As part of the Jewish News travel supplement, Brigit Grant has compiled 66 REASONS TO VISIT ISRAEL!
1. Because it is possible to drive the length of Israel in eight hours.
2. To go to the Jaffa Port Market which was once a packing warehouse for the famed oranges, until Leora Ganor and Irit Kesselman-Milleh turned it into a chic-urban indoor shopping space. You will find Jaffa Juice, a stall where every fruit is available for squeezing, and the Silber Deli Bar, which does unforgettable slow-cooked pastrami sandwiches.
3. To prove that all the thumbs-up on Trip Advisor for the Dan Panorama in Tel Aviv are true. As one contributor writes: “We have been going to the Dan Panorama in Tel Aviv and Eilat for the past 10 years and it just keeps getting better. We would make special mention of Ralph at reception who is not only a character but also very helpful. Breakfast is a never-ending choice of delicious food and great service and the rooms are large and well-appointed.” Go see! Visit: danhotels.com
4. To wind your way through the Western Wall Tunnel – an incredible labyrinth of passageways and arches untouched for centuries and now open to the public.
5. To meet on the corner of Herzl and Florentine St in Tel Aviv on Friday at 3pm for a tour with Guy Sharett who will give you a crash course (by foot) in Israeli society via graffiti, street signs, advertisements and talking to locals. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. To meet a Tel Aviv Greeter as part of the volunteer programme that matches visitors with people who want to show you their city and share your interests, be it beach, bar or books. Visit: telavivgreeter.com
7. To try sabich – the filled pita brought to Israel by Iraqi immigrants. It has salad, egg, eggplant, tahini, hummus and spices and the best one is available at Oved Sabich in Givatayim, Tel Aviv.
8. To go walkabout on 5 March with fellow trekkers from Israel and around the world who have signed up for the 11-week Israel National Trail adventure from Eilat through the Mitzpe Ramon Crater via the Negev, Jerusalem, Caesarea, the Galilee and up to Mount Hermon. No previous experience is necessary, but if you don’t like walking… www.masawalkaboutlove.com
9. For a sassy stay at the W Tel Aviv- Jaffa which opens in summer 2015. If you know the W in Leicester Square – expect to party.
10 . To gaze at whatever exhibition is on at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem’s leading cultural institution. Currently it’s James Turrell’s turn with his Light Spaces show, but don’t forget to see the Dead Sea Scrolls before you leave.
11, To eat another falafel, but this time at Falafel Gabai (25 Bograshov St, Tel Aviv) where customers have been waiting in line since 1946 – albeit different ones .
12. To sail above bible country by paragliding, which you can do all year because of the climate. So go glide over the Galilee.
13. Because you want to stay where everyone from Winston Churchilll to Barbra Streisand has stayed, so book into the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, which is part of the Dan group of luxury properties. Visit: danhotels.com
14, To go into a trance at the Desert Storm Festival which takes place in November and has a line-up of electronic musicians from Israel and beyond (including acts from the UK, Serbia, and Spain). It is held in a unique location a few minutes from the shores of the Dead Sea in the Judean Desert and the scenery has a hum all of s own. Visit: touristisrael.com/ desert-storm-festival.
15. To see artist Yair Barak’s new exibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. It explores the medium of photography and sculpture and runs until February 2015.
16. To experience the Machane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem, established in the 1800s as a place to trade food and wares, now more famous for the Machneyuda restaurant run by Yossi Elad, aka “Papi”, who just buys straight from the stall and cooks it.17. To strut your stuff in the International Jerusalem Winner Marathon on 13 March 13. The marathon courses were selected to recount Jerusalem’s 3,000-year historical narrative, but there will be no Red Sea crossing.
18. To sample Jachnun, which you can do in Hendon Park at the Israeli Café, although at Mama’s Jachnun (34 Yitzhak Sade St, Tel Aviv) the Yemenite dish of sweet pastry is cooked for 10 hours. Eat it with hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes and hot sauces.
