Israel is a fantastic country full of English-speaking creative people, awesome food and lovely Mediterranean beaches. It's also chock-full of history – a small place that can nevertheless keep you busy for weeks.
For many airline award charts, Israel is considered the Middle East. The Middle East is often one of the most expensive regions in any award chart. This makes it especially pricey to get there on the cheap.
Here are some tricks that will help you save miles and cash:
1) Consider other award charts for your trip from the United States
Some award charts like Miles&Bonus (Aegean) and MilleMiglia (Alitalia) consider Tel Aviv to be in Europe. While Aegean miles can only really be earned through flying, MilleMiglia is an American Express transfer partner.
The business class round trip ticket from the US to Tel Aviv is only 80,000 miles with low fuel surcharges when flying on Delta planes.
2) Use Larnaca, Cyprus as your transit point
Cyprus is right off the coast of Israel and almost universally considered to be in Europe. United, American, Delta and many others will issue you an award ticket to Europe when going to Larnaca (LCA).
For a long time it hasn't been easy to make the short flight to Israel since just a few airlines fly it, but Virgin Atlantic has recently partnered with Cyprus Airways, making the round trip just 5,000 miles + taxes!
This way you get a 'free stopover' on a classy Mediterranean island before continuing to Tel Aviv for just 5,000 miles that you probably had no real idea how to use in the first place (at least I didn't before now!)
3) Fly on UP!
El Al has launched a low-cost subsidiary which only has a couple of destinations. However, those price out at about $99 per one-way, which is about half the normal price that you pay on other airlines.
The following destinations are currently serviced:
While you can earn miles on these flights, it's really not much.
Did I miss any other deals?