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Tour Guide on Tour: Orchids, Wine, 9/11, Elvis & The Bard

Updated: Aug 21, 2020

One bonus of having all this unexpected time off is it has left me with time to travel around Israel looking for off-the-beaten path sites and hidden gems to add to future tours. And yes, even as a tour guide of Israel for the past 13 years, there are amazingly still places here I have not yet experienced.

Today I spent some time in the Jerusalem hills visiting some of these places (as well as some old favorites).

Stop 1: The Grave of William Shakespeare - No, not that William Shakespeare, silly, but his namesake who was a British soldier killed here in WWI and buried in the British War Cemetery on Mount Scopus in Jerusalem.

Stop 2: The 9/11 Memorial - This is one of the few 9/11 memorials outside of the USA and the only one which lists the names of the nearly 3000 victims - the first of which, Daniel Lewin, was an ex-Israeli commando who tried to stop the hijackers on Flight 11. It is a 30-foot high bronze sculpture of an American flag which morphs into a memorial flame and includes a piece of the original twin towers.

Stop 3: Abu Gosh - an Arab village on the road to Jerusalem that was pro-Israel in the 1948 War and is known for its hummus - including its then world record of a 4-ton dish of hummus (they used a satellite dish) - and more recently, it's "Disneyland mosque." I look forward to heading back there soon to visit the mosque itself as well as a number of the monasteries.

Stop 4: Motza - this is a Jewish community that began in 1860 when Jews from the Old City of Jerusalem decided to leave to form an agricultural village. The old synagogue there is a popular spot to hold Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies and receptions can be held in the nearby orchard.

Stop 5: Yvel - This was the highlight of the day for me. The Yvel Design Center is a world-class jeweler, making incredible pearl designs. But they are much more than that. Check out my separate post just on this amazing place here:

Stop 6: The Orchid Hothouse of Maale HaChamisha - just at the entrance to Maaleh HaChamisha sits an orchid hothouse. It used to be much bigger a number of years ago, but today they converted part of it into a cafe so you can sit and eat lunch surrounded by gorgeous flowers.

Stop 7: Radar Hill - The town/settlement of Har Adar - Mount Adar - has a funny name. It is actually named for the old British radar tower Ha - Radar - which then got a nicer name by putting the r at the end of the first word. At 880m it is one of the highest hills in the Jerusalem area and was considered a key point to take in the War of Independence. 23 attacks later, the hill was still in Jordanian hands. The memorial there is notable because you used to be able to climb to the top for an unrivaled view of the area. Unfortunately, to my chagrin, that is no longer the case due to some concerns with the stability of the structure. In the end I had to placate myself by checking out some of the trenches, tanks and vehicles left there from 1948.

Stop 8: The Elvis Diner - Yes, the King has returned to Jerusalem. Just maybe not the King some of you are hoping for (though Elvis was technically Jewish by Jewish law). It's a shrine to all things Elvis. Probably not what you were expecting to find in Israel :).

You can check out the photos from my day out below. As your resident Israel tour guide, it would be my pleasure to host you here [again] in Israel. There is always so much more to experience here...

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