Israel has always been an alluring destination. From
biblical times to present day, this slice of holy land in the Eastern
Mediterranean has long attracted visitors. It has attracted turmoil, too, and
Israel remains a politically sensitive country. Nevertheless, its appeal
for visitors is enormous and the day-to-day issues facing residents have little
effect on those coming to appreciate its astounding historic relics, impressive
religious sites and exquisite natural beauty.
Home to the Mount of Olives, the Sea of Galilee and the
ancient port of Jaffa, it’s hard to go anywhere in Israel without stumbling
upon a place of religious significance. None, though, compare to the holy city
of Jerusalem. Sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians, this ancient
metropolis is claimed by both Israel and Palestine and its status remains one of the core
issues of the Israeli-Palestine conflict.
Jerusalem's stunning skline belies the ugly political
landscape, with its beautiful bell towers, striking minarets and the golden
dome of the Al Aqsa Mosque. Split into Arabic, Jewish and Christian
quarters, this cultural melting pot translates into a sumptuous culinary scene,
as well as a feast for the eyes.
Tel Aviv is a different story.
Israel’s commercial and political heart is a city of glistening skyscrapers,
thronging streets and sandy beaches; of contemporary art galleries, excellent
restaurants and hedonistic inhabitants. Quite a contrast, then, to neighbouring
Jaffa, an historic port city of sprawling markets, cobbled docks and crumbling
city walls. This juxtaposition of old and new is typical in Israel, where
ancient cities like Nazareth and Akko exist alongside modern metropolises such
as Haifa and Eilat.
Israel’s landscapes are equally diverse. Mountains,
deserts and fertile valleys can all be found in this slither of the Middle East, while the Dead Sea, Red Sea, Sea of Galilee and
Mediterranean coastlines offer everything from unique geological spectacles to
seaside holiday resorts.
Israel Visa and Passport Requirements :-
Return ticket required
To enter Israel, a passport valid for a
minimum of six months from the date of entry is required by the nationals
referred to in the chart above.
Visas are not required by nationals
referred to in the chart above for stays of up to 90 days.
Visitor's visa: up to three months from the
date of issue.
An A/1 temporary resident visa can be issued to those who are
eligible for immigration under the Law of Return.
Processing for visas for Israel should take around seven days,
although it may take up to a month. Working days in Israel are from Sunday to
Entry with pets:
Israel does not quarantine healthy pets who meet the following
requirements: pets must have a 15-digit ISO pet microchip and must be
vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days (but not more than one year) before
travel. More than 30 days after vaccination, your pet must have a blood titer
test. Within 10 days of travel, the Israel Veterinary Certificate must be completed
by a veterinarian. Pets under the age of three months cannot be imported to
to See in Israel :-
1). City of David
Excavations at this site started in the 1850s and are ongoing, proof of
how rich an archaeological find it was. The oldest part of Jerusalem, it was a
settlement during the Canaanite period and was captured by David, who is said
to have brought the Ark of the Covenant here 3000 years ago. The main
attraction is Hezekiah’s Tunnel, a 500m-long passage of waist-deep water, but
there is plenty more to see – allow at least three hours for your visit.
From Dung Gate, head east (downhill) and take the road to the right; the
entrance is then on the left. At the visitors centre you can buy water and
watch a 3D movie about the city. If you intend to walk through Hezekiah’s
Tunnel, you can change into a swimming costume and leave your gear in a locker
(10NIS); alternatively, wear shorts. You will also need suitable footwear
(flip-flops or waterproof shoes) and a torch (flashlight). Key-chain lights can
be purchased from the ticket office. The entrance fee covers admission to the
underground areas of the site - Warren's Shaft, Hezekiah’s Tunnel, Pool of
Siloam, Temple Road Ascent.
