Then and Now
in the Holy Land
May 17-June 1, 2014
Join our 15 day journey through Israel and the West Bank. Explore ancient Biblical sites, examine present day Middle East politics and social landscape, and interact with over 20 different groups who will help you better understand the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
Experience firsthand the land considered holy by half the world. Wander through the narrow streets of Jerusalem; tour both sides of the conflict in the ancient city of Hebron and along the separation barrier in Bethlehem; reflect on the shores of the Galilean Sea; expose yourself to the varied perspectives of Israeli guides, Palestinian refugees, Jewish settlers, international journalists, Israeli Defense Force members, Syrian Druze, and activists and peacemakers on both sides of the divide. A century ago, Albert Einstein observed that “problems cannot be solved at the same level of thinking at which they were created.” Next year, come explore the roots of this current conflict with a Middle East expert and discover new levels of thinking in a place that needs it the most.
- Meet and speak with a myriad of local grassroots peace builders, settlers and refugees.
- Explore Biblical sites with an archaeologist-guide who brings ancient accounts to life. Tour with a present-day Middle East expert throughout the trip and receive political briefings on the current conflict.
- Listen to the narratives of both sides – Israeli and Palestinian – in order to better understand this conflict. And meet with individuals dedicated to transforming conflict into peace.
- Receive personalized attention in a small group setting as you tour much of Israel and the West Bank, visiting many key sites from both past and present along the way, and learn more about why both the historic and current events of this region are so relevant to our world.
Itinerary – 15 days
(Itinerary subject to minor adjustments.)
Day 1&2: City of Origin/Tel Aviv, Israel
Group members arrive at the Ben-Gurion International Airport in the modern city of Tel Aviv on the Mediterranean Sea to convene with trip leaders for a welcome orientation and introductions. We spend our first night in a hotel near the beach.
Day 3: Tel Aviv
In Tel Aviv, we receive briefings from an Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson, and meet with representatives of the Bereaved Families Forum, a special group that brings together Israeli and Palestinian families who have lost loved ones in conflict violence. We will then head north by bus to the Galilee region, and our lodging near the historic city of Tzfat.
Day 4: Galilee
We spend the day with a local tour guide whose background in archeology and Biblical scholarship will lead us to the shores of the Sea of Galilee to explore Biblical sites including the ruins of Capernaum, the ancient city of Bethsaida, and Mount Beatitudes, where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. We also visit the hillside where Jesus fed the multitude of 5,000, and the beach where, according to Biblical accounts, he appeared to his disciples after the resurrection.
Day 5: Borders of Lebanon and Syria/Golan Heights
We travel to a Jewish kibbutz on the northern tip of Israel along the Lebanese border to hear the perspective of its residents, and to visit the famous monument, Tel Hai, where our discussion will involve Israel’s founding, pioneer days, and challenges with neighboring Lebanon and Syria. We then continue exploring Israel’s northern border areas with a visit to the Golan Heights, one of the most scenic parts of Israel. Annexed from Syria in 1981, though considered by some to be disputed territory, the Golan Heights is home to a Druze population with elements that still considers itself Syrian. After a local lunch in the largest Druze village, our group will visit the Syrian border and meet with local activists. We will return that night to our lodging in the Galilee.
Day 6: Galilee
We start our day with a hike into the hills surrounding the Sea of Galilee. Journeying part way through Arbel Pass, along the path Jesus used to come from Nazareth, we will enjoy some personal reflection time and have an outdoor picnic in the refreshing mountain air. After lunch, we travel south by bus to Bethlehem, arriving in time for a welcome dinner in the Palestinian Territories. We will stay in a hotel near the Church of Nativity and the town’s main plaza.
Day 7: Bethlehem
We begin with a tour of the areas most significant Christian sites, including the Church of the Nativity, which marks the spot of Jesus’ birth according to Christian tradition, and the Shepherd’s Field, where it is believed the shepherds saw the signs heralding Jesus’ birth. After lunch at a favorite local Palestinian restaurant, we will receive a tour of the separation barrier and a Palestinian refugee camp, where we will hear directly from some of its residents.
