Category Archives: Israeli History

Archaeological 12 Day Tour

Tens of thousands of years of history comes alive: see for yourself the ancient civilizations and experience Israel through its rich archaeology. This tour is not clean! You get dirty!! You will visit the archaeological sights from the north to the south of the country. You will help digging in the dust and the mud, go trough water, rivers, pools, desert, stones, ruins … it’s amazing for those who are interested in the archaeology of Israel, see for yourself how people lived thousands, even tens of thousands of years ago.

Itinerary:
Day 1 – Arrival
Day 2 – Jerusalem: Views from Above and Below
Day 3 – Jerusalem: The Jewish Quarter and Museum Treasures
Day 4 – Jerusalem and environs: Monarchs, Matriarchs and Tombs
Day 5 – The Judean Wilderness and the Dead Sea
Day 6 – The Judean Lowlands: hands-on archaeology and the “tel” of Tel Aviv
Day 7 – From the Mediterranean Coast to Galilee
Day 8 – Around the Sea of Galilee
Day 9 – From Dan to the Golan
Day 10 – From the Negev to Eilat
Day 11 – Eilat, Timna Park and Northward
Day 12 – Departure

Places to see:

  • Day 2 – Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, Underground Jerusalem, Western Wall Tunnel, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, City of David, royal palace, Warren’s Shaft, the “water fortress” of the Gihon, Second Temple-era Pool of Siloam, 2,000-year-old street, Jerusalem Archaeological Park, Davidson Visitor Center, Roman destruction, Robinson’s Arch, the Southern Wall, steps to Hulda’s Gates, Davidson Center, Tower of David Museum
  • Day 3 – Jewish Quarter, Hezekiah’s Wall, The Cardo, Herodian Mansions, Burnt House, Israel Museum, Bible Lands Museum
  • Day 4 – Herodium, Rockefeller Museum, Gezer, Megiddo, Jericho, Jerusalem, Kidron Valley, tombs of Absalom, Zechariah, the Sons of Hezir, Hellenistic tomb architecture
  • Day 5 – Qumran National Park, Dead Sea Scrolls, Essenes, wealthy Sadducee manor farm, Massada National Park, Roman siege ramp, Ein Gedi National Park, Dead Sea
  • Day 6 – Beit Govrin National Park, Archaeological Seminars excavation of caves, Hellenistic dwellings, the Sidonian Cave, the Roman amphitheater; Tel Mareshah, Land of Israel Museum, Philistine Tel Kasila, White City
  • Day 7 – Caesarea National Park, Crusader city, Megiddo National Park, Beit She’arim National Park, Talmudic-era catacombs, Acre, Knights Halls, fishermen’s port, Turkish Bath Museum, bazaar and mosque
  • Day 8 – Beit She’an National Park, Decapolis, Bet Shean boasts, mosaics, temples, fountains, pools, a theater, an amphitheater, Tiberias, Hamat Tiberias National Park, Mount Berenice, Capernaum, Bethsaida, Korazim National Park, Moses Seat, a ritual bath
  • Day 9 – Dan Nature Reserve, Dan’s “Abraham Gate”, High Place of Jeroboam, Katzrin, Gamla Nature Reserve, Umm el-Qanatir
  • Day 10 – Be’er-Sheba National Park, Judean monarchy, Avdat National Park, Avdat’s Nabatean temple, The Uvda Valley, Nahal Asharun, Leopard Temple
  • Day 11 – Eilat, Shahmon Site Bronze Age tumuli and temple, Eilot eighth-century Early Islamic village and copper smelting site, Wadi Tawachin, Samar Neolithic desert kites, Dapit Nabatean, Roman caravansary, Evrona eighth-century chain well, Timna Park, Solomon’s Pillars, Late Roman Fortress at Yotvata, Makhtesh Ramon, Nabatean caravansary at Ein Saharonim, Scorpion Ascent, Great Makhtesh and Mamshit National Park

Day 1 Arrival

Airplane

Airplane

This is the day that you arrive in Israel. Well, it’s not the case for those who are already here or who are living in Israel.

For those who are arriving in Israel, will be picked up from the airport by the guide and driver from Shalom Israel.

Bus

Bus

For those, who ordered the hotels, they will be driven by bus to their hotel and for this tour it means Jerusalem.

During the drive to your hotel, the bus will stop multiple times if the group requires so. One stop is for stretching your legs and to be fed real food and drink. That is included in the tour! So, please don’t spend your money on that.


Day 2  – Jerusalem: Views from Above and Below

Places: Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, Underground Jerusalem, Western Wall Tunnel, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, City of David, royal palace, Warren’s Shaft, the “water fortress” of the Gihon, Second Temple-era Pool of Siloam, 2,000-year-old street, Jerusalem Archaeological Park, Davidson Visitor Center, Roman destruction, Robinson’s Arch, the Southern Wall, steps to Hulda’s Gates, Davidson Center, Tower of David Museum

This spiritually significant mountain is also the place for a bird’s-eye view of Jerusalem’s topography and for understanding how it grew through the ages.

Underground Jerusalem including:

The Western Wall Tunnel – the original Western Wall of Herod’s Temple Mount over which Jerusalem of later eras was constructed, walking along 1,445 feet of the original, enormous 2,000-year-old Herodian stones, seeing the lofty Warren’s Gate, a street and other finds, and a fascinating interactive model. You are still in the city and you don’t start digging or rolling in the mud … yet.Western Wall Tunnel

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre – most of the complex over the sacred ground marking the tomb of Jesus is a complicated combination of medieval and Byzantine architecture. The thing with this tour is that we browse somewhat through the church, but then we dive under the ground.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Tomb

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Tomb

Deep below the surface are remains going back to a First Temple-era stone quarry and the world-famous and rarely viewed “ship inscription,”  probably carved by long-ago pilgrims. All kind of stories are about this and the guide will tell them all.

You will visit the City of David – King David’s “fortress of Zion” (2. Sam. 5:7), looking at the ongoing excavations include a royal palace, the Warren’s Shaft, the “water fortress” of the Gihon (1 Kings 1:33), the Second Temple-era Pool of Siloam (John 9:7) and a 2,000-year-old street that once led up to the Temple. The stories what we can tell about all of those excavations!

City of David

We visit the Jerusalem Archaeological Park and the Davidson Visitor Center – a “still-life” of the original Herodian street (FYI), the revealing Roman destruction, the Robinson’s Arch, the Southern Wall and steps to Hulda’s Gates; and in the Davidson Center – in the basement of an eighth-century-CE palace – its virtual-reconstruction, high-definition interactive model.

Tower of David

We will not forget the Tower of David Museum – located at the Jaffa Gate inside the rooms of Jerusalem’s Turkish citadel, abutting the huge tower which despite its name was constructed by Jerusalem’s master-builder, Herod.  Each of the many rooms features exhibits devoted to a different time-period, clarifying the capital’s complex history.

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Jerusalem.


Day 3 – Jerusalem: The Jewish Quarter and Museum Treasures

Places: Jewish Quarter, Hezekiah’s Wall, The Cardo, Herodian Mansions, Burnt House, Israel Museum, Bible Lands Museum

Old City Jewish Quarter

The Jewish Quarter is amazing to visit. This part of the city Jerusalem has it’s own beauty and it’s root in the thousands of years of history. There is not much changed over the more then two thousands of years.
We will see the Hezekiah’s Wall – part of the First Temple-era city wall built over Jerusalem’s homes (Isa. 22:10) to protect the city against Assyrian invaders, and which finally fell to the Babylonians. You will hear the exciting story about the the Assyrian invaders.

