Monthly archives "February 2013"

Pesach in Israel

Pesach in IsraelPesach in Israel is special because the whole country is celebrating. Restaurants become kosher for Pesach, hotels are kashered and activities for children and adults with Pesach themes are held all over the country.

Be aware that accommodations are pricier in Israel on holidays and Pesach is the most expensive of all. If you are spending some of your trip with friends or family and some in a hotel or guesthouse, you can save money by booking your accommodations for before or after the holiday.

Activities can be less expensive. Many museums and attractions offer deals for Pesach, sometimes admitting children for free or discounting tickets. The Israeli newspapers are a good source for information about deals. If you don’t like crowds, stay away from attractions which are totally free. They are always extremely packed.

When visiting a popular attraction (like zoos or amusement parks) it is a good idea to arrive when the site opens or soon after. At some point during the day, the site is likely to stop admitting people due to lack of space. Even if that is not the case, parking may become impossible at a later hour.

Select national parks will have free tours, festivals or street actors. Children are likely to enjoy the experience and absorb the history better in that way. Check newspaper listings for festivals and exhibitions around the country.

For a free and fun activity right before Pesach, just walk the streets. The big vats of boiling water and the lines of people waiting to kasher their pots and pans are a unique site. On erev Pesach, entire cities smell like smoke and every available empty space is used for burning chametz.

Already spent Pesach in Israel? Leave a comment with your best Pesach recommendation.

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How to Choose the Israel Phone Plan that’s Right for You

Israel Cell Phone RentalStaying in touch while traveling to Israel is now simpler than it ever was. There are several solutions to stay connected while traveling to Israel and keep in touch with friends and family back home, and stay connected to your favorite sites and apps.

The rise of smartphones and ever-present Internet services and apps, has made keeping in touch while traveling Israel both easier and more of a priority than it used to be in the past.

Tourists to Israel have to be watchful for a potential minefield of hidden fees from the US carriers. Many horror stories can be told of careless travelers who unsuspectingly end up owing thousands of dollars in cell phone roaming charges while traveling to Israel, which can happen almost instantly when using a US cell phone on an international roaming plan. For example, AT&T’s international data rate for a smartphone costs about $20 per 1 MB!!! Which means that to open an email with a picture in it, or to download a 2-3-minute video on YouTube could cost you as much as $40. In addition, the cost of making international phone calls can easily top $2 or $3 a minute between the various US providers.

Fortunately, there are several cost effective options to use your cell phone while in Israel (delivery for all the options below is available across the USA so you can have your SIM or Phone prior to your trip to Israel). All plans can be seen at our short-term plans page:

Using Your Own Phone in Israel

For most travelers to Israel, the expenditure outlay of adding international roaming connectivity to a personal smartphone plan doesn’t make fiscal sense. However, travelers to Israel could still bring their own phones with their contacts, emails, and apps. Firstly, you need to make sure your phone will work in Israel, and for that you need to make sure that the phone has GSM capability. One way to figure that out is to check if the phone takes a SIM card. The second requirement is that the phone must be unlocked to use another carrier’s SIM card. Even if your phone is locked by your carrier, many US carriers will be willing to unlock your device for the duration of your trip to Israel; just call them and ask. Currently, NES Mobile’s rate for unlimited calls to the US & Israel, Unlimited texts within Israel, and Unlimited Data is just $7.90/day + VAT. A cheap option when compared with $2-3 per minute charge by US carriers.

Renting a Phone in Israel

This option is better suited to people who want a local Israeli phone number and a basic phone as well. Currently, NES Mobile rents our phones (with SIM cards in them) with a Budget plan for just $1.90/day + VAT and pay-as-you-go rate of just $0.19 per minute/SMS + VAT to the US or Israel. In addition, NES Mobile offers an unlimited calls to USA or Israel for just $6/day + VAT.

VOIP in Israel

Another cost-effective option for tourists to Israel who want to make calls but don’t necessarily need a working phone in their pocket 24/7 is an Internet-based VOIP service like Skype. The call quality may not always be so clear, but you can call another person on Skype for free. In the case of smartphones, you could opt to rent a SIM for Data only from NES Mobile from just $6/day + VAT.

Local US number on your Israel Phone

If you need a US number to be reached on (so your friends and family can call you on a local number) it’s just $1/day for UNLIMITED incoming calls. NES Mobile can assign a number with a local USA, UK, and many other countries of your choice – directly on your Israeli NES Mobile cellular number.

