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Cruise Critic member in Israel, happy to answer questions


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Hi again Ruth,:)

We have all but ruled out being able to spend overnight in Jerusalem because of the cost. We can either sight see around Haifa the first day of our Israel stop or take a tour to Jerusalem from Haifa and do Masada and the Dead Sea from Ashod. If we stay in the Haifa area the first day we will have to do Jerusalem the second day and will not get to see Masada. Which do you think would give us a better overview of Israel. Masada sounds so interesting but is it worth all the extra travel time involved? Thanks!

 

What about staying in a hotel at the Dead Sea instead of Jerusalem? I'm not sure of the prices, but maybe it would fit into your budget. I think there is also a nice guest house at Kibbutz Ein Gedi at the Dead Sea.

 

I don't really feel comfortable advising you whether or not Masada is a 'must see', but let me see if I can give you some information that will help you decide:

 

If you want to get an overview of the geography of Israel, then instead of touring in Haifa itself, you should take a tour into the Upper Galilee area. You could include a short tour of Haifa (Haifa is a lovely city, but you don't need to devote a long time to it), and then head out towards the Sea of Galilee. If you want to do something entirely different, you could head north from Haifa to the cliffs of Rosh Hanikra, which is on the border with Lebanon.

 

I can't imagine coming to Israel and not going to Jerusalem- that's one thing I am eager to tell you is a 'must'! Wander the Old City (even better, hire a guide), and then get at least a taste of the new city.

 

As to the Dead Sea and Masada...

 

There's a lot to be said for having the fun experience of floating on the Dead Sea...plus the landscape in the Dead Sea area is spectacular. Visiting Masada is a way to understand and to get a feel for Israel, as it will give you an insight to our history, struggles, beliefs, determination, and

dedication to the Land of Israel.

 

Do you need to see Masada? Should you spend more time in Jerusalem?

 

I can't answer those questions, but I'll share a few things with you:

 

From my terrace, I have a view of the new city of Jerusalem. I still gulp every time I watch the city turn pink and gold at sunset. We're a 15 minute drive from downtown Jerusalem, so we're in the city all the time. We do all our fresh fruit and vegetable shopping in the shuk (souk), take a few walking tours a year, and love to wander the city's neighborhoods. We just can't get enough of Jerusalem- Old and new!

 

We often find ourselves on the road from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea (actually, my husband is on that road at least twice a week, on his way to Jordan). Even after all those trips, my eyes still always widen with amazement and excitement as we make that last turn out of the city, and enter the desert. We rarely go past the beginning of the Dead Sea, but on those ocassions when we drive all the way to Masada, the excitement builds in our car, and we never fail to find ourselves with tears in our eyes when we first spot Masada.

 

I have a feeling my reply may have been less helpful than you had hoped, so please accept my apologies.. Visiting Israel, and deciding what to see in a limited time is such a personal decision, that all I can do is share some of my personal experiences and feelings in the hope that it could help you sort out what would be most important for you to see.

 

I'm confident that however you decide to spend your time here, you will absolutely fall in love with the country, and that you will have a wonderful time :)

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Hi Ruth,

I will be traveling with my parents (age 80,84) on a cruise this october with a stop in Haifa and Ashdod. My parents want to do an excursion to Jeruselum and Bethlehem. It is the reason we are taking this trip. My mom is worried because the tour is labeled as mod-heavy walking. She is a slow walker especially on uneven cobblestones. She doesn't require a walker,just my arm. Is the walking very steep and laborous?...or is it labeled that way so people won't complain "that it was too hard?". Some excursions that I have taken were labeled like that and were super easy!

Or, should we look into getting a private tour? Thanks, Betty

Edited by banness
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Hi Ruth,

I will be traveling with my parents (age 80,84) on a cruise this october with a stop in Haifa and Ashdod. My parents want to do an excursion to Jeruselum and Bethlehem. It is the reason we are taking this trip. My mom is worried because the tour is labeled as mod-heavy walking. She is a slow walker especially on uneven cobblestones. She doesn't require a walker,just my arm. Is the walking very steep and laborous?...or is it labeled that way so people won't complain "that it was too hard?". Some excursions that I have taken were labeled like that and were super easy!

