After many years of having the normal, standard Israeli tour in our packages, we have decided to replace it with the Israeli Gem tour. Reason? You want to know the truth? We’re extremely bored with this tour. The people receive sub-standard, not-quality product, while the Gem tour is exciting, nice, interesting and nobody falls asleep during that tour. This is the description of the ‘new’ Gem tour.
We are here talking and showing you this replacement tour, day after day. It tells about the gems you will see, the exciting sights you will visit and the hidden sights like little shops, caves, grottoes, hidden buildings and cities, visit amazing markets, see history coming out of the dust and you can see virtually it happening again. This tour gives you an excellent idea what Israel actually is and how it looks like.
And you know what? With our new pricing policy for all the (none-budget) tours, there is no difference in price for a normal Israel tour and the Gem tour. Read here more about the prices. Now it’s possible to have a 7 day tour for under the $600 ($537 p.p.) all-in (this is for example the Israeli Gem tour with a group of 30 people, all-in). And this is NOT a low-budget tour with public transportation!
Then there is another issue about pricing and the tours. If you want to come to Israel for a tour with a small group (let’s say 6 people), the normal choices is that you pay thousands of dollars or you must try to join an existing large group. With us, a group of 6 people pay $910 (p.p.) for 7 days, all-in Israeli Gem Tour.
What is so different between Gem tour and the old Israel tour?
In short, the difference is the content of the tour. In a gem tour, we show you gems (rare interesting and exciting parts of a tour, which is normally not shown).
But let me give you the long answer with examples. An example of the first day of touring in Jerusalem. That day starts with the Hop-On-Hop-Off tour bus of Jerusalem, which will give you a ‘birds-eye of what’s to see in Jerusalem with 28 stops. The guide is here only pointing to the sights (you will soon be visiting them)!
Another normal boring part of the tour and that’s the Israel Parliament building. We go a bit deeper in the material as usual while visiting and you will be soon meeting and experiencing the unexpected. But this is not as boring as you might expect! Why? Because you get several tours combined here: the general tour, the ‘democratic’ tour, Art and Photographs, Architecture tour, Green tour, Law and Enforcement tour and the Knesset Archaeology Park. When we’re finished, you’ve a total different picture of the Israeli Knesset then before. And that is for sure the case for native Israelis, who in general have no idea what’s going on in their own Knesset building.
Another thing what is different. The model of ancient Jerusalem is normally displayed to all tourists, and for our guides this was always a problem. When you see the model once, it’s really cool. But when you see the model more then 200 times, it’s really dump, not cool and boring to the extreme. So we created a little ‘game’ with tablet computers and mobile phones (an app) you get from us. Many ancient buildings in the model are still there for us and we will see them in real, while everyone can compare them with the model of ancient Israel.And history of Jerusalem doesn’t stop with the creation of the City of David; it rather starts thousands of years before that.
And not to forget the detailed stories the guides are telling you for each part of the ancient model of Israel. Guides can be many things, but one of the basic requirements of a good guide is people knowledge and story telling and that’s what they will demonstrate to you.
And of course the knowledge of the little things, which makes this tour so interesting, exciting and … tasty. Do you know that you can taste real Dutch ‘olie-bollen’ near the Model of Ancient Jerusalem?
The second day we’re still touring Jerusalem, but we will focus not only on the default sights very tourist will visit in a tour, but the not well known worlds of mystery and beauty Jerusalem has also to offer, which are very quiet (no noise, because no tour will come here then only us). An example. While we are touring the normal sights, we will ‘disappear’ for a couple of hours in visiting the city underneath Jerusalem and show you things, most natives don’t know about.
And we ‘disappear’ from the streets to visit those little, tiny shops, where you truly can buy gems for little money. Perfect for unique gifts about Jerusalem for home, family and fiends.
For that evening, we can organize the guided tours through the belly of Jerusalem (and the light show near City of David), walking through tunnels, caves, grottoes and each of them with its own exciting and interesting history of several thousands of years.
There is for example a cave, which leads from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea. We will show you the beginning of this cave and give people the choice to ‘take this extra tour’ (it’s included in the tour after all) when we drive to the Dead Sea at day 4. In that case, the bus drives in the evening from Bethlehem to Jerusalem (after dinner at day 4), drops the volunteers off in Jerusalem, and returns. The volunteers ‘hike’ through the cave to the Dead Sea at night and will arrive about the same time as the rest of the group arrives by bus. That’s normally day 4/5.
