Israel … Conversos and Sefarad

Home to Conversos and descendants of Sefarad

Overview / Highlights


Israel… Home to Conversos and descendants of Sefarad is another of our introductory tour programs visiting relevant historical and cultural regions of Israel. Dubbed “the Cradle of Civilization”, this tiny piece of land between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea is likely the most fought-over piece of real estate in history. Ruled or controlled by a succession of empires, from Babylonian, Persian, Greek Hellenistic, Roman and Byzantine Empires, to Islamic and Christian crusaders, Ottoman and the British Empires. This program explores many of the magical regions, home to historical sites like Caesarea National Park, one of Israel’s most impressive archaeological site first built by King Herod. We visit the town of Peki'in situated in Upper Galilee; noted for its tradition of continuous Jewish settlement throughout the ages. The Crusaders murdered or expelled a large part of the Jewish community in the land of Israel. But as the Crusades receded, groups of Jews began to return with the largest contingent prior to the arrival of the Zionists provided by Sephardic Jews fleeing the Inquisition that settle in thoughtout Tiberias, Safed, Jerusalem and Hebron. We tour many mystical regions including Safed (Tzfat), center of Jewish mysticism during the 16th century which illuminated Kabbalah studies.

Tour Program Summery Outline

Day 1 - Arrive Ben Gurion Airport (Tel Aviv)
Day 2 - Caesarea – Mount Carmel - Beit Shearim - Akko
Day 3 – Pekiin – Tzfat - Tiberias
Day 4 - Magdalah - Rosh Pina - Gush Halav - Metula – Misgav Am- Hula Valley - Tel Dan - Tel Azaziat
Day 5 - Tiberias - Kibbutz Deganyah - Beith Shean - Beith Alpha
Day 6 - Jerusalem Old City
Day 7 - Jerusalem New City
Day 8 - Judean Desert
Day 9 – Departure

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Day 1: Ben Gurion Airport - Tel Aviv

Arrival at Ben Gurion Airport where you will be met by your Special Tour Guide and transfer to your hotel. Dinner and overnight Tel Aviv

Day 2: Caesarea - Mount Carmel - Beit Shearim - Akko

Today we head to Caesarea.  Since its foundation by Herod the Great it became the seat of the Roman governor in Judea. We will learn about the personality of Herod, his positive deeds as a great builder and his misdeeds as a governor. We learn of his paranoia in relation to his family. We will view excavations on the site, the magnificent remnants that can still be seen today.  Continue to Mount Carmel, at this mountain range a dramatic event took place in the 8th century BCE. Elijah the Prophet wins the day against creeping paganism under King Achab and queen Jezabel as told in detail in the book of Kings.  Continue our drive to Beit Shearim Seat of the Sanhedrin under Judah the Prince, editor of the Mishna first part of the Torah Oral Law. We will hear what is the Oral Law, and its development... we will see the Jewish catacombs where Jews from all over the world were buried… the reason being that Judah the prince was buried here.  We continue to Akko, the main sea port under the Crusaders visiting the Pisan and Venetian quarters and hear about the Crusaders history and how they arrive in the country that at that period was under Arab domain. We will visit the Crusader ramparts the sea walls. We will hear about the plans that Napoleon Bonaparte had to conquer the city, a plan frustrated by Josef Farhi, the Sephardic governor of the city under the Ottoman Empire.
Dinner and overnight in the Western Galilee area

Day 3: Pekiin - Tzfat - Tiberias

We depart in the direction of Tiberias, passing by Pekiin.  During the Judeo Roman wars of 66CE and 132 CE Judea was depopulated by the Roman army. Those who survived ended up being sold in the slave markets of Roman ports along the Mediterranean including Iberia, giving rise to the biggest Jewish community in Europe. Those who were not sold as slaves made their way to the Galilee. Pekiin is one of the places where Jews remained without ever going to the Diaspora. When Sephardic Jews start arriving into the country after the expulsion from Spain in 1492, they find these Jews called by Sephardis the Mustaarabim or Arabized Jews. They spoke Arabic dressed as Arabs but were Jews in every sense so when the Sephardis arrive in the XVI century they find the synagogues some of them from the 2nd century. Pekiin is home to one of these synagogues. We will visit the small picturesque town and the synagogue still in use. The population today is Druze..... We continue in the direction of Safed (Tzfat). Center of Jewish mysticism in the 16th century which irradiated Cabalah studies towards Europe, Yemen and North Africa. Jews from Spain arrive from the beginning of the 16th century into a community of Mustaarabim Jews and soon become the overwhelming majority... leaders like Josef Caro, Moshe Cordobero, Arie Luria become known in the Jewish world 13 synagogues from all corners of Spain in Safed-Tzfat. The economy of the town is based on the treatment of wool and became the largest Jewish settlement in Eretz Israel creating a printing press in Hebrew. Until today it is a center of Cabalah studies. Continue to your hotel in Tiberias for dinner and overnight.

