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The full list of the Classical Gems offered can be viewed here
During the tour we will visit Mount Olives, Yad VeShem, the Holocaust Museum andthe Old City of Jerusalem where we will see the Byzantine Cardo, the Kotel, the Western Wall, the Via Dolorosa, the Stations of the Cross and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
As we stand above the Jewish cemetery on Mount of Olives we see the Old City and the Temple Mount where the Solomon’s Temple, destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and the Second Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE once stood.
Below us the garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations in the Kidron Valley with its ancient Jewish burial tombs
Entering the Old City through the Zion Gate we pass the Armenian Quarter on our way to the Jewish Quarter and the fifteen year old Byzantine Cardo. Partially destroyed and unused during the Moslem conquest it had a brief new lease of life during the Crusader period. The excavated Crusader shops are now modern stores.
We stop at the Kotel, the Western Wall where Jews have prayed since the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. Built by King Herod it was a supporting wall enclosing the enlarged Temple Mount area.
The Via Dolorosa, also known as the Way of the Cross, is the route many pilgrims follow on their way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the church built over the place of the crucifixion of Jesus and the burial tomb. Although the Byzantine church waspartially destroyed during the Persians and Moslem conquests the rebuilt and redesigned Crusader Church preserved much of the earlier church.
We exit the Old City via the market and the Jaffa Gate for a short tour of the new city. A visit to Yad VeShem, the Holocaust museum, reveals artifacts and photographs documenting the discrimination, persecution and finally the annihilation of the Jewish communities of Europe. It also remembers those righteous among the nations who risked their lives while trying to save Jews.
* Dress code: Shoulders to be covered / No shorts allowed.
**On Fridays, Saturdays & High Holidays — Holocaust Museum is closed. Visit instead Kind David’s Tomb, Hall of Last Supper & Garden of Gethsemane.
Visit Masada and float in the Dead Sea.
We begin our journey by taking the route down from Jerusalem descending below sea level through the Biblical wilderness towards the Dead Sea. On the way we can see the Inn of the Good Samaritan and stop on route to look out across the desert as we pass the point marking «sea level». The ancient city of Jericho can be seen in the distance where Joshua’s troops caused the walls to fall (Joshua 6) and where Jesus healed the blind (Mark 10:46-52).
We reach the shores of the Dead Sea encrusted with white salt and follow the shoreline towards Masada. Although it’s possible to climb the ancient Snake Path up Masada as the Romans did 2000 years ago, we take the convenient cable car up to the mountain top plateau. It was here that King Herod built a fortified palace complete with every convenience. Herod had built a swimming pool, water cisterns, two palaces, store rooms and even a synagogue.
Following Herod’s death the mountain top was the last outpost of Jewish zealots when the Romans tried to rid the land of Jews. The Jewish zealots maintained their position for three years before the Romans finally managed to scale Masada using a ramp built by slaves. The 960 Jews didn’t wait for the Romans to successfully reach the summit, instead they killed themselves becoming religious martyrs. Shortly afterwards the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70CE.
It was on Masada that the first parchment from this era was discovered in an Israeli archaeological excavation. On the parchment was the prophesy of Ezekiel «…I will take the children of Israeli from among the nations…and bring them into their own land…» (Ezekiel 37).
Heading back to the Dead Sea we pass the desert oasis of Ein Gedi where there is lush foliage and hidden waterfalls and where David hid from angry King Saul. We also pass by Qumran were the 2,000 year old Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in a number of hillside caves.
To end off a perfect day we stop at the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth and a contender for the title of one of the Seven Wonders of the World. People come from across the globe to enjoy the therapeutic mineral rich waters. And don’t worry if you don’t know how to swim, the high salt content will keep you afloat.
