Showing posts with label tourism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tourism. Show all posts

Ilana Goor Museum

The Ilana Goor Museum is located in the picturesque alleyways of old Jaffa, where history is felt in every stone. Goor is a renowned artist who has displayed her sculptures in thewolrd leading galleries; and awarded Roscoe price for best design.
The museum, also her home, is housed in a building over 270 years old, originally an inn for Jewish pilgrims arriving in Jaffa, on their way to Jerusalem. The museum collection boasts over five hundred works of art created by Ilana Goor as well as other artists from Israel and abroad, such as: Agam, Lifshitz, Kadishman, Giacometti, Henry Moore and others.

A visit to the Ilana Goor Museum is an adventure for the senses. Visitors can experience the splendid combination of the building's graceful architecture and rich artistic presentation within, and a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea in the background.
Through the museum, Ilana Goor touches people's hearts and souls and brings them into her life, a life of total art.

Jeep Tours in Israel

A jeep tour in Israel is one of the most amazing and unique ways to experience the country. Taking a tour or safari in the depths of the Negev or Judean Deserts near the Dead Sea, Ramon Crater, or Eilat, beyond where normal cars can go, or in the green hills of the Galilee, is an experience that will remain with you forever. With such a mass of trails only accessible to jeeps, and professional and well equipped guides waiting to take you, make sure you don’t miss the experience to take a jeep tour in Israel.

Jeep Tour Highlights

The Negev Desert is full of off road trails which can be experienced by jeep. It is best to explore with the aide of an experienced guide who will know the terrain and keep you out of any danger. Jeep tours in the Negev enable you to explore the wadis and dunes, the ibexes and other creatures of the desert, and the unique flora and fauna that springs to life after just the smallest drop of rain.

The Negev is a magical place, and it is only when you actually venture into its depths that you can appreciate this. Popular places to take jeep tours in the Negev are at the Ramon Crater, from the hotels at the Dead Sea, and as an excursion from Jerusalem. It is also popular and possible to take a Jeep tour in the Eilat region.

In the Galilee and Golan Heights jeep tours provide a very different outlook to in the Negev. Its remarkably green, Tuscan-like landscape is akin to that of Italy or the Alps, where wine groves straddle the hillsides and small quaint villages house artisans and little hotels. Away from the roads, amazing beauty and history can be seen in this, land, the land of the Bible. A jeep tour in the Galilee or Golan Heights will transcend unique and magical scenes, scenes that have importance in the Bible and have been settled for millenia. The Galilee and Golan Heights are also amazing places to take jeep tours in Israel.

62 Years of Independence

For the 62nd Israeli Independence Day (Yom Ha'atzmaut) we asked our friends on Facebook to upload their favorite photos that were taken in Israel. Over 300 photos were submitted. We chose 62 of them - one for each year - and put them into a slideshow. The song is "Eretz, Eretz" by Ilanit.

Tel Aviv - Lonely Planet's top world city

In 2010, Lonely Planet travel guides listed Tel Aviv as the third-best city in the world.Tel Aviv is celebrated for its open, liberal and relaxed lifestyle. It is famous for its beaches, nightlife, culture, and diversity. Lonely Planet said Tel Aviv is also the greenhouse for Israel's growing art, film and music scenes. From Bauhaus architecture to fine dining, cool neighborhoods to a hopping cafe culture, there's something for everyone in Tel Aviv.

Diving in the Red Sea

Situated at the southern most tip of Israel on the Gulf of Aqaba of the Red Sea, Eilat nestles between jagged red mountains and crystal clear waters, ruffled by nothing more then a gentle northerly breeze. 
The year-long hot, dry climate attracts not only tourists from colder reaches, but also provides a haven for myriad coral and fish species endemic to the bay.

The city of Eilat is a great choice as a dive holiday destination. The Red Sea is a narrow and elongated stretch of blue water, bordered by mountains with an average height of 1,000 – 1,500 meters, with peaks over 2,500 meters above sea level. It is connected to the Indian Ocean at the strait of Bab el Mandab – the gate of tears and to the Gulf of Aqaba at the straits of Tiran. The shallow depths of the straits at only 134 meters are avoiding the accesses of cold waters from the deep Indian Ocean to the Red Sea. 
Although the Gulf of Aqaba is very narrow, with 23.5 km at the widest point, it is very deep with a maximum of 1,829 meters at the deepest point – a fact that creates a very steady water temperature of between 22º to 28º Celsius all year long. 
The coast of the Red Sea is bordered by coral formations with more than 1,200 species of fish and more than 250 species of corals. The desert climate of the area provides a long summer with many sunny days needed by the corals to maintain themselves.

