Israel, the holy land in the Middle East is the seed for every creation of the world, the beginning of all stories. The land which gave life to Abraham, Isaac, David, and Jacob but remained elusive for Moses. A land feared by many in this world as it invokes images of fear, bloodshed, tears, and brutality. Of scarred faces, angry eyes and trauma-filled screams. These inhibitions and fears faced by each one are guilty of not allowing you to taste and feel the warmth that each home in this country has to offer. Their hearts are open to giving love and embrace wholeheartedly every stranger belonging to any nation or creed without having a second doubt. To help plan your itinerary better, do check out our complete travel guide to experience a fun filled holiday in Israel.
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A Little More About The Holy Land
The history of Israel is interwoven in the dry sands of Jerusalem, and these threads of the yore are found embedded deeply in the old and wise bearded men in the shuk, who light up the darkness as the Shabbat candles and their knowledge flowing deep and mysterious like the unique Dead Sea which is famous for not allowing anything to sink. The diversity here is woven like beads in the string of unity which is the only ingredient needed to bring in the peace required by this ravaged land but yet each individuality speaks volumes as if reminding us that these broken pieces are actually just parts of one whole. This desert land offers a rich oasis for those willing to withstand the heat and cruelty to discover a soft and tender heart.
Some Interesting Facts About Israel
- Israel, which has an area of 20,770 square km shares its land border with four countries: Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt.
- Hebrew and Arabic are the two official languages used in Israel. Around 20% of the population are Israeli-Arabs who speak Arabic and two-thirds of them speak Hebrew as a second language.
- The Dead Sea in Israel is the lowest point (315 feet below sea level) on earth.
- Israel has a mandatory military service requirement for women and it is the only country in the world to do so.
- Cafés are so good in Israel that even big players like Starbucks failed to break into their local market.
- Along with countries like Britain, Libya, New Zealand, Oman and Saudi Arabia, Israel too have no written constitution.
- Many of the Windows NT operating systems were developed by Israel- Microsoft.
- Israel’s currency NIS (New Israel Shekel) includes braille markings on them to enable the blind to differentiate the notes.
- In order to combat anorexia (a serious eating disorder), Israel has become the first country to ban the use of underweight models on catwalks.
- Albert Einstein, the famous scientist was offered the position of President of Israel in 1952, however he politely turned down the offer.
- Did you know that letters addressed to God are mailed to Israel and placed in the western wall? One million such letters are received in Israel every year.
- Numerous studies have shown that despite the tough neighborhood Israelis live in, people of Israel are the happiest among Western nations.
What Should I Know Before Traveling To Israel
Traveling to a new place can be a little intimidating but if you are prepared beforehand you’ll have a great experience. Here are some most essential travel advice to keep in mind while traveling to Israel.
Keep The Paper Visa That You Receive At The Airport Safely
If you’ve visited Israel, you will be banned from entering countries like Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. Because of this threat, Israel does not stamp passports at entry point, instead they give a paper visa to avoid all that hassle. Make sure to keep the paper visa safely as it is proof that you have entered the country. Keep it along with your passport as they may ask to show this slip at any crossing points.
Except For Emergency Ones Everything Else Closes Down On Sabbath
Sabbath is Judaism’s most distinctive practice where everything gets closed before sundown on Friday and opens after sundown on Saturday. It is a special time meant to be spent with family and loved ones or for worship. All public services are closed during Sabbath, hence make sure you get there before 4-5 pm on Friday.
You Are Going See A Lot Of Armed Soldiers In Israel, So Don’t Be Scared
You will come across many young people doing their military service as army service is mandatory for both boys and girls in Israel. Everyone who is 18 will serve in the army for a minimum of two years. So not all the soldiers you’ll come across are on active duty here.
It Is Highly Recommended To Dress Modestly
As Israel has a lot of religious spots it is highly recommended to wear t-shirts with sleeves that fall below the elbow and long skirts or pants. The people here are very religious and orthodox. If you don’t have appropriate clothing, then don’t worry as religious women hand it out near the Western Wall.
If Not An Expert Driver, Don’t Drive In Israel
Self-driving and Hitchhiking is definitely not recommended in Israel. Getting in and out of any city is a nightmare as road signs are bad and traffic is always heavy. Use public transportation like bus and train as it’s very simple and easy to use. A better and easy way of moving from one place to another is by hiring shared taxis called Monit Sherut which are affordable.
