Swimming in the Dead Sea © IMOT - Itamar Grinberg

History, Archeology & Art: An Educational Adventure in Israel & Istanbul

Directed by Dr. Steven Derfler


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Itinerary at a Glance
Day Destination
1 Depart USA
2 Arrive Tel Aviv
3 Tel Aviv
4 Caesarea, Mount Carmel,
Megiddo & Akko
5 Nazareth, Safed & Tiberias
6 Capernaum, Banias &
Golan Heights
7 Beit Shean, Qumran &
the Dead Sea
8 Dead Sea & Masada
9 Avdat & Mitzpe Ramon
10 Lachish & Jerusalem
11 New City of Jerusalem
12 Old City of Jerusalem
13 Depart Israel/Arrive Istanbul
14 Istanbul
15 Istanbul
16 Depart Istanbul/Arrive USA
Style Custom Group
24 travelers max, dedicated tour escorts & guides throughout
Price Includes
  • Round trip flight from Chicago to Tel Aviv via Turkish Airlines, including fuel surcharges and taxes and fees, with stopover in Istanbul on the return
  • 11 nights accommodation in Israel in Deluxe and Superior First Class hotels with private bath
  • 3 nights accommodation in Istanbul in Superior First Class hotel with private bath
  • Buffet breakfast and dinner daily
  • All group transfers and group transportation
  • Comprehensive guided touring program including all entrance fees to places visited throughout the itinerary
  • Professional, English-speaking tour guides throughout the program
Highlights Tel Aviv, Nazareth, Tiberias, Dead Sea, Masada, Jerusalem, Bethlehem & Istanbul.
What to Expect This moderately-paced, escorted tour involves a fair amount of walking or hiking, often on uneven terrain, requiring a good level of physical fitness to fully enjoy the trip. This tour also includes long scenic drives between destinations.

Prepare for your trip Already booked? Find everything you need to know before you go, including information about passport & visa requirements, flights, luggage, and more.

To travel to the ancient land of David and Solomon, Sarah and Deborah, the ministry of Jesus, and 3rd holiest place in Islam, is to be profoundly touched by history. The modern State of Israel enjoys a continuity of culture and tradition that blends the old and the new.

Share the adventure on this 16 day program that includes a stopover and visit in Istanbul, Turkey on the return.

Dates, Prices & Options

Sorry, there are no currently available tour dates.

Detailed Itinerary

Tel Aviv panoramaDay 1 - Tuesday, Oct 15: Depart USA. Depart USA from Chicago airport to Tel Aviv, connecting in Istanbul.

Day 2 - Wednesday, Oct 16: Arrive Tel Aviv. Arrive at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv. Meet your guide who will assist, and escort you to your waiting touring coach.. This evening, enjoy a welcome dinner and orientation with your guide. Accommodations: Dan Panorama Hotel Tel Aviv. Dinner provided.

Day 3 - Thursday Oct 17: Tel Aviv. Today you will take a tour of Tel Aviv, which includes a visit to the Beit Hatefutsot (Diaspora Museum) located on the Tel Aviv University Campus. Continue with a drive along the Mediterranean coast to the Crusader Seaport and artist quarter in Jaffa. In the evening meet with the retired head of the women's Army Corp, Orit Adato. Overnight in Tel Aviv. Breakfast and dinner provided.

Aqueduct, CaesareaDay 4 - Friday, Oct 18: Caesarea, Mount Carmel, Megiddo & Akko. After breakfast, drive north along the Mediterranean Sea to Caesarea, the Roman capital of Judea, which King Herod built into the grandest city in Palestine, second only to Jerusalem. View the beautifully restored theater and extensive and ongoing excavations of the ruins of the ancient town, its harbor and aqueduct. Next, explore Mount Carmel, where you will find Muhraka, the location of the contest between Elijah and the priests of Baal. We proceed inland to Megiddo, Biblical Armageddon, and the inspiration for James Michener's great novel, The Source. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005, Megiddo's twenty major strata contain the remains of around 30 different cities and holds a central place in the biblical narrative. Our last stop today will be at Akko, a major Crusader city and harbor that was founded by the Phoenicians. Accommodations: Akko Palm Beach Hotel. Breakfast and dinner provided.

