From the moment I stepped off the plane in Tel Aviv, I was greeted with “Welcome to Israel!” On the plane from London to Tel Aviv, I sat next to a young Israeli man, whom was returning home after living abroad for five years. He was excited to be going home, but even more excited that I was visiting Israel. Excitement was the tone set by every Israeli that I spoke with, and most were surprised that I was visiting as a tourist and not for business. With the recent increase in violence, the number of American tourists have declined, making the Israeli citizens pleasantly surprised and enthusiastic about showing tourists their magnificent country. Keep reading for my top 7 reasons to visit Israel now!
While I can’t deny the news-making headlines about the violence in Israel, I can write about my personal experiences while I was visiting Israel. What tourists need to understand is that the violence we see in the news is in a concentrated area, not the entire country. Truly, I never felt unsafe during my visit. Half of my visit I was alone, and never once felt insecure about being alone in Israel. While I am fortunate to have visited Israel, I am a bit disappointed that the violence prevented me from visiting certain tourist sites that I have dreamed of visiting. But I understand why my tour guide wouldn’t take me to those areas, for my safety. That I am aware of, no tourists have ever been sought after during any violence in Israel. Most tour guides, hotel staff, taxi drivers, etc. will provide you with the best areas to travel or express concern if security is heightened in certain areas. But with that being said, once again the violence is very concentrated, so please don’t be discouraged by the news headlines. I encourage you to visit Israel, there is so much to experience in this wonderful country! From modern, vibrant cities to traditional, ancient cities, holy religious sites, differing landscapes from mountains to deserts, several bodies of water (Mediterranean Sea, Dead Sea, Red Sea, Sea of Galilee), the delicious food and wine, and of course the hospitable Israelis, Israel is a welcoming Middle Eastern oasis!
Israel is said to be the land of creation. Thus, thousands of years of history can be found in Israel. In fact, the oldest human remains (outside of Africa) were found in northern Israel. Although Israel may be small in size, the historical aspects are outstanding, it can be hard to comprehend how much historical significance is packed into such a small country. From ancient cities, biblical history, open markets that have been there for hundreds of years, terrain that has seen the rise and fall of many civilizations, and historical museums which feature Israel’s rich history, one could spend weeks visiting Israel and not see all the historical antiquities.
With its compact size, visitors can see most tourist attractions, countryside, and experience the real Israel in a small amount of time. Israel is slightly smaller than the state of New Jersey, making for shorten driving distances (you can reach the southern area of Israel from the north in approximately 6-7 hours). The highway infrastructure is updated with signs in Hebrew and English and there are plenty of rest areas for drivers located off the highway. Despite Israel’s small size, there are so many things to do, to see, and to experience! During my trip, I was able to visit the Golan Heights (northern Israel), Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea and Masada, and Eilat!
3. Beautiful Landscapes:
Israel boasts many varying landscapes. From lush green mountains, desert plains, rocky desert mountains, several differing bodies of water (Mediterranean Sea, Sea of Galilee, Dead Sea, and Red Sea), and natural waterfalls and hot springs visitors will be surprised at the varied sceneries that encompass Israel. With diverse natural landscapes throughout Israel, these ecosystems are home to numerous plant and animal species. I would love to visit Israel again just to view the thriving wildlife!
Israel’s location along the Mediterranean Sea makes for the ideal year-round climate. Although the summer can be hot (90°F+ or 30°C+), especially in the desert, winter boasts mild temperatures (70°F or 20°C). Israel is mostly a dry country, with little rainfall per year. While the small amount of precipitation can cause challenges for water conservation, visitors will be delighted with mostly sunny skies. With hundreds of miles of Mediterranean coastline and year-round warm temperatures, a visit to Israel is perfect anytime of the year.
5. Religious Sites:
The history of three major religions originate in Israel. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism’s most holy of sites are found within the walls of the iconic Old City of Jerusalem. Thus, Israel welcomes hundreds, if not thousands, of people on a religious pilgrimage. Although the most noted religious sites (Western Wall, Temple Mount, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, Dome of the Rock, and al-Aqsa Mosque) are in Jerusalem, religious artifacts and places to worship can be found throughout Israel. Regardless of one’s religious views, every visitor can connect to the sense of spirituality that is present in Israel!
6. Food and Wine:
Israel is a melting pot of cultures and religions (like the United States), making Israeli cuisine diverse and delicious. Fresh seafood, olive oil from Israeli olive trees, fresh fruits and vegetables, organically grown meats and produce, fresh cheese and yogurt, hand-made breads, spices and flavoring all combine to entice your palate. Whether eating in a restaurant, café, or a quick bite of street food, Israel’s food scene won’t disappoint the foodie in you! My personal favorites are falafel, shawarma, tahini, hummus, fresh-squeezed fruit juices, and the Israeli salad (my mouth is watering!). With fresh ingredients and varied cuisines, a meal or quick snack in Israel will delight and satisfy your palate!
Wine has been produced and enjoyed for over 3,000 years in Israel. With more than 200 wineries, which produce red, white, and sparkling varieties of wine, every wine lover will find the perfect Israeli wine! Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to tour Israel’s wine country (heartbreaking for this wine lover!), but I sampled Israeli wine every night at dinner, and both of my hotels had a wonderful selection of Israeli wines. When you drink an Israeli wine, I feel that you are drinking history. Where else in the world can you drink wine from a land that has a history of winemaking dating back to biblical times?!
Israelis are often referred to as having a sabra personality. Sabra is a cactus fruit which is prickly on the outside but sweet on the inside. With a straight forward and opinionated demeanor, Israelis are quick to welcome you to their country. With admiration for their direct manner, I as well, prefer to give my honest opinion, and those who know me, will tell you I can be a bit feisty, just like the Israelis. Although Israelis may be abrupt and to the point, they are extremely hospitable. From tour guides, hotel staff, taxi drivers, and even those I passed on the streets were courteous and went above and beyond to help me. I find the Israeli’s attitude refreshing and warm, just like their Mediterranean climate!
These are just a few of the many reasons why you should visit Israel. If you have been dreaming of a trip to Israel, there is no better time than the present! Don’t be afraid of the news headlines, so much of Israel is waiting for you! I felt welcomed, safe, and fortunate to have experienced so much in this magnificent country! Where else in the world can you experience the vibrancy of a modern city like Tel Aviv while overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, see the land where creation began, visit the holiest of sites for three of the world’s biggest religions, climb mountains and explore deserts in the same day, float in the Dead Sea (lowest point on Earth), drink wine from the fertile grounds of the land where wine originated thousands of years ago, and bask in the warm climate year-round than in Israel. Israel is captivating, magnificent, and welcoming!
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