Tag Archives: Israel

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.

National Parks Tour in Northern Israel, 14 days

Tel Dan Nature Reserve
Tel Dan Nature Reserve

This is the tour about the National Parks, but this time we focus on North of Israel. What’s also different in this itinerary is, that I added the link to the Google Maps for each of the parks, because I know that many people simply go by themselves (and why not?).

What is the program for this tour? We will meet one of the first Homo Sapiens at Nahal Me’arot, we see the wild nature at Ein Afek, the ancient city Tel Megiddo, water, waterfalls, streams at Nahal Betzet and Nahal Kziv with castles, Crusaders, grottoes, mountains, forests, cave-fortresses, and much more.

Tour Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival
Day 2 – Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve, Mt. Carmel – Haifa
Day 3 – Ein Afek Nature Reserve, Western Galilee – Haifa
Day 4 – Tel Megiddo National Park, Jezreel Valley – Haifa/Afula
Day 5 – Nahal Betzet, Upper Galilee – Nahariyya
Day 6 – Nahal Kziv, Upper Galilee – Nahariyya
Day 7 – Rosh HaNikra, Western Galilee – Nahariyya
Day 8 – Mount Meron, Upper Galilee – Tiberias/Nahariyya
Day 9 – Nahal Ayun, Upper Galilee – Tiberias/Nahariyya
Day 10 – Arbel National Park and Nature Reserve, Upper Galilee – Tiberias
Day 11 – Tel Dan Nature Reserve, Upper Galilee – Tiberias
Day 12 – Mount Arbel, Lower Galilee – Tiberias
Day 13 – Mount Tabor, Lower Galilee – Tiberias
Day 14 – Departure

You stay at hotels at the following locations:
Day 1 – Arrival
Day 2 – Haifa
Day 3 – Haifa
Day 4 – Haifa/Afula
Day 5 – Nahariyya
Day 6 – Nahariyya
Day 7 – Nahariyya
Day 8 – Tiberias/Nahariyya
Day 9 – Tiberias/Nahariyya
Day 10 – Tiberias
Day 11 – Tiberias
Day 12 – Tiberias
Day 13 – Tiberias
Day 14 – Departure

What do you see?

  • Day 1Arrival
  • Day 2Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve – Prehistoric human beings
  • Day 3Ein Afek Nature Reserve – Swamps
  • Day 4Tel Megiddo National Park – Ancient city-state
  • Day 5Nahal Betzet – Stream in the Upper Galilee
  • Day 6Nahal Kziv – Stream and Crusader castle, Montfort
  • Day 7Rosh HaNikra – Spectacular grottoes
  • Day 8Mount Meron – Mount Meron is the highest peak in Israel
  • Day 9Nahal Ayun – Streams, waterfalls
  • Day 10Arbel National Park and Nature Reserve – Mountain with beautiful high cliffs
  • Day 11Tel Dan Nature Reserve – Ancient northernmost city of the Kingdom of Israel
  • Day 12Mount Arbel – Mountain with deep cliffs, trails, grottoes and cave-fortress
  • Day 13Mount Tabor – Hiking around the mounting
  • Day 14Departure

Day 1 – Arrival

  • For those who are arriving in Israel, will be picked up from the airport by the guide and driver from Shalom Israel.
  • For those, who ordered the hotels, they will be driven by bus to their hotel and for this tour it means Haifa.

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.

Depending when you all arrive at your hotel, we will start this tour with a special dinner, and a special evening tour. This depends on when the group is complete on this day of arrival. But what’s for sure, you are going to meat the guides. If the group is small, you have two guides, otherwise you have four guides.


Active holidayOne word of warning. This is a tour, which focusing itself on visiting parks and reserves and that means hiking. Not extreme hiking, but you walk a lot!

Each day after the breakfast we leave (at about 9 AM) and we are back between late afternoon/ early evening (6-7 PM). Some days you might be earlier back to your hotel, in those cases special evening tours are organized for those who still have the energy.

Lunch is normally served in a restaurant. But many days this is impractical or even impossible. Instead at those days you will be offered a picnic or barbecue. Breakfast is served at the hotel and dinner is served at the hotel or restaurant.

icon day toursSnacks are available in the bus throughout the day (and one of the guides carries always something) (fruit, sweets, chocolates, etc.). Water is being delivered before and during the tour by us. We have many bottles of water for you to take. Hats we have too, because it’s likely that it’ll will be hot! And we have reserve shoes in case your will break during the tour.


Day 2 – Visit the first human a the Nahal Me’arot Nature Reserve

(Click here for the Google Map)

Outside the cave is a model of a skeleton illustrating the burial practices of members of Natufian culture, who lived some ten thousand years ago.

Members of five prehistoric cultures inhabited the caves at Nahal Me`arot: Acheulian culture (150-200 thousand years ago), Muarian culture (100-150 thousand years ago), Mousterian culture (40-100 thousand years ago), Uriniacian culture (12-40 thousand years ago), and Natufian culture (9-12 thousand years ago). Remnants from the Natufian period were found at the mouth of Stream Cave, where a small village served as a permanent settlement. During this period, people began to hunt and gather in an organized fashion, the precursor to planting crops and domesticating animals. Art objects, such as stone carvings and strings of shells, were produced during this time.

In the spring, the reserve is awash with flowers. Signposted trails from the parking lot lead to a number of exquisite spots on the Carmel Mountain Range. At the reserve`s guidance center, visitors can purchase guidebooks and maps and perhaps ask the wardens about the hikes they would most highly recommend.