Day 8: Bethlehem
Delving deeper into the Palestinian situation, we tour surrounding areas of Bethlehem and meet with local residents beset by the Israeli occupation and encroaching settlements. Later in the day we hear from Euphrates’ Visionary of the Year, Sami Awad, a Palestinian peacebuilder and founder of Holy Land Trust, an organization working to empower local communities and promote nonviolent activism. We will also visit the Bethlehem Bible College where we will receive a briefing on the conflict from the Palestinian Christians’ perspective. Finishing off the day, we will enjoy some time for shopping in the plaza and an evening traditional Palestinian dinner at Bethlehem’s famed Tent Restaurant.
Day 8: Bethlehem/Hebron
In the morning we drive south to Hebron, the second largest city in the West Bank. Honored home of the Cave of the Patriarchs, the second holiest site for Jews as the resting place of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob, this city is also known as a front line in the conflict between Palestinian residents and a group of tough Jewish settlers. Our day will be likewise divided between a morning tour of the surrounding areas with Palestinian activists and an afternoon visit to the Jewish community in the center of town. For the night we will return to our hotel in Bethlehem.
Day 9: Gush Etzion/Dead Sea
Touring Jewish communities within the West Bank and meeting with their residents allows us to hear directly about these “settlements” often referenced in the news, but rarely seen first-hand by visiting tour groups. On this day we will meet with another group of Jewish settlers in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc to understand more about motivations for choosing to live on the Palestinian side of the green line. After lunch we descend down to the lowest point on earth (1,388 feet below sea level) to relax by the Dead Sea. We will have time to decompress at our retreat setting in Ein Gedi, one of Israel’s most important nature preserves, replete with nature walks and a spa.
Day 10: Dead Sea/Masada
Rising early to tour Masada, an ancient palace and desert fortress of Herod the Great that overlooks the Dead Sea, we will learn of one of the Jewish people’s greatest symbols of heroism and self-sacrifice in their stand against the Romans in 73 CE. In the afternoon, we will receive a briefing from the Friends of the Earth, Middle East on the reasons behind the alarmingly fast shrinking rates of the Dead Sea and their environmental consequences.
Day 11: Jerusalem.
We spend our final four days in Jerusalem, soaking up the history, majesty and mystique of this troubled “city of peace”. Jerusalem is where the themes of conflict, peace, and narrative will come in to stark relief. All sides, religions, and groups share the same piece of real estate and often the same religious figures, albeit with different stories and attachments. We will examine these divisions up close, at the same time meeting with Israeli and Palestinian peace groups who hold to a higher view.
Beginning with an overview of the city from the Mount of Olives, we will descend down into the Old City to tour religious sites, such as the Garden of Gethsemane, the pools of Bethesda, and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the place where it is believed Jesus was crucified and entombed.
We will also visit Jewish and Muslim religious sites, such as the Western Wall of the Temple Mount (the site of Herod the Great’s ancient temple), and the Dome of the Rock, with its famed golden dome.
Day 12: Jerusalem
Understand more about one of history’s darkest moments with a morning visit to Yad Veshem, Jerusalem’s memorial to the Holocaust. Then meet a member of the Israeli parliament at the Knesset. Next, experience Jerusalem and its surrounding areas with the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolition to see the shifting political realities on the ground in this city that is “terra sancta” to so many.
Day 13: Jerusalem
In a day of meetings, we will speak with several grassroots organizations who are chipping away at the conflict. This will include an organization of veteran Israeli combatants who talk about their experience in the Occupied Territories, a group that facilities tours for American Jewish leaders to visit the West Bank, and an interfaith alliance of Muslims, Jews, and Christians that meets in Jerusalem. As well, we will aim to visit the American Embassy to hear from U.S. officials about prospects for peace in the region. Space for deep discussion and debrief with our group will continue over a Shabbat dinner.
Day 14: Jerusalem
On our final full day in country, we will meet with an international journalist to discuss future prospects for Israel-Palestine peace in the region, work in final meetings to round out our understanding of the region, and take some free time to shop before the evening debrief and closing session.
Day 15: Depart Tel Aviv for home city.
Optional Extension: Petra, Jordan – 4 days
Inquire if interested. Price and details to be announced.
