Planning a trip to Israel Check out these two sites

But the site is clearly aimed at people who are getting ready for their first trip to Israel. The first page is filled with practical information, such as checklists of what to take, helpful Hebrew words and phrases, tips from the State Department and advice on illegal drugs (Don't).

The tour offers choices; you can follow the route mapped out by the site creators or create your own itinerary.

The first stop is, naturally, Ben-Gurion Airport. You'll find helpful information about the flight and what to expect from the first Israeli bureaucrats you'll meet.

From there, the tour takes you on the bus ride to Jerusalem.

Each page includes numerous underlined links; click on them to learn more about Israeli and biblical history, culture or details about the sites you'll encounter.

The tour of Jerusalem is extensive; besides the pictures and maps, there are plenty of opportunities to learn about the city's history and politics.

Next, the virtual traveler heads to Tel Aviv and beyond. At any point, click on "On your Own" to get a map of destinations; click on a town to jump there.

Pay close attention; at the end of your tour, you'll have an opportunity to take a quiz.

The site also includes a "post office" where you can leave messages to the folks you met in Israel, or post photographs.

AICE specializes in providing detailed information about Israel and the Middle East to college students. The Virtual Tour, like all the AICE sites, is well organized, attractive and chock full of information.

"We believe preparation and follow-up are a key component to determining whether the Jewish identity of the participants of Israel trips will be enhanced, and their affiliation with the community strengthened," said Bard. "We consider this essential pre- and post-natal care for the Birthright experience."

For a different approach to Israel travel, check out The Source: The Online Magazine of Israel Info-Access. It's at (However, be aware that some of the older browsers may not be able to download this site. You will need Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher.)

The goal of this slick magazine-style site is to highlight "lesser known aspects of life in Israel through culture, arts and people," according to the opening page.

True to its magazine format, each month's edition covers a range of topics. One recent feature examines wine-making at an historic desert kibbutz. Another takes visitors to the 4,000-acre Hai-Bar Yotvata nature reserve. Still another profiles a Beersheva pottery studio.

Interested in photography? The e-zine profiles a woman who offers photography workshops in Israel. And there's information on how ecologically correct visitors can participate in a Red Sea cleanup project by the Friends of the Earth Middle East.

Don't want to be bothered checking up on the site regularly? Sign up to have it delivered right to your electronic mailbox. No charge, naturally.

The site owners also highlight their own tourism packages, including jeep tours for singles.

The site is nicely designed and very accessible. If you're thinking about a trip to Israel, it may give you some offbeat ideas that can add to your traveling pleasure.