The Cardo

The Cardo

The Cardo – Jerusalem’s main street in the Byzantine and medieval eras, its colonnades and arched chambers now restored as a commercial center and archaeological display.

The Herodian Mansions – restored as a living museum beneath contemporary buildings, with remnants of the fine homes, mosaics, implements of daily life and architecture of the city’s wealthy class before the destruction of the Temple.

The Burnt House – the basement of a Jerusalem home revealing dramatic evidence of the Katros family who probably lived and worked here, and of Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 CE. An audiovisual presentation offers a powerful version of the family’s story.

Burnt House

Burnt House

The Israel Museum – the museum’s Archaeology Wing displays rare and world-famous finds from pre-historic times to the Byzantine/Talmudic era; the Shrine of the Book, houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, the oldest copies of the Old Testament ever found and the famed 1:50 Model of Second Temple Jerusalem.

Bible Lands Museum – a unique collection of ancient treasures mirroring the powerful cultures of Bible days including the Egyptians, the Hittites, the Philistines the Assyrians and others who left their mark on the region and in Scripture.

Bible Lands Museum

Bible Lands Museum

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Jerusalem.


Day 4 – Jerusalem and environs: Monarchs, Matriarchs and Tombs

Places: Herodium, Rockefeller Museum, Gezer, Megiddo, Jericho, Jerusalem, Kidron Valley, tombs of Absalom, Zechariah, the Sons of Hezir, Hellenistic tomb architecture

Herodium

Herodium

We will visit the amazing Herodium. Herod the Great created this artificial mountain, which he topped with a palace-fortress. Archaeologists have also discovered, huge cisterns, a “playground” pool at the base of the mound, and hideouts for Bar Kokhba’s warriors and, recently the grand, long-sought tomb of the king himself. And we will visit them as well.

We can’t forget the Rockefeller Museum – an architectural monument in its own right, this grand 1930s-era complex houses finds from some of the great early excavations – Gezer, Megiddo, Jericho, Jerusalem and many others.

And then we have the Kidron Valley – Jerusalem’s famed Mount of Olives cemetery began here over 2,000 years ago, when the monumental tombs of Absalom, Zechariah and the Sons of Hezir were built, some of the finest examples of Hellenistic tomb architecture in the world.

Rockefeller

Rockefeller

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Jerusalem.


Day 5 – The Judean Wilderness and the Dead Sea

Places: Qumran National Park, Dead Sea Scrolls, Essenes, wealthy Sadducee manor farm, Massada National Park, Roman siege ramp, Ein Gedi National Park, Dead Sea

Qumran National Park

Qumran National Park

Now it’s going to get warm for everyone, because we are going into the desert. The first on our list is the Qumran National Park- the ruins on the plateau in sight of the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered are an enigma wrapped in a mystery – were they the home of the Essenes who wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls, a wealthy Sadducee manor farm. We will visit the caves where they found several of the Dead Sea scrolls. Be aware, it will be warm and dusty and we need good shoes for climbing.

Masada National Park

Masada National Park

We can’t skip the Masada National Park – Herod’s magnificent fortress, with its palaces, bathhouses and ramparts was also the scene of the last stand of the Jews against the Romans in the Great Revolt, attested to by a huge Roman siege ramp and other finds. The combination of its dramatic story and its fabulous architecture and finds has won it recognition as a World Heritage Site.

Caves of Ein Gedi

Caves of Ein Gedi

The Ein Gedi National Park – a walk through an oasis, and the remains of a thriving Talmudic town. Its synagogue mosaic bears a mysterious warning not to reveal “the secret”- perhaps the manufacturing process of perfume from the now-extinct balsam plant that once grew here. We will here be able to cool of our feet and get some much needed relaxation.

Dead Sea

Dead Sea

The Dead Sea – a rejuvenating rinse-off of the dust of the generations in the lowest, most mineral-rich lake on earth. For those who want to have a mud-bath, here is your change.

At the end of the day we go to our hotel near the Dead Sea.


Day 6 – The Judean Lowlands: hands-on archaeology and the “tel” of Tel Aviv

Places: Beit Govrin National Park, Archaeological Seminars excavation of caves, Hellenistic dwellings, the Sidonian Cave, the Roman amphitheater; Tel Mareshah, Land of Israel Museum, Philistine Tel Kasila, White City

Beit Govrin National Park

Beit Govrin National Park

Beit Govrin National Park including an Archaeological Seminars excavation of caves that once lay beneath Hellenistic dwellings; the Sidonian Cave, the Roman amphitheater; Tel Mareshah – a city fortified by King Rehoboam of Judah (2 Chron. 11:8) and more.

Tel Aviv –
Land of Israel Museum, with its exhibit of antiquities and contemporary traditional cultures, is itself located next to an ancient mound that is part of the experience – the Philistine Tel Kasila.

Header Tel Aviv

Header Tel Aviv

The White City – an evening tour of Tel Aviv’s early-20th century Bauhaus monuments that have earned recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We will make a small tour through this city, which claims never to sleep. We will see and witness if it is indeed true.

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Tel Aviv.


Day 7 – From the Mediterranean Coast to Galilee

Places: Caesarea National Park, Crusader city, Megiddo National Park, Beit She’arim National Park, Talmudic-era catacombs, Acre, Knights Halls, fishermen’s port, Turkish Bath Museum, bazaar and mosque

Caesarea in Israel

Caesarea in Israel

The Queen of the Coast, Caesarea National Park. It was Herod’s showcase city, including the amphitheater; the theater; Byzantine walls; the “bird mosaic”; the Crusader city, the aqueduct and more.

Tel Megiddo

Megiddo was a site of great importance in the ancient world. It guarded the western branch of a narrow pass and trade route connecting Egypt and Assyria. Because of its strategic location, Megiddo was the site of several historical battles. The site was inhabited from approximately 7000 BC to 586 BCE

Megiddo National Park – King Solomon’s regional capital (1 Kings 9:15), Megiddo’s fortifications, water system, palaces, stables and dwellings spanning thousands of years and its great biblical significance have made it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Beit She’arim National Park – Talmudic-era catacombs with huge, decorated stone sarcophagi, where sages and leaders from across the ancient world were laid to rest, are just part of the fascinating antiquities of this city, one of the places where the Sanhedrin had its headquarters.

Acre – this medieval gem on the Mediterranean retains a 900-year-old urban plan. The capital of the Crusaders after the fall of Jerusalem, Acre’s ramparts overlooking the sea, its Knights Halls, fishermen’s port, Turkish Bath Museum, bazaar and mosque over a gigantic medieval water cistern have all contributed to this city’s selection as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.Akko (Acre)

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Acre or Tiberias.


Day 8 – Around the Sea of Galilee

Places: Beit She’an National Park, Decapolis, Bet Shean boasts, mosaics, temples, fountains, pools, a theater, an amphitheater, Tiberias, Hamat Tiberias National Park, Mount Berenice, Capernaum, Bethsaida, Korazim National Park, Moses Seat, a ritual bath

Beit She'an National Park

Beit She’an National Park

Beit She’an National Park – the biblical mound containing remains of the city to which the Philistines brought the bodies of Saul and his three sons (1 Sam. 31:10), and capital of the Greco-Roman alliance of cities known as the Decapolis, Bet Shean boasts colonnaded streets, mosaics, temples, fountains, pools, a theater, an amphitheater and more.

