Our Visit to Israel - April 2000


This a record of Sue and Mike Lambert's trip to Israel in May 2000. Click on any of the small images to see a higher resolution version of the same picture. Follow links to more detailed descriptions of major destinations.

The Tour

Our tour, billed as Israel - Classical Tour, was in fact carried out by a company called Consolidated Tour Operators (CTO) who collected customers from many different overseas customers and companies.

The bus was a modern air conditioned coach driven by a friendly, if somewhat aggressive driver, Rami.

The tour guide was a 75 year old, Hermann Cohen, who seemed to have more energy that anyone else on the tour. Originally German, Hermann has had a colourful life, including service for the British Army in WW2 and or for the Israeli armed forces in several conflicts. He has been in Israel since 1946 and his passion for Israel was clear. He spoke from experience, not from a script.

Sunday April 23rd

A late afternoon departure gave us the chance to go to the St. Mary's Easter Sunday service before leaving. The blossom on the tree on the corner of Eastrop Lane was at its best in the brief bursts of sunlight.

We got to the airport just after midday to be met by the valet parking service. Check-in was not very pleasant, with a combination of heavy security and a trainee asking the same questions several times.

We had nearly 4 hours to wait but it passed very quickly with lunch, some shopping, a cup of coffee and then more security checks before boarding.

Finally we were onboard flight LY316, a pretty full 747-200 which took off on time and arrived a few minutes early. The flight was not particularly pleasant; the soundtrack on the movie was not clear enough to listen to.

Immigration formalities were pretty painless and the tour operator, CTO, found us and transferred us to the Metropolitan Hotel, Tel Aviv where we arrived just after midnight.

Monday April 24th

We were dragged out of bed at 6:30 am (4:30 am BST) for an early start and by eight o'clock we had met our tour guide and found our way onto the bus.

We had to pick up at two other hotels and by the time we were finished, the bus was pretty full. We headed south along the coastal motorway, past Ashdod, stopping at a filling station/service station for coffee at Yad Mordechai at the Northern end of the Gaza strip.

Here we turned inland across the Negev desert via Beersheeva to the Dead Sea, where we stopped for lunch and a quick dip. 

We moved quickly on to Masada and as we travelled on towards Jerusalem we stopped briefly at Qumran to look from a distance at the caves where the Dead Sea scrolls were found.

We arrived at The Olive Tree Hotel in Jerusalem at about 5:30pm. The buffet dinner was Kosher but excellent. We managed to stretch out the evening a little with coffee in the lounge, but were glad to get to bed.

Tuesday April 25th

Once again we were up early and away from the hotel by 8am. Our first stop was at the Hadassah Medical Centre where we were treated to a rather long promotional video about the work of the Hadassah organisation and a guided tour of the synagogue with its famous stained glass windows created by Marc Chagal.

The next stop was a Model of the Second Temple (as rebuilt by Solomon) in the grounds of the Holyland Hotel.

An essential stop for any visitor to Israel is the Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem [Map]. Our guide was too emotionally involved to accompany us into the museum.

For lunch we drove to the Haas Promenade with a scenic overview of the Old City from the South.

After lunch we went to the area East of the Old City. There was a traffic jam leading to the Mount of Olives, so we diverted first to the Garden of Gethsemane and then on to the top of the Mount of Olives.

Once again we were staying at the Olive Tree Hotel. After dinner we were offered an additional ($10 per head) tour of Jerusalem by night.

Wednesday April 26th

Once again we were up and underway early. Hermann always seemed to want to keep ahead of the crowds.

The morning was spent in the Old City of Jerusalem. We went straight to the Jaffa Gate and then at a sprint through the narrow streets of the Moslem Quarter to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and then on to the Western Wall and out through the Dung Gate.

The visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre was memorable for the wrong reasons. The behaviour of people queuing and the attitude of the priests meant that is was simply a tourist attraction, not a church.

We then went to Mount Zion to David's tomb, the room of the Last Supper and the Church and Monastery of the Dormition where Mary is believed to have died.

Lunch was once again taken at the restaurant on the Haas Promenade.


After lunch we drove to Bethlehem, now under Palestinian Administration to visit Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity. Again, there were too many people pushing and shouting for the place to have any spiritual feel.


On the way back to the hotel, we stopped briefly to view the Knesset through locked gates and then visited the Israel Museum to see the Dead Sea Scrolls. 

Just across the road from the Knesset was a large Menorah, sculpted by Jacob Epstein.

The moving display of flowers and strange sculpture were in the grounds of the Israel Museum.

This was our third and last night at the Olive Tree Hotel in Jerusalem.


Thursday April 27th

On Thursday, we left Jerusalem behind us and descended down into the Jordan Valley. Passover was over, so we hoped for bread for breakfast. We were unfortunately disappointed. 

Our first stop was the old City of Jericho, which claims to be the oldest continuously inhabited city on earth. Just above Tel-Jericho is the Mount of Temptation where Jesus was tempted by Satan.

From Jericho, we travelled North through the West Bank between the River Jordan and the Judean desert until we reached the Sea of Galilea. The outlet of the Sea of Galilea, at Yardenit, is the spot where John the Baptist baptised Jesus.

For lunch, we climbed out of the Jordan Valley to the plain of Jezreel, sometimes called Armageddon. The restaurant was definitely NOT kosher. The pork joint was excellent.

Next stop was Nazareth. The Basilica of the Annunciation and St. Joseph's Church were beautiful; modern Nazareth is definitely not!

Finally we drove across the Hula Valley to our hotel for two nights at the Kibbutz of Kfar Giladi.

Friday April 28th

On Friday we should have been visiting the Golan heights and the Sea of Galilea, but Sue was not feeling well when she woke up so we spent the whole day at Kfar Giladi.


Saturday April 29th

Our last full day on the tour saw us drive down the coast back to Tel Aviv.

First stop (after a brief coffee break) was the ancient port of Acre, with its citadel, underground passageway and spice market.

Next step was the modern industrial city and port of Haifa. We were supposed to visit the terraced gardens below the Bahai temple. It was closed so we had to settle for a high level overlook of the port and city.

We stopped for lunch at a restaurant in the shadow of a moderm coal fired power station, which our tour guide was extremely proud of. The plant, situated right on the coast is dominated by three enormous towers designed to disperse pollutants.

One last stop on the way to Tel Aviv was the ancient city of Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast, with its extensive Roman ruins including the aqueduct and theatre. 

Finally we arrived back in Tel Aviv around mid afternoon. After a short tour around the centre of the city, we were checked in to the Metropolitan Hotel. We had a short walk around the hotel and an ice-cream on the beach.

Sunday April 30th

On Sunday morning, we walked along the seafront of Tel Aviv to the old port area of Jaffa before returning to the hotel for lunch and our transfer to the airport for the flight home.


Last updated: November 07, 2004 13:23 -0000