Monthly archives "January 2013"

Purim in Israel

Purim in IsraelThis year, 2013, Purim falls out on Feb. 24. If you will be in Israel on that day, be prepared for a festive atmosphere in the streets.  Purim isn’t relegated to the synagogue and home in Israel. Rather, it spills on to the streets, with costumes, parades and distribution of mishloach manot.

Purim celebrations start before the holiday, with the day that children go to school in costume. Even if it’s cold and rainy, the streets are filled with princesses, pirates, Ninjas, rock stars and a Queen Esther or two.

On Purim itself, many cities have parades and carnivals. The Holon parade is one of the biggest, with dancers, actors, jugglers and more.  Food and souvenirs are on sale at the end-of-parade party. Check local listings for the parades in Tel Aviv, Haifa and other cities.

Keep in mind that Purim is celebrated in Jerusalem a day later than in the rest of the country. This means that if you loved the first day of Purim, you have the opportunity to celebrate all over again the next day. In addition to the parade, you can take part in Purim workshops at the city’s various museums.

Don’t forget to patronize some Israeli bakeries for delicious hamentaschen. You can buy them long before Purim in a variety of different flavors.

Happy Purim!

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Israel Travel Apps

Travel Apps - WazeComing to Israel with a smartphone? Even before you arrive you will want to install some apps that will make your trip more pleasant. igoogledisrael has compiled a list of 10 apps all tourists in Israel should have, including Trip Advisor, Instagram, Waze and Old City Walking Tours. Trip Advisor provides user reviews for hotels and restaurants. Instagram is one of the easiest ways to share photos you take in real time. Waze will get you anywhere you want to go if you are driving, and Old City Walking Tours will guide you through the Old City of Jerusalem on foot.

The Israel Ministry of Tourism has developed an app called iSrael for iPhone and iPad. It bases itself on your location and suggests nearby attractions and sites. The Forward gave it mixed reviews in 2011, but it is definitely worth checking out.

If you will be relying on public transportation in Israel, you will enjoy the Israeli taxi app as well as the Israel Train Travel app. For buses, Bus.co.il provides schedules and routes. The iPhone app is available at https://itunes.apple.com/il/app/bus.co.il/id513623236?mt=8 and the Android version is at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=www.bus.co.il.

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Boating in Israel

Boating in Israel - Kinneret

Boats in the Kinneret, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sea_of_Galiliee_P5310015.JPG

Between the seas, rivers and lakes of Israel, there are plenty of water activities. If you enjoy boating, consider some of these activities.

Right in the middle of Tel Aviv, you can rent motor boats, paddleboats or pedal boats from the boathouse on Ibn Gvirol Street. This is a nice way to enjoy the tranquility of the Yarkon River without having to leave the city.

The Jordan River offers kayaking, canoeing and rafting as well as adventurous white water rafting. Family routes are more gentle and usually suitable for children 5 and over. The more challenging route is usually geared towards children 10 and over. Boating in the Jordan is available during the dry season, March through October, when the water is calmer.

Many different kinds of boats can be rented in Eilat, for sailing or motor boating in the Red Sea. If you just want to sit back and enjoy the ride, take a tour in a glass-bottomed boat at the Underwater Observatory.

The Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) can be seen from a rental or from a large boat. Boat rides leave the shores on a regular basis and travel the breadth of the lake. The boats sometimes play loud music, so ask about music before you board if this will bother you. Ein Gev’s sailing company offers various boat tours, including a demonstration of net fishing. These boat trips can be combined with other activities at Ein Gev and a meal at the kibbutz’s famous fish restaurant.

There are also a number of small lakes with boat rentals, such as Anabe Park in Modiin and the Ramat Gan National Park.

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Do You Need a Smartphone in Israel?

Smartphone in IsraelLike most questions, the answer to the question “Do you need a smartphone in Israel?” is “It depends.” Many tourists only need a phone to call and text family and friends in Israel. For them, a smartphone is overkill. But if you are renting a car or want to stay in touch with friends and colleagues overseas, you will want a smartphone on your trip. Here are some of the advantages of having a smartphone in Israel:

  • GPS: If you plan on renting a car, you will want to use an app like Waze to help you get around. Nothing is more frustrating than getting lost in a foreign country and losing valuable time looking for your destination.
  • E-mail: If you want to stay in touch with the office, e-mail on your phone is the best solution. You can quickly answer important e-mails any time of the day and won’t need to pay extra fees for wi-fi at your hotel.
  • Social networks: If you like to stay in touch with people through Facebook and Twitter, you won’t want to be away from them for the duration of your trip. Having a smartphone will allow you to easily share your trip with your networks by posting photos in real time.
  • Google: When you’re away from home, you need to look up a lot of information. You may want to find a restaurant near you or find out about an attraction. Even if you’ve planned your itinerary down to the minute, plans may change suddenly (stormy weather or a friend canceling on you). Internet access allows you to quickly substitute another activity.
  • Skype: If you will need to make a lot of overseas phone calls, Skype can be a great way to save money on international conversations.

