A virtual visit to Israel with Michal Grundland
Why you should visit Israel
The small but impressive Israel
What a man says and what a man really means
Tel Aviv – The City That Never Sleeps
Places to visit in Israel
German messianics including several Templers arrived in Haifa and settled in what is now called the German Colony in 1868. This was the beginning of Haifa’s introduction to industrialization. The Templers were the one who built a steam-powered station and opened factories. They also inaugurated carriage services to the nearby settlements of Tiberias, Nazareth and Acre. All of this played a key role in jumpstarting Haifa’s modernization.
BAHA’I WORLD CENTRE
The buildings hosting the spiritual as well as administrative headquarters of the Baha’i Faith are on Mount Carmel in Haifa. Designed by a Canadian landscape architect, they coordinate and govern the Baha’i Faith. The global teaching plans, the study and the translation of the Baha’i holy writings are all done here. It is where the Universal House of Justice is located, which is the Baha’i Faith’s supreme governing body. This is also a site of pilgrimage, attracting 1 million pilgrims of the faith every year.
Photo by Itamar Grinberg
PLACES TO VISIT IN ISRAEL
ANCIENT PORT CITY
Ancient Jaffa’s location gave it strategic importance in battles, having a broad view of the coastline. It was established in around 1800 BCE at the very latest. It has been mentioned in an ancient Egyptian letter from 1440 BCE that tells of the conquest of the city by the Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III. It exchanged hands several times between warring factions.
After renovations, the old port of Jaffa now teems with life and activity. It houses several bookstores, cafés, nightclubs and more.
The flea markets of Jaffa are where you can find an eclectic mix of wares. There are Persian carpets, African design shops, amulets to ward off evil, Israeli antiques, Israeli fashion design in the mid-range and inexpensive Middle-eastern clothes. In the Old Jaffa Hostel, you can get a nap in between shopping binges.
DYNAMIC MIX OF CULTURES
Photos by Dana Friedlander
PLACES TO VISIT IN ISRAEL
Resort City of Eilat
Places to stay
There are various types of accommodations for every budget, from budget-friendly hotels starting from 15 USD/night to luxurious hotels going up to 4,500 USD/night. Travellers looking for budget-friendly accommodations with a local flavour will find many listings on sites such as Airbnb. Eilat also has other affordable options of hostels for backpackers and families ranging from separate rooms to dormitories. Most of these hostels are near the city centre making it easy to get around.
Things to do
The main attraction of Eilat are the beaches with North beach and the South beach (Coral Beach) being the two most popular ones. At the beach, do not pass on the chance to stop and say hi to cute dolphins! The Dolphin Reef in Eilat offers tourists the opportunity to bserve dolphins in their natural habitat. The more adventurous tourists can opt for a closer interaction with the animals through guided scuba diving and snorkeling excursions. You can also visit the Underwater Observatory Museum for the most amazing marine life experience.
Located north of Eilat, the Harei Eilat (Eilat Mountains), is popular with hikers and nature lovers. This destination offers breath-taking views of the spectacular desert routes with the rich yellow, red and brown colours of the mountains’ rocky landscape.
You can also visit Petra in Jordan while in Eilat for one or two-day tours or opt to visit independently. Tours to Petra are available every day, however, for independent visits you must pre-arrange your visa from your home country.
For those looking for a few minutes of respite, Eilat has a Botanical Garden with waterfalls and wooden swings. The garden is on a hill and offers a welcoming cool shade on Eilat’s hot days.
The international Red Sea Jazz Festival which usually takes place over four days is another thing that will draw you to Eilat if you are a music lover. With travel restrictions still in place in many countries, monitor their website to see whether a festival will be held this year.
Things to do
Photos: Dafna Tal
The Gospel Trail
The trail begins in the ancient city of Nazareth, the birthplace of Jesus Christ. The closest airport to Nazareth is Tel Aviv. Throughout history, Nazareth has been home to a wide variety of people from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. In the present day, Nazareth predominantly consists of Arab citizens of Israel and is the largest Arab city in Israel. The majority of its population are followers of the Islamic faith, while most of the others are followers of Christianity.
