Why Israel

Why Visit Israel

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Religious Experience
Jerusalem is home to many sites of religious significance and pilgrimage. These include the Temple Mount, the Western (Wailing) Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. But regardless of one’s religious views and the connections many feel when visiting the Holy Land, the overriding spiritual energy of Jerusalem is something unique. Wandering through a city that is a mixture of old and new buildings, and a population that is extremely diverse, is an experience no-one should miss.
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Delicious Cuisine
It’s not called the Land of Milk and Honey for nothing! Thanks to its Mediterranean climate and agricultural ingenuity, Israel grows an amazing array of organic produce that finds its way into fresh market cuisine that you’ll find served throughout the country. Because it is a crossroads country, there are infinite varieties of food and restaurants, from Jewish Yemenite to Druze, Palestinian to Turkish to trendy New Israeli restaurants that take reservations weeks in advance.
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Desert Adventures
Israel's Negev is a visual sight to behold, its stark desert relief home to an infinite variety of beautiful views. And eco-tourism and desert adventure touring options abound, from hiking and biking along desert trails to all-terrain jeep trips, camel rides along the ancient frankincense route, rock climbing and rappelling
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Archaeological Sites
With a cultural past that stretches back to even before biblical times, Israel has a rich array of ancient sites that are easy to explore. One of the most famous is Masada, the mountainous stronghold at the edge of the Judean desert where Jews tried to fend off the ancient Romans. There are stunning Roman ruins in Caesarea (some of which can be even be seen on an underwater tour), Crusader ramparts in Akko, the ancient Western Wall in Jerusalem, St. Mary’s Well in Nazareth and so much more – and new discoveries are being made all the time.
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Visit Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall
Its Mediterranean climate makes Israel ideal for all-season travel. If summers can be hot, with temperatures reaching 90 degrees in places (and even hotter in desert locales like the Dead Sea), you’re never far from the coast, where it’s always a little cooler. And in winter, while much of Europe and the U.S. is shivering, most of Israel basks in sunny temperatures that hover around the 70-degree mark, or warmer in the Red Sea resort of Eilat.
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Fun for the Whole Family
Israel is a very family-oriented society and children are welcome just about everywhere here – with many special attractions, like Jerusalem’s Time Elevator and Mini Israel, tailor-made for kids. Most of the larger hotels have great children’s facilities, too. Add to that the great weather, fine beaches with gentle surf and the wealth of historical attractions that have educational value you just can’t find in a textbook, and Israel just might be the ultimate family vacation destination!
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Tel aviv
Tel Aviv is the country's answer to Manhattan and the beating heart of its culinary, cultural and nightlife scene. It's also a beach town – clean beaches run the length of the city – meaning there’s a unique mix of sophistication and relaxation here
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Events & Festivals
Israel has an array of cultural events and festivals second to none in the region. There’s always something going on and something for every taste. Here are some highlights:
* Acco Festival of Alternative Israeli Theater (September)
* Masada Opera Festival
* Tour de Dead Sea (bicycle race)
* Jerusalem International Film Festival
* The Voice of Music Festival in Galilee (summer)

ABout israel

Israel is, without a doubt, a fascinating destination with religious and archaeological landmarks that attract tourists from all over the world. The country also offers a remarkable selection of modern attractions – museums, bird sanctuaries, and swimming in the Dead Sea to name but a few!

What also makes Israel such a unique destination is that within a few hours you can travel from the snowy heights of Mount Hermon, to the sandy beaches of Eilat, perched on the Red Sea.   The biblical cities of Jerusalem, Acre and Nazareth all give the visitor an opportunity to wander through tiny alleyways, and visit colorful covered street markets.  Tel Aviv is a 24/7 city, a high-rise metropolis with hundreds of cafes, restaurants and miles of golden beaches. The Dead Sea marks the lowest point on earth, the north has wonderful vineyards and in the Negev desert lies an astonishing crater.  This is why Israel is so wonderful – it is a country with something for everyone.

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Major cities

Tel Aviv

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Jerusalem

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Sea of Galilee

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Masada

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Safed

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Beit Shean

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TIPS

Traveling in Israel

1. Smile Tourist Services

‘Smile’ offers a team of professional stewards who stand ready to accompany you, both when you arrive to and depart from the airport. They’ll assist you with various requirements and issues that can sometimes arise at the airport. The service includes transport to your hotel or any private address from Ben Gurion Airport.

