What has not already been said about the holiest city in the world, the eternal city first built thousands of years ago, whose history can be heard in the whispering of the wind along the walls, where every stone tells a wondrous story of a city that has drawn millions of faithful pilgrims for thousands of years. Such is Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, the only city in the world that has 70 names of love and yearning, the city that in old maps appears at the center of the world and is still adored like a young bride.
Jerusalem is a city of overwhelming emotions, a city that promises a religious and spiritual experience, excitement and pleasure, interesting tours and entertaining adventures. Here, alongside Jerusalem’s fascinating historic and archeological sites, there are amazingly modern tourist attractions for all lovers of culture, the arts, theater and music, architecture and gastronomic delights.
With its religious and historic sites, cultural attractions, and picturesque mountain setting, Jerusalem is Israel’s foremost tourist destination, drawing one-and-a-half million visitors a year, or roughly 70 percent of all persons who visit Israel. In the same year, Jerusalem’s hotels employed 6,151 workers and welcomed 970,000 guests. The city has 65 hotels, with a combined total of 8,046 rooms. About 38 percent of travelers to Jerusalem come from the Americas, and 43 percent come from Europe.
The most colorful shopping experience to be found in Jerusalem, however, is afforded by the crowded, bustling market stalls (or Shuk) of the Old City, where haggling with merchants is the rule and can reduce the initial asking price of an item by over one-half. A large selection of souvenirs is available for visitors of all religions, including many items that incorporate olive wood, silver, and turquoise. Ceramics are another of the many specialty items available in the market stalls.
As the Jewish people’s living memorial to the Holocaust, Yad Vashem safeguards the memory of the past and imparts its meaning for future generations. Established in 1953, as the world center for documentation, research, education and commemoration of the Holocaust, Yad Vashem is today a dynamic and vital place of intergenerational and international encounter.
For over half a century, Yad Vashem has been committed to four pillars of remembrance:
Jerusalem is also Israel’s most popular site for international conferences, hosting about 50 percent of all such events.
Israel’s third largest city and one of its prettiest, Haifa has a lot to offer visitors. It has the country’s largest port, a particularly active beach and is the home of the World Centre of the Bahai Faith. Surrounded by abundant nature sites, the city contains an interesting mix of modern neighborhoods and older districts; churches and mosques; mountain and sea.
Haifa is a multi-faceted city with several unique characteristics making it an attractive place to visit. Its proximity to the sea and its active port contribute to its prominence. The bustling port area draws merchants, shoppers and tourists. The beautiful beaches are popular for sports and recreation, and are filled with people during summer weekends. In addition, because of their excellent surfing conditions, the beaches serve many of Israel’s top sailing enthusiasts and host sailing competitions and other sporting events.
With residents from the three largest religions as well as from various minority faiths, Haifa is also a symbol of outstanding co-existence and tolerance. Nine percent of the population consists of Arabs (Moslems and Christians) who reside mostly in three neighborhoods : Khalisa, Abas and the famous Wadi Nisnas whose charming alleyways have turned it into a tourist spot. The annual Holiday of Holidays marking the city’s special lifestyle is held there.
The Christian presence in Haifa, with its many churches, also contributes to the city’s image. A Maronite church is located next to Kikar Paris (Paris Square); adjacent to that is the Carmelite church dedicated to the Prophet Elijah; and not far from there is Saint Mary’s Greek Orthodox Parish Church. The Sacre Coeur Catholic school on Allenby Street has a well-tended garden and building, in front of which are impressive statues of Saint Mary. Atop the Carmel, holy to Christians, is the Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery. In the monastery’s Baroque-style church is a cave considered by Christian tradition to be the grave of the Prophet Elijah, and in the monastery is a small museum dedicated to his life. On site is also a hostel which serves the many pilgrims who visit the city.
Sea of Galilee:
The Sea of Galilee (the Kinneret) is a magnificent geographical marvel surrounded by pretty rural agricultural settlements. Famous because of its prominence among New Testament writings (as is the whole of the Galilee as the place Jesus lived), the Sea of Galilee is one of the earliest settled areas in the Land of Israel and boasts archaeological ruins sitting alongside some of the first pioneering settlements in Israel, as well as religious sites, modern cities, and endless outdoor pursuits.
Tiberias is an Israeli city on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Its Old City holds important Jewish and Christian pilgrimage sites including the Tomb of Maimonides and Abulafia (Etz Chaim) Synagogue. The waterfront features the restaurant-lined Yigal Allon Promenade, a marina and a fish market. South of the city, Hamat Tiberias National Park is home to famed mineral hot springs dating to antiquity.
The region also has loads of hiking trails, including Sea of Galilee Trail which encircles the lake (and can be biked along), and the Jesus Trail which runs from Nazareth to the ancient, and Biblically important site of Capernaum, on the northern shores of the Sea of Galilee.
The Dead Sea:
The Dead Sea known in Hebrew as Yam Ha-Melakh (the Sea of Salt) is the lowest point on earth, surrounded by the stunning landscape of the Negev Desert. The shores of the Dead Sea are the lowest point on the surface of the earth, and the saline water of the lake give lead to the name ‘Dead Sea’ because no fish can survive in the salty waters. The other result of the salty water of the Dead Sea is their renowned health and healing properties and the unique feature that one can float naturally in them.
Really just a lake, the Dead Sea is part of the long border between Israel and Jordan whose towering mountains can be seen from the Israeli side, part of the Judean and Negev deserts. Just a one-hour drive from Jerusalem, the Dead Sea is a place popular with Israeli’s wanting a few days relaxation, people, taking advantage of the medical properties of the water, as well as tourists staying for a short time to experience the unique Sea and surroundings. People famously cover themselves in the mineral-rich mud and float in the salty waters at the beaches which line the shores of the Dead Sea.
Over the years, the city of Eilat has become the ultimate resort city with Eilat hotels and beaches packed with thousands of Israeli vacationers and tourists from around the world, who come to relax in the country’s southernmost spot.
In the winter it mainly attracts tourists from Europe who prefer vacations in a warmer and more pleasant climate while Israelis flock to the city in the summer. The secret of this little city’s charm is its special location in the northern end of the Bay of Eilat. The combination of a hot climate, a tropical sea and a breath-taking background of wild, bare granite mountains has turned it into a tourist gem all the year round.
Eilat’s location made it strategically significant during the many historical periods in which it served as a port – starting in the days of King Solomon (who built a large fleet of ships which he sent to Ophir), through the Nabataeans, the Romans, the Arabs, and the Crusaders, all of whom ruled the Land of Israel.
The modern city of Eilat was established in 1950. In the early 1950s, a quay was built in the new city, and subsequently a port which became the basis for the new city’s economy. Towards the end of the 1960s, the tourism industry started developing in the city, and today Eilat is a paradise for tourists, travelers and vacationers.
The bay is one of the major attractions, thanks to the beautiful beaches, the developed water sports and some of the best diving spots in the world. In the south of the city is the Coral Reserve, with splendid tropical fish among the reefs. Within the precincts of the reserve is the Underwater Observatory, with a marine museum that displays collections of fascinating sea animals. Not far from the observatory is the Dolphin Reef with its resident school of dolphins.