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.