ISRAEL BLOSSOMS DURING ITS 65TH ANNIVERSARY YEAR.
By Ross Belfer
Since its establishment just 65 years ago, Israel is more alive than ever, and it has blossomed into a progressive, inspiring and dynamic travel destination and home for Jews from around the world, from North and South America to Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia.
As Israel celebrates yet another milestone this spring, travelers can participate in the countrywide spring festivities beginning with the holiday of Tu B’Shevat, known for its harvest of dried fruits and the official welcoming of spring.
The spring season is particularly beautiful in Israel’s picturesque Galilee region. In the ancient city of Safed, also the birthplace of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism), travelers can saunter through winding cobblestone streets boasting an array of high-end Judaica and art shops, ethnic food stalls and 16th century synagogues. Visitors to Safed can revel in the spiritual vibe permeating throughout city streets, with the top of the city overlooking the sun-drenched Galilee region, including the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee).
Also popular among travelers during the spring season are visits to Israel’s world-class boutique wineries and microbreweries in the Galilee and Golan Heights.
Heading south, travelers can visit several of Israel’s original cities and villages, including Zikhron Ya’akov, a city founded by Baron Rothschild in 1882, which is known for its world-class wineries, art galleries and unprecedented view of the Carmel mountain range and Mediterranean Sea. On Saturdays, the streets of Zikhron Ya’akov are bustling with craft vendors, music acts and travelers from around the world who visit the city to enjoy the fresh spring air and a lively atmosphere filled with family-friendly activities.
Also popular among travelers during the spring season are visits to Israel’s world-class boutique wineries and microbreweries in the Galilee and Golan Heights. Israel is home to more than 500 boutique wineries, including Tishbi, Carmel, Binyamina and Golan Winery, which offer daily tours and wine tastings amidst stunning natural landscapes. And in recent years, Israel has seen the development of a burgeoning microbrew scene, including new brands such as Dancing Camel and Golan Brewery, conjuring unique beers with locally sourced ingredients.
For the historical-minded traveler, there is no better time to visit Jerusalem than in the blossoming spring season. Jerusalem is home to a bevy of ancient sites and attractions from all periods of Jewish history, including the Kotel (Western Wall), Hurva Synagogue, City of David (original city of Jerusalem), as well as Hezekiah’s Tunnel.
Jerusalem is also robust with modern attractions and amenities that are ideal for travelers during the spring season. Home to the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Israel Museum is Israel’s largest cultural institution and a must-see for travelers, boasting historical artifacts, Israeli and international artworks, and ground-breaking exhibitions. Travelers can also visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, stroll the Alrov Mamilla outdoor shopping mall or simply relax at one of Jerusalem’s high-end hotels, including the King David, David Citadel, Mamilla Hotel and the soon-to-open Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem.
In Tel Aviv, Israel’s capital of art and culture, the spring season is welcomed with warm weather, outdoor music festivals, and an electrifying sense of excitement. As 2013 marks Israel’s 65th anniversary, locals and travelers alike will celebrate with massive parades, street parties, food festivals, concerts and late-night dancing in the city’s world-renowned bars and clubs.
Heading south through the Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth, and Masada, the mountaintop fortress built by King Herod more than 2,000 years ago, travelers will arrive in the seaside resort town of Eilat, which rests along the Red Sea and is surrounded by an epic mountainous landscape.
The spring season is perhaps the most exciting time of year to visit Eilat when it will host the annual Eilat Birds Festival, March 25-April 6. Organized by the Israel Ornithological Center, the seventh annual Eilat Birds Festival will offer birding lectures, workshops, and guided tours to bird-watching sites in Eilat. The festival will allow travelers to witness the migration of more than 500 million birds, including rare raptors, pelicans and cranes, and feature an opening banquet and evening activities at the Isrotel Agamim Hotel.
Travelers who simply want to revel in Eilat’s majestic natural landscape can enjoy a plethora of outdoor activities, including snorkeling or scuba diving amongst tropical fish and coral reef in the Red Sea, swimming amongst dolphins at the city’s Dolphin Beach, or camelback riding in the mercurial Negev Desert. Eilat also offers a vast selection of hospitality options, from hostels and guesthouses to five-star resorts, including the Dan Eilat and the Orchid Eilat hotels.