Rosh HaShanah is a time of reflection, a time of participation in a community, a time of rebuilding, and a time of growing. May this Rosh HaShanah 5778 be a time of blessings, kindness, friendship, love, and growth for you. Thank you to our associates, friends, supporters, and fellow travelers for your partnership with Israel Celebration Tours.
Israel Celebration Tours sends its heartfelt prayers to all those who experienced the wrath of Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Harvey. May you all experience a complete and speedy recovery and be restored.
As we say in Hebrew: Refuah Shelaymah! !רפואה של’מה
The hustle and bustle of Jerusalem suddenly quiets as the sun sets and the Sabbath approaches in the ancient city of Jerusalem. You’ll hear a siren as the sun is setting as the signal that the Sabbath is beginning. For the next 25 hours, offices and stores will be closed, city buses stay parked, people attend services in synagogues and enjoy family meals, and tourists may wonder what to do.
Wander down to the Western Wall – also known in Hebrew as the Kotel – and experience the prayers of the Friday night Sabbath service. Certain activities go against the grain of Jewish tradition, so this is one time you won’t bring your camera or write a note to stuff into the crevices in the wall. Despite the day of rest, you can still find plenty to enjoy in Jerusalem. [Read more…] about Spending the Sabbath in Jerusalem
Dolphins are among the most beloved animals. Charismatic, intelligent, and friendly, dolphins travel in groups known as pods. You can find the Bottlenose variety, and play with them, at the Dolphin Reef in Eilat.
Eilat is Israel’s southernmost city, located on the shores of the Red Sea. The Dolphin Reef is a long pier that is an ideal perch for observing them, or, better yet, for jumping into the sea to swim with these fun-loving creatures. For those looking for a more “in-depth” experience, you can snorkel or scuba dive to better view the beauty of Eilat’s coral reefs, colourful fish, and, of course, the dolphins.
Touring IDF Bases with Israel Celebration Tours
In coordination with Israel’s Ministry of Tourism, Israel Celebration Tours can schedule tours and meetings at IDF bases for groups visiting Israel. Groups are guided by military officers and can include lectures about the military and Israel’s geopolitical situation.
Three thousand years ago, according to the Bible, God sent Abraham and his family to the land that became known as Israel. By 1,400 B.C.E., Israel had grown into a sovereign nation with business relationships, many trading partners, a growing population, and a standing military to protect itself against threats from other competing nations in the region.
By about 200 B.C.E, the powerful Roman army was invading and conquering peoples in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. The Jews of ancient Israel tried to resist Rome’s seizure of their lands and assaults on their holy places. By 132 C.E. the Romans had defeated the Jews, made them slaves, and evicted the majority from their land. They renamed the land Palestina. For the next two millennia, bereft of its people, the land lay largely uncultivated, a way station between the lands of Africa and growing Arab kingdoms.
The Return to Israel
Throughout the next nearly 2,000 years, facing oppression in every country in which they lived, the exiled Jews never gave up hope of returning to their spiritual home, praying daily for deliverance back to Israel. Slowly, century by century, new waves of Jews braved a return to Eretz Yisrael, the home of their ancestors, slowly reclaiming the land. During these times, the Jews were not sovereign, not able to govern themselves independently in their ancient land, so they could not have an army to defend them.
The Israeli Version of the Riviera
When you think of the French Riviera, the image is a seaside, a vacation resort, with a beautiful Mediterranean coastline. You picture a popular place to get away from the hustle and bustle for ultimate relaxation and entertainment. As it turns out, Netanya is the Israeli version of the Riviera, and highly recommended by world-wide travellers as a true resort town.
Netanya is a modern city, first developed in the 1920s, named honour of Nathan Straus co-owner of Macy’s department store. Located on the Mediterranean coast, the city is about 20 miles north of Tel Aviv and 35 miles south of Haifa. In Hebrew, the city of Netanya means “gift of God” and that is an apt description. Some of Israel’s most beautiful, golden beaches are found on the Netanya coastline.
The Stars of Israel
We all know the hotel rating system here in the US. Five-stars is the highest; one-star is the lowest. Pretty simple.
However, in Israel for most of its modern existence, hotels were rated as superior, deluxe, super deluxe. Trying to translate that and match it to the star system seemed to be easy: superior= 3 star, deluxe= 4 star, super deluxe= 5 star.
Then, several years ago, Israeli hotels added a 5 star plus rating. But this rating was self-assigned, that is, the hotels rated themselves. Hmmmm. In our experience, some of the hotels rated themselves accurately while some did not.
That’s why it is important to you to work with a company that is completely familiar with the hotels and their service. Israel Celebration Tours wants to be certain you get the service and quality you request and expect. That’s where our years of experience and high standards come into play.
Israel Celebration Tours never uses the 3 star hotels. In all our years, there was only one time we booked a small group at a 3 star insisted upon by the clients and against our recommendation. And three days into their trip, they requested to be upgraded to 4 star accommodations. (But I didn’t say, “I told you so”.) Hence, we have learned the American tourist prefers the 4 star and 5 star hotels.
And don’t expect the luxury of an American 5 star hotel in Israel. Of course, there are a few exceptions but for the most part, there are some intangibles that apply. For example, the famous King David Hotel in Jerusalem is rated a 5 star plus. This rating is not for the luxury as the rooms are a bit smaller, much like European hotel rooms. But the high rating is a result of the history of the hotel and its location. All visiting dignitaries seem to stay there.
And when you travel up north, though there are traditional hotels in Tiberias, there are some alternatives. How about staying at a kibbutz guest house? Or a spa? Or an organic farm with a gourmet dairy restaurant and hotel.