We return to our hotel in Haifa.


Day 3 – Look at the amazing and fast disappearing swamps and it’s beautiful nature at the Ein Afek Nature Reserve

(Click here for the Google Map)
Crusaders, Water

When the water level rises in the winter, birds flock to the reserve: pelicans, cranes, pygmy cormorants, gray herons, moorhens, European coots, and black-winged stilts, to name just a few. In the winter and spring, the reserve is carpeted with flowers. A fine spot for admiring the blossoms is Tel Afek, situated on a low sandstone hill on the edge of the reserve. On the northern slope of Tel Afek is a two-story fortified building from the Crusader period, where a film about the flora and fauna in the reserve is now screened. A flour mill once operated on the lower floor of the building. The roof affords a magnificent view of the surrounding area.

In April 1991, seven buffalo were brought to the reserve from the Hula Nature Reserve and placed in a pen with electric sensors, to prevent them from wandering into the swamp. From time to time they can be seen grazing or stretching out in the specially dug pond.

The guidance center at the reserve provides information in Hebrew and Arabic to members of the general public, students, and educational institutions about the Land of Israel, ecology, wetlands, and biotopes.

We return to our hotel in Haifa.


Day 4 – Ancient city with thousands of years of history at Tel Megiddo National Park

(Click here for the Google Map)

The site is now protected as Megiddo National Park and is a World Heritage Site.

History

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 (the same time as the destruction of the First Israelite Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians, and subsequent fall of Israelite rule and exile), though the first significant remains date to the Chalcolithic period (4500-3500 BCE). Megiddo’s Early Bronze Age I (3500-3100 BCE) temple has been described by its excavators as “the most monumental single edifice so far uncovered in the EB I Levant and ranks among the largest structures of its time in the Near East.” The first wall was constructed in the Early Bronze Age II or III period. However, the town experienced a decline in the Early Bronze-Age IV period (2300-2000 BCE), but the city was somewhat revived around 2000 BCE. Following massive construction, the town reached its largest size in the Middle Bronze-Age, at 10-12 hectares. Though the city was subjugated by Thutmose III, it still prospered, and a massive and incredibly elaborate palace was constructed in the Late Bronze Age. The city was destroyed around 1150 BCE, and the area was resettled by what some scholars have identified as early Israelites, before being replaced with an unwalled Philistine town. When the Israelites captured it, though, it became an important city, before being destroyed, possibly by Aramaean raiders, and rebuilt, this time as an administrative center for Tiglath-Pileser III’s occupation of Samaria. However, its importance soon dwindled, and it was finally abandoned around 586 BCE. Since that time it has remained uninhabited, preserving ruins pre-dating 586 BCE without settlements ever disturbing them. Instead, the town of Lajjun (not to be confused with the el-Lajjun archaeological site in Jordan) was built up near to the site, but without inhabiting or disturbing its remains.
Megiddo is mentioned in Ancient Egyptian writings because one of Egypt’s mighty kings, Thutmose III, waged war upon the city in 1478 BCE. The battle is described in detail in the hieroglyphics found on the walls of his temple in Upper Egypt.
Mentioned in the Bible as “Derekh HaYam” or “Way of the Sea,” it became an important military artery of the Roman Empire and was known as the Via Maris.

Famous battles include:

  1. Battle of Megiddo (15th century BCE): fought between the armies of the Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III and a large Canaanite coalition led by the rulers of Megiddo and Kadesh.
  2. Battle of Megiddo (609 BCE): fought between Egyptian pharaoh Necho II and the Kingdom of Judah, in which King Josiah fell.
  3. Battle of Megiddo (1918): fought during World War I between Allied troops, led by General
  4. Edmund Allenby, and the defending Ottoman army.

Kibbutz Megiddo is nearby, less than 1 kilometer (0.62 mi) to the south. Today, Megiddo Junction is on the main road connecting the center of Israel with lower Galilee and the north. It lies at the northern entrance to Wadi Ara, an important mountain pass connecting the Jezreel Valley with Israel’s coastal plain.
In 1964, during Pope Paul VI’s visit to the Holy Land, Megiddo was the site where he met with Israeli dignitaries, including Israeli President Zalman Shazar and Prime Minister Levi Eshkol.

We return to our hotel in Haifa or Afula.


Day 5 – Beautiful nature and loads of water to hike through at Nahal Betzet

(Click here for the Google Map)
Caves, nature

The Betzet Stream runs through limestone, and is fed by the Karkara springs. The national water company pumps the water from the stream, and in 1999 the stream dried up. Water is being pumped back into the stream, but the ecosystem is being damaged by the poor quality water.
Many caves were formed in the limestone by the stream. These include the Keshet Cave and the Namir stalactite cave, both within the Betzet nature reserve. A few ancient sites can also be found within the nature reserve.
There are a number of hiking trails which run through the reserve. This trail takes you from Granot HaGalil to Moshav Ya’ara, and will take about half a day. The trail is of medium difficulty. The trail is the blue trail, marked 2206 on the trail maps.

The hike begins at the Sarakh stream, which is the main tributary to the Betzet Stream. The Sarach Stream, is named for the Sarach or ferns which adorn the creek walls. The trail passes the De’ne’ilah ruins.  The De’Ne’ilah ruins are the remains of a farm from the Roman and Byzantine periods, from the 1st-7th centuries CE.  A number of oil presses were excavated at the site.

