Ancient history, fascinating archeological sites, amazing desert experiences, and pulsating nightlife in Tel Aviv are all waiting for you in Israel. Savor all of your senses with innovative cuisine, luscious wines, and new delicacies to taste as you travel the land.
Tel Aviv – Trendiest City in the Mid-East
My trip started in Tel Aviv, a city of gorgeous beaches and considered the “vegan capital of the world.” With a booming foodie scene, vibrant nightlife, and cool things to do, there’s enough to keep you busy from morning to night. Move over, New York, Tel Aviv is also known as the “city that never sleeps.”
One must-see is ANU, the newly remodeled Museum of the Jewish People and now the largest Jewish museum in the world. My favorite exhibit was “Let There Be Laughter – Jewish Humor from Around the World” which features Jewish comedians and explains why Jews take their jokes really seriously. Also fascinating was “Jewish Heroes” which makes us all so proud to be members of the Tribe.
Stop along lush Rothschild Boulevard for a cup of coffee and a pastry while admiring Bauhaus architecture from the 1930s. Bring a large shopping bag when you visit the Carmel Market and fill it with fragrant spices, aromatic coffee, sweet halva, crunchy nuts, and fresh bread. Make a point to see Old Jaffa, the ancient port city, now packed with restaurants, art galleries, and historic stone buildings. Explore the Flea Market area and discover fabulous restaurants like Puaa. a retro, eccentric restaurant with outstanding food like the Green Leaves & Nut Salad, Schnitzel, and Pumpkin Dumplings.
When the sun goes down, let D-TLV take you on a pub crawl through the best bars in the city. One of the perks is that you get VIP entry into four bars/clubs without having to wait in line. Great fun!
Jerusalem, Holiest City on the Planet
Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Everywhere you look you’ll see beautiful churches, and historic mosques, along with the Western Wall, the last remnant from the Second Temple, which was destroyed in 70 A.D. Worshippers come from across the globe to pray at this sacred site. Many write notes and place them in the crevices of the Wall, asking for answers to their prayers.
Beneath the Western Wall are the famous tunnels where excavation continues to unearth new discoveries. Take a tour and listen to an archeologist share fascinating stories of Jerusalem’s past. Then go deeper underground and be amazed by the public baths, cisterns, and artifacts that reveal mysteries from Biblical times. A beautiful new synagogue under the Temple Mount within the Western Wall tunnels complex took 12 years and $50 million to build. Recently reopened, the synagogue is available for sunrise prayer at 6 a.m. and other services.
Ancient times take on modern technology with the virtual-reality tour of the Second Temple at the Western Wall Plaza. I donned special goggles and all of a sudden, I was taken back 2000 years with a 360-degree perspective of the Temple as it stood, filled with worshippers.
Near the Old City stands the Tower of David, also called the Jerusalem Citadel. This ancient fortress is also a museum, currently being renovated with new ramps and elevators for greater accessibility as well as impactful new exhibits about the city’s multi-faceted history. Go for a “Ramparts Walk” around the walls for breathtaking views of the Old City.
Come back at night for the Tower of David Sound & Light Show, against the backdrop of the ancient structure. Powerful images, original music, and video take viewers on a remarkable journey through Jewish history.
The heart of Jerusalem is Machne Yehuda, an open-air market filled with tempting aromas and luscious spices. Sample a variety of fresh fruits and candies, but be warned. One taste is not enough, and you’ll soon find yourself loaded down with bags of sweet treats. Look out for halva, made from sesame seeds, mixed with sugar or honey and it’s out of this world. Other delicacies include olives, hummus, and dried fruits.
Recommended Dining – Kikar Hamusica (Music Square) is a glorious place to dine with five restaurant options. We ate outdoors at Andalusia, a kosher tapas restaurant. The menu combines traditional Spanish cuisine with modern Israeli tastes like potato crisps, artichoke salad, and vegetarian paella.
For an unusual way to see Jerusalem, hop on an EZ Rider, a cross between a bicycle and a golf cart. Pick up the 1 ½ hour tour at the historic First Station and ride through the parks and neighborhoods as well as near the Old City. Our guide, Eli told us about the history of the area as we glided through Jerusalem.
Explore the Desert
Mitzpe Ramon is located in the heart of the Negev and you can indulge in unique desert experiences like stargazing or sleeping in a Bedouin camp. Considered the largest erosion crater in the world, Mitzpe Ramon is not just one crater, it’s hundreds of moon-like craters lining the dry, desert terrain. I toured Mitzpe Ramon on a 4 x 4 jeep, spotting rare wildlife, beautiful rock formations, and a colorful landscape. At night, we sat quietly around a fire as our guide pointed out the constellations and zodiac signs. The best part was looking through his high-powered telescope and seeing Saturn, rings and all.
We visited a Bedouin Camp, Kfar Hanokdim, a desert resort where we enjoyed a taste of Bedouin life, savored Turkish coffee, and rode a camel.
The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth and the saltiest body of water in the world. You can’t swim in it, so just lay back, relax, and voila, you’re floating! Part of the fun is packing the mineral-rich mud from the Dead Sea all over your body. Rinse off and your skin will feel soft and supple.
Masada, the ancient fortress in the Judean desert, served as a refuge for the Jewish people after the destruction of the Temple. Holding the Romans off for almost three years, the remaining zealots chose to kill each other, rather than submit to capture. Be sure to visit the Masada Museum to watch a video and get a better understanding of its history. Climbing Masada is best done early in the morning before the heat gets too intense. Take the 1.2-mile-long Snake Path or via cable car. Explore remnants of the Northern Palace built by King Herod as well as ritual baths, an ancient synagogue, and a cistern.
Israel is more than just a destination. Like the solid walls of Jerusalem stone, the memories and experiences will stay with you for a lifetime. Visit Israel.