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11-27 April 2009

I left South Africa on Ethiopean Airways for Addis Abeba, from where I would get my connecting flight to Tel Aviv.  Although the plane was old, service was excellent and the crew friendly.

Old Jaffa Hostel

Old Jaffa Hostel

Entry into Israel was painless, with only a few questions.  South African citizens do not need a Visa to enter Israel. The easiest way to get to Tel Aviv from the airport is by train. It costed 13NIS and you need to get off at Merkaz Station. It is the 3rd station – Indications and announcements on the train is poor. From Merkaz you can get a bus to your final destination. My stay for the next 2 days would be in Jaffa. I booked a double room in the Old Jaffa Hostel (www.inisrael.com/oldjaffahostel) and ended up in a room with a double bed an 4 bunker beds. Although the facilities are pretty basic (shared bathroom), it is clean with free chocolat coconut-cookies and coffee. This Hostel was included in London’s Independant Newspaper as 1 of Top 50 Guesthouses Worldwide – I will not agree with this, but the cost of 190NIS for a double is cheap comparing to the average Israeli rates . The Hostel, once a Turkish home is not easily found. Walk to the Clocktower and turn left until you find the Jaffa Flea Market, where you can find anything someone else doesn’t want. The Hostel is just down from the Market.

 Jaffa is situated 2km south from Tel Aviv, and was founded in the wake of the great flood by Noah’s son – thus establishing itself as one of the world’s oldest ports. As Jaffa, Tel Aviv is not the highlight of your Israeli tour, but must be enjoyed as a cosmopolitan city with a wonderful promenade, stretching for kilometers, with good restaurants on the Mediterranean Sea. 

Jaffa:

Jaffa Art Area

Artist's Quarter

The Seafront of Old Jaffa & The Artist Quarter – a compact area of old Arab houses and narrow stone-flagged alleys

Tel Aviv:

Carmel Market2

Carmel Market

The Beachfront Promenade & Carmel Market which is the largest open-air market, selling clothing, household items, fresh fish, meat, fruit, vegetables, spices, biscuits, nuts & seeds

Carmel Market

Carmel Market

Caesarea:

Caesarea Roman Theatre

Caesarea Roman Theatre

Herod the Great build a city here 29-22 BC and dedicate it to Augustus Caesar. It is one of Israel’s major archaeological sites. There is a huge Roman Theatre with seating for 4,000 spectators. Pontius Pilate lived here during the time of Jesus, and St Paul was imprisoned here for two years before being sent to Rome. It is difficult to reach Caesarea with public transport, but if you do have a motor it is an ideal basis visiting the Central and South Coast – Megiddo &  Nazareth. I stayed at Merkazyami S’dot Yam (merkazyami@sdot-yam.org.il) . It’s next to S’dot Yam Kibbutz and has a nice quiet beach with beach bar which unfortunately closes @ 18h00. Caesarea Beach                  

Rooms are spacious, fitted with a fridge, microwave, ensuite bathroom with sea-views. Breakfast and Dinner can be arranged with a daily rate of 355NIS. I will suggest taking the meals inclusive as it is some way from Caesarea. Make sure that you get clear indications at time of booking. Also ensure that you keep your windows closed as there is small insects which bite like mad – rather keep the aircon on!

Nazareth:                                                                                                                        

Church of the Anunciation

Nazareth: Church of the Anunciation

Cave Maria
Angel Gabriel is said to have appeared here to Mary

 

Jesus Christ spend most of His childhood in Nazareth. It’s the biggest Arab city in Israel.  The Basilica of the Annunciation, the largest church in the Middle East, marks the spot where the Virgin Mary have been informed by the Angel Gabriel that God had chosen her to bear His Son – remember to wear long trousers if you wants to visit this Church. St Joseph’s Church is next to the Basilica and occupy the site considered to be the carpentry shop of Joseph. If you plan to overnight in Nazareth, other travellers recommend the Fauzi Azar Inn (www.fauziazarinn.com).

Megiddo / Armageddon: 

In the 3rd millennium BC it was already a fortified city. In 1468 BC its Canaanite fortress was destroyed by the troops of the Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose III.  It was the scene of many battles that the book of Revelation in the New Testament says that this is where the final battle between Good & Evil will take place.