At Eilat you can find world class diving. The local nature reserve hosts a reef of more than 1,200 meters long. It is the northern point at the world in which corals can be found. Divers from all over the world arrive to Eilat to view its wonderful underwater wonders. 
Diving is very popular at this region, with more than 10 dive centers at Eilat and over 20 different dive sites, almost all of which are accessed from shore. Eilat is vary often used as a home base to divers traveling to the city of Aqaba at Jordan, or the Sinai peninsula at Egypt, but you will find no safer and diver friendly dive destination all around the world!
Eilat offers the best environment for dive courses and a few thousand certifications are issued every year. If you're interested in diving, there are a few options.

 As a certified diver you will be asked to show the following documents:

  1. Diving certificate – a card with name and picture from a known dive organization (such as PADI, CMAS, NAUI, SSI, IANTD, TDI, ACUC, and others).
  2. Divers log book – indicating you have been diving in the last 6 months. Divers who haven't been diving more than 6 months will be asked to join a refresh dive before they participate in other dive activities.
  3. Divers Insurance – specific divers insurance which covers recompression chamber treatment or any other necessary medical treatment for diving incident. One can be purchased at every dive center, or by the internet.

Certified divers can join the daily guided dives to one of the many dive sites in Eilat. Experienced divers with more than 20 dives can rent dive equipment and go by themselves for a dive in the area.

Israel's Geographic Regions

Israel is divided into three main regions lengthwise: the coastal plain, the mountain region, and the Jordan Valley Rift.

Coastal plain
The country's western strip, stretching from Rosh Ha-Nikra in the north to the Sinai Peninsula in the south. The plain is 4-7 kilometers wide in the north, expanding as it moves southward to about 50 kilometers.

The soil in the coastal plain is fertile; there are several water sources, and the region includes the country’s major transportation arteries. The coastal plain is densely populated with most of Israel's major cities, including Tel Aviv and Haifa. 

The plain is divided from north to south into the Galilee Plain, the Acre Plain, the Carmel Plain, the Sharon Plain, the Mediterranean Coastal Plain, and the Southern Coastal Plain. East of the coastal plain are the lowlands – moderate hills that create a transitional region between the coast and the mountains.

Mountain region
The mountainous region stretches from Lebanon in the north to Eilat Bay in the south, between the coastal plain and the Jordan Valley Rift. Its highest peaks are the Galilee's Mt. Meron at 1,208 meters above sea level, Samaria's Mt. Ba’al Hatsor at 1,016 meters and the Negev's Mt. Ramon at 1,037 meters above sea level.

Most of the less densely populated mountainous region is stone or rocky ground. The climate in the northern mountainous regions is Mediterranean and rainy, while the southern sections are a desert. The key stretches of the mountainous region are the Galilee in the north, the Carmel, the hills of Samaria, the Judean hills, and the Negev highlands. 

The contiguity of the mountainous region is interrupted at two points by major valleys – the Yizre'el (Jezre'el) Valley separating the Galilee mountains from the hills of Samaria, and the Be'er Sheva-Arad Rift separating the Judean hills from the Negev highlands. The eastern slopes of the Samarian hills and Judean hills are the Samarian and Judean deserts.

Jordan Valley Rift 
The rift extends the entire length of Israel from the northern town of Metula to the Red Sea in the south. 

The rift was caused by seismic activity, and is part of the Afro-Syrian rift which extends from the Syrian-Turkish border to the Zambezi River in Africa. Israel's largest river, the Jordan, flows through the Jordan Valley and includes Israel's two lakes: the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), the largest body of fresh water in Israel, and the salt water Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. The Jordan Valley is divided from north to south into the Hula Valley, the Kinneret Valley, the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea Valley and the Arava.

