Experience Israel through its many faces: versatile populations and various ethnic groups await you as you tour the country from North to South.
Tel Aviv - Haifa
Start the day with a visit to the Diaspora Museum. The museum tells the story of the Jewish People from the time of their expulsion from the Land of Israel 2,500 years ago to the present.
Continue north to drive up Mount Carmel to visit the Mukhraka, a Carmelite Monastery that is one of the oldest in the world, which commemorates the confrontation between the prophet Elijah and the false priests of Ba’al.
Further north on the tip of Mount Carmel, Haifa presents opportunities to encounter two religious groups in addition to Judaism, both coming out of Islam and each moving away from the source. The beautiful Bahai Gardens convey some of the underlying aesthetics and spirituality of the Bahai faith, while a visit to the Ahmadiyya community will shed light on their ideas and history. (The Ahmadiyya community lives in a small neighborhood of Haifa called Kababir on the western slopes of Mount Carmel.)
Overnight in Haifa.
Travel to Acre, to the Al-Jazzar mosque, one of Israel's most beautiful shrines, to encounter the Sunni Muslim community in Israel. Visit the Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, fought over by Crusaders and the Muslims some 900 years ago. Walk through the maze of Crusader halls and enjoy the local bazaar, shops and restaurants owned by Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Continue to the twin towns of Ma’alot (Jewish) – Tarshiha (mixed Moslem and Christian Arab) on the way to the Druze town of Hurfeish, with its museum of Druze culture and its mountaintop holy place, Nebi Sabalan. Nebi Sabalan (perhaps referring to Zebulon, one of the sons of Jacob) is one of the most important Druze religious sites in Israel. The site offers a beautiful vista of the western Galilee.
Continue to Gish, known in Roman times as Gush Halav, where a Christian Maronite community retains the traditions of a religion with roots in Lebanon as early as the fifth century.
A visit to Rehaniya, populated by Circassian Muslims, whose ancestors migrated here from the Caucasus in the late 18th and 19th centuries, is an opportunity to learn about their history and perhaps have a taste of their food.
Overnight in the Upper Galilee.
Ascend the Golan Heights along the tributaries of the Jordan River (Dan, Hatsbani and Banias) and drive through the Druze village of Mas’adeh to mingle with Druze visitors at the bustling shrine of Sheikh Yaf'ouri.
Continue along Israel’s border with Syria and stop at Mount Bental, one of the volcanic cones that created the Golan Heights, for a panoramic view of Israel, Syria and Lebanon.
Travel to the Talmudic Village of Katsrin in the Central Golan, where excavations have revealed a Jewish village with a large synagogue dating back some 13 centuries.
Proceed to Tzfat (Safed), one of the four holy cities in Israel and the home of Lurian mysticism (a branch of Jewish mysticism conceived by the 16th century Rabbi Isaac Luria). Stroll along the lanes of the Old City and to see some of its many synagogues, its unique artist’s colony and historic cemetery.
Overnight in Tiberias.
Start the day with a visit to the Yigal Alon Museum at Kibbutz Ginosar. (Yigal Alon was among the founders of Israel’s Labor Movement and of Kibbutz Ginosar). This unique museum focuses on the human experience in the Galilee in the past, present and future. It is also home to changing exhibits showcasing the finest talents of Galilee artists from a variety of faiths and ethnic backgrounds, and the magnificent display of the Galilee Boat, dating from the time of Jesus discovered mired in the mud on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. This would also be a good opportunity to learn about one of Israel’s most incredible creations: the kibbutz.
Proceed to a tour of the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee and visit a number of Christian holy sites, among them Capernaum, Simon Peter’s home town, Tabha, commemorating the miracle of the Loaves and Fishes and Mt. of the Beatitudes, where the Sermon on the Mount was preached.
Drive south to the foot of Mount Tabor and visit the Center for Bedouin Heritage in Galilee, located in Shibli, which focuses on the implements of daily life as well as the lifestyle of Galilee Bedouin families.
Drive to Jerusalem and overnight in Jerusalem.
The day will be dedicated to the understanding of Jerusalem as the center for the three great monotheistic faiths; Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Start out with a visit to the Temple Mount, site of the offering of Isaac, the Jerusalem Temples, and the ninth-century Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. See the Western Wall, sacred to the Jewish People as the last remnant of the Second Temple.
Visit the Southern Wall Excavations, as you walk on the original two thousand-year old street and climb the ancient steps. At the Davidson Center, in the basement of an eighth-century CE palace, enjoy the historical exhibits and make arrangements to see its virtual-reconstruction, high-definition interactive model.
