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Below Jerusalem’s Old City walls, lies the tranquil green Valley of Hinnom, best known for its beautiful views and turbulent history. It was here that the people of Judah, offered their children to the fire god Molech and to Ba’al.  Despite the grim tales of the past, the Valley of Hinnom is one of the most picturesque walks you can take in the Holy City.

Begin at the Scottish Church that overlooks the Valley. The church, which also has a lovely guesthouse, was built in 1927 as a memorial to Scottish soldiers who died fighting in this region during World War I. It sits on a hill where one of Jerusalem’s most important archaeological discoveries was made.

The discovery consists of a series of nine burial caves that escaped looters only because their ceilings had collapsed. In the early 1980s, Bar-Ilan University Professor Gabi Barkey and his team discovered hundreds of items that had been buried along with the deceased at one point after the First Temple was destroyed in 586 BCE. The most impressive find was two tiny silver scrolls inscribed with the blessing from Numbers 6:24-26: “The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you and grant you peace.”

Continuing on, follow the road down into the valley crossing a bridge that was built in the 16th century. Sultan’s Pool, a huge reservoir built by Herod the Great lies to the left. Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, who also built Jerusalem’s walls, reconstructed it in the early 16th century. A water fountain dating from 1536 has an inscription praising Suleiman for his generosity to thirsty Jerusalemites.

Next, head into the depths of the valley past the gaping entrances of caves, many of which contain tombs, and some of which were inhabited by Monks over the centuries.  The centerpiece of the Valley of Hinnom is the Convent of Akeldema. The Convent is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9am to noon and then again from 4pm to 7pm and is reputed to having been built over the site where Judas hung himself. The Convent is dedicated to the fourth-century monk St. Onophrios and boasts sunny courtyards and a wonderful view of the Mount of Olives and the Judean Desert.

Last on the walk, but certainly not least, is the Pool of Siloam where archaeologists uncovered the remains of the Second Temple pool where Jesus told a blind man to wash to restore his sight.

For more information about the Valley of Hinnom, contact Israel Tour Connection.

Enter another side of Jerusalem. Go through the glass doors of the Davison Center near the Western Wall and enter into Jerusalem’s past. A past showcased through advanced visualization technology.

is unique in many ways. It was built within the basement of an eighth-century structure where it both preserves and enhances this ancient historical building. Follow the winding ramp downward and take in the artwork and archaeological finds that take you back through the ages while you learn about some colorful figures of Jerusalem’s past exploration.

Once you’ve descended, enjoy a ten-minute, high-definition digital video that ingeniously interchanges the experience of Second Temple pilgrims with that of present-day visitors. This video is made even more powerful by the realization that the historic and spiritual treasures they depict – the Temple Mount, the Western and Southern Wall – are standing today only a short distance away.

The Center’s highlight is a three-dimensional virtual reconstruction of the Temple based on ancient writings and excavations. It was produced by a team from the Department of Urban Simulation at UCLA and is made of pictures that are generated every 41 millionths of a second. This incredibly fast progression of pictures gives viewers an almost eerie feeling that they are really walking up the staircase to the Temple and then through its towering colonnades to finally stand before the grandeur of the Holy of Holies.

The Center maintains regular visiting hours for groups and individuals, Sunday through Friday, closing on Saturdays. The virtual reconstruction session is part of a guided tour that is pre-arranged through the Davidson Center.

Plan to add the Davidson Center to your itinerary when you visit Jerusalem.

Contact Israel Tour Connection for more information about what to see in Jerusalem and the rest of Israel.

 

 

 

Kayaking in Israel What better place to enjoy a kayaking or canoeing journey than down the most famous river in the Bible… the Jordan River. The Jordan begins as several tributaries of melted snow from Mount Hermon in the north. It then becomes a single stream near Kibbutz Kfar Blum in the Hula Valley. As it continues on to the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan winds through a variety of landscapes, each with its own degree of difficulty. In other words, there is an experience level that will work for everyone whether you are a novice or experienced paddler.

