Day 1 - Sunday, February 20: Flight from Toronto to Istanbul
Depart Toronto International Airport with Turkish Airlines flight #18 nonstop to Istanbul, leaving at 10:30pm.
Day 2 - Monday, February 21: Tel Aviv
Arrive in Istanbul at 4:10pm. Connect with Turkish Airlines flight # 88 nonstop to Tel
Aviv Ben Gurion Airport, leaving at 6:15pm and arriving at 7:20pm. Upon arrival, you will be met by a Ya'lla Tours Israel representative and transferred to your hotel near the airport for overnight. Our hotel, TAL BY THE BEACH, is located just steps away from Metzizim Beach and Tel Aviv's vibrant port, shopping, dining and nightlife areas. All 123 guest rooms are decorated in a contemporary style, with modern comforts such as air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, and hair dryers. Hotel facilities and services include a superb Israeli buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner options, a bar, a breezy rooftop and a gym and sauna. www.atlas.co.il/tal-hotel-tel-aviv
Day 3 - Tuesday, February 22: TEL AVIV (B,D)
After a relaxing breakfast take an orientation tour of Tel Aviv, the largest and most vibrant city in Israel. Travelling along Rothschild Boulevard, we will see Tel Aviv's beautiful Bauhaus-style architecture. The area is known as the White City and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. At the Ayalon Institute near Rehovot, visit an underground ammunition factory that operated in 1948, unbeknownst to the British who prevented the Jews from buying or manufacturing any weapons in anticipation of the Arab invasion of Israel. Return to Tel Aviv with a stop at Rabin's Square, place of assassination of Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin, and visit the newly renovated Independence Hall, commemorating the declaration of the founding of the State of Israel on the 14th of May 1948. We continue through Neve Tzedek Tel Aviv’s very first neighbourhood to the ancient port of Jaffo, with its legendary Rock of Andromeda and where Jonah, disobeying the Lord, boarded a ship bound for Tarshish…(Jonah1:2-16). Take time to browse the shops and galleries in Old Jaffo where, “Peter stayed for several days in Joppa with a tanner named Simon”(Acts 9:43). Nearby we’ll explore the beautifully renovated Tahana (old railroad station) with many upscale boutiques, cafes and restaurants.
Welcome dinner tonight will be at a pleasant restaurant by the Mediterranean. Return to the hotel for overnight.
Day 4 - Wednesday, February 23: TIBERIAS (B,L,D)
Depart Tel Aviv and drive north to the ruins of Caesarea, a large port city built by Herod the Great to honour Caesar Augustus. Herod built a port in the bay and erected all the cultural institutions found in every great Greco-Roman city: a theatre, a hippodrome, and a luxurious bathhouse. In order to supply water to the city’s ever-growing population, he built an aqueduct system stretching from the springs of Mt. Carmel to Caesarea.
Moving on to Daliat el Carmel where we’ll learn about Druze society, their role in the Israeli military and their sacrifice for the security of Israel. We’ll also experience authentic Druze cooking and hospitality in a home environment during a visit to Noura’s Kitchen. After lunch we make our way to Haifa, Israel’s largest port, located between Mt. Carmel and the Mediterranean Sea. Haifa is the largest of Israel’s few mixed Jewish-Arab cities, and the world centre of the Baha’i faith. Here we encounter the fascinating Persian Gardens surrounding the Shrine of the Baha’i located on the slope of Mt. Carmel. Driving north to Akko, (ancient Acre) another mixed Jewish Arab city. Once the maritime capital of the Crusader Kingdom the Akko fortifications are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here we’ll visit the Knights' Halls of the Hospitaller Fortress one of the most beautiful and impressive remains from this period in Israel’s history. Following our exploration of Akko we head for our hotel in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee for dinner and overnight.
The SEA OF GALILEE HOTEL, is a beautiful property in Migdal on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. The hotel’s 200 nonsmoking guest rooms have balconies, air conditioning, parquet floors, minibar, safe, and free Wi-Fi. Facilities include a dining room, lobby bar, seasonal outdoor pool, outdoor terrace, gym, and easy beach access. https://www.seaofgalileehotel.com/
Day 5 - Thursday, February 24: TIBERIAS (B,L,D)
Drive to Zafed steeped in the mystical tradition of Kabbalah and one of the four holiest Jewish cities. Here we meet with Kabbalist artist David Friedman for a fascinating talk about Kabbalah and Kabbalist art. Afterward we have time to browse the many galleries, shops and cafes of this ancient city set in the dense pine forests of the Upper Galilee. From Zafed we go off the beaten track to the Golan Heights by 4X4 jeep and stop to gaze over the Galilee as the Syrians once did. In the Valley of the Tears, hear the moving story of the brave Kahalani’s battle to secure the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War. Proceeding to Mt. Bental we’ll have an outstanding view of the Upper Galilee from the Golan Heights then move on to the Pelter Winery in Kibbutz Ein Zivan where we’ll tour their winery, and distillery with time to taste the wines and enjoy a leisurely lunch. Back into our jeeps for a short hop to Katzrin, the only city in the Golan Heights. It is home to the famous Golan Winery giving us another opportunity to test our olfactory skills followed by a pleasant return to our hotel for dinner and overnight.