Tiberias – The present-day capital of the Sea of Galilee, built by Herod Antipas and once the headquarters of the Sanhedrin, ancient Tiberias is now undergoing excavation that will one day reveal in all their glory its market streets, colonnades, theater and more treasures.

Hamat Tiberias National Park

Hamat Tiberias National Park

Visit the dig, as well as Hamat Tiberias National Park – the remains of a magnificent synagogue mosaic and Mount Berenice – the Anchor Church.

Capernaum – the first of the three cities of the “evangelical triangle” (including Bethsaida and Korazim) to return from historical oblivion, with Byzantine and Roman remains of a synagogue, a church and dwellings that raise many interesting questions and illustrate New Testament stories.

Bethsaida – excavations are underway of the Roman city that figured centrally in the ministry of Jesus, and of huge remains of the biblical city of Geshur, hometown of David’s wife Maacah (2 Sam. 3:3).

Korazim National Park – an early Talmudic-era synagogue that is interesting to compare to Capernaum’s, with the replica of its original Moses Seat, a ritual bath, dwellings and other elements that bring alive Talmudic descriptions of community life.

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Tiberias.


Day 9 – From Dan to the Golan

Places: Dan Nature Reserve, Dan’s “Abraham Gate”, High Place of Jeroboam, Katzrin, Gamla Nature Reserve, Umm el-Qanatir

Dan Nature Reserve

Dan Nature Reserve

Dan Nature Reserve – one of the finest examples of a biblical city and the capital of the Northern Kingdom, Dan’s “Abraham Gate” (Gen. 14:14) is the second-oldest arch in the world. Also visit the Israelite gateway and the High Place of Jeroboam in their tranquil Dan River setting.

Katzrin – a Talmudic-era Golan Heights village, Katzrin’s reconstructed house and synagogue create a three-dimensional perspective on ancient life.

Gamla Nature Reserve – called “the Massada of the north” because of Josephus’ description of its famous last stand, a hike leads to Gamla, which boasts remains of the earliest synagogue ever found, ramparts that held back the Romans, and olive presses that were the town’s livelihood.

Gamla Nature Reserve

Umm el-Qanatir – a Talmudic-era town with unusual synagogue remains and unique finds, this site is now undergoing excavation using cutting-edge techniques and technology.

Gamla Nature Reserve

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Tiberias or Haifa.


Day 10 – From the Negev to Eilat

Places: Be’er-Sheba National Park, Judean monarchy, Avdat National Park, Avdat’s Nabatean temple, The Uvda Valley, Nahal Asharun, Leopard Temple

Be'er-Sheba National Park

Be’er-Sheba National Park

Be’er-Sheba National Park – this city that Abraham founded (Gen. 21:31) marked the southern border of biblical Israel (1 Sam. 3:20). Beersheba also shows fascinating evidence of urban planning from the time of the Judean monarchy, a unique water system and other finds that, along with its biblical significance, have accorded Beersheba a place on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites?.

Avdat National Park – an important stop on the Incense Route, and a World Heritage Site, Avdat’s Nabatean temple, which was converted into a church, reveals a fabulous Negev panorama, while its wine-press reveals the inhabitants’ uncanny skill at cultivating the desert and ancient private dwellings and tombs complete the picture.

Ein Avdat

The Uvda Valley – containing over 150 prehistoric and early settlement sites, including the Nahal Asharun site and the Leopard Temple.

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Eilat.


Day 11 – Eilat, Timna Park and Northward

Places: Eilat, Shahmon Site Bronze Age tumuli and temple, Eilot eighth-century Early Islamic village and copper smelting site, Wadi Tawachin, Samar Neolithic desert kites, Dapit Nabatean, Roman caravansary, Evrona eighth-century chain well, Timna Park, Solomon’s Pillars, Late Roman Fortress at Yotvata, Makhtesh Ramon, Nabatean caravansary at Ein Saharonim, Scorpion Ascent, Great Makhtesh and Mamshit National Park

Eilat

Eilat

Eilat – best known for its contemporary attractions as Israel’s Red Sea Riviera,  Eilat and its environs also boast a selection of off-the-beaten track archaeological sites, among them: the Shahmon Site Bronze Age tumuli and temple; the Eilot eighth-century Early Islamic village and copper smelting site; the Wadi Tawachin grinding site (possibly for gold); the Samar Neolithic desert kites (ancient gazelle-hunting traps); the Dapit Nabatean and Roman caravansary; the Evrona eighth-century chain well and farmhouse and more.

Timna National Park

Timna Park – a geological and archaeological wonderland including an ancient copper-mine shaft; Solomon’s Pillars – a natural formation featuring a carving of the goddess Hathor and Hathor’s shrine; the chariot carving and the multimedia presentation “The Mines of Time” and even an artificial lake.

Timna National Park

We head north on road 90 via the Late Roman Fortress at Yotvata, and then via road 13 to Makhtesh Ramon, seeing Roman milestones and the Nabatean caravansary at Ein Saharonim, or via the dramatic

Scorpion Ascent

Scorpion Ascent

Scorpion Ascent (on road 227) following an ancient Roman route across the Negev to the Great Makhtesh and Mamshit National Park, a well-preserved Nabatean city along the UNESCO World Heritage List Incense Route, including a market, a bathhouse, early churches, mosaics and more.

At the end of the day we go to our hotel in Eilat.


Day 12 – Departure

This is the day of the departure. We bring everyone back to the point where we picked them up.

Culture and History, 12 Days Tour

Ottoman surrender of Jerusalem

This is not a conventional tourist tour, it’s almost a fact finding tour. You will dive into the hundreds of thousands of years of history about the country of Israel. We will not only see the origins of the three or four major religions in Israel, but far before that. We will see the birth of many civilizations and how they are still alive in some form. Not only the history, but also the cultures of the past and the current day. This is the way how to understand such complex country as Israel. You will learn, see, hear, feel and taste more then you can ever learn at any school for many years … and that all in such a short time.

This tour is for anyone (except children and only adults), but also for students, teachers, professions, historians, politicians (maybe they learn something), etc.


Day 1 – Arrival
Day 2 – Tel Aviv, Jaffa
Day 3 – Be’er Sheva, Negev
Day 4 – Negev, Dead Sea, Masada
Day 5 – Jerusalem Old City
Day 6 – Jerusalem Old City
Day 7 – Jerusalem New City
Day 8 – Sea of Galilee
Day 9 – Golan Heights
Day 10 – Golan Heights
Day 11 – Acre, Haifa
Day 12 – Departure

What do you see?

