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Celebrating 60 Years

Kibbutz Degania Aleph Photo: GPO
Kibbutz Degania Aleph Photo: GPO
 
Mount Hermon Photo: Ilana Fischer
Mount Hermon Photo: Ilana Fischer
 
Yad Vashem Photo: Reuters
Yad Vashem Photo: Reuters
 
Underwater Observatory Marine Park in Eilat Photo: Ronen Yules
Underwater Observatory Marine Park in Eilat Photo: Ronen Yules
 
Mount Meron Photo: Galit Kosovsky
Mount Meron Photo: Galit Kosovsky
 
Rosh Pina Photo: Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites
Rosh Pina Photo: Society for Preservation of Israel Heritage Sites
 
Tel Hai Photo: Chen Leopold
Tel Hai Photo: Chen Leopold
 
 

The 60 Israeli hotspots

What is the most Israeli place in the country – the Western Wall or Safed's tombs of the just? The Eilat beaches or Mount Hermon? Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market or Tel Aviv's Sheinkin Street? In honor of Israel's 60th anniversary, we tried to assemble the perfect formula

Tal Sagi
Published: 05.11.08, 13:51 / Israel Travel

What makes us Israeli? Obviously we are talking about a complicated variety of things – the Hebrew language, our joint history, the same feelings we have on Remembrance Day, Holocaust Day and Independence Day, and so on, and so forth.

 

One of the main components of this complex formula is the sites we visited, the trips we took across the country and the places burned into our collective mind – but also into our personal mind, as we ourselves have walked there.

 

True, we did not take part in the Tel Hai battle, we were not among the Masada fighters and we did not build the first Hebrew city, but this does not prevent us from sensing the Israeli history when we visit those sites today.

 

It appears there is not one site in the country which can be defined as "the most Israeli site." On the contrary, we have a variety of sites which together create the mosaic which is the State, and which is every single one of us.

 

In honor of the State of Israel's 60th anniversary, we tried to assemble the ultimate list of the most Israeli sites – those which have most likely been visited by the vast majority Israelis, whether as part of school, army and youth movement trips or during their recent vacation.

 

It wasn't easy building the list of the 60 most Israeli sites. What is more Israeli? The Western Wall or Safed's tombs of the just? Eilat's beaches or Mount Hermon? Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda Street or Tel Aviv's Sheinkin's Street? It was a difficult choice, and here are the results in alphabetical order.

 

1. Abu Gosh

For many this is Israel's hummus capital, but this picturesque village established more than 6,000 years ago holds a vocal music festival twice a year, hosting local and international orchestras.

 

2. Akko

A visit to the knight halls discovered in the past 50 years, testifying to the city's glory during the Crusades.

 

3. Ancient Jaffa

A hike beginning at the Clock Square and entering the city's ancient alleys. The view of the port from above upon sunset is one of the most beautiful postcards one can take with a camera.

 

4. Avshalom Stalactite Cave

Discovered by accident exactly 40 years ago, but the stalagmites and stalactites in it have been waiting for us for more than 300,000 years (and still continue to grow!)


 

Stalactite Cave (Photo: Alex Kolomoisky)

 

5. Azrieli Towers

Driving on the Ayalon Freeway at night, opening the window just before the Shalom interchange, and peeking at the illuminated towers. True, this isn't New York yet, but it's so nice to fantasize that it is.

 

6. Baba Sali's Grave, Netivot

A pilgrimage site for many of Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira's followers, particularly among those of North African descent. Prepare yourselves for a shower of amulets and souvenirs.


 

Baba Sali's Grave in Netivot (Photo: Nati Harnik, GPO)

 

7. Baha'i Gardens, Haifa

The scenery overlooking the port and the pleasant walk between the charming paths and well-groomed gardens make it clear time and again why the Baha'I Gardens are one of the most attractive tourist centers in Haifa.

 

8. Beit Guvrin Caves

A giant underground labyrinth filled with rooms and halls illuminated through loops at the top. The best part: The bell caves from the Byzantine era.

 

9. Beit Yanai Beach

Being here in the evening hours, with a bottle of wine in one hand and a partner in the other, is probably the most romantic thing in the Mediterranean Sea.

