Featured writer: Mike’s Desk
Creating the lifestyle
It was May, 2012 the start of our travels to Israel and Europe.
Heathrow Airport The first experience of travelling to Israel was getting to the check-in counter. There they were; A-J in one straight row. But where was K counter, the one we were to check in at for EL Al airlines. I asked and was pointed to a an L-shaped corridor so off my wife and I went. Upon reaching the end of a very long stretch we came across armed police with semi-automatic rifles who allowed us to proceed, first to security where we shown our passports. As we waited in line we were approached and asked a number of questions then our passports were taken away for checking. When a short time later they were returned by security (very friendly and polite) we were able to proceed to check-in, comfortable in the knowledge that the Israeli’s take their security very seriously.
The flight across Europe with EL AL was a pleasant one and upon landing at Ben Gurion Airport we were again faced with stringent airport security, similar to most countries. Earlier we were told to ask for our passport stamp entry to be made on a separate piece of paper if we were planning to visit Arab countries to avoid future entry problems. We chose to ignore that advice and had our passports stamped.
Our Israel tour was arranged through Insight Vacations and we were picked up at the airport by a representative who took us to our hotel, The Sheraton. which was particularly comfortable with all the extras and a very nice room.
The first day was a tour of Tel Aviv to the Habimah National Theatre, Rabin Square and the Carmel market. Our coach then took us to the ancient port of Jaffa. Later we visited Mini Israel, a miniature park featuring 330 replica models.
Days 2 & 3
CAESAREA, ACRE & NAZARETH
Explored the Roman and Crusader ruins at Caesarea then travelled via Haifa to Acre to see the fortress, the old harbour area, and the Crusader crypt. Later on to Nazareth to visit the Church of the Annunciation. The day concluded with a brief introduction to life on a Kibbutz.
Day 4 – ALONG THE JORDAN TO THE DEAD SEA
After a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, which was a beautiful experience, we visited the ancient wooden boat, dating back to the time of Jesus. The restoration was some achievement; the boat had been under water for two thousand years. Next was Capernaum and the Mount of the Beatitudes before journeying along the Jordan Valley to take a dip in the waters of the Dead Sea – floating was no problem but we wished we had taken some rubber shoes as walking over the the salt crystals was like walking over broken sharp gravel.
Day 5 – Day 7 .
MASADA AND THE HOLY CITY OF JERUSALEM
We reached the fortress of Masada by cable car. This stop was a hugely moving experience.
Later we passed the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, before driving through the Judean hills to Jerusalem. The view over the city from Mount Scopus was amazing, it was like looking down from the top of the world. On Mt Zion we visited King David’s Tomb and later the room of the Last Supper and the Western Wall (previously known as the Wailing Wall). . Next morning we toured Yad-Vashem, the museum commemorating the victims of the Holocaust. Although there was a large number of people, the silence was noticeable.
Later we saw the Shrine of the Book, housed in the Israel Museum, which also contains the Dead Sea Scrolls. A special moment was a trip to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. We also visited the Garden of Gethsemene and walked through the Old City to see the Temple Mount, one of Islam’s holiest sites. Continuing along the Via Dolorosa we visited the Stations of the Cross, Ecce Homo Arch, Pool of Bethesda and Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the site of the Crucifixion.
This brought us to the end of our tour. The service was excellent and our guide first class; I recommend Insight Vacations to anyone wishing to visit this beautiful country.
My impression of Israel was a country where extraordinary achievements have been made under difficult conditions. The Israelis have turned deserts into abundantly productive fruit and vegetable growing areas, with huge banana plantations, dates, olives, corn, strawberries, and many more.