The Church of the Annunciation, NazarethDay 5 - Saturday, Oct 19: Nazareth, Safed & Tiberias. This morning we visit the Church of Annunciation which is one of the holiest spots in Christendom. Continue to Tzippori, where you’ll see the cosmopolitan nature of ancient Israel epitomized in this Roman city. Later, we’ll visit Safed, a Galilean community, popular today because of its artists quarter, and one of the four holy cities in Israel. It has been a spiritual center since the 1600s when it was the center of Kabbala (Jewish mysticism). End the day with an exploration of the city of Tiberias, located on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. Hot sulphur springs have drawn weary travelers here since the Roman era. A beautiful 5th century synagogue with stunning mosaics was also unearthed here. Accommodations: Leonardo Plaza Hotel Tiberias. Breakfast and dinner provided.

Golan HeightsDay 6 - Sunday, Oct 20: Capernaum, Banias & Golan Heights. After breakfast we drive to Capernaum. Long identified with St. Peter and Christianity, Capernaum has a well-preserved synagogue dating to the Roman period (2nd and 3rd centuries CE) which has been extensively excavated and restored. Continue to Tabgha to see a Byzantine church that commemorates the Christian miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes. Later we drive to the Banias where we’ll see, at one of the headwaters of the Jordan River, a Roman shrine to the god Pan. Soon after, we’ll explore the area of the Golan. This region plays a major role in the security of northern Israel. We’ll visit Tel Fahar to get a good view of the modern military/political situation today. If you are ready for a bit of Roman-style RNR, we will then drive to Hammat Gader for a visit to the Roman Baths. Breakfast and dinner provided.

Qumran cavesDay 7 - Monday, Oct 21: Beit Shean, Qumran & the Dead Sea. We begin today's activities just south of the Sea of Galilee with a visit to Beit Shean, one of the most outstanding Roman cities ever excavated and restored. We continue on to Belvoir, where a Crusader fortress located nearby, protected the surrounding area. There’s a stunning view of the Jordan Valley from high up on the ruins of the site. Continue to the Dead Sea, via Wadi Qelt. One of the attractions here is the gorgeous St George Monastery, built by the hermit John Thebes in the 5th century CE and later restored by the Crusaders. Our last stop of the day will be at Qumran. The Dead Sea scrolls, which have been called the most exciting archaeological/spiritual discovery of the 20th century, were found here in a cave high up in the cliffs, in 1947 by Bedouins. They most likely were associated with the Essene community that inhabited the area. Accommodations: Daniel Hotel Dead Sea. Breakfast and dinner provided.

Funicular in MasadaDay 8 - Tuesday, Oct 22: Dead Sea & Masada. After breakfast we travel to the Herodian Fortress of Masada. This is one of the most stirring monuments to freedom and human dignity as well as the site of the Zealot’s last stand against Roman legions in 73CE. Later, we visit Ein Gedi, a waterfall oasis that proves that nature reserves can exist in the desert and have water flowing through them throughout the year. A Byzantine era synagogue can be found here as well. We continue on to Tel Arad. This southern citadel protected Israel from the Moabite and Edomite armies. A highlight of the visit to Tel Arad is the Israelite temple in the upper city, which scholars say was a miniature version of Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem. At the end of the day, we’ll have an opportunity to meet with Israeli archaeologist Yehuda Govrin and learn about the excavations that have been conducted in the area. Accommodations: Inbar Hotel or similar. Breakfast and dinner provided.