At day 3, we are still in Jerusalem, but we’re going to show you the gems of the tour in Jerusalem. If you see the Church of St Mary Magdalene, you didn’t see it truly, because how beautiful it is from the outside, it’s breathtakingly beautiful from the inside. And you are going to talk to the monks and priests and you’re going not only see the inside, you’re going to hear about history, meet actual history.
For example Prince Charles from England visited Israel (because of the death of Simon Perez) and visited his aunt, buried in a half-open tomb in the Church of St Mary Magdalene. You will see his aunt too in her beautiful tomb and you also will see why she’s buried there.
In that same Orthodox church, you will see the actual active connections between the Holy Land and several other countries, like Russia, England others.
But that’s not all you will see at this day, we’re going to visit the Schindler’s grave. And you will not only visit his grave, but you’ll be witness of one of the most unknown stories of the Jewish and Christian bible, the Cursed Hill. More details in the tour!
Also the day 3 Jerusalem, we will visit several monasteries, which are normally not visited by the tours (except the expensive ones), like the Monastery of the Cross. This is an amazing monastery with beauty in and outside of the fortress-like building.
Jericho is an amazing place. The little town is the same as it was when the Canaan were living here (thousands of years ago) and there is not much changed (ten thousand years of history ‘frozen’ for you to see). Except there are truly treasures for the tourists, gems in diamond. Read the history of this amazing place where time stood still and is a taste what will come for this tour.
The Mount Temptation is also a special place. Not only it’s the place where Jesus could confront the Devil for 40 days, but it’s also the place of the Monasteries and the caves. It’s also the place of the many secrets and many surviving mystical stories about hermits, evil, spiritual battles and the lives of monks.
At day 4 we don’t forget the St. Theodosius Monastery. Saint Theodosius was a monk from Cappadocia, who was led by God to seek out a cave where the three Wise Men rested after paying homage to Infant Jesus after the angel had warned them to return to their country via another road. We will visit this beautiful monastery and of course we’ll see what’s inside and speak with the Monks, who’ll be waiting for us. We can drink their excellent homemade wine (and buy some for underway). The stories the Monks tell about Theodosius are worth hearing them and the guide will tell the rest of the stories when we leave the Monastery.
Herod’s tomb is said to be located there, even when the scholars are fighting between themselves like street cats, but what you see there in the tomb is still interesting. Also what King Herold did with the mountain (flatting and hollowing it) is also something you must see with your own eyes. The archeologists only uncovered some percentages of the what Herold did those times, it’s still beautiful and fascinating.
We will visit the Solomon’s Pools, Monastery of St. Elias and Mar Saba Monastery and then we go into Bethlehem and visit Bethlehem’s Manger Square, Church of the Nativity, Grotto of the Annunciation and the Milk Grotto.
Day 5 is the day, where we start with a visit to Neot Kedumim. It’s a special place, where you can see how everything looked during the biblical times. And I tell you now already, you need to relax there, because you’re going to need it.
Before we all going to taste the dust, we are going to visit an oasis with the name Ein Gedi National Park. It’s fantastic (take your swimwear with you!).
It’s a canyon full with springs, waterfalls, little ponds, beautiful nature and all between the mountains. For those who like to hike a little, there are many hike trails close to us, or leading further away to breathtaking views over the nearby Dead Sea and mountains. And if you ask the guide, you can also explore the water caves hidden at the sides of the nearby mountains, which are almost all being skipped by other normal tours.
And then we have of course Masada Mountain & Cable Car. For those too lazy (or you don’t want to hike up in the burning heath), there is a cable car, otherwise there is the snake path to go upstairs to Masada and let the guide tell about the battles of Masada in details. Read here an sample of those critical times.
The Dead Sea is as it is. It’s healthy for the skin and body, it’s fun to run around covered in mud, it’s very strange to dump in the sea and you can’t dive (you always drift, whatever you do) and don’t forget it’s hurtful when you have little scratches on your skin when you go into the sea. It’s also fun to do the activity ‘people watching’ on a lazy chair in the shade with something cold to drink. And we will make a small d-tour right before we leave the beaches of the Dead Sea and show you another little oasis and tell the story about this one (so more personal and interesting then the oasis of Ein Gedi). If you ask the guide sweetly, he will do his magic and will magic you the most amazing ice creams you have ever tasted. And home-made Arab lemonades. And of course the Bedouin coffee and sweets.
In the evening we have barbecue a la Bedouin! Lamb meat with millions of salads, sauces, other meat, fruit, breads, and who knows what’s more, but more then we all can eat in a month. And maybe the Bedouin will bring Wim’s favorite Fred the Camel (Fred the camel and Wim the guide have a whole ongoing history with each other. According Wim, Fred the camel is gay. We all think that Fred the camel thinks that Wim is too fat and heavy for his poor back).