Both Israelis and tourists flock to the Jordan River for their outings in these popular sports. If extreme sporting is your passion, this is the river for you. The Jordan is not a wide river. In fact, there are areas that are very narrow that are both challenging and exciting. The Northern mountainous area will get your heart pumping with its two to three hour white-water experience. But don’t let that discourage you. There are many “family” routes where you can paddle at your own pace while enjoying the scenery, lush with plants, birds and animals.

The kayaking season is the dry March through October when the waters slow down. Age restrictions do apply. Ten years old is the minimum age for the rougher routes and five years of age is the minimum for the calmer “family” routes.

Plan to add a sporting event either as a spectator or participant on your next trip to Israel. Israel Tour Connection will help you with the details.

Contact Israel Tour Connection

Jerusalem Old City

Jerusalem’s Old City

Each year, millions of visitors converge on Jerusalem’s Old City. Tourists flock from far and wide to walk the ancient streets and soak up the thousands of years of history, culture and religious worship. The tradition of visiting Jerusalem’s Old City is almost as old as time itself. Two thousand years ago thousands of pilgrims from across the globe would have made their way to the Holy Temple. The Holy Temple was the center of the Jewish world until it was destroyed in 70AD.

Today The Treasures of the Temple Exhibit offers a window into the Holy Temple and its rituals. Located on Misgav Ladach Street in Jerusalem’s Old City, the exhibit showcases more than sixty sacred vessels and priestly garments. These items all were painstakingly recreated by the Temple Institute for use in the Holy Temple in accordance with intricate biblical law. Each vessel is the result of years of research and intensive work that brought together rabbis, artisans, craftsmen, engineers and scientists.  The recently completed High Priest’s robes, including the gemstone ordained breastplate is now being showcased. In addition, the Temple Institute’s half-ton solid gold Menorah is on display overlooking the Western Wall Plaza and provides a taste of some of the incredible Temple treasures to be found in the exhibit.

The Temple Institute has recently released a promotional video giving potential visitors a sneak preview of what’s on display. The video is posted on YouTube and can be viewed at: http://youtu.be/tB8W0cLM9uA

The Treasures of the Temple Exhibit is open to the public Sunday-Thursday from 9:00am to 5:00pm, and Fridays from 9:00am to 12:00pm.

Israel Tour Connection will be happy to provide information about this exhibit and many others.

Read more about Jerusalem’s Old City

 

Click here to contact Israel Tour Connection

 

volunteer in Israel

Volunteer in Israel

Socially conscious travelers are opting to make their vacations matter… in a global way. If a “hands on” trip sounds appealing to you, plan to volunteer with the Israel National Food Bank. More and more, families and groups are adding destinations that are both educational and philanthropic to their itineraries. There is no better way to experience Israel.

Experience Israel first hand and make a difference at the same time by helping to feed Israel’s less fortunate. You’ll enjoy a day outdoors picking fruits and vegetables courtesy of Leket. Volunteering is free and any size group of any age and background is welcome to participate in Israel’s National Food Bank’s initiative to provide fresh produce for Israel’s less fortunate.

Groups can participate Sunday through Thursday between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm for a 2-hour picking session at the fields just outside Rehovot in Central Israel or in the Moshav Nahalal in Northern Israel. Groups are welcomed with a brief overview and then sent out into the fields to gather fruits and vegetables. The trip concludes with a gathering to talk about how Israel’s families will be helped through this initiative and your contribution in the fields.

Israel’s National Food Bank works tirelessly to change the nutritional situations through its many food rescue and redistribution projects. In addition to the offerings from the fields, food is reclaimed from hundreds of suppliers such as restaurants, catering halls, farms, etc, and is then redistributed to over 300 nonprofit organizations serving the needy and feeding up to 60,000 people daily.

Pay it forward and make a difference by doing your part to ensure a healthy nourished future. And, at the same time, spend valuable time with your family or friends in a true philanthropic way. Ask Israel Tour Connections to provide you with more information about this and other “hands on” destinations in Israel.

