Seven Amazing Days in Israel

Old Nov 12th, 2022, 07:37 AM
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Seven Amazing Days in Israel

My family (husband, two grown daughters and son-in-law) took a long-planned trip to Israel in September. Israel was #1 on my husband Paul's bucket list and we were finally able to go after several thwarted attempts during Covid. We combined it with six days in Jordan and two in Istanbul for a total of about 16 days.

As a travel agent in my former life, I love planing trips. I basically knew nothing about Israel other than we had a week to see as much as possible. To save travel time, I originally planned to use Jerusalem as a base the entire week with possibly one night in Tel Aviv.

We're fiercely independent travelers, but knew we wanted a guide for this trip. I wrote to several I found through TripAdvisor and heard back from two or three. One of them was David Wexler of David's Land (https://www.davidsland.com/). I liked his website and after an initial conversation with him, we were sold. We made sure he knew that this was not a religious pilgrimage, rather a cultural, geo-political and historical trip. Of course, you can't learn about Israel without religion entering the conversation, but David understood what we wanted and delivered many times over.

He told us two important things; that a week barely scratches the surface and that you can't really see Israel if you don't leave Jerusalem. We accepted the first (our kids were all using vacation days) and he was spot on about the need to venture farther than Jerusalem.

After several phone conversations and emails in the months before the trip, we settled on the itinerary below:

Day 1- Fly from the US to TLV on Delta via CDG and go directly to our apartment in Jerusalem
Day 2 - The West Bank (Palestinian Territories)
Day 3 - The Old City of Jerusalem
Day 4 - Jerusalem: City of David, Mount of Olives, Machane Yehuda Market, Mea Shearim neighborhood and the Israel Museum
Day 5 - Leave Jerusalem for the Golan Heights and stop along the way at Masada and Qumran; night in Migdal on the Sea of Galilee
Day 6 - Galilee and the Golan Heights: Zippori, Magdala, Rosh Pina and a two-hour jeep tour on the Israel/Syria border given by a member of the Israeli Defense Rorces; night in Migdal
Day 7 - Old Akko, Haifa, Caesarea, TLV airport to fly to Amman

Just writing the itinerary makes me tired; it was pretty non-stop, but we wanted to see as much as we could in our short time there.

A word about our apartment in Jerusalem and the hotel in Migdal...

I found our apartment on Expedia and we couldn't have been happier with it. It was in Mamilla, a lovely upscale area of Jerusalem, and its balcony overlooked the Old City. If you google "My Jerusalem Walls", you'll find it. It's even better than the photos.

On the Sea of Galilee we stayed at the Gomeh by Isrotel Design Hotel (https://www.isrotel.com/isrotel-hote...MaAk46EALw_wcB). The photos online don't do it justice. It's absolutely beautiful, right on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and I'd stay there again in a heartbeat.

I write a travel blog (www.twoboomersabroad.com) for fun - no revenue - and I'm slowly posting articles there, but I wanted to post here in case it might help others planning a similar trip. Here are a few photos of the apartment and the hotel.


Living room of the Jerusalem apartment

View of the Old City walls from our apartment in Jerusalem.

Galilee hotel lobby.

View from our room in Galilee.

Next, Day 1, our day in the Palestinian Territories.
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Old Nov 12th, 2022, 10:08 AM
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We loved our trip to Jordan but have not been to Israel. Looking forward to more posts of your trip.
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Old Nov 13th, 2022, 06:41 AM
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We also loved Israel and Jordan. That apartment looks spectacular.
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Old Nov 24th, 2022, 02:34 PM
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Day 2 - The West Bank

David, our wonderful guide throughout our week in Israel, wasn't available on our first full day so he connected us with a colleague Morsi, who is an Arab-Israeli guide. As a Jew, David wouldn't have been able to take us to the West Bank anyway so the timing worked well.

Our first stop was in the Judean desert to gaze down upon and marvel at St. George's monastery which was carved into the side of the cliffs in the 5th century and still welcomes pilgrims and tourists. It's possible to hike there, but I think you'd have to be in pretty good shape!

From there we drove to Jericho where we spent most of our time at Hisham's Palace built in the 8th century. The palace is a huge complex and is undergoing major restoration, including on its 9,000 sq. ft. mosaic floor which is one of the largest in the world and contains about 5 million pieces of stone. It was beautifully restored and amazing to see.

We told David when we were planning the trip that we wanted to see Ramallah. It's so often in the news and I had a picture of it in my mind as a small desert outpost. I couldn't have been more wrong. It's actually the de facto capital of the State of Palestine with a population of over 150,000 in its metropolitan area. Palestinian government buildings are located in Ramallah and the former PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat is buried there. We ate a delicious lunch in a lovely restaurant and saw the city from our van as Morsi navigated the heavy traffic.

Our final stop was Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity which sits on a hill overlooking the valley. The grotto where it's believed Jesus was born is the oldest continuously used site of worship in Christianity. The complex is actually very big, covering about 130,000 sq. ft. and is home to three monasteries; Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic.

In addition to being surprised about Ramallah, I was surprised at how close parts of the West Bank are to Jerusalem. Bethlehem for example, is only about 6 miles from Jerusalem. That's actually not surprising, though, because Israel is a small country, about the size of New Jersey, so nothing is too far.