19. To buy a dress by Israeli designer Ronen Chen. With 13 shops to choose from in Israel, Chen is all about the shapes that suit and he knows how to make women feel comfortable in clothes that tell no tales. Visit him on Shenkin Street in Tel Aviv or go to ronenchen.com
20. To eat kosher at the fabulously-named Shmulik Cohen on Herzl Street which was a kiosk in 1936 when artists and policemen would drop in for drinks with the owner in the early hours. The family-run operation does real Jewish food with lots of schmaltz and extra herring.
21. For some vinyl spinning at Israel’s oldest record shop, the Third Ear on King George Street in Tel Aviv. As it’s also a concert venue, restaurant, bar and a central meeting point for creative types, you will probably stay longer than it takes to play an EP.
22. To visit Sheinkin Street, Tel Aviv’s answer to Soho, which is bursting with cafés and shops
23. To try skiing and snowboarding on Mount Hermon – yes, that’s right, snow.
24. To master Pinocchio’s strings at the International Festival of Puppet Theatre in Jerusalem in August.
25. To take time at the Holocaust History Museum at Yad Vashem, which opened in March. A decade in the making, the museum has state-of-the-art exhibits to take remembrance into the 21st century and the new gallery is home to the Hall of Names, a repository for the Pages of Testimony of millions of Holocaust victims.
26. To try ice-skating in the desert. Yes,it’s possible at last at the Eilat Ice Park and Mall, which is the largest complex of its kind in the world and offers entertainment attractions such as dog sledging, a playground in a snow globe and lots of shopping.
27. To elevate in the Dead Sea, which is 10 times as salty as the Mediterranean and contains 21 other minerals, 12 of which are not found in any other sea or ocean in the world.
28. To see the Louis Promenade in Haifa, which offers an overview of local sights including the Baha’i Gardens. There’s also the zoo and the Chagall Artists House – so bring a paintbrush.
29. To see the Beersheba Amphi-Park, Israel’s largest and newest LED screen. At 14 storeys high and the width of a football pitch, it is the perfect location for any musician brave enough to take the stage.
30. For a stay at the Cramim in Jerusalem, a new spa hotel situated in the heart of the Judean wine region with pastoral views and some special vino-therapy treatments. Call Anthony Gothold at travelinkuk.com or call 020 8931 8000.
31. See Israel v Belgium at the Ramat Gan Stadium on 31 March and fly there with David Segel (not literally) West End Travel on 020 7644 1500.
32. For a Woody Allen-esque experience in Tel Aviv, go to Vicky Cristina tapas and wine bar, located in a spacious paatio under an antique rubber tree, in the Station area of Neve Tzedek.
33. Because Rafi Caplin at Holiday Designers says to go to “the station” which is odd until you see the Station Complex, or “Hatachana” outside the Neve Tzedek. Reconstructed from the old waiting hall, it still has the tracks that connected Jaffa to Jerusalem but is now full of Israeli designer shops including Na’ama Bezalel, Elise and for jewellery, Michal Negrin. holiday-designers.com or call 020 3384 0023
34. To climb Masada, the former palace of King Herod and now the ideal spot for a rave as there are no neighbours to annoy.
35. To invest in an Israeli swimsuit – notably one by Gottex, the company started by Hungarian-born Leah Gottlieb in 1956 when she decided to swap raincoats for swimwear at her Tel Aviv factory.
36. To prove diamonds really are a girl’s best friend while visiting the National Diamond Centre in Netanya, where you will get the finest cut and polished stone.
37. To try your hand at being a kibbutznik by staying on a kibbutz. The Kibbutz Fly and Drive programme offered by Travelink allows you independent touring time ahead of checking into a kibbutz hotel, holiday village or country lodging, where you will stay in rooms once occupied by kibbutz members, eat beside them at breakfast and then go pick a few grapes. Call Anthony at travelinkuk.com or call 020 8931 8000
38. To listen to Idan Raichel, the dreadlocked keyboardist and producer who sprang to prominence in 2003 when he released a song with a chorus in the Ethiopian language of Amharic and the global fusion sound Bo’ee became a hit.
39. To get a selfie with a hot Israeli soldier.
40. To play mini-golf in Hayarkon Park in Tel Aviv where you, but preferably your little ones, can ride a pony or cool off at the water complex within the 1,000 acres.
