When visiting Israel is not an option

Many people around the world dream of traveling to Israel and experiencing the country. However, until that trip comes, here are five ways you can experience the country without buying a plane ticket.
Jerusalem Photo Credit: Amit Vuldmun/Channel 2 News

You’ve always wanted to take a trip to Israel but travel might not be an option right now. Fortunately, there are some excellent ways to experience Israel without visiting the country in person. Here are five of them that you can begin enjoying right now. From entertainment to dining, to language and even prayer, there are amazingly easy ways to experience some of Israel’s highlights without ever leaving your home.

Send a Prayer Request to the Wailing Wall

A visit to Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall is an unparalleled experience that is, of course, best undertaken in person. But did you know that you can send a prayer request online and have it placed in the Wall on your behalf? There are several excellent sites that allow you to type up a prayer for delivery to the Wailing Wall. Many offer the service for free and of course donations are always accepted as they help cover associated costs. You can send prayers to the wall just once or you can make it a habit.

If you use Twitter, you may place a prayer in the Wall by sending a direct message to @wallprayers.

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The Western Wall Photo Credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90

Get Your Souvenirs Online

You can find almost anything online these days, including wonderful souvenirs from Israel. Olive wood figurines, adorable teddy bears, fantastic olive green IDF T-shirts, Dead Sea Scroll adaptations and of course, refrigerator magnets depicting a variety of destinations are some favorites. Don’t forget to look for Judaica and Hebrew jewelry to celebrate your virtual tour of Israel! One of the best sites for these items is IsraelBlessing.com, where you’ll find everything from Hebrew name necklaces to beautiful Star of David jewelry. Hamsa designs with birthstones, initials, and other lovely features are among this site’s offerings, as are Hebrew rings, Judaica jewelry, and even vintage Hoshen necklaces.

Small, meaningful souvenirs make lovely gifts for Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah, as well as for Hanukkah, birthdays, and other special occasions.

Enroll in a Hebrew Language Course

Whether you plan to visit Israel in the future or if you simply want to expand your knowledge, you might enjoy speaking Hebrew. In the past decades, you would have had to find a teacher or fit in-person classes into your schedule. Today, there are many online offerings, including classes that offer fun, culturally relevant lessons that are far more effective than outdated textbooks. Podcasts, interactive and community forums and plenty of visual aids make online Hebrew language courses easy to take. You can learn on the go, study anywhere and anytime and get instant feedback.

Of course, you can learn Hebrew by yourself but you may have more fun and learn faster if you have someone to converse and study with. Consider having a friend or family member join you in your quest for learning, and you will enjoy the process even more. HebrewPod 101 is just one example of the many programs available, some of which let you get started for free.

Watch Israeli Movies

No matter which movie genre you prefer, you can find Israeli movies to watch on DVD or if you prefer, via Netflix and similar services. From terrifying thrillers to psychological dramas, to hilarious comedies, there are many from which to choose! Some to consider include:

  • Zero Motivation: This quirky 2014 film is an outstanding example of Israeli comedy. Offering an in-depth look at female friendship in a way that no “chick flick” could mimic, it tells the story of a few young women stationed at a remote Israeli army base. Not surprisingly, this comedy won the Best Narrative Film award at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival.
  • The Flat: This 2012 documentary offers a glimpse into a decades-old family secret. In The Flat, a filmmaker discovers a strange, surprising secret about his grandparents as he sets out to empty their apartment following his beloved grandmother’s death. This riveting tale provides insight into controversial friendships, hidden family dynamics, and nationality.
  • A Borrowed Identity: Based on Sayed Kashua’s book Dancing Arabs, this 2015 movie is a fantastic coming of age story that is based on the author’s childhood as an Israeli Arab. In the film, he is sent to a private school where he stands out as the only Arab. The story follows the trials and triumphs of the main character, Eyad, as he tries his hardest to fit in with Israeli society and his Jewish classmates
  • Bog Bad Wolves: If you’re looking for something edgy, with murder plots, revenge and a thoroughly sinister theme, don’t miss this film. It will hold your imagination in an icy grip from beginning to end.
  • The Kindergarten Teacher: Subdued but completely creepy, The Kindergarten Teacher pushes the boundaries in ways only a psychological thriller can. In this film, a 5-year old student named Yoav seems to exhibit a strange, unique talent for poetry, which enthralls his teacher, Nira. Nira’s interest in the boy begins innocently enough but ends in a scarily obsessive way.

Learn to Cook the Local Cuisine

No Israel vacation is complete without fantastic food. Luckily, Israeli cuisine includes many recipes that are easy to recreate in the comfort of your own kitchen, and that are so delicious that you’ll want to share them with your friends and families. From decadent, creamy spreads to colorful, healthy salads, to incredible sweets spiked with the unmistakable flavor of rosewater, there’s a little something to please every palate.

You can find excellent recipes online in specialty cookbooks such as Jerusalem: A Cookbook, which features incredible photos along with a sprinkling of history and cultural information. Perhaps your mother’s or grandmother’s collection of favorites offers a starting point too. If you’re not much of a chef, don’t despair! There are plenty of Israeli-influenced restaurants opening stateside, with marvelous flavors and beautiful atmospheres in which to enjoy them. Whether you favor spicy Shakshuka, smoky Baba Ganoush or simple Hummus with pita chips to star alongside savory Falafels on a homemade Mezze Platter, you can find exactly what you need without ever boarding a plane.



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