Trip Report Israel, Petra, Bethlehem

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Jul 8th, 2005, 07:22 AM
  #1
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Trip Report Israel, Petra, Bethlehem

Hi
I'm just back from a 9 day trip, my first to the area. I will start by just providing one hotel review, will add information to this thread in the coming days.

Jerusalem King David Hotel

I agree with some comments at tripadvisor.com that the hotel may be living off its past reputations for historical significance and for service--it did not meet standards of "Leading Hotels of the World" imo. We enjoyed our stay in this excellent location but will add these comments:
We arrived on a Saturday afternoon, having booked 3 deluxe rooms.
One room wasn't ready until almost 9:30 pm because some guests do not check out during Jewish Shabbat/the Sabbath and as a result keep their rooms longer, whether with advance notice or not. Although we had requested long in advance, and received confirmation for, late check outs on the day of our own departure (a Thursday) , this was not in the record when we arrived, and we had to fight to finally be granted late check out for one of our rooms so that we could freshen up prior to our evening flight home. No apologies or compensations were offered (although that's not what we were looking for); we simply had to argue with the manager, twice, not what we want to do on vacation.

Fresh fruit was provided in the rooms twice during our 5 days, nice touch. Ditto, International Herald Tribune.

Our rooms were very spacious, turn down service is provided, bed coverings and upholstery could use upgrades. Our rooms were 518, 517, and 330. Beds very comfortable. Rooms had minibars, built-in hair dryers, good towels.

Our rooms had views of the Old City, it added greatly to the ambiance especially at night.

The President of Angola arrived during our stay, we don't know if this was planned or not, but it did seem to throw things into a general hubbub.

I agree that for a hotel at this level, they ought to announce and enforce the attire of guests in the lobby and other public areas, people walked through the lobby and main floor in dripping bathing suits, bikinis and flip flops, etc. An interesting contrast with the kosher/traditional style of the hotel.

The hotel has a health club, pool, and tennis court.

Morning breakfast buffet is VERY lavish, fishes, fruits and vegetables, cheeses, all kinds of excellent breads and pastries, yogurt, hot eggs with potatoes, even a "diabetic cheesecake". There is wait service for juice, coffee and tea, and special requests such as omelettes. Overall quality: superb.

There are two places in the hotel offering internet terminals; the one in the business center has MUCH lower rates.

Concierge made good suggestions for dining in and outside of the hotel, more on that later.
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Jul 8th, 2005, 07:43 AM
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Jerusalem restaurant Darna, 3 Horkanos St, city center
features cuisine of Morocco

We had a set menu at Darna, for 6 of us.
The amount of food was astounding, though most of it disappeared. The mezes (little plates of appetizers) were excellent, though beware of the green pepper dish that the waitress warned us was spicy. That was an understatement!
The pastilla (phyllo with ground beef) was excellent,the lamb shoulder was tender and flavorful, the
huge platter of couscous with beef was good, though the beef had lost some of its flavor with long cooking.
I hate mint tea, except at this restaurant where it is a treat, as was the dessert of phyllo with almond 'cream' and nuts.
Don't miss the lemonade, it is a specialty.
We highly recommend this restaurant, which also happens to be strictly kosher. Closed Fridays and Sat lunch.
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Jul 9th, 2005, 03:24 AM
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Jerusalem Italian restaurant

Cielo 18 Ben Sira St
about a 8-10 minute walk from the King David
Small, upscale, but casual restaurant
Really excellent northern Italian food
We can recommend the pastas, fish, veal, and steaks. Desserts limited, but the tiramisu was wonderful as was the fresh fruit with liqueur.

Speaking of casual, casual dress is the way to go in the cities we visited.
Even the more expensive restaurants with reputations, do not require more than a pair of linen or cotton trousers and a sweater or shirt/blouse.
That included the restaurant Le Regence, in the King David Hotel, which featured French and Mediterranean food. It had a slightly more formal tone, but there was no need for men to wear either a jacket or tie, though a jacket without tie would not have been silly.
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Jul 9th, 2005, 03:31 AM
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We used a private guide with a rented van to do our trip. I wasn't in charge of the arrangements which went through a tour agency, but our guide was excellent, he seemingly knows every nook and cranny of Israel from Eilat to Jerusalem, Jerusalem itself, and beyond. Good guides can work with large groups or with small. For Petra and Bethlehem we used local guides but our regular guide dropped us off and picked us up at the border crossings.

