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Nontraditional travel plans for Israel

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Nontraditional travel plans for Israel

I went to Israel and Jordan last year, and it was great. I did a tour of Northern Israel, which whisked us from city to city. "Here's Haifa... take 10 minutes to see the Baha'i Gardens ... ok, hop in the van and let's go!" The tour was ok for what it was, but I would like to see the country again, without the filter of the tour experience. I also spent four days, relatively on my own, in Jerusalem, which was fantastic. But I never got to see all the other cities.

This year I want to go back, in October or November, and really take the time to see places like Haifa, Tel Aviv, Acre, maybe someplace in the southern desert, some of the cities in the Palestinian territories. I'd spend anywhere from a few hours to a few days in each place and take public transportation, with an emphasis on hiking and being outdoors more, and getting away from the traditionally tourist spots. This is all stuff I wanted to do on my last trip, but never quite accomplished. I'll probably be traveling solo, so I do want to join day tours, just not all encompassing tours where we are guided around, in and out of buses, and told where to eat and sleep.

Any suggestions on places I shouldn't miss? Or ideas for tours/activities?

I'm in my 40s, reasonably fit. I'm Jewish but not looking for a religious experience; just meeting ordinary Israelis and getting to see the country. I'm considering airbnb stays, mixed with Bed and Breakfasts, to keep the cost of lodging reasonable.

Cincinnati, Ohio
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1. Re: Nontraditional travel plans for Israel

You can absolutely do this on your own -- I've done it that way 12 times, with trip # 13 coming up in May. In my view, independent travel in Israel offers huge advantages, largely along the lines you outline in your post.

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 59-page .pdf file, and I just finished updating it to reflect a trip I completed last month. To get it, just write me at Labatt@fuse.net, and I will send it as a file attachment via return e-mail. 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. For that, I recommend either Frommer's or Fodor's.

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 and will not copy and paste e-mail addresses over to my e-mail program. I get a lot of requests for this guide and this is not my job, so I hope you understand I need it done that way.

I hope that you have a wonderful visit!

Douglas Duckett

Haifa, Israel
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2. Re: Nontraditional travel plans for Israel

As Douglas said, it's very easy to do this kind of trip solo; you can pick up tours as and when you want although in many places you don't need them (especially if you have already visited with a tour). For example, in Akko there are very good audio guides.

It's difficult for us to offer global advice about choice of where to visit etc - this is really up to you. But read Douglas's guide and some trip reports on the forum, and this should give you some ideas (you can search the forum for "trip report").

Two quick bits of advice - first - it is a good idea to avoid the Sukkot holiday (8-15 Oct) because the whole country will be very busy. However, I'd choose a late October trip over November for the weather.

Second, while public transport is good within cities and between Jerusalem and cities on the coast, it is almost impossible to travel independently in the southern desert and the north (outside cities) without a rental car. If you drive, you should definitely consider renting a car for part of your trip. The same goes for hiking - you need a car to get to most good hiking places (though in any case you shouldn't hike alone).

For recommendations of outdoor places/hiking, see http://www.tiuli.com/default.asp?lng=eng

For 'traditional' day tours see:

http://www.beinharimtours.com

http://www.eggedtours.com

For tours including Palestinian cities, see:

http://abrahamtours.com

http://www.toursinenglish.com (more of a political agenda)

Israel
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3. Re: Nontraditional travel plans for Israel

Your travel plans are far from non-traditional. Many people come here and tour on their own, supplementing with guided tours here and there. Haifa has a tourist information center on Ben Gurion in the German Colony Haifa

Haifa Tourist Association

Address: 48 Ben Gurion st., The German Colony

Telephone: 1-800-305090, 04-8535606

Email : info@tour-haifa.co.il

Internet site: http://tour-haifa.co.il/

Opening hours: Sun-Thu: 9:00am-5:00pm : Fri: 09:00am-1:00pm ; Sat: 10:00am-3:00pm

You can peruse their website and write to them for further information. They have alot of information and maps, in English, mostly for free which can help you with your tour. Haifa is great for walking tours which are clearly marked with signs throughout the city.

In Tel Aviv there is a free Bauhaus tour on Shabbat. But here also you may peruse the Tel Aviv Tourist Information Center for further information:

Tel Aviv Tourism Association

Address: Tel Aviv Promanade, 46 Herbert Samuel st.

Telephone: 03-5166188

Email: tourist@barak.net.il

Internet site: www.visit-tlv.co.il

Opening hours: Sun-Thu: 10:00am-5:30pm Fri: 10:00am-2:00pm

Regarding hiking, as Avigail mentioned, this should never be done alone. This being said it is possible to visit the various National Parks for hiking. There are special cards which offer a discounted price for quantity entrance fees, available at all National Parks and Nature Reserves.

Happy planning!

Chana

Tel Aviv, Israel
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4. Re: Nontraditional travel plans for Israel

The most nontraditional tip I can give you is: visit Clil (sometimes spelled Klil) in the western Galilee. Read about it here:

Silicon Valley in the Middle East

If you ever yawn politely and respond: “been there, done that” when friends suggest “different” vacations, Klil is for you. This Western Galilee settlement is going to wow you. This is the other Israel, the land of creative living, the way life once was.

Let’s begin at the end: don’t consider going to Klil if you’re a first-time visitor to Israel; this country has too much to do on the ‘must see’ regular tourist circuit. And don’t consider Klil for less than 2-3 nights. Firstly, it’s not easy to reach, and secondly, you’ll kick yourself for not taking full advantage of off-the-beaten-track Klil. (These words have already filtered out 90% of the tourists on your flight, so when you go, you know you’re going to meet like-minded souls).

These same “filters” make Klil residents special. Sensitive, thoughtful, artistic and environment-friendly; kind, generous and – dare we say it? – somewhat weird. Except that their “weird” is what makes Klil so very special and so very attractive.