 

 

The Holon Children’s Museum is one of the most popular educational museums in the Middle East. It has been home to the very popular “Dialog in the Dark” and “Invitation to Silence” exhibits and has now opened the third chapter in this series, “Dialogue with Time.

The Museum, located just outside Tel Aviv, is known for its trademark form of interactive education. “Dialog in the Dark” utilized blind guides, “Invitation to Silence” used deaf guides, and now “Dialogue with Time” is using elderly guides. The series strives to instill visitors with an appreciation for the challenges of the handicapped using a combination of fun and educational simulations. Throw in some hands-on activities, games and discussions and visitors are treated to the whole experience, all of which is led by museum guides over the age of 70!

Museum visitors are invited to simulate the experiences of the elderly in a room that presents a number of physical challenges that accompany aging, such as coping with reduced muscle strength and memory and hearing loss. A highly interactive approach is encouraged and visitors are invited to reveal prejudices about the elderly. For instance, in one area of the exhibit, visitors are encouraged to give their opinions about their perceptions of an elderly person’s fitness for sensitive jobs like airline pilots or ritual circumcisers.

All of the exhibits are designed to be experienced in groups comprised of adults and children 12 years and older, and promises a dynamic mix that is very often humorous and always revealing! The “Dialogue with Time” exhibit was developed by Andreas Heinecke and Orna Cohen. They also developed the first two exhibits in this series and have contributed in the design of similar presentations at other leading institutions around the world.

Contact Israel Tour Connection for more information on the Holon Children’s Museum to your itinerary.

 

The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947 is arguably the most important and greatest archaeological find of the century. Housed in the Israel Museum, the scrolls are the oldest copies of the Hebrew Bible found to date and describe the life, times and beliefs of the Dead Sea Sect. These ancient manuscripts were discovered over a period of nine years (from 1947 to 1956) in eleven caves on the northwest shores of the Dead Sea near Khirbet Qumran. The scrolls dating from the 3rd century BCE to the 1st century CE, were written on parchment and papyrus and found mostly in fragments.

The Isaiah Scroll is one of the original seven scrolls found and is the largest and best preserved of all of the biblical scrolls. And, it is the only one that was discovered in its entirety – 54 columns containing all 66 chapters. The scroll dates from around 100 BCE and as such is 1,000 years older than the oldest Hebrew biblical manuscript, The Aleppo Codex.

The Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum houses a facsimile of the Isaiah Scroll in a specially designed hall resembling the tops of the clay jars that the scrolls were discovered in. This impressive exhibit allows the visitors to see the 2.60-meter long scroll that contains the famous phrase “they shall beat their swords into plowshares…” (Isaiah 2.4). To add to the spectacular vision of the lengthy scroll, a small original fragment is also on display.

To help bring home Isaiah’s message, iron tools common to the 8th century BCE, or the time of Isaiah’s life, are shown alongside the scroll. The discovery of the Scrolls changed the study of the history of the ancient Jewish people as nothing prior to or since has.  During the period of excavation, fragments of approximately 950 different scrolls were found. Excavations continue to this date, but no additional scrolls have been found in 1956.

Have Israel Tour Connection add a visit to the Israel Museum to your itinerary.

 

 

Wine in Israel

Vineyards and wine production have always played an important role in Israel’s agricultural and industrial development. But, over the last decade, Israel has experienced a surge of interest of them, resulting in wineries becoming a booming tourist, as well as export, industry. More than two hundred wineries of different sizes and rates of production are currently operating throughout Israel, from Dan to Eilat, from the Shefela region to Judah and Samaria.

Throughout history, the vineyards supplying the grapes for the wineries have been planted on the sites of vineyards from biblical and later periods when agriculture served as the central industry in the country’s economy. However, the grape varieties have traveled a long path of development and improvement since then, allowing Israeli wines to reach leading places in world wine contests.

