I will be continuing my bucket list with a trip to Israel in a little more than two weeks (thank you, Delta Skymiles and Marriott points :) ). I'm staying at the Tel Aviv Renaissance, but plan to do day tours to some of the major historical sites. I have a week, so can some of you have been there tell me must sees based on experience? Any other travel info would be greatly appreciated!
Wow! I am so happy you get to experience Israel! My husband has been there several times in the past and he he even got to bring me along once(thanks to frequent flier miles too!). We stayed at the Renaissance Tel Aviv. I am sure that it is even better now than it was back then(12 years ago). The lobby views are gorgeous, and all of the rooms have beautiful views of the Sea. I had the best coffee in my life in the restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean Sea! It is right on the beach, so one thing I loved doing was walking down the boardwalk to Jaffa(Joppa) and spending hours there in the fantastic old city. It really takes you back in time. Explore the narrow winding streets and walls of the city. You can get delicious sea food for lunch, and then walk the walk back. Now, this is a very long walk, so you could always take a cab, but then you miss the action on the boardwalk...the old men playing chess under pavilions, the families playing in the huge playgrounds, the sheer beautiy of the sea, etc, etc. Take in the salty smell of the sea, and the warmth of the sun! It would make a fantastic day.
Now, I must say that se are Christian(so to walk in Christ's footsteps for us, was the experience of a life time, and we focused our sightseeing on these areas), and we have friends that live there( that are Jewish, so we learned so much history as they drove us all around). We didn't do any tours, but some of the highlights were Jerusalem(esp. the Church of the Holy Seplechure, the Garden of Gethsemane, the way of the cross, we saw the Dead Sea Scrolls at a museum...I am sorry but I can't remember the name, etc), the Mount of Beatitudes(just gorgeous...we sat on the hill and got out our bibles and read the stories, while taking in the geography of Christ's land). Capernum, where St. Peter lived, the Jordan River, we ate St. Peter's fish on the Sea of Galillee(I know that this is touristy, but it really the history of it all comes to life). We went to Nazareth and toured(on our own) the ruins of where Jesus lived, and the Church that is built over the site where the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, where Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. We went down to Masada and hiked up the mountain, which was an unforgettable experience, and then drove over to the Dead Sea, where we had the surreal experience of floating in the water. Make sure you do this...not only is it amazing, but your skin will be baby soft, too!!!
It was truly a life changing trip for us. In Tel Aviv, we went everywhere by foot, and found great restaurants, shopping, and dancing. I hope you have a wonderful time! Please let us all know how it goes! Best Regards!
Dear Lakeshore and NewHilton,
Thanks so much for the advice and encouragement! I won't have a car, so will rely on tours, but there's so much I want to see (and the advantage in this case is that everything is so close, relatively speaking). As a Catholic, I'm interested in seeing all the Christian sites, but as a historian of ancient and medieval history I want to see everything historical that I can fit in within the week -- Jewish, Muslim and Christian. And I also want to take in the beach and boardwalk, with some relaxation for my arthritic parts in the hotel's pool :).
I read that entry to the Dome of the Rock is only for Muslims. Was that your experience?
Anyway, I am so, so excited, much like I was for my Turkey and Egypt trips (both of which completely bore out my high expectations). I teach all about these places, yet having not been to them until recently or soon, I felt it was superficial.
Thank you so much! I leave two weeks from today, so if you think of anything else, let me know.
Dear Prof. Chiara,
You are going to have an amazing time, and yes, when you return, your teaching will be on another level. I am so happy for you!
Also, I want to add that when you go to the northern parts of the Sea of Galilee, it will be very nice, because for the millennium, the Church made walkways between the sites(we were there the year before). And, my husband and I went to Mass wherever we could find it. It is like Rome, or Paris...you can always seem to stumble upon Mass or adoration just by popping into some great church. In Jerusalem, one memorable experience was in the church(I can't remember the name), but it was built on the ruins of Caiaphas' home. We ended up in the chapel below with some very sweet nuns, who gave us the words to evening prayer, included us, and then for a Mass with 8 priests concelebrating! It was wonderful! Sometimes these are the memories that will forever be etched in our hearts!
As for the Dome of the Rock, we were not able to enter. We got to see it, but not go inside. And, there is so much more to see that I didn't mention before(you probably know more than I!)...the Wailing Wall, the Upper Room, the Church of the Dormition, and so many other things. Also, it really struck me how narrow the streets are within the walls, and how crowded and hot it must have been when Jesus was near death, forced to be carrying the cross up to Golgotha. Oh, how I wish I could be going too!!!
We also went up to Haifa, but we had 3 weeks for the entire Israel trip, so you probably won't have enough time. We didn't get to Bethlehem, because at the time it was too dangerous...lots of fighting. We are praying to go someday, when our boys are bigger.
Oh, you must go to the Garden of Gethsemane too. It was SUCH a moving experience. The Mount of Olives is so serene and yet to think of the agony Christ went through as he gave Himself over to the Father's will. And in the church, they have preserved the area where he prayed and sweat blood in his mental anguish. Certainly a place to reread the Passion.
I will be praying that you have a great time!
Thank you so much, Lakeshore, for the great advice and suggestions. I'm going to try to do as much as I possibly can during the week I'm there and you've helped narrow it down. As you mentioned in the small chapel, it's sometimes the things you didn't expect to find that can be the most memorable. I think Bethlehem should be okay now -- for the first time in years it was apparently packed by visitors at Christmas. Of course, I'm monitoring the political situation and will continue to do so, but I really anticipate a wonderful trip.
I hope you get back some time soon!
Best wishes, ProfChiara