If you've got a couple of days off for hol hamo'ed, someone in your clan may have broached the idea of taking a road trip to an outdoor site - a national park up north or an out-of-the-way beach, say. Sounds like a good idea, and an opportunity to get one more tiyul in before the onset of winter.
But the idea of taking the family out for a long drive raises some provocative questions: How to keep the kids quiet, what face to make at the obnoxious drivers who cut you off and, of course, how to get there from wherever you are.
In the old days, you'd run out to buy a map or an atlas. But nowadays, you can save yourself some shekels (you're going to need them to fill up the gas tank) and get all the directions you need for free, on the Internet. But when it comes to Israel, not all map sites are created equal - and none are perfect, either; each site has major drawbacks, making them less useful than they could be.
The most famous map site of all, Google Maps (http://maps.google.com), has little to say about Israel, other than that it exists. Unlike the US, much less Mynamar, Vietnam and Papua New Guinea, where there probably aren't too many cars, there are no street maps or driving directions available for Israel. It's not clear exactly why, especially since Google has offices in Israel and a Hebrew-language search page.
It's not because of security concerns, because Microsoft's MSN Maps display place names, roads and driving directions for most of the country. At MSN's Local Live (http://local.live.com/), you can right click on a start point and an end point, and get detailed highway driving directions. However, it does not include Israeli place names for locations in Judea and Samaria - or on the Golan Heights, a major tourist destination. If you know the name of an Arab village on the east side of the Kinneret or on the Golan that's near where you need to go, though, you can get useful directions - in English.
Not to feel left out, Yahoo has a map/direction service too, at http://maps.yahoo.com. Like MSN, Yahoo has satellite and highway/place name imagery for Israel, but unlike MSN, it lists all cities and towns in the country, "disputed" (as MSN puts it) or not. Unfortunately, the site does not take into account political tensions, so it will recommend driving through roads in "Area A," under the political control of the PA.
Then there are two free Israeli map/direction sites to check out as well: Emap (http://emap.co.il) and AtlasCT (http://www.atlasct.com). The former has English directions, but is slow and requires Internet Explorer. AtlasCT (the engine for Ynet, Walla and other map services) lets you use any browser and platform, but has no English services. When it comes to map sites, YMMV (your mileage may vary).