Jordan & Israel
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Desert adventurer T.E. Lawrence’s wartime trek across Jordan, from Wadi Rum to Aqaba, was one of the most arduous journeys of modern times. These days, however, you can explore Jordan’s challenging terrain with considerably less effort. You’ll probably forego camels for, say, an air-conditioned four-wheel drive. But you might well echo Lawrence of Arabia’s awestruck description of Jordan’s dramatic desertscapes as “vast, echoing, and God-like.”
Set on the ancient crossroads between Arabia and the Mediterranean Sea, Jordan is full of historic sites. Crusaders’ forts along old trade routes and ancient cities carved from stone will captivate anyone in search of the past. And although the land might be ancient, Jordan’s cities offer the modern conveniences that help make your trip to the past a little less demanding. When you tire of desert ardors, you can relax at a Dead Sea spa or go scuba diving in the Red Sea.
At times, Israel can seem like a country obsessed by religion. In Jerusalem, you may hear the Muslim call to prayer clash with the clanging of bells from Christian churches, while Jews sway back and forth in prayer before the Western Wall. In other parts of the country, you’ll find yourself walking in the exact places where the events of the Bible unfolded. Everywhere you turn, you’ll see reminders of the three religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam—that have shaped this part of the world.
You’ll also see evidence of the conflicts that continue to plague the region, many of them at least partly based on religion. Relations between Israelis and their Palestinian neighbors have been heated and at times violent. Despite the fact that Israel has signed peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan, chances for a lasting peace with an independent Palestinian neighbor remain a pipe dream that even the most hopeful optimist can’t envision for the near future.
More than half a century of conflict has not prevented Israel from developing a modern industrial society able to absorb immigrants from vastly differing cultural and economic backgrounds. Its natural beauty is complemented by a rich variety of cultural activities and sightseeing opportunities. Moreover, it remains the Middle East’s sole participatory democracy with a highly opinionated population (reflecting a complete spectrum of political allegiance and outlook), an unfettered press and a totally independent judiciary.
In the Palestinian “Intifadas” of 1987-93 and 2000-05, major terrorist attacks took place in Israel, and as a result, the country is very security-conscious. Tourists are again flocking to Israel’s inspiring and interesting sights, but they do so while keeping abreast of the latest developments in the region.
Although it’s mostly covered by desert, Jordan also has mountains, canyons, gorges, forests, marshes, beaches, plains, rolling hills and fertile river valleys. The Jordan Valley, including the Dead Sea, is actually an extension of the Great Rift Valley, which runs through Kenya and Tanzania in Africa.
Israel stands at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa, though it belongs to the Asian continent. Its western border is the Mediterranean Sea. To the north, it is bounded by Lebanon and Syria, to the east by Jordan and the Palestinian Territories in the West Bank, and to the south by the Red Sea and Egypt. The Gaza Strip, a narrow piece of land running along the Mediterranean coast southwest of Israel, is also under Palestinian control and shares a border with Egypt.
Israel is a relatively small area, long and narrow in shape, measuring 290 mi/470 km in length and 85 mi/135 km across at its widest point.
Situated between Africa and Asia and couched at various periods between seats of power in Egypt and Mesopotamia, the area known as Jordan today has been subject to many invasions throughout its history. Ancient Israel, under King David, gained control of the three kingdoms of Amman, Moab and Edom around the early 11th or late 10th century BC. After that followed periods of domination by Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians. Alexander the Great’s march of conquest in 333 BC claimed Jordan as well, later becoming part of the Seleucid Empire. Meanwhile, in the first century BC, an Arab people called the Nabateans, who were gaining wealth from trade, set about building their ornate capital, Petra. Soon after that Rome moved in, with Jordan falling under the Byzantines when the empire split.
One of the most significant invasions for modern-day Jordan came in the seventh century, when Arab armies conquered the Middle East, spreading with them the new religion of Islam. After that, the area was ruled by a succession of Muslim dynasties and empires, including the Umayyads, Abbasids, Ayyubids, Mamluks and Ottomans.
During World War I, at the instigation of Great Britain, a rebellion against the Ottoman rulers began, with T.E. Lawrence playing an important role in the campaign, which was led by Feisal, son of the emir of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. After the Ottoman Empire collapsed at the end of the war, rebel leaders were recognized as the new government by the Allies, but with Britain ruling under a mandate. Partial independence was granted by the British in 1923 when Abdullah, Feisal’s brother, was recognized as ruler of the country: Full independence would wait until 1946, when Abdullah became king.
Britain also controlled neighboring Palestine, and in 1948, under a U.N. mandate, the borders were redefined between Palestine and what was then called Trans-Jordan so that there would be a predominantly Jewish state in the west (Israel) and an Arab-controlled state in the east (Jordan). Included in Jordan’s territory was the portion of Palestine west of the Jordan River, known today as the West Bank (including Bethlehem, Jericho and portions of Jerusalem). But after joining other Arab forces in the 1967 Six-Day War, Jordan lost the West Bank to Israel. Today, the area is partly controlled by Israel and partly by the Palestinian Authority, which gained some jurisdiction over the territory as part of the Oslo Peace Accords in 1994. That agreement also paved the way for an opening of relations between Jordan and Israel, which resulted in the signing of a peace treaty with Israel in October 1994. Jordan was the second of Israel’s Arab neighbors to do so.
In 1999, Jordan’s longtime ruler King Hussein died. His son Abdullah succeeded him and has inherited the country’s many problems, including rapid population growth, high unemployment and a high rate of urban migration.
Israel’s history began long before the modern state was established in 1948. Throughout the centuries, this small patch of land hugging the Mediterranean has served as a corridor for conquering powers moving between Africa, Europe and Asia. Biblical stories document passages in Canaan and the surrounding territories, with the name Israel first given to the patriarch Jacob and the nation formed by his sons and their tribes.
Archaeologists use the Bible as a literary guide to their work, but no physical evidence of the early Israelite kingdoms of David and Solomon has been found. The magnificent Temple constructed in Jerusalem by Solomon was destroyed in a Babylonian invasion in 587 BC. After a short exile, the Jews returned to their homeland and built a second temple. The Persians took control, to be followed by the Ptolemies and then the Seleucids. Jewish rebels called the Maccabees revolted against these Syrian-based rulers, purified the temple and established the Hasmonean kingdom.
By decree of Rome, Herod became the ruler of the small Jewish state, and as a master builder, he reconstructed the Temple as one of the wonders of the ancient world. Just before Herod’s death, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Roman governor Pontius Pilate had Jesus executed for his perceived threat to Roman law and order.
