Israel: Tel Aviv and Jerusalem
Fly in/out: Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV)
Recommended ages: 8 and up
Ball Park Price: $5,000/person (airfare not included)
Best Season: Not during Jewish Holidays when businesses are closed
Time: EST plus 7
DAY TWO: Meet guide and start the tour at Old Jaffa. An ancient port city on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea now a trendy artist colony. In Tel Aviv, visit Shenkin Street, Nachlat Binyamin, Independence Hall and Neve Tzedek, a beautiful Mediterranean village. Dinner reservations at Hotel Montefiore Restaurant.
DAY THREE: In the morning explore Caesarea, extensive seaside ruins dating back to Roman, Byzantine and Crusader time. Head to Haifa, Israel’s third largest city, situated in a broad natural bay between the Mediterranean Sea and the Carmel mountains. Visit the security viewpoint from Kibbutz Misgav Am. Check into Rimonim Galei Kinnereth Tveria. Have dinner seaside at the hotel.
DAY FOUR: Have fun on a morning jeep ride through Golan Heights. Stop at Banias waterfall, and drive to Mount Bental, an extinct volcano in Northeastern Golan Heights and take in beautiful scenic views. Visit the Chateau-Golan for a wine tasting. Depart back to the hotel.
DAY FIVE: Explore Safed, the highest city in Galilee and considered one of Judaism’s Four Holy Cities. It is also known as the city of Kabbalah. Visit the Joseph Caro Synagogue. Drive to Jerusalem. Stop on Mount of Olive for Shehechiyanu (blessing) and orientation. Spend rest of afternoon visiting the City of David and Dome of the Rock. Check in at Inbal Hotel in Jerusalem. Have dinner at Olive and Fish.
DAY SIX: Have breakfast at hotel. Visit Yad Va’Shem situated atop the “Hill of Memory”. The Museum was established in 1953 as the world center for documentation and commemoration of the Holocaust. Next, explore the Herzl Museum and the colorful Jerusalem food market – Machne Yehuda Markets.
DAY SEVEN: Tour Masada, a table top mountain fortress in the Judean Desert built by King Herod overlooking the Dead Sea. Take cable car, visit the synagogue, and bathhouse. Go to the Dead Sea Crowne Plaza Beach and enjoy the spa and float in the saltiest body of water on earth and the lowest point on this planet. Have lunch at Crowne Plaza Hotel. Hike and swim in the refreshing pools and waterfalls of the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. Drive one hour back to Inbal Jerusalem hotel.
DAY TEN: Depart for Ben Gurion Airport, (TLV) and head home.
- Our first stop in Tel Aviv was an engaging city with beautiful markets, mediterranean villages, and a perfect location for our stops at Old Jaffa and Caesarea. Tel Aviv features sandy beaches, lots of sunshine and a wonderful perspective on Israel’s “hip” culture.
- Our Jeep ride through the northern side of Israel through Golan Heights offered a great outdoor adventure including the beautiful Banias Waterfall, scenic views on Mount Bental and a perfect ending for the day at the Golan Heights winery. (Kids can drink sparkling grape juice) Read more on Golan Heights area and top 10 sites to visit.
- The City of David contains some marvelous ruins and and insights into the life of King David, founder and ruler of Jerusalem over 3000 years ago. This impressive archeological structure included a breathtaking observation over Jerusalem, and underground archeological discoveries of fortresses, tunnels and passageways all remarkable engineering marvels.
- The Old City of Jerusalem has so many amazing sites within its walls including “Western “Wailing” Wall, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Dome of the Rock. It provides one of the most tangible and enriching history and religious lesson that the whole family won’t forget. For a well-written description of the Old City see Old Jerusalem Essential Guide.
- If you visit the Dead Sea with your children, it’s probably what they will remember most about their trip. It is the lowest place on Earth and it’s salty waters means you float, completely buoyed by the density of the salt and the concentration of chemicals. Many people also come for the therapeutic treatment from the mud and water. To avoid burning, don’t shave 1-2 days before your visit.
- The Western Wall known as the “Wailing Wall” is considered the holiest Jewish site in the world and a renowned symbol of Jerusalem’s Old City. The Western Wall is a remnant of the retaining wall built by Herod the Great in the 1st century BC. It is an intense feeling observing many people quietly in prayer and leaving prayers between the cracks of the wall. It’s a very spiritual experience to have your kids participate in this custom.
Places to stay
- Carlton Tel Aviv offers 2 bedroom suites, has beautiful views of the Mediterranean and offers a great breakfast buffet!
- Rimonim Galei Kinnereth is a five star hotel and has an outdoor pool with beautiful views of Ein Giv Beach. Breakfast also included.
- Five nights in Jerusalem meant finding a great hotel in the center of things with a pool. We found all that and more at the Inbal, Jerusalem.
There are many fabulous restaurants, street cafes, markets and street vendors throughout Israel. The tastes and smells of falafel, pita, tahini sauce, are just some of the middle eastern foods to enjoy. Gluten free options were also abundant throughout the vacation. For a recent list of great restaurants Frommers “Best Dining Bets.”
- We felt that hiring a tour operator (IsramWorld) and having a guided trip was a huge value for us in Israel. The history lessons you get daily plus the hidden gems throughout Israel that you never would have known of was significant for us. We felt this itinerary struck a balance for us with adventure, beaches, museums and archeological tours balanced throughout the trip so it kept the whole family fascinated.
- Statistically, Israel is safer than being a tourist than most other countries. However, security has a stronger presence than in the states and kids need to be prepared for their presence.
- With all the amazing sites to see in Israel, you would expect the country to be huge. But in fact, it’s relatively small. Tourism has also grown rapidly recently, as a result, certain areas are crowded. However, the tourism infrastructure was well-prepared.
- Avoid shaving 1-2 days before visiting and swimming in the dead sea. It will burn in the salt if you do!
- Dress conservatively or modestly at the holy sites. Covered shoulders and knees for women.
- Prepare your kids to swim in pools, floating in the dead sea and walking the beaches. Swimming at many of the beaches is difficult for kids with rocky floors and strong currents.
- For a great list of things to do with younger children, read this guide on Israel.
- All visitors to Israel must hold a passport that is valid for at least six months from the date they are departing the country.
- Great resource on Israeli Immigration and Security here.