Now the Bedouin coffee. That’s coffee you never have tasted before, I think. Bedouins like to drink thick, gritty coffee traditionally made from green beans crushed in a brass mortar and spiced with cardamom, and sometimes ginger root. Out in the desert the coffee is brewed with water boiled over a brush wood fire and poured from a long-beaked brass pot into porcelain thimble-size cups or small cups that look like egg cups.
The word barbecue is wrong when you use it in one sentence with Bedouin. Why? I show you images of what we can eat, depending on the Bedouin people we invite and your favorites and preferences (which we talk about before hand).
Men, women, children and infants in Bedouin tribes decorate their eyes with kohl as the ancient Egyptians did. Some Bedouin women have geometric facial tattoos and henna-stained patterns on their calloused hands. You will see them and women can speak with them (for males it’s forbidden to speak with Bedouin women). With water in short supply, Bedouins don’t take many baths. Before prayers they often wash with sand rather than scarce water. Bedouins wash their hair with powdered leaves of the sidr tree, a thorny fruit tree also know as Christ’s thorn because it believed to have been used to make Christ’s crown of thorns. The leaves are dried and pounded and mixed with water to make a lather.
And of course, with the evening fun in the desert (near our hotel though), there is the tradition of story telling. We let a Bedouin elder tell a story of his (or your) choice and the guide will translate it. It’s worth it. Many times the Bedouin is telling stories thousands of years old and millions of times retold by his ancestors.
And day 6 brings Nazareth. But Nazareth is not only the place, which is important for Christians, but it’s a place with a rich history and mystery! Yes, mysteries, because of the many times bloody history, the scars of the land and city are still visible and we will see them. But we will also visit the normal sights like Church of the Nativity, Basilica of the Annunciation, Grotto of the Annunciation, Church of St. Joseph’s Carpentry and Nazareth Village.
For the fun, we will visit the Nazareth market and for the mystique we will see and hear the stories of the first Christians and the prosecution of them in Greek Orthodox bishop’s house. And then we will visit – for those who wants – the cursed places, which are still haunted (for those who are sensible for it), where the souls of hundreds, maybe thousands of children are uneasily resting in caves under churches on the slopes of nearby hills.
In the evening we will visit the city again, but this time it’s the night tour of the city, which is so important for Christianity and the guide will tell about the history of the city, the interaction of the Muslims in the time that the Muslims were ruling these lands and the miracles happened near the Basilica of the Annunciation for Christians and Muslims alike.
Day 7 we will travel a lot and we will visit mountains, the Kfar Cana wedding church (for those who want to do their renewal of the wedding vows, you can do those here. At the beginning of the tour we are asking for those who want that and we will make arrangements for that). We will visit the Khurvat Minya, Mount of Beatitudes, St. Peter’s Primacy, Tabgha, Meshushim Pool in the Yehudiya Nature Reserve (hike), Mount Tabor, Mount Arbel National Park and Tiberias.
At the Meshushim Pool in the Yehudiya Nature Reserve, we will hike a bit (and for those who want to swim only, be our guest, one of our guides will stay there), the nature is more then impressive and it gives you a small idea how the rest of the nature reserves are in Israel. Tiberias is Tiberias and we will have a boat tour on the Sea of Galilee. Traditionally we let the guests make their selections here, because there are simply too many possibilities with the boat tours and Tiberias.
We can arrange speedboat racing, banana boats over the Sea of Galilee, a motor boat (small one with maximum 2-4 people), a Jesus Boat, a party boat, a floating restaurant for dinner on the lake, a simple, small row boat for the romantics under us or the group can rent the whole Jesus boat and we can do what we want on the Sea of Galilee.
One thing is important and that applies on all phases and moments of this tour. Nothing is boring, everything is interesting and even the Israeli natives will look at Israel with new eyes. That’s the reason why this is a gem tour. I really hate it when my guides get bored.
In the evening we will have the city tour through old Tiberias. For those who want or are interested, we can visit the ancient cemetery of Tiberias with some graves there more then a thousand years old, speaking of ancient. There are even graves from the Roman period! At the cemetery the guide knows more about the place then the local caretaker does.
This day is more conventional, except all of our guides are very knowledgeable and their stories will captivate anyone. Be also aware, the guide will start his stories while in the bus the moment you leave your hotel in Tiberias!
Caesarea from the Romans and Caesarea Aqueduct are very dusty and that means drinking. We all will taste the Arab home made lemonades (before you all go to the colas and fantas). And if you drink tea before we arrive at Caesarea from the Romans and Caesarea Aqueduct, you will find out that you can handle the heath much better.
