Sunday 23 August 2009

Holiday at Home

In some countries, it is customary to take a summer holiday abroad. I remember this particularly when we lived in England. Although the summer days are long and daylight can last until past 10pm, the summer weather is so unreliable that planning a holiday in England entails taking a huge risk. As a result, most people in England who are seeking a true summer break head off to Spain, Portugal, the Caribbean, the USA, Israel or elsewhere in the Middle East. The opposite is true of a country like South Africa. Travelling abroad for South Africans is extremely expensive due to the great distances involved and the currency exchange rate. Add to that the fact that there are so many wonderful holiday destinations within the country, that it is unsurprising that many South Africans have their summer holidays in Cape Town, Plettenberg Bay or on the Natal south coast.

Israelis generally like to travel a great deal and is no surprise to encounter Israeli tourists in any and every holiday location, no matter how remote. With the wonderful summer weather in Israel, it is perhaps ironic that many Israelis like to travel during the summer months to escape the stifling Israeli heat. Almost anywhere is cooler than Israel at this time of year.

In tandem with many Israelis travelling abroad are the waves of holidaymakers, many of them Jews from Europe and the USA, coming to Israel for their summer break. For religious Jews who are concerned about eating kosher food and observing Shabbat, Israel is an easy and relaxing holiday. There are many choices available for eating out, and it allows the combination of a sun-filled beach holiday with spirituality by combining beach and pool visits with pilgrimages to some of the holy sites.

I am not conventional when it comes to taking holidays. Over the years, I have been required to travel abroad a great deal for work. So when it has come to having holiday, I prefer to stay home. Living in Israel, staying home can be combined with a wonderful break and classic summer holiday. I like to sleep late (in the comfort of my own home) and then head out to the beach which is only a 20 minute drive from home, or possibly a local swimming pool. This allows the feeling of being on holiday whilst having the comforts of home. We are able to eat out in our local restaurants to add to the holiday feeling. We can also take day trips to parts of Israel that we have not visited before at all, or not visited recently. In my view, this all makes for a relaxing and inexpensive holiday whilst enjoying the best of what Israel is able to offer.

This year, with the financial crisis having hit holiday budgets very hard, it is natural that many have been forced to take local holidays rather than travelling abroad. Although there are many wonderful holiday destinations to travel to in Israel, the truth is that the cost of many of these are the same as or greater than travelling abroad even when including the cost of the flight. As a result, even these are out of the financial reach of many people under the current economic climate.

I know that my family would much prefer to travel abroad given the opportunity to do so. I don't wish or plan to deny them this chance. They do have the opportunity once in a while to travel abroad for family visits. They would, however, like to have more opportunities for overseas trips. But when I see how much of a break one can have by staying home, it is almost a shame not to take advantage of the wonderful things that can be done within Israel.

Besides going to the beach every day to catch some good waves, I enjoy the opportunity to get out during the summer time. This includes walks and picnics on the beach, eating out and generally being outdoors. I also enjoy day trips to any of a number of different places in Israel including the Sea of Galilee and the north, or the deserts and the Dead Sea in the south. No holiday would be complete without the spiritually uplifting experience of a visit to Jerusalem. No matter how many times I visit Jerusalem, each visit feels like a new experience.

Now that my holiday at home is over for this year, I can honestly say that I have thoroughly enjoyed it and feel rested and ready for the next challenges. I am indeed fortunate to live in a place that offers me this chance. Even those who do not live in Israel are invited to have a holiday at "home".

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