From daily prayers for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, to the annual hope of the Passover Seder, “next year in Jerusalem”, to the smashing of a glass at every Jewish wedding to commemorate Jerusalem’s destruction, it is impossible to disentangle the Jewish story from Israel. The history of the Jewish people is indeed an extraordinary narrative, and Israel is the place where that story is told. It is the place where the story started, and where, in vibrant colours, the story continues to unfold today.
A Jewish heritage tour to Israel is the perfect way to engage with this rich tradition and heritage. Visiting Israel with Pomegranate Travel will be an emotionally moving, intellectually engaging, and spiritually uplifting adventure. You will see Jewish life first hand from biblical period Jewish homes, synagogues and artefacts, to the kaleidoscope of Jewish life which makes up Israel today. In true Jewish style you will be encouraged to get involved in the many debates internal to Israeli society, to explore questions of identity, and to eat lots. Pomegranate Travel arranges Jewish Heritage tours for first timers in Israel, for those who have not visited for many years, and for those looking for a more in depth experience.
Jewish Heritage Sites
Where are the best places to visit on a Jewish heritage tour in Israel? The obvious starting point is Jerusalem, the capital of King David’s ancient state, and today’s modern state of Israel. Travel back in time to the period of the biblical kings in the City of David where you can see the ruins of King David’s palace and walk through an ancient water tunnel built by King Hezekiah. Ascend into the Old City to place a note in the Western Wall, the ruins of the Second Temple that are closest to the Holy of Holies, the ancient Temple’s most important site. Explore the beautiful Ashkenazi and Sephardi synagogues in the Jewish Quarter, each replete with their own legends. We also very much recommend a Shabbat experience in Jerusalem. Shabbat at the Kotel (Western Wall) is an unforgettable experience, with everyone from Hasids to soldiers singing and dancing together to welcome in Shabbat. We are pleased to offer Shabbat home hospitality with families from a variety of Jewish backgrounds – a wonderful way to engage with Jerusalemites and hang out with some real Israelis.
The modern city of Jerusalem also has much to offer by way of inspiration. A visit to Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust memorial, is a sobering but powerful experience. Next to it lies Mount Herzl, the memorial site for many of the great modern Jewish leaders without whom Israel would not exist. Here your tour guide will relate the stories of figures such as Theodore Herzl, Yitzchak Rabin and Golda Meir, individuals who lived out their dreams, and made possible the impossible.
A lesser known fact is that following the destruction of the Second Temple 2000 years ago, the centre of Judaism in the Promised Land moved to the north. A visit to the areas of the Galilee and the Golan reveals a plethora of impressive ancient synagogues, many replete with beautiful mosaics. It is almost possible to feel the presence of the ancient communities, praying for a return to Jerusalem.
Also in the north is the city of Tzfat, home of Jewish mysticism, known as the Kabbalah. The city is replete with legends, and a visit to its many beautiful synagogues is highly recommended. The artists’ quarter is home to artists who draw on the Kabbalah for inspiration, leading to some remarkable creations. We are well acquainted with local artists and scholars, and can arrange private meetings for those looking to delve a little deeper into the subject.
Jewish heritage in Israel is focused not only on ancient history, but also to a large extent on more recent history. The birth of the modern state of Israel after the Second World War, and the remarkable survival and growth of the tiny state is a huge topic – obviously there is nowhere better suited to exploring this topic than the land of Israel itself. Our specialist tours will allow you and your children to explore and personally engage with Israel’s recent history and current geo-politics. Start with a Kibbutz tour to understand this radical movement – a revolutionary blueprint for socialist farming settlements developed around 100 years ago. The Kibbutz movement was not only socialist, but strongly Zionist, and the young Kibbutzim played a crucial role in the defence of Israel’s borders. Visiting a kibbutz and meeting with local members is a fascinating experience which transports you to a different world. Explore the British mandate period and learn about the various Jewish resistance movements at museums such as the Ayalon Institute where you can visit a secret, underground bullet factory; the Palmach Museum in Tel Aviv, an interactive experience which places you in the shoes of a young Palmach member; the Begin museum in Jerusalem through which you can explore the Irgune (or Etzel) movement including the infamous bombing of the King David Hotel; the Underground Prisoners museum in Acre where the British imprisoned and ultimately hung captured Jewish resistance fighters, and many more.
Explore the 1967 and 1973 Arab Israeli wars by venturing up to the Golan Heights and Upper Galilee. Here you will explore battle sites complete with bunkers you can still enter and tanks which children can climb on. You will learn about the wars through interactive maps and movies, and specialist jeep rides will take you off road to the borders with Syria and Lebanon where you can fully understand how Israel’s Northern borders were former, and the current day challenges of the region. We also recommend a visit further South in the ‘Gaza Envelope’ where you can visit communities on the border with Gaza and understand the long and complex history of this small but troubled piece of land.
No Jewish heritage tour is complete without some time in Tel Aviv, the first Hebrew city. The incredible story of the founding pioneers is truly inspirational, and a visit to Independence Hall, where the State of Israel was declared into existence by David Ben Gurion can be very moving. Tel Aviv is the centre of modern Hebrew culture today, from fashion to architecture to art to food, and we can tailor your Tel Aviv experience to focus your interests in any of these fields with specialist guided tours.
We would be delighted to facilitate the celebration of your child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah in Israel, helping you to connect your family to thousands of years of Jewish history.
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