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Israel the Beautiful, the Bountiful, the Blessed

Wild Anemone flowers-The desert blossoms

The desert blossoms

“When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Yeshua (Jesus) approaching the boat, walking on the water.”  (John 6:19)

In the early hours by the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee)—that famous body of water that Yeshua (Jesus) walked on—a cool breeze tugs at tourists too captivated to sleep in, daring them into the waves that still reflect the night.

Past the first icy touch, the water is soft, refreshing and melodious with a steady, calming rhythm.

Kinneret sunrise, Sea of Galilee

Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee

At this hour, swimmers and canoeists can focus contentedly on exercise and the pleasure of the water, until the sun lifts above the horizon, bathing the sea in golden light that is striking in its beauty.

Canoeing in liquid gold amid a crown of far-off shores is just one of the charms of a visit to Israel.

The Temple Mount and the Western Wall—a remnant of the Second Temple’s courtyard—are among Israel’s top attractions.

Kotel-prayer-Orthodox-tourist-Western (Wailing) Wall

A pilgrim prays beside an Orthodox Jewish man at the Western (Wailing) Wall, which is also called the Kotel.

The lowest place on Earth—the Dead Sea itself, with its unique mixture of minerals that are renowned for alleviating skin and respiratory problems—is another.

From its waterfalls in the Golan Heights to the soothing stillness of the Judean Desert, from the flourishing fields of the Galilee region to the white sands of the plentiful beaches, this land that is roughly equal in size to the State of New Jersey in the United States or Vancouver Island in Canada, has earned a global reputation for its colossal and diverse delights.

Those delights include the rich tapestry of cultures within the Israeli nation as well as the long history of the region, which combine to create further layers of value that undoubtedly helped draw many of the record 3.5 million tourists that visited Israel in 2012.

A mother and child enjoy a swim in the Dead Sea.

A mother and child enjoy a swim in the Dead Sea.

Netanyahu Becomes International Tour Guide

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is taking the lead in recommending this beautiful country to travelers.

In cooperation with travel journalist Peter Greenberg, who produces and hosts a television series called The Royal Tour, which originally aired on the Travel Channel, Netanyahu will star in this major international television production that will show over 300 million viewers “the true Israel, the other Israel that is not seen” in global media.  (IMRA)

Acting as Greenberg’s personal guide for the episode, Netanyahu offered his unique perspective on Israel, all the way from the Rosh Hanikra sea caves in the north to the desert oasis of Eilat on the Red Sea in the South.

Netanyahu-Greenberg-Royal Tour-Dolphin Reef-Eilat 2013

Prime Minister Benjamin ‎Netanyahu brought Peter Greenberg to Dolphin Reef in Eilat for Israel: The Royal Tour, a CBS show that will spotlight tourism in ‎Israel.

And while his royal tour also included Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and the Dead Sea, he made sure to feature the Technion Institute of Technology providing“ a glimpse of the technological developments that Israeli scientists are responsible for, such as the camera pill, the Nano-Bible and the robot snake.”  (YNet)

Dubbed Bishvil Yisrael (For Israel) by Netanyahu, the program will likely boost the national economy through increased tourism, as well as change the country’s image for those whose only knowledge of Israel comes through news reports or propaganda.

Netanyahu, Tourism summit 2013

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the recent Jerusalem International Tourism Summit.

In previous episodes of the Royal Tour, which also feature one-on-one journeys with heads of state, Greenberg has toured Jordan with King Abdullah II, New Zealand with Prime Minister Helen Clark, Peru with President Alejandro Toledo, and Jamaica with Prime Minister P.J. Patterson.

“Peter Greenberg has boosted tourism in Mexico, New Zealand and Jordan, and this is the goal—to raise up tourism for Israel as well, for people to see that this is a fun country,” Netanyahu said.

Following the airing of Mexico: The Royal Tour on PBS in 2011, the number of tourists to Mexico grew by more than 10%.  (YNet)

“Israel: The Royal Tour” will wrap up filming later this month.

Muslim Dome of the Rock-Temple Mount-Jewish Temple

Today, the Muslim Dome of the Rock sits atop the Temple Mount.  It is thought to be built on the spot where the Jewish Temple once stood.

Because Israel is situated where three continents—Europe, Asia and Africa—meet, for millennia this ancient land has been at history’s crossroads.  (IGTO)

Across the ages, various civilizations have left behind evidence of their presence, providing Israel with an impressive array of ruins and archaeological sites.

