Nothing like a trip to Israel – Cleveland Jewish News

Posted By on October 27, 2021

In a Conde Nast Traveler magazine reader poll just out, Israel scored in the Top 20, at No. 15, in a survey of readers favorite countries. And Israels southern Negev Desert region made Time Magazines list of the Worlds Greatest Places in 2021.

The timing of the recognition is perfect, coming just as Israel is preparing to open up again to foreign tourists. In 2019, a year that ended just prior to emergence of the coronavirus, Israel welcomed a record 4.5 million foreign tourists. But the virus ravaged the tourism business here in Israel, and for much of the pandemic, foreign passport holders were only allowed into the country under extenuating circumstances.

Over the past few months, I have visited tourist sites in Jerusalem and Nazareth, both of which are usually teeming with foreign visitors. They were virtually deserted. Now that is about the change.

From my first trip to the country as a teenager on a program sponsored by what is now the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland, I came away convinced that Israel was the ideal tourist destination in that it had such variety packed into a small space. The same holds true today only more so. Israel is more sophisticated but just as interesting as when I made my first visit.

Lots of luxury hotels have been built around the country in recent years including the just-opened Six Senses Shaharut hotel near Eilat, which has been called the countrys most expensive hotel. But there are less expensive options as well, including a large number of Airbnb properties.

Israel is also a major culinary destination that has produced world-famous chefs, whose cooking frequently reflects the mix of Middle Eastern and European influences that have shaped the country. At Mashiya, one of my favorite restaurants in Tel Aviv, the largely European-style menu currently features grilled branzino fish, which is particularly popular in Italy, but with a twist the addition of pkaila, a Tunisian Jewish spinach dish. In a recent review in Haaretz, a critic called Mashiyas cooking cuisine for the 21st century and quipped that he feels like asking for political asylum there.

Foreign tourism to Israel is an important slice of the countrys economy, or at least it was until the COVID pandemic hit. Many of Tel Avivs most popular restaurants clearly suffered from the lack of overseas visitors. One of my favorites, Brasserie, where I had eaten before the pandemic with friends visiting from Cleveland, didnt survive. It has been converted into a more casual restaurant by its owners.

Travel to Israel creates jobs and helps support the Israeli economy which on the whole has weathered the pandemic relatively well. But for Jewish tourists, I think visiting Israel gives them a tremendous amount in return. It provides a firsthand feel for their own ancient Jewish roots, and for the realities of a modern Jewish country with its impressive accomplishments and its problems.

Theres nothing like a trip to Israel, whether its your first or 10th visit, to cement the connection to the country. Sadly, however, identification with Israel isnt central to many Jews identity. Only 62% of American Jewish respondents to an American Jewish Committee poll in 2019 agreed with the statement caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew. More encouraging is that 72% agreed that a thriving state of Israel is vital for the long-term future of the Jewish people.

As I write this, the country is expected to be opened to foreign tourists as of Nov. 1, so theres no better time to plan a trip here.

Cliff Savren is a former Clevelander who covers the Middle East from Raanana, Israel. He is an editor at the English edition of Haaretz.

The Cleveland Jewish News does not make endorsements of political candidates and/or political or other ballot issues on any level. Letters, commentaries, opinions, advertisements and online posts appearing in the Cleveland Jewish News, on or our social media pages do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Cleveland Jewish Publication Company, its board, officers or staff.

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Nothing like a trip to Israel - Cleveland Jewish News

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