ISAC - Independent Schools Adventure Cruises

ASHDOD, Israel

Thursday 31st October arrive 0700 – depart 1800

An ancient port of the Philistines, it lies south of Tel Aviv, about an hour's drive from Jerusalem. It is the main exporting port for the Dead Sea salts.

*EXCURSION: Full day Jerusalem – included tour The drive from Ashdod up to Jerusalem takes 70-90 minutes. We journey eastwards across the fertile, heavily-farmed coastal plain passing kibbutz and moshav settlements; then across the Plain of Ayyalon where Joshua is said to have stopped the sun setting for a day and a night. We climb the Sha'ar Hagai, the narrow pass into the Judaean Mountains, the infamous road that saw the death of many young Jewish fighters in convoys trying to relieve besieged Jerusalem in the War of Independence. This capital city stands some 760 metres above sea level. We visit the Old City - a walk tour usually from the Jaffa Gate to the Dung Gate to include the following:- the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to see the Hill of Calvary, the place of anointing of the body and the Tomb; part of the Via Dolorosa; the recently restored Roman "Cardo" (market street) in the Jewish Quarter; the Western Wall - the retaining wall of Temple Mount. Visit the Garden Tomb situated in East Jerusalem.. Drive up onto the Mount of Olives for the magnificent panoramic view across the Old City of Jerusalem to the west and down into the Wilderness of Judaea to the east. Visit the Garden of Gethsemane and the Basilica Drive out to "New Jerusalem" to see the Knesset and the Menorah, Ministry buildings, Hebrew University and the Israel Museum. Proceed to Yad Vashem, Memorial to the Holocaust. This is a full day tour so we take a packed lunch from the ship. ‘Comfort stops' are included which may be taken at a souvenir shop/bazaar where usually there are clean toilets.

Optional Shore Excursion: Full day - Masada and the Dead Sea

From Ashdod we journey across the Negev Desert to Masada, to the shores of the Dead Sea before returning via Jerusalem to Ashdod. An early start from the ship for this very different tour. Drive south-eastwards across the fertile coastal belt and on into the Negev Desert which covers nearly half of Israel. Modern irrigation methods have extended the agricultural land across the edges of a natural desert. Be'er Sheva, an ancient city dating from Abraham who named this place 'The Well of the Oath' is passed as we turn east into mountainous desert scenery and arrive at Arad. Masada lies beyond, overlooking the Dead Sea. This famous, boat-shaped craggy mountain towers 430 metres above the 'poisoned' sea. We approach from the West and climb the Roman Ramp - a manmade feature created by soldiers and slaves to move a mountain and rest it against Masada and capture all living there. Once on top we immediately appreciate the magnificence of Herod the Great's achievements. Here he constructed two major palace complexes, double walls with houses between, storerooms, bathhouse, swimming pool and cavernous cisterns within the very rock. The Roman achievement of building the ramp was no less impressive, though costly in time and lives & the target fruitless on completion, for the Romans found no one alive on top.

We walk down the Snake Path, or ride the cable car, to our waiting coaches. On the shores of the Dead Sea, the lowest place on Earth's surface, a 'floatation' is possible in the highly salty water. Our return to Ashdod takes us past Ein Fashka, Qumran and round the edge of Jerusalem. A truly fantastic day.

Optional Excursion: Full day to Lower Galilee

From Ashdod drive northwards along the coastal highway crossing the Mount Carmel range near Megiddo into the fertile Jezreel Valley. We concentrate our time in Lower Galilee close to the shores of the Sea of Galilee. At the southern end, from where the River Jordan flows out, stands the Deganyah Kibbutz, the oldest such establishment in Israel. Here is a Baptismal place. Along the eastern shore lie other kibbutz settlements where the people grow bananas, pineapples, dates and citrus fruits, farm ostriches and operate water-parks and other facilities for holidaymakers.

We are at the foot of the Golan Heights. At the northern end of the Sea is the point where the River Jordan flows in. Near here stands Capernaum, home of Simon Peter the fisherman. The archaeologists are still at work, and they have already uncovered what they believe to have been Simon's home, visited by Christ; an ancient boat perhaps dating back to Biblical times; and the remains of a second century synagogue. Above the village stands the Mount of the Beatitudes, a most beautiful and peaceful spot where there is an Italian octagonal chapel. Further along the seashore lies Tabgha, the site of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, and beyond, Migdal, home of Mary Magdalene. Tiberias, a Roman town, is today a centre of tourism with large international hotels, and the hot springs of mineral water famous in the times of the Caesars.
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