Category Archives: City

Archaeological 12 Day Tour

Tens of thousands of years of history comes alive: see for yourself the ancient civilizations and experience Israel through its rich archaeology. This tour is not clean! You get dirty!! You will visit the archaeological sights from the north to the south of the country. You will help digging in the dust and the mud, go trough water, rivers, pools, desert, stones, ruins … it’s amazing for those who are interested in the archaeology of Israel, see for yourself how people lived thousands, even tens of thousands of years ago.

Itinerary:
Day 1 – Arrival
Day 2 – Jerusalem: Views from Above and Below
Day 3 – Jerusalem: The Jewish Quarter and Museum Treasures
Day 4 – Jerusalem and environs: Monarchs, Matriarchs and Tombs
Day 5 – The Judean Wilderness and the Dead Sea
Day 6 – The Judean Lowlands: hands-on archaeology and the “tel” of Tel Aviv
Day 7 – From the Mediterranean Coast to Galilee
Day 8 – Around the Sea of Galilee
Day 9 – From Dan to the Golan
Day 10 – From the Negev to Eilat
Day 11 – Eilat, Timna Park and Northward
Day 12 – Departure

Places to see:

  • Day 2 – Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, Underground Jerusalem, Western Wall Tunnel, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, City of David, royal palace, Warren’s Shaft, the “water fortress” of the Gihon, Second Temple-era Pool of Siloam, 2,000-year-old street, Jerusalem Archaeological Park, Davidson Visitor Center, Roman destruction, Robinson’s Arch, the Southern Wall, steps to Hulda’s Gates, Davidson Center, Tower of David Museum
  • Day 3 – Jewish Quarter, Hezekiah’s Wall, The Cardo, Herodian Mansions, Burnt House, Israel Museum, Bible Lands Museum
  • Day 4 – Herodium, Rockefeller Museum, Gezer, Megiddo, Jericho, Jerusalem, Kidron Valley, tombs of Absalom, Zechariah, the Sons of Hezir, Hellenistic tomb architecture
  • Day 5 – Qumran National Park, Dead Sea Scrolls, Essenes, wealthy Sadducee manor farm, Massada National Park, Roman siege ramp, Ein Gedi National Park, Dead Sea
  • Day 6 – Beit Govrin National Park, Archaeological Seminars excavation of caves, Hellenistic dwellings, the Sidonian Cave, the Roman amphitheater; Tel Mareshah, Land of Israel Museum, Philistine Tel Kasila, White City
  • Day 7 – Caesarea National Park, Crusader city, Megiddo National Park, Beit She’arim National Park, Talmudic-era catacombs, Acre, Knights Halls, fishermen’s port, Turkish Bath Museum, bazaar and mosque
  • Day 8 – Beit She’an National Park, Decapolis, Bet Shean boasts, mosaics, temples, fountains, pools, a theater, an amphitheater, Tiberias, Hamat Tiberias National Park, Mount Berenice, Capernaum, Bethsaida, Korazim National Park, Moses Seat, a ritual bath
  • Day 9 – Dan Nature Reserve, Dan’s “Abraham Gate”, High Place of Jeroboam, Katzrin, Gamla Nature Reserve, Umm el-Qanatir
  • Day 10 – Be’er-Sheba National Park, Judean monarchy, Avdat National Park, Avdat’s Nabatean temple, The Uvda Valley, Nahal Asharun, Leopard Temple
  • Day 11 – Eilat, Shahmon Site Bronze Age tumuli and temple, Eilot eighth-century Early Islamic village and copper smelting site, Wadi Tawachin, Samar Neolithic desert kites, Dapit Nabatean, Roman caravansary, Evrona eighth-century chain well, Timna Park, Solomon’s Pillars, Late Roman Fortress at Yotvata, Makhtesh Ramon, Nabatean caravansary at Ein Saharonim, Scorpion Ascent, Great Makhtesh and Mamshit National Park

Day 1 Arrival

Airplane

Airplane

This is the day that you arrive in Israel. Well, it’s not the case for those who are already here or who are living in Israel.

For those who are arriving in Israel, will be picked up from the airport by the guide and driver from Shalom Israel.

Bus

Bus

For those, who ordered the hotels, they will be driven by bus to their hotel and for this tour it means Jerusalem.