Or, should we look into getting a private tour? Thanks, Betty

 

Hi Betty,

 

I can't comment on Bethlehem, as the last time I was there was about 40 years ago (!), but as to the Old City of Jerusalem:

 

Touring the Old City usually does involve going up or down staircases, some of them steep (the tour can be arranged so that you are almost totally going down, not up), and walking on some stone walkways. The 'thoroughfares' of the old Arab souk are very narrow, and not very well lit. If there has been any rain, even a drizzle (which might happen in October, although October is more likely to be rain-free), then walking anywhere in the Old City is VERY slippery.

 

My mother was in great shape until the last couple of years of her life, but at some point, it became difficult for her to walk around the Old City, and we were always nervous about her falling if we were there with her.

 

I'd suggest- especially since visiting Jerusalem and Bethlehem are the reasons you are taking this trip- that you consider hiring a private guide. Experiencing both cities with a private guide instead of joining a larger tour will be a much more enriching experience, and you will be able to go at your own pace. (It's also possible that the cost of a private guide for the 3 of you will compare favorably to the cost of the 3 of you going on a ship's excursion.)

 

Just a small caution: make sure you work with an experienced and reputable tour company, as Israelis are not allowed to enter Bethlehem, so the operator will have to arrange for a different guide in Bethlehem.

 

[bTW- if possible, I'd suggest touring Jerusalem and Bethlehem from Ashdod, and then while you are docked in Haifa, taking a tour of the area around the Sea of Galilee. The area is beautiful, and filled with many significant Christian religious sites.]

 

HTH!

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I want to see Israel and would like to do so on a cruise, can anyone advise of which companies conduct these tours? I love being able to go back to the ship after long days of touring...any experience or advice would be appriciated..thanks

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Since many of you will be visiting this fall, I thought I'd post the holiday schedule for Israel for this September and October.

 

Many, if not most, national museums and parks (such as Masada and Yad Vashem) will close early on the day before the holiday (usually around 2pm, but earlier the day before Yom Kippur), and will remain closed the day of the holiday. The same holds true for every Friday and Saturday- early closings on Friday, full closure on Saturday.

 

All year long, in Jerusalem, most restaurants and businesses close sometime Friday afternoon, and remain closed all of Saturday (there are some restaurants that will be open). There is no public bus service in Jerusalem on Friday night or Saturday. Taxis service is available, but somewhat limited.

 

Haifa is a mostly secular city, with restaurants open on the Sabbath and holidays, and taxis easy to find.

 

Here are the holiday dates for this fall:

 

September:

 

Rosh Ha Shanah (the Jewish New Year) is Saturday and Sunday, Sept 19-20.

 

Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) is Monday, Sept 28.

 

October:

 

Sukkot (the Feast of the Tabernacle) runs from Saturday, Oct 3- Saturday, Oct 10. However, although the holiday is week-long, things will run normally from Sunday- Friday afternoon. [if you are in Jerusalem that week, be sure to keep on the lookout for all the succahs (booths) that will be constructed on terraces and porches all over the city!]

 

HTH!

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Thanks for that Ruth.

 

We are there on a Wednesday and Thursday - October 21 & 22 so everything should be open for us. It would have been fun to see the succahs though.

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Thanks for that Ruth.

 

We are there on a Wednesday and Thursday - October 21 & 22 so everything should be open for us. It would have been fun to see the succahs though.

 

Not all of the succahs are taken down right away, so you should be able to see at least a few of them :).

 

The weather should be great, too- little chance of rain (although we always hope for it, and you might hit a sprinkle or a brief shower), with pleasant temperatures during the day, and just a bit cool at night.

 

Personally, I'll be on a flight to Australia on those dates :D

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi Ruth,

 

I just stumbled across your thread, what a fantastic idea, ideas from an insider.

 

I wonder can you help me, I will be in Israel on Equinox in late October, Haifa on a Thursday and Ashdod on the Friday, we have booked a tour of Jerusalem, so that is accounted for, but in Haifa we really do not want to take an organised tour and really just want to spend some time wandering around and getting a flavour of Hiafa, as the next day will be a long one. I don't expect you to be an expert on Haifa, but I wondered if you knew of anywhere we really should not miss? or web sights where i could get some basic info on Haifa, i have searched the internet in vain for a guide book on only Haifa, with a city map but there does not seem to be one.

 

Also as we are not Jewish and I would hate to affend anyone in our host country, particularly in Jerusalem on the eve of the Sabbath, is there anything in particular we should not do or say, that could cause offence to anyone.

 

Thank-you,

Nancy

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Ruth,

Thank you so very much for your helpfull reply, I will do a bit more research, from these websites, and i am sure we will have a wonderful time.

thank you again

 

Nancy

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Hi Ruth,

 

We will be on Celebrity Equinox late September , visiting Haifa on 29th September and Ashdod the next day.

 

What will the weather be like then?

 

We have booked the ship's tour to Jerusalem and Bethlehem from Ashdod, but nothing as yet for Haifa. You have recommended in other posts a tour round the Sea of Galilee and that region and have also said that the Bahai gardens are beautiful and there are lots of other things to see in Haifa as well. I know you can't make a choice for me but which of these would be your personal preference for a day in Haifa!

 

Thank you for your very interesting and helpful thread.

 

Elizabeth :)

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Hi Ruth,

 

We will be on Celebrity Equinox late September , visiting Haifa on 29th September and Ashdod the next day.

 

What will the weather be like then?

 

We have booked the ship's tour to Jerusalem and Bethlehem from Ashdod, but nothing as yet for Haifa. You have recommended in other posts a tour round the Sea of Galilee and that region and have also said that the Bahai gardens are beautiful and there are lots of other things to see in Haifa as well. I know you can't make a choice for me but which of these would be your personal preference for a day in Haifa!

 

Thank you for your very interesting and helpful thread.

 

Elizabeth :)

 

Hi Elizabeth,

 

Wow- you will be here at just about the best time of year! The weather will be lovely- still warm during the day (in Jerusalem the temperature will be in the high 70's/low 80's or even a bit warmer during the day, but the nights will be much cooler, so you will need a sweater or jacket), and the rainy season will still be at least a month away. But, more than than- Yom Kippur is on the 28th, and you will be in Jerusalem just as the preparations for Sukkot (the Feast of the Tabernacle) are getting into full swing (the holiday begins on Saturday, Oct 3, so the succahs (booths) will be up or under construction on terraces and balconies all over the city- make sure you look up as you walk and drive around! [You'll see some of that 'construction' in Haifa, but not very much, but in Jerusalem you won't be able to miss it.]

 

To be honest, if I had only one day in Haifa, I would get out of the city and either go towards the Galilee, or either up North to Rosh Hanikra or south to Zichron Yaakov or Ceasaria. Haifa is a lovely city, but I personally don't think there is all that much to see or do there. However, the Bahai Gardens are lovely and the classic 'must do' in Haifa, and you can easily go to them before you head out of the city (then again, you also can't miss them, as they are visible from the port area- just look up, and you will see them as a line of green running down the Haifa hill).

 

If Christian religious sites are important to you, then I highly recommend a tour of the area of the Sea of Galilee, as the area is both lovely and filled with sights of great significance. If you want to do something different that isn't a long trip, go up north to Rosh Hanikra, which are white grottos on the border with Lebanon. You access them via cable car, and they are very pretty, but I think the most interesting and exciting part of that trip is learing the history of the tunnels built there, and especially seeing the border outpost and the delineation of the border along the sea. You also get wonderful views of the coastline.

 

 

HTH!

 

Ruth

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Hi Ruth,

First of all I want to thank you for all you wonderful and informative information on Israel. You could have a full time job answering all the questions.Ha!Ha!

