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A guide’s guide to a less-familiar Israel
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A guide’s guide to a less-familiar Israel

Off-the-beaten track with tour expert and writer Mike Rogoff

Mike Rogoff, a senior writer for Fodor’s Guide to Israel, has been exploring Israel’s byways and sharing his passion with visitors since even before he became an official tour guide through Israel’s Ministry of Tourism in 1974. In 1983 the ministry honored Rogoff with its Guide of the Year award.

On Friday, Sept. 20, he will speak at Temple Ner Tamid in Bloomfield during Friday night services. Ahead of his talk, NJJN asked him to share his favorite but often missed places to visit in Israel.

For first-timers or repeat visitors, here are a few lesser-known sites he thinks should be included on your (next) trip to Israel.

Jerusalem — We assume the Western Wall, Jewish Quarter, and Yad Vashem. Now try the Museum of Italian Jewish Art in the downtown area, a heartbeat away from Ben-Yehuda Street (ijamuseum.org). The permanent exhibition, titled “Made in Italy: the Material Side of Spiritual Objects,” introduces the visitor to one of the oldest surviving Jewish communities in the world through its artifacts in metal, wood, fabrics, and parchment.

Jaffa — The flea market once offered little more than grungy displays of third-hand furniture, plumbing, and clothing and a couple of narrow lanes of colorful, more interesting fabrics, ethnic bric-a-brac, and fake designer jeans. Those still exist, but the market has been transformed. The city imposed some kind of order on the chaos, and boutiques of designer jewelry, fashion accessories, ceramics, and more have sprung up alongside coffee shops and the occasional funky restaurant. (It’s an easy walk from Old Jaffa.)

Tel Dan — Located on the largest of the Jordan River tributaries, at the northern extremity of Israel, this is a “twofer”: a beautiful nature reserve of greenery and rivulets, and one of the country’s largest biblical sites. The thoughtful traveler will delight in the evocative ruins of the far-distant past: an elaborate city gate from the time of King Ahab (ninth century BCE); the actual “high place” for religious ritual mentioned in the Bible (1 Kings 12); and, oldest of all, an 18th-century BCE Canaanite gate, one of the earliest known arched structures in the world.

Ein Avdat — Water is supremely precious in a thirsty region such as ours; to find it in the wilderness is a miracle. At Sde Boker in the Negev Desert, far below Ben-Gurion’s gravesite, is a deep chalk canyon carved out by eons of winter rains. A little spring (the literal meaning of “ein”) keeps the trickle of water alive and the small pools full year-round. You may be lucky enough to see the occasional family of ibex or wild goats high up the cliff face. (Herds of rambunctious teenagers are a less fortunate occurrence, but they’re often seasonal.) The hale and hearty can climb the cliff trail at the head of the canyon while a designated driver returns to the car and drives to the park exit further south.

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