12 NIGHTS / 13 DAYS
Israel… The Majestic Holy Land is a comprehensive tour program with a broader view of the magical experience of this marvel we call Israel. We appropriately begin along the coast in Central Israel visiting Tel Aviv- Yafo districts where modern and historical Israel reside side by side. We make our way up North along the coast visiting Caesarea National Park, home to some of Israel’s most impressive archaeological sites like the Roman Amphitheatre and aqueducts; we visit mystical ancient Akko before reaching Rosh Hanikra at Israel's northwestern-most tip where we make a horseshoe-like turn heading back down towards the Golan Heights where we embark on a 4X4 jeeps adventure for an awe inspiring view of this most difficult position captures in the 1967 6-day war. Continue down to visit the Sea of Galilee and Jordan Valley on our way to the Majestic Holy City of Jerusalem where we begin our next horseshoe endeavor heading to Qumran, home to the Dead Sea scrolls before heading to the imposing site of Masada continuing to Eilat while stopping at Timma Park turning back up North driving along the mysteries of the Negev Desert, the stunning views of Ramon Crater with a stop at a Bedouin Village, Kibbutz Sde Boker, home of David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister Minster, the Israeli Airforce before ending the tour in Tel Aviv for departure.
Tour Program Summery Outline
Day 1 - Arrive Ben Gurion Airport (Tel Aviv)
Day 2 - Tel Aviv (Independence Hall, Latrun, Old Jaffa-Tel Aviv)
Day 3 – Caesarea – Haifa – Akko – Rosh Hanikra
Day 4 - Tzfat – Golan Heights – Tel Hai
Day 5 - Tiberias (Sea of Galilee) – Jordan Valley – Highway of Kings
Day 6 – Jerusalem (Old City)
Day 7 - Jerusalem (New City)
Day 8 - Jerusalem (Day Free)
Day 9 - Judean Desert
Day 10 - Timma Park – Eilat – Red Sea Observatory
Day 11 - Eliat (Optional Petra Tour)
Day 12- Negev – Ramon Crater – Bedouin Village – Sde Boker - Tel Aviv
Day 13- Departure
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Day 1: Ben Gurion Airport - Tel Aviv
Welcome to Israel… the Holy Land. Arrival at Ben Gurion Airport where you will be met by your Special Tour Guide and transfer to your hotel. Stretching along a beautiful beach strip of the Mediterranean Sea, Tel Aviv is a diverse city boasting charming blends of the modern vibrant city considered the face of modern Israel where everything is possible, contrasted by historical sites, home to some of the best-preserved collections of Bauhaus Style architecture built in the early 1900s with archaeological findings dating from Canaanites as far back as 7,500 years, reconquered many times throughout history.
Dinner and overnight Tel Aviv.
Day 2: Tel Aviv (Independence Hall, Latrun, Old Jaffa-Tel Aviv)
As would be appropriate we start our touring this morning at Independence Hall where on May 14th, 1948, David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the founding of the State of Israel, establishing the first Jewish state in 2,000 years; next, drive to Latrun to visit the Armored Corps museum, one of the most diverse tank museums in the world. We continue to Old Jaffa, over 3000-year-old port city; visit the ancient ruins and walk the restored artist's quarter. Visit Neve Tzedek, the first neighborhood of Tel Aviv, built in 1887. Next, stop at Tel Aviv's famous Shenkin Street, one of the most famous, happening streets in Tel Aviv where the street was converted into a pedestrian paradise, a street that really does epitomize the Tel Aviv spirit.Dinner and overnight Tel Aviv.
Day 3: Caesarea – Haifa – Akko – Rosh Hanikra
Today we head to Caesarea. Caesarea National Park is one of Israel’s most impressive archaeological sites containing the remains of a prestigious city established by King Herod the Great. We will visit the mighty Roman Amphitheatre, the Hippodrome, a 20,000 seat horse racing arena, as well as the impressive Roman Aqueducts! 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 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. Finally we reach Rosh Hanikra located at Israel's northwestern tip, at the only point where the sea meets the cliffs. The cable car, which is the steepest in the world, takes visitors down for a fascinating encounter with the sea grottoes. The view from the cable car is breathtaking and that's just the start. Created over a period of thousands of years from waves hitting the soft chalk rock on Israel’s coast, the beautiful Grottoes (sea caves) of Rosh Hanikra are truly a wonder. Ride via cable car from the mountain top down to sea level to walk within its gorgeous walls.
Dinner and overnight in the Western Galilee area.