Be Patient As Getting In And Out Of Israel Is A Lengthy Process
Arm yourself with patience when traveling to Israel as border control is thorough and way lengthier in Israel than in any other country. Since the country has had a lot of issues in the past, security is very tight here. If you have passport stamps from certain Muslim countries, you’ll have to go through a special interrogation process that will take even longer. Be sure to have all your answers set straight for the interview by the immigration authorities.
Everything Here In Israel Is Expensive
Israel is a pretty expensive country to visit. Basically you pay more for most of the things here than you would pay in other countries. The stay, food, drinks, entrance fees, electronics and shopping is certainly expensive here. To add to this there is a huge sale tax of 17% that is applied to most goods and services. Cut down on expenditure by purchasing food from local markets, go in for shared taxis or shuttles, stay at a hotel which provides free breakfast and which is centrally located.
Suggested Reads: What Is Religious Tourism And What Are The Challenges It Is Facing?
Top Places To Visit In Israel
Don’t think that history is the only thing Israel has to offer. An undiscovered jewel, Israel is an exotic destination which yearns to be discovered and has so much to offer on its plate for those who are willing to attempt to polish this jewel. It has a wide variety of things to offer the backpackers, the wanderers, the travelers and the tourists from around the world.
Jerusalem, one of the holiest land in the world, enchants and confounds in equal measures. With a mind-boggling history of more than 4000 years this place is full of ancient buildings and majestic structures. The mosaic of art, religion, and magnificence has attracted religious folks from all over the world. One of the top attractions in Israel is to take a walk across Dolorosa, the place through which Jesus walked to crucifixion. Explore the city’s fabulous museums, famous skylines and immerse yourself in the mazy lanes that kings, Crusaders, and conquerors have all fought for.
A 1.5 hours’ drive from Jerusalem brings you to a major pilgrimage center, Bethlehem which is the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Many churches and religious places are the prime attractions of this place. The Church of the Nativity which was built over the site where Jesus Christ is said to have been born is the highlight of your Bethlehem visit. Whether you’re a pilgrim or not, the birthplace of Jesus should certainly be on your bucket list. Travelers come here as a day trip from Jerusalem to visit religious sites related to events relayed in the New Testament.
The mountaintop fortress of Masada is one of the most beautiful archeological sites in Israel. This 30 B.C. fortress overlooking the rugged scenery of the Dead Sea region has some incredible vistas and fascinating history. Masada national park is renowned for being a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2001. There are two ways to reach up here: hiking the winding path or taking the cable car. The easiest ascent can be made by a cable-car ride and then opt for a Masada guided tour, where trained guides will bring the site to life.
From up there you can spot at least one of the Romans’ eight military camps and their siege wall. This is where King Herod’s mighty palace once stood and where the Zealots took their last stand against the Roman Legions. Apart from the Northern Palace, the entire site is wheelchair accessible. You can also take a short drive from Masada to reach a gorgeous park called Ein Gedi Reserve for a perfect one day getaway from the chaos of the cities.
The most easygoing city in the country, Haifa is famous for its many eateries and different places to hang out. Its many gardens, beaches, promenades, and monasteries adorn the city and is a massive lure for tourists. Akko, Mount Carmel, Caesarea, Nazareth and Megiddo can be easily done as a day trip from here. Haifa also offers plenty of outdoor activities like windsurfing and kiteboarding at BatGalim Beach. This lovely city is the perfect base to explore the north and a must visit place on everyone’s itinerary.
The Dead Sea
Locked in by the cliffs of the Great Rift Valley, this bizarre body of water has been wowing every traveler planning a trip to Israel. The world’s most wacky natural wonders, the Dead Sea which is an overly salty sea where no one sinks but only floats. This natural phenomena occurs due to the high rate of evaporation causing the increase in the salt content. For nature lovers, places in and around the Dead Sea such as Dead Sea Rest house, Adventure City Fun Park, and Qumran Caves are added attractions.
To the south of Tel Aviv lies a picturesque, chilled-out little harbor town where once the great ships of the ancient Mediterranean empires docked. Today its home to some excellent art galleries, craft shops, flea markets and restaurants that guarantees a great outdoor dining and shopping experience. This place gives a feel of the old world style rather than the modern thrum. Take a romantic tour across Jaffa, for it’s sure to take you back in time. Don’t miss out on the majestic view of the Clock Tower that dates back to the time of the Ottoman Empire.
One of the main pilgrimage destinations in the country, Nazareth, also called as the village of Jesus, will evoke one’s inner divine feelings. Book an archeological tour of Nazareth Village, a town where Jesus spent his adolescent days. This is the place to be if you want to explore the best of Israel. Popular tourist attractions here are the many important churches that celebrate this history, Nazareth’s busy bazaar area and plenty of smaller sight-seeing spots.
