Small Groups: Never more than 10-16 travelers—guaranteed!
Israel is many things to many people ... A center of faith for three of the world’s great religions. A strategic crucible of modern world politics. A land of stunning natural beauty. A complex ethnic tapestry. An archaeologist’s dream. A realm of transcendent landscapes. A place that has resonance for any traveler seeking answers to the great spiritual matters of our times.
While many tours focus on one religious tradition or another while in Israel, we follow a multicultural pathway through Israel’s many layers of religious heritage. And we explore contemporary issues, too, inviting you to peer behind the headlines to meet Palestinians and Israelis, native Sabras and Eastern European immigrants, Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Druze. If you are drawn to destinations that challenge your preconceptions, or even inspire some soul-searching, come feel the power of this ancient place—at least once in your life.
5 nights from only $1495
Before you travel to the Holy Land, experience another facet of the region's centuries-old culture in Jordan. You’ll explore Roman ruins in Amman and stroll ancient city streets in Jerash. And discover the Nabataen “Lost City” of Petra, described in poetry as a “rose-red city half as old as time.”View Extension Itinerary
Fly overnight from the U.S. to Tel Aviv.
An O.A.T. representative will meet us upon our arrival this afternoon at Tel Aviv's airport, where we'll meet travelers who took the pre-trip extension to Jordan. We'll transfer to our hotel and settle into our rooms, and then our small group's Trip Leader will deliver a short orientation briefing before we share a Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant.
Israel's cultural and commercial hub, Tel Aviv was founded in 1909 near the ancient port city of Jaffa (with which it later merged) as a planned “garden city” on the Mediterranean coast, and blossomed into the largest collection of Modernist buildings in the world. Today, Tel Aviv is home to about one-third of Israel's population, and is a thoroughly modern city in every sense of the phrase—whatever it may lack in ancient history, it more than makes up for in vibrancy and contemporary culture.
After breakfast at our hotel, we begin today's discoveries with a visit to Jaffa, a 4,000-year-old city situated on the southern outskirts of downtown Tel Aviv that may well be the world's oldest seaport. Our Trip Leader will take us on a walk through Old Jaffa, followed by a visit to the Ilana Goor Museum, housed in the private home of this renowned Israeli artist, designer, and sculptor, where artifacts from Israel's past and artworks from its present stand side by side. From there, we'll venture to the colorful Jaffa Flea Market (closed on Saturdays) and have the chance to browse the vendors' extensive selection of antiques. Then we enjoy lunch at a local restaurant before we continue on to Tel Aviv.
Upon arrival, we'll have the afternoon to make our own discoveries. Consider visiting the Carmel Market (closed on Saturdays); commonly referred to as a shuk (Hebrew for an open-air market), this bustling bazaar is the oldest model for food shopping in the Holy Land, where you can discover a cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables, cheeses, spices, nuts, and even clothing and housewares. It's an authentic and invigorating whirl of activity that reveals Israel's incredible diversity.
Afterwards, we depart for the city of Bnei Brak outside Tel Aviv, where we meet with members of the Jewish Orthodox community and enjoy a Home-Hosted Dinner with an Orthodox family.
Please note: Both the Jaffa Flea Market and the Carmel Market are closed on Saturdays. If Day 3 of your itinerary falls on a Saturday, you may have the chance to visit them on Day 15. Groups staying in Tel Aviv on a Friday, Saturday, or holiday will enjoy dinner with an Orthodox family in Jerusalem on Day 11 in lieu of today's Home-Hosted Dinner.
After breakfast at our hotel we'll depart for Caesarea, where Herod the Great built a remarkable artificial port—an engineering marvel in its time. Here we'll explore Roman ruins, many of which were transformed into a walled Crusader's city in later times, and have some free time for lunch on our own.
