Israel is arguably one of the world’s smallest countries. Yet small as it may be, it has to be one of the most exciting places on earth.
It’s a country that can be an inspiration to all – the only place in the region where all religions live side by side under a solid democracy. It has become an international center for innovation and development, despite all geographical and political struggles. Even the desert flourishes in Israel.
A visit to the Holy Land may prove to be a spiritual experience even for those of who are not religious, considering how rich in history the land is. There is so much to be in awe for.
As 2014 comes to an end, it’s time to list my top 10 reasons for why you should start planning your visit here in 2015, in case you haven’t done so yet.
1. See the desert bloom (Spring)
The Negev desert is famous for its beautiful and arid landscape. There is a time in the year when, for a mere couple of months, the desert transforms and become dotted with lush and colorful fields. Spring comes early in Israel, and February is the peak season to see the forests of the northern Negev filled with flowers and visitors alike. The “Red South” festival is celebrated during this month, offering plenty of activities revolving the blooming scenery.
2. Join Israel’s Independence Day festivity (Spring)
Every year around April-May (set according to the Hebrew calendar), Israel is celebrating one of its most beloved national holidays – the Independence Day. It follows the national Day of Remembrance for fallen soldiers, and the proximity is an experience for itself. During the Day of Remembrance, a heavy atmosphere looms in the air, especially when the entire country stands in silence as one, to the sound of the siren.
As night falls, 8pm on the clock, the atmosphere changes as the country moves from remembering the fallen to celebrating its own rise. It starts with the traditional Independence Day ceremony in Jerusalem, broadcasted live on national TV, followed by firework spectacles in almost every city. The next day is packed with events, the most exciting of which is the aerial demonstration by the IDF flying different types of aircraft over the country. Being here during these two national days is an ultimate Israeli experience.
3. Experience Jerusalem Day celebrations (Spring)
Also happening in May is the national holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967. The most thrilling celebration of the day is the flags parade, where thousands of men and women cross the Old City dancing and waving a sea of Israeli flags, all the way to the Western Wall. There, by the time the sun sets down, they all gather in a dense and ecstatic group singing Jerusalem-related tunes out loud. If you are Jewish, Zionist or feel a strong connection to the land and people of Israel, there’s no better time and place for you to be.
4. Enjoy Jerusalem’s Festival of Light (Summer)
Every year in June, there is one week in which, each night, the historical streets of the Israeli capital turn even more magical. Dozens of art installations and light displays decorate the ancient walls and alleyways, some including live music and performances. With several tracks to choose from, food and gifts stands along the way and many photo opportunities, you can expect a joyful night out for the entire family.
5. Relax on one of many beaches (Summer)
From Nahariya in the north, to Eilat in the south, Israel’s coastline is stunning. If you’re not among those who prefer the air-conditioned malls to escape the Mediterranean summer, then dipping in the sea has to be your first choice. Whether you want to swim, engage in sport activities or simply sunbathe, there are plenty of wonderful beaches to choose from.
6. Observe the migrating birds at Hula Lake Park (Fall)
Hula Lake Park is, in my eyes, one of Israel’s hidden gems. Between October and December, tens of thousands of migrating birds gather here on their way to warmer countries. The views and sounds are spectacular, especially during dawn. There are guided tours on offer to see the birds during peak season, and the ambiance is nothing like you’d expect from a country like Israel.
7. Tour the milestones in Jesus’ life and death during Christmas (Winter)
While billions of people celebrate the end of the year at home next to the Christmas tree, how about spending the holidays in the land where it all happened?
From Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee, Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Israel is known for the numerous sites related to the life and death of Jesus Christ. For Christian believers, this has to be the highlight of a life-changing trip to the Holy Land.
8. Witness snow in Jerusalem (Winter)
It doesn’t snow in Jerusalem every year, so for this you’ll need a bit of luck. When it does snow, the views of the holy city covered in white are simply amazing. Your best chance to see snow in Jerusalem would be between January and February, although last year (2013) the city had experienced heavy snowfall in early December. For the full report of what it was like, check my previous blog.
9. Visit the Dead Sea before it shrinks (Year around)
The Dead Sea is one of the most unique places in Israel. Its shores are the Earth’s lowest point on land, the sea is surrounded by Desert Mountains, and you can float on its salty water while covering yourself with nutritious mud. But the truth is that the Dead Sea is rapidly shrinking, due to various environmental reasons. It won’t disappear next year, but with its water receding in a rate of over 1 meter a year, with every year that’s gone by, we have less and less of the miraculous sea to enjoy.
10. Check out Tel Aviv’s new towers (Year around)
Tel Aviv is Israel’s biggest city and probably the fastest growing one as well. Every year new high-risers in all shapes and sizes, whether residential or enterprises, appear in almost every corner of the metropolis. If you’ve visited Tel Aviv before, the next time you come, you will surely notice the difference. Besides new skyscrapers, development always contributes to the rise of more restaurants, bars and shops as well, so everyone is guaranteed not to be bored during their visit to the big city.
I want to wish all the readers and all my followers a very happy new year!
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