Day 4: Tzfat – Golan Hights – Tel Hai
This morning we head southeast to the ancient city Tzfat (Safed), a small mountaintop town located in northeastern Israel boasting a mixture of history, tradition, spirituality and art, often dubbed as the "City of Kabbalah" (Jewish mystical school of thought) and is one of Judaism's Four Holy Cities. Jews lived in Tzfat for thousands of years but the town grew in the 16th century when the Jews that were expelled from Spain and Portugal, began to return to the Land of Israel; among them, many of the great rabbis and Kabbalists of the era. The study of Kabbalah developed in Tzfat during this time and the atmosphere of the city is still heavily influenced by religious Jews who study, work and pray in the town.
Next some exiting off-road adventure as we mount our Jeeps that await us at foot of the Golan; Jeeps allow us to go off-road and hard-to-reach places, such as streams, fields and mud tracks. Learn about the biblical and historical importance of the Golan sites while enjoying a bumpy jeep ride. Stop at Gadot for a solemn stop at the memorial for the fallen of the Golan located atop former Syrian bunkers; view the monument built in honor of the Alexandroni brigade, the IDF brigade that fought in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war along with the 7th Armored Brigade; both units had 139 killed during the first battle of Latrun (Operation Ben Nun Alef…. an attempt to conquer the Latrun area). We continue to a magnificent observation point over the city of Kuneitra and the Syrian territory.
We resume the tour making our way to Tel-Hai and learn of the heroics of the settlers; the Battle of Tel Hai (March 1, 1920) provided Tel Hai its fame, inspiring an enduring heroic story and profoundly influencing the military of the Yishuv (Jewish Community) and political strategies over several decades. We learn about the heroic battle of Joseph Trumpeldor and his comrades in 1920. Meet with a Kibbutz member and learn about their unique lifestyle.
Overnight and dinner at a Kibbutz guesthouse.
Day 5: Tiberias (Sea of Galilee) – Jordan Valley – Highway of Kings
This morning we head South-westerly direction to Tiberias, welcoming tourist for over 2000 years dating back to the time of Romans times, this thriving recreation spa, built around 17 natural mineral hot springs more than 600 feet below sea level, welcomed visitors from every part of the ancient world. Built by Herod Antipas (one of Herod the Great’s three sons who divided up Palestine after their father's death), the city was named Tiberias in honor of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. The Old City holds important Jewish and Christian pilgrimage sites including the Tomb of Maimonides and Etz Chaim Synagogue or Abulafia Synagogue, established in 1742 with references dating back to the Second Temple.
Continue Beit Shean along Northern District of Israel which has played historically an important role due to its geographical location, at the junction of the Jordan River Valley and the Jezreel Valley. Beit Shean was settled as early as the Chalcolithic era (about 6000 years ago) and has remained continually inhabited since then. Extensive excavation of a large mound in Beit Shean has revealed over 20 layers of remains from ancient civilizations, home to extraordinary Roman ruins offering a sense of what it was like to live, work and shop in the Roman Empire. We continue to visit the ancient synagogue of Beit Alpha dated to the Byzantine period covered across its entire floor by a magnificent colorful mosaic floor very well-preserved that includes a Zodiac, Jewish ritual objects and the ark, two inscriptions in Greek and Aramaic, geometric patterns and icons of animals, birds, plants and fruits, and a scene from the Biblical story of the binding of Isaac. Time permitting we will stop (for a dip) at Sachne (Gan Hashlosha), an amazing stop at one of the most beautiful places in Israel considered by some as the real-worldly location of the garden of Eden. The main highlight of the Sachne (Gan Hashlosha) are its beautiful pools fed by a natural spring which rises within the park feeding water at a constant 28 degrees Celsius year-round. We end this day in Jerusalem for dinner and overnight.
Day 6: Jerusalem (Old City)
Today is a special treat as we tour the old section of Jerusalem. First we stop at the Mount of Olives (Har HaZeitim) where we have a panoramic view across the holy city of Jerusalem. From this elevated point we have the ancient Jewish cemetery beneath us and beyond that the Old City with the shining Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount. We continue along the winding road down to the Kidron Valley giving us a view of the Garden of Gethsemane, a beautiful garden with some very old olive trees which got its name from Greek, a corruption of the Hebrew words “gath-shmanin” – oil press. We visit the Church of All Nations, also known as the Church of the Agony. Built in the 1920’s with donations from Christian communities all over the world, also known as the Church of All Nations. Continuing in the valley we can see the ancient burial tombs of Absalom and Jehoshapat, Benei Hezir and the tomb of Zechariah.
