Ashdod (Jerusalem), Israel
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2 days / 1 night
Old City of Jerusalem & Its WallsAs a holy city for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Jerusalem has always been of great symbolic importance. Among its 220 historic monuments, the Dome of the Rock stands out: built in the 7th century, it is decorated with beautiful geometric and floral motifs. It is recognized by all three religions as the site of Abraham's sacrifice. The Wailing Wall delimits the quarters of the different religious communities, while the Resurrection rotunda in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre houses Christ's tomb.
Masada is a rugged natural fortress, of majestic beauty, in the Judaean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea. It is a symbol of the ancient kingdom of Israel, its violent destruction and the last stand of Jewish patriots in the face of the Roman army, in 73 AD. It was built as a palace complex, in the classic style of the early Roman Empire, by Herod the Great, King of Judaea, (reigned 37 -- 4 BC). The camps, fortifications and attack ramp that encircle the monument constitute the most complete Roman siege works surviving to the present day.
Day 1 (L/D)
Depart from Ashdod port and descend 1,400 feet to the lowest place on the surface of our planet -- the Dead Sea, in the Judean Desert. Visit the Masada Fortress located a little to the north of ancient Sodom. The mountain fortress of Masada looms high above the Dead Sea's desolated landscape. It has often been described as the most spectacular archaeological site in Israel. Here King Herod built a luxurious refuge complete with magnificent palaces, swimming pools and excavated rock cisterns to provide water supplies. Around AD 73, after a long Roman siege, more than 950 Jews took their own lives at Masada rather than face retaliation and a future of slavery. A cable car will convey you to the summit for a walk around the site of this last stand. Among the fascinating sights are the wall, bathhouses, upper palace, synagogue, church cisterns, western palace, Roman ramp and swimming pool. Re-board the coach and drive to Ein Bokek in time for lunch at a hotel on the shores of the Dead Sea. After lunch, take a swim in these waters that are so mineral-rich, you can't sink. After your Dead Sea experience, drive north past Jericho and Qumran. Take a picture of the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947.
You will stay overnight either in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. After checking in at the hotel, enjoy dinner. Depending on the hotel's location, you'll take an evening drive either through Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. If in Jerusalem, you'll see the magnificently illuminated Old Town walls and enjoy a moonlit visit to the Western (or Wailing) Wall with a chance to touch the stones. If in Tel Aviv, you'll see the beautiful Old Port of Jaffa whose character remains completely intact and along modern Tel Aviv's Rothschild Boulevard and seafront promenade. Dinner and Overnight at the Inbal Jerusalem Hotel (or similar) after an exciting and memorable day.
Day 2 (B/L)
After breakfast and hotel check-out, you'll drive to Jerusalem. Familiar names will catch your attention all along the way. Upon arrival in the capital, begin with a magnificent view over the Golden City from atop the Mount Scopus. Then walk through Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus spent the last moments before his arrest. Early Christians were already holding gatherings here before the first church was built around AD 380. Visit the beautiful church that is here today and see some of the oldest olive trees remaining in Jerusalem. Re-board your coach for the short drive to Mt Zion and a visit to the Room of the Last Supper and walk by King David's Tomb. Enter the Old City on foot via Zion Gate and walk through the Jewish Quarter and the Roman Cardo to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built on the site of Christ's resurrection. The original vast sanctuary built here by Emperor Constantine was destroyed centuries later, but a replacement was eventually rebuilt by the Crusaders. Inside the church you will see the last five Stations of the Cross. Walk through the colorful bazaar to the Jaffa Gate. After lunch, drive to Bethlehem and visit the Church of Nativity -- built above the place Christ is said to have been born. The actual Cave of the Nativity is a small crypt with a vaulted masonry roof. Poor Bethlehem families used the rocky hollows of the region as stables or dwellings, so the tradition that places the Nativity in a cave is not at odds with the story of the Manger. On your way out of Bethlehem, you will have an opportunity to shop for souvenirs before you return to the ship.
Please note: Bring your passport when visiting Bethlehem. Use of an audio headset (included) will enhance your tour experience. All meals are included unless specifically noted otherwise.
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