Then we'll proceed to Haifa, Israel's third-largest city. This ancient seaport on the slopes of Mount Carmel is invested with both the historical weight of Jerusalem and the modern ambiance and tempo of Tel Aviv. It is in some senses Israel's model city, rich with history, replete with a stew of cultures and religions working side by side, and evolving rapidly into the modern world. We'll head to Mount Carmel for a panoramic view of the terraced Baha'i Gardens, as they flow down its slopes toward the busy harbor, then continue on to Haifa. We'll also stop at an olive farm for a tasting, followed by dinner.
Today is yours to enjoy at leisure in Haifa.
Or you may join a full-day optional tour that begins with a visit to the ancient walled city of Akko, once known by the Crusaders as the city of Acre. Our walking tour includes a visit to the Knights' Halls, a series of vaulted halls below street level; the Al-Jazzar Mosque; and the spice market, the Old City's main marketplace.
Then, after an included lunch at a local restaurant, we continue to Rosh HaNikra, where we witness a wondrous series of cavernous tunnels formed by the pounding of the sea on the white chalk cliffs.
Dinner is on your own this evening.
After breakfast, we'll depart for Nazareth, where we'll walk in the footsteps of Jesus—as well as Elijah, Deborah, Solomon, and many other biblical figures—as we pay a visit to the Church of the Annunciation, built on the site where Mary is said to have received word from the angel Gabriel that she would bear the son of God.
Then we'll set off for a light walk through the Gamla Nature Reserve. We'll take in the history and archaeology in this beautiful area that was once an ancient fortress captured by the Romans, the name of which comes from the Hebrew word for camel—gamal—because the ancient fortress was on a mountain shaped remarkably like a camel's hump.
Next, we'll visit a Druze village, where we'll enjoy a Home-Hosted Lunch with a Druze family and learn about their unique culture and traditions. The Druze are an Arab religious community that opted out of mainstream Arab nationalism, and whose members have served in the Israeli Defense Forces. In the past, the Druze have seemed radical for their belief in equality between men and women, the abolition of slavery, and separation of church and state.
Then we'll make our way to Kibbutz El Rom, which is located next to the battleground of the Valley of Tears, one of the defining moments of the Yom Kippur War. At the Kibbutz El Rom we'll learn about the struggle of the Israelis against the Syrian Army during the tank battle there in 1973. We then pause at the Valley of Tears Memorial, which overlooks the battleground.
This afternoon we'll check into our lodge, where we'll have the remainder of the day at leisure followed by dinner together this evening.
Today we'll experience A Day in the Life of Kibbutz Kfar Haruv. For more than a century, kibbutzim have played and continue to play a very important part in the development of modern Israel. The communal-living collectives, originally established on farms, support themselves with a mixture of agriculture and other business. Kfar Haruv was founded in 1973 and reflects that blend, with its operating dairy farm and hydraulics plant. 400 residents live here, including some of the children from the first generation of settlers.
Our visit begins with an informal discussion with a kibbutz member, who will warmly welcome us and answer any preliminary questions we may have. We'll then stop by the community’s kindergarten, where we'll meet its youngest residents. For lunch, we will work together to prepare a meal in the communal dining room and then dine with members of the kibbutz, which affords us a wonderful opportunity to learn more about their lives and experiences in this setting. After a short guided walk of Kfar Haruv—featuring an enlightening sojourn within its dairy farm—we'll bid farewell. By the end of our visit, we'll come away with a richer understanding of the kibbutz tradition.
This afternoon, we'll have time at leisure before dinner on our own.
This morning, we leave the Golan Heights, making our first stop at Capernaum (formerly Kfar Nahum), an ancient Roman fishing village whose church was founded on the traditional site of St. Peter's home. While there, we'll also visit the modern Church of the Beatitudes—which was built near the site of Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount—before boarding a boat to sail across Lake Kinneret, better known as the Sea of Galilee.
First, we'll cruise to Kibbutz Genosar to view the “Jesus Boat,” the restored skeletal remains of a fishing vessel discovered on the muddy shores of Lake Kinneret in 1986 that dates back to the first century AD—the time of Jesus' ministry. We'll then stop for lunch at a local restaurant by the sea. Afterwards, some travelers may wish to join the Christian pilgrims who gather here to renew their baptism vows by immersing themselves in the same waters where Jesus was baptized.