During the drive to your hotel, the bus will stop multiple times if the group requires so. One stop is for stretching your legs and to be fed real food and drink. That is included in the tour! So, please don’t spend your money on that.


Day 2  – Jerusalem: Views from Above and Below

Places: Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, Underground Jerusalem, Western Wall Tunnel, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, City of David, royal palace, Warren’s Shaft, the “water fortress” of the Gihon, Second Temple-era Pool of Siloam, 2,000-year-old street, Jerusalem Archaeological Park, Davidson Visitor Center, Roman destruction, Robinson’s Arch, the Southern Wall, steps to Hulda’s Gates, Davidson Center, Tower of David Museum

This spiritually significant mountain is also the place for a bird’s-eye view of Jerusalem’s topography and for understanding how it grew through the ages.

Underground Jerusalem including:

The Western Wall Tunnel – the original Western Wall of Herod’s Temple Mount over which Jerusalem of later eras was constructed, walking along 1,445 feet of the original, enormous 2,000-year-old Herodian stones, seeing the lofty Warren’s Gate, a street and other finds, and a fascinating interactive model. You are still in the city and you don’t start digging or rolling in the mud … yet.Western Wall Tunnel

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre – most of the complex over the sacred ground marking the tomb of Jesus is a complicated combination of medieval and Byzantine architecture. The thing with this tour is that we browse somewhat through the church, but then we dive under the ground.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Tomb

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Tomb

Deep below the surface are remains going back to a First Temple-era stone quarry and the world-famous and rarely viewed “ship inscription,”  probably carved by long-ago pilgrims. All kind of stories are about this and the guide will tell them all.

You will visit the City of David – King David’s “fortress of Zion” (2. Sam. 5:7), looking at the ongoing excavations include a royal palace, the Warren’s Shaft, the “water fortress” of the Gihon (1 Kings 1:33), the Second Temple-era Pool of Siloam (John 9:7) and a 2,000-year-old street that once led up to the Temple. The stories what we can tell about all of those excavations!

City of David

We visit the Jerusalem Archaeological Park and the Davidson Visitor Center – a “still-life” of the original Herodian street (FYI), the revealing Roman destruction, the Robinson’s Arch, the Southern Wall and steps to Hulda’s Gates; and in the Davidson Center – in the basement of an eighth-century-CE palace – its virtual-reconstruction, high-definition interactive model.

Tower of David

We will not forget the Tower of David Museum – located at the Jaffa Gate inside the rooms of Jerusalem’s Turkish citadel, abutting the huge tower which despite its name was constructed by Jerusalem’s master-builder, Herod.  Each of the many rooms features exhibits devoted to a different time-period, clarifying the capital’s complex history.

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Jerusalem.


Day 3 – Jerusalem: The Jewish Quarter and Museum Treasures

Places: Jewish Quarter, Hezekiah’s Wall, The Cardo, Herodian Mansions, Burnt House, Israel Museum, Bible Lands Museum

Old City Jewish Quarter

The Jewish Quarter is amazing to visit. This part of the city Jerusalem has it’s own beauty and it’s root in the thousands of years of history. There is not much changed over the more then two thousands of years.
We will see the Hezekiah’s Wall – part of the First Temple-era city wall built over Jerusalem’s homes (Isa. 22:10) to protect the city against Assyrian invaders, and which finally fell to the Babylonians. You will hear the exciting story about the the Assyrian invaders.

The Cardo

The Cardo

The Cardo – Jerusalem’s main street in the Byzantine and medieval eras, its colonnades and arched chambers now restored as a commercial center and archaeological display.

The Herodian Mansions – restored as a living museum beneath contemporary buildings, with remnants of the fine homes, mosaics, implements of daily life and architecture of the city’s wealthy class before the destruction of the Temple.

The Burnt House – the basement of a Jerusalem home revealing dramatic evidence of the Katros family who probably lived and worked here, and of Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 CE. An audiovisual presentation offers a powerful version of the family’s story.

Burnt House

Burnt House

The Israel Museum – the museum’s Archaeology Wing displays rare and world-famous finds from pre-historic times to the Byzantine/Talmudic era; the Shrine of the Book, houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest copies of the Old Testament ever found and the famed 1:50 Model of Second Temple Jerusalem.