41. To visit the Underwater Observatory marine park on Coral Beach in Eilat for a face to face with Nemo.
42. To experience the Beresheet Hotel at 800m above sea level in the Mitspe on the edge of the Ramon Crater. The comfortable weather year round will suit those of a sweaty disposition. Contact Rafi at holiday-designers.com or call 020 3384 0023
43. To visit the Germans in their colony in Haifa. It was established in 1869, but has undergone renovations since and is now described as a “vibrant, upbeat oasis of recreation”.
44. To fly safely to the Holy Land with El Al, which now serves Eilat direct. Check in with Anthony at travelinkuk.com or call 020 8931 800.
45. To submerge yourself in the hot springs in Tiberias, one of six such natural wonders in Israel. The water here erupts at 140degF, and then ‘cools’ to a hearty 98degF to provide a real skin-deep experience.
46. To join the three million other Christian pilgrims who visit Ein Karem (Spring of the Vineyard in Hebrew), which is purported to be the birthplace of John the Baptist.
47. Visit Romanian-born Reuven Rubin’s home, now a museum, in Tel Aviv. He is one of the country’s most famous painters and Israel’s first ambassador to his country of birth.
48. To hear some cool sounds in June at the Caesarea jazz festival.
49. To see where Elijah hid in a cave, as they did in those days. It has been described as “the holiest Jewish site in Haifa”.
50. To swim with Flipper or one of his mates at the Dolphin Reef on the shores of the Red Sea. This ecological site in Eilat also boasts a spa on the beach offering night-time treatments in relaxation pools.
51. To find your inner jester at the Jerusalem Knights Festival, which is held in the Old City in the autumn.
52. To bump into Big Bad Wolves directors Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, who are set to make the first Israeli western.
53. To try your hand at leek-waving during the European Championship Qualifier between Wales and Israel on 28 March at Sammy Ofer Stadium in Haifa. Contact: West End Travel on 020 7644 1500
54. To listen to Tosca, Puccini’s tragic tale of love and loss, which is being performed at Masada on 4 June.
55. To boogie at the Briza Festival in Ashkelon in August.
56. To wave the flag at the Pride March for Tolerance in Tel Aviv in July.
57. To get a first look at the on-going transformation of Jerusalem’s old Turkish railway station, which is being turned into a world centre for animation and entertainment. Fittingly, the nearby Dan Boutique Jerusalem Hotel opposite Mount Zion and the Old City Walls is not only an uber-cool place but is dedicated to the screening of animated movies created by young artists and local students. Visit: danhotels.com
58. To marvel ornithological at the 500 species of birds that have been recorded in Israel – one of the world’s finest migration hotspots.
59. To spice up your golf with a new destination by trying the Dan Caesarea Mediterranean Hotel. It is the only luxury property in the area and it has Israel’s only 18-hole golf course right next door. Oh, and if you don’t do golf, there’s a soccer field. And some ancient ruins. Visit: danhotels.com
60. To experience an authentic Friday-night dinner in Jerusalem courtesy of Shabbat of a Lifetime (shalomisraeltours.com)
61. To catch a glimpse of Asi Cohen , the actor who was the prisoner in Gideon Raff’s Prisoners of War, the Israeli series that became Homeland. Surprisingly, Asi is a comedian and impersonates Uri Geller
62. Isn’t it about time you accepted one of those invitations to attend a wedding on the beach?
63. To big up the Bauhaus district by staying at the Norman, a brand new boutique hotel in Tel Aviv which opened this month on King Albert Square. +972-3 543 5555 or norman.com
64. To get the right kind of rest after a walk around Jerusalem by staying at the Inbal Hotel, which has a spa, massage rooms and pools indoors and out for all weathers.
65. The Waldorf Astoria in New York has the fame, but there is now one in Jerusalem. Check in with West End Travel on 020 7644 1500
66. The best reason to go is if you haven’t been at all, and West End Travel’s Highlights Tour is the best way because you will be escorted by an expert and see everything the country has to offer. Call 020 8958 3188 or visit: westendtravel.co.uk