We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

My Israel Trip Review - 3-13 Sep

Which Jerusalem hotels are on sale?
dd/mm/yyyy dd/mm/yyyy
See hotels
Maryland
Level Contributor
149 posts
10 reviews
Save Topic
My Israel Trip Review - 3-13 Sep

This is a very lengthy report but hopefully everyone will find it useful.  We had a full schedule while in Israel and certainly made the most of each day!  We arrived from Amman, Jordan via the Allenby Bridge border crossing.  We decided to use the VIP service and although a little costly ($100/person), I feel it was money well spent.  We (just me and my family) were taken across in a private van versus a bus with many travelers.  We probably only waited 10 minutes on the Jordan side for them to complete our paperwork and load our luggage.  Once on the Israeli side it was probably 1/2 hr for them to process our passports and luggage.  The VIP service allowed us to go to the front of the line at passport control.  Our guide was able to meet us at the exit.

After much research on Trip Advisor and other sites, I decided to hire Sam Salem as our guide. There have been multiple chats on this forum regarding whether or not he is a licensed guide in Israel and I don't wish to continue those chats.  I chose him for personal reasons which suited my family and the itinerary he proposed worked perfectly for us.  We tweaked it a bit and we were able to see and do everything we wanted.  Sam was also able to get me a discounted rate for the King David Hotel which is where we stayed in Jerusalem. (If anyone wants additional guide details on our experience with Sam, please send me a private message).

We arrived in Jerusalem on 3 Sep and departed on the 13th.  We based ourselves in Jerusalem but also visited several areas outside of Jerusalem. Because there is so much too see, it can be a little overwhelming and I'm sure we asked our guide the same questions multiple times :)

We went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher three times at different times. The first time we toured everything inside but were unable to get into the Ascension site because the line was so long..  The second time we visited there was a service going on (very interesting to see) but no one could get into the site.  The last time we decided to stand in the line and we finally got into the Ascension site.  Please note that they don't let you in there for more than a couple of minutes.

We loved the Souk and went there on our own multiple times.  After you get your bearings it's actually not hard to make your way around. Be sure to bargain.

We bought some beautiful hand crafted pottery pieces from an Armenian shop (Garo and Sonia Sandrouni, Armenian Ceramics Gallery), Old City, Armenian Section. We actually went back there several times.

It's well worth it to go to the Sound and Lights show in the Old City as well as the Old City tunnel tour.  We didn't reserve for either in advance and were able to get tickets.

We traveled to Bethlehem, Jericho, Nazareth, Masada and the Dead Sea.  At no time, whether we were in Israel or the Palestinian Authority did we feel unsafe.  Be prepared though when you see the Separation Wall.  I'm not trying to start a political debate and I understand Israel's reason for building it but it's actually a shock to see up close.  (Send me a private message if you'd like additional details.) Also, be prepared to see a lot of trash and buildings in disrepair in the Palestinian Authority. Even out in the countryside in Israel there were fields with old plastic - it's just left there when no longer needed.

Men - beware that if you are wearing shorts and your knees are showing, you will be required to wear a cover up skirt or wrap in a lot of the churches - actually comical to see men with their "skirts". I have a wonderful photo of my husband and father with their skirts :)

Be prepared to walk many hills and steps wherever you go - great exercise!

Food was not cheap.  Street food may be but for regular restaurants it certainly wasn't inexpensive - not overly expensive, but not cheap either.  A couple of places we dined we're on the pricey side.  One place was the American Colony - lovely outdoor courtyard for dinner and very good food but for two of us it was over $100.

One last thing I need to mention is about the Dead Sea.  I wasn't interested in floating but my husband and father were so I went down to the water with them.  I was only at the edge with my feet submerged BUT there are holes and I fell in one which meant my camera went under water! The dead sea water is very oily and needless to say, my camera was ruined.  Thank goodness though my photo card with over 500 trip photos was okay!

I could go on and on but these are the basics of our trip. We had a wonderful time. Please contact me with any questions.

Seattle
Level Contributor
54 posts
42 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: My Israel Trip Review - 3-13 Sep

I enjoyed reading your trip report! I'm looking forward to going back to Israel this December :-)

NYC/Israel
Destination Expert
for Israel
Level Contributor
34,792 posts
35 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: My Israel Trip Review - 3-13 Sep

I will, despite your not wanting to hear it make one comment. You write that Sam may or may not be licensed.It should be easy to figure out. If he is licensed his license was prominently visible as your toured ( as required by law) If he had no visible license, then he wasnt licensed and broke the law taking you around.

