Don't Miss Places In Israel
Israel was founded in 1948 as a home for Jews throughout the world. During the years thereafter many immigrants brought all kinds of skills to the country. New industries, technologies and farming techniques have been developed and the standard of living is high.
Along the coast of Israel is a fertile plain. This is the country’s most important farming and industrial region. Hills run down the center of Israel from north to south. There are farms in the valleys, but much of the land is used for grazing. Various northern and eastern parts of Israel were once infertile, as was the arid Negev Desert. Since the 1950s, however, water has been pumped from the Sea of Galilee to irrigate the Holy Land. Now olives grow in dry northern parts, while potatoes and tomatoes flourish in the Negev.
Since Israel was created in 1948, there have been years of bitter fighting between the Jews and their Arab neighbors. The Arabs believe that Israel is occupying lands that should belong to their people. In 1994, peace agreements between Israel, the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) and Jordan brought hopes that cooperation would replace warfare.
Here is a rundown of the places not to miss in Israel.
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Old Jaffa (Tel Aviv)
The Old Town is a small nice place to visit. In Old Jaffa you have a hill with a beautiful view of Tel Aviv, a lovely harbor with restaurants and, of course, an extensive flea market. From Jaffa it is ideal to rent a bike and go cycling to Tel Aviv (very close). Parking in Jaffa is free on a big parking lot just past the harbor. Wander aimlessly through the streets of Old Jaffa, but do not forget to stop at the port, where you can find lots of things to do and see.
And, of course, the magnificent view of the sea and the city! It is one of the most romantic places in Israel and it is located right in the heart of the country. Here the sea and the small streets are named from the signs of the zodiac. There are also lots of fish restaurants, as well one particularly interesting boat trip.
The Neve Tzedek is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Tel Aviv. It is highly recommended to anyone who wants to immerse themselves in a quaint European atmosphere and get a taste of the olden days. The streets are lovely, filled with cafes and restaurants. It's an old neighborhood that has been renovated to make room for homes and charming shops. If you want to buy jewelry, home furnishings and women's clothing, this is the place.
Pay attention, though: the products are exclusive and expensive! If you do not plan on buying anything, you can walk through the neighborhood and have a coffee or an ice cream somewhere nice. The Neve Tzedek is a nice place that has several shops of local artists and a climate that makes you really feel like you’re in a different place! It is a place frequented by hypes and upper middle class people. Worth the ride and, if possible, get breakfast or a hearty Mediterranean meal at some of its restaurants.
The Palmach Museum consists of an audio visual presentation where you will understand all the events before 1948. You pass from one room to another where actors portray every event as you learn of the recent history of Israel. It tells a very specific story about the Palmach - paramilitary pro-Israel - during the state’s founding.
It is designed in such a way that people who are unaware of the conflict between Israel and Gaza will absorb some good insights about the real situation which is pretty much explained in detail inside the museum. It is highly recommended to go to Tel Aviv and stay for more than a day. This applies to travelers from any origin or religion - provided it is not too extreme or intolerant, of course. A tip: reserve a few days in advance, especially because it is not open every day of the week!
A walk along the Tayalet Beach is an interesting experience. You can also rent a bike and ride on the path or simply sit at the beach. The beach has lots of places for swimming and sailing, as well as attentive lifeguards, several showers near the sports areas, bathrooms, easy access for wheelchair users, bars with tables and chairs for cold drinks and snacks, lockers, covered areas for rest, and a small local library.
It also has beautiful and sophisticated restaurants plus lively nightlife. It’s good for a visit during the day or at night. You can always see "glittering parties" with public music and dancing townspeople. The lighting is often poor, but the bars give off enough brightness, giving a perfect match for the warm nights of Tel Aviv.
