ISRAEL & BEYOND
June 18 – 25, 2017
Journeys with G Adventures and The National Geographic
I recently participated in a travel agent trip to Israel through The National Geographic Journeys with G Adventures. The name of the tour is “Israel and Beyond”. There could not be a better named tour in all the travel industry.
Upon arrival in Tel Aviv, I was met by my driver who transferred me to my hotel. The hotel we stayed at for the 1st 4 nights is The Legacy Hotel. The location in Jerusalem was perfect. It was just a block from the train and walking distance to many restaurants. The rooms were modest with a small bedroom and bathroom. Internet service was free and accessible from all areas of the hotel. The tour included buffet breakfast daily in their dining room.
After meeting up with the rest of the group, we walked to the restaurant for dinner. It was about a 10-12 block walk and I felt perfectly safe.
Our 1st tour day was to the Old City of Jerusalem. Our main guide, Aviv was accompanied this day by another guide who is Palestinian. Aviv is Israeli. This is the unique aspect of this tour – getting the dual perspectives of this country from both an Israeli and a Palestinian. They managed to do this very respectfully, and working so well together. I can’t imagine traveling to this destination and not hearing both sides of the story! This platform allowed our group a greater understanding of the cultural, religious and political aspects of Israel. Both Aviv and Ramzi were very well spoken and easily answered our many questions. After walking through the walled city and getting a good understanding of the 4 quarters (Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian). This is a very small area, and it is truly amazing to see these 4 diverse cultures living in peach with each other. Each quarter had a distinct atmosphere including different music, languages, smells and shops. We then visited The Western Wall, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Mount of Olives. We were unable to visit The Temple Mount as it was Ramadan, and only Muslims were allowed there that day, but we did go to the platform overlooking The Temple Mount to get a good overview of the area. We did go to The Western Wall and were able to touch the wall, say a prayer and leave a note between the cracks in the wall. This was a very powerful experience. We then drove up to the Mount of Olives. This important hill overlooks Jerusalem and the Garden of Gethsemane.
This evening we had a learning session with a local Rabbi who has a degree in Conflict Resolution. This session was very informative and he was wonderful with his prepared lesson for us and answered many of our questions. It was sobering hearing the history of the conflict in the area and the realization that we will probably never see a resolution happen within our lifetime.
Our 2nd day took us to the Yad Vashem museum. This is the Jewish Holocaust Museum. I have visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. 2 times, but seeing the information and history in Israel surrounded by local Jews, was very moving and emotional. We then visited the Israel Museum where the Dead Sea Scrolls are held. There is also a very educational section of the museum dedicated to the archeological history of Israel.
Our 3rd day we were again joined by Ramzi as we traveled to Bethlehem. Our 1st stop was the Palestinian Refugee Camp. The name of the camp is The Aida Camp. There are over 3,000 people living in this camp that covers less than ¾ of a square mile. This camp faces many challenges due to its location between both Palestinian and Israeli control.
We then visited Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity. For lunch, we were hosted by a local Palestinian family. We each had to help with the preparation of the meal and had a wonderful time bonding with each other and our hosts. This was the best meal I had on the trip!
Our 4th day we packed our bags and left The Legacy Hotel. We drove to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Masada with stops at Herod’s Palace, the Bathhouse and the Synagogue. Aviv gave a wonderful lecture on Herod’s history. From there we went to the Dead Sea. This was a most unique experience! For those of us who took a swim, we could scrub our arms and legs with the mud and float on the water like nowhere else in the world!
We then drove to our hotel along the Sea of Galilee in a local kibbutz. A kibbutz is a communal settlement. Our lovely hotel was The Kibbutz Maagan. Our rooms were all junior suites with kitchens and living room areas.
Our 5th day we visited Nazareth and visited the Basilica of the Annunciation. We then made a stop of Cana and visited the Cana Catholic Wedding Church. We then drove to the Mt. of Beatitudes overlooking the Sea of Galilee and visited the church that was built on top of the hill where Jesus is believed to have delivered his Sermon on the Mount speech. From there we ventured to Capernaum, where Jesus lived and preached and where many of the apostles made their home. Our final adventure of the night was a cruise on the Sea of Galilee from Ginnosar to Tiberias.
Our last full day we left the kibbutz and made our 1st stop at Haifa and the Bahai Gardens. We then went to Caesarea Maritima to see the ruins of Herod’s harbor city. We then visited the ancient port city of Jaffa just outside of Tel Aviv. Here we had our last meal together and drove to Tel Aviv to check in to our last hotel, The Cinema Hotel. This hotel is right in the center of Tel Aviv and was within walking distance to shopping, restaurants and nightlife. I walked around the city for a couple of hours by myself and felt completely safe.
Again, I will say that the information provided with this tour is unmatched. G Adventures and The National Geographic partner together to offer these small group (16 or less) tours. Seeing the other large tour buses load and unload at each of our spots, made me grateful for our small group and intimate learning atmosphere.
I would recommend this tour, and I definitely recommend our wonderful guide, Aviv.
I will be forever thankful for this opportunity and experience.