Planning My Trip To Israel On EL AL

For years I’ve been wanting to visit Israel and fly EL AL. For many of my trips, the journey is the destination, so I can easily review several airlines with just a day or two on the ground. Israel is different, as it’s a country where I’d like to spend more than a few days on the ground.

I tend to plan last minute, and it’s tough to carve out that much time. So I realize that it’s time that I plan this trip in advance so that I make sure it actually happens.

Best of all, there has never been a better time, given that EL AL is soon introducing their 787 into service, which features a much improved business class product. With the introduction of this, EL AL will actually finally have somewhat of a competitive product. EL AL’s first 787 destinations will be London Heathrow, Newark, and Hong Kong.

What I’d like to get out of my EL AL flights

On one hand, EL AL’s future is the 787, so I absolutely want to try that plane. What I can’t decide is whether it makes sense to fly the 787 in both directions (to get a sense of how consistent the product is), or if in the other direction I should try:


EL AL’s new 787 business class

The challenges with booking EL AL

While EL AL’s business class fares aren’t that expensive compared to some other airlines, they don’t have that many sales either. Furthermore, unlike other airlines, they don’t publish good one-way fares, so you’re stuck paying their not-cheap fares roundtrip.

Usually I’d rather redeem miles, but there are very few circumstances under which redeeming miles is a better value than paying cash on EL AL, and that’s my main issue. I’ll provide examples of that below.

My options for booking EL AL

Flying their 787 roundtrip from Newark to Tel Aviv seems like the best way to experience the product, since that would give me two longhaul flights. However, the paid fare is ~$3,840.

If redeeming through the EL AL Matmid Club program as an Executive member (which you get when you transfer points from Amex), I’d pay 4,000 points roundtrip. Amex points convert to Matmid Club points at a 50:1 ratio, meaning that a roundtrip award ticket costs 200,000 Amex points, plus taxes and carrier imposed surcharges.

EL-AL-Amex

For now I have a grandfathered 50% Pay With Points refund on the Amex Business Platinum Card, meaning that I could book the above paid ticket for ~384,000 points, and then get 50% of those points back, for a total of ~192,000 points. So paying cash for the ticket through Amex is a better deal than transferring points.

Alternatively, a lower cost option is to book London to Tel Aviv roundtrip on the 787, which would cost ~$1,500. That’s much more reasonable, though at the same time those aren’t longhaul flights, so I’m not sure how much the experience differs on that plane.

That would require 2,200 points roundtrip, which would be 110,000 Amex points. Again, the 50% Pay With Points deal would be a better value.

One potentially interesting thing about the London flight is that I could fly one direction in business class on the 787, and one direction in first class on the 777, and you’d pay the one-way costs of each. So you’d split the difference between the cost of the above and below itinerary, and would end up paying ~$2,100 for such a ticket. Again, you’re not getting a true longhaul flight, though.

Lastly, if just purely redeeming points, I guess one other option would be to do Newark to Tel Aviv in 787 business class, and something like Tel Aviv to Los Angeles in 777 first class. That would cost 5,500 Matmid Club points, or 275,000 Amex points. *Gulp*

To add a further wrinkle, Ford will be joining me on this trip. Ultimately he’d be happy to fly separately since I don’t think EL AL will be all that much of a treat, given the high cost. But it would also be nice to fly together, if at all possible.


EL AL’s old first class

Bottom line

As you can see, flying EL AL won’t be cheap. Personally I’m leaning towards booking London to Tel Aviv roundtrip on the 787, since ~$1,500 is a more reasonable amount to spend than ~$3,800. With the Amex Pay With Points 50% discount, the ticket would end up costing ~75,000 Amex Membership Rewards points per person. That’s not ideal for such a short flight, but does seem like the best option.

At the same time, I would love to try EL AL’s longhaul 777 first class service. But at the cost of 175,000 Amex points one-way per person in seats that look subpar for business class, I’m having a really hard time justifying that.

