Israel Travel Guide
Kitty cats. They rule the internet and, whether we realize it or not, pretty much the world too. Ever noticed how cats sometimes stake out the coolest spots in a city? This new featureTravel Catfocuses on exactly that. Submit a photo to be featured by tweeting or Instagramming it to us (details below).
Travel Cat spotted at: the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
This week's Travel Cat is from writer and traveler Kate Winick, who tweeted to say that she'd spied these two kitties "yowling at each other" while visiting Jerusalem's Western Wall. Hopefully they worked it out; there's enough conflict around these parts already.
WWOOF, an exchange organization which offers adults food and accommodation in return for volunteer help on organic farms, is now connecting volunteers with farmers in Israel.
WWOOF Israel Hosts are Kibbutz, Moshav, farmers, and small private families who offer volunteers various opportunities to learn about Permaculture, Organic Gardening, Green Building, and other skills, like Cheese-Making and Wine-Making.
We’re sure that airline ticketing agents have heard every excuse under the sun when it comes to why passengers need a better seat, an upgrade, or just a spot that’s a little more convenient. Instead of just ignoring our need to whine our way into a better seat, El Al has embraced it—kind of. The carrier just posted a video illustrating some of their favorite upgrade excuses, and we’ve got to admit it might have given us a chuckle.
There’s a pretty bad impersonation of JFK, as someone tries to get a discount to business class since the airport’s named after him. There’s a woman pregnant with a basketball and also a guy who stands on his buddy to show how uncomfortable he’ll be on the flight thanks to his long legs. Just check it out above if you want to get the full picture.
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I am going to Tel Aviv. I've never been to Tel Aviv, nor to Israel as a whole. I am going for 10 days and flying around 27 hours without factoring in layovers. Total decision and booking time was about 15 minutes and the flights are only costing me $353.60.
Why? Because, in case you haven't already heard, El Al Airlines had an error in their online bookings earlier this week that left the fuel surcharge off of ticket prices, making a roundtrip from New York to Tel Aviv less than a roundtrip from New York to Las Vegas.
I scored this deal on Expedia as soon as news of it hit social media, as did thousands others. A friend who attempted to book after me had the deal pulled as soon as she clicked "purchase"; the trip price had rocketed up to $999. What compels me to discuss this now is not joy or bragging over grabbing the ultra-cheap flights, but to point out how El Al has handled the potential catastrophe and inadvertently turned it into what is quite possibly the best thing to happen to them in a while.
What's more surprising: the news that El Al's female flight attendants have been voted the most attractive in the world, or that El Al still uses the word "stewardesses?"
The Israel-based airline announced on their blog today that an organization called World Air Hostesses Association has named El Al's in-flight crew the best looking. However, a quick Google search turns up no such survey, and El Al reports that the survey was published so far only in the Chinese media. The post closes with "You read it here first!"
Well, um, mazel tov, ladies.
[Photo: El Al on Flickr]
It turns out there are lots of good-looking people in Tel Aviv. Israel and Israelis long ago became a mainstay of Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues, and of course Tel Aviv itself is both a home and a dining destination for none other than Bar Refaeli. But some people remained unconvinced that Israel's largest beach city was an epicenter of attractiveness. Now there are numbers on this question.
Earlier this year online travel mag Travelers Digest published its roundup of global cities with the best looking men and women. The lists circulated around the Internet for a while, and then dropped off as these things do, and then were revived last week when they got picked up by an Israeli culture blog. Tel Aviv ranked 7th for hottest women and ranked 10th for hottest men. The writeup on the women's list included the phrase "exotic and appealing," which makes a lot sense since Israeli women are both of those things, and the men's list discussed "artistic Bauhaus architecture," which made less sense.
The last time Madonna performed in Israel was in 2009, when she held two concerts as part of her record-shattering Sticky & Sweet tour. This time the newly-rechristianed Queen of Pop is not just holding any old concert in Israel, but using the event to kick off her entire 2012 world tour.
