three prophets Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, and pilgrims have come to pray there since the Middle Ages.3. Western Wall - The Western Wall (in Hebrew, the Kotel) is the last remaining wall dating back to the time of the Second Temple (the era of King Herod) and an extremely holy place for Jews, who come from around the world to pray and ask for blessings from God. Today it stands at 19 meters and its largest stone weighs 570 tonnes!4. Mount Meron - Mount Meron, in Galilee, is home to the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. Each year, at the time of the Jewish festival of Lag B’Omer, tens of thousands of Jews come here as part of a pilgrimage, to pray at his burial site. 5. Tomb of Rabban Gamaliel of Yavne - Yavne is home to the tomb of Rabbi Gamaliel who, according to Jewish philosophy, was a great sage whose greatest achievement was ending the theological arguments that distinguished the houses of Shammai and Hillel. Mount of Olives Jewish Cemetery.Photo credit: © Dan Porges6. Mount Betarim - one of the peaks of Mount Dov (otherwise known as"Jabal Ross"), according to one Jewish tradition this is the site of the covenant of the pieces between Abraham and God.7. Katzrin Talmudic villageand Synagogue - This Jewish village in northern Israel contains an ancient synagogue that dates back to the 6th century but was destroyed around the time of 749, in an earthquake that struck northern Israel. The village and prayer house are now part of an open-air museum.8. Safed - According to Jewish tradition, Safed, a town in the north of Israel, was founded by one of Noah’s sons, after the Great Flood. It became a holy city after the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492 and arrived here. Safed today is known as a center for the study of Kabbalah (a mystical Jewish philosophy) and has a cemetery of notable interest.9. Beit Alpha Synagogue - Situated in the Gilboa, this ancient synagogue contains a particularly beautiful floor mosaic, depicting different scenes, including a Zodiac Wheel, a synagogue scene, and the biblical scene where Abraham prepares to sacrifice his son Isaac. Inscriptions in Aramaic and Greek are above the entrance and on either side are a lion and buffalo (the ‘guardians;) of this prayer house. 10. Tiberias- Tiberias, with theTomb of Maimonidesand Tomb of the Matriarchs, historically, is one of Israel’s four holy cities (the other three being Jerusalem, Hebron, and Safed). Founded in 20 CE by Herod the Great’s son, it sits at the edge of the Sea of Galilee and is the spot at which the Jerusalem Talmud was written.To see the complete list of Jewish holy sites in Israelfeel free to read this article.Remnants of Talmudic village in Katzrin.Photo credit: © ShutterstockIslamic Holy Sites in Israel1. Temple Mount - Also known as Haram al-Sharif, this Jerusalem site is home both to the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa mosque, the third holiest shrine in Islam.2. Al-Aqsa Mosque - Muslims believe that this was the spot the Prophet Mohammed flew over, on his ‘Night Journey’ en route to Mecca. Underneath it is the Al-Qibli Chapel, a Muslim prayer hall.3. Dome of the Rock - The Dome of the Rock is located on the Temple Mount and, as well as being a holy shrine, is one of the oldest examples of Islamic architecture. Its distinctive gold-plated Dome can be seen across Jerusalem. The Well of Souls or Holy of Holies is a partly natural, partly man-made cave situated inside the rock. 4. Dome of the Chain - This domed and free-standing building is located east of the Dome of the Rock and was built between 681-692 CE by the Umayyads.5. Mosque of Omar - Located next to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, this mosque was built in the 12th century on the site where Caliph Omar Ibn al-Khattab accepted the city's surrender from the Byzantines. Its 15-meter high minaret was built in 1465 by the Mamluks.Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock6. Dome of Ascension, Jerusalem - Situated close to the dome of the rock, in Islamic tradition this free-standing dome commemorates the Prophet Mohammed’s ascension to heaven.7. Al-Khanqah al-Salahiyya Mosque - Situated on what was the former palace of the Latin Patriarch, this building became a mosque after the Crusader’s surrender of Jerusalem to Saladin in 1181. A minaret was added in 1417.8. Al-Yaqubi Mosque - Once the Crusader Church of St. James Intercisus, this building was transformed into a mosque when Jerusalem fell to Saladin. It is situated close to the Jaffa Gate.9. White Mosque - Built in the 8th century, in Ramle, by the Umayyads, all that remains of the White Mosque today is a minaret, According to Islamic tradition, this mosque contained the shrine of the prophet Nabi Salih.10. Al Jazzar Mosque, Acre - Archaeologists believe that the entrance door’s inscription means the mosque was founded around 1781 AD. Outside of Jerusalem, it is Israel’s largest mosque today and is also known as the Pasha Mosque.Bahai Holy Sites in Israel1. Baha'i Gardens, Acre - this site in Acre marks the tomb of the founder, Baha' Allah, considered to be a prophet of the Baha'i faith. As such, it is the holiest place for members of the Baha'i people.2. Baha'i Shrine & Gardens, Haifa - this shrine, and the fantastically beautiful gardens surrounding it, was built as a memorial to one of the Baha'i faith's martyrs, Bab Mirza Ali Muhammad, executed by the Persian authorities in 1850.Bahai Gardens, Haifa.Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
By Sarah Mann

Easter in Israel

Easter is, by far and away, the most important festival in the Christian calendar, celebrating the events surrounding the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Being able to spend Easter in Israel is an incredible experience for any visitor, let alone a pilgrim. For Christians, a trip to the Holy Land has no equal, and being able to make a pilgrimage here, particularly at the time of Easter, where Christ’s last days on earth took place, is always very moving and emotional.Easter eggs. Photo by Michal Balog on UnsplashThe actual dates of Easter are not ‘fixed’ (as is the case with Christmas) and the week itself, beginning with Palm Sunday and ending exactly a week later on Easter Sunday, are based on the lunisolar calendar (which is the solar year plus the Moon phase - actually similar to the Hebrew calendar).Whilst the ‘central events’ of the week take place in Jerusalem, both on the Mount of Olives and the Old City, there are many ceremonies that take place across the country, in Haifa, Nazareth, and Jaffa, which are very interesting to watch, as well as participate in. Let's take a closer look at some of the events taking place in these cities to commemorate the last days of Jesus’s life, followed by the jubilant celebrations marking his resurrection. Easter in JerusalemEaster in the Holy Land is a time like no other, and no more so than in Jerusalem, the capital of the Holy Land. In the days preceding Palm Sunday, Jerusalem begins filling up with tourists arriving with Christian tours of Israel, many of whom will not just be witnessing the events but taking part in them personally (having obtained tickets for the Palm Sunday Procession Tour). Easter Sunday in 2022 falls on 17th April, but special services will commence and continue the entire week, commencing on Palm Sunday, on 10th April culminating on Easter Monday on 18th April. If you do decide to attend these celebrations, be prepared for large crowds and a fair bit of pushing and shoving in the Old City, as spectators jostle for the best places to see the view of the processions. Of course, it’s worth it - it’s a moving and often overwhelming experience to be in the city - and walking the Via Dolorosa (the ‘Way of Sorrows’) - where Jesus took his final steps.From Palm Sunday (commemorating the moment Jesus rode into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey), Maundy Thursday (where you can see Priests and Ministers washing the feet of their parishioners, emulating Jesus washing the feet of his disciples) to Good Friday (a solemn experience, to say the least), Holy Saturday (with the extraordinary spectacle of the ceremony of the Holy Fire in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre) and the jubilation that accompanies Easter Sunday (with pilgrims crying out ‘Christ is Risen), this will be a week you will never forget. For more of an in-depth look at what happens in Jerusalem at this time, take a look at our article ‘Easter in Jerusalem.’Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockEaster in Tel Aviv-JaffaThere are several churches - both Protestant and Catholic - in Jaffa, (which sits next to Tel Aviv) and events celebrating Easter week are held throughout the week at Tel Aviv’s largest Catholic and Protestant Churches, based in Jaffa in the South of the city.St. Peter’s Church - there are services held in English, Polish, Spanish, and Hebrew on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil, and Easter Sunday. This is a Franciscan church that sits at the top of the Jaffa hill (which has served as a strategic point for thousands of years). The church is large and beautiful, built at the beginning of the 20th century in baroque style. According to historians, Napoleon stayed here during his 1799 campaign. The church faces towards the Mediterranean Sea and on the walls are paintings depicting the fourteen Stations of the Cross that Jesus trod, en route to Calvary on the day of his crucifixion. St Anthony’s Church - this Franciscan Catholic church, located on Yefet Street, is built in a Gothic revival style and is noticeable because of its bell tower. Built in 1932, it is Jaffa's largest church and has an active community. Easter Services are held in English, Arabic, and Philippine throughout the week. St. Anthony's overlooks the harbor and many of its nuns, in the past, worked in the nearby French hospital. Today, the church is popular with migrant workers, especially those from Asia, and the priest is said to be very welcoming.The Immanuel Church in Jaffa is of the Protestant denomination. It was built in 1904 to serve the local German Evangelical community but after 1940 it remained empty, until 1955 when the building was transferred to the control of the Norweigan Church Ministry. Today, it is popular with different Protestant groups but also used by Messianic Jews. Over Easter, services and concerts are held continuously - for more specific information, check their Facebook page.St. Peter’s Church, Jaffa.Photo by Jeremy Zero on UnsplashEaster in NazarethNazareth holds a special place in the hearts of Christians since it was the city where Jesus spent much of his childhood. There is a number ofNazareth churches, all of which celebrate Easter in their own style.The Basilica of the Annunciation - According to Catholic tradition, this was the spot at which the Angel Gabriel appeared before Mary and announced that she would bear a child (i.e. Jesus). Built in 1958, over the remains of what were once Byzantine and Crusader houses of worship, today, it is the largest Catholic church in the Middle East. Inside, there are beautiful mosaics of Jesus and Mary, located in the portico, as well as a spiral staircase at the top of which is a beautiful Dome.Over Holy Week, a number of services are held including mass, reconciliation, and solemn prayer, as well as an Easter Vigil and sunrise service. When the church is at capacity, it is even possible to follow on live stream!Interior of the Church of the Annunciation, Nazareth.Photo credit: © ShutterstockSt. Gabriel’s Church - Also known as the Greek Orthodox Church of Annunciation, it is of Eastern Orthodox origin and is located in downtown Nazareth and is the largest Christian church in the East. Built in a modern style, Inside it boasts beautiful stained glass murals and lovely murals. Its old stone steps lead down to a beautiful spring. Holy Week is celebrated at St. Gabriel’s with prayers, homilies, services, and a Vigil.In Nazareth, visitors can walk through the city’s alleyways on Palm Sunday, accompanying the local residents and many other devout Christians in a procession. What is very nice is the special musical compositions that are played at this time. Easter week in this northern Israel city is a good example of how Easter is celebrated as a colorful grassroots religious festival.Easter in HaifaHaifa is actually home to a number of Christian communities and any visitor spending time there over Easter will be able to enjoy the traditional procession there, where locals and pilgrims walk through the streets, waving palm leaves and passing by the city’s churches. The annual procession begins at the St. Elias Greek Orthodox Church. This Melkite Cathedral was designed by architect Sammihom Atallah and built between 1938 and 1939. It then continues onto St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, administered by the Carmelites, and members of this congregation join the procession at this point. It then passes by the Latin Church (looked after by three Carmelite friars), moves onto the St. Luke Maronite Church, and concludes at the New Orthodox Church.Haifa aerial view.Photo by Shai Pal on UnsplashEaster in BethlehemBethlehem is a special place for Christians, being the birthplace of Jesus. Holy Week there, as everywhere else, begins on Palm Sunday and ends on Easter Sunday, during which quite a number of church services and religious processions are held. The three most special days before Easter Sunday are Maundy Thursday (when Jesus practiced humility by washing the feet of his disciples). Good Friday (the date Jesus walked to his death, through the Old City, to Calvary (Golgotha) where he was crucified, and also Holy Saturday (known locally as Sabt El Nour). Then, religious communities are given candles lit by a ‘Holy Light’ which has traveled all the way from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.During the Roman Catholic Holy Saturday, crowds gather in Bethlehem at the entrance to Star Street to welcome the large procession, which moves down to the Catholic Church of the Annunciation (also known as Al Bishara). Moreover, at the time of the Greek Orthodox Easter (which can be up to a week or so later), you will always see crowds standing at the city square in Beit Sahour and at Al Sahel Street in Beit Jala, ready to welcome the procession arriving from Jerusalem. As day turns to night, an Easter Vigil will begin and will continue for many hours. The following day, of course, is Easter Sunday and is marked at every Church in Bethlehem, including the Nativity Church and the Church of St. Catherine with sunrise services and enormous celebrations. To explore Bethlehem it is recommended to join one of numerous Bethlehem tours.Church of Saint Catherine, Bethlehem.Photo credit: © Shutterstock
By Sarah Mann