I really want to lock in this trip and am serious taking it, so if anyone has any thoughts on which option I should go with, or if there’s anything creative I’m overlooking (cheap one-way codeshare flights somewhere, etc.), I’d love to hear it. There’s gotta be a better way, no?!

Comments

  1. Which hard time ???
    80% of your readers do fly to Tel Aviv frequently and are interested into flying ELAL.

  2. Why not use QF points to fly J to/from either London or HKG?

    Also make sure you fly LY ex-TLV so that you can review their flagship lounge

  3. @ Axel — The only “hard time” I referenced was redeeming 175K points for a one-way ticket from TLV-LAX in EL AL first class, which few people fly (certainly not 80% of my readers). Hence the question about which option makes the most sense.

  4. @ High end hobo — That’s still 76,000 points, so I’m not sure that’s a better deal than the 75K Amex points using the 50% Pay With Points discount that I have for now.

  5. Maybe link up with Dan Eleff of Dan’s Deals, he and his following are likely the “80% fly to TLV frequently” which Axel claimed in reference to your site.

  6. Lucky what’s the rush? Isn’t there another airline, perhaps Air Mali, that you need to review before trying El Al? I visit your site everyday and like Axel said, a ton of your readers visit or are interested in Israel and El Al. I wonder how many can say that for Azerbaijan Airlines?? I wouldn’t review El Al. After so many years doing reviews and skipping Israel, at this point it’s actually insulting insulting.

  7. LOL I doubt 80% of his readers fly El Al and fly to Tel Aviv the city in a terrorist illegal state LOL @Axel you must be pulling numbers out of your nether regions…..

  8. @Leon @Axel what Israeli propaganda are you trying to blow up our asses with “a ton of your readers visit or are interested in Israel and El Al.” hahahahhah shooooo shoooo go away go crawl back into the little cave you came out from…..

  9. You might want to look into purchasing on Amex (50% rebate) a RT OW in 787 J and one way on an acft with F class and use points to upgrade

  10. My 2 cents.

    I would say that you should fly EWR-TLV to experience their longhaul flight on the 787. It will be with a comfortable flat seat and get you to Israel feeling fresh.

    For the way back I would suggest you do TLV-LHR with LY F so you can review one of the last F products you need, and at the same time, since it’s a relatively short flight, you won’t mind the lackluster F product.

    For hotels during your stay, look into the Fine Hotels & Resorts there are many nice options near the old city such as the Mamila Hotel and more. The Ritz near TLV is highly rated as well.

  11. Just try and don’t arrive on a Friday after sunset or on Saturday, I found it extremly hard.

    For th immigration – I thought that getting into the country was super quick but the departure was extremly stricked with a questionaire and an extra seurity screening since I visit UAE once I think.

  12. @Izz @Lucky
    While the Mamilla is a fabulously gorgeous hotel, the bathroom has windows overlooking the bedroom which you aren’t a fan of.
    Other beautiful hotels in Jerusalem include:
    King David Citadel
    Dan Panorama
    Waldorf Astoria

  13. @Lucky I can’t help you with choosing the best way to book it, but I’d advise you a few things about your visit to Israel:
    1. Try to avoid being there during high Jewish holidays: Late-September to early-October 2017 and mid-March to early-April 2018. It’s usually very busy.
    2. Try to go there right in the end of summer or in the spring as the temperatures are the best. November-early March is rainy and (relatively) cold. Taking (1) into account, right after the aforementioned holidays would be best.
    3. Avoid Jerusalem on Fridays and Saturdays – Friday nights the city practically shuts down until Saturday night. Weekends (Saturdays, Sunday is a week day in Israel) are best in Tel-Aviv or out in nature.
    4. Go South. Take a day trip to explore a cool spot or two in the desert (But skip Eilat).
    5. Check out the Ritz Carlton in Herzliya Marina, as well as Herzliya in general. Awesome beach.
    6. Eat falafel. A lot. In particular – at a falafel joint called Hakosem in Tel-Aviv.

    There’s so much more…

  14. @Kurt
    They have another mistake in the video – the computer-generated aircraft has blue engines. They’re white in real life.

