3 Weeks in Israel – Holy Sites, Ruins and Hikes

2013 05 09 The Citadel

A 1 hour flight from Prague to Vienna, then a 3.5 hour flight from Vienna to Ben Gurion airport and…we were in ISRAEL! The first 3 nights were in Tel Aviv, followed by a week in Jerusalem, and then a 9 day driving itinerary south to Masada and north to Galilee. On day 20 we left the Haifa hotel at 1:00 am for a 6:30 am flight to Barcelona.

How safe is Israel? It felt VERY safe, in fact Israel is the only country where we’ve seen young women hitchhiking – a great indicator of how safe it is in Israel. The most “threatening” thing that happened on our trip was in Jerusalem on Shabbat outside our hotel – the streets were deserted, it was dark, and a young man rushed up to us asking for help. He needed someone to come to his apartment and turn off the coffeepot! Ah, Jerusalem… (for those who don’t know, turning electric devices on or off is prohibited on the Sabbath for observant Orthodox Jews)

Best things about the trip
Come on… it’s Israel!
Jerusalem – pinch me
Worst things about the trip
Not knowing how to get around on the buses in Tel Aviv
Haifa – I don’t get the enthusiasm some have
Would I change anything?
Megiddo was a skippable site
I would drive to go to Fatoush restaurant rather than stay in Haifa


View my map of Israel trip locations

Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv near the marina

 

Tel Aviv

In The City apartment, 3 nights a couple of blocks from the beach.

Tel Aviv surprised me. I’d seen pictures of the beaches and hotels and museums, but there’s a huge mix – modern buildings right next to shabby older ones in desperate need of repair. The city has a good strategy for this, a developer has to renovate one building next to the new one being put up. Kudos, Tel Aviv!

 

Tel Aviv, promenade walk to Jaffa
Tel Aviv, promenade walk to Jaffa

A walking city… sure! But not really – it’s a BIG city

There are lots of great places to walk in Tel Aviv, but you have to get TO those places. Our first night we walked from our apartment near the Marina all the way to Jaffa. Really nice walk on the wide beach promenade along the Mediterranean, watching the sun set, and quite a long way. A taxi would have been better on the way back, or biking along the promenade like a lot of people.

Tel Aviv
Undulating boardwalk in the Tel Aviv Old Port

The next day, our first full day in Tel Aviv and we had an 2:00 reservation for the Palmach Museum. We started out walking up to the Port and kept walking…and walking… ok, it’s a long way and not at all easy to get to on foot, especially when you’re not familiar with the streets. And Tel Aviv can be hot. What was I thinking? We tried to rent bikes at several of the rental locations, but our credit card transaction didn’t go through. Finally managed to snag a cab for the last little bit to get to the Palmach. The reservation was for 2:00 pm, but we arrived at 1:00 and there was room for us. The Palmach Museum is more of an education “experience” than a museum and we enjoyed it a lot. The concept is to immerse you in the world of the Palmach (freedom fighters in the early days of the Israeli military) in a variety of multimedia presentations. It’s called interactive because of the spaces you move through to see the story unfold – a great way to spend 1 1/2 hours and learn so much about the birth of the Israel nation.

After the Palmach we wanted to go back to the Port, and ended up just walking all the way back…this actually became a bit comical, we tried getting a bus – but not knowing the bus route to take us to the port we went to a nearby bus stop, asked some locals who didn’t understand us and finally a helpful guy who pointed out that we were at a stop heading the wrong direction. So, more walking to the busy main thoroughfare where it was unsafe to get a cab to stop even if the cabs that passed were free. But it never seems that far away when you know where you’re going and we had already walked this route. Finally back at the Old Port, we plopped down at the outside tables of Leshem Bashar (“Meat and Eat” Restaurant) for a first taste of Israel microbrews and some terrific food. Tip: There are plenty of taxis waiting outside the Palmach if you don’t know the bus routes and don’t want to walk.

Tip: The Tel Aviv bike rental “Tel-O_Fun” (unattended stand) only accepts certain credit cards – it prompted for a 9 digit PIN. Could be that the machine only accepts cards with the Chip & PIN technology which our Chase Sapphire World Mastercard doesn’t have. Chip & PIN (Smart Chip) technology isn’t common in the US, so most US card issuers don’t have it. Chip & PIN is common in Europe for unattended machines – as we found out trying to buy metro tickets in Vienna with this credit card!