Smile’s offices in Terminal 3 are located next to the Border Control and are open 24 hours a day. The service needs to be booked in advance and a payment is required. Their office phone is: +972- (0)3-975 4020

2. Taxis

The taxi station and dispatch post are located in front of the Arrival Terminal on Level G, near the exit through Gate 01.

The taxi service is supervised by the Israeli Airport Authority. It is best to avoid the use of taxi services that are not permitted to transport passengers from Ben Gurion Airport, and to approach the taxi dispatcher instead.

3. Special Shuttle Taxis:

“Nesher Tours” taxis to Jerusalem:

This is a shared-ride taxi and microbus service to Jerusalem. For information and details regarding the service, call: +972-(0)2-6222553, +972-(0)2-6257227.

“Amal” taxis to Haifa and the surroundings:

Transport service to Tirat Ha’Carmel, Haifa, Nesher, the Krayot, Akko and Nahariya. For information: +972-(0)4-8662324, +972-(0)4-8676444.

4. Train

Israel has a very reliable train system. If you need to go to Tel Aviv or Haifa, taking the train is an efficient and affordable option.  For more information regarding  timetables and routes, call:  *5770 or +972-(0)3-5774000 or visit the Israel Railways website.

5. Car Rental

At Ben Gurion airport you can find all of the major rental car agencies.

Bus

Public transportation in Israel is excellent. There are a number of bus companies that can take you to almost any destination you might need and it is a relatively cheap way to travel the country. The only real drawbacks are that you will need to coordinate bus schedules and also carry all of your own luggage with you.

There are several bus companies in Israel. The largest is Egged which you can find in almost every city in Israel; in much of the south of the country the buses running are operated by Metropolis.   Most buses offer a free wi-fi service.

Train

The train is another convenient way to travel around Israel, particularly for arriving and leaving the airport. and visiting Tel Aviv, Haifa, Acco, or Be’er Sheva.  It offers free electricity points, so that you can plug in your laptop, as well as free wi-fi. Click the link to see train schedules.

Driving in Israel

Exploring Israel by car is fun. Since it is a relatively small country, you can explore it from coast to coast, or by driving from north to south.

Driving in the big cities, however, can  be daunting however. The heavy traffic and difficulties of finding a parking space can be tiresome.

Patience is not one of the best Israeli drivers’ qualities so be aware. Their hands are loose on the horn, which is something that can be alarming when you drive in an foreign country.

Jerusalem

The Light Rail

The light rail is an extremely convenient way to move around Jerusalem. Designed especially to meet the needs of passengers with different disabilities, tickets are cheap and can be purchased through machines at each station. Click the link to view the rail route in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem city tour bus

An unusual way to explore Jerusalem seeing is with a City Tour Bus. Picking you up at the Central Bus Station, you can hop on and hope off the bus along the route, as many times as you like, visiting all kinds of attractions along the way.

Tel Aviv

Bus

Buses in Tel Aviv and the surrounding area are relatively cheap, run frequently and can take you from one point to another with ease.

Taxi

This is sometimes an easy way to move around Tel Aviv.  There are taxis everywhere in the city – they are white with a yellow sign on top.  Just stick your hand out to hail one, or go to a taxi rank.  Make sure you ask the driver to turn on the meter when you set off, and also ask for the receipt.   Taxis are not particularly expensive, compared to many Western countries, and you won’t have to deal with finding parking either. The cost of a taxi inside Tel Aviv usually ranges from about 10 USD to 25 USD (20-100 shekels).  But don’t rely on these prices too much – rather ask the driver beforehand for an estimate.

Bike Share

There are over 150 bike (Tel-O-Fun) rental stations all over Tel Aviv,  open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can pick up a bike at one spot and drop it off at another.  It’s easy to pay – the machine accepts credit cards – and a cheap, fun way to get around the city.

 

Haifa

Matronit

This is the local bus company in Haifa and the surrounding areas.

Carmelit

This is the shortest subway in the world. It will take you all the way from Lower Haifa city to the Carmel center, where there you can find night life, coffee shops, restaurants and shops.