 

10. Bialik House, Tel Aviv

The house of Israel's national poet Chaim Nachman Bialik and his wife Mania is located on the street named after him. Visitors will find manuscripts of Bialik's poems, as well as letters sent to him over the years from children.

 

11. Ben-Gurion's Grave, Sdeh Boker

It's worth visiting the hut where Ben-Gurion lived and his grave in order to understand the differences in our leaders' generations. Before leaving, don’t forget to stop by the kibbutz winery and taste the wine.


 

Ben-Gurion's Grave (Photo: Avi Nof)

 

12. Caesarea

It's worth arriving early for a Shlomo Artzi concert at the amphitheater in order to take the route from the Caesarea port to the hippodrome.

 

13. Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth

The city where Jesus grew up is home to one of the Christians' most scared churches in the entire world, and one of the most fascinating buildings in Israel.


 

Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth (Photo: Moshe Milner, GPO)

 

14. Craters (Big, Small and Ramon)

The breathtaking landscape of the yellowish desert, the million-years-old rock layers, and of course, the bottles with the colorful sand which remain on our living room shelf to this day.


 

The Ramon Crater (Photo: Dafna Meroz, Israel Nature Conservation Society)

 

15. Dead Sea

There's nothing like spending a couple of hours lying on the beach in the lowest place on earth, applying mud rich with minerals on one's face, and trying (and succeeding) to float on the water without sinking.


 

Floating and having fun (Photo: Reuters)

 

16. Eilat Shoreline

The main attraction of the city associated with freedom. The hotels, the water sports and the nightlife complement the picture.


 

The Eilat sea (Photo: Doron Nissim, Israel Nature & National Parks Protection Authority)

 

17. Ein Gedi Nature Reserve

An oasis very near the Dead Sea, which even got its own song. This amazing nature reserve adorns itself with perennial streams, sweet fountains and waterfalls. The real pearl: Herds of mountain goats wandering on the cliffs.

 

18. Ein Hod Artists' Village

The avant-garde Dada movement in the museum named after Marcel Janko, alongside countless galleries, exhibitions, workshops and even a museum for mechanic music (!) in the only artists' village in Israel south of Mount Carmel.

 

19. Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv

The museum, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, presents different aspects in this country's history, archaeology and culture (although what one usually remembers in the end is the planetarium).

 

20. Gan Hashlosha National Park (Sahne)

Warm national pools, beautiful waterfalls, alongside palms and lawns? No wonder this was the most popular national park in Passover. The bonus: A reconstruction of Homa Umigdal (overnight settling in Mandatory Palestine) according to the Kibbutz Tel Amal model.


 

Sahne (Photo: Hagai Aharon)

 

21. German Colony in Haifa

All that is left from the first colony built by the Templars in Israel 140 years ago is the unique architecture, the olive trees, and an atmosphere of old times.

 

22. Habima National Theater, Tel Aviv

Israel's national theater is one of the most famous buildings in the city, enjoying a strategic location at the end of the Rothschild Boulevard. Today it is undergoing a massive renovation which is not expected to be completed before 2009.

 

23. Hai-Bar Yotvata Nature Reserve

Natural habitats for leopards, oryx and more, with the aim of protecting animals in danger of extinction. If this doesn't attract you, wait till you get to the dark room and see how the active animals act at night.


 

Hai-Bar Nature Reserve (Photo: Doron Nissim, Israel Nature & National Parks Protection Authority)

 

24. Hamat Gader Recreation Park

A spa and baths of medicinal hot springs may be nice, but the much more interesting attraction is the crocodile farm, which houses more than 200 alligators from the Unites States, India, Africa and South America.


 

Hamat Gader (Photo: Effie Shrir)

 

25. Hexagons Pool

A charming corner in the central Golan Heights where every scout has dipped at least ones is his or her life. The pool received its name due to the shape of the basalt walls.

 

26. Hula Valley

We all remember the stories on the drainage of swamps from elementary school, but it's always nice to return and watch the cranes, pelicans and cormorants – and even the bisons.


