Yaron Burgin, co-founder of Israel Hostels, finding a sense of place in Israel.World travellers looking for adventure today are not just your stereotypical long-haired hippie types. They range from the young and old, seeking experiences that meander off the beaten trail, and beyond the one-week bus runs.
These are people who yearn to feel a sense of “place.”
Bringing a more authentic Holy Land experience to travelers like these are two young Israeli men, who have just launched Israel Hostels (ILH), Israel’s only independent travelers’ accommodation network.
Yaron Burgin and Maoz Inon, the founders of the ILH, recognized no shortage of advertising for the 4 and 5-star luxury hotel chains in Israel. What was missing, they felt, was information on the smaller, less commercial venues suited to tourists who travel where the wind takes them.
Not only are chain hotels in the Dead Sea, Eilat, Jerusalem and Eilat very expensive, they also lack atmosphere, explains Burgin, who manages Shkedi’s Camp in the Dead Sea.
“There is no community for experienced travelers to share experiences and find the kind of information that they are looking for,” he tells ISRAEL21c.
That’s where the ILH comes in: “We check each hostel before they join the ILH and set the standards for hostel accommodation in Israel,” advertises the website that caters to people such as backpackers, families and small groups.
Burgin says that the idea began a year ago when he was traveling in Israel. During the month-long backpacking trip, joined by an American and a German, Burgin met Inon who owns a unique Arab-style hostel in Nazareth, the Fauzi Azar Inn.
The two discussed the fact that there wasn’t enough information for the independent traveler coming to Israel, and decided to do something about it.
Rather than word of mouth or the Lonely Planet travel guide, Burgin and Inon decided to build their own association that would give information on affordable and recommended accommodation.
The goal was to provide a resource for, “independent travelers like us,” says Burgin, who defines the concept: “These are travelers who don’t organize a tour in advance, and who book a flight with no defined plan. Some float more than others,” says Burgin.
“An independent traveler stays where it’s good for you and where you feel comfortable. They stay longer periods of time; they like to meet other people and may not visit the most touristy places,” he adds.
The website now lists 25 traveler-friendly hostels in Israel, with prices ranging from $10 to $200. A requirement to be on the list was that the hostel must have a garden or communal space, a kitchen for cooking meals, a dorm for the very low budget travelers, as well as atmosphere.
“Atmosphere and good vibes,” says Burgin.
Finding those “vibes” in hidden spots around Israel is now at every traveler’s fingertips. The organization also offers online booking capabilities via the website, and publishes a handy map and guide for slipping in your back pocket.