  15. Didn’t Qantas just partner up with El Al to redeem QF points on EY segments ? Wouldn’t that be a cheaper option say between say LHR & TLV ?

  16. Correct – Only I & C can be upgraded, You can do J outbound on the 787 and return you book the I fare and upgrade. You are looking at about $5721 for the fare + points.

    J RT from JFK is $3339 and from EWR its $3841 – They also have an upsell on the 787 like DL with the A350….

  17. Dear Ben,
    How about flying free via Taglit (Birthright)? I believe having one Jewish grandparent qualifies you, and I think you are in the right age bracket. Check it out.

  18. ETA:
    The Birthright Israel gift is open to all Jewish* young adults, ages 18 to 26 who have not participated on a peer educational trip since they turned 18 nor lived in Israel past the age of 12.

    *Eligible individuals are those who identify as Jewish and are recognized as such by their local community or by one of the recognized denominations of Judaism. Applicants must also have at least one Jewish birth parent, or have completed Jewish conversion through a recognized Jewish denomination.

  19. Only advice for you is to arrive at the airport MUCH earlier than you normally would. Expect a very long exit interview with their security personnel. I think mine took 45+ minutes of grilling before they let me through.

  20. @Lucky – looking forward to your El AL reviews, especially the new 787 service. As others have mentioned, the hotel scene in Israel is not ideal. The newer Ritz in Herzliya and the new Waldorf in Jerusalem are both very nice, but not up to global brand standards IMO. The David Citadel in Jerusalem is a good option, but make sure you get onto a renovated floor (as of last year, not all were renovated yet – maybe that’s changed since?). I guess the default points hotel would be the Hilton on the beach in Tel Aviv. Location is great, has a nice lounge and views, but standard rooms are small and it’s definitely showing its age overall. Isrotel has some nice properties in their ‘Exclusive Collection’ – notably the Beresheet property at Mitzpe Ramon – nothing to do there except relax, but it’s a gorgeous desert set up with villas, private pools, etc. I’m not one for museums, but the Tower of David Museum just inside the walls of Jerusalem does a pretty good job of walking you through 5,000+ years of history in a cool setting. Visiting Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum) is sobering, but very worthwhile. Otherwise, make sure you do some market/food tours in both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Hope you enjoy your visit!

  21. Ben, I think you have two parts of your brain competing, the “old you” part that wants to get a good deal and squirms at the thought of shelling out retail-like prices and the “new you” part that wants to have a great trip with Ford and review the long haul product. To me it’s a no-brainer to go with the true El Al experience. Even from a business perspective, investing the extra funds will probably be a good decision since the story about your long haul flight will likely garner more interest.

  22. @Jay this a travel website, I would go into the reasons for my comment but it doesn’t look like logic is one your strengths, so keep your antisemitic comments about Israel and its terrorist illegal state with your friends in Charlottesville and the rest of the BDS websites

  23. Thanks for all the tips, guys! As far as the Ritz goes, is that a decent place from which to explore Tel Aviv, or would you recommend doing a couple of nights in Tel Aviv and then staying at the Ritz for a bit before going to Jerusalem? It seems like the Ritz is close to the heart of Tel Aviv, but not sure whether we’d regret staying there as a base for exploring the city.

  24. @Lucky – I would suggest a couple of nights in the heart of Tel Aviv, You can access Tel Aviv from the Ritz, but it’s a 30-minute drive without traffic into Tel Aviv from there. Our usual routine is to fly into TLV and go straight to the Ritz for 1-2 nights to get over the jet lag, enjoy the beach, head further north on a day trip, etc. and then head down for a couple of night in Tel Aviv proper before either going south or over into Jerusalem. If you stay along the beach in Tel Aviv you can easily walk or do short car trips just about anywhere you’ll want to go in the city. I suggest doing Jerusalem last just because it can be a little overwhelming and we find it’s best to do it when you’ve adjusted to the time change, etc. May be less of an issue for you though!

