Israeli history is thousands of years, places, events and legends; one could devote decades to studying it all. We made a list of the most important places and attractions that you can easily visit during a standard vacation. Read on to learn what to see in this country where people regularly wear weapons, harvest two fruit crops a year, and have fun like nowhere else in the Middle East!
Jerusalem, Old City
“I wish my mother to recover,” “I dream to meet love in this year,” – such notes people put in the cracks of the Wailing Wall, asking for various things. They would even carve the names of sick or terminally ill people into the stones of the Kotel, as the Wailing Wall is called in Hebrew. Hope for a miracle brings people from all over the world. To penetrate the essence of this venerable site, go down with a guide to the underground tunnels of the Western Wall, where the Spirit of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem is felt.
Temple Mount is a sacred place for Muslims. Here the golden Dome of the Rock sparkles and the first Qibla in Islam rises. Al-Aqsa is comparable in importance with the sacred objects of Mecca and Medina. Finally, Jerusalem is revered as the cradle of the Christian faith. Here stands the Church of the Holy Sepulcher; for two thousand years pilgrims have come to worship at the holy place of the crucifixion and resurrection of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Museum of Israel
More than 500 000 exhibits! The Museum of Israel in Jerusalem is famous for its huge collection of archaeological finds, objects of Judaica and ethnography, as well as masterpieces of Jewish and world art. There is everything from the Billy Rose Art Garden with Rodin and Picasso sculptures to the Dead Sea Scrolls (they are the Qumran manuscripts, the oldest surviving biblical texts) and the Holyland Model of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period, which depicts the city as it appeared in 66 B.C.E.
Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem
The National Holocaust and Heroism Memorial, situated on the slope of the Mount of Remembrance in Jerusalem, is the largest Holocaust museum in the world. Be prepared for a deep emotional shock, without which it is impossible to understand Israel and realize the power of the Jewish people, who really know how to remember. Entrance to the memorial is free of charge; however, children under 10 years old are not admitted. Moreover, in some halls (for example, the heartrending “Children’s Memorial”) you should not go if you are impressionable. It’s better just to re-watch “Schindler’s List.”
The most eclectic of Israeli cities, Tel Aviv bears the honor of being the “capital of Mediterranean delights” – a title awarded several years ago by The New York Times. No matter what you are looking for – secrets of ancient Jaffa or secular gossip, museum treasures or a luxury beach vacation, evenings at the Opera House or discreet nights in secluded clubs – you will not leave here disappointed.
Caesarea National Park
On the Mediterranean coast, 45 kilometers north of Tel Aviv, lies Caesarea National Park. A beautiful city with a majestic fortress was built here under the reign of Herod in the 4th century B.C.E., and later Pontius Pilate had his residence there. It is easy to imagine what ancient Caesarea looked like since you can see the Roman amphitheater and the ruins of the Palace on the reef. Excavations are still being carried out, so it is likely that Caesarea has some history yet to reveal. You can also find one of the best beaches in Israel there – Caesarea Aqueduct Beach.
The sacred texts and rituals of the Druze community are a mystery behind seven seals. It is known only that they speak Arabic, believe in the transmigration of souls, wear unusual pants, and despite their secret ideology, are friendly with guests. About 120 thousand Druze live in Israel now, many on the Golan Heights. And the largest Druze village, Daliyat el-Carmel, is located in the National Park of Mount Carmel in the southeast of Haifa. The thing you need to do here is visit the motley oriental bazaar in the center and taste the famous Druze pita with goat cheese and spicy zaatar.
Here in Galilee are the birthplace of Jesus of Nazareth, the biblical lake of Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee or Tiberias Lake) and two of the four holy cities – Tiberias and Safed (the others are Jerusalem and Hebron). Here it is possible to verify the description “land flowing with milk and honey” as still fair and accurate today. Try flavored cheeses or natural yoghurt on the ALTO dairy farm in Kibbutz Shomrat, and learn how to bake honey cakes at the Ophir-Alon family. In the end, reward yourself with a glass of wine – in the region where Jesus Christ made it from water.
Where can you read a book while lounging on waves as if they were a sofa? And where can you sprawl yourself out in the mud with abandon? The Dead Sea offers a situation where the pleasant easily combines with the useful. The main resort here is Ein Bokek. Nearby are the Ein Gedi Reserve, the Masada Fortress, Sodom Mountain, and Qumran National Park – an interesting place to spend time if you are bored by sun and mud baths. But hurry: every year the Dead Sea grows smaller by a meter.
How does it feel to stand on the edge of the biggest erosion crater in the world? Makhtesh Ramon is a geological phenomenon that has nothing to do with meteorites and volcanoes; this alien hollow arose about 200 million years ago due to winds and rains. Bare statistics: the length of the mahtesha in the Negev desert is 40 kilometers, the width varies from 2 to 10 kilometers, and the depth is 500 meters. Ramon, for good reason, resembles an elongated heart: yours will beat faster here! For powerful impressions, go to the town of Mitzpe Ramon, where there is a Visitor Center, an observation deck, and an observatory. You can also drop by at the alpaca farm as it is almost at the crater.
Eilat is a resort paradise for those who want to take a breath from religious and historical impressions. The sun in Eilat has received a permanent residence permit: the beach season on the Red Sea lasts all year; even in winter the water holds a temperature of +25 ° C. Sunbathe, swim with dolphins, master surfing and diving, and be sure to check out the stunning underwater observatory. Eilat is a great place for rebooting!
So, Israel is a small but very exciting country where everyone can find something after their own hearts!