Israel officially began welcoming tourists in November after a year-and-a-half hiatus for leisure travellers. Now, with summer upon us, many more vaccinated, and so much itching to visit the Holy Land for the first or umpteenth time, the land of Israel beckons with its millennial wonders and some sites that come from open.
Get ready for sticker clash. Tickets from the United States to Israel at the height of COVID-19 (when few were traveling) could cost as little as $600 round trip. Now, with the increase in air travelers and exploding fuel prices, tickets, especially for direct flights, have hovered at $2,000 or more for a return ticket, for those who don’t haven’t bought yet. Stopovers reduce the ticket price a bit, such as a KLM flight that stops in Amsterdam for 12 daylight hours. And while Turkish Airways’ usually cheaper ticket prices are also higher now, if you find a bargain for the airline, it’s also good to know that Istanbul now sports a kosher sandwich maker in the terminal for flights to Israel, and those lucky enough to qualify for the airline’s club privileges in Istanbul will find kosher dining options.
Both Israel and the United States have ended pre-flight testing for the time being. But it could be restored if the cases climb further and especially if new variants appear. Israel, for example, closed the door, but not dismantled, to the Ben Gurion testing facility where arriving passengers, including tourists, previously had to take a COVID-19 PCR test at their own expense and quarantine until until the results are emailed a few hours later. . Don’t rely on your friends and Facebook posts to know the rules when you travel. Israel’s Ministry of Health, which requires an entry declaration from visitors within 10 days of arrival, has a hotline with English-speaking operators to help you fill out the form and answer questions about entry rules.
Call 011 972 08-6241010. It is no longer a 24/7 line, but the hours extend after the end of the 5 p.m. working day in Israel. (Israel is currently seven hours ahead of the EST.)
Make sure you have health insurance coverage before you go, said Mark Feldman, director of Diesnhaus Travel in Jerusalem. “I’ve seen tourists shell out thousands of dollars if they needed treatment for a heart attack or other serious illness while in Israel,” Feldman said. Check with your employer or personal health insurance if it specifically covers foreign travel to Israel and bring documents with you. Check your travel insurance for medical coverage. No cover? You can buy a health insurance policy for a few dollars a day; check online or with a travel agent.
What to do
New attractions have opened since your last visit.
Tuvia Book, an educator and tour guide, said many new hotels have opened in Israel over the past two years, including the Six Senses Hotel near Eilat, the Efendi Hotel in Acre/Akko, the renovated Mizpeh Hayamim at Rosh Pinna and the new Soho house. in Tel Aviv-Jaffa. Book said the glass walls and terraces at Six Senses “make you feel like you’re living outdoors.” Mizpeh Yayamim has a spa, organic farm and orchards.
Tel Aviv’s once somewhat tired Diaspora Museum has been renovated and reopened as Anu (us): The Museum of the Jewish People. Museum exhibits include Jewish history, religion, and culture. High-tech features in many exhibits add to the enjoyment of the visit; current exhibits include those on synagogues and Jewish food. On Friday, free visit.
Book also recommends, for visitors ages 10 and up, a visit to a new national park, Khan Sha’ar HaGai, at the intersection of Route 1 and the Beit Shemesh exit. This road saw fierce battles during the Revolutionary War, Book said, and in memory of the men and women who participated, a heritage center has been established to mark the battles of 1947/1948 to keep the road open. road to Jerusalem. Book said the site focused on “the physical and emotional hardships faced by the young members of the convoy, such as…whether the trucks had to transport weapons or food to besieged Jerusalem.” The screens include codebooks and interviews with people who took part in the battles.
For younger guests, Jerusalem’s Sokolov Park, near the Inbal Hotel, now includes a library with children’s books in English and a shaded seating area, near swings and slides that have options for toddlers and toddlers. older children. The library was dedicated to the memory of Elan Garfinkel of Washington, DC by his parents, Jay and Renee, who made aliyah from DC several years ago. The park adjoins several markets offering cold drinks and ice cream.
Not far from the park, the small Heichal Shlomo museum in Jerusalem, in King George Street, presents a fine exhibition of Judaica paper cut-outs by Israeli artists. On the way to the exhibition, take a look at the newly renovated fountain in Place de Paris, a welcome attraction on hot days.
Where to eat
Wolt, a food delivery service that opened in Israel just a few months ago, will broaden your food horizons. Many of the country’s top restaurants, such as Jerusalem’s Caffit, Sima and HaMesilah, offer slightly limited versions of their menus, although Lucianna’s offerings in the Mamilla Mall recently included plenty of pasta and a mouth-watering beet salad. . And Ben Ami on Emek Refaim sent an Israeli breakfast with all the trimmings – in tiny containers – and the omelette still warm! For the best adult/kid option, book at Café Gan Sippur in Jerusalem’s Sacher Park. You can watch frisbee games from your seat and take the little ones for a walk when they’re done eating. A recent breakfast included mushrooms over teriyaki polenta. A holdover from the days of Corona (what Israelis call COVID-19) remains at the cafe: you can grab a picnic basket for breakfast and eat on the grounds of the park.
Journalist Linda Gradstein, who reviews restaurants for The Jerusalem Post, explains that while many restaurants switched to delivery or closed, others actually opened during this time. For a splurge, she said don’t miss Darya at the Hilton in Tel Aviv. The cuisine is “the silk road” incorporating elements from Uzbekistan, China, India and Tajikistan. “I enjoyed my meal here so much for a review that I brought my whole family to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary,” Gradstein said.
Ashkelon has also become a mecca for kosher restaurants as more Anglo-French immigrants flock to the city, Gradstein said. “The one I particularly liked was Rashel. It was like visiting Morocco and they have now opened a branch in the port of Tel Aviv.
Gift shops at Yad L’Kashish (Lifeline for the Old), Shalva and Shekel help support the work of the organizations. Arnie Draiman, a consultant who advises philanthropists on giving in Israel, has a list of approved organizations and also offers a half-day session for $250 that may match your interests with organizations that could use your help. . For more information, visit draimanconsulting.com/my-favorite-mitzvah-heroes/. jn
Fran Kritz is a freelance writer living in Washington, DC This article first appeared in the Baltimore Jewish Times – a publication affiliated with Jewish News.