We are excited to introduce our team members and their personal perspectives on Israel. Our first “Israel Travel Perspective” guide features Yoav Bruck, the President of ISSTA Sport and Kenes Tours, former Olympic athlete and founder of ISSTA Sport.
Yoav Bruck is an internationally acclaimed former Israeli Olympic swimmer. As a professional athlete, Yoav represented Israel and competed in three consecutive Olympic games, was named All-American 17-times and was voted Athlete of the Year in 1995. Yoav also served as the Sports Chairman of the 2013 Maccabi Games in Israel.
In 1999, Yoav partnered with ISSTA, Israel’s largest travel group, to build ISSTA Sport: Israel’s leading sports, music, and active lifestyle company. In 2015, Kenes Tours became a member of the ISSTA Sport family. Today, Yoav is the president and a co-owner of ISSTA Sport and Kenes Tours.
How did it all begin? How did you get involved with the travel industry?
As I approached the end of my Olympic career, Amir Peled, the chairman of the Maccabi Games, and one of the leading professionals in Israeli tourism at the time, suggested that I start a sports travel business. It sounded like a great way for me to bring together my loves of sports and of helping people discover and experience new places. In 1999, ISSTA Sport was created.
What do you like about the travel industry?
I love the fact that no two days are alike. I also find that travel resembles sports in many ways: both require exploration, creativity, personal touch, and hard work that translates into results.
What’s your vision for Kenes?
My aim is to to continue to develop and expand upon Kenes’ legacy of high-level service with a deep understanding of Israel travel and what it has to offer. Coupling impeccable service with increased levels of valuable content will ensure that Kenes Tours is positioned as the leading travel provider in Israel.
Which experiences in Israel do tourists get most excited about?
Israel is one of few countries where you can find endless options to tour millennia-old historical sites, diverse landscapes and a bevy of cultures in a small geographical area. In Israel, you can discover an unprecedented intersection of old and new and ancient history all mixed within a hyper-modern “startup nation.” A breathtaking mixture of exquisite cuisine, historic and religious sites, and intriguing architectural elements – all offer an endless variety of opportunities for every type of traveler.
What are your top five places and things to do in Israel?
- Jerusalem is one of a kind. You have to be there to understand. Not only does Jerusalem boast an incredibly rich history, but the delectable cuisine of the city is unbeatable. The Machneyuda restaurant is considered one of the best eateries in Jerusalem, if not the entire country. The restaurant is an eclectic mix of offerings, including a blend of the traditional – classic Arak cocktails – combined with unexpected dishes, including my favorite: spicy and savory amberjack tartare. With a daily changing menu, each meal is a surprise.
- Moshav Lachish, the small town where I was born and raised, is also one of Israel’s most monumental archeological sites in the alluring northern Negev desert. Surrounded by lush, ancient vineyards, the remains of a First Temple-era palace can be seen alongside a siege ramp leftover from the Babylonian period. A day trip to Moshav Lachish combined with a taste of the expertly made falafel in nearby Kiryat Gat makes for an authentic Israeli travel experience.
- Swim in the Mediterranean Sea in the northern part of Tel Aviv followed by a meal at Turkiz. The sea is a warm and comfortable temperature for swimming nearly year round, and offers respite from a busy day of touring. After a swim, take a seat at the Turkiz restaurant, perched at the edge of the sea, specializing in fresh local seafood and other delectable dishes.
- Playing golf in Caesarea, the city built by Herod the Great that was once the seat of the Roman Empire, followed by fresh lunch in the historic port. Caesarea is the gateway into a remarkably preserved ancient city boasting marvelous ruins and antiquities as well as luxurious hotels and a world-class golf course designed by Peter Dye.
- Spend a night in Tel Aviv, strolling along Rothschild Boulevard and through the White City Bauhaus architecture, with dinner at “Makom Shel Basar” – which can be literally translated as “a place for meat.” Located in one of the first houses built in the historical neighborhood of Neve Tzedek, the restaurant is a contemporary twist of the original charm of Tel Aviv.
What do visitors to Israel take away?
The vast majority of our guests, when asked about their trip, say that it was an experience that was special, spiritual – and most of all, enjoyable. For many, it is life changing. The most crucial aspect for us is that our guests come curious and leave happy. As professional explorers, we cannot ask for much more.