Following a Jewish revolt in Caesarea, Jerusalem was taken by the Romans and the second Temple was destroyed in AD 70. In AD 135, following the Bar Kochba Revolt, Roman emperor Hadrian drove the remaining Jews out of Jerusalem and re-established the city as Aelia Capitolina. The name given to this Roman province, Provincia Syria Palaestina, was the origin of the modern name Palestine.
In AD 638, six years after the prophet Mohammed’s death, Muslims seized Jerusalem and established a religious connection to the land. The Dome of the Rock was constructed in AD 691 over the spot where Mohammed’s “Night Journey” led him into heaven. The El Aqsa Mosque, the third-holiest Muslim shrine after Mecca and Medina, was built nearby in the following century.
In the 11th century, the Crusaders arrived in Palestine. They established a short-lived kingdom in Jerusalem, only to be driven out by Saladin of Egypt in 1187. Christians and Muslims continued to fight over the land until the Mamluks took control in the 13th century.
The Ottomans annexed Palestine in 1516, and Suleiman the Magnificent rebuilt Jerusalem’s walls into their present form circling the Old City. Palestine remained a quiet corner of the Ottoman Empire until World War I.
After the Zionist movement called for the re-establishment of the Jewish homeland, the Balfour Declaration was issued in 1917 in England supporting this national home in Palestine. Shortly afterwards, the British defeated the Turkish army, and the League of Nations granted them a mandate to rule the country.
Following the Holocaust in Europe, Jewish immigrants flooded their homeland, many illegally because the British exercised strict immigration controls. In 1947, the United Nations adopted a Partition Plan to create separate Jewish and Arab countries and an internationally controlled Jerusalem. The Palestinian Arabs and the surrounding Arab countries rejected this proposal, paving the way for years of bloody conflict with their Jewish neighbors.
The state of Israel was established in May 1948, and the country was immediately invaded. The War of Independence resulted in Israel’s firm control over its territories, but the West Bank and the eastern half of Jerusalem, including the Old City’s holy sites, fell under Jordanian rule. At the outbreak of war, many Palestinians fled their homes, creating a still unresolved refugee problem.
After the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel took control of the West Bank and reunited Jerusalem. Israel also secured control of the Gaza Strip, a band of desert that once was administered by Egypt, and annexed the Golan Heights, which had been Syrian. Israelis argued that control of the areas was vital for their national survival, and Palestinians sought autonomy on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip. The Sinai Peninsula was returned to Egypt in exchange for Israel’s first peace agreement with an Arab nation. Palestinian resentment broke out in the First Intifada, an intermittent, six-year rebellion that began in the 1980s.
The Palestinian-Israeli struggle took a dramatic turn in 1994, when the two sides signed a peace agreement. The Palestinians agreed to recognize Israel, and Israel agreed to turn over the West Bank towns and the Gaza Strip to Palestinian autonomous control. This agreement also paved the way for a peace treaty between Israel and Jordan.
The peace process was dealt a blow when Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated—by an Israeli extremist—in 1995. More violent altercations and the Second Intifada began in late 2000 following the Palestinian leadership’s rejection of major concessions offered by Premier Ehud Barak at the Camp David summit. Following Ariel Sharon’s election as prime minister in 2001, Palestinian violence intensified. The Israeli military retaliations led to Palestinian loss of life as well.
Israeli forces had already withdrawn from the Palestinian towns. Following a wave of suicide attacks on Israeli towns, Israel’s construction of a separation fence to thwart terrorist infiltrations and its targeted killings of Palestinian terrorist leaders almost ended terrorist attacks against Israel, but these measures also fueled tensions.
Even after Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat’s death in 2004, Israelis and Palestinians failed to resume negotiations. Since he had no partner in the peace process, Sharon embarked on a controversial unilateral move to set Israel’s borders. Israeli troops and civilians withdrew from the Gaza Strip and a portion of the northern West Bank in August 2005.
Diplomatic moves stalled again in early 2006 after a massive stroke left Sharon in a coma. The Islamic militant group Hamas won the Palestinian elections, tipping Israeli-Palestinian relations into uncharted waters, but the Kadima party and Sharon’s former right-hand man Ehud Olmert held on to power in the March 2006 elections. In summer 2006, Hezbollah guerrillas kidnapped several Israeli soldiers at the Israel-Lebanon border and violence erupted again. In June 2007, the Palestinian Civil War between Hamas and Fatah intensified, leaving the Gaza strip under control of radical Hamas forces.
After taking control of Gaza, Hamas launched hundreds of missiles into southern Israel, with 87 missiles fired in a single day on 25 December 2008. On 27 December, Israel launched Operation Cast Lead, a massive air and ground offensive designed to weaken Hamas.
Israel has imposed a strict embargo on the movement of goods into Gaza to prevent Hamas re-arming. Cross-border attacks on Israel from Gaza came to an abrupt end after Operation Cast Lead, but then re-started.
In 2011, the Palestine Authority, a coalition of Hamas and Fatah, sought to become a member of the UN as a sovereign state but was rejected; it was eventually given a nonmember state status. A year later, Israel took steps to legalize Israeli settlements in the West Bank on Palestinian soil, which caused outrage in the international community. Settler violence continues to be perpetuated by both sides. The foreign countries making up the peacemaking team are pushing for a two-state agreement but the eternal issue is the readiness of both camps to commit to ending the conflict, they say.
In May 2018, the U.S. relocated its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, creating violence and protests; and in July the same year, Israel’s parliament passed a controversial law characterizing the country as princip
The main attractions of Jordan are the ancient city of Petra, Roman ruins, Bedouin culture, Wadi Rum, Byzantine mosaics, Crusader fortresses, desert oases and nature reserves, shopping, beaches, scuba diving and snorkeling, the Dead Sea, spas and historical sites.
Jordan will appeal to travelers who love history (political and biblical), desert climates and scuba diving. Be prepared, however, for hot weather as well as the delays and inconveniences found in developing countries.
Among Israel’s main attractions are religious shrines, beaches, historical sites, archaeological digs, Dead Sea spas, souks (markets), nature reserves, fascinating cultures and great food.
Known as one of the world’s biggest inventors of IT software and systems, Israel is often referred to as the “Silicon Valley of the Middle East.”
The country is ranked with six micro-climates contained in deserts, valleys, mountains (with skiing) and pasture lands. In any given day trip, you may find yourself driving through at least three of them.
Israel has four seas: the Mediterranean, the Dead, the Red and the Sea of Galilee (which is actually a lake).
It’s almost impossible not to learn a great deal—about the world and about yourself—during a visit to Israel. But don’t go if you will be so preoccupied with safety that you won’t be able to relax.