Don’t misunderstand; there are true luxury hotels in Israel. At Israel Celebration Tours, we know, after we interview you, what would suit you best. And sometimes, we opt for the 4-star when it will meet all your needs.
Shopping for a hotel stay in the US is fairly easy; less so in Israel. Getting you into the hotel that suits you? That’s what Israel Celebration Tours is all about.
Traditional Israeli Salad
You can enjoy a taste of Israel both before and after your trip with recipes from Israel Celebration Tours.
Today’s recipe is a traditional Israeli Salad. You will find this crisp, refreshing salad on Israeli tables for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is simple to prepare, and you can adjust many of the ingredients to suit your tastes.
- 4 small plum tomatoes
- 2 cucumbers, peeled
- 1 red onion
- 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- juice of ¼ to ½ lemon
- 2 tablespoons finely minced parsley
- Some chopped orange or yellow peppers
- Feta cheese
- Chopped, pitted olives
- Drained chickpeas
- Some Israelis add 1 teaspoon of sumac powder (found in Greek and Middle Eastern markets)
- Combine cucumbers, bell pepper, tomatoes, lemon juice, oil, parsley, salt and pepper in medium-sized salad bowl and mix well.
- Chill for 1 hour.
- Just before serving, garnish salad with fresh cilantro or parsley, if desired.
Israel: Agricultural Marvel
Israel has always been an agricultural marvel. In the Bible, you will read of Israel’s original seven species: olives, figs, dates, pomegranates, wheat, barley and grapes. Ancient meals included olives, fresh and pickled vegetables, goat milk, lamb, and fish. Modern technology developed by Israeli scientists and horticulturists have expanded what can be grown.
Wherever you look you will find agricultural communities that provide 95% of Israel’s food. In the north, you’ll find crops of wheat and corn, and grape orchards for highly awarded wines. Apple, pear, and cherry trees are also found in the north. In the valleys, melons, oranges, lemons, grapefruit, kiwi, avocadoes and mangoes are grown. Greenhouses dot the Negev desert and are filled with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, zucchini, and eggplants.
Local cows, sheep, and goats produce all the dairy Israel needs. Poultry is locally grown and fish comes from the Mediterranean Sea, Sea of Galilee,
If you follow a Vegan or Vegetarian diet, you will find that cooked, stuffed and baked vegetables are central to Israel’s cuisine, as are various kinds of beans, chickpeas, lentils and bulgur (cracked wheat). Rice often takes the place of potatoes, though it isn’t hard to find that most wonderful treat: french fries.
Over many centuries of moving to and from the holy land from European and Asian lands, Jewish families brought with them the dishes of the places they had been. Since Israel was near the ancient east-west trade routes, the foods of Israel were enhanced by imported spices. Israeli cuisine is thus broad – you’ll find restaurants that cater to almost any palette!
So what is Israeli cuisine?
Israeli cuisine is a mélange of Israel’s Spanish, Arabic, European, and Biblical influences, enhanced by the freshness of its locally grown ingredients. Israel Celebration Tours can help you to experience a culinary adventure, whether you are looking for elegant meals, snacks from a street vendor, or a taste of home in a pizzeria.
What Foods Will You Find on Your Israel Journey? Part 2
In our previous post, we told you a bit about the Middle Eastern and Spanish influences on Israeli cuisine.
European and Other Influences
Starting in the late 1700s, with the influx of Jews from Russia, France, Poland, Germany, France, and Italy, Israel’s cuisine expanded. Schnitzel, strudel, babka, lox, gefilte fish, kugel, chopped liver, knishes, borsht, and, of course, the proverbial chicken soup!
Of course, visitors come to Israel from all over the world, and Israelis love to travel. So it is no surprise that many of the dishes found in Asia, Australia, South America and the U.S.A. appear in Israeli restaurants. Pizzerias and burger joints are found in almost every town.
When you visit Israel, you will find that many restaurants offer dishes that are prepared according to the laws of the bible, which are known as the laws of kashrut, or keeping kosher. You will also find many restaurants that do not follow these biblical restrictions.
When you are in a kosher restaurant, you will find that kosher foods are divided into three categories: meat, dairy and pareve.
- Kosher meat must come from an animal that chews its cud and has split hooves, such as cows, sheep and goats. Poultry includes chickens and turkeys, but not any predatory fowl.
- Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, yogurt or ice cream, must come from kosher animals
- Foods that are neither meat nor dairy are called pareve. Common pareve foods are eggs, fish (with scales and fins), fruit, vegetables, grains, unprocessed juices, pasta, soft drinks, coffee and tea and many candies and snacks.
In kosher restaurants, besides the types of foods listed above, another rule which is followed is that meat and dairy products are never mixed together at the same meal. Example: If you ate steak for dinner, your after-meal beverage can be coffee, however the coffee will be served with a non-dairy creamer.
As mentioned above, there are many restaurants which will mix meat and dairy products, as well as serve foods that are never found in a kosher restaurant: lobster, shrimp, cheeseburgers, buffalo wings. Check with your hotel staff to get recommendations for restaurants that serve the food you are in the mood to eat.
During Passover, Jewish dishes will vary a bit due to the Biblical prohibition against eating grains that have come in contact with liquids and risen, known as chametz. Observant Jews will absolutely not eat chametz. Ashkenazi Jews, descendants of families who hail from Europe, have further restrictions. Sephardi Jewish cooking includes some dishes not found on the tables of the Ashkenazi Jews. Legumes such as beans, chickpeas, and lentils as well as sides of rice, or snacks such as sunflower seeds will still be used during a Sephardi family’s Passover holiday.
In our next post (Part 3) we’ll tell you where Israeli food is grown and share a traditional Israeli recipe.