The traveller to Israel walks through history: from windswept crusader castles to bustling Mediterranean ports. The modern State of Israel was created in the Land, according to Jewish tradition, promised to the People of Israel. It is the place where both Jesus, the Christian Messiah, was born and where Mohammed, the Moslem Prophet, ascended to heaven. At the meeting place of three continents and two seas, the country is a skein of cultures, customs and traditions, a country that was home to many people and changing religions. On the crossroads of ancient routes of commerce, the land also saw waves of conquering armies: the Canaanites, Hebrews, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottoman Turks and the British made this much-desired small country into a battlefield where they strove for eminence, built fortifications, castles and royal palaces. All of these cultures, peoples and religions have created a rich tapestry of tradition, beliefs and customs that encapsulate the holy and the secular, the past and the present, the east and the west and a country which is not without present day tensions and controversy.
Tel Aviv represents the modern face of the Jewish state with its elegant palm-lined Bauhaus architecture avenues and relaxed Mediterranean resort atmosphere. It is an ideal place to start your voyage to “The Holyland” and to visit nearby Jaffa with its scenic old port which, according to the Bible, was founded in the wake of the great flood by Noah’s son.
In Tel Aviv you can learn about the history and culture of the Jewish nation with visits to the Museum of the Jewish Diaspora which chronicles the diversity of Jewish life and culture in exile and the Palmach Museum which traces the rise against British occupation and the independence of Israel.
From Tel Aviv we recommend you travel north along the Mediterranean coast and pause at Caesarea, King Herod’s glorious port city to view the magnificent ruins of the Roman theatre together with one of the Roman empire’s largest hippodromes and the remains of Herod’s Palace. From there continue your journey to Mont Carmel for a panoramic view of Haifa and its harbor before visiting the city’s spectacular Bahai Shrine and Persian Gardens. Then explore the ancient Crusader city of Acre (today’s Akko), the most complete and charming old town in the Holyland outside Jerusalem, before continuing to visit the specialist Rimon winery and holy Safed, the highest town in Israel whose narrow ancient streets are filled with artists’ studios and handicrafts.
This, Israel’s main source of water, lies 212 metres below sea level and is fed and drained by the River Jordan. Also known as Lake Tiberias, it has been famous since biblical times for its abundance if fish. Many of Jesus’s disciples were fishermen he did much of his preaching along its shores. This beautiful area is also boasts an impressive mix of fascinating historic and religious sites.
Nearby is Nazareth where you can visit the church of the Annunciation and Mary’s Well, and then travel through the Valley of Armageddon to the multi-layered mound of Megiddo, with its impressive remains from the age of the Biblical kings. View the superb, recently excavated AD 3rd century mosaics at Tsipori and ascend the Golan Heights to visit the former Syrian fortifications, the Druze villages and Banias (Caesarea Philippi) source of the River Jordan,
The old city has a history that stretches back more than three thousand years and it is a city holy to Christians and Muslims as well as Jews. The present street plan dates back largely to Byzantine times and the encircling walls are from the 16th century. Outside the city walls, Jerusalem resembles a collection a collection of small villages, each with their own character as well as historical sites such as the Mount of Olives. Today the city is divided between West Jerusalem and the Palestinian-dominated eastern half of the city.
When you step through the Jaffa Gate into the city of Jerusalem you step into a world of the past where you can experience the hustle and bustle of the bazaar and the quaint narrow cobbled streets leading to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Golgotha. Follow the Via Dolorosa to the Wailing Wall, the remnant of the Great Synagogue destroyed by the Romans, and view the Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aksa Mosques. Visit the Garden of Gethsemane on the footsteps of the Mount of Olives as well as the new city with the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book with the famous Dead Sea Scrolls and the model of Herodian Jerusalem.
En route to Jerusalem, along the Jordan Valley,you will find the Dead Sea, and around it; Beth Shean, the best preserved Roman-Byzantine town in Israel, Qumran where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered and the fortress city of Masada where a quick ascent by cable car takes you to visit the ruins of Herod’s Palace and the synagogue. From here you can enjoy panoramic views over the Dead Sea and then descend for an opportunity to “float” on the heavily salt water of this the lowest place on earth.
Jerusalem is also a fantastic base from which you can visit the West Bank and take a trip to Bethlehem for the Church of the Nativity and the Grotto, built over Jesus’ birthplace.
Lying at the end of the Gulf of Aquaba, on a stretch of Israel’s 12 km southern coast – squeezed between Egypt and Jordan – Eilat is Israel’s only town on the Red Sea. The town has developed as a Red Sea resort for diving but is also an ideal base to cross the Egyptian border into the Sinai to explore St Catherine’s Monastery where Moses received the Ten Commandments.
A community of monks have lived at St Catherine’s Monastery, one of the remotest and most historic churches of the world, in the shadow of Mount Sinai almost uninterruptedly since it was founded in AD 527 by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. It replaced a chapel built in 337 by St Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, at the place where traditions states that Moses saw the Burning Bush. This incredible site is the oldest Christian monastery still used for its original purpose and contains a stunning collection of icons.
For more details about possible tours of Israel or to arrange a bespoke adventure, please get in touch with us.