That of the Bible. Where, to this day, you still see shepherd boys riding donkeys tending flocks.
There is a rawness to the land, a peacefulness that comes of the desolation of the environment. Bordered by the Dead Sea and 400 meters below sea level, you are whisked away from the hustle/bustle of Jerusalem through a time warp to another era.
Stop 1 was Herod's fortress of Masada, the site of the last stand against the Romans which ended in a mass suicide and which has become a symbol to the State of Israel: "Masada shall not fall again."
It's an engineering marvel on top of a mountain (and a mini-series that my brothers and I used to love) and, in an ironic twist for me, represents both the old and new Israel at the same time.
The last time I was there, was 1991 and the parking lot was dirt and there may have been a ticket booth and the cable cars.
Now, there is a world class visitor center with indoor parking and much more.
That's the new Israel. I felt the same way when I first landed at the new airport in 2002 (I think) and I said, "ok, the country has arrived."
It's about an hour or so drive from Jerusalem and very pleasant.
We elected to take the cable car up (smart), walk around for an hour with the map and read the signs while educating the kids and then walk down (possibly smart). It's very doable, but with kids, it definitely takes longer than the advertised 30 minutes.
It was hot.
As I said to them many times, the "key to Israel is water, hat, backpack, and sunscreen." If you have those, you're off to the races.
The way to experience Israel (or any country for that matter) best is by foot and hiking in Israel is a special component.
Figuring we hadn't walked far enough, we then went to Ein Gedi, which also has Biblical significance, most notably as the hiding place of the future King David by his father-in-law Saul.
The best part is jumping into the cool spring water stemming from the oasis that forms the basis of the nature preserve.
The 2nd best part is meeting other travelers...including a group of 10 pastors from around the world on a trip to the Holy Land.
When I lived in Japan, I remember visiting Kyoto and thinking "this is eternal Japan." When you see the desert surrounding Masada and Ein Gedi, the hills leading to Jerusalem, you can't help but think that this is a part of "eternal Israel."