If you’re unsure what type of phone you want on your vacation to Israel, contact NES Mobile representatives for help.

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Zoos, Aquariums and Petting Zoos in Israel

Zoos in Israel - Ramat Gan Safari

Ramat Gan Safari

Traveling with children? Just love animals? Israel is home to numerous zoos, aquariums and petting zoos spread around the country.

The most famous of Israel’s zoos is the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo. The zoo focuses on preserving rare species and prominently features animals indigenous to the Land of Israel, especially those mentioned in the Bible. The zoo’s Noah’s Ark Visitors Center features a film about animal conservation. A children’s playground and petting zoo are a perfect place to take a break in the middle of your visit. When walking becomes difficult, hop on the train which rides around the zoo.

The Safari in Ramat Gan is a great way to meet animals in their natural habitats. The African park features zebras, wildebeest, hippos and rhinos etc. roaming the grounds freely. Visitors can drive through in private vehicles, on a bus, or with a train tour. The main section of the zoo is home to many species of birds, mammals and reptiles. Animal feedings take place at various times throughout the day. The safari tour ends with a drive through the lions’ habitat, and back through the African park.

Visitors to Eilat will not want to miss the Underwater Observatory. A glass-bottomed boat tour of the Red Sea lets you see the tropical fish swimming about. The aquarium features fish, sharks and sea turtles swimming in large tanks.

The Carmel Hai-Bar Nature Reserve educates about animal conservation in the north of Israel. Wild sheep, wild goats, fallow deer, roe deer, Griffon vultures, Egyptian vultures, and Bonelli`s eagle are all bred at the wildlife preserve. The goal is to release them into the wild. Guided tours are available and it is recommended that you check that the reserve is open before planning a visit.

Some zoos are dedicated to one species, such as the Monkey Park in the Ben Shemen forest near Modiin. This park is a sanctuary for primates. All visits are with a guided tour by a staff member. Gan Guru is a park dedicated to Australian animals, such as kangaroos and koalas. The kangaroos can be petted and fed. Hamat Gader, famous for its spa, also boasts one of the largest crocodile farms in the Middle East with approximately 200 crocodiles of various species.

A complete list of Israeli zoos can be found here.

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How Do I Connect to the Internet While on Vacation in Israel?

MifiMany travelers long to spend a vacation in Israel. Some come every year, while others once in a lifetime. For some, the hardest thing about traveling 6000 miles from home  is being away from friends and family. For others, it’s being away from their PC. Fortunately, there are several solutions to stay connected, keep in touch with friends and family back home, and connect to your favorite sites and apps.

Most Israeli cafes and restaurants have free WIFI for guests eating there. The same applies to most hotels, but some hotels charge as much as $25/day for one internet connection (which only works in the hotel). It’s always a good idea to check first with your hotel about the costs and internet speed. Please keep in mind that the busier the hotel is, the more likely you are to have slow internet.

Another economical Wi-Fi alternative when traveling to Israel is to use NES Mobile’s mobile broadband solutions. The prices vary from $5-$7.5 per day for NetStick and Mifi devices respectively (long term rental plans range from $40-$55 per month), which is significantly cheaper than many Israeli hotels which charge $25/night. In addition, these devices are not limited to the hotel, but work virtually everywhere in Israel. There are three options for mobile broadband.

  • If you have a suitable UNLOCKED GSM mobile smartphone, all you need to do is to insert the NES Mobile SIM card with Unlimited Data.
  • Rent a USB modem (NetStick) from NES Mobile to insert in your laptop
  • Rent a Mifi device in Israel. The MiFi device does not have to physically touch the computer and can connect to 5 devices simultaneously, such as a PC, laptop, tablet, iPad, or a smartphone. The Mifi device is small and can fit into your pocket, and the rechargeable battery lasts for 4 hours (you can also leave it connected to electricity the entire time). The MiFi device needs to be within 30 ft of the devices. You pay by day or by the month.

All plans include Unlimited Internet Data. More details at NES Mobile Short-term plans.

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Na Laga’at

Na Laga'at

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jaffa_Na_Lagaat_center.JPG

Looking for something really special to do in Israel? Get a taste of what life is like for the blind and deaf with a visit to Na Laga’at.

The Nalaga’at Deaf-blind Acting Ensemble was founded in order to integrate deaf-blind people into the community and produces shows which aim to change perceptions and views. Shows are performed on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

Na Laga’at is home to two unusual restaurants. Cafe Kapish serves kosher dairy cuisine, with a challenge. The waiters are deaf and hearing-impaired and communicate with the diners through sign language. For a more intense experience, dine at Blackout Restaurant, where food is served in total darkness by blind waiters. Experience the taste of food without the distraction of sight.

Na Laga’at is located at the Jaffa Port and can be reached by car via the Ayalon Highway or by bus #10. More information is available at the Na Laga’at website.

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