Touring Israel: What You Need to Know
|Stairway to Heaven: Jerusalem's Wailing Wall, where the faithful leave their incantations to the Almighty (PhotoDisc)|
If the numbers are anything to go by, the tourism drought in Israel appears to be receding. With decade lows between 2001 and 2003 due to an escalation in violence, Israel has seen clear signs that visitors are coming back. Even before the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, the number of tourists more than doubled in the first half of 2004 and the number of first-time visitors in the first six months of 2005 increased 73 percent, according to the semi-annual Israeli Inbound Tourism Survey. In all, 2005 witnessed a 26 percent increase of visitors from the preceding year.
On the ground, of course, it can be a wholly different story, and travelers should naturally be aware of ongoing security concerns. And certainly, in-country security precautions may seem daunting by Western standings, but to most Israelis it's life as usual. Adopt their point of view, and the roadblocks, soldiers, and the need for vigilance can become part of the local atmosphere rather than a reason to stay away. After all, life in Israel goes on, and there's still plenty to discover and enjoy.
About the size of New Jersey, Israel is ripe with places to go that encapsulate thousands of years of world-shaping history, and it's nearly impossible for travelers to hit everything. However, for first-time visitors, especially those staying a week or two, there are several obvious choices that should be featured on any itinerary.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication