S ummer is traveling season and there’s no better place to visit on earth than our very own homeland. While anyone who has ever toured Israel has been to the major sites like the Kosel Kever Rochel and Masada today’s generation — who may have visited Israel several times by the time they reach adulthood — want something more. So we went in search of attractions beyond the well-worn path to show you Israel like you’ve never seen it before.
We asked five tour guides for their recommendations on discovering new wonders or revisiting old ones with fresh eyes. All agreed that “the Land that lacks for nothing” has an endless supply of treasures — both spiritual and physical — just waiting to be unearthed.
So start planning your next trip to the Holy Land with these insider tips from those who’ve made exploring Eretz Yisrael’s treasures both their passion and profession.
The Tour Guides
Malkah Brachah Abuloff is a freelance tour guide and coordinator who runs tours for private groups seminaries the Beit Shemesh and Telshe Stone municipalities and more. With a master’s degree in archaeology and Israel studies from Bar-Ilan University Malka Bracha uses her knowledge to inspire first-timers and Israel tour veterans alike. email@example.com 972-544-909971
Meir Eisenman (IsraelbyMeir.com) inherited his love of Eretz Yisrael from his grandfather a seventh-generation Yerushalmi. Meir who lives in the Old City of Jerusalem creates captivating tours that he sprinkles with personal stories and his abundant love for the land.
Yitz Fuchs lives in Flatbush and is the director of “The Experience ” a bein hazmanim tour of Eretz Yisrael for American bochurim (www.aderessummer.com). Running now for eight summers Yitz has had the zechus to show Eretz Yisrael to close to 500 satisfied clients.
Moshe Hamburg is a licensed tour guide and co-owner of Your Israel Tour Company (firstname.lastname@example.org) which specializes in bringing a Torah perspective to tours for individuals couples families and groups of all sizes and ages.
Doron Kornbluth is a best-selling author international lecturer and much-in-demand tour guide (and tour organizer) in Israel. He guides families and groups all over the country and uses his broad knowledge and experience to create tours that are fun memorable and inspiring. Find him at www.doronkornbluth.com or email@example.com.
1. What’s the best thing I haven’t seen yet in the Old City?
Yitz Fuchs: The new Kishle excavations by the police station right next to Migdal David are simply astounding in their breadth and scope of history. In the space of about a half-square block you can find remnants from the times of Chizkiyahu the Chashmonaim the Ramban Benjamin of Tudela and the Irgun soldiers who were imprisoned in the Kishle jail under the British Mandate. That’s 2 700 years of history.
There’s also a little one-room museum in the Cardo just past the entrance to the Churvah Synagogue called Alone on the Walls. It’s a photojournalist’s documentary of the Jews’ last day in the Old City before they were expelled in 1948. There are heartbreaking pictures of Yidden lined up by Sha’ar Tzion waiting to leave as well as a video featuring interviews of men who fought in these battles.
Meir Eisenman: The other three-quarters of the city! I do a fascinating tour of all the “other quarters ” where we see the sites of Jewish interest including all of the gates leading into the city. While I’m personally armed I’ve never had any incidents on this tour which I conduct during the morning hours when things are relatively quiet and safe.
Doron Kornbluth: The Davidson Center/Southern Wall Excavations just past the Dung Gate. There’s a great short movie but the real excitement is walking on an actual street from the time of Bayis Sheini and climbing the actual stairs that lead up to the Temple Mount.
2. What can I do in Yerushalayim if I only have a few hours to spare and have seen all the typical stuff?
Moshe Hamburg: Museum of the Underground Prisoners by the Russian Compound. Rav Aryeh Levin used to go every Shabbos to visit the prisoners there in the time of the British Mandate. It’s an amazing place and a good tour guide can really make it come alive.
Meir Eisenman: Har Hazeisim. Most people don’t go anymore but it can be visited safely. I’ve gone many times and have never had any trouble baruch Hashem. There are so many great people buried there and the view of Har Habayis is amazing. It’s a great three- to four-hour tour that people love.
Malkah Brachah Abuloff: If you’ve had the zechus of doing all the typical stuff then it’s time to fill yourself with hakaras hatov to Hashem and connect with the living breathing Jewish residents of the city. Visit the Lifeline for the Old an organization that provides employment and support to the elderly and smile at an older person who has come for a hot meal. Or sometimes I give my children 20 NIS to spend at the shekel store and take all the goodies over to the pediatric department of Shaare Zedek Hospital. I guarantee that these activities will make you feel as though you have truly experienced Yerushalayim.
Yitz Fuchs: Get a good walking-tour guidebook and go explore the streets of Yerushalayim. Unlike other large cities that were designed by a city planner Yerushalayim was built neighborhood by neighborhood and each one has its own fascinating history and shape.