Bible Lands Museum – a unique collection of ancient treasures mirroring the powerful cultures of Bible days including the Egyptians, the Hittites, the Philistines the Assyrians and others who left their mark on the region and in Scripture.

Bible Lands Museum

Bible Lands Museum

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Jerusalem.


Day 4 – Jerusalem and environs: Monarchs, Matriarchs and Tombs

Places: Herodium, Rockefeller Museum, Gezer, Megiddo, Jericho, Jerusalem, Kidron Valley, tombs of Absalom, Zechariah, the Sons of Hezir, Hellenistic tomb architecture

Herodium

Herodium

We will visit the amazing Herodium. Herod the Great created this artificial mountain, which he topped with a palace-fortress. Archaeologists have also discovered, huge cisterns, a “playground” pool at the base of the mound, and hideouts for Bar Kokhba’s warriors and, recently the grand, long-sought tomb of the king himself. And we will visit them as well.

We can’t forget the Rockefeller Museum – an architectural monument in its own right, this grand 1930s-era complex houses finds from some of the great early excavations – Gezer, Megiddo, Jericho, Jerusalem and many others.

And then we have the Kidron Valley – Jerusalem’s famed Mount of Olives cemetery began here over 2,000 years ago, when the monumental tombs of Absalom, Zechariah and the Sons of Hezir were built, some of the finest examples of Hellenistic tomb architecture in the world.

Rockefeller

Rockefeller

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Jerusalem.


Day 5 – The Judean Wilderness and the Dead Sea

Places: Qumran National Park, Dead Sea Scrolls, Essenes, wealthy Sadducee manor farm, Massada National Park, Roman siege ramp, Ein Gedi National Park, Dead Sea

Qumran National Park

Qumran National Park

Now it’s going to get warm for everyone, because we are going into the desert. The first on our list is the Qumran National Park- the ruins on the plateau in sight of the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered are an enigma wrapped in a mystery – were they the home of the Essenes who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, a wealthy Sadducee manor farm. We will visit the caves where they found several of the Dead Sea scrolls. Be aware, it will be warm and dusty and we need good shoes for climbing.

Masada National Park

Masada National Park

We can’t skip the Masada National Park – Herod’s magnificent fortress, with its palaces, bathhouses and ramparts was also the scene of the last stand of the Jews against the Romans in the Great Revolt, attested to by a huge Roman siege ramp and other finds. The combination of its dramatic story and its fabulous architecture and finds has won it recognition as a World Heritage Site.

Caves of Ein Gedi

Caves of Ein Gedi

The Ein Gedi National Park – a walk through an oasis, and the remains of a thriving Talmudic town. Its synagogue mosaic bears a mysterious warning not to reveal “the secret”- perhaps the manufacturing process of perfume from the now-extinct balsam plant that once grew here. We will here be able to cool of our feet and get some much needed relaxation.

Dead Sea

Dead Sea

The Dead Sea – a rejuvenating rinse-off of the dust of the generations in the lowest, most mineral-rich lake on earth. For those who want to have a mud-bath, here is your change.

At the end of the day we go to our hotel near the Dead Sea.


Day 6 – The Judean Lowlands: hands-on archaeology and the “tel” of Tel Aviv

Places: Beit Govrin National Park, Archaeological Seminars excavation of caves, Hellenistic dwellings, the Sidonian Cave, the Roman amphitheater; Tel Mareshah, Land of Israel Museum, Philistine Tel Kasila, White City

Beit Govrin National Park

Beit Govrin National Park

Beit Govrin National Park including an Archaeological Seminars excavation of caves that once lay beneath Hellenistic dwellings; the Sidonian Cave, the Roman amphitheater; Tel Mareshah – a city fortified by King Rehoboam of Judah (2 Chron. 11:8) and more.

Tel Aviv –
Land of Israel Museum, with its exhibit of antiquities and contemporary traditional cultures, is itself located next to an ancient mound that is part of the experience – the Philistine Tel Kasila.

Header Tel Aviv

Header Tel Aviv

The White City – an evening tour of Tel Aviv’s early-20th century Bauhaus monuments that have earned recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will make a small tour through this city, which claims never to sleep. We will see and witness if it is indeed true.

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Tel Aviv.