The hike then passes the Sarakh stalactite cave; the cave is closed during the bat hibernation season in the  winter, but is otherwise open to tourists. The Sarach cave is a large karstic cave; the first 10 meters are relatively easy and a stalagmite stands in front of a wall.  If you wish to continue further into the cave, climb the carved stairs in the wall, using the handholds as you climb. At the top of the climb, the left side is closed and reserved for the bats. On the right side is a narrow and steep passage; handholds can be found on the left. This leads to a narrow tunnel where you will need to crawl. This leads to an exit at the top of the cave; head back down to the stream with care.

After the cave, the Sarakh stream leads into the Betzet Stream. A pool of water amongst oleanders signals the Karkara springs. The pumped-in water runs from here until a large pool, which used to overflow with water.
Continue on the trail, past the turn to the Keshet Cave and the turn to Kibbutz Eilon and the Mekorot water pumping station.
The trail leads past the Karkara ruins, a Byzantine period settlement with a restored oil press, and continues on leading to Moshav Ya’ara.

We return to our hotel in Nahariyya.


Day 6 – Between the amazing nature and water and forests you see the ruins and castle of the old Crusaders at Nahal Kziv

(Click here for the Google Map)

640px-Nahal_KzivMost of the stream is part of a nature reserve that bears its name, and includes the Montfort Castle and other Crusader-period ruins. A stone carving of a man, 1.78 m high can be found near where the Abirim stream empties into Nahal Kziv. The carving is thought to date from the Hellenistic period.
Flora in the area includes Lilium candidum, Rubus sanguineus, Nerium oleander, Platanus orientalis, Artemisia arborescens, and Ferns. Persian fallow deer were brought to the area in 1996, as part of an effort to prevent extinction of the species. Other wildlife belonging to the nature reserve include golden jackals, wolves, wild boar, and the rare striped hyena.

We return to our hotel in Nahariyya.


Day 7 – Unbelievable beautiful grottoes hidden between breathtaking nature at Rosh HaNikra

(Click here for the Google Map)

The Rosh HaNikra grottos are cavernous tunnels formed by sea action on the soft chalk rock. The total length is some 200 metres. They branch off in various directions with some interconnecting segments. In the past, the only access to them was from the sea and experienced divers were the only ones capable of visiting. Today a cable car takes visitors down to see the grottos. A kibbutz, also named Rosh HaNikra, is located nearby. The Israeli city Nahariya is located about 10 km (6 miles) south of Rosh HaNikra.

History
The former British Cairo-Istanbul railway tunnel photographed in 1964.
The Book of Joshua mentions “Misraphot Mayim” as a place south of Rosh HaNikra that was the border of the Israelite tribes of the time (13:6). Jewish sages referred to the cliff as “The Ladder of Tyre” (Hebrew: sullam Tzor?). The site was later renamed A-Nawakir (“the grottos”) after an Arab conquest. The present name, Rosh HaNikra, is Hebrew for the later Arabic name “Ras-an-Nakura”.
Throughout human history, Rosh HaNikra served as a passage point for trade caravans and armies between Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Egypt, and Africa. During World War II, British Commonwealth forces blasted railway tunnels through the nearby rocks for trains running along the Cairo-Istanbul line. A railway bridge was destroyed by Jewish underground fighters prior to 1948 during the Night of the bridges operation. The tunnel portal leading to Lebanon has since been sealed. Nowadays all the railways on the Lebanese side of the border have been dismantled while the Coastal Railway in Israel currently ends near Nahariya, several kilometers to the south.
Rosh Hanikra was the location where Israeli and Lebanese officials negotiated and concluded an armistice agreement in 1949 which ended the Lebanese-Israeli component of the 1948 War of Israeli Independence. A border passage across the Blue Line into Lebanon at the site is sometimes used by UNIFIL personnel.

Nature reserves and national park

The area around Rosh HaNikra includes a number of nature reserves:

  • The Rosh HaNikra islands – 311 dunams declared in 1965
    The Rosh HaNikra reserve – 500 dunams declared in 1969, and an additional 765 dunams in 1996.
    Rosh HaNikra beach – 230 dunams, declared in 2003
  • The Rosh HaNikra national park also has jurisdiction of 220 dunams in the area.

Cable car
The Rosh HaNikra cable car is a cable car serving tourists wishing to visit the grottoes The Cable car is situated very close to the Lebanese border. The site is popular with tourists, and is one of the facilities available for tourists in Kibbutz Rosh HaNikra. The cable car was manufactured by Austrian manufacturer Doppelmayr Garaventa Group, and claims to be the steepest cable car in the world, ascending at a gradient of 60 degrees. Due to its lower base station being located on the sea, the cable car is occasionally affected by stormy weather.

We return to our hotel in Nahariyya.


Day 8 – The highest peak in Israel at Mount Meron

(Click here for the Google Map)

Mount Meron is a mountain in Israel. It has special significance in Jewish religious tradition and parts of it have been declared a nature reserve.
At 1,208 metres (3,963 ft) above sea level, Mount Meron is the highest peak in Israel, though many peaks in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights are higher.
In 1965, an 84000-dunam nature reserve was declared. An additional 1199 dunams were declared part of the reserve in 2005. It is the highest reserve in Israel, at an altitude of 1208 meters above sea level, and the largest reserve in the north of the country.

