Things to see in Israel

  • Israel
    Israel
    © Alexey Stiop / 123RF
Amy Adejokun
Amy Adejokun Expert destination Israel

Landscapes

You will be struck by the diversity of the landscapes in Israel. This diversity is due to the shifts in the land, scattered as it is with geological faults, as well as to the climatic influences of the Sahara, of southern Europe and the Mediterranean basin. Between the beaches, the hinterland with its fertile plains, the arid expanses of the Negev desert, Lake Tiberias, the waterfalls of Galilee and the Dead Sea, you will be dazzled by the diversity of the surprising reliefs all found at the heart of the same territory. Reserves, caves, tropical gardens and rocky mountains await you for a unique adventure in Israel.

Arts and culture

The rich cultural heritage of this country is preserved in many museums. Several historical museums are grouped together in the Israel Museum at the heart of the citadel in Jerusalem. Incidentally, the citadel is a remarkable archaeological site in itself as it contains relics that recount the history of the city. The Israel Museum is the largest cultural institution in the country and is ranked among the world's leading art and archaeology museums. It is notably home to the Shrine of the Book, which is undoubtedly the museum to visit if you must choose just one as it holds the precious Dead Sea Scrolls. It is possible to learn about Israeli culture at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv via the archaeological objects, paintings, photos, etc. As for the Diaspora Museum, it will help you to better understand the history of the Jewish people. However, it is also possible to explore the Bedouin culture, discover the architecture of Tel Aviv through its Bauhaus constructions, and even go to the Jaffa Flea Market to find a traditional Israeli souvenir as you stroll amongst the stalls and enjoy the colours and local fragrances.

The fauna

The preservation and reintroduction of animals from the Bible is one of Israel's priorities in relation to nature protection. This is shown in the creation of more than three hundred National Parks and Nature Reserves where desert (gazelles and bustards), semi-desert and mountainous species have been preserved thanks to the prohibition of hunting.

Monuments

Jerusalem, the holy city of three monotheist religions is a real remnant of biblical history, but it is not only that, it is also a city under high tension. Its history is written on its monuments of faith and on the incomparable sights that you in its streets. In the west is the Jewish town, in the east the Arab town (Muslim and Christian). The Old City, a complete walkway, is surrounded by bored ramparts of eight doors. These walls were erected around 1530 by Soliman the Magnificent, on the foundation of roman fortifications. The Old CIty is divided into four: Muslim in the n-e, Christian in n-w, Armenian in s-w and Jewish in s-e. Avoid the Jewish area during the Sabbath (it is forbidden to take pictures, light a cigarette...). Jerusalem west, with its Jewish neighbourhoods, rich or poor and its modern architecture looks like European cities. This western part (where there are still attack threats) is the most unsafe part of Jerusalem. Paradoxically, this is not the case with Arab neighbourhoods of the Old City and Jerusalem east where you should only avoid staying out late. To be informed on the political situation, check the Jerusalem Post.

The other towns

Every one of Israel's cities may be crammed full of history, but each one has its own style and atmosphere. Jerusalem is probably the most important city but Bethlehem, at the heart of the Judean Desert, holds a special place in the hearts of believers as the birthplace of Jesus. This is where you will find Rachel's Tomb, the Church of the Nativity and the Church of St. Catherine. These extremely important places for believers in Christianity and Judaism are sacred treasures. In a completely contrasting atmosphere, Tel-Aviv is a modern and trendy city with skyscrapers, lively cafes and nightclubs. It all depends on whether you are looking for a holiday full of authenticity and history or would prefer sunshine and partying.

Archaeological sites

Israel, the Holy Land, where the three monotheist religions developed, is the cradle of the largest civilisations. This small country no more than twice the size of an English region has a history that dates back 4,000 years and there is no lack of historical sites, between the holy places of Judaism and the holy places of Christianity. Massada, for example, is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Israel. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the fortress of Massada overlooks the Judean desert to the west and the Dead Sea to the east. Built by Herod the Great, it bears testimony to the siege led by the Roman legion. The City of David is another site that shouldn't be missed as it is from here that the city of Jerusalem arose. Today it is an archaeological park that tells the history of this city, its wars, its prophets and its kings during Biblical times. Cross the 533m long Siloam (or Hezekiah's) Tunnel which was dug by King Hezekiah. It is a real masterpiece in terms of engineering. Other places loaded with history in Israel include: Gamla, Jericho, Caesarea, the site of the Sermon on the Mount, Tabgha, Mount Tabor. In short, a visit to Israel is like taking a trip back to Biblical times and a lesson in the history of this country that is at the origin of our civilisation.

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