State of Israel – the country of juxtapositions. It’s overflowing with historical sites of important religious significance, yet it plays host to one of the most well-known gay pride celebrations in the world. The Red Sea, the Dead Sea, the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea all touch its land, but deserts blanket well over half its surface. It’s home to the lowest point on Earth, The Dead Sea, that can be viewed from atop a mountainside fortress. Contemporary and ancient exist cohesively, each respecting the other. It’s small, roughly the size of the United States’ 5th smallest state, New Jersey, but within its borders, you can sunbathe, take a salty float, ski, hike, immerse yourself in history and well, just read on for more. We’ll tell you why this destination that may never have been on your family travel radar should actually top the list.

For a cultural immersion: Machane Yehuda Market

Yes, it’s crowded and fast-paced and hectic and you’ll find yourself doing a 360 where you stand trying to take it all in, but you’ll immediately recognize Machane Yehuda Market as being something beyond special. It’s overflowing with merchants whose infectious love for Jerusalem permeates the marketplace, made apparent by their demeanors and the way they interact with each other and the shoppers. Their wares cover the gamut of everything you’d want from a market, from breads, candies, wines, teas and spices to fresh seafood and meats.

It can be an overwhelming place to visit if you don’t know what you’re doing, so consider setting up a guided tour. They have several tours that touch on wide ranges of food, bars, graffiti and nightlife, wine and cheese, cooking workshops and bakeries.

Good to know: 

  • Be sure to bring Shekels or credit, because most vendors do not accept US dollars.
  • Take the time to interact with the vendors. As a whole, they're a proud people who jump at the opportunity to share their love for what they're doing with visitors.

Machane Yehuda Market
46 Agripas St.

photo: tea and spice vendors mugging for the camera at Machane Yehuda via Maria Chambers

Have you had the opportunity to visit Israel? We’d love to hear about your experience in the Comments below.

— Maria Chambers

This trip, including hotel stays, food and activities, was paid for by Israel’s Ministry of Travel.