Mitzpe Ramon Visitor CenterDay 9 - Wednesday, Oct 23: Avdat & Mitzpe Ramon. As you stand among the ruins of the Negev Highland city of Avdat, you can almost hear the echoes of the bells tinkling on the bridles of the camels that passed this way in their caravans of hundreds, bringing the riches of the East – frankincense and myrrh – to market via the Mediterranean. Avdat was founded by Nabatean traders, the masters of those caravans, as a way station on this Incense Route. Long before, the Israelites had wandered near here through the Wilderness of Zin. As time passed a citadel, known as Avdat, was built to protect the area. Nearby, we will get a chance to see Ein Avdat, often referred to as the “Grand Canyon of Israel." Next, we will visit the Negev town of Mitzpe Ramon which overlooks a sizable erosion cirque known as the Ramon Crater. Afterwards, we will uncover the ancient mysteries of Tel Be'er Sheva. This was one of Solomon’s major fortress cities and stable complexes. Accommodations: Leonardo Negev Hotel Beersheva. Breakfast and dinner provided.

Mount of OlivesDay 10 - Thursday, Oct 24: Lachish & Jerusalem. After breakfast we depart Beersheva and drive north where we will stop at the Bronze and Iron Age City of Lachish. When Sennacherib invaded Judea he destroyed 46 cities. Azekah said of the city, “I cannot see the signal fires of Lachish”. A new city (Lachish II) rose on the ruins of the city destroyed by Sennacherib. However, it was recorded by Jeremiah that Azekah and Lachish were the last cities to fall to the Babylonians before they lay siege to Jerusalem. Later we will explore the geological wonder of stalagmites and stalactites at the Sorek Cave, located on the western slopes of the Judean Hills. Totaling about an acre in area, Sorek is Israel's largest cave. The rocks within the cave are approximately 80-100 million years old and the stalactites were formed about 5 million years ago. As the day comes to an end, we reach the highlight of our journey – the Holy city of Jerusalem. We’ll stop at the Mt of Olives, which overlooks Jerusalem from the east, and here we’ll say a hearty welcome and blessing for peace in the city and throughout Israel. Accommodations: Dan Panorama Hotel Jerusalem. Breakfast and dinner provided.

Children Memorial, Yad VashemDay 11 - Friday, Oct 25: New City of Jerusalem. This morning we visit the Rabbinical Tunnel that stretches north along the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, underneath the Muslim Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. Each step takes us further into Jerusalem’s history as we visit the Davidson Center. The cultural soul of Israel is found at the Israel Museum, while the political reality plays out in the Knesset (parliament). We’ll have a chance to visit both of these very important sites. We’ll also visit the model of Jerusalem during the time of the Second Temple, and this will give us an incredible view of the city of Jerusalem 2000 years ago. We’ll continue to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Center which reminds us all of unspeakable horror that humans can perpetrate on fellow humans. Europe's darkest days are never forgotten and become reality with a visit to this memorial. Time permitting, we will visit Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus and have an opportunity to visit the Church of the Nativity at the center of the town. Breakfast and dinner provided.

Church of the Holy SepulchreDay 12 - Saturday, Oct 26: Old City of Jerusalem. After breakfast we will enjoy a walking tour of the Old City of Jerusalem including the Western Wall, the most sacred spot in Jewish religious and national consciousness, by virtue of its proximity to the Western Wall of the Holy of Holies in the Temple. We’ll then continue to the Temple Mount (circumstances permitting). Jewish tradition holds that it is the site where God gathered the dust to create Adam and where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Isaac to prove his faith. It is here that, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus Christ lashed out against the money changers (and was later crucified a few hundred yards away). Among Muslims, the Temple Mount is called Haram al-Sharif (the Noble Sanctuary). They believe it was here that the Prophet Muhammad ascended to the “Divine Presence” on the back of a winged horse, commemorated by one of Islam’s architectural triumphs, the Dome of the Rock shrine. This will give us a spiritual overview of the holiest of cities for the three great western religious traditions. We’ll also visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, identified as both the place of the crucifixion and the tomb of Jesus of Nazareth. The church has long been a major pilgrimage center for Christians all around the world. Farewell dinner this evening at the hotel. Breakfast and dinner provided.

