Written by karly07 on 15 Oct, 2009
If you want to cross into Jordan from Israel, and visit the sites of Petra or Wadi Rum, then you will have to go through a border crossing. The most popular crossing for tourists is the one at Eilat, which is supposed to be…Read More
If you want to cross into Jordan from Israel, and visit the sites of Petra or Wadi Rum, then you will have to go through a border crossing. The most popular crossing for tourists is the one at Eilat, which is supposed to be fairly relaxed without too many security hassles. This story refers to another crossing that some also use - the King Hussein border crossing, near Jericho in the West Bank. we opted for this border crossing simply because it was closer to where we were based at in Israel. Driving down to Eilat would have meant a littel detour into Jordan, would have been a rather long detour. Crossing at the King Hussein border, also known as the Allenby Bridge crossing comes with its fair share of problems in terms of security and total lack of apparent common sense. It is also an expensive border crossing as both the Israelis and the Jordanians enjoy charging visitors for every service imaginable. If you decide to go to Jordan via this crossing, do check out the opening hours of the crossing as these are reduced at weekends. Below I have outlined some of the instances in which you can expect to be charged for things, and some of the chaos and confusion that looms at this crossing. 1. To cross at this border, you need to have got your visa in advance. This requires a trip to the Jordanian Embassy in Tel Aviv. There you will fill out a visa application, and probably be cross questioned about your reasons for the visit to Jordan. Do come prepared with details of your accommodation in Israel as well as passport sized photographs as the Jordanian Embassy will keep these alongside your visa application. You must also be prepared to wait as the embassy will not have this ready immediately and you will have to leave your passport with them. When you return to collect this, you will then have to pay for this privilege. 2. When you arrive at the Israeli border station at the King Hussein crossing, you will have to pay an exit fee. We had no prior knowledge of this, and were only told, when a kind lady behind us in the security queue, informed us that we needed to pay an exit fee and get a slip to say we had. We were beginning to think this was a very expensive detour. 3. Do not be alarmed when you arrive at the Israel side of the crossing, and then take your luggage off you. We were quite alarmed at this, especially since it was literally dumped with a pile of other cases outside the station. Your luggage will however be returned to you once you are able to get on the bus to cross the bridge. There are 2 buses - one of the palestinians (a popular one as this is the only crossing that the Palestinians can use) and one for the tourists. 4. After a lengthy wait on the bus at the Israeli side, as the bus drivers attempt to fill every single space on the bus before departing, you eventually cross the Allenby bridge - which itself is very short. It is the bureaucracy at each end that delays trips. There is a security hut as you then enter the Jordanian side of the bridge. At this point, a Jordanian security guard came on the bus and took all our passports off us. Again we were rather alarmed, and concerned as to how he was going to return each passport to its owner. This was one of many bizarre security routines. 5. When you arrive at the Jordanian station, another man enters the bus charging you a bus fair, albeit not much, but a little daft, since the crossing itself is extremely short, and the bus is full to the brim - a good money making plan on the Jordanians part. You will also be charged if you have any luggage. 6. The chaos however really does begin however when you get to the Jordanian station. Bags are put through security again before you get them, and then security officers slowly go through all of the passports, and call out the name of the owner, who then has to battle through the crowd to retrieve his or her passport. In our eyes, this was sheer madness and not something we had ever encountered before. Many of those who travelled on the bus with us, where angry and confused, with much complaining down in their own tongue. Once you get through that you will then be free to leave and explore Jordan. 7. A similar situation is then repeated on the way back. The Jordanians make you pay an exit fee, which increased for 5JD to 20 JD over the summer months - quite a jump! Unfortunately whne we arrived at the jordanian crossing, we were the only people there. The security were aggressive and rude. At one point one of the security officers told us gruffly to 'sit down' and pointed at a chair. If you had been a female traveller on your own, the situation could have been extremely intimidating, and we felt the guard played on the fact, that we looked like westerners, and weren't familiar with how things work. The security will also keep you passport, and when we asked for ours back, we were told that it goes to the bus driver, who then presents it to the security at the bridge. The bus driver then had to go up and down the bus giving out passports. 8. Arriving back in Israel, we were greeted with more confusion and chaos. Our luggage was again taken off us and left in a pile outside the station. Our passports were taken off us too and put with our luggage. Inside we were then given our passports back, but along the way, we heard several english speaking visitors say that their passport had been lost in the midst of the chaos. You are then required to join another queue for security to allow you back into the country. There are two queues - a Palestinian queue and an Israeli/tourist queue. Our queue was very small, so we were hopeful that we would get through quickly. The Palestinian queue stretched the length of the hall. It was this queue that moved the quickest. We stood in the queue for at least 45 minutes, as a very young security officer asked every question imaginable to those trying to get through. Most of the people in our queue were english speaking tourists. We too were asked bombarded with questions some about family history, which were of little relevance in our eyes, but 3/4 an hour later we were at least able to get back into Israel. I have crossed at other borders before, some of which have been intense security, however we felt it was the sheer lack of information and lack of common sense in dealing with things that made this the worst border crossing we had ever been across. We loved Jordan, especially Petra, and are extremely glad that we made the detour to visit it, however, I would highly recommend that unless you are prepared to spend a couple of hours of your trip trying to get across a very short border crossing, you would be better travelling to Eilat and using the more relaxed tourist crossing there. If like us, the King Hussein crossing is handier and closer, do take not of the processes listed above that you will not doubt encounter a long the way. We were not prepared for the chaos, but if you are, you will probably not find it as bad as we did! Close