Wanted to know if you could recommend a store in Jerusalem to buy reasonably priced tallis and yalmakas. Our grandson will have his bar mitzvah soon, and we wanted to bring them home from Israel.

Thank you.

Ellen :)

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Hi Ruth,

First of all I want to thank you for all you wonderful and informative information on Israel. You could have a full time job answering all the questions.Ha!Ha!

Wanted to know if you could recommend a store in Jerusalem to buy reasonably priced tallis and yalmakas. Our grandson will have his bar mitzvah soon, and we wanted to bring them home from Israel.

Thank you.

Ellen :)

 

Hi Ellen,

 

First- mazal tov! :)

 

You'll find the best prices in the Mea Shearim neighborhood- the very religious neighborhood that is almost in the center of town.

 

You can walk there (but it is up a fairly steep uphill) from the central business district/pedestrian mall area, and a taxi ride will be less than $10.

 

You'll be heading for 'Kikar Shabbat'. Once there, head downhill along the main street. (The street will now be one way, and you will be walking in the same direction as the traffic flow.) Only one side of the street you'll now be on has stores; the other side is basically just building walls (covered with interesting posters and announcements).

 

Just about any store you walk into will offer much more reasonable prices than those found anywhere else in Jerusalem, and they will also offer wider selections.

 

The other alternative is the Machane Yehudah shuk. Go to the main covered entrance, and about 3 stalls in from the main street, Agrippas (the opposite end from Jaffo St.), there is a store that sells all sorts of small Judaica. [i'm talking about the Israeli shuk in the modern city, not the Arab shuk in the Old City.]

 

My husband shops in either Mea Shearim, or that stall in the shuk. Both areas are lively, interesting, and fun to visit, so I'd recommend giving yourself time to walk around no matter which you chose. (We LOVE the shuk, and go shopping there every Friday.)

 

Just be aware that in Mea Shearim you need to dress modestly. I sometimes go to Mea Shearim dressed in wide legged pants and a long tunic, but I'm most comfortable there with a long skirt and long sleeves. There are signs all over (including banners across the streets) reminding visitors to dress modestly, and you ocassionally read of some harrassment of those who don't, but I've never had a problem. You're going to see all sorts of interesting chasidic garb there- it's quite a sight!

 

BTW- if you find that you only have the opportunity to shop while you are at the Ben Yehudah pedestrian mall in the center of town, then make sure to ask for a better price than the one you will be initially quoted. I know that the store owners will come down in price for me because I am Israeli (but I have to ask, and bargain a bit), but I think tourists will likely have some success bargaining as well.

 

I'm always happy to help. :) Hmmm...maybe I should start a 'Dear Ruth' column, offering advice to visitors to Israel?! :p:D

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Hi Ruth,

Wanted to thank you for all your help in suggesting shops for the items we want. We have a private tour guide, and I will give him the addresses of the places you suggested and see if he can take us there for a little while. I think you would make a wonderful "Dear Ruth" columnist.

 

Ellen:)

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Hi Ruth,

 

Thank you for your very helpful advices. We have decided to tour the Galilee region from Haifa and I will be sure to look out for the succahs in Jerusalem.

 

Elizabeth

 

 

My pleasure, Elizabeth (but thank you for the thank you :)).

 

I'm sure you will love the Galilee, and find Jerusalem fascinating!

 

Have a great cruise!

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Hi Ruth,

Wanted to thank you for all your help in suggesting shops for the items we want. We have a private tour guide, and I will give him the addresses of the places you suggested and see if he can take us there for a little while. I think you would make a wonderful "Dear Ruth" columnist.

 

Ellen:)

 

Thanks for the thanks, Ellen :)

 

Have a great cruise, and happy shopping!

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Thank you for all your wonderful advise. Is there a store in Jerusalem that sells the Malka Gabrielle Tallit and where is a good place to buy jewelry? Again thank you!

