I was recently given the opportunity to join one of our small group tours. After hearing so many amazing reviews from our clients about this great value tour of Israel, I was excited to have the opportunity to experience what our clients see, feel, breathe and taste but also to meet them face to face and really understand why it is they choose to come to explore this incredible country and why they choose a small group tour over a larger group.
Some may think but why join a small group? I don’t know what type of people will be in the group? We may not have similar interests… and the question I have heard repeatedly from clients prior to going on a small group tour, “I want the group tour experience but I want some free time to explore alone too”. Being on this group tour showed me that here at Pomegranate we really have created the perfect and unique small group experience that caters to all kinds of travelers. The carefully crafted itinerary provided history, context and perspective whilst giving the group enough down time to relax and soak up the atmosphere. There was a perfect balance of touring and guiding, free time to wander and get lost in the moment, as well as enjoy leisurely evenings away from the group. (Although I won’t lie by the last night some of the group opted to spend their final evening enjoying Tel Aviv as a group even though it was not in the planned itinerary).
Our group was made up of 10 strangers: couples, singles and those that came with friends, aged between 50 – 75 years from around the globe. Most of the group had never been to Israel before with many being their lifelong dream and top of their bucket lists. Some dreamed of floating in the Dead Sea or visiting the Western Wall whilst others dreamt of walking in the footsteps of Jesus. The one similarity everyone in the group had was that every person was genuinely curious to experience new places, people, cuisines, philosophies and points of views. Everyone arrived with the equal understanding that there is so much more to a country that could never be explained in a guidebook.
As we travelled around the country together it was clear to all that our guide was of the highest quality, he had extensive knowledge of the land, history and its people and it shined through that his true passion in life is the country he loves and the people that make up its population. The personal touches he brought to the trip from taking us to his favorite traditional Druze restaurant in the Golan Heights, to the stories he told of his time in the army whilst on a geopolitical jeep ride, as well as his own family’s history at the Yad Vashem holocaust museum, all made the guiding days all that more intimate and special.
One of my personal favorite places we visited had to be Kibbutz El Rom in the north of the country. The kibbutz has a long history and is a fantastic example of how Kibbutz life today has had to modernize in order to keep up with modern times. Most Kibbutzim are focused on agriculture but this Kibbutz has evolved and now works within the film and dubbing industry. We had the opportunity to watch a fascinating film about the soldiers in the 1973 war where we heard personal accounts from soldiers who fought in the war. As this visit took place the same day that we had been on a jeep tour on the Syrian border it really made the history come to life and help put in perspective what people in this area have lived through.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of the small group tour was not just having the opportunity to listen to our guide and see these incredible places but also ask our own personal questions and gain further insights, which if we had been in a larger group would never had been possible. Having a small group also meant that the wait times in queues were lessened and if I’m totally honest we barley had to wait in any lines as our guide was treated like a VIP everywhere we went using the Pomegranate name as the magic word. Better yet being a small group also meant that the less time we spent waiting for the group members in the morning, or checking into hotels or even getting in and out of the vehicle meant we had more time to explore sites. The small group was especially effective when on a tasting tour around Jerusalem’s renowned open air Machane Yehuda market. Here, along with our specialist guide we were introduced to the history of the market and the incredible variety of foods traditional to immigrants from around the world that set up home in Israel. From Syrian stuffed vine leaves to Georgian cheese pastries to traditional Yemenite Jachnun bread we went on a culinary trip around the world in the space of two hours. Being with a specialist guide she knew exactly where to take us and of course jumped ahead in all the queues.
I could write endlessly about the time I spent on this incredible ten-day tour, from the places we visited to the foods we tasted but I honestly think that what makes these Small Group tours that extra bit special is the fact that Pomegranate have truly found the correct recipe for a small group of complete strangers, from the number of participants to the best guides, to the hotels with exceptional service, all of this brings together in a neat package the perfect way to experience this insanely wonderful and often complex country.
By Yasmin Shalev.
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