Neve Tzedek street
Street art in the Neve Tzedek neighborhood on the walking tour

Tel Aviv by Night free tour sponsored by City of Tel Aviv Tourism

If you’re in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, do this tour! You learn about and see a part of Tel Aviv you won’t discover on your own. Sponsored by the City of Tel Aviv Tourism, you’d be a jerk not to give the host a tip. It was really fun. We took a taxi to the starting point on Rothschild Boulevard and a bus back.

Tel Aviv
Pedestrian street near Carmel Market

Diaspora Museum (Bet Hatefutsoth)

Our last day in Tel Aviv and this day we were going to the Diaspora Museum. (Yes, we took a taxi here! No more time to waste!). This museum is huge. You should figure out in advance how long you want to spend and how to pace the visit… many many interesting rooms, and then there are the videos to watch. If you start out trying to read EVERYTHING you’ll be exhausted by the time you make your way to the last interesting, small room which tells the story of the volunteers from overseas who came to help fight the War of Independence. Tip: Bring socks! It was really cold in the museum for bare toes in sandals.

After the museum we took a taxi (yep, no more screwing around) to the Carmel Market where we had our first falafel in Israel.


Tip: Arriving in Tel Aviv – Taxi from the airport to Tel Aviv – arriving at 3:00 pm it will be the start of rush hour, so…opt for the fixed meter price, the dispatcher at the taxi stand will tell you what it is. No need to tip the taxi driver.

Leaving Tel Aviv

Travel: Bus #480 from Tel Aviv Arlozorov station to Jerusalem – 1 hour – Egged Bus


Tower of David the Citadel
The Citadel (Tower of David)

Jerusalem

City Center Suites, 7 nights in a deluxe studio w/balcony in great location, on a pedestrian street a 15-20 minute walk to the Jaffa Gate.

 

A week in Jerusalem

Planning a week in Jerusalem should be easy – plenty of time to see the top sights, right? Yes and no… you have to be on top of when the opening and closing times are and if there is a holiday during the week. In our week in Jerusalem we had 1 Friday and also the holiday of Shavuot to plan around.


The Western Wall
The Western Wall

The Citadel and The Kotel (Western Wall) Tunnel Tour

The day we arrived we had a 5:20 p.m. reservation for the Kotel Tunnel tour and this timing worked really well. We had time to go to the Citadel (Tower of David museum) with it’s vistas over Jerusalem, a great place to start any Jerusalem itinerary.

Kotel Tunnel Tour Model
Kotel Tunnel Tour Model

Next, a first visit to the Western Wall and then the Kotel Tunnel tour, a fantastic tour of the western wall of the Temple Mount platform under the modern city. If you only have time for one tour in Jerusalem, do this one. If you didn’t know all about why the Rock under the Dome is THE Holy of Holies you will after this tour.

Tip: Save some money and get the combination ticket for the Tower of David museum and the Night Spectacular. The Night Spectacular really was just that – spectacular! Tip: If you don’t reserve the Night Spectacular in advance you might not get the date/time you want. We bought the combo ticket when at The Citadel on Thursday and the next Light Spectacular available was 10:00 pm on Saturday.

Mechane Yehuda Market
Mechane Yehuda Market

Friday in Jerusalem

After the great Sandeman’s free tour in Prague, we made the effort to get to the free tour in Jerusalem first thing in the morning. It was informative but nothing like the exuberant and fast-paced Prague free tour. Perhaps the difference was a native English language speaker in Prague. Still, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again, the tour was a great intro to the different quarters in the city. BTW: “Free” means the guides work for tips only. Afterwards, a light rail ride up to the Mechane Yehuda market for some food and snacks for the apartment before everything closed for Shabbat. Tip: There’s a wine store in the Mechane Yehuda market next to the Kuba restaurant were you can get Golan Cabernet Sauvignon 3 bottles for 100NIS.

Shabbat at the Western Wall
Just before Shabbat at the Western Wall

Before sundown, a walk back down to the Western Wall to see everyone coming to pray and celebrate Shabbat. And celebrate is right! Everyone wearing their best clothes, dads taking the little boys to the men’s side and moms taking the girls to the women’s side. Soldiers in uniforms, packing their weapons, coming to dance and sing. A joyous celebration. It was great.

