Critical Holiday Travel Information About Safe Israel Driving

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General Travel Advice

Use Caution When Driving Israel During Holy Holidays

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Honestly, this is How I Almost Got Stoned in Israel. This is really important information to know about Driving Israel. When I start planning my trip to Israel, the country was at war. My friends and I are worried about the war. What we should have been worried about is driving in Israel during religious holidays. Driving during religious holidays is not allowed. My friend Ella from Russia, an Israeli citizen, helped me plan my trip. She is apprehensive that I’m planning to visit while the Israelis were fighting with the Palestinians. Religion and rules are as dangerous in Isreal as a war.

What to Know About Driving Israel

Driving During Religious Holidays is Not Allowed

Believing the war would end shortly, I left for Israel. I was sure the fighting would be over by the time I arrived on 9/11/14. My friend, Ella isn’t convinced. In hindsight, she is sure I would cancel. But, canceling isn’t something I do. Once I make up my mind, I become very committed and loyal to the trip and my destination.

Driving Israel

My friend Ella who helped me plan my trip and her son

Israeli – Palestinian Conflict

We were preoccupied with the Israeli – Palestinian conflict and forgot to think about Israel’s holidays and driving. I planned to be driving during the holidays of Rosh Hashanah, which was followed by Sabbath or Shabbat and then Yom Kippur. The holiest of holy days in the Jewish faith. My advice – do not plan to drive through Israel during High Holy days. Rosh Hashanah, Shabbat, and Yom Kippur are THE High Holy days.

A Muslim holiday followed Yom Kippur, Bayram Eide starting the day after Yom Kippur ended. We laugh about the story now. But Ella and I learned to follow this advice –

Travel tip: always check the religious holiday’s calendar and customs if you are driving in Israel.

What to Remember – Driving Israel

Here is the story – My GPS directed me to my hotel using the fastest, shortest route. Unfortunately, the GPS took me directly into the most religious and conservative neighborhood in Jerusalem. There was no setting on GPS that said, “avoid all highly religious areas.” Wouldn’t it be nice to have a GPS setting that said – Avoid radar traps, highly religious areas and a significant number of shootings.

Here is My Trip Map

Driving Israel

The route I drove for my two week trip to Israel.

Driving in Israel – My Trip Plan

The map shows my Israel trip route. I drove from Tel Aviv airport north to Haifa to see the Baha’i Temple and Old German Town, then to Tiberius and the Sea of Galilee and on to Jerusalem. From Jerusalem, I took buses into Palestine and left a day early to get to the Dead Sea resort before all the roads closed for Yom Kipper. At the Dead Sea, I went to  Masada, En Gedi, Qurum and, of course, the Dead Sea.

My GPS

The drive from Tiberius to Jerusalem was uneventful until I got to into Jerusalem. My GPS took me directly into the most religious section of the city. Men of all ages surrounded me with rocks in their hands. Again, the people were yelling and shaking my car. They stopped me because the car slowly turned onto a side street that the GPS assured me was the shortest most direct route to my hotel in the old city.

Now, the crowd got loud. Everyone is yelling. I think, surely, the men aren’t screaming at me. Since I had no place to go, I kept smiling. A tall, handsome kindly-looking man knocked on the car window. I rolled down the window and smiled.

My Advice: Always Keep Smiling!

 
Driving Israel

Gentlemen walking to worship in Jerusalem

Driving Israel

The Streets Were Empty – Noticeable Enough That I Took a Photo before I knew I wasn’t supposed to be driving.

Driving Israel

Empty streets in Jerusalem – No cars allowed, no driving allowed

The Story Behind Driving Israel

“Hi!”

“Do you know what they are saying?” He asked in an American, Florida accent. It sounded so very odd given the situation.

“Hi. No. No idea. What are the men saying?”

“They are saying they are going to stone you.”

“Do they know this is the 21st century?”

“This is the first holy day Sabbath at the end of Rosh Hashanah?”

“What does that mean?”

Shabbat

“You must turn off your car and leave it here now, immediately. I will take you to my mother-in-laws home. You can stay with us and celebrate Shabbat until the holiday is over. The Rabbi said this is my neighborhood.”

Travel tip: There are times that no excellent options exist, so you have to pick the best choice available.

“I can’t leave the car in the middle of the street. May I park it? Then I added, “Why is your English so good? You sound like you are from the United States.”

“I am. The Rabbi moved here from Florida less than a year ago. We need to get you off the streets, right now. I’m glad your dress is conservative.”

“Oh Ok. Great idea!” The man stood by the car, as I backed the car up in two moves, parking it and bumping into some trash cans.

He said something to the crowd and kept talking to them in a loud voice. The men shouted back.

