Despite the camels and the tents, few of the Negev's hippyish ecotours have much to do with some of the oldest inhabitants of this desert.
Bedouin Hospitality -- a social enterprise founded by civil rights activists -- offers a chance to hear Bedouin stories in person, hosted among Bedouin tribes.
5. Jerusalem resonates with religious meaning
Few people forget their first visit to the Old City at Jerusalem's core, still encircled by the crenelated walls built by the Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1538.
Within this tiny area, roughly one square kilometer, the Via Dolorosa -- walked by Jesus -- leads to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christian tradition says Jesus was crucified and buried.
Steps away, Jews pray at the Western Wall, the last structure remaining from the Jewish Temple, destroyed by the Romans.
Nearby, the Al-aqsa mosque, mentioned in the Quran, stands alongside the golden Dome of the Rock shrine commemorating the Prophet Muhammad's mystical Night Journey.
Al-aqsa and the Dome of the Rock stand on a hill known as the Noble Sanctuary, or the Temple Mount, considered holy by Muslims, Jews and Christians as the place where Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son.
In terms of religious significance, that's quite a plateful.
And among the holy sites, daily life roars on: souks crowd the narrow, stone-flagged alleyways, children go to school, libraries jostle with restaurants.
6. Jerusalem has its own syndrome
For some, the city can be too much.
Around 100 tourists each year succumb to Jerusalem Syndrome, a psychiatric condition linked to the city's atmosphere of intensity.
Sufferers typically show signs of prolonged agitation and religious fervor, spending days -- often dressed in white robes (typically a hotel bed sheet) -- declaiming religious verses or preaching public sermons on moral purity.
7. Tel Aviv feels like its own country
An hour away from Jerusalem, over on the coast, secular-minded Tel Aviv swings along amid beach parties, designer brands and hipster attitudes.
During the Jewish Shabbat -- the day of rest, which runs from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset -- western Jerusalem remains quiet in prayerful contemplation, but Tel Aviv lives the high life, with seaside promenades, crowded stores and lounge bars packed.
This hedonistic city, gazing west into the Mediterranean sunset, has also carved out a new identity as a gay capital, offering a uniquely accommodating welcome to LGBT visitors and residents.
In a country where the Jewish religious establishment generally calls the shots, Tel Aviv embodies a bubble of liberality and easygoing apathy.
8. Countryside walks are fantastic
The West Bank is crisscrossed by walking trails. Many are devoted to nature, some -- such as Birzeit's Sufi Trails -- to culture.
One of the best is the Abraham Path, linking the Palestinian cities of Nablus, Bethlehem and Hebron in a two-week trek. It's also manageable in shorter day-stages, with overnight stops at homestays and rural guesthouses.
Israelis have a long tradition of nature tourism, centered on national parks, wildlife reserves and forest walks, including the stunning Jesus Trail, which coils through the hills above the sparkling Sea of Galilee.
Visitors can plug into Israel's network of "zimmers" -- rural B&Bs ranging from farm stays to exclusive country retreats.