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Journeying Off the Beaten Path in Israel

Whether this is your first trip or your tenth trip these recommendations will make your next trip to Israel memorable and unique.  Meet the people, experience the sites, culture, and history of Israel. These suggestions are designed to guide and inspire you as you plan your own trip to Israel.

Support Social Action

  • Yad LaKashish: This non-profit lovingly assists Jerusalem’s needy elderly and disabled to remain active and integral members of Israeli society. The elderly artisans create the beautiful hand-made items that are sold in the gift shop
  • Yerucham: Atid BaMidbar Co-founder and President Deborah Goldman Golan organized low-income local women into the Culinary Queens of Yerucham to help support their families. Visitors can enjoy private home hospitality and the home cooked food of an accomplished Culinary Queen and hear her family’s story.
  • Lilyot Restaurant: Every year this leading culinary institution trains and employs 15 kids who haven’t finished high school, and enables them to acquire a profession, and for the first time in their lives, integrate into society as productive citizens.

Step Back in Time

  •  Jaffa: one of the ancient port cities the Mediterranean basin and one of the most beautiful cities in Israel. Tradition attributes the building of Jaffa to Noah’s son Yefet who gave the city his name.
  • Quasr el Yahud: Baptismal Site at the Jordan River is associated with John the Baptist and the entry of Joshua and the tribes of Israel into Canaan. Picturesque and peaceful, complete with a Jordanian soldier a stone’s throw away, waving from across the river.
  • The City of David: Step back in time 3,000 years to the days of King David and the First Temple.
  • The Western Wall Tunnels: When the Ministry of Religious Affairs undertook the task of clearing tons of dirt by hand in 1967, it uncovered a fascinating labyrinth of ancient underground structures, revealing the entire length of the Western Wall.  
  • The Talmudic Village and Synagogue at Katzrin: Mentioned in ancient Jewish sources, these are the remains of a 4th-5th century synagogue that was excavated between 1971 and 1984. Today, this is a popular site for bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies.
  • Neveh Tzedek: Learn the stories of the early pioneers of the Tel Aviv area with a walking tour through this historic area, the first Jewish neighborhood build outside of Old Jaffa over 120 years ago.
  • Tzfat: explore the narrow alleyways and synagogues, and earn how Kabbalah and the mystical traditions that emerged here 500 years ago continue to impact the Jewish world.
  • Independence Hall: Watch a dramatic reenactment at the site where David Ben Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel on May 14, 1948.
  • Yad Vashem: This museum presents the story of the Shoah from a unique Jewish perspective, emphasizing the experiences of the individual victims through original artifacts, survivor testimonies, and personal possessions.
  • Atlit “Illegal” Immigrant Detention Camp: Between 1934-1948 about 122,000 illegal immigrants, most of them survivors of the Holocaust and pogroms in Arab countries, were brought to the shores of Palestine in 92 boats, and found themselves once again incarcerated behind barbed wire.

Dramatic Views and Cruise

  • The Golan Heights: A high basalt plateau in the northeastern corner of Israel, formed millions of years ago by erupting volcanoes, whose extinct cones still line its eastern rim.
  • Top of Mt. Carmel: Look down for gorgeous views of Haifa and the Bahai Gardens.
  • Mount of Beatitudes: Learn about the Christian foundational stories that took place in the Jewish fishing villages on the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee)
  • Cruise on the Kinneret at sundown and then head to Tiberias for dinner at Decks Grill.

Studying and Serving

  • Ayalim Student Village: Their goal is to strengthen existing communities and social involvement in the Negev and Galilee; to revive and renew the Zionist idea in the the 21st century through the establishment of student and entrepreneur villages. 
  • Sederot Hesder Yeshiva: Rabbi David Fended runs this school where students combine advanced Torah study with IDF army service.
  • Telem-Jaffa Mechina: One of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism’s 30 Pre-Army Gap Year Mechina projects, which offer young Israelis the opportunity to study and work in community service projects.  The Ministry of Defense allows participants to defer their military service for a year.

Natural Wonders

  • Makhtesh Ramon: The world’s largest makhtesh (geological landform), this site contains geological formations unparalled anywhere in the world.
  • Tel Dan Reserve: The hiking trails pass alongside streams, the Dan River, and through a shady tangle of trees, manly laurel, IIalian buckthorn, and Syrian ash.  One trail leads to the High Place, attributed to the time of King Jeroboam. The Israelite city gate has been restored, as has the Canaanite gate, with perhaps the earliest constructed arch ever discovered.
  • The Fortress of Masada is where the last Jewish freedom fighters faced the Roman Empire 2,000 years ago.
  • The Dead Sea is 400 meters below sea level, the lowest spot on earth. The water, ten times saltier than the Mediterranean Sea, has such a high specific weight that one can float effortlessly.

Shabbat

  • The Machane Yehudah Market: Have fun eating your way through this bustling open-air market, where you can sample items like fresh squeezed pomegranate juice, fresh tahini, just-baked chocolate rugelach, and extraordinary halvah. This famous market is fun on Friday afternoons as the city prepares for Shabbat.
  • Kehilat Har-El:  In the heart of downtown Jerusalem, a vibrant and active community of Reform Israelis led by Rabbi Ada Zavidov, the first woman to serve as a congregational rabbi in the history of Jerusalem.

Working for Reconcilation

  • Givat Haviva: Founded in 1949 as the national education center of the Kibbutz Federation in Israel, and dedicated to promoting coexistence between Jews and Arabs, Lydia Aisenberg can walk you past the Green line in Barta’a, and introduce you to her Arab friends in an area that straddles Israel and the Wadi Ara area.
  • Abu Ghosh Restaurant: Plan a meeting with Jawdat Ibrahim, owner of this popular restaurant, who is an Israeli Arab millionaire, and established a fund that gives scholarships to both Arab and Jewish university students, and who has also  hosted informal peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian National Authority leaders.

Art and Culture

  • Hadassah University Medical Center and The Chagall Windows: The 12 stained glass windows in the Abbell Synagogue at the Hadassah University Medical Center represent a microcosm of Chagall’s world, both real and imaginary. Each window is dominated by a specific color and contains a quote from Jacob’s blessings on his twelve sons and Moses’ blessings on the twelve tribes.
  • The Church of the Holy Sepulchre: Located in the Christian Quarter of the Old City, this church has been an important Christian destination since the fourth century. Explore its beauty and listen to the ancient chants.

Additional options: The Israel Museum, Tower of David Museum, Jerusalem synagogues Shirah Chadashah, Kol HaNeshamah, and Moreshet Israel; Haas Promenade, and the Montefiore Windmill.

See If it’s Tuesday, This Must be Haifa to read a personal reflection about a first-timer’s trip to Israel.

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