All the places we went have layers of history, any one street or cave, any one paving stone for that matter, could have witnessed history unfold for the past 3000 years. If you have interest in history and/or religion, imo you need a guide to explain what you are walking on and what you are passing even as you move on to the next famous venue. The history of these places puts the current situations in context.
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Jul 9th, 2005, 06:46 AM
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Daytrip to Bethlehem:
As mentioned, we had a local guide, as it happens, an Arab Christian. He showed us from a distance some of the landmark mountains and fields just outside of Bethlehem, and of course the Church of the Nativity. Tourism is way down in Bethlehem, everyone we met seemed very happy to see American tourists (and we were surrounded with persistent souvenir-sellers hawking their wares, if you don't want to buy you must be very firm). There is an olive wood factory and shop in town (sorry not to recall the name, but it is run by Mr Efraim and I think the only factory showroom in town, as opposed to just a shop) and they have everything from trinkets, finely- carved creches, Judaica, secular items, as well as jewelry.
I was so surprised to realize that between the town limits of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, is barely two miles.
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Jul 9th, 2005, 10:09 AM
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Thakns for the report, elaine. I'll be staying in the King David this Tuesday night for 2 nights. Was the clothing for women in the King David modest? Is a scooped neck short sleeved top acceptable for women or does everything need to be covered even in the hotels?
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Jul 9th, 2005, 12:19 PM
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Weezie,

Don't worry about it... The Israelis are generally VERY casual with clothing.

The only places you have to give another thought about clothing is when visiting a holy place, like a synagoue, church or a mosque. Mini Skirts are not appreciated there... Which you probably know already...

And yes, if you decide visiting the ultra orthodox Jewish quarter of Meah Shearim...
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Jul 9th, 2005, 04:57 PM
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please see my comments above in my first posting about the manner of dress at the King David
there are absolutely no requirements regarding modesty
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Jul 9th, 2005, 05:13 PM
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Our visit to Jerusalem included two tunnel treks.

One is Hezekiah's Tunnel, a water conduit dating back to 700 BCE. It is not for the claustrophobic, for very large people, or those unsure of foot.
It is 1750 feet of uneven walking surface, narrow passage,low ceiling, and knee-to-thigh-high water. You are required to bring your own flashlight.
I recommend bringing water (pool) shoes. Any conventional shoe will be ruined, and flip flops won't give you secure footing.

The second tunnel we went through is meant to be a pedestrian tunnel, the Western Wall tunnel, which runs north along the Western Wall of the 2nd Temple,starting from Wilson's Arch, ending on Via Dolorosa. It is an archeological site, with a guided tour, and is well-lit and not claustrophobia-inducing imo.
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Jul 10th, 2005, 05:18 AM
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Daytrip to Masada and the Dead Sea:
Again, having a guide was invaluable, at the least buy a good guidebook. The buildings had originally been built by Herod the Great as a fortress, but he'd never used it. This area saw the last stand of fewer than 1000 Jews against the Roman army during 68-70 BCE, a unique event in history.

There is a cable car that can take you up and down to the summit, the hardy or foolhardy can walk the Snake Trail. There is a part of the path on the summit that is wheel chair and stroller-friendly.

The visitors' center has bathrooms, snacks, and a gift shop. After 2 1/2 hours at Masada, we were fascinated, hot and tired. Once on the summit, there are no rest areas nor any shade.
Hats essential imo.

We had pre-booked lunch, and beach privileges, at a Dead Sea resort hotel.
We got there at the same time as a couple of bus tours and that made the bathrooms and changing areas hugely crowded and messy. The buffet lunch in the dining area was okay, but again crowded, pushy, and loud. Not an elegant experience. Our beach privileges provided us with one beach towel each , but extras of our own would have been helpful, and you will need your own supplies of soap or shampoo when you clean up at the outdoor shower. You are advised to spend no more than 20 minutes in the water due to its mineral content, and the sun exposure, and then you must wash off this viscous water. Normal ocean water is 3% salt and minerals; the Great Salt Lake is 10% salt and minerals; the Dead Sea, which is also the lowest point on earth, is 30% salt and minerals.

Pool shoes again came in handy for crossing the hot sand and walking around the pool.
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Jul 15th, 2005, 10:30 AM
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Elaine,
Great report!
We just returned from Israel, and during our stay in Jerusalem stayed in two hotels. The first, David Citadel was phenomenal! We absolutely loved the hotel, with very large rooms overlooking the city, a gorgeous pool area, extensive breakfast buffet, etc. The Ahava bath products in the marble bathroom were much appreciated too!