  25. @Lucky
    Definitely stay in Tel Aviv proper. Herzliya looks close but in traffic can be an hour or more. In general, traffic is a nightmare all along the coast, so keep that in mind

  26. @Lucky – sorry, last tip. I know you’re an Uber guy, but Uber is either illegal or vastly under-utilized in Israel (I can never figure out which). There are other apps like Get Taxi that do the same and are widely used which you’ll want to look into before you go. Or you can rent a car and drive – I’ve found it to be surprisingly easy throughout the country, especially with everyone there using Waze.

  27. For a business class product on a flight of this duration none of the cash prices you mentioned seem excessive.

  28. Having just returned from Israel not long ago and as an IHG fan I’ll give you a few tips.

    Crowne Plaza in Jersulem, not so great, not terrible but just not awesome. It is close to the Israel Museum and the central light rail station however. Also don’t avoid the Sabbath in Jerusalem as it’s quite a special time to see the city slow down but just be prepared for the Kosher changes at the hotels around food. Taxi service and public transport can be an issue at times.

    Crowne Plaza at the Dead Sea (Israel side) is very nice and well located.

    Crowne Plaza at Hiafa is very nice. More of a business hotel but very good views. Nice place to stay.

    Intercontinental Tel Aviv is very well located and very nice.

    We flew Air France to Turkey and then on to Israel on Turkish. Those Turkish commuter flights to TLV are about equal to a Las Vegas-PHX/LAX/DFW event however.

  29. Isn’t there some old saying about “in for a penny, in for a pound”? As in: if you’re going to review El Al, then you need to try out the TATL experience and not that puddle – hop to London. Please splurge and do the EWR – TLV flight.

    And forget about LY ‘s first class. It needs to be put in a Jerusalem museum next to the Dead Sea scrolls and other ancient relics.

    I’m sure many of us will be so very curious as to how much time you’re planning to spend in Israel. I know destinations are not your thing but Israel is not the place to skimp on time. If your time is limited, may I suggest that you skip Jerusalem (I can hear the gasps) and focus on Tel Aviv. Jerusalem really needs–and respectfully deserves–a full week while Tel Aviv can be enjoyed in three days. Tel Aviv is a wonderful city, one of my favorites. It’s so sexy, so vibrant! It’s so easy to immerse yourself in local life. I love wandering the streets of Tel Aviv and gawking at the bauhaus architecture and engaging in the superb people watching (especially on the beach by the Hilton).

    Speaking of the Hilton…No. Just don’t. Have Ford get you a good rate at either the Norman or Alma hotel so you can get the full Tel Aviv experience.

    This is very exciting and I am truly envious. You and Ford will have an amazing time.

  30. I wouldn’t spend too much time in Tel Aviv when there. It’s a big city, similar to other big cities in the area. I believe most of the charm of Israel is in Jerusalem and other areas around the country. The Ritz is great for a couple nights, as is the Elma Arts Complex (an SPG hotel) in Neve Yaakov. The later is in a super quiet community on the top of a hill, and it’s super relaxing. It’s also only 1.5 hours to the north from there, so it’s a good jumping off point for trips up north.

    @Brian is right about Uber though. Use Gett Taxi (the app) or just drive. It’s really not too bad: all street signs are in English (and Hebrew and Arabic obviously) and it’s the quickest, if not sometimes the only, way to get to some areas. Beresheet is another fantastic property to stay at, but it’s quite secluded if you want to be near things to do.

    In terms of Jerusalem, try to snag to Waldorf Astoria. I stayed there a few weeks ago and loved it! It’s right near the Mamila mall and walking distance to the Old City. Also, I wouldn’t keep your car in Jerusalem: it’s a real pain to find parking. Most if not all rental car agencies have an office in Jerusalem and allow free, one way returns there.

    I can’t wait until you book your tickets! You’ll have a blast!

  31. @Lucky knowing you and the better selection of hotels you will most likely be staying in Tel Aviv.
    I would encourage you to stay in Jerusalem or go there and minimize your time in Tel Aviv. There isn’t much to see in Tel Aviv in terms of sightseeing.