A new phone application called Architip is now poised to enhance the experience of Israel’s heritage sites by bringing history to life.  Once the app is fully ready for market, archaeology buffs and tourists can see, perhaps, what Yeshua saw two thousand years ago.

The app uses a smartphone’s camera to combine a live view of heritage sites, structures, monuments, and ancient art or writing with 3D reconstructions of what they once looked like.

With this app, for instance, a view of the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives brings up an image of the ancient Second Temple.

Hat the Temple Mount might have looked like through a special smartphone application called Architip

Viewing what the Temple Mount might have looked like through a special smartphone application called Architip.  While the unaided eye sees the Temple Mount as it is today, when the area is in the viewfinder of the camera, the Temple Mount as it may have been two thousand years ago appears on the phone’s screen.

To see Architip’s window to the past, all one will need to do is point the phone’s camera and it transforms what is into what was.

“Archaeology is my passion,” said Yaron Benvenisti, CEO of Architip.  “We wanted to help bridge the ‘imagination gap,’ between what you see and what’s behind the plain view.  People want to experience more, and our technology is perfect for that.”  (Times of Israel)

Benvenisti, who is a graduate of the Hebrew University in Economics and History and the UC Berkeley Executive Program, is currently completing his archaeology studies at Tel-Aviv University.

Architip recently won first prize in the Innovation Competition at the Jerusalem Innovative Tourism Summit.

New olim-18th Maccabiah Games

Two new olim (immigrants) show their tickets to the 18th Maccabiah Games, which were held in Tel Aviv in 2009.

The Desert is Blossoming

“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.  Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.”  (Isaiah 35:1–2)

When Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion envisioned the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy that the desert would once again blossom, he may have imagined how the country as a whole might take up the challenge of rebirth.

Now that this prophetic blossoming is fully underway, both locals and tourists can cultivate their interests through hundreds of outlets developed in the last 65 years, from sports and the arts to innovation and entrepreneurship.

Jerusalem, of course, is a top draw, since it has something for everyone.

Next week in Jerusalem, for instance, the 19th Maccabiah Games (July 18–30), the world’s largest Jewish athletic competition, will bring delegations from Europe, North America, Latin America, Australia, and Africa.

Over 32,000 spectators are expected at the opening ceremonies.

Gamo persa-Dama mesopotamica-Tierpark Hellabrunn-Munich-Alemania

It is estimated that there are only 365 Persian fallow deer in the world.

Not far from the Teddy Stadium where the opening ceremonies of the Maccabiah Games will be held next Thursday, is the Tisch Family Zoological Gardens, which preserves endangered species from all over the world and displays a wonderful range of flora and fauna from the Tanakh (Old Testament).

It is popularly called the Biblical Zoo because of its special project of conserving the various species mentioned in the Bible.

Some of the species that have been driven out of their natural habitat and are nearing extinction are being bred and reintroduced to the wild.

Petting Zoo-Jerusalem's Biblical Zoo

A boy tries to pet the goats at the children’s petting zoo in Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo.

One animal mentioned in the Bible that is in the zoo’s breeding and reintroduction program is the Persian fallow deer, which became extinct in Israel early in the 20th century and was thought to be totally extinct by the 1940s.  (JerusalemZoo)

In 1956, however, two dozen deer were discovered in southwestern Iran.

Some were then transferred to Germany for the first captive breeding group of Persian fallow deer.

The Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority (INNPPA) joined the international efforts to save the deer in 1978, and they were introduced to the zoo in 1997.

Arabian oryx

The Arabian oryx was listed as Extinct in the Wild in 1974.  It was reintroduced into the wild in 1984, and due to the success of the projects in June 2011, it was listed as Vulnerable by the International Union of Conservation of Nature.  It is now estimated that around the world there are about 1000 Arabian oryx in the wild, which includes over 100 in Israel’s Arava and Negev deserts.

The White oryx or the Arabian oryx, which is thought to be the animal mentioned in Psalm 22, is another species in danger of extinction and protected at the zoo.

“Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen [re’em, sometimes translated as unicorn in English Bibles].”  (Psalm 22:21)

The Tower of David and the Archaeological Gardens in Jerusalem

Tower of David

Museums in the Holy Land

In the Old City, many enjoy the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem, which not only is an archaeological site, but has permanent and temporary exhibits, as well as educational activities and programs.