At Muhraka, the guide will go into battle-story mode and will tell with his ‘visual tools (and a fantastic movie)’ about the battle between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. While telling this story, we will all witness the traces of that famous battle. It’s the story of fire that rained down from the sky, with brimstone and all. You can even see the Chair of Elijah! It’s a place important and holy for the Jewish, Christian, Druze and Muslim religions. And of course we will visit the Monastery (Horn of the Carmel, the monastery of the “place of burning”).
And of course we drink there too and not to forget the excellent Druze lunch.
After all that, and when we are a bit recovered from the drama and lunch, we arrive in Haifa and we will visit first Universal House of Justice (Bahai) and Bahai Gardens and Shrine. It’s simply too beautiful not to visit.
In the evening we have a shopping trip prepared for you. Haifa is a large city and there are so many things to see, it can’t be pressed in a tour for 10 days, you need at least 30 days before you can leave home and have seen only 5% of the city and environment.
And I’m not talking about the sights, but the markets, the neighborhoods, the museums, the galleries, the concerts, festivals, jazz, folk-dancing, theater, the harbor, the dancings, cafes and restaurants and thousands of other things to do in this harbor city.
Day 9 we will leave Haifa and drive to Acre. Acre is something special in Israel as a coast city. First read the crazy history of the ancient city Acre and then you know what I’m talking about. But in this old, ancient city, we only show you a few of those crazy things history gave.
The guide will tell you about the battles and the ghosts of the past, the tragedies happened here, but we will visit even more beautiful parks from the Bahai Center and Gardens in Acre.
After that, we will focus on the Christian sights with St. George Greek-Orthodox Church, and the Crusader’s Citadel and once secret Templars Tunnel (rediscovered literally in the garbage) and the Lighthouse of Acre with it’s greatly unknown, but interesting history and romantic drama.
At the end, we focus on the Muslim part of the city and visit the second largest Mosque in Israel, the El-Majadele Mosque. And we will have the time to visit the Turkey’s bath house. The evening we will spend time on the evening city tour with the Acre coffee (Wim the guide’s preference) and with its lovely cakes and of course the tour itself. We will have several choices for everyone as evening tour. You all can choose the Jewish tour, or the Christian tour, or the Muslim tour.
Tel Aviv we will reach at day 10, where we will show you this so called white city. First of all, whatever and whoever claims so, the city is not white. It’s only white when you fly over the city with the airplane, but for the rest it’s a place, which is bursting with activities and life, 24 hours long. At day the city is dynamic and you see the house wives, elderly, tourists and you people moving through this city, and everything changes in the evening.
In the evening many younger people are suddenly ‘popping’ up and visit and enjoy the large city entertainment in bars, cafes, restaurants, dancings, night clubs, beach parties, concerts, festivals and go on like this for a long time. In the night, the whole thing changes again. Especially the beaches are many people still awake and walk through and along the city at night. Many bars, restaurants and other entertainment is still open and works and it goes on till the morning, when the night people disappear and replaced by the morning folks. It’s amazing.
But Tel Aviv is of course for the normal tourist Jaffa, Jaffa Flea Market and the Tel Aviv – Jaffa Promenade. That’s really fun, because you must stir the guide to show the in- and out’s of the Jaffa Flea Market. And then we have Jaffa … this harbor city is very old and it shows. Even when many things are renovated, it was the place of Napoleon, the Greeks, the Egyptians, even the Germans and all the others who came and went. Ask the guide for his battle history for this place and he will tell and show you the most amazing places, not many tourists see. An example is the story about Napoleon and his armies conquering Jaffa and what went wrong that time!
Within Tel Aviv, we will visit the nice places like Nachlat Binyamin Arts & Crafts Fair, Rothschild Boulevard, Sheinkin Street, Neve Tsedek Neighborhood and Dizengoff Street. Oh I almost forgot. Shopping and more shopping here.
And finally, when there is still time, the Tel Aviv beaches. White beaches and near the evening or late afternoon, not busy (or overloaded full when it’s warm)!
In the evening we arrange a nice fish dinner at the Tel Aviv North Port. For those who want, we can arrange some fishing time on sea to catch your own fish. Also we can arrange that we all eat on the Sea instead of the restaurant, violin players included or not.
And that concludes the replacement of the normal Israel tour with the Israeli Gem tour. I personally think it’s worth it and the tour is truly fantastic.
The tour is designed to give you an overview, which goes much further then normal tours. The tour is proactive, interesting and deep. But, like most successful tours, it’s too short. You need at least a 30 day tour to cover 1% of Israel.