Don’t be afraid to put Israel on your bucket list

Our tour guide took this picture, missed one brother! -Mount Olives

I just experienced my fourth trip to Israel. Each time I go, it gets better and better. On this trip to Israel, I noticed more than ever the natural beauty of the Israeli people, minimal makeup and simple clothing. I think people of any faith should travel to Israel at least once in their lifetime. Israel is the melting pot of so many faiths and ethnicities and it has so much to offer everyone.

Many people often ask before traveling to Israel, “Aren’t you scared?”. “Do you feel safe?”. My answer is no, I am not scared and yes it is safe. Anywhere you travel, you need to be mindful of your surroundings. Sadly, these days, there are probably more shootings and killings going on in the United States than anywhere else in the world. During this trip, while we were there, there were airstrikes going on. My parents who are in their 80’s had no idea there were bombings going on. That just goes to show you how much the media dramatizes these incidents.

Our trip was planned for 4 cities in 10 days, so we had very limited time in each area to visit. Since all of us had been to Israel so many times, we picked the top favorite places that we wanted to see in each city.

Where we visited in Israel

There are so many areas of Israel to travel to but in reality, it is a very small country. It is only 8721 sq miles, the size of the state of New Jersey. Because my family and I have been there so many times, we didn’t venture out to some of the usual experiences that one would do when traveling to Israel. Ten years ago we went to Israel with our children and celebrated my son Jakes Bar Mitzvah. I could write an entire blog post on that trip alone. For this post, I will tell you about this particular trip.

Negev Desert

I had never been to the Negev desert of Southern Israel. We traveled there because my incredibly, gracious, parents helped build a high school in Ramat Hanegev (I will write a separate post about the story of the school.) The town of Mizpe Ramon, where we stayed, sits on the edge of an incredibly beautiful crater. It is a two-hour drive from Tel Aviv. It has subtle reminders of the Grand Canyon but on a much bigger scale. There is a lot of hiking, biking, camping and exploration of nature and wildlife. There is even a burning man in the middle of the Negev desert.

During our visit, we went to;

  • Ramat Hanegev high school
  • The kibbutz of Sde Boker- famous home of David Ben Gurion
  • Ben Gurion Tomb
  • Negev energy project
Hiking in the Negev

Jerusalem

A long time ago, I remember someone telling me before my first time traveling to Israel that “you go to Jerusalem to pray, and Tel Aviv to party. In a way, I feel that is true. Jerusalem is my favorite city in Israel. It is the only place in the world where you will see every nationality or religion praying at the same place at the wall. I always feel like it is a setting right out of the bible. Of course, there are plenty of places in Jerusalem to party 🙂

We left the Negev desert on a Friday late morning and made our way to Jerusalem which is about a two-hour car ride. While driving through the desert, I found it most interesting in seeing the Bedouin villages. They are called “unrecognized villages” (they are not recognized by the state), therefore they are not eligible for any services such as electric, gas, trash. These people literally go in and build a structure on land that is not theirs. There are over 200,000 bedouin people living in Israel. One would see homes made of fabric (tents) and tin homes.

We arrived into Jerusalem around 3:00 which is right around when everything shuts down for Shabbat and I mean everything. Restaurants and shops close down from sundown on Friday and re-open on Saturday after sundown. You aren’t supposed to drive on Shabbat so the streets are quiet.

Since we had a long day of travel we decided to stay in our hotel for Shabbat dinner and that was a treat. What we didn’t know when booking our hotel was that it is a favorite amongst the orthodox. I think we were the only unorthodox family at the restaurant that night. I loved watching the families interact with each other during dinner, singing, dancing, enjoying their meal as if it were a holiday. After dinner, they would then hang out enjoying each other’s company in the hotel lounge playing board games and cards, and no one was on their cellphones (they couldn’t because it was Shabbat). We also enjoyed playing cards as a family.

During our visit to Jerusalem we visited;

  • The Western wall- a must
  • Mount Olives
  • The Israel Museum
  • Machane Yehuda Market
  • Piccolino Restaurant-amazing patio with music
  • Chakra Restaurant-wonderful food
  • Marzipan bakery-ridiculous rugulah
  • Barrel & the tap pub-fun
My Brother praying at the Wall
graffiti on Mechane Yehuda

Herzalia

After being busy in the desert and in Jerusalem, we decided to travel to Herzliya for a couple of days of R & R. Herzliya is a beautiful, sleepy, beach town only 25 minutes from Tel Aviv. We took walks along the coast, played cards, took a sunset sailboat cruise and of course, ate a lot!

The restaurants we loved were;

  • Greco- they had meat!!!
  • Segevart-a true foodie experience
Sunset sail in Herzliya
salad at Segevart restaurant

Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv is known to be the city that never sleeps, with gorgeous beaches, phenomenal restaurants, and clubs, great music, shopping, art galleries, museums, architecture, and parks. It is very active with bikers, runners, skaters, and swimmers. We only spent two days in Tel Aviv before we headed back to the U.S.

During our visit we went to;

  • The Tel Aviv art museum
  • Manta Ray restaurant
  • Jaffa
  • Itzik Hagadol restaurant-a treat
  • Neve Tzedek quarter- amazing shopping
  • Hatachana-old train station-shopping, restaurants, galleries
Tel Aviv Museum of art
Mezze at Itzik Hadadal

It was a very special trip to be able to travel with my husband, both of my parents, and my brothers in one of the most spiritual places on earth. There are so many more places and things to do in Israel that I didn’t mention. I hope you will get to experience it.


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