- Hear a unique dual narrative provided by our Israeli and Palestinian peace-builder guides, trained by National Geographic Emerging Explorer Aziz Abu Sarah.
- Explore Caesarea Maritima with geo-archaeologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Beverly Goodman.
- Meet with an environmentalist from Friends of the Earth Middle East, whose efforts to foster Arab-Jewish cooperation through environmental stewardship were featured in the April 2010 issue of National Geographic magazine.
- In Jerusalem, get an insider’s view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from an Israeli politician, then travel to the West Bank for the rare opportunity to meet with officials of the Palestinian Authority.
Immerse yourself in the history and culture of the Holy Land on an expedition inspired by the peace-building efforts of National Geographic Emerging Explorer Aziz Abu Sarah. Explore the City of David and the ancient desert fortress of Masada; glide across the Sea of Galilee; and discover Jerusalem through the eyes of Jews, Muslims, and Christians. Hear a broad spectrum of narratives on this program, designed in partnership with Israelis and Palestinians, Arabs and Jews.
Arrive at the Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) in Tel Aviv and transfer to Jerusalem. Relax at the hotel before our reception and welcome dinner tonight.
Begin the day on the Temple Mount, capped by the shining cupola of the Dome of the Rock. Meet an imam from the Al-Aqsa Mosque who will explain the importance of this holy site to Muslims. Then visit the Western Wall, touch the ancient stones, and meet with a rabbi to learn about the significance of this sacred place. A local pastor then joins us at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, home to six Christian sects and, according to tradition, the tomb of Jesus. In the afternoon, ascend to the top of the Mount of Olives, and take in a panoramic view of the domes, spires, and golden stones of Jerusalem’s Old City.
Just outside the Old City walls lies the City of David, thought to be the original capital city established by King David some 3,000 years ago. Venture into the archaeological site and meet with its Israeli administrators; later, speak with residents of the nearby Palestinian neighborhood who oppose the excavations. Get an insider’s perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with an Israeli politician; then travel to Ramallah, where we are granted rare access to the offices of the Palestinian Authority to hear from a high-ranking politician.
Today, trace the turbulent history of the birth of the state of Israel. At Yad Vashem, Israel’s moving memorial to the Holocaust, meet with a Holocaust survivor for a personal glimpse into one of history’s darkest moments. Then travel to Ein Kerem, where Christian tradition says John the Baptist was born. An Israeli and a Palestinian guide will each tell their divergent narrative of the village’s role in Israel’s 1948 War of Independence. Enjoy time to explore Jerusalem on your own. Tonight, gather for a discussion with Israeli and Palestinian peace activists from the Bereaved Families Forum.
Travel to the Gush Etzion settlement bloc to hear the viewpoints of Israeli settlers. Continue to Bethlehem and visit Manger Square; then, at the Church of the Nativity, descend into the cave revered by many as the birthplace of Jesus. Walk through a nearby Palestinian refugee camp, and learn how murals and graffiti have been used to depict the refugees’ struggles. Our final stop is Herodion, a volcano-shaped hill and fortress built by Herod the Great. Over dinner, take in a musical performance by a group of Israeli and Palestinian musicians.
This morning, meet with an environmentalist from Friends of the Earth Middle East, whose efforts to foster Arab-Jewish cooperation through environmental stewardship were featured in the special April 2010 “Water” issue of National Geographic magazine. View the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Israel Museum, and then drive down through the Judean Desert to Jericho to visit the archaeological site of Tel Jericho. This afternoon, continue to our hotel, located in the Ein Gedi kibbutz on the shores of the Dead Sea. Learn about the kibbutz movement before enjoying time on your own to float in the Dead Sea, wander through the hotel’s botanical garden, or enjoy an optional spa treatment.
Soar up the flank of Masada in a gondola and explore King Herod’s 2,000-year-old mountaintop refuge. Then follow the Jordan Valley north to the Roman city of Bet She’an to see its remarkably preserved amphitheater, baths, and column-lined streets. Along the way, stop to dip your feet in the Jordan River, where Christian pilgrims come to be baptized.
Visit Caesarea Philippi, a center of worship from the Hellenic age to the early Christian era. Explore the area as you wish this afternoon: follow a scenic trail to the Banias waterfall, or enjoy a short hike through Tel Dan National Park to the ancient city of Dan. Take a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee from Tiberias to Capernaum, where Jesus lived and preached and where many Apostles, including Peter, made their home.
Hear the perspective of an Israeli Arab Christian on the way to Nazareth, where we visit the Basilica of the Annunciation, one of the largest churches in the Middle East. On an excursion to the mountaintop village of Beit Jann, discover the secretive traditions of the Druze people, and enjoy lunch with a Druze family in their home. Travel toward the Mediterranean coast this afternoon, and explore picturesque Jaffa, a strategic port town dating back to the Bronze Age. The bustling city of Tel Aviv is our home for tonight. Enjoy dinner here on your own.
Follow the coast north to Caesarea Maritima, Herod’s harbor city, and visit the ruins with geo-archaeologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Beverly Goodman. Then enjoy a free afternoon in Tel Aviv before gathering for a farewell reception and dinner.
After breakfast, transfer to the Ben Gurion Airport (TLV) in Tel Aviv and catch your flight home.
- Holy Land: Petra Extension
Post-Trip, 4 Days
Journey to Jordan and immerse yourself in the wonder and mystery of ancient Petra, delving into its elaborate buildings and tombs carved into soaring cliffs, Explore spectacular Roman ruins and cap off your trip with a festive evening in the capital city of Amman.
Fly from Tel Aviv to Eilat, Israel’s southernmost city, situated on the sparkling Red Sea. Spend the afternoon exploring this idyllic resort town, and go swimming and snorkeling from sun-drenched beaches fringed with coral reefs. Later, a short drive through the Wadi Arabah takes us across the border into Jordan. This afternoon, explore the lunar-like landscape of Wadi Rum, where T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) stayed with Bedouin friends and allies during World War I. Discover epic sand dunes and rose-tinted mountains where Bedouin tribes still make camp. Continue to our hotel at Petra, located just a few steps from this UNESCO World Heritage site.
Spend a full day exploring Petra, the legendary city of the Nabataean people. Hidden in deep canyons, this remarkable site was founded more than 2,400 years ago. Enter the ancient city through its primary entrance, known as the Siq—a narrow chasm between naturally sculpted cliffs that opens to Petra's iconic Treasury. Go on a guided visit of the site, where hundreds of monuments were rediscovered only in 1812. Then enjoy time on your own to explore the Royal Tombs or the Monastery.
Travel north to explore the fascinating capital city of Amman. Visit the ancient hilltop Citadel, home to the iconic, Roman-era Temple of Hercules and the eighth-century Umayyad Palace. In the afternoon, meet with a local organization to learn more about the complexities and challenges of the Syrian refugee crisis, followed by dinner with a local family in their home.
After breakfast, transfer to the Queen Alia International Airport (AMM) in Amman and catch your flight home.