I have been to Israel twice now (my first time in 2005 was also in December). Where you stay depends on how long your visit will be. This year was the first time I stayed in Tel Aviv. It was nice, and I would recommend seeing it, but there are more historical sites in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. Tel Aviv has the Mediterranean Sea, the Jaffa Port and possibly a day trip to Haifa. In Jerusalem, the first time we stayed at the Dan Panorama Hotel and this year in a hotel inside the walled Old City. I did visit Petra while on a separate trip to Jordan. Highly recommended, but not sure about the procedure for doing a land border crossing between Israel and Jordan. Hope you have a great trip. Here is a link to photos taken on my visits. https://www.flickr.com/photos/21529372@N06/collections/72157646790263084/ almost 5 years ago
If you want to stay in an old city with loads of history that is a convergence zone of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, then Jerusalem is your place. If you're interested in a metropolitan city with youthful flare and some nightlife stay in Tel Aviv.
Petra and Jordan are accessible by land. Definitely research rental cars to see if you can take a rental over the border—and know that the border crossings are open during specific hours and you may be required to prearrange your crossing (make sure you get the most updated crossing information).
Israel is beautiful. I also recommend a trip to Masada and the Dead Sea. Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee are a lovely part of the country with loads of historical sights.
Haifa is a nice city along the Mediterranean.
Bethlehem was a short stop for me, but eye opening to see the wall between Israel and the West Bank. Nazareth is a town I would have liked to spend a couple days wandering around. almost 5 years ago
I would actually recommend to stay most of the time in Tel-Aviv, it is a very lively city, with many many places to eat and go out (much more than in Jerusalem), Jerusalem is obviously the more interesting city from a historic point of view, so dont miss it. Definitely go there for a few days (its only an hour drive from Tel Aviv, and there is plenty of public transport) and even spend a night or two there, but overall I think Tel-Aviv is the better place to stay when you finish your sight-seeing for the day.
Regarding Petra - yes there is an option to take a road trip there - there are companies in Jerusalem that can organize it (better to go from Jerusalem) - I would suggest against the car rental option as crossing the boarder is not simple and the roads (and road blocks) can be a bit intimidating if you are not a local.
(I live in Israel and have lived both in Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv) almost 5 years ago
hi... i work as a guid ib israel so when you arive here you can alweys contect me
for helpfull or even professional advice if you are intrested.
there is a lot of truths in the e mails aabove.
but it is wrong to say that tel aviv has more to offer nightlife or foodwise..
tel aviv has more of a smaller new york vibe.
jerusallem has better food and the night life is more fitting to local
(less english less partis more live shows and resturans.)
i recomennd to spend nights in both citiys and also in ather places like the dead sea
or jerico... dipends on what intrest you.
you can pass bay bus, rent a car, or go with a group tour.
the more self dipended you are, the chipper it will be to get there.
but even that you are a turrist and not a local ( so terorists have nothing to do with yyou) i still recomend consolting people while yu are here abut the safe ways to cross to jorden.
if you have any more questions or you want help and info while you are here you can
contact me here
have a good trip almost 5 years ago
Nothing I can add to previous replies. I just recommend that you see both cities. They are so different. Even though Elat is sometimes just called a tourist trap, it's also worth seeing and along the road it's possible to stop for a swim or actually float in a Dead Sea. One of the most mindblowing experiences I've had. From Elat it's also quite easy and cheap(ish) to go to Petra. Elat's underwater aquarium is not to be missed. And if you like diving, waters in the area are perfect for that, I have heard. Well, I recommend almost all the places in Israel. One of the most intriguing and beautiful places in the world. I have been there twice and both times felt like home. Just go there are see and experience and see as much as you can!!!! Regretfully right now I can't afford to go there at least until I have saved 3-4 years. Snif... almost 5 years ago