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Sanity check of my planned activities in Palestine/Israel

Sanity check of my planned activities in Palestine/Israel

Old Feb 4, 18, 6:41 am
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Sanity check of my planned activities in Palestine/Israel

I'll be in the "Holy Land" in less than two weeks. Weather forecast looks awesome, about the same as Southern Spain (20C+ during day, 10C+ during night) so I'll probably be able to leave the thick coats home.

But.. and here is a big but. While I've been in the Near East many times (Turkey 10+, Egypt Twice, Lebanon, countless times in UAE) I've never been to Palestine/Israel.

I'll be travelling light, for just a long late weekend. Arriving Sunday morning, departing Tuesday 4pm.

Hotel is booked in Bethlehem.

I'll be landing in TLV at 3.30am, which probably means landside approx 4.30am? I've heard that arrival security/immigration isn't that extreme, but departure is?

So my idea would be to take a bus (?) to the waterfront area (Tel Aviv/Yafo), and walk along the seaside a bit, having some breakfast, and eventually around 10am or so taking a bus to Jerusalem - then getting over to Bethlehem (by foot? seems all so nearby..)

Then visiting some historical areas there, dinner in Bethlehem too.

Monday, day-trip to Jerusalem (or should I avoid crossing the Israel-Palestine border twice?) to visit the historical sights there, then going to the Dead Sea, and later in the day back to Bethlehem. Is that all reasonable possible within a full day? I'm a good walker, and I don't mind taking local buses (I heard cabs are fairly expensive and some can't drive into some areas)

Happy for some feedback about what's reasonable to do/see, and if my program maybe is too much or too dangerous? Seems right now the whole situation is fairly peaceful, so crossing the boarders should be relatively painless, even twice?
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Old Feb 4, 18, 7:07 am
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There is no direct bus to the waterfront area from the airport. I think you would need to take the train to Tel Aviv and bus from there. There are a few buses and 4 train stations in Tel Aviv, all depending on where you're interested in going. I recommend going to the Port of Tel Aviv if you have no specific plans, and would take the train 1 stop to Tel Aviv Hagana and transfer to the 204 to Dizengoff/Ben Yehuda and walk from there. However, things will be quiet that early in the morning.

From that area, take the 480 to Jerusalem.

I wouldn't recommend walking from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. Better to take a bus. I think the Bethlehem buses are only from closer to the Old City and beyond, meaning you will need to take the light rail to Safra Square/City Hall OR take any of the 70 buses to Hebron Road and transfer there.

No issue entering/leaving Bethlehem multiple times at all.

A day-trip in Jerusalem + dead sea would e very difficult. For dead sea, your best bet is renting a car, and that can be a whole day of its own, so coupling with Jerusalem is too much IMO.

What days are you in Israel? Jerusalem is best not on Saturday as there is no public transportation and driving in some areas is difficult at best. Many restaurants and sites are also closed then. That could be a day to do the dead sea.

The only danger I see is the time issue! Between Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Dead Sea, etc., you're talking about great places to visit!

BTW, regarding cabs: Israeli cabs cannot enter the Palestinian Area A and Palestinian cabs cannot enter Israeli Area C or cross the green line. Also Israeli car rentals cannot enter Area A and possibly also not Area B.
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Old Feb 4, 18, 10:22 am
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Arrival immigration might be interesting when you tell them you are headed to Betlehem and when they notice the stamps in your passport, it might be quick but be prepared that it might also take considerably longer.

Keep in mind that Jerusalem is pretty high up, and it is not impossible for temperatures to drop closer to 0, so check closer to the date and make sure to check Jerusalem and not Tel Aviv as there could be quite a big difference.