Audio Tours

The City of Jerusalem provides free audio guide walking tours you can download to your MP3 player. You do need the accompanying maps – even though we had these it was often confusing how to get to the indicated spot. We did several of these audio tours, some on Saturday (Shabbat) and both Ramparts Walks on Shavuot. Jerusalem is teeming with people but the Ramparts Walks were very relaxing – hardly anyone around.

Hezekiah water tunnel
Clear cool water in the Hezekiah water tunnel

City of David Tour and Hezekiah water tunnel

Two words: Great Guides. The guides at both the Kotel Tunnel and the City of David were no less than excellent. They bring the history to life. Or maybe 2 more words: Great Fun! The Hezekiah water tunnel was a lot of fun, a deep part up to mid-thigh at the beginning and after that ankle deep in the crystal clear cool water, looking at chisel marks in the ancient tunnel from the light of our little keychain lights. Tip: Check out the gift shop before your tour, they have a nifty water bottle holder that I used throughout the trip, plus those cool keychain souvenir lights for use in the water tunnel.

The Israel Museum and the Yad Vashem (Holocaust) Museum

Again, great guides at the Israel Museum. Amazing! All the guides in all the tours had multiple degrees and professions. And passion. We had an Archeology tour right off the bat, followed by a tour of the Shrine of Book (Dead Sea Scrolls). This left only a little bit of time to see the rest of the Israel museum. Oh well, it’s a big place. On another day we went to Yad Vashem, it was closing at 2:00 on this day as it was the eve of Shavuot (the anniversary of the day God gave the Torah to the nation of Israel). There’s a lot to see in the Holocaust museum and it was pushing it to be through by 2:00. That was really OK though… it was a lot of horror, death and terrible sadness. Not a museum you can skip lightly through.

Dome of the Rock
Dome of the Rock

The Temple Mount

Our last day in Jerusalem, on Shavuot, and we were in line at 9:00 at the security for the ramp up to the Temple Mount.

Ramp to temple mount
Ramp from the Western Wall plaza to the Temple Mount

Ramp? What ramp? Yeah, I know – you never see pictures of that ugly ramp going from the Western Wall plaza up to the Temple Mount Compound. And replacing it with something pleasing is not going to happen because of politics between the Waqf (Muslim authority in charge of the Temple Mount) and Israel. Anyway, 20 minutes later we were on top.

We had the City of Jerusalem’s free audio guide to explain what everything was all about, which worked out great. The compound wasn’t at all crowded, and it took about an hour to see everything non-muslims are allowed to see. Twice. Well, after all we may never be back here again.
Tip: Wear pants, no bare shoulders.

Leaving Jerusalem

Travel: Pick up rental car from El Dan on King David Street (next to the YMCA building) – and drive to Qumran, then have a picnic lunch and a hike at Ein Gedi and on to Arad for 2 nights.


Israel 9 day driving tour
Israel 9 Day Driving Tour

Israel Driving Tour – Masada to Galilee and Golan and then on to the North Coast

9 days Israel driving itinerary

Renting a car is Israel is expensive, but it’s worth it to have the freedom of moving about easily outside of the cities. If you drive in Southern California, you’ll have no problem with the pace of the driving in Israel.

Tolls: Using Hwy 6 (Route 6) WILL cost you in tolls and fees. All the rental car agencies charge a handling fee in addition to the highway toll. The handling fee is one time, no matter how many times you use Hwy 6. El Dan billed us $11.89 handling + $6.18 toll + $3.25 tax for a total of $21.32 – the email notification came a couple of weeks after the rental.

Tip: Make sure you have a World credit card – like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card – that is Primary for CDW and covers Israel.

Garmin Nuvi – We Love You! (mostly!)
The Garmin Nuvi 1370T GPS didn’t navigate for us out of Jerusalem heading east on Highway 1 to the Dead Sea. This was my fault, there is an “Area C Restriction” setting which makes it avoid restricted areas and I didn’t notice this right away. Navigating through the Palestinian territories are restricted. Once that bit was straightened out the GPS was just about flawless. I don’t know how any tourist in Israel can navigate without one. Tip: You can buy the Israel GPS map on an SD Card and put it in your Garmin. When you turn the GPS on it will automatically load the map from the card. Easy!