Arriving at Ben Gurion Airport

When you arrive at the airport, it might happens that you are taken aside for some brief questions.  These might include on what your plans are for your visit in Israel; where you intend to stay and so on. Sometimes this process might also begins at the airport you are departing from, en route to Israel, particularly if you are flying with El-Al.   Personnel are friendly, but will sometimes ask follow-up questions which some people think is somewhat excessive.

Not everyone encounters this, but individuals considered ‘high-risk’ frequently do. For example, a very European-looking friend of this writer is frequently taken aside as he steps off the plane and is asked questions on the reason for his trip to Israel. It is also more common for a young person traveling alone to be asked questions of this nature, than for a middle-aged couple.  However, you are not likely to encounter any serious issues, unless you display extreme nervousness or don’t know where you are planning to stay.

Other ‘triggers’ involve carrying a passport with stamps from countries hostile to Israel, such as Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, etc.

Departing from Ben Gurion Airport

Departing Israel usually involves being asked questions too. Without a doubt, you will be asked if you have packed your luggage yourself, or ben given a package to take to someone.   Sometimes you will be asked where you stayed,  are what you did whilst in Israel.

Depending on the answer you give, security personnel will scribble something on a small sticker which they will attach to your passport.  If, for whatever reason, your answers are not satisfactory, you may encounter more questions at a later control. However, this is not that likely and there is no need to be overly nervous.

How Should I Deal with Questions?

Just answer any questions put to you in a calm and relaxed manner. Appearing calm usually makes things go faster, since security personnel look for clues to unusual behaviour e.g. a nervous appearance, more than your actual answers. That is probably sometimes they will touch upon a subject that might illicit a nervous response from someone that genuinely has something to hide.

Don’t be offended, even if you feel singled out. It could just be that you have been picked out randomly.  Try not to get upset or be rude – most of the questions you are asked will be polite and typical Israeli straightforwardness can sometimes be mistaken for rudeness.  However, please remember that as well as being very ‘to the point,’ Israelis are also very friendly and helpful. The security personnel are really not there to make life hard for you – rather keep the airport safe.

To sum up:

Security procedures at Ben Gurion Airport are based, to a large extent, on personal interaction rather than impersonal and awkward security checks. Don’t be alarmed if you’re asked some basic questions; simply answer calmly manner and you’ll do just fine. The whole experience is usually smooth and efficient,and in most cases you will travel through security relatively quickly.

Apparel

Israelis are very straightfoward and informal people and the vast majority of entertainment venues don’t have a dress code. Leave your suits and ballgowns at home!  Pack casual and comfortable clothes.

In case you need to buy clothes, there are many malls and shopping centers in every city, containing  international fashion brands, such as H&M, Gap, American Apparel, Zara, etc.  Local brands, such as Castro and Fox, are very popular amongst Israelis, as they combine good quality with affordability.

When visiting holy sites, however, it is important to dress modestly and respect local cultures. This means long sleeved shirts, hats and long trousers for men, and head scarves, shirts that go down to the elbow and long skirts for women.

Summertime

Israeli summertime begins at May/June and ends in September/October. During these months, an obvious favorite pastime is to hang out at the beach. Make sure to pack the following items:

  • Sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Bathing suit
  • Sandals or flip flops
  • Hat (preferably wide-brimmed)

In case you ran out of sunscreen, don’t worry – almost every kiosk, grocery store and pharmacy sells it. In addition, bathing suits sold in Israel are relatively cheap and very stylish. (In fact, they make excellent gifts for  your family and friends back home).

Wintertime

Whilst the Israeli winter in the north and center can be cold and wet, from the Dead Sea down to the Eilat can bring many sunny days.   T-shirts and tank tops are always useful in the south of the country (although it can be chilly at night, so pack a sweater too).

Paying For Purchases

Although many businesses will gladly accept US Dollars, it is advised to convert your cash into Israeli Shekels.  You can do this at the airport. although rates there are rarely competitive.  Instead. it’s better use the “Change” shops in each city, or visit the post office or bank.  Credit cards are accepted almost universally.

Prescription Drugs and Special Health Needs

Israel has an excellent health system and in case you need prescription drugs, every city i the country has its own ‘duty’ pharmacy open twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. In addition, there are many emergency clinics and excellent hospitals.

If you are taking prescription drugs, it is advisable to bring them with you although it is not difficult to find family doctors that speak English and may be able to write you a prescription.

