The Heart of Palestine

Take the road less-trodden to discover life in Palestine and the critical issues in the Holy Land understanding the history of events that shaped the region into its current status while experiencing its mesmerizing wonders. Not a journey for everyone but Palestine offers diversity and memorable experiences for the intrepid traveler. 

HIGHLIGHTS

Learn about life under Occupation

Visit some of the most spectacular sites in Palestine

Be immersed into the everyday life and culture of Palestine

Participate in volunteering programs

ITINERARY

DAY 1: JERUSALEM / BETHLEHEM

Departing from Jerusalem, a short drive takes us into the checkpoints where we enter into Palestinian territories to Bethlehem, venerated to be the original birthplace of Jesus Christ. Start with a visit to the UNESCO-listed Church of the Nativity, the oldest church in the Holy Land still in use commissioned by Constantine the Great in 327 AD. Thereafter, we take a walk on Manger Square, the hub of modern Bethlehem surrounded by cafes, restaurants and stores. Visit the Chapel of the Milk Grotto next where  according to Christian tradition, the Holy Family took shelter during the Slaughter of the Innocents and stayed therefor a short time hiding from Herod's soldiers. It is here where the Virgin Mary nursed her child Jesus Christ before going to Egypt. It is said that a drop of the Virgin's milk fell to the floor of the cave, turning the rock white and giving rise to the chalky stone.

Nearing lunch, we visit the Aida Refugee Camp, the Palestine Heritage Center, visit a Palestinian NGO, and see the Separation Barrier up close culminating in a home-cooking lunch experience with a refugee. We then arrive to check in at the unique Walled Off Hotel, directly facing the Separation Wall, originally intended as a temporary and provocative piece of installation art. 

This evening, you will visit the Alternative Information Center (AIC) for their weekly discussion session about aspects of Palestinian life and the Occupation. There is a featured speaker from an Israeli or Palestinian organization then lots of round table discussion. The AIC promotes the rights of the Palestinian people, and is the only peace and justice organization that has a mixed staff and board of Palestinians and Israelis.

Overnight: Walled Off Hotel, Bethlehem

Meals: Lunch & Dinner

DAY 2: BETHLEHEM (EXCURSION TO HEBRON & HERODION)

Our second day begins with a drive south on an excursion to the highly-political city of Hebron, the only city in the West Bank that has a large part of direct Israeli control and is the only urban Palestinian area with Jewish settlements in its old city center where over 170,000 Palestinians and more than 600 settlers live. Scenes of hundreds of soldiers and policemen are in charge of protecting the settlers, and enforcing an odd mix of Israeli and military law - a daily part of life. Our tour involves a visit to the Caves of the Patriarchs - built by Herod over the burial place of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah. We will also take a walk through the UNESCO-listed Al-Khalil Old Town area that dates back to more than 2,000 years. In Arabic, the place is called Al-Khalil, which is a term that derives from the Qur’anic epithet for Abraham – Khalil al-Rahman, meaning “Beloved of the Merciful” or “Friend of God.” The name Hebron, when traced back to its Semitic roots, means the same. A stroll through the old city’s narrow, winding streets can offer a fascinating journey through different eras of history. The old quarters, dominated by the Mamluk style (12th Century), with additional elements from the Ottoman times (15th - 19th Centuries). We visit as well Hebron's souq with its maze of alleys adorned with shops selling everything from locally made pottery, glass, rugs, and embroidered items to fresh and dried fruits. 

Thereafter, we leave Hebron for Herodion, one of Herod the Great's most ambitious projects in the Judean desert that was built to serve as a summer palace, fortress, monument and burial ground. Built between 23-20 BC, the immense Herodion complex was divided into two sections: Upper Herodion, which contained the palace set within a circular fortress on an artificial cone-shaped mountain; and Lower Herodion, at the base of the mountain, which consisted of numerous palace annexes for use by the king's family and friends, and for the central offices of the district capital. All that went into decline after the death of Herod and subsequent successors after the defeat by the Romans that left Herodion in ruins. 