Many of Jordan’s towns are mentioned in the Bible. Deir Alla, where the Bible says that Jacob rested after wrestling with the angel from God, is near the Jordan River northwest of Amman. The town of Heshbon is the site of the pools mentioned in the Song of Solomon 7:4.
If you’re arriving in Jordan via the West Bank, don’t expect to cross the mighty Jordan River of the Bible. The King Hussein/Allenby Bridge, which spans the river, is only 100 ft/30 m long, and the river beneath is barely a trickle.
Jordan’s largest source of income is the billions of Jordanian dinars sent home by Jordanians working in the Persian Gulf states.
Jordan’s King Hussein, the father of current King Abdullah, was one of the longest-serving and most fascinating rulers in the Middle East. He ascended to the throne in 1952 after the murder of his grandfather and ruled continuously until his death from cancer in 1999, despite a number of assassination attempts, including an aerial attack on his private jet. (The king, an accomplished pilot, evaded the attack and landed safely.)
The countries of Saudi Arabia and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan are the only two countries in the world that incorporate the names of families—the Saudis and the Hashemites—into the names of a nation.
Both Jordan and Israel claim Lot’s wife, the biblical figure who turned to salt when she disobeyed God and turned to look back at Sodom and Gomorrah. In Jordan, she can be seen atop a cliff just south of Wadi Mujib. In Israel, she is pointed out as a pillar on the salt mountain, Mount Sedom.
Wherever you go in Israel, you are bound to come across archaeological remains from the time of King Herod. A prolific builder, Herod is perhaps most famous not for the quantity of his constructions, but for their bizarre quality. Herod had a bid to defy nature. For example, when building the second Temple in Jerusalem, he literally built up a mountain from flat land; in Caesarea, he created a harbor in a place with no natural port; and in Jericho, he diverted a river to go through his palace.
Although Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, is the most solemn day on the Jewish calendar, for many Israeli children it is best known as “Bicycle Day.” On this day, all Israelis refrain from driving; with the roads clear of cars, many families take to the streets to cycle in the middle of normally busy and dangerous thoroughfares.
Jerusalem is so strongly associated with the world’s three main monotheistic religions that it even has a religiously delusional psychological disorder named in its honor. The Jerusalem Syndrome describes a condition in which seemingly healthy, normal people transform into street-preaching, psalm-singing Bible characters often garbed in nothing more than a hotel bed sheet. These people can normally be brought back to reality (with help) within a week or so, but a few never renounce their biblical personas.
Not only is the Dead Sea the lowest point on earth—it’s 1,320 ft/409 m below sea level—it also has its own rather thick ozone layer.
The grave of Oskar Schindler, the industrialist who saved more than 1,000 Jews during the Holocaust, can be found at Mount Zion. His grave has become a popular site since Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film Schindler’s List.
Native-born Israelis are known as sabras. The name comes from the Hebrew word for the prickly pear cactus fruit, which is tough and thorny on the outside but soft and sweet inside.
The 1965 addition to Nazareth’s Basilica of the Annunciation was largely financed by donations from Frank Sinatra.
Several Christian denominations share the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and each has jurisdiction over different areas of the church (it’s easy to tell when you pass from one area to another). Although the different denominations may be brothers in Christ, they are very competitive siblings. They can’t agree on who among them should keep the key to the front door, so it has been entrusted to the same Muslim family for centuries.
Without a doubt, hiking is one of the finest recreation activities in Jordan, and the Dana Nature Reserve and the Wadi Feynan are the best places to go. It’s also possible to join a multiday trek from Dana to Petra. Hiking and climbing in the desert of the Wadi Rum is superb.
Scuba diving and snorkeling are confined to the Red Sea at Aqaba, but it is one of the finest dive locations in the world. Plenty of dive shops and schools rent equipment and book excursions and training courses. Beaches are mostly confined to the coast at Aqaba. Although there is a public beach at the north end of the Dead Sea, it’s better to stick to the strips in front of the luxury hotels.
Bird-watchers will find plenty to see, and the best spots for viewing are on the reserves of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature.
The racetrack in Tuneib (near Amman) offers excellent horse and camel races and polo during the spring and summer.
Israel’s leading museums, such as the Israel Museum and the Holocaust memorial Yad Vashem, are in Jerusalem, but there are other important museums in Tel Aviv. Astonishing landmarks and historical sites, as well as some of the world’s most important religious and spiritual sites, can be found all over the country, especially in Jerusalem, Golan and Galilee.
Nature lovers wanting encounters with Israel’s landscapes and wilderness should head to the Carmel and Golan hills, Mount Hermon in the north of the country and the Negev Desert in the south. While you’re in the Golan region, stop for a tasting at Israel’s award-winning Golan Winery.
WINERIES, BREWERIES & DISTILLERIES
There are five prominent wine regions throughout Israel, with production ranging from boutique to Titanic wineries producing as many as 10 million bottles per year.
Carmel Winery, Domaine de Castel and Golan Winery make up approximately 80% of the business.
One smaller, yet still important, Israeli winery is Tishbi Vineyards in the Carmel Mountains. The winery produces French-style kosher wines under Golan Tishbi, a fifth-generation winemaker. Tishbi is one winery behind the agritourism boom, which means there’s more to do there than buy a bottle: visitors can make a day of it by taking a tour and enjoying some of its home-baked breads, cheeses and preserves in the casual, homespun restaurant and ambient patio. http://www.tishbi.com.
To dip deeper into local agritourism, grab a Tishbi Late Harvest riesling, a muscat or something from the Sde Boker Winery and head to Mizpe Hayamim, a spa in nearby Rosh-Pinna. Soak in your tub or sit on your balcony and take in the panoramic views of the Hermon Mountains, Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee.
Shop for Madaba rugs, leather work, glass, wood inlay, straw goods, embroidery, baskets, mother-of-pearl, bronze, pottery, olive-wood carvings, spices, silver work and other jewelry, etchings, Dead Sea products and Hebron glass. You may even be able to find old swords. Bargaining is expected in the souks (markets—rhymes with dukes), but it’s not proper in the finer shops, except for the most costly items. There are many gold and silver shops found in the souks of Amman, where prices are determined by weight (we found great bargains in gold jewelry—though Egypt and Syria have even better prices).
Shopping Hours: Generally daily except Friday 9 am-1 pm and 3:30-6:30 pm, although many shops remain open during lunch. Most stores are closed on Friday (the Muslim Sabbath), although souks tend to stay open.
Israel is famous for its exclusive lines of bathing suits (Gottex, Gideon Oberson), and they’re often available in the country at bargain prices. Another local find is Noat sandals for both men and women, found mainly in stores in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Skin-care products made from mineral-rich Dead Sea mud or native olive oil are also good souvenirs. Israeli wines are getting better every year and are not readily available outside the country.
