There are certain travel destinations that provoke a new sense of focus and clarity of priorities upon returning home, and a renewed passion for life; Israel is one of them. The excitement of this historic destination will consume your senses upon arriving. Close your eyes and imagine what life was like in the Holy Land more than 2000 years ago and then open them to discover today’s vibrant culture.
The walled Old City of Jerusalem is awe-inspiring. In one square kilometer, you can wander four distinct quarters: Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian. This is one of the holiest sites in Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Located on a hill in the Old City, the “Temple Mount” is one of the world’s most important religious sites. In Judaism, this is where the Babylonians destroyed King Solomon’s temple. Muslims consider this the “Nobel Sanctuary” or “Dome of the Rock,” where they believe Muhammad ascended to heaven. In addition, the Old City is home to the Foundation Stone, the stone from which Jews believe the world was created. It is believed that the first temple here housed the “Ark of the Covenant,” a sort of crossroads between heaven and earth.
Surrounding the Mount is a wall that was constructed when the second Temple was erected. A section of this wall is called the “Western Wall” and is one of the holiest sites for prayer, known as the “gate to heaven.” The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is in the Christian Quarter of the Old City and is revered as the location where Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected. In addition to the holy sites, the Old City offers a plethora of interesting markets, shops and amazing rooftop views.
With regard to lodging, each property has its own unique attributes. The historic King David Hotel has breathtaking views of the old city, the Mamilla is more contemporary and the Waldorf-Astoria is the newest with the most luxurious rooms. An experienced guide is essential to explore this complex destination, as there are many other historic and archaeological sites to visit.
Beyond Jerusalem, there are countless wonders. A few hours away lies the fortress of Masada, built by Herod on a desert mountain. This is where 1000 Jewish rebels committed suicide with their families instead of facing massacre at the hands of the Romans in 73 AD. Continuing farther into the desert, you can literally float in the saltwater Dead Sea, a therapeutic inland sea that overlooks Jordan, and a day trip to Jordan to see the ancient site of Petra is a must. Around 300 BC, temples and structures were carved into the sides of Petra’s enormous canyon, the most famous of which is the ornate Greek façade of the “Treasury.” The tableau here is simply magnificent.
Finish your trip in dynamic Tel Aviv, where you can experience daily Israeli life, not to mention a bustling restaurant and nightlife scene. An expert guide can accompany you though the colorful Machenudea food market, escort you to local specialty shops and arrange to enjoy dinner with an Israeli family in their private home in the old city of Jaffa. On your own, stroll the Beach Promenade and reserve advance tickets to Yad Vashem (Holocaust Museum) and New Israel Museum, both of which are very moving and well done. Bunk at The Norman, a chic boutique hotel in the suburbs away from the crowded and touristy beach hotels.
In addition to the history you will learn and experience, Israel inspires a new appreciation for life and a revitalized goal to be more humble and patient. It seems like everyone is out living life to the fullest, and it is fascinating to witness this sense of freedom in a land with so much division. This may be why Israelis live with more passion and purpose in their everyday lives, as true priorities are elucidated when the immediate future is uncertain.
For information about travel, contact All Star Travel Group/949.478.7141/AST-G.com