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Just Can't Part With Red Sea

October 16, 1994|LUCY IZON

The budget accommodation situation is improving at several of Israel's most popular tourist areas. A new youth hostel opened this summer in Jerusalem, the hostel near the remains of King Herod's desert fortress at Masada has been renovated, and by next summer the hostel facilities at the Red Sea resort of Eilat will have increased to accommodate more than 500 travelers.

The new Jerusalem Youth Hostel is a 250-bed facility at 67 HaNeviim St., (telephone 011-97-22-384-555). This is about a 10-minute walk from the central bus station or the old city.

The hostel's dormitory rooms each have four to six beds and private washrooms. Travelers who are members of affiliated hosteling associations are charged $16 per bed, per night. A bed in a room shared by two is $23 per night. These rates include breakfast, but other meals are available.

One of the most moving sites in Israel is Masada, the mountaintop fortress ruins overlooking the Dead Sea, where, in AD 73, 960 Jewish men, women and children committed mass suicide rather than surrender to the Romans.

You can reach the mountaintop ruins by cable car, or by hiking in the early morning while it's still cool. The 140-bed Masada Youth Hostel, which is situated near the beginning of the trail, was upgraded last March. Now all its rooms have air conditioning and four to eight beds. You can contact the hostel at 011-972-7-957-150.

Eilat, Israel's southernmost city on the Red Sea, is known as a center for sun worshiping and water sports. It takes about 4 1/2 hours to travel to Eilat by bus from Jerusalem. The trip costs about $10.

By next July the 7-year-old Eilat Youth Hostel, which is located next to the Sonesta Hotel, will have a new addition, increasing its capacity to 530 beds from 370. Most rooms have four beds and private washrooms. Some double rooms are available.

The hostel also offers a television room, laundry and cafeteria. Breakfast is included in nightly rates. The hostel's number is 011-972-7-372-358.

To help independent travelers get to Israel's popular sites, the Israel Youth Hostel Assn. is offering a variety of economical "Go-on-Your-Own" packages combining youth hostel accommodations with public transportation, rental cars or small guided groups. Packages cover all areas of Israel and include tours to Egypt, the Sinai Desert and one-week adventure or leisure packages from Eilat, which can be purchased from the Jerusalem office or the travel desk at the Eilat hostel.

The seven-night version costs $290, the 14-night version is $560 (this and longer packages also include a pass to Nature Reserves), the 21-day version is $785 and a 28-day version (which has a 30-day bus pass) is $1,020.

Packages available from Eilat include:

* Seven nights at the Eilat Youth hostel, with breakfast and dinner, a Jeep safari into the Eilat Mountains and a Red Sea Cruise (with swimming and snorkeling) for $260. You can begin any day.

* A seven-night Sinai Desert trip combining two nights at the Eilat Youth Hostel and five nights camping for $450. Participants hike while their luggage is carried by camel. Visits to Bedouin villages, a hike up Mt. Sinai and an excursion to the monastery of St. Catherine are scheduled. There is an additional $20 border tax charge. This weekly package starts on Sundays.

Prices quoted are valid between March, 1995, and February, 1996. Most packages are also available earlier.

For more information on these and other programs contact the Israel Youth Hostels Assn. at 3 Dorot Rishonim St., P.O.B. 1075, Jerusalem 91009.

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