In Tel Aviv, check out the boutiques on hip Sheinken Street filled with young Israeli fashion and industrial design. Other items to look for include furs, silver jewelry, diamonds, glass, artwork (Tel Aviv and Old Jaffa have many galleries), leather coats, painted tiles, embroidery, klezmer music CDs, religious items and antiques, which can be taken out of the country with a license (the shop usually provides it).
A good place for souvenirs is the flea market in Jaffa, but be aware that much of the Judaica sold in Jerusalem’s Old City bazaar may well have been made in China. Also, only stock up on Arab pottery if you are not visiting Arab countries. Armenian ceramics are usually good buys.
Shopping malls have sprouted all over the country. The Azrieli Center in Tel Aviv, next to the Shalom train station, hosts hundreds of quality retailers, while the mall in Jerusalem’s Malha neighborhood is reportedly the largest in the Middle East, though Mamilla Mall, an upscale pedestrian shopping area just outside the Old City, is newer.
Shopping Hours: The majority of stores are open Sunday-Thursday 9 or 10 am-7 pm (later at the malls), Friday until 2 or 3 pm. Shops in Muslim areas are generally open Saturday-Thursday and closed on Friday. Though shops in Jewish towns are closed on Saturday, you can find shopping malls and outdoor markets open along the country’s highways. The city of Jaffa, near Tel Aviv, is also bustling with shopping activity on Saturday.
A limited variety of international cuisine (Continental and Chinese) is available at the more deluxe hotels and resorts. Arab food is quite tasty—most dishes are well-seasoned. Try the ubiquitous kebabs and shawarma, musakham (a chicken dish that is baked on Arabic bread), yogurt, mensaf (the national dish, consisting of yogurt, rice and lamb), fabulous unleavened breads, maglouba (a fish or meat stew) and fine desserts. There’s a lot of open-pit cooking. The figs and apricots are a real treat. Turkish coffee and mint tea are available everywhere.
There’s a wide range of restaurants in Israel offering fare ranging from Continental to Asian, Russian, Armenian, Ethiopian and, of course, Middle Eastern. But you don’t have to eat at fancy restaurants to eat well in Israel.
Although fast-food franchises are there in force, you’d be foolish to pass up the more traditional fast food: falafel (a sandwich of mildly seasoned fried chickpeas and herbs, served with salad in pita bread) and shwarma (also known as doner kebab, similar to gyros but made of meat roasted over a revolving spit). Hummus, a blend of chickpeas, tahini (sesame-seed paste), lemon juice and olive oil, is best scooped up with warm pita bread.
Another dish that is popular all over Israel is shakshuka, which hails from Libya and Morocco. It’s a casserole of tomatoes, garlic, poached eggs and spices cooked over a high heat. Traditional homemade Jewish delicacies include chicken soup with matzo balls, knedlech(dumplings) or kreplach (meat ravioli).
Palestinians may serve up any variety of chicken, lamb, fried eggplant or cauliflower, but they also love chicken soup prepared with lemon and spinach leaves. Jews from all over Europe have also brought their traditional dishes to Israel with them, from Russian blinis to Hungarian gulyas and gefilte fish.
Desserts include kenafeh, baklava and other Middle Eastern treats. An Israeli breakfast, which is usually included in the price of a hotel room, is quite a feast, usually done buffet style, with homemade yogurts, cheeses, pastries, breads, cold cuts, fried and cooked dishes, fresh and dried fruits, honey and salads. In the lobby of Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, enjoy Sabra, a liqueur produced in Israel. In Tiberias, dine on St. Peter’s fish from the Sea of Galilee—the only native Israeli fish.
Although it’s certainly an Islamic country, Jordan is less strict than more conservative nations such as Saudi Arabia. In general, visitors should conform to Islamic customs but will likely find that their Jordanian acquaintances are more accepting of Western attitudes and behavior.
Appointments—Remember that Friday is the Islamic holy day, and business is not conducted then. As a visitor, you should always try to be on time, but your Jordanian counterparts may not be as punctual.
Personal Introductions—Handshakes are common greetings between people of the same sex, always with the right hand. Members of the opposite sex often do not touch when greeting one another. Introductions can be elaborate. If an acquaintance is introduced with a title, use it until instructed to do otherwise. The English titles “Mr.” and “Ms.” are acceptable, along with the last name of the acquaintance. Your business card should be printed in Arabic on one side, English on the other.
Negotiating—Expect things to move slowly. Jordanians usually want to learn about you as a person before discussing any business details. Trying to rush the pace of negotiations will generally prove counterproductive.
Business Entertaining—Expect lavish entertainment. Follow your host’s lead with regard to the consumption of alcohol and pork, both of which are avoided by those following traditional Islamic practices. Social entertaining typically begins late, and business is usually not discussed at such gatherings.
Body Language—Jordanians usually stand close to one another when talking. Men will often touch their male acquaintances (on the arm, say) while involved in conversation, but a man will not touch a woman in the same manner. Pay close attention to which hand you use: The left hand should never be used to shake hands or to accept and offer items, including business cards, pens, etc. Do not point at people, and do not use the thumbs-up gesture, as this has an obscene connotation. Avoid sitting in any manner that would permit the sole of your shoe or foot to be seen, which is considered an insult. If you cross your legs, do so at the ankles. Do not place one ankle atop a knee. Remember that shoes are often removed in homes and always before entering mosques.
Gift Giving— An item from your home country will be appreciated. But avoid giving alcohol or any representation of women (photos, sculpture, etc.) unless you are sure your acquaintance would appreciate and not be offended by such items.
Conversation—Avoid discussing politics, especially Israel (the government of Jordan has engaged in closer relations with Israel in recent years, but this is not seen as a good thing by all Jordanians). The country’s culture and history are appropriate topics. It’s best to be inquisitive rather than offer judgments and opinions.
To the uninitiated, Israel’s complex mix of people and religions can be daunting. The country is a melting pot of cultures from the world over, making specific guidelines difficult. One basic rule to keep in mind: Israel is home to a sizable Arab population in addition to the many religiously observant Jews who reside there. The two groups call for different behaviors on the part of visitors. It is also important to remember that Arabs can be either Christian or Muslim and may take great offense if you mistake one for the other.
Appointments—Arrange meetings well in advance, but be careful about scheduling different appointments close to one another; some businesspeople may make you wait past the scheduled time before seeing you, so it’s hard to stick to a strict schedule. Despite the lack of punctuality you may experience from others, you should make it a point to be on time. Don’t expect Israelis to be available for meetings on Friday or Saturday, although secular Israelis (in particular, Israeli Jews) may make exceptions. Friday is the holy day for Muslims, and many Jews have part or all of that day off, as well; Saturday is the Jewish Sabbath.