Tip: Israel is full of national parks, save with a national park pass – if you’re only going to at the most 6 parks, get the 6 park pass, but if you’re going to more get the unlimited pass. Each person needs a pass, good for 1 entry per park over a 2 week period. We went to 13 national parks on this trip.
Unlimited ₪150 (About $41)


Ein Gedi Nature Preserve
Ein Gedi Nature Preserve, the lower waterfalls on the Nahal David walk

The Dead Sea Area

 

Qumran and Ein Gedi Nature Preserve

A stop to look around at the interesting Qumran site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found – we didn’t bother with a hike up to the cave – and drive on to the Ein Gedi nature preserve. People rave about the Nahal David path to the waterfall and how beautiful this is. Yeeesss, it’s nice… but I think they must just be impressed with the fact that there is water in the desert. The walk to the waterfall is very easy, the walk over the summit from the waterfall to the Ein Gedi spring is a LOT more aggressive. Then back downhill to see the ancient synagogue mosaics, you don’t want to miss that.

 

Masada stairs to northern palace
Masada stairs to northern palace

Arad

2 nights at Zimmer Mantur, a perfect location for the Thursday evening Masada Sound and Light Show

Masada and the Dead Sea Float

We stayed in Arad for 2 nights, the drive after our Ein Gedi hike was only about an hour, even stuck behind a slow moving truck. Arad’s a terrific location to see the Masada Sound & Light Show on a Thursday evening – a terrific show – and Zimmer Mantur was a great place to stay.

Masada water system model
Masada water system model – water was routed from the mountains to fill cisterns in the side of the mountain

The next morning, the big event – Masada. Up and out, we were at Masada about 8:00 – and the cable car up didn’t start until after 8:30 (a bit later than advertised). It’s good to be first, isn’t it? We got the audioguide and saw everything on top of Masada in about 3 1/2 hours. It’s awesome. That King Herod was some builder, amazing what money and drive will accomplish. How on earth did they get water high up on Masada in the desert? Ahh, that was ingenious! Tip: Grab the beaker at the end of the water system model, fill with water and pour to see how the water was channeled from the mountains into cisterns built into the side of Masada.

Ein Gedi public beach
The walk down to the Ein Gedi public beach

After we just couldn’t do anything more on Masada, it was 12:30 pm – saw the museum and then a drive north about 15 minutes to go to the Ein Gedi public beach for a float in the dead sea. They charge a small entry fee, and restrooms and showers are a couple of shekels (next to nothing). It was a nice place. You need water shoes for the rocky beach and seabed. The air temp was 93°F and dry and it was a lot of fun and relaxing to float around. Free fresh water showers are outside to get that water off of you, it’s really kind of icky.

Leaving Arad

Travel: Drive from Arad to Megiddo National Park – 2 hrs, 21 min (Hwy 6 – the toll road). The drive north was easy, and a big change from desert and “camel crossing” signs to pine trees.

 


Jezreel and Jordan Valley

 

Megiddo
Megiddo, layers and layers of civilization

Megiddo – Ahab’s Chariot City

There’s a museum and a short film, and then up to the ruins with the pamphlet/map provided and finally the water system. It’s a “Tel” – a hill comprised of layer after layer of ancient civilization. Historically and archaeologically it’s an important site, but it’s quite hard to tell what you are seeing with just the pamphlet, it looks just like a pile of rubble and there are lots better ruins to visit. We walked through the short water tunnel and back out the same way we came in, which was preferable to us than walking back along the road in the hot sun. If you have a guide to explain everything Megiddo may be rewarding but we could have skipped it, especially considering there are so many other things we DIDN’T see in the Jezreel and Jordan valleys. I would rather have spent the time to see the famous 5th century zodiac mosaic floor in the Beit Alfa synagogue on our way to Belvoir, which was our next stop.

Belvoir
Belvoir Crusader Fortress

Belvoir Crusader Fortress (Kohav HaYarden)

Now THIS is a RUIN! Who doesn’t love a good fortress? We had a great time looking at everything at Belvoir, and the beautiful views of the Jordan Valley from it. Tip: When you walk up the path to the fortress, don’t go across the moat right away, that’s the way you come back – follow the map on the pamphlet.

