What is the Israel Dream Itinerary?

Lake Kinneret / Sea of Galilee behind the palms

A good old friend of mine is finally making her first trip to Israel next week. She’ll be here for 2-3 weeks, and I am excited to be showing her around a lot, and helping her plan her time here. Someone else (a friend of a friend) contacted me to suggest places for her to visit when she comes here in the Fall. And many other times people ask me similar questions when they hear I am studying to become a tour guide.

Itinerary planning is a job and skill in itself. And it is a major task in the tour guiding profession. But it is not yet something which I have studied or have a lot of experience with. And yet, I am going to have to get started on it now to help Lara have an awesome fun time here! So while I’ve started to think about it, I’d love to hear from you guys as well.

The two people who have asked me for this help recently (my friend Lara and the other friend of a friend) have some different needs and others that overlap each other. For starters, Lara is Jewish and the other woman is not. To my knowledge, neither is particularly religious, but I suspect that there will be more emphasis (though not to the point of exclusion) on Christian sites for the friend’s friend, and more on Jewish sites for Lara. Additionally, while both are on somewhat limited budgets, they seem to me to be in slightly different ranges of the lower end. Finally, with Lara, I will be spending a larger portion of the time, whereas with the other person it is more advice, or perhaps a single day that I will be with her.

Itineraries in Israel need to incorporate such a huge variety of sites/purposes. There are historical sites from well over 3000 years (thus both ancient and modern history) and numerous cultures. There are religious sites of many varieties. There are museums of all stripes and activities of many kinds, from hiking, to beaches, to historical reenactments, to archaeological digs, etc. There are also cultural and experiential activities: culinary sites, music events, festivals of all kinds and just good bars, restaurants and nightlife.

What do you think is a must-see for a first-time visit to Israel? Both for a Jewish traveler and a Christian one? A few of the must-sees I have are obvious: Western Wall, Masada, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Tel Aviv-Yaffo, Kinneret, Dead Sea, Ein Gedi, etc. But what else?

Comments

  1. I would say take them to machane yehuda on Friday afternoon. Fun for all religions!

  2. The biggest qualifier is it just depends on how much time they have of course. I’m not going to say much that isn’t standard, it’s just a way to get them all in one place. Time permitting, I’d say:

    Jerusalem: the shuk, Yad Vashem (even if we’re tired of it, for a first-timer, it’s pretty powerful), Har Herzl and the musuem isn’t usually done by tourists but I think it’s helpful to appreciate the country’s history

    Tel Aviv: Nachalat Binyamin, Dizengoff and Rothschild to take in the city, more important than any real sites there to capture the feeling of the city…maybe Kikar Rabin

    A lot of history buffs like Acco; personally I’d skip it but that’s just me.

    I’m down on Eilat, not critical. Sde Boker to get the Ben-Gurion part? Or a hike in the machtesh? Ein Gedi is very cool but I don’t think it’s a must must must if time is limited.

    People love Tsfat.

    A visit to Better Place to show off modern Israel? Not considered a must by traditional tours but maybe this will change…

    Allright, hope this helps.

  3. So many thoughts, so little patience to write them all down…

    Around the Kinneret, I am personally a big fan of the Church of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes. Not for the religious aspects, but because of the mosaics which represent 4th Century around the alter and then 8th(?) century around the rest of the floor. You can see the advance of the art form and evidence of population that far back. Plus, it’s just a nice, calm location.

    I’m a big fan of mosaics, so I would also recommend Tzippori – the Mona Lisa of the North. In terms of art, this is absolutely incredible. In terms of location, you can see the remnants of the ancient town.

    For a weird experience, there is a Kangaroo petting zoo in the North, but I can’t remember what it’s called.

    And depending on the temperature, Yavne is a good place to spend a relaxing day.

    Also, I think the usual sites are done and done and overdone. Sometimes, it’s better to see a site that is off the beaten path to get a better feeling for the country, not just its tourist sites (and its crowds of tourists).

  4. Sachne, of course.

  5. My first trip included…

    Yad Vashem – a must.

    Mini Israel – Cheesy and fantastic. I loved the kitsch of the tour, “see it all, but see it small.”

    For the friend with three weeks, I would include shabbat in Tsfat and Hafai for the Bahai Gardens and that awesome train up Mt. Carmel.

  6. Jerusalem – Kotel, Jewish Quarter , David’s citadel Museum ( gives a great overall picture of Jerusalem’s history)
    Ir David
    ( Via Dolorosa and Ch of Holy Sepulchre for non Jewish tourist)

    Yad Vashem / Machaneh Yehuda / Ben Yehuda
    Two fantastic new ‘experiences’ ( they’re not museums in any of the old sense) Herzl and Begin

    Tel Aviv / Yaffo –
    Dizengoff
    Hall of Independence
    walk around Yaffo towards evening – amazing sunset over the sea ( maybe walk along boardwalk from Tlv to Yaffo )

    Galil
    Tiberias / Ein gev ( many relevant Christian sites around the lake and ‘Jesus’ boat at Nof Ginossar)
    Zfat – tour of old city and artist’s quarter ( Friday night in the old city is great if you can work it in)

    Haifa
    Carmel – views -Bahai –
    Castra Mall – shopping / art galleries and Doll’s museum

    Dead Sea – Massada ( unless they can’t take the heat as it’s unbelievably hot at the moment)_

    Visit a kibbutz / moshav to see different lifestyle

  7. Fun Joel says:

    Thanks everyone SO much. Some really good suggestions here, including a few that I definitely hadn’t thought of!

    If others are coming to this now, would love to get other ideas still!

  8. Fun Joel says:

    By the way, for those who are interested, here’s a list of some of the responses I got on Facebook:

    Jerusalem:
    Kotel Tunnel Tour
    Old City
    waffle lady, downtown
    newly reopened Israel Museum
    Supreme Court Building
    Yad Vashem (and Children’s memorial)
    Chagall windows at Hadassah
    Ir David (w/Hezekiah’s tunnel)
    Caesarea
    Ein Gedi (and more than the regular hike)
    Masada
    Tzefat/Safed
    Tveria/Tiberias
    Bnei Brak (Really?!)
    Acco/Acre
    Ayalon bullet factory
    Tishbi winery (shakshuka in the restaurant)
    Banias
    Haifa – Bahai Gardens
    Beit Guvrin-Maresha

    And I of course have come up with more on my own. Will try to update you afterwards as well!

  9. Eli Duker says:

    The Palmach museaum

  10. I am going to try to keep a list of everything we decide on and do, including just fun nightlife stuff (since I am Fun Joel!), and will post it here later for those who may be interested.

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