Personal Introductions—”Shalom” (pronounced shah-LOM) is a common greeting upon introduction. If you’re a man greeting another man, you should shake hands and maintain direct eye contact. With an Arab Israeli, a slight bow is also appropriate. Always use the right hand for introductory handshakes. If you’re greeting someone of the opposite sex, wait to see if your Israeli counterpart offers his or her hand. Muslim and Orthodox Jewish men often won’t introduce their wives if they’re present, nor will they shake the hand of a woman. If your acquaintance ignores his spouse in your presence, you should do the same.
Some Orthodox Jewish men will not accept a business card directly from a woman; in such cases, she should place it on a table where he can reach it. When exchanging business cards, take time to carefully read your acquaintance’s card, and treat it with respect. During a meeting, leave the card on the table in front of you. Most Israeli businesspeople speak English. Use professional or standard English titles (Mr., Ms.) along with the person’s last name until instructed otherwise.
Negotiating—The deal-making process can be slow: Relationships need to be established, and decisions are often slow in taking shape. Negotiations can be intense and confrontational. Because of the somewhat uncertain nature of politics in Israel, short-term objectives are often given a high priority. Do not be surprised or offended by a highly opinionated stance or a position that seems discriminatory against other cultures. The historical prejudices in this part of the world run deep. Remember that not all Israelis are Jewish, and not all Jews are religious. In fact, many are strictly secular.
Business Entertaining—Expect to be entertained at the expense of your host. Likewise, when you are the host, you will be expected to carry the cost. Many Jews and Muslims observe strict dietary laws. Inquire about your guest’s particular needs in advance.
Body Language—People stand close to one another while conversing and may touch one another on the arm or back. If you are working with an Arab Israeli, remember that the left hand is considered unclean. Use only the right hand to pass objects or to eat. You also need to be careful how you sit in the presence of Arab Israelis: Never expose the sole of your foot or shoe toward them. Do not use the “thumbs up” gesture, as it is perceived as obscene. Dress conservatively and do not adopt native modes of dress. Women in particular should be modest in their choice of clothing.
Gift Giving—Gifts usually aren’t in order until you get to know the person fairly well. If you’re invited to a home, take chocolate or flowers.
Conversation—Discussing politics is fraught with peril, especially given the many different cultures that you may encounter. Stick with sports and travel and be inquisitive about culture without being opinionated. However, there is some room for friendly discussion. Among Jewish Israelis, heated debates are common, and they readily offer their opinion and often expect one in return.
Exercise caution and be aware that the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. and subsequent military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq may increase the possibility of hostility aimed at foreigners. Although Jordan has a very low rate of crime overall, there have been incidents of petty theft in Amman, particularly in or near Hashimiyah Square and the Roman Theater. Avoid dark, deserted areas at night. If you’re near the country’s borders, don’t stray too far from the main tourist areas, especially in the vicinity of the Dead Sea. There are still a few unexploded mines in such areas. (Most mine areas have been identified and are fenced off.)
For more information, contact your country’s travel advisory agency.
Israeli cities, with their low crime rates, are generally considered safe, and visitors can walk freely through most neighborhoods without the slightest hesitation, even at night. Even so, visitors are wise to use common sense and take the usual precautions: Avoid public parks and quiet alleyways after dark, stick to well-lit streets, avoid carrying open and loose purses, and keep an eye out for pickpockets.
In recent years, major terrorist attacks have taken place in many parts of Israel, and as a result, the entire country is very security conscious. Security guards are positioned outside most restaurants, nightclubs, theaters, transportation centers, banks, hotels, hospitals, and at the entrances to shopping malls and large stores. Many locations also have metal detectors. Restaurants frequently charge a 1 NIS-2 NIS security surcharge, and most diners readily pay the extra charge knowing that it provides them with security.
Additional caution is advised when visiting the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. The Temple Mount, a central tourist destination, is closed to visitors from time to time. Be especially careful in Muslim areas on Friday and religious holidays: Crowds often become unruly then, in spite of the increased security that is usually in place.
It is wise to adhere to the latest security warnings and defer all travel to areas under Palestinian control. Absolutely avoid the Gaza Strip for the time being: Kidnappings of foreigners have become frequent there, and tourists can easily get into the line of fire between warring factions. Do not approach the Separation Fence at night, as Israeli soldiers may mistake you as a threat.
Many first-time visitors to Israel may feel happier when traveling as part of a guided tour. Carry your passport at all times (flashing it often speeds up security controls) and follow instructions of security officials and guides.
Be aware that land mines are present in remote areas of the Golan Heights, but these are in fenced-off areas with prominent warning signs.
For the latest information, contact your country’s travel-advisory agency.
Sanitary conditions in most restaurants are generally good. In any event, most hot, freshly cooked food should be safe (especially if it’s included on a package tour), but peel fresh fruit and raw vegetables, make sure meat is cooked thoroughly, and avoid local dairy products. Assume the tap water is unsafe (stick with bottled or boiled drinks)—if you spend much time in the desert, you’ll need to drink plenty of bottled water.
We recommend that visitors take along mosquito repellent: The mosquitoes can be terrible in summer, although they do not carry malaria. The sun can be very strong, so use sunscreen liberally and wear a hat and sunglasses. Don’t forget to take along a pair of comfortable walking shoes.
There are excellent dental and medical facilities in Amman (many doctors have studied in the U.S. or Europe and speak English). See your doctor about typhoid medication, and take along all prescription medicine needed for the trip. The dry, dusty atmosphere may aggravate respiratory problems or make wearing contact lenses uncomfortable.
For more information, contact your country’s health-advisory agency.
The tap water and food are generally safe and should pose no great hazards for visitors. The water is heavily chlorinated, however, so you may choose to do as many residents do and drink bottled mineral water. Cover your head in summer to avoid sunstroke—temperatures in the desert can soar to 113 F/45 C—and always use plenty of sunscreen. When hiking, watch out for poisonous snakes and scorpions.
Medical facilities are more than adequate. Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency medical service, provides excellent service. In a medical emergency, dial 101. Pharmacies are conveniently located throughout the country.
For more information, contact your country’s health-advisory agency.
DOS & DON’TS
Don’t be surprised to encounter some anti-U.S. or anti-Western feelings in Jordan. But Jordanians are generally among the most friendly and hospitable people on Earth.
Do dress modestly when in public. Women’s outfits should be loose and not too revealing, even of arms and legs. Men should also wear long pants and shirts with sleeves. More casual attire is fine for beaches and resorts.
