If you go …

Masada

If you get the chance to visit Israel, go. It’s worth it.

Yes, it’s easy to write the place off as "unsafe." But that’s far from reality. The security is intense, and you’ll never see so many guns in your life — military service is mandatory, and IDF soldiers always carry — but you feel comfortable quickly.

Over the course of a press trip this spring to explore the country’s sporting culture, a rocket attack hit Beersheba and a deadly bomb went off in Jerusalem. Both times, a sense of normalcy returned almost immediately, and we never felt like we were in any kind of danger. That’s just how it goes in Israel, it seems: Deal with it, move on, trust the security apparatus.

Which is good, because the country offers an awful lot to visitors — especially the outdoorsy type. 

Israel is hardly "Lawrence of Arabia" land. The north is lush and green. The Mediterranean coast is almost Italian looking. And Eilat, on the Red Sea shore, could be any small beachfront city — Ocean City, Md., came to mind. Except, you know, you can see Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Plenty of the country, though, is desert. The Negev takes up a little more than half of Israel’s land area, and the Judean Desert is just as dry and desolate. Both offer plenty of chances for the first thing you should do if you visit: Hike.

The easiest way to see Israel on foot is to hike part of the Israel National Trail, which crosses the entire country from north to south. Large bits of it, naturally, pass through desert areas, which make for wonderful hiking. Just remember to bring water. You’ll need it.

Want something a little faster? Rent a mountain bike. The southern desert is pretty much an ideal riding location. The hills provide for challenging climbing and fun descents, and constant rock cover makes the single- and double-track trails quite technical. The Geofun Desert Cycling Center in Midreshet Ben Gurion can set you up right here. Off the trail, Adam Sela’s adventure tours make great use of the rugged beauty of the landscape. He’s the guy to call for rappelling and guided tours.

Working north, Masada is well worth a stop. The mountaintop fortress on the shore of the Dead Sea was the site of the last stand of the Sicarii rebels against Roman forces in 72-73 AD. It’s a humbling place, as you’d expect, but a beautiful one, too. There’s probably no better view in Israel than from Herod’s palace on the top. And yes, it’s a short drive from about six dozen Dead Sea cosmetics outlets. So there’s that.

Jerusalem is northwest of the Dead Sea, which sits on the Jordanian border. It’s certainly the most interesting city in the country … a few thousand years of history will do that. Check out the Old City while you’re there, of course, but get out of town, too. The Judean Mountains are awesome for hiking, cycling and — a personal favorite — Tomcar tours. They’re crosses between ATVs and Jeeps, and absolutely fly on the logging trail-style roads in the Judean pine forests. Really, truly fun. If you do one non-historic thing in this region — tougher than it sounds, really — do this.

If you go from the U.S., you’ll fly in and out of Tel Aviv. This is the metropolitan center of Israel, with most of the best restaurants and big business (as well as the impressive Olympic Experience Museum). But it’s also just a short drive from Caesarea, with its splendid coastal Roman ruins and decidedly un-Roman golf course. The Caesarea Golf Club is the only full-size course in the country (think of the irrigation), and it’s a nice one. It reminded us of courses on Long Island.

Masada photo courtesy of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

NYPD #myNYPD Twitter campaign backfires

A NYPD campaign to improve its image via social media instead produced a flood of pictures of police brutality and tweets critical of the force.

International

PHOTOS: Places to visit on Shakespeare's 450th birthday

William Shakespeare would celebrate his 450th birthday on Wednesday, and England's greatest playwright let his imagination roam as widely as his characters.

Local

Overnight Q trains to run local in Manhattan…

Manhattan straphangers will soon get some late-night relief on the Q train.

Local

Boy, 2, survives fall from unguarded third-story window…

A 2-year-boy miraculously survived a fall from an unguarded third-story window in Manhattan early Wednesday morning, police said.

Movies

Review: 'The Railway Man' is a literal-minded look…

In "The Railway Man," Colin Firth plays a WWII vet suffering from massive trauma acquired from his days as a beaten POW.

Books

'#GIRLBOSS': Nasty Gal CEO shares unlikely success story

Nasty Gal CEO Sophia Amoruso shares her rags to riches, dumpster to Porsche tale in her new book "#GIRLBOSS."

Movies

App Appeal: Unf— Your Habitat is a sweary…

Guilt trip yourself into some spring cleaning with the app "Unf— Your Habitat," which uses swearing and some rudeness to get you to get your s— together.

Movies

Review: 'The Other Woman' needs to be angrier,…

Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton play women who team up to destroy the man they're all unwittingly sleeping with in "The Other Woman."

NHL

Rangers reclaim home ice with Game 3 road…

The Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 lead early in the first period for the second straight game. This time, they held on.

NBA

Nets settle for 1-1 series tie with Game…

DeMar DeRozan, who was an All-Star this season, hit two huge jumpers back-to-back to give the Raptors an 89-85 lead over the Nets with 2:10 to play.

MLB

MLB Power Rankings: Brewers best in baseball, Dodgers,…

MLB Power Rankings: Brewers best in baseball, Dodgers, Cardinals, Yankees surge. The A's, Braves, Rangers, Giants and Rockies are also in the top 10.

NBA

Jason Kidd reacts to Mike Woodson being fired…

Jason Kidd played for Mike Woodson last year and Joe Johnson spent four seasons being the main focus on offense for Woodson in Atlanta.

Education

The benefits and challenges of intensive summer programs

Get the facts on taking an advanced college course.

Wellbeing

Why you need a facial

What can a facial do for your face that a washcloth and soap can’t?

Wellbeing

You can have your healthy snacks delivered

To take the guesswork out of procuring snacks good for you and your family, check out one of these companies.

Wellbeing

Jillian Michaels wants to ‘Maximize Your Life’

The fitness star returns for her second “Maximize Your Life Tour.”