3. What’s the best out-of-the-way beach for a religious family?
Yitz Fuchs: On the north shore of the Kinneret, just past Kfar Nachum, there’s a place called Mapal Hanistar (the hidden waterfall) that tends to attract a lot of frum families.
Malkah Brachah Abuloff: Do not go swimming at a beach unless there is a lifeguard on duty — the currents here are surprisingly strong. But if you just want to sit on the beach to enjoy the sand and the wind, I go on a full moon to the Akkadia Darom handicapped beach in Herzliya. It’s clean and accessible, and there’s parking to boot.
Meir Eisenman: Next to the separate beach in Bat Yam, there’s an area that I’ve found to be a generally appropriate scene for frum families.
4. If I have two hours with a typical American teenager who just wants to have fun, and I want him to feel Eretz Yisrael in a whole new way, what should I do?
Doron Kornbluth: Bring them to the zip line in the Gush, where they can also experience the story of the destruction and rebirth of the area at Kfar Etzion’s museum. The new movie is particularly fascinating and moving. I find that learning about this piece of history, which ties in closely to the story of Jerusalem, strengthens kids’ emunah and connection to Am Yisrael and reminds us all why we are here.
Moshe Hamburg: Go Jeeping or ATVing in the Judean Hills, along the Derech Avos in the Gush. This is the actual road that the Avos walked, and there are so many amazing and inspirational sites to be seen over there. But you must do this with a tour guide, otherwise you won’t know what you’re seeing.
Malkah Brachah Abuloff: A “typical teenager” with a solid Jewish background can gain a new perspective on the land by putting on “new glasses.” Match him with a boy with similar interests who lives someplace out of the realm of your teen’s experience, whether on a kibbutz, a development town along the edge of Gaza, or Bnei Brak. (If you don’t have any connections yourself, ask your tour guide to facilitate this. We tour guides have group chats and are very supportive of one another.) Put the boys together for two hours to do an activity that interests them both (even if it’s paintball or bowling). I guarantee that this human connection, the feeling that we are all one family, will stay with him forever.
5) What’s an idea for a “holy” trip that will also engage a young person?
Moshe Hamburg: Ir David (the City of David) is definitely the number one must-see tourist site in Israel today. The water tunnels are fun and exciting, but most of all, it’s the history. This is the beginning of Yerushalayim, David Hamelech’s home, so many famous scenes from Tanach. It all happened here.
Meir Eisenman: A trip to the kivrei tzaddikim in the Galil, from Kever Rashbi to lesser known kevarim, can be made very interesting, especially when history and stories are included. For example, Yehuda ben Bava’s grave is actually in the valley where he was killed.
Yitz Fuchs: Kever Shmuel Hanavi, which is located just north of Yerushalayim on the way to Givat Ze’ev. If you walk up to the roof, you can see the most amazing view of Yerushalayim. The kever sits on the highest mountain opposite the city. Another idea is to go ATVing around Tzfas, stopping at random kevarim of Tannaim and Nevi’im. However, a caveat: from my years of experience running my camp, I’ve developed a three kevarim rule. If you schlep kids to too many, you run the risk of turning them off of Eretz Yisrael.
6. What’s the best museum/town/site/natural attraction that no one knows about?
Doron Kornbluth: The Baram synagogue north of Tzfas, which is still standing after 1,700 years. At first glance, it looks like a magnificent shul that was badly constructed — but was it? Sometimes, lessons are learned better informally than formally. You can tell a kid 100 times that going to shul is important, but learning the story of the sacrifice the community went through to build this shul, in order to be able to pray and learn together, has a much more powerful impact. In this case, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words.
Yitz Fuchs: The Atlit Detainee Camp Museum, located about 20 miles south of Haifa. There’s an actual boat used by the immigrants who came to Eretz Yisrael before 1948, and their story is told in a highly entertaining way, using movies and technology, including talking mannequins.
Meir Eisenman: While I can’t say no one knows about it, the Israel Museum is definitely overlooked by the chareidi crowd. It’s archeology department contains fascinating finds from the Bayis Rishon period. With the right tour guide, you can get so much from the museum.
7. What’s a place I would never think of going that is actually safe and fun and interesting?
Malkah Brachah Abuloff: Try Herodian, just south of Jerusalem. See the accomplishments of the figure so often discussed by Chazal, and be astounded by the tunnels carved by the heroic Jewish fighters during the Bar Kochva era. Also, the view is amazing.
Doron Kornbluth: The northern Mediterranean Coast, including the Akko area. There are water sports for kids, and lots of cool things to visit (the massive Crusader Fort, the jail where Jewish prisoners were kept, the Rosh Hanikra grottoes). Haifa also has a great zoo and maritime museum. (Kids get to go in a submarine!) Be aware, however, that while in Haifa there are a few mehadrin places to eat, north of there, it’s difficult to find suitable places.