  • Day 2 – Start with Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Galleries, Neve Tsedek, Rothschild Blvd, Nahalat Binyamin, Tel Aviv Museum of Art
  • Day 3 – Be’er Sheva, Negev, Judean monarchy, Sde Boker, Tsin Valley, Avdat, Mitspe Ramon, Makhtesh, Ramon Crater Visitor Center
  • Day 4 – Ramon Crater, jeep tour, Saharonim Fort, Dead Sea, Masada
  • Day 5 – Jerusalem, Tower of David Museum, Jewish Quarter, Broad Wall, the Herodian Mansions, Cardo, City of David, Hezekiah’s Tunnel
  • Day 6 – Temple Mount, Dome of the Rock, Al-Aqsa Mosque, Western Wall, Southern Wall Excavations, Davidson Center, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, tomb of Jesus, Russian Orthodox Church, Ethiopian courtyard, Old City markets.
  • Day 7 – Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Children’s Memorial, Hall of Remembrance, Knesset, Supreme Court building, Israel Museum, Dead Sea Scrolls, Shrine of the Book, Second Temple Model
  • Day 8 – Iron Valley, Tel Megiddo, walls of Solomon, Armageddon, Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Tabha, Mount of the Beatitudes
  • Day 9 – Golan Heights, Gamla, Katsrin, Talmudic Village, Golan Antiquities Museum, Druze villages of Buq’ata and Mas’ade, pool of Birket Ram, Druze shrine of Nebi Yafouri, Jordan River, Hula Valley.
  • Day 10 – Hula Valley Nature Reserve, Oforia, Tel Hazor, Safed
  • Day 11 – Rosh Hanikra, Acre, Knights Halls, Al-Jazaar Mosque, Haifa, Bahai Gardens

Day 1 – Arrival

Welcome to Israel from the Ben Gurion Airport

This is the day that you arrive in Israel. Well, it’s not the case for those who are already here or who are living in Israel.

For those who are arriving in Israel, will be picked up from the airport by the guide and driver from Shalom Israel. And here it becomes complicated.

  • For those, who ordered the hotels, they will be driven by bus to their hotel and for this tour it means Tel Aviv.

During the drive to your hotel, the bus will stop multiple times if the group requires so. One stop is for stretching your legs and to be fed real food and drink. That is included in the tour! So, please don’t spend your money on that.

Day 2 – Tel Aviv, Jaffa

Places: Start with Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Galleries, Neve Tsedek, Rothschild Blvd, Nahalat Binyamin, Tel Aviv Museum of ArtTel Aviv

Tel Aviv in 1909
Tel Aviv in 1909

Tel Aviv was founded on April 11, 1909. On that day, several dozen families gathered on the sand dunes on the beach outside Yafo to allocate plots of land for a new neighborhood they called Ahuzat Bayit, later known as Tel Aviv. As the families could not decide how to allocate the land, they held a lottery to ensure a fair division. Akiva Arieh Weiss, chairman of the lottery committee and one of the prominent figures in the city’s founding, gathered 66 grey seashells and 66 white seashells. Weiss wrote the names of the participants on the white shells and the plot numbers on the grey shells. He paired a white and grey shell, assigning each family a plot, and thus Tel Aviv’s founding families began building the first modern, Hebrew city.

We start the tour with Tel Aviv-Jaffa:

Jaffa

We will wander through the lanes of ancient Jaffa and enjoy the galleries, the underground archaeological display and the picturesque fishing port.

Neve Tsedek Neighborhood

Proceed to Neve Tsedek, the first Jewish neighborhood outside ancient Jaffa. Neve Tsedek is the home of the Suzanne Dellal Centre for Dance and Theatre, the world-famous Bat Sheva Dance Company and a number of restored homes and shops with interesting architecture. Among these is the museum dedicated to the works of the early Tel Aviv artist who captured its spirit in the early days, Nahum Gutman.

Speaking of architecture, in July 2003, UNESCO proclaimed the cluster of homes and public buildings of Tel Aviv’s founding days as a World Heritage Site. A stroll through the main area of these monuments, known as the “White City,” along Rothschild Blvd. and its side streets is a wonderful opportunity to savor life in the first Hebrew city, past and present.Nahalat Binyamin

Nahalat BinyaminOn Tuesdays and Fridays, see the Nahalat Binyamin pedestrian mall come alive with stalls selling handicrafts of every type. Proceed to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and visit the Israeli Art section for a taste of Israel’s finest art from the past 100 years.

Enjoy the nightlife of a city that never sleeps.

  • For those, who ordered the hotels, they will be driven by bus to their hotel in Tel Aviv.

Day 3 – Be’er Sheva, Negev

Places: Be’er Sheva, Negev, Judean monarchy, Sde Boker, Tsin Valley, Avdat, Mitspe Ramon, Makhtesh, Ramon Crater Visitor Center

Be’er Sheva
Be’er Sheva

The capital of the Negev, the Old City, the university, the Turkish railway station, and the Bedouin market represent only a part of the colorful mosaic offered by the city of Be’er Sheva, a city full of life and proud of itself, as you will be told by any of its 185,000 inhabitants.

Be’er Sheba, spelt Beersheba in most English translations of the Bible, is a major crossroads whose potential was felt by Abraham, father of the Jewish and Muslim people, who arrived here 3,700 years ago. He dug a well to water his flock, made a covenant of peace with Abimelech, the king of Gerar in those days, and the two swore allegiance to one another.

Abimelech
Abimelech

“Therefore he called that place Beersheba, because there the two of them took an oath” (Genesis 21, Verse 21). To symbolize his ownership of the well, he planted a tamarisk tree. Thus the city of Be’er Sheba struck roots at that place and at that time. Abraham’s descendants continued to live here, in a place that was the cradle of monotheism.

Drive south to Tel Be’er Sheva, another of the many UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites on this itinerary. This ancient town, overlooking the modern capital of the Negev that has retained the ancient name, functioned as the administrative center for the Judean monarchy during the Iron Age, beginning some 2,800 years ago. Among the most impressive finds here are the corner stones of an altar and a large-scale water project that served the city during both war and peace.

Continue south to Sde Boker, a kibbutz in the central Negev and the home of Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion. Visit Ben-Gurion’s modest home and the nearby exhibition portraying his life and his vision for this region, and stop at his tomb, overlooking the magnificent Tsin Valley.

Sde Boker

Proceed to Avdat, once a central city on the Nabatean trade route (known as the Incense Route) connecting Petra and the port of Gaza.

Further south, at Mitspe Ramon, you’ll find a small desert town built on the edge of a fascinating geological formation known as a makhtesh, or crater. Stop at the Ramon Crater Visitor Center to understand how this unique water-erosion formation, found only in Israel, came into being, and learn more about the region’s nature and wildlife, as well as the peoples who called it home in centuries past.

  • Everyone will be driven by bus to their hotel in Mitspe Ramon or Be’er Sheva.

Day 4 – Negev, Dead Sea, Masada

Places: Ramon Crater, jeep tour, Saharonim Fort, Dead Sea, Masada

Map of Negev

The Negev, which extends over Israel’s southern region, accounts for over half of Israel’s land area. Due to its desert character, however, this region is sparsely populated.

Even so, the Negev has seen its share of history. Abraham built his home in Be’er Sheva, the Nabateans passed through here on caravans of camels laden with precious trade goods. For these and other reasons, the Negev has become one of Israel’s popular tourism sites.

Various peoples have lived in the Negev since the dawn of history: nomads, Canaanites, Philistines, Edomites, Byzantines, Nabateans, Ottomans and of course Israelis. Their economy was based mainly on sheep herding and agriculture, and later also on trade.

Saharonim Fort
Saharonim Fort

Get an early morning start with a hike in the Ramon Crater or a pre-arranged jeep tour, which you can book through the Visitors Center or area hotels. Stop at the Saharonim Fort, once a caravan on the Incense Route.

Dead Sea

Drive northeast to the Dead Sea, to explore Masada, scene of epic stand by Jewish rebels at the end of the great revolt against Rome nearly 2,000 years ago. The new museum at the visitors’ center reveals the secrets of the daily lives of the rebels, tells the story of the excavations, and shows why the site became one of Israel’s most important symbols.

Palace-fortress at Masada

Finish the day with a dip in the saltiest, lowest body of water in the world, enjoy a health treatment and spend the night at one of the fine hotels along the shores of the Dead Sea.