 

Hula Valley (Photo: Einav Barazani)

 

27. Israel Museum, Jerusalem

There are over half a million artifacts in Israel's largest museum. In the archaeology field, one can find the Judea Desert Scrolls located in the Shrine of the Book.


 

The Shrine of the Book (Photo: Avi Ohayon, GPO)

 

28. Israeli leaders' burial site on Mount Herzl

From Herzl to Golda, from Jabotinsky to Rabin. This place has an associative connection to Remembrance Day, and this is simply the essence of its Israeliness.

 

29. Kibbutz Degania Aleph

Almost 100 years later, Israel's first kibbutz has undergone a face-lifting and a great part of it has been privatized. But a tour of the kibbutz, including The Museum of Degania, can easily illustrate how people lived here once in cooperation and equality.

 

30. Knesset

One building, five floors and thousands of layers of stories, officials and critical decisions which have shaped democracy in Israel. The works of well-known artists like Danny Caravan, Mark Chagall, and others adorn the house from the inside. Now, more than ever before, the dress code is enforced: Leave your jeans, vests and colorful Crocs at home.

 

31. Lake Kinneret

Alongside large beaches filled with attractions such as water skiing and jet skis, one can also find, with a bit of an effort, small and more isolated beaches, without the mass barbeques.


 

Lake Kinneret (Photo: Yaron Brener)

 

32. Mahane Yehuda Market, Jerusalem

Beitar Jerusalem, politicians before elections, mixed grill, Sima restaurant, and the list goes on. The essence of simple, popular, colorful and warn Israeli characteristics.


 

Mahane Yehuda Market (Photo: Yael Garti)

 

33. Masada during sunrise

There is a difference of opinion regarding the massive suicide on the ancient fortress, but there is a full consensus regarding the breathtaking landscape which compensates for the exhausting route.

 

34. Meah Shearim

Nice Jewish kugel (macaroni pie), Judaica items and pashkevils (leaflets) hanging in the streets. In short, a voyage in time to Eastern Europe of 100 years ago.


 

Meah Shearim (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

 

35. Mishkenot Sha'ananim, Jerusalem

Its famous symbol is of course the windmill, but the first neighborhood built outside the walls also has a picturesque beauty, music centers and the historic Ashkenazi-Sephardic love story between Moses and Judith Montefiore.


 

Mishkenot Sha'ananim (Photo: Itzik Shwiki)

 

36. Mount Bental

One of the better places for fighting heritage stories on the Yom Kippur War, due to the reconstructed IDF post (built on the ruins of a Syrian post) and the wonderful observation post overlooking Syria.


 

IDF post on Mount Bental (Photo: Effie Shrir)

 

37. Mount Hermon

Skiing, snowboarding or toboggans – each according to their preference, as long as we can feel like in Switzerland only three hours away from home, and return home all burnt after forgetting our suntan lotion once again.

 

38. Mount Meron Nature Reserve walking trail

A beautiful path surrounds the mountain but does not reach its summit (where the Air Force base is located). If you are lucky, you might meet weasels, porcupines, wild boars and other amiable guests between the oak trees.

 

39. Mount Tabor

There are those who claim that this is the most beautiful mountain in Israel. Perhaps it's the landscape overlooking the Lower Galilee and the Jezreel Valley, perhaps it's the Franciscan Church at its summit, or perhaps it's because it is green all year round.


 

Mount Tabor (Photo: Yoram Benita, GPO)

 

40. Museum of Art, Ein Harod

One of the first kibbutzim in Israel hosts the art museum which attempts to display the innovative and original aspects of Israeli art in the fields of painting, photography and graphics.

 

41. Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv

This magical neighborhood, established even before the city of Tel Aviv, is comprised of old and renovated houses side by side, as well as sites which are milestones in the city's life: Israel's first cinema – the Eden Cineman, The Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance and Theater, the Nahum Guttman Museum, etc.


 

The Nachum Guttman Museum (Photo: Hanan Iscar)

 

42. Peki'in

A fascinating cultural meeting point between Druze, Christians, Muslims and Jews, on the backdrop of the western Galilee's pastoral landscape.