Next we enter through the Zion Gate into the Armenian Quarter of the Old City and continue on to the Byzantine Cardo. This was the main street through Jerusalem 1,500 years ago, later under Moslem rule it was left unused and then during the Crusader period the street was once again a busy thoroughfare. Today, following extensive excavations that are ongoing, we find specialty stores where once Crusader stores would have stood.
Going through the Jewish Quarter we reach the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites in the Jewish faith. Here Jews from around the world come to pray and put prayer notes between the wall’s stones. This 2,000 year old wall was part of the outer supporting walls of the Temple Mount on which the holy Second Temple stood and was destroyed in 70AD. We continue on to the Via Dolorosa or the Way of Sorrows where Jesus walked towards his crucifixion. Along the way we pause at several Stations of the Cross and finally we reach the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The basilica is constructed above the place where Jesus is believed to have been crucified and within the church is his burial tomb. The Byzantine church has been renovated, rebuilt and expanded over the years. Today it is a vast and ornate place of worship.
Next we make our way to the City of David, a recent excavation has unearthed Biblical Jerusalem dating back 3,800 years back to the days of Abraham when the first foundations of the city were laid. As one moves through the site, one comes in contact with archaeological excavations and thrilling biblical finds that span thousands of years of history including both First and Second Temple Jerusalem. The tour continues underground to the Gihon Spring, the major water source of Jerusalem for over 1,000 years. Visitors seeking adventure can trek through knee deep water in King Hezekiah's 2,700 year old water tunnel, one of the wonders of early engineering. Continuing to the Shiloah Pool, the major water drawing source in biblical times, one reaches the Herodian Road, the ancient thoroughfare that led pilgrims north to the Temple.
Dinner and overnight Jerusalem.
Day 7 Jerusalem (New City)
Visit Mea Shearim ("a hundred gates”), one of the oldest Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem to learn about the unique lifestyle of the ultra-orthodox communities. Drive to Mount Herzl, the Military Cemetery and Yad Vashem, the memorial to the Holocaust. Visit 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.
West Jerusalem is home to several renowned museum and no visit is complete without visiting Yad Vashem, Israel’s largest Holocaust memorial set on the slopes of the Mount of Remembrance on the edge of Jerusalem. The new Yad Vashem Museum opened in 2005 and its nine chilling galleries of interactive historical displays present the Holocaust using a range of multimedia including photographs, films, documents, letters, works of art, and personal items found in the camps and ghettos. We end this fascinating day with a special treat at Friends of Zion Museum (FOZ Museum). This museum is like no other in every way. It presents a technologically advanced, interactive experience that tells the story of the dream of restoration of the Jewish people to their historic homeland and the brave non-Jews who assisted them in realization of that dream, a must see event.
Dinner and overnight Jerusalem.
Day 8 Jerusalem (Day Free)
We are considering this day to be Saturday (Shabbat in Israel) so we leave this day free as everything is closed and as respect for the Jewish Sabbath.
Dinner and overnight Jerusalem.
Day 9 Judean Desert
Drive to the Judean desert to the Dead Sea towards Qumran, a Jewish settlement along the northwest shore of the Dead Sea; it dates from approximately 100 B.C.E. to 68 C.E., when it was destroyed by the Roman army. It is famous because of the Dead Sea Scrolls, considered the greatest manuscript find of all time. Discovered between 1947 and 1956, the Dead Sea Scrolls comprise some 800 documents dating from around 250 B.C. to 68 A.D. written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek; they contain Biblical and apocryphal works, prayers and legal texts and sectarian documents. Continue our drive along the shores of the Dead Sea to Ein Gedi, where David fled from King Saul. Continue to the mountain fortress of Masada. Ascend by cable car to visit the excavations of the site where the Zealots made their last stand against the Romans in the 1st century. Time and weather permitting enjoy a 'swim' in the Dead Sea. Return to Jerusalem for overnight.