Don’t take photos indiscriminately. Many people object to having their pictures taken, so ask permission first. Use discretion, especially, if you’re taking photos of women or scenes that could be interpreted as showing poverty. Military installations and bridges should never be photographed.
Don’t criticize the king or royal family in public—doing so is a serious legal offense.
Do arrive at the airport at least three hours before your flight. You will need time for predeparture screening and yet more time to check in—Israeli airport security is probably the tightest in the world. Prepare for a thorough interrogation and try to remain patient with the process.
Don’t drive through the Mea Shearim Orthodox Jewish section of Jerusalem between sunset on Friday and sunset on Saturday—to do so is to break the rules of the Jewish Sabbath, and they have been known to throw stones at vehicles. Don’t take photographs on the Sabbath or offend residents’ sensitivities by wearing immodest clothing.
Don’t enter a mosque wearing shoes and do take along appropriately modest clothing for visiting all religious shrines.
Do cover your head in a synagogue if you are a man—but paper yarmulkes are usually provided.
Do remember that Jewish and Islamic holidays follow the lunar calendar and are therefore not always on the same day, so plan ahead to avoid finding yourself in front of closed doors.
Passport/Visa Requirements: Passport and visa needed by citizens of the U.S. and Canada. Multi-entry visas are recommended. Visas can be obtained from Jordanian embassies abroad or purchased upon arrival at the airport or at border crossings, with the exception of the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge at the West Bank. If you cross by ferry from Egypt, you must also obtain a visa in advance.
All travelers planning on staying more than 14 days in Jordan need to register with the police. Failure to do so results in a fine assessed upon departure from the country. A departure tax of 20 JD is also charged when leaving Jordan, but this is now incorporated in the price of airline tickets. Reconfirm travel document information with carrier before departure.
Predominant Religions: Islamic. There is also a small Christian minority (10%).
Time Zone: 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+2 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is observed April-September. Voltage Requirements: 220 volts.
Telephone Codes: 962, country code;
Passport/Visa Requirements: Citizens of Australia, Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. need passports but not visas and may be required to show proof of sufficient funds and onward passage. Reconfirm travel document requirements with carrier before departure.
Languages: Hebrew and Arabic (official). English, French and Russian are also widely spoken.
Predominant Religions: Jewish, Islamic, Druze, Christian.
Time Zone: 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+2 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is observed 1 April to the first Saturday after Rosh Hashana (September or October).
Voltage Requirements: 220 volts.
Telephone Codes: 972, country code; 3, Tel Aviv city code; 2, Jerusalem city code; 4, Haifa, Acre, Safed and Tiberias city code; 8 Ashkelon, Eilat and Negev city code;
The national currency is the Jordanian dinar, abbreviated and generally referred to as JD. The dinar is divided into 100 piasters or 1,000 fils. For example, a price of 3.750 means 3 dinars and 750 fils. You can change cash or traveler’s checks at banks or, more conveniently, get cash in local currency using a credit or debit card at an ATM. Banks and ATMs are readily available in Amman and most tourist areas. You can generally pay for purchases with a credit card, except in small shops or the souk.
Saturday-Thursday 8:30 am-12:30 pm and 3:30-5:30 pm. Hours during the holiday Ramadan are usually 8:30-10 am, though some banks open in the afternoon.
Israel’s currency is the New Israel shekel (NIS), usually only called shekel (or shekelim in the plural form). The shekel is divided into 100 agorot. The currency is relatively stable in comparison to the U.S. dollar. Exchange rates can fluctuate, but the shekel has fallen a little in tandem with the U.S. dollar, which is a pleasant surprise for U.S. visitors hit by high prices in Europe. The shekel is also the main currency in the Palestinian Territories.
Currency-exchange centers are located in major cities. The centers charge no commission but offer a slightly lower exchange rate than those provided at the banks, which may charge up to 4% commission. On the whole, exchanging money at one of these bureaus is generally more efficient and quicker than standing in line at a bank.
Credit cards are accepted at the majority of Israeli shops and restaurants, although finding establishments willing to take payment against American Express or Diners Club cards might be a challenge. Cash payments in NIS are always accepted, but payments in foreign currencies are not. Traveler’s checks are only accepted at shops that deal primarily with tourists. Visa cards are widely accepted at ATMs, but withdrawals with a MasterCard can only be conducted at ATMs of Bank HaPolim. Check before attempting to use an ATM outside the big cities; they might be programmed in other languages.
Hours vary, but banks are generally open Sunday-Thursday 8:30 or 9 am to 1 or 2 pm. Some reopen in the late afternoon (4-6:30 pm), though this may occur only on certain days—Monday and Thursday, for instance. On Friday, they may or may not be open in the morning only, usually closing at noon.
A sales tax of 17% is added to a wide range of services. In Aqaba, this is reduced to 7%.
Israelis pay a 18% value-added tax (VAT) on all goods, and prices quoted always include this tax. Tourists are exempt from paying the VAT for accommodations, organized tours, car rentals and flights within Israel, but only when payments are made in foreign currency or with a credit card from a foreign bank.
In addition, tourists who purchase goods exceeding 400 NIS at shops posting a “Tax Refund/Tax-Free Shopping” sign are entitled to a VAT refund at their port of departure. Exceptions to this rule include tobacco products, electrical appliances and photographic equipment. Tourists should make sure to ask for a special invoice when they make purchases at these shops in order to present it at the VAT refund office.
A 10% service charge is normally included in hotel and restaurant bills. In a decent restaurant, it is customary to also round up the bill. Budget eating establishments don’t expect to receive tips. Tip 10% to taxi drivers, and give porters approximately 100 fils.
Tip 10%-15% in restaurants. In upscale hotels and restaurants, a 12%-15% service charge may be included in the bill. Tipping taxi drivers is not expected but gladly accepted when offered. On the other hand, tour guides and their bus drivers usually expect tips. Hotel staff is appreciative when tips are left.
The best times to visit Jordan are October-December and April-June when it’s warm during the day and cool in the evening. Summers are very warm, with temperatures running 90-110 F/32-44 C. Rain falls most frequently November-March. Winters can be drizzly, damp and cool—snow occasionally falls in Amman and the mountains. We suggest taking along a sweater, even during the summer, as the contrast between day and night temperatures is dramatic. Aqaba and Wadi Rum are usually a few degrees warmer than the rest of the country.
As small as Israel is, the climate varies greatly from north to south. Our favorite times to go are in March and April (wildflower season), and September and October. The Negev desert forms the southern two-thirds of the country, and summer in the Negev can be too hot to enjoy (temperatures above 100 F/37 C). It’s possible to see desert sights in the summer if you go sightseeing early in the day. It can get quite wet and cold during the winter—you might even see a white Christmas in Jerusalem or Bethlehem.