2). Israel Museum
One of Israel's most impressive cultural assets, this splendid museum
gives an excellent grounding in the region's 5000 years of history in its huge
archaeological wing and has another equally impressive wing concentrating on
Jewish art and life. The fine arts wing has a significant collection of
international and Israeli art, the museum's grounds feature an art garden, and
there's a dedicated pavilion showcasing the museum's prize exhibit, the Dead
The distinctive lid-shaped roof of this pavilion was designed to
symbolise the pots in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were kept. The first of the
scrolls, totalling 800 in all, were found in 1947 and date back to the time of
the Bar Kochba Revolt (132–35 CE). Dealing with both secular and religious issues,
they were thought to have been written by an ascetic group of Jews called the
Essenes, who inhabited the area for about 300 years. The most important is the
Great Isaiah Scroll, the largest and best preserved at the museum. The exhibit
tells the story of the scrolls and the Essenes and displays some of the
Wing - There are so many significant pieces in this wing that is hard
to single out any in particular. Forming the most extensive collection of
biblical and Holy Land archaeology in the world, exhibits are organised
chronologically from prehistory to the Ottoman Empire. A group of 13th-century
BCE human-shaped pottery coffins greets visitors in the first room, and other
impressive displays include a 3rd-century mosaic floor from Nablus depicting
events in the life of Achilles. Also is the ‘House of David’ Victory Stele, a
fragmentary inscription from the First Temple period discovered at Tel Dan.
This is the only contemporary, extra-biblical reference to the Davidic dynasty
to have come to light .
Art & Life Wing - The prize exhibits here are four complete
synagogues brought from various locations and reconstructed. One, the
18th-century Vittorio Veneto Synagogue, is adorned with gilt and plaster and
was transported from Vittorio Veneto in Italy in 1965. The others are from
Cochin in India, Paramaribo in Suriname and Horb am Main in Germany. Also worth
seeking out is the painted Deller family sukkah, which dates from the 19th
century and was smuggled out of Germany to Jerusalem in 1935. The rooms at the
rear of the wing focus on Jewish costume and jewellery.
Arts Wing - The highlight here is the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist
Gallery, which showcases work by Renoir, Pissarro, Degas, Sisley, Monet and Cézanne
among many others. The Modern Art Gallery has works by Schiele, Rothko,
Motherwell, Pollock, Modigliani and Bacon, and Israeli art is well represented
in the Israeli Art pavilion, with striking paintings by Reuven Rubin and Yosef
Garden - A paved promenade leads from the Shrine of the Book to this
sprawling sculpture garden, which was designed by Japanese artist and landscape
architect Isamu Noguchi and includes works by 19th-, 20th- and 21st–century
artists including Moore, Kapoor, LeWitt, Oldenburg, Serra, Rodin and Picasso.
of The Rock :-
The jewel in the Temple Mount crown is the gold-plated Dome
of the Rock, the enduring symbol of the city and undoubtedly one of the most
photographed buildings on earth. As its name suggests, the dome covers a slab
of stone sacred to both the Muslim and Jewish faiths. According to Jewish
tradition, it was here that Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son. Islamic
tradition has the Prophet Mohammed ascending to heaven from this spot.
The building was constructed
between 688 and 691 CE under the patronage of the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik.
His motives were shrewd as well as pious. The caliph wanted to instil a sense
of pride into the local Muslim population and keep them loyal to Islam. He also
wanted to make a statement to Jews and Christians: Islam was both righteous and
all-powerful, so it could build a structure more splendid than any Christian
church on a location that was the location of the Jewish Holy of Holies, thus
superceding both religions.
Abd al-Malik had his Byzantine
architects take as their model the rotunda of the Holy Sepulchre. But not for
the Muslims the dark, gloomy interiors or austere stone facades of the
Christian structures; instead, their mosque was covered inside and out with a
bright confection of mosaics and scrolled verses from the Quran, while the
crowning dome was covered in solid gold that shone as a beacon for Islam.
A plaque was laid inside
honouring Abd al-Malik and giving the date of construction. Two hundred years
later the Abbasid caliph Al-Mamun altered it to claim credit for himself,
neglecting to amend the original date. In 1545, Süleyman the Magnificent
ordered that the much-weathered exterior mosaics be removed and replaced with
tiles. These were again replaced during a major restoration in the 20th
century. The original gold dome also disappeared long ago, melted down to pay
off some caliph’s debts, and is now covered with 1.3mm of gold donated by the
late King Hussein of Jordan. The 80kg of gold cost the king US$8.2 million – he
sold one of his homes in London to pay for it.