Leaving Tel Aviv we pass Herzliya and Netanya, as we travel north along the scenic coastal plain and then turn eastwards through the plain of Armageddon (Rev 16:16), with a view of biblical Megiddo. (II Ch. 35:20-27) Passing biblical Jezreel, home of Ahab and Jezebel, and the vineyards of Naboth(I Kings 21 :Iff) and the springs of Harod where Gideon chose his army (Jud 7:lff)we finally arrive at Beit Shean.
Destroyed by an earthquake in the eighth century and abandoned the Roman/Byzantine city, the only one of the Decapolis (Ten Roman Cities) on the western side of the Jordan River, was perfectly preserved under the black soil which covered it.
What we see is only the “down town” area and not the homes which are under the homes of modem Beit Shean. The ripple on the main street leading to main temple and the fallen columns are silent evidence of that earthquake. The bath-house has been restored as has theatre which is once more in use although the Roman public toilets adjoining are not!
The ancient tel of Beit Shean, looming above has also been excavated with levels from the Canaanite period through to the biblical and First Temple period. As we gaze at the remnants of its ancient ramparts we can imagine King Saul’s head impaled on the wall after he and Jonathan were killed by the Philistines (I Sam 31:lff). Leaving Beit Shean we travel north along the Jordan Valley, the hidden river to the east serving as the border between Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
At the southern of the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee, we ascend to the Golan Heights via Hamat Gader, site of the Roman spa. At the Shalom observatory we have a panoramic view of the Kinneret and realise how vulnerable Tiberias was while the Syrians controlled the Heights.
At ancient Katzerin we explore the excavated and partially restored remains of a typical large village of the Mishnah and Talmud period (first to fifth century), its synagogue, its homes and its olive press. The black basalt rock is testimony to extinct volcanoes on the heights.
In the nearby museum, in the modern city of Katzerin, finds from the ancient city are displayed alongside the finds from excavations carried out on the Golan Heights. These include the reconstruction of a stone-age dolmen, stone carvings from the many synagogues discovered and coins from Gamla, the Second Temple Jewish city razed by the Romans during the Jewish revolt (67-73 CE).
On Mount Bental we explore the former Syrian fortifications, bunkers and trenches taken by Israel during the Six Day War in 1967. In the distance is the Syrian city Kuneitra and in the foreground the camp of the Canadian contingent to the UN forces supervising the cease-fire between Israel and Syria, brokered in 1974 after the Yom Kippur War and never broken. The Syrian capital Damascus is a mere fifty kilometers away hence Syria’s reticence to break the cease-fire. The route we travelled today is more than likely the one used by Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus (Acts 9:lff). Overnight — kibbutz guest-house.
After a short tour of the kibbutz we continue northwards to the source of the Hermon River, one of the tributaries of the Jordan River, at Caesarea Philippi also known as Banias. This Roman city, dedicated to the pagan god Pan, was given by the emperor Augustus to King Herod who built a palace in his honour. After his death his son Phillip made Panias capital of his kingdom renaming it and further beautifying it, preserving the many pagan shrines. This was the northernmost point visited by Jesus and his disciples and the only pagan city mentioned in the gospels. It is here, at the foot of Mt. Hermon, that Jesus gave the keys to his kingdom to Peter, formerly Simon. (Mat 16:13-19).
As Christianity gained ascendency and finally became the official religion of the Roman Empire the pagan shrines were replaced by a church. After the Arab conquest in the 7th Arabic alphabet, century Panias became known as Banias as there is no ‘p’ in the On the way to Mt. Hermon is a striking fortress straddling the hill. Karat Nimrod is often mistakenly described as a Crusader fortress but the Crusader fortress was destroyed at the beginning of the thirteenth century. Strategically placed on the road to Damascus it was rebuilt by the Omayyad rulers of Damascus and completed by the Mameluke Sultan Beybers. We will explore the towers and buttresses and enjoy the view. With the complete demise of the Crusader Empire in Lebanon and Kal’at Nimrod lost its strategic importance and was abandoned. We make a brief stop at BirkatRam, a large round lake, which gets its water from underground springs, provides water to the nearby orchards and vineyards. After enjoying lunch at a Druze restaurant we leave the Golan Heights and make our way to Safed (Z’fat).
