Friday, September 11, 2009
Israel means many things to many people. For millions of travellers around the world, this is the ‘Holy Land', spiritually sacrosanct for the three great monotheistic religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Archaeology buffs, eco-tourists and beach bums all find their own reasons to visit. For others, Israel evokes images of war, suicide bombings and broken peace treaties. However you view the country; Israel is an undeniably beautiful slice of the world, with alternating scenes of sea, desert, ancient towns and verdant nature reserves .Weeding through Israel's convoluted history is both exhilarating and exhausting. There are crumbling temples, ruined cities, abandoned forts and hundreds of places associated with the Bible. One minute you're snooping around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the next you're amid dancing rabbis at the Western Wall. A short itinerary will leave you breathless. And while a sense of adventure is required, most sites are safe and easily accessible.Israel's three big cities each have a distinct character and atmosphere. Jerusalem is forever holy and the domain of the ultra-religious. In Tel Aviv you're more likely to spot latte-sipping liberals, internet entrepreneurs and late-night ravers. Haifa has a gritty industrial feel but, as the world centre for the Baha'i faith, it has an added complexity making it all the more intriguing. From the Dead Sea to the sea grottoes at Rosh HaNikra, there is plenty to see in between.