The second hotel, Dan Panorama, was so bad my husband dubbed it "Motel 5". Actually in retrospect, it was just run down with poor amenities in the room and ugly 70's furniture. The staff were lovely, the breakfast buffet also extensive and good and the rooftop pool was clean and there was a lifeguard on duty.
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Jul 15th, 2005, 12:22 PM
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thanks for the feedback, I'm slowly working on more entries

Hezekiah’s Tunnel: This was built strictly as a water conduit and as such is much more a channel than a tunnel. King Hezekiah built the tunnel in 700 BCE in preparation for the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem, which ultimately failed.
The construction is described in 2 Kings 20:30 and 2 Chronicles 32. It is about a third of a mile in length, unlit, with a slippery and uneven bottom; the route twists and turns. The walls are less than 3 feet wide, with a height varying from about 5 feet to perhaps 5 feet 9 inches. It was rediscovered in 1838.

The water level was consistently knee-high for me (I'm 5'8"), except where it was thigh high. We came prepared with flashlights (required) and pool/water shoes, as conventional shoes would be ruined, and flip flops would offer no sure footing or support. It was a unique and memorable experience, but not sure I'll do it again.
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Jul 15th, 2005, 12:25 PM
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Jerusalem, Ammunition Hill
To gain access to Mount Scopus and the Jerusalem-Ramallah Road, the task of capturing Ammunition Hill and the fortified Jordanian Police Training School, was assigned to IDF paratroopers. Today, the site serves as a memorial those Israelis who fell in the battle for Jerusalem in the Six-Day War. Anything else I say might lead to a political discussion, there's plenty of information on the internet.
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Jul 22nd, 2005, 02:21 AM
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Jerusalem, continued:
We visited the Burnt House, a remnant of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70. In the 1970s, when archaeologists excavated what was the kitchen or workroom of this building, they found the forearm bones of a young woman amid the debris. As diggers continued to excavate the area of the room that lay where the arm pointed, they uncovered a wooden spear, almost as if the young woman had been reaching for this weapon when she met her death. The excavated house, now preserved beneath a modern visitors’ center, is a museum with a film telling a dramatized story about the site.

We went through the Kotel (“Wall”) Tunnel, which meant that on that day we had a two-tunnel trek (having gone through Hezekiah's also). When Muslims occupied Jerusalem (prior to the Crusades) they built the Western Wall up to the level of the Haram/Temple Mount. Modern archeologists dug a tunnel along the Wall, and a lower stretch of the Wall, nearly 1000 feet long, was revealed in perfect condition as originally built in Herod’s time. As you take the guided tour (this tunnel is lit) and walk along the length of it, you are walking on original pavement from the time of the Second Temple and the time of Jesus. Our path was originally outdoors, it is only because of later building that part of the wall was obscured, and archeologists have now again revealed it by digging the tunnel. A new exit leads outside to the Muslim Quarter and to the Via Dolorosa. As our tour group emerged from the tunnel and walked through the Muslim Quarter, we were accompanied by armed Israeli guards. Tourists can, as we did, walk through the Arab quarter without protection, but this particular tourist venue has decided to provide escorts for its visitors back to the Jewish Quarter. My sister pointed out that since her last visit four years ago, these guards carry smaller guns.
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Jul 22nd, 2005, 02:25 AM
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We also saw many more sights in Jerusalem.
I have a file now on the trip; if anyone would like to see it, email me at
[email protected]
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Sep 28th, 2005, 02:51 PM
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What a wealth of information!

I would LOVE to see your file... my e-mail is [email protected] and I'll send you an e-mail in few minutes.

Thank you, Elaine!
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Sep 29th, 2005, 07:57 AM
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Elaine, got your file, didn't read it yet, printed - 35 pages of text and pictures! You are a very patient person to compile all details Thank you!
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Sep 29th, 2005, 01:20 PM
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Would love to receive your file, Elaine. [email protected]

THANK YOU!

Kathy
Paragon, IN, USA
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Oct 6th, 2005, 04:51 AM
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Elaine,
Just watched your DVD with music. I can't wait to go this summer. Did you find your time was good? We have 1 who has never been to Israel and we want to do as much as possible. We will be traveling with a 22 and 25 year old. They have not been to Petra. How long did you spend there?

Did you use the same guide? Did you arrange it yourself? Did you get to Safed and the Gallilee? Just starting to plan.

Thanks for your help when we went to Italy. I know I can count on your perceptions.

Debby

Debby
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Oct 9th, 2005, 05:56 PM
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Hi
We were only in Petra for one day, two would have been better. I hope to go again someday.

My sister arranged for our guide, she and her family had used the same guide on a previous trip to Israel, and it was booked through an agency. If you like I can find out those details.

On this particular trip we were in Eilat, Petra for a day, drove through the Negev one day on the way to Jerusalem, and then Jerusalem for 5 days. We did not go to Safed. We daytripped from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, and to Masada.

I have a file I can send if you're interested; if so email me at
[email protected]
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