Golan Heights
The hilly Golan region is east of the Jordan River. The Israeli Golan Heights are the end of a large basalt plain, mostly located in Syria. North of the Golan Heights is Mt. Hermon, Israel's highest peak at 2,224 meters above sea level.

Eilat, Israel's Red Sea Riviera

Visitors so look forward to their arrival at Israel’s Red Sea Riviera of Eilat that many dash straight there without realizing that along the way lie some of the most interesting sites in southern Israel. One of these areas is the Uvda Valley, west of and high above the main Arava Valley road linking the Dead Sea with Eilat. The road to the Uvda Valley (road 40) ascends from the Arava, past Kibbutz Neot Semadar, whose vineyards are beautiful green splashes against the wilderness, about 60 kilometers north of Eilat.

The Uvda Valley’s claim to fame is that despite its seeming bleakness, its soil is surprisingly rich, having flowed down from the surrounding mountains over countless millennia. That is what made it prime land for settlement going back to prehistoric times. Experts have found over 150 settlement sites dating between 10,000 and 6,000 years ago. One interesting site is located very close to Road 40, near the turnoff to the small community of Ma’aleh Shacharut. It’s called the Leopard Temple – a 9,000-year-old enclosure with stones bearing mysterious carvings of feline figures. Just south of the temple, about 500 yards from the road, are smooth, gleaming sand dunes just perfect to roll down and let off energy pent up during the ride.

The ridge of Ma’aleh Shacharut affords a magnificent view of the Arava Valley and across to the mountains of Edom in Jordan. This is only one of the area’s more visible highlights; its many hidden delights have made it a favorite for camel treks, hiking, jeep and cycling tours of varying durations, which can be arranged through tourism service providers in Eilat and elsewhere.

South of Ma’aleh Shacharut you’ll see Uvda Airport, where charter flights bearing visitors to Eilat land straight from Europe. Try to plan the remaining 40 minutes or so of your journey to Eilat to get your first glimpse of the Red Sea at the magical moments just before sunset. It is then that the rugged rose mountains that frame the sea, with their gold, black and blue-green stripes, are at their most dramatic. Before finishing your drive to Eilat, look for the road sign to Mount Yoash, with its incomparable four-country panorama: Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia!

This is the area of the Eilat Mountains Nature Reserve, which offers fabulous hiking trails. One is the Red Canyon, which hikers can explore by climbing up and down ladders. Unusual geological formations are the stars of the Shechoret Canyon, Ein Netafim is a spring in the desert. These and other trails require good orientation skills and detailed maps. Make sure you stop before your hike at the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel’s Eilat Field School, where you can get maps in English, recommendations and advice.

The Negev Desert

The Negev, which extends over Israel’s southern region, accounts for over half of Israel’s land area. Due to its desert character, however, this region is sparsely populated.

Even so, the Negev has seen its share of history. Abraham built his home in Be'er Sheva, the Nabateans passed through here on caravans of camels laden with precious trade goods.

For these and other reasons, the Negev has become one of Israel’s popular tourism sites.

Various peoples have lived in the Negev since the dawn of history: nomads, Canaanites, Philistines, Edomites, Byzantines, Nabateans, Ottomans and of course Israelis. Their economy was based mainly on sheep herding and agriculture, and later also on trade.

The story of the Nabateans is particularly fascinating. The Nabateans were lords of the desert, where they established a trade route known as the “Spice Road.” Caravans of camels traversed this route carrying spices, perfumes and salt from Yemen in the East to the port city of Gaza. Rest stops were built along the route and their remains still beautify the Negev expanses today (Avdat, Mamashit and others).

The modern Israeli settlement of the Negev began about 100 years ago, when a few communities were built. These were joined by another 11 settlements whose founding members built the first homes in a single night. After the establishment of Israel, the new country’s first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, promoted the settlement of the Negev and after he moved to live in Sde Boker a few more settlements were built.

The Negev is defined as a desert due to the small quantities of rain that fall here (less than 200 millimeters annually), and is divided into several regions, starting with the Be'er Sheva-Arad rift in the north, to mountain ridge in the center and the Arava and Eilat in the south. Although the Negev is barren most days of the year, its expanses desolate and its river beds dry, nature here is very surprising. In the winter, despite the small quantities of rain, the Negev is covered with amazing flowers, including luscious red anemones. When there are heavy storms they can cause flash flooding along the riverbeds.