A Visit to the Jezreel Valley

Israel’s Jezreel Valley (also known as the Megiddo Valley) is located in the upper part of the country, bordered on its north by the Lower Galilee, to the south by Mount Gilboa, to the west by the Mount Carmel Range, and to the east by the Jordan Valley.It is a large, fertile plane, dotted with natural springs, and affords the visitor all kinds of wonderful views. As the agricultural heartland of the country, it is famous for its astonishing flatness, as well as its beauty. Although there are many valleys in Israel, it is particularly well-known and loved and usually referred to by Israelis simply as ‘ha Emek’ which, in Hebrew, means ‘ the Valley.’Jezreel Valley from the top of Mount Tabor.Photo credit: © Jenny EhrlichWith its fertile soil and endless farms, it is a beautiful spot for hiking, picnics, and general enthusiasts of the outdoors. Often overlooked by tourists on a tour to Israel, it is not just a wonderful place for nature lovers but also boasts sites of great religious and historical significance. Jezreel, in Hebrew, means ‘ God sows’, and because of its strategic location (as a stopover for armies en route to Egypt, Turkey, or the Arabian Peninsula) the valley is not just rich in soil but also in archaeological artifacts. History of the ValleyThe history of the Jezreel Valley dates back thousands of years (circa 7000 BCE) and is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible as the home of Gideon (a military leader of the Israelites as well as a prophet and Judge). The valley is also home to one of the area’s most famous battles - the Battle of Megiddo. This is mentioned in the Book of Revelations as the place at which the last battle before the Apocalypse will be fought, between the forces of good and evil. (Fun fact: the ancient fortress city of Megiddo has seen more battles than any other spot on the earth. Join the Megiddo and the Jezreel Valley Private Tour to check that).Megiddo National Park.Photo credit: © ShutterstockGeography of the AreaThe Jezreel Valley, as mentioned before, is extremely fertile and by far and away the agricultural heartland of the north of Israel. It is the veritable ‘ breadbasket’ of the country, with its wheat crops. Driving through the area, you are also bound to see cotton fields, fish ponds, grazing cattle, sunflowers, and age-old silver-green olive trees on terraced hillsides. Farmers here (often working in collectives) grow white beans, chickpeas, cheeses, watermelons, lemons, limes, and cherries. Today, most of the population can be found in Afula or large villages, and small-scale family orchards are mainly a thing of the past although some families hold true to their heritage and continue to market crops that their forefathers did. Whether exploring the Jezreel Valley independently or by taking a private tour, traveling the area will give you the opportunity to visit not just historical and religious sites but also local kibbutzim (on our private tours, we can arrange such visits with ease).Let’s now take a look at some of the most important sites in the region, which include mountains, national parks, and even a Crusader castle. All are based in this beautiful, and often under-explored part of the country. Intrigued? Read on ...Megiddo National Park.Photo credit: © Jenny Ehrlich1. MegiddoMegiddo refers to a "tel" or hill, and ancient Megiddo overlooked the Via Maris trade route where caravans traveled (the Bible refers to it as ‘the way of the sea’). Today it is home to a well-known archaeological park where visitors can see the remains of several gates that date back to King Solomon’s reign. On the west side of the mound is a water supply and storage system dating back to the 10th century BC, with almost 200 stairs that connect to a long tunnel and underground spring. This system could not be seen by invaders and it was, therefore, a safe space for residents to hide, and survive, when under siege. Also on display is the remains of a Canaanite Palace with 2 meter thick walls and an open courtyard.2. Mount TaborFound east of the Jezreel Valley, in the Lower Galilee, Mount Tabor stands at 570 meters and is easily recognized, due to its unique shape (half hump-backed, half breast-shaped). Mount Tabor is a very important Christian site within Galilee, as it is believed to be the spot at which the transfiguration (the becoming radiant with glory) of Jesus and where he spoke to Moses and Elijah the Prophet. Mount Tabor is a perfect hiking spot since it is green annually, and also offers fantastic panoramic views of the area. Visitors should not miss a visit to the Church of the Transfiguration (built upon the ruins of an ancient Byzantine church), designed by the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi.Transfiguration Church, Mount Tabor. Photo credit:© Natalia Brizeli3. Mount GilboaSituated in the Lower (south) Galilee, Mount Gilboa is an ever-popular spot both for locals and tourists, particularly in the spring when masses of flowers resemble a carpet beneath the visitor’s feet. It sits 650 meters above sea level, with some rather steep ledges, but still a fine spot for hiking, picnics, and a paradise for those who love flora - in particular the lily, iris, crocus, narcissus, and anemone. A settlement in Roman times (archaeologists later found burial caves found in nearby villages) the area was historically home to vineyards but after the Arab conquest in 636 CE, Gilboa was abandoned until about 250 years ago.Sights in the area include Tel Jezreel, the Hidden Valley (an excellent hiking path for experienced walkers), and the Maale Gilboa observation point, affording spectacular views to the south.4. Gan HaShlosha National ParkGan HaShlosha National Park is arguably in one of the most lovely spots in Israel and boasts far more than just a park, Located at the bottom of Mount Gilboa in the Beit Shean Valley, everywhere you look is water, splashing over into a number of waterfalls and natural pools where you can swim.The pools are also surrounded by tall trees, providing wonderful shade on hot summer days. Moreover, Gan HaShlosha boasts an archaeological museum, divided into two parts – firstly, the Museum of Regional and Mediterranean Archaeology and secondly a rebuilt Tower & Stockade pioneer settlement. This tower was one of the first ‘yishuvs’ (pre-state settlements) and dates back to 1936. 5. Beit Shean National ParkOne of Israel’s oldest cities, Beit Shean (which in Hebrew means ‘the House of Tranquility) can be found 27 km south of the Sea of Galilee. Sandwiched between the Jezreel and Jordan Valleys, it is an extremely fertile area. It is also very hot, with temperatures reaching 50 degrees in the summer. Beit Shean houses the ruins of an ancient Roman city, destroyed in the 8th century by a huge earthquake that struck the area. In 748 CE. Excavated by archaeologists and painstakingly restored, it gives you an excellent sense of how Romans and Byzantine citizens once lived.Not only does it boast an amphitheater, roads and impressive stone columns, mosaics, and a bathhouse, but it is also a national park. Visitors, after exploring the ruins, can walk in green spaces and quickly find themselves next to springs and valley trails. At present, these are the largest excavations within Israel and visitors can easily spend several hours here. Look out for the model at the entrance, giving you an excellent overview, and consider attending a Sound and Light performance, after night falls. Truly a trip back in time.Beit Shean National Park. Photo credit: © Jenny Ehrlich6. Belvoir Castle (Kokhav HaYarden)Located 20 km south of the Sea of Galilee, this fantastic Crusader-era castle (with a history stretching back to the 12th century) is easily one of the area’s hidden gems. Designed to deter Muslim invaders, it sits high above the Jordan Valley, affording spectacular views of the surrounding area.Belvoir (or ‘Kokhav ha Yarden’ which means ‘Star of the Jordan’ in Hebrew) was originally owned by a French nobleman named Velos. After he sold the land to Crusaders, they built the fortress and several battles took place there before it fell to Saladin in 1189. Until the 1960s, it sat in ruins but extensive renovations mean it is now open to the public.Architecturally, the castle is concentric (a popular design originating in Europe at that time), meaning that it was built with two defensive walls, one inside the other. Made of materials such as black basalt and limestone, the main route into the fortress was from an outer age at the foot of a south-eastern tower, ascending a ramp and then doubling back and up again to reach the inner gate in the same corner tower. 7. Beit Alpha SynagogueThe Beit Alpha Synagogue is located in the Beit Shean Valley and dates back to the 6th century. It was discovered accidentally in 1928 by members of a local kibbutz, who were digging in the area as part of an irrigation project. Excavations showed that the building that once stood there was of two floors and constrained not just a courtyard, vestibule, and prayer hall but the bimah (raised platform in which the Torah scroll was kept) faced in the direction of Jerusalem.In the entryway are inscriptions both in Greek and Aramaic and three extraordinary floor mosaics, The first depicts the famous ‘Akedah’ (‘Binding”) scene from the Bible, between Abraham, commanded by God to sacrifice his son Isaac; the second is a Zodiac wheel (depicting 12 different animal signs); the third depicts a synagogue scene, complete with a hanging lamp and a Torah shrine flanked by two lions, with Jewish ritual objects surrounding the animals. Beit Alpha is managed by the Israel Parks and Natura Authority.8. Ma'ayan Harod National ParkMa’ayan (meaning ‘Herod’s Spring’ in Hebrew) is a beautiful national park located at the foot of Mount Gilboa. It offers panoramic views of the Jezreel Valley, a large swimming pool (which is fed by water from the nearby spring), and a great deal of greenery, making it an ideal attraction for both older and younger visitors.The area dates back to the 12th century, where it is thought to have been the place that Sultan Saladin pitched his tent, en route to Jerusalem. In the 1920s the area was purchased from Palestinians by a Zionist Jew named Yehoshua Hankin, and settled by Jewish pioneers who eventually established two kibbutzes.Visitors can also explore the house and tomb of Hankin - the entrance to the tomb of Hankin (and his wife Olga) was designed by David Palombo, the architect who designed the gates of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament). Inside the house are historical artifacts relating to the Hankin era and next door is a war memorial honoring residents of the Jezreel Valley who died in many of Israel’s battles since 1948.Tsipori National Park.Photo credit: © ShutterstockDirectionsThe Jezreel Valley is not easily accessible by public transport, but the biggest city in the region is Afula, which can be reached by bus no. 825 from Tel Aviv (approx. 1 hour 30 minutes) or by train from Haifa (approx. 32 minutes). To see as much of the area as possible, in a short period of time, it is advisable to hire a car. Alternatively, if you are not keen on driving, and would appreciate the knowledge and insight a guide can give you then why not take a Galilee tour? We would recommend the Mount Tabor, Tsipori, Beit Shearim private tour, in which you can visit the famous Church of the Transfiguration, enjoy Tsipori’s ancient Roman amphitheater and also make a visit the burial caves of Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi. Since all of these private tours can be customized, it is entirely up to you to decide what to visit and how long to spend there.
By Sarah Mann

