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Israel Late Autumn in Israel

Amy

100+ Posts
Hi folks, it has been a while!
I am planning a nearly three week trip to Israel in late October into early November. Although I’ve been there five times for work, I’ve never been solely as a tourist, and my last visit was 7-8 years ago. My husband, and two friends coming along have never been. We acknowledge the situation is fluid, and our flights and accommodations are cancellable should things look tense in October.

With the help of friends, we’ve booked rental accommodations in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Zichron Yaakov, the north and Galilee when based in Rosh Pina; and a hotel in Eilat. We will have a car for most of our stay, except in Tel Aviv and most of our Jerusalem stay.

The area I’ve never been to is Eilat. We will hopefully by crossing into Jordan with one of the tour companies to visit Petra, although since the Covid regulations are evolving it’s not yet clear if that can happen. Should Petra not be doable, I’d welcome suggestions for things to do in the Eilat area besides relaxing on the beach. (Although that will appeal during a busy trip) we all enjoy nature, and three of the group are up for strenuous hiking (I’m the wimp after three miles, and don’t like heights).

I’m also collecting recommendations for good tour guides for Jerusalem, the center and north, if anyone has recs I’d appreciate them.

Lastly, I’d love to get to Beit She’an. It seems like the most convenient thing would be to stop off on our way south to Eilat, but I typically don’t like to do long stops when there’s luggage in the car. So perhaps a loop down while we’re exploring the southern Kinneret from Rosh Pina would work, although a long day.
Thanks!
 
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Amy

100+ Posts
And more fun, looking at the various Israeli governmental websites on requirements for visitors. The rules have changed several times in recent weeks. Some of which contradict each other, but that may be from disarray and delays in updating the sites.
Here’s from what I’ve read at the following link, as of now you need to get preliminary approval within 14 days of arrival (how? ), get a PCR test within 72 hours of leaving, have another test 12 hours later upon arrival at Ben Gurion, present proof of health insurance including Covid coverage (beyond our usual insurance which covers us abroad? And what form of proof is acceptable?). Population and Immigration Authority updated 6/14
And from this one, you need to fill out an entry statement within 24 hours of departure. No mention of proof of insurance. Before departing Israel, also need to get tested. Ministry of Health Guidelines
 
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Pauline

Forums Admin
Great news about your trip Amy!

We visited Beit Shean on our first trip to Israel in March 2018. We stopped when driving from the Dead Sea to Haifa. This was our first trip and I was nervous about EVERYTHING (you may recall my panic attack that you talked me down from during trip planning). I too do not like leaving a car full of luggage at a tourist place, but we did it this time. We probably had all our luggage in the trunk.

From my trip report:
Soon we got to Beit Shean, the best Roman Ruins in Israel. It was lunch time and the site was nearly empty. We spent two hours in the hot sun walking around these incredible ruins of a large Roman City. As we left tour buses were arriving.

I remember the parking lot was right at the entrance and the site is well away from the town, so it all seemed safe.

It would also be doable, as you posted, as a day trip from Rosh Pina and there are other things to see down there, so it could be a nice day out. It was very hot and exposed when we were there. The site is magnificent. You could visit Beit Shean, then drive back via Mount Tabor. I loved Mount Tabor because I love the story of Jesus' Transfiguration which happened there. We climbed up the mountain, but you can drive to the top. Mount Arbel is also in that area and it has great views if the day is clear.

We've stayed in Eilat twice (and have not been to Jordan). It is an odd town but I am starting to like it. There is a very touristy area along the Red Sea with big hotels, modern promenade, high end shops, but the rest of the town is scruffy. I kind of like the scruffy part. We drove out to both borders, Jordan and Egypt, just for fun. Israel is very narrow there.

If you drive northwest on Highway 12 you get to a very good view point where you see Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia (I have the location in one of my trip reports - I will look it up). Continuing on that highway you are driving right along the border fence with Egypt, which is interesting. You can stop for a short walk at the Red Canyon.

The best thing in the area is Timna Park. It is about 30 minutes north of Eilat. It has a good visitor's center and several very good historic sites.

In Eilat, we spent one day at the Dolphin Beach where you pay to go in. The dolphins were fun to see and the beach was nice. We went swimming.

There is a very good bakery in Eilat - Broitman (which means Bread man).

If you are driving back via Highway 12 and Mitzpe Ramon, stop along the way at the restaurant run by the Neot Smader kibbutz, Pundak. We've stopped there twice and it is a fun stop in the middle of the desert.

