According to the American Jewish Congress, 1.5 million tours stopped through in Israel in 2004. Despite any perceived concerns about the lack of safety in this part of the world, people continue to travel here, drawn to its beauty and because it is home to so many sacred religious sites and cities. However, the U.S. Department of State issued a travel warning in June for Israel, the West Bank and Gaza (travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/tw/tw_922.html), "urging citizens to carefully weigh the necessity of their travel to Israel," and state that although the number and frequency of terror attacks in the region have declined, there is still a threat.
The American Jewish Congress (tel. 800/221-4694; www.ajctravel.com) puts together an Israel Old and New package. The two-week tour has some dates for December 20 - January 1, priced at $4,095, including airfare. For 2006, there are only two trips posted thus far--January 10-22 and February 21-March 5, both priced at $3,695. Rates are based on double occupancy, include airfare from New York City, but do not include fuel surcharges or U.S. departure taxes. Begin your stay in Jerusalem; visit the restored Jewish Quarter, the Western Wall, the Dead Sea, Galilee, Tiberias, Haifa, Caesarea, and Tel Aviv. It's a guided tour with 21 meals, Shabbat dinners in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, lunch and a swim at the Dead Sea Spa Hotel, an in-depth tour of Jerusalem, and numerous other events. The company also offers organized Jewish-oriented tours to other places, such as Spain, Peru, Russia, China, South Africa, and even all-inclusive, family bar or bat mitzvah tours.
ARZA World (tel. 888/811-2812; www.arzaworld.com) is another tour operator with offices in Israel and New York City offering specials. Their nine-day "Best of Israel" guided tour is offered from $2,098 and you can customize by choosing silver, gold or platinum accommodations. The January 16, February 13 and 20 departures are all priced at $2,078 (if you opt for silver) per person based on double occupancy. You will fly to Tel Aviv from New York, spend one night there, two in Galilee and four in Jerusalem. Twelve meals, sightseeing in a motorized coach, English-speaking tour guides, entrance fees, restaurant tipping and airport transfers are all included. Arza runs about a half dozen other trips including the more in-depth "Exploring Israel", a thirteen-day tour priced from $2,728 per person, silver level, based on double occupancy, New York departures. This trip includes Masada and Eilat, along with Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Galilee. This trip is offered December 18 (at $3,229), and January 15, February 12 and 19 at the lowest price quoted here.
Friendly Planet's (tel. 800/555-5765; www.friendlyplanet.com) ten-day "Jerusalem Express" is priced from $899, a sale price that is $400 off per couple if reservations are received by December 30. The price includes airfare, hotels, transfers, an English-speaking tour guide, daily Israeli buffet breakfast, five nights in Jerusalem and one night apiece in Eilat and Tel Aviv. The December 3 trip still has availability and is priced at $899. For 2006, there's a waiting list for the January 7 trip, but January 21 ($899), February 18 ($999) and March 11 ($1,099) are available. Prices quoted are about $100 off for the cash discount.
The Israeli Ministry of Tourism (tel. 888/774-7723; www.goisrael.com) provides information and links to a slew of tours, some of which are led by non-Jewish tour operators. Take for example their "Commemorative Holy Land Package", geared toward Catholics. It departs March 21, 2006, includes airfare, and takes you to the same holy sites Pope John Paul II visited, traversing the steps of Jesus. At $1,795 per person for ten days, it's offered by Ed Hill Tours of North Palm Beach Florida (tel. 800/780-7801; www.edhilltours.com). Another trip "Best of Israel," geared toward a Christian crowd, is offered by Pilgrim Tours (tel. 800/322-0788; www.pilgrimtours.com). The first-class, ten-day excursion has frequent departures (November 28, December 27, January 1, 3, 7, 10, etc.), priced from $1,652 per person, including airfare. Breakfast and dinner are included daily. The trip includes Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, the Dead Sea and other religious sites.
Momentum Tours (tel. 800/868-7108; www.momentumtours.com) offers "creative travel for the discerning customer" with trips to Israel, including "Israel for Families and Bar/Bat Mitzvah." This land-only special, priced at $2,190 for a "complete luxury" fourteen-day tour, has one departure left for 2005 (the 2006 schedