Despite everything that you hear on the news, Israel is a country well worth visiting. So much so, once you’re there, you won’t want to leave!
People always seem a bit reluctant to travel to Israel. Not a week goes by without stories of tension and violence in the Middle East, but if you can get over your fears and preconceptions, you will discover a colourful country that offers myriad historical and religious sites, beach resorts, and truly amazing landscapes.
Israel is a small country, so it is easy to cover a lot of ground. Jerusalem, for instance, is just a short bus ride away (about 45 minutes) from Tel Aviv. In terms of liberal behavior however, it is a million miles away. While Tel Aviv, the “Miami of the Middle East”, is a modern metropolitan city with a vibrant cultural life, gorgeous beaches, world class shopping, and a thriving bar and restaurant scene, Jerusalem will take you back in time.
Considered Holy Land by the three major religions in the world, Judaism, Islam and Christianity, it is an amazing city to discover. From the Wailing Wall where one can place a petition to God, to the Stations of the Cross (Via Dolorosa) that leads to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and from the Temple Mount where the Prophet Muhammad is said to have ascended to heaven from, to the quieter Armenian quarter, there is no need to be a religious person to be overwhelmed by the sense of history that cloaks nearly every part of the city.
Outside the well-preserved 16th century Ottoman city walls, you can also go to the top of the Mount of Olives, which is located east of the old city, as well as chose to visit the Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the Holocaust, on the Mount of Remembrance. And if you want to see how divided the country is internally, you can venture to Bethlehem, an occupied territory separated from Jerusalem by an immense wall covered with graffiti, reminiscent of the Berlin Wall, and a checkpoint.
In the south of the country, Eilat is a bustling port which offers sunshine and warm weather all year long while in the north, Haifa is more laid-back with its sandy beaches and beautiful terraced Bahá’í Gardens.
The landscape is very diverse and it is very easy to take day trips to the hills of the Golan Heights, the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and the salty cliffs of the Negev Desert, where one can float atop the waters of the Dead Sea. Meanwhile, Israeli food is as varied and multicultural as its population, with an emphasis on fresh products.
For too many reasons to list, Israel will blow your mind. Leaving the country may just be the hardest thing to do, not just because you will be questioned and searched at the airport, but because you will definitely be wishing that you had more time to further explore the region.
Air France offer direct flights from Nice to Tel Aviv three times a week (on Sundays, Wednesdays and Saturdays), so now is the perfect time to bring out the adventurer in you!
All images courtesy and © Florence Dubosc