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Traveling in Israel

Raleigh, North...
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Traveling in Israel

My family is wanting to travel to Israel this December (specifically Jerusalem). We are hoping to go over to Bethlehem for Christmas. Can anyone recommend: (1) a good place to stay in Jerusalem, (2) a good place to stay in Bethlehem, (3) Any advice for traveling in the area would be greatly appreciated.

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1. Re: Traveling in Israel

Glad you are planning a trip to Israel. This year Chanukah and Christmas fall at the same time. Hotels and flights are filling up rapidly. I suggest you get your reservations in place ASAP!!!

Bethlehem is a short distance from Jerusalem. It isn't necessary to stay there to visit. ( unless you really want to--but if you think you need both places because of distance--you don't)

Before anyone can recommend a place can you share how many you are and what kind of budget you are envisioning. In terms of travel recommendations, what are you interests? How long will you be in Israel?

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Raleigh, North...
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2. Re: Traveling in Israel

Thank you for the insite. There are three of us: myself, my husband, and our 5 year old little girl. Our budget is flexbile depending on the accomdations that we find, but we're NOT looking for either a cheap hostel or a 5-star. Safety is of course a concern. We do, however, require high speed internet - my husband works via the internet. According to my readings that shouldn't be a problem in Israel, especially Jerusalem. Do you agree with that? We usually like to stay within walking distance of shops, restaurants, etc. Because we're wanting to be at the Christmas Eve mass in Bethelehem, we may want to stay in Bethlehem for the 24 and 25, then go back to Jerusalem. Any thoughts on that as well? I greatly appreciate any advice you can offer.

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3. Re: Traveling in Israel

You don't need to stay in Bethlehem to get to the Mass - lots of people go over there from other places. Re. where to stay: if you are looking for a Christmas atmosphere, you may want to consider staying in one of the Christian hospices/guesthouses in the Old City in Jerusalem. That way you would be among other people celebrating Christmas (in western Jerusalem and Israel in general, Christmas is pretty invisible as a holiday). There is also, of course, the YMCA 3 Arches, which many people on this board use, is moderately priced, and is more centrally located for shops and restaurants than the places in Old City.

Re. internet - if you can't find it in a hotel, don't worry because there are lots of cafes with free fast internet access. The Coffee Mill on Emek Refaim street is a particular favourite of laptop users.

Avigail

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4. Re: Traveling in Israel

As mentioned, you don't need to stay in Bethlehem to go to the Mass. However, since you are travelling with a 5-year old, you may want to be as local as possible for that night. There was a thread recently about the Intercontinental hotel in Bethlehem - I've never been there, but here's the link to the discussion tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g293978-i9392-k185…

Actually, this year Christmas is a good time to visit Jerusalem, because of it being at the same time as Channuka. On one hand, the hotels are going to be quite full, as Israeli schools are all on holiday (so DO book as soon as possible), and it may be a pretty zoo-like atmosphere. On the other hand, you get to experience Channuka, which is one of the Jewish calendar's most kid-friendly holidays, with Menorah Candle lighting and jammy doughnuts in hotels and malls for 8 nights, and loads of activities for kids. I'm sure you'll find no shortage of things that are suitable for non-Hebrew speaking kids.

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Yangon (Rangoon...
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5. Re: Traveling in Israel

The Intercontinental in Bethlehem is really nice and relatively cheap hotel (and has free high speed internet in every room). However it is quite long way from the Church of the Nativity. The only other hotel I have stayed in Bethlehem is the Bethlehem Hotel, although not as nice as the Intercontinential it is cheaper and is much closer to all the action on Christmas Eve.

If you decide to stay in Jerusalem note that although it is not far travelling by public transport is not easy. It is possible to rent a car but parking anywhere near Manger Square on christmas eve is impossible.

Another alternative is St Georges Guesthouse in Jerusalem. It is fairly basic but clean and has internet in the rooms. The Cathederal also puts on a bus to take parishoners to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and I'm sure if you arrange it in advance you could go along on this bus (they would probably arrange tickets for the mid night mass as well).

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6. Re: Traveling in Israel

Just a quick note to say what wonderful advice you all have given our visitor.

Douglas Duckett

Still conferencing in Clearwater Beach, Florida, where it's finally warm!!

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7. Re: Traveling in Israel

I just got back from a week-long trip to Jerusalem. It was wonderful! I was using hotel points so I stayed at the Sheraton Jerusalem Plaza. It was a standard western style hotel and the staff were friendly. It is a short, 15 minutes or so, walk from the Old City and is located near Ben Yehuda Market area. It offers free wi-fi and has a little supermarket around the corner on Agron St.

I didn't stay in Bethlehem, but took a half-day tour of the area. It is a very quick trip from Jerusalem. My one word of advice to make sure you get your passport stamped when you enter Israel. I guess a lot of visitors ask for their passports to not be stamped as this may limit travel to other middle-eastern countries. I know Lebanon has restrictions. It's a little silly, but if you go to Bethlehem you'll have to re-enter Israel and may experience delays. Politics is best for politicians.

I'd highly recommend the Lonely Planet series Israel and the Palestinian Territories as a great guide book.

Enjoy.

Chris D

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Raleigh, North...
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8. Re: Traveling in Israel

Thanks so much for all the great advice! This has been a big help as I'm trying to get all of our plans straight and start the booking this week. I did know that Chanukkah and Christmas are together this year, but it didn't acutally occur to me until reading your comments what a wonderful opportunity this will be for our little girl. I'm thrilled that we're going to be in Israel at such a wonderful time. Also, good info on the passport stamps - thank you! I was wondering about that. Can anyone comment on the best way to get from the Tel Aviv airport to Jerusalem?

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9. Re: Traveling in Israel

Either a private cab or a sherut (group cab). If you're just arriving from abroad, and have at least three, I'd take the private cab. You wouldn't save that much money with a sherut, and you may have to wait while others are dropped off. After such a long flight, you want to get to your hotel.

Douglas Duckett

Raleigh, North...
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10. Re: Traveling in Israel

Great Doug - thanks. That's just what I was wondering about. Any thoughts about traveling to see the Dead Sea??