In addition to its historical importance, Lake Kinneret is the only sweetwater lake in Israel, and it is considered by many to be a national asset. Visitors take the history and religious importance to heart, but to modern Israelis, the lake's ability to store and supply scarce water for drinking, for agriculture, and for industry is nearly as important.
From here, we travel to Jerusalem. We arrive in the early evening, settle into our hotel, and enjoy dinner on our own tonight.
After breakfast at our hotel, we enter the maze of chambers and cisterns underneath the Western Wall, part of the ancient city wall that is of great spiritual significance in the Jewish and Islamic traditions, revered by Jews as the last standing remnant of ancient Jerusalem's Second Temple.
This site is also known as the Wailing Wall for Jews' mourning of the destruction of the temple by the Romans in AD 70. Although the wall is nearly 1,600 feet in length, only about 230 feet are visible above ground. The remainder was hidden when King Herod raised the landscape surrounding the Temple Mount in the year 19 BC. We'll see portions of the wall that have been perfectly preserved, and head underground to explore the parts that were sealed off until excavations began in 1967, and had been hidden for almost 2,000 years.
Then we spend the day getting to know Jerusalem, as we explore its Old City on foot. Though it occupies an area of less than one square mile, this ancient enclave's history and spiritual significance to Christians, Jews, and Muslims is immense. We begin our comprehensive walking tour in the area around the Western Wall, the Jewish Quarter, which is adjacent to the site of Solomon's First Temple and the Second Temple. From here, we have an admirable view of the Islamic Dome of the Rock, perched on the Temple Mount, and a different perspective on the Western Wall. Our walk then takes us to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built around what is believed to be the site of Christ's burial and resurrection, and along the Via Dolorosa—the ancient “Way of the Sorrows,” where it is traditionally held that Christ walked to his crucifixion.
After strolling the winding streets of Jerusalem's Arab and Christian quarters, we'll enjoy lunch at a restaurant in the Old City. Then we visit Mount Zion, the traditional Christian site of the Last Supper, and the Mount of Olives, site of Christ's betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane. At the summit we'll enjoy a breathtaking panoramic view of the Dome of the Rock and the Old City. From there, we'll return to our hotel and enjoy dinner on our own this evening.
Please note: The exact date and/or time of our visit to the Western Wall is subject to change.
Today we travel to Yad Vashem, the stirring “everlasting memorial” to the more than six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust. With the world's largest archives of material relating to the Holocaust—more than 50 million documents and artifacts—this museum and memorial complex, while built on the Mount of Remembrance, aims not only to remember, but to educate. We'll spend the morning at this solemn site learning about the horrors of Hitler's “Final Solution.” We are sometimes able to hear a moving first-person account from a Holocaust survivor, although this cannot be guaranteed.
Then we explore the bustling produce market at Machaneh Yehuda, one of Jerusalem's oldest Jewish neighborhoods, where we'll also have free time for lunch on our own. Then we'll return to our hotel and have the balance of the day at leisure.
Tonight we'll set out for dinner at a local restaurant.
Please note: The exact date and/or time of our visit to Yad Vashem is subject to change.
This morning begins with a discussion with a Palestinian journalist who will share her perspective on living in Israel. Then we visit the City of David, an archaeological park whose ruins shed light on the establishment of Israel under King David in 1004 BCE and the history of the Jews during Biblical times. A highlight of the site is an ancient 1500-foot-long water tunnel built by King Hezekiah in 701 BCE to protect Jerusalem’s water source from invading Assyrians. Our tour concludes at The Davidson Center, where we view a virtual reality reconstruction of the Herodian Temple Mount as it stood prior to its destruction.
The rest of the day is at leisure, or you may join an optional tour to Bethlehem, which features the Church of the Nativity. Built over the grotto where Mary is believed to have given birth to Jesus, the church was one of the world’s most coveted holy sites for centuries, and was both captured and defended by a succession of armies. The tour also includes a visit to Shepherds' Field, where an angel is said to have announced Christ’s birth.