We walked to his in-laws home with his wife next to him.

“Ok. Then how will I get out?”

“You will be staying here until sundown. Put your camera away.”

“Ok, Where am I?”

He told me, I wrote it on a scrap of paper in my pocket and the street sign on the corner at the main road.

“One more thing. You can’t use that pen and paper, your cell phone, computer or anything electric while you are with us.”

“Oh, Ok.” I put the pen and paper in my pocket. “Why?”

“These are the Tora’s rules.”

“Ok. Got it.”

We Parked the Car in One Movement

Driving Israel

My reliable rental car parked in Jerusalem

At Temporary Home

We got to the home had an excellent meal – we all relaxed. There was a nicely dressed man at the table with his arm in a sling. He only spoke Hebrew. I asked what happened to him.

“He is a soldier guarding Temple Mount and he was clearing the area when he got stoned.”

Wow – neither side knows this is the 21st century.

Time to Call CNN

Unfortunately, the situation is crazy. The Muslims were stoning the Jews, and the Jews want to stone me.

“I need to get out of here.”

“If you want to get out you will need to call the police to help you.”

“I am not doing that – I will end up on CNN. Forget that.”

“Well, it’s your choice. Then you will stay and enjoy the day with us.”

There was a wash area, like a laundry room in a courtyard and next to that a washroom. Then, I snuck into the bathroom to call my hotel.

“Hi, I am stuck here in someone’s home?” I whispered to the Hotel owner.

“Where is here?” He said.

I gave him the address and asked him if he could meet me on the corner in one hour?

He agreed.

One hour to go and I would be out of here, Nice people, just a bad situation.

The good Rabbi tried to give me directions without using paper, a computer or a cell phone GPS. So did his wife, at the same time. Using a book of Psalms, I handed it to whoever was supposed to talk. Please speak only one at a time, please. Emotions were getting heated. I had sketchy directions after 45 minutes. It was time to go to the corner.

My Taxi – Driving Israel

I ask the Rabbi to walk with me and to take me to the corner where we parked my car. When we are outside, I tell the Rabbi, the Hotel owner is coming to get me. Just as we got to the corner, a taxi drives up with the hotel owner inside. I say quick goodbyes, thanks to the rabbi and off we go in the cab.

The taxi drove about ten blocks when I asked them to turn around so I could get my rental car. Turning the car around he makes the taxi driver upset. The driver wildly turns the car around. Then he starts to yell something in Arabic. We are back at the same corner where he picked me up. We jump out. He drives off. Boy, a lot of drama and we aren’t out of the neighborhood.

He didn’t Want Money

The taxi man just wants to get out of here. When we get into my car, we sit inside and make a plan. We decide I must just drive once we start. Hasan, the hotel owner, tells me,  “JUST Do Not Stop” No matter what happens do not stop. Ok, we are ready. We start with selfies and smiles.

Driving Israel

No Stopping for Lights

Do not stop for traffic lights – just drive. I drive. But, before leaving, I took one last selfie showing how happy I am to be on the way out of here. Hasan starts laughing. Selfies are universal.

Many thanks to the rabbi and his family!

They took care of me and saved me from the crowd and prevented me from being stoned.

Many thanks to the helpful hotel owner, Hasan and the unpaid taxi driver for coming to my rescue and safely guiding me home. The hotel manager helped me later on in my stay. He gave me one other great piece of advice. Hasan advised me to leave the hotel one day early to make it to the Dead Sea before the Yom Kipper holiday. He didn’t charge me for the cancellation. I think this story warrants a mention of the Hotel. The hotel was Holy Land Hotel  I booked it on Booking.com.

Here’s the view from my room.

Driving Israel

Dome of the Rock – Jerusalem, the view from my room.

Driving Israel

All the roads in Israel closed on Yom Kipper.

Advice:  When in Israel check the calendar for religious holidays.

Israel’s Religious Holidays No Driving Allowed. I mentioned my trip plan in this article. Here is my Itinerary. The Itinerary shows my trip details, trip cost and where I stayed. More information is in the next section and the Itinerary section of this site.

Good, Night Moon, Good Night, Moon.

Driving Israel Travel Tips: Be Careful when Driving Israel

But, remember to have fun too!

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Kate started traveling for work. Now with grown children, who are travelers, she travels for pleasure looking for great travel experiences. Currently, her home is in Bellevue, WA, and lives with her cat Angelina Jolie. She has a Bachelor's of Fine Arts, Studio Arts and Art History from the University of Colorado, an MBA and Master of Arts, Management. Her favorite things are exploring new cultures, traveling the world, creating a painting and sour or spicy foods.

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