Religious significance
The village of Meron and the tomb of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai are on Mount Meron. Leading up to the anniversary of his death on Lag B’Omer, thousands of people camp out along the slopes near the tomb, and on Lag B’Omer itself, hundreds of thousands make pilgrimages to celebrate the occasion.

Hiking paths
The mountain has a strong undergrowth and it cannot be walked up from every direction. The main path starts at the north west side of the Meron village. There is a gate next to the road, with a color-marked path of about 10 km. There is also a path on the west side of the mountain.

We return to our hotel in Tiberias or Nahariyya.


Day 9 – Waterfalls, streams and all of that between the forests, mountains at Nahal Ayun

(Click here for the Google Map)

Nature Reserve Eshed Fall

Differences in elevation form waterfalls in the streams course. During the rainy winter months, the water-flow is strongest. During the summer months, water is diverted, closer to the stream’s sources, for crop irrigation. These falls were declared a nature reserve, and include:

  1. Ayun waterfall, 9.2 m
  2. Tahana waterfall (=flourmill), 21 m
  3. Eshed waterfall, with two steps, 5 m and 9 m
  4. Tanur waterfall, 30 m

We return to our hotel in Tiberias or Nahariyya.


Day 10 – The most amazing cliffs to watch the whole northern Israel at the Arbel National Park and Nature Reserve

(Click here for the Google Map)

Mount-ArbelThere are four villages on the mountain: Kfar Zeitim, Arbel, Kfar Hittim, and Mitzpa. The peak, at 181 metres above sea level (380 metres above the surrounding area), dominates the surroundings (much of the area is below sea level) and from the lookout atop the mountain, almost all of the Galilee into the Golan Heights including Safed, Tiberias and most of the Sea of Galilee, is visible.

Nature reserve and national park
The area was declared a nature reserve in 1967, covering 1400 dunams. The national park (8509 dunams) includes most of Nahal Arbel, that begins near Eilabun and empties into the Sea of Galilee near Migdal. The reserve covers the immediate area around the cliff.
Mount Arbel from Nof Ginnosar.jpg
On the south side of the cliff, there is a gradual prolonged climb through agricultural and pasture land and from the peak there is a steep 400 meters drop. From here there are metal handholds driven into the rock to aid those who want to make the climb down to the valley below. Below that are a series of switchbacks that eventually lead to the Bedouin village of Hamaam.
Mt. Arbel, with its 110 metre vertical drop, is the only known mountain in Israel to serve as a base jumping site. A hike to the top of Mount Arbel from the south is included in the Israel National Trail, and an approach from the west is part of the Jesus Trail; the trails converge temporarily at the peak.

We return to our hotel in Tiberias.


Day 11 – Ancient city in the old Kingdom of Israel at Tel Dan Nature Reserve

(Click here for the Google Map)

Tel Dan Nature ReserveHistory and archaeology
According to the archaeological excavations at the site, the town was originally occupied in the late Neolithic era (c 4500 BCE), although at some time in the fourth millennium BC it was abandoned, for almost 1,000 years.

Tel Dan nature reserve
Tel Dan Nature Reserve3The Tel Dan reserve was first declared on 391 dunams surrounding the tel in 1974. 90 dunams were added to the reserve in 1989. The Dan River is one of the three water sources of the Jordan River that meet in the northern part of the Hula Valley.

We return to our hotel in Tiberias.


Day 12 – Find the mountain with deep cliffs, trails, grottoes and cave-fortress at Mount Arbel

(Click here for the Google Map)

Mount Arbel2There are four villages on the mountain: Kfar Zeitim, Arbel, Kfar Hittim, and Mitzpa. The peak, at 181 metres above sea level (380 metres above the surrounding area), dominates the surroundings (much of the area is below sea level) and from the lookout atop the mountain, almost all of the Galilee into the Golan Heights including Safed, Tiberias and most of the Sea of Galilee, is visible.

The area was declared a nature reserve in 1967, covering 1400 dunams. The national park (8509 dunams) includes most of Nahal Arbel, that begins near Eilabun and empties into the Sea of Galilee near Migdal. The reserve covers the immediate area around the cliff.
On the south side of the cliff, there is a gradual prolonged climb through agricultural and pasture land and from the peak there is a steep 400 meters drop. From here there are metal handholds driven into the rock to aid those who want to make the climb down to the valley below. Below that are a series of switchbacks that eventually lead to the Bedouin village of Hamaam.
Mt. Arbel, with its 110 metre vertical drop, is the only known mountain in Israel to serve as a base jumping site.  A hike to the top of Mount Arbel from the south is included in the Israel National Trail, and an approach from the west is part of the Jesus Trail; the trails converge temporarily at the peak.

We return to our hotel in Tiberias.


Day 13 – This is hiking around this mountain at Mount Tabor

(Click here for the Google Map)

There are two paths: the long track, which starts from the Bedouin village Shibli, which length is about five kilometers long and a short nature track of about 2.5 kilometers at the summit.
Mount TaborThe track which surrounds the mountain passes in well-developed Mediterranean woodlands. the color marking alternates to green at the eastern part of the track. Behind the monastery its possible to see remnants from the First Jewish-Roman War. In the path there is a view of the Jezreel Valley, Mount Gilboa, Samaria mountains, Mount Carmel, the Golan Heights, Gilead, the Lower Galilee and the Upper Galilee. On days with good visibility one could also see the Mount Hermon.
Israel National Trail goes up the mountain from mount Tabor the Gazit junction and the Shibli village, surrounding the summit and descends across the Arab village of Daburiyya towards the Nazareth mountains.