With only 2,5 days, I'm more inclined to say that you should probably spend Sunday in Jerusalem and only head to Betlehem in the evening (depends on how tired you are of course), then on Monday you can go to the dead sea and Monday afternoon/Tuesday morning sight seeing in Betlehem
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Old Feb 4, 18, 10:31 am
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Originally Posted by Ditto View Post
Arrival immigration might be interesting when you tell them you are headed to Betlehem and when they notice the stamps in your passport, it might be quick but be prepared that it might also take considerably longer.
From all I read it's leaving Israel that will be the challenge. TS should clean his computer from 'everything' since it will be scanned by the Israelis.
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Old Feb 4, 18, 12:00 pm
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Originally Posted by Ditto View Post
Arrival immigration might be interesting when you tell them you are headed to Betlehem and when they notice the stamps in your passport, it might be quick but be prepared that it might also take considerably longer.

Keep in mind that Jerusalem is pretty high up, and it is not impossible for temperatures to drop closer to 0, so check closer to the date and make sure to check Jerusalem and not Tel Aviv as there could be quite a big difference.

With only 2,5 days, I'm more inclined to say that you should probably spend Sunday in Jerusalem and only head to Betlehem in the evening (depends on how tired you are of course), then on Monday you can go to the dead sea and Monday afternoon/Tuesday morning sight seeing in Betlehem
Great advise, I think I'll do as suggested by you regarding Jerusalem (if I can't finish it all on Sunday, I can still head earlier on Tuesday there, before heading to the airport since I need to pass through it anyway) and the Dead Sea. A relatively relaxed Monday with just the Dead Sea might make more sense indeed. Also, good suggestion regarding the height of Jerusalem. I'm used to really cold weather, so hopefully still fine

Luckily got a relatively new passport. I've not doubt the Israelis will still know where I've all been, but it might make things a bit easier (new passport just being 2/3rds full, old one was stamped beyond readability, making my departure from Lebanon a bit hard since they were locking for an Israeli stamp for 15minutes before giving up and believing me.. - that was the time when Israel still stamped, I know now I'm only going to get some paper which I better not lose)

Originally Posted by Fredrik74 View Post
From all I read it's leaving Israel that will be the challenge. TS should clean his computer from 'everything' since it will be scanned by the Israelis.
That's what I heard too. I'll schedule to be at the airport 3hrs before departure (if all goes fine, more lounge time, lol) - and I won't bring anything but my clean smartphone. Not planning on bringing anything else electronically. If they're interested in various food, aircraft, airport, lounge and travel pictures I'll make their day
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Old Feb 4, 18, 1:00 pm
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While there is no doubt that the Jerusalem winter is not as cold a the Zurich one on average, it does snow once or twice
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Old Feb 4, 18, 11:47 pm
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Note that you should arrive at the terminal THREE hours before departure, i.e 1 PM. This means leaving Jerusalem around noon. You can take either the 485 bus (leaves hourly from near the Central Bus Station) or the Nesher sherut (shuttle) that will pick you up almost anywhere in Jerusalem.

You should make Jerusalem your priority as there is far more to see there (both the Old and New Cities) than in Bethlehem. Most tourists spend three days or more in Jerusalem and only half a day in Bethlehem. Stay in Jerusalem and take a bus or taxi to Bethlehem from the Damascus Gate area.

If you want to walk along the beach in Tel-Aviv (my recommendation is to go straight to Jerusalem), take the train to Savidor station, then walk straight down Arlozorov St to the beach (or take any one of many buses):
https://goo.gl/maps/VoovePUcMF22
Then head back to Savidor (you can find the best local bus routes on Google Maps) and take the 480 bus to Jerusalem from the adjacent bus terminal.

"Going to the Dead Sea" is a rather vague plan. Do you just want to go for a dip (10 minutes, because you can't swim in the Sea) or do you want to visit other sites as well ? I recommend one of the AbrahamTours; these are transportation only tours that visit Massada, the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve and go for a dip in the Sea. It would take you 2 days to accomplish this on your own by public transport:
\https://abrahamtours.com/theme/dead-sea-tours/
If you just want to go for a quick dip, then you can take the 486 bus from Jerusalem to Kalya. Look at www.bus.co.il for schedules and routes.
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Old Feb 5, 18, 2:01 am
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If I were you, I'd go to the Old Town of Jaffa in the morning. That's my favourite part of seaside Tel Aviv. I spent a morning there once when I arrived at 2AM.

