Why You Should Visit Israel
Have you ever dreamed of taking a vacation to visit Israel? This country is a place rich in history and great beauty. Read on to learn about ten great reasons to head there on your next adventure.
That’s me during a stop during our jeep ride in the Judean desert.
10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Israel
From the banks of the Mediterranean Sea to the Judaean Desert and beautiful ancient cities – Israel is a truly special place. This ancient place is sacred to many people from various religious paths. And everywhere you go, you can feel the soul of the land in the spirit of the people.
If you have dreamed of visiting Israel, I totally get it. And if you are already planning your trip, there are many wonderful things to see and do. Read on to learn about 10 fun reasons you should visit Israel. Of course one question I still get is if I felt safe while in Israel and my answer is always yes, as safe as I can feel travelling anywhere.
I always advise people no matter what city or country you’re visiting use your common sense, make safe choices (like not wandering streets at night alone), let friends and family who aren’t travelling with you know your itinerary and always be respectful of local customs, make yourself familiar with them before you go! It was a bit unerving to see off-duty soldiers who looked like teenagers carrying their semi-automatic weapons BUT as our travel guide explained to us, for them it’s a badge of honor. Almost everyone goes into the army after they graduate high-school and after their service they generally go to university. It’s different from us but I never saw the soldiers both on-duty or off be disrespectful.
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Masada National Park – Judaean Desert (website: Masada National Park)
Located in the Judaean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea, Masada sits in quiet repose – a place that time forgot. This rugged natural fortress is both stark and beautiful and when you walk among the stone walls, you feel transported back in time.
Built by King Herod in the classic style of the early Roman Empire, Masada was once a stunning palace complex. It was the location of the last stand of the Jewish people against the Roman army in 73 A.D. The survivors chose to die rather than to live a life in slavery to the Romans. Left untouched for more than thirteen hundred years, Masada was discovered and uncovered by archeologists in the 1960s.
Visitors to the site not only see the remains of this once incredible fortress. You can also see the camps, attack ramp, and defences built by the Romans in their fight to overtake the fortress. It is considered the most complete look at Roman battle strategies to still exist today.
Masada is an important symbol of ancient Israel and its violent destruction. It is also a poignant reminder of the eternal struggle between people who wish to enslave, and people who wish to be free.
Masada was designated as a UNESCO site in 2001. A modern visitor center was built in 2000. Visitors can climb to the summit if they choose – and are in excellent shape. There is also a cable car that connects the visitor center with the summit – a much easier way to get around, especially when the weather is hot.
The Tisch Family Zoological Gardens – Jerusalem, Israel (website: Jerusalem Zoo.org)
The Tisch Family Zoological Gardens has a long and interesting history. It was established in 1940 and has existed in several locations over the years. But in 1993, the current location opened. The park is considered one of the most beautiful in all of Israel. Families of every background come together in an environment of goodwill, bonding over their mutual love of animals.In addition to animals of every shape and size, the zoo features a train that offers a way to relax while enjoying a nice tour of the zoo. There are places to get food and something to drink. And you definitely want to stop by the souvenir shop for a keepsake.
Okay one more photo of the lemurs hahaWhen planning your visit, be sure to check the website for hours and other information! I really did take photos of the other animals but the lemurs were just so photogenic and ready to pose for the photos.
Take a Jeep Tour in the Judaean Desert
As you are planning your trip to visit Israel, consider saving a day to take a Jeep tour in the Judaean Desert. This stunning desert is one of the most beautiful deserts in the world, with high rocky peaks and deep valleys. The sweeping landscape is breathtaking in its enormity. Seeing it with the aid of a knowledgeable tour guide is definitely the way to go, and there are several tour companies available. You can even book your tour online before heading off for your vacation. And don’t be afraid to check references and ask questions before booking – to make sure that your Desert Jeep Tour is everything you want it to be!