Day 7 – From the Mediterranean Coast to Galilee

Places: Caesarea National Park, Crusader city, Megiddo National Park, Beit She’arim National Park, Talmudic-era catacombs, Acre, Knights Halls, fishermen’s port, Turkish Bath Museum, bazaar and mosque

Caesarea in Israel

Caesarea in Israel

The Queen of the Coast, Caesarea National Park. It was Herod’s showcase city, including the amphitheater; the theater; Byzantine walls; the “bird mosaic”; the Crusader city, the aqueduct and more.

Tel Megiddo

Megiddo was a site of great importance in the ancient world. It guarded the western branch of a narrow pass and trade route connecting Egypt and Assyria. Because of its strategic location, Megiddo was the site of several historical battles. The site was inhabited from approximately 7000 BC to 586 BCE

Megiddo National Park – King Solomon’s regional capital (1 Kings 9:15), Megiddo’s fortifications, water system, palaces, stables and dwellings spanning thousands of years and its great biblical significance have made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Beit She’arim National Park – Talmudic-era catacombs with huge, decorated stone sarcophagi, where sages and leaders from across the ancient world were laid to rest, are just part of the fascinating antiquities of this city, one of the places where the Sanhedrin had its headquarters.

Acre – this medieval gem on the Mediterranean retains a 900-year-old urban plan. The capital of the Crusaders after the fall of Jerusalem, Acre’s ramparts overlooking the sea, its Knights Halls, fishermen’s port, Turkish Bath Museum, bazaar and mosque over a gigantic medieval water cistern have all contributed to this city’s selection as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Akko (Acre)

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Acre or Tiberias.


Day 8 – Around the Sea of Galilee

Places: Beit She’an National Park, Decapolis, Bet Shean boasts, mosaics, temples, fountains, pools, a theater, an amphitheater, Tiberias, Hamat Tiberias National Park, Mount Berenice, Capernaum, Bethsaida, Korazim National Park, Moses Seat, a ritual bath

Beit She'an National Park

Beit She’an National Park

Beit She’an National Park – the biblical mound containing remains of the city to which the Philistines brought the bodies of Saul and his three sons (1 Sam. 31:10), and capital of the Greco-Roman alliance of cities known as the Decapolis, Bet Shean boasts colonnaded streets, mosaics, temples, fountains, pools, a theater, an amphitheater and more.

Tiberias – The present-day capital of the Sea of Galilee, built by Herod Antipas and once the headquarters of the Sanhedrin, ancient Tiberias is now undergoing excavation that will one day reveal in all their glory its market streets, colonnades, theater and more treasures.

Hamat Tiberias National Park

Hamat Tiberias National Park

Visit the dig, as well as Hamat Tiberias National Park – the remains of a magnificent synagogue mosaic and Mount Berenice – the Anchor Church.

Capernaum – the first of the three cities of the “evangelical triangle” (including Bethsaida and Korazim) to return from historical oblivion, with Byzantine and Roman remains of a synagogue, a church and dwellings that raise many interesting questions and illustrate New Testament stories.

Bethsaida – excavations are underway of the Roman city that figured centrally in the ministry of Jesus, and of huge remains of the biblical city of Geshur, hometown of David’s wife Maacah (2 Sam. 3:3).

Korazim National Park – an early Talmudic-era synagogue that is interesting to compare to Capernaum’s, with the replica of its original Moses Seat, a ritual bath, dwellings and other elements that bring alive Talmudic descriptions of community life.

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Tiberias.


Day 9 – From Dan to the Golan

Places: Dan Nature Reserve, Dan’s “Abraham Gate”, High Place of Jeroboam, Katzrin, Gamla Nature Reserve, Umm el-Qanatir

Dan Nature Reserve

Dan Nature Reserve

Dan Nature Reserve – one of the finest examples of a biblical city and the capital of the Northern Kingdom, Dan’s “Abraham Gate” (Gen. 14:14) is the second-oldest arch in the world. Also visit the Israelite gateway and the High Place of Jeroboam in their tranquil Dan River setting.

Katzrin – a Talmudic-era Golan Heights village, Katzrin’s reconstructed house and synagogue create a three-dimensional perspective on ancient life.

Gamla Nature Reserve – called “the Massada of the north” because of Josephus’ description of its famous last stand, a hike leads to Gamla, which boasts remains of the earliest synagogue ever found, ramparts that held back the Romans, and olive presses that were the town’s livelihood.