When we finally met David the next day, he told me that I'm the first client he's ever had who wanted to go to Ramallah!

I haven't gone into much detail in this post because I wrote an article for it on our blog: https://www.twoboomersabroad.com/pos...-the-west-bank.

Here are just a few pictures from the West Bank.

St. George's Monastery

Part of the mosaic floor of Hisham's Palace

This is the grotto where it is thought Jesus was born
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Old Dec 18th, 2022, 10:26 AM
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Wow, looks amazing, I've lived here for years and have not been to a couple of these places!
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Old Dec 21st, 2022, 09:45 AM
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This is GREAT!! I'd like to return to Israel next year so very timely, for me.

I hope you will go on!!
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Old Dec 26th, 2022, 06:50 PM
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More, please, please!! Curious if you went to Mea Shearim and how that visit went...
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Old Dec 27th, 2022, 05:59 AM
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Originally Posted by ekscrunchy View Post
More, please, please!! Curious if you went to Mea Shearim and how that visit went...
We did go to Mea Shearim. We drove through it and it was fascinating. Men on one side of the street and women on the other. Our guide told us that the many posters we saw on the sidewalks were "modesty posters", telling women to dress conservatively. Although we never got out of the car, we could tell that we were not welcomed in the area! Even our guide, a secular Jew, felt uncomfortable.
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Old Dec 28th, 2022, 07:53 AM
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That is fascinating, and a little upsetting. I was hoping to just take a taxi there and walk around, but do you think I would be physically harmed if I did that? (Of course I would cover myself a lot, and walk with the women)

Are there Judaica and food shops in the neighborhood?

Admit I have not read much about the area so I guess I will find the answers to that question but I'd like to have your response..
Are the residents all Hasidim, or Orthodox, or both??
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Old Dec 28th, 2022, 04:01 PM
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ekscrunchy,

I would absolutely not walk around. I have no idea if you would be physically harmed but my guess is that you would be immediately spotted as an outsider and not welcomed., potentially to the extent of being harmed.

Our guide told us that he has had rocks thrown at him. As we were turning a corner, a man violently hit our car window. It was so hard that I can't imagine that his hand wasn't broken. Our guide who has lived in Israel for 30 + years was visibly upset.

I hope that answers your question.

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Old Dec 29th, 2022, 07:09 AM
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Thank you!! I had no idea, having only had experience in the Orthodox areas of Brooklyn, Ny!
Ok, maybe a drive through, but maybe not!! That is really awful, what happened to you and your guide....and the residents are just allowed to accost "intruders??" Imagine if a Palestinian person did that same thing to someone who was sightseeing in the West Bank?? (Please do not take my comments/questions too seriously...I've not been in Israel in more than 30 years and, shamefully, do not know all that much about the situation there)
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Old Dec 29th, 2022, 04:26 PM
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Yes, Mea Shearim can't be compared to the Orthodox areas of Brooklyn - they're night and day. These residents are the most extreme of the extreme as our (Jewish) guide explained to us.

I guess the short answer to your question is yes, they are allowed to do what the person did to us. Although we were respectful, we were in their space. We've traveled to six of the seven continents and we're very respectful of every culture we're in, but our mere presence was too much evidently. For me, although scary and not a good experience, it was very much an educational experience, albeit one that I wouldn't want to repeat!
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Old Dec 31st, 2022, 01:00 PM
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Ellen, thanks!

Related question: I was thinking of hiring a guide to get us from location to location..for example, from Jerusalem to The Galilee....but not having a guide once we arrive. For example, in Jerusalem we might have a guide for a day to get an overview, but largely take taxis and walk to the various sites. What do you think??

Also, I was wondering about staying in Jaffa...would that be an ok location for wandering, food markets, restaurants?? Thanks and Happy New Year!!
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Old Jan 1st, 2023, 03:27 AM
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If you don't want a guide for the entire trip, that makes sense. If you actually don't need a guide from Jerusalem to Galilee, you might just want to check out transportation options which would probably be less expensive. How would you get around in the north once you get there? Are you thinking of hiring a guide for the Old City in Jerusalem? There's so much history in those walls and our guide was so knowledgeable, it really added to the experience. Are you planning to go to Masada?

As far as Jaffa, we actually didn't get to Tel Aviv unfortunately. it was the one place we just couldn't squeeze into our week. I had read quite a bit about it, and it sounds like it would be a great area to stay in for the things you mention. I'm sure that's where we would have stayed if we had been able to go there.

Happy New Year to you as well!

Ellen
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Old Jan 1st, 2023, 04:01 AM
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Originally Posted by ekscrunchy View Post
Ellen, thanks!

Related question: I was thinking of hiring a guide to get us from location to location..for example, from Jerusalem to The Galilee....but not having a guide once we arrive. For example, in Jerusalem we might have a guide for a day to get an overview, but largely take taxis and walk to the various sites. What do you think??

Also, I was wondering about staying in Jaffa...would that be an ok location for wandering, food markets, restaurants?? Thanks and Happy New Year!!

Getting around without a guide is pretty straightforward in the Galilee, in Jerusalem and between them. The guide is mostly recommended for the in depth knowledge but you really don't need one just to get from one place to another.

Jaffa is a really great place to walk around, eat out, go to the beach and much much more. I would try to avoid the weekend if you can (Fri-Sat in Israel)
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