48 Hours in Jerusalem: Recommended 2-Day Itinerary

Home to three of the great world faiths - Christianity, Judaism and Islam - Jerusalem is arguably one of the holiest cities on the planet. No surprise then that millions of visitors flock to it, to worship inJerusalem churches, synagogues and mosques, explore its endless historical sites, learn more about its conquests and ancestors or just to soak in the atmosphere of this extraordinary place. To do justice to Jerusalem, you’d need many days if not weeks, to wander the city but if you’re short of time, and want to see as much as you can, then - providing you rise early (to avoid the long queues) and put on some sturdy footwear - you can pack in a lot in a couple of days. Catholic Cemetery, Mount Zion, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © Sofia EmeliyanovaGetting Around JerusalemIn terms of getting around, the new and modern light railway is a joy to use and, of course, within the Old City, you’re confined to walking anyway. Consider taking part in the best-reviewed Jerusalem tours if you need some fellow travelers. On a practical level, we’d advise dressing modestly (long trousers for men and skirts or dresses below the knee/tops with sleeves for women) to show respect for many of the holy places. Finally, if possible, try and plan your trip between Monday-Thursday, since Friday-Sunday are days of rest for Muslims, Jews, and Christians respectively. Here, then, is our guide to Jerusalem in 48 hours...good luck and enjoy!Day 1. The Old City and Temple MountThe Old City has an atmosphere and energy that’s hard to describe - full of winding alleyways, exotic smells, places of worship on every corner, and 16th-century Ottoman walls, the city has immense religious and cultural symbolism. Its actual size is not large - it measures less than a square kilometer - but boasting thousands of years of history, and drought over tooth and nail by invaders, it really does pack a holy punch! The Old City itself is divided into four quarters - Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Armenian - with many buildings laying underneath the streets themselves. The present street plan dates back more or less to Byzantine times and is bisected by an east-west road (thus the four quarters). Bethesda Pools, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © ShutterstockChristian Sites in the Old City of JerusalemArriving through the Jaffa Gate, every visitor, whatever their faith, should walk the Via Dolorosa, which leads to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Treading the path Jesus walked, on his journey to the cross, is an extraordinary experience - stop at the different stations (marked on the ancient stone walls) and if you want to really soak up the atmosphere, go on Fridays at 3 pm, when the Franciscan Custodians of Holy Places lead a procession. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the holiest site for Christians in the entire world - this is where Christ was crucified, buried, and resurrected and the atmosphere inside is extraordinary. (Fun fact: the walls of the church are inscribed with thousands of crosses, inscribed by Crusaders who traveled across Europe hundreds of years ago and slept in the church).The Convent of the Sisters of Zion (a Catholic nunnery), the Garden Tomb (around the City Walls), the Coptic Orthodox Patriarchate, and St. Anne’s Church are also popular Christian sites within the Old City. For history buffs, consider taking a Jerusalem Half Day Tour and, at its conclusions, continuing on to explore alone.Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo credit: © ShutterstockJewish Sites in the Old City of JerusalemWithout a doubt, a visit to the Western Wall (or “‘Kotel’ in Hebrew) is an experience no tourist ever forgets. Jews from across the globe come to pray here since it is their most holy site (the last retaining wall of the Second Temple built by Herod in Roman times). It is open to all, free and both Jews and non-Jews are permitted to walk close to the wall, pray there and place notes in the crevices of its walls.As well as the Kotel, there is much to see in the Jewish quarter. Walk along the Cardo - the remains of a street that existed back in Roman-Byzantine times, where merchants sold their wares - and look out for the Madaba Map (an astonishing mosaic that depicts ancient Jerusalem). A hidden gem often overlooked is the Hurva Synagogue. Built in 1700, burnt down in 1720 then re-inaugurated in 1864, this was one of the most impressive synagogues that stood in the Old City before 1948. Badly damaged by shelling in the War of Independence, it was subsequently demolished but in 2010 underwent major renovations to restore its beautiful exterior. Today it is possible to take a guided tour around it - look out for the tallest Ark of the Covenant in the world! David Playing the Harp before Saul, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockFor archaeology lovers, the Burnt House is a must-visit. After the Six-Day War in 1967, Israeli archaeologists began digging in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and found something quite astonishing - a house six meters below street level, concealed by a layer of ash. This ‘Burnt House’ dates back to the time of the Second Temple and is believed to have been the home of upper-class Jews. They were the Katros family and we know this because archaeologists found a stone weight, inscribed with their name on it.Not exactly in the Old City but not far away it is the City of David – and this can easily be joined on a City of David and Underground Jerusalem Tour.Muslim Sites in the Old City of JerusalemA visit to the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock will be of particular interest to any Muslim since, after Mecca and Medina, the Dome of the Rock is Islam’s third most holy site. Constructed in 691-692 CE, it is instantly recognizable shimmering gold roof and blue-tiled exterior houses a sanctuary in which lies the Foundation Stone - where Mohammed (according to legend) ascended to heaven. Since non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the Dome of the Rock itself, we would recommend joining a tour of the area.The Western Wall, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinThe entire Muslim quarter is a fascinating place to explore, with tiny stores selling spices, sweet delights, vegetables, and household goods. The bazaar-like atmosphere is very Levantine - don’t be afraid to bargain either, as it’s expected! The area around the Damascus Gate is particularly lively, and a good place to grab a Turkish coffee (strong and black, with a hint of cardamom), a piece of baklava, and watch the world go by. If you have the energy, walk outside the City Walls and up to the Mount of Olives, to see a spectacular sunset.After a power nap, spend the evening at one of Jerusalem’s excellent restaurants or bars in the New City, visit the Light and Sound Show at the Tower of David, or simply stroll through the fancy Mamilla Mall. Jerusalem is also home to the Cinematheque on Hebron Road, which hosts many documentary film festivals and boasts a lovely cafe, with light bites and fabulous views. Day 2. The New CityJerusalem is home to a number of excellent museums, two of which you could easily spend the entire day at. We would highly recommend both of them, the first being Yad Vashem - the national monument to the Holocaust - and the second the Israel Museum, which houses a spectacular collection of art, Judaica, sculptures, and the astonishing Dead Sea Scrolls. At a pinch, you could visit one in the morning and another in the afternoon... although that might be a little overwhelming.Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © ShutterstockYad Vashem - The World Holocaust Remembrance CenterA visit to Yad Vashem is an extraordinary experience, leaving many moved to tears and all walking away with an indelible memory of their trip. Presenting the experience of the Holocaust (‘Shoah’ in Hebrew) from a uniquely Jewish experience, it takes the visitor on a remarkable journey, emphasizing the experiences of individuals through personal possessions, testimonies, and surviving artifacts. The museum actually contains over 27,000 items that were donated by survivors over the years, including chess sets and the distinctive yellow stars that Jews were forced to pin to their clothes.Visitors walk through a large museum, at first being confronted by the Nazi rise to power, then exploring the ghettos in which Jews were forced to live and finally coming face to face with the grim reality of life in concentration camps, for the few deported who were not immediately murdered. The space visitors walk through is 180 meters long and formed like a spike with its top edge (a skylight) protruding. Deliberately designed with varying heights and differing degrees of light permeating the rooms, the idea is for it to symbolize the complexity of the Jews’ predicament as well as the idea of rebirth after destruction. The Museum also holds a Hall of Names (remembering the six million murdered) and a space to honor Righteous Gentiles, who risked their lives to save Jews.A visit to Yad Vashem is by no means a ‘fun’ way to spend a few hours. It is difficult and sometimes overwhelming to make this journey, but incredibly worthwhile and something that is recommended for every visitor to Israel, as a way to understand the collective trauma of the Holocaust that still reverberates throughout Israeli society today.Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, Jerusalem.Photo credit: © ShutterstockThe Israel MuseumRegarded as one of the world’s leading museums, the Israel Museum offers visitors a slice of fine art, archaeology, ceramics, Jewish culture, a variety of exhibitions. as well as a beautiful Sculpture Garden, guided tours, workshops, a miniature model of the Second Temple and the opportunity of a lifetime - walking through the ‘Shrine of the Book’ building which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls.Visitors can enjoy art by European and Israeli artists alike, wander through the independent photography department, ponder over drawings and works in the design and architecture section, and take an unparalleled journey into the history and archaeology of the land of Israel.The Shrine of the Book, housing the scrolls discovered at Qumran (in the Dead Sea region) in 1947 is a highlight for all visitors. The white dome symbolizes the lids of the jars in which the scrolls were discovered and the corridor inside representing the cave itself. The building itself is astonishingly beautiful and considered a triumph by many modern architects. Fun for the Kids in JerusalemIf you’re not traveling alone, and need family-friend activities to amuse the kids fear not - there’s the Jerusalem Time Elevator, the Bloomfield Science Museum, the Biblical Zoo, or Aquarium, which youngsters will love. Located in the southwest of the city, the Zoo has all kinds of activities for children including workshops, night tours, and a petting zoo. From elephants and tigers to Ibex and Black Howler Monkeys, it’s got plenty to amuse you for several hours! The Aquarium, next door, is also an ideal place to visit on sweltering summer and rainy winter days since it’s all enclosed.Traveling around Jerusalem with kids.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinBiblical Archaeology in JerusalemFor anyone interested in biblical archaeology, Jerusalem is a paradise. To get the most out of your time in the city, however, we would recommend joining a tour such as In the Footsteps of Jesus - which includes a visit to the Pools of Bethesda, Church of St. Anne, and the Pater Noster, and a chance to see both the Garden of Gethsemane and the Mount. of Olives.An Evening at “The Shuk”After another quick rest, head off for an evening at the lively Mahane Yehuda market, directly off Jaffa Street in the heart of the city. In the last ten years, this has become the hottest spot in town for eating and drinking at night, with all kinds of food (Persian meets tapas meets Italian meets fish and chips), craft beers, and live music. If you’re lucky enough to be there on Thursdays, you’re in for a treat - it’s packed out but completely atmospheric and provides every visitor to Jerusalem with a snapshot of its inhabitants - old and young, religious and secular, foodie-lover or flaneur! After a fun evening out, go home and sleep. You deserve it, after your action-packed 2-day itinerary in Jerusalem.Mahane Yehuda Market. Photo credit: © Dan Porges
By Sarah Mann

48 Hours in Tel Aviv - How to Get the Most of 2 Days in Tel Aviv

Well, it’s official - Tel Aviv has just been named by Forbes as the second-best city in the world to visit in 2020 (disclosure: the White City was only beaten by Sin City...aka Las Vegas). And for anyone who’s visited here, this decision will come as no surprise. With its miles of pristine, sandy beaches, eclectic foodie scenes, and diverse neighborhoods (historic and hipster) you’re spoilt for choice with ways to enjoy yourself. Here’s our guide to 48 action-packed hours in Tel Aviv, a taste of a city that we guarantee will leave you longing for more.Day 1A) Namal PortThe majority of Tel Aviv tours start at the Namal Port. Originally built in the 1930s and used to store Israel’s most successful export - Jaffa Oranges - the hangers are still in evidence. Today, however, it’s more of a commercial hub, with a wonderful boardwalk, plenty of fashionable stores and restaurants, and a Friday Farmer’s Market that sells high-end local produce. After you’ve wandered the area, grab a coffee or ‘limonada’ (Israelis take theirs with mint) and begin strolling south, along the promenade (‘Tayelet’) along the endless Tel Aviv beaches. Each has its own unique flavor (some are popular with surfers or dancers, others with dog-lovers of the gay community) but all have fine white sand, clear water, benches to sit and take in the view, and even free workout stations (incredibly popular with the locals, who love to stay in shape). You could also join a Tel Aviv bike tourand experience the city’s vibrant atmosphere, top landmarks, and fantastic weather riding along the beachfront promenade andthrough Park HaYarkon, along the banks of the Yarkon River where there are expansive green lawns, lush gardens, and shady trees.Or discover the mouth-watering blend of spices that go into traditional Tel Aviv street snacks like sabich on a classicalTel Aviv street food tour.B) Yemenite Quarter and the Carmel MarketAfter around 45 minutes, you’ll hit the Yemenite Quarter, a maze of alleyways, part-renovated, part-dilapidated, but full of charm. Wander the narrow streets, then tour the Carmel Market, orShuk haCarmel, Tel Aviv’s most lively and colorful bazaar which is a hive of activity before the Jewish Shabbat begins on Friday night. Take in the Levantine smells, purchase some local spices to take home, then grab lunch at Shlomo and Doron (a grandfather and grandson team) renowned for their affordable hummus, and delicious vegan toppings. Afterward, sit with the locals at Beer Bazaar, one of the market’s most popular hangouts, which stocks over 100 different craft beers from around the country. It’s always lively, with occasional musical performances as the day wears on. Walk five minutes down to the beach and watch the sun go down over the Mediterranean.C) Rothschild BoulevardAfter a quick nap, take an early evening stroll along Rothschild Boulevard, one of Tel Aviv’s most iconic streets, crammed full of Bauhaus buildings, a style that originated in 1930s Germany and which gave Tel Aviv the name of ‘White City’. To see the stunning Tel Aviv murals, join a Tel Aviv street art tour.There’s no shortage of good restaurants in the neighborhood - we’d recommend Cafe Noir, a long-established European-style bistro, with seating areas that cater both to romantic dates and those inclined to a more buzzy atmosphere. It’s rumored that they serve the best chicken schnitzel in town, but don’t take our word for it!Stroll home leisurely whilst watching Tel Aviv’s young crowd head out for fun - the city has one of the most enviable nightlife scenes in the world and it’s rumored that things rarely get started before 2 am!Day 2A) JaffaBegin your day in the ancient port of Jaffa, with a history that stretches ack 4,000 years. Wander the narrow streets (named after zodiac signs) and pop into some of the many art galleries in the neighborhood. Walk through the Abrasha Park (with its stunning views) - this area is home to St Peter’s Church (with its Spanish baroque style), the ‘Gate of Faith’ statue (made of marble from the Galilee), and the ‘Smiling Whale’ sculpture.A short stroll away is the Jaffa Flea Market and whilst the second-hand section is closed on Shabbat, there are plenty of stores, cafes, and restaurants to enjoy.For lunch, we’d recommend the quirky Pua, which has been around forever but retains a special charm. The food is fresh and simple but moderately priced and beautifully served, and the portions are enormous. Moreover, it offers plenty of vegetarian and vegan options (including pumpkin dumplings, red tahini, and fried cauliflower). Don’t hesitate to order a jug of their lemonade to go with your meal. (Fun fact: every piece of furniture in the restaurant is for sale). Another option is to join a guided Jaffa Flea Market tour "From Shuk to Chic" so that a local guide couldtake you through the labyrinth of lanes where junk, carpets, antiques and restored furniture spill out onto the sidewalk.B) Neve TsedekFrom Jaffa, take a leisurely stroll along the beachfront to Neve Tsedek, one of Tel Aviv’s oldest and most picturesque neighborhoods. Wander down Shabazi Street (the main thoroughfare), peruse the boutiques and jewelry stores then pop into the Anita gelateria for a sweet treat, or enjoy a coffee at Suzanna, a long-standing local haunt with a lovely garden in which to sit. Neve Tsedek is also packed full of cultural treasures including the Suzanne Dellal Centre (a cultural center, which is home to Israeli dance) and the Rubin Museum (who painted in a style similar to that of Matisse and was occasionally referred to as the ‘Gaugin of Palestine!’)C) Dizengoff StreetSpend your evening on Dizengoff Street which, like Rothschild Boulevard, has to be experienced. Named after the city’s first mayor, it has a bit of everything - fine-dining, casual coffee shops, glamorous cocktail bars and it’s the newly-renovated central square, complete with fountain, chairs, and trees that provide shade in the scorching summer months. Enjoy a ‘Happy Hour’ cocktail at Spicehaus (a ‘concept’ bar where the staff dress as pharmacists and the skeleton at the door reminds of your old school biology lab). Drinks are served, appropriately, in potion bottles of three sizes - and we recommend the Istanbul-Louisville Express (with gin, lychee, aloe vera, and rose flavoring). Then, a stone’s throw from the bar, have dinner at La Shuk, serving elegant, Mediterranean food (think fresh seafood, kebabs, and a medley of vegetable dishes). This is a hot spot (with a patio that’s perfect for people-watching) so be sure to make a reservation in advance.Dizengoff is always lively on a Saturday night, and so if you’ve any remaining energy, there’s always going to be a bar or coffee shop to wile away your last hour or two.
By Sarah Mann

