About 8km northeast of central Nazareth on the road to Tiberias (and on the Jesus Trail), the Arab town of Kafr Kana (Cana) is believed to be the site of Jesus’s first miracle (John 2:1-11), when he changed water into wine at a wedding reception. About 10% of the population is Christian.
Beit Alpha Synagogue
No one was more surprised than the members of Kibbutz Heftzibah when they went out to dig an irrigation channel in 1928 and uncovered a stunning, Byzantine-era (6th-century) mosaic floor. Further excavation revealed the rest of the Beit Alpha Synagogue, whose extraordinarily mosaics are among the most evocative of ages past ever found in Israel.
Surrounded by open fields where gazelles are a common sight, this moshav (cooperative settlement), 6km southeast of Kfar Tavor, is on both the Israel National Trail and a spur of the Jesus Trail. Getting There & Away Kavim bus 42 links Kfar Kisch with Afula (16.80NIS, 35 minutes, five or six daily Sunday to Friday).
Kiryat Shmona & Tel Hai
Kiryat Shmona is a sunbaked, hardscrabble ‘development town’ with little to offer the visitor except the promise of transport from the faded, grungy bus station. The town is almost completely shut on Shabbat. The name, which means ‘Town of the Eight’, honours eight Zionist pioneers, including Josef Trumpeldor, killed in 1920 at Tel Hai, 3km to the north.
Rishon LeZion (First to Zion), just 20km south of Tel Aviv, makes for a pleasant half-day trip. Founded in 1882 by European Jewish immigrants, its Old City is based on Rothschild St and includes the Great Synagogue, built in 1885 and registered as a warehouse because the Turkish authorities wouldn’t allow the Jews a place of worship.
Prepare for Armageddon! If you're driving northeast along Rte 65, it will be on your left just off Rte 66. Known in Hebrew as Tel Megiddo, this is where it's said that St John predicted the last great battle on earth would take place (Revelation 16:14 and 16:16). It is now part of Megiddo National Park.
Eilat is surrounded by jagged, red-rock mountains created by the tectonic movements of the Great Rift Valley (Syrian-African Rift). The desert environment, blazing with glorious colours (especially at sunrise and sunset), is home to a huge variety of wildlife, flora and fauna. Hikers will want to head for the Eilat Mountains.
Sandwiched between Rte 2 (the Tel Aviv–Haifa expressway) and the Mediterranean, Jisr az-Zarka (population 13,500) is Israel's only remaining seaside Arab village. It is named for a stone bridge over adjacent Al-Wadi Az-Zarka (the Blue River), constructed for the visit of Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1898.
Ani'am Artists Village
This quiet moshav, 9km southeast of Katzrin (and about 1km off Rte 808), is home to eight attractive ateliers and galleries arrayed along a brick-paved pedestrian street. The artists – including two ceramicists and a New York–born goldsmith, Joel Friedman of Golan Gold, who makes exquisite braided gold jewellery – are happy to tell visitors about their crafts.
Founded by German-Jewish refugees in 1935, Nahariya still feels a bit like a Central European beach resort of the interwar era. The town's focal point is 1km-long HaGa'aton Blvd, lined with cafes, ice-cream joints, flower shops and places to eat, which runs along both banks of the eucalyptus-shaded Ga'aton River (actually a concrete canal).