Lately, I have been coming across a lot of people visiting or planning a visit to Israel. Israel has been high on my bucket list of places to visit but now it has risen by several notches – thanks to this particular video by Israel tourism.
After seeing this video, I renewed my research on Israel and found myself thoroughly overwhelmed with the choices of destinations. From heritage to adventure to some amazing cultural experiences, Israel seems to have it all. Since I know that I cannot manage it all in one single go, here are my list of 10 things that I want to see in Israel in the first trip.
1) UNESCO sites of Jerusalem
Heritage and Jerusalem are inseparable and a visit to the Jerusalem Old City an absolute must for a heritage buff like me. The entire city is filled with interesting sights, each with history that dates back to several centuries. Among the many sites that I would love to visit, these three UNESCO sites in the land of three religions.
Dome of the Rock
An Islamic shrine that was erected by the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik in the 680s AD, this place is a landmark of Jerusalem. With its Golden colored dome shining over the city, there is no avoiding this place. What intrigues me is the historic rock that it shelters – one that is rumored to be the rock where Abraham was to sacrifice his son Issac. It is also, the place that seems to mark the Holy of Holies of two historic sites – Solomon’s Temple and Herod’s Temple. And to add a further intrigue, I believe it is also, a place that commemorates the ascent of Prophet Muhammed to heaven! Of course, there is more – but that I hope to find out when I visit it.
Church of Holy Sepulchre
A landmark of a lot of historic moments – my visit to Israel would be incomplete without a journey here. From the site of Jesus’ crucification to the Stone of Unction, where Jesus’ body was prepared for burial and the Tomb of Christ – there is just so much to see and absorb here. I think, I would need one full day just for this site.
The Western Wailing Wall
Dating back to 20 BC, this ancient wall has been a witness to many different events in the city. Even today, there is so much faith amid people that the Judaists are seen to still insert their prayers in between the bricks of the wall. A backdrop for a lot of weddings and important festivals, this wall is a commonly recognized site of Jerusalem. The one thing that I would want to do when here is to walk through the Western Wall Tunnel – a labyrinth of sorts with its hidden vaults and chambers.
2) Yad Vashem in Jerusalem
The one thing that struck me in the video above was the fact that you can feel in Israel. To me, a visit to Yad Vashem seems to be one place that allows you to feel. A humbling experience I am told, this is a memorial to the horrific holocaust of the Jews. A bit disturbing but I know that a visit here is merited to understand and pay respect to millions of those innocent souls – including children. The resource center has several stories written by these people and preserved for us to understand. A bit of an Anne Frank experience.
3) The Israel Museum in Jerusalem
The current abode of the mysterious 2000 year old Dead Sea Scrolls, the Israel Museum is definitely one of the many museums that I am keen to visit in Jerusalem. Besides this, it is also, said to have exhibits from the Ottoman kingdom as well as the works from the famed Renoir, Degas and Monet. What is more is that you get to see 4 complete synagogues – one of which is from Cochin, India.
4) Tel Hazor National Park
A hidden city with excavations that seem to prove that the mythical biblical world existed. Tel Hazor is said to be an important city back in the times of Joshua and King Solomon. What fascinates me are the excavations that give some evidence of this being a thriving city in an ancient trade route. A restored palace, some walls from the times of King Solomon and an Israelite water system – my key draws!
5) Carmel Market in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv is a definite stop for me – given its cultural vibrancy. A perfect place to get the best of food, nightlife and more. If that being the objective, what best place than a market to experience it all. A walk through Carmel Market seems to be just what I need – some retail therapy with street shopping, some food experience and a perfect excuse to meet the locals. Besides the inherent charm of the city, it is a great place to establish a base owing to the numerous day trips you can do from Tel Aviv.
6) Beaches of Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv has some really gorgeous beaches to boast of. One complete day of just beach hopping is what I envisage. I know that every evening of mine would end with some gorgeous sunsets on these beaches. I am also, told that you can witness some really fun stuff as you walk along this 14 km coastline – from hair braiders to clowns to jugglers. A complete entertainment waiting for you. And as I understand, your day does not end here. It gets even more exciting with the nightlife in Tel Aviv.
7) Dead Sea in Israel
Swimming in the Dead Sea has been really high on my list. And the best part is that this one destination – Israel offers me the opportunity to do so. Here I am – all ready to be smeared with that Dead Sea mask and my favorite book in hand, ready to let all go and just drift into a sea of calm. Don’t be surprised if I come back with perfectly polished and glowing skin.
8) Masada Fortress near Dead Sea
Masada – also known as the Tragic Fortress, is yet another UNESCO site that I would love to visit. The old fortress was erected by Herod the Great and is said to be a site where thousands of Jews committed a mass suicide to escape the Roman torture. A hanging palace, remains of the Roman styled architecture, the remains of the Jewish possessions are just some examples of the history that is left behind here. Definitely appeals to me.
9) Red Sea at Eilat
Eilat, the port city of Israel, seems to be the perfect place to enjoy the Red sea. It does not matter if you are a diver or not, Eilat has some treats in store for you. Book yourself for a meal at the underwater restaurant at Eilat or just take a plunge like me at the Coral Reserves to see the colorful underwater world of Red Sea. Considered to be one of the best dive sites in the world. there is no way I am missing this one.
10) Beit Guvrin National Park
Ancient cities with caves and ancient structures make such a fascinating experience. Beit Guvrin is just that – with its subterranean living quarters, burial sites and a Roman amphitheater. Add to that, the little cisterns and quarries that were found under the dwellings – one of them with many pigeon holes and one with an ancient Olive Press. I wonder what else I can find there.
Trust me when I say that these are just 10 things in Israel that I think I can manage in a single trip. To discover the rest of Israel, I know I will have to make many more trips. What do you think? Do you fancy adding this to the list of your must-visit destinations? Or have you already been there? Comment in and let me know.