How to Get from Tel Aviv to Eilat: From Culture to Chillout

A great many of Israel’s visitors want to see as much of the country as they can on their trip, and two of the spots they prioritize are Tel Aviv and Eilat. Tel Aviv, the beating heart of the country’s centre, is close to Ben Gurion airport and an ideal place to spend a first night after arrival and even a few more days afterwards, enjoying cafe life, cultural pursuits and some fine dining. Eilat, nestled on the Red Sea, is a popular destination too, especially in the winter when temperatures are warm and swimming and sunbathing are a top pastime. With its breathtaking views (look one way you can see Jordan, look the other there is Egypt, and look behind you for pinkish, orange-red hued mountains) it’s perfect for chilling out, snorkelling and a little hiking in the nearby Timna Park. If you’re feeling adventurous you can also join aPetra tour from Eilat.Eilat beach.Photo credit: © ShutterstockFrom Tel Aviv to Eilat - Four Ways to Do ItThe distance from Tel Aviv to Eilat is 281 kilometers. There are 4 ways to travel from Tel Aviv to Israel's southernmost resort: bus to Eilat, rental car, plane, and private transfer. Below, we’re going to give you some helpful pointers to make sure everything goes as smoothly and easily as possible along the way. Luckily, Israel is a small country, so no journey ever takes that long (even when on desert roads!) but having the ‘lie of the land before you set off is always a good idea.Unfortunately, Israel does not yet have a direct train running between the two cities. The proposed high-speed rail link has been talked about for years but, unfortunately, the project is currently at a standstill. To date, the furthest you can travel by train is to Beer Sheva and Dimona (a tiny town a little way on). There is a small stretch of railway that passes beyond Dimona, running out to some phosphate mines in the Tzin Valley, but the train that heads there is for cargo only and functions on an 'as and when' basis.Red Sea, Eilat, Israel. Photo by Vitaliy Paykov on UnsplashInsider TipsOf course, you could take the train as far as Beer Sheva and then catch a bus onto Eilat, but this would mean making a change and, if you have a lot of luggage or small children, it could be inconvenient and tiresome. Still, it’s possible - and let’s give you some insider tips. Firstly, reserve a seat on the Beer Sheva - Eilat bus three days in advance. Try and book one in the middle (not over the wheels) - number 18 is ideal! Look for a seat on the shady side (no. 17 if you’re traveling in the morning and no. 19 if in the afternoon).Book a train to Beer Sheva and make sure you leave plenty of time for your connection. After arriving (the journey is approx. 1 hour 10 minutes), exit the train station and turn left. You will see the bus station right in front of you. If you need to use the bathrooms, it’s better to do so in the train station - they tend to be cleaner than the ones in the bus station!Grab a snack or a light bite in the bus station, which has all kinds of eateries, plus coffee shops. We recommend the shawarma and also the bourekas (pastry filled with salty cheese or potatoes). Pick up some water too - the driver will probably stop for a coffee break at Yotvata Inn, but that won’t be for another two hours or so, and if you’re traveling in the summer, it’s essential not to let yourself become hydrated. Egged intercity buses in Israel. Image: via Egged Facebook pageA tip: when you arrive at Yotvata, you’ll have time to stretch your legs but also to pop inside and treat yourself to one of their famous Italian-style ice creams, which come in a marvelous range of flavors (we recommend the mascarpone and figs). There’s also a fantastic date-flavored frozen yogurt and mango sorbet for those who prefer to avoid dairy. Yotvata also has a gift store where they sell boxes of juicyMedjool dates, all grown on their own kibbutz. Now onto the direct options.Getting from Tel Aviv to Eilat by BusThe bus is a pretty good option and, as buses go, it’s a comfortable journey with varied and beautiful landscapes. At around 70 NIS one-way, it’s also rather cheap (public transport is heavily subsidized in Israel). The national bus service is called Egged and their green and white logo is easily recognized. We’d recommend booking a seat in advance, just to guarantee that you won’t be turned away, but if you want to take a chance, just show up with cash (or a loaded Rav Kav card) and if there’s a spare seat, the driver will welcome you aboard. Tickets can be ordered online via Egged’s website (in Hebrew) or by phone at 03 694-8888 or *2800 (many of the operators speak English as well) using a credit card. Vintage Egged bus from the Egged Bus Museum in Holon.Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinEgged ScheduleSunday-Thursday: This is the Israeli work week and buses leave regularly, with line 394. This is located at Platform 601, on level 6 of the Central Bus Station on Levinsky Street. Buses leave regularly i.e. every 90 minutes, with the first one departing at 06.30. On Friday, the last bus usually leaves around 14.00. This is because the Jewish Shabbat begins when dusk falls on Friday and public transport in Israel generally stops running a couple of hours before. On Saturdays (i.e. the Jewish Shabbat) buses depart a little before the end of the day (i.e. before night falls) - sometimes as early as 14.00 from Tel Aviv. Always check the timetable carefully and, if possible, call up in advance to confirm your departure, as all times are subject to change, depending on adverse weather conditions (e.g. flash floods in the Negev).Self-Service Tickets with EilatomatAnother thing to bear in mind is that if you decide to book tickets in advance (through the website or the Customer Service Center) you will need to collect them from a self-service ticket machine named Eilatomat. These machines can be found in the central bus stations of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Rishon le Zion, Haifa Hof ha-Carmel, Haifa Central, Hadera, Rehovot, Beer Sheva, and Netanya. A ticket can be collected from an Eilatomat ticket machine up to 2 hours before boarding and then shown to the driver when you enter through the front door. We recommend arriving 20 minutes in advance, as the lines can be long! Antique Egged buses from the Egged Bus Museum in Holon. Photo credit: © Dmitry MishinGetting from Tel Aviv to Eilat with a Rental CarIt’s relatively simple and not particularly expensive to rent a car in Israel if you want to drive. Both Ben Gurion airport and Tel Aviv have a number of car rental businesses, including Eldan, Hertz, Tamar, and Shlomo Sixt. Just bring your passport and driver’s license and you should be issued with a vehicle within 30-45 minutes. The journey from the country’s center to the far south will take between four to five hours (depending on your speed and if you stop for a coffee break in Mitzpe Ramon, where you can admire the views of the crater and even pop in on the Artist’s Quarter or if you’re with young kids, the Alpaca Farm). From Mitzpe to Eilat, the road is winding and narrow (and it’s where accidents often happen) so please take particular care, especially at night, when there will be long stretches of road with no light. If you are easily car sick, we would advise taking this journey in the day, when it’s easier to stop and take a breath! The scenery is also beautiful - the desert landscapes are arid and rugged, and as you drive through the Arava, the rocks will turn pink, orange, and red in color.Sunset inEilat area. Photo credit:© Oksana MatsGetting from Tel Aviv to Eilatby PlaneThis is a fast option and an excellent idea if you need to travel straight to Eilat, after arrival in Israel at Ben Gurion Airport. The internal flight will take just under an hour and Arkia, Israel’s domestic carrier operates a service every couple of hours. After a long, international flight, taking trains, buses, or renting a car could quickly turn into an ordeal, particularly if you’re very jetlagged. Flights cost around $100, so save yourself time and energy - with Arkia, you’ll be in Ramon airport in no time. From there, it’s a 15-minute journey to Eilat, either by taxi or local bus. Of course, if you want to see desert scenery, you can always catch the bus back to Tel Aviv, on your return leg, or rent a car.Musical fountain in Eilat.Photo credit: © Oksana MatsGetting from Tel Aviv to Eilat with a Private TransferIf you are based in Tel Aviv, the quickest and most convenient way of all would be to book a private transfer to Eilat. This ‘door-to-door’ service means you’ll be picked up and dropped off exactly where you choose - and you can also break the journey if you choose (a pit stop at Beer Sheva, Mitzpe Ramon, or the famous dairy store at Yotvata Kibbutz - see above). Make sure to choose a trusted tour operator, who will answer all your questions in advance and tailor the experience to your specific needs.Now you’re ready. Don’t forget your COVID-19 Vaccination Certificate, sunglasses, sunscreen, and a snazzy bathing suit. Everything else is optional! Trust us, you’re going to have a fine time. Shalom and enjoy!Getting to Eilat by camel is not an option anymore.Photo credit:Muhammad Abo Omar
By Sarah Mann