Known as the city of the Kabbalah we will see the synagogues dedicated to Josef Caro and the Ari as we walk through the narrow alleys of the old city and explore the artists’ quarter before returning to Tel Aviv.
We begin our tour by traveling passed Herzliya and Natanya and continue north along the coastal road parallel to the Mediterranean, we turn inland and drive through the Valley of Armageddon (Revelations 16:6), from here we can see Megiddo. On our way towards Nazareth we visit the Mt of Precipitation (Luke 4:28-30).
In Nazareth we visit the Church of Annunciation which was constructed on the spot where Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she would soon be with child (Luke 1:26). Next-door we find the Church of Saint Joseph where Jesus’ father, Joseph had his carpentry.
We depart Nazareth and travel to the Sea of Galilee on the way we pass Cana where Jesus turned water into wine. (John 2:1-12). At the bottom of Mount Beatitude we visit Capernaum on the shore of the Kinneret or Sea of Galilee. Here we see the home of Peter and the Church of the Multiplication. (Mark 6:30-44)
We travel along the waterfront of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus calmed the sea and walked on the water. (Mark 4:35-41), 6:45-52)Across the water we can see the Golan Heights forming a beautiful backdrop as we pass the city of Tiberius which was settled more than 2000 years ago and named after the Roman emperor Tiberius.
We reach the southern region of the Kinneret where the Jordan River flows into the Sea of Galilee and where Jesus was baptized. Here you may be able to participate in a baptismal ceremony in the very same spot that Jesus did so many years ago. (Mark 1:9-11)
As we head south on our return journey we can see Mount Tabor where the Transfiguration took place. (Matthew 17:1-9)
Tour along Israel’s Mediterranean coastline traveling north to Caesarea, Haifa, Acre (Acco) and Rosh HaNikra
We leave Tel-Aviv and travel up the coast along the Mediterranean, on the way we pass by Herzilya and Natanya before reaching our first point of interest Caesarea.
The city of Caesarea was constructed under Herod and named after the Roman Emperor, Caesar. From what remains of the ancient city we can see that it was a prosperous and luxurious city. Among the archaeological excavations we can see gateways, a moat and well preserved walls and rooms. There is a perfectly preserved Roman amphitheater which is still used today for performances by Israeli and international artists. The Roman remains were preserved for centuries by the sea sand which covered and protected the stones. Next to the amphitheatre is part of what was once a hippodrome. We can see the remains of a Roman Temple which stood above the port overlooking the busy commercial ships which carried treasures from the east and the Nabatean caravans which were on route to Rome. Following the Romans the city stood neglected for centuries until the Crusaders arrived but in the years after the Crusaders the city once again sank into oblivion.
We continue driving north passing through Haifa where we stop to see the breathtaking Baha’i Shrine and gardens. The terraced gardens cascade down the mountain towards the city below, each of the 19 terraces bursts with colorful flowers and landscaped designs.
Our next stop is at Rosh HaNikra, the most northerly point along Israel’s Mediterranean coast. We descend by cable car into the network of limestone grottoes created by the constant bombardment of waves against the rocks.
On our return journey south we stop at Acre (Acco), the largest Crusader city in the country. The city is extremely well preserved and you can’t help being impressed by the incredible architecture and how it has survived. Part of the city is alive with markets and people still living in the ancient buildings. We see the walls and moat which was reconstructed and repaired by El Jazzar at the end of the 1900s. The mighty walls prevented even Napoleon conquering the city. We can see the Crusader remains, the prison used under Turkish rule and the gallows which were later used under the British Mandate to hang Jews who broke the British law limiting Jewish immigration to Palestine following World War II.
Enjoy a free day in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv.
from Tel Aviv