  • Everyone will be driven by bus to their hotel in Dead Sea.

Day 5 – Jerusalem Old City

Places: Jerusalem, Tower of David Museum, Jewish Quarter, Broad Wall, the Herodian Mansions, Cardo, City of David, Hezekiah’s Tunnel

Travel to the Old City of Jerusalem:

Old City Jerusalem
Old City Jerusalem

During its long history, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, and captured and recaptured 44 times. The oldest part of the city was settled in the 4th millennium BCE, making Jerusalem one of the oldest cities in the world.

Given the city’s central position in both Israeli nationalism and Palestinian nationalism, the selectivity required to summarize more than 5,000 years of inhabited history is often influenced by ideological bias or background. For example, the Jewish periods of the city’s history are important to Israeli nationalists, whose discourse states that modern Jews descend from the Israelites and Maccabees, while the Islamic periods of the city’s history are important to Palestinian nationalists, whose discourse suggests that modern Palestinians descend from all the different peoples who have lived in the region. As a result, both sides claim the history of the city has been politicized by the other in order to strengthen their relative claims to the city, and that this is borne out by the different focuses the different writers place on the various events and eras in the city’s history.

Start out with an overview, literal and figurative, of the Holy City, Israel’s capital, as you explore the Tower of David Museum, showcasing the history of Jerusalem from its beginning to modern times.

Old City Jewish Quarter

Continue to the Jewish Quarter which was home to European and Sephardic Jews during the centuries under Ottoman rule, and visit the 2,700-year-old Broad Wall, the Herodian Mansions and the Cardo.

Finish the day at the City of David, including Warren’s Shaft, the new Visitors Center and Hezekiah’s Tunnel, through which water has flowed since the days of King Hezekiah some 2,700 years ago.

  • For those, who ordered the hotels, they will be driven by bus to their hotel in Jerusalem.

Day 6 – Jerusalem Old City

Places: Temple Mount, Dome of the Rock, Al-Aqsa Mosque, Western Wall, Southern Wall Excavations, Davidson Center, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, tomb of Jesus, Russian Orthodox Church, Ethiopian courtyard, Old City markets.

The Old City is a 0.9 square kilometers (0.35 sq mi) walled area within the modern city of Jerusalem. Until 1860, when the Jewish neighborhood Mishkenot Sha’ananim was established, this area constituted the entire city of Jerusalem. The Old City is home to several sites of key religious importance: the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque for Muslims, the Temple Mount and Western Wall for Jews and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for Christians, It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site List in 1981.

Traditionally, the Old City has been divided into four uneven quarters, although the current designations were introduced only in the 19th century. Today, the Old City is roughly divided (going counterclockwise from the northeastern corner) into the Muslim Quarter, Christian Quarter, Armenian Quarter and Jewish Quarter. The Old City’s monumental defensive walls and city gates were built in the years 1535-1542 by the Turkish sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. The current population of the Old City resides mostly in the Muslim and Christian quarters. As of 2007 the total population was 36,965; the breakdown of religious groups in 2006 was 27,500 Muslims (up from ca. 17,000 in 1967, with over 30,000 by 2013, tendency: growing); 5,681 Christians (ca. 6,000 in 1967), not including the 790 Armenians (down to ca. 500 by 2011, tendency: decreasing); and 3,089 Jews (starting with none in 1967, as they were evicted after the Old City was captured by Jordan following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, with almost 3,000 plus some 1,500 yeshiva students by 2013, tendency: growing).

Temple Mount

Start out with a visit to the Temple Mount, site of the sacrifice 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, walking on the original two thousand-year old street and climbing the ancient steps. At the Davidson Center, in the basement of an eighth-century CE palace, make arrangements to see the virtual-reconstruction, high-definition interactive model.

Church Of The Holy Sepulchre Jerusalem

Next, explore the venerable 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. Explore some of the other interesting churches in the Old City, including the Russian Orthodox Church with its basement ruins, and the tranquil Ethiopian courtyard and humble chapel.

Mahane Yehuda Market

Wander through the Old City markets, steeping yourself in its sights, sounds and aromas, and try your hand at hunting and bargaining for treasures.

  • For those, who ordered the hotels, they will be driven by bus to their hotel in Jerusalem.

Day 7 – Jerusalem New City

Places: Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Children’s Memorial, Hall of Remembrance, Knesset, Supreme Court building, Israel Museum, Dead Sea Scrolls, Shrine of the Book, Second Temple Model

Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum

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.

Israeli Parliament Building

Drive through the New City viewing old and new neighborhoods, the Knesset (The Israeli Parliament, open for visits on Sundays and Thursdays) and the beautifully designed Supreme Court building.

Dead Sea scrolls, the secret one

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 Second Temple Model of Jerusalem.

Finish the day with optional evening tours that explore the development of Jerusalem from the 19th century on. (Must be pre-arranged; can be booked through the concierge at your hotel.)

  • For those, who ordered the hotels, they will be driven by bus to their hotel in Jerusalem.

Day 8 – Sea of Galilee

Places: Iron Valley, Tel Megiddo, walls of Solomon, Armageddon, Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Tabha, Mount of the Beatitudes

Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee, also Kinneret, Lake of Gennesaret, or Lake Tiberias , is the largest freshwater lake in Israel, and it is approximately 53 km (33 mi) in circumference, about 21 km (13 mi) long, and 13 km (8.1 mi) wide. The lake has a total area of 166.7 km2 (64.4 sq mi) at its fullest, and a maximum depth of approximately 43 m (141 feet). At levels between 215 metres (705 ft) and 209 metres (686 ft) below sea level, it is the lowest freshwater lake on Earth and the second-lowest lake overall (after the Dead Sea, a saltwater lake). The lake is fed partly by underground springs although its main source is the Jordan River which flows through it from north to south.

In 1989 remains of a hunter-gatherer site were found under the water at the southern end. Remains of mud huts were found which are the oldest known buildings in the world.

Via Maris
Via Maris

The Sea of Galilee lies on the ancient Via Maris, which linked Egypt with the northern empires. The Greeks, Hasmoneans, and Romans founded flourishing towns and settlements on the land-locked lake including Gadara, Hippos and Tiberias. The first-century historian Flavius Josephus was so impressed by the area that he wrote, “One may call this place the ambition of Nature.” Josephus also reported a thriving fishing industry at this time, with 230 boats regularly working in the lake. Archaeologists discovered one such boat, nicknamed the Jesus Boat, in 1986.

Much of the ministry of Jesus occurred on the shores of Lake Galilee. In those days, there was a continuous ribbon development of settlements and villages around the lake and plenty of trade and ferrying by boat. The Synoptic gospels of Mark (1:14–20), Matthew (4:18–22), and Luke (5:1–11) describe how Jesus recruited four of his apostles from the shores of Lake Galilee: the fishermen Simon and his brother Andrew and the brothers John and James. One of Jesus’ famous teaching episodes, the Sermon on the Mount, is supposed to have been given on a hill overlooking the lake. Many of his miracles are also said to have occurred here including his walking on water, calming the storm, the disciples and the boatload of fish, and his feeding five thousand people (in Tabgha).

Arthur_Szyk 1894-1951 - Bar Kochba 1927 Paris
Arthur_Szyk 1894-1951 – Bar Kochba 1927 Paris

In 135 CE Bar Kokhba’s revolt was put down. The Romans responded by banning all Jews from Jerusalem. The center of Jewish culture and learning shifted to the region of the Galilee and the Kinneret, particularly the city of Tiberias. It was in this region that the so-called “Jerusalem Talmud” was compiled.