What is the Best Way to Get from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv?

Lucky for visitors to Israel the international Ben Gurion Airport is relatively close to Tel Aviv and there are multiple transportation options to take you from the airport right into the city center. Take into account that public transport in Israel is limited (and in some cases non-existent) on Shabbat (from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown).Private Transfers from Tel Aviv Airport If you want to avoid high taxi prices and the pitfalls of public transportation then your best option is a private transfer from Ben Gurion. Private transfers from Tel Aviv airport are definitely the most convenient and fastest way to travel. You can book a private transfer from Tel Aviv airport online. A driver will be waiting for you at Ben Gurion where he will be holding a sign bearing your name as you enter the airport arrivals hall. Once you have met your driver he will help you with your luggage to the waiting car and take you straight to the doorstep of your Tel Aviv hotel.The advantages of private transfers from Tel Aviv airport are that you don’t have to go looking for a taxi; you don’t have to wait in a queue; private transfers operate on all days of the week including Shabbat; the price is prepaid so no haggling or need for cash in hand; no need for multiple transfers (from train to taxi or bus to bus) and you have the peace of mind knowing that your arrival transport is arranged and will go smoothly. Private transfers from Tel Aviv airport can also be arranged to other destinations in Israel including Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and Herzliya.Train from Ben Gurion to Tel AvivThe Ben Gurion train station is immediately outside Ben Gurion’s Terminal 3 lower level and you can buy your train ticket from a machine or ticket booth alongside the platform. Taking a train from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv is, in theory, a low-cost and fast option. However, the Tel Aviv train stations are not centrally located and you will have to take a bus or taxi from the station to your hotel. Israeli trains do not operate on Shabbat (from Friday sundown to Saturday sundown) but are otherwise operational 24/7. From 6 am to 11 pm there are two trains an hour from Ben Gurion to Tel Aviv’s four stations and from 11 pm to 6 am there is one train an hour which stops only at Tel Aviv’s Arlozorov Station. The journey takes about 20 minutes but adds to that travel time from the station to your hotel.Bus from Ben Gurion to Tel AvivEgged Bus Company operates buses from Ben Gurion Airport and although they are an economical option most travelers will not enjoy navigating the Israeli bus system as they step off the plane! Egged line #5 operates between Ben Gurion’s three terminals and Airport City (a commercial development 5km from Ben Gurion) from there you will need to take a connecting bus into Tel Aviv. Other bus companies operate similar services. Regular buses do not enter the airport area and have limited or no routes from Friday afternoon to Saturday sundown and on national holidays.Taxi from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel AvivTaxis operate 24/7 from Ben Gurion Airport to Tel Aviv and other destinations. The price of a taxi varies according to the time of day (it is more expensive at night and on Shabbat). You will also pay more depending on the number of passengers and the number of pieces of luggage. Although there are measures in place to monitor taxi drivers and the fees they charge it is not unheard of for Israeli taxi drivers to overcharge travelers from Ben Gurion. Follow the signs from the arrivals hall to the taxi queue where you can wait your turn for a taxi. Be sure to ask the price before getting into the taxi.
By Petal Mashraki

How to Plan 7 Days in Israel

Thanks to Israel’s compact size it is possible to cover the whole country in about a week. Of course you won’t see everything but a week is long enough to see the highlights and get a good overview of the whole country. If a week is all you have then you could either take a guided tour each day to a different part of the country or do it alone. Traveling independently the best way to get around is by renting a car although you could also do it using public transport. Here is an idea of a typical 7 day Israel itinerary.Day 1 – Tel AvivArriving at Ben Gurion rent a car and make your way to one of the excellent Tel Aviv hotels. Depending on what time you arrive you can start exploring the city. Check out the beachfront and maybe have an iconic meal of falafel or shawarma.Take a walk through the historic neighborhood of Neve Tzedek to see the Bauhaus architecture or the hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv’s open-air "shuks" touring the Carmel Market. If you are into art Tel Aviv has an excellent Art Museum otherwise you might like to visit HaTachana, a restored historic train station that has been converted into a shopping and entertainment venue.Sarona is another shopping complex created out of a number of buildings from an 1871 German Templer colony. Of course, there is the old port of Jaffa; the perfect place to end your first day in Israel at one of the seafood restaurants overlooking the Tel Aviv coast.Suggested Overnight: Tel AvivOptional tours for this day: Tel Aviv Bike Tour, Jaffa Flea Market TourSee all Tel Aviv Tours.Day 2 – GalileeMake an early start on day two and follow the coastal road north all the way to Galilee. Along the way, you will pass many interesting cities and villages and you will have the Mediterranean Sea on your left most of the way.On the journey north, you will also see some of Israel’s finest farmlands and pass through breathtaking greenery. The area around the Sea of Galilee is one of the most beautiful in the country. There is lush vegetation, historic and religious sites as well as the gorgeous sea where you can swim, do water sports, and go on short cruises. This is also the area where Jesus spent his ministry years going from village to village preaching. There are several gorgeous churches commemorating biblical sites around the Sea of Galilee. Base yourself in Tiberias then drive around the Sea of Galilee visiting the Mount of Beatitudes (site of the Sermon on the Mount); the House of Peter at Capernaum; Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes and the Church of St.Peter’s Primacy at Tabgha and Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine. You can stop at Yardenit to get baptized at the same place in the Jordan River where John the Baptist baptized Jesus. If you have no interest in religious sites then there are other attractions around the Sea of Galilee. Follow some of the many hike trails; go out on the water; explore the city of Tiberias or the thermal pools at Hamat Gader. End your day with a delicious fish dinner in one of the Tiberias restaurants overlooking the sea.Suggested Overnight:Galilee Kibbutz hotelThe optional tour for this day: Sea of Galilee Tour;Nazareth, and Sea of Galilee Private TourSee allGalilee tours.Day 3 – Golan HeightsLeaving Galilee drive north to the Golan Heights. The area is covered with lush forests and can boast magnificent waterfalls, mountain castles, scenic farmlands, and vineyards.That said, the Golan Heights trip could be your dream escape. You will see the panorama of the shores of the Sea of Galilee from Shalom Observatory, explore the Talmudic village of Katzrin, visit Mount Bental where Syrian fortifications have remained and walk through the Syrian trenches and bunkers from the times of the Six-Day War.Suggested Overnight:Galilee Kibbutz hotelThe optional tour for this day: Golan Heights and Safed Tour, 2 DaysSee all Golan Heights toursDay 4 – Haifa, Acre, CaesareaLeave Galilee and make your way to the west with a Caesarea, Acre, and Rosh Hanikra Tourstopping at the ancient city of Acre (Akko) which was a strategic port city during the Crusader, Mamluk, and Ottoman periods. The old city of Acre has survived and has a lively market plus cavernous underground structures built by the Crusaders. The city is also home to some picturesque mosques and a quaint port. Continue on a little further south through Haifa where you can stop to see the famous Baha'i Gardens. These gardens or the Hanging Terrace Gardens cascade down Mount Carmel is 19 terraces planted with brightly colored flowers and shrubs. At the top of the gardens is the gold-domed Shrine of Bab and an observation terrace where you can look out over Haifa Bay. A little further south is the ancient city of Caesarea. Today modern Caesarea is a prestigious residential city and home to the rich and famous but along the coast are the ancient remains of a former Roman port city. The old city was built by Herod the Great in c.25-13BC and many structures have remained including a perfectly preserved Roman amphitheater, aqueducts, Roman mansions, and from the later Crusader-era there are fortress walls and other structures. Continue on to Rosh haNikra to see the stunning limestone grottoes.Suggested Overnight:JerusalemThe optional tour for this day:Caesarea, Zichron, and Haifa Private TourSee all Caesarea toursDay 5 – JerusalemStart your day in Jerusalem with a tour of the Old City and the many sites within the ancient walls. Visit the Wailing Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and walk the Via Dolorosa retracing Jesus’ footsteps on route to his crucifixion. While in the Old City you could walk the ramparts, visit the Tower of David, the Dome of the Rock, see the ancient Roman main street, the Cardo,and enjoy the many markets. On leaving the Old City head for Yad Vashem the Israeli Holocaust museum. Depending on your interests you could stroll through the modern streets of Jerusalem; visit the Ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Mea Shearim, see the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, or visit the Israel Museum.Suggested Overnight:JerusalemThe optional tour for this day: City of David & Underground Jerusalem Tour,Jerusalem Temple Mount & Dome of the Rock Tour See all Jerusalem toursDay 6 – Dead SeaWake up to a glorious day by the Dead Sea. Today you are going to see Masada, one of the most important landmarks in Jewish history. Masada is a fortress constructed by King Herod and the last stronghold of the Zealots against the Romans. It took a couple of years for the Romans to build a high ramp to reach the top. When they got to Masada, they uncovered that the Zealots committed mass suicide. Since then Masada has become a Jewish cultural icon and a symbol of humanity’s never-ending struggle for freedom. You can either ascend to Masada by cable car or walk to the top with the Snake Path. After the tour of Masada, relax and recharge your batteries sunning yourself on Kalia beach. Float in the Dead Sea and cover your skin with the mineral-rich Dead Sea mud.Suggested Overnight:JerusalemThe optional tour for this day:Dead Sea Relaxation Tour, Masada Sunrise, Ein Gedi, and Dead Sea Tour, Judean Desert Jeep TourSee allDead Sea toursDay 7 – West BankAfter revitalizing at the Dead Sea visit the gems of the West Bank, the land of breathtaking biblical sites. See Jericho, the lowest and most ancient city on earth with its famous Tell Es-Sultan and Elisha's Spring, and explore Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, with its Nativity Church, and the cave of St. Jerome beneath the Church of St. Catherine where the famous theologian translated most of the Bible into Latin. Do not forget to take a picture on Manger Square - the spot wherepilgrims traditionally sing Christmas carols before the midnight mass. See the Shepherds' Field Chapel,marking the place where angels announced the birth of Christ. If you need a wide-sweeping overview of the Holy Land with its geography, culture, and politics, an organizedBethlehem and Jericho tour would be a good idea.Suggested Overnight:JerusalemThe optional tour for this day:Jericho, Dead Sea, and the Jordan River TourSee all West Bank toursIf you are interested in a Christian-oriented 7-day Holy Land tour, or a tour of Israel with a Jewish focus, check agencies offering classical Israel tour packages.
By Petal Mashraki

