Why Travel to Israel - Palestine?
huge religious and historical associations, Israel is a living legend,
a promised land packed with landmarks of divine significance and
a magnet for pious peoples all over the world, though Muslims won't
find much of a welcome.
Agnostic visitors will find the country of interest too, with
a fascinating capital city that has a constant flow of varied and
colourful devotees, a barely hidden civil war, some unique sights
and guaranteed sunshine.
- This is no longer a land flowing with milk and honey, nor even
with the milk of human kindness - though tourists are generally treated well.
- Much of Jerusalem is noisy, crowded, modern and unattractive.
- The countryside is generally dry, rocky and dull.
- Many of the biblical sights are disappointingly unimpressive or
uncared for. Nazareth, huh!
- The nervous, heavily armed soldiers, the peremptory checkpoints
and the general oppression of the Arab minority may depress
Note that the Israel political problem is - simplistically - between a minority of extremists on both sides, fundamentalist Muslims and Orthodox Jews (as opposed to secular Jews who share a mutual dislike of each other).
The majority of the both Jews and Arabs are cheerful, friendly folk who would like to get on with their lives (especially those in the Tel Aviv and Eilat areas) and live side-by-side but the continuous building of illegal Jewish settlements in the West bank aggravates even moderate Arabs, triggers suicide attacks which in turn have caused the construction of the deeply unpleasant and inconvenient Israeli West Bank barrier, separating Israeli occupied territories from Arabs and severely disrupting thousands of lives permanently.
Spring, Autumn, but ok most months.
Worst: July/Aug. (excessive heat, esp. Eilat), Ramadan (Muslim fasting month, dates depend on full moon so may differ by one day depending on location. 9 July-7 August 2013. There's always a lively feast day, Idd al-Fitr, at the end of Ramadan.
Minimum worthwhile stay, not incl. flights/ border crossings: 4
days, just Jerusalem
Recommended: 2 weeks
***Jerusalem. The Old City is where you'll find most of the
sights - and they're stunning - including the prime Muslim, Jewish
and Christian religious goals of the Temple Mount, the (Wailing) Western Wall and the Church
of the Holy Sepulchre, and of course Golgotha/Calvary - where Christ was crucified and the Garden Tomb where He was buried, though many believe that Christ died where the Church of the Holy Sepulchre stands.
Nothing much happens there after dark so
it's a hike to the New City for restaurants and a surprisingly lively
***Dead Sea. Have a mud bath, then
a pleasant float in the mineral rich therapeutic seawaters. Nearby
Ein Gedi is a lush oasis and Masada, the ancient Jewish
mountain-top fort, has excellent views and a fascinating history.
**Tiberias/Galilee. A pretty town
and lake with hot springs and Roman excavations. A pleasant day's
drive around the lake, including the sad River Jordan and the Golan
Heights is possible.
**Eilat. Good for Red Sea diving and
guaranteed sunshine but slightly ropey beaches and total style failure. Drive down the Sinai coast into Egypt for better beach resorts.
*Bethlehem. A very crowded and unsightly town not far from Jerusalem. The only real sight is the impressively atmospheric Church of the Nativity, where Jesus was (supposedly) born.
**Tel Aviv. A funky, modern beachside
city with little historical interest but a very interesting and secular (non-religious) population, great shopping, excellent beaches
and a wild nightlife.
Biblical Sights that fail to impress:
Jericho, Judea, Nazareth, River Jordan, Beersheba, Sodom, Hebron, Ashod.
Driving: a surprisingly relaxing and convenient
way to get out of Jerusalem and see the Dead Sea or Galilee areas.
You may also be able to drive into Jordan to see Petra and Wadi
Rum, but check the current political situation first.
Riding: Galilee and Tel Aviv have horses
Hiking: Golan, Wadi Qelt, and Negev
Diving: Try diving onto Herod's drowned
city at Caesarea, or in the Red Sea for coral classics.
Health Spas: the Dead Sea offers mineral
baths, mud packs and sunshine galore.
Beach Life: Tel Aviv and Eilat, though
not of the palm fringed, coral sand, tropical beach type.
Eid al Fitr, end of Arab festival of a couple of days of
April, Passover/Easter. Jewish/Christian
some precise dates, more suggestions and information see:
email from Bethany, 22 November '06:
just wanted to say, your depiction of Israel is less than admirable.
You supposedly promote tours, but in your list of "downsides"
you basically contradict that. I visited Israel in March of 2006,
and I have to say it was absolutely AMAZING. The countryside was
breaktaking and VERY fruitful with huge variation across the country,
the people (ALL people) were incredibly warm and welcoming, the
armed forces were friendly & unabrasive, and all the Biblical
sites we visited were magnificent!! Really, I don't understand your
"downsides" at all! In fact, Israel is probably the most
exciting, gorgeous place I have EVER been (and I have been to many
places). I truly think you're misconstruing everything about this
beautiful country. I strongly suggest that you remove the list of
"downsides" from your web-page. Thanks for hearing me