    Getting a tour to Masada at sunrise and going to the Dead Sea are a must do.
    Also try the chocolate milk in a bag that children drink.

    *****Disclaimer I do not recognize the State of Israel . She is occupying Palestine.

  32. You could prebook blacklane which was perfect for my Jerusalem to Tel Aviv transfer..for staying in Jerusalem I would recommand mamilla since the location is just fantastic. A quick walk to the old city or close to Jerusalem’s other parts.

    Or try something totally different – staying in a pilger house in the old city (Ecce Home has a stunning roof top) for 1-2 nights – its nothing luxury but staying in the old city was for me simply magical as it gives a different feeling for it.

  33. Have you looked at Toronto? Or Boston? What about Miami — that one is a new LY route and they may have some sales coming up….

  34. @Lucky been following you for years!! I currently live in Haifa and would strongly recommend the new resort by SPG in Zichron Yaakov

  35. You could also fly EWR-TLV-JFK for the same $3800 cash and fly back on the 747 in business. Not sure if that is the same angled flat that is on the 777.

  36. Couldn’t dissagree more about TLV vs. Jerusalem. See Jerusalem for the sights and seek out some arab Kanafeh in the old city. You should generally avoid Jewish made arab food, other than the hip nouvelle Israeli food, older generation Israeli jews are the worst cooks in the world (see babaganoush with mayo). Then get out of there. I don’t mean to rude but Jerusalem is a miserable place full of wackjobs. No cool Israelis spend a minute of their time there. TLV has many annoying aspects for a tourist, overpriced hotels that suck, $6 buses, trashy rude people, French people, and horrible dance clubs. But the classier parts…the fantastic restaurants in the hip young people area, beaches, cafe life, beautiful old streets. Not to mention the best looking people you’ll ever see in your life. It’s worth the trouble.

  37. Redemption through miles would be the preferred option, because you would be able to document the booking process for the award flights on El Al.

    I think this would be the value-add, as award redemption is typically more complicated. Would be keen to find out if award seats are wide open, and if there are other hidden issues in booking award seats on El Al.

  38. @Lucky:

    You’ve gotta review the ELAL lounges in Israel they have 2, one for first and one for business!!!!!!

    From Noah who contacted you about the London deal on elal a while back, I live here, if you need anything just email me back will be glad to help with hotels, getting around, etc.

    Also Eilat is a good place to hit up for a day

  39. Stay at the King David in Jerusalem, https://www.danhotels.com/JerusalemHotels/KingDavidJerusalemHotel/. Convenient to everything in Jerusalem and a good base of operations for day trips to Masada or up North. For Tel Aviv, The Dan Tel Aviv is a solid choice as is the Intercontinental.

    Best recommendation is to hire a guide to take you around. It’ll be easier than taxis or renting a car. I highly recommend Ami Giz. In addition to being a great guide, he’s also a foodie and will make sure you get the best food Israel has to offer. http://israeltourguide.co.il/

  40. Agree with David. Jerusalem is basically an (amazing) archaeological site. Tons of history, but very lacking in terms of a tourist destination (sub-par restaurants, nightlife, shopping); Tel Aviv has way more to offer in terms of night life, beaches and accessibility to other destinations in Israel. would recommend spending a day or two in the north of the country (Nazareth, Accra, sea of Galilee) same goes for the desert.

  41. @Lucky
    The Ritz in Herzliya is pretty accessible to Tel-Aviv, 20-30 minutes drive, depends on traffic. If you want to stay in Tel-Aviv, there’s also the David Intercontinental which is a bit south but allows easy access to Jaffa as well.
    There’s also the W in Jaffa that’s supposed to open in March, although I’m not sure if it’s going to be a hotel or residence.
    If you’re planning to go North – Check out the Effendi hotel in Acco (Acre), although I wouldn’t spend more that a night in the area.

    If you’re staying at the Ritz, it’s in the marina. Let me know if you want to go sailing. Or if you need ANY additional advice.