Israel in 5 Days

Many people take a short vacation to Israel and try to fit in as much as possible. Even if you only have five days in Israel you can cover a good deal of the country, especially if you take one day Israel tours. If you land at Tel Aviv airport and base yourself in Tel Aviv you are sure to see the top Tel Aviv attractions. The rest of the country can be seen with Israel tours. Here is how you could divide your time to see as much of Israel as possible in five days.Day 1.Jerusalem, the Golden CityJerusalem deserves a whole day to itself. There is a lot to see and some of the country’s most important sites are here. Christian travelers will enjoy visiting the biblical sites on the Mount of Olives and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Jewish travelers should visit the Western Wall, the most sacred Jewish site in the world. Muslim travelers are going to want to visit the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. All visitors to Jerusalem should spend time in the Old City. If you are interested in art don’t miss the Israel Museum. To learn more about the Holocaust go to the Yad Vashem Museum. There are many things to do in Jerusalem!Suggested Overnight: JerusalemOptional tours for this day: Underground Jerusalem Tour,Jerusalem and Bethlehem TourSee all Jerusalem ToursDay 2. The Dead Sea, the Salty ParadiseThe top two attractions in southern Israel are the Dead Sea and Masada. You can visit both sites on a one-day Masada and the Dead Sea tour. Explore the remains of Herod’s palace-fortress with its remarkable history and structures, and enjoy the breathtaking views of the Dead Sea. Other must-sees that you could consider including in your day in the south are the most ancient city on earth,Jericho, and the baptismal site of Qasr al Yahud.Spend the rest of the day floating in the water that is 8 times saltier than the ocean creating natural buoyance. Apply the mineral-rich Dead Sea mud to your face and soak up the healing Dead Sea sun. Suggested Overnight: JerusalemOptional tours for this day:Bethlehem and Jericho Tour,Dead Sea Relax TourSee all Dead Sea toursDay 3. Galilee and Golan HeightsIn one day you can cover the attractions around the Sea of Galilee, the lowest freshwater lake on Earth,and visit the spectacularGolan Heights. Nazareth, known as "the Arab capital of Israel,is also in Galilee and is a great alternative for Christian travelers. You will enjoy the magnificent Church of Annunciation and the Church of St. Joseph. If you decide on a guided Nazareth and Sea of Galilee Tour, you will also visit places where Jesus performed miracles, likeCapernaumand Tabgha with its Roman Catholic Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves.Yardenit is a baptismal site on the Jordan River that can be included in Israel Christian tours to the north.Suggested Overnight:Galilee Kibbutz hotelOptional tours for this day: Golan Heights Tour,Christian Galilee TourSee all Galilee and Golan toursDay 4. Coastal Plain of IsraelA coastal cities tourfirst takes you to Caesarea, with its ancient Roman port - remains of Caesarea Maritima, an ancient city constructed by Herod the Great. The port city had an amphitheater, hippodrome, temples, palaces, and other structures. Many have been excavated and preserved. The amphitheater is still used today for concerts. Later Caesarea became a Byzantine capital. Then the Crusaders established a city here surrounded by massive fortified walls. Continue to Haifa famed for its bay and the Baha’i Gardensand the German Colony; then head to the Crusader city of Acre at the extremity of Haifa Bay on the coast of the Mediterranean's Levantine Sea. The unsuccessful Napoleon's siege of Acre was the turning point of his campaign in the Ottoman territories of Egypt and Syria. The last gem of your itinerary will be the sea caves of Rosh HaNikra.Suggested Overnight: Tel AvivOptional tours for this day:Caesarea, Zichron, and Haifa Private TourSee all Caesarea toursDay 5. Tel Aviv, the City that Never SleepsIf you have managed to see the top Tel Aviv attractions before you might like to take a one-day tour to Petra, Jordan. If you have been too busy touring the rest of the country then spend a day exploring Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv has stunning beaches; markets; street food and graffiti culture, historic Bauhaus architecture and is connected to the ancient port city of Jaffa which is full of biblical history and mythological allusions. Jaffa Port is where Jonah and the Whale story took place. Beautiful Andromeda was tied to the rocks on the Jaffa coast and then rescued from the sea monster by the Greek hero Perseus. Don't hesitate to visit the bustling Jaffa flea market, a treasure in itself.Suggested Overnight: Tel AvivOptional tours for this day:Tel Aviv Bike Tour, Carmel Market Food TourSee all Tel Aviv toursIf you are interested in a Christian-oriented 5-day Israel tour,aJewish 5-day Israel package, or a classical Israel tour package, guided tours with one of the leading Israeli tour operators would be a smart solution.
By Petal Mashraki