Activities on Mount Tabor
In April each year, the regional council of Lower Galilee holds a 12 kilometer race around Mount Tabor in memory of Yitzhak Sadeh, the first commander of the Palmach and one of the founders of the Israel Defense Forces at the time of the State of Israel’s independence.
By obtaining a game permit issued by the Ministry of the Interior, hunting of small animals is allowed in certain designated seasons.
The churches located on the mountain allow visits at specific hours. (Modest attire required).
Approximately three quarters of the way up the mountain, a path circles it entirely and is accessible for private vehicles as well (four-wheel drive advised).
The mountain serves as one of Israel’s preferred locales for hang gliding.

Church of the Transfiguration
Between 1919 until 1924 an impressive Roman Catholic church of the Franciscan order named “Church of the Transfiguration” was built on the peak of Mount Tabor. The architect who designed the church, as well as other churches in Israel, was Antonio Barluzzi. The church was built upon the ruins of a Byzantine church from the fifth or sixth century and a Crusader church from the 12th century, which was built in honor of Tancred, Prince of Galilee. The friars of the church live next to the church in a monastery established in 1873.

The Eastern Orthodox sanctuary
Bell tower of the Eastern Orthodox monastery.
On the northeast side of the Church of the Transfiguration there is the more modest Orthodox Church which was built in 1862 with funds from Romania. The church was dedicated to Elijah the prophet and was the first religious structure built by Romanian Christians in the Holy Land.
On the northwest side of the church there is a cave named after Melchizedek the King of Salem. According to the Christian tradition, this cave was the place where Abraham met the king of Salem. The cave was known to pilgrims and Christians during the Middle Ages. With an increase in pilgrimages, the church is now open to the public (though it closes for a few hours at noon).
An All-Night Vigil is held at the Eastern Orthodox church every year on the Orthodox Feast of the Transfiguration (August 19, which is August 6 according to the Julian Calendar).

We return to our hotel in Tiberias.


Day 14 – Departure

Airplane

Airplane

Before you leave, some breakfast first. And this is honestly not some breakfast, it’s a breakfast feast!

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

The Historical Siege of Acre in 1291

Here is another historical battle history and about a battle between the Mamluk and the Crusaders in Acre. In those times, the Mamluk conquered large chunks of the Holy Land, sacked Jerusalem and was numerically speaking superior to the Crusaders. The last remaining military presence of the Crusaders was in the heavily fortified Acre! And as you can read here, beheadings are not an invention from ISIS, but it was a normal practice in those times already.

This is history and it had its impact. This was the effort from the Crusaders to stay in the Holy Land and at the end it failed, despite all their efforts. This had a large impact for 2 centuries on the Holy Land, because the land was totally dominated and harshly ruled by the Muslims. But this defeat had also an political and economical impact on the countries in Western Europe, especially England, France, Germany and the Vatican.

Such stories are part of the collection of stories from the guide in tours of Acre. If the group is interested in the juicy battle-stories, he or she will show you where and what in Acre itself.

Before continuing, an explanation what a Mamluk actually is. A Mamluk is a slave soldier, a member of one of the armies of slaves that won political control of several Muslim states during the Middle Ages. The name is derived from an Arabic word for slave. The use of Mamluk as a major component of Muslim armies became a distinct feature of Islamic civilization as early as the 9th century. But in 1249, the Mamluks took charge of their oppressors and ruled Egypt and Syria for more then 250 years.

Frank Soldier
Frank Soldier
Mamluk
Mamluk

The Mamluk generals  recognized that the city of Acre – the last stronghold of the Franks (the term Frank was used in the east as a synonym for western European, as the Franks were then rulers of most of Western Europe, originally coming from Germany) in Israel, heavily fortified, with two lines of walls and numerous towers, and densely garrisoned–would be no easy target. The Muslim operation, therefore, was planned with great care and forethought.

Mamluk strategy was founded on two principles:

Mamluk Cavalry
Mamluk Cavalry
  1. Overwhelming numerical superiority, with tens of thousands of mamluk cavalry assisted by squadrons of infantry and specialist teams of sappers;
  2. And the deployment of the extraordinary arsenal of siege machinery built up since the days of Sultan Baybars (Baibars was from Turk origin, referring to the Father of Conquests, pointing to his victories, was the fourth Sultan of Egypt from the Mamluk Bahri dynasty).
Trebuchet
Trebuchet

In the last days of winter 1291, Khalil ordered around one hundred ballistic engines to be brought to Acre from across the Mamluk Levant. Some of these weapons truly were monstrous in scale and power.

Abu’l Fida
Abu’l Fida

Abu’l Fida was in the siege train of a hundred ox-drawn wagons transporting the pieces of one massive trebuchet nicknamed ‘Victorious’ from Krak des Chevaliers. He complained that, marching through rain and snow, the heavily laden column took a month to cover a distance that was usually an eight-day ride.

On 5 April 1291 Sultan Khalil’s troops encircled Acre from the north shore above Montmusard to the coast south-east of the harbor, and the siege began. At this point, the city contained many members of the Military Orders–including the masters of the Temple and Hospital–and, in time, the severity of the threat now posed to Acre brought other reinforcements by sea,

King Henry II
King Henry II

among them King Henry II (titular monarch of Jerusalem) with 200 knights and 500 infantry from Cyprus. Even so, the Christians were hopelessly outnumbered.