Dinner is on our own this evening.
Please note: If this day falls on a Friday during your trip, this evening we’ll return to the Western Wall and have the opportunity to hear prayers on the eve of Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath). Also, if your visit to Tel Aviv on Day 3 fell on a Friday or Saturday, you will enjoy dinner with an Orthodox family in Jerusalem tonight.
Today is at leisure in Jerusalem, or you may choose to join an optional tour that begins in Herodion, a hilltop fortified palace built by Herod the Great in the desert south of Bethlehem that is also thought to be Herod’s mausoleum. The tour continues to Mar Elias Monastery, a Greek Orthodox monastery originally built in the sixth century AD, then rebuilt in the twelfth century. There are usually views of both Jerusalem and Bethlehem from the hilltop. We’ll have lunch in the monastery’s restaurant before returning to Jerusalem, with a stop on the way to visit Ein Karem.
Nestled in the hills to the southwest of Jerusalem, Ein Karem is notable as the birthplace of St. John the Baptist. Our visit takes us to two churches connected to the life of the biblical figure: the Church of St. John the Baptist and the Church of the Visitation. Although both structures are relatively new, both are constructed over the remains of much older buildings that marked two important sites for early Christians—the site of St. John’s birth and the site of the visit from St. Mary to St. John’s mother, St. Elizabeth.
Dinner is on your own this evening.
We start our morning with a visit to the Israel Museum. Here, we'll see the expansive model of Jerusalem from the Second Temple period. We'll also take a close look at the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are housed in a wing called "the Shrine of the Book"; the top of the shrine was designed to look like the clay pot in which the scrolls were originally found.
Then we'll set off for the Dead Sea, where the afternoon will be yours to enjoy. At more than 1,300 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea is considered to be the lowest point on earth, and because it contains an unusually high concentration of salt, it is surprisingly easy to float within its mineral-rich waters.
During your free time, perhaps you'll walk or take the hotel's complimentary shuttle to the shore of the Dead Sea, where you can test your buoyancy. (The sheer sense of weightlessness has to be experienced to be understood.) Or, you may take advantage of the hotel's amenities, such as the spa (featuring an authentic Turkish hammam), indoor and outdoor pools, and grounds where you may linger in a hammock beneath date palm trees.
This evening, we'll enjoy dinner at our hotel.
Please note: The exact date and/or time of our visit to the Israel Museum is subject to change.
This morning, we embark upon an off-road adventure in the Judean Desert. We’ll ride 4x4 vehicles among stunning canyons, erosion craters, and dry riverbeds and experience the landscape up close. We’ll break for a picnic lunch in the desert.
In the afternoon, we head to Ein Gedi Nature Reserve, where we’ll visit its lush oasis and embark on a short hike. This evening we'll enjoy dinner together at our hotel.
Our day begins with a visit to Masada, where we’ll ascend by cable car to walk among the powerful, 20-acre ruins of this isolated hilltop fortress, where from AD 70-73, Jewish defenders made the last stand of the Judean revolt against Rome.
En route to Tel Aviv, we stop at the Qumran Caves in the Dead Sea Rift Valley to see the archaeological site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.
Enjoy some free time this afternoon to relax or explore Tel Aviv independently before gathering for a Farewell Dinner in a local restaurant.
We rise very early this morning and transfer to the airport to board our flight to the U.S., or begin your optional Palestinian Discovery post-trip extension.
Please note: The order of activities during your trip may vary depending on the day of the week. Many sites in Israel are closed from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, and other temporary closures can occur due to religious observances, festivals, or safety considerations. Due to crowds, the visit to the Western Wall tunnels may change in day and/or time and even fall late at night or very early in the morning.
5 nights from only $1495
The Palestinian Territories encompass some of the world’s most revered religious sites and archaeological treasures—from Bethlehem to ancient Jericho, the oldest city in the world. Journey beyond the headlines and witness this disputed region’s great natural beauty, ancient cities, and proud and resilient people.View Extension Itinerary