“I found the trip a magnificent “laboratory” in which I could witness and challenge entrenched “narratives” about reality–both my own and those of others. During the process, I found my heart breaking open to embrace it all–the hatreds, the suffering, the joy, the beauty, the cruelties, the kindnesses–and I was able to experience the silence in which it all mysteriously unfolds.” –Marilyn Wood, Germantown, Maryland
“I learned so much it is impossible for me to express, and seeing the Middle East first-hand helped me understand the conflict so much more. I learned a ton about Biblical stories from the sites we visited.” –Dillon Siewert, Georgia
“Visiting each of the Biblical sites was so enriching. I’ll never read the Sermon on the Mount quite the same way again!….All of the speakers we heard helped me to better and more fully understand the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. As each person spoke with us, I gained a deeper understanding and felt more compassion for the situations in the Middle East. Listening to each individual tell their story caused me to recognize how important it is that I pay attention to my own personal narrative as it relates to judgment, fear, and conflict…For me, each activity of the entire trip was a rich experience. Meeting the people, seeing the sights, and experiencing the transformation lessons was a deeply moving experience for me.” –Vicki S. Chicago, IL
“This trip made me grateful for the life I live, and gave me a new understanding and sympathy for those involved in the conflict. Mainly, I realized that it is possible to do good here, and that I want to be a healing agent!” –Chris Peesel, Sterling, VA
As Euphrates’ Director of Travel Study, Forrest loves to create extraordinary tour experiences with an emphasis on immersion and adventure. Born and raised in Alaska, he has traveled on six continents and jumped into both the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans. But he can also handle the Middle East heat, having led trips to Israel, Palestine, and Jordan over the past few years. Besides crossing borders, he also loves to play and coach rugby, read, write, learn more about religion, play chess and wade in salmon fishing streams.
Janessa Gans Wilder
Euphrates Institute’s founder and CEO has ventured to nearly 50 countries, and has lived years out of her life in places as diverse as Iraq, The Gambia, and Germany. She began discovering the nuances and contrasts of cultures earlier than most. Her family spent a summer in Mexico when she was seven, and at age 12, she traveled alone to France to live for a year with a French host family and attend local schools. Besides her commitment to cultivating global citizenship, Janessa enjoys playing the violin, connecting with nature, and being a fairly new mom.
January 15, 2014
Age and Fitness
All participants must 18 or older and be of average fitness. We will be walking over uneven surfaces and climbing up and down hills and stairs, sometimes for extended periods of time. Temperatures will be hot: vary from the 60 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Some locations may not be handicap accessible. Any concerns about health conditions need to be raised upon registration.
Fees and Payment
The Euphrates Institute has created a student rate as well as a sliding scale for this offering in an effort to keep it affordable to a wide range of people. We set forth no criteria and trust that each individual will pay what he/she feels is possible and appropriate.
Student rate: $3,750
Non-student rate: $4,250 – $5,500
- 14 nights accommodations: double occupancy (for single occupancy add $750, availability pending)
- Meals: 14 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 11 dinners
- Ground transportation to all cities and sites (via air conditioned bus)
- English speaking tour guides
- All group sight seeing and entrance fees
- Group tips (individual tipping is optional)
- Airport fees and departure taxes (approx. $30)
- Transportation from Jerusalem hotel to airport at end of trip
- Baggage fees
- Meals on your own (approx. 8 lunches, 3 dinners)
- Passport fees (no visa necessary for U.S. citizens)
- Internet fees at hotels
- Personal charges and optional activities
- Individual tipping (guides, drivers, etc.)
- Travel insurance
- Additional costs for any extended/independent travel
$500 deposit is due upon registration (non-refundable unless trip is cancelled by Euphrates)
½ of total fee due by January 15, 2014
Balance of total fee due by April 1, 2014
Cancellations and Refunds
Refunds will be made up until January 15, 2014 (less the $500 Registration fee). After that date all fees are non-refundable and non-transferable to another date or program.
Forms of Payment
If you desire to pay by Credit Card or PayPal please add 3% to fees.
All checks are to be made payable to: “Euphrates Institute” and mailed to: 1 Maybeck Place
Elsah, IL 62028
Exchanges of attendees are acceptable upon conversation with trip leaders.
A passport is required for US citizens and must be valid at least through Aug 1, 2014.
Questions or Additional Information