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March 2, 2011March 2, 2011  3 comments  Christian Guesthouses

This is your once in a lifetime journey and you want it to be unique. Forget about cookie-cutter hotels that you can find anywhere in the world; if you really want  your trip to be a spiritual adventure try planning your next visit to include authentic hospitality experiences. With everything from big budget, low budget to no budget, the Holy Land offers unique accommodations for all types of travelers no matter what their finances are. Whether your taste is for a real hotel or something different, Travelujah has the inside scoop on how to experience the Holy Land and where to find authentic hospitality.

For a million-star experience, bring your yoga mat and sleeping bag to the official campsite in the Makhtesh Ramon National Park. Here in the vastness of the Negev Desert's largest erosion cirque, sometimes called a crater, you'll commune with the splendor of the galaxy obscured by the street lights of London. You'll be dazzled by the Milky Way - an enormous banner of stars stretching across the sky so distinctly you can almost touch it. The price? Free. The number of fellow campers besides you and your partner? Likely none.


At the other end of the simplicity to utter luxury spectrum, you can stay at the palatial lakeside home of a British lord. Villa Melchett on the shores of the freshwater Sea of Galilee, a glorious relic of the British Mandate of Palestine, has been burnished to perfection as an ultra-luxurious three-suite lodge. Spread over two acres of manicured gardens in the shadow of Mount Arbel with its own private beach, the villa is simply fit for royalty. The retreat was built by Alfred Mond, a long-standing Member of Parliament and founder of Imperial Chemical Industries. Knighted in 1910, Mond was made Lord Melchett of Langford in 1928.

Between gratis and priced for blue bloods, Israel offers an intriguing variety of unique places to stay.


At the lower end of the scale of price but not necessarily luxury, the Holy Land's many Christian guesthouses are especially inviting. Hidden behind large stone walls or beneath the ancient passageways and store fronts of well beaten side streets throughout Jerusalem one can find unique Christian guesthouses run by Christian churches from the around the world. Ranging from the small indiscreet Rosary Sisters on Agnon Street to the tucked away find of the Christ Church Guest House within the gates of the Old City or the 49-room former school converted guest house of St. Charles located in the quite hip and centrally located neighborhood of the Germany Colony, these guesthouses are generally short on typical hotel amenities such as telephones, dryers, and puffy big beds, but long on friendliness, cleanliness and great conversation with the Church community that manages them. Warning:  be ready to make your reservation at least 6 months or more in advance though, in order to secure a room. Also, most of the Christian guesthouses, while open to all faiths, first and foremost prefer to accommodate pilgrims and several do have restrictions as to curfews and sleeping arrangements.


Similar attractive places that are long on charm and short on price are Beit Immanuel Guest House in Jaffa, the former home of Lord Ustinov, now owned by the Christian ministry CMJ-Israel, and Stella Maris in Haifa, which is run by the very friendly Carmelite Sisters. Though the purpose of these guesthouses is for Christian pilgrimage, religion is not an issue at any of these establishments. Indeed their sense of otherworldliness and spirituality enhance the pleasure of a trip to Israel whatever one's faith. These guesthouses are priced for individuals from approximately $50 per person per night including breakfast.


Beit Immanuel

Beit Immanuel Guesthouse (photo courtesy Travelujah)

Continuing in the luxury comes cheap category; the Jacir Palace Intercontinental Hotel was originally built as a fin de siècle mansion for the mayor of Bethlehem and his extended family. Following the 1993 Oslo Accord, Arab investors greatly expanded the former clan castle into a top-of-the-line inn. But because the economy in Bethlehem is far less developed than neighboring Jerusalem, a room here with breakfast costs around $165 per night - about a quarter of the rate of the comparable five-star King David Hotel five miles to the north.


Jacir Palace Intercontinental Bethlehem

Jacir Palace Intercontinental Bethlehem (photo courtesy Travelujah.com)

Another historic site refurbished as a luxury inn is the Scots Hotel in Tiberias. Established nearly a century and a half ago as a hospital by Scottish missionaries, the complex of basalt buildings fell into ruin after a modern government hospital was built in the lakeside city. Completely renovated and reopened in 2004 by the Church of Scotland, the Scots Hotel today offers the intimate luxury that big hotels are unable to provide with prices over $275 per night and varying depending on whether you are in a sea view room, new room or antique room.

Scots Hotel Tiberias

Scots Tiberias (Photo courtesy Travelujah.com)

Secludedly set on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, the four star Pilgerhaus Christian guesthouse opened in 2000 on the site of a church, and is owned by the Church of Germany. This most charming of guesthouses offers 69 high level rooms complete with televisions and for the visitor interested in enjoying the peacefulness and tranquility of the Galilee, the expansive bamboo plantation on site is the largest of its kind in the country. Rates begin at around $225 for a double per night.


Pilgerhaus Tabgha

Pilgerhaus Tabgha (Photo courtesy travelujah.com)

The success of Tiberias' Scots Hotel has inspired other hoteliers to establish boutique properties in historic buildings most notably in Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv's Hotel Montefiore is the Big Orange's finest boutique hotel but two other properties recently joined this exclusive club including the Shalom Relax on Hayarkon directly across from the Hilton and the 12-unit hotel Gordon on the corner of Gordon and Hayarkon Street. Rates at these properties, a mere $360 and up including breakfast.


