May 21 / Day 1: Depart U.S. for Rome, Italy
May 22 / Day 2: Arrive Rome
Travelers arrive in the early morning and transfer to Hotel Ponte Sisto to rest and freshen up. As guests’ arrival times may vary greatly, we have no group activities planned in the morning. After a noon introductory orientation and study session, we visit the acclaimed Capitoline museum, which houses one of the most significant collections of Roman artifacts. We then walk the corridors of the museum to stunning views of the Roman Forum and Arch of Titus, which we can then visit [optional for weary travelers]. Later we visit the Jewish ghetto and enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant and an evening stroll through the heart of Rome. (Lunch, Dinner)
May 23 / Day 3: Rome
After a morning study session, we begin our day with a tour of the Jewish catacombs. These Jewish burial grounds, from the 2nd-4th centuries, offer us a window into the everyday lives of the Roman Jewish community. We then journey by coach to Ostia Antica to view the remains of the ancient synagogue in what was Rome’s port in Late Antiquity. We return to Rome for special after-hours access to the Vatican Museum and a discussion of interfaith relations. In the evening, we dine together with Kurt Cardinal Koch, president of the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews. (Breakfast, Dinner)
May 24 / Day 4: Rome/Israel
Today we gather at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican and enjoy VIP seating for a public audience with His Holiness Pope Francis. Additional activities may be scheduled based on the final confirmed time of the mass.
This evening we fly as a group to Tel Aviv and then continue by coach to hotel Nof Ginossar, a serene resort on the banks of the Kinneret. (Breakfast, Dinner)
May 25 / Day 5: Galilee
This morning we tour the tunnels and caves of Bet Shearim, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where catacombs dating from the 2nd to 5th century were excavated in the hillside. We will compare these Jewish catacombs with the ones we saw in Rome. From there we travel to the ancient town of Sepphoris, a major Roman, Byzantine, and Jewish city and the capital and heart of the Galilee province. We will discover stunning mosaics and architecture and confront the puzzle of the “Zeus-Helios” zodiac in the synagogue.
Today and tomorrow we will be accompanied by Dr. Lee I. Levine, Professor Emeritus of the Institute for Archeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and JTS alumnus. (Breakfast, Dinner)
May 26 / Day 6: Galilee/Jerusalem
Today we continue our exploration of how Jews adapted Roman culture with study sessions and visits to the magnificent synagogue ruins at Capernaum, Hammat Tiberias, and Bet Alpha. We will also visit Bet Shean (Scythopolis), where excavations have unearthed the amazing city that was at the center of significant trade routes until its destruction by an earthquake in the 8th century.
In the late afternoon we travel by coach to Jerusalem.
This evening we attend Shabbat services as a group followed by a festive dinner. (Breakfast, Dinner)
May 27 / Day 7: Shabbat
Guests can choose from a variety of synagogues for Shabbat morning services. We will enjoy lunch together as a group. Tonight is a free night and you are welcome to explore Jerusalem on your own. (Breakfast, Lunch)
May 28 / Day 8: Herodion / Farewell Reception / Dinner in Abu Ghosh [optional]
We set out this morning to visit Herodion (Herodium) to view the exciting excavations of King Herod the Great’s fortress and palace. This afternoon we return to the hotel for a farewell party. Tonight, guests have the option to join the mayor of Abu Ghosh at his home for iftar, the evening meal eaten by Muslims to break their fast during holy month of Ramadan.
Late tonight we transfer to Ben Gurion airport for our return flights home. Flights will leave between 12AM-1:00AM on Monday May 29 (Day 9). (Breakfast, Dinner)
This itinerary is subject to change.
Please note: This trip involves considerable walking on uneven terrain and at sites of ancient ruins. You should be in good physical condition to enjoy the tour to its fullest.