Saturday, January 30, 2010

Israel 2010, Part 2

Israel 2010, Part 2
©2010 David Talbot

January 29, 2010, Or Akiva/Caesarea Israel.

The Holy Land.
For many people of faith around the world, the image of Israel is a reflection of their religious experience. And it is true; the country is of unique significance to the three major religions of the world. Jews, Christians, and Moslems all feel a special relationship to the biblical land of Canaan. However, to the first time traveler, the country could be a disappointment or a confirmation, or both, of the expectations one may have of the land of Israel.

While Israel is a very modern country, and suffers similar social problems as do all countries around the world. It is also a very ancient land with ancient cultural roots that persist even today. Here in this mystical land, religious tradition and secular non-observance co-exist, mostly peacefully throughout.

A goal of this series of reports is to describe how the cultural differences can work to make your trip to Israel more just another vacation.

Is it safe to visit Israel?
Short answer, yes it is safe to come to Israel. In fact, in almost every city and town, crime is less of a problem than in most US cities. However, most people who wonder about safety are actually thinking about terrorist activities, not common criminals. The answer is the same. It is safe. Last year over 2,000,000 tourists chose Israel as their travel destination. December ’09 saw 225,000 passengers come through ultramodern Ben Gurion Airport (TLV), an all-time record. There were two terrorist related incidents in 2009, neither of which involved visitors.

Travel Tips.
Purchase a travel guide at your local book retailer. We use “Frommers Israel.” Doing a little research and planning for sites of interest is critical here, because there is so much to see.

Bring a little cash (dollars) for an emergency. More important, bring an ATM/Debit card. They all work here and it’s safer than carrying a lot of money. US credit cards are accepted everywhere. Discover is unknown, but MC, VISA, Diners, and AMEX all ok.

Learn a few words and phrases in Hebrew. Important: Eyfo Ha Sherutim (Where are the toilets?) In order for Israeli kids to attend university, they must be fluent in English. As a result, almost everybody here speaks at least a little English. All streets, most shops, and malls, have English language sign.

Most US cell phones will work here. Calls to the States are expensive, but text messages are not, on most calling plans. There are internet cafes everywhere and they’re not expensive, so unless you need it for some reason, leave your laptop home.

Caesarea Israel
If you take a tour in Israel (More about tours in a later report), this is usually the first stop. Located about 40 KM (25 miles) north of Tel Aviv, is one of the most beautiful cities in Israel. But that’s not why the tours start here. Caesarea is, according to Frommers, “the spectacular city of Herod the Great, 37 BCE- 4 CE.” You can find many excellent reference books on the history of this community. However, here’s what you’ll see at the site: The Roman Theater, Hippodrome, Crusader City, Roman Aqueduct, and more. It is an awesome site, important to Jews, Christians, and Moslems, all of whom met their fate, at one time or another, here.

Next time: More travel tips, Akko, and Haifa.

Until then, Shalom from Israel.

David Talbot

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