• Israel

    • Israel, Arabic Isrāʾīl, officially State of Israel or Hebrew Medinat Yisraʾel, country in the Middle East, located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.
    • It is bounded to the north by Lebanon, to the northeast by Syria, to the east and southeast by Jordan, to the southwest by Egypt, and to the west by the Mediterranean Sea.
    • Jerusalem is the seat of government and the proclaimed capital, although the latter status has not received wide international recognition.

    Israel has so much to offer, here are some of the things Israel is known for.

    The Dead Sea

    You pass a sign reading ‘Sea Level’ and then keep driving downhill, eventually catching glimpses of the cobalt-blue waters of the Dead Sea:, outlined by snow-white salt deposits, reddish-tan cliffs and tufts of dark-green vegetation. At the oasis of Ein Gedi you can hike through steep canyons to crystal-clear pools and tumbling waterfalls before climbing to the Judean Desert plateau above – or heading down to the seashore for a briny, invigorating dip. To the south around Mt Sodom, outdoor options include adventure cycling along dry riverbeds.

    Tel Aviv Beaches

    Head to Gordon Beach: in Tel Aviv and grab your spot either on the sand or on a sun lounger and watch sunbathers bronze their bods while the more athletic swim, surf, sail and play intense games of matkot (beach racquetball). Pick one of the bars or restaurants that brings food and beers to the sand and enjoy some lunch, then as evening falls do as the locals do and sink a few ice-cold Goldstars as the sun sets over the warm, deep-blue waters of the Mediterranean.

    Baha’i Gardens

    Fusing religious symbolism, breathtaking views and meticulous gardening, the 19 terraces of Haifa's Baha'i Gardens: present visitors with a sublime expression of humankind's striving for beauty. The gold-domed Shrine of the Bab sits in the middle of the gardens, and tier after tier of geometric flower beds, immaculate lawns, sculptures and fountains cascade down the slopes of Mt Carmel, offering pilgrims and tourists alike a sense of incredible serenity. If you're fit enough, the view from the top over Haifa may take your mind off your burning calves.

    Masada

    The Romans had just destroyed Jerusalem when about a thousand Jewish Zealots took refuge on a remote hilltop overlooking the Dead Sea. As you peer down from their towering redoubt, you can still see the eight encircling Roman camps:, connected by a siege wall, making it easy to imagine the dramatic, tragic events that unfolded here in early 73 CE. Eventually the Romans built a ramp and breached the walls, but all they found were a handful of survivors – everyone else had committed suicide rather than submit to slavery.

    Tsfat

    The spirit of the 16th-century rabbis who turned Tsfat: – the highest city in the Galilee, and in Israel – into the world’s most important centre of Kabbalah (Jewish mysticism) lingers in the alleyways and ancient synagogues of the Synagogue Quarter and in the nearby Artists’ Quarter, where intimate galleries offer creative, joyous Judaica (Jewish ritual objects). A Kabbalistic vibe is also palpable in the hillside cemetery, where some of Judaism’s greatest sages – the Ari, Yitzhak Luria, Yosef Caro – lie buried.

    Caesarea

    Hugely impressive Roman ruins: make it easy to imagine city life here two millennia ago, when crowds in the amphitheatre cheered wildly as slaves fought wild animals and the theatre hosted top musical talent – as it still does today. The remains of Herod's vast port, built to rival Alexandria, have been turned into one of the loveliest spots in Israel for a seaside meal or a cold beer. For a look underneath the harbour's turquoise waters, book an introductory scuba dive.

    Nazareth

    The village where Jesus grew up has also grown up and is now a bustling Arab city. In the Old City, narrow alleyways are graced with churches commemorating the Annunciation and other New Testament events, and with Ottoman-era mansions. A new generation of restaurants has made Nazareth: a star in Israel’s gastronomic firmament. Alongside delicious old-time specialities, served with traditional Arab hospitality, you can sample East-West ‘fusion’ dishes – fresh local herbs with artichoke hearts, or wild Galilean pine nuts with chopped beef.

    Akko

    The narrow alleys, domed mosques and colonnaded caravanserais of Akko's old city: will transport you to the Ottoman era, but step underground and you're back in the time of the Crusaders, when this port city was the richest in the eastern Mediterranean and Marco Polo stopped here on his way to China. Wander through vast vaulted halls where Christian knights once dined, or follow in the footsteps of the Knights Templar through an amazing tunnel. The picturesque fishing port, lapped by the turquoise Mediterranean, is a great spot for a drink or a meal.

    Sea of Galilee

    Before Judaism and Christianity became separate religions, Jesus and his earliest followers lived among the Jews of the Sea of Galilee:, in villages such as Capernaum – famed for its impressive synagogue – and Bethsaida. For breathtaking views of the area, head up the slope to the Mount of the Beatitudes, where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. A remarkably well-preserved wooden boat from the time of Jesus is on display at Kibbutz Ginosar. Swimming is possible at a variety of beaches, many linked by bike paths.

    Beit She'an

    For a taste of the decadence and grandeur of Roman life in the centuries after Jesus, stroll through the column-lined Cardo (main boulevard), stone-paved streets, elaborate bathhouses and public toilets of ancient Beit She'an:, destroyed – like Pompeii – by a sudden natural cataclysm, in this case the great earthquake of 749 CE. The 7000-seat theatre and its arched entrances look much as they did in the 2nd century, when dramatic performances were staged here (these days it's used for concerts).

    Tel Aviv Architecture

    Jewish architects fleeing 1930s Germany brought a radical new style to Tel Aviv:: Bauhaus, also known as the International Style. Their legacy – some 4000 structures with clean horizontal lines, rounded balconies and 'thermometer' windows lighting the stairwells – constitutes the largest ensemble of Bauhaus buildings in the world, which is why the 'White City' was recognised as a Unesco World Heritage site in 2003. The preservation of Tel Aviv's Bauhaus gems is a work in progress – some have been gleamingly restored, but many others await much-needed TLC.

    Makhtesh Ramon

    Jerusalem is often described as 'ancient', but it's a veritable newcomer to the region when compared with this extraordinary geological phenomenon located in the midst of the Negev desert. An asymmetrical canyon: that owes its existence to 200 million years of erosion, this majestic gash in the landscape features pink-hued rock formations, a multicoloured sandstone floor studded with ammonite fossils, and local wildlife including oryx, gazelles, leopards, ibex, vultures and onagers (wild horses). Sometimes windswept, always enigmatic, it's one of Israel's most underrated and compelling attractions.

    Golan Heights

    From towering Nimrod Fortress, the 'Galilee Panhandle': spreads out before you like a topographical map. But the looming flanks of Mt Hermon, snow capped well into spring, dwarf even this Crusader-era stronghold. Hikers can take on the alpine peaks of Mt Hermon or follow the cliff-lined wadis of the Banias and Yehudiya Nature Reserves on their way to the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee. The Golan’s basalt soils are ideal for growing grapes, so the local wines are some of the region's finest.

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