Essentially, however, what is
seen today is the building as conceived by Abd al-Malik. Inside, lying
centrally under the 20m-high dome and ringed by a wooden fence, is the rock
from which it is said Mohammed began his miraj (ascension to heaven). According
to the Quran, the stone also wanted to join him in heaven and began to rise
from the earth; Mohammed pushed the stone down with his foot, leaving a
footprint on the rock (supposedly still visible in one corner). Jewish
tradition also has it that this marks the centre of the world. Steps below the
rock lead to a cave known as the Well of Souls, where the voices of the dead
are said to be heard falling into the river of paradise and on to eternity. The
mihrab in the sanctuary is said to be the the oldest in the Islamic world.
There are nine gates connecting Temple Mount to the
surrounding narrow streets, but non-Muslims are allowed to enter only at the
Bab al-Maghariba/Sha’ar HaMugrabim (Gate of the Moors), reached via an ugly
wooden walkway on the southern side of the Western Wall plaza. Line up early
(if you don't, you're unlikely to get inside), and bear in mind that the site
closes on Muslim holidays and is only open in the morning during Ramadan.
You'll need to have your passport to make it through the security check. It's
possible to exit the enclosure by all open gates, not just Bab al-Maghariba.
4). Baha’s Garden :-
The best way to see these world famous gardens is to take a
free, 45-minute Upper Terrace Tour from the top of the gardens. Except on
Wednesday, an English-language tour starts at noon, with additional tours in
Hebrew or Russian on most days at 11am and 2pm. It’s first come, first served,
so get there a half-hour ahead. Both men and women must wear clothing that
covers their shoulders and knees.
Laid out on the slopes of Mt Carmel between 1987 and 2001,
the Baha’i Gardens have 19 terraces with a distinctly classical feel –
wrought-iron gates lead to flower beds, soothing pools, fountains, stone balustrades,
sculptures and impossibly steep lawns, all with panoramas of Haifa Bay that
defy superlatives. One hundred full-time gardeners are on hand to maintain the
site. Along with Akko’s Shrine of Baha’ullah, the gardens were given Unesco
World Heritage status in 2008.
The golden-domed Shrine
of the Bab, completed in 1953, is the final resting
place of the Bab, Baha’ullah’s spiritual predecessor, who was executed in
Persia in 1850; his remains were brought to Haifa in 1909. Combining the style
and proportions of European architecture with motifs inspired by Eastern
traditions, it was designed by a Canadian architect, built with Italian stone
and decorated with Dutch tiles.
Buildings around the gardens include the Universal House of Justice, a domed neoclassical structure with Corinthian columns
from which the Baha’is’ spiritual and administrative affairs are governed; and
the Archives, in a
green-roofed structure that looks like the Parthenon. About
100m up the hill from the tour entrance, extraordinary views can be had from
the Viewing Balcony.
is limited to 60 people. Eating, smoking and chewing gum are forbidden in the
5). Agamon HaHula :-
is one of the best places in Israel to see flocks of cranes, pelicans and
storks. By road, the site is 7.5km north of the Hula Nature Reserve, and 1.2km
off Rte 90.
the 1990s, the Hula’s cotton fields were converted to growing peanuts – the
soil here is ideal and Israel needs a massive supply of peanuts to produce
Bamba, Israeli children’s favourite junk food. Unfortunately, cranes love
peanuts as much as Israeli kids love Bamba, so conflict between the birds,
protected by law, and local farmers was inevitable.
an elegant solution was found. It turns out that the best way to encourage the
birds to continue on their way to Ethiopia and Sudan is to feed them – if they
can’t find nibblies, research shows, they stick around longer and end up
munching even more peanuts. Or they may stop migrating altogether – 35,000
cranes have already decided to become wintertime couch potatoes. An entire
field is now given over to supplying the migrating birds with six to seven
tonnes of corn daily, delivered by tractor.
Seeing wild cranes up
close is notoriously difficult because under normal circumstances the entire
flock will take to the sky en masse if anyone comes near, landing in the safety
of a neighbouring (peanut) field. A local farmer noticed that the one moving
object that the cranes showed no fear of was their great benefactor, the corn
Other birds that can
be seen here seasonally including pelicans (September, October and March to
mid-April), 65,000 of which fly between the Danube Delta in Romania and the
Blue Nile and Lake Victoria in Africa; and storks (August, September, April and May), a
stunning 500,000 of which pass by twice a year.
cover the 8.5km path around the restored wetlands, you can either walk or rent
a mountain bike (50NIS), four-wheeled pedal cart (185NIS for up to five
people), seven-seat ‘conference bike’ (50NIS per person) or golf cart (149NIS
for two people). Don’t expect to see many birds in the summer.