What to Wear
Long sleeves and pants are recommended to avoid sun exposure and to provide modest dress in public. Shorts and swimsuits should be confined to the beach. Walking shoes or good trekking sandals are worthwhile for exploring the many antiquities and are essential in the desert.
A sweater or light jacket will take care of any evening chills. If visiting in the winter (December-March), a good rain jacket is advisable. Warmer clothing is also necessary as it can get cold.
When you think of the Middle East, sunny days come to mind. But don’t be fooled—it isn’t always hot. If you visit in the summer, pack light, natural-fiber clothes. In the winter, take a warm jacket and dress in layers. It is also recommended to take an umbrella or rain gear if you plan on visiting December to mid-March.
Tel Aviv is a much more liberal, fashionable society than Jerusalem, and that leads to extremes in both directions. Beachwear is very loose and minimal, but at night partygoers tend to dress up with the trendiest designer clothes. Business meetings are usually less formal than elsewhere in the Western world, and Israeli men frequently show up for them without a business suit or tie. Dining is almost always informal.
To visit holy sites and religious neighborhoods, men should wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, women a long skirt or pants and long-sleeved blouse—in many cases you will be blocked from entering if you are dressed immodestly.
Regardless of when you visit, think of your feet as well. Well-cushioned shoes for walking are essential for city sightseeing and sandals or flip-flops are recommended for visits to the beaches. You also may want to take hiking boots if you plan to explore nature reserves and the desert.
Coin-operated pay phones are available throughout the country, but most of them no longer work. Most Jordanians use cell phones. Coverage is excellent in developed areas and reasonable elsewhere.
With the popularity of cell phones, pay phones are hard to find nowadays. Phone cards (ask for a Telecarte), if needed, are available at post offices, lottery kiosks and newsstands. It’s also easy to rent a cell phone upon arrival in Israel, at either the airport or your hotel. Local calls are less expensive at night and on weekends.
When calling other areas of the country, the area code is included. Calls to numbers in Jerusalem begin with 02, and calls to Tel Aviv begin with 03.
Local calls from hotel rooms are generally expensive (4 NIS-6 NIS a minute), and a surcharge is added to international calls.
Israel has a number of international phone carriers, but an overseas call can generally be placed by dialing 00 and then the country code.
Israel also has a number of cell phone carriers (Nokia, Pelefon, Cellcom and Orange). All cell phone numbers are now 10 digits: a three-digit area code and a seven-digit number. Coverage is excellent in urban areas, much less so in the Negev desert.
The Internet is widely available throughout Jordan. Most of the deluxe hotels have high-speed broadband connections, but costs tend to be per day and pricey. Many of the smaller tourist hotels offer free Wi-Fi. Internet cafes are widely available, and the charges are moderate.
Most of Jerusalem’s and Tel Aviv’s first-class hotels have either a business center offering computers with Internet access or Wi-Fi connectivity in their hotel rooms and throughout the property.
With the proliferation of smartphones and Wi-Fi, the number of Internet cafes in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem is falling.
In Tel Aviv, a large Internet cafe lounge can be found on the lower level of Dizengoff Center, and there are others at neighboring Webstop, located at 28 Bograshov St. Use of the facilities starts at 14 NIS an hour. The Inbar Internet Cafe at 87 King George St. has been there since 1996.
In Jerusalem, Cafe Net at the New Central Bus Station (232 Jaffa Road) is a high-quality modern internet cafe. http://www.cafenet.co.il.
Wi-Fi access is provided in more and more areas of downtown Jerusalem and readily available in Tel Aviv, often for free. Some hotels charge extra for this service. Many cafes offer free Wi-Fi access as well; look for a special sticker on the window.
Mail & Package Services
The mail service is reliable for sending cards and letters, but they can take up to two weeks to get to their destination. We have also used it to send parcels. International courier firms such as FedEx and DHL have offices in Amman, and there is the local carrier Aramex, which tends to be expensive.
The Israel Postal Authority offers a variety of postal services, including domestic and international mail forwarding, telephone calling cards and foreign-currency exchange. http://www.israelpost.co.il.
International money transfers are available via Western Union. Telegrams and faxes can be sent from all post offices. Letters and postcards to North America take 10 days to arrive, so if time is an issue, opt for a carrier service such as DHL or UPS.
Amman’s Queen Alia International Airport (AMM) is 20 mi/30 km south of the city. Major rental car companies maintain branches at the airport, and taxis are readily available. Royal Wings offers daily flights between Amman and Aqaba.
There is ferry service between Aqaba and Nuweiba, Egypt (a comfortable trip, but be aware that the scheduled second ferry of the day does not always run).
Three main highways run north-south between Amman and Aqaba: the King’s Highway (also known as Mountain Road), a slow, hilly, 5,000-year-old historic and scenic route; the Dead Sea Road, also quite scenic, which runs along the edge of the sea; and the flatter, faster Desert Highway, which lies farther inland. The three roads run parallel to each other about 20 mi/30 km apart, but there are few opportunities to cross from one to another. The local bus service is often crowded and uncomfortable, though some private bus companies offer comfortable and regular service to points throughout the country. We have had generally good experiences with Jett Buses, which can carry you from Amman to Wadi Musa (Petra) and/or Aqaba, as well as other points around the country.
Local taxis in Amman are a good bargain: Most trips within the city should be less than US$1—make sure the meter is turned on. It’s possible to take inexpensive shared taxis to Damascus, Syria.
Those concerned with comfort will want to go on an escorted or organized independent tour, though self- or chauffeur-driven cars and taxis are the other primary means of transportation. By law, driving is on the right—in practice, each driver takes what appears to be the best portion of pavement and usually veers to the right when oncoming traffic approaches. Generally, driving is fairly straightforward and the roads well-marked. Driving within Amman, however, is a nightmare. The signposts are small and difficult to read. Taxis hired by the hour, day or half-day are much better.
The country’s main gateway is Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV), 12 mi/19 km east of Tel Aviv. Frequent air service by the domestic airline Arkia connects the major areas within Israel, though the country is so compact, visitors will more likely take ground transportation between cities.
Buses are the principal form of transportation within Israel. Intercity buses—almost all run by Egged (http://www.egged.co.il)—are air-conditioned, fast and very efficient. They do not run on Saturday. Buses have been the targets of terrorists in the past, so nowadays they have stringent security measures in place.
Israel has a growing, modern rail network, with services up and down the coast and from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. For information on schedules and fares, call 03-577-4000. http://www.israrail.org.il.
