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Four Weeks in Israel, March 2020

ItalophileNJ

100+ Posts
Wednesday March 11
Sunny and warm (65F)

We drove out to the Galilee and hiked up Mount Tabor. It was fabulous. I’ll post photos later.

Things are escalating here re: coronavirus, so we are cutting the trip very short and flying home Friday. Oh well ...
Seems like a smart decision, Pauline.
And to venture into politics.....So smart of Israel to make strong decisions re border closing and isolation, to slow down spread of the virus, despite heavy dependence on tourism. Whereas here in the United States of Fantasyland our government has been waiting so long to acknowledge there’s a problem that we don’t have the ability to test many people, never even mind a smart public-health policy.

Enjoy the rest of your trip and have a safe flight home.
 

SuzanneF

10+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Pauline, so sorry to hear you had to cut your trip short, but probably a wise move at this point. Safe travels home!
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Wednesday March 11
Sunny and warm (65F)

We drove out into the Galilee to do a hike on Mount Tabor. It is a bit tricky getting out of Haifa but in 15 minutes you are out and on the highway. There are a few main highways across the Galilee. It took us about 45 minutes to get to the bottom of Mount Tabor, which is near Tiberias.

Mount Tabor rises up with no other mountains around it so is visible from many places. It is close to the Sea of Galilee. From the bottom of the mountain you make your way up through Shibli, an Arab town, to a parking area. Tour buses have to park here and put their people into vans to go to the top of the mountain on a narrow, winding road. Only one tour bus today, which is probably unusual and is due to the lack of tourists.

We parked and walked up. We used the Israel by Foot hiking information - Mount Tabor Hike. The hike was just under 5 miles with an ascent/descent of 1300 feet. It took us almost 4 hours. We got a late start and were finishing the hike at 5pm.

It was a great hike but not easy. The trail went straight up to the top and that took us about an hour and a half. The path was pretty good and went through some beautiful meadows with wildflowers. Parts were steep. We saw a few other hikers but not many. Great views to the north but again it was hazy.

We got to the top and walked down the long drive to the Church of the Transfiguration. This is my favourite miracle of Jesus, the transfiguration. From Wikipedia: In these accounts, Jesus and three of his apostles, Peter, James, and John, go to a mountain (the Mount of Transfiguration) to pray. On the mountain, Jesus begins to shine with bright rays of light. Then the prophets Moses and Elijah appear next to him and he speaks with them. Jesus is then called "Son" by a voice in the sky, assumed to be God the Father, as in the Baptism of Jesus.

There is a church on top built by the Franciscans in 1924 on the remains of a Crusader church from 12th century and a Byzantine church from 4th to 6th century. There is a viewing platform beside the church but the mist kept us from seeing the Sea of Galilee.

The trail then took us around the top of the mountain past the site of a battle between the Israelites and the Canaanites in the Old Testament and then back down. The way back was longer but a gentler slope down.

This was a beautiful hike! It took us an hour to get home. We got confused in the Carmel Tunnels and got a bit lost but eventually got there.

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Starting up Mount Tabor.

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View to the north.

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Three chairs at the top of the mountain.

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Church of the Transfiguration.

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Starting back down.

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Part of the trail was on this easy to walk dirt road.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Thursday March 12
Started out sunny and hot (80F) but clouded over and rained in the later afternoon.

Last day! This has been a 9 night trip! It was supposed to be 28 nights. We brought a duffel bag of hiking gear for 2 hikes!

We spent some time in the hot sun on the terrace in the morning. Then went for a city walk. We walked for an hour from the apartment to Stella Maris (all downhill), the Carmelite monastery that sits on a cliff above the sea. It was fun to see another part of the city. We took the bus back and it started to rain as we walked back to the apartment. Now is overcast and very windy.

Rain is forecast for Friday and Saturday but then back to sunshine but with cooler temps after. We will be missing that.

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Clear skies in the morning. View from Louis Promenade.

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Standing at the top of the Ba’hai Gardens with the lower city below.

