Coming to Israel? Things to do.

Recently wrote up some off-the-top-of-my-head Israel tourism ideas for a friend coming in the summer (with a 6-month-old baby).

So, while I’m at it, why not share, right?

Short-term rentals

There are quite often short-term rentals of apartments in Jerusalem and elsewhere, which is probably a better bet than hotel if you’re coming for a ‘longer’ term, staying in the same city, or coming with kids. Lotsa people are doing it nowadays. Janglo and Flathunting have listings, and homeless.co.il might also. A coworker of mine found a place for two weeks on Israel-local Craigslist, which was impressive to me since I never heard of anyone actually using it.

Activities

GroopBuy and Groupon are available here if you want to take advantage of deals for restaurants/activities. You can watch the lists in advance and snatch up the deals for your trip.

I recommend taking hikes around the Ein Kerem/Jerusalem forest/Mazleg area. Gorgeous nature for just walking around freely. Good thing to do with 6-month-old too, if you have a good carrier or backpack.

Tzimmers are awesome, and with baby – well, if you’re baby’s a good sleeper, hey, who knows, you could enjoy some romantic secluded quiet in the north. I’d ask for recommendations on Twitter/Janglo. Many come with access to pools, so find one with a pool or on a farm or somewhere where there are nearby activities.

A coworker of mine bought on GroopBuy passes for hot-air ballooning; I think it’s somewhere near the center, near Modiin but not totally sure.

With a baby, the activities get tricky. I remember I came to New York with mine at about that age. We did a lot of strollering through parks. So if you’re into things like museums, parks, tours, hikes, it’s good with a kid that young because they just chill, if they’re calm babies. We took him to the Biblical Zoo around that time too, though it was more for the walk around and ourselves than him. Herzliyah has a nice boardwalk area with shops and food and beach.

Modiin has a relatively new park called Anava Park; they created a lake and have boating there. It’s near the mall. Thing is, with the baby, it’s tough; we tried with ours at a year old, and the sun was too hot and it was kind of miserable. And if you’re not going to Modiin in any case, not necessarily worth the trip.

Food

Things to do and eat… Well, lately I’ve been hanging out in Ein Kerem, which is gorgeous in spring. It’s an old-style Christian area and on the outskirts of Jerusalem, so it’s a quiet funky place to hang out and get something to eat. There is a relatively new kosher meat place called Charlotte I’ve heard good things about, and an excellent dairy place called Beit HaMaayan.

Oh, there’s also an awesome dairy restaurant by the windmill in Jerusalem – it’s called Montefiore. Gabriel is a meat restaurant with French flair in town (on Shlomtzion Halmalka or near there). I also favor Buffalo steakhouse on Emek (South American-ish). I highly DON’T recommend La Guta on Emek – had two terrible experiences there, food-wise and service-wise.

Also, if you want the whole Israeli grill experience, my favorite is Tzidkiyahu on Yad Harutzim in Talpiot – all you can eat salad course (salads, felafel, fries, rice, and more) with your choice of shishliks (skewers) – chicken, lamb, steak, pargit, etc. Lots of places do this but they are by far the best in my opinion.

I recommend looking up info on the restaurants on rest.co.il. You may already know about eluna and that you can get 15% discounts when you print the coupons for specific restaurants.

Nesiya tova!

Camels and TV channels? Hasbara misses the point.

Israel’s new Ministry of Hasbara and Diaspora is not a shocking development, though probably ten years late. The thing is, it seems it’s completely missing the point. The heart is in the right place, but the message is… a bit off.

The videos on the homepage: Do British people honestly think we ride camels? Who cares if the Spanish don’t think we cook in indoor kitchens? The only one of the video examples on the new government-funded hasbara website that might actually make sense is the French woman reporting on gun shots heard all over Israel all the time. Acceptable, as it’s what a lot of people abroad (Jewish or not) truly tend to think after watching news coverage.

Then there are the tips offered when speaking to non-Israelis on your travels. Connect to someone by using broad hand motions, wavering voice tone and good body posture when speaking about Israel to someone else.  Ok, I’m simplifying it, a lot of the advice makes sense – body language is important. But. It’s a shame there is no mention of learning about the other culture before you go; studying the etiquette and ways of that region so you don’t make a wrong gesture or tone of voice and offend your hosts. I find that cultural-awareness and respect for other kinds of people is a problem, even inside our borders.

But the biggest thing the campaign completely misses: Derech eretz. Remembering who you are wherever you are, minding your manners and being a good example. Israelis have a reputation for traveling with no etiquette, no empathy and no concept that everyone is watching and making judgments. When you’re a guest in an another country, you have to play by their rules, or, yes, feel unwelcome.

And I don’t know that jumping on every native, waving your hands in a loud voice, talking up your own country is going to do just that. Maybe the best thing is to be a polite, appreciative, curious, memorable person who sets a great example of what Israel is deep down.