 

I'm sorry, but I've never heard of the talit you are asking about. I tried googling it, but it didn't come up. However, if Malka Gabrielle is a Judaica artist, then you might be able to find the talit on Yoel Solomon Street, which is right off of Zion Square (Kikar Zion).

 

Yoel Solomon Street is lined with artisan's shops and restaurants, and is a favorite of both tourists and Israelis. We frequent it both for dining and for shopping for special gifts. There are all sorts of artist's cooperatives selling ceramics, clothing, jewelry, and Judaica, as well as some higher priced stores selling the same.

 

You might also have luck checking the stores along the Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall in the center of the city, which also leads to Zion Square.

 

I'm not much of a jewelry buyer, but visitors we take to both Yoel Solomon and Ben Yehuda always find things to buy :) There are small storefronts in Mea Shearim, a bit further along the other side of the street I described above to Ellen, that sell jewelry that seem to have good prices, but they don't carry a selection that is anywhere near as varied or as modern as the stores in the center of town.

 

[Personally, I buy earrings for our granddaughters at a kiosk in our local mall.]

 

Sorry I couldn't be of more help with the talit, but hopefully this was of some help!

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We arrive early Sept for one day in Haifa, docking at 7am and have the day to see sights until 4pm. It seems like the big attractions are the Funicular and Bahai World Center. Do you think we can get a taxi from the port to these sights and not bother hiring a private guide? Are there other sights in Haifa we shouldn't miss? We live near the beach so that's not important to us but would like to eat some local foods for lunch, if you can make suggestions. Are there other sights outside of Haifa in our allotted time that we shouldn't miss?

Thanks

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We arrive early Sept for one day in Haifa, docking at 7am and have the day to see sights until 4pm. It seems like the big attractions are the Funicular and Bahai World Center. Do you think we can get a taxi from the port to these sights and not bother hiring a private guide? Are there other sights in Haifa we shouldn't miss? We live near the beach so that's not important to us but would like to eat some local foods for lunch, if you can make suggestions. Are there other sights outside of Haifa in our allotted time that we shouldn't miss?

Thanks

 

Hi!

 

The answers to all your questions can be found by just scrolling up this page a bit, to some earlier posts about Haifa :) I'd especially suggest the link I posted regarding a tweet I got from cruise critic- it's got the info on taxis and the need for a private guide. I believe it says that you'll need a guide in order to walk around the Bahai Gardens, and provides a link for more info.

 

I haven't been to Haifa in several years, so can't recommend a specific restaurant, but the 'classic' Israeli foods are basically Mediterranean foods:

falafel, humus, and salad. Strong Turkish coffee is also popular, as are fruit blended shakes. I'd suggest you either ask your cab driver for a recommendation, or head for the busiest cafe or felafel stand you spot- they are bound to have the best food. A popular national chain is Cafe Aroma, and I can recommend their salads, sandwiches, and hot and cold drinks- and their brownies :p

 

HTH!

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Ruth,

I was reading through this thread as we are planning to return to Israel next year. I love Cafe Aroma and just wanted to say it became our daily habit for morning coffees (with yummy chocolate) and great lunches. They opened a Cafe Aroma in New York City (near NYU) and on a visit to the "Big Apple" we stopped in for lunch. It made us relive our wonderful trip to Israel. We can't wait to get back to Eretz Israel!

 

Regards from sunny St. Croix,

Ellen

Edited by CrucianGal
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Ruth,

I was reading through this thread as we are planning to return to Israel next year. I love Cafe Aroma and just wanted to say it became our daily habit for morning coffees (with yummy chocolate) and great lunches. They opened a Cafe Aroma in New York City (near NYU) and on a visit to the "Big Apple" we stopped in for lunch. It made us relive our wonderful trip to Israel. We can't wait to get back to Eretz Israel!

 

Regards from sunny St. Croix,

Ellen

 

How could I not have mentioned that little chocolate they give you with the coffee?! It is sooooooo yummy! Have you ever had their hot cocoa?

It's hot milk, poured over a few of those chocolates- heaven!

 

Ellen- I want to hear about your life in St. Croix!!

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