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Archaeological Sites in Israel

Archaeological Sites in Israel, Qumran


Israel is rich in history and archaeology. There is no place on earth where so much ancient history has been dug out of the ground. If you enjoy seeing how people lived in biblical and Second Temple times, you will enjoy visiting some of these archaeological sites in Israel:

Megiddo was the site of several biblical battles, since it was part of a trade route and of strategic importance. It was leveled by the Babylonians who destroyed the First Temple and was uninhabited thereafter. As a result, it preserves the biblical ruins in great condition. Of particular interest are two stable structures.

Beit Guvrin paints a picture of life in the kingdom of Judah during the First Temple period, as well as Second Temple Roman Palestine.  There are dwellings and burial caves, but the most intriguing aspect of the site is the bell cave complex. Huge caves were dug for their chalk, and many of them are interconnected by underground passages.

Qumran’s caves and dwellings are a testament to the lives of people who settled in the desert toward the end of the Second Temple period. Learn about the composition of the Dead Sea Scrolls and the ascetic sect that copied them. The site has a film and on holidays there may be tours and street acting. You can visit Masada on the same day you see Qumran, and get a full picture of life before and during the Great Revolt.

Herodian (or Herodium) is the site of a palace built by Herod the Great not far from Jerusalem. Besides the palace, there is a bathhouse, a synagogue and a Roman theater. A tomb possibly belonging to Herod was discovered at the site but is not currently accessible to the public.

Beit Shean was inhabited from the 15th century BCE all the way through to modern times. Its excavations revealed an impressive ampitheater, a Roman bath, a Byzantine church and a Crusader fort. It is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Israel and well worth a visit. The area’s warm weather all year round make it an excellent choice for a winter visit (as long as it’s not raining).

Of course, there are many more archaeological sites in Israel. To find out more about archaeological sites and national parks in Israel, go to the website of the Nature and Parks Authority.

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Discounts on Kosher Restaurants in Israel

Restaurants in Israel

Israel has some of the best kosher restaurants in the world. It definitely beats any other location for abundance of kosher eating options. Tourists are likely to eat out a lot, and continuous visits to restaurants in Israel can get expensive.

Enter ELuna. Register for the site (it’s free) and receive 10% discount coupons for any of the restaurants listed on the site. Restaurants are either dairy or meat and include locations such as Tel Aviv and its surrounding cities, Jerusalem, Haifa and the north, the south and even Yehuda and Shomron. All restaurants are kosher and some are marked as Mehadrin.

Another way to save on restaurant meals with ELuna is by purchasing a discount voucher. Choose a location and a meal and the site offers you a number of relevant vouchers, with the retail value and what you pay listed side by side. This is a good option if you know you will visit a specific restaurant during the three weeks after purchase.

ELuna also offers auctions where you can bid against other customers for discounted meals at selected restaurants. These are useful if you have a lot of time on your hands, but if you are on the go, the other options are more practical.

Gift certificates for a specific restaurant, for any number of restaurants or for a wine shop are on sale at ELuna. They can be a great host gift during your vacation or a way to send family and friends birthday or anniversary presents when you are back home.

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Indoor Activities in Jerusalem

Activities in Jerusalem - Bloomberg Science Museum

Bloomberg Science Museum

If you’re coming to Israel in the winter, you will be looking for indoor activities in case of cold, wind or rain. There are many indoor activities in Jerusalem for audiences of all ages. Here are just a few of them.

The newly renovated Israel Museum is a great place to spend a rainy day. The museum is vast and includes exhibits on ancient and modern art, archaeology and Jewish life and history. The Shrine of the Book contains some of the oldest Jewish manuscripts – the Dead Sea Scrolls – and tells the story of their discovery and the ancient sect that copied them. If weather permits, visit the outdoor model of ancient Jerusalem and the Second Temple. The children’s wing is both fun and educational, and on holidays there are usually workshops for kids to enjoy.

The Bloomberg Science Museum is a hands-on experience, demonstrating various scientific phenomena. Some exhibits are geared toward adults and others toward children. Guided tours are available and there are always workshops, demonstrations and talks. If you have a membership at a science museum at home, check whether the membership includes international museums.

The Bank of Israel Visitor’s Center explains a lot of the mysteries behind money and the Israeli skekel. View ancient coins and their modern imitations, learn about the functions of the Bank of Israel via computer game and watch a film about price stability. The center is geared toward children 8 and over.

The Supreme Court is open to the public and conducts free tours on the justice system and the architectural design of the building. If you are lucky you will get to sit in on an actual court session. The English tour takes place daily at 12 PM and is open to children and adults of all ages.

For an overview of the history of Jerusalem, visit the Tower of David Museum. Yad Vashem chronicles the atrocities of the Holocaust (not suited to children) and the Bible Lands Museum educates about the biblical period.

A good source for more activities in Jerusalem is the Fun in Jerusalem website.

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