Written by karly07 on 24 Sep, 2009
Israel is like nowhere I have ever travelled before. It is a vast mix of religions, traditions and customs, and therefore hardly suprising that the tensions in parts of the country are so prominent. Three of the world's major religions all come…Read More
Israel is like nowhere I have ever travelled before. It is a vast mix of religions, traditions and customs, and therefore hardly suprising that the tensions in parts of the country are so prominent. Three of the world's major religions all come back to this Holy Land, and they still all strive today to claim their own part and history within it. Having visited Israel during this summer, I want to share 8 essential things to do or see in Israel. 1. Buy a falafel. These are available everywhere as they are one of Israel's staple foods. A falafel consists of deep fried balls of chickpeas along with israeli salads, sauces etc. and pushed into a pitta. Be warned however, these are hugely filling, so do NOT purchase one if you are not hungry, as you will not even get a quarter of the way through it. A falafel is a meal in itself, so you'd be wise not to buy any side order with this, and you are probably wasting your money. The other great things about falafels is that they are quite cheap - the equivalent almost of getting fish and chips/ a burger etc. So these are a really filling low cost meal that will keep you going for most of the day. 2. Visit the Nahalat Binyamin Arts and Crafts market. Every Tuesday and Friday, and absolutely wonderful craft market comes to Tel Aviv, in the streets of Nahalat Binyamin Pedestrian Mall. Even if you are not interested in arts and crafts, there is somethign for everyone - with street performers, and freshly baked bread. You couuld also relax on one of the side street cafe's and watch the huge crowds of people swarm through the market. This is the place to get all your souvenirs, and avoid all those tacky gift shops. Some of the handcrafted pottery it simply to die for, and we spent a small fortune at this market. Even better, you could do your entire Christmas shopping at this market, and you would be sure, that nobody already has it!3. Visit the beach at Tel Aviv, and observe the separate bathing days for Jewish men and women. Depending on the day you go, you may witness droves of Jewish men and their sons, getting off buses and heading for the beach - inflatable rubber rings in hands whilst covered up in their white shirts, buttoned to the neck and long black trousers. On others you may witness the women's turn, as they take themselves to the beach with their daughters. The Jewish beach is also separate from the rest of the Tel Aviv bathers, even though they lie almost side by side in the mediterranean waters as they take a float. Very interesting to witness, as it is something that is so alien to westerners. 4. Hire a car and travel up the Golan Heights. You will need a good engine in the car to scale the roads to get to the Golan Heights, but you will be rewarded with lush green fields - tractors and agriculture aplenty. Stop off at some of the beautiful viewpoints - such as the Shalom Peace view, which overlooks the Sea of Galillee, and gives you a first hand look at why the israeli's do not want to give the Golan Heights back to Syria. 5. Drive into the Negev Desert to see what the wilderness is like. Sit out when it gets dark and watch for shooting stars in the clear skies, free from the pollution of the cities. I have hardly ever been able to see so many of the constellations so clearly, as when I was in the Negev, and if you sit long enough you are very likely to see a shooting star. We did, and it was worth sitting out for. 6. Stay with the bedouin people in one of their open campsites in the Negev. The bedouin people are arabs that move around a lot with their animals and put up encampments, however some are now making their living for tourism, and have set up special campsites for tourists, some offering communal tents, some offering private tents. A world away from some of the plush hotels that Israel offers. 7. Take a mud bath in the Dead Sea. Everyone is familiar with floating in the Dead Sea, but you can also relax by covering yourself with the mud that lies underneath the shore line in places. Apart from cooling you down and relaxing you, it is also great for your skin, leaving it really soft and smooth. 8. Visit the suqs/souks in the arab/muslim quarter of Jerusalem in the Old City. This was our first experience of walking amongst these suqs, and it really is unique. Market holders try to call out and bargain with you, flattering you endlessly in attempts to sell you something. The streets and narrow and full of hustle and bustle, and if you are prepared to bargain, you could pick up some great items. Neither my husband or me are good at bartering so we didn't attempt to buy anything along the suqs, but it really is a fascinating place to visit. All these places and things to do all added to making our trip to Israel really really special, and memorable. Close
Written by MALUSE on 01 Sep, 2009
We set out in the afternoon to get a first glimpse of the Old City, the historical and religious heart of Jerusalem. We entered through the Damascus Gate, one of the eight gates (of which seven are still in use) of the old city wall…Read More
We set out in the afternoon to get a first glimpse of the Old City, the historical and religious heart of Jerusalem. We entered through the Damascus Gate, one of the eight gates (of which seven are still in use) of the old city wall built in the first half of the 16th century under the Ottoman Suleyman the Magnificent, it’s 12 m high and 4 km long (one can walk on top of it) encircling the Old City which we found surprisingly tiny, only 1 km across from side to side (about 30 000 people live there!) The Damascus Gate is the most impressive of all the gates, it leads into the Muslim Quarter, one of the four quarters the Old City is divided into, the others are the Christian, the Jewish and the Armenian ones.It was stifling hot and suffocating in the narrow alleyways which were an oriental bazaar, we had hardly stepped in when we felt we had to get out as quickly as possible. I heard a muezzin and suggested we go into the mosque to be able to breathe freely again for a while, what happened, though, was that we suddenly found ourselves in front of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre built over the spot where Jesus