  42. I’d do EWR-TLV in 787 J and TLV-LAX in 777 F for the 275K AMEX. Note that there’s a deval coming in October: https://www.dansdeals.com/points-travel/milespoints/el-al-news-another-mileage-devaluation-new-787-flights-and-more/

    A TR of LHR-TLV in F won’t be worth much IMHO.

    As for hotels, Waldorf Jerusalem with the 5th night free is perfect for a few days that are needed to explore that fascinating city and use that as a base for the Dead Sea/Masada for a day and a Dig for a day archaeology program at Beit Guvrin.

    Spend a few nights in the Ritz Herzliya and the Elma Arts/SPG Design hotels.
    W TLV was supposed to open years ago, but keeps getting pushed back.

    Feel free to contact me for itin planning.

  43. If you like countries that put Jews ahead of everyone else. A country that practices apartheid. A country that has beaches that Palestinians are prohibited from using. A country that always has its palm open looking for “donations” for their settlements.

  44. I love Tel Aviv, so I would highly suggest a couple of nights at/near the beach. Be sure to explore old Jaffa.

    In Jerusalem, I would go a different route and stay at the American Colony in East Jerusalem. It is a magnificent hotel, with a wonderful history, and a great outdoor bar. It is part of the “Leading Hotels of the World” group. It is quite easy to get around via taxi, or the light rail.

    In Northern Israel, I would highly suggest a night or two in Nazareth- not only the hometown of Jesus, but Israel’s largest primarily Arab town. The old city is really quite magical. And don’t miss Acre – the Crusader Halls are amazing.

  45. Jesus, can’t anyone leave politics out of a post on a travel blog?!?!?! $#|+, we could ALL say things about flying El Al or Emirates or Qatar or Saudia or . . . or . . . or . . . does anyone avoid flying Lufthansa because of Adolf? China Southern because of Mao? Aeroflot because of Stalin (or Putin, take your choice)?

    Time and place. Time and place. I’m more political than most people I know but for travel’s sake, Give It A Rest!

    (OK, go ahead: flame away — I’m wearing my flameproof underwear.)

    /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\

    Ben, in terms of actual travel — you make a valid point re: taking a true long-haul route. As such, why can’t you fly EWR-TLV in Business on a new 787, and route your return TLV-LHR-EWR in First on a 777. That way, it seems to me, you can evaluate their new business class AND their old first class. I’m sure you can write it off anyway . . .

  46. Please write a report about your security experience at El Al, as you are likely going to be interrogated with your passport history and it should be very interesting for many of your readers.

  47. Anti-Israel people: Travelers travel. If we only went places whose politics we agreed with, we’d never learn anything, never challenge ourselves, never provide opportunities to residents to meet foreigners, and we’d have a pretty short list of places to choose from.

  48. The one hotel which is a must is the King David in Jerusalem with a room with the view of the old city. It’s not cheap but its a once in a lifetime experience and view and don’t forget to have a coffee on the terrace overlooking the Old City. As far as Tel Aviv – none of the large hotels – Norman would probably be the best. As far as the ticket – EWR-TLV on the 787 Business + TLV_LHR on a 777 upgraded with points from Business to First + LHR-NYC on an airline with ElAl codeshare (used to be AA but I think that stopped) – should be the best price performance and you do get to try out all the combinations, new and old.

  49. We just took our entire family (9 of us) to Israel thanks to your employee Jimmy who found us all free tickets We had a fabulous time. Stayed on points in Tel Aviv at the David Intercontinental. It was lovely. Then stayed on a kibbutz hotel in the North which was ok. Then down to the desert for a night. Then to Jerusalem. We rented an apartment across from Davids Citadel since there were so many of us. I would recommend Davids Citadel, the Waldorf, or the King David.

    Restaurant recommendations: Tel Aviv- make a reservation at Manta Ray. Great seafood.

    Up North in the Galilee Dag al ha Dan. Fun trout restaurant right on the Dan River.