Yitz Fuchs: Mitzpeh Rimon. While according to most opinions it’s outside of the southern border of Eretz Yisrael, the astounding crater is still niflaos haBorei, and you can go rappelling or horseback riding right up to its edge. Another great place is Kibbutz Keshet Yonatan. They have army-type outdoor training activities, making it a good place to go for group activities.
8. What’s the best thing to do on a scorching summer day when the kids must get out of the house?
Moshe Hamburg: The Biblical Museum of Natural History in Beit Shemesh. People are often surprised by how interesting it is, and it’s all told from a Torah perspective.
Yitz Fuchs: Kibbutz Avnei Eitan in the Golan. It’s a robotic cow farm where the cows are all bar-coded and machines “read” each individual cow, moving it from one stage of the milking process to the next. Visitors can watch the entire automated milking process.
Meir Eisenman: Definitely go to a site with water! There are plenty of great natural waterfalls and springs all over Israel, and in particular there are several sites about a half hour outside of Yerushalayim, such as Ein Bokek and Ein Mabua, that generally don’t have pritzus issues.
9. I need a trip that is good for the whole family, everyone from grandparents to toddlers. Any ideas?
Moshe Hamburg: The national park at Beit Guvrin has caves from the time of the Chashmonaim and earlier that are very family-friendly. Anyone from a two-year-old to an elderly person can walk through the site and discover a whole underground city. The park also features a Roman amphitheater.
Malkah Brachah Abuloff: The bird observatory located on the grounds of the Knesset is a great choice. It’s free, open all the time, accessible for strollers and wheelchairs, and there are bathrooms and shade.
10. Finally, I’d like a hike that’s fun but not too taxing.
Yitz Fuchs: Tel Dan, located near the ancient city of Dan in the Galil, is a very pleasant place. The hike is shaded and there’s a cold, refreshing spring where the water reaches only up to the ankles. There’s also an interesting-looking tree dubbed Winnie the Pooh.
Doron Kornbluth: Nachal Kibbutzim is a great hike through the water. Another fun one is the circle walk at Midras in Adullam park near Beit Shemesh. It has caves, a dovecote, a pyramid, and great views.
Moshe Hamburg: My favorite hike is the Etsba Cave hike in the Carmel Mountains. The entire hill is shaded, and the top of that hill is the spot where the miraculous story of Eliyahu Hanavi’s showdown with the avodah zarah worshippers happened. You also get an incredible view of the Mediterranean. After that, there’s a hike through caves (bring flashlights). The entire thing takes about one and a half hours, and it was easy enough for my three-year-old to do.
Malkah Brachah Abuloff: Try the hike up north called “Snir” or “Chatzbani.” You need supportive water shoes, but it’s soooooo much fun!
Some Packing and Prep Tips from the Experts
Malkah Brachah Abuloff: Make coffee, tea, or juice, and then fill your thermos halfway with the liquid. Freeze it the night before, and then in the morning top it off with more of the liquid. That way, you have a refreshing drink all day long.
As for food, I take homemade granola, dried fruits, nuts, and a carton of soy milk or almond milk that I freeze a few hours before the trip. It’s an instant breakfast while traveling.
For lunch, sandwiches get soggy, so I take crackers and then in a separate container I mix peanut butter and jelly or bring an unopened can of tuna.
Moshe Hamburg: On my tiyulim, I do a “Lunch shel Moshe.” The Dad and I run into a local store and pick up crackers, chummus, potato chips, bread, cheese, etc. Then we all go to a local park and picnic there. This way, the family doesn’t have to worry about packing food.
Meir Eisenman: Food storage on long, hot tiyulim can be difficult, which is why I always advise people to eat a big breakfast before they go and a have a big dinner afterwards.
Don’t Forget Your…
Doron Kornbluth: Hats for everyone, as well as sun block and lots of water. You’ll enjoy the whole experience so much more. Also, umbrellas in the summer: they look funny, but, boy, do they work well to cut down on the sun.
Malka Bracha Abuloff: A sense of humor. Remember, you are in Eretz Yisrael and your tour guide is Hashem, Who has designed the perfect itinerary for you. But sometimes it’s not at the exact time or the place you thought you needed to see.
Moshe Hamburg: Your “Eretz Yisrael glasses.” It’s very important to see everything in Israel positively and go home and tell everyone that, wow, Eretz Yisrael is beautiful. Definitely don’t chas v’shalom kvetch about the long lines, or the little amenities you think are lacking.
Meir Eisenman: A tour guide! Families coming from overseas often spend so much on hotels and food but don’t realize that a good tour guide will make all the difference for a smooth and enjoyable trip.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Issue 671)