Fun things to do in Israel

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Most Viewed Things to Do in Israel

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    Masada Fortress ruins

    by jorgejuansanchez Written Feb 22, 2014

    When I was working in a Kibbutz (called Mefalsim) as a volunteer, I enjoyed free excursions every week. We, the volunteers, were from several countries (Sweden, England, Germany and Spain).
    There was a person in charge of the volunteers, a young girl. One day she invited us to visit Masada. We carried in the bus of the kibbutz food and drinks and departed early in the morning.
    Masada was a very spectacular place. It consisted in ruins on a hill.
    But the best were its views.
    When the Romans wanted to capture Masada, they, the Zealots, preferred death to surrender.
    Seeing that they had no chances to avoid the siege, the Zealots preferred death to surrender, so when the Romans finally made their way up to the fortress, they only found cadavers.
    Our chief explained us the history of every place. After lunch we were given free time to explore by ourselves, and late in the afternoon we returned to our Kibbutz.

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    Beit She'an

    by Jim_Eliason Updated Jan 3, 2014

    This city dates back to Canaanite times when it was occupied and served as an administrative center for the conquering Egyptians. The city reached its prime in Roman times and was abandoned in 749 AD after an earthquake.

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    • Archeology
    • Historical Travel
    • Architecture

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    Get On the Bus, Gus

    by gilabrand Updated Jan 1, 2014

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    Gone are the days when buses were hot and smelly, strewn with sunflower seed shells and cost more to ride at night. That’s what they were like when I first visited Israel in the 1960s. Nowadays, buses are air-conditioned, people use deodorant, they are more likely to be chewing sugarless gum or yakking on their cell-phones than cracking sunflower seeds, and the day and night rate are the same (maybe they charged for the lightbulb in the olden days…).

    Israel’s major bus company is Egged, which plies both city and inter-city routes. In Tel Aviv, the local buses are operated by Dan, and in Beersheva by Metrodan. The old rickety buses with hard-to-navigate stairs were replaced years ago by sleek, modern buses that are low-slung and easy to board. On some routes long, “accordion” buses are used. In Jerusalem, I always wonder how the driver manages to maneuver these monsters as he whizzes through the city’s narrow streets, many of them probably built for donkeys...If you do get on one of these buses, make sure to find a seat or hang on tightly.

    Boarding is only from the front. Unlike some places in the world (such as New York), you do not need exact change – although a NIS 200 bill could be a problem. Today, a ride in the city (I speak only for Jerusalem) costs NIS 6.90, which comes to about $2. Many people buy a “kartisiya” – a multi-ride ticket, good for 10 rides. It costs NIS 49.60 and can be purchased on the bus itself. These remain valid even if the price rises. So if you buy one and still have rides left over, you can keep it for your next visit.

    The driver punches a hole in the kartisiya each time you board the bus. More than one person can use it. If two of you are getting on, for example, tell the driver “pa’amayim” (which means “twice”).

    If you plan to take two buses within 75 minutes, ask the driver for a "kartis ma'avar" - a free transfer - when you get on.

    UPDATE:In 2012, a new payment system was introduced and the old multi-ride paper tickets are no longer valid. Now all buses - and the new Jerusalem light rail - are paid for with a "Rav-Kav" card, one of those plastic credit card thingies, that you "refill" as necessary by paying the driver or using the machine installed at the light rail stations.

    2014 UPDATE: When you pay the driver 6.90 shekels for a single-fare ticket (yes - you can do this), keep the receipt print-out and use it to continue your travels on as many buses (or the light rail) as you want for the next 75 minutes.

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    Rosh Hanikra (North)

    by leffe3 Updated Aug 12, 2012

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    Beautiful spot on one of the most contentious borders in the world.

    Chalk outcrop that juts out to sea (hence the natural border) - on a sunny day (about 320 of them a year), the white of the chalk against the blue sea is spectacular.

    'Inside' the outcrop a series of sea caves that can be explored by foot, irridescent green and turquoise sea, white tipped waves breaking.

    A small furnicular will take you down to the caves.

    Not a place to spend the whole day, but there's plenty round it to keep you occupied (south of the border, obviously) including the extraordinary beach (don't know the geographical terminology but flat, layered rocks ) with occasional small rocky outcrops. Beach leads on to Akhziv National Park.

    Akhziv and Rosh Hanikra together can certainly occupy you for a day, although the (small) mountains to the east including the Keshet (natural rock 'bridge') are spectacular (northern Israel is a personal favourite).

    Note that part of Hanikra is out-of-bounds as it forms part of the border. Army stationed there but other than one spot where lookout is stationed (looking out to sea), they do not interfere with the enjoyment (remember it is part of the 'quiet' border with Lebanon). Part of the rock also formed the railway tunnel from Haifa North - so there is a bit of an explanation about its history and there is short introductory film if you are interested.

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    Mitzpe Ramon (Negev)

    by leffe3 Updated Aug 6, 2012

    The town of Mitzpe Ramon is the main service town of the Central Negev. Not that is saying much :)

    It's a sleepy little place - although it has a couple of hotels, cafes, banks etc. But it is also built at the cliff edge of 'Mitzpe ramon' - the big crater. Thousands of years ago, a meteorite slammed into the earth at this point, creating an extraordinary 'big crater', with the land dropping steeply away on the outskirts of the town (and rises again just as steeply to the south).

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    Judeaen Desert (Jerusalem Hills)

    by leffe3 Updated Aug 6, 2012

    Desolate, spectacular, controversial - the incredibly inhospitable Judeaen desert, with little water, forms 'the borders' between Israel and the Palestinian Authority - land which, in part, is gradually being encroached upon by settlements leading out of Jerusalem but which is officially to be part of the state of Palestine.

    Eking out a living in this environment are Bedouin tribes, with many small encampments to be found. Between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea, there are also kibbutzim that have made 'the desert green'. creating sustainable living conditions.

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    Negev in bloom

    by leffe3 Updated Aug 6, 2012

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    For 2-3 weeks in the year (approx March) the approaches to the Negev desert are covered in carpets of wildflowers (mainly red anemones).

    It's a beautiful sight, especially knowing that less than 20kms away the desert is almost inhospitable. Hundreds of cars head south from Tel Aviv and Jerusalem to see the sight - and it is stunning.

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    Ein Ziq (Negev)

    by leffe3 Updated Aug 6, 2012

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    A fabulous hike through the desolate wadi of the Negev to the spring of Ein Ziq.

    A 5 hour round trip from Sde Boquer (Ben Gurion's burial place) that takes you through some stunning landscapes. The round trip is quite an arduous hike (although it involves little in terms of climbing, there are a lot of steep pathways). If it's not your bag or it is simply too hot, head along the valley floor to the spring and return the same way.

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    Palace of Agrippa - Covered for 2000 years (North)

    by leffe3 Updated Aug 6, 2012

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    Discovered as recently as 1997, the ruins had remained covered for nearly 2000 years.

    Only opened to the public in February 2002, archaelogists believe this could be one of the most important discoveries in the region for years. There's not a great deal uncovered at the moment, but what there is is deeply impressive (and you can walk among the alleys, streets and foundations).

    But it is believed that there is still much more to uncover - including an amphitheatre, making it as important as the coastal town of Caesarea. Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman as well as Ayyuban (local residents of the 13th century) remains are all to be found on this one site, as well as the natural beauty of the landscape and, a hard up-hill 2km hike away, the magnificent Crusader Nimrod Fortress.

    Quite an incredible place. (And if you go in winter, you may see it all under snow!)

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    Banias (North)

    by leffe3 Updated Aug 6, 2012

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    Ruins of 3rd Century BC temple to Pan.

    The main temple backed on to an enormous cave in the cliff-face. To the side, a host of smaller buildings (now all ruins) and carved lintels into the cliff-face. Columns, capitals etc litter the site.

    The site is also the spring of the Banias river - immediately below the ruins are ancient dams, creating a whole series of pools, fed by ice-cold (even in the height of summer) waters. The dams and waters pass the foundations of 6th century Byzantine Church and a 19th century Ottoman Mosque before leading off to the waterfalls and Banias Falls (1 hour hike).

    The hike is sun-dappled along the banks of the gurgling Banias and Gov HaZor streams, - glimpse the peaks of the Dov and Hermon mountain range (and therefore see across to Lebanon) through the breaks in the willows and fig trees. A 15 minute walk will bring you the Roman bridge, where the the two streams actually meet (and later go on to join the River Jordan), 5 minutes beyond that and you come to the Ottoman flour mill, only opened to the public in 2002. Keep walking!

    Another 5 minutes and you are at fork in path - decide whether to go on to Banias Falls 30 minutes away or back towards the car-park. If you chose the second option (and you will have to return this way anyway unless you have travelled with 2 cars and left the 2nd at the entrance to the Falls), the extraordinary ruins of the Palace of Agrippa await you. (see next recommendation).

    Opening times: April-September: 8am-5pm
    October - March: 8am - 4pm

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    Kayaking on the River Jordan (North)

    by leffe3 Updated Aug 6, 2012

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    Known as Kayaking, but in reality inflatable dinghies for 2 or 4 people.

