Israel is one of the most ancient countries on
earth. Not only has it seen the footsteps of empires from the Romans to the
Crusaders, but it’s the center of the world’s three main religions of Judaism,
Christianity, and Islam. In 1948, Israel was reborn as a Jewish state. Since
then, the country has been involved in various international conflicts with the
states that surround it as well as a constant internal conflict between the
Arab and Israeli populations of Israel. On the YPT Israel and Palestine tour,
we explore the faultlines of this often misunderstood and highly debatable
conflict through the people who have fought for the country on both sides and
the people who live their day to day lives in some of the most infamous and
divided areas of Israel and the West Bank.
Using Jerusalem as our base, we’ll explore
deep into the West Bank as we walk the streets of the tense and divided city of
Hebron split between Jewish settlers and Arabs by a wall of the Israeli
military. We’ll visit an Israeli Army base where IDF Special Forces will give
us some training in the art of counter-terrorism. In the South of Israel, we’ll
get inches from the Gaza Strip and visit the fortified border towns hit hard by
As we explore the North of Israel we’ll take in
the war history in the Golan Heights where some of the most brutal battles of
the Yom Kippur War took place. We’ll have some coffee and cakes on the peak of
a volcano whilst looking into Syria. We’ll wind down the tour on the shores of
the Mediterranean in the thriving and cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv.
Arrive into Israel via Ben Gurion airport and make your way to Jerusalem which is located around 54km away.
Check into our comfortable hotel.
Meet up with your YPT tour leader and the rest of the group in the evening. We’ll then head out for dinner and share a few Gold Star beers and get to know each other and discuss the plan for the tour.
Our restaurant for the first night will be the historic Armenian Tavern which serves traditional Armenian food and is located inside a 1000-year-old building that was once part of a Crusader cloister.
Overnight in Jerusalem.
Day 2 – Sunday 8th August – Jerusalem
After breakfast, we’ll meet our local guide and set off to explore ‘the center of the world’.
We’ll begin from Jaffa Gate and step back into time as we walk through the different Quarters of the Old City. Taking in the indescribable energy that every corner presents.
We’ll visit the sites most holy to all three major religions. To Jews, King David’s Tomb and the Wailing Wall, the last remains of the Jewish Temple which stood here thousands of years ago. To Muslims, the site where the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven, the Dome of the Rock, as well as the beautiful Al Aqsa Mosque. And to Christians, the Via Dolorosa along which Christ walked with the cross to his crucifixion, and the room of the last supper, as well as venturing inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre!
Biblical stories will be put into context as you stand in the place where they took place whilst learning about the 5 Pillars of Islam, the foundation of the Jewish nation, and the discovery of the True Cross, to name a few.
But Jerusalem isn’t all about religion! After lunch, we’ll spend the rest of the day indulging in the war history of this young country.
One of the defining moments of the Six-Day War in 1967 was the battle of ammunition hill which led to the reunification of Jerusalem. For the first time in 1,900 years, the Holy City was under Jewish control.
Today, Ammunition Hill is a museum complex and tells the story of the soldiers who fought here. The museum features reconstructed bunkers, pillboxes, and exhibits detailing the events of those momentous days.
We’ll then visit the biggest tank museum in Israel which is located in and around a Mandate-era hilltop police station. Home to more than 110 tanks and armored vehicles, it’s considered one of the most diverse tank museums in the world!
We’ll have some free time in the evening to rest up before heading out to dinner in Jerusalem.
Overnight in Jerusalem.
Day 3 – Monday 9th August – Hebron
After breakfast, our tour begins to journey into the Arab-Israeli conflict as we board our bulletproof transport over the wall and into the West Bank en route to the divided and historic city of Hebron.
Our expedition to Hebron will be a dual narrative experience. In the morning we’ll explore the H2 sector of the city with armed Jewish settlers who live here under 24/7 armed protection from the Israeli military. In the afternoon, we’ll explore the Arab sector of H1 with a local Arab guide.
By hearing from both sides, this tour will give you a balanced insight into life in Hebron, the city of Abraham, and the site of the burial place of the Biblical Patriarchs and Matriarchs.
The tour of the Jewish sector will feature the divided Tomb of the Patriarchs, home to the symbolic tombs of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob, and Leah – even Adam and Eve –, all said to be buried in the cave beneath. Visit the restored synagogue, the Beit Hadassah museum about Jewish life in Hebron before the bloodthirsty riots of 1929, and the ‘Shavei Hevron Yeshiva’ in Beit Romano. We’ll also visit the hilltop Tel Rumeida, site of a Bronze Age archaeological site, Israeli army base, and the tomb of Ruth and Jesse from the Bible.
The tour of the Palestinian sector will take us into the bustling city center which we’ll take a break from as we enjoy a home-cooked lunch with a Palestinian family.
After lunch, we’ll climb on top of a family home for a rooftop view of the city, learn about the difficult conditions of Palestinian residents and shop owners living in close proximity to the nearby settlements, and visit the Muslim side of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, known as Abraham’s Mosque.
This is a unique tour in that it presents two very different narratives of one ancient, contested city. This is the only tour where you’ll have two guides, one Israeli, one Palestinian, each showing a different half and a different perspective of this city. The tour is political but objective, with each participant free to form their own opinions.