Old city Tiberias

Leaving Jerusalem, drive along the coast and cut through the historic Iron Valley to Tel Megiddo.

Tel Megiddo
Tel Megiddo

Home to a palace and walls of Solomon, a complex water system built by King Ahab, scene of Armageddon and believed to be the backdrop for James A. Michener’s novel “The Source,” Megiddo is one of Israel’s most important and impressive archaeological sites, also a World Heritage Site.

Capernaum at the time of Jesus. Art by Balage Balogh
Capernaum at the time of Jesus. Art by Balage Balogh

Continue to the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee and visit the Galilee’s cradle of Christianity – Capernaum, Simon Peter’s home town, Tabha, commemorating the miracle of the Fishes and Loaves, and the Mount of the Beatitudes, the scene of the Sermon on the Mount.

Tabha

Consider the option of a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee this evening.

  • For those, who ordered the hotels, they will be driven by bus to their hotel in Tiberias.

Day 9 – Golan Heights

Places: Golan Heights, Gamla, Katsrin, Talmudic Village, Golan Antiquities Museum, Druze villages of Buq’ata and Mas’ade, pool of Birket Ram, Druze shrine of Nebi Yafouri, Jordan River, Hula Valley.

Map of the Golan

The Golan Heights or simply the Golan or the Syrian Golan, is a region in the Levant.

The exact region defined as the Golan Heights is different in different disciplines:

  • As a geological and biogeographical region, the Golan Heights is a basaltic plateau bordered by the Yarmouk River in the south, the Sea of Galilee and Hula Valley in the west, Mount Hermon in the north, and the Raqqad Wadi in the east. The western two-thirds of this region are currently occupied by Israel, whereas the eastern third is controlled by Syria.
  • As a geopolitical region, the Golan Heights is the area captured from Syria and occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War, territory which Israel effectively annexed in 1981. This region includes the western two-thirds of the geological Golan Heights, as well as the Israeli-occupied part of Mount Hermon.

The earliest evidence of human habitation dates to the Upper Paleolithic period. According to the Bible, an Amorite Kingdom in Bashan was conquered by Israelites during the reign of King Og. Throughout the Old Testament period, the Golan was “the focus of a power struggle between the Kings of Israel and the Aramaeans who were based near modern-day Damascus.” The Itureans, an Arab or Aramaic people, settled there in the 2nd century BCE and remained until the end of the Byzantine period. Organized Jewish settlement in the region came to an end in 636 CE when it was conquered by Arabs under Umar ibn al-Khattāb. In the 16th century, the Golan was conquered by the Ottoman Empire and was part of the Vilayet of Damascus until it was transferred to French control in 1918. When the mandate terminated in 1946, it became part of the newly independent Syrian Arab Republic.

Internationally recognized as Syrian territory, the Golan Heights has been occupied and administered by Israel since 1967. It was captured during the 1967 Six-Day War, establishing the Purple Line.

On 19 June 1967, the Israeli cabinet voted to return the Golan to Syria in exchange for a peace agreement, although this was rejected after the Khartoum Resolution of September 1, 1967. In the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel agreed to return about 5% of the territory to Syrian civilian control. This part was incorporated into a demilitarized zone that runs along the ceasefire line and extends eastward. This strip is under the military control of UNDOF.

Gamla Nature Reserve

Ascend the Golan Heights and stop for an overview of Gamla, a Jewish stronghold nearly 2,000 years ago, and also a bird sanctuary where Griffon’s vultures soar overhead.

Ancient Katzrin Park

Proceed to Katzrin, the central town of the Golan, and visit its Talmudic Village, featuring a restored home and synagogue. Then meet the locals over a falafel or pizza at the commercial center at Katzrin, where you can also visit the Golan Antiquities Museum, displaying the impressive archaeological finds discovered through the region.

Buq’ata
Buq’ata

Drive to the northern Golan through the Druze villages of Buq’ata and Mas’ade, stop at the lovely pool of Birket Ram and visit the fascinating Druze shrine of Nebi Yafouri, nestled among apple orchards.

Birket Ram

Descend from the Golan along the tributaries of the Jordan River and settle down for the night in one of Israel’s most beautiful regions – the Hula Valley.

Hula Valley
Hula Valley
  • For those, who ordered the hotels, they will be driven by bus to their hotel in Tiberias.

Day 10 – Golan Heights

Places: Hula Valley Nature Reserve, Oforia, Tel Hazor, Safed

Start the day with a visit to the Hula Valley Nature Reserve. The reserve has lovely walking trails, including a “floating bridge” over the wetland, and special lookout points where visitors can observe the avian wildlife.

In the spring of 1994 another stage in the campaign to restore natural balance in the Hula Valley was completed: the re-flooding of 250 acres now known as Lake Agmon, located approximately two kilometers north of the Hula Nature Reserve. Visitors can visit the re-flooded area to appreciate nature’s powers.

While at the Hula Valley Nature reserve don’t forget to stop at Oforia, a fun multimedia display that tells the story of the migratory route across the region and the millions of birds that use it.

Tel Hazor National Park

Continue to Tel Hazor. One of the principal cities on the Fertile Crescent, Hazor engaged in trade with cities in Babylon and Syria. The Bible refers to Hazor as “the head of all those kingdoms” (Joshua 11:10). As you explore the ruins, including the beautifully restored palace, the water system and other gems, you’ll understand why Tel Hazor, too, has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Safed inn

Proceed to 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, the traditional author of the seminal mystic work, the Zohar. Stroll along the lanes of the Old City and see its many synagogues, as well as its unique artist’s colony.

  • For those, who ordered the hotels, they will be driven by bus to their hotel in Tiberias.

Day 11 – Acre, Haifa

Places: Rosh Hanikra, Acre, Knights Halls, Al-Jazaar Mosque, Haifa, Bahai Gardens

Acre or Akko or Acco

Acre is a city in the northern coastal plain region of northern Israel at the northern extremity of Haifa Bay. The city occupies an important location, as it sits on the coast of the Mediterranean, traditionally linking the waterways and commercial activity with the Levant. Acre is one of the oldest sites in the world.

Sack of Acre

Historically, it was a strategic coastal link to the Levant. In crusader times it was known as St. John d’Acre after the Knights Hospitaller of St John order who had their headquarters there. Acre is the holiest city of the Bahá’í Faith, and as such gets many Baha’i pilgrims. In 2011, the population was 46,464. Acre is a mixed city, that includes Jews, Muslims, Christians and Baha’is. The mayor is Shimon Lankri, who was re-elected in 2011.

Acre is one of the oldest continuously inhabited sites in the region. The name Aak, which appears on the tribute-lists of Thutmose III (c. 15th century BC), may be a reference to Acre. The Amarna letters also mention a place named Akka, as well as the Execration texts, that pre-date them. First settlement at the site of Ancient Acre appears to have been in the Early Bronze Age, or about 3000 BC. In the Hebrew Bible, (Judges 1:31), Akko is one of the places from which the Israelites did not drive out the Canaanites. It is later described in the territory of the tribe of Asher and according to Josephus, was ruled by one of Solomon’s provincial governors. Throughout Israelite rule, it was politically and culturally affiliated with Phoenicia. Around 725 BC, Akko joined Sidon and Tyre in a revolt against Shalmaneser V.