Today the Negev is the gateway to the desert. It offers charming nature corners, historical and archeological sites, springs and the remains of agricultural compounds. Tourism in the desert is a developing industry and many tourists explore its expanses on foot, on bicycle and in all-terrain vehicles.

The Dead Sea

How far does one have to descend to reach the Dead Sea? About 400 meters below sea level. How deep is this salty lake? Almost the same (in the northern section). Fascinating? Absolutely! Every detail about the Dead Sea is fascinating.

Here are a few more facts: The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth in any land mass (417 meters below sea level, to be exact). The quantity of water that evaporates from it is greater than that which flows into it, such that this body of water has the highest concentration of salt in the world (340 grams per liter of water).

It is called the Dead Sea because its salinity prevents the existence of any life forms in the lake. That same salt, on the other hand, provides tremendous relief to the many ailing visitors who come here on a regular basis to benefit from its healing properties. All these and more make the Dead Sea so fascinating, so different and so interesting.

The Dead Sea can also be called “the lowest health spa in the world.” Sea salts are produced from the southern section for industry, and in the northern section promote tourism and good health. The composition of the salts and minerals in the water are what make it so unique and beneficial for the body.

The sea bed also has deposits of black mud that is easy to spread on the body and provides the skin with nourishing minerals. As if that were not enough, the bromide in the air is also beneficial to the body’s systems, thus making the Dead Sea a provider for good health and healing for vacationers from all over the world.

It is a truly priceless national treasure. The western shore (inside Israel’s borders) is dotted with organized beaches and bathing areas that provide convenient access to the water. Beside two of the therapeutic beaches (Neve Zohar and Ein Bokek) large tourism centers have been established, providing the most pampering tourism services. You will find dozens of hotels, hostels and guest houses, restaurants and shopping centers, as well as surprising tourism enterprises that offer a wide range of challenging activities (jeep and bicycle tours, camel tours and Bedouin hospitality, rappelling and more), alongside art and cultural activities (galleries and artists’ studios), and of course the unique agriculture, adapted to the local climate.

The Dead Sea is on the edge of the Judean Desert, a hot, barren region at the foot of Ha-He’etekim cliff, which has also become an important center of desert tourism. The coastline is dotted with many springs, surrounded by wild plant life. The special combination that has formed in this place, between desert landscapes and oasies with plentiful water, plants and animals, attracts both the eye and the heart and draws many tourists to sites such as Mt. Sdom, Nakhal Darga, the Ein Gedi nature reserve and the Einot Tsukim (Ein Fashkha) reserve.

Alongside these breathtaking natural sites there are also some purely historic sites of considerable importance in Israel’s past, which preserve the ancient charm of this area. Among the most prominent sites are the Massada fortress, ancient Ein Gedi and the Qumran cave site where ancient scrolls were found, including the Dead Sea scrolls, which offer some insights into early Christianity and the Essenes sect that lived at the site and is considered the beginning of Christian monasticism.

The northwestern region of the Dead Sea is also a pilgrimage site for Christians who have visited here over the centuries especially during the Easter season. From here they go to the Jordan (the traditional site of Jesus’ baptism), and many still follow this tradition in our times.

A tour of the Dead Sea region would not be complete without a visit to the amazing monasteries built on the cliff walls. In the fourth century ascetism became popular among Christians, who wanted to live their lives as Jesus had. Many believers wanted to devote themselves to God and the Judean Desert became a ideal destination for monks, who built phenomenal monasteries, some of them carved into the stone faces of the desert cliffs. Among these monasteries are St. George, Quruntul, Khozeba and Mar Saba. Some of the monasteries are still operating and even welcome visitors, who can gain their own impressions of the intensity of the desert and its wild beauty.

Top 10 places to visit in Israel

Take a look at some of the country's most popular tourist sites, from Masada and Ein Gedi, to Caesarea and the Eilat observatory.

Gush Etzion

This region south of Jerusalem, with its picturesque rolling hills adorned with grape arbors and olive groves, is brimming with biblical and modern history. For millennia, the main road through here passed near Bethlehem, which in Bible days was called Efrat (Gen. 48:7). In a nod to past, present and future, the region’s largest modern community bears that same name.

