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Posts Tagged ‘Discover Israel’

Behind the Scenes: crafting ‘Discover Israel’

“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!

Judy-Israel (1)

Judy visits the incredible sights of Israel with her family

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.

Tower of David, Jerusalem ©Ricardo Tulio Gandelman/Flickr

Tower of David, Jerusalem ©Ricardo Tulio Gandelman/Flickr

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.

Tel Aviv's stunning skyline © Ted Eytan/Flickr

Tel Aviv’s stunning skyline © Ted Eytan/Flickr

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.

Float in the Dead Sea ©Ruth Tate/Flickr

Float in the Dead Sea ©Ruth Tate/Flickr

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.

Traditional Shabbat challah and candles

Traditional Shabbat challah and candles

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!

Plated humus ©StateofIsrael/Flickr

Plated humus ©StateofIsrael/Flickr

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.

Walking along Rothschild Blvd.

Walking along Rothschild Blvd

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.

#FriendlyFiles: Experiencing Jerusalem

One of our newest Sales Team members, Lucy, shares her take on the wonder and adventure that Israel has in store for those who visit. Check out her tips for how to get the most out of your bucket-list trip to this destination!

Israel is much more than a religious destination. It is a country where ancient meets modern. While some travelers visit for a pilgrimage or spiritual awareness, others trek to this small Mediterranean country for the history, architecture, and nightlife–and Israel excels in all of these aspects! My family and I moved to Talpiot, a neighborhood in southeastern Jerusalem, when I was very young. And even after living there for more than 14 years, I still find new ways to fall in love with it every time I return! No matter what drives you to travel to this incredible place, I can promise you will leave awestruck!

Each alleyway has an adventure! Jerusalem Old Arab Quater ©Dan/Flickr

Each alleyway has an adventure! Jerusalem Old Arab Quater ©Dan/Flickr

Get Lost.

“Getting lost” might sound like a silly thing to do in a foreign place, but sometimes those moments are the most memorable! The best place to lose yourself is in Jerusalem’s Old City. With so many narrow alleyways and packed streets, you’re sure to find something unique on every corner. On my most recent trip back, I was exploring and came across a part of the Old City I had never seen before! Despite living there for over a decade, I managed to find myself falling in love with places I’m still discovering.

The smell of spices from a Jerusalem market are not easily forgotten! ©Blues Brother/Flickr

The smell of spices from a Jerusalem market are not easily forgotten! ©Blues Brother/Flickr

Close your eyes and open up your senses.

This is a tip I use regardless of where I am traveling. In a place as vibrant and rich as Jerusalem, closing your eyes and letting your nose and ears experience this new place is just as important. It is a whole different way to experience a nation. When you close your eyes, your ears open up and begin to notice things you may not have before. Have you ever been on vacation and only worn one type of perfume/cologne and the next time you wear it back at home you are suddenly transported back to that vacation? It is known as olfactory memory, and anytime I smell shawarma cooking, I am immediately transported back to the old city, and all these beautiful memories start rushing back.

Small plates of salads, vegetables, pickles, hummus, and more! ©Paolo Mutti/Flickr

Small plates of salads, vegetables, pickles, hummus, and more! ©Paolo Mutti/Flickr

Eat like the locals.

If there’s one thing you should know, it’s that Israelis like to eat! From busy markets to trendy restaurants and everything in between–shopping for and sharing tasty foods are staples of Israel’s rich culture. One of my favorite local dishes is ka’ak with za’atar. Ka’ak translated means street bread, which is a long oval shaped bread coated in sesame seeds, and za’atar is a middle eastern spice blend. This was my favorite afternoon snack to pick up for my walk home. It is best when the za’atar is mixed with olive oil so you can dip the bread in a flavorful oil. I can taste it now just writing about it!

For all you foodie travelers, don’t skip a visit to the Mahane Yehuda Market. This shuk (market) is chock-full of vendors selling cheese, fruits, meats and home goods! Be sure to go on an empty stomach because the local falafel and hummus is a must! If your itinerary has some evening free-time, it’s also a great spot to visit after the vendors have closed down and the market comes alive with tiny bars and restaurants.

And once you’ve picked out your dining spot, be prepared to eat together! It’s not uncommon for local restaurants to serve what’s called a mezze, or a collection of small dishes (such as hummus, salads, pickles, olive oil and pita bread), that everyone samples from together. Sharing a meal together gives everyone a chance to slow down for a moment, take in the bustling surroundings, and really experience the joy of spending time with friends.

Join a local Israeli family for Shabbat ©Sharon Gott/Flickr

Join a local Israeli family for Shabbat ©Sharon Gott/Flickr

Shabbat.

Shabbat for the Jewish faith starts sunset on Friday night and ends sunset on Saturday night. It is a complete day of rest so don’t be surprised to find the streets nearly empty and most vendors closed. According to tradition you are not supposed to work, including the use of electronics. You may even come across elevators that are in Shabbat mode, stopping at every floor so those observing this religious tradition aren’t required to push any buttons! I’m excited that our Discover Israel tour includes sharing in a Shabbat dinner with a local family. They will invite you into their home and you get to witness this unique tradition which includes prayer, candle lighting, blessings, and dinner together.

#FriendlyFiles follows Friendly Planet’s adventurous staff as they travel the world. It is crucial that our team experiences first-hand the sites, hotels, food and transportation so that we know exactly how the trip will feel for our travelers—and to help us as we strive to provide experiences, not sightseeing!