Try to drive back via Mitzpe Ramon. The crater you drive right through is beautiful with the town perched up on the edge. And you might see Ibex roaming around the town.
 
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Pauline

Forums Admin
We hired a private tour guide for one day in Jerusalem on our first trip and it was okay, but we ended up in a carpet store where she knows the owner and I think we were expected to purchase something. We didn't. I hate that kind of thing. They have these group tours that they offer every day. It would have been better to do one of them.

You don't really need a guide for the north. Everything is in the guide books and is easy to find. But with a group of 4 maybe it is better to hire a guide, or the one who does all the research turns into the guide. @ItalophileNJ has recommended Richard Woolf on another thread. I've heard good things about him.

 

Pauline

Forums Admin
I am jealous. I want to go to Israel!!

You may get some info about entry requirements on the Trip Advisor forums. I think applying to enter was only for the time when they had limited entry to tour groups only. They are opening up to all tourists, I think, soon.
 

joe

500+ Posts
Hi Amy!

I can only second each and all of Pauline's recommendations.
You didn't mention how many days you'll be in Eilat, but I'm guessing not more than two-three. If you're not into coral-diving or just soaking up sun on the beach, then I'll expand a bit on what Pauline said :

1) I agree that Timna Park is a must. The beautiful scenery - sort of a geological park - can be enjoyed either by a short loop with a car, or by any of the many walking/hiking trails of all levels, as well as single-track bike paths. Bicycles, and also e-bikes I believe, can be rented at the visitors center. In addition, the Park has quite a few archeological sites, with the main ones connected to the fact that it is one of the oldest sites in the world for copper mining. All very interesting. Best to arrive as early as possible, as it can still be quite hot at the time of year you will be there. It is a 20-30 minute drive from Eilat.

2) If birding interests you at all, there is the Eilat Bird Sanctuary. Eilat is smack on a major migratory route between Africa and Europe, and birdwatchers come here from all over the world.

3) Another quite big attraction is the Underwater Sea Observatory. Might not compare to similar American sites, but makes for an interesting visit.

4) There is a humble Botanical Garden that can offer you a small refuge from the heat.

5) There are very many walking/hiking desert trails in the general area. All are beautiful, it depends what length and difficulty you want. All are marked out, but some can be a bit scruffy - best to get specific advice for any of them.

6) Broitman is indeed a great bakery - it's in a more run-down spot in the town, but that doesn't make it less worth having a coffee or breakfast there. They've also opened a very good pizzeria right next door ("Fortuna").

7) The cafe/restaurant/store of Kibbutz Neot Semadar is also very recommended. Humble, but quality products. The place also has tours of the kibbutz itself - a very unique type of kibbutz, more on the lines of a social experiment, has a winery and art center, and very beautiful : Neot Semadar.

You might want to consider staying in one of the B&B's in the area. They could be a base, where you could drive into Eilat from. Eilat itself, while having a beautiful bay, is not really an interesting town, and the touristy area of the hotels is a bit of a sore thumb - like many areas like this in the world.

I agree with Pauline about driving through Mitzpe Ramon on the way to or from Eilat - the crater and the drive are very scenic. And the ibex can usually be seen in a routine way.

Beit Shean and the area :
Personally I don't like driving a lot (and in Israel things can be a bit on the Wild West side sometimes in this respect), so you might want to consider getting accommodations in the general area, instead of adding this to your tour of the Kinneret.
A nice panoramic point that can be added there is Kochav HaYarden.

The situation with the re-opening of travel has still not completely stabilized, as you can read from this recent article about the confusion at the airport. As I like to remind Pauline when she gets enthusiastic about the country : this is still the Middle East... ;).

I'm also sending you a PM.
Good luck with the planning!
 
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ItalophileNJ

100+ Posts
Right now, the expectation that Israel will open on July 1 to single foreign tourists without first-degree relatives in Israel is just that, unofficial. It's a big topic on the Trip Advisor Israel Forum (which unlike some TA Forums is a very good source for tracking down information). There have recently been problems with doing the COVID tests at Ben Gurion. The number of Israelis entering before this past Shabbat overwhelmed the testing facilities, etc, etc.
I have my ticket for October, and a hotel reservation, and I am optimistic but wouldn't do anything not refundable. I keep on reading Ha'aretz and checking Times of Israel, reliable sources.
See you there Pauline??
 