Khalil set about the task of crushing Acre with methodical determination. With his forces ranged in a rough semi-circle around the city, an aerial barrage began. The largest trebuchets, like ‘Victorious’ and another known as ‘Furious’, had been reassembled and were now pummeling Acre’s battlements with massive boulders.

Meanwhile, scores of smaller ballistic devices and squads of archers were deployed behind siege screens to shower the Franks with missiles. Mammoth in scale, unremitting in its intensity, this bombardment was unlike anything yet witnessed in the field of crusader warfare.

Teams of Mamluk troopers worked in four carefully coordinated shifts, through day and night. And, each day, Khalil ordered his forces to make a short forward advance–gradually tightening the noose around Acre, until they reached its outer fosse.

Eyewitness Latin testimony suggests that, as these efforts proceeded apace, possible terms of surrender were discussed. The sultan apparently offered to allow the Christians to depart with their movable property, so long as the city was left undamaged. But the Frankish envoys are said to have refused, concerned at the dishonor that would be suffered by King Henry through such an absolute concession of defeat.

As the Mamluks pounded Acre, Templars made some vain attempts to launch counter-attacks. Stationed on the northern shore, Abu’l Fida described how ‘a Latin ship came up with a catapult mounted on it that battered us and our tents from the sea’.

Trebuchet The Furious
Trebuchet The Furious

William, master of the Templars, and Otho of Grandson also tried to prosecute a bold night-time sortie, hoping to wreak havoc within the enemy camp and torch one of the massive Mamluk trebuchets. The raid went awry when some of the Christians tripped over the guy ropes of the Muslim tents, raising a commotion.

A bold night-time sortie
A bold night-time sortie

Thus alerted, scores of Mamluks rushed into the fray, routing the Franks and slaying eighteen knights. One unfortunate Latin ‘fell into the latrine trench of one of the emir’s detachments and was killed’. The next morning, the Muslims proudly presented the heads of their vanquished foes to the sultan.

By 8 May, Khalil’s inexorable advance had brought the Mamluk lines close enough to the city for sappers to be deployed on the outer walls. They quickly turned Acre’s advanced sewerage system to their advantage, using outflows to start their tunnels.

Third Crusaders’ siege of Acre in 1191
Third Crusaders’ siege of Acre in 1191

Just as in the Third Crusaders’ siege of Acre in 1191, the work of undermining was focused particularly upon the city’s north-eastern corner, but with Acre now protected by double walls there were two lines of defense to breach. The first collapsed at the Tower of the King on Tuesday 15 May and, by the following morning, Khalil’s troops had taken control of this section of the outer battlements.

The outerwalls from Acre were breached
The outerwalls from Acre were breached

With panic rising in the city, women and children began to evacuate by ship. The sultan now prepared the Mamluks for a full-strength frontal assault through the breached Tower of the King, towards the inner walls and the Accursed Tower. At dawn on Friday 18 May 1291, the signal for the attack began–the thunderous booming of war drums that created ‘a terrible, terrifying noise’–and thousands of Muslims began racing forward.

Battle on the walls
Battle on the walls

Some threw flasks of Greek fire, while archers loosed arrows ‘in a thick cloud that seemed to fall like rain from the heavens’. Driven forward by the overwhelming

Sack of Acre
Sack of Acre

force of this onslaught, the Mamluks broke through two gates near the Accursed Tower and began rushing into the city proper. With Acre’s defenses punctured, the Franks tried to make a last desperate stand to contain the incursion, but one eyewitness admitted that attacking the Muslim horde was like trying to hurl oneself ‘against a stone wall’.

In the thick of the fighting, the Templar Master William of Beaujeu was mortally wounded when a spear pierced his side. Elsewhere, John of Villiers, master of the Hospital, took a lance thrust between his shoulders. Grievously injured, he was dragged back from the walls.

Before long, the Christian defenders were overrun and the sack of Acre began. One Latin, then in the city, wrote that the ‘day was terrible to behold. The ordinary people of the city came fleeing through the streets, their children in their arms, weeping and despairing, and fleeing to sailors to save them from death’, but hunted down, hundreds were slaughtered and abandoned infants were said to have been trampled under foot.

Siege of Acre mass execution
Siege of Acre mass execution

Abu’l Fida confirmed that ‘the Muslims killed vast numbers of people and gathered immense amounts of plunder’ once Acre fell. As the Mamluks surged through the city, masses of desperate Latins tried to escape in any remaining boats, and there was utter chaos at the docks. Some got away, including King Henry and Otho of Grandson.

Half dead, John of Villiers was carried to a boat and sailed to safety. But the Latin patriarch fell into the water and drowned when his overburdened craft became unstable. Elsewhere, some Latins chose to remain and face their fate. Khalil’s troops found a band of Dominican Friars singing ‘Veni, Creator Spiritus’–the same crusader hymn intoned by Joinville in 1248 – in their convent, and butchered them to a man.

The end battlesMany Christians sought to take refuge in the fortified compounds of the three main Military Orders, and some managed to hold out for days. The robust Templar citadel was eventually undermined by sappers and collapsed on 28 May, killing the Templars within. Those sheltering in the Hospitallers’ quarter surrendered on promise of safe conduct from Khalil, but Muslim chronicles testify to the fact that the sultan deliberately broke this promise, leading his Christian prisoners out of the city and on to the surrounding plains.