Wander the Machane Yehuda Market
Machane Yehuda Market – Jerusalem, Israel (website: Machane Yehuda Market)
Considered by many to be a symbol of Jerusalem, the Machane Yahuda Market simply must be experienced to be believed. Not just a marketplace, but rather – a whole neighborhood of wonderful, the Machane Yehuda is an eclectic mix of old Jerusalem – and new. You can easily spend hours wandering – enjoying the sights, sounds, and delicious aromas of the food that you will find everywhere you look. The market is abundant with bars, restaurants, and wonderful places to shop. This was one of my favorite stops, I loved the market. The spices, the food and even the coffee! I dream of going back to this market!
If you love to eat, consider getting yourself a “Bite Card” through their website. You can book a variety of tours, as well, and even attend a cooking workshop.
With so much to see and do, a day may not be long enough for the Machane Yahuda Market!
The Tel Aviv Museum
The Tel Aviv Museum of Art- Tel Aviv, Israel (website: Tel Aviv Museum)
It is easy to get lost in the beauty at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. Founded in 1932, this wonderful museum features works by both Israeli and international artists. You’ll find incredible paintings, prints, drawings, photographs, and so much more. Three beautiful buildings house the various works, plus there are rooms for lectures, classes, workshops and more. And if all that isn’t enough, there are gardens and sculptures to enjoy outside, as well.
If you are planning to be in Tel Aviv, be sure to check the museum website for upcoming events. You may find a wonderful children’s show for the little ones – and there are concert performances regularly, too. And don’t forget to visit the museum shop for mementos and unique gifts for your friends back home!
Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall
When visiting Jerusalem, many people have a desire to visit the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock. The Temple Mount is a holy site within the Old City for Jewish, Christian and Muslim people. All visitors are able to tour the compound and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, with the exception of the Dome of the Rock
The jewel in the crown of Temple Mount/Al Haram Ash Sharif is the gold-plated Dome of the Rock, the enduring symbol of the city and one of the most photographed buildings on earth. As its name suggests, the dome covers a slab of stone sacred to both the Muslim and Jewish faiths. According to Jewish tradition, it was here that Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son. Islamic tradition has the Prophet Muhammad ascending to heaven from this spot.
Only Muslims can enter the temple, though modestly attired visitors of all creeds can see it from the outside as part of their walk around the plaza.
The Western Wall, or “Wailing Wall”, is the most religious site in the world for the Jewish people. Located in the Old City of Jerusalem, it is the western support wall of the Temple Mount. Thousands of people journey to the wall every year to visit and recite prayers. These prayers are either spoken or written down and placed in the cracks of the wall. The wall is divided into two sections, one area for males and the other for females. It is one of the major highlights in any tour of the Old City.
About the Western Wall
King Herod built the Western Wall in 20 BCE during an expansion of the Second Temple. When the Romans destroyed the temple in 70 CE, the support wall survived. For hundreds of years, people prayed in the small area of the wall that could be seen. In 1967, following the Six Day War, Israelis dug below the ground of the wall, exposing two more levels of the wall. They also cleared the area around the wall to create the Western Wall Plaza that visitors see today. The photos shown here are all photos that I took. It was very humbling to walk up to the western wall and leave my own note…
The site is open to all people and is the location of various ceremonies, such as military inductions and bar mitzvahs. The Western Wall is free and is open all day, year-round. Women and men should be dressed modestly in the Western Wall Plaza. To pray at the wall, women should have their legs and shoulders covered. Men should cover their head.
The Mamilla Mall – Jerusalem, Israel (website: Mamilla Mall)
Whether you love to shop or merely enjoy wandering while people watching, you’re sure to enjoy a trip to the Mamilla Mall. This wonderful place is luxurious and eclectic – filled with top-of-the-line clothing stores, jewelry shops, outdoor cafes, and other intriguing places to explore. As you wander from place to place, you will often encounter talented street performers and artists, as well.The best thing about Mamilla Mall, however, is the rich sense of history. Many of the buildings in Mamilla Mall and surrounding area are quite old, and as you wander, you may find moments when the past feels like it is just below the surface. One moment, you’re shopping for the perfect watch. The next, it feels as if ancient Jerusalem is just waiting for you around the next corner. In a city as old as Jerusalem, the past is in a constant dance with the present.