Rosh Hanikra Grottoes

Start the day by driving along Israel’s northern road all the way to Rosh Hanikra on the Mediterranean. Here the rocky cliffs descend steeply into the sea, allowing the waves to carve grottos of a thousand shapes. Take the cable car down to the grottos for a short stroll through the rocky passageways.

Drive south to Acre, a historic walled port-city with continuous settlement beginning in the Phoenician period. The remains of the Crusader town, dating from 1104 to 1291, lie almost intact both above and below today’s street level. The remains provide an exceptional picture of the layout and structures of the capital of the medieval Crusader kingdom, along with touches of the Ottoman period during the 18th and 19th centuries, when Acre was a fortified market town.

Hospitaller Fortress also known as the Citadel of Acre
Hospitaller Fortress also known as the Citadel of Acre

Explore the Knights Halls, the Al-Jazaar Mosque, the bathhouse with its multi-media display, and the new ethnic museum, built right into the rooms of the old wall.

Louis Promenade, Haifa

Haifa is the largest city in northern Israel, and the third largest city in the country, with a population of over 277,082. Another 300,000 people live in towns directly adjacent to the city including Daliyat al-Karmel, the Krayot, Nesher, Tirat Carmel, and some Kibbuzim. Together these areas form a contiguous urban area home to nearly 600,000 residents which makes up the inner core of the Haifa metropolitan area. It is also home to the Bahá’í World Centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and destination for Baha’i pilgrims.

Mount Carmel Lookout Point

Built on the slopes of Mount Carmel, the history of settlement at the site spans more than 3,000 years. The earliest known settlement in the vicinity was Tell Abu Hawam, a small port city established in the Late Bronze Age (14th century BCE). In the 3rd century CE, Haifa was known as a dye-making center. Over the centuries, the city has changed hands: It has been conquered and ruled by the Phoenicians, Persians, Hasmoneans, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Crusaders, Ottomans, British, and the Israelis. Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the city has been governed by the Haifa Municipality.

Haifa bay

Continue to the modern port city of Haifa; visit the picturesque restored Templer Colony and the gorgeous terraced Bahai Gardens, and enjoy the view from the top of Mount Carmel.

  • For those, who ordered the hotels, they will be driven by bus to their hotel in Haifa.

Day 12 – Departure

This is the day of the departure. We bring everyone back to the point where we picked them up.

Lebanese Clotted Cream with Dulche de Leche & Caramelized Bananas

Many people in the Middle East, who grew up on a farm made their own clotted cream, but for those who not, they can buy it in the supermarket. This creamy treat, loosely based on a popular dessert known as layali Lubnan (or Lebanese nights), uses a version made by adding cornflour/cornstarch, which is easier to prepare.lebanese-clotted-cream-with-dulche-de-leche-caramelized-bananas-5


This is a very tasty recipe and fast to make (about 5 minutes preparation and a hour cooking time.


  • 300ml/10½fl oz/1¼ cups sweetened condensed milk
  • 1–2 pinches sea salt flakes, plus extra to serve
  • 15g/½oz/1 tbsp butter
  • 3 bananas, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp dark rum or pineapple juice
  • 2 quantities Lebanese Clotted Cream

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 220˚C/425˚F/Gas 7.
  2. To make the dulche de leche, pour the sweetened condensed milk into a shallow baking dish and sprinkle over a pinch of the salt flakes. Stir well.

    Dulche de Leche
    Dulche de Leche
  3. Cover the baking dish with foil and place it in a deep roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into the tin so that it reaches halfway up the sides of the dish, creating a bain marie.
  4. Place the bain marie and baking dish in the oven and bake for about 1 hour or until the mixture has browned and caramelized, checking on the mixture occasionally to make sure it isn’t burning and adding more hot water as necessary to keep the correct level. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  5. Melt the butter in a heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat and add the bananas and rum.

    Caramelized Bananas
    Caramelized Bananas
  6. Flambé the ingredients for a few seconds, if you like, or bubble for 1–2 minutes until the alcohol has reduced a little. Remove the pan from the heat and toss to combine so that the banana slices are covered with the buttery juices.
  7. If the dulce de leche has been resting in the refrigerator or has cooled, warm it gently by resting the bowl over a little hot water and stirring until it has returned to a thick pouring consistency.

    Caramelized Bananas
    Caramelized Bananas
  8. Divide the clotted cream among four bowls, add a drizzle of the dulce de leche and then top with some of the caramelized banana slices.

    Lebanese Clotted Cream
    Lebanese Clotted Cream
  9. Sprinkle with some more sea salt, if you like, and serve.

 

Ramallah and Al-Bireh

ramallah-10Ramallah (the name means God’s Mountain) and Al-Bireh (map) were once separate villages, but now make up one urban conglomerate, a mere 10km north of Jerusalem. Though Al-Bireh’s history can be traced back to the Canaanites, Ramallah was only settled by Christians in the 1500s, and these days is a bustling, cosmopolitan city, with a thriving art scene and vibrant nightlife. Map.

Map of Ramallah
Map of Ramallah

Ramallah may lack the religious fervor of Nablus, Hebron or, indeed, Jerusalem, but the Palestinian flags and graffiti that adorn every wall leave you in no doubt about where you are. While Israeli incursions into the city are unusual (although not unheard of), Ramallah has suffered greatly over the past few decades: much of the city was leveled during the Second Intifada, and it was here that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat spent the last weeks of his life, under siege.

ramallah-3But Ramallah is not all about politics. The tiny shops, cafes and eateries that line the arteries that lead off Al-Manara Sq – with its iconic four lions – are fascinating places to wander around, and the nearby Al-Muntazah neighborhood is packed with trendy cafes and bars. As the economic and political heart of the West Bank, Ramallah is home to a good deal of expatriates, English is widely spoken and transport links are superb. As such, it makes an excellent base for further forays  into the West Bank.

ramallah-8Most tourists begin their exploration of Ramallah in Al-Manara Sq, which is a short walk downhill from the bus station where buses arrive from Jerusalem. The streets that branch off Al-Manara lead to the city’s other neighborhoods. Al-Ra’eesy St (also known as Main St) and Palestine St (directly opposite) lead to the Old City and the entrance to the street market respectively, and are packed with coffee shops and kebab houses.

ramallah-4To reach the Al-Muntazah neighborhood, head down the Jaffa Rd; take a right at  the HSBC bank and head up Eisah Zeyada St, which has a host of chic cafes, bars and dining destinations. Set on a steep hill, Ramallah can be a disorientating and tiring place to get lost but locals can generally point you in the right direction. Taxis are also relatively cheap; a journey within the city should cost no more than 10NIS.

Muqata’a (Al-Itha’a St; tomb 9am-9pm daily)
Those interested in modern history might want to stop at the now-rebuilt Muqata’a, Yasser Arafat’s large presidential compound, where he was based during the last days of the Second Intifada. He was evacuated from his base in 2004 while under Israeli siege and later died in a Paris hospital. In 2014 his body was briefly exhumed for tests after speculation that he had been poisoned. Arafat’s enormous cubicle tomb is guarded by soldiers and adorned with wreaths. The compound’s buildings have been restored, with the exception of some holes from tank shelling. The Muqata’a is around 1km from Al-Manara on the road to Birzeit and Nablus, and is  easily walkable from downtown. Soldiers will not let tourists stray from the short path between the entrance and the tomb, but Muslims will be allowed to enter the modern mosque erected in Arafat’s honor.

ramallah-2Al-Kamandjati (02-297 3101; http://www.alkamandjati.com; Old City)
This small conservatory, which features an ancient arch with an edgy, modern copper entryway, offers intimate concerts and recitals.