Tel Aviv is a fantastic, lively, open minded city with a rich history and diverse culture. This place offers the best nightlife in the whole of Israel, hence making a visit to Tel Aviv is a must. Besides this, Tel Aviv has some of the most happening beaches in Israel, such as Gordon Beach, Frishman Beach, and Banana Beach which offers a lot of water activities and access to its rich marine life. Walking, biking, volleyball, surfing or just hanging with friends are what locals and tourists like doing here. Best time to visit Tel Aviv is during the Israeli Carnival or the Gay Pride week.
Also Read: 7 Reasons You Have To Visit Israel This Year
Other Interesting Things To Do In Israel
You definitely have to visit the flea market. Another enjoyable experience is the Tel Aviv port and bicycle tour. The trip cannot be complete without an excursion to Masada, by discovering the Promise Land and Jerusalem definitely call to visit. The old city and Bazaar open up the old-world charm as you bargain and haggle for both the fun and the experience. Mount Scopus offers a panoramic view of the city for the perfect picture taking of the Old City. The Tel Aviv nightlife offers fun, excitement, thrill and all that your party seeker heart desires. Another jewel in Israel is The Tasting room which the wine connoisseurs will appreciate wholeheartedly.
Natural Blessings And Exotic Cuisine
Nature has blessed this land in abundance by showering it with honey, milk, fruits, and various exotic offerings which have been denied to the rest of the world. So does that not give it reason enough to visit this paradise to get acquainted and taste the ambrosia flowing through its veins. Tropical fruits like mangoes, pomegranate, figs, olives, figs, artichokes and dates seem to have a unique taste, unlike the other lands. Strong earthy fragrance and infused with a richness of the raw earth which is mothered by the hot sun. The beverages found here like the fresh fruit shake and the mint tea not only quench the thirst but also give you an awesome experience which stays undefined and unexplained.
The warm pita bread flirting shamelessly with the rich and wonderful hummus which has the juicy olives play hide and seek as it explodes in the mouth. Shawarma, shakshuka, jachnun, baba ganoush, falafels and more fill not only the hungry tummy but make a place for themselves in some corner of your heart. The moist and flaky baklava knows just how to sweeten the soul while leaving the tongue craving for more. The local bread found here is perfect with olive oil and needs to be tasted for sure. The delicious food of Israel is definitely one of the top most things to try out during your visit.
What To Pack For An Israel Holiday
Summer in Israel is between May and September and winter between December and March. If you are planning to visit Israel during this time be prepared to pack the below mentioned items:
What to Pack For Winter: Warm clothes, fuzzy socks, Sweaters, Winter jacket, Long pants, Boots, sturdy sneakers, Scarf, Long sleeves, Hiking clothes, Umbrella, Raincoat, Rain boots, appropriate clothing for holy place visits.
What to Pack For Summer: Short shirts and pants, sunhat, swimsuit, light jacket, moisturizer, sunscreen lotion, shades, comfortable walking shoes or sneakers, shawl to cover the shoulders and appropriate clothing for holy place visits.
Other Essentials: All relevant documents, international power adapter, credit card, cash, neck wallet, toiletry and first aid kit.
“Israel was not created in order to disappear – Israel will endure and flourish, It is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom.” – John F. Kennedy
Israel is a culturally rich, nature-filled country filled with beautiful people and many things to explore. A haven for the photographers and instagrammers, this place will make you wish you had more storage and followers to share these experiences with. So why not visit Israel and plan your next adventure with this new world. This is where you can explore to your heart’s content and discover what has been hidden for so long. Scratch the surface, hit the mark and seek to unite your soul with this amazing land.
Israel is located in the Middle East which is bordered by Lebanon in the north, Syria and Jordan in the east, and Egypt in the south.
With the northern part of Israel characterized by a Mediterranean climate and the southern part is arid, Israel generally has hot summers and mild winters.
Most of the tourist locations like Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Tel Aviv, and the Dead Sea are considered quite safe and trouble-free.
One week in Israel is a good time to cover most of the places and to get a taste of the city.
It’s always nice to have a tour guide who will take you around and who will make sure that you have time to see all the important spots. Having them around can also enhance your experience.
If you want to use only public transport, intercity buses and trains are the fastest and easiest way of traveling between major cities in Israel.
If you are a wanderer and love to explore, refrain yourself from doing so in remote areas of Israel as there may be active minefields in the area which are dangerous.