Visit the Tower of David Museum, dedicated to the history of Jerusalem over the past 4,000 years and showcasing the city’s various ethnic groups and their contributions. Climb to the tower situated in the museum for a beautiful view of the four quarters of the Old City - Armenian, Christian, Muslim and Jewish.
Proceed to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, site of the crucifixion and tomb of Jesus according to Christian tradition. You will notice the many Christian denominations represented in the church, distinguished by their dress and liturgy – Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Coptic, Ethiopian, and Syrian Orthodox , each in their own corner of the ancient complex.
Wander the Old City markets, steeping yourself in its sights, sounds and aromas, and try your hand at hunting and bargaining for treasures.
Overnight in Jerusalem.
Explore Mt. Zion, visiting the Benedictine Dormition Church, the Tomb of David and the Room of the Last Supper, before entering the compound at the Church of Peter in Galicantu, on the slopes of Mt. Zion, belonging to the Assumptionist order of Roman Catholics.
Visit the Jewish Quarter, with the beautifully restored Four Sephardic Synagogues and variety of archaeological remains, and also a bustling center of contemporary Jerusalem life.
Arrive at the picturesque Christ Church near Jaffa Gate where an information center highlights the history of the Anglicans in Jerusalem. Understand the development of British influence in Jerusalem in the 19th century and see some of the scale models of the city at that time.
Finish the day with a visit to the Armenian Quarter, the Armenian Museum, and the Church of St. James (3:00-3:40 P.M. except Sundays; Saturdays 6:30-9:30 A.M.).
Overnight: in Jerusalem.
Start the day with a Visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. Walk through the astounding new museum with its new and moving focus on the individual in the Holocaust, the Children’s Memorial and Hall of Remembrance.
Drive through the New City viewing old and new neighborhoods and the Knesset (The Israeli Parliament) (open for visits on Sundays and Thursdays) and the beautifully designed Supreme Court building.
At the nearby Israel Museum, among many other fascinating exhibits discover the mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Shrine of the Book and see the Model of ancient Jerusalem.
Walk through downtown Jerusalem to Mahane Yehuda, the Jewish open-air fruit and vegetable market and stroll through Me'ah She’arim, the inner city’s venerable Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood (modest dress required).
Overnight in Jerusalem.
Visit Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, famed as the home of a community of Essenes 2,000 years ago. It is possible that John the Baptist spent some time with the community here.
Stop at the oasis of Ein Gedi along the shore of the Dead Sea and walk along through the Nahal David stream to a beautiful waterfall.
Next, continue to Massada to take the cable-car to the top of Herod’s magnificent fortress, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thanks to the Jewish historian Josephus, we have the dramatic record of the last stand of the rebels at Massada against the Romans during the Great Revolt in 73 CE that took place at this very site, which has become an important modern symbol.
Enjoy the rest of the day and evening at leisure at one of the spa hotels on the shores of the Dead Sea.
Overnight in the Dead Sea area.
Drive to Be'er Sheba via Moshav Nevatim. Moshav Nevatim is home to Cochin Jews, from India, who came to Israel after the establishment of the state. Cochin Jews consider themselves one of the most ancient Jewish communities in the world. The Center for Cochin Heritage at Moshav Nevatim tells the story of this unique community. (Visit must be pre-arranged; Tel: 08-6238299).
Continue to the Joe Alon Bedouin Center, focusing on Bedouin culture and history. The Bedouin tribes scattered throughout the Negev have undergone a rapid process of transition from nomadic to modern life. Many of the characteristics of the Bedouin lifestyle are therefore disappearing, creating the urgent need to document this ancient way of life through the work of this important center.
Overnight in Tel Aviv.
The Russian Orthodox Church of Tabitha at Abu Kabir on the outskirts of Jaffa is not always open, but you should try your luck – services often feature a celestial a capella choir.
Continue to Kfar Habad, off the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem highway, where followers of the late Lubavitcher Rebbe live his religious philosophy.
Visit Latrun, a ruined Crusader fortress tower, which sits on the top of a hill just above a beautiful Trappist monastery, whose monks keep a vow of silence.
Then it’s on to the Arab town of Abu Gosh, home of the bi-annual Abu Ghosh music festival and a popular stop for Israeli visitors. See the 12th century Crusader church and learn about the order of Lazarist monks and nuns and the contemplative life they lead in this tranquil setting. You can also visit the nearby Church of The Ark of the Covenant, with its fine hilltop vistas. You may want to have lunch in one of the famous restaurants in the village.