The Mount of Beatitudes
Winding across numerous places of importance from the life of Christ, the trail also takes hikers to the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
The best aspects of Jaffa must be its restaurants where traditional Israeli and Levantine cuisine like hummus, shawarma, shakshuka, kebab or falafel abound. Jaffa residents will swear that the best hummus you’ve ever tasted is sold here. Traditional Arabic cooking is prevalent as well. Great fish restaurants are scattered over the port city, alongside Romanian restaurants, European cafés, Tunisian bistros and several places that specialize in high-end fine dining. There are bars for the wine and cocktail lovers, and the bakeries in the city will cater to your dessert cravings.
Israeli artists have been living in Jaffa’s Old City for decades, and the newer generation have moved in to join them. The artisans here sell locally made ceramics as well as crafts, high-end wares and fair-trade items.
There are several museums and galleries of note to visit in Jaffa. This includes the Frank Meisler Gallery, the Uri Geller Museum, Ilana Goor Museum, the Iris Eshet Cohen Gallery, the Jaffa Art Salon and more. All of these have beautiful art and pieces of Jaffa’s history on display for curious art lovers and tourists.
DYNAMIC MIX OF CULTURES
Jaffa is populated by Jews, Christians and Muslims. The Tabeetha School, established in the 1800s offers education to people of every religion and sect. Jaffa is a center of cross-cultural heritage that strikes a balance to ease tensions between the several conflicting sects in Israel. The Jewish Community Center brings Jaffa residents together to share their food, music and traditions.
Jaffa’s heterogeneous mix of people and cultures make it perhaps of the most dynamic places on the planet. If you’re looking for a good time on your visit to Israel, Jaffa’s culture and the variety of attractions here make it the hottest spot you should stop by.
Photos: Dana Friedlander
The City of Acre
Photos: Itamar Grinberg
Top 5 Must-Visit Wineries in Israel
12 of the most beautiful secret spots in Israel
1. Evrona evaporation ponds, Arava Desert
Fancy seeing a flamingo in the desert? Look no further than the evaporation ponds in Evrona near Eilat, which a group of previously migrating flamingos has decided to call home. The birds used to fly over the area on their way to Africa but over 20 years ago made their pit spot a permanent one thanks to the readily available food at the site. The pools are located right on the border with Jordan, meaning that the flamingos simultaneously receive audiences from both countries who in turn can also wave hello to one another. Coexistence, flamingo-style.
2. Kedem hot springs, Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is one of Israel’s best-known travel destinations, but it too is full of surprises, including deliciously hot springs dotted along the shoreline where the Kedem Stream meets the Dead Sea, some of them large enough to fit a family or a few friends and some of them just big enough to seat romantic couples. Getting there isn’t easy and requires going off-road and avoiding dangerous sinkholes, but that doesn’t seem to deter the brave few who venture out there, especially in the winter season.
3. Hamukei Nitzana, Negev Desert
Hamukei Nitzana (Nitzana Curves) is a natural park full of large, bright-white chalk rocks that form in curvy, smooth patterns reminiscent of, well, curves. Its location right on Israel’s southern border with Egypt means that it’s not flooded with tourists even in the most Covid-free of times, enabling enterprising visitors to walk around and enjoy the moon-like setting in peace and quiet. It’s also a great destination for a moonlight hike, when the chalky stones shine bright.
4. Little Crater, Negev Desert
Despite its name, the Little Crater is quite a large secret location, coming in at 5 miles long, almost 4 miles wide and 1,300 feet deep. The crater is a rare geological phenomenon and is far less famous than its cousins, the Ramon Crater and the Big Crater. It was only deemed a nature reserve in 2019 following a decades-long struggle with Israel’s defense establishment, which opposed the move because some of the reserve belongs to the Negev Nuclear Research Center. It is home to unique geological forms, colorful rocks and endangered wildlife and is a wonderful site for a desert hike.
