There are few places in the world that raise passions as much as the Holy Land, where thousands of years of tumultuous history have brought together — in peace and in struggle — diverse peoples driven by faith and devotion. In the heart of Jerusalem’s Old City, a pilgrimage site for thousands of years, Muslims in keffiyehs, Hasidic Jews and Egyptian Copts cross paths with nuns carrying crosses in the footsteps of Jesus. Experience this fascinating melting pot of faith and history from a variety of perspectives, hearing from scholars, journalists and political leaders about life in Israel and the West Bank today — and discussing the prospects for peace after so many years of conflict. Spend two full days exploring incomparable Jerusalem with a Los Angeles Times editor and local experts. Then head 2,000 years into the past, visiting King Herod’s Masada and the Christian sites of the Galilee. Meet with local leaders in Bethlehem, enjoy an unusual perspective from residents of a kibbutz on the edge of the Gaza Strip and, in Tel Aviv, delve into the legacies of the late peacemaker Shimon Peres.
Oct 25-Nov 2, 2020
Delve into Jerusalem’s captivating Old City to discover sites central to three major faiths and take an optional walk along the city’s ramparts.
Explore ancient history on visits to Masada, Tel Shiloh and Caesarea and stroll the timeless, winding lanes of Jaffa.
Float in the Dead Sea and visit important New Testament sites on the shores of the serene Sea of Galilee.
Discuss current events with foreign policy experts, journalists, local residents and political leaders from both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Arrive at Ben Gurion Airport and meet your guide and driver for the transfer to Jerusalem. Check in to your hotel, just steps from the Old City, and gather with fellow travelers and your Los Angeles Times expert for a welcome dinner tonight. (D)
Start the day with an introductory talk on the Israeli and Palestinian conflict by Dr. Eran Lerman, a foreign policy expert who formerly served on Israel’s National Security Council. Then revisit one of the darkest chapters of recent history on a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s poignant memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. Head into East Jerusalem to the American Colony, a historic hotel that has drawn politicians and intellectuals for more than a century, and enjoy lunch at the Notre Dame rooftop restaurant. This afternoon, explore the history of the Jewish Underground at the Museum of Underground Prisoners, a former prison where members of the Haganah and other underground groups were held in the last days of the British Mandate. If you wish, take a walk along the Old City ramparts from the Jaffa Gate to the Zion Gate, seeing everyday scenes of Old Jerusalem from a bird’s-eye perspective. Enjoy an evening at leisure. (B, L)
Jerusalem’s Old City covers less than one square mile, but it’s home to some of the most sacred sites of the world’s three main religions: Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Divided into four uneven quarters — the Jewish Quarter, the Arab Quarter, the Christian Quarter and the Armenian Quarter — each with its distinct personality, this ancient city is filled with pilgrims and worshippers of all stripes. Begin atop the Mount of Olives for a panoramic overview of the city and stroll through the Garden of Gethsemane, where Christians believe Jesus prayed the night before his arrest. Then head into the Jewish Quarter to see the Western Wall, the only surviving piece of Judaism’s hallowed Second Temple. See the adjacent Temple Mount, home of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the magnificent Dome of the Rock, the third holiest site in Islam, where Muslims believe Mohammed ascended to heaven. Then make your way along the Via Dolorosa, the path which Christians believe Jesus took carrying his cross to the crucifixion site, and step into the Holy Sepulchre, the storied home of six different Christian sects. After lunch on your own, regroup for a lecture by a local scholar on centuries of faith and conflict in Jerusalem. Then hear from Khaled Abu Toameh, a Palestinian journalist, who will share insights on current events and everyday life in the West Bank and Gaza. (B)
Travel east to Masada, King Herod’s fortress built atop a high mesa. It was here, in AD 73, following the sack of Jerusalem, that 960 besieged Jews sacrificed themselves instead of surrendering to the Roman army. Ride up the slopes in a cable car to explore the fortress ruins and take in views of the desert scenery that extends in every direction. Then head for the Dead Sea for a therapeutic float in its mineral-heavy waters. In the Judean Desert, stop to see St. George’s Monastery, a fifth-century church tucked into the narrow chasm of Wadi Qelt. Continue to Bethlehem, where the mayor or one of his deputies will greet you for an introduction to everyday life in this legendary place. Enjoy a tour of the town before returning to Jerusalem for an evening at leisure. (B, L)
Travel north to Ramallah, the de facto capital of the West Bank, and discuss current events with Professor Khalil Shikaki, a prominent Palestinian political expert. Next, hear a different viewpoint on a visit to the Israeli settlement of Shiloh, where an archaeological dig has revealed evidence of the 3,500 -year-old Tabernacle as well as several Byzantine churches. Meet with settlers at the town’s synagogue, whichwas designed to look like the ancient tabernacle. Continue north to the Galilee and check in to our hotel overlooking the historic center of Nazareth. (B, L, D)
Spend the morning exploring New Testament sites along the tranquil shores of the Sea of Galilee. Begin at the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus gave his famous Sermon on the Mount, and take in sweeping views of the sea and the mountains beyond. At Capernaum, where Jesus performed miracles among fishermen who would become his disciples, visit a house said to have belonged to Peter. Then step into the church at Tabgha, the site of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. This afternoon, you’ll be joined by Col. (Res.) Miri Eisin, a former spokesperson of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), for a scenic drive in the long-disputed Golan Heights along the Syrian border and a talk on the current geopolitics of northern Israel. Stop for a wine tasting at one of Israel’s most celebrated wineries before returning to Nazareth. (B, L)
This morning, meet with Aida Touma-Suleiman, an Israeli-Arab member of the Knesset (the Israeli Parliament) to learn about the role of Arab citizens in Israel. Then, trace the Mediterranean coast south to Caesarea Maritima, a major port built by King Herod. Explore the ongoing archaeological excavations here that have, over the years, revealed a complete Roman city with a theater, temple, palace and harbor. Continue south to Jaffa, an old Arab fishing port adjacent to Tel Aviv where winding alleys now harbor artists’ studios and galleries. Enjoy time walking around this picturesque spot and stop for a bite to eat on your own. Check into our hotel on the Tel Aviv waterfront before an evening at leisure. (B)
This morning, visit the Peres Center for Peace and Innovation, founded by Shimon Peres, former president and longtime peace proponent who worked closely with Yitzhak Rabin to find a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Learn about his vision and the work of the Peres Center in promoting peace through socioeconomic cooperation and development. Then journey south to Kibbutz Nahal Oz, a lush and tranquil community situated just a few hundred yards from the Gaza Strip. Hear from residents about life on the kibbutz, and the impact of recurring conflicts between the IDF and Hamas, and meet a former member of the Knesset who resides there. Return to Tel Aviv for a final lecture on the ripple effects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the Mediterranean region. Gather tonight for a farewell dinner. (B, L, D)
After a final breakfast, transfer to the airport for individual flights home. (B)