This April I'm dividing my time between Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and Turkey. To many, Israel represents a beacon of democracy, stability, and prosperity in the middle of a bunch of very troubled states. (Having just come from Egypt, I can certainly understand that.) Of course it's the Holy Land -- three great religions share some of Israel's most sacred spots. And that means it's the center of a complex political puzzle, and full of great travel experiences. I'm spending about a week here to scout for an upcoming TV episode and I'm in the hands of fine local guides provided by the very supportive Israel Ministry of Tourism. For the next week I'll be sharing a couple of posts a day. Please share this with your Facebook friends who may be interested. I hope you enjoy my reporting.
The Israeli coast from Tel Aviv to the border of Lebanon is dotted with interesting sights. The thriving city of Haifa is home to the main temple of the Baha'i Faith. Its founder, Baha'u'llah, is buried in Israel. Sightseers must come away from a visit to any Baha'i sight thinking: These people are the ultimate in let's all just get along, live together in peace, and tend gorgeous gardens.
Signs in four languages are commonplace in Israel: Hebrew (for its Jewish population), Arabic (for the Israeli Arabs -- about a quarter of the country), Russian (as many locals are recent Jewish arrivals from the former Soviet Union, and Russian tourism is booming), and English (for everyone else).
Signs that are only in Hebrew present me with more than a language barrier: I literally can't tell which end is up.
Visitors to Israel come away impressed by the country's many layers of history. That includes lots of Roman ruins. The ancient city of Beit She'an -- the best Roman ruins in Israel -- marked the eastern end of the empire at its peak. In A.D. 749, the impressive city was leveled by what must have been a mighty earthquake.