Whether you’re going for a Bat Mitzvah, a wedding or just to relax, here are nine tips that should help you make the most out of your stay in Israel.
Travel to Israel is booming. Last year saw the most American tourists in Israel since the state was founded.
This year, the first three months saw a 7 percent increase over the same quarter in 2015 — which means it’s shaping up to be a record-breaking year.
Though people travel to Israel year-round, summer is the high season. The cloudless blue skies and beautiful beaches may have something to do with that, or maybe it’s the general sense of relaxation that pervades even crowded cobblestone streets on a hazy summer day. There are festivals aplenty, music and arts performances and an overall emphasis on enjoying life outdoors.
Whether you’re going for a Bat Mitzvah, a wedding or just to relax, here are nine tips that should help you make the most out of your stay.
Take the kids.
This summer, El Al Israel Airlines, which offers the most nonstop flights to Israel, is launching special family-friendly deals that include roundtrip fares of $1,299 (taxes/surcharges included) from New York (JFK or Newark) for departures between June 16 and Aug. 18. There’s also an El Al children’s fare that could save parents $200 for each child between 2 and 14.
For more information, visit www.elal.com or call 800-223-6700.
Send the teens.
Do you shudder when you think of your hormonally besieged teenager moping around the house and looking at screens? Fear not — the opportunities for teens to experience Israel abound.
If you want them to get a head start on thinking about aliyah, there’s the month-long Tzofim Chetz V’Keshet program that operates in conjunction with the IDF. Kids get a behind-the-scenes look at army life, and hike, bike and tour the country in the company of Israeli teenagers.
There’s the International Leadership Seminar from BBYO Passport, which combines extensive tours of Israel with small group learning and an emphasis on figures who guided the country to where it is today.
There’s the Trek Israel program, which includes the physically challenging Sea-to-Sea Hike and is meant for kids who like to be active.
There are programs that encourage volunteering and programs that encourage religious connection.
Jewish Federations of North America offers the National Young Leadership Mission to Israel in June. And Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has two scholarship opportunities pertaining to Israel travel, one of which is for study at Orthodox Yeshivot.
The U.S. dollar is now 13 percent stronger against the shekel than it has been in the past couple years, so you’ll be able to spend more than you’d think. Plus, the VAT refund still applies, which means that when U.S. tourists leave Israel with their bounty — excluding food, drink or tobacco — they’ll likely be eligible for a tax refund as long as they’ve bought their goods in a participating store.
To find out more about how to get the refund, consult Israel’s Ministry of Tourism website, goisrael.com.
No, we don’t mean take less luggage (though that’s not a bad idea, considering all the extra fees these days). We mean pack light clothing because Israel in the summer — really up until early September — is hot.
Average temperatures are in the high 80s, and Tel Aviv, Netanya and the like add a dollop of humidity to the mix. Go to Masada, the Dead Sea or Eliat, and temps are regularly above 100 — like way above. Things do cool down in the evenings — in Jerusalem, in the mountains and in the desert — so a light jacket also is recommended.
Don’t forget Shavuot.
The weekend of June 12 is a holiday weekend in Israel, and services and businesses may or may not be open. It’s actually the perfect weekend to get out town (whichever town you’re in) and visit a kibbutz, where parades and ceremonies are held to celebrate the agricultural holiday.
If you stay in a city, don’t be surprised if you’re squirted with water, as residents often take the streets for grown-up water fights. Children are not left out; there’s a plethora of festivities for all ages that weekend.
Israel is wonderfully musical in the summer months. The big international tours tend to stop in Tel Aviv, and this summer is no exception, with a lineup that includes Beyoncé, Elton John and Bruce Springsteen.
For less bombast, there’s also the famed Tel Aviv Blues Festival (July 13-16); the Jerusalem Opera Festival (June 22-25); the Akko Opera Festival (July 28-30); the Oasis Dub Reggae Festival in Arad (June 10-11); the Red Sea Jazz Festival in Eliat (Aug. 27-30); the Sunbeat world music festival (June 23-25); and so much more.
Brian Wilson will perform the entirety of his classic album Pet Sounds in Ra’anana on June 8, while indie rock bands like Real Estate and Tame Impala will likely bring out younger crowds.
The Israel Festival, now in its 55th year, runs from May 24 to June 11 and features all kinds of musical events, along with art and dance and theater across the city of Jerusalem.
There’ll be music pretty much wherever you go in Israel this summer. Keep your ears open.
Sleep in style.
Conde Nast Traveler named Zichron Ya’akov’s Elma Arts Complex Luxury Hotel to its 2016 “Hot List” of 60 best new hotels and resorts in the world. Elma, the magazine said, has reclaimed the term “design hotel” with its “mesmerizing Brutalist architecture.” It also boasts its own concert hall with free or discounted tickets to performances for hotel guests.
Israel has a plethora of similarly lauded luxury accommodations, from upscale Bedouin-style desert quarters to more familiar names like Waldorf Astoria and Ritz-Carlton.
There’s something for everyone in Israel this summer, which is best exemplified by two big events.
One of them is the Midburn Festival (June 8-12), Israel’s version of Burning Man, which takes place in the Negev Desert and draws upward of 8,000 participants. Like Burning Man, Midburn will erect a temporary city with themed campgrounds and bars and a dedicated beach — and it will even have its own post office. People from all over the world are expected to join in the fun.
The other is Tel Aviv Gay Pride (May 25-June 9), which draws thousands more for days and nights of parties, concerts, a film fest, and of course, the Tel Aviv Pride parade. This year’s theme? “Women in the Community.”
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