"Jeeping" Israel

"Jeeping" Israel

Get Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine on the Google Play Store!Get Toyota Cruisers & Trucks Magazine on the App StoreIn 1970 my aunt moved from New York City to Israel. 35 years later my Grandmother also made the move, this time from southern Florida, at a youthful 88.


By the time Grandma moved to Israel there were five grand children and at least a dozen great-grand children to welcome her. When Grandma made the move she was still playing tennis several days a week. Grandma knew that independent living in Florida wouldn’t last forever and with no immediate family nearby inspiration struck and she announced, “I’m moving to Israel.”

From Colorado, I would visit Grandma in Florida several times a year. We talked by phone all the time. We were close. Israel was going to be challenging. With layovers it’s 18 to 20 hours from the start of the first flight to the end of the last. Add in travel to the airport, security checks, delays,and a nine hour time difference, and no longer would I be taking long weekends in sunny Florida. Still, I vowed that I would visit every year.

I’ve been visiting Israel since I was a child. The trips were the same routine for many years: visit family, go on a holiday, or attend a wedding. With this larger family there is always a place to stay and somebody to visit. There were no Air bnb’s, cell phone’s or GPS. I would couch surf with my cousins, and navigate the country best as I could with paper maps in Hebrew which I could barely read. I usually got to my destination.

"Jeeping" Israel

 Eventually I bought a $25 unlocked cell phone off of Amazon and now I could make and receive calls.When I was finally able to plug a local Sim card into my iPhone and use Waze, invented by Israelis, the entire country opened up.Eventually I had a realization. While I have a great time with my family, my average trip was two weeks and I needed more to do. One time a friend toured the country with me. Over the years I discovered amazing Israeli countryside and natural wonders. I wanted to see it all.

When Facebook came on the scene it literally opened the world. In the Spring of 2012, a few months before a trip, Scott Brady’s Facebook page started showing pictures of people 4 wheeling in Israel. Scott is the CEO of Overland International which publishes Overland Journal and runs the Expedition Portal(www.expeditionportal.com). Scott and I become friends through the Land Cruiser scene here in the US when it was still just called “four wheeling.”Scott was ahead of the times and I consider him the father of “overlanding”in the United States.

"Jeeping" Israel

I marked my calendar to reach out to this Israeli 4-wheeler after Cruise Moab.I’ve been a member of the Rising Sun Four Wheel Drive club of Colorado foralmost 20 years and Cruise Moab is an annual ritual. I think I’ve been to 15. I lead trails, see old friends, and making new ones.

On my return from the Cruise Moab I went to Joy Biran’s Facebook page to message him about wanting to meet on my rapidly approaching trip. Immediately, I was confused. I was seeing pictures of joy and his friends in Moab. I reached out to Joy Biran through Facebook Messenger and asked, “were you in Moab?” Turns out that he had just lead a group of Israelis on a trip to Moab! They had randomly stopped in to the Cruise Moab Vendor Night. Later I checked in with Kurt Williams from Cruiser Outfitters and he said “sure I remember meeting those Israelis.” Messages went back-and-forth and arrangements were made. Joy invited me to ride along with him on a tour to Jordan.

"Jeeping" Israel

Two weeks later at 02:45 at a gas station in a remote area north of Tel Aviv a taxi dropped me off. Still groggy from jetlag and lack of sleep, I walked across the dark and oil stained asphalt and looked up at a guy talking a rooftop tent on top of his white 2006 Nissan Patrol. “You must be Joy.” Off we went to Jordan, but more about that later.

"Jeeping" Israel

Israel is a very small country. East to west you can make the drive from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean Sea in about an hour and a half. From skiing the mountains of the Golan Heights in the North, to scuba diving the southern most point at Eilat, about six hours. Packed into that tiny place are wide open spaces and millennia to explore. No trip to Israel would be complete without visiting the old city in Jerusalem, loaded with history and holy sites at every turn. Still, that represents only a tiny portion and only one face of a diverse country.

Just like in the USA, four-wheel-drive unlocks access to magical, beautiful, and limb little visited places. The Mediterranean coast has beautiful beaches some of which are open to limited driving and overnight camping. A beach in downtown Tel Aviv might be packed with youth sunning and socializing, while farther south we once found ourselves camping with miles of coast all to ourselves.

"Jeeping" Israel

In the north, routes created before the wheel was even invented – literally -have evolved into tracks that provide thrilling remote routes that criss cross the country barely touching pavement.

Central Israel is a wide and fertile coastal plain interspersed with small patches of forest. Being nearly all government land, it’s possible to use farm access roads and camp out between fields.

To the east a very steep descent leads to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the earth. Hidden away in this descent are steep and treacherous trails which started as the only way up and down, might have been improved for military access but remain rough and challenging. At the top before the dissent it’s possible to camp in the desert and watch the sunrise over Jordan, the Dead Sea.

"Jeeping" Israel

Most of southern Israel is a vast area called the Negev Desert. In Israel they typically just refer to “Going to the South.” Much like our deserts in Utah,some areas appear wide open only to be divided by deeply cut slot canyons. Unlike our deserts in Moab, you’re also likely to pass multi-thousand year old ruins of ancient civilizations who came this way criss crossing trade routes.

Close by and accessible under a Peace Treaty, the vast southern desert of Jordan and stunning valleys of sand between towering cliffs of Wadi Rum. A short drive from the legendary lost city of Petra.

All along the way are markets and delicious Middle Eastern foods.

The vehicles in Israel are diverse. The first thing to know is that it’s called “jeeping.” In Israel your 4x4 might be a Toyota jeep, a Nissan jeep, a Mitsubishi jeep, a Land Rover jeep or a Jeep jeep, but it’s a jeep. They also sometimes called them four-by-fours. But they don’t call it four wheeling, and they don’t have the term overlanding, yet.

Jordan is Land Cruiser heaven.

"Jeeping" Israel

I’ve been fortunate to be the passenger in Joy‘s 2006 and 2008 Nissan patrols on many occasions. It’s a full-size solid axle vehicle a lot like my Land Cruiser at home. I have also ridden in Toyota Hiluxs, Lad Rovers, and 110 Defenders.

Most of the 4 x 4’s are diesel. Gasoline, called Petrol, is very expensive, on my last trip it was about six dollars a gallon.

I’ll let the pictures finish this story, and next time, let’s go to Jordan! 


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