“Of all the destinations in the world, for me, Israel occupies a place all its own. The very first tour I ever organized was in 1981 for a group of 200 Holocaust survivors (including my parents, my kids and myself) to Israel. Since then, we’ve sent many, many thousands of travelers all across the world, but I’m especially excited about our newest tour, Discover Israel. As a country, Israel has undergone dramatic changes in the years since my first trip, yet the unique history, spiritual magnitude, innovative energy and miraculous growth of this tiny spot on the map continues to earn its nickname, the miracle on the Mediterranean. You truly have to see it to believe it.” -Peggy M. Goldman, President & CEO, Friendly Planet Travel
To get an idea of what goes into creating a new tour, we sat down with Judy Poliva. Judy is our Product Development Manager, who leads the team responsible for creating our dynamic trips and packages. Check out below for her incredible insights–plus a few insider tips and suggestions!
Q. Introduce yourself and what you do at Friendly Planet Travel.
A. My name is Judy Poliva and I am the Product Development Manager at Friendly Planet Travel. It is my true pleasure to design and create the wonderful tours that we offer to our passengers around the world – and most especially to Israel.
Q. Why do you think people should visit Israel?
A. Israel has something for everyone, no matter your religion or belief. There is something exciting and almost tangible in the air that will touch every visitor. The combination of ancient history and modern ingenuity is amazing.
Q. What stops or experiences on Discover Israel are you most excited about?
A. We’ve been able to include a great mix of classic ancient sites as well as some activities that showcase the modern Israel. It’s very hard to pick! Masada is an exceptional archaeological site. The Bauhaus architecture in Tel Aviv is stunning. We’ve also included an opportunity to visit Yvel Design Center and the Megemeria School where young talented artists, whose parents are recent immigrants from Ethiopia, are being trained in jewelry design and manufacture – this philanthropic effort is a unique experience.
Q. As someone who is really familiar with Israel, what are a few “must do” experiences?
A. I lived in Israel for many years. There are many things that I do every time I go back to visit, and we have included them in our tour. I stroll through the Carmel Market, I float in the Dead Sea, I walk the streets of Tel Aviv, the beautiful sea-side promenade and also along Rothschild Boulevard – a great place to sip a coffee at an outdoor café to people-watch (and dog-watch). I go to Jerusalem and visit the Western Wall, the Israel Museum to marvel at the sculpture garden and the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed. And the food… there is nothing like an Israeli breakfast to start your day. Looking for souvenirs–there are so many ‘one of kind’ hand-made articles to choose from.
Q. What makes Discover Israel stand out from other tours to Israel?
A. This tour allows passengers to experience Israel, visiting the major historical sites but also diving deep into the diversity of Israeli culture today. Learn about start-ups and ground-breaking irrigation technology that allows agriculture in the desert. A kibbutz is a unique way of life found only in Israel, and this tour provides an opportunity to meet with kibbutz members over lunch in their communal dining room. Take a “foodie” tour in Tel Aviv’s open-air Carmel Market, where there is a stall for literally everything and anything! And there is so much more, come on the tour for a trip of a lifetime!
Q. Do you have a favorite food or drink that travelers should be sure to savor?
A. Everyone must try a falafel or a shawarma or both when they visit–I do each time! There are so many kinds of salads with interesting combinations of taste and texture, and every restaurant has its own way of creating new flavor. Israel has many chefs who are innovative, and every meal can be an experience for your taste buds. But I have to say that I always need a few platefuls of Israeli humus with very fresh pita–there is nothing like it anywhere else in the world.
Q. What take-aways are you hoping travelers to Israel will come away with?
A. You cannot return from Israel the same as before your trip. Israel is faith; Israel is history (archaeology everywhere!); Israelis are fun and ready to share their home. But most of all, it’s the experience of how a small country is modern and vibrant, but also very traditional.