There are probably a million reasons why you should keep Israel as your top destination choice. Not only does it happen to be the birthplace of the Jewish religion, but there are lots of totally rad things happening, from the tech start-ups, wineries, parties and food- this round up ain’t your grandma’s list for visiting the Holy Land. Check it out, you might be pleasantly surprised.
- The Wine: Israel has been mapping its way onto the global wine scene for some time now, and finally getting the recognition it deserves. Whether it’s the more established wineries in the Golan (northern Israel), or the mom+pop wineries dotting the Negev- Israeli wines have come a long way. Many moons ago on my Birthright Israel trip, we visited a family owned winery near Sde Boker, where I later apprenticed as a winemaker. Magical things can happen in Israel. Be sure to make a visit to at least one winery.
- The Art: If you’ve skipped over the Israel museum, you’re skipping over a vast majority of iconic ancient and modern art. With constantly rotating exhibits, you’ll likely find something of interest. If architecture is your cup of tea, take a walking tour through Neve Tzedek in Tel Aviv, the Bauhaus architecture is visually stunning. Once you’re already roaming about the streets of Tel Aviv, you’ll be happy to know that more than 30 galleries dot the city with contemporary works of art.
- The Food: You probably already know that Israeli food has become popular the world over, just check out the new Jerusalem cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi for proof (ranked number 3 best seller on Amazon). As an advocate of all things local, I suggest trying out local hummus stands or making a stop by the shuk in Jerusalem- home to all the best underground restaurants. Try Basher cheese shop for some knock your socks off cheese sandwiches, or make your way through the Iraqi quarter of the shuk and find some great falafel– and many old Iraqis playing shesh-besh (read: backgammon).
- The Nature: With nearly every type of climate available to you, Israel is a nature lovers dream come true. Skip the usual Ein Gedi tourist trap- instead go for a midnight hike in the Negev desert, soak in the hot springs and watch the sunrise over the Dead Sea. Watching the night sky turn from a blanket of golden stars to pink and purple brushstrokes right before your eyes may make you never want to return home.
- The Parties: You’ve probably heard this before, but Israelis love to party. Whether you go to a party on a kibbutz, a hot new club in Tel Aviv or even a random bar in Jerusalem- just about anywhere you go you’ll likely enjoy yourself. For a good night out try the Namal (port) in Tel Aviv- just make sure to get there fashionably late i.e. at midnight when the party really starts going and be prepared to not get home until the sun rises. Party in the city where the heat is on, all night on the beach till the break of dawn- Welcome to Miami Tel Aviv- Bruchim Ha’Baim L’Yisrael!
Anabelle Harari is the community attaché for Birthright Israel Experts and the blogger behind Local Belle-a sustainable living blog dedicated to all things local. You can connect with Anabelle on twitter @thelocalbelle to find out the best local eats from around the world.