If you arrive at the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem with a bus from Tel Aviv, the easiest way to get to Bethlehem is to take a bus to Gilo and walk from there to the checkpoint. I did that a couple of times, and it's only a 5 minute walk from Gilo. I think you need bus number 31.

If you're in the Old City of Jerusalem, you just exit the Damascus Gate and take an Arab bus from the bus station there to Bethlehem.

The most interesting sights at the Dead Sea would be Masada and walking in the Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. The buses are very infrequent, so it's better to have a rental car or join a tour. For "swimming," I'd recommend Ein Bokek beach in the southern end of the Dead Sea.
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Old Feb 23, 18, 8:53 am
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Hi guys

Thanks again for all your help

Thought I'd come back after the trip and let you know (and others that possibly want to do the same trip) how it went.

First of all, I got lucky in ZRH, upgrade to Business class at the gate. So after a short but good sleep, arrived in TLV.

Easy immigration, a few questions but <1min. Got 300 NIS at an ATM, and wanted to take the train.

This is where it became a bit "uneasy". They had signed a 4.31 train (it was about 4.15 at that time) but apparently that was some kind of special night service, that didn't really run, or was a bus, or anything, anyway, not properly signed, and the train guy there didn't really spoke English.

Took the first normal train at 5.35am (used the time to do some more research on what to do later, good wifi at TLV airport!)

Was at Savidor Center approx 15min later, with the sun slowly coming up. Warm weather! Walked around in shirt only, perfect. Got to the seaside after a short and nice stroll (funny parking ) at the Independence Park, walked South along the Shore Line from there.

Heavy wind but warm air, it was truly a great walk. LOTS of runners, pedestrians, people with dogs (seriously, apparently Israel does NOT got their dog poop problem under control!)

Walked along the US embassy (I'll buy that piece of junk for 1$ when Trump moved it, LOL!) till approx Jerusalem beach. Reconstruction ongoing there, so I made my way through the Carmel Market. It was approx 9am now (I took some stops in between) and the market was open already. Walked through the various stands, making a break at Mordehai Garden. Next stop was Independence Hall. About 11am, continued to the Central Bus Station, which is indeed very massive, but 2/3rd completely deserted. Kinda weird and interesting itself!

Took the bus to Jerusalem, arrived about 12.30am.

In Jerusalem, it was a bit colder, but still perfectly fine for shirt only, now that the sun had warmed the land for a few hours. Walked along the tram lines, to the old city, through the old city. Lots of tourists, lots of pictures.

Since it was awesome weather, and I felt really good on walking, I decided to do "the pilgrim" and walk to Bethlehem about 3pm. Reached the illegal wall about 4.15pm, through in seconds. Another 15min, and I was at the hotel (Bethlehem hotel)

The hotel is officially 4 star, and it was actually quite decent. Super clean, nice aircon/heater (quick to react, not too loud) and I got a room with a view (regular full size bed, despite only did booking for 1 person)

Super friendly lady at the reception. Didn't had to provide "security" like in other hotels (and didn't do prepaid or anything else..) - the room was spacious itself, comfortable and huge bed, clean, and I liked it that the floor was tiles, not carpet. I hate hotel carpets!

Bathroom a bit more basic, but extremely nice hot shower, easy to adjust, and good water quality from what I could see.

I rested a bit in the room (did over 30km on that day already!) and eventually had a walk through nightly Bethlehem, very quiet and empty. Ate some good chicken at a local shack, and eventually when walking back to the hotel, a bar owner from a local bar whisked me in. Two locally brewed beers and a total of 30 NIS later (reasonable price I think) I went back to the hotel.

After a good night rest, I had breakfast, which was TOTALLY deserted at 8.30am. Apparently all the groups eat before that. They immediately know who I was, apparently I was the only guy staying at the hotel on a "non-group booking". But the food was still hot, and nicely prepared. Decent spread, 4 star quality.