Megiddo2

Kerneels at Megiddo

Megiddo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Haifa: 

Baha'i Gardens

Haifa Baha'i Gardens

Haifa is Israel’s third – largest city, and a centre for high tegnology. Haifa is also renowned for the famous Baha’i Gardens which dominates the Mount Carmel hillside. The complex include the world’s longest hillside garden as well as the golden domed Baha’i Shrine, which is the head quarters of the Baha’i faith. It’s followers believe that no religion has a monopoly on the Truth, and aims to integrate the teachings of all holy men.  The building contains the tomb of a muslim in Persia who proclaimed the coming of a “Promised One” in 1844.

I had a meaningful experience in Haifa, in meeting a Pen pal after more than 20 years. While I was in High School, I corresponded with Assaf, an Israeli, living in Haifa. After school I went to University and Assaf was called for Military Service. We lost contact. I tried to get in contact with Assaf again but was unsuccessful after various searches on Google and Facebook.  As the plane touches the landing strip in Tel Aviv, his address came clear to my mind – Amazing!. What would be the possibility that his parents will still be living there after 20 years?. I found the address without any trouble. The problem was there is 6 Units on the same address – the names of the residents were displayed outside the building. After various requests whether someone with the same surname is staying there, I discovered that my pronounciation must be wrong and I changed my approach in asking, who was living there. It was nr5. As nobody was home, I left a letter. As I exit the city, my phone was ringing. I was fortunate that he had the day free, and was spoiled with a dinner and a Haifa-tour.

  

Jerusalem:

Jerusalem

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

Jerusalem is an important city to at least three religious groups. To Jews, the place where Abraham went to sacrifice Isaac; the site of David’s glory and Solomon’s Temple. To Christians, it is the city where Jesus spend his last days on earth; the site of the Last Supper, the Crucifixion and Resurrection. To Muslims the place where Mohammed is said to have ascended to Heaven – and the third holiest city after Mecca and Medina.

 The Old City is divided in four areas: Christian, Jewish, Armenian and Muslim – with distinct identification between each. The Walls of the city is not that old and was constructed between 1537 and 1542. Eight gates gives access to the Old City.

 The Christian Quarter:

This quarter is the most visited part of the Old City. It has clean streets, hospices and stalls, and is entered through the Jaffa gate. David Street is the main route down through the Old City. This cramped, stepped alley doubles as a busy tourist bazaar. The Municipal Tourist Information office is just inside the Jaffa Gate, and provides extensive information on Jerusalem, and what’s happening. They also provide helpful Maps of the Old City and the Jerusalem City Map.

Entering Jaffa Gate, The Citadel is the most imposing building in front of you. The current structure dates from 14th century. Excavations here have revealed remains dating back to the 2nd century BC, and indicate that there was a fortress here from Herodian times. This supports the view that this is most likely the site of Christ’s Trial and Condemnation. If you do like history, this museum tells the history of Jerusalem at a cost of 30 NIS, with good views of the City.

Golgota Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Golgotha: Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Stone of  Uniction

Stone of Uniction

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was build in the 12th  century by Crusaders on the same spot where Emperor Constantine the Great erected a church in the 4th century, after his mother Helena identified the tomb of Jesus. Build around what is believed to be the site of Christ’s Crucifixion, Burial and Resurrection, this complex is of the most important in Christianity.

 

Christ's Tomb Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Christ's Tomb: Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Christ’s Tomb is perhaps the most sacred. Inside the 1810 monument, a marble slab covers the rock on which Christ’s body is believed to have been laid. In the 1st century AD, this site consisted of a small, rocky rise just outside the City Walls and a disused stone quarry into whose rock face tombs had been cut. This hillside was dug away in the 4th century to allow a church to be build around the Tomb. The Stone of Unction where the anointing and wrapping of Christ’s body after his death has been commemorated since medieval times – the present stone dates from 1810. Golgotha: Through the glass around the Greek Orthodox altar can be seen the outcrop of rock venerated as the site of Crucifixion.

Protestants doubt that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the true site of the Crucifixion and Resurrection. In the 19th century General Gordon identified the Garden Tomb as the possible site of Jesus’s Tomb and the Garden today belongs to the Anglicans.

   The Jewish Quarter:

Jersusalem Old City

Jerusalem Old City: Jewish Quarter

Western Wall

Western Wall

This quarter stands as a fascinating living mix of more than 2000 years of Jerusalem Jewry. It is a residential area with scrubbed stone and proper rubbish collection unlike their neighbours.

Written Prayers

Written Prayers in the Wall

The Western Wall rising to a height of 15 meters (50ft), consists mainly of massive carved stone blocks from the Herodian time, topped by masonry from the Mameluke and Turkish periods. Contrary to popular belief, it was not a part of the Temple of Solomon’s itself, but merely the retaining wall of the western side of the Temple Mount. Because Jews gathered here to bemoan the loss of the Temple, the place earned the evocative “Wailing Wall”. The Western Wall Plaza functions as a large open-air synagogue where groups gather to recite the daily, Shabbat (Sabbath) and festival services of the Jewish faith. Special events are also celebrated here, such as the religious coming of age of a boy or girl (Bar or Bar Mitzvah). Some worshippers visit the Wall daily to recite the entire Book of Psalms; others who believe that petitions to God made at the Wall are specially effective, insert written prayers into the stones. There are separate sections for men and women.

  

  

  

 

 

 

 

 The Armenian Quarter:

Armenian Ceramics

Armenian Ceramics

Armenia was the first nation to officially embrace Christianity when their King converted in AD 303. They establish themselves in Jerusalem during the next century. The Kingdom of Armenia disappeared at the end of the 4th century and Jerusalem was adopted as their spiritual capital – their presence is purely religious. The core of the quarter is one big monastic compound. The Zion Gate gives access to this quarter, but can also be reached via the Jaffa Gate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Muslim Quarter:

This is the largest and most densely populated area of the Old City. It is ironic that most of the Christian Churches and Institutions, such as the Via Dolorosa, Garden Tomb and Church/Mosque of the Ascension falls within this area. This quarter is in decay and contains the city’s poorest homes. Few people stray from the main thoroughfares, but those who do are richly rewarded.

Via Dolorosa

Via Dolorosa

The Via Dolorosa or “Way of Sorrow”, winding along narrow streets  from the Ecce Homo Convent to the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. This is the traditional route Jesus followed bearing his cross from Pilate’s Judgment Hall to Calvary Hill or Golgotha. Along the route are the “Fourteen Stations of the Cross”. Each Station marks an event of sacred memory, with chapels for reflection, convents and monasteries of Devotion, and the sacred Basilica for Commemoration. It begins near St Stephen’s Gate (Lions’ Gate) which, despite the surrounding churches, is actually in the Muslim Quarter.

The Dome of the Rock, is an eye-catching structure (AD 688-691), which is a shrine and not a mosque. It is a fantasia of marble, mosaics and stained glass, painted tiles and quotations from the Koran, all capped by the gold-plated aluminium dome. Notable too are the curved pillars, at the top of the steps, from which according to tradition, scales will be hung on Judgment Day to weigh the souls of mankind. It is a vast complex which can accommodate 5000 worshippers. As the name suggests, the dome covers the slab of stone sacred to both Muslim and Jewish faiths. It was here that Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son and from which according to Islamic tradition, the Prophet Mohammed launched himself heavenward to take his place alongside Allah. Make sure when you want to visit this site that it is not a Muslim-holiday when non-Muslims are not allowed near it. I tried myself for one week, without any success.

Central Souk

Central Souk

The Market (Central Souk) in the Muslim Quarter should not be missed. It is not that there is anything of particular worth buying, but it offers visitors the ultimate oriental experience. The narrow alleyways are bustling with energy, chaotic noise and the smells of spices. Buying anything here is a process of bargaining, and although it may be frustrating this is the way it is working here. The real heart of the Souk is the Spice Market. Down King David Street (before the end of this street), turn left in Shuk-Ha-Basamim.

  

Central Souk3

Makhane Yehuda

Another  Market which should not be missed is Jerusalem’s Makhane Yehuda. Here you will find a huge array of pickles, spices, dried fruits and nuts.

 

 

 

 

 

 Shabbat

Sabath

Preparing for Shabbat

Jewish spiritual life revolves around the home, house of study and synagogue. The Orthodox pray three times daily, but it is on Sabbaths and festivals that the liturgy is at its most elaborate. An hour before sunset you will hear a horn which indicates the start of the Shabbat with Jerusalemites dressed in their best Clothes and heading for the Western Wall or carrying backpacks full of food as they head to the home of a friend for Friday-dinner. Everything comes to a halt from Friday afternoon until Saturday at 18h00. All Egged buses are off the road, so prepare for this in planning your trip. I managed to arrange attending a Shabbat Dinner with the help of the Tourist Office near Jaffa Gate. The Dinner started at 21h00, and please do not pitch with holiday clothing as I did – you will not feel at ease. The whole neighbourhood – or that was how it was feeling –  attended. It starts with Wine or Grape juice and the singing of Prayers followed by various food courses and teachings. The process finish at about midnight. If you do get the opportunity to attend a dinner, make use of it.  

 

 

The Mount of Olives

Mount of Olives

Mount of Olives with the Garden of Getshemane on the left

Wherever the historical Golgotha was located, it is agreed that Jesus made his entry in Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. This hill, with its beautiful views of Jerusalem, is mainly a Jewish Cemetery, dating back to the Biblical period and still in use today. Tombs were dug here as early as 2400 BC. Now best known for Christ’s Agony and betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane and his Ascension into Heaven, this hill has always been a holy place. According to the Book of Zechariah, this is where God will start to redeem the dead when the Messiah returns on the Day of Judgment. In order to get a good place in the line, Jews have always preferred to be buried here – well this is a long way from South Africa!  Jerusalem is one of those places where it is difficult to ascertain whether everything happened where it is said to be or if certain places are still in its original form – for this reason in only a few places I really experienced that special feeling I was looking for as a Christian. The Mount of Olives being one of them.

 

 

 

Garden of Getsemane

Garden of Gethsemane

The following sites can be visited here: Tomb of the Virgin Mary, The Garden of Gethsemane, the Mosque of the Ascension, and Tombs of Prophets. The Mosque of the Ascension marks the traditional site of Jesus’ ascent to heaven – inside is a space where the dust miraculously formed the image of Christ’s footprints. Down the hill is the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus is believed to have been arrested. The Olive grove here has been verified as being 2000 years old, making them witnesses to the events that may have occurred here. Plan at least half a day to visit the Mount and the rest of the day on Mount Zion

 

 

 

 

Mount Zion

Last Supper

Room of the Last Supper

A short walk from the Zion Gate is the hill synonymous with the biblical Jerusalem and the Promised Land.  Within the Diaspora Yeshiva (www.diaspora.org.il) complex is the site of King David’s Tomb – this is one of the most revered Jewish Holy sites. Upstairs from here you will find the Room of the Last Supper. It is believed that this is the site of Christ’s last Supper with his Disciples

 

 

 

 

 

   

Outside The City Walls

 

Golgota Garden Tomb

Garden Tomb: Golgotha

Garden Tomb

Garden Tomb

The Garden Tomb is situated on a hill which, if viewed from East Jerusalem Bus Station, suggests to many the shape of a skull, which is the meaning of the Hebrew word Golgotha. The Skull is clearly visible in the photo on the left.

Several hundred meters to the north of the Damascus Gate, along Derekh Shkem, you will come to the Garden Tomb. Within a landscape reminiscent of a English Garden, this is a dual chambered cave that Protestants claim could have been the Tomb of Jesus. I must agree with a Catholic Priest which said “If the Garden Tomb is not the true site of the Lord’s death and resurrection, it should have been”

 

Inside Garden Tomb

Inside the Garden Tomb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dead Sea

Dooie See

Dead Sea - Kalia Beach

The Dead Sea, the lowest  point on the face of the Globe, is surrounded by the starkest scenery the world has to offer, and contains no life of any sort – thus called the “Dead Sea”. Yet today it is a  source of both life and health: the potash in its waters is an invaluable fertilizer, the lake and springs that feed it are said to have cured arthritis, since ancient times, and its mineral -rich mud is also claimed to have therapeutic qualities. The salt content is so high, making it impossible to sink. The water level of the “sea” is decreasing by the day as a result of the use of the waters of the River Jordan by both Israel and Jordan. The Dead Sea is just a 20 minute ride from Jerusalem, which make it a perfect day visit.

 

 

 

Dooie See2

Dead Sea - Mud bath

Other well renowned places around the Dead Sea are Masada (the most spectacular archaeological site in Israel), and Kumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.

On descending from Jerusalem, the first available opportunity to float in the Dead Sea is at Kalya/Kalia Beach, on the North West shore. Kalya offers several beaches and is not packed as Ein Gedi (which is the main Resort). Kalia is on the main bus route from Jerusalem Bus Station to Ein Gedi. Make sure to inform the bus driver that you want to get off at Kalia. The bus will drop you in the desert – you have to walk about 2 kilometres to the sea, past bombed-out remains of Jordanian homes and a failed water-park venture. Do not let this bother you, the beach is pleasant and quiet with enough mud. Remember to bring your glasses with, do not enter the water if you do have any open wounds on your body, do not splash water in your eyes and wash off with fresh water after your bath. Before starting your bath, ensure that everything you need is outside your bag. The saltwater crystallise immediately, and it is not easy getting the marks off – and do not use your camera  – the salt enter every corner. This trip is worth every bit.

Where I stayed in Jerusalem:

Jerusalem Hostel

Jerusalem Hostel & Guesthouse

I originally booked a room via Hostelworld at Hashimi Hotel and the East New Imperial Hotel in the Old City, which both confirmed and I paid my  deposit to Hostelworld – both Hotels later cancelled my bookings and I did not receive any payments back – do not stay at these Hotels as they are not reputable. I stayed for 5 days in the Jerusalem Hostel & Guesthouse (www.jerusalem-hostel.com). This Hostel is in the City centre, about 1 kilometre from the Old City. The rooms is basic, with a shower and basin. Free Internet is available 24 hours. While I stayed there, the Local Authority were busy building a new train line past the City Centre to the Old City – this line is in front of the Hostel. If you can not book in before 22h00, make sure that you have made arrangements with the Hostel, as you will need a passcode to enter. 

Although it may be an experience to stay in the Old City, it may also have a negative side, as it is always busy, noisy and it is not easy walking with luggage in the small pedestrianised alleys. If you want to stay in the Old City, make arrangements with one of the Christian Hospices, but book well in advance (www.austrianhospice.com; www.itac-israel.org).

Eilat

Eilat

Eilat Choral beach with Jordanian mountains

Eilat is Israel’s southernmost city. It is a mecca for snorkelers, scuba-divers, windsurfers, birdwatchers and sun-worshippers – making it one of Israel’s most popular tourist resorts. About 4,5 hours by bus from Jerusalem, Eilat feels like a land apart, separated from the rest of Israel not only by the Negev desert.

The bottom of the Red Sea is the main attraction here. If you do not want to dive to admire the multicoloured ecosystem, there are glass bottomed boats as well. The beaches is of mixed sand and pebble – walk with sandals. Do not bother bringing your own diving equipment as there are numerous places renting diving masks, snorkels and flippers.

I spend 2 days in Eilat, which I think is enough, to explore what the Red Sea can offer. The Eilat Arava border-crossing into Jordan, makes Petra a superb excursion  – please read my blog on Jordan (Under construction).

I stayed in the Prima Music Hotel, which is a tourist class Hotel on the Coral Beach – away from the hustle of Eilat which is about 3 kilometre north of Eilat – the Hotel issues bus tickets for free, for travel between Eilat and the Hotel (Bus No.15). There are only 1 restaurant in this area, which might make it inconvenient if you want to have dinner in Eilat (the last bus to the hotel leaves Eilat at about 19h30). The  hotel’s rooms does have Red Sea views and is standard with air conditioning, Cable TV and swimming pool – which strictly closes at 18h00.  It serves a standard Israeli breakfast (see my section under Food). I booked the Hotel via www.diesenhaus.com, and it costs $118/night inclusive of breakfast. You will find it difficult to get a Hotel in Eilat for this rate. The Hotel is good, but perhaps not convenient travelling by bus to town.

Food in Israel

Israeli kos

Falafel, Salad, Houmous & Lemonade

Israeli food is a mix or melting pot of flavours, reflecting the cultural mix of the nation and adopting influences from the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Eastern Europe (Migration of Russian Jews). The main Israeli food is that of the Jews, largely the Oriental (Middle Eastern) and Ashkenazi (Eastern Europe) communities. Oriental dishes revolve mainly around grilled meats and fish, stuffed vegetables, and a range of meze – large selection of starters like houmous (chickpea paste with olive oil, lemon & garlic), babaghanoush (aubergine baked and then pureed), along with pickled vegetables and olives. The Ashkenazi specialities are spicy stews – goulash, fish balls and stuffed pancakes, known as blintzes.

The Jewish dietary laws, determine many of the eating habits. What this mean in practise is that meat considered impure (as pork, horse, rabbit & certain types of seafood) cannot be eaten and permitted meat have to be slaughtered according to religious practice. During Passover a kosher restaurant cannot serve any bread or pastries.

Street Food is popular and includes Falafel (deep fried balls of mashed chickpeas) and Shwarma served in a pitta.

Israeli kos2

Meat, Houmous & Pickled Vegetables

Israel has an excellent selection of cheeses from Goats and Sheep’s milk. This is served during Breakfast with boiled eggs,  salads (Onion, Tomato, Olives) and fruit.

You have to taste all the different types of Olives in Israel – it’s the best.

Drinks in Israel

You can get any type of coffee and Teas of many kinds are available.

Israel produces its own Wines of which the Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs are enjoyable. Beer is available in any shop and Goldstar tastes good.

Although you can drink water from the tap, bottled water is readily available and fruit juices freshly squeezed in front of you are very popular as Lemonade and Date juice.

 

  

Travelling in Israel:

By Car

For the first week of my visit I rented a car from Eldan (www.eldan.co.il) . The service was efficient and ended up with a motor in a bigger class. By reserving the car well in advance the rate was comparable to South African rates. Driving by car in Israel is not that difficult and I found navigating on motorway numbers easier than to try reading the Hebrew or English – English transliterations can often be baffling as there are diffent spellings for the same place, ex. Caesarea may be Qisariyya, Kesarya, Qasarye or Jerusalem may be Yerushalayim. The roads is well maintained, with only 1 toll road. Distances is not far, but travelling takes time as the speed limit on inter-urban roads is 80km p/h and on freeways 110 km p/h. Frequent traffic lights and stops is a frustration. Eldan provides a Road Map as well as a summary of the driving rules in Israel. An International Driving Permit is not neccessary, only your Home Driving licence. If you want to refill your motor, ask the help of a local as you have to  enter the amount/liters upfront and there is no indications in English.  For Security all cars in Israel have a security code that must be entered on a console – make sure that you memorize this code or keep it in a safe place as you will be stucked without it

By Bus

Egged

Egged Bus

Egged (www.egged.co.il) is the national bus carrier. The coaches is comfortable, on time with an extensive coverage, but I found it time consuming as it stops at every corner – even on long distance travels. For long distance travels as between Jerusalem and Eilat it is safe to book the previous day as the seats easily gets filled by army men and girls. Remember to book or request for window seats. When booking your seat, ask for a timetable, which will make your live much easier. Bus stations is not clearly marked and you will need to ask locals where to get off. Egged does not travel to Palestinian areas and will it be neccesary to make use of a Sherut.

By Sherut

Sheruts is minivans with 13-seats. The rates is more expensive than on Egged bus, but it is quicker than buses and you can ask where to be dropped. The downside of it is that you have to wait until the van is full before it will depart

By Train

An extensive network is available along the coast with modern coaches (www.israrail.org.il)

Impressions on Israel:

Israel is the land of the Bible, the land where everything started and where the final battle between Good & Evil will take place. It is the land of conflict, and the land that relevant to its size, gets daily coverage on World News. It was one of South Africa’s biggest allies with the previous dispensation. It was with these impressions that I decided to visit Israel.

 

The first impression on a country (which eventually may be your final impression) usually is Passport Control. Well I thought as a South African, I will as normally be, interrogated – this was not the situation and the whole process was painless, without any VISA. Arranging tickets is also not that difficult although English announcements on public transport is very limited, making this type of transport, not easy. Road Signs is regularly available in English, but there is no standard on English spelling – making it difficult to be sure that it is in fact the place/road you have to take. Depending on the area or settlement you are visiting English is not that well spoken in Israel. I would say it is non existent in Palestinian Areas, as well as areas where foreigners from Eastern Europe and Africa is living. But I must add that everyone is willing to help.

 

The food is interesting and tasteful but extremely expensive. Renting a car compares moneywise the same as in South Africa.

 

All types of accommodation is available but  it is really expensive for what you get.

 

There was no problems using my Credit card and I could withdraw money from any ATM.

 

I found Israel to be very save and with the exception of certain Palestinian areas never felt uncomfortable.

 

Olives, Dates and Lemonade just do not taste anywhere else, as in Israel. The markets is an experience and I will never forget the colourfulness of it.

 

I went to Israel to find something (maybe spiritual) which I myself do not know what it was, but unfortunately I did not find it. I find Israel complicated (even more than my own Country) and sometimes intimidating – entering buildings or specific areas always involves interrogation of some sort. Exiting the country was also not a good experience. Since I also visited Jordan, and did the whole tour on my own, the Israeli Authority found me to be a risk, which leads to interrogation by various officials and I had to unpack all my luggage in front of other passengers – maybe you have to accept this when visiting Israel, but there is ways and ways of doing things. I would also suggest not to visit Israel during the Easter period – it is very busy, which may also create irritation.

 

Everything said, I have the utmost respect for the Israeli nation, in believing in themselves, keeping to traditions and producing in a country with harsh conditions. It is certainly worth visiting the country, but expect to pay more than in most countries.