With so many places in the world to discover, I tend to avoid returning to a destination unless I’m visiting family or I feel a unique attachment to the location. Israel falls into the latter group. While I clearly don’t need to be enticed to return, I was curious to see the Israel Ministry of Tourism presentation last week at the Westin in Denver.
I realize that many people don’t share my passion for Israel. Oftentimes, irrational fears stoked by biased news reports paint a false picture of life in Israel. Despite this rhetoric, I have never felt unsafe in Israel. I cannot say that about other places in the world that I have visited.
Since our eldest son’s bar mitzvah and my adult bat mitzvah at Masada in 1993, I have returned two additional times. My three visits enriched my understanding of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and secular history and helped me better understand Israel’s diverse population and its challenging relationship with the other countries in the region.
At the presentation, I learned that approximately 3.6 million people visited Israel last year with about 1 million coming from North America. More than 40 airlines now service this market and cruise ships also bring in boatloads of tourists. Having arrived by air and by sea, my husband and I have experienced both types of trips. Our two land trips were pricey, but provided more in depth touring options that covered all of the main regions. The port of call trip allowed us to narrowly focus on sites near the Mediterranean Sea.
Like other promotional slideshow and video presentations, the Israel Ministry of Tourism representative from the Northeast Region, Chad Martin, flashed the best parts of Israel on an oversized screen. These images refreshed my memories of past visits and also renewed my desire to visit again.
As a lifelong learner, I continue to be drawn to Israel’s stellar museums, archeological sites, diverse cultural experiences, and agricultural and technological innovations. Living in an arid state where drought conditions can wreck havoc with the environment, I applaud the Israeli’s ability to revitalize the desert and share the technology with other countries. I also remain intrigued by Israel’s rich geography that includes a multitude of ecosystems. My trips to Israel always included active adventures interspersed with visits to key attractions. It’s hard to forget a trip to the Ramon Crater in Israel’s Negev Desert or planting trees with our four children.
The most striking part of last week’s presentation was the emphasis on food and wine. Anyone strolling through Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda Market or “The Shuk” can witness firsthand the complexity of Israeli food offerings. Israeli restaurant chefs are now taking advantage of the dozens of cultural traditions.
To entice the audience, Reli Wapner, the COO at UBranded, presented images from Chef Moti Titman’s innovative foods at Milgo & Milbar in Tel Aviv. While it has been several years since my last visit, I don’t remember seeing dishes that brought so many cultural roots together on one plate. It was hard not to be hungry after admiring a dozen or so food creations.
After attending this event, I can see why I continue to return to Israel. The country is ripe for exploration since it is filled with an abundance of restaurants, places to stay, and sites to explore. I encourage potential visitors to check out the GoIsrael website and plan a trip during Israel’s 70th anniversary.
When Sandy isn’t skiing or trekking in the Colorado Rockies, she is traveling. She has visited more than 40 countries and lived as an international teacher in Bangalore, India. As the the content coordinator for Golden Living, a Best Version Media publication, she writes family and business feature stories and contributes a monthly travel tip column.
Sandy share her lifestyle and travel experiences with international and domestic online sites and print media. Her stories have appeared in Destinations Magazine, Grand Magazine, Wandering Educators, Golden Living, One Travel, Miles Away, Canadian Jewish News, Getting On Travel, Family Circle- Momster, and others.
Sandy’s award-winning book, May This Be the Best Year of Your Life, is a resource for people contemplating an expat lifestyle and living outside their comfort zone. This memoir was a finalist in the Travel category for the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, the 2013 International Book Awards, the 2013 National Indie Book Excellence Awards, 2013 USA Best Book Awards, and a Honorable Mention award in the Multicultural Non-Fiction category for the 2013 Global ebook Awards.
Last year, Sandy created a second website, The Traveling Bornsteins, that focuses exclusively on travel.