Gamla Nature Reserve

Umm el-Qanatir – a Talmudic-era town with unusual synagogue remains and unique finds, this site is now undergoing excavation using cutting-edge techniques and technology.

Gamla Nature Reserve

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Tiberias or Haifa.


Day 10 – From the Negev to Eilat

Places: Be’er-Sheba National Park, Judean monarchy, Avdat National Park, Avdat’s Nabatean temple, The Uvda Valley, Nahal Asharun, Leopard Temple

Be'er-Sheba National Park

Be’er-Sheba National Park

Be’er-Sheba National Park – this city that Abraham founded (Gen. 21:31) marked the southern border of biblical Israel (1 Sam. 3:20). Beersheba also shows fascinating evidence of urban planning from the time of the Judean monarchy, a unique water system and other finds that, along with its biblical significance, have accorded Beersheba a place on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites?.

Avdat National Park – an important stop on the Incense Route, and a World Heritage Site, Avdat’s Nabatean temple, which was converted into a church, reveals a fabulous Negev panorama, while its wine-press reveals the inhabitants’ uncanny skill at cultivating the desert and ancient private dwellings and tombs complete the picture.

Ein Avdat

The Uvda Valley – containing over 150 prehistoric and early settlement sites, including the Nahal Asharun site and the Leopard Temple.

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Eilat.


Day 11 – Eilat, Timna Park and Northward

Places: Eilat, Shahmon Site Bronze Age tumuli and temple, Eilot eighth-century Early Islamic village and copper smelting site, Wadi Tawachin, Samar Neolithic desert kites, Dapit Nabatean, Roman caravansary, Evrona eighth-century chain well, Timna Park, Solomon’s Pillars, Late Roman Fortress at Yotvata, Makhtesh Ramon, Nabatean caravansary at Ein Saharonim, Scorpion Ascent, Great Makhtesh and Mamshit National Park

Eilat

Eilat

Eilat – best known for its contemporary attractions as Israel’s Red Sea Riviera,  Eilat and its environs also boast a selection of off-the-beaten track archaeological sites, among them: the Shahmon Site Bronze Age tumuli and temple; the Eilot eighth-century Early Islamic village and copper smelting site; the Wadi Tawachin grinding site (possibly for gold); the Samar Neolithic desert kites (ancient gazelle-hunting traps); the Dapit Nabatean and Roman caravansary; the Evrona eighth-century chain well and farmhouse and more.

Timna National Park

Timna Park – a geological and archaeological wonderland including an ancient copper-mine shaft; Solomon’s Pillars – a natural formation featuring a carving of the goddess Hathor and Hathor’s shrine; the chariot carving and the multimedia presentation “The Mines of Time” and even an artificial lake.

Timna National Park

We head north on road 90 via the Late Roman Fortress at Yotvata, and then via road 13 to Makhtesh Ramon, seeing Roman milestones and the Nabatean caravansary at Ein Saharonim, or via the dramatic

Scorpion Ascent

Scorpion Ascent

Scorpion Ascent (on road 227) following an ancient Roman route across the Negev to the Great Makhtesh and Mamshit National Park, a well-preserved Nabatean city along the UNESCO World Heritage List Incense Route, including a market, a bathhouse, early churches, mosaics and more.

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Eilat.


Day 12 – Departure

This is the day of the departure. We bring everyone back to the point where we picked them up.

Capernaum – the town which was cursed by Jesus

Ruins of the synagogue in Capernaum.
Ruins of the synagogue in Capernaum. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Capernaum was a fishers town with about 1,500 people living there, and it was the home of the first disciples Jesus called — the fishermen Peter, Andrew, James and John, and the tax collector Matthew (who as Levi collected taxes in the customs office).

In this town, Jesus worshiped and taught in the synagogue — where his teaching made a deep impression on the local people because, unlike the scribes, he taught with authority. (Mark 1:21-22), and healed many people of illness or possession by the devil, including Peter’s mother-in-law and the daughter of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue, and pronounced a curse on the town, along with Bethsaida and Chorazin, because so many of its inhabitants refused to believe in him. He said “You shall be brought down to Hell,” (Matthew 11:23) because of their lack of response to his mighty works.