Christ is said to have been crucified and buried.We stepped in and found ourselves in an unbearable sauna, this was not a place to get some breath! But not only because of the heat, this is the most puzzling church I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen many in my life as a traveller! Following his conversion to Christianity, the Roman Emperor Constantine ordered in about 325/326 that the site of the crucifixion and the burial place be uncovered and a church be built there (his mother Helena is credited with the rediscovery of the Cross), the church was destroyed and rebuilt several times through the millenia, it got several annexes and has now a structure difficult to understand and explore for the unguided visitor.Today the primary custodians are the Greek Orthodox, the Armenian Apostolic and Roman Catholic churches. In the 19th century, the Coptic Orthodox, the Ethiopian Orthodox and the Syrian Orthodox acquired lesser responsibilities, which include shrines and other structures within and around the building. Times and places of worship for each community are strictly regulated in common areas. But alas, although they’re all Christians serving the Lord who preached love and peace they’ve repeatedly got into fights (the last fist-fight occurred in 2004), since 1192 a Muslim family has the guardianship and the key to the church, a wise decision!One has to climb up some steep stairs to get to the part where the cross is said to have stood, it’s a Greek Orthodox chapel now, the most lavishly decorated part of the whole church, gold and silver everywhere. We are not pious but we were shocked nevertheless by what we found, all the different Christian creeds claiming to be the right ones, fighting over trivialities, outdoing each other with luxurious ornaments, shame on them all! What would Jesus think about this place? We moved on or rather drifted through the maze of twisty alleyways, there are no visible boundaries between the four quarters, until we came to an airport-like checkpoint, we had reached the entrance to the Western Wall, aka Wailing Wall. What we see nowadays is the section of the Western supporting wall of the Temple Mount which has remained intact since the destruction of the Second Jerusalem Temple by the Romans (70 BC). The place in front of the wall serves as a synagogue, it has been accessible for Jews only after Israel captured the Old City in 1967, at times tens of thousands of people gather there for prayer, men and women prey separately, a fence divides them.We sat there for a long time taking in the atmosphere, watching orthodox Jews with curls in long black robes and black hats rushing to and fro. They never seem to walk slowly and obviously love talking into their mobile phones. We were fascinated by men wearing hats the size of scooter wheels the ‘tyres‘ made of fox fur.Our first encounter with Jerusalem was an assault on the mind and the senses. Would it have been wiser to start at the Jaffa Gate with the Citadel Museum offering a well-made overview of the history of Jerusalem? We went there at the end of our stay when we had already seen and learnt a lot, the exhibition served as a kind of summary then. No, I think this unplanned plunge into the Old City was just the right thing to do because Jerusalem *is* an assault on the mind and the senses!Three religions living together, all eager to be as near as possible to their holy sites and unfortunately always ready to fight for them. Yerushalayim, as Jerusalem is called in Hebrew, means ‘place of peace’. If only! In the course of history it has endured thirty-six wars and has been destroyed more than a dozen times.For the Muslims the Dome of the Rock is the third holy site after Mecca and Medina, it’s situated above the Western Wall, the following day we got to it through another check-point. Passing the al-Aqsa Mosque we came to an elevated plateau with the wonderful Dome covered with coloured tiles and crowned by the golden dome. We read that when it still belonged to Jordan, King Hussein sold a palace to have the dome restored and covered with new gilded copper plates.I love Islamic art and looked forward to visiting the Dome of the Rock where Abraham was ready to sacrifice his son and from where Mohammed ascended to heaven on his horse according to the holy texts, alas, it was closed. My husband tried to bribe the guard but in vain, no entry for tourists.Two people told us later that they had been inside only some days before and advised us to go there in the morning, but we were there in the morning. Someone else explained that the Muslims were afraid of terrorist attacks by militant orthodox Jews and had closed the Dome for visitors, or rather had no regular visiting hours any more, now there are only irregular opening times to puzzle potential terrorists. It was obviously the period of days-out for school-children, we could see them every day, each group accompanied by a grown-up at the front and at the end carrying a rifle or a machine-gun. I thought they were the teachers and imagined myself walking with my pupils armed like this but a waitress told us that they were guards, everyone who had done military service could be such a guard. Military service is obligatory for young men, they have to serve for three years, it’s voluntary for young women, if they do it, it’s two years for them.Jerusalem is rather a safe city generally; Seattle, USA, has roughly the same number of inhabitants (~720 000) as Jerusalem but a murder rate seven times higher.Most attractions are concentrated in the Old City, but immediately outside rises a hill with the garden of Gethsemane where Jesus walked with his disciples, its western slope is covered by a large Jewish cemetery, orthodox Jews are convinced that the Messiah will come there when he comes and they’re willing to pay 30 000 $ and more for a tomb to be near him on the great day.Two excellent museums help to understand the history of Israel and the Jews, the wonderful Israel Museum with a superb archaeological wing and the Shrine of the Scrolls where the so-called Dead Sea Scrolls are exhibited, the oldest manuscripts of the Bible that have been found and Yad Vashem, the holocaust museum. I can’t imagine a better way of presenting what happened during the Third Reich, it’s spine-chilling, but the question that interested me most, the WHY?, why was it possible for a civilised people to fall into barbarianism remains unanswered here, too.So much heavy stuff, I yearned for a counterweight, where was modern Jerusalem, the centre where people meet and go shopping? We were sent to Ben Yehuda St which has been turned into a pedestrian precinct. I was underwhelmed, so much so that I went into a book shop and asked if that was indeed the main shopping centre of Jerusalem. It was. I felt as if I were in the centre of a European provincial town some decades ago.Jerusalem is not beautiful like Rome, has no famous monuments like Paris, isn’t trendy like London or cosy like Copenhagen, what it has to offer is palpable history and religion, if you have a feeling for this, you’ll find it one of the most fascinating destinations.Psalm 122,6: Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Close
