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First family trip to Israel

Melbourne, Australia
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First family trip to Israel

Hi all,

My brother, grandma and I are planning a trip to Israel from 15th December till 30th December (this does not include travel days).

At this stage, we are planning to base ourselves 6 nights in Jerusalem (with a day trip to Masada and the Dead Sea), 4 nights in Haifa (with a trip to Akko and Nazareth or Galilee) and 5 nights in Tel Aviv.

My questions are as follows:

1. The itinerary I have planned will have us in Haifa on Christmas Day. Are there any issues that I will need to deal with being in the city on Christmas Day?

2. My 80 year old grandma has been to Israel twice before (and lived there for 8 years), so she is happy for my brother and I to do a few things on our own if she gets too tired. However, she can walk (though with a walking stick) for 30 minutes non-stop. The main issue will be stairs for her. Are there any sites in Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv that will be too difficult for her?

3. My itinerary has us leaving Jerusalem to Haifa on a Saturday. Will there be transport issues with Shabbat?

4. Where is the best area to stay in Jerusalem? At this stage, I am leaning toward staying at Harmony Hotel as it is in the City Centre and walking distance to various sites (though we will take cabs if my grandma isn't up to walking).

Any insight would be much appreciated. I currently have the Lonely Planet and Frommer's guidebooks and am using those as well as Tripadvisor to plan the vacation.

Thank you in advance.

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Dead Sea Region, Israel
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Gippsland, Australia
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for Jerusalem
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1. Re: First family trip to Israel

Some of the local people will be better to answer some of your questions. They will not all be online for the next couple of days because of their New Year and Shabbat so be patient if it takes a few days for all your questions to be answered.

The Harmony Hotel is a great location. We stayed there last year. There are heaps of restaurants close by, plus good transport along Jaffa Rd which is close to it. The rooms are small there.

In the Old City of Jerusalem there are a lot of steps, but mostly they are quite shallow so your grandma will find them ok and she could lean on your arm to help if necessary. There are two places she might have difficulty and that is going up and down the steps from the Jewish Quarter to the Western Wall (the Kotel). Those are a bit steeper and there are quite a lot of them. Also, if you decide to go to the Western Wall tunnel then there are also a lot of steps there. On a tour we went on one of the older ladies wasn't able to cope with those and so because I had seen the tunnel before and also don't do steps too well I went with her by taxi from the Dung Gate round to the Jewish quarter and we met up with the tour group at the top of the steps as they came up.

There are quite a few places your grandma could sit down to regain strength in the Jewish Quarter - the Hurva Square, the top of the steps leading to the Western Wall to name a couple. There are also cafes in the Jewish Quarter she could sit in for a while. There are not so many places she could sit to rest in the other quarters, but you could find a church that is open, so that is always good to remember if she needs a rest.

The best public conveniences are all in the Jewish Quarter - don't use the ones near the Damascus Gate.

Edited: 05 September 2013, 04:45
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2. Re: First family trip to Israel

I didn't mention Tel Aviv . I don't think there will be a problem in Tel Aviv itself - its mostly flat. If you have particular places you want to see thenI suggest you name them, and someone can comment on that particularly, but I don't think there will be an issue.

The one thing you will need to watch is that the pavements are not as even as here in Melbourne. I had a really bad fall in Tel Aviv because I tripped over at one point. Thankfully people at a large hotel nearby gave me some good first aid.

If you go to Jaffa (a must see for all visitors) then there are steps. You will probably have to help your Grandma, but it is not a large place, and the older people on our tour all managed it with help from younger people. There are also places your grandma can sit down and rest.

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Tel-Aviv
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3. Re: First family trip to Israel

1. Christmas is not celebrated in Israel and is a normal working day.

3. There are no buses or trains on Saturday. Your only practical option is to take a taxi which will cost approx. 900 NIS. (There is a fixed price set by the MoT).

But what would you do on a weekday ? The express bus costs 42 NIS pp, a taxi at each end about 60 NIS, ie a total of 250 NIS. But is this feasible for your grandmother ???

The weekday taxi fare is 20% less (I will look up the exact fares later today).

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4. Re: First family trip to Israel

The taxi fares are 780 NIS weekday and 960 NIS nights and Saturday. You have to add about 4.40 for each piece of luggage and 4.90 for the third passenger.

Cincinnati, Ohio
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5. Re: First family trip to Israel

While I love Haifa, I do note that particularly at that time of year, the Lake Kinneret region, including Tiberias, is warmer because it is below sea level, and it's a lovely area. Haifa is built up a mountain and has lots of hilly streets. But again, I do love the city.

I also note that if it would be of help in planning your trip, I would be happy to send a copy of a free, noncommercial guide to Israel travel that I offer to anyone who asks. It is a 54-page .pdf file, and to get it, just write me at Labatt@fuse.net, and I will send it as a file attachment via return e-mail. While I think the information would help people planning any kind of trip, it is particularly written with independent travel in mind. And no strings -- I am not even in the travel business.

The guide is based on my own travel experiences and as said above, I am not in the travel business, so it does not purport to be all-encompassing or a substitute for a more thorough, comprehensive, and professional guidebook. You have the Frommer's Israel (may not be updated, but still the best in my view for now), but your Lonely Planet is unfortunately the worst Israel guide one out there.

My offer goes to anyone reading this, by the way, but you must send me an e-mail, not a message on Trip Advisor, as I cannot send file attachments through that medium,

I hope that you have a wonderful visit!

Douglas Duckett

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6. Re: First family trip to Israel

Why spend so much time in Haifa? It's not a good place to base yourselves for touring the Galilee region.

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7. Re: First family trip to Israel

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Haifa, Israel
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8. Re: First family trip to Israel

Although Christmas Day is just another work day in Israel, it is celebrated in Haifa and downtown you will hear the church bells ringing. There are also nice decorations downtown.

As for traveling on Saturday from Jerusalem to Haifa, I would recommend changing that plan. Public transportation to Haifa starts only Saturday evening and the roads are very congested right after Sabbath ends. On the other hand, if you plan to take a taxi, traveling on Sat. noon should be a problem.

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Ottawa, Canada
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9. Re: First family trip to Israel

I would also suggest not staying in Haifa but in the Upper Galilee instead. Rent a car for this part of your trip, it will be well worth it and your Grandma will be able to do so much more. Check out Hotel Pastural on Kibbutz Kfar Blum which is just lovely and is surrounded by orchards, many which will be heavy with citrus fruit at that time of year.

http://www.kfarblum-hotel.co.il/?Lang=eng

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10. Re: First family trip to Israel

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