Whether you’ve been to Israel many times or planning your first trip, there’s always something more to see, “beyond the tour bus.” And so we asked for recommendations from the experts – veteran travelers, mission leaders, members of the Federation staff and partner agencies – posing the question: When you have a free hour or two or a free day to yourself, where do you go? What are your favorite spots or memories of Israel?

Hula Valley Nature Preserve
Hula Valley Nature Preserve

The Hula Valley Nature Reserve

“It is an amazing slice of nature and is in the migratory pathway of millions of birds every year. Located in the northeastern portion of Israel, the reserve is so peaceful and has the most beautiful views of mountains in the distance (Golan Heights to the East and the Naftali Mountains to the West).” – Nancy Siegel Heinrich, President, Jewish Family Life
“It’s magical. There are raised wooden paths through the wet lands and over-your-head weeds and willows. I remember pine trees and picnic tables and a cool tiny interactive movie theatre explaining the significance of the place. –Stacey Crane, Director, Director, Jewish Community Endowment Fund

Partnership Region of the Central Galilee

“Home hospitality in our Partnership Region is always the Israel highlight for me.” –Douglas Bloom,President, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit.

Rugelach_Marzipan Bakery
Best rugelach in the world!

The Coffee Bar

“One of my favorite restaurants in Tel Aviv! Don’t be deceived by the name; the Coffee Bar is neither a cafe nor a bar, it’s actually a wonderful Bistro.” Susan Kamin, Director of Special Projects and Events, Jewish Federation

Marzipan Bakery

“Of all of the wonderful things to do in Israel – specifically, in Jerusalem – there’s one thing I wouldn’t miss for the world. It is the single best bite of food I’ve ever had. My favorite pilgrimage in Israel to go to Machane Yehuda, the bustling “Shuk” (market) in Jerusalem. Go to Aggripas Street and you’ll find the Marzipan Bakery, whose chocolate rugelach are, in and of themselves, worth the plane ticket to Israel. They are rich, decadent, sublime and gooey. There is no better Shabbat dinner dessert, nor a better breakfast after a full day of shopping at the market. (I could go on more, but I’m hungry.)” –Eric Adelman, Executive Director, BBYO

Emek Rafaim

Outdoor dining on Emek Rafaim
Outdoor dining on Emek Rafaim

“I love having dinner outdoors on Emek Rafaim in the the German Colony (the “SoHo” of Jerusalem) followed by shopping at Sheshet and the local shops there.” – Karen Kaplan, Associate Director, Israel and Overseas, Jewish Federation

Beit Ticho

“One of my favorite places is a restaurant in Jerusalem called Beit Ticho, the Ticho House in Jerusalem, which was the former home of artist Anna Ticho, and has some of her art displayed upstairs. The food is great and the courtyard and home are lovely – very civilized.” – Linda Blumberg, Director, Planning and Agency Relations, Jewish Federation

The Haas Promenade

View from Haas Promenade

Among my favorites are the Haas Promenade overlook (Tayelet) of Jerusalem, the Gan HaShlosha National Park,(also known as Sachne), with its natural swimming pools (near Kibbutz Nir David) and the oasis and “David’s” Waterfall near Kibbutz Ein Gedi. And don’t miss: the view from a former Syrian bunker on the Golan, overlooking the Galilee, the falafel in Afula – the best in the country, pizza by the slice on the streets of Haifa – the best in the country, and last, but not least, the “blanket of stars” seen at night at any kibbutz.” – Allan Gale, Associate Director, Jewish Community Relations Council

Bahai Garden Terraces

“The Bahai Gardens in Haifa are breathtaking! A must-go! Or walk along the beach in Tel Aviv. Just staring into the sea is relaxing – re-JEW-vinating. There’s nothing like the sound of waves crashing against the sea.” – Lisa Soble Siegmann, Associate Director, JEFF and Informal Eduction, Jewish Federation’s Alliance

Austrian Hospice

Austrian Hospice, Jerusalem

“This is a little gem tucked away in the Muslim Quarter. We went there for the incredible view – one of the best overlooking the Old City. We sat on the terrace and enjoyed wonderful cappuccino, fantastic apple strudel (amazing) and sacher torte. We spent a tranquil half hour eating and drinking on the patio, enjoying the beautiful shaded garden and flowering trees.” Susie Feldman,Senior Endowment Development Manager, Jewish Federation

