In a way, Israel is a traveler’s dream. The land itself shocks with its diversity and beauty–there are deserts and lakes and mountains and the sea–the cities are engaging and easy to reach–Israel is an unexpectedly tiny country–and the infrastructure works as well as it does in any European nation. Israel is multi-ethnic, English-speaking but simultaneously multilingual (more about Israel’s languages below) and multifarious. Sure, you may get unlucky–very, very, very unlucky–and end up in an unexpected and unwelcome middle of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, but there are so many travelers of all religions, all ages, from all points of the world, each of whom has taken that chance, you may decide to boldly try, then hope.
(Too worried about geopolitical uncertainties to go to Israel yourself? Send your kids!) So many places to go! We may as well start our Holy Land journey in the center of Israel where we’ll find the holiest city of all–Jerusalem. Here the gem for tourists is obviously the Old City, with its many religious sites, its labyrinthine marketplace, its omnipresent, shimmering white stone. (Take a walking tour of the Old City with our friend Zahi Shaked, “Licensed Tour Guide.”) After a long day of history and religion, take an early evening jaunt to Tel Aviv where you can have a high-class meal and stay up all night dancing at a high-energy nightclub. (Though in Tel Aviv not all raves are raucous.) After that, let’s go south, where we can take a camel trek through the Negev desert (there are also camel-free things you can do in the Negev), then continue even further south to the soothing seaside city of Eilat. (These folks visited Eilat and sure had fun.) Or, we could go north, where we could visit the lovely sea of Galilee where we can hike “the Jesus trail,” or go a bit further northeast–almost to Syria, but not quite–to roll with the rolling hills of the Golan Heights. (If you’re Druze living in the Golan Heights you may feel you’re rolling quite a bit yourself.) Or, why not bag the north/south and go east, toward Jordan, to the
lowest point on earth–1,388 feet below sea level–where you can float all day on the salt-filled Dead Sea. Oh, so much to see in Israel…so much to see!
(And what trip to Israel would be complete without a journey across the border into neighboring Akhzivland?)
As one would imagine, traveling in the Palestinian Territories is not always idyllic. The land is even more compact than that of Israel, the military checkpoints are many, and there is enough possibility of something unexpected happening…something really unexpected, and really bad…that most international tour groups are wary. Then again, traveling in Palestine is most often safe and comfortable, and, if you visit website of Travel Palestine, “Palestine’s Official Tourism Website,” which it enthusiastically describes the Palestinian Territories as “the cradle of civilization, where West meets East, North meets South, and where Judaism, Christianity, and Islam took form,” amazing. It its Palestine Top 10 for First-Timers, Travel Palestine suggests
you visit Palestine’s many interesting artistic, historic and religious centers, such as Ramallah, which will convince you “that Palestine is a country of contrasts’ (get a street’s eye view of Ramallah here), Bethlehem, “a life changing experience!” (let Travel Palestine introduce you to Bethlehem), Hebron, “a city famed for its pottery and handwork” (watch a Hebron video from Travel Palestine) and Nablus, where “you will be captivated by the beautiful scenery of
hills dotted with olive trees, dipping in and out of its lush valleys” (take an “alternative tour” of Nablus with Green Olive Tours). Travel Palestine also insists you experience Palestine’s culinary creations, such as its felafel (a deep fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas and/or fava beans), shwarma (a fast-food staple Arab sandwich-like wrap of shaved lamb, goat, chicken, turkey, beef, or a mixture thereof) and musakhan (Taboon bread topped with pieces of cooked sweet onions, sumac, saffron and allspice, topped by one or two roasted chickens). International celebrity chef Bobby Chinn agrees.