    Jerusalem Machne Yehuda restaurant. Great, loud, fun restaurant. It’s right by the market with the same name. Hard to get in so book as far in advance as possible.
    Also I have the names of a couple of fabulous guides if you’re interested. You might be able to use them a few days if you want the ruins to come to life.

  50. Lucky, you should go one way on the 787 and then take the 747 on the return.
    The 5 remaining 747’s will be retired within a year and you likely won’t get another chance to ride them.

  51. Lucky,
    I lived at the Intercontinental Tel Aviv using points and free nights for many weeks. It’s a great value using points
    40,000 points versus $325-500 per night base rate.

    Big upgrade for Ambassador status plus you’ll only pay 32000 points with the rebate.

  52. Since it seems no one has mentioned it I’ll bring it up. It’s probably best to get a second passport for the trip. Several countries will not let you in if you have an Israeli stamp in your passport. You can also put the Israeli stamp in your regular passport and use the second passport for countries that won’t let you in with that stamp. I had to do that for my last trip to Israel because of some of the countries I was planning on traveling to.

    A couple people mentioned it but El Al definitely grills you in security so leave time.

  53. Lucky,
    Having been to Israel many times (and flew LY LHR-TLV in J and F) the highest recommendation would be to hire a guide. I saw more in the few days with a guide than I did in the 60+ days I spent in all my previous trips. Yes, TLV is a much more vibrant, cool, progressive city with total tolerance for LGBT folks (including having much better food) whereas Jerusalem, although extremely interesting and historical, is much more conservative. A visit to both is mandatory. You can easily spend a week between the two and miss the rest of the country (for your first trip) because you WILL love it so much you will go back and then you can get the rest in.. TL;DR get a guide (with or without a car – and you can find guides who will ride with you in your rented car).

  54. @Lucky I have a phenomenal tour guide for you for the Old City of Jerusalem. You & Ford can book him for the whole day or just part of it, and he’ll do an interview with you ahead of time to figure out what you’re interested in so he can tailor the day accordingly. He’s also just as knowledgeable about the Muslim Quarter as he is the Jewish Quarter, so you get to see places many tour guides won’t take you.

    Feel free to reach out by email if you’d like me to put you guys in touch. I’ve set up a number of family & friends with him over the past couple years. So excited to hear your thoughts on Israel.

  55. @lucky check out the Waldorf Astoria in Jerusalem. The hotel just opened 18ish months ago. Let me know what you think?

  56. SO HAPPY YOURE FINALLY PLANNING ISRAEL!!!!!

    I would say do longhaul on new business product from EWR-TLV, and on the way back the old first class to LAX. Also make sure you go there before October ends because of weather.

  57. Thank you for a wonderful, thoughtful analysis of a peculiar (points-wise) carrier to an even more peculiar destination. It is again how many apples equal how many oranges? As I commented before, this is a curiously agitating tiny piece of land that is irritating to every terrorist group, rogue state and dictatorship in the world, It is surrounded by violent wars, and it does a difficult balancing act between individual rights and real world security threats, religious and secular obligations. EL AL will be probably equally imperfect. Looking forward to your observations and comments.

  58. @kackie good point about the Passport. Getting an Israeli stamp in your passport is as good as a tattoo. Especially how Lucky flies on all of those fancy Arab airlines.

  59. Good god! The negative posts about lucky reviewing El Al and Israel need to calm down. I would reference the old Jewish proverb “what terrible food. I know, and such small portions”.

  60. “Eat falafel. A lot.”

    Just make sure you get it from an Arab vendor, their falafel is much tastier.

    @Leon

    Are we still flogging that “Anti-Zionism = Antisemitism” nonsense?

  61. @kackie – you can always have your entry stamp on a separate piece of paper and keep your passport clean. But do have some documents with you to explain the plethora of other Middle Eatern stamps…

  62. The King David is my choice for Jerusalem. Only based on the location and views. Take a top floor pool facing room or a lower one with a balcony. Breathtaking and memorable views. Nice pool too. I had no problem at all clearing passport control. Last flew BA London to Tel Aviv first class but they now only do Club World into Tel Aviv. Consider staying in Tel Aviv too. The Hilton has good deals and a good pool.