Mount of Olives (Jerusalem)
The best way to get to the Mount of Olives is by bus - take the number 75, which leaves a terminal located some 300 meters to the right of those leaving the Damascus Gate, just a small jaunt across the street running alongside the walls of the city. The ticket costs Shekel 5.50 per person and the trip takes about 15-20 minutes to reach the top. It looks pretty, but climbing the hill on foot (especially on a hot day) could make it challenging. If you’re prepared, however, it is possible to overcome this difficult trail. You have to get off at the last stop, which is on the top of Mount. It is located about 150 meters from the Chapel of the Ascension, which is also worth a visit. A few more steps and you will stumble upon the Church of Our Father (Shekel 8.00 / person), where it is believed that Jesus taught his most famous prayer, “The Lord’s Prayer.” There are panels where The Lord’s Prayer is translated into all the languages of the world. Continuing the descent down the main street, you will see one of the most beautiful views of Jerusalem, right in front of the Seven Arches Hotel. This is one of the best places to take pictures.
Walk down an alley near the Jewish cemetery and you will arrive at the Sanctuary Dominus Fleuvit, a small chapel with a window overlooking the Dome of the Rock. A little further down you will pass by the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Mary Magdalene. After that, on the left, is the Garden of Gethsemane, attached to the Basilica of the Agony. Finally, on the right is the Grotto of the Virgin Mary, built in the time of the Crusaders in the place where the mother of Jesus was supposedly buried. From there, you can walk back to the ancient city. The easiest way is by the Gate of the Lions, which requires a 10-minute walk - although it’s a little steep, it’s nothing compared to the Mount of Olives! After passing through the gate just follow the road leading to the Via Dolorosa and to the other main attractions of the old city.
Old City of Jerusalem
The Old City of Jerusalem is surrounded by walls and is full of narrow streets and the only way to explore it is on foot. It is divided into four quarters: Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Armenian. In the Muslim Quarter, the main attractions are the Via Dolorosa (which has fourteen points, identified with platelets in Roman numerals that mark the events of Christ's last walk), Arabic (Suk el-Katanin, also known as Market Traders' Market Cotton is the output of the Dome of the Rock and is now a covered street full of tourist shops), the Central Suk (with lots of souvenirs, spices, Arab food stalls and pomegranate juice) stores, the Damascus Gate, Lion's Gate (in the early via Dolorosa) and the Church of Santa Ana (built by the Crusaders, next to the ruins of the Pool of Bethesda, where Jesus healed the paralytic). The biggest attraction, however, is the Temple Mount.
The entrance for tourists is made exclusively by a walkway, located next to the Western Wall. Site access is very restricted. Visiting hours are: 08h30-11h30 and 13h30-14h30 Monday to Thursday). Jewish people may not visit the site, and may not sign with symbols of the Jewish religion, such as chandeliers, yarmulkes, Torah, etc. Backpacks, bags and passports are checked at the access gate by the Israeli army. Visit the attraction in the afternoon, since the inspection line is long and slow-movnig. You should arrive well before the attraction opens, or you will run a serious risk of going missing a few minutes when the attraction closes. At Israel's last inspection, one crosses the runway and begins the Muslim inspection, which analyzes tourists’ clothing. Shorts, tank tops, short skirts and shoulder outsiders are banned there. Furthermore, westerners can only visit the site on the outside. The set is wonderful anyway and worth the long checkpoint wait.
In the Jewish quarter, the main attractions are the Cardo (a Byzantine street with some columns and souvenir shops), the Hurva Square (with several cafeterias and local restaurants) and the Western Wall (which doubles as a place of prayer out in the open). At the entrance you’ll pass through a metal detector. Men and women are obligated to pray in separate places and men must compulsorily use the yarmulke, which is freely given to those who do not have one. In the male part, which is much higher (although there are generally more women), there is also the Tunnel Wailing Wall that is very much worth a visit.
In the Christian Quarter lies the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (built on the site where Jesus was crucified and buried). The main attractions here are the Garden of Gethsemane, Tomb of Christ and Calvary, the Crucifixion Site (but the Church still has some rather interesting wards) the Lutheran Church (whose tower has an interesting view of the entire old city - tickets for Tower: Shekel 15.00 per person), the Muristão (formerly an inn, now converted into a tourist store), the Jaffa Gate, and the Citadel or Tower of David (ticket cost: Shekel 40.00 per person). Transformed into a museum, the Citadel is surrounded by walls. A walk along these walls takes you through defensive towers of the city and the Tower of David - which gives the place its name – and an extraordinary minaret. There are also some Arabs as a mosque constructions erected for the accommodation of the Crusader and Mamluk dome. The Old Town is a fantastic place, which houses an amazing story! The best thing to do here is to get lost in its narrow streets and go where your feet will take you. Every part here is very significant to Israel.
Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial
The Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial is a sad place, but is a must see attraction in Jerusalem, Israel. It is a place of mourning, but it is essential to know its story. It is worth going for those who want to learn what really happened during the Holocaust. It is well built in a single style and by following the whole museum you will witness the very shocking scenes from real movies and historical material. It is a place that must be visited in order to know the horrors that the Jewish people have lived through.
If you are in Israel, the visit is mandatory. The place is beautiful, well-organized, and is structured well for visitor attendance. There is a huge collection on the Holocaust (documents, videos, photos, audios, testimonies of survivors, etc.), as well as tributes to several people who helped the Jews and saved their lives.
Dome of The Rock (al-Haram al-Sharif)
The Dome of the Rock (al-Haram al-Sharif) is a very beautiful religious structure made in gold; but only Muslims may enter. This is the place where Abraham offered his son Isaac as a demonstration of their faith. The Dome of the Rock is sacred to Muslims who believe that Muhammad, their prophet ascended to heaven in this place. It is beautiful on the outside but unfortunately only a few can enter. You can take pictures from the outside and even from afar because it is visible from all points of the city of Jerusalem. The dome is intricately detailed and the groups of women who always pray around it gives off a sense of magic or mysticism to the place.
Centre International Marie de Nazareth (Nazareth)
The Centre International Marie de Nazareth is right in the proximity of the Church of the Annunciation, a modern and well maintained structure and history of the religion. There is a guided tour with audio-visual help for every guest who is curious to know Mary through the Scriptures. There is a chapel, which is truly dedicated to silence and meditation for both individual and collective intentions. There is also a shop and a café, as well as a terrace where you can enjoy the garden and the beautiful city of Nazareth and take in the view throughout the Basilica of the Annunciation, the Church of St. Joseph, and the ancient Synagogue.
There are four rooms where projections are made (sometimes in 3D) showing the life of Jesus. The screenings are free, but you might be asked to make a donation to bear the cost of the structure. There is also a chapel on the roof of the complex, with a roof garden where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Basilica and Nazareth. Also of interest are the archeological excavations located at its entrance.
Cana is a church of the early '900 that is dedicated to the first miracle of Jesus. In the basement, there is a jar of the preserved Byzantine era carved into the stone, to give you an idea how the wines were stacked and preserved in his day. Most couples come here to renew their marriage vows and buy a scroll in memory. It is a small and intimate church, but also more touching than the mega churches in the city of Nazareth and Galilee.
Hanging Baha’i Gardens and Golden Dome (Haifa)
The visit to the Hanging Baha’i Gardens and the Golden Dome alone is worth a stop in this city that is located in the northern part of Israel. It is advisable to take the uphill walk to the temple. All of this is situated in the German Colony, one of the most typical and unique parts of this beautiful city.
The gardens are perfectly manicured and maintained with kindness and hard work. It is a true example of cultural integration and many young people from all over the world work there and lots of foreigners admire its scenic beauty.
The German Colony
The history of The German Colony is truly unique and symbolic. It was started by a group of German settlers during the twenties and thirties who were established in Haifa and believed that the Messiah will come back here. They build a neighborhood of traditional stone houses built in German style with recordings of Bible verses and waiting for the coming of the Messiah. But World War II then broke out and the British imprisoned the German concentration camps in Israel or in other cases drove them away from the land. The district is now completely renovated and full of friendly locals. Be sure to visit this iconic attraction if you’re in Haifa City.
Religious travelers have been heading out to Israel for quite a long time, yet you don't need to be religious to admire this nation’s significant social and recorded religious importance. Anticipate seeing the significant sights and be sure to leave a lot of time to stroll through the roads and completely immerse yourself, enhance your spirituality, and renew faith in the everyday life of such an antiquated and venerated Holy Land.