Klil has never been formally recognized by the authorities. There is running water, but Klil is not connected to the national electricity grid. Don’t give up; solar photo-electric panels provide all the comforts of home and there are some backup generators. (Did we mention environmentally friendly?) Klil runs on friendship. No locked doors. No one accepts credit cards either; cash, or your word of honor to mail a check. There are no banks, post offices, shops, malls, movie houses or theaters. No gas station, offices, tourist bureaus. Come to relax and unwind.

So why on earth should you go to Klil? What’s there to do? The short answer is that you’ll probably be the first of your friends to visit. (No. The people who visit Klil don’t go there for that reason!) The real answer is to experience a way of life that combines the comforts of home with an alternative and disappearing lifestyle. Accommodations range from simple tents with outside shared facilities, through a 3-room hostel, chalets with all mod-cons (even Jacuzzis), and to a magical 10-bedroom house with hand-painted floors and private swimming pool. Air-conditioned of course, and with room for 25 people. Cool, shady, peaceful and inviting places to stay abound. Water is gas heated, refrigerators run on gas and gas ovens and stove-tops ensure hot food. Most places have Wi-Fi, so laptops and cellular telephones work. (Recharge cellphones and laptops easily from solar electricity.) TVs, radios and clocks run perfectly.

Klil’s unique charm however lies in the location, the surrounding authentic natural environment – and its people. Hiking, horse riding, swimming if you want action for the body. Yoga, meditation, homeopathy, massages, workshops, courses, seminars, lectures, music and art for the soul. Choose any or none. Read. Unwind! (If you yearn for some “city life” Druze and Arab villages are a short drive – or even hike – away.)

Hagit offers friendly hands-on vegan cooking courses in her own home – and you get to eat what you cook. (Her son’s pet donkey outside is her “solar alarm clock” warning that someone has arrived.) Hagit also does catering and supplies meals, especially gourmet breakfasts, to guesthouses. Visit Batya and Alon’s workshop to see their beautiful and unusual handmade glass and ceramics or to participate in a practical class. Yuval, the “Aborigine ambassador” (he lived for 17 years with the last tribe of Aborigines in Australia) gives an authentic, fascinating show-and-tell presentation of a culture from the other side of the globe, sitting under a tree in Klil. The inspiring message, so very typical of Klil 2014, is environmental respect and concern for our planet. Nearby is the “Soul Retreat”, offering yoga, massages and a range of Eastern-philosophy meditation rituals and courses. And all on the “dana” basis – you pay if, and whatever, you want. Trust, silence, peace and goodwill embodied.

Mali and Satiam welcome you in their tepee. Yoga and massages, and an introduction to different aspects of the mental and physical simplicity of living. Raffael is one of several unusual artists in Klil. His outdoor museum includes living sculptures, combining trees with metal sculptures that change as the trees grow. Raffael does not charge to view the museum, but expect to be asked to work. If only all work could be so fulfilling! Yotam, one of the first children to have been born on Klil – some 33 years ago, at home, by candlelight – is a professional licensed guide who can show you the real Klil (and the Western Galilee) like no one else.

Café Klil offers light meals, excellent coffee and a chance to meet Tammy and sample her home cooking. Her frequent weekend concerts are on a “magic hat” basis – pay whatever you feel appropriate. “Smadar B’Klil” is a charming vegetarian restaurant. Smadar herself was faced with the decision 32 years ago whether to leave her native Jerusalem for New York – or Klil; typical of the contradictions and filters that faced – and still face – the locals. (Smadar also has three chalets for rent, each with breathtaking views.) “Tul” on the other hand specializes in meat dishes, all done in the wood-fired brick oven hand built by restaurant owner Nir. At Klil there are no freezers so you can be sure everything is fresh. Nir does not ignore vegetarians; Tul’s menu includes fresh fish and vegetarian options, and the view is magnificent.

We overheard residents discussing possibly being connected to the grid. The consensus? No! “Only a special people want to live here. Restricted electricity supplies serve as an excellent filter. Children have to ask if they can watch TV or use computers because solar energy in batteries is precious. A perfect way to restrict kids’ TV and computer usage. People are friendlier, helpful, and respectful of nature and the environment. We value that.”

You’ll value that too.

Some useful links:

www.clil.org.il (Hebrew)

www.westgalil.org.il wgtime@gmail.com 050-2920800

www.raffaellomas.net www.hagitlidor@gmail.com

Yuval (Aborigine) 052-5578382 www.clil10.co.il www.tul.co.il

© Copyright Jonathan Danilowitz 2013.

Boston...
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5. Re: Nontraditional travel plans for Israel

Thanks so much for all the advice!

Yes, I agree about not hiking alone. I can get lost in my own neighborhood. I'm hoping to find a group/activity. For instance, in Jordan, I joined a day hike affiliated with Abraham's Path. That turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip. The hike was followed by a lunch in someone's house, and we tasted fresh olive oil that the family had just pressed.

I will look into Kill!

As the trip gets refined, I'll post back for more specific suggestions. And I have sent for Doug's book.

Beth

Haifa, Israel
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6. Re: Nontraditional travel plans for Israel

You may also be able to hike in Israel/Palestine with the Abraham Path.

www.abrahampath.org/walk/tours/day-walks/

In general, though, there are unfortunately not that many organized hiking options (and those that there are almost always require a car to get to the start point). Even in most national parks it is not advisable to do anything more than the very shortest hikes alone as they can be isolated and sometimes physically challenging.

Los Angeles...
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7. Re: Nontraditional travel plans for Israel

We were referred to Green Olive Tours........hoping to use them to see Ramallah at the end of April.

8. Re: Nontraditional travel plans for Israel

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