Ein Gev Holiday Resort
Ein Gev Holiday Resort

Ein Gev

Ein Gev Holiday Resort, 2 nights in a Superior Double room by Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) – very relaxing! Get room 428, 429 or 430 – they are the farthest from the parking lot and away from the buses.

Ein Gev was very relaxing. After a swim in Lake Kinneret, we enjoyed the grassy area in front of the room and watched the sun set over Tiberius on the opposite shore. One interesting thing, if you arrive on Saturday around check in time, (we arrived at 4:00 pm), your room may not be ready until 6 or 7 pm! Because this is the Sabbath, people checking out on Saturday are allowed to stay far past the normal check out time of 11:00 a.m. This unhappy surprise ended up working in our favor, in the reservation I had requested a room with 2 twin beds instead of a “double” room, not realizing that a double meant the twin beds were simply pushed together. The original 2 twin beds room wasn’t going to be ready until 7 pm, however room 429 configured as a double was ready and this was in the quietest area of the resort. Tip: Dinner at Marinado up the road the first night and Japanika in the new shopping center the opposite direction the next night. Pick up your picnic supplies at the grocery in the shopping center.

 

Bet Shean
View of the Roman ruins of Bet She’an from the even more ancient Tel Bet She’an

Bet She’an and Zippori

 

Bet She’an and Tel Bet She’an

Another AWESOME site! Not only does Bet She’an have amazing Roman ruins, but a Tel of some 20 layers of ancient civilization that go back to the 5th millenium BCE. It gets hot in Beit She’an – it’s below sea level – the idea was to get here early but we ended up getting here about 10:00 and it was fine. 4 days later we went to see Ceasarea, and I liked Bet She’an much better.

Mona Lisa of Galilee mosaic
Mona Lisa of Galilee mosaic floor at Zippori

Zippori (or Tzippori or Sepphoris)

About a 40 minute drive from Bet She’an, the next stop this day was Zippori – ruins with magnificent mosaics. Thank goodness for the GPS! The Garmin took us flawlessly around busy Nazareth, it would have been very tricky and stressful trying to figure this out on a map. We spent 2 1/2 hours in Zippori. This site really gives Bet She’an a run for the money. Both sites are not to be missed. Tip: Don’t miss the mosaic floor in the ancient synagogue.

Capernaum

Late afternoon and I wanted to navigate back to Ein Gev by way of Capernaum and see the ruins of the ancient synagogue. Hmm… I didn’t have it in my “favorites” downloaded to my GPS. No problem – I found Capernaum using the “find a city” feature. About an hour later we were at Capernaum, but where was the National Park? Well, we were there but it closed at 4:00 p.m. You have to walk from the parking lot to the entrance and, funny thing, we didn’t recognize it as a national park. Maybe we missed a big sign or something. A drive up the road and a stop at the Greek Orthodox Church next door to the synagogue site. …and through the parking lot to a HUGE parking lot and HUGE building complex with a BIG boat dock. Not one sign or a person to tell us what this was. Maybe some huge Christian pilgrimage center.

Gamla
View to the historic and tragic site of Gamla

Golan Heights

 

Gamla

The next day we checked out and drove about 20 minutes to Gamla National Park in the Golan Heights. Beautiful scenery and a site with a horrific history – in the first Jewish-Roman war the Gamla rebels were slaughtered or fell to their deaths over the steep ravine during their final battle with the Romans. At the facilities for the site there’s some good places for a picnic. From here we heard some explosions, a reminder that Israel is always in danger. There were a few other people around in the cafe near the entrance, but no one but us seemed to notice the big booms.

Katzrin
Katzrin Talmudic Village, Rabbi Abun’s house

 

Katzrin (Qatzrin, Qasrin)

Another 20 minutes or so on my route was a stop at Katzrin Ancient Talmudic Village. Uh oh… what is this, looks like it’s going to be a cheesey kind of tourist place. Katzrin was actually interesting, there’s a neat movie that explains what this Talmudic village is all about. It doesn’t take very long to see the main features – the ancient synagogue, Rabbi Abun’s house, and other exhibits. The small Golan Antiquities Museum up the road was also interesting, especially with the excellent explanations from the person who was standing in for the curator that day. Tip: Combo ticket to the Talmudic village and the Museum.