Level Contributor
4 posts
5 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: My Israel Trip Review - 3-13 Sep

Great information We will be going in november

Ottawa, Canada
Destination Expert
for Jerusalem, Galilee, Tel Aviv
Level Contributor
5,867 posts
140 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: My Israel Trip Review - 3-13 Sep

The plastic that you referred to that is left in the fields doesn't just stay there. The plastic covers the crops when they are growing. During the harvest, the plastic gets turned under the soil by the machines. Afterwards it is collected. It used to be done by hand. I know, I spent a whole summer as a kibbutz volunteer in the fields one year collecting the plastic so the fields could be prepared for the next planting. Dirty, hot work. Using the plastic slows down evaporation from the soil, allows dew to condense in the morning to preserve what little moisture there is, and protects the plants from insects and animals. It is a bit of an eyesore while it still lies out there but it certainly serves its purpose.

It is also strange to see the banana trees with all the blue bags hanging over the bunches of growing bananas. Doesn't look attractive but works well.

Tel Aviv, Israel
Destination Expert
for Israel
Level Contributor
4,334 posts
66 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: My Israel Trip Review - 3-13 Sep

Sounds like you were aware that your guide is not licensed by Israel's Ministry of Tourism, yet you decided to work with him and violate Israeli law in doing so. That's a shame and not an example I would hope other readers follow.

You mention the "Ascension" site at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. I assume you are referring to the Tomb of Jesus. Did your guide take you inside the Syrian chapel to see the authentic 2nd Temple Period Jewish burial cave there? For those wishing to understand and visualize what the setting for Jesus' burial looked like 2,000 years ago, a stop inside this chapel (opposite the Coptic chapel) is a 'must.'

Winston Salem...
Level Contributor
21 posts
5 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: My Israel Trip Review - 3-13 Sep

Thank you for posting this. We are going in 2 wks. We will visit the Dead Sea and it is good to know about the holes....because I will be one to step in them, lol! We will be cautious with our camera.

Thank you again for taking the time to share and I'm glad you enjoyed your trip.

Laura

Israel
Destination Expert
for Israel
Level Contributor
11,987 posts
Save Reply
7. Re: My Israel Trip Review - 3-13 Sep

My camera also died after a nanosecond in the Dead Sea water! This was several years ago, and it was the prompt I needed to upgrade to digital...

Don't enter the water with ANYTHING you don't want to get wet or ruined. The chances are very high that you will lose your balance, and however careful you are, things are likely to get wet. You should also wear shoes (suitable ones, obviously!) in the water because the bottom is very rough and spiky. And any cuts on your body will be agony - don't shave in the morning before you go.

Israel
Destination Expert
for Israel
Level Contributor
14,060 posts
243 reviews
Save Reply
8. Re: My Israel Trip Review - 3-13 Sep

Thank you for your post which is helpful to others. However I would like to make a number of comments which will steer others in the right direction.

Using an unlicensed guide within the border of Israel is illegal and punishable by law -- not necessarily the tourist but the guide. I have been witness to groups (families and busloads) where the illegal guide has been detained by police, leaving the group high and dry without a guide and sometimes without transportation. The PA also has some laws in this respect, PA guides are not allowed to guide within Israel which includes the city of Jerusalem and Israeli guides are not allowed to guide in the PA (such as Bethlehem, Jericho, Nablus, etc). Making a private tour in Israel is an expensive trip, don't try to cut corners which ultimatley may cause you distress in more way than one. I am glad that you were not met by the tourist police who are looking for such guides, but also that you were not in a car accident, because there would be no insurance coverage had you been (one requires a special driver's license available only to licensed guides, unless you are transported in an official taxi)

By your description of the chapel of the Ascension being in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that either you mis-understood or the guide misled your understanding, as the Chapel of the Ascension is on the Mt. of Olives (accepted by all churches) and the tomb of Jesus is inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The best time to enter the tomb is from 5:30-8:00 a.m. before the mad rush -- any day of the year.

It is ashamed that the PA does not work better on cleaning up, however, this is a cultural thing that can be found in many areas with similar populations, throughout the world.

Sorry about your camera, at least you were able to salvage the card. When I go to the Dead Sea with visitors I stand a distance away with the camera and use the zoom feature.

As posted numerous times it is important to dress modestly in holy sites including churches, synagogues and mosques. This generally means long skirts/trousers, sleeves to the elbows, high neck and head covering for women in church, no covering for men in church. Additionally, walking near, in the Dead Sea one must always wear water shoes, the salt can cut your feet which would be extremely painful. This is the type of information a professional guide would pass on to their clients, even if he were not taking them there.

Tel Aviv, Israel
Destination Expert
for Israel
Level Contributor
2,506 posts
24 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: My Israel Trip Review - 3-13 Sep

Thanks for your report. I enjoyed reading it and there is a lot of useful information.

The water in the Dead Sea feels oily because of the high concentration of dissolved mineral salts. There is no oil!

Kings Creek...
Level Contributor
214 posts
48 reviews
Save Reply
10. Re: My Israel Trip Review - 3-13 Sep

Thanks TWS for a great report.

Very helpful. So glad you had a great holiday.

Cheers, Sue.