Day 13 - Sunday, Oct 27: Depart Jerusalem/Arrive Istanbul. After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your departure flight to Istanbul. Upon arrival in Istanbul, you'll be met and transferred to your hotel. Enjoy the balance of the day at leisure. Accommodations: Kent Hotel Istanbul or similar. Breakfast and dinner provided.

Blue Mosque interior, IstanbulDay 14 - Monday, Oct 28: Istanbul. This morning, visit some of the unique and iconic sites in the city. Start the tour at the Sultanahmet Mosque, known as the Blue Mosque. Built between 1609-1616 it is considered to be the last great mosque of the classical period. More than 200 stained glass windows admit natural light, the floors are covered with thick carpets, and the walls are decorated with incredibly intricate tile work and verses from the Qur'an, many by Seyyid Kasim Gubari, the greatest calligrapher of his time.

Later visit nearby Hagia Sophia, built by the emperor Justinian I between 537-543 CE. The Hagia Sophia is famous for its massive dome which inspired the Blue Mosque. Built as an Orthodox basilica, it later became a mosque and finally a museum in 1935. This afternoon we’ll visit Topkapi Palace and the Grand Bazaar. The Topkapi Palace was residence of the Ottoman Sultans for more than 400 years. The palace became a museum of the imperial era in 1924.. The palace houses a large collection of porcelain, robes and armor, as well as Ottoman miniatures and jewelry. Next visit the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world. The bazaar was opened in 1461 and today there are over 1200 stores, grouped by the type of goods, with special areas for leather coats, gold jewelry, and other wares. Breakfast and dinner provided.

BosphorousDay 15 - Tuesday, Oct 29: Istanbul. This morning, we’ll take a cruise on the Bosphorus. Cruise the straits that separate Europe and Asia, passing by the villas and palaces of the Ottoman Empire, as well as little fishing villages. The route zigzags across the straits for picture-perfect views of Istanbul and the Bosphorus Suspension bridges. Disembark from your cruise and continue to the Egyptian Bazaar, also known as the Spice Market. You will be surrounded by the aromas of spices and oils as you explore the diverse shops of this famous bazaar. Balance of the day at leisure. Breakfast and dinner provided.

Day 16 - Wednesday, Oct 30: Depart Istanbul/Arrive USA. Transfer from your hotel to the airport for departure flight. Arrival Chicago in the evening and connect to your home bound flight. Breakfast provided.

Contact Info

Steven DerflerDr. Steven Derfler
Director Educational Resources, Inc.
Tel: 651-592-3688
Email: Steven@eduresources.org

An international educational consultant, public speaker, archaeologist, historian, researcher, teacher and writer, Dr. Derfler has been uncovering the histories of ancient civilizations for over 35 years. Tracing the development of western religions from their roots in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean countries, Dr. Derfler brings insight to current political and social events, bridging the past with the future to promote greater understanding between people from different faiths and walks of life.

A recently retired university professor from the University of Wisconsin- River Falls, Dr. Derfler has been associated with international institutions such as Tel Aviv University's Institute of Archaeology, the Israeli Antiquities Authority, and The Negev Museum of Beersheva. He has also served as a scholar-in-residence at Oxford University, England. He is the director of Educational Resources, Inc- an educational consultancy and curriculum design agency, as well as guest lecturer in a wide variety of venues throughout the US.

His commentaries have been found in such publications as the St. Paul Pioneer Press and The American Jewish World. His research has been published by the Israel Exploration Journal, Tel Aviv Journal of Archaeology, Hadashot Archaologiot, Atiqot, Middle East Review, The ARAM Journal of Oxford University, The University of Minnesota Press and the Edwin Mellen Press. In addition, he has published a fiction novel about archaeology and the Middle East via Xlibris Press.

He has directed international programs to Israel and Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Greece and Turkey as well as Cuba.