Lady at the reception gave me some good suggestions on hiking nearby - so I went out and did a 3 hour tour. Really nice views over some of the most Bible-worthy areas (or whatever you call that) - some ice cream in between, and I was a happy hiker. Of course visited the Church of the Nativity. Spent a bit money on souvenirs, and some food. After some rest at the hotel I went out for dinner (ate at the "Walled Off" hotel, which itself is very interesting albeit sad, with a museum visit there too) and then walked along the illegal wall. Dark humour along it everywhere.

Then I noticed that I only had like 30 NIS left, so I went to an ATM. Just to notice that it won't actually give me any NIS, just Jordanian money, which I would then have to change against NIS. A bit complicated, and since I didn't really need more money at that point, I thought I'll pass for the moment.

Next morning, after breakfast, left the hotel, and crossed back to Israel. VERY annoying, and even as a tourist you're basically treated very unfriendly at the "facilities". Not a good experience. Made me understand even more why the Palestinians are angry about the situation, and why they call it Apartheid.

Anyway, once back, took the bus to Jerusalem (Arabic bus) which was quick and only 4.7 NIS.

Arrived there around 10am, took different routes through the old city (much more quiet on Tuesday than on Sunday!) and then walked through the western parts of Jerusalem, back to the bus station. Boarded the bus, which surprisingly wasn't inside the bus terminal itself, but outside (luckily I basically passed by it, and noticed the small signage)

Bus driver claimed he couldn't return money on the 20 NIS bill I paid with (Fare was 16 NIS) - since I didn't REALLY care at that point, I just went in. Just a very tiny bad experience. 1hr drive, bus 485 itself comfortable, but no wifi.

Reached TLV approx 1pm (for a 3.55pm departure) and went straight to Checkin.

HUUUUUUUGE queue at regular checkin, medium-sized queue at the "interview" for people having checked in already (Since I did that, I could have gone there), then noticed an area with just 6 people - assumed priority line. The guy manning it was very unfriendly, but eventually let me in after showing proof of status.

Took 10min to queue still (The regular line looked like 2+hrs long!)

Interview was MASSIVE pain. They just don't get people travelling for holidays in Israel apparently. They were interested in ANY stamp from ANY muslim dominated country.

Malaysia (which I had plenty) took me along about 15min to clear, about 10min for Indonesia. UAE and Marroco were relatively short with 5min each (I think at that point I annoyed the lady more with my super friendly answers, keeping asking her that she should visit those countries too because it was a great experience, LOL! Tit-for-that, you ask me silly questions, I ask you silly questions ) - then they found an Egypt stamp (Stamp only from SSH, no visa required there) from last year on a 24hrs TK error fare. Oh boy!

That took some massive extra time, they don't seem to understand the principle of "error fare" at all, including why someone would go on such a trip. I suggested to check Flyertalk, but she didn't understood. Anyway, after something close to 40min or so, I was "cleared". And I was lucky I had a quite new passport, with many other muslim countries I've visited not been in it. My old one would probably have looked much more suspicious for them (including more Egypt ones - also short stay, a single day stay in Lebanon, and other "short stays")

Checkin then was fast, basically just printing out documents.

Security, while slow, was at least done "good", ie they properly checked, and didn't to silly "no containers over 100ml, your plastic bag is too big" stuff there. But because it was so slow, only about 1 person per 2 minutes passed, and there were about 15 in front of me.

Anyway, reached the lounge about 1hr 30min before departure. The "Dan" lounge certainly is on the lower end of lounges. Drinks were quite warm, food was very basic. About 10min before boarding, the checkin crew came, looking for passengers for the Swiss flight. From what I could see, everyone with status being enough to access the lounge got upgraded to C.

Happy flight back to ZRH, and I was home again.