The name of another Gush Etzion town, Alon Shvut––“oak of return”­­­­–– is also meaningful, in terms of more recent history. In 1927, Yemenite Jews founded the region’s first farming community, naming it Migdal Eder (Gen. 35:31). Later, four more farming communities were established by other Jewish pioneers. Although they had to abandon their homes during Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, the inhabitants never forgot them, and over the years they would come to gaze from a distance at a huge, lone oak tree, which they could see on the horizon. The actual ancient oak is now a treasured visitors' site near the town of Alon Shvut.

In 1967 Gush Etzion was re-established. Among the first to arrive were young adults who had lived there as children before 1948,  conveying new meaning to Jeremiah’s comforting words to Rachel (who gave birth to Benjamin not far from here): “And there is hope for your future; your children shall return to their country” (Jerusalem. 31:17).  

Another attraction is the two-mile-long Patriarch’s Highway, which begins near Alon Shvut. In addition to magnificent landscapes, visitors see a fine ancient ritual bath (mikveh), similar to those described in the Mishnah. Scholars believe travelers immersed here before reaching Jerusalem, especially on the busy holidays of Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot––to avoid the crowds at the Holy City’s ritual baths!

Speaking of holidays, the Patriarch’s Highway also has a Chanukah connection: It passes near Beit Zacharyah, where Elazar, the brother of Judah the Maccabee (who also has a Gush Etzion community named after him), fought the Greeks.

The Kfar Etzion visitors' center showcases the region’s heritage in a moving audio-visual presentation and offers tours of the region and accommodations.

The Judean Desert

The Judean Desert is bordered by the Mountains of Judea to the west and by the Dead Sea to the East. It is considered a relatively small desert, spanning only 1,500 square kilometers, but it contains many fascinating nature reserves, historic sites, monasteries and primeval panoramas that make it an exciting and unique place to visit.

The Judean desert is full of breathtaking views that are constantly changing. Mountains, cliffs, and chalk hills stand alongside plateaus, riverbeds, and deep canyons. The width and breadth of the desert is crossed by several rivers that have created canyons up to 500 meters deep. Some of these rivers have water all year round, and create oases such as Nahal Arugot, Nahal Prat, and Nahal David. The ancient cliffs on the eastern edge of the desert tower to a height of 300 meters above the shore of the Dead Sea, and nature reserves such as Ein Gedi and Einot Tzukim lie at their feet.

The Judean Desert is close to Jerusalem and relatively sparsely populated. The few settlements that are there were established at its perimeter.  The desert is known for its rugged landscape, which has provided a refuge and hiding place for rebels and zealots throughout history, as well as solitude and isolation to monks and hermits. During the days of the Maccabees (about 2,000 years ago) large fortresses such as Massada and Horkenya were established in the desert. During the period of the great rebellion against Rome the last battle of the Jewish zealots was fought on Massada, and during the period of the Second Temple members of the Judean Desert cult lived there.

Several decades ago the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered hidden in a cave in Qumran, which shed light on the Bible and on the period during which they were written. It is worthwhile to visit Qumran National Park and see the archeological remains of the Jewish settlement that existed there.

Jewish rebels were not the only people who lived in the Judean Desert. During the Byzantine period (approximately 1,500 years ago) a special order of monks known as the Laura lived there and based their lifestyle upon total isolation and solitude. The magnificent monasteries that belonged to monks of this order were built in the cliffs and rock crevasses, with small, personal chambers and cupolas for common meetings during days of prayer.

Many monasteries have been established in the Judean Desert. Some of these are still active, and others, such as the Mar Saba Monastery, the Mar Jirias and others are empty and only the ruins remain.

Near the Judean Desert and the monasteries is one of the most important sites in Christianity, the Baptism site on the Jordan River, where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. According to Christian tradition, the waters of the Jordan River are sacred, and many pilgrims come to the spot and immerse themselves in the waters. (The site was later moved to the spot where the Jordan River flows out of the Kinneret, which is more easily accessible.)

Visitors can go on excursions in the Judean Desert for several days on foot, by bicycle, or with an SUV. Tourists can lodge in one of the many hotels in the area or camp out under the stars for a real desert experience.

