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Israel planning resources

I'm at step one in researching a future trip to Israel. As we know very little about it, I've no idea where to start! Help please! We're presently stationary for a bit, so I do have library access. Thanks all.
Donna

Posted by
4962 posts

I only got as far as the Lonely Planet Guide for Israel. Not traveled with it yet, but it was recommended to me, and looks comprehensive.

Note there is a Rick Steves tv program on Israel you can watch here on this website;Israel Rick Steves visit

Posted by
486 posts

The Trip Advisor forum for Israel is very active and a great resource. One of their 'Destination Experts' on that forum, Douglas D, has written his own travel guide which is well put together. He will email it to you if you contact him and request it, just click on his username for information.

Posted by
13933 posts

Douglas's guide is the best resource I've seen. Read it thoroughly. There are reasons why the planning needs to be very good and can be a little frustrating, but if you've done the homework, you will have the trip of your lives. It's just that Israel is not a place where you can wing it. When you start planning, you'll find that the folks on the tripadvisor Israel forum and knowledgeable and very helpful.

For encouragement, know that nearly everyone here speaks English, many speak it fluently. Driving is easy except in the big cities. It's easy to be vegan (I read your profile and I'm jealous of all your US trips).

Posted by
156 posts

Thank you all! The Lonely Planet book is available from the library, so that's on its way to me. I also borrowed one from Insight Guides, which is shiny paper full of lots of good pictures to whet the appetite. I did contact Douglas via the TA Israel forum. He was kind enough to send his guide, noting that he has recently updated it to include a table of contents. He is also willing to answer any questions, with the understanding that I read his guide completely first.

Chani, which side of the road do you drive on there? In the UK I had to chant daily, each time we got into the car, we drive on the left here, we drive on the left here! It's good to know English is widely spoken. It's also excellent to know that we shouldn't have issues with our dietary choices. Last year on one of our flights on Norwegian we read an article in the in-flight magazine on vegan Tel Aviv, which was encouraging. LOL, thanks for the green eyed envy with respect to our North American travels. It's been an adventure and an education. One question for you, as you live there most of the time...... what season do you recommend? We have the luxury of time, and thus choice. In another thread you made a brief positive comment about January and February.

Again, thank you all.

Posted by
154 posts

Once you have narrowed your personal interests you might consider a private guide, at least for the within the ancient walls of Jerusalem. I gained insight (and also access) I never would have without the guide books or TA. He dismissed the recommendation I had for the best ful and falafel, for example, and took me to his own favorite deep within alleys- etc. I stayed at the Abraham Hostel and they also run tours.

Posted by
13933 posts

Donna, driving is same as US, only a couple rules of the road are a little different and signage outside cities is in English as well as Hebrew.

If you plan a 3-week trip, you can see most of the country. March is probably the best month, low season prices, not many tourists, mild weather, and it's spring here - everything is green and lots of wildflowers and not much rain (sadly for us). Prices (hotels, airfare) will be lower in January/February, but Jerusalem can be cold and sometimes rainy then, and short days. April is bad because of major holidays, meaning high season prices and way too many tourists, local and foreign. May is generally pleasant, it's early summer here, with long days, no rain. Avoid June-September, too hot, too humid, too many tourists. Mid-October into early November is about the same as May, but with shorter days and a small possibility of some rain. Next year 2020, the last week of April to mid-May would be okay.

Posted by
2 posts

Looking for travel guide recommendations! Will be in Israel for 5 days, then a planned escorted pilgrimage to Christian sites, then 3 more days--Feb and March 2020. Have been looking at Trip Advisor, but also love the Rick Steves community. Seeing private guide/driver to help explore the glories of Israel

Posted by
156 posts

Again, thank you.

Karen, well you have my husband at falafel!! Care to share where that was?

Chani, I'm a bit confused. Israel is a largely arid country, correct? Humid during rainy season, and the subsequent green time, that makes sense. But humid in the summer, when it doesn't rain at all? Yes, definitely confused.

With respect to the busy April time, I assume that would be Passover, Easter, and Easter. Does that mean that said busy time moves as the holy days move? And forgive my ignorance, but Passover and Easter, the timings are always related, as in together? Or not always?

Posted by
13933 posts

Israel is a largely arid country, correct? Humid during rainy season, and the subsequent green time, that makes sense. But humid in the summer, when it doesn't rain at all? Yes, definitely confused. Yeah, I understand the confusion. There are very different topographies and weather conditions in our tiny country. Go figure. The coast (Haifa, Tel Aviv, Ashkelon) is muggy in the summer. Right now it's 83 degrees and 57% humidity at 9 am. The temp is going to go up to the high 80s and humidity will stay around 55%. Jerusalem is at an altitude of about 1500' so it's usually about as warm as the coast during the day but humidity is considerably lower and the early mornings and evenings are generally cool, or at least cooler. This time of year even Jerusalem gets humid, when the Nile River peaks (the prevailing winds from the Sahara soak up a lot of moisture over Egypt and bring humidity and clouds our way - but no rain). The south is desert, including the Dead Sea area, so it's usually very dry, but because the Dead Sea is so low, it's awfully hot in summer and quite warm even in winter. In January you can get snow in Jerusalem and it's usually warm enough for a dip in the Dead Sea, an hour's drive away. The Sea of Galilee and surrounding area (with many Christian sites) is also well below sea level, so it's usually warmer than the coast and the mountains, but it's also usually humid. I don't know why but humidity is highest from mid-June to mid-September, our hottest months. We don't get a lot of rain in winter and temps are mild - 40s to 60s - so even if the humidity goes up during/after a rain, it's not uncomfortable. Rainy season is misleading. It's been years and years since we've had prolonged rain (sadly). A rainy day can mean an hour or two of light rain to heavy thunderstorm, and several hours of sunshine as well. It's rare for us to have more than 3 rainy days in a row, and it's (again sadly) normal to have 2 weeks or more with no rain at all. March is about my favorite month when everything is green and there's lots of water flowing in the Jordan River.

Yes, you are absolute right about the holidays. It does happen once in a decade or two that Easter and Passover do not coincide. And the Orthodox (by far the largest Christian population here) Easter is often a week later than the Catholic/Protestant date, once in a while it's a month later. The most frequent occurrence is that Orthodox Palm Sunday (nearly as important as Easter Sunday) and Catholic Easter Sunday are on the same day, and it's during the week of Passover. All three are determined by formulas based on the spring equinox and the phases of the moon. The differences between Orthodox and Catholic are because the Orthodox follow the Julian, not the Gregorian calendar, and that dates back to the "great schism" in the Middle Ages.

Next question? :-)

Posted by
1325 posts

As mentioned previously Douglas Duckett's guide was very helpful, and it is actually available online.

I also found the itineraries section of the official Israel tourism website helpful, they have categories for everyone, no matter your interests. Cutural, Catholic, Jewish, ecotourism etc ... actually interesting to just kind of browse through different itineraries. I think I ended up cobbling together parts of days from several.

Posted by
13933 posts

Kaeleku, thanks for adding the link to Douglas's guide (I really need to save it somewhere). Douglas is an amazing person and, though you may think from his guide that he doesn't have time for other places, he is well-traveled to many parts of the world. I haven't read it complete since his last two updates (he edits as necessary and adds after each of his visits - I think it's nearly doubled in size since the first time I read it nearly 10 years ago), I have read it in detail more than once and parts of it more often - I've even used it myself on occasion. There's absolutely nothing in it I would disagree with. And while he holds firm to his Christian faith, he is incredibly objective, tolerant and knowledgeable of all the cultures and religions (their many sects and offshoots) here.