Almost exactly one hundred years earlier, Richard the Lionheart had violated his own pledge of clemency to Acre’s Ayyubid garrison, executing some 2,700 captives. Now, in 1291, Khalil herded the Latins into groups and ‘had them slaughtered as the Franks had done to the Muslims. Thus Almighty God was revenged on their descendants.’

John of Villiers
John of Villiers

Acre’s fall was a final and fatal disaster for the Latin Christians of Outremer. Recalling the city’s sack, one Frankish eyewitness who fled by boat declared that ‘no one could adequately recount the tears and grief of that day’. The Hospitaller Master John of Villiers survived to pen a letter to Europe describing his experiences, although he admitted that his wound made it difficult to write:

I and some of our brothers escaped, as it pleased God, most of whom were wounded and battered without hope of cure, and we were taken to the island of Cyprus. On the day that this letter was written we were still there, in great sadness of heart, prisoners of overwhelming sorrow.

For the Muslims, by contrast, the glorious victory at Acre affirmed the efficacy of their faith, sealing their triumph in the war for the Holy Land. One witness described in amazement how, ‘after the capture of Acre, God put despair into the hearts of the other Franks left in Palestine’.

Christian resistance crumbled. Within a month, the last outposts at Tyre, Beirut and Sidon had been evacuated or abandoned by the Franks. That August, the Templars withdrew from their strongholds at Tortosa and Pilgrims’ Castle. With this, the days of Outremer–the crusader settlements on the mainland Levant–were brought to an end.

Visas for Israel, Jordan and Egypt

In this article we describe the processes to get visas when you want to travel to Israel, Jordan, Egypt and lands under control of the Palestinian Authority. I think it’s good information to have when you plan to come to Israel, Jordan and Egypt, but please double check, because information in this article might not be accurate (anymore).

Visas and passports for Israel

Israeli border card
Israeli border card

Israel no longer stamps tourists’ passports (though it retains the right to do so). Instead, visitors are given a small loose-leaf entry card to serve as proof of lawful entry. It’s easy to lose but try not to as it’s your only proof that you’re in the country legally.

We’ve heard reports of Israeli authorities at Allenby/King Hussein Bridge and Ben-Gurion airport issuing ‘Palestinian Authority Only’ entry permits to travelers with family or personal connections in the West Bank, making it difficult or impossible to get past the IDF roadblocks that regulate traffic from the West Bank into Israel, including Jerusalem.

Conversely, authorities at the airport have been known to require that some  travelers sign a form declaring that they will not enter the Palestinian Authority without permission from Israeli authorities.

Students require a student (A/2) visa; kibbutz volunteers must arrange, through their host organization, a volunteer’s (B/4) visa.
ON-ARRIVAL TOURIST VISAS
In general, Western visitors to Israel and the Palestinian Territories are issued free on-arrival tourist (B/2) visas by Israel. For specifics on who qualifies, visit http://www.mfa.gov.il (click on ‘Consular Services’ and then ‘Visas’). Your passport must  be valid for at least six months from the date of entry. Officials can demand to see proof of sufficient funds and/or an onward or return ticket but rarely do so.

On-arrival visas are usually valid for 90 days. But some travelers, such as those entering by land from Egypt or Jordan, may be given just 30 days or even two weeks – it’s up to the discretion of the border control official. If there is any indication that you are coming to participate in pro-Palestinian protests, plan to engage in missionary activity or are seeking illegal employment, you may find yourself on the next flight home.

VISA EXTENSIONS
To extend a tourist (B/2) visa, you have a couple of options: Do a ‘visa run’ to Egypt, Jordan or overseas. This might get you an additional three months – or just  one. Ask other travelers for the latest low-down.

Apply to extend your visa (90NIS). Extensions are granted by the Population & Immigration Authority (www.piba.gov.il; generally 8am-noon Sun-Tue & Thu), part of the Ministry of the Interior, whose offices include bureaus in Jerusalem (1 Shlomzion HaMalka St), Tel Aviv (Kiryat HaMamshala, 125 Menachem Begin Rd) and Eilat (2nd fl, HaKenyon HaAdom, HaTemarim Blvd). Bring a passport valid for at least six months beyond the requested extension period, a recent photo, a letter explaining why you want/need an extension (plus documentation), and evidence of sufficient funds for the extended stay. Offices in smaller towns are often easier and faster to deal with.

If you would qualify for an oleh (immigrant) visa under Israel’s Law of Return – ie you have at least one Jewish grandparent or have converted to Judaism and have documentation demonstrating this – it’s easy to extend your tourist visa for as long as you’d like, or even become an Israeli citizen.

You can be fined if you overstay your visa. Travelers who overstay by just a few days report no hassles or fines but it’s best not to risk it.

Jordan

Jordan Visa
Jordan Visa

Visitors from most Western countries are eligible to receive single-entry, extendable, two-week visas at the following places:

  1. The Jordan River–Sheikh Hussein crossing (visa costs JD40), 30km south of the Sea of Galilee.
  2. The Yitzhak Rabin–Wadi Araba crossing (visa is free), a few kilometers north of Eilat and Aqaba.

Note: on-arrival visas are not available at the Allenby–King Hussein Bridge crossing.

