This very detailed itinerary is not final but it is pretty darn close, and will give you a good idea of what we're planning. Subject to changes, but our goal is to give you an experience you'll always remember and as many opportunities for great photos as we can squeeze in!
SATURDAY, JULY 28
Depart Newark from Tel Aviv on El Al nonstop flight # 26; leave at 11:35pm.
SUNDAY, JULY 29 - TEL AVIV
• Arrive at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport at 5:10pm.
• Clear Israeli Customs and Immigration and meet your Ya’lla Tours USA Israel representative; transfer to your hotel in Tel Aviv for overnight.
• Our hotel, HERODS TEL AVIV, is a 4-star, beach-front hotel. A complete renovation was completed in 2011, transforming the property into a spectacular luxury theme hotel invoking the unique flair of 1930s Tel Aviv, when the city was emerging as a pulsating center of culture, architecture and fashion. All 324 guest rooms combine nostalgic-chic design with the facilities and comforts of a modern luxury hotel including complimentary Wi-Fi and international phone calls. All rooms have balconies overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Hotel facilities and services include a restaurant, fitness and spa center, seasonal outdoor pool, air-conditioning throughout the property, business lounge, laundry and room service.
MONDAY, JULY 30 - TEL AVIV
• Start the tour with an orientation tour of Tel Aviv, the largest and most vibrant city in Israel. See the Habima Theater, Dizengof Street and the campus of Tel Aviv University. Continue to Independence Hall where David Ben Gurion announced the establishment of the State of Israel.
• Drive through the Rothschild Blvd. and nearby streets to see some of the 4,000 Bauhaus buildings that make up the White City, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
• Continue to the famous and picturesque market: Carmel Market. Meet with local street photographer there.
• Visit Old Jaffo, where Jonah “found a ship.” Browse the art galleries.
• Continue to Holon, 4 miles south of Tel Aviv, to visit the the Children’s Museum, where we will take part one of two extraordinary Israeli experiences: The Dialogue in Silence or The Walk in the Dark, whichever is available that day.
End the day with a stop at the nearby, beautifully renovated Tahana (old railroad station) with many upscale boutiques and cafes.
• Return to your hotel for overnight.
TUESDAY, JULY 31 - TIBERIAS/GALILEE
• Depart Tel Aviv and drive to the ancient Roman city of Caesarea, a large port city built by Herod the Great to honor Roman Caesar Augustus. Herod built a port in the bay and erected all the cultural institutions found in every great Greco-Roman city - a theater. Continue to Mt. Carmel and the city of Haifa.
• Enjoy the panoramic views of the largest port of Israel, and the Shrine of the Bahai. Continue to Acko (ancient Acre), the maritime capital of the Crusader Kingdom. Visit the Knights' Halls, one of the most beautiful and impressive remains from this period. Walk through the recent excavations to experience a real trip in a time machine.
• Drive north to Rosh Hanikra. Take the cable car down to the grotto and see one of Israel’s most unusual natural phenomena. Don’t forget to take your photo with the sign marking the distance to Beirut and to Jerusalem.
• Drive across the Galilee to Tiberias for dinner and overnight at Emily's Hotel.
• Our hotel, EMILY’S BOUTIQUE HOTEL, is a small 4-star boutique hotel with only 66 rooms, centrally located in Tiberias, only 5-minute walk from the Sea of Galilee promenade and the old city. Guest rooms are equipped with a/c, balcony, free wi-fi, cable TV, telephone, mini-fridge, coffee maker, safe and desk. Hotel facilities and services include a pool.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 01 - TIBERIAS/GOLAN
• Drive to one of the four holiest Jewish cities, Zafed, steeped in the mystical tradition of Kabbalah. Visit the art galleries and the ancient synagogues.
• Have time to walk in the Old City and take many pictures.
• Drive to the Golan Heights we’ll stop to gaze down over the Galilee as the Syrians once did.
• Take a 4X4 jeep ride into some of the hidden trails of the Golan Heights.
• In the Valley of the Tears, hear the moving story of the brave Kahalani’s battle to secure the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War.
• Continue to Mt. Bental for an outstanding view of the Upper Galilee and the Golan Heights.
• Time permitting: meet some Jewish Cowboys at Kibbutz Merom Golan.
• Return to Tiberias for dinner, photo review, and overnight.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 02 – NEGEV DESERT
• Depart Tiberias and drive south.
• Continue to Belvoir (Kohav HaYarden), one of the best-preserved crusader fortresses in Israel. Walk across the moat and visit the fortress with its spectacular views of the Jordan V alley.
• Drive to Beth Shean, one of Israel’s most ancient cities. In its 7,000-year history the Egyptian, Roman and Byzantine empires have laid claim to the site, attracted by abundant water, fertile soil and the situation at an important east west crossroads. Visit the ruins of the largest Roman city being excavated today.