Café Suzanna in Tel Aviv

“In Tel Aviv’s fashionable neighborhood, Neve Tzedek, Cafe Suzanna is a perfect spot for a quiet escape. There’s a giant tree in front that provides shade when you are sitting on the patio. The tree and the narrow street make me feel like I’m in the Tel Aviv that I imagine existed in the 50’s. They serve the most delicious chraime – a Moroccan fish dish that I order every time I’m there.” Miryam Rosenzweig, Director, NEXTGen, Jewish Federation

The Kinneret Cemetery

“Combining charming views and historic tales, located near the Sea of Galilee, the Kinneret Cemetery is the site for the grave of Rachel, the poetess. Another suggestion: Rosh Pinah, a town in the Upper Galilee, the first agricultural settlement funded by the Rothschilds. Also, I recall a beautiful shop for Judaica in Jerusalem: Baltinestra Brothers Jewelry on Jaffa.” – Sharon Alterman, Director, Jewish Community Archive, Federation

Gamla Nature Reserve

Gamla Nature Reserve

“My top spots include Gamla Nature Reserve at sunset – watching the eagles return to their nests in this special Roman outpost area on the Golan Heights, the Carmel Forest Spa, a relaxing, beautiful old hotel/spa with unbelievably good food in the mountains Southeast of Haifa. Ma’aleh Akrabim – “The Scorpion’s Ascent” – a crazy-steep (17 – 20% grade) road with 23 switchbacks between Dimona and Eilat in the middle of nowhere in The Negev. I cycled down and up for the Alyn Hospital Wheels of Love ride in 2010. It will always be one of the most special memories in Israel for me: Challenge Day Three! Alyn Hospital – (Jerusalem) amazing and loving rehabilitation care is given at this haven to Jewish and non-Jewish children who have chronic physical disabilities from either illness or injury.” -David Contorer,Executive Director, Hebrew Free Loan Association

David, Challenge Day Three on the Scorpion’s Ascent

The Lilith Project in Tel Aviv

“We arranged for a visit by Wayne State travelers to Lilith, a gourmet restaurant in Tel Aviv that is a project for youth who have dropped out of the educational system. The restaurant trains them to be cooks, waiters, managers, purchasing agents and all other tasks connected to a restaurant. A social worker addressed the group to explain the workings of this very worthwhile project. I was told it was very moving, and the food was great.” -Robert Cohen, Executive Director, Jewish Community Council

Eucalyptus in Jerusalem

“I used to love the Eucalyptus restaurant in Jerusalem. Great fresh food from Israel and the Bible. Try googling them.” -Mark Lit, Executive Director, Jewish Community Center of Metropolitan Detroit

Gan Hapaamon Liberty Bell Park in Jerusalem

“I like to just hang out and relax at Gan Hapaamon (Bell Park) near the Inbal Hotel. I also love to go to Marzipan Bakery in Machane Yehuda (Jewish Shuk) in Jerusalem.” – Joey Selesny, East Central Regional Director for American Technion Society

Rosh Ha’Nikra in the Upper Galilee.

Rosh Ha’Nikra caves and grottoes

“This is where the country is the most beautiful to me. The best weather – the mountains and the sea. You can see the borders to Lebanon . Places to hike, walk along the river Nahal Betzet.” –Schmulik Field, Regional Director, B’nai Akiva

Four Federation trips set to go

We all know by heart the must-see sights in Israel, and what better way to see them then on a non-stop, whirlwind Jewish Detroit mission? Federation’s 2012 Teen Mission leaves for adventure July 3rd. For the rest of us, spaces are still available for four thrilling once-in-a-lifetime trips scheduled through the end of the year:

  • Women’s Department Mosaic Mission III October 18-25
  • Scholars Mission to Israel Melton-Style, October 21 – November 2
  • Maimonides Mission November 1 – 9
  • Israel Dream Mission, November 26 – December 5

Got a favorite spot in Israel?  Tell us about it.