Are you planning a trip to Israel, or do you want to experience some of its hidden gems?

JNS asked reporter Judy Lash Balint to pick five places you should see on a visit to the Holy Land. Here they are:

Beauty meets social responsibility at Yvel Design Center

Yvel showroom. Photo by Judy Lash Balint.

OK, admit it: sometimes you need a break from the intensity and emotional highs of touring Israel’s religious and historic sites.

A two-hour visit to the Yvel Design Center, where beauty, creativity and social responsibility come together, might be just the ticket to recharge the senses before you continue with your tour.

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Unique, colorful, kinetic: Yaacov Agam Museum in Rishon Letzion

A series of Yaacov Agam’s polymorphic work. Photo by Judy Lash Balint.

There’s only one museum in Israel dedicated to a sole living artist—the Yaacov Agam Museum in Rishon Letzion. Agam is so prolific and his work so striking that it’s not surprising that he merits a display space all his own.

Recently reopened after more than a year of pandemic closure, the airy museum space is filled with examples of Agam’s unique and colorful kinetic art, created over the past six decades. It’s one of only a few museums in the world dedicated to Kinetic Art.

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Wander among the ancients at an Israeli world heritage site

“The mother of all menorahs” at Beit She’arim. Photo by Judy Lash Balint.

Remnants of an ancient city, mysterious inscriptions, caves and catacombs, and gorgeous scenery are to be found in Bet She’arim, one of Israel’s most impressive UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Located in the rolling hills of the Lower Galilee between Haifa and Nazareth, Bet She’arim makes a great day out for families, nature lovers and history buffs.

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An ancient fortress comes to life: Tel Lachish

Tel Lachish. Photo by Judy Lash Balint.

Israel boasts one of the most varied and developed national park systems in the world. Though a country that could fit into Lake Michigan with room to spare, visitors will find no fewer than 57 national parks and 22 nature reserves spanning Israel’s diverse geographic zones.

The parks are a great way to get acquainted with the country if you’ve never been here before or reacquainted if it’s been a while since your last visit. Traditional sites like Masada, Capernaum, Ben-Gurion’s Tomb and Ein Gedi are just a few of the must-sees for first-time visitors that fall under the National Parks Authority.

During the pandemic, when Israel’s borders were closed to foreign tourists, the Parks Authority seized the opportunity to upgrade many of the existing sites and even develop new ones. Repeat visitors to Israel will find it worthwhile to explore some of the old favorites like the Castel, the Hula Nature Reserve or Herodium, which have all undergone significant expansion and improvements.

One fascinating national park that’s so new it doesn’t yet have a page in English on the Parks Authority website is Tel Lachish.

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The Khan Sha’ar Hagai Center: Bring Memorial and Independence Day to life

Khan Sha’ar Hagai. Photo by Judy Lash Balint.

The days around Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of Israel and Victims of Terrorism) Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) and Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) are the perfect time to take a trip to some of the sites associated with those dates.

Several of the sites Israel’s tourism authorities upgraded and updated during the pandemic are located in the Judean hills surrounding Jerusalem and bring the story of the founding of the State of Israel to life.

If you’ve ever traveled on the main highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, you’ve probably noticed the shells of several old armored vehicles on the side of the road. Now, there’s a new interactive commemorative center that will take you straight to the heart of the 1947-1948 battle for control of the road, and to an understanding of the importance of those battered trucks and transport vehicles.

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