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Israel

   

Melinda Bourgeois, the owner of Travel Central, recently joined the oldest Jerusalem-based destination specialist company, on an Educational Journey through Israel. This incredible journey starting and ending with VIP assistance at Ben Gurion International Airport, we were whisked through passport control, security, and customs and on the way to our hotel within 40 minutes of arrival,  during high season this would be an incredible time saver. 

In 7 nights, we explored some of Israel’s most important historical, cultural and artistic gems. Starting in the city of Tel Aviv Israel's business center on the Mediterranean coast with Mediterranean beaches, walking and bike paths and an active nightlife. Then up north to Caesarea and the city of Akko, while stopping in Haifa for a quick overnight break and a view of the Baha’i Shrine and Persian Gardens. The journey continued inland to discover the wonders of the sea of Galilee and Mt. Beatitudes. I highly recommend what I think was the most well-preserved and interesting archeological site, Capernaum, an ancient synagogue which is the site of Jesus’ ministry. From there as we head to the city of Bethlehem and Jerusalem (built since ancient time with Jerusalem limestone), we stopped at the Druze village of Usafiya for an interesting meeting with the local Druze residents. We were definitely on the move as most Israel vacations, so consider a relaxing morning or day at a spa hotel like the Mitzpe Hayamim Spa, outside of Haifa.

Though probably the most amazing thing we visited was at the Shrine of the Book at The Israel Museum, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest biblical manuscripts in the world, that was found in caves around the Wadi Qumran. 
What I found most interesting is the dedication to the Declaration of Establishment of the Land of Israel, the birthplace of the Jewish people, where their spiritual and religious identity is ingrained into their everyday life. The visitor sees this in hotels that separate restaurants by kosher meals (dairy/meat or fish) and a mezuzah on each hotel door; to the praying at the western wall, the Shabbat celebration on Friday nights, and the closing of business and limited use of any electronic devices for 24 hours. And if you find yourself in Jerusalem on a Friday night, visit the western wall at sunset and then enjoy a festive traditional Shabbat dinner. 

But it not only the sites and attractions you will enjoy, the Mediterranean/ Middle Eastern food is fabulous. Just don’t make the same mistake we did enjoying the large selection of salads and dips like Israeli salad, pita bread, hummus, Tabbouleh, baba ghanoush, carrot and cabbage salad, just to be told your main course and of course dessert is yet to be served.

Through witnessing the natural wonders, exploring the man-made marvels and immersing in the culture, history, and cuisine of this storied country, I learned many things but the most important is 7 nights is not enough to really see Israel.  And finally, I truly believe traveling with your priest, pastor or rabbi brings your experience alive with a greater understanding of the places that you visit and the people you meet, all while exploring your religion.

To learn more about this fabulous journey or to plan your own trip to Israel, contact Travel Central, located in the New Orleans-Metairie area since 1988, is dedicated to providing customers with once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences by land, air or sea to any part of the world. Eliminate the stresses and questions of booking your next trip and let professionals who specialize in the area you are planning to see guide you. 

Jewish Quarters

Before You Go:

  • Prepare to walk on old streets and uphills 
  • Fiction Books: Michener: The Source; Lynn Austin: Chronicles of the Kings 
  • Documentaries: National Geographic Tomb preservation
  • Ben Gurion airport - a little over 1 hour from Jerusalem and 35 minutes to hotel in Tel Aviv 

Plan Your Visit:

  • Jerusalem businesses closed on Saturday so plan your days accordingly
  • High Season: Jewish holidays, October and April. 
  • Western wall tunnels. Small space Original city. Not on Fridays. Early in morning. 

Must-sees:

  • Street food markets (Tel AvivCarmel, Akko oriental, Safed artist quarters, and old city of Jerusalem)
  • Yad VaShem Holocaust Museum
  • Israel museum with 3D model and the original Dead Sea scrolls 
  • Via Dolorosa and Church of the Holy Sepulcher 
  • Capernaum
  • Jewish, Armenian, Christian quarters of Jerusalem 

Pilgrimages:

  • Songs i.e. Silent Night in manger at Church of the Nativity 
  • Chapel next to Stations of the Cross 

Don’t be surprised:

  • Soldiers carrying guns. Mandatory military service 
  • Bethlehem is under Palestinians Authority and you might have to change guides and vehicles for the day

Lehitraot (means see you again, as opposed to shalom which means goodbye)