All in all, an interesting trip. A few general comments:

-Immigration into Israel at TLV is fast and easy
-If you plan to go to Palestina, bring enough NIS! (Or if you got USD anyway, they're ok too)
-Transport within Israel by bus is convenient
-Immigration into Israel from Palestine is a bad experience, immigration at TLV on departure is massive pain if you're a frequent traveller
-Israel is expensive (Swiss-level, I'd say), Palestine is a bit cheaper, but not CHEAP.
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Old Feb 23, 18, 2:34 pm
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Thanks for coming back and reporting. I have a general idea that there are many things I'd like to see and do but that the Israeli security apparatus is a massive pain in the rear. Your narrative supports that idea.
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Old Feb 23, 18, 3:10 pm
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For most visitors, Israeli security is not a problem at all. I've visited Israel 40 times, and while it is true that a couple of times I spent around one hour in airport security, first being questioned and then being thoroughly searched, it's ususally not more than 5-10 minutes. And in some ways, Israeli security is much easier than security in Europe, e.g. that they don't confiscated water bottles and tooth paste. It may seem like a minor nuisance, but it makes Israel one of the safest destinations in the world.
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Old Feb 23, 18, 11:55 pm
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Originally Posted by Fredrik74 View Post
Thanks for coming back and reporting. I have a general idea that there are many things I'd like to see and do but that the Israeli security apparatus is a massive pain in the rear. Your narrative supports that idea.
Obviously they immediately recognized his attitude problem. Redchili's description of airport security is far more accurate.
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Old Feb 24, 18, 5:06 am
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Originally Posted by mbgg View Post
Obviously they immediately recognized his attitude problem. Redchili's description of airport security is far more accurate.
Obviously, you've never tried to exit Israel with 30+ stamps from half a dozen of muslim countries and check their reactions. Everyone else I asked about that kind of interviews who had an equal lot of stamps and/or history of travelling to other muslim countries got equally or even worse "interviewed" in TLV upon exiting.

Or you're simply trolling.. and I don't know how Israel is "one of the safest countries in the world" due to literally asking people on LEAVING about every visa stamp in their passport.

People like you actually make me feeling less interested in providing feedback to this community.
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Old Feb 24, 18, 1:41 pm
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Originally Posted by YuropFlyer View Post
Obviously, you've never tried to exit Israel with 30+ stamps from half a dozen of muslim countries and check their reactions. Everyone else I asked about that kind of interviews who had an equal lot of stamps and/or history of travelling to other muslim countries got equally or even worse "interviewed" in TLV upon exiting.

Or you're simply trolling.. and I don't know how Israel is "one of the safest countries in the world" due to literally asking people on LEAVING about every visa stamp in their passport.

People like you actually make me feeling less interested in providing feedback to this community.
Attitude problem:
" LOL! Tit-for-that, you ask me silly questions, I ask you silly questions )".
Gee, all those dumb natives who take airport security seriously.
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Old Feb 24, 18, 1:51 pm
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Originally Posted by mbgg View Post
Attitude problem:
" LOL! Tit-for-that, you ask me silly questions, I ask you silly questions )".
Gee, all those dumb natives who take airport security seriously.
You probably never experienced those checks then.

Asking someone about his EXACT travels like 8 years ago, with whom you travelled with (about 50 people.. and yes, they wanted names.. it got quite annoying when they wouldn't stop after like 20!), why you did this side trip or that one when based in SIN (they literally wouldn't or couldn't understand that SIN is quite boring.. and you'll do many side trips from there on a weekly/bi-weekly base), is MASSIVELY annoying.

Especially when it's actually repeated with each and every country, and they basically don't stop asking THE VERY SAME QUESTIONS. I've stayed extremely friendly during the whole process, but it was quite clear to them that what they did (which the staff, obviously, was forced to do. They're not doing their job voluntarily, as much I'm aware, it's conscripted people..) was silly beyond believe, too.

So, would you want to give answers to the same question 50x, about travel you did many years ago, when you're in average taking 80-100 flights a year? How does this make travelling any more "safe"?

You quite clearly want to defend Israel from criticism, I've noticed that. But I think a forum where people exchange their experience about actual travel experience is quite the wrong place to do so!
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