Amy

100+ Posts
Thanks, Italophile, nice to hear from you. I read in Ha’aretz this morning that there have been small outbreaks, primarily in schools so some areas are reimposing mask mandates. Hoping this is just a blip. I spoke to a friend who works in the Haifa municipality, she said as far as she knows, things are very much in transition and it may be a while until anything official is announced.

All our lodging reservations are totally cancellable until five days of arrival and flights can be rebooked or used for another trip. Would be great to have some certainty about this trip, but nothing in life is certain, especially these days!
 
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Pauline

Forums Admin
With the help of friends, we’ve booked rental accommodations in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Zichron Yaakov, the north and Galilee when based in Rosh Pina; and a hotel in Eilat.
The Israeli TV show Losing Alice on Apple TV, starring the love interest in season 1 of Shtisel, is partly filmed in Zikhron. We spent 1 1/2 weeks there on a recent trip and I recognise the scenes. The show is very odd though.
 

ItalophileNJ

100+ Posts
Although nothing official yet, the date of opening Israel to individual tourists with neither Israeli citizenship nor first-degree relatives doesn't look likely to be soon. (The last official announcement was August 1 or later.) Those of us who "know" each other through the TA Israel Forum and had been looking forward to and planning an October visits are admitting this is unlikely to happen.
And this is so terrible for the Israelis in the travel business whose whole income has disappeared for going on a year and a half, as well as their ability to do what they love to do in their country.

I've still got my plane reservation and a hotel reservation (but no money committed) but don't really expect to go.
 
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joe

500+ Posts
And this is so terrible for the Israelis in the travel business whose whole income has disappeared for going on a year and a half, as well as their ability to do what they love to do in their country.
That is certainly true for many independent tour guides who cater to foreign tourists, and many tourist attractions that appeal to foreigners, and less to locals.

OTOH, the local hotel industry is apparently doing good business, as Israelis have not been able to travel abroad easily, so all types of accommodations are mostly fully booked on weekends and holidays with domestic vacationers. There are even a lot of complaints about how hotels have been taking advantage of this and raising prices, especially in the more popular destinations (Tel Aviv, Eilat, etc.). Not to mention over-crowding, quite a problem in such a small country. The fact that most Israelis are spending their vacations locally has advantages also for the local businesses, such as restaurants and shopping malls. There is even a shortage of workers in hotels (of course, few Israelis want to work in cleaning, etc., so the industry is reliant on migrant workers - who are happy to have work, even with low pay).

This will probably end when (or if?) the skies open again, and Israelis will return to their preferred destinations in Europe and East Asia, where prices are usually lower, and value offered is perceived as higher - at least to Israelis.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
OTOH, the local hotel industry is apparently doing good business, as Israelis have not been able to travel abroad easily, so all types of accommodations are mostly fully booked on weekends and holidays with domestic vacationers.
The same is going on in the UK. Everyone is traveling locally and countryside places are fully booked. We just spent a week in Wales and it was busy there, plus traffic to and from Wales was bad.

I am sorry to hear that Israel is not opening up to tourists for the fall! I was hoping to do a longer trip there in spring, but I bet things are booking up with all these postponed trips.
 

Amy

100+ Posts
Sadly, we will probably also not be heading to Israel as planned in October. From hearing the frustrating bureaucratic hurdles that family members have had to go through to visit first degree relatives, I don't see an easy entry for tourists even when Israel does reopen. It would not surprise me to see a surge in cases after the holidays in September, and then further clampdowns.
 

joe

500+ Posts
Hi @Amy - I know that this might not be the best time for your travel plans, but if the option is still on the table, then you might consider doing the trip in spite of the difficulties. I think that the statement that "people will have to learn to live side-by-side with the virus" has some merit. No one is certain if things will ever get back to the previous "normal", and the question now is : how much do we want to get back to our "regular" activities in spite of this new situation, it being a sort of compromise between "ideal" and "real".

I don't know about all the technicalities related to entry and exit of countries, but here in Israel, at least, daily life is pretty much the best it has been since the start of the epidemic, and in many ways similar to pre-Covid times. If I enter a very crowded store, or board a bus, I put on a mask - but that's about it. I've been to two big family events in the past two months - nothing bad happened (except for the loud music ;)). My daughter just came back from a short trip to Italy, after not travelling since the start of the epidemic - she returned very happy with the vacation.

It's true that it's still hard to know what the situation will be like in another couple of months - but if your cancellation policy allows, it won't hurt to hold on for a while. There is no telling if the situation will be better - or worse - in six months, or even next year, so traveling in October might just be as good as can realistically be.

Honest disclosure : we have no plans to travel ourselves in the near future.
 

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