The Valley of Elah

Forty-five minutes southwest of Jerusalem, visitors to Israel can experience one of the country's most tightly held secrets: the Valley of Elah. The recent Oscar-nominated movie, In the Valley of Elah, starring Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron, may have done more for its name recognition than David's epic battle against Goliath which raged here, but this region, flanked by the gently rolling hills of Judea, still remains one of the Holy Land's less frequented gems.

Minutes after exiting Highway 1 linking Israel's two major cities of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the verdant approach to the Valley of Elah gives way to secluded monasteries and vineyards where Israelis and more and more travelers come to sample the rising stars in Israeli wines.

The region surrounding the Valley of Elah is one of the hotspots of Israeli viniculture. Wine exports from the country have doubled since 2001 with France the number two importer of Israeli wine after the United States.

Meteorological Monks and Hand-Painted Pottery
Nearby, down a gently winding road, Israel's first meteorological station still functions and is maintained by monks within the confines of the Beit Jamal Monastery. During visiting hours, visitors admire the remains of a mosaic from a 5th-century Byzantine church that occupied the site until the Persian invasion of 614. A more modern structure erected by Salesian monks in the 1800's stands today, as well as a second church for the 32 Sisters of Bethlehem, who are sworn to a vow of silence. This idyllic setting is often the venue for concerts and a favorite pit stop for cyclists. Even when there are no performances, the nuns wordlessly sell charming, hand-painted pottery.

Rustic Cookery and Idyllic Scenery where David Slew Goliath
Visitors to the Valley of Elah in spring are greeted by a carpet of red anemones and multicolored lupins. Hiking amongst the remains of ancient towns like Azeka and King Hezekiah's Sokho help conjure up the epic biblical battle between David and Goliath, which the Bible tells us took place here. Centuries later, Arab armies surged up the valley to conquer Jerusalem.

Ancient wine presses dot the ruins, attesting to the valley's winemaking importance over the millennia.  In summer, hikers and bikers bask in the shade of forested Britannia Park and along the banks of Nahal Sorek, one of Israel's longest watercourses. When it's time to eat, a plethora of charming country restaurants serve up an array of culinary treats.  

Carved Out by Hand: The Underground City of Beit Govrin
At the southern end of Route 38, which leads from the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway to the Valley of Ellah, stands the biblical town and now national park of Beit Govrin. Originally a Jewish settlement dating back at least 3,000 years, the sprawling city over time became home to Byzantine Christians and later Muslims. Impressive bell-shaped caves and underground chambers were hollowed by hand out of the soft chalk creating an entire underground city. In the park, which stretches over one thousand acres, visitors clamber through the subterranean columbaria where carrier pigeons were raised, and see mosaics, ancient churches and Byzantine tombs. During Chanukah, Beit Govrin's caves serve as a popular candle-lit venue for concerts.

The Valley of Elah is an easy day trip from either Jerusalem or Tel Aviv - less than 45 minutes from either. Those wishing to sleep over can choose from an assortment of bed and breakfasts and even monasteries.


The Lowlands, or the Shfela as they are called in Hebrew, are the transitional foothills between the country’s central mountains and the coastal plain. It is a mostly rural area of low rounded hills, broad valleys and villages, which now includes many tourist attractions. The region is crossed by several rivers and wadis such as the Ayalon, Sorek and the Elah. Parts of the hills are covered with Mediterranean bush and forest; others have the vegetation of more arid zones. Large parts are now covered by pine forests planted by the Jewish National Fund (Keren Kayemet) with many camping grounds, archeological sites and other tourist attractions.

It is a fertile region with a fascinating history that revolves around its economic importance and strategic position throughout the ages. This is the region where Bar Kokhva, the Jewish military leader, dug into the ground with his troops during the great rebellion against the Romans between the years 132 and 135 CE. It was one of the most important olive growing regions in the country and the countryside has many ancient oil presses. Today it is the site of the wine route that goes through the dozens of boutique wineries in the region.

Parts of the region are green all year around with many springs and brilliant displays of wildflowers in the spring. The region’s moshavim have dozens of restaurants and home cooking business that specialize in many ethnic cuisines. It also is a region known for good hiking and bicycle trails, art galleries and other attractions.

