My friend and I booked FF flights arriving in Tel Aviv at 10 pm on Yom Kippur (Oct 4) and leaving at 4 pm on Oct. 20. We thought we would be past the holiday season. We have since discovered that there are no escorted tours running until Sukkot is over. (Not that we necessarily want to be with a group.)
However, a prominent tour operator told me today that going during that period was a huge mistake -- we would have difficulty booking hotels without a minimum night stay; day tours from his company and others would not be offered; that businesses would be closed so that many Israelis would be on vacation (hence difficulty in booking hotels) and some tourist sights may be closed. Also, he said, trying to travel Israel by bus would be massively time consuming and confusing since we do not speak Hebrew. Finally, he said that we could see Haifa and Acre in one day, which seemed to me too short to see all of the historical sites, museums, etc. in both places.
I welcome feedback on the veracity of these comments and any suggestions on whether we should change our dates or how we can best visit Israel without renting a car or a private driver during the time we have currently slotted to see Israel.
I abhor the idea of doing day tours which require an hour of pick up at other hotels before hitting the road, so that more time is spent on the road than seeing things. And all of them see to start and end in either Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. My preference would be to spend a couple nights in Tel Aviv, then Haifa, then Galilee, then Jerusalem, the Dead Sea and then go down to Eilat and Petra.
We've already got flights that give us 16 days in Israel. If necessary, we could stay a similar amount of time if we can find other flights later in October.
My friend and I are seasoned travelers who have seen a good part of Europe and Latin America over the past 25 years on our own. Once we did a group trip -- it was Gate 1 to Vietnam. It was okay, but we didn't enjoy being dragged out of bed at 6 am and into marble, silk and other vendors for long visits en route.
Please also know that I love planning trips and would have no problem working out a complete itinerary with hotels, daily sights to see, transportation, etc. if I knew what transportation makes sense and if I could be assured the sights would be open. I have done this for numerous European and Latin American trips.
FYI. I live in NYC and don't drive, and two stressful driving trips in Italy have killed my travel buddy's interest in getting behind the wheel overseas. Please also note that our style is to spend two weeks in a country, e.g. Portugal, or in particular regions, e.g. Rome, Naples & Amalfi coast. We would never plan an overseas adventure that is less than 2 weeks in length.
Our thanks to TA colleagues for any advice provided on provide on whether we should change our dates and how, no matter what date, we can have the most comprehensive, educational, adventurous tour of Israel without renting a car.