Upper Galilee

Nof 10
View from our chalet at Nof 10, Amirim

Amirim

2 nights in a beautiful chalet at View 10 (Nof 10) with a fabulous view. So nice we didn’t bother going out to eat. While Ein Gev was down below sea level and rather hot and humid, Nof 10 was high above with a nice breeze at night.

Nimrod's Fortress
Nimrod’s Fortress

Nimrod’s Fortress

Our route from Amirim to Nimrod’s Fortress took us over winding route 886, a nice drive past vineyards and countryside that looked like it could have been somewhere in southern California. In fact, most of the places we drove looked a lot like one area of California or another, all in tiny little Israel.

Oo, oo, another fort! About an hour from Amirim in the northeast corner of Israel, the idea was to start the day with the site we wanted to see the most and that was Nimrod’s. I’m running out of unique adjectives for terrific. While we were scrambling around Nimrod Fortress we heard the unmistakable rat-a-tat sound of gunfire and lots of indistinct shouting. A sobering sound that curbed our gaiety instantly – here we were having a great time and over that hill people may be fighting for their lives.

Hermon Stream suspended walk
Hermon Stream suspended walk

Hermon Stream, Banias

From Nimrod’s Fortress it’s a short drive to Banias. There’s 2 different sections to this nature reserve, one has Roman and Crusader ruins and the other has the suspended trail to the waterfall. The part with the ruins looked like there wasn’t any shade so we just went to see the waterfall. The waterfall is really popular with tour buses full of teenage kids – they were delightful… it was typical for them to say “Hello, where are you from? Welcome! How do you like Israel? Have a good time!”

Tel Dan
Tel Dan

Tel Dan

Down the road to Tel Dan, a small site with ancient ruins and nice shady trails that wander over streams and pools. The Dan spring is the origin of the Jordan river and it’s astounding how much water is pouring out of the ground. The history of the site and the ruins are interesting but by this time we were rather “ruined out” and enjoyed the watery walks more. At the north end there’s an altar that was meant to be an alternative to going to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice, and near the ancient altar are the remains of an Israeli bunker next to the Syria border. A lot of fighting went down here between Syria and Israel in 1964 over water rights to the Jordan river.

A stop at a grocery store in Kiryat Shmona and then back to Amirim via route 90, after a long day sightseeing it was easier driving on this 4 lane highway instead of taking 886 back.

Leaving Amirim

Travel: Drive from Amirim to Rosh HaNikra – 1 hour

 


The Northern Coast

 

Rosh HaNikra
Rosh HaNikra

Rosh HaNikra Grottoes

Beautiful grottoes, a lot of fun

Haifa

Templars Boutique Hotel, 2 1/2 nights in Haifa in the only disappointing accomodation on our entire trip.

Haifa’s WAY overrated. I wanted to stay in Haifa because many people rave about it, describing it like San Francisco. The only thing it has in common with SF is it has hills! I also wanted to stay in the German Colony at the foot of the Baha’i Gardens. Yes, there are lots restaurants on this street – we went to downstairs to Fatoush each night for excellent Mediterranean food. But you can walk up and down the German colony in 1/2 hour, see the gardens, eat at Fatoush and leave, there’s no need to spend the night in a tiny room in an expensive hotel here.

Ceasarea
Ceasarea

Ceasarea, Ceasarea Aquaduct and the Bird Mosaic in the Ceasarea Villa

Easy drive from Haifa to Ceasarea. We spent a few hours at Ceasarea, it’s a very spread out site. There are 2 areas you can park, we picked the southern most one which is closest to the reconstructed Roman Theatre. I found Bet She’an a much more rewarding site to visit, so if you had to pick ONE that would be my choice. The somewhat buried under sand Roman aquaduct is a short drive north, and you also drive right by the park where the bird mosaic floor is – a sign right on the road so you can’t miss it.

Akko
Akko from the boat ride

Akko, Mt. Carmel and the Muhraka Carmelite Monastery

A 30-40 minute drive north from Haifa to visit the old walled city of Akko. This day the weather had turned hot and extremely humid, even so Akko was worth a visit for the interesting Crusader fortress, a bazaar, a nice cool Templars tunnel, and an even more fun way to beat the heat – a short boat ride. After some time in Akko we were happy to get into the air conditioned car and drive to Mt. Carmel for some scenery, stopping here and there.