We’ll spend overnight in Hebron.
Day 4 – Tuesday 10th August – Hebron
We’ll have breakfast overlooking the ancient city of Hebron before moving on to explore the West Bank fully.
Our first stop will be Qasr-el-Yahud, the ancient baptism site of Jesus on the banks of the Jordan River.
We’ll move on to visit the oldest city in the world, Jericho, where as well as the historical sites, we will have the opportunity to view the Mount of Temptation from below, where the biblical story of the defeat of the Devil took place.
Next, we explore the bustling city of Ramallah: the vibrant, cultural capital of the West Bank where we’ll walk through the city and visit Yasser Arafat’s Tomb, before moving on to the city which was the birthplace of Christ: Bethlehem.
In Bethlehem, we will visit holy sites of the city, including the Church of Nativity; walk through the Old City with its colorful market; and walk alongside the infamous separation barrier that cuts through the city and see the colorful contributions made by famous graffiti artist, Banksy. Return to Jerusalem and enjoy dinner in the city.
Overnight in Jerusalem.
Day 5 – Wednesday 11th August – Sderot/Jerusalem
Today we begin a highlight of the tour as we head to the infamous Gaza Strip! We won’t be going inside as it’s simply not possible from the Israeli side, but we’ll get extremely close.
The area immediately adjacent to the Gaza border, on the Israel side, contains tons of political sites of interest.
On arrival at the Gaza border, we will stop at the Erez checkpoint where few people are allowed to cross, mainly a handful of Palestinians with medical visas, coming into Israel for treatment. Then off to Kibbutz Sikkim, where you’ll have a tour of the kibbutz and learn what it is like to be on the receiving end of rockets.
The next stop is the town of Sderot which has been on the receiving end of a variety of rockets from Gaza. We’ll visit the Sderot police station where there is an impressive museum of rockets that have fallen on the town. You’ll also see a reinforced school with huge concrete arches over the roof to protect the children from rockets.
When the Israeli government conducted its unilateral withdrawal and sealing of the Gaza Strip in 2005, many of the Israeli residents relocated north of the strip to the community of Nitzan. Our visit to Nitzan will highlight the trauma of removal from Gaza that the residents experienced. You’ll spend some time at the visitor’s center there that memorializes the event.
During the tour, our local guide will elaborate on the history of the closure of the Gaza strip, the removal of the settlements, and the tunnels to Egypt. The discussion will also include the issue of rocket attacks from Gaza, and the often devastating Israeli response.
Dinner in the South of Israel before we return to Jerusalem.
Overnight in Jerusalem.
Day 6 – Thursday 12th August – Golan Heights
After breakfast, we’ll pack our bags as we head North to the Syrian border for a tour of the Golan Heights!
Our route will take us through the Plain of Armageddon and past Megiddo into the Galilee.
The stunning area of Galilee has rolling hills, farmlands, vineyards and the beautiful Sea of Galilee.
Crossing the Jordan River we ascend the Golan Heights through the lush countryside. We pass Hamat Gader, a site with hot springs used by the Romans and modern-day spa-goers. We travel to the Shalom Observatory and from this elevated point, we have stunning views all the way to the Sea of Galilee.
In Katzrin we’ll see an excavated Jewish village from the Mishnah and Talmudic eras. Nearby we visit the Golan Antiquities Museum and see archaeological discoveries from the Golan.
The highlight of the day will be at Mount Bental where we explore the remaining Syrian bunkers and trenches captured by Israelis in the 1967 Six-Day War and it was here that one of the largest tank battles in human history took place.
Mount Bental is an inactive volcano and from the top, you can see right across the Golan Heights and into Syria.
As we ascend to the peak, we’ll enjoy a well-earned break at a cafe called Coffee Anan (a pun on both the UN leader and the Hebrew for “Coffee of the Clouds”). Coffee, tea, and cakes with a view of Syria and the battlefields of the Yom Kippur War!
Return to Jerusalem.
Dinner and overnight in the ancient city.
Day 7 – Friday 13th August – Tel Aviv
We pack our bags and make an early start for another trip highlight as we return to the West Bank to do some counter-terrorism training with the Israeli military!
YPT has access to an Israeli military facility in the West Bank. Here we’ll meet veteran special forces of the Israeli Army as they give their perspective on fighting the various wars in modern Israel before showing you the techniques and tactics that can keep you alive in the event of a terror attack.
Expect mock kidnappings, gunfire, and shooting a lot of guns!
This is an extreme activity, so those who wish to watch are free to do so.
After spending a few hours as Israeli soldiers, we head back South and check into our hotel in the ‘Miami of the Mediterranean’ Tel Aviv!
The rest of the day will be free time to explore the bustling markets of Tel Aviv or spend the day relaxing on the shores of the Mediterranean.
We’ll meet up in the evening for a farewell dinner and drinks over some mouth-watering Israeli food.
Overnight in Tel Aviv
Day 8 – Saturday 14th August
Breakfast at the hotel
End of tour with the option to arrange onward travel and transport arrangements through YPT.
● All accommodation in twin-share hotels.
● All breakfasts.
● All transport as per the itinerary.
● 24-hour services of a bilingual YPT tour leader as well as local English speaking guides.
● All admission fees.