There are two border crossings between Jordan and Israel that may be useful to travelers: The Arava Crossing just north of Eilat gives access to Aqaba and is the starting point for visits to the ancient city of Petra. The other one is about 20 mi/30 km north of Jerusalem via the King Hussein Bridge (also known as the Allenby Bridge). These crossing points can be reached by bus or taxi from nearby cities, though the border itself must be crossed on foot. Israeli vehicles can only enter Jordan with special permission and vice versa. Taxis and buses on the Jordanian side are fairly plentiful.
There’s a third crossing via the Sheikh Hussein Bridge (not to be confused with the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge) between the West Bank and Jordan, though it is hard to reach and, once crossed, leaves travelers a few miles/kilometers from the nearest real town. Jordanian visas can be obtained directly at the Arava Crossing. Travelers crossing at the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge, however, will need to secure visas in advance.
Israel has one toll road. The Trans Israel Highway, or Route Six, as it is more popularly referred to, traverses the country from north to south. There are no tollbooths as license-plate-scanning technology allows bills to be sent in the mail to the vehicle owners. Because of this lag time in payment, however, some rental car agencies specifically prohibit use of the road.
Taba (near Eilat) is the most accessible border crossing between Israel and Egypt. Taxis and buses run regularly from Eilat to Taba, though the border must be crossed on foot. Visas for the Sinai Peninsula areas of Egypt can be obtained at the crossing. All-Egypt visas, however, need to be secured in advance from an Egyptian embassy or consulate. Whether you’re crossing into Jordan or Egypt, expect to pay an exit fee of about 12 NIS-60 NIS, depending on where you cross.
From the port of Haifa, where cruise ships dock, there has been intermittent ferry service to Greece, Cyprus, Egypt or Turkey. In particular, it is worth checking with Varianos Travel whether its ferry routes currently include Haifa. http://www.varianostravel.com/Cruises/ferry_service.htm.
The borders with Syria and Lebanon, in the north of the country, are closed.
For More Information
Jordan: Jordan Tourism Board, P.O. Box 830688, Amman, Jordan 11183. Phone 6-567-8444. Fax 6-567-8295.
U.S.: Jordan Tourism Board, 6867 Elm St., Suite 102, McLean, VA 22101. Phone 703-243-7404 or 7405. Toll free 877-733-5673. Fax 703-243-7406. http://www.visitjordan.com.
Embassies of Jordan
Canada: Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, 100 Bronson Ave., Suite 701, Ottawa, ON K1R 6G8.
Phone 613-238-8090. Fax 613-232-3341. http://www.embassyofjordan.ca.
U.S.: Embassy of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, 3504 International Drive N.W., Washington, DC 20008. Phone 202-966-2664. Fax 202-966-3110. http://www.jordanembassyus.org.
Foreign Embassies in Jordan
Canadian Embassy, Pearl of Shmeisani Building, Shmeisani, Fourth Floor, Amman 11180. Phone 6-520-3300. Fax 6-520-3396.
U.S. Embassy, P.O. Box 354, Amman, Jordan 11118. Phone 6-590-6000. Fax 6-592-0121. http://amman.usembassy.gov.
Canada: Israel Ministry of Tourism, 180 Bloor St. W., Suite 700, Toronto, ON M5S 2V6. Phone 416-964-3784. http://www.goisrael.ca.
U.S.: Israel Ministry of Tourism, 800 Second Ave., New York, NY 10017. Phone 212-499-5660. Toll-free 888-774-7723. http://www.goisrael.com. There are also offices in Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta.
Canada: Embassy of Israel, 50 O’Connor St., Suite 1005, Ottawa, ON K1P 6L2. Phone 613-567-6450. http://ottawa.mfa.gov.il.
U.S.: Embassy of Israel, Consular Section, 3514 International Drive. N.W., Washington, DC 20008. Phone 202-364-5500. http://www.israelemb.org.
Foreign embassies serving Israel
Canadian Embassy, Consular Section, Fourth Floor, 3/5 Nirim St., Tel Aviv, 67060 (mail address: P.O. Box 9442, Tel Aviv 61093). Phone 3-636-3300. http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/israel.
U.S. Embassy, 14 David Flusser, Jerusalem, 9378322. Phone 2-630-4000. https://il.usembassy.gov. There is also a branch office in Tel Aviv at 71 HaYarkon St. (phone 3-519-7575).
Globetrotter Travel Guide: Jordan by Moira McCrossan and Hugh Taylor (New Holland). First-class introduction to Jordan for the first-time visitor as well as the seasoned tourist. Detailed regional profiles, principal attractions and suggestions on touring, accommodations, dining, shopping and relaxation.
Walking in Jordan: Walks, Treks, Caves, Climbs and Canyons by Di Taylor and Tony Howard (Cicerone). The definitive guide to walking and trekking in Jordan by two writers with vast experience.
Jordan Jubilee by Ruth (Ruth). The country as seen through the eyes of an American woman who has spent years traveling in the area and living with locals.
Israel, A Spiritual Travel Guide: A Companion For The Modern Jewish Pilgrim by Rabbi Lawrence A. Hoffman (Jewish Lights Publishing).
Revolt in the Desert by T.E. Lawrence (Folio Society). A first-hand and personal account of the Great Arab Revolt during World War I by Lawrence of Arabia.
A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin (Henry Holt). An excellent study of the roots of modern Jordan. The Modern History of Jordan by Kamal Salibi (I.B. Taurus). By far the best political history of Jordan.
The Great War For Civilisation by Robert Fisk (Harper Perennial). This is the book to read for an understanding of the history of the Middle East and the origins of its current troubles.
The Bible (Old and New Testaments) and the Hebrew Bible: the original guidebooks for Israel. Familiarization with these ancient texts will help any traveler better understand Israel’s history, geography, culture and sociology.
The Source by James Michener (Fawcett-Crest). A fascinating fictional account of the land and the history of the State of Israel.
In the Land of Israel by Amos Oz (Harvest Books). The history of Israel as spoken by its inhabitants to the author on tour around the country. A timeless and astonishingly relevant work.
Israel: A History by Martin Gilbert (Black Swan). An impassioned historical description that helps explain the forces that have shaped contemporary Israel.
From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas L. Friedman (Anchor). An insightful and anecdotal analysis of Middle East politics, written by a former New York Times Middle East correspondent.
The Case for Israel by Alan Dershowitz (John Wiley & Sons). One of America’s most prominent and visible defense attorneys presents an ardent, eloquent, but not always uncritical, defense of Israel and its right to exist.
A Place in History: Modernism, Tel Aviv and the Creation of Jewish Urban Space by Barbara E. Mann (Stanford University Press).