    Take a short (1 hour) or long (between 2-3 hours dependent how often you want to stop and how good you are at controlling the boat!) trip.

    Fantastic experience - the longer trips start high above the source of the Jordan on the Dan or Banias rivers. Dependent on the season, the degree of difficult varies accroding to the water level. Whilst hardly white water rafting, it is nevertheless a thrilling experience careering along the wild waters and through the eddies and small waterfalls.

    Tree-lined virtually all the way, the journey slows down to a more sedate and calmer pace as it reaches the slightly wider River Jordan. You will get very wet but hey, its the waters of the River Jordan.....

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    Caesarea

    by leffe3 Updated Aug 6, 2012

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    Roman city (hence caesar) on the coast that has a long, chequered history (hence the reason why there is a Bosnian mosque from the 19th century). (You can ignore the modern 'town' as it is nothing more than a des'res place for seriously wealthy people to build modern villas with pools etc..)

    Restored amphitheatre (used for major concerts,opera, dance) but which still has an atmosphere of days gone by, the grounds littered with artefacts). This is at the southern end of the old city.

    Major digs continue to expose the old city between the amphitheatre and the port - mosaics, steam baths, buildings etc - about 1 km to the north and running along the coast (constantly changing, finding more and more interesting things to see).

    Shallow beach which can be pleasant to break the explorations - can find small pieces of coloured sea-worn glass (some of it ancient, some if likely to be nothing more than weathered Heineken bottles, but in small pieces and large numbers and look rather lovely).

    The port is the most rennovated part of the site (a little too much for my personal liking as it includes 2 or 3 restaurants, a couple of shops) but there is still enough to see without the over-development spoil the exploration. Completely natural (albeit small) harbour, with much now under the sea (earthquakes etc resulting in the city literally 'sliding below the surface). Walled moated city, with parts of the moats, the original walls and the gatetowers can be explored. To the north of the port is the remains of an aquaduct (for real ruins afficiandos).

    Caesarea is one of the highlights of Israel's ruins and you can easily spend a few hours here, combining it with a lazy time on the beach. Avoid Saturdays as is very busy (also popular for the setting for wedding photos). Try and combine with a performance in the amphitheatre.

    It is a little awkward to get to if you are relying on public transport - closest train stations are Pardes Hanna and Binyamina (a taxi or bus is then required).

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    Akko (North)

    by leffe3 Written Aug 5, 2012

    Delightful small, essentially Arab, town on the north Mediterranean coast. The Old City is a wealth of alleys, semi-derelict buildings, Crusader subterranean vaults and cisterns all built round a charming port, one of the oldest in the world.

    There's lots to do in Akko - the Citadel, the port itself, take a cruise along the coastline, the Mosque and just wandering through the old city, the market, the old walls and more.

    The newer part of Akko is of less interest to the casual visitor - residential with little history.

    Akko is easily reached as it is on the train line and is some 90 minutes from Tel Aviv, 20-30 minutes from Haifa.

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    Dead Sea Surrounds

    by leffe3 Updated Aug 4, 2012

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    The road that circumvents the Dead Sea cuts along the shoreline. As the waters sadly retreat due to lack of fresh water and over-extraction of the minerals, so the landscape proves to be wholly inhospitable and almost barren - the only exception being the occasional natural spring running down the slopes from the Jerusalem Hills.

    There are pathways that head inland, normally following dry creek beds.

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    • National/State Park

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    Nazareth

    by leffe3 Updated Aug 4, 2012

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    Capital of the northern Israeli Arab population and a modern, bustling city, Nazareth is not quite what tourists and Christian pilgrims expect. And, considering it is one of the most important Christian sites, there are actually more mosques than churches.

    More or less 100% Israeli-Arab (a neighbourhood on top of the hill - Nazaret Illit - being exclusively Jewish), it has a very different feel to many larger Israeli towns and, built on the slopes of many hills, is very steep - not always that easy to move around.

    Reportedly the home of Mary and Joseph, the 'son of God's' parents, it is in Nazareth Gabriel informed them of their forthcoming child and where he lived until early adulthood. As a result, the Church of Annunciation (a modern, ugly building built on the site of 5 previous churches) is to be found in the middle of the town along with many other monasteries and churches, including St Gabriel, the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, an alternative spot to the Gabriel visitation a few hundred metres from the other Church of Annunciation.

    Mosques are mainly found in the old quarter of town around the market. Less in the public eye are the interiors of many (now) private homes and their stunning, ornate murals and friezes from the early and mid-19th century.

    Nazareth Village is a recreation of Biblical times with actors playing roles of everyday people.

    See separate Nazareth page

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    • Religious Travel

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