Onsite Review: Israel-A Journey of Divine Discovery

A few of the Jerusalem valley.
A view of the Jerusalem valley. (Photo credit: Deserae del Campo)

In May, Recommend featured Israel in a story by contributing editor Carla Hunt. In it she quotes Uri Steinberg, Israel Tourism Commissioner, North America, who said, “I believe that many Americans see Israel as a bucket-list, must-see destination, and for them, it is not a matter of ‘if’ we should visit Israel, but ‘when.’”

For me, that “when” was this past April, during an 8-day tour hosted by the Israel Ministry of Tourism that visited Jerusalem, Tiberias, Nazareth, Acre, Haifa, and Tel Aviv. Even after eight days in Israel, I’m already itching to explore this culturally and historically rich country again—the next “when” can’t come soon enough.

Cultural Highlights
In Tel Aviv, while dining at the Dixie Grill Bar, a 24-hour, American-style restaurant serving chicken wings, burgers and steaks, our licensed tour guide Michal Michelle Neumann said, “I’m sure you realized on this trip that Israel is a very small country, but there is so much to see and do.” And it’s true. Israel is small (fun fact, the country is about the same size as New Jersey). Yet, for such a small country, it has four seas—the Mediterranean, the Dead Sea, the Red Sea, and the Sea of Galilee (it’s actually a lake)—diverse climates from mountains to pastures, deserts and valleys, and moving sights. Here are some of Israel’s most fascinating tourist attractions that left this writer in a state of awe:

Israel’s Independence Day: Israel’s 67th Independence Day celebration coincidentally landed on April 22 & 23, the days we were in Jerusalem. On the day of celebration, which is followed after a day of mourning, we saw Israelis with their country flag draped over their shoulders, gatherings around city squares and streets with live music performances, and children spraying each other head-to-toe with white foam. At night, an amazing fireworks display lit up the sky. In 2016, Independence Day lands on May 11 & 12.

The Tower of David Museum & Citadel: The museum, located at the Old City’s Jaffa Gate, presents a clear picture of the Holy City’s history through its exhibits and videos, while the view atop the tower offers a breathtaking sight of old and new Jerusalem. The medieval citadel is a wonder to behold and its central courtyard is where archaeologists have discovered findings dating back to the Middle Ages.

The Western Wall: Standing before the Western Wall in silence, time stood still. The wall was one of four that were part of the plaza where the Temple of Jerusalem once stood. The hundreds of notes left by visitors were nestled within the stones, each concealing a special prayer or blessing.

Carmel Market: At the largest open-air market in Tel Aviv—where shoppers can find everything from cheese and olives, candy, shoes, clothes, spices, pastries, and fruit—the atmosphere is electric with locals bargaining for goods, with the scents of spices and breads engulfing the senses, and with the babel of passersby speaking in Hebrew, Arabic, English, and even Spanish.

Bahai Shrine in Haifa: The stunning gardens at the Bahai shrine are spectacular; it’s no wonder UNESCO listed the Bahai Holy Place on its World Heritage List. The public is free to tour the shrine and the top terrace, but only people of the Bahai faith have access to the 18 monumental terraces that lead up to the shrine.

Book it
For a structured tour of Israel, Isram is offering a 13-day Israel Symphony experience ($4,650 pp). Your clients will spend six days in Tel Aviv visiting sights such as Jaffa, the artist village of Ein Hod, Beit Guvrin National Park, a local winery to taste Israeli wine, and a tour of Tel Aviv’s stunning Bauhaus architecture. The journey also includes stops in Nazareth, Tiberias, Haifa, and Jerusalem to see the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall. Accommodations vary depending on which hotel plan your clients purchase.

Getting There
From Fort Lauderdale, we flew JetBlue to New York-JFK airport where our direct flight to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport was booked with EL AL Israel Airlines. EL AL is now offering three nonstop flights a week from Boston; other major gateways include Toronto, Newark, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Delta Air Lines, Air Canada, and American Airlines also fly nonstop to Tel Aviv.

Contact Information
EL AL Israel Airlines: elal.com
Israel Ministry of Tourism: goisrael.com
Isram: isram.com