I participated in an educational trip to Israel to learn about a new destination [for me] and meet with one of our preferred suppliers there. Upon arrival in Tel Aviv, our VIP service whisked us through security and a private car and driver took us to our hotel, the David International Hotel.
The following day we had a city tour of Tel Aviv and Jaffa. We drove through various neighborhoods of Tel Aviv such as “Neve Tzedek," and then walked through open-air Carmel Market, the historic train station complex and visited the Rabin Plaza and the Bauhaus area, which is a World Heritage Site. A drive to the old port City of Jaffa with its cobblestone streets and artists galleries is not to be missed. Of course, we also inspected some of the top hotels in Tel Aviv.
Next we drove north along the Mediterranean Coast to Herzliya and Caesarea to view excavations from the Roman and Crusader periods. Another ancient port city is Akko, with ancient walls and its underground Knights Chambers. Akko has one of the most colorful oriental markets.
We continued towards “Haifa” and Mount Carmel, for a panoramic view of Haifa Bay, the Bahai Shrine and Persian Gardens, another World Heritage Site. There is so much history around here it can make your head spin.
We overnighted at the Dan Carmel Hotel in Haifa, and the next day proceeded throughthe Galilee Mountains to the Sea of Galilee. We visited numerous religious sites in and around the area. A highlight was an enjoyable private boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, with lunch on the shores of the lake. The weather for it was perfect.
The following day, we drove through to Ussefiya, and enjoyed authentic home hospitality in a Druze village. We continued south towards Bethlehem to visit Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity. Since Bethlehem is under Palestine Authority, we had to make sure we had our passports with us. Our Israeli guide had to stay behind to let a Palestinian guide show us around.
In the afternoon we arrived in Jerusalem, after stopping at Mt. Scopus for the first view of Jerusalem and a “Sheheheyanu” blessing, which was one of many highlights. We overnighted at the King David Hotel Jerusalem.
The next day was full of activities, with so much to experience, including a walking tour of the Old City and renovated Jewish Quarters, the Temple Mount with Dome of the Rock and El Aqsa Mosque, and the Western Wall-- Judaism’s holiest site.
It was amazing to see and listen to so many people praying on that site, where men and women are separated. We were also lucky enough to walk through the Western Wall Tunnels.
We continued to the Christian Quarters to walk along the Via Dolorosa to the Church of Holy Sepulcher before heading towards the Mount of Olives for a panoramic view of Old and New Jerusalem. We ended this wonderful historical day with a traditional Shabbat dinner at our hotel.
The last days of our Israel trip were fast approaching. It was time to head to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. and south along the shores to Masada-- another World Heritage Site-- where we ascended and descended by cable car to view the excavations of this famous fortress.
At the Dead Sea we stopped at the premier beach, so we could experience the Dead Sea's therapeutic qualities and to make sure we could actually swim and or float in it. I have never seen so much salt in one place! Our excursion was capped with a bumpy Jeep ride on a desert safari ride through the moonscape-like Judean Hills.
Back in Jerusalem, we viewed the “Night Spectacular,” where the Tower of David comes to life with a spectacular Sound and Light Show.
On our last full day in Israel, and after inspecting the newly opened Orient Hotel in Jerusalem, we set off with lots of energy on a private tour of the Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum, the Children’s Memorial and Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles. At the Israel Museum we viewed the model of Jerusalem from the Second Temple Period and the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibited in the Shrine of the Book.
We enjoyed a wine tasting workshop at the Mirror Bar in the Mamilla Hotel, topped off with a farewell dinner at their rooftop restaurant before being transferred back to the airport, where our VIP Service whisked us through airport security and straight up to our airline gate.
Regardless of one's religion, an Israel vacation is an experience everyone should make for themselves. I would go back in a heartbeat, and I felt safe throughout this journey.