banners_israel.PNG

History

 

Israel is an amazing county with a rich history for many cultures.  While a hotbed of political ideologies, it is also the place that thousands of Jews, Muslims, Christians, Druze and others simply call home.  People of all backgrounds will find a multitude of options for places to see that are familiar sites of the bibilica holy land, roman empire, or modern day middle east.  There are literally thousands of things to do and places to see, and sadly no trip is long enough to fit them all in. Below please find some suggestions for some sites that are well worth the trip.  Please note that this is not an exhaustive list. There are many other worthwhile sites, and we encourage you to read about the country to learn more about it. We are happy to share some suggested itineraries for those planning a longer trip, and recommend Gil Travel for those who would like a more tailored experience.

 

Safety

Is it safe to visit Israel?  Absolutely! Though you may have seen news stories about stabbings, suicide bombings, and rockets being fired from neighboring countries, Tel Aviv is an incredibly safe city. Not only is the crime rate significantly lower than many cities in the US and Europe, but we are protected 24/7 by Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile defense system, and in the very unlikely event that a war should break out, there are bomb shelters under nearly every building. While there are some tensions in various areas such as East Jerusalem, these tensions are not felt in the middle of the country, plus, you will be fine throughout your travels in Israel if you stay on the beaten path, including visits to Bethlehem, Nazareth, Haifa, and more. Please do not be alarmed if you see security guards, metal detectors, or young people in uniform carrying assault rifles. These are normal parts of daily life in Israel, and they are all part of the reason why it's so safe for you to visit.

 

Tourist Recommendations

Tel Aviv
 

  • Beaches

    • Tel Aviv’s eight-mile stretch of sandy beaches attract a diverse crowd of tourists and locals alike all year round. From April-October you can rent chairs and lounge beds on the sand. Stay until sunset and take in the dramatic view. Gordon, Frishman and Bograshov are the most active and lively beaches, where you can sip on a drink and hang out among the masses.

    • Jaffa or Alma beach are best if you’re looking to chill on a southern beach away from the main central beaches.

 

  • Carmel Market: This vibrant marketplace gives you a true sense of Israel’s diverse culture, filled with endless fresh products to touch, taste and smell. Stacks of dried fruits, spices and produce line the crowded walkway, and you’ll love the vendors competing (and screaming) for your business.  You can find anything ranging from halva to a new pair of jeans in the shuk.

 

  • Hatachana: HaTachana (The Station), where uber-modern meets bohemian chic, where art meets practical and where some of the best shops and restaurants ply their trade.

 

  • Neve tzedek: The original site of modern Tel Aviv as the city expanded beyond the ancient Port of Jaffa.  This area has undergone a revival in recent years, and is now known for art studios, trendy cafés and bars, and boutique hotels.
     
  • Rabin Square: One of the main plazas in Tel Aviv where major events and concerts are held. This is also the site of Yitchak Rabin’s assassination. There are many bars and restaurants surrounding the square.

 

  • Sarona: Sarona is popular for its namesake covered market, a trendy hub of gourmet food stores selling local cheeses and cured meats, with restaurants by big-name Israeli chefs known for creative cuisine emphasizing seasonal ingredients. The area is full of busy bars serving cocktails and craft beer, while nearby, 19th-century cellars built by Templar Christians have been transformed into chic subterranean wine bars.
     
  • Jaffa: Jaffa (also known as Yafo) is the ancient port city out of which Tel Aviv has now grown. Jaffa has, in recent years, like much of South Tel Aviv, been regenerated with the old narrow streets and courtyards becoming another highly desirable part of Tel Aviv’s urban tapestry. Jaffa flea market is a well-known attraction of the area, with vendors selling a diverse range of interesting and unique products. Meanwhile, the narrow passageways and ancient buildings in the Old City of Jaffa are worlds away from modern Tel Aviv.
     

  • Our Favorite Restaurants:

    • La Shuk

    • Port Said

    • Claro

    • M25

    • HaMitbacha (the Kitchen)

    • Caphe Hanoi

    • Shila
       

Jerusalem
 

The Old City of Jerusalem has to be one of the greatest historical sites in the world. There are amazing sites within the walls of the Old City to see, including the Western “Wailing” Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Dome of the Rock. But there are also other fabulous things to savor, such as the endless alleys and bazaars that are fun and very easy to get lost in, or mouth-watering culinary delights.

  • The Western “Wailing” Wall, otherwise known as Ha-Kotel in Hebrew, is one of the absolute must-sees on any visit to Jerusalem. The raw, emotional power of this huge wall (the only remnants of the famed Second Temple) is incredibly impactful regardless of your own religious persuasion.  The Western Wall (Ha-Kotel in Hebrew) is impressive, but its greatness is truly discovered when you descend underground to the Western Wall Tunnels. The tunnels run along approximately 488 meters of the Western Wall, giving visitors a taste for the challenge that stood before Herod the Great during this biggest of all his immense building projects—the expansion of the Temple Mount

  • Church of the Holy Sepulcher: This church is considered one of the holiest sites in Christendom, containing, according to traditions, both the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, as well as the empty tomb in which he was buried.  Within the church are also the last stops along the Via Dolorosa. Control of the church is shared among several denominations, and continues to be a site of pilgrimage for thousands of visitors a day.

    • Via Dolorosa, Stations of the Cross: A road within ancient Jerusalem believed to be the path Jesus took carrying the cross on his way to the crucifixion.  The path is marked by 9 of the 14 stations of the cross, with the remaining 5 contained within the Church of the Holy Sepulchre itself.  This 600 meter street has been celebrated since at least the time of the Crusades.

