Joyce Striar

Harrison, New York Travel Agent

Getting to the Heart of Israel

The spiritual home of many religions and meeting place of the world, Israel is both a cultural destination and an adventure. You can taste foods from around the world, race around the desert on ATVs, go horseback riding on the hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee and swim on a lively Tel Aviv beach.

And if you see people dancing at the Western Wall, put out your hands and join the circle. You will be welcome, and you’ll be dancing and celebrating life with Israelis and visitors from around the world. Wherever you go, ancient and modern intertwine in intriguing ways with Israel’s friendly and creative vibe.

On each visit, I discover some new aspect of Israeli life to share with my clients. Israel’s technology scene is amazing. (I thank Israel every time I use Waze!) I often arrange for clients to join a Friday Shabbat/Sabbath dinner at the home of a young Israeli tech couple. Open to anyone, it draws people of all religions from around the world, and it is always an interesting evening. 

One of my favorite spots is Ramon Crater in the Negev Desert. An unbelievable hotel with a spa and deluxe rooms with private pools, the five-star Beresheet Mitzpe Ramon sits on the crater’s edge. The same color as the crater, the hotel blends into the landscape. On a guided Jeep tour, you can sample edible flowers poking up through the rocks and dig into the sand to discover the geological history of the area.  In the evening, join an astronomer to view the desert sky. 

I can also arrange for a visit to a hospital, school or kibbutz, such as “The Kibbutz at the End of the World.” One of its fences runs along the Lebanon border. There, you learn about daily life and why they chose to make their homes there. 

Another fascinating entree into what it is to be Israeli is to tour an army base. Every citizen is required to serve and you’ll see how army service unites and matures the youth. While there, you also can try your hand at shooting real weapons and hear first-hand, what it’s like to be in the Israeli army. 

Israelis are matter-of-fact about security and confident in their defense systems. I was on a tour recently when sirens went off. Unconcerned, our guide said the siren was announcing a drill for school children. Each siren pattern has a distinct message and every Israeli knows what they mean. Like the ubiquitous uniformed soldiers, sirens are a fact of life. So is the Iron Dome Air Defense Missile System, which you can see as part of a far-ranging helicopter tour. 

My clients always return from Israel saying they feel safer in Israel than anywhere in the world, and so do I. Equally important, in addition to the must-see religious and historic sites that everybody sees, I can arrange guides and connections with Israelis to match your interests, whether it is learning about everyday life, local cuisines, or Israel’s fascinating history. Who would you like to meet and what would you like to experience in Israel?