Just as the kibbutz is unique to Israel, so too are the kibbutz guesthouses scattered across the country. Two especially nice hotels are the Kibbutz Ein Gedi Country Inn located adjoining an oasis on the Dead Sea, and Lavi Kibbutz Hotel in the Lower Galilee between Nazareth and Tiberias.The former, perched on a cliff overlooking the lowest point on the face of the Earth, has an exquisite cactus garden. Hotel guests receive complimentary passes to the renowned Ein Gedi Spa with its mineral baths and Dead Sea mud.


Though less scenic, Hotel Lavi is popular because it allows guests to experience life on an Orthodox Jewish kibbutz. Guests can inspect the unique furniture factory which specializes in designing and producing accoutrements for synagogues, as well as visiting the dairy where cows are milked on the Sabbath without violating the biblical injunction against working on the seventh day.


Our personal favorite - If you really love animals, and just can't get enough of nature don't miss the Vered ha-Galil Ranch in the Upper Galilee. This 31 unit property was the first of its kind in the Galilee. When it originally opened people slept in huts but over the years lovely cabins have been added, most of which are equipped with small kitchens and jacuzzis. Recently 12 magnficient suites and a gorgeous pool were added, all overlooking the Sea of Galilee. This lovely guesthouse serves an enormous, cooked to order breakfast and is widely renowned for its restaurant, where it has served guests since the mid 1960's and it is still known for some of the best steaks in the country. With the Mt. of Beatitudes, Korazim, Domus Galilea all less than 5 minutes away, there is much that can be explored even by foot. Here one can lay low enjoying a peaceful weekend getaway, or choose to embark on a horseback adventure from one hour to three days - and return to your bungalow to enjoy a glass of wine while soaking in a hot tub overlooking the Sea of Galilee. For a real treat, take a few hours and walk through the orchards. Make sure to take a bag with you because depending on when you come, you can pick the oranges, figs, pomegranates, berries and other fruits that are grown on site.


Vered Hagalil

Main building at Vered Hagalil (Photo courtesy Travelujah.com)

Finally in recent years Israel has been swept up in the B&B craze. From the Golan Heights in the north to the far south, one can stay in delightful zimmers - rooms (or more likely separate cottages) set up by farmers keen to broaden their income sources. Some today include amenities like Jacuzzis or swimming pools. The quaint towns of Safad and Rosh Pina, both in the Upper Galilee, are chock-a-block with B&Bs.


Below you'll find some links to the sites mentioned above. You'll discover an Israel far from the madding crowds.


For more information see:

Makhtesh Ramon National Park

Villa Melchett 

Christian Guesthouses in Jerusalem


Christian Guesthouses in the Galilee

Jacir Palace Intercontinental Hotel

Kibbutz Ein Gedi Guest House, Dead Sea

Hotel Kibbutz Lavi, Lower Galilee

Vered ha-Galil Ranch, Upper Galilee

Israel Bed and Breakfast Guide


By Elisa Moed and Gil Zohar for Travelujah.

June 13, 2012June 13, 2012  2 comments  Tourism

Israel experienced another record month of tourism in May as over 321,000 visitors arrived in Israel, representing an increase of 5% over the previous high set in 2010. Year to date figures show that 2012 has been a banner year for tourism to Israel so far. Over 1.4 million people have arrived to Israel of which 85% represent tourists. Travelujah estimates that a total of 3.6 million visitors will arrive by year end 2012, assuming the calm environment continues.


ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles

Photo courtesy: Travelujah


Minister of Tourism Staz Misechnikov said,  "The consistent increase in incoming tourism and the new record highs prove that the investment in the industry contributes to increased income for the economy and creates tens of thousands of new jobs. Against the background of the ongoing global economic crisis, the importance of investment in engines for growth becomes sharper and tourism is a central player in maintaining the robust Israeli economy." Staz Misechnikov


Christian tourism in particular, represents a very sizable portion of Israel's tourism market with Christian tourists representing over 60% of all day and overnight tourists to Israel.


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Elisa L. Moed is the Founder and CEO of Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.


August 8, 2012August 8, 2012  0 comments  Tourism

Israel continues to attract record breaking numbers of tourists this year. Since January 2012, two million visitors have arrived to the country, 1.7 million of which are tourists, representing a 7% increase over the same period last year.


The increase in tourism is causing shortages in Israel's hotel room supply. As a result, significant incentives are being offered to lure the development of new hotels as well as the refurbishment of existing properties.


Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov said "Given the constant increase in demand, there is an urgent need for more hotel rooms that will increase competition in the industry and lead to a decrease in the cost of accommodation for both tourists and Israelis."


According to Israel's Central Bureau of Statistics, 296,000 visitors arrived in Israel during July 2012, up from 274,000 visitors last year representing an increase of 8%.


Of the 3.4 million  tourists who visited Israel last year, over 60% or 2.3 million of these tourists were Christian. The Christian tourism market represents one of the fastest growing segments of Israel's tourism industry and offers one of the most important avenues for future growth.

Israel's tourism industry is a significant contributor to Israel's GDP. The average tourist spends US$1320 during his stay in Israel.


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Elisa L. Moed is the Founder and CEO of Travelujah - Holy Land Tours, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.


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