There’s more to Israel than Jerusalem: here’s a few impactful things to do in Israel if pilgrimage is not your thing
I have an announcement to make: my mother is coming to visit me in Israel for the first time and I am totally freaked! First, I am loaded with so much work but when family comes, you have to drop everything and give your 200% to make their visit memorable. That includes cleaning the house, organising my stuff (I am the most disorganised child and I’m sure my mother will point that out), making food, arranging schedules, booking tours, acting like an adult – the list goes on!
But what stresses me the most is thinking where to bring my mother. You see, when people plan their trip to Israel, the first google search for things to do in Israel is Jerusalem. Growing up in a household where we are free to explore our preferred religious pursuit, I am pretty sure my mum wouldn’t want this visit to be all about the pilgrimage.
Like me, she is also an artist so I am really trying my best to be creative in every way. However, this post is not only for my mother’s visit. A few weeks back, some readers visited me here and didn’t express their interest in visiting the ‘Christian Mecca’ aka the Holy Land so I thought about a more artistic suggestion on things to do in Israel that will have the same impact.
What’s in this post?
(Click on the items below to jump to content)
For the culture buff: Ethiopian Community immersion in Kiryat Gat
As a person who is not reliable on research before arriving her destination, I was amazed when I found out that there is a big bulk of Ethiopian Jewish immigrants in Israel. I started asking questions when I first saw a lot of Ethiopians walking in Tel Aviv (which I also confused for Eritreans) and my friends clarified they are immigrants.
Kiryat Gat is a city in Southern Israel where a big Jewish Ethiopian population resides. What’s interesting in paying a visit is the great cultural immersion where you will get to learn about the sustainability of the Jewish Ethiopian Culture. There are workshops about Amharic Writing and mud structure building. On top of that, you will get to taste the best homemade Ethiopian bread and coffee!
For the chef wannabe: learn the process of making olive oil in Galilee
In the north of Israel, a group of Jewish women is producing outstanding olive oil while maintaining the Arab-Jewish relationship and creating a livelihood for women. This is one of the organisations in Israel that aims to build harmonic dynamics between different people of religious and cultural background. Not only that you will learn the process of making organic olive oil here but you will also visit the farms and get inclined to basket weaving.
For the desert adventurer: Bedouin culture and weaving
Going South to the vast deserts of Israel, a Bedouin village called Lakiya is another organisation that gives economic sustainability for women. Lakiya was organised to contribute towards the empowerment, realization of the rights, and improvement of the socio-economic status of Palestinian-Arab Bedouin women in the Negev. Bedouins are nomads of the Middle Eastern deserts, especially of North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, Israel, Iraq, Syria, and Jordan. Historically speaking, they are not nomads anymore because they already inhabited their respective lands.
For the children's education advocate: day care and after school programs for children with no Israeli status
For many, Tel Aviv is that bubble that leads a vibrant nightlife and a relaxed Mediterranean sea way of life but not everyone knows there is a large immigrant community who fled civil war and political persecution in Africa. These children left war-torn homes and have limited access to resources. That being said, I just want to clarify that this tour is not a victim story. Children are provided education here and that makes this tour a happy story. A deep immersion will take place by walking into migrant neighbourhoods and experiencing their daily lives.
For the wildlife lover: a tour in a gazelle valley in Jerusalem
The Pri Har Valley in Jerusalem is one of the most skipped tourist activities not because it’s not interesting but because not a lot of people know about it. About 30 wild gazelles roam freely in the spacious park with ponds and streams. There are also gazebos and sitting areas for visitors while waiting for the gazelles to emerge. Make sure to time your visit accordingly because there are some days that they don’t show up! Either way, you can enjoy a walk in the park or organise a picnic.
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For the food experience lover: a poverty activist private kitchen in Beer Sheva
Nutritional security, educational empowerment and social change are just some of the few aims of this community restaurant in Beer Sheva, the largest city in the southern part of Israel. Set up in 1999 by a group of volunteers, Be’er-Sova’s aim is to supply hot, nutritious, healthy, food daily to the needy in Be’er Sheva and the surrounding area.
In this tour, you will enjoy a homemade lunch or dinner at a community restaurant and help provide daily nutritious meals to underserved locals.
For the LGBT advocate: behind the scenes with the drag queens in Tel Aviv
How in the world can a city in the Middle East where “being a man” is mandatory be also a city that is super gay-friendly? I thought gays are being stoned to death and crucified upside down here? If you don’t know it yet, well, Tel Aviv is holding the biggest pride parade in the world every year. In here, LGBT rights are very much respected.
In this tour, you will have the chance to experience a bustling gay youth center in the heart of an enchanting public garden, and help local youth find a supportive community. You will also visit the local Gay Center, and listen to an intriguing lecture about sex and gender and the role these factors have played in modern society. Discover the fascinating history behind the world of drag queens, and get your questions answered through special movie excerpts, costumes, songs, and dances!
For the wine lover: a wine tasting tour in Kfar Tikva
Israel is probably one of the vast lands that started the wine culture. You may avail numerous wine tours in the country (especially in the north) but Tulip Winery will offer a great experience because of their unique way of employment. They employ special needs workers from the village enclave of Kfar Tikva.
In this tour, you will enjoy a wine tasting expedition and help employ workers with special needs, taste a variety of fine wines at the open bar and incorporate one of the meal options to complete your experience.
For the gastronomy geek: dark restaurant dining in Tel Aviv
This is my favourite dining experience during our Vibe Israel tour last year where 6 bloggers (including me) were invited to explore a different kind of Israel. The Nalaga’at Centre in Jaffa, Tel Aviv is not the only one of the 10 existing dark restaurants in the world (yep, there are only 10!) but also the first to offer kosher dining.
The Nalaga’at nonprofit centre, home to the world’s only deaf-blind theatre, is a stage that provides empowering artistic and cultural experiences to the public while promoting the integration of special needs individuals into Israel’s society. Not only that you will be eating in the dark but you will also get an impactful experience on being served by blind waiters and waitresses.
Ready to experience a different and impactful kind of things to do in Israel?
What are your suggestions on the best things to do in Israel?
If you’ve never been, what type of activities are you interested to explore apart from Jerusalem? I’d like to hear from you! Share your thoughts in the comment box below!
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