Overnight: Walled Off Hotel, Bethlehem

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 3: BETHLEHEM / NABLUS

We leave Bethlehem today for a drive north the West Bank on Route 60 witnessing many small radical settlements and Palestinian villages. The first stop will be the Balata Refugee Camp where you'll see the crowded conditions and hear some stories about life there. You'll also visit one of the camp organizations that helps make life a little better for the residents. Thereafter, embark on a tour of the Old City of Nablus with its beautiful labyrinth of buildings dating back to the Ottoman period. You'll visit the ancient Turkish baths and an olive oil soap factory as well as sites of historical and religious interest such as Jacob’s Well; a deep well dug by Jacob and where Jesus once asked a Samaritan woman for a drink. A highlight of the day is the Samaritans' hilltop village on Mount Grizim to see the site of their ancient temple and their modern-day village. 

We then retreat to the Khan Alwakala Hotel where we will spend the night in this stunningly-restored hotel, a former caravanserai that has host merchants since ancient times. 

Overnight: Khan Alwakala Hotel

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 4: NABLUS / JERICHO 

Leaving Nablus today, we head back south to Jericho - the longest-continuously inhabited city and one of the lowest-elevated cities in the world at 274m below sea level. En route, we make a stop at the incredible Monastery of St George of Choziba, a stunning cliff-hanging monastic complex carved into a sheer rock wall in the Judaean Desert, set against the deep and narrow gorge of Wadi Qelt. Founded in the 5th Century, when John of Thebes, an Egyptian, drew together a cluster of five Syrian hermits who had settled around a cave where they believed the prophet Elijah was fed by ravens. 

Later, we continue to the ruins of Hisham's Palace, built in the 8th Century during the Umayyad period as a hunting lodge and winter resort attributed to Umayyad Caliph El Hisham Ibn Abd Al Malik where we marvel at the remains of the excavated complex destroyed by an earthquake in 747 AD. Not far away, we visit the UNESCO-listed Tell es-Sultan where excavation on the site has revealed layers of cities and human habitation dating as far back as 9,600 – 7,700 BC, around 10,000 years, earning Jericho the name of “the Oldest City in the World”. The elaborate defenses include a seven meter high Neolithic Tower. Very nearby lies the Ein al-Sultan "Elisha's Well" where purification of water was done by adding salt in ancient times. 

Our final visit of the day will be the spectacular Mount of Temptation. After being baptized by John the Baptist, Jesus Christ retreated to the wilderness to meditate and fast, the mountain on which Jesus is believed to have spent the 40 days and 40 nights of spiritual contemplation overlooking the Jordan Valley. Witness the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Temptation that clings to the  mountain’s sheer face about 350 meters above sea level. The earliest monastery was constructed on the site by the Byzantines in the 6th century. Crusaders then built two churches: one in a cave half way up the cliff and the second on the summit of the mount. In 1895, the Greek Orthodox Monastery was constructed around a cave chapel that contains the stone where Jesus sat during his fast. Finally, we retreat to the Jericho Resort Village where we spend the night. 

Overnight: Jericho Resort Village, Jericho

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

DAY 5: DEPARTURE JERICHO

You have the option today to return to Jerusalem where you may continue your exploration of Israel and beyond or cross the King Hussein border into Jordan to continue your expedition. 

Meals: Breakfast

HOTELS

Opened in 2017 by British street artist, Banksy, the Walled Off Hotel was originally built as an installation art before it was turned into a boutique hotel next to the Separation Wall decorated with murals, paintings and various installations depicting scenes of the Occupation. 

Walled Off Hotel, Bethlehem

Historically one of the most important buildings and lodging for traders, the former "Caravanserai" is now the Khan Alwakala Hotel within the old city of Nablus carefully restored with support of the European Union offering now a well-furnished and comfortable accommodations for discerning travelers. 

Khan Alwakala Hotel, Nablus

The Jericho Resort Village is a comfortable hotel offering well-furnished accommodations, modern amenities in an enviable location in Jericho, the world's oldest city allowing for excursions to many of its incredible historical sites as well as in close proximity to the Dead Sea. 

Jericho Resort Village, Jericho

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