Muhraka
View from Muhraka Monastery

Drove through two “Druze Villages” Isfiya and Daliyat Al Carmel on the way to the Muhraka Carmelit Monastery. They looked like just any other suburb to us. The Carmelite Monastery was a nice stop with beautiful views from their rooftop. Lots of tour buses!

Leaving Haifa

You are supposed to be at the airport to clear security 3 hours before your international flight, we were lucky not to have any security delays and were able to check our bags and get our tickets in about 1 1/2 hours.

Travel: Drive from Haifa to Ben Gurion Airport – 1.5 – 2 hours – Route #2.
Tip: El Dan has a new car return method at the airport where you don’t have to take a shuttle. It’s in the short term parking in the parking structure next to the airport terminal.

Israel Summary

The spirit and friendliness of all the Israeli people we came into contact with was fantastic and Israel is a wonderful place to visit. We were really impressed with the amount of historic preservation that a poor country like Israel has accomplished in its short existence, every ruin is a national park! There isn’t any other place on earth like it – so many holy places for so many religions… and so much war over them all for millenia.

Leaving Israel

The weather was hot and humid on our last day, so although sad our 3 weeks in Israel were up we had a much more comfortable climate to look forward to on the next leg of this trip – Barcelona, the Costa Brava and Madrid!


Tools, Toys, Technology and Gadgets

  • Quad band cell phones
    • Extra batteries
    • chargers and car charger
  • Israel travel adapters
    • A couple of Universal travel adapters that work worldwide, and one just for Israel type H plugs… just in case
  • Garmin City Navigator NT Israel (for our Nuvi 1370T)
    • $69.00 on a micro-sd card, through Amazon

Israel Handy Resource List

Israel is 10 hours earlier than Pacific time.

  • Ben Gurion Airport
  • Phone Resources
    • SIM card for Israel 50NIS, 10NIS to ship (about $13.24) – through the Israel Post Office. 40 minutes talk time
      • Easy to order this and have it shipped to your US address before you go to Israel
      • Activate SIM in Israel before you can make calls – *111 and follow prompts to set language.
      • Orange Big Talk [orange.co.il] – dial #111 to contact customer services
    • Phone calls to Israel outside of the country: Dial the country code for Israel, 972, then the city code, then the number. Don’t precede the city code with a “0”.
    • Phone calls within Israel: within the same city, do not dial the city code. Dial only the local number. e.g. xxx-xxxx
    • Phone calls within Israel, one city to another, dial the city code prefixed by “0”. Example, Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, dial 02-xxx-xxxx.
    • Phone calls within Israel, to an Israel cell phone – each cell phone provider has their own prefix, example: “052” = cellcom mobile.
  • Transportation and Driving Resources
  • National Parks

Tel Aviv

Jerusalem

  1. The Kotel – Western wall tunnels – advance reservation required. 60 days in advance recommended. 30NIS. You can email them for a reservation time on their website, click The Tunnels-> Individuals-> Request a tour. They will respond within 5 business days. Tip: In your reservation request, list several dates and approximate times. I requested anytime after 5:00 pm on a specific day and listed alternate days. Within a few days I had an email with a reservation confirmation number for the date I wanted and a time of 5:20 pm and info to reply to confirm the date/time. 3 1/2 months in advance. Pay when you get there.
  2. City of David – prices, Biblical City of David tour. 10:00 guided tour, includes Hezekiah water tunnel. 3 hrs. Can reserve in advance. 60NIS
  3. Sandeman’s free tour for orientation to Jerusalem Old City sites. Tip minimum of 50NIS.
  4. The Tower of David museum (The Citadel) museum of the history of Jerusalem – Sun-Thu 9-4, Sat 9-2. 30NIS. The Night Spectacular (Thursdays)= 55NIS, or combined ticket for 70NIS. Tip: You can download the free audioguide instead of renting it at the museum.
  5. Jerusalem free MP3 walking tours, complements of the Jerusalem Development Authority
  6. Yad Vashem (Holocaust) museums
  7. Israel Museum
  8. The Jewish Quarter [jewish-quarter.org.il]
  9. Official Jerusalem Tourism site [itraveljerusalem.com]
  10. Cool interactive touring map on Jerusalem.com

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