 

43. Rabin Square

In a country entangled in one long and winding political debate, Rabin Square is the center stage, as well as a memorial for that dreadful November night.

 

44. Rosh Hanikra

After descending to the marine caves via the cable-railway and feeling the waves smashing on the rocks, one cannot remain indifferent (or dry).


 

Rosh Hanikra (Photo: Einav Barazani)

 

45. Rosh Pina

Walking between the stone houses and mulberry trees (brought from the Himalayas more than a century ago) is the secret of this beautiful colony's beauty. The story of this colony was made famous by Shulamit Lapid's book "Gei-Oni".

 

46. Safed

This mysterious town, which has served as a spiritual center for many years (and not only because of the tombs of the just located within it), continues to inspire Israel's leading painters.

 

47. Sheinkin Street, Tel Aviv

Over the years, this street has become a symbol for the bohemian, disconnected and arrogant Tel Aviv. An entertaining combination of flamboyant clothing stores and coffee shops alongside the Chabad House located in the middle of the street.

 

48. Stella Maris Church

This fascinating church is also one of the best lookout spots in Haifa, from where one can see all the way to Rosh Hanikara, on a clear day.

 

49. Supreme Court, Jerusalem

Visitors to this impressive building (or at least the law-abiders among them) can see how the Jerusalem stone on the outside and the beautiful mosaics on the inside impart the place with the aura of respect it deserves.


 

Supreme Court (Photo: Yehonatan Tzur)

 

50. Tel Aviv's promenade

The beaches may not be very clean, but no other place can compete with Tel Aviv's promenade – with the stands, the restaurants, the Israeli folk dances, the tourists, the drummers and the bubbling nightlife – in terms of an atmosphere of freedom and summer.


 

The Tel Aviv promenade (Photo: Beth Polack)

 

51. Tel Dan Nature Reserve

A real pearl hiding in the northern Galilee panhandle. Tall treetops and scores of bubbling brooks feeding into a running river, which together create a real jungle atmosphere. The brave among us can take a kayak sail.


 

Tel Dan Nature Reserve (Photo: Lavi Artzi, Israel Nature Conservation Society)

 

52. Tel Hai

The historic battle in Tel Hai, Trumpeldor's immortal saying and the roaring lion statue have turned the place into a pilgrimage site for youth movements and IDF units.

 

53. Tel Megiddo

The strategic place between Egypt and Syria turned Megiddo into a key city in already ancient times. The national park is today one of our most important archaeological sites.

 

54. Timna Valley

This spacious park is also renowned for the "Mushroom," Solomon's Pillars and the ancient wall paintings.


 

Timna Park

 

55. Underwater Observatory Marine Park in Eilat

This is the place for anyone fascinated by beautiful fish, sea turtles or observing the coral reef. Those of you who are not should wait for the moment when the divers feed the sharks.

 

56. Wadi Nisnas

A picturesque and serene neighborhood in the heart of Haifa, famous for its markets and excellent restaurants, as well as for being a symbol of coexistence.

 

57. Western Wall

Even the greatest atheists have found themselves putting on phylacteries at the Western Wall at least once in their lives, wearing a skullcap made of cardboard. Those who are curious regarding the fate of the notes hidden in the wall by the visitors – the answer is a biennial archiving on the Mount of Olives.


 

Western Wall (Photo: Yisrael bardugo)

 

58. White City, Tel Aviv

The Bauhaus building on Rothschild Boulevard and Dizengoff Street have been named a global heritage site by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Rothschild Boulevard also houses one of the city's most famous buildings, including Dizengoff House (where the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel was held) and the Haganah Museum.


Bauhaus in Tel Aviv (Photo: AP)

 

59. Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum

In high school, in youth movements, or during military service – a visit to Yad Vashem is an experience which no Israeli misses out on.

 

60. Zichron Yaakov

On the one hand, the heroic story of the members of the Nili espionage network at the Aharonson house. On the other hand, the ideal place for a marriage proposal on Israel's most romantic pedestrian-only street.


 

Aharonson House (Photo: Omer Hacohen)

 

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