5 Places I Wish I'd Seen on My "Birthright" Trip to Israel
The author, right.
By Lauren Murray
I have been to Israel twice in my life—both times on organized student trips similar to Birthright. I went on my first trip to Israel when I was in high school called March of the Living; the second time when I was in college through MEOR. About a day into that second trip, something really weird started to happen. I was having a strong sense of déjà vu. I could have sworn that I had visited that same kibbutz and heard the same speech by the same man. But how could that be possible? Here I was on a totally different trip, yet I was experiencing the exact same thing? Well, if you google kibbutz on border birthright YouTube, guess what you’re going to see? The same place, speech, and guy.
As amazing as it is to experience a kibbutz, camel ride, a Masada hike, and other prime sights, I've been left wondering: “What are the things in Israel that your trip isn’t taking you to see?” . Here is my wish list of places to see that isn't covered by Birthright. You may have missed these places on an ordinary tour, too.
Photo courtesy of http://www.machtesh-ramon.com/
1: Makhtesh Ramon: Makhtesh Ramon is a natural landform in the Negev desert that consists of a series of craters. While most craters in the world are created as a result of meteor impact or volcanoes, Makhtesh Ramon is unique because it's the result of years of erosion. A guide told me that these student trips don’t even begin to cover Israel's vast beauty, and that I had to check out their colorful desert. So what do you do in these craters? Hike, camp, take in the beautiful views and make some natural sand art! If you aren’t the camping type don’t worry: There is the beautiful Beresheet Hotel, complete with a spa, restaurant, and all mod cons.
2. I live in Washington, D.C., the land of museums. Maybe I’m biased but museums are one of my favorite activities on every trip. More specifically, I love the museums that veer from the stereotypical art exhibits. I've enjoyed my families’ impromptu excursions to a 10-room felt exhibit at a textile museum in New York, or my personal favorite, a Gold Rush Museum in Colorado where we got to sift for REAL gold. The next time I go to Israel, one of my goals is to visit some of the lesser known museums the country boasts. On the top of my list:
- The Museum of Psalms—a collection of colorful, modern almost psychedelic paintings that depict each of the 150 psalms.
- The Museum of Taxes—Sure, it’s not the place I’m rushing to on April 15th, but this Jerusalem museum is definitely something I would want to check out. It goes through the trajectory of taxation from ancient times to today.
- Puppet Center—This kid-friendly museum in Holon, as I am sure you have already figured out, is filled with hundreds of puppets. Children will love looking at the different characters ranging from traditional dolls to the contemporary modern puppets we see on TV today.
- Saba’s Little Museum—This is probably the museum that is the most interesting to me. Saba’s Little Museum, on a moshav just outside Jerusalem, is filled with memorabilia and artifacts that work to tell the history of Israel and Jewish people in a unique and interactive way. The museum uses storytelling to make history interesting to any and everyone.
- Museum on the Seam—This socio-political museum is "a unique museum in Israel, displaying contemporary art that deals with different aspects of the socio-political reality." While the museum is not lighthearted, it's a powerful establishment, forcing those who visit to think about the situation in Israel, and the world, around them.
Photo courtesy of http://www.bauhaus-center.com/.
3. Bauhaus architecture may have originated in Germany, but did you know that Tel Aviv has more structures built in this style than any other city? During WWII, Jewish architects fled to Israel carrying over their Bauhaus influences and eventually designing over 4,000 buildings that inhabit this style. Check out the tours run by the Bauhaus Center to experience the unique, modern architecture that has earned Tel Aviv the nickname “the White City” and UNESCO world heritage site designation.
4. When you think of Israel, the image that comes up in your head is probably a desert, hot air, and the Dead Sea. What you might not think of immediately are lush gardens and greenery. But if you travel north to Haifa, this perception will be completely changed. The Baha’I Gardens is an intricate landscape comprised of 19 different terraces connected by a long staircase. Each terrace is filled with unique plants, fountains and sculptures. Make sure you are wearing comfy shoes though, because the walk up and down the stairs is not short.
5. Like the gardens, this last attraction is not one that you normally associate with Israel—so with that I present (drum roll please) ... skiing on Mount Hermon! Snow in Israel? Who knew? The ski resort is only open during winter season and offers activities like sledding, ski school, and a snow park to practice tricks. While the skiing is only available for a few months, nearby Herman Nature Reserve is open year round and is filled with springs, a waterfall, history, and unique vegetation.