The Tower of David itself boasts a 360 degree view of the Old City of Jerusalem and areas of the new city.

At night, the walls of the Tower of David are bathed in the breathtaking virtual images of The Night Spectacular.

This top-rated sound and light show utilizes a sophisticated computer system that operates “20 projectors, 10 video players, 14 computers and 14 loudspeakers, run through some 10 kilometers of cable and two projection rooms” to bring the city’s history to life.  (GoJerusalem)

Any of the diversely rich museums across Israel, such as the Bible Lands Museum, the Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the Israel Museum, all of which are in Jerusalem, and the National Museum of Science, Technology and Space in Haifa, to mention a few, offer a depth of exploration into the timeline of the nation and its development.

Tabgha-northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee-Church of the Multiplication

Tabgha on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee, is the traditional site of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.  The above mosaic is found in the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha.

Activities for Everyone

“Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, He gave thanks and broke the loaves.  Then He gave them to His disciples to distribute to the people.  He also divided the two fish among them all.”  (Mark 6:41)

Israel has a lot to offer Believers who wish to see the Garden of Gethsemane or the Via Dolorosa or become more acquainted with the Jewish roots of their faith, or stop in Qumran to view the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.

Coming here is a fantastic way to bring your Bible to life.

In Ein Gedi, David fled from King Saul (1 Samuel 23:29).  In Eilat, King Solomon built a port (1 Kings 9:26).  In Tabgha, Yeshua performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes (Mark 6:30–46).


Cycling is a popular activity in the Western Negev plains.  In the area around Beeri, the varied landscape includes woodland, gullies, archaeological sites and settlements.

From Bible history to music and from award winning wine to sports, Israel has something for everyone.

Sports-minded individuals interested in something more than walking tours can take part in any number of sports activities, such as soccer or basketball, matkot (paddleball) on a Tel Aviv beach, mountain biking near Be’er Sheva, or paragliding near Haifa, Tel Aviv and other locations.

Paragliding, Gilboa Mountains

Paraglider flying from the Gilboa Mountains in northern Israel.

There are also opportunities for snorkeling and sailing, hiking and rock climbing, folk and ballroom dancing, and much more.

Some tourists even come to Israel for intensive training in krav maga (Israeli self-defense), which was developed by Hungarian-Israeli Imi Lichtenfeld, first to defend the Jewish quarter in Bratislava, Slovakia in the mid-to-late 1930s, and then refined even for military application.

Alternatively, music fans might opt this month to attend the six-hour Jerusalem Woodstock Revival, the Beit Guvrin Nights of Love Festival featuring artists like Shlomo Artzi and Aviv Geffen, or a concert of The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra either in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem.

Seeing Bible Prophecy Fulfilled

Today, although more than half of Israel is desert, Israel has become a world leader in the export of citrus.

It also exports vast quantities of flowers and other fruit and vegetables as the Bible foretold it would.

“In days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit.”  (Isaiah 27:6)

Coming to Israel to witness the desert blossoming in fulfillment of prophecy is a lifetime dream for many.

One way to experience that dream is to come in the spring.

Kalaniyot, Aanemones

A sea of kalaniyot (anemones) bloom every spring in Israel.

While the Western Negev desert seems almost lifeless most of the year, around January or February it explodes with red kalaniyot (anemones), flowers that resemble poppies.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors come every year to see the spectacle.

Of course, another way to see the Holy Land blossom is to visit any number of farms.

When the prophet Amos foresaw Israel restored, he saw the land planted with vineyards and gardens (Amos 9:14).

Orthodox Jewish, Zichron Yaakov, Wine, Baron Edmond James de Rothschild

Orthodox Jewish men buy wine in Zichron Yaakov, one of the first Jewish settlements in Israel.  It was founded in 1882 by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild.

With over 200 wineries across Israel, many of which have large visitor centers, there are plenty of opportunities for wine tours in the Holy Land.

For example, the Tulip winery in Kfar Tikva (Village of Hope) overlooking the Jezreel Valley is one popular destination among day trippers, as is the Tishbi winery in Zichron Yaakov (Jacob’s Memorial), which is south of Haifa on the Carmel mountain range.

“I will bring my people Israel back from exile.  ‘They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.  They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit.’”  (Amos 9:14)

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