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Many travellers do not consider going to Israel because they fear it may be a dangerous place. Besides that, they may think there is nothing much to do there but trail around a bunch of dusty old places from the bible. In fact, neither of those assumptions are true. Guess where was voted the World's Best Gay City? Sydney? San Francisco? No. It's Tel Aviv. Israel's second biggest city is also one of the Ultimate Party cities and has the nickname "Miami Beach on the Med" because of its lovely seaside. It is packed full of bars and clubs.

It is a bit of a challenge to the mind-set to let go of all those Christmas card images of palm trees, donkeys, camels and people in flowing robes to imagine a modern country that is the real Holy Land. After all, those images are over two thousand years old! Israel is only the same flying distance away as Cyprus yet hardly anyone goes there. Eilat used to be a popular holiday spot but a lot of Red Sea business has transferred over to the booming resort of Sharm-Al-Sheik in Egypt. All this may change as Easyjet have begun flights to Israel and Ryanair are also considering doing so. "How far is it to Bethlehem?" asks the phrase in the carol. "Not very far." Well, that's true.

Although Israel still crops up in the news as a trouble spot, it is not a country that the Foreign Office advises against going to, and of course many religious pilgrims go to places like Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth, every year, and also to see the famous sites from the Bible like the Sea of Galilee and the site of the Sermon on the Mount. In Jerusalem, it is well worth visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. In Bethlehem, the Church of the Nativity is built over the site where Jesus was born and a silver star on the floor marks where the manger stood. You don't have to be a believer to find these places very moving and mysterious.

The population in Israel is very mixed, it is as much Arabic as it is Jewish and the call to prayers will be heard everywhere, as it would be in any other Arab country. Another surprise is the culinary excellence. Food is tasty and cheap and the wine business has advanced a lot in recent years, with vineyards on the Golan Heights.

The Dead Sea is a must-see destination, where the level of salt in the water makes floating like lying on a mattress. Another good place to tick off the check list is Armageddon, famous for being the place name designated for the end of the world.

The Holy Land is a beautiful and beguiling place and well worth considering for a trip that combines culture, history, sunshine and sea and something to suit everyone.

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