  • Dome of the Rock: Originally build in the 7th century, this mosque was re-build in its current splendor in 1022, and is one of the oldest works of Islamic architecture.  A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this place has held special significance for thousands of years. In the Jewish Tradition, the rock was the foundation stone from whence the world was built, and the dust at this area was used to create Adam and Eve.  Later, Abraham was said to have brought Isaac to this very site to sacrifice him to God before being spared. It was the site of the Temple Mount - the Holy of Holies - during the Second Temple period, and after the destruction of that Temple in 70 C.E. a Roman temple to Jupiter was built over the site.  After control of the city came under Islamic control, a mosque was built over this site, which was also considered to be the place from which the world was created, as well as the rock from which Muhammad's Night Journey to heaven started. Access to the site today is limited, but those with American passports are welcome and should definitely consider this amazing piece of history in planning their trip.

  • The city of David: This impressive site is the Jerusalem of ancient times, and is located just outside the present-day Old City. The City of David is one big collection of archaeological wonders; take one of the super-knowledgeable guides (or tours) for the full story of this amazing site and feel like you’re walking through history

  • Mamilla Mall: Located just outside the Old City, the Mamilla Mall is where to go if you want top-end designer labels. This is definitely Jerusalem’s most exclusive shopping area but it’s also an interesting place to stroll no matter what your budget. There are a number of great restaurants within the mall area, some of which offer an amazing view of the Old City.

  • The Israel Museum: Comprising nearly 50,000 square metres and a six-acre sculpture garden, this complex features an impressive variety of collections from prehistoric archaeology to contemporary art. After a major refurbishment in 2010, the Israel Museum has become even more of a must-see; just don’t miss the amazing Shrine of the Book, the Second Temple model, the calming and beautiful Billy Rose Art Garden, and the ever-updating collection of fine Jewish art.

  • Yad Vashem: This official memorial site to the millions of Jews lost in the Holocaust is a must-see, simply because it provides an amazing glimpse into the soul of Israel. Definitely an experience that will humble you, Yad Vashem remembers the past and ensures its memory remains for future generations to learn about what happened, why it happened and what was the meaning behind it all.

  • Ben Yehuda Street: Jerusalem pedestrian mall, Ben Yehuda, is the beating heart of the city centre. This is the place to pick up some ‘only-in-Israel’ souvenirs or sit and have a coffee at one of the many open-air cafes and watch the world go by.

 

Masada

  • Visit the world-famous UNESCO World Heritage site, Masada, once Herod’s Mountain Fortress and later a stronghold of the last free Jews who fought the Romans 2000 years ago. Explore its meaning in modern Israel as well as some of the outstanding efforts in recent years to renew the Roman mosaics and frescoes. The hike up can be quite strenuous, but well worth it for early birds who want to see a perfect sunrise over the desert.  There is also a cable car for everyone’s convenience (opens at 8 AM).

 

The Dead Sea

  • The Dead Sea is a salt lake that borders Israel and the West Bank on the West and Jordan on the East.  It is the lowest elevation in the world on land at 1412 feet below sea level. It was one of the world's first health resorts, and continues to be a site where people go for its healing properties.  And if nothing else, it’s great to enjoy a float in the buoyant waters!

 

The North:
With some of the most beautiful spots in a land full of beauty, the north is ripe with places to see.  Though the trip is a little off the beaten path, if you have the time, it is definitely worth it. For those interested in nature, some top spots to check out include the Golan Heights, Mount Hermon, Mount Arbel, Gamla, Mount Gilboa, Hula valley, or Rosh HaNikra.  If you’re a history buff, consider Nazareth, Tiberias, Acre, or Beit She’an. And for those mystics out there, take a moment to add Tzfat (Safed) to your itinerary.

 

  • Limousine: One of our favorite restaurants in Israel (and coincidentally the site where Oren proposed to Alona), we highly recommend a stop here if you are planning any travel to the north!

 

  • Kinneret: Also known as the Sea of Galilee, rests in the north of the Jordan Valley.  It is the lowest freshwater lake, and the second lowest lake in the world (after the Dead Sea).  The area is famed for its history, particularly surrounding the stories of Jesus, but throughout all of its existence has been most appreciated for its beauty and serenity.  Nazareth, described in the New Testament as the birthplace of Jesus, is just a short drive away.

Exchange Rates

  • Exchange rates are constantly changing.  You can easily look up the current exchange rate on Google.  Currently, the exchange rate fluctuates around $ 1 USD=3.5 Israeli New Shekels (ILS)

 

Weather in April

  • Daytime temperatures in Tel Aviv are typically between 66-73 degrees Fahrenheit (19-23 Celsius). Tel Aviv tends to be hot and humid (like New York or Miami), which Jerusalem is dryer and cooler.

  • Temperatures in the evenings will drop into the 50s (or lower in the Jerusalem area). There may be some rain, but nothing torrential.

 

What to pack

  • Lightweight or loose fitting clothing

  • Short sleeve shirts and shorts

  • Comfortable walking shoes, sneakers (for hikes), sandals.

  • Bathing suits, sandals that can get wet

  • Sunglasses and hat

  • Consider brining a shawl or light jacket for any evening activities

  • Adapter or converter for electrical appliances: Electrical equipment has to be adaptable to 220 volts and have a European adapter for the prong. Equipment on a motor (i.e., electric shaver) must be adaptable to 50 Hz (as opposed to 110 volts and 60 Hz for North America).

 

What to Wear

  • You can wear whatever you want in Israel!  If you plan to go to religious sites (e.g. The Western Wall, Dome of the Rock, etc), please consider wearing clothes that will cover your shoulders and leg wear that covers at least down to the knees (pants or a full length skirt/dress are your safest bets).

  • Attire for the wedding is Spring Cocktail.