• Continue along the Jordan Valley to the Bika Monument, a memorial to the Israeli soldiers who died in this area between 1967 to 1971.
• Drive via Jericho, the oldest city in the world, to the Dead Sea.
• Continue to Arad and visit its artist colony.
• Arrive at Kfar Hanokdim, the Bedouin tent where we will have a traditional Bedouin Hafla (dinner / party) and overnight in traditional Bedouin tents.
• After dark: enjoy the desert for a perfect opportunity for Astro photography.
About our Bedouin Feast and overnight at Kfar Hanokdim
In the Kana`im valley which in the Judean desert, between the city of Arad and ancient Masada, lies Kfar Hanokdim. It is a green oasis shaded by palm trees and crowned with biblically inspired gardens.
Merely walking into Kfar Hanokdim reveals a picturesque scene. Bedouin tents comfortably fitted with colorful rugs and mattresses. Divans (Function halls) built from wood and local stone and decorated with carpets and fabrics woven from black goat's hair. Desert style guest rooms amongst conveniently positioned shady seated areas.
Bedouin hospitality: Once the guests arrive at the village, the Bedouin host invites them to come inside a Bedouin tent to relax around the fire and sip Bedouin tea spiced with desert herbs. After the guests have settled down, the Bedouin host will perform the traditional coffee making ceremony roasting the coffee beans and drumming a traditional rhythm as he is grinding the coffee in a stone mortar. As the traditional coffee making ceremony is finishing, fire baked pita will be passed around for tasting. Explanations will accompany the occasion, enriched with stories from these desert dwelling people.
Traditional Dinner: The Bedouin hosts dressed in white Jalabiyas welcome the guests and invite them to sit on soft, comfortable mattresses. The guests are seated in a circular fashion around the Sania (a large tray). In the center of the Sania is the Magluba- a rice and vegetable dish served on thin pita breads. Accompanying the Sania are different salads: Arabic vegetable salad, thick tahini salad, cabbage salad, home made pickles and thick Pourna Pita bread with Za'atar (hyssop herb) and olive oil. Shortly after, you will be served grilled meats: Kfar Hanokdim's special homemade Kebab and crispy chicken wings. All the dishes are lavish, in accord with Bedouin hospitality. As your Bedouin host notices that you have finished your meal, fruits, Bedouin tea spiced with desert herbs and coffee will be served.
Kfar Hanokdim’s Designed Lodges (Sukkoth): The village's most recent additions are uniquely designed lodges (Sukkoths) made with thick woolen sides and doors with decked wooden floors and a comfortably seated patio. Situated on top of the Sukkah is a veranda from which you can feast your eyes of the desert view and enjoy the lucid air. The great advantage of the lodge is that it combines the desert sleeping arrangements with privacy. The Sukkah holds up to eight occupants.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 03 – MASADA - DEAD SEA - JERUSALEM - SHABBAT
• After an early breakfast, take a camel ride and a Desert 4X4 truck deep into the desert.
• Drive to Masada. Take the cable car to the top of the rock and visit the Roman palaces, store houses, synagogues and bath house which witnessed the Jewish resistance to the Romans approximately 2,000 years ago.
• Descend by cable car and drive to the Dead Sea for a dip in the water.
• Climb the Judean Hills and arrive in Jerusalem.
• Stop at Mt. Scopus and reenact the traditional entry to Jerusalem by reciting the blessing of Shehecheyanu, thanking Gd for bringing us to this time and place.
• Then, drive to your hotel for overnight.
• Our hotel, HARMONY, is a boutique hotel located just a short walk from the Old City at Nahalat Sheva,, one of the first neighborhoods built outside the Old City walls late in the 19th-century. It is just steps from the popular Ben Yehuda Street. All 50 guest rooms overlook the roofs and alleys of the historic district and are equipped with air-conditioning, wireless internet, safe box, hair dryer, mini-bar and water kettle.
• Welcome Shabbat with the joyous crowds at the Western Wall, along with hundreds of dancing and singing yeshiva students. This is a unique, moving experience, second to none.
If there is sufficient demand, we will try to arrange a traditional Shabbat dinner at the hotel (this would be an additiional fee).
SATURDAY, AUGUST 04 – JERUSALEM
• Free day for our Jewish friends. (If there is sufficient demand, we will help you find home hospitality locally for Shabbat lunch.)
• Meet up as a group in the evening for a walking tour of Ben Yehuda Street's lively night scene.
Optional Saturday activity for non Sabbath observant participants.
A taste of the Christian part of Jerusalem (This tour is at no extra charge)
• Drive 6 miles south to Bethlehem, birthplace of Jesus, to visit the Church of the Nativity, the oldest church in the holy land still in use. Construction began in the year 326, based on the local tradition that Jesus was born in a cave at the edge of the village. Sing carols in a site that has been visited by millions of pilgrims.