Contact a Jordanian embassy or consulate (abroad or in Ramat Gan, near Tel Aviv) for a visa in any of the following cases:

  1. You want to enter Jordan via Allenby–King Hussein Bridge.
  2. You need a multiple-entry visa.
  3. At-the-border visas are not available to people of your nationality.
  4. Single/double/multiple entry visas, valid for two/three/six months from date of issue, cost a hefty JD40/60/120.

Note: if you crossed into the West Bank and/or Israel through Allenby–King Hussein Bridge and re-enter Jordan the same way, you do not need to apply for a new Jordanian visa, provided you return while your Jordanian visa or its extension  is still valid. Remember to keep the stamped exit slip and present it on returning.

Volunteering

Israel and the Palestinian Territories abound with volunteer opportunities. In Israel these are often on archaeological digs, at hostels or environmental organizations, while in the Palestinian Territories they often involve helping the many NGOs working to improve everyday life for Palestinians.

These websites list a selection of organizations that arrange volunteer placements: The National Council for Volunteering in Israel (www.ivolunteer.org.il), Israel Hostels (www.hostelsisrael. com/volunteer-in-a-hostel) and Medical Aid for Palestinians (www.map-uk.org).

If you’re between 18 and 35, it’s also possible to volunteer on a traditional kibbutz in Israel. Volunteers interested in a taste of the lifestyle at these communal agricultural centers can expect to spend two to six months helping with manual  labor, which could include anything from gardening to washing up or milking cows. Food and accommodation are provided and sometimes a small weekly allowance. For more information, visit http://www.kibbutz.org.il/eng or read about one Brit’s personal experience at http://www.kibbutzvolunteer.com.


OVERSEAS ISRAELIS & PALESTINIANS

According to the US State Department, the Israeli government regards the foreign-born children of Israelis as Israeli citizens and therefore requires them to enter and exit Israel using an Israeli passport and to comply with the country’s military draft laws; and it treats Palestinians born in the West Bank or Gaza – and, in some cases, their children and grandchildren – as Palestinian nationals who must exit and enter using a Palestinian passport, regardless of whether they hold a foreign passport. For details, see http://www.travel.state.gov – type ‘Israel’ under ‘Learn About Your Destination’, then expand the ‘Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements’ tab.

Unless they receive special advance authorization, persons considered by Israel to be Palestinian nationals are required to enter and exit the country via Allenby-King Hussein Bridge rather than, for instance, Ben-Gurion airport. Conversely, persons considered Israeli citizens can use any Israeli airport or land crossing except Allenby-King Hussein Bridge.


Tourist Information

Nearly every major Israeli city has a tourist office offering brochures and maps; some also organize city walking tours. The only tourist office in the Palestinian Territories is in Bethlehem.
Useful websites include:
www.goisrael.com – Israel’s Ministry of Tourism.
www.igoogledisrael.com – tips on traveling and living in Israel.
www.parks.org.il – Israel Nature & Parks Authority.
www.sirajcenter.org – an NGO that sponsors cross-cultural and community tourism in Palestine.
www.travelpalestine.ps – Palestinian Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities.
www.travelujah.com – comprehensive information for Christian travelers.
www.visitpalestine.ps – excellent Ramallah-based travel website.

Women Travelers

Female travelers will generally feel as safe and comfortable in Israel and the Palestinian Territories as they would in any Western country. Thus, you should take the same sensible precautions as you do back home – for instance, don’t hitchhike or hike by yourself, and avoid dark and deserted alleyways, lanes and paths. On some beaches foreign women may attract unwanted attention.

When you plan your day, keep in mind local expectations regarding modest attire. While tight-fitting, revealing outfits are common in urban centers such as Tel Aviv, they are inappropriate in more conservative parts of Israel and the West Bank, and are likely to be met with overt hostility in Gaza and in ultra-Orthodox Jewish  neighborhoods such as Me’a She’arim in Jerusalem. When visiting conservative areas and when visiting all religious sites – Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druze and Baha’i – you should wear clothing that covers your knees and shoulders. In Muslim and Christian areas, long trousers are OK, but in some Jewish areas – and at all Jewish holy sites – only a long skirt is acceptable.

It’s a good idea to carry a shawl or scarf with you at all times. You will need this to cover your head and shoulders when visiting Muslim holy sites (mosques, tombs and the Temple Mount), and it can come in handy if your definition of modest attire doesn’t align with that of the caretaker in charge of a religious site.

In buses and sheruts, a woman sitting next to an ultra-Orthodox Jewish man may make him uncomfortable. Depending on how you look at it, that’s either his problem or a local sensitivity you should respect.

Work

Travelers used to be able to turn up in Tel Aviv and find casual work in bars and restaurants but these days the pickings are thin. One option in that city might be to inquire at guesthouses and restaurants near the beach. Working legally requires a permit from the Ministry of the Interior and, as in North America or Western  Europe, these aren’t easy to get – with one exception. If you would qualify for an oleh (immigrant) visa under the Law of Return – ie if you have at least one Jewish parent or grandparent and have documents to prove it – you can arrange a working visa with relative ease.

If you do find work and discover that you have been cheated by your employer, you can get free advice from Kav LaOved Worker’s Hotline (03-688 3766; www.kavlaoved.org.il; 4th fl, 75 Nachalat Binyamin St, Tel Aviv); see its website for the times English-speaking staff are on hand.

How strange it is, there is work to find, but in the north of the country with Arab (sub-)contractors, but the work is heavy (mainly construction).