Recently we have had a couple of fabulous driving holidays. The first trip was in Israel in April this year. We spent a few days in the racy, bustling Tel Aviv where we spent a lot of time walking to see the sights – amazing Bauhaus architecture especially Rothschild Boulevard, renovated and trendy Neve Zedek, just about a walking distance off Old Jaffa where we heard a marvellous concert given by the Israeli Philharmonic. Then followed Jerusalem which although a bit cold and rainy never fails to enthral and impress. One hint if like us you are getting on in years, take your seniors card with you – all the museum entrances would then cost half.
Finally our road trip began. The reason for our trip was to attend the wedding of our dear friend’s daughter to her Kibbutz born fiancée who comes from Kibbutz Yahel. Down south, we picked up our Avis car in Jerusalem and confidently set off to take the road to the Dead Sea and then down south all the way to Kibbutz Yahel 70 kilometres north of Eilat. All went well as we left Jerusalem following the road which Avis had advised us to use.
Ten minutes later we noticed that Hebrew was becoming scarce – a few minutes later all traces of Israel were gone and we were in Ramallah, solidly Palestinian territory. This was somewhat unnerving as we had crossed no borders or checkpoints. We high-tailed it out of there and on the road back to Jerusalem we suddenly spotted the sign to Ma’ale Adumim which leads down to the Dead Sea.
Suddenly the sun came out, temperature went up at least 5 degrees Celsius and all was well. Very impressed with the Israeli road network where good highways now criss-cross the country from north to south and east to west. All the relevant road signs are in Hebrew, English and Arabic. Route 90 gives you a fast run south with great views of the Dead Sea and the Judean Desert. The Jordanian side is also clearly visible.
Kibbutz Yahel is located in the southern Arava and its date palm fields form the official border with Jordan. As the kibbutz says it is nothing less than an oasis in the heart of the desert, enfolded by the hills of the Negev highlands to the west and facing the majestic splendour of the red and purple Jordanian mountains of Edom to the east. The economy is primarily based on agriculture although it has expanded into tourism with simple but comfortable rooms that can be the base for your Negev stay.
As we discovered, Eilat is a relatively short drive away on the highway and we spent a morning there ogling the ever burgeoning number of resort hotels and swimming at one of the public beaches where you can snorkel off the beach.
We were overwhelmed by the amazing Kibbutz hospitality of the family whose wedding was the reason for our trip. The wedding itself was not at Kibbutz so again we needed our Avis car to travel the 40 kilometres south to Timna Park and Solomons Pillars. The chuppah (wedding canopy) and ceremony took place at sunset in this inspiring and ravishing outdoor setting with lots of emotion and food as befits a good Jewish wedding.
Reluctantly, but in brilliant sunshine we left the morning after the wedding after yet another amazing Kibbutz breakfast with our hosts. Once again we started off to Kibbutz Lahav via the Arava on another fantastic road (Route 40) with wonderful views from the lookout at Mizpe Ramon and then straight to Lahav slightly north of Be’er Sheva. We had a wonderful family time here and a lovely ramble through the Lahav Forest.
Finally on our last day when we drove straight to Ben Gurion Airport from the Kibbutz, we drove on the new cross-Israel Highway 6, a short drive of 45 minutes on a superb road with the route to the airport well signposted a short distance off the highway. As always as all airports differ in the rental car locations allow plenty of time to return the car and check-in, especially in Israel. The Avis drop-off was quite far from the terminal from where a shuttle bus would take you to the terminal; so there was some milling around and a minor confusion to be dealt with.
But, it was a brilliant driving holiday as long as you stay in Israel proper. Next driving trip – Scotland!!!
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The author of this article is the Managing Director and Owner of www.webcarhire.com, one of the largest independent car hire brokers on the web offering car hire in 4000 locations across 52 countries.