The Med

Israel for Explorers

written by | Posted on April 1st, 2010

Beyond its history, archaeology and culture, Israel beckons with desert adventures, photography workshops and tobogganing.

From the pull of its desolate deserts to the wonders lying behind its vibrant, modern city streets, Israel, due to its innate antiquity and majestic history, traditionally has been an easy sell for travel agents. After all, not many can resist the magnetism of a land that reeks of ancient historic parchments while at the same time keeping a solid foothold on modernism.

As a result, this miniscule country is a well-trodden destination traditionally regarded as the crossroads of three continents—Europe to the east, Asia to the west and Africa in the south. Perhaps no other place on earth has been swayed by the influences of great cultures and altered by a huge number of equally great religious and historical figures whose thoughts and actions altered the world.

There are times when it seems like no corner of Israel has been left unexplored or un-photographed.

offbeat adventures The predicament for those in the travel industry is how to present a new side of Israel for repeat clients who crave different adventures.

Enter IsraelExperts, a well-respected travel entity whose U.S. sales and support office is Sarai Tours.

“Our primary goal is to design trips to Israel that match [a client’s] specific needs and budgets,” says IsraelExperts’ Joyce Schoonenberg Reed, “especially if the client has been to Israel before and is looking for ‘off-the-beaten-track’ activities and experiences. As a result, the majority of our work is tailor-made for groups, families and individuals.”

Worn-out by Tel Aviv’s vibrant nightlife or done in by the sun-splashed activities in the beaches of Eilat? Tired of being pampered in the plush spas that line the shore of the Dead Sea? Thirsting for yet another visit to Israel, but itch to see the country through a different prism?

IsraelExperts offers a diverse menu of activities that showcase Israel in a different light by arranging for visitors to participate in such atypical endeavors as lodging in a farm to spend a few days harvesting wheat and watching the grain turn to bread, working on a dairy farm, herding sheep through the same trails once used by Biblical personages, riding donkeys along the ancient spice route that crisscrossed the country, participating in scavenger hunts in Safed or in the Carmel Market area, tobogganing on snow-covered foothills—or even experiencing the thrill of the recoil made by an Uzi submachine gun at a well-supervised firing range.

IsraelExperts’ menu is so vast that “those activities are only the tip of the iceberg,” says Schoonenberg Reed. “We offer literally thousands of special activities and opportunities to those coming to see and experience another Israel.”

To facilitate selling the country to clients searching for offbeat adventures, IsraelExperts has divided its wide range of offerings into 10 themes: cultural (where visitors have the opportunity to visit the studios of artists and designers, engage in photography workshops and even go behind the scenes in Israel’s avant-garde art galleries); industry and commerce (calling on high-tech companies and businesses from other sectors); outdoor adventures (participating in a multitude of activities such as hiking, parasailing, rafting, horseback riding, off-road driving, etc.); Israel society (spending time at an Israeli Army base); Israel’s diversity (meeting with Gaza evacuees, touring Yaffo while being led by Israeli and Palestinian guides and enjoying meals in private homes); culinary (learning the intricacies and preparation of the country’s astoundingly diverse food); outdoor sites (visiting remote parks); museums (touring the most important and the lesser museums found throughout Israel); archaeology (volunteering in actual digs in sites ranging from Tiberias to Tzippori); environment (learning about the fragile natural environment of the Middle East); and health and relaxation (basking in therapeutic springs and spas).

While those activities generally focus on non-secular themes, IsraelExperts also provides religious pilgrimage tours and trips specifically tailored for Jews living abroad who may want to become acquainted with the only Jewish state on earth.

The Congregational Family Trip, for example, is distinctively designed for North American Jews to interact with Israel and explore the country while simultaneously creating connections with its citizens.

Prices for IsraelExperts’ tours are as varied as the activities offered within them.