Written by MALUSE on 31 Mar, 2009
My German country people are the world champions when it comes to travelling, Israel, however, is not one of their favoured destinations, so it was easy to organise the trip two years ago, we went to a travel agency, booked the flight and the hotels…Read More
My German country people are the world champions when it comes to travelling, Israel, however, is not one of their favoured destinations, so it was easy to organise the trip two years ago, we went to a travel agency, booked the flight and the hotels and four days later we were on the plane.We aren’t pious and didn’t intend to go on a pilgrimage and tick off all the holy sites Israel has to offer, we decided to stay in Tel Aviv (where the international airport is) for two days to shake off winterly Germany and then to go on to Jerusalem for six days. Tel Aviv gave us what we had been looking for and more than was necessary to make us happy: we arrived in the middle of a hot spell, when we landed at midnight it was 22° C, ten degrees more than at home at noon! Tel Aviv is the most modern metropolis of the whole Middle East with ~ 377 000 inhabitants in the city proper (greater Tel Aviv is the city with the largest Jewish population in the world), it’s the financial and cultural centre of Israel. During the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, for a period of eight months during the Arab blockade of Jerusalem, it also served as the temporary capital of Israel, later, when Jerusalem was proclaimed the capital, most embassies stayed in the Tel Aviv area. Tel Aviv is dubbed The Green City and indeed we saw many streets with a lane in the middle flanked by trees on either side with playgrounds for children and benches for the elderly in between. The Ben Gurion Boulevard took us past the Ben Gurion House in which the first Prime Minister of Israel lived together with his wife to the architecturally unimaginative city hall on the Yitzak-Rabin-Square named after the politician Rabin who was assassinated here in 1995, from there we headed to the Ditzengoff Square praised in all guidebooks for its lively atmosphere and its daily flea market. But there was nothing going on, the whole city was seemingly dead, with hardly any traffic, nearly all shops were closed, we didn’t understand it, Sabbath would only begin at 7 am. Later we learnt that it was a religious holiday, together with the following Sabbath the Israelis enjoyed two free days, good for them, boring for us tourists.Up to now we had seen streets and buildings comparable to the ones in Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, our point of reference when it comes to Mediterranean cities, not too elegant but not shabby, either, a rather well-kept provincial town. We headed back to the beach after asking directions in Russian (you should brush up your Russian before visiting Israel, it may come in handy what with the masses of immigrants from Russia!).The beach of Tel Aviv is 10 km long and covered with light, nearly powdery sand. Due to the long weekend it was packed full, never in my life have I been on such a full beach, I was surprised to discover that I didn’t become panicky but felt good there. The people behaved well, there were no radios, the noise level was bearable.The water is shallow up to the artificial stone barriers/wave breakers about 50 m away from the beach, the water was pee-warm as my grandmother would have said, with the many children it wasn’t only metaphorically so, I’m sure. Whatever, I enjoyed my first swim of the year.From the water I had a perfect view of the shore which reminded me a bit of Miami, there are about 15 high-rise hotels (up to 16 storeys) and many smaller ones, about 50 altogether as well as the Opera house, they’re all modern but each building is built in a different style and that doesn’t look good if you ask me. Not that I would prefer the same style for all buildings, but a master plan by one architect would certainly have improved the cityscape.Tel Aviv is a young city, not even 100 years old, it was started the 1880s as a substitute for the relatively expensive Arab neighbourhoods of Jaffa [a town in the south]. However, the city of Tel Aviv itself was established only in 1909. Owing to its proximity to the port of Jaffa (Yafo for the Israelis), and its status as the first Jewish community that immigrants saw when coming into the country, Tel Aviv quickly grew to become the centre of Israeli urban life, and it remains so to this day. The city was built into the empty dunes! I have the greatest problems imagining this, for me it’s one of the miracles of modern Israel.We experienced a disappointment, however, when we tried to find the area in which between the 1930 and the 1950s approximately 2500 structures in the Bauhaus or International Style were built, this ‘White City of Tel Aviv’ became a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2003. We left the promenade at the Opera House and turned into Allenby St., not 100m behind the row of five-star hotels I saw a hostel-like establishment with room rates per hour, the façades of the houses were dirty and decrepit. Suddenly I noticed a really nice house in a side street but when we went near we saw that it was a ruin with holes instead of windows, a poor sight. The houses we passed must have been beautiful when they were built, from the style I’d say that they belong to the first generation of houses in Tel Aviv, but obviously nothing has been done since then and the whole area is turning into a slum. A taxi-driver explained that there was no law in Israel that makes the owners of houses maintain their buildings. Pity!We didn’t find the Bauhaus buildings, never mind, we were depressed by what we had seen and decided to return to the promenade, but first it became worse as we suddenly found ourselves in the empty bazaar of a completely run-down area. Skinny cats were crossing the street looking at us with hungry eyes, oh dear. When I looked into the guidebook later to find out where we had gone wrong, I read that this area was especially picturesque. Picturesque, my back bottom!The promenade is nice and well-kept, surprisingly little entertainment was taking place on it (this may have had to do with the religious holidays), in two days we saw and heard only one juggler, one musician, two women selling knick-knack and a group of Hare Krishna disciples. What we did see in abundance, though, were dogs and pregnant women (not orthodox ones who’re