As promised I will write a report on my trip to Israel. I went to Israel despite all of the unrest because it was important to me not to give into terror. That is not to say that it is fair to judge anyone for making a decision to postpone their respective vacation but I am glad I made that choice. It was my wife's first trip to Israel and it was truly amazing. We obviously could not go to the North of the country (although I love the Golan Heights) but we will leave that for another time. It was very sad for me to see that there were few tourists in Israel especially in Tel Aviv. There are many ppl who live in the north who were forced out of their homes and are staying in Tel Aviv but there were very few non-Israelis there. It was a sad commentary but when I went to check into the Dan Panorama in Tel Aviv there were no rooms available because the residents of Northern Israel did not want to leave their hotel rooms to go back to the bomb shelters. (We were upgraded to an executive room at the DAN-a nicer hotel an even better location) Likewise, in Jerusalem, the King David Hotel was empty. They closed their top two floors (out of 6) and were busy "renovating" during a time which should have been their peak season. At that hotel also we were upgraded twice to a superior room facing the old city.
I am not going to go into every minute detail of our trip except to point out the highlights and some advice. Everyone can feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for greater info.
1. Tour Guide- Many people ask if it is best to hire a tour guide for their trip? I answer with a resounding YES! However, I beg of all of you to choose carefully. I had an awful experience with the first guide I hired. I did a lot of research and was confident in my choice but boy was I mistaken. She had a sense of entitlement and a warped sense of right vs wrong. She was very pessimistic and she had many emotional issues. When I spoke to people who knew her in Israel they told me that she was a known "kook". However, after taking a bit of a financial hit (which I can hardly afford) I realized that it wasn't worth it to be miserable and ruin my wife's first trip so I moved on and hired a second tour guide for one day. He was amazing!! He enhanced our trip to the old city and "ir david".He made Jerusalem come alive! I don't want to advertise for anyone here, but if you are interested,I have that person's name and information. I asked him to give us a tour that was Jewish and Biblically based, and he did deliver.
2. Rental Car- We rented a budget car from Ben Gurion. Every thing was great and I have no complaints except to make sure that you check every nick before you leave the airport. They claimed I scratched the car and put in a report that I did (although I believe it was there before) I needed a car because I traveled all over the South but if you just stay in a major city like Tel Aviv or Jerusalem you really do not need a car. As a matter of fact if you are just in Jerusalem I'd tell you NOT to rent a car.
Dead Sea- Stayed one night. Was not overly impressed. Very boring and to be honest with you my judgement is kind of unfair because we were so tired from the flight and also the hotel was overrun with Northern refugees. However, the Sheraton Moriah was nothing special. We hiked Nahal Arugot which was fun but you need to be willing to do a lot of hiking.
Eilat- Was Amazing!! I snorkeled with the Dolphins which I enjoyed and went to the Underwater Observatory- which I thought was very neat and well done. Had a good dinner at Jolson's and stayed at the Sheraton Herods Vitalis Spa which was very nice.
Mitzpe Ramon- We stayed one night at the Ramon Inn and I would recommend going as a day trip maybe on the way to Eilat but not enough to do or worthwhile staying over.
Tel Aviv- Amazing!! Went to Palmach Museum and Diaspora Museum. Went to drumming beach (chinky beach) on Friday. Got upgraded to the Dan which was awesome. Ate at great restaurants (Mul Yam being the best) We went to Jaffa(which was mostly closed on Sabbath) and walked through the Shuk, We stayed for 3 nights which was great.
Jerusalem- We were going to stay in an apartment that we put a deposit down on. We saw the pictures on the Internet and they looked nothing like the apartment that we arrived to. It looked scary, unclean, and dangerous. We did not stay there and subsequent to that Ariela (the owner of the apartment) charged us the balance as if we stayed there. We now have a dispute on this charge with our cc company. So do not stay at any anywhere from www.lodging-in-jerusalem.com. We found the site on Yahoo flat hunting for apartments. Anyhow, we ended up in the King David which was nice (see review under the hotel) and hired our amazing guide to tour the old city. We went to Ir David, Hezekia's tunnels, and the old qtrs. We also went to ammunition hill, MT Scopus, and the Promenade. We hung out at Ben Yehudah and Emek Refaim. We went to great meals and some not so great ones too (lol) We were at the Kotel for Tisha B'av which is a real site to see. We went to the Tower of David Museum (a must!!) and enjoyed our time strolling around the city and shopping
Shopping- Everywhere we went the stores were dead. Any time we walked in anywhere it was automatically 50 percent off. I love the art of negotiation. However, at a time when there are no tourists I look at it as a form of charity to pay what is being asked (or even more at times). I can just imagine how difficult it is for a store owner to not have any sustainable source of income. It seems to either be feat or famine and unfortunately at times of famine it is really bad. Having said that, we bought a nice art piece in the Cardo (A Binyamin Rozen) at his store there. I met him and really liked him as well. I bought a nice star of David for my wife's B' day, a nice tallit for myself (Judaic item) and of course we bought a potpourri of gifts. It suffices to say we went way over our budget but it was well worth it.
PS Please feel free to contact me at my email email@example.com. I apologize if it seemed rambled at times or grammatically incorrect. I am still a bit jet lagged and have a million things to do to try and catch up. (I tried telling the mailman to only bring checks and not bills but he seemed to have forgotten-lol).