Day 6 - Friday, February 25: TIBERIAS (B,L,D)
Take a boat-ride on the Sea of Galilee to examine the 2,000-year-old Genosar Boat discovered in 1986. Nearby, we visit the New Testament fishing village of Magdala thought to be the home of Mary Magdalene whose epithet ‘the Magdalene’ suggests she came from Magdala where Jesus practiced his healing, “Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the Kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out…”(Luke 8:1-3) before moving along to Capernaum, where Jesus conducted his ministry, and his disciples, Peter, Andrew, and perhaps others, made their homes. Following our exploration of Capernaum we enjoy a St. Peter’s Fish lunch near the shores of the Sea of Galilee. After lunch a brief jaunt takes us to the Mount of the Beatitudes, site of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5), with its beautiful gardens and views over the verdant valley surrounding the Sea of Galilee. End the day with a stroll through the ancient Roman Baths and gardens surrounding Hamat Gader’s thermo-mineral springs including a visit to the first and largest crocodile farm in Israel. Return to the hotel for dinner and overnight.
Day 7 - Saturday, February 26: JERUSALEM (B)
Drive south to Beit Shean, one of Israel’s most ancient cities, to explore the ruins of the largest Roman city being excavated today. In its 7,000 year history, the Egyptian, Roman and Byzantine empires laid claim to the site, attracted by abundant water, fertile soil and the city’s strategic trade and military location at an important geographic crossroads. Nearby we examine a ‘must visit’ historical sight with a great audio visual presentation examining a comprehensive mosaic floor including a narrative of the. "Binding of Isaac" (Genesis 22: 1–18) in the remains Beit Alpha synagogue built 518–527 CE during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinus . Continue to Tzipori and see one of the most spectacular ruins of a Galilean village from the days of Jesus. Tzipori was considered the “jewel of Galilee” during the time of King Herod the Great’s son. From this extensive archeological site we climb the Judean Hills to reach venerable JERUSALEM.
The LEONARDO BOUTIQUE JERUSALEM, our hotel for five nights, is a charming property within walking distance of the Old City, located by the iconic Machne Yehuda Market, downtown Jerusalem’s shopping and dining pedestrian district. This well-designed hotel offers comfortable and spacious rooms as well as elegant and relaxing public spaces. Guest rooms include air-conditioning, Nespresso coffee machine, minibar, safe, 48” TV, hairdryer, bathrobe and slippers. Hotel amenities include a kosher chef restaurant, bar, spa and health center, gym, hot tub, and free WI-FI throughout the property.
Day 8 - Sunday, February 27: JERUSALEM (B,L)
Drive 6 miles south to Bethlehem for a visit to the Church of the Nativity, the oldest active church in the Holy Land. Construction began in 326CE, based on the local tradition that Jesus was born in a cave at the edge of the village. Sing carols in a site that has been visited by millions of pilgrims, followed by a typical Arabic lunch in Bethlehem.
Returning to Jerusalem we drive to the Mt. of Olives for a panoramic view of Jerusalem then stroll down the Mt. of Olives to the site where Jesus predicted the future destruction of Jerusalem (Dominus Flevit), and further along to the Church and Gardens of Gethsemane. Shortly after we enter the Christian Quarter of the Old City through Stephen’s Gate and visit the Pool of Bethesda, St. Anne’s Church, and the Lithostrothos at the Ecce Hommo Arch where we begin walking the Way of the Cross to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Return to your hotel for overnight.
Day 9 - Monday, February 28: JERUSALEM (B,L)
Drive east from Jerusalem to the lowest place on earth, the Dead Sea, for a visit to Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. Continue to sorrowful Masada, a natural fortress with majestic ruins overlooking the Dead Sea. Take a cable car to the top of the plateau for a tour. Jewish zealots held the rock against the unrelenting 10th Roman legion until 72AD, when a monumental siege, using an astounding attack ramp, conquered the fortress. The camps and other fortifications that encircle the mesa constitute the most complete Roman siege works to have survived to the present day. Descend by foot on the ramp to meet your bus and continue to Kfar Hanokdim. where (1:30pm) we glimpse the way of life of the Patriarchs with a Bedouin lunch and camel ride in the Negev Desert, an experience which may make you ready for a float on the Dead Sea. (Bring towel, bathing suit and flip flops). Return to Jerusalem for dinner and overnight.
Day 10 - Tuesday, March 01: JERUSALEM (B)
Visit the City of David and see excavations that reveal the earliest days of Jerusalem dating back to King David. If weather permits, walk through Hezekiah’s Tunnel and the newly opened Pilgrims Tunnel direct to the Old City, followed by visits to the Davidson Center to see a multi-media presentation about Jerusalem in the days of the Second Temple, and the Wohl Archaeological Museum to examine the Herodian Mansions excavation from the Second Temple Period. We move on to the Temple Steps, a unique archaeological area with the original steps that led to the entrance of the Temple 2000 years ago then walk to the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism and the only visible remains of Herod’s splendid Second Temple. From here we can visit the Temple Mount. The final highlight in the City of David is a visit into the Wall Excavations, also known as the Rabbinical Tunnels where we discover the huge arched spaces which link to a water tunnel cut through the rock to the north which was amazingly excavated in the Hasmonean period (163 to 37 BC). Return to your hotel for overnight.
Day 11 - Wednesday, March 02: JERUSALEM (B)
Visit the Israel Museum to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition at the Shrine of the Book and the model of the city as it was in the days of Jesus, continuing on with a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. “As the Jewish people’s living memorial to the Holocaust, Yad Vashem safeguards the memory of the past and imparts its meaning for future generations. For over half a century, Yad Vashem has been committed to four pillars of remembrance: Commemoration, Documentation, Research, and Education.” During our visit we meet a local cantor for a service in the memory of the 6,000,000 Jews. May we never forget the terrible price Israel paid to establish her country.
An afternoon drive through the Elah Valley, brings us to the site where David slew the giant Goliath, with only faith and a slingshot. Returning toward Jerusalem from this memorable valley we reach Tzuba, to enjoy panoramic views and fine wine with a visit to the Kastel Winery.
We’ll wrap up the day ambling through the Machne Yehuda Market, a landmark institution and one of the most prosperous and busy markets in Israel. Our tour will emphasize the market’s cultural character including the types of foods sold, along with their uses and origins.
As you stroll around the colorful stalls, you will see, hear, smell, and feel how Jerusalemites and visitors experience this thriving market as a vital symbol of Israeli resilience. Return to your hotel for overnight.
Day 12 - Thursday, March 03: PETRA (B,D)
You will be picked up from your hotel and transferred to the Allenby Bridge. After passing through immigration into Jordan meet your Ya’lla Tours Jordan tour guide.
Drive to Mt. Nebo, the traditional burial site of Moses overlooking the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley. The church is operated by Franciscan monks living in the area, and houses magnificent mosaics dating back to the 6th century.
Continue to the holy city of Madaba, known for its outstanding Byzantine mosaics. Visit St. George’s Cathedral and see the 6th-century mosaic floor depicting the earliest surviving map of the Holy Land.
This afternoon we drive through the dry, desolate, yet serenely colourful hills of the Arabah desert to Petra for overnight.
Our 4-star OLD VILLAGE RESORT hotel in Petra is built in the style of a local 19th-century village. Guest rooms are comfortably rustic, combining the charm of the past with the modern comforts and facilities of today such as climate control, free Wi-Fi, satellite TV, mini-bar and hair dryer. Hotel amenities include an indoor swimming pool, sauna and a restaurant. http://www.oldvillageresort.com
Dinner - (7:30pm) We depart for nearby Petra Kitchen where you will learn how to cook Jordanian food and then dine on your own creations.
Day 13 - Friday, March 04: WADI RUM (B,D)
Today, we will tour the city of Petra, the ancient Nabatean capital hidden in the mountains of Southern Jordan. Travel part of the way on horseback and the rest on foot through the narrow canyon or siq. (As a great deal of walking is included in the visit we suggest good walking shoes and a lightweight jacket). As you approach the end of the siq, the Treasury appears magnificently and immediately in front of you, an awesome start to an unforgettable experience. Now we begin our exploration of what both the Nabateans and Romans left for us to witness. The most adventurous will be invited to hike up to the spiritual “High Place,” site of the sacrificial alter with a spectacular view of the ancient city and surroundings.
We close the day with a drive to Wadi Rum for a once in a lifetime experience for dinner and overnight.
Our camp, SPACE VILLAGE LUXURY CAMP, is a new luxury camp in Wadi Rum with 30 tents with en-suite facilities with toilet and shower, and fully furnished for your comfort. The camp features a restaurant, Bedouin sitting area, hot and cold water, and a variety of desert activities. http://wadirumspacevillagecamp.com/
Day 14 - Saturday, March 05: AMMAN (B,L)
After breakfast, take an adventurous 4X4 vehicle ride into the oasis, with its awesome lunar landscape. The film Lawrence of Arabia was shot here. After lunch we return through the Arabah desert toward Amman’s King Alia Airport, arriving at our Airport Hotel for overnight.
Our hotel, AMMAN AIRPORT, is a four-star property located within 5 minutes of Queen Alia International Airport. All rooms are designed to provide the ultimate in comfort and convenience and are equipped with air-conditioning, telephone, high-speed internet, flat screen satellite TV, mini-bar, safe deposit box, and hair dryer. Hotel facilities and services include a 24-hour restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, fitness center, outdoor pool, a shopping arcade, 24-hour room service and laundry services. www.ammanairporthotel.com
Day 15 - Sunday, March 06: Return flights (B)
Early morning transfer to Amman Airport for your Turkish Air flight #813 nonstop to Istanbul, departing at 6:10am and arriving at 9:45am. Connect to your Turkish Air flight #17 nonstop to Toronto, leaving at 3:30pm and arriving at 6:45pm.