known to have many children). Judging from the way the children in our hotel behaved – one night up to 11 pm a horde of toddlers was running through the lobby, rolling across the carpet, sliding down the ramp for wheel-chairs squealing like a litter of piglets and no adult interfering – we must assume that Israel is a paradise for children.Tourists who don’t eat in their hotels can find some eateries and bars on the promenade, there’s also a disco, the Dolphinarium, which was the site of a horrible terrorist attack in 2001, a young suicide bomber had mixed with the people waiting to enter, 21 people were killed, 120 wounded; a small memorial stands on the promenade. As the attack had taken place exactly five years ago, on June 1, it was decorated with flowers and handwritten posters. We can recommend the restaurant ‘London’ (!) below the Sheraton hotel, besides good food at reasonable prices (I tried and liked hitherto unknown Israeli specialities) it offers a live-show every night starting at 9 pm. We had read that "Haifa works, Jerusalem prays, Tel Aviv parties", from the little we’ve seen we can’t contradict this. One day when we came back to our hotel we heard loud music and saw about 40 people who obviously didn’t belong together dancing behind it in group formation and/or in changing pairs, what made the spectacle even more amazing was that it was 2 pm, about 30° C with 70% humidity!We thoroughly enjoyed our two days in Tel Aviv, the more so as we had the feeling of being the only foreign individual tourists in the whole city.--*LIVES (in case you’ve forgotten your French) Close
Written by dangaroo on 02 Mar, 2009
Admittedly I've not been to Upper Gallillee or Golan Heights but apart from that I journeyeed through the majority of Israel during my stay and my two favourite places would have to be Yodefat in Galillee and The Dead Sea. The two have very contrary…Read More
Admittedly I've not been to Upper Gallillee or Golan Heights but apart from that I journeyeed through the majority of Israel during my stay and my two favourite places would have to be Yodefat in Galillee and The Dead Sea. The two have very contrary landscapes with Galilee being very green. Yodefat may be tricky for some people to visit as it didn't look as though there was anywhere to stay there. I found a host there through Couchsurfing.com and hitchhiked my way there from the coast. There was a bus stop at the bottom of the road and although I have no idea as to its regularity - I imagine that buses between Karmiel and Nazareth certainly come fairly close. The easiest method of getting around here though is undoubtedly either driving your own car or hitchhiking which is fairly common. Yodefat consists of about 100 families, everyone knows everyone, there is a post office, a supermarket and a pub which is open on Thursdays - it has an almost campsite feel to its facilities. The houses are an intriguing mixture of well-built large houses and put together shacks, the locals adore making fires and have a real community atmosphere. Perched on a hill, there are great views of the coastline around Haifa and the valleys in between. Whilst the majority of the population is Jewish, there is also an intriguing mixture of bedouin arabs. The two populations get on with one another. Small paths meander through fruit tree filled gardens with hedges or trees often at the sides to create a sort of secret garden feel. There is also a shared garden between the residents of the village. Yodefat has a long history, there is remnants of ruins below the current town dating back to the 3rd, 2nd and 1st centuries BC but the town is thought to have been a fortress as far back as 732 BC when it was captured by Tiglath Pileser III. A large battle also took place in 67 AD when Yodefat became under attack by the Romans, excavations have led to the finding of various weapons used at the time as well as stones with death depicted on them. There are plenty of walking paths which are extremely pleasant to follow, during one of my walks with my host - we became encircled by wild boar, a large amount of them somewhere between 15 and 20, varying in sizes. I was told to remain still and did so, the funny looking critters just a couple of metres away from us, eyed us up one at a time before eventually shuffling clumsily away. There are a lot of wild boar in Israel because neither the Arabs or the Jews eat or hunt them.If you have the chance, I recommend visiting Yodefat- the locals are relaxed, the countryside is gorgeous and it's well placed for visiting the nearby area and certainly better looking than the ugly town of Nazareth. Close
Written by dangaroo on 25 Feb, 2009
Whilst Jaffa surpassed my expectations as a charming Israeli coastal town, Akko disappointed. Akko is located in the north west of Israel, relatively close to the Lebanese border. It's accessible by train from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and of course Haifa. Egged bus also ply several…Read More
Whilst Jaffa surpassed my expectations as a charming Israeli coastal town, Akko disappointed. Akko is located in the north west of Israel, relatively close to the Lebanese border. It's accessible by train from Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and of course Haifa. Egged bus also ply several routes, connecting the majority of large towns with Akko.I had stayed the night in a northern suburb of Haifa and under-estimated the distance between Haifa and Akko, I walked the whole lot - quite far on a hot morning!By the time, I got to Akko, I wanted to check out the coast. I had a feeling that I was missing something throughout my visit to the town as it didn't quite seem to match the descriptions that I had read about. Sure it was old looking, sure the town had a fortress right along the coast but I failed to find much in the way of bazaar's, restaurants or mosques and I even struggled to come across people. The streets were dead! Well, I had a nice walk around along the coast and watched the fishermen fishing out at sea on the rokcs, a scene which they say hasn't changed for 1000's of years, apart from that. On the other side of the road were a handful of restaurants but apart from that it mostly seemed a bit like a parking lot. I didn't see what the big deal was.A few days later, I let my curiosity get the better of me and decided to look at some sattelite maps of the area, I see where I went wrong - I basically missed a small but important section of Old Akko, the very centre of Old Akko supposedly with a special atmosphere, an array of good food and a selection of fine old buildings with a great history - it seems as though I will have to return to Akko - perhaps combining it with a visit to Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights. Close
Written by dangaroo on 02 Jan, 2009
