Travel: 10 great reasons to visit the 'Land of Creation'
Lauded as the Land of Creation, Israel offers the perfect opportunity to follow in our forebears' sand-blasted footsteps.
Not blue-bloods like Richard Cœur de Lion, who as a 16-year-old commanded his own army against his dad in an early example of juvenile rebellion, but less regal while equally lion-hearted ancestors who laid their lives on the line as the pride of Third Crusade.
Some 800 years on, this tourist, whose muddled knowledge of this Middle East Holy Land was confined to a battered ‘68 Desmond Dekker 45rpm and barely recalled religious education, could not be but impressed by retracing crusaders’ three lions tour long afore England’s national sports adopted the historic name and symbol.
1. Tel Aviv
The country’s coastal commercial, cultural, fiscal and entertainment centre is a perfect base camp to begin, the mounting excitement of Israeli adventure, always preferable when guided by local expert with local knowledge – Ministry of Tourism’s Michal Neumann proving our ‘host with the most’.
2. Old Jaffa
Ancient seaport’s Old City and Artists’ Quarter resonated particularly with this traveller who, as a child manning family fruit stalls, saved stickers from just such far-flung exotic sun-splashed shores, celebrating Jaffa Genie’s seedless citrus delights.
Hugging the Mediterranean shoreline, Arsuf witnessed a decisive dust-up at this strategic stronghold that still today echoes with memories of conquering Crusaders.
Once Roman capital city, built by Herod the Great, who oversaw much good despite receiving biblical bad press, this National Park boasts a reconstructed theatre, hippodrome, bathhouse, aqueduct, port and city.
Israel’s third largest city, its commercial port promises panoramic views, all overlooked by majesty that is Bahá’í Shrine and Hanging Gardens, whose lofty terraces celebrate the faith’s world centre.
6. Bet Shean
This tangible timeline of Scythopolis excavations, once an influential Decapolis city, amounts to unrivaled ruins of Roman and Byzantine bygone days, complete with a colonnaded street scene.
Home to fortress of Daughters of Jacob’s Bridge on the Jordan River, whose valley can best be surveyed from nearby Kochhav HaYarden, whose Belvoir remains offer vistas second to none across Dead Sea region plumbing lowest depths on Earth, while Montfort Castle remains an isolated example of Teutonic Knights’ 13th century bastion.
Home of Jewish collective community kibbutz and ancient boat whose bows 2,000 years ago in Old Testament times broke waters of Sea of Galilee, actually a lake.
Judean Desert inexorably leads to State of Israel’s capital, controversially reinforced during our stay by US President Donald Trump’s official recognition. Israeli-Palestinian conflict, considered traversing Golam Heights plateau, can be set aside in the presence of such breath-taking beauty, best appreciated from heady heights of Mount Scopus and Mount of Olives. Biblical highlights among Old City Quarters, today host to three monotheistic orders, include worship landmarks aplenty such as Church of All Nations, Church of Tomb of Mary, St Anne’s Church and Church of Holy Sepulchre.
Other attractions include Garden Gethsemane’s time-worn olive trees, Lion’s Gate, Bethesda, Via Dolorosa 14 Stations of Cross, Temple Mount, Tower of David at the Citadel and Mount Zion Cenaculum Room of the Last Supper.
10. Israel Museum
Home of one of the world’s most eclectic collections of art, archaeology, antiques and antiquities, includes model depicting days of Jesus as well as Shrine of the Book home of globally famous Dead Sea Scrolls.
- Israel enjoys 60 weekly scheduled flights with El Al (www.elal.com/en/UK), British Airways (www.britishairways.com), easyJet (www.easyjet.com), Wizz Air (wizzair.com) and Arkia (www.arkia.com) flying direct to Tel Aviv from Manchester, London Luton, London Heathrow and Stansted. For full information contact Israel Tourist Board ([email protected]).