  63. Some odd information in this comment section. Israel no longer stamps passports (and hasn’t for a while now) so there’s no reason to be worried about that. Airport security is heavy however, and the border guards will pay close attention to what countries you’ve been to.

    You can also pay about 100 usd for the VIP service, which saves a ton of time, makes everything easier, and involves being driven off the tarmac if you arrive at a remote stand.

    I second everyone recommending the Beresheet hotel, I’ve stayed there before and it really is something amazing. For Jerusalem you could check out the Orient hotel: It can’t compete with the history of the King David but nevertheless looks beautiful.

  64. @kackie Don’t know when the last time your were in israel, but they stopped stamping passport the last couple of years. They give you a small peice of paper called a B2 that it’s instead of the stamp

    Keep that small peice (B2) to avoid paying VAT in israel

  65. For the same price as EWR-TLV-EWR, you could fly JNB-TLV-NYC-TLV-JNB, with stopovers in TLV both directions. Then you could also review the B763 they use on the TLV-JNB route. They only publish round-trip fares, and the maximum stay on the ticket is 3 months.

  66. Just got back in July. Security was a breeze. Also definitely did not stamp my passport. And I had been to Dubai.

  67. I have been to Israel many times and hope (expect) that you will have an amazing time! I don’t have anything to add to your quandary regarding El Al, but I post for another reason. I know you put a lot of thought into the way you manage your comment section, and value allowing others to share their opinions. But, especially in light of the current climate of hate, racism and anti-semetism, I hope you will you this platform to disallow such talk on your site. Please don’t remain silent on the matter, or passively allow. I hope you and Ford have a wonderful time! I can’t wait to hear about it!

  68. @Lucky, you and Ford can fly one-way from YTZ to TLV via EWR for ~$1,800 pp. Still not cheap, but you get the option to fly it as one way for less and use miles on the return. And if you still decide to fly F, you can do so from TLV to LHR (which you probably already know).

    Flying from YTZ, also gets you to review the small airport and Porter airline.

  69. You should time the trip around the pride parades in the country.

    There’s something to be said for being able to attend a Pride parade in the middle east without the threat of getting hanged.

  70. I think you should fly the New York JFK-Tel Aviv inbound to get a sense of a standard el al flight on the most popular route, and take the dreamliner outbound from Tel Aviv to Newark for a sense of the long haul Dreamliner.

  71. Why not try to fly their 747? That looks like fun, especially if you’re deliberately considering taking a non-competitive first class product anyway.

  72. “There’s something to be said for being able to attend a Pride parade in the middle east without the threat of getting hanged.”

    Though the threat of being stabbed is all to real…

  73. If you want the best hotel not minding the price. The Norman in tel aviv is great with a very nice roof pool. @lucky

  74. @Lucky – the Ritz is nowhere near the center of Tel Aviv.
    You’re better of with the Hilton or the Intercontinental, which are on the beach in Tel Aviv.

  75. @Lucky – just to re-iterate some of the comments above. The Ritz may be an amazing hotel, but I’m sure you’ve been to nicer hotels, and its location is not very interesting. Nothing really in the area apart from the beach.
    On the other hand, if you have the time, do try and spend a couple of nights at the Beresheet hotel. I spend a couple of nights there last month, it’s a unique hotel with amazing scenery. And with all the wild Ibexes freely roaming the hotel grounds it’s a really special Israeli experience.

  76. hi. Going to Israel in December and decided to take El Al 787 round trip from Newark to Tel Aviv.
    Funny, as i child i flew in regular basic seats to Israel, but now at mid 50’s, no way. My husband is flying with me…I can’t wait…will report back what I experience. i’m a little worried that the seats have been described as not “true flats” and it feels as if you could slip off the seat when sleeping, but i sleep scrunched up anyway so i doubt my legs will even rest on that bottom section…going to see family who i haven’t seen in 40 plus years!

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