First Station – Jerusalem, Israel (website: First Station)
This 19th-century train station was in operation as part of the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway until 1998. The ancient building stood mostly alone and neglected for nearly 15 years before becoming “The First Station”, a major cultural and entertainment center in the heart of Jerusalem. Frequented by both locals and tourists, this bustling center of activity features great restaurants, lively events, and wonderful shops in which to wander. And if you have kids, they will love the children’s station train, carousel, bumper cars, and more. If you are looking to spend time enjoying life as the locals do, First Station is one great place to go when you visit Israel. Be sure to check their website for upcoming events when planning your trip!
Old Jaffa – Tel Aviv (website: Old Jaffa Visitors’ Center)
The city of Jaffa dates back to the story of Jonah and the Whale. It is one of the oldest port cities in the world, and out of this ancient place, the city of Tel Aviv came to be. Fortunately, Old Jaffa remains, and it is a wonderful place to explore when you visit Israel.
When visiting Old Jaffa, be sure to stop by the Old Jaffa Visitors’ Center first. There, you will learn much about the Old city before heading out to explore. You can even choose to take a self-guided tour of Jaffa with the help of a map and audio to truly enrich your experience.
Whether you take the tour or simply choose to wander on your own, you will find lots of small, narrow streets to explore. Filled with unique shops, art galleries, craft shops, and wonderful places to eat, there is a new adventure around every corner. And you definitely don’t want to miss the Flea Market.
There is so much to see and do in Old Jaffa, you may need to give yourself a couple of days to see everything!
Attend a Galita Chocolate-Making Workshop
Galita Chocolate Farm – Degania, Israel (website: Galita Chocolate-Making Workshop)
Degania was the first kibbutz in Israel. This independent communal community was established in 1910 and is a thriving community to this day. This location is popular with tourists, and the Galita Chocolate-Making Workshop is one of the best reasons.
There are workshops available for adults and for children, too. If you plan to be in the area when you visit Israel, be sure to book your workshop in advance. When you arrive, there is a film you can watch to learn more about the chocolate farm. Then it’s time to play Arts and Crafts with chocolate. They have many wonderful projects to choose from and they encourage nibbling.
Don’t miss a visit to the chocolate bar where you can enjoy candies, drinks, and homemade ice cream. And in the factory store, you can buy all kinds of delicious items for friends and family back home.
However, if all that scrumptious chocolate should happen to disappear before you get home – your secret is safe with me!
Bialik House History Museum
Bialik House History Museum – Tel Aviv, Israel (website: Bialik House History Museum)
Chaim Nachman Bialik (January 9, 1873-July 4, 1934) was a famous Jewish poet – recognized as the National Poet of Israel. In 1925, Bialik had a house built – an amazing marvel in architectural design. This beautiful home features a tower, domes, terraces, and incredible tile work, among other things.
The library contains all ninety-four of the famous poet’s books, plus letters, paintings, and various articles by and about the man. The house has been maintained in its original form. Visitors learn about the Israeli history of architectural and decorative style while learning more about the life of a poet.
Here’s a bonus tip for visiting Israel, the food and coffee is AHmazing. Seriously everywhere I went the food was so good from the hummus to local specialities to the fruits and vegetables. I learned something new to me, Israel is known for its agriculture, other countries come there to learn from them and I can see why, all the fruits and vegetables just seemed so much more flavorful than what we’ve had in Canada and the United States. I had no idea. Some of the best coffee I’ve ever had was at the Aroma Cafes all over Israel, seriously good coffee.In Jerusalem we saw cats everywhere, seriously everywhere and lots of them. Our tour guide said it’s common and that the cats are “well taken care of”, I’m not sure I agree with the last part for all of the cats. I also don’t recommend petting them which was hard for this cat lover, not because they weren’t friendly, many were but one of the travel writers in our group who has lived in Israel mentioned that her family members who visited with her who didn’t know better petted them and the next day some eye infections etc.. So if you do pet them wash your hands right away! Enjoy looking at them though and this is why I’ve shared a cat photo taken in Jerusalem.
Israel is a unique and special country. There are so many great reasons to visit Israel, these ten places to visit are only the beginning. If you have visited Israel – or plan to – we’d love to hear from you in the comments below!