Day 4: Magdalah - Rosh Pina - Gush Halav - Metula - Misgav Am - Hula Valley - Tel Dan - Tel Azaziat

First stop is Magdalah where we visit to the newly discovered synagogue from Second Temple period.  We will learn about the locals participation in the Great Revolt against the Romans in 68 AD.  We continue north to Rosh Pinah, the oldest Moshava still in existence since 1878. We will hear about their challenges such as lack of water, malaria and hostile Bedouins until they received assistance from Baron Rothschild, a major benefactor of Jewish settlement in the XIX century. Visit to Gush Halav a Maronite settlement that up until the 7th century was a Jewish settlement with an ancient synagogue dating back to the 3rd century. We continue north towards Metula and Misgav Am two settlements in the northern tip of Israel. Breathtaking views where you can see some 30 km inside Lebanon.  We descend to the Hula valley home to 18 kibbutzim form the Upper Galilee Regional Council.  Towards the end of the day we visit Tel Dan, an Israelite settlement from the time of the conquest. Before returning to our hotel in Tiberias we visit Tel Azaziat from where the Syrians used to shoot at our kibbutzim bringing about the Six Day War.
Dinner and overnight Tiberias

Day 5: Tiberias - Kibbutz Deganyah - Beith Shean - Beith Alpha

We visit the walls of Tiberias dating back to the 16th century built under the patronage of Dona Gracia Mendes the Grande dame of Sephardic Jewry. We visited her museum in Tiberias. We go briefly into Kibbutz Deganyah, the first kibbutz in Israel. Visit to Beit Shean. In 63 BCE, Pompey made Judea a part of the Roman Empire and Beit She'an was re-founded and rebuilt by Aulus Gabinius.  The town center shifted from the summit of the Mound (the "Tel") to its slopes.  Scythopolis (as Beit Shean was referred to at the time) prospered and became the leading city of the Decapolis, a loose confederation of ten cities which were centers of Greco-Roman culture, an event so significant that the town based its calendar on that year. We visit the Beit Alpha synagogue with its beautiful mosaics Byzantine period we hear how they built this beautiful mosaic. Ascend to Jerusalem, upon arrival at the Holy City we’ll stop at Mount Scopus for a panoramic overview of the city and the traditional “shehechiyanu” blessing, followed by an introduction to the city.
Dinner and overnight.

Day 6: Jerusalem Old City

Start with a visit of the Tomb of King David on Mt Zion. Walk along the Cardo, the ancient roman road, visit the four Sephardic synagogues restored after 1967 war in the Jewish quarter. Western wall and tour the Kottel Tunnels, visit Davidson Center and walk through the Roman Cardo to the local Arab bazaar. Walk through Jaffa Gate to David Tower museum and see the ancient remains of the city beginning with the First Temple Period.
Dinner and Overnight Jerusalem

Day 7: Jerusalem New City

Visit Mea Shearim to learn about the unique lifestyle of the ultra-orthodox communities. Drive to Mount Herzl, the Military Cementery and Yad Vashem, the memorial to the Holocaust. Visit the Ammunition Hill, a former Jordanian army stronghold, conquered by the Israeli Army in the six day war, and converted into a national memorial site and museum. Drive by the Knesset, Israel’s parliament and see the menorah with the biblical emblems. Next visit the Israel Museum, the shrine of the book where the Dead Sea scrolls are housed, and the new Holyland model – a miniature replica of Jerusalem as it was during the second temple period.
Dinner and overnight Jerusalem

Day 8: Judean desert

Drive to the Judean desert to the Dead Sea. Stop at Qumran, the site where the Dead Sea scrolls were found. Continue to Masada, ascend by cable car and tour the ancient fortress; visit remnants of the walls, palaces, synagogue, the bathhouse, etc. Descend by cable car.  Next stop for lunch and spa facilities in one of the leading hotels in the area.
Dinner and overnight Jerusalem

Day 9: Departure

Transfer to the airport for departure or continue on the optional tour.

(Optional extension 4 days / 3 nights Eilat & Petra)  

Optional extension 4 days / 3 nights Eilat & Petra

Evening option in Jerusalem: The Spectacular Sound and Light show at the David Citadel Museum

Shabbat dinner option in Jerusalem: Shabbat of a Lifetime program to experience an authentic Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath) at the home of a host family in the heart of Jerusalem. Shabbat of a Lifetime participants receive an informative introduction to Shabbat while dining on a five-course meal with their hosts.