The most ancient site in the region is the Beit Govrin-Maresha National Park, with its spectacular bell caves, columbarium and the remains of two ancient cities. Many ancient tels are scattered through the lowlands including Tel Azeka, Tel Tsafit, Tel Goded, all of which have remains of ancient civilizations.

One striking new tourist attraction is the Mini Israel, a scale model of many important sites in the country from the Hermon to Eilat, with the Old City of Jerusalem, the Bahai Garden of Haifa, the Caesarea National Park and even the national football stadium in Ramat Gan.

There are several interesting monasteries in the region including Beit Jamal, Deir Rafat and Latrun. Near Latrun one can find the ruins of Emmaus, so important in the Christian tradition, where Jesus reputedly met Simon and Cleopas after his resurrection. Emmaus was an important place from the time of the Macabeans around 2,000 years ago till the crusader era (less than 1,000 years ago.)

Some of he most important parks in the area include the Ben Shemen park with its special money park, The Ayalon Park, also known as the Canada Park, the Britain Park and Lahav Park – all sites of special wild beauty.

The Dan Region

The Dan Region, or Gush Dan as it is called in Hebrew, is the pulsing hub of the country, the metropolis at the heart of Israeli business and culture.

The region is comprised of adjacent cities that surround Tel Aviv. The region’s boundaries are commonly said to start with Herzliya at the north around Petakh Tikva to the east and Rishon Letsion to the south, a region that includes about 1.6 million inhabitants. But many people claim that the region should also include Rosh Ha’ayin to the East and Rehovot in the south making it a region with two million people and the most densely populated part of the country.

There is never a dull moment in this part of the country. This is Israel’s entertainment capital and the center of gravity for business and shopping, with numerous theaters cafes, bars, museums and parks as well as amazing beaches, vibrant festivals and many historic and archeological sites of interest.

The Jerusalem Hills

The Jerusalem hills are another region that vies for the description of the Israeli Tuscany. Unlike the original, however, the Jerusalem hills offer many secrets from a deeper past as well as fascinating nature sites and tremendous beauty all year round.

As their name indicates, the Jerusalem hills are a hilly region in the Judean mountains, with Jerusalem nestling in the middle. Seven long extensions of these hills stretch toward to the coastal plain in the west and the Jordan Valley in the east. 

The Jerusalem hills are known for their great historic importance, due to their proximity to the Holy City. Pilgrims past this way thousands of years ago, making their way to the holy sites for prayers, sacrificial offerings and just to visit; armies and many divisions of soldiers fought here, forcing their way between the mountains to the beloved city. Jews rebels from the days of the Bar Kokhba Revolt in 132 CE hid here from the Roman occupiers; and the Crusaders marched this way on their campaigns to free Jerusalem.

Today this area is dotted with urban communities (Mevaseret Tsiyon, Tsur Hadassa) and rural communities. Large areas of the Jerusalem hills are covered with natural forests and forests of planted pine trees, making this area a pleasant place to hike on hot summer days. 

This region is blessed with some 100 springs, in the valleys between the hills and on the hillsides. Most of the springs flow from cracks in rock formations and every one of them is a celebration of nature. Many of the hillsides have ancient terraces built on them, silent testimony to ancient agricultural efforts. 
Scattered among the hills are also the remains of agricultural settlements from the First Temple period (3,000 years ago); such as Khurvat Kfar Sum, farm houses and agricultural systems from the Second Temple and Roman-Byzantine periods, such as Sataf and Ein Khandak; and Crusader sites such as the Abu Gosh church, the Tsuba fortress and the Ein Khemed monastery. The Jerusalem hills also have many sites commemorating the fierce battles waged here in the 1948 War of Independence, such as the Kastel in Mevaseret Tsiyon and the Burma Road.

The many natural, historic, archeological, social and cultural sites in this large area make it an ideal and fascinating destination for tours. There are paths for hikers, roads for cars and bicycles and areas that can be reached with all-terrain vehicles. 
You can crawl through hidden tunnels, wade in the spring pools, pick sweet fruit in season, go horseback riding and take a tour of the hilltops with their magnificent views. Many of the rural communities have opened wonderful restaurants and visitors can also tour the local wineries, art galleries and studios of artist who live in this area.