I’m covered in warm mud and wrapped tightly like a cocoon. The feeling is strange and I can’t move. I’m claustrophobic at first, but then the spa therapist clicks her tongue and says soothing words I don’t understand. He turns off the lights and lets me relax.
It’s all part of the unusual “Mud Wrap” treatment at our Dead Sea resort. Isrohotel, Dead Sea Resort and Spa is known for its spa products that are rich in Dead Sea minerals. I’m not quite sure what’s in the mud covering my body, but I have to admit the result is soothing.
Earlier in the day, some friends and I went swimming in the warm waters of the Dead Sea. In fact, it’s hard NOT to float. Many come to the Dead Sea in search of better health. The sun and sea water are said to be good for the body.
How could I resist? Located more than 400 meters below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest in the world. The air in the desert is dry and the land is barren. Today the water is cloudy and I can just see the hills of Jordan across the sea. Although there are resorts along the coast, the area is largely undeveloped. It looks like it must have looked thousands of years ago.
The Dead Sea is just one of many popular destinations in Israel. This small Middle Eastern country is steeped in history and religious traditions. The region is considered the holy land of three of the world’s major religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – and thousands of religious pilgrims visit Israel throughout the year.
TRAVEL TO ISRAEL
The history of the area goes back thousands of years, and much of that history can still be seen today. With so much to see, it’s hard to know where to start your visit to Israel. So I asked some locals to show me the recommended places. Here is their list of the top 10 things to do and see in Israel.
SHOPPING AT SHUK
Shuk is an open air market filled with delicious smelling vegetables, fruits, fish and lots of spices. In Israel, as in many parts of the Middle East, Shuk is an important part of the community. For visitors, shopping at the shuk offers a glimpse into the people, sights, smells and sounds of this multicultural nation. My favorite place was the Mahane Yehuda Market in Jerusalem. Grab lunch and get to know the market’s versatile culinary offerings.
Masada is an ancient fortress that rises above the desert in southern Israel. Once the royal fortress of King Herod, it was designed with luxurious baths and many other royal amenities. Later abandoned, Masada became the last outpost of Jewish zealots during the Jewish Revolt of 66-73 AD. Realizing that they could not win, the Jewish warriors decided to commit suicide rather than surrender.
The design of the old fort is amazing and reveals the work of many brilliant minds. Every drop of rain was collected and channeled into huge water tanks underground. Water was used for drinking, farming and even bathing. Masada is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and holds a revered place in Jewish culture.
COME JEEP RACING IN THE NEGEV DESERT
The Negev desert stretches in southern Israel and covers almost half of the territory of this small country. You can drive for miles without seeing another soul. The desert is dry, wild and rugged and has its own beauty. Take a jeep tour with Adam Sela Jeep Tours (www.adamsela.com) to Ramon Crater. Their local knowledge is invaluable. Not only do they tell you stories about this land, but they also point you to hidden wildlife that you might otherwise miss. Plan a full half-day expedition.
WALK IN AVDAT NATIONAL PARK
Time seems to have stopped at Ein Avdat National Park, where the remains of the ancient Nabatean city of Advat can be found. Founded in the 3rd century BC, Advat was once a caravan post along the “spice trail” from Petra to Gaza. Spend an afternoon exploring this incredible World Heritage site where you can wander the ruins of ancient villas, baths, churches and caves. The national park is located in the Negev highlands.
WALK VIA DOLOROSA
For those who follow the Christian faith, one of the top things to do in Jerusalem is to walk the Via Dolorosa. Many Christians believe this was the path Jesus took as he carried his cross on his way to his crucifixion.
The route starts at the Lion’s Gate in the Muslim Quarter and ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in the Christian Quarter. Along the way there are 14 stations of the Via Crucis, each of which is marked with a small plaque that, according to lore, describes what happened here. The street itself is full of pedestrians, vendors and shops, so it can be a difficult place for prayer or meditation. But if you plan ahead and get a guide that provides information about each station, it can enhance the experience.
LOOK INTO THE TUNNELS OF THE WEST FACE
The Western Wall of Jerusalem is perhaps one of the most famous landmarks in the city. To really understand its scope and significance, go underground to visit the tunnels of the Western Wall. Running along the Western Wall for 488 meters, the tunnels were first discovered by British explorers in the 19th century. Their size and weight give you an idea of how impressive the Temple Mount really was. A single stone weighs nearly 570 tons.
Many Jews come to pray in the tunnel area, which is considered the closest place to All Saints’ Square on the Temple Mount. (The Holy of Holies, where the Foundation Stone and the Dome of the Rock are located, is the holiest place for Jews.)
To see the tunnels of the Western Wall, you must take a guided tour. Look for the entrance to the tunnels on the north side of the Western Wall Plaza. The tour is worth the price of 30 NIS. Our guide told fascinating stories about ancient Jerusalem and gave me a better understanding of what we were seeing.
YAD VASHEM – NATIONAL HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL AND MUSEUM
This moving museum and memorial attracts more than a million visitors each year. Founded in 1953 to commemorate and commemorate the 6 million Jews who died in the Holocaust, Yad Veshem does so respectfully and effectively by remembering each individual by touching the authentic parts of their humanity: their letters, their photographs. , belonging and community. The Holocaust Children’s Name Hall is refreshing, but it honors every little soul lost in the Holocaust.
VISIT THE ISRAEL MUSEUM
The Israel Museum is among the best art and archeology museums in the world, and a visit here will help you understand the history of the area. You could spend all day here and still not see everything on the 20-acre campus. Among the extensive collections of Bible and Holy Land archeology are the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are displayed in the Shrine of the Book. The Dead Sea Scrolls are 981 pre-Christian Hebrew manuscripts discovered in a cave complex in the Qumran region of Israel in the late 1940s. Many consider these ancient Hebrew scrolls to be the most important archaeological manuscript of the 20th century.
ENJOY FOOD IN ISRAEL
Eating in Israel is a real pleasure. Whether at a roadside stall or in a world-class restaurant, Israeli cuisine features plenty of fresh local fruits and vegetables and often uses a rich blend of exotic spices. The local cuisine includes many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes such as falafel, hummus, shakshouka and more. It also contains a wide variety of culinary traditions that Jews from all over the world have brought to Israel. Allow more time to visit local restaurants and taste local food. You won’t be disappointed.
GO TO THE BEACH IN TEL AVIV
Tel Aviv is located on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea and has more than 14 kilometers of beautiful beaches. The beaches are wide and clean; outdoor toilets and showers can be found in most places. (Some beaches also have indoor showers and changing rooms.) You can rent a beach chair in many places. Vendors often line the beaches selling ice creams and drinks, and the sandy beaches are lined with restaurants and cafes. Sitting on the beach at sunset and watching the surfers as the sun goes down is the perfect way to end your visit to Israel.