James Tissot He Did No Miracles But He Healed Them
James Tissot He Did No Miracles But He Healed Them

Because of that curse, the town did not survive and fell into ruin. A 3rd-century report called the town “despicable; it numbers only seven houses of poor fishermen”. It was later resettled but again fell into disrepair. The ruins lay undiscovered until 1838, when a visiting scholar gave this description: “The whole place is desolate and mournful . . . .

Capernaum synagogue
Capernaum synagogue

Today an ultra-modern Catholic church, perched on eight sturdy pillars, hovers protectively over an excavation site. It is believed to have been the site of Peter’s house, where Jesus would have lodged.

Near the church, a partly reconstructed synagogue is believed to have been built on the foundations of the synagogue in which Jesus taught.

Erected in the 4th or 5th centuries, this impressive structure with ornately carved decorations is the largest synagogue discovered in Israel. One Sabbath, Jesus taught in the synagogue in Capernaum and healed a man who had the spirit of an unclean devil. Afterwards, he healed a fever in Simon Peter’s mother-in-law. According to Luke 7:1–10, it is also the place where a Roman Centurion asked Jesus to heal his servant.

The original name for Capenaum was Kfar Nahum, which means Nahum’s village in Hebrew, but no connection with the prophet Nahum.

In 1986 the water of the lake reached an unusually low point. At that time, an ancient fishing boat was discovered. Radio-carbon dating of the wood points to 120BC-AD40, while the pottery found in or near the boat can be dated from 100BC-AD200.

Kibbuz Ginnossar, Yigal Allon Center
Kibbuz Ginnossar, Yigal Allon Center (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As it seems likely that the boat was built of re-used timbers, the preferred date is first century AD. The vessel was 8 meters long and was preserved in the mud of the lake. After a difficult unearthing process that had to be completed before the water rose again, the excavated boat was put on display in its modern-day position near the kibbutz Ginosar as The Sea of Galilee Boat.


Embed from Getty Images

 

Ramla, the City with the Colorful Markets

It’s not quite as old as nearby Jaffa – history here stretches back ‘only’ 1300 years – but Ramla’s bustling market, underground pools and crumbling Islamic architecture make it an interesting half-day trip from Tel Aviv. Try to visit on a Wednesday, when the market is at its busiest and most colorful. Map.

Ramla
Ramla

Established in 716 CE by the Umayyid caliph Suleiman, Ramla (spot of sand) was a stopover on the road from Egypt to Damascus. Prior to the arrival of the Crusaders in the 11th century, it was Palestine’s capital and it maintained its importance in the Middle Ages as the first stop for the Jerusalem-bound pilgrims who came ashore at Jaffa. Following the 1948 Arab–Israeli War the majority of the Arab population were expelled or fled and was replaced by poor Jewish immigrants, mainly from Asia (eg India) and North Africa. It’s now a friendly mix of Arabs (20%) and Jews (80%).

A joint ticket for the Ramla Museum, White Tower and Pool of Al-Anazia costs 22/25NIS adult/concession and can be purchased at the museum. The museum acts as the town’s de facto tourist information centre. For information, see the municipality’s Goramla (http://en.goramla.com) website.

Pool of Al-Anazia (HaHaganah St; adult/concession 14/12NIS; 8am-4pm Sat-Thu, to 2pm Fri, to 6pm Wed & Thu Jun-Aug ) Map.
The name means ‘Pool of Arches’, a reference to the majestic stone structures in this underground 8th century reservoir. The most significant structure left from the Abbasid period, it is sometimes called the Pool of St Helena in reference to a Christian idea that the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine I, ordered its construction. Visitors explore the structure by rowboat.

Pool of the Arches - Ramla
Pool of the Arches – Ramla

Ramla Museum (08-929 2650; 112 Herzl Ave; adult/concession 12/10NIS; 10am-4pm Sun-Thu, to 1pm Fri ) Map.
Housed in a building dating from the British Mandate, this small museum provides an overview of the town’s history. Exhibits include locally excavated gold coins from the 8th to 15th century CE, a collection of traditional products of Arab soap manufacture from the beginning of the 20th century and a display on the 1948 Arab–Israeli War in and around Ramla.

White Tower (Danny Mass St; adult/concession 10/9NIS; 8am-4pm Sat-Thu, to 2pm Fri ) Map.
Experts can’t agree whether this 14th-century tower was built as a minaret or a watch tower. One indisputable fact is that the 30m-high structure was built as an addition to the 8th-century White Mosque (Jamaa al-Abiad), of which only traces remain. The site includes three now-dry cisterns and the shrine of Nabi Salih, an ancient prophet mentioned in the Quran.