An Avdat National Park :-
En Avdat is a freak of nature in this otherwise
bone-dry desert – a freshwater spring that miraculously flows via a waterfall
into a narrow and winding ravine with steep sides of soft white chalk. Reached
via an easy hike past caves that were inhabited by monks during the Byzantine
period, it is home to Euphrates poplars and to fauna including ibex.
Unfortunately, swimming in the ravine and its pools is prohibited.
There are two entrances to the
park – southern and northern. The main ticket office is at the northern
entrance, at Midreshet Ben-Gurion (next to the Ben-Gurion Graves and the
Wilderness of Zin nature trail).
The most popular trail to the
spring covers 7km and takes around four hours.Eeating in the park is not
allowed, and the only toilet facilities are at the main ticket office. Start
from the inner parking lot and follow the blue markers into the ravine and on
to the first waterfall. Climb the stairs on the right wall of the ravine and
follow the markers to the grove at the upper end. The trail follows a series of
stairs until it reaches two ladders attached to the ravine wall. Once you make
it to the top, follow the cliff to the left (south) until you reach a
spectacular observation point. Continue south along the dry creek, looking out
for rock art on the western bank. In the winter, the waterholes at this point
are full and quite beautiful. From here, you can make your way to the petrol
station on Hwy 40 near the ruins of Avdat, from where you'll need to hitch or
take a bus back to your starting point or to Mitzpe Ramon.
Another popular trail leads to
En Akev, a freshwater spring on the other side of Wadi Zin. Starting from the
car park next to the petrol station and the ticket office for the ruins, follow
the blue markers as they circle the park fence on the north side, cross two
shallow valleys and then take a short descent to the En Akev Elyon (Upper Akev
Spring) trail crossing, where there are natural pools. From here, follow the
black markers and walk north down the canyon for 3km until you reach a
waterfall and large pool at En Akev. Then follow the green markers on the west
side of the canyon to go along the Divshon Pass (Maale Divshon), a 6km trail along
the plateau and down a steep windy trail (be careful!) to the paved entrance
road to the national park. Take the road north (uphill) to Midreshet
Ben-Gurion, where you will be able to take a bus back to your starting point or
to Mitzpe Ramon. In all, this trail covers 13km and will take around seven
A combined ticket to Avdat
National Park and the En Avdat National Park costs adult/student/child
46/39/24NIS. All of these trails are best explored during winter, when the
Mineral Beach :-
Run by Kibbutz Mitzpe Shalem, this is one of
the nicest of the Dead Sea beaches. After having a float and glopping black mud
onto your skin, you can soak in naturally sulphurous spring water (39°C) or
indulge in a Tibetan or Swedish massage. Lockers and towels each cost 10NIS
(plus a 10NIS deposit). Has a cafeteria and transport down to the receding
water line. Wheelchair accessible. Camping is not permitted.
8). Makhtesh Ramon :-
Israel is a small country, but the Makhtesh Ramon is one place where it
feels vast. Featuring multicoloured sandstone, volcanic rock and fossils, this
geological phenomenon is 300m deep, 8km wide and 40km long and is best viewed
from the lookout jutting over its edge 300m south of the Ramon Visitor Center.
9). Desert tour :-
into the Negev desert is a must-do. There are tours by jeep, on foot or on
horseback from the desert town of Mitzpe Ramon and from the Red Sea resort of
10). Dead Sea :-
400m (1320ft) below sea level and spanning the border between Israel and
Jordan, the Dead Sea is a natural wonder. It contains more minerals and salt
than any other stretch of water in the world, and thus it is possible to float
on top of the water. Its natural properties make it a prime centre for spa
treatments and relaxation therapies and there are a number of resorts in the
area. The Dead Sea has strong Biblical connections: here the Dead Sea Scrolls,
the oldest Biblical documents known to be in existence, were discovered at
Qumran were found and King Herod built his palace of Masada.