Laptops, iPods and Other Gadgets

Compared to other countries around the world, the internet in Israel has a very high speed, and WiFi is found almost everywhere: at hotels, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, public transportation and even out in the streets. However, make sure you bring your own chargers and cables.

Groceries

In addition to big supermarkets, there are lots of kiosks, and small grocery/convenience stores everywhere. Some, usually in Tel Aviv, are even open round the clock,e very day of the week.  Aside from food and drink, may sell cigarettes, cosmetics, over-the-counter medications, and SIM cards for cellular phones.  All products in Israel have English translations on their labels.

Although there is no ‘last call’ for alcohol in Israel and many bars are open until sunrise, selling alcohol in grocery stores between 23:00-06:00 is forbidden.

Cinemas

In every big city in Israel there are quite a few cinemas. In addition to cinemas which screen the seasonal blockbusters, there are special movie theaters and cinematheques which in most cases display quality movies, independent movies and foreign movies. Most of the movies are not dubbed to Hebrew. However, the exception for that is children animated films, which usually are screen in two versions: one is the dubbed version, and the other is followed by Hebrew subtitles. In case you wish to go to a foreign or Israeli movie, it is best advised to find out whether the film has English subtitles.

Theater, Opera and Ballet

Although the vast majority of plays in Israel are in Hebrew, many theaters and opera halls provide the viewers with English, French and Russian subtitles. However, dance has its own international language. There are a lot of Israeli dance groups which are performing around the world, such as Mayumana, Shakatak, Bat Sheeba and Inbal.

Restaurants

The Israeli cuisine is hard to define, as Israel is a relatively young state, populated by immigrants from different continents. There is a large variety of different gastronomic styles, including the middle eastern cuisine, the east european cuisine, the french cuisine, and during the last decades there’s a large increase of Asian restaurants.

The one thing which best characterizes the Israeli cuisine, is the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and legumes. Having said that, Israel is very vegan and vegetarian friendly. It is highly recommended to book a restaurant in advance, especially during the weekend (Friday and Saturday).

Pubs

Although the Israelis do not really have a drinking culture, there are quite a lot of pubs and bars, especially in the big cities. Many pubs in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem also host live music. In addition, the vast majority of pubs also serve food.

Most of the pubs in Israel are open until after midnight. Therefore, most of the young people go out drinking late at night. For example, on Friday nights, the costume is to show up at the pub only after midnight. In case you wish to sit in a quiet pub on a Friday night, the recommendation is to go around 20:00-21:00.

Parties and Concerts

As the Israelis are very informal people, the love the concept of showing up fashionably late. Due to the fact that the Israelis tend to go out late at night, many of the parties, concerts and events which are published to start at a specific hour, will only start much later, when the venue is full.

Weekends in Israel are shorter than in other countries, as Sunday is a working day. The Israeli weekend begins at Friday afternoon, then most of the shops are closing up and the public transportation stops.

The weekend in Israel ends at Saturday evening. The shops open up again, and public transportation operates until midnight. However, in most cities there are share taxis (called “sherut”) which go on working through the weekend.

At the entrance of the central bus station in Tel Aviv, there are quite a lot of share taxis which could take you almost to any destination, night or day.

Friday’s rules are applied to the holiday’s eve as well. Therefore, when a holiday’s eve falls on a Wednesday, the Israelis get a double weekend. During holidays which are a week long, such as Channuka, Sukkoth and Passover, businesses work as usual, except for the holiday’s eve.

Despite the fact that most businesses are closed during Saturdays and holidays, the entertainment venues, restaurants, coffee shops and bars stay open. In addition, many business owners in the big cities, choose to operate during the weekend. Kiosks and supermarkets, automatic laundromats, pharmacies, vet clinics and many more stay open during the weekend in the big cities.

In religious cities and neighborhoods, such as Jerusalem, all businesses close up at Friday afternoon, and re-open on Saturday evening. Therefore, the Saturday nightlife scene in Jerusalem is especially vibrant and worth a visit. On Friday nights, it is best advised to hang out in Tel Aviv or any other big city.

Yom Kippur in Israel, Memorial days and Tisha Be’Av

Holocaust day, memorial day and Tisha Be’Av commemorate disasters which occurred to the Jewish people throughout the history. On the night before, all entertainment venues are closed, in addition to the kiosks and supermarkets which are usually open 24 hours a day. Public transportation operates as usual.

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