Israel's Top Experiences
Rooftopping in Jerusalem
Historical Jerusalem is about shrines and antiquities, but some 35,000 people live within the Old City walls. From the Ramparts Walk, you can get a look into the courtyards and gardens that lie behind the bolted iron doors you pass on the street. The towers and domes of the city's main faith communities pierce sweeping panoramas.
Shopping in the Market
A walk through a produce market may sometimes feel like a contact sport, but this is hands-down the best way to experience real commerce that combines Middle Eastern-style salesmanship with top-quality products. Spices, dried fruits, nuts, produce, cheeses, and meats are sold from stalls crowded one up against the other. Best are Jerusalem's Machaneh Yehuda and Tel Aviv's Carmel Market.
Floating in the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is so called for the fact that no living thing can survive in its briney brew. The lake has become a mecca for those who believe in its curative properties; but even if you don't suffer from skin or muscular ailments, bobbing like a cork in the supersaturated water is an utterly relaxing (if slightly bizarre) experience. Reading a newspaper while doing it makes a great photograph as well.
Eating Israeli Breakfast
Israelis don't eat this sumptuously at home, but the "Israeli breakfast" served at most hotels has grown out of local healthy habits of yogurts, fruit, cheeses, eggs, and salads (yes, for breakfast). The often-elaborate hotel buffets began adding baked goods, smoked fish, eggs made to order, a variety of breads and juices, and (Western influence!) cereal and pancakes or waffles. It's a superb way to start your day.
Exploring Tel Aviv's Old Neighborhoods
Tel Aviv's old neighborhoods—situated largely in the south—tell the tale of the development of a modern city that celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2009. Now gentrifying after years of neglect, areas such as Neveh Tzedek fuse architectural preservation and modern progress. There's also plenty of good dining and shopping.
Hiking the Desert
Deserts offer deep silence, minimalist landscapes, sparse vegetation, and rare animal life. Therein lies their magic: the Great Escape. There's a lot of desert in little Israel. Nature reserves like Ein Gedi's two canyons (near the Dead Sea) and Ein Avdat (in the Negev) add the miracle of running water to the enormous crags.
Touring a Winery
Israeli grape growing and wine production can be traced to biblical times. There's no better way to sample the country's vintages than to tour its wineries, from large operations with dozens of varieties to boutique, limited-production establishments. Reservations need to be made for tours and tastings at all but the largest wineries.
Checking out the Beach Scene in Eilat
The bikinis, the Speedos, the sarongs, the sunglasses—it's the Riviera with local flair. Eilat is a respite for on-the-go Israelis who love nothing more than to spend a few days eating chips (french fries), and dipping into the Red Sea—all set to the plonk-plonk soundtrack of matkot, the Israeli paddleball game that may as well be a national sport.
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