Submitted by: Ben Julius
In recent years, Israel’s hostel scene has seen something of a renaissance. The big, characterless, youth hostels of the past have joined with an ever-growing collection of fun, friendly, and international-style hostels catered towards budget-independent travelers. From Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, to the furthest depths of the Negev, the Galilee, and even the Golan Heights, new, independent hostels are opening up new areas of Israel to budgeted travelers.
Are they Kosher?
Most of the independent hostels in Israel do not provide meals for their guests other than a basic breakfast. Their kitchens are not Kosher, but because their fully equipped kitchens are designed for independent travelers, bringing your own food from outside or preparing food in the hostel is welcomed as part of the experience. In most cases, these are small accommodations and the owners will go out of their way to make you comfortable.
Jerusalem’s Abraham Hostel has become a “mecca for backpackers in the Middle East” as the Lonely Planet Guidebook put it. With 250 beds, Israel’s largest private hostel sits at Davidka Square near the Machane Yehuda Market (a 20 minute walk from the Old City) and has both dorm and private rooms, as well as great facilities – a big rooftop, a large lounge and bar area, a television room, and even a traveler’s desk where you can book tours across the country.
For those who are looking for purely Kosher facilities, the Agron Hostel is a IYHA (Israel Youth Hostel Association – HI) hostel, usually set up for groups, where breakfast is fully kosher, but there is no guest kitchen here.
Tel Aviv’s hostel scene has kicked off more earnestly than anywhere else in the country, and there are now more than ten hostels in the city. The Hayarkon 48 hostel is moments from the beach and very popular with everyone from backpackers to regular visitors to the city. The hostel has a great rooftop and common area, and recently refurbished rooms. Meanwhile, the Gordon Inn, on the corner of Gordon Street and Ben Yehuda Street, has great private rooms (as well as dorms), and, right on the beach itself, the Beachfront Hotel is undoubtedly the best value accommodation on Tel Aviv’s beach strip.
North – Haifa, Galilee, and Golan
The hostel wave has spread north from the center of Israel, and you can now explore the north of the country as a budget traveler. In Haifa, the Port Inn at the foot of the city is moments from the German Colony and at the foot of the Bahai Gardens, whilst the renovated port area is also very close by. North of Haifa, Akko has a great IYHA (HI) Hostel. With Kosher breakfast included, this hostel is just steps from the entrance to the UNESCO Heritage Site which is the Old City.
In the rural areas of the Galilee, you’ll continue to find great hosteling options – Kibbutz Inbar has a beautiful country lodge where dorm and private rooms are available for travelers in some of the best nature of the country. Safed (Tzfat) has the Safed Inn, a short ride from the city center, whilst the Galilee Ranch Inn, part of the famous Vered Hagalil Guest Farm has recently opened hostel rooms close to the Sea of Galilee.
South – Dead Sea and Negev
At the Dead Sea, two IYHA hostels (Hosteling International) offer travelers great value accommodation – at Masada (perfect as a base camp for a sunrise hike) and at Ein Gedi (perfect if you’d like to hike or bathe on the Dead Sea Beaches). In the heart of the Negev, there is one hostel which has won the hearts and minds of travelers from around the world – the Green Backpackers, a small, family run hostel in Mitzpe Ramon, is a great base for exploring the Ramon Crater, and hiking and biking trails of the Negev. The hostel arranges great activities for its guests from rappelling to jeep tours (check ahead).
Israel’s hostel scene has come great lengths in the past five years or so, and continues to grow at a staggering rate. Because these hostels are international in style, catering to many European
backpackers, they do not prepare meals for guests, and as a result of having a communal kitchen are not certified Kosher. If you can find ways to work with this fact, these hostels can bring you into the beating heart of Israel’s buzzing budget travel scene.
Ben Julius is the founder of TouristIsrael.com.