Israel and Palestine at New Year
New Year in Israel and Palestine, known as Sylvester, has become a big event in recent years, although in Jerusalem it is still a little quieter than elsewhere. Here is a chance to spend a whole week exploring the archaeology, history, religions and cultures of this great city, in comfortable spring-like temperatures, and to visit the many renowned sites within such easy reach - Jericho, Masada, Qumran, Lachish. Plenty of time to get to grips with the geography of the city, its archaeology, and the effect the biblical stories have had on people, especially since the Crusades. A city of contrasts from sophisticated shops and museums to winding souks.
We fly to Tel Aviv and transfer to Jerusalem and our hotel, superbly located within walking distance of the old city and Western wall.
We begin our tour of Jerusalem by viewing the fascinating excavations at Mount Zion, including walking around the walls to view the 'hidden gate', we continue to the City of David, where we view Warren's Shaft and Siloam Pool. This afternoon we walk part of the Via Dolorosa, the 'way of suffering', said to be the path Jesus took on his way to the cross. Our day ends at the Bethesada Pool, referred to in the Gospel of John, and dated by archaeologists back to the 8th century. The ancient pool was part of an asklepion, a healing centre and has been extensively excavated.
We drive to Jericho, the world's oldest continuously occupied city. Our first visit here is to the Herodian Winter Palace complex destroyed by an earthquake in 31BC, the complex was once truly magnificent, complete with ornate gardens, swimming pools and bathhouses. Those who enjoy heights can then join us as we ascend the slopes the Mount of Temptation by cable car, we have lunch and spectacular views at the top. In the afternoon we travel to Tel es-Sultan, a UNESCO world heritage site, which provides fascinating evidence of the transition from hunter-gathering to permanent settlement. We return to Jerusalem in the late afternoon, where we have free time to enjoy the mild winter evening before regrouping for dinner in a local restaurant.
On New Year's Eve we explore the Roman side of Jerusalem as we walk the Cardo Maximus, once the main North South thoroughfare that bisected the city. This afternoon, we have free time before we rejoin our guide for a tour of the Israel Museum, here the almost overwhelming collections include the Dead Sea Scrolls, as well as archaeological artefacts from every era of the region's history. This evening we celebrate 'sylvester' with a gala dinner in the old city, followed by a spectacular firework display at the New Gate.
We have a relaxed start this morning after our late night, with free time before we regroup for a light lunch. This afternoon, we travel to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where we are delighted to have secured special access. The Church, according to tradition, is the site of both Jesus' crucifixion and his empty tomb, we enjoy a tour of the church and surrounding iconic monuments before we return to our hotel this evening.
Today we we ascend to Masada, a Herodian fortress high up on the cliffs. The defenders of the fortress committed mass suicide rather than surrender to the Romans in AD 73. We then visit En Gedi National Park, with its beautiful oasis. We will also visit Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.
Our final full day we travel to Tel Lachish, a huge city with commanding views over the hills and the coastal plain. The site was first inhabited during the Neolithic, before being taken over by the Assyrians and finally abandoned after the conquest of Alexander the Great. In the afternoon we continue to the walled Roman city of Tel Beer Sheba, before returning to our hotel for a final farewell dinner this evening.
This morning we visit the ancient Port of Jaffa, before transfering to Tel Aviv for flight home or onward journeys.
- Expert Guide Lecturer
- Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private AC coach
- Meals - All meal included
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in programme; tips included
- Field notes
- Flights - Scheduled return flights from London to Tel Aviv
- Hotels - 7 nights in a superbly located 4* hotel in walking distance of the old city of Jerusalem