• Return to Jerusalem and drive to the Mount of Olives for an awe inspiring, panoramic view of the city. Walk down the Mount of Olives to the site of Jesus’ Agony.
• Visit the Church of Pater Noster, located on the hill where Jesus was inspired with the Lord’s Prayer. The walls of the church are covered with the prayer written in over 85 languages.
• Walk to one of the newest churches in Jerusalem, Dominus Flevit (Jesus Wept). During construction in 1955, archaeologists uncovered artefacts dating back to the Canaanite period as well as tombs from both the Second Temple and Byzantine eras. Also unearthed were the remains of a lovely Byzantine shrine with an elaborate mosaic floor that was incorporated into the church.
• The Garden of Gethsemane lies at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Today it appears much as it did 20 centuries ago and contains some of the world’s oldest olive trees. The garden was a spot favored by Jesus. Originally built in 379, the Church of Gethsemane was rebuilt in 1919 – 1924. Long considered one of the most beautiful in Jerusalem, it is called the Church of All Nations because 16 nations contributed to its construction.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 05 – JERUSALEM
• Drive to Mt. of Olives and enjoy the panoramic view of the most beautiful city in the world.
• Drive to Mt Zion and visit David's Tomb.
• Start a walking tour in the Jewish quarter visiting the Burnt House and the Herodian Quarter.
• Visit the newly opened Hurva Synagogue, it was the largest synagogue in Jerusalem for a long time destroyed by the Jordanians in 1948 and reopened for its glorious use in 2010.
• See the Temple Steps, the original steps leading to the Temple’s Entrance to the Court of the Israelites.
• Walk through the excavated Western Wall Tunnel, huge arched spaces which link to a water tunnel cut through the rock to the north, apparently dug in the Hasmonean period (163 to 37 BCE).
• Walk the Way of the Cross (Via Dolorosa), visit the Monastery of the Sisters of Zion and see the Floor of the Lithostrothos of the Ecce Homo Arch (Behold the Man). Visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. In 325 AD Constantine’s mother Helen requisitioned the area for a church. It is important for us to appreciate the work of Helen in preserving many of our Christian sites that otherwise would have been lost to time. This 4th- century church was largely destroyed by the Turks in 1009 and partially restored in 1048. The impressive stone decorations adorning the facade date from Crusader times. In its current form, the church preserves the Crusader structure and is shared by two major Christian denominations, the Greek Orthodox and the Roman Catholic.
• Return to your hotel for overnight.
MONDAY, AUGUST 06 – JERUSALEM
• Visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. “As the Jewish people’s living memorial to the Holocaust, Yad Vashem safeguards the memory of the past and imparts its meaning for future generations. For over half a century, Yad Vashem has been committed to four pillars of remembrance: Commemoration, Documentation, Research, and Education.” Learn about how German camera companies saved thousands of Jewish lives.
• Continue through one of Jerusalem most scenic road to Tzora and Eshta'ol, the region where Samson battled the Philistines; and the Elah Valley, site of many confrontations and where David slew the giant Goliath.
• Continue to the Lachish area on the southern coast of Israel.
• Participate in an archaeological dig (approx. 4 hours).
• Return to your hotel for overnight. Dinner on your own, then return to hotel for photo review/critiques.
TUESDAY, AUGUST 07 – JERUSALEM
• Visit Mea Shearim, the ultra-orthodox neighborhood of Jerusalem
• Then, visit to the Biblical Zoo.
• Treasure hunt in Nachlaot, one of the funkiest neighborhoods of Jerusalem. Then cross the street to...
• Machane Yehuda Market, a landmark institution and one of the most prosperous markets in Israel. We’ll have an in-depth tour with emphasis on the history of the market, the types of foods sold and their uses and origins.
• As you stroll around the colorful stalls, you will see, hear, smell and feel how many Jerusalemites and visitors experience this thriving market as a vital symbol of Israeli resilience. It's filled with rich photographic opportunities at almost every step of the way!
• Return to the hotel for overnight.
• Evening: return on your own to the Machane Yehuda Market for some spectacular night life.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 08 - JERUSALEM - AVSHALOM CAVE
• Visit Soreq Cave, also known as Avshalom Cave or Stalactite Cave, discovered in 1968 while quarrying with explosives on the western side of Mt. Ye’ela in the Judean hills. The cave is 272ft long, 197ft wide and 49ft high and teeming with stalactites and natural sculptures. (this is one of the most amazing and interesting photography sites in Israel!)
• Return to Jerusalem for a free afternoon. Explore on your own.
• Return to your hotel for a farewell dinner at Ana Ticho House and overnight.
• Final photo review session
THURSDAY, AUGUST 09 - FAREWELL
• Early morning on your own in Jerusalem.
• Transfer to the Ben Gurion Airport for your departure flight with El Al nonstop flight # 25 to Newark, leave at 1:50pm arrive at 6:35pm.