It’s Real in Israel

This item appears on page 50 of the May 2012 issue.
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The topic of the essay contest announced in the December ’11 issue (page 52) was “It’s Real in Israel.” Each contest seems to bring a surprise, and this month we have a tie. The winners are NILI OLAY and DEE POUJADE. Each will receive a 50-dollar gift certificate for Magellan’s Travel Supplies (800/962-4943). Their essays — with different focuses — appear below.

The topic of the next essay contest for ITN subscribers is “My Mania is Tasmania.” Based on your experience of visiting that island, what is your unique take on Tasmania? What did you discover that would make others want to visit? Do not exceed 300 words. Send your essay to ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail editor@intltravelnews.com. Include the address at which you receive ITN. The deadline is June 30, 2012. Prizes will be awarded.

Modern, ancient and historical, it’s a seaside resort and a place of business. It’s all there in this postage-stamp-sized country. Make Tel Aviv (TA) your base and you can see most of the country on day trips.

In Jerusalem, 36 miles southwest of TA, I love to visit the incomparable Old City, where the Wailing Wall competes for attention with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Dome of the Rock shrine. Excavations add to my sense of history, and museums in modern Jerusalem tell me even more about the last 5,000 years.

If I drive north of TA, 30 miles later I arrive in Caesarea, built by Herod the Great. The amphitheater and the mosaic tiles nearby are some of the best preserved in the world. In Herod’s day, the city held gladiator games; today it hosts concerts by the sea. I have not yet made it to a concert, but it is on my list for the future.

Driving another 45 miles north, past the modern city of Haifa, I arrive at Akko (Acre), one of Israel’s oldest continuously inhabited cities and known best for its Crusader fortifications.

Back in TA, I love the beach and the restaurants, especially sitting on the beach at a restaurant eating Middle Eastern food. Or I walk south along the beach to Jaffa and visit the handicraft shops built into the Old City, with the thousand-year-old port as a backdrop.

No visit to Israel is complete without floating in the Dead Sea, hiking up to Masada and swimming in the Red Sea farther south in Eilat. I don’t recommend these as day trips. A stay either in Eilat or at the Dead Sea is a treat.

Nili Olay
New York, NY

For those who grew up Christian, as I did, Israel was the Holy Land — where Jesus lived, preached, died on a cross and then rose again. Thus, travel in Israel, for many, means visiting these holy sites and walking in Jesus’ footsteps. Sadly, the Palestine/Israel “conflict” has complicated this place, and travel there can be fraught with politics.

On my first trip to Israel, in 1992, my husband and I joined a “typical” tour group and were shepherded through the holy/tourist spots by an Israeli guide. On my second trip, in 2008, I joined a group of 80 Methodists from around the world on a study tour led by a Bethlehem-based Methodist missionary and escorted by a Palestinian tour guide. Needless to say, I saw two very different places!

On my first trip, I remember being impressed by the “oasis” in the desert that the Israelis had created and the bustling prosperity of a proud new land. Sixteen years later, I was informed that the water used to create this “oasis” was taken from reservoirs that Palestinian farmers had used for hundreds of years. The swimming pools of the settlements were using water that had once watered 2,000-year-old olive trees.

There is a tendency to label those who criticize modern-day Israel as anti-Semites. This label is neither fair nor accurate. I support the right of the Jewish refugees (Holocaust survivors) to have a place to call home. But I also support the right of the Palestinian people, who have lived in the same area for more than 2,000 years, to live free from oppression and fear.

And I believe that Israel is a tourist destination worthy of exploration. Just be sure to see it all — and to ask lots of questions — no matter who is guiding you!

Dee Poujade
Portland, OR

Please login or subscribe to ITN to read the entire post.

The topic of the essay contest announced in the December ’11 issue (page 52) was “It’s Real in Israel.” Each contest seems to bring a surprise, and this month we have a tie. The winners are NILI OLAY and DEE POUJADE. Each will receive a 50-dollar gift certificate for Magellan’s Travel Supplies (800/962-4943). Their essays — with different focuses — appear below.

The topic of the next essay contest for ITN subscribers is “My Mania is Tasmania.” Based on your experience of visiting that island, what is your unique take on Tasmania? What did you discover that would make others want to visit? Do not exceed 300 words. Send your essay to ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail editor@intltravelnews.com. Include the address at which you receive ITN. The deadline is June 30, 2012. Prizes will be awarded.

Modern, ancient and historical, it’s a seaside resort and a place of business. It’s all there in this postage-stamp-sized country. Make Tel Aviv (TA) your base and you can see most of the country on day trips.

In Jerusalem, 36 miles southwest of TA, I love to visit the incomparable Old City, where the Wailing Wall competes for attention with the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Dome of the Rock shrine. Excavations add to my sense of history, and museums in modern Jerusalem tell me even more about the last 5,000 years.

If I drive north of TA, 30 miles later I arrive in Caesarea, built by Herod the Great. The amphitheater and the mosaic tiles nearby are some of the best preserved in the world. In Herod’s day, the city held gladiator games; today it hosts concerts by the sea. I have not yet made it to a concert, but it is on my list for the future.

Driving another 45 miles north, past the modern city of Haifa, I arrive at Akko (Acre), one of Israel’s oldest continuously inhabited cities and known best for its Crusader fortifications.

Back in TA, I love the beach and the restaurants, especially sitting on the beach at a restaurant eating Middle Eastern food. Or I walk south along the beach to Jaffa and visit the handicraft shops built into the Old City, with the thousand-year-old port as a backdrop.

No visit to Israel is complete without floating in the Dead Sea, hiking up to Masada and swimming in the Red Sea farther south in Eilat. I don’t recommend these as day trips. A stay either in Eilat or at the Dead Sea is a treat.

Nili Olay
New York, NY

For those who grew up Christian, as I did, Israel was the Holy Land — where Jesus lived, preached, died on a cross and then rose again. Thus, travel in Israel, for many, means visiting these holy sites and walking in Jesus’ footsteps. Sadly, the Palestine/Israel “conflict” has complicated this place, and travel there can be fraught with politics.

On my first trip to Israel, in 1992, my husband and I joined a “typical” tour group and were shepherded through the holy/tourist spots by an Israeli guide. On my second trip, in 2008, I joined a group of 80 Methodists from around the world on a study tour led by a Bethlehem-based Methodist missionary and escorted by a Palestinian tour guide. Needless to say, I saw two very different places!

On my first trip, I remember being impressed by the “oasis” in the desert that the Israelis had created and the bustling prosperity of a proud new land. Sixteen years later, I was informed that the water used to create this “oasis” was taken from reservoirs that Palestinian farmers had used for hundreds of years. The swimming pools of the settlements were using water that had once watered 2,000-year-old olive trees.

There is a tendency to label those who criticize modern-day Israel as anti-Semites. This label is neither fair nor accurate. I support the right of the Jewish refugees (Holocaust survivors) to have a place to call home. But I also support the right of the Palestinian people, who have lived in the same area for more than 2,000 years, to live free from oppression and fear.

And I believe that Israel is a tourist destination worthy of exploration. Just be sure to see it all — and to ask lots of questions — no matter who is guiding you!

Dee Poujade
Portland, OR