I recently returned from a life changing trip to Israel. I had never been to the Middle East before, and it moved me in so many ways. As an American, my sense of culture and place isn’t very deep rooted by comparison. My country is young compared to a place like Israel where traditions run deep. There were so many moments that ignited my senses and my soul and so I wanted to share an itinerary here with you to consider should you find yourself on a trip to Israel or contemplating it. Israel and the area surrounding it, is the story of us, and to go there and walk the paths of our history is to get to know yourself better and enrich your life in more ways than you can imagine. You will do it in sights, and sounds, and cuisine. In prayer, in hikes, and in intellectual discussions. Below is my Israel journey, I hope you will share your tips with us in the comments if you’ve been there.
|My Israel Travel Itinerary|
Best time of Year
Fall and Spring have the ideal temperatures.
Recommended Number of Days
10 days is necessary to dig in to the place. It also is justified since it takes about 24 hours to get there and back and the jet lag is tough.
Recommended Number of People
I went with a group of 10 friends which worked well as it allowed us to peel off when we wanted to, but come back together for festivities and dinners as well. I think you could do it in lesser numbers as well and be equally inspired. I highly recommend a tour guide named Moki, at Moki Tours, he will make your experience much more memorable and his knowledge is unparalleled.
Apps to Download
Gett, is their version of Uber and allows you to get around without having to haggle about price or worry about having enough cash.
What’s App, to facilitate group conversation instead of texting. It is part of the Israeli experience, many people use it.
Arriving to the Airport
Be prepared to tell the customs officials why you are visiting and where you are staying in Israel. They may grill you because security is tight, so don’t freak it, it’s typical. Once you get through that, you’ll need some cash when you arrive to the airport. As you exit customs, there are two ATMs on the opposite (front) wall and to the left. One shekel is approximately 28 U.S. cents. Please note that if you are arriving during Shabbat (the Sabbath) there will be no bus service. Your best option is to take a taxi (approximately 315 shekels total for two people/$88; time: 50 minutes).
(a) From the ATMs, walk to the left following the sign that says Train/Taxis. Just before the the exit doors, there is a yellow machine. Enter Jerusalem as your destination and take the receipt. This is a taxi fare estimator. The price normally would be about 263 shekels, but if it is Shabbat, cabbies are entitled to charge more. If you do not receive a receipt, simply write down 315 ILS. This is only a general estimate; paying a bit more is not unreasonable.
(b) Walk outside and turn left following the signs for the taxi rank. A clerk will you give a receipt to keep in case you leave something behind in the cab.
(c) You can request the meter or establish an agreed-upon fee, hovering around 315 shekels. FYI, most drivers speak English and are a good source of local information.
You want to avoid clothes with words that might offend or garner unnecessary attention. Women should always carry a scarf to have on hand for modesty requirements. It is also a good idea to tour around with dresses or pants that cover the knees and shoulders so you aren’t stuck wanting to visit a site and not allowed in.
A Note for Your Carry-On
On departure from Israel, airport security will go through every item in your carry-on, so try to reduce clutter and opt to check as much as you can rather than carry it on.
Eat, Drink, Stay, See, Acquire
Day 1 – JERUSALEM
Check-in: Bezalel Hotel (every morning they have an amazing complimentary breakfast from 7am – 10am)
Visit the Israel Museum and recover from jet lag
19:00 Dinner at Satya (perhaps the best meal you’ll have all trip)
Day 2 – JERUSALEM & WEST BANK/BETHLEHEM
9:30: Visit to École Biblique/Dominican Priory/Garden Tomb
12:30 Take a taxi to Bethlehem border and have lunch at The Walled Off Hotel (Banksy’s Hotel) in Bethlehem (must have U.S. passport to enter; may not have Israeli passport on hand)
13:30 Tour of Bethlehem (find a local guide by asking The Walled Off Hotel in advance)
19:00 Dinner at Menza (across from hotel)
Day 3 – JERUSALEM
09:00 Walking Tour with mokitours.com – lunch and breaks along the way, starting at Mount of Olives, Gethsemane, Via Dolorosa, Western Wall
19:00 Dinner at Yudale near the Market (Machne Yehuda)
22:00 Late Night Machne Yehuda (Market) Street Art Tour
Day 4 – JERUSALEM
09:00 Walking Tour with mokitours.com – lunch and breaks along the way, City of David special tour, Ecco Homo, St. Anne’s, the Cardo, tunnels, the Temple Institute, etc.
16:00 Vespers Procession at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, visit the site of the crucifixion within the church
19:00 Dinner Mamilla Hotel Rooftop Restaurant
Day 5 – JERUSALEM / DEAD SEA / TEL AVIV
09:00: Leave for Holocaust Museum and Mount Herzl and tour with Moki Tours
14:00 Dead Sea boat excursion with the Dead Sea Revival Project
17:00 Travel to Tel Aviv
Check-in: 65 Rothschild Hotel (every morning they have an amazing complimentary breakfast)
20:30 Dinner in Jaffa at Old Man and the Sea
Optional Nightcap – Imperial Cocktail Bar
Day 6 – TEL AVIV
10:00 Walk the food market stalls and taste the delights, buy spices and teas
12:30 Lunch at M25 in Camel Market
14:00 Visit to Jaffa Old City (galleries, churches, ancient buildings, coastal fortifications)
16:00 Relax on the beach
19:00 Wine at Giaconda Wine Library
20:30 Dinner at Blue Sky overlooking skyline and sea
Day 7 – GAZA STRIP / SDEROT / NEGEV / TEL AVIV
9:00 With Moki Tours as your guide, leave for Gaza Strip, Sderot and Sde Boker, all day in the Negev Desert (and oases): includes hiking.
17:00 Return to Tel Aviv
20:00 Dinner in Tel Aviv (see restaurant list)
Day 8 – NAZARETH / SEA OF GALILEE / MOUNT BENTAL
08:00 Depart with Moki Tours
10:00 Nazareth / Basilica of the Annunciation, pick up to-go lunch
12:00 Capernaum; stroll Galilee archaeological site; picnic lunch by the Sea of Galilee
13:30 Visit Church of the Beatitudes
15:30 Mount Bental / View of Syria
19:00 Dinner in Tel Aviv (see restaurant list)
Day 9 – ACRE / CAESAREA
9:30 Leave for Acre with Moki Tours
12:00 Lunch at Uri Buri
14:00 Visit Caesarea and tour
16:00 Visit ZeeviK Gottlieb Blacksmith (contact in advance)
18:00 Return to 65 Rothschild Hotel
19:30 Farewell Dinner at Taizu
Day 10 – TEL AVIV / BEN-GURION AIRPORT (TLV)
Additional Suggestions for Tel Aviv
- The Old Man and the Sea
- Port Said
- Manta Ray
- Calypso Beach Club
- Shuk HaCarmel
- Yom Tov Cafe
- Saluf and Sons
- Cafe Levinsky
- Kuli Alma
- Jimmy Who
- Yudale Bar
- Shuk HaCarmel
- Shuk HaPishpeshim (Jaffa Market)
- Neve Tsedek