Green and White army in Israel

Northern Ireland Friends of Israel wishes travelling Northern Ireland fans a tremendous trip to Israel and offers one or two tips….

Unfortunately, the ‘World Cup qualifier’ between the two countries (on October 15th) may be meaningless, but we think you are going to find your trip to Israel about as meaningful as it gets.

Remember the holy city of Jerusalem is just an hour’s drive from the entertainment hub of Tel Aviv.

Only staying for a short while but still want to see it all? – the attraction Mini Israel is 30 minutes from both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and includes over 300 models of all of Israel’s historic, religious and tourist sites.

Israel is described as a safe country to travel around. Although the country knows about terrorism and organised crime, and has been invaded on one or two occasions, muggings and street crime are relatively rare. The presence of armed guards on shopping centre entrances and the odd metal-detector check is likely to be a cause of ‘nostalgia’ for a Northern Ireland fan of a certain age. Bantering with the security men at the airport is definitely not recommended.

The national stadium at Ramat Gan is not to be confused with the smaller Winter Stadium in the same town (home of the local club side). The national stadium is a 41,000 all seater located to the north of Ramat Gan.

Ramat Gan is immediately to the east of Tel Aviv (its on major bus routes from TA bus and railway stations operated by the Dan bus company).

The town boasts the world’s largest Diamond exchange and Diamond museum – so no excuse for not bringing back an expensive gift for your loved one back home! If you hit the town a little too early for the match you can also while away time at the safari/ zoo, which apparently has the largest collection of animals in the Middle East (we haven’t counted them).

The Israelis call this time of year the start of their ‘rainy season’, but you’re unlikely to get caught in a shower. The temperature in Tel Aviv in October can still hit 30 degrees. The west side of Tel Aviv is lined with spectacular Mediterranean beaches – try the Banana beach near the ancient port of Jaffa.

As in Northern Ireland, distances are small – in under two and a half hours from Tel Aviv you will be in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee. Haifa is a little over 60 miles from TA. Bethlehem in the Palestinian Authority is also within easy reach.

For local food, try the schwarma (turkey or lamb) in a laffa or the vegetarian falafel in a pitta – both Middle Eastern kinds of sandwiches. If neither appeals, we are pleased to announce there are also MacDonald’s and Burger Kings in Israel. The local beers are Goldstar and the slightly smoother and lighter, Maccabee.

Interested in the story of modern day Israel? You may find the Army museum based at the old railway station in Jaffa a fascinating place to learn about the history of the Israeli Defence forces.

Although Israel is in the Middle East, we’re afraid the prices are western European. In the old city of Jerusalem and in other markets (shouk) be prepared to bargain.

Whether you are attracted to Israel for its religious significance, warm weather, outstanding scenery – or just for the football – we at NIFI (www.nifi.org.uk) wish you a tremendous trip.

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