Tour attractions: Top 10 Israeli Museums

1. Israel Museum, Jerusalem This is the country’s national museum and is also the largest museum in the country. Here you’ll find exhibition halls focusing on a wide range of subjects, genres and medium. Some of the museum highlights include the children’s wing, fine arts and archeology. Other attractions within the museum grounds are the Art Garden and a model of the Old City of Jerusalem in 66CE during the Second Temple Period. Another highlight is an ancient female figurine which is thought to be the world’s oldest art work. On the museum grounds is the uniquely shaped Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls can be seen.2. L.A. Mayer Memorial Institute for Islamic Art, JerusalemIslamic ArtHere you can see examples of Islamic pottery, painted ceramic tiles, glassware, weaponry, jewelry, religious artifacts and traditional cultural objects. The museum is named after a former scholar of Islamic art at the Hebrew University. The artifacts come from across the globe and represent several historic periods from the 7th to the 19th century. Each exhibition hall is according to the historic Muslim dynasty and the geological location they include the Umayyad Caliphs and the Ottoman period. One of the most important collections in the museum is of rare antique clocks and watches. The museum holds exhibits of art by contemporary Arab artists.3. Madatech, HaifaChildren and adults alike will enjoy this interactive museum where you can touch and play with the exhibits and try your hand at various experiments to prove scientific laws. There is a section for toddlers where they can play and learn. The exhibits cover green energy, flight, chemistry, the mysteries of light, scientific engineering, visual deceptions and puzzles and games. There is a 4D cinema where the wonder of science is revealed further through films about the solar system and other subjects.4.Tel-Aviv Museum of Art Tel-AvivMuseum of Art Tel-AvivTel-Aviv Museum of ArtThis museum covers a wide range of genres and historic periods but the emphasis is on modern art especially Israeli and European contemporary art. There is an impressive collection of impressionist and post impressionist art. There are collections of Old Masters, photography, prints and drawings and architecture and design. Among the highlights are works by Van Gogh, Picasso, Gutman, Marc Chagall, Pissarro, Kandinsky and Pollock. The museum is also known as a venue for performances, events and temporary exhibitions.5. Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum, JerusalemThis award winning museum uses multimedia, historic video footage, authentic artifacts, documents and art to tell the story of the Holocaust. The museum takes the form of an elongated triangular shaped building which takes visitors chronologically through the events of World War Two. At the end of the museum the building opens up to a view over the hills of Jerusalem. Other sites on the museum grounds include the path of the righteous commemorating righteous gentiles and a special memorial to the children who died in the Holocaust. One of the most moving exhibits of the museum is the Hall of Names, a memorial to all the Jews who died in the Holocaust, it is a circular hall with a cone shaped ten meter high center displaying 600 photos and pages of testimony.6. Design Museum HolonThis relatively new museum which opened in 2010 has quickly become one of the country’s leading museums. This is a forward looking museum focused on modern culture and contemporary design. There are temporary exhibitions as well as permanent collections which display design objects from around the world. There is an Experience Archive which is an interactive exhibit used for research. On display are furnishings, wall art, textiles and object d’art. The unique architecture of the museum building, designed by Ron Arad, is an attraction in itself.Design Museum Holon7. Children’s Museum HolonA must-see attraction if you are traveling with children. A visit to the museum must be booked in advance and there are exhibits for different age groups and each follows a specific theme. The most famous of the exhibits here is the Dialogue in the Dark where blind guides take groups of visitors through a completely dark exhibit. The visitors experience the museum as a visually impaired person would, thus heightening their use of the other senses. The Invitation to Silence is an experience where a deaf guide takes visitors through a series of exhibits while they wear headphones blocking out all sound. Once again the exhibit opens visitors up to a new sensory experience.8. Eretz Israel Museum (Land of Israel Museum), Tel-AvivThis museum is home to several separate museums as well as a planetarium. The multi-disciplinary museum exhibits all relate in some way to the Land of Israel and its culture and history. Folklore, Judaica, ethnography, the Israeli postal service and traditional crafts are on display. Take into account that the various sections of the museum are spread over a large area and to move from one to the other you need to leave the air-conditioned halls and walk under the hot sun. There are also outdoor exhibits like the Crafts Arcade where a number of antique working tools are set up in recreated workshops such as a cobbler, tanner and cooper.9. Tower of David Museum, JerusalemHoused within the Tower of David’s medieval guardrooms, an iconic symbol of Jerusalem’s Old City, this museum presents the city’s history in chronological order highlighting the most significant events. There is a film outlining Jerusalem’s history and exhibition rooms covering the Canaanite Period, 1st and 2nd Temple Periods and the Roman Period. Apart from the exhibits on display visitors can also see a nightly Sound and Light Show where images telling the story of Israel’s history are projected on the ancient stones of the Old City.10. Tiktin Museum, HaifaTiktin MuseumThis museum is home to the largest collection of Japanese art outside of Japan. Apart from being a fascinating museum it brings to the country a totally foreign culture and offers a break from most of the Israeli museums which focus so closely on the nation’s heritage. The Japanese culture, art and traditions are presented and this is the only museum of its kind in the Middle East. There are over 7,000 works of art on display including ceramics, textiles and paintings as well as metal work and miniature carvings. Both traditional and modern Japanese art is on display.
By Petal Mashraki

Sound and Light Show at Travel Destinations in Israel

Like all major travel destinations in the world Israel also has several Sound and Light shows. These are multi-media shows using images projected onto historic buildings accompanied by a narrative and atmospheric music. The Sound and Light Shows serve to bring history alive and make it more accessible and easier to understand.Tower of David, The Night Spectacular Show, JerusalemIn the Tower of David at Jerusalem’s Old City Jaffa Gate, ancient walls are used as a backdrop for the projected images which come from 20 projectors. The 45 minute show retells the history of Jerusalem starting with the Israelite kings and going on to King David, the Romans, Muhammad, the Crusaders, Suleiman the Magnificent and more. This is an incredible history lesson accompanied by an orchestral soundtrack with dramatic classical music to match the historic events.Caesarea, Travel Through TimeYou could call this a mini-Sound and Light Show, the Travel Through Time experience is divided into three stations chronicling the history of the city. The Caesarea Experience is a 10 minute film taking you through the history of the port; Caesarea Stars uses 3D images of leading historical figures to bring you face-to-face with them and the last station is The Tower of Time in a recreated fortress where computerized animation overlooking the city recreates the ancient buildings and allows you to take a virtual tour. Beit Shean National Park, She’an NightsThis is a large archeological site with 20 layers of different civilizations, the most dominant being the well preserved Roman city. The Sound and Light Show is the 4th biggest in the world and cost 3 million USD to produce. The show begins with a 10 minute multimedia presentation and then there is a guided tour of the city. During the guided tour images are projected on the Roman columns, walls, and in the amphitheatre. This makes it a unique kind of Sound and Light Show as the audience needs to walk around. The visual is accompanied by sound effects (Roman chariots, horses, crowds etc) and music. To book call +972-4-648-1122.Masada The show takes place on the western side of Masada and tells the story of the people who lived and died in the mountain top fortress, the battles and the historical events that took place here. The shows are from March to October on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9pm. Tiberias Fountain ShowNot exactly a Sound and Light Show but this is a spectacle of light, sound and fountains. Situated on the southern end of the promenade, fountains shoot up into the air moving to the music together with shows projected on giant water screens. The shows are about the history, art and Tiberias. The effects include shooting flames, lasers and colorful lights. The show lasts 15 minutes and plays three times a night depending on the weather and season.
By Petal Mashraki

A Bird’s Eye View of Israel

Israel may not be the land of skyscrapers like some other countries but it does have a number of places where you can get a great view of the famous skylines and natural wonders. Here is a list of some of the best places in Israel to get a bird’s eye view. The list goes from northern Israel to Eilat in the south.Azrieli Towers at night, Tel Aviv.Photo by Shai Pal on Unsplash1. Mount ManaraTake Israel’s longest cable car 1940 meters to the top of this mount which is part of the Naftali Mountain range. The mountain top is 750 meters above sea level. From the top, you can see the Golan Heights, Galilee, Hermon Mountain,Hula Valley, and Israel’s most beautiful farmlands. There is a range of fun activities at Mt. Manara including a mountain slide back to the bottom.2. Eshkol Tower, HaifaThis is the main campus tower of the University of Haifa on Mount Carmel. The observation deck is on the 27th floor of the 102-meter high tower and gives you sweeping views down the mountainside and across Haifa. It was designed by Oscar Niemeyer and was the first building in Israel to use the curtain wall system. The observation deck is not always open to the general public so call the Hecht Museum ahead of time.3. Yefe Nof Balcony, HaifaLooking down the beautiful terraced garden past the golden-domed Shrine of the Bab in Bahai Gardens you can see the city below and the sea beyond that. On a clear day, you can see up and down the coast. Tel Aviv Port Area Aerial View. Photo byShai PalonUnsplash4. Azrieli Center ,Tel-AvivThe ultimate observation deck in Tel-Aviv (and perhaps the most famous in the country) is on the top floor of the Azrieli Center Circular Tower, Tel-Aviv’s tallest building. The tower is one of a complex of three towers, a circular, square, and triangular tower. The observation deck is completely enclosed and gives you a 360° view of the city below. It is on the 49th floor and also has a kosher fine-dining restaurant. There are telescopes and informative maps indicating the sites below. The observation deck is accessed by an elevator from the mall at the bottom of the tower.5. Rehavam Ze’evi Observation Point, JerusalemThis promenade on the edge of the Mount of Olives looks down over an ancient Jewish cemetery. You can look out across the hills of Jerusalem and across the Old City walls to the Dome of the Rock.Eilat waterfront with a whale in the Red Sea.Photo by Et Yan on Unsplash6. Mitzpe Ramon Visitor’s CenterPerched 300 meters above the Ramon Crater this center provides not only an amazing view across the crater and Negev Desert but also informative audio-visual presentations and models of the local geography. There is a rooftop observatory where you can look down onto the dramatic desert landscape of Mitzpe Ramon.7. Underwater Observation Tower, EilatOn a visit to the marine park where there are aquariums, 3D films, and many marine-related attractions you can also enjoy a view across the Eilat coastline. A distinctive white tower is located at the end of a walkway that juts out into the Red Sea. You can walk up a spiral staircase to the windy top of the tower and look out across Eilat. You can also descend beneath sea level and visit the underwater observation deck!View of Bahai gardens and Haifa Bay, Israel.Photo by Levi Meir Clancy on Unsplash
By Petal Mashraki
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