For many visitors to Israel, Tel Aviv will be the first place they stop. Ben Gurion airport apart from being a place to be grilled by custom officers, is generally the gateway to Israel from Europe or other continents.I arrived from chilly Germany and Poland…Read More
For many visitors to Israel, Tel Aviv will be the first place they stop. Ben Gurion airport apart from being a place to be grilled by custom officers, is generally the gateway to Israel from Europe or other continents.I arrived from chilly Germany and Poland where it was just below freezing and was greeted with mid 20 temperatures. I'd been spending a bit too much time teaching English and writing reviews on dooyoo, meaning a distinct lack in exercise so I was looking forward to doing lots of walking. Having arrived just before dusk, I didn't get to see too much on the first evening - just the Dizengoff Centre (a large shopping centre), Dizengoff Square (once the pride of Tel Aviv but now slightly run down) and the immediate area.I had a shoarma some time in the evening, there were positives and negatives about this - the price at 25 shekels (4.50 GBP) was far from cheap, the size was rather small with the pita the size of a small cupped hand but the choice of ingredients was really substantial - a choice of chicken or beef meat, lots of different types of sauces, various salads, vegetables, pickles and hummus like substances. The taste was great. However, I was on a very tight budget and with beer ranging between 25 and 40 shekels (4.50 and 7.25) in a pub, pubbing it was out of my league! A beer in the shop was even quite pricey at around 8 shekels (1.50) - Gold Star is a decent sup and whilst Maccabee is drinkable, it's not particularly enjoyable.Tel Aviv is a rather relaxed coastal town which I would split into 3 parts, a business zone where the Stock Exchange is, a central area with a lot of restaurants and shops as well as lots of little leafy residential streets just off them and finally the sea front which trails from the old city of Yaffo, up past the soaring high-rise apartment blocks and hotels and finally onwards past the port.Tel Aviv is not particularly large, with a population of about 300,000 and most of the sights rather centrally - it's definitely walkable. If you should choose to take a bus, a ticket is 5.5 shekels for a single ride regardless of distance. Bus drivers are fairly grumpy and always in a hurry and buses are modern with over zealous air conditioning units.The city is incredibly modern, being just 90 years old (from 2009) - you can't expect to see many old buildings!Places to Visit:Neve Tsedek - an area set up by Jewish wanting a better life outside of the then overpopulated Yaffo set up this village in 1887, it's now an expensive part of Tel Aviv on the city limits with some very classy looking houses. A stroll around this area is relaxing and quiet.White City - Nearby is "The White City" an area of Tel Aviv which was built by Bauhaus students after the Bauhaus school was closed and the German Jewish students emigrated to what was then Palestine in the mid-30s during the uprise of the Nazis in Germany. The Bauhaus buildings are a bit neglected these days and many have actually been destroyed, I actually found the run down versions quite charming but some are nothing but ruins. One of the problems is that the Israeli law states that they must be built with exactly the same materials and using the same methods that were used then - which simply is not possible or far too expensive.Florentin is an energetic place with cafes, restaurants and clubs lively well in to the middle of the night, narrow loud alley ways with lots of little art studios is what typifies this area.Hacarmel Market is the Yemenite Quarter of Tel Aviv established by immigrants in 1903, it's got a nice little market albeit not so impressive if you've witnessed something like Khan-el-Khallili in Cairo.Drum Beach - down on the sea front, a place where drummers can be seen rocking out in the evenings. Some really talented musicians down there with full drum kits. This is located close to Yaffo.Apart from that strolling around Tel Aviv's streets or walking up the coastline or perhaps just chilling out on the beachfront is the thing to do. Also make sure you pay a visit to Yaffa, which I'll be reviewing seperately.Perhaps Tel Aviv's best quality is that it's pretty chilled out and unlike religious Jerusalem, no one seems to judge anyone else and you could wear a bag on your head and dance to YMCA with pom-pom's and no one would care. Overall, I recommend going to Tel Aviv but I preferred Galilee and the Dead Sea. Swimming is banned on quite a few of the beaches due to "strong currents", surprising since it's the Med.. but whatever!Getting There------------------I flew in to Tel Aviv from Berlin for a mere 27.99 euros - at the time about 22 quid. There were cheap connections last year from Manchester to Tel Aviv but at the moment the cheapest flights are from Germany with budget airline Tuifly, from Latvia with Air Baltic and from Belgium with Jet Air Fly, all of which are easily reachable by cheap flights from the UK. The prices go up and down and it's worth signing up to those airlines newsletters to keep an eye out for their special promotions.Getting Around--------------------Tel Aviv is well connected to Haifa and Jerusalem by train, comfortable buses travel around the rest of the country and there's also an international connection to Amman in Jordan. Hitchhiking is a bugger out of Tel Aviv because the city is surrounded by highways, though I think I spotted a possible place at the entrance of the highway near the main bus station.Places to Stay-------------------I used Couchsurfing.com when I was in Israel and the accomodation is quite on the dear side with even a hostel being as much as 15 to 20 pounds a night and with the majority having reputations as flea pits. It may be cheaper to get a package deal if you are not intending to use a hospitality website. Close
Written by pabrams52 on 05 Feb, 2007
A Tour with EliThere are all different manners of touring the world. Some travelers opt for a group, while others choose to go it alone. But lucky are the ones that can hire their own private guide. Such was our good fortune when my husband…Read More
A Tour with Eli
There are all different manners of touring the world. Some travelers opt for a group, while others choose to go it alone. But lucky are the ones that can hire their own private guide. Such was our good fortune when my husband and I made our first visit to Israel
We are quickly becoming seasoned travelers and are making memorable notches in our belt. Our preferred method has been one of independence – to come and go at our leisure and to learn on our own. Until now, we have toured in countries where that is a viable option, but the decision to visit Israel made us rethink that master plan.