The world tour will kick off on May 29th in the Israeli city of Ramat Gan and stretch all the way into 2013. After Israel Madonna will travel to a couple other Middle East venues before departing for Europe, where she'll do 26 additional spots over the course of two months. From there it's off to North America to do yet another set of 26 venues, then to Latin America, then to Australia. Before everything is said and done she will have played 90 concerts.
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Israel tourism has been in an upward spiral over the last few years. Every year brings a new crop of travelers to the Jewish Statereflected in now-routine "this was the best tourism year ever" headlinesand they go home and tell their friends. That's how you end up with niche surveys about the popularity of Israel travel, like Israel being the number two destination for Russians.
Obviously part of Israel's tourism revolves around the country being a destination for religion travel. Jerusalem is and will remain by far Israel's most-visited destination (see our insidery tips for making the most of a Jerusalem visit here and here). But other parts of Israel are becoming famous for appealing to other demographics.
Forest-filled Haifa recently got the nod of being Israel's cleanest tourism city, part of a campaign to bolster green travel to and around Israel (El Al passengers flying from LHR to TLV can even purchase carbon off-sets).
And then there's Tel Aviv, which has just been voted the world's single best gay travel destination.
The city of Acre (Akko in Hebrew) is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in Israel. Probable references to it stretch back to the 16th century BC, and over the centuries it's been ruled by everybody who was anybody in the Middle East. The Canaanites, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans, British and now the Israelis have all had it at one time or another. The upshot is that there's been lots of time to build and tear down and rebuild the walls around the Old City, photographed here.
The entire Old City has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The problem is that it used to be something of a trap for the many travelers who came to see the ancient sites, many of whom promptly got lost in the winding roads. But over the last few years the Israeli travel and tourism people have made a major effort to make the city more tourist-friendly, posting maps at entrances and in squares. Recently signs have even appeared all over the city to direct people around.
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Around this time last year, domestic goddess and noted Louboutin aficionado Martha Stewart waded into Philadelphia's intractable Geno's-vs-Pat's cheesesteak war, declaring that Pat's was "kinda bland" and giving her approval to Geno's. Having experienced a conflict of that magnitude, the celebrity was no doubt ready for this year's Labor Day trip to a part of the world where the battles are almost as heated: Israel.
Stewart spent her weekend in the Holy Land attending her nephew's wedding, scouting locations for an upcoming TV segment, and macrame-ing things (we're just guessing about that last part, though she still does that though, right?)
Her professional judgment on Israel? It's pretty interesting. Pretty interesting indeed.
The ancient port city of Caesarea should be a strong contender on anyone's Israel travel itinerary. During the days there are the Roman ruins to be explored, among the best preserved in the Middle East. They include carefully excavated living quarters, baths, andmost famouslya huge theater/colosseum finished around 10BC, because the Romans valued their entertainment. Those are for the tourists, something that we point out in a 100% non-denigrating way.
Of all the destinations on the interwebs, we take our tourism seriously. You should just know that that's what you're getting into.
But once the sun sets, and especially during the summer, there are all kinds of events and concerts that bring out younger and more local crowds. The modern town is one of Israel's most upscale areas, and the region is actually maintained by a private organization dedicated to economic and cultural development rather than by a city council.
We're indulging in some Israel travel this week, as Jaunted writers are wont to do from time to time. The picture you're looking at is of the ramparts that line the Old City of Jerusalem, a two and a half mile walk that dates back to ancient times and has been immortalized in art. The so-called "rampart walk" is one of those insidery tourist attractions that, once you know about them, are actually worth signing up for.
Visitors can enter and tour the ramparts, which ring the Old City, for about $5. You have to climb up some fairly steep stairs to get to them, but once you're at the top - as you can imagine - the views are spectacular. If you turn and look inside the city, you get to see iconic structures that have been written about for thousands of years. If you turn the other way you're presented with modern Jerusalem.