Top 5 Hidden Treasures of Israel
Explore the underrated locations, experiences and delicacies the Israeli lands have to offer
1. The Ashkenazi Ha’Ari Synagogue in Safed, Israel
A visit to the Ha’Ari Synagogue in Safed, Israel, called “Tzvat” in Hebrew is a destination you can’t pass up. Originally built in the 16th century, this Kabbalist synagogue is tucked away in the blue and white city. The gorgeous contrast of the blue doors, blue building trimmings, and blue steps with the white buildings reminded me of Greece and the blue domes topping many of the churches there. According to the Kabbalah, the color blue symbolizes heaven. With hints of blue adorning the hilltop city of Safed, it appeared to blend into the clear sky above.
A fun fact about this synagogue is that during the Israeli War of Independence in 1948 worshippers gathered inside for shelter, and when they all bent forward in prayer, a bomb shell shot over their heads, drilling a hole into the main platform (also known as a bimah) which still exists today. When the people inside stood back up, no one was hurt.
2. Iced Coffee
Truly an Israeli delicacy, iced coffee, otherwise known as a caramelized coffee-flavored slushie, can be found practically ANYWHERE in Israel. From coffee shops, to small booths down the street, iced coffee is the drink of choice (particularly with tourists trying to wash down the remnants of their falafel lunch).
3. Living on a Kibbutz
Before you book a hotel reservation, consider a stay at a kibbutz for a few days. A kibbutz in Israel is a collective living community that is traditionally known for creating outputs of agriculture. There would be farms or factories on the kibbutz where the residents would work, creating income for the kibbutz as a whole. Many kibbutzim (plural for kibbutz) have eased away from this communal working lifestyle and have become more privatized living subdivisions with no agricultural output.
During my visit to Israel, I had the chance to stay at the Kibbutz Farod in the Upper Galilee region of Israel, close to the Sea of Galilee. The guest room I stayed in was equipped with a mini kitchen, living space, bedroom, and bathroom with the two most important amenities, air conditioning and Wi-Fi. Not only did the overall living conditions greatly surpass many of the rooms of the hotels I stayed in, but also the beautiful outdoor atmosphere that surrounded the Kibbutz made it a worthwhile stay. The roaming dogs, cats, and dare I mention cows, made life on the Kibbutz particularly interesting.
4. Farming in a Desert
The last thing that I expected to find in a desert in Israel was a fully functioning and thriving organic farm. Created by a man named Uri Alon, this farm is located in the Hevel Habesor area of the northern desert lands of Israel (known as the Negev) and closely sandwiched between Egypt and the Gaza Strip by a few miles.
When located in a desert, water supply is extremely limited. Uri Alon’s farm utilizes purified water from the sewage systems of Tel Aviv, a process directly approved by the Israeli government for use. This recycled water is then re-recycled throughout the farm, conserving as much water as possible for fruit and vegetable growth.
While at the desert farm, I tried the most sweet and delicious strawberries, carrots, tomatoes, and cucumbers, surpassing all of the fruits and vegetables I had consumed prior. The final taste of the produce becomes the “reward,” since guests are allowed to pluck all of the produce out of the ground or pick them off of bushes themselves. If you’ve worn out your visits to all the major Israeli landmarks, indulge yourself for an unconventional visit into the Negev desert.
5. Sunrise at Masada
A hike up the Masada mountain is definitely a well-known bucket list item for Israeli travel, but it’s WHEN you make that 15,000-step trip that makes all the difference. The greatest treat after a hike up Masada is the view of the sunrise it provides at the top. In order to greet the sun in time, your hike should probably begin around 3:30 a.m., or 4:00 a.m. at the latest. Depending on your pace, on average, the trip up should take around twenty to forty minutes. For those not too keen on making the journey by foot, Masada also has an airlift to bring guests up to the top in less than three minutes. For those lucky enough to greet the sunrise during a clear morning sky, you’re in for a real treat and an unparalleled view of Israeli lands.