First of all, Israel is a part of the world to which we’ve never been. Secondly, the language, the terrain and understandably, the political climate, made it a destination for which we felt more comfortable utilizing the services of a professional guide. Close friends of ours had recently returned from this same trip and highly recommended their guide. Because we trusted their judgment, their input made this a logical decision for us. We contacted this guide, Mr. Eli Peled, by email and began a stream of communication in preparation for our trip.
It is important to note that one has to place a certain amount of faith and flexibility in developing any working relationship. The process of getting to know someone over the Internet can be challenging, but also exciting. One should enter this process with a sense of optimism balanced with wariness. As our email communications developed, we began to get a sense of Eli and soon discerned his level of professionalism.
Eli has been conducting tours for many years, with a span of experience from large group bus tours to, more recently, private car tours. He has developed over time a serious network of contacts throughout Israel which affords him enhanced access to the country’s sites.
He made various suggestions regarding our itinerary while always leaving open options for modification. The advantage of working with a private guide is having the flexibility to tailor your own tour according to your own habits. Though each traveler’s tour is different, our package was based on a daily rate, including transportation in his car, paid access to museum and site visits, and personal guided tour with thorough and fascinating explanations of history. We settled on our final itinerary and looked forward to meeting him.
Upon arrival in Tel Aviv, our first contact was by phone. He called our hotel room to make sure we had settled in okay and to personally welcome us to Israel. This was a great ice-breaker and set us up for our meeting the next morning.
We met Eli, at the designated time, promptly in the lobby of our hotel near the elevators. There was no mistaking him…a congenial and prepared guide, to be sure.
Seeing the country through his eyes was fascinating. He was most engaging and taught us a lot. We came away feeling enriched and more knowledgeable. As we proceeded from day-to-day, we quickly realized the advantages of having our own personal guide. It was a decision that we were very happy we made. We feel quite comfortable in recommending his services to others that want to experience the most-bang-for-the-buck type of tour.
For further information or to contact him, his email is:firstname.lastname@example.org
Enjoy your travels!
Written by shamash on 23 Jan, 2007
Tel Aviv stands for beautiful and lively. I have never been to a city with so many drop dead stunning women. They greet you with a smile and a wiggle of attitude. I don't know the statistics but to me the women outnumber the men…Read More
Tel Aviv stands for beautiful and lively. I have never been to a city with so many drop dead stunning women. They greet you with a smile and a wiggle of attitude. I don't know the statistics but to me the women outnumber the men 5 to 1. Let me remind you again that these women are stunning. Imagine yourself drinking an ice cold beer along an endless strip of beaches camped with clubs, bars, hotels and sun worshippers. With every blink of an eye, a beautiful woman appears with an incredible over all tan. But with every positive there is a negative.The residents of Tel Aviv are rude. There is no concept of a line. When you are waiting to use an ATM, old ladies push you off to the side and think nothing of it. In this city you wait for everything. Before entering any store there is always a line because of metal detectors and police officers screening customers as they come in. Men, women and children do not hesitate to push you aside in order to enter before you do. You look at them with shock but they won't lose any sleep over their rudeness. It's a very pushy society.Tel Aviv also has no culture. If you ask five people how to get to the Tel Aviv Museum, you will get six different answers, but ask five people how to get to the nearest Diesel Jeans store and you'll get the same answer from every one. They will also detail their new ad campaign for you. Fashion is what comes first here. It took awhile but I did finally understand Diesel's ad campaign. During the day, there is so much to see in Tel Aviv but after seeing the entire city, you are left with two options. Go shopping with the girls or drink beer with guys and have shouting or hugging matches. They all love to shop and talk loud. I have a shopping shelf life of about two hours at a time and as far as talking loud, I think of myself as a lover not a fighter, hehehe!Jaffa is about 10 to 15 minutes north of Tel Aviv and is a complete contradiction to Tel Aviv. An old medieval castle like fortress encloses old Jaffa. Inside this stone fortress are resident housing, shops and plenty of nice restaurants. I imagine walking into old Jaffa is very much like walking into King Arthur's castle. With all its charm, Jaffa is filled with religious tension. Israelis, Aerobics and Christians all live without much harmony. Everyone looks at one another with question marks, making Jaffa a paradise with much baggage.No one likes to be intruded upon and in Old Jerusalem that is how I felt, like an intruder. Religious beliefs are very strong here. I could not help but feel as though I did not belong. I tried to take as few photos as possible. Their beliefs are much stronger than my will was willing to capture. Old Jerusalem is a lot like Jaffa, full of tension. With so many different people living together, something could snap at anytime. We all know about the terrors that have occurred in the past. The center of Jerusalem is like night and day from Old Jerusalem. Young students dressed in the latest fashion trends line the streets. There is a hill like street in the center of Jerusalem lined with trendy shops and tables full of young people chatting on their cell phones and drinking coffee and beer. It was a nice escape from the beliefs of old Jerusalem.Next I headed to the Dead Sea. My drive to the Dead Sea was a lot like a roller coaster ride. The drive is around four to five hours from Tel Aviv depending on the traffic. The drive itself isn't very interesting, much like driving across Nevada with a much prettier ending. The up part of my drive occurred at an exit when all of a sudden traffic came to a complete stop. Everyone stepped out of his or her cars to see what was happening while I stayed in my car to enjoy the air conditioning. Not five minutes had gone by when everyone made a mad dash for their cars. Then an Israeli police officer slams the hood of my car and stares at me a look that says "I am going to kill you." With police sirens blocking any other noises and drivers screaming at the top of their lungs, the officer demands that I leave. Later I discovered all the mayhem was caused by an Aerobics resident who threw a rock at an Israeli officer and cussed him out. I imagine he was shot to death a few yards from my car. All a part of life in the Middle East.Right before you get to the Dead Sea, a wonderful picture perfect ocean view fills every inch of your windshield. The water is clear blue and is the perfect escape from city life. This is where King David came to get away from being a king. The salt water in the sea cleanses every inch of your body. I must have floated in the sea for an hour. I felt cleansed for the next three days. One thing to remember when visiting the Dead Sea is that this is one of the best places on earth for skin care. It all sounds nice until you meet some of the visitors here. A lot of people have funky skin problems here. As I was swimming in the hotel pool, I came across a beautiful woman. We talked for a few minutes and I noticed she would not expose the left side of her face. Well, she wasn't just there for the calm atmosphere. She had some funk on her skin. Today, not many people come to the Dead Sea anymore because of past terror actions and its closeness to Jordan. If you are in that neck of the woods, don't hesitate to go there, it's worth it. I also visited Masado, which is about 20 minutes from the Dead Sea. It's a mountain top city where the Israelis fled from the Romans way back when. There is a lot more history about Masado but I don't have much knowledge about it.After the Dead Sea, I took a flight from Tel Aviv to Cairo, Egypt. I was pretty nervous going to Cairo by myself. At the airport in Tel Aviv, I was met with a lot of resistance. It took close to two hours before the Israelis would let me get on my plane. They had to hold the flight in order for me to catch it. I had to answer the same ten questions to ten different Israeli officers. It bordered on harassment; I must have flashed my passport more times than I did my fake ID in high school. Later I discovered the reason for my treatment. It seems that Asians are seen as a form of cheap labor in Israel. Ten to fifteen years ago cheap labor was welcomed with open arms and huge populations of Asians came seeking work in the land of the Hebrews. After a while, Asians were able to perform the same jobs as the Israelis. Today, Israel's economy has fallen on hard times much like most of the world. The Asians are now taking a lot of the valued jobs because they can do the same work for half the cost. The Israelis despise them for it and many Asians like myself, are seen as job takers, even if you are just visiting. If you're Asian, don't count on a warm welcome at any passport checkpoint. Close
Written by thetravelgoose on 03 Oct, 2006
I arrived at the airport to leave Israel and went through the preliminary security check. The man that questioned me was very polite and asked me a series of questions including, the purpose of my trip to Israel, where my boyfriend's family lives, if I…Read More
I arrived at the airport to leave Israel and went through the preliminary security check. The man that questioned me was very polite and asked me a series of questions including, the purpose of my trip to Israel, where my boyfriend's family lives, if I speak Hebrew, whether I had packed the bags myself and if they had been in my control at all times, among several others. He told me to have a nice trip and waved me along to the next step, where I placed all of my bags through the X-ray machines. Here I was told that I would need to have an additional security check and was asked to bring my bags over to the station where these are performed. At this point I was still very understanding as to what was going on, I am obviously supportive of safety precautions. My check-in bag, backpack, and purse were all looked through. I was bringing back four jars of coconut-date jam in my bag and I was told that these would have to be packed into a separate box, marked "fragile". While I was not sure why, I had no problem with this. After they finished looking through, my bag was checked in and I moved on towards the gate.The problems began when I went through the security clearance between the check-in counters and the departure gate. My backpack and purse were put through the machine and I was approached again by security. This man started speaking in a much harsher tone, informing me that some of his questions may be the same as ones that I have already been asked. However, he was looking for much more details, including where my boyfriend and I met, then moving on to my profession. I told him that I work as an editor for a travel website, even including the name IgoUgo. He asked if I had a business card and when I told him that I did not he looked at me with a very skeptical face. Then he asked if I had any published writing, when I told him that I did, he wanted to know if I had any on me. After telling him that I did not, I was taken back to where I had been searched originally.This time all of the contents of both my purse and backpack were removed. After about 10 minutes of searching through my belongings. They explained that I would not be allowed to bring anything on board the plane with me, and that both my purse and backpacks would have to be checked in. This is when I was provided with a cup of water and had to take the medicine I was on, (that would be checked in with my luggage) six pills with people standing all around me, several looking at me. I was very upset at this point, still acting calm, however, close to tears. I asked if I could at least bring a book or my journal on board the plane, this was going to be an 11-hour plane ride. I was told that nothing could come on board with me. However, when I asked for some type of explanation, I was told that they could not explain why. There were about five different people looking through my belongings, all speaking in full volume, I suppose if I understood Hebrew I may have known what was going on.A woman then brought me to a room where she checked me with a security wand and did a full body pat down. I had no idea what they were looking for, or why my belongings were being taken away. Once back at the security desk, at this point in tears, I asked once more if I could please bring a book with me, I was feeling anxious about having nothing to do for such a long period of time. Again, I was told no, and again no explanation was given. My passport, some money and a credit card were all I was allowed to bring along. I left in tears, not hysterical, just very upset and confused as to why I had been treated so poorly. When I finally entered the gate, I realized that from what I could see, I was the only person without a carry-on bag.I was told by a friend in New York, who originally comes from Jordan, that this all took place because I informed them of my profession. Apparently Israelis take strong precautions against journalists. Nothing negative would have been published if it had not been for this horrible experience in the airport. Close