Ramla
Ramla

Great Mosque (Al-Umari Mosque; 08-922 5081; admission 7NIS) Map.
Though it doesn’t look particularly impressive from the outside, this is one of the few Crusader buildings in Israel & the Palestinian Territories to have survived almost completely intact. Erected in the 12th century as a Christian church, it was converted into a mosque in the 13th century and the minaret and mihrab (prayer niche facing Mecca) were added at this time. Visits are by appointment only.

Church of St Nicodemus & St Joseph of Arimathea (08-912 7200; cnr Bialik St & Herzl Ave; 9am-noon Mon-Fri)
Constructed in the 19th century on a site that Christians believe to be the site of biblical Arimathea, the hometown of Joseph, this Franciscan church has a distinctive square bell tower and a painting above the altar that is attributed to Titian (The Deposition from the Cross). To visit, you’ll need to call ahead.

Food

Samir Restaurant (08-922 0195; 7 Kehlat Detroit St; mains 40-90NIS; 8am-7pm Mon-Thu & Sat, to 6pm Fri ) Map.
The clock turns back several centuries in historic Samir, an old Arab family-run restaurant hidden in a dusty backstreet behind the market and set in a refurbished Turkish house. It has an English menu and serves various meat kebabs, dips (try the excellent hummus), falafel and salads.

Transport

There are trains to Ramla (map) (13NIS, 25 minutes) from Tel Aviv departing every 20 minutes throughout the day. Buses 450 and 451 depart from Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station every 20 minutes (14.90NIS, 40 minutes).

Netanya, the Israeli Riviera

The self-titled ‘Israeli Riviera’ offers 12km of the finest sandy beaches in Israel & the Palestinian Territories, while the town itself exudes a rather strange, time-warp feeling, almost like an out-of season French seaside resort. It’s popular with families, who flock to the spacious promenade with its parks, flower beds and water features. As at Herzliya, the beaches are a favorite with visiting European (especially French and Russian) tourists but are far less crowded than those of Tel Aviv. In August or September, the town has the dubious distinction of hosting the annual two-day Netanya International Clown Festival.

Netanya
Netanya

Israelis come from all over to enjoy Netanya’s expansive golden beaches. There are lifeguards on duty, plus changing rooms, showers, lounge chairs and umbrellas. HaRishonim Promenade, the cliff above the beach, is great for strolling and sea views. From here you can even take an elevator down to the beach.

Netanya
Netanya

Food

Shtampfer (6 Shtampfer St; dishes 45-70NIS; h9am-2am)
Named after one of the founders of the city of Petah Tikva, Shtampfer is located in the center of town and attracts a lively multinational crowd, who can be found chatting on the large patio or in the upstairs dining area. The menu runs from fruit shakes and salads to pastas and stir-fries. In the evening it morphs into a bar.

Marrakesh (09-833 4797; 5 David Hamelech St; mains 60-125NIS; noon-midnight Sun-Thu, noon-3.30pm Fri, 8pm-midnight Sat )
Tuck into tasty tagines, couscous and meat dishes in this kosher Moroccan restaurant near the seafront. The building is a cross between a giant tagine pot and a Bedouin tent; inside it is decorated with exotic lanterns and comfy cushions.

Information

Tourist Office (09-882 7286; http://www.gonetanya.com; Ha’Atzmaut Sq 12; 8.30am-4pm Sun-Thu, 9am-noon Fri )
This office is housed in a kiosk at the southwestern corner of Ha’Atzmaut Sq. The square itself has recently had an interactive makeover, and its central fountain now includes a huge metal ball with a hidden water screen and lights that are synchronised with music – all very disco-swish. In the square, visitors can use information corners that include touch screens imparting information about places to visit and activities taking place around the city.

Netanya
Netanya

Transport

Nateev Express buses (600, 601 and 605, 10.50NIS, 30 minutes) run roughly every 15 minutes to and from Tel Aviv’s Central Bus Station and the Arlozorov Bus Station. Trains to/from Tel Aviv run twice an hour (16NIS, 25 minutes) but stop 2.5km west of the city center

, on the western side of Hwy 2.