Sleeping

Ramallah does not have a huge amount of accommodation for tourists, but it has at least one good option in each budget.

Area D Hostel (056 934 9042; http://ramallahhostel.com; Vegetable Market St; dm 70NIS, d 160-200NIS)(map)
With cozy, spotless dorms and a number of private rooms, Area D makes a great hub for tourists – not least because its position on the top floor of Ramallah’s service taxi garage means you can get a ride to most parts of the West Bank without having to leave the building. Staff are helpful, the location is fantastic and the open plan lounge is a lovely place to relax.

Royal Court Suites Hotel (02-296 4040; http://www.rcshotel.com; Jaffa St; s/d/ste 305/355/445NIS)(map)
This is a reliable mid-range option 15 minutes’ walk downhill from the center of town. Many of the rooms come with kitchen facilities and balconies and all have WiFi and breakfast. The suites are enormous. Consider asking for a room at the back of the hotel where it is much quieter.

Beauty Inn (02-246 4040; http://www.beautyinn.ps; Al Muntazah; s/d/ste US$90/120/180)(map)
Tucked away on a quiet street close to the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre, this is a smart, clean mid-range option with a pool and a gym and corridors lined with pictures of Palestine. Some rooms are a little dark, so ask to see a couple when you check in.

Mövenpick Ramallah (02-298 5888; http://www.moevenpick-hotels.com/en/middle-east; Al Masyoun; s/d US$180/200)(map)
One of only a handful of Western-branded hotels in the West Bank, the Mövenpick has become a hub for Palestine’s great and good – as evidenced by the flashy cars that pull up outside its imposing glass-fronted lobby. It has huge rooms, excellent staff and great facilities, including a gym and pool (summer only). Book online for better rates.

Eating

The area around Al-Manara Sq is packed with cheap hole-in-the-wall eateries and kebab and felafel stands, but Ramallah has a range of restaurants, from fast food to Italian, from organic to sushi. The trendier spots – congregated close to Jaffa St – chop and change, but there are a few stalwarts.

Ameed Al Zain (Palestine St; mains 15-50NIS; h9am-6pm Sat-Thu)
This tiny restaurant just off Al Manara Sq is the best of the kebab and felafel joints that dominate this part of town. Sit down at one of the three tables and point either to the grill or the felafel. Their speciality is kofta-style kebabs cooked with pine nuts and fresh mint (40NIS). Staff speak little English but make life very easy nonetheless.

La Vie Cafe (02-296 4115; info@lavie-cafe.com; Castel St; mains 35-70NIS; 10am-midnight Sat-Thu, 4pm-midnight Fri)
Tucked away on a quiet street just 10 minutes’ walk from Al-Manara, this place has a diverse menu of pasta, pizza and sandwiches, with much of its produce grown in owners Saleh and Morgan’s roof garden. On weekends, La Vie is a popular nightspot, serving a range of beers, wines and cocktails.

Pronto Resto-Café (Al-Muntazah; mains 45-75NIS; h7am-11pm)
This dark and cosy little trattoria is a popular spot for musicians, filmmakers, professionals and peacemakers. The pizzas are top notch and a handful of pasta options make it the only place for real Italian food in Ramallah. Pronto prides itself on local ingredients, from the fish (caught in Jaffa) to the wine (from Bethlehem).

Zamn (Al-Tireh; coffee from 10NIS, mains 35-60NIS; h7am-11pm)
The hippest spot in Ramallah and meeting ground for reporters and NGO workers, Zamn is a fun place for a morning croissant and cuppa or a lunchtime sandwich. Walk down Dar Ibrahim and bear right at the roundabout.

Drinking & Nightlife

Ramallah is packed with trendy bars and restaurants, many of which stay open until the wee hours and are usually far cheaper than Jerusalem. For those of a more sober disposition, Al-Manara is well served with local coffee houses, where older Ramallans congregate to play cards, smoke shisha and gossip.

Al-Snobar (Pine; 02-296 5571; http://www.al-snowbar.com; May-Oct)
This entertainment complex has a flashy restaurant, a swimming pool and one of the hottest nightclubs in the city. Note that it’s only open in high season. It’s located 2km northwest of Al-Manara Sq. Take a taxi, everyone knows it.

Lawain (059 763 6003; Al-Manara; h6pm-late)
Situated above the Qasaba Theatre just off Al-Manara, Lawain is a late-night party spot, with live music, DJs and a young crowd of both locals and expats hanging out on weekends into the early hours. Be warned that unless there is a show on, Lawain doesn’t get going until 9pm or 10pm. Ask for the theatre if you can’t find it.

Sangria’s (02-295 6808; Jaffa Rd, Al-Muntazah; noon-midnight)
A veteran Ramallah hang-out, Sangria’s beer garden is the place to be on Thursday and Saturday nights. The Mexican and international menu is ambitious, but you are here for the drinks menu – arguably one of the best in the city, with everything from local Taybeh beer (15NIS) to a range of cocktails (35NIS to 40NIS) to sangria, of course, at 80NIS a litre.

La Grotta (Old City; 6pm-late)
La Grotta is a tiny, grungy, alternative hangout, close to posh Mexican restaurant Fuego in the Old City. There are a few tables outside but the main bar is up the steps on the 1st floor of a traditional Palestinian house. It doesn’t get going until late and can be tricky to find: walk down Main St and turn left at the garage.

Stars & Bucks (Al-Manara; 8am-late)(map)
A Ramallah institution and not just because of its mischievous take on the logo – or indeed, the entire concept – of the US coffee giant, Stars & Bucks is a great place to hang out with coffee or cocktails (non-alcoholic) overlooking the bustle of Al-Manara Sq.

Entertainment

There is a lot going on in Ramallah, but you tend to need to be in the know to find out what is on when. Ask at your hotel, check online or pick up the entertainment listing This Week in Palestine.

Al-Kasaba Theater & Cinematheque (02-296 5292; http://www.alkasaba.org; Al-Manara)
A magnet for artists, musicians and film and theater buffs. It’s well worth catching a performance or screening here while you’re in town.

Khalil Sakakini Centre (02-298 7374; http://www.sakakini.org; Al-Muntazah)
Hosts art exhibitions by the locally and internationally renowned, along with a whole host of other cultural pursuits. Check the website for upcoming events.

Transport

From the old Arab bus station in East Jerusalem take bus 18 (30 minutes) all the way to Ramallah. As a rule of thumb; the smaller the bus the faster the journey. Buses to/from Ramallah operate from 6am to 9pm in summer or until 7pm in winter, after which you can take a service taxi from Ramallah to Qalandia and then a taxi to Jerusalem, or vice versa.

You will not need to get off the bus on the way into the West Bank, but on the way out all passengers disembark and go through airport-style security. Have your passport and Israeli visa ready to show the soldiers behind the bulletproof glass.

Also hold onto your ticket to show to the driver once you’re on the other side of the checkpoint. Everything within the Ramallah area is 10 minutes or less by private taxi and should cost 10NIS to 20NIS; but be sure to agree on the final price with the driver before setting off.

The main bus station where buses arrive from Jerusalem has services to Nablus and Hebron, and the service taxi parking garage across the road (below Area D Hostel) has dirt cheap shared taxis to almost everywhere you could want to go in Palestine.