The wine production process from the initial planting, care, harvesting, pressing and fermentation through to the aging process has historically been steeped in mystery. Probably because the large earthenware vessels were hidden away and stored deep within caves or cool cellars. You’ll find references to this in many quotations from the Bible and other ancient writings. In fact, Noah was said to have planted a vineyard immediately after leaving the ark (Genesis 9). Or take the story of the spies, “They arrived at the Valley of Eshkol, and cut from there a vine with one cluster of grapes, and they bore it on a double pole…” (Numbers 13).  The references to vineyards in the Bible are numerous and show the historical importance wine and vineyards have played in our country’s history.

Today, wine production is still a favorite with the public and wine tourism has become more and more popular. Often tourists plan their entire trips first around the wineries and vineyards they want to visit and then adding local attractions to their itinerary. Israel’s wine industry has developed rapidly and visitors have the opportunity to experience the production process and then taste the world-class wines that are produced. The Ministry of Tourism, in cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Israel Grape and Wine Council, are actively promoting the field of wine tourism in Israel.

Contact ITC for more information

 

Israel’s rich history attracts millions of tourists each year. And most long for a sense of what it was like to live in the Holyland during biblical times. Kfar Kedem, which literally translates to “The Ancient Village” does just that… and more. At Kfar Kedem you will be transported to life in a Jewish village in the Galilee two thousand years ago via hands on experiences.

Ride donkeys across the rolling hills just as Abraham did. Smell the same scents that Jacob did while tending Leban’s flocks. Hear the words of the prophets as they thresh grain, press oil from fresh olives and wine from grapes while dressed in the clothing of the time.

Ancient Galilee comes to life at Kfar Kedam, which is located in lower Galilee between Tiberius and Haifa and adjacent to Kibbutz Hoshaya on one of the main roads of the Galilee that has served the area for thousands of years. The Orthodox Jewish community of Hoshaya has created a holistic experience that includes the actual production of staples such as milk, wool and bread. This recreated ancient Galilean village lets you touch the past by taking part in a multitude of experiences. Professional guides enhance and enrich the experience with historical and spiritual facts. The activities are open to all ages and can be topped off with a rustic meal at the village’s Sheppard’s Tent restaurant.

The Ancient VillageThe Village has been developed following strict halachic rules and is completely kosher and closed on Shabbat. Located only 20 minutes from Nazareth, it’s an easy addition to any itinerary.

Learn more about life in biblical times by adding Kfar Kedam and other wonderful destinations to your itinerary. Let Israel Tour Connections help you plan your travels to Israel.

 

Spencer Tunick, world famous photographer and artist, returned to Israel again this year for another photo shoot of the Dead Sea and to receive the Green Globe Award given by Life and Environment, Israel’s umbrella organization for its environmental group.

In 2011, Tunick made the news for his shots of over 1,000 nude models floating in the Dead Sea that was designed to raise awareness of the Dead Sea’s shrinking shores. The models, all volunteers, were photographed covered in Dead Sea mud in the sea and on the shore. The event was sponsored by Save Our Sea, a group of activists suffering from skin diseases who rely on the Dead Sea waters for treatment and relief.

This year Tunick is returning to once again film the shrinking shores, but this time with clothed models. Tunick has stated that he is happy to return as the Dead Sea is a natural wonder and deserves rehabilitation and protection both on the local and international levels. Additionally, Tunick hopes his project will help with the selection of the Dead Sea as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature and bring international attention to the region. Tunick stayed at the Dan Tel-Aviv Hotel along with his extensive film crew. A frequent visitor to Israel, this is his second stay at the world-class Dan Tel-Aviv Hotel.

At the same time, four Hollywood executives were also staying at the Dan Tel Aviv, while running location scouting for a movie that is to be filmed in Israel.  This group is headed by Edward Zwick, the Academy Award winner director and producer (“The Last Samurai”, “Legends of the Fall”, “Blood Diamond” and more) and David Rubin, Deputy General Director for CBS productions.

Contact Israel Tour Connection for more information about the Dead Sea and the Dan Tel-Aviv Hotel.