The "Christ Pantocrator" mosaic in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
• Discover the Holy Land during the captivating Jewish festival of Hanukkah
• Delve into layers of history at Bethlehem, Caesarea, and the archaeologically astonishing fortress of Masada – built by Herod the Great
• Explore the landscape of the New Testament in Galilee, rich in ancient and Byzantine remains
“The view of Jerusalem is the history of the world; it is more, it is the history of heaven and earth”, wrote Benjamin Disraeli in 1847.
We will explore Jerusalem from the Early Iron Age (David and Solomon) through the rise of Judaism to the Roman period (Herod, Pontius Pilate and, of course, Christ). We will then examine the Islamic conquest, the Crusades and finally the region’s post-1948 history. Visits will include the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and the Shrine of the Book – the repository for the Dead Sea Scrolls. A day excursion to Bethlehem, traditional site of Jesus’s birth as first identified by Constantine and Helena, reveals architecture tracing back to Justinian in the 6th century.
Leaving Jerusalem behind, our itinerary will investigate Caesarea, the capital of Palestine under the Romans, and Beit She’an, the only one of the Decapolis trading cities situated to the west of the River Jordan.
The rugged natural fortress of Masada, built by Herod the Great in the Judean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea, is the quintessential symbol of Herodian control and Jewish resistance. It is also a site of huge archaeological significance as the camps, fortifications and siege works are perhaps the most imposing to be found anywhere in the Roman world.
The final attraction of the Holy Land will be the opportunity to familiarise ourselves with an entirely different landscape – Galilee – where we will devote our attention to historical sites associated with the New Testament, including Tabgha and Capernaum with their very early Byzantine foundations.
Our hotel in Jerusalem will be the well-appointed Mount Zion, located beside St Andrew’s Church. In Tiberias our base will be the magnificent Scots Hotel (where our Tour Director lived as a volunteer archaeologist many years ago) with its kilted staff and ceilidh bar. Please note there is some demanding walking around the sites.
Tour Director Andrew Wilson, BA, BD, FSAScot, studied archaeology then theology before working overseas as an archaeologist, specialising in Roman frontier systems and Byzantine mosaics. Andrew first excavated in Israel as a student in the 1970s and continued his research there in the 1980s. A longstanding ACE Tour Director, he has led multiple tours to the Holy Land, and looks forward to taking an ACE group at this festive time of year.
Tour Director Andrew Wilson writes:
“Our historical tour of the Holy Land inevitably encounters the three great world religions wherever we walk, especially in Jerusalem, and one of the important features of Judaism is its celebration of a number of festivals. Early December (the Jewish month Kislev) is the time of the fascinating Hanukkah, meaning ‘dedication’ in Hebrew.
In the 160s BC, the Jews were suffering under the Hellenistic ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes. His desecration of the Holy of Holies in the Temple in Jerusalem led directly to the Maccabean revolt, and when the time came to purify the Temple – which required eight days of ritual oil – it was found that only one day’s supply was left. Miraculously, there was sufficient to last the whole period, and from that time on, a special menorah candelabra with eight branches (instead of the usual seven) called a hanukkiah has been lit by Jewish families during the festival.
Special fried food for the festival, including latkes (pancakes with potatoes and onions) and delicious sufganiyot (jam-filled doughnuts) can be tasted; we can read from the Books of the Maccabees, and talk further about the reasons for Antiochus’s involvement in Jewish affairs. Hanukkah Sameach, Happy Hanukkah in Hebrew!”
Depart Heathrow 0805, arriving Tel Aviv 1450. Transfer to Mount Zion Hotel, Jerusalem for four nights.
Morning talk: Jerusalem. Visits in the Old City: Mount of Olives, Dominus Flevit Church (built by Franciscans in 1954), Church of All Nations, Garden of Gethsemane and Lion’s Gate. Afternoon: walking tour of Via Dolorosa including St Anne’s Church (beautiful 12th century Crusader church) and Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Evening talk on the origins of the Hanukkah festival followed by ‘Shabbat of a Lifetime’ dinner.
Morning visits in Bethlehem: Manger Square, Church of the Nativity, Shepherds’ Fields. Afternoon: Israel Museum (including Shrine of the Book, home of Dead Sea Scrolls). Evening talk: The Romans in Palestine.
Further visits in the Old City: Jaffa Gate (16th century Ottoman gate), Tower of David, Jewish Quarter (including Cardo and Herodian Quarter) and Temple Mount (time permitting). Afternoon: Yad Vashem Museum (memorial to the Holocaust). Evening talk: The Dead Sea Scrolls.
Dead Sea: Masada (Herod the Great’s rock fortress) and Qumran (site of discovery of Dead Sea Scrolls), then to Tiberias (capital of Galilee) for three nights at Scots Hotel. Evening talk: The Quest for the Historical Jesus.
Morning: Tel Megiddo (site of battle of Armageddon). Afternoon: Beit Alfa and Beit She’an (important Decapolis City) followed by Hamat Tiberias (3rd–5th century synagogue, beautiful mosaics). Evening talk: Bronze and Iron Age in Israel.
Visits around Sea of Galilee: St Peter’s Primacy (Franciscan chapel on shores of Galilee), Capernaum (Jesus’s ‘own town’), Church of Beatitudes (built on traditional site of Sermon on the Mount) and Tabgha (traditional site of the feeding of the five thousand and post-resurrection appearance of Jesus in Christianity), the so-called Jesus Boat at Ginosar. Some free time in Tiberias.
Caesarea (hippodrome, amphitheatre, port, fascinating Crusader fortifications). Continue to Tel Aviv for 1645 departure, arriving Heathrow 2005.