Overnight in Jerusalem
Day 10 Timma Park – Eilat – Red Sea Observatory
Today we make our way to Eilat, the southernmost city in the country, considered the undisputed holiday capital of Israel. En-route some remarkable stops. First we visit Timna Park offering amazing variety of scenic, geological and archaeological sites of global significance. Its acacia trees and other arid-land vegetation, its herds of wild ibex looking out at you from the cliff tops, and its evidence of human activity from antiquity to the present. A variety of activities await you, including pedal boats on the lake, colored sand bottle craft, making "King Solomon's stamps" and much more. Next marvel is the Underwater Observatory Park, an attraction unique to the city of Eilat. People come to the park from all over the world to see the spectacular coral reef. At the Underwater Observatory Park you can enjoy guided tours of the marine life including: sharks, turtles and rare fish. End the day at Eilat situated at the edge of a long narrow estuary separating the Arabian Peninsula and the Sinai desert. As an oasis on the shores of the Red Sea, Eilat provides visitors with a spectacular combination of mountainous desert landscape, a beautiful bay and the summer sun that shines all through the year. Without a doubt, Eilat is one of the most unique cities in Israel, and one of the most exclusive resorts in the world, that attracts as much as 2.8 million visitors per year.
Overnight and dinner in Eilat.
Day 11 Eliat (Optional Petra Tour)
Today is free to take in the wonders of Eilat or just swim along the Red Sea.
Optional Petra (Jordan) Tour:
Full day Petra tour from Eilat offers a truly amazing experience. This legendary ‘lost city’ of Petra was carved into the walls of a desert canyon over 2500 years ago. It is located just a short ride after entering into the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan making it a perfect destination for a one day tour from Eilat, including all entrance fees, guiding, transportation, and lunch.
This morning transfer to the border crossing into Jordan making our way through the unique desert landscape of Wadi Rum. Upon arrival at Petra, continue on foot to the most important landmarks in the archeological site: enter ancient temples carved from solid rock, and see tombs that date back to 300 BC. Visit the treasury, the theater, and the monastery, whose inscriptions dedicate it to Obodas I, a king of the Nabateans. Learn about Petra’s fascinating history and rediscovery as you walk, and examine the best of the city’s carvings and architecture. In ancient times, Petra was an important link on desert caravan routes, and traders passed through carrying incense, silks, and spices between Asia and Europe. In addition to the religious and public sites, you’ll find fascinating infrastructure from those Nabatean times, such as channels, dams, cisterns, and mines. Continue to the Wadi al-Mahfur, climbing 1,050 stairs to the High Place of Sacrifice for spectacular views of the desert. After exploring Petra we’ll have lunch at an Arabic style restaurant, with authentic local cuisine before returning to the border and Eilat. Note: This Petra day tour is also available from Tel Aviv (with flight transfers).
Overnight and dinner in Eilat.
Day 12 Negev Desert – Ramon Crater – Bedouin Village – Sde Boker - Tel Aviv
Today we visit Israel’s Negev Desert is like pure magic. Covering over half of Israel’s total land area, it is an area bustling with beauty. The Negev Desert is a fascinating and enchanting place, especially for those not familiar with desert landscapes. Whilst to the untrained eye, the miles of desert all look the same, look a little deeper and every rock formation, hill or mound of earth has its own unique story.
We stop at the Ramon Crater, world’s largest erosion crater or makhtesh. A landform unique to Israel’s Negev and Egypt’s Sinai deserts’, a makhtesh is a large erosion cirque, created 220 million years ago when oceans covered the area (the word crater is therefore a misleading translation of Hebrew to English.) The Ramon Crater measures 40km in length and between 2 and 10km in width, shaped like a long heart, and forms Israel’s largest national park, the Ramon Nature Reserve.
Visiting the Ramon Crater can vary from a stop off on a journey through the Negev to witness the crater from above, or a longer visit to take in the history and science of the area, hike, drive or cycle through the makhtesh, and appreciate the unique geology that is on offer. Next we’ll stop for camel rides with a traditional lunch at a Bedouin settlement in the Negev! Next stop is kibbutz of Sde Boker, famous as the home of David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister whose home is now a museum open to the public, and is the feature of a number of supporting exhibits in the kibbutz. Sde Boker is located in the center of the Negev Desert in southern Israel, a community founded in 1952 by a number of pioneering families who were later joined by Ben Gurion after an interesting encounter. Today, visitors from around the world visit to learn about the life of Israel’s iconic leader.
Next we visit the Israeli Air Force Museum in the northern part of the Negev. Dedicated to the history and preservation of the Israeli Air Force (IAF), the museum showcases over 150 airplanes and much, much more. Here we learn about the thrilling history of Israel’s legendary Air Force. View actual fighter aircraft and aerospace displays. Audio-visual presentations include the Independence War of 1948, Israel Air Force commander heroes, and the evolution of the IAF over the generations.Continue to Tel Aviv for overnight and dinner.
Day 13 Departure
Transfer to the Ben Gurion Airport for departure or take the optional extension.