5. Alma Cave, Galilee
Alma Cave in the northern Galilee region is everything you could wish for in a cave: long, dark, cold and full of bats. It has a few legends surrounding it, such as the one claiming that Jews returned to the Land of Israel from their Babylonian exile through it (because it’s so long).
Fast-forward a few thousand years, and the cave is equipped with pegs and light reflectors to ease the way in for visitors, who should still come in long-sleeved clothes and anti-slip shoes. The cave is currently closed to protect its bat population, but once it reopens it’s well worth the descent.
6. Ancient fortress, Ashdod Beach
While the beaches in Tel Aviv are perhaps the most famous, the coastline in Israel in fact runs down a substantial part of the country. And the beach in Ashdod, half an hour’s drive south of Tel Aviv, even boasts its very own fortress.
First built by Arab rulers in the seventh century, the fortress was used in later centuries to unsuccessfully defend the Holy Land from the Crusaders, who after taking over the area also took ownership of the stronghold. Nowadays, the fortress remains strike a magnificent picture against an otherwise empty strip of sand, even leading couples to choose the venue to tie the knot in small, corona-era wedding ceremonies.
7. Austrian Hospice rooftop, Jerusalem
The Old City of Jerusalem has many rooftops from which to take in the breathtaking views, with one of the best – and relatively accessible – ones belonging to the Austrian Hospice. Opened in 1863, the building first served as the Austrian Catholic Church’s pilgrim hostel before turning into a military convalescent home during World War I, an internment camp during World War II, a hospital and again a present-day hostel with its very own Viennese coffeeshop.
While the coffeeshop is famous for its hot chocolate and apple strudel, those looking for a different experience would do well to saunter up the staircase to the roof, from which they can comfortably view the very heart of the Old City.
8. Saint Peter’s Church, Tel Aviv
The bright pink Russian Orthodox Saint Peter’s Church towering over treetops makes an unusual addition to an otherwise rather nondescript residential area of southern Tel Aviv. Built in the 19th century, the complex includes both a church and a monastery and is open to the public for only a short time each week, very much adding to its secretive status. Enjoyed mostly by locals, the complex and the surrounding park are a breath of fresh air in the metropolitan area.
9. Mount Scopus amphitheater, Jerusalem
The open-air amphitheater located at the edge of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus campus is one of the university’s best-kept secrets, alongside its botanical gardens. The amphitheater originates in 1925, when a temporary wooden structure was laid down at the site ahead of the university’s opening ceremony, which included grandees such as the British Lord Balfour and General Allenby. The current stone structure was built 10 years later and withstood historic events such as Israel’s War of Independence and the Six Day War. Nowadays, visitors who make the endless trek all the way to the edge of the campus are rewarded with beautiful desert views stretching into Jordan.
10. Midron Slopes beach, Jaffa
Located at the southern, less well-known side of Jaffa, the Midron Slopes beach rolling down from the Ajami neighborhood to the Mediterranean Sea boasts expansive grass lawns, bike paths, walking lanes and strips of sand, but somehow have yet to attract the crowds found elsewhere in Jaffa and Tel Aviv. The beach is best enjoyed early on Friday evenings, when families get together for dinner, couples go out on romantic dates and kids whizz around, all in a uniquely pleasant, local atmosphere.
11. Ein Sukkot Spring, Jordan Valley
Ein Sukkot is a wonderfully large spring surrounded by reeds, giving the whole place a very private and secluded vibe. The spring is located off-road in between a couple of settlements, making getting there a bit of a challenge, but is a firm favorite among travelers who absolutely cannot bear the thought of sharing an afternoon with the masses. Secret indeed.
12. Timna hidden lake, Arava Desert
The hidden lake at Timna is perhaps one of the most striking sights in Israel – a bright turquoise body of water surrounded by red mountains in the middle of the desert. Located a short ride outside of Eilat, the lake isn’t a natural one but was formed when the copper quarries at the site were flooded. Since the lake is situated among mines, it’s a little off the beaten track and isn’t the easiest place to get to. And yet, keen travelers are making their way there for a swim in the salty waters and even, as has become somewhat popular lately, for diving in the unusual location.