On your first trip to Israel everyone knows the must-see locations that they are urged to experience. I’m talking the Kotel, Tel Aviv, Yad VaShem, Masada, the Dead Sea… Yes, these are all incredible (just don’t ask me about my opinions on the Dead Sea because personally I think it is a bit overrated). However, there a lot of places off the beaten path that are just as incredible.
These destinations are easy to fit into your trip no matter how brief. And trust me, you will not regret it. So if you’re looking to escape the tourists and experience a more authentic Israel, here are five places I recommend to put into your itinerary.
An Evening in the Negev
And I am not talking about a cushy hotel in Be’er-Sheva. You have not seen stars until you have seen them in a place as empty and barren as the desert. Trust me, you will gain a new appreciation for our ancestors who wandered throughout the desert for 40 years before making it to Eretz Yisrael.
Get out of your comfort zone a bit with this one. Pitch up a tent and, if you’re patient, maybe you’ll even see a shooting star.
Dialogue in the Dark at the Israeli Children’s Museum in Tel Aviv
Don’t be fooled by the fact that this is an exhibit at a Children’s Museum because Dialogue in the Dark is “eye opening” (see when I did there?) for adults and children alike. This exhibit allows people of sight to experience what it is like for those who are blind. Also, your guide on the tour is a blind person themselves happy to answer any questions about their lives.
Did you already see Dialogue in the Dark? Check out Invitation to Silence!
- Related: Lost Tribe Location: Comikaza
Yad LaKashish in Jerusalem
Struggling to find a place to buy unique gifts while also contributing to a good cause? Look no farther! Yad LaKashish, which translates to Lifeline to the Old, is the perfect place for you. Since 1962, Yad LaKashish has provided hundreds of elderly people living in Jerusalem with opportunities to work creatively while earning a monthly stipend.
This provides the elderly residents with meaningful and engaging work to do to support themselves even as they lose certain abilities as they age. Everything sold in the Yad LaKashish gift shop is made there including kippot, scarves, tallit bags, artwork, and so so much more!
You haven’t seen Israel until you’ve had the chance to live on a Kibbutz. Kibbutzim began with the first immigrants to Israel and is considered one of the only examples of pure socialism in the world. Kibbutz Ketura is the perfect choice for your Kibbutz experience.
For starters, it is on the way to the Negev so it is the perfect place to stop on your way for your evening stargazing in the Negev and to Eilat for some snorkeling. Kibbutz Ketura is unique because it houses an egalitarian synagogue and the Arava Institute which focuses on finding environmental solutions in the Middle East. Do not miss this one!
The SodaStream Factory
If you’ve heard of Israel, you’re probably familiar with SodaStream and may even have one in your home. Never fear if you are like me and think that all sparkling water tastes like TV static, this factory is still a must see.
SodaStream gives an incredible tour and explains the environmental impacts and peacebuilding impacts happening behind the scenes of what I thought was just a cool way to make seltzer! Better yet, they give you a complimentary water bottle as you leave.
All of these places are very easy to incorporate into any first trip to Israel (or if you’ve been already) to your next trip — and trust me, they are all worth it!