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Stella Maris, the Carmelite monastery.

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This is the terrace we like so much.
 

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
Challenging times. You made the best decision. At this end, Ron canceled a 3 week work trip to Australia 3 hours before he was due to leave. The thought of having to quarantine coming back or no flights...So you know you are not alone ...
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
I posted this on our coronavirus thread but am putting it here too as the end of the trip report.

We are back in the UK after cutting short our Israel trip. Ben Gurion Airport (Tel Aviv) was empty. The extra security line that you go in before checkin which is usually very long had one person ahead of us. British Airlines checkin was slow because the flight was full. Several shops and restaurants in the airport were closed. Whole wings of the airport were closed.

We arrived at Heathrow at 8pm and it seemed pretty much as usual. Hand sanitizer stations and people handing out brochures about the virus. No one checking passengers.

A word about refunds for our cancellations:

We left 4 nights early from our Haifa apartment and Koby gave us a credit for those nights to be used in the next 2 years. This was generous of him.

Our 5 nights in Mitzpe Ramon were booked with booking.com with free cancellation. I sent the owner a message about cancelling and he sent a friendly reply.

Our 10 nights in Jerusalem were booked through AirBnB and fully paid ahead. I messaged the owner to cancel and ask about a refund and she said she had to talk to AirBnB about it. I thought I should officially cancel with AirBnB and found that her cancellation policy let you get 50% back if you cancelled a week ahead. Luckily I was in time so we got the refund. The owner did not mention this to me. I’ll remember that when booking again in Jerusalem. I will ask AirBnB for a full refund because of the circumstances.

We returned our car at the airport and Eldan charged us only for the days we had the car. Very nice!

Airport parking at Heathrow states on their booking form that there are no refunds, so we paid for 30 days and used 11.

We had 2 nights in the airport hotel (coming and going) but I was able to change our booking online.

That leaves us with the flights. I had a good price on these flights in premium economy. BA said no change fee for flights in March, but we were flying back April 1. I rebooked online and the only option to fly back Friday was to pay the change fee of £150 and upgrade to First. We could have booked a few days later and gone in premium economy but we wanted to get home. A big storm came into israel last night with high winds and flooding. There was going to be a lot of rain on Friday and Saturday so we really wanted to leave on Friday. First was incredible. (We’ve managed to fly this way a few times.) It was a small cabin of 4 rows. Lots of space between people on a full flight. The 5 hour flight time felt like 30 minutes.

We made a mistake doing this trip but I enjoyed the 9 nights we had. If we don’t catch coronavirus from our time in the airport (time will tell) then it won’t have been a disaster.

It would not have been good to stay longer in Israel. In Haifa our favorite vegan restaurant was closed when it normally would be open. They are limiting the hours on museums. We spoke to a young American staying in Nazareth and he said people came up to him on the street and screamed corona at him. He said locals told him tourists had to stay in their hotels (not true).

Plus March is too cold and wet. Next year we go in April and just deal with Passover/Easter.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
I received an almost full refund for my Jerusalem rental. AirBnB has a policy of doing a full refund for places booked during this crisis. From their website:
—————
Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic
We are now offering Guests full refunds and Hosts no-charge cancellations for reservations booked on or before 14 March with a check-in date of 14 April or earlier. Please note that this policy will not cover any new bookings.
—————

I received a refund of 50% of the rental (not including fees) because I cancelled more than a week ahead and that was the owners policy. At that time I asked her for a full refund but did not hear from her so I put in an inquiry to AirBnB. I did not hear back from them so contacted the owner again and she thought I had received a full refund so she was able to refund the other 50%, which was great. I still had to pay the fees which are over $200 and I will contact AirBnB again to get that refunded.

I received an email from my travel insurance (I pay yearly - Direct Line, UK company) and they said travel before end of March cancelled because of Coronavirus is covered but no new trips will be covered, so I will see if they cover our rebooking of our return flight and costs of airport parking not used (probably not).
 

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