|ISRAELGetting to Tel Aviv is easy. From London there are flights with BA, El Al and Easyjet. Security is very tight so they do like you to check in 3 hours beforehand but since security has been stepped up generally at uk airports anyway we didn’t feel it was particularly awkward.
Tel Aviv airport is between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem so both cities are very easy to get to. Jerusalem is an amazing city steeped in culture and history. Whatever your beliefs you cannot fail to be impressed by this ancient multi cultural walled city.
It is easy to walk around within the city walls and also just outside the city walls which is where the shopping mall, most of the hotels and the bars and restaurants tend to be. Inside the city walls I would totally recommend a walking tour or a combined coach and walking tour through the narrow cobbled streets of the various quarters of the city Armenian, Jewish, Christian and Arab to understand the diverse and cultural history of the city without getting hopelessly lost. Our guide was very neutral and told us all about all the different facets of this fascinating city. Jerusalem has the wow factor of a bucket list city, The Golden Dome which can be seen for miles shining so prominently in the heart of the city. The Wailing or Western Wall, important particularly to the Jewish community, Via Dolorosa with the stations of the cross and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher so important to the Christian community, mosques next door to synagogues and the heart of so many religions and where they all shop freely in the markets whilst observing the different shopping hours to coincide with their respective beliefs, the Arab Quarter closing mostly on Friday, the Jewish quarter on Saturday and the Christian Quarter on Sunday. The citizens of Jerusalem go their own separate ways to their own places of worship but the general atmosphere is one of harmony, market buzz and cultural diversity. The markets are pretty hassle free and as it is so diverse it is possible to buy virtually anything from fresh fruit and vegetables, pomegranate juice, figs and dates, fresh bread, herbs and spices, rugs, jewellery, religious artefacts, ironmongery, general tat, you name it, it’s there somewhere
Staying in David Citadel hotel was absolutely perfect for us being non meat eaters. If you are vegetarian or pescetarian, a hotel with Kosher breakfast is such a delight. I can honestly say we have never had so much choice, in fact too much choice. We were completely bewildered with an array of fruits, yoghurt, salad, vegetables, cheeses, cereals, nuts, bread, cakes, halva and fresh raw fish. If you prefer meat there are plenty of good restaurants mostly in the Arab areas specializing in Middle Eastern cuisine. Jerusalem is quite a lively city and we did find a few decent bars but most close on Friday nights for the Sabbath.
Tel Aviv is on the Mediterranean Sea so we didn’t expect to see lots of surfers nor such massive waves. There is a lovely long promenade all the way along a a lovely sandy beach with lots of seats to just relax and breath in the sea air and watch the world and the runners go by. It is a lovely walk from the Marina to Jaffa, which is reputed to be the world’s oldest city in contrast to Tel Aviv which is a modern city full of high rise hotels. Jaffa has some wonderful converted warehouses which are now fish restaurants by the harbour or you can walk uphill into the old city. The old city doesn’t actually look as old as you would expect as most of it is under the ground but it is a pretty and peaceful little city all the same, full of narrow cobbled streets a lovely park and lots of art galleries. There is a lot of excavation going on in Jaffa and also Jerusalem so ancient relics and more pieces of the historic jigsaw are constantly being discovered. Not everybody walks between Tel Aviv and Jaffa, there is a frequent bus service between the two cities, a highway so you can get a cab or do as the locals do and hire an electric bike. There are hire stations everywhere.
Israel isn’t very big so it is easy to go to Massada and The Dead Sea or Galilee and Caesarea on a very long day trip and this is the most cost effective way of experiencing the northern part of Israel, familiar and significant to Jews and Christians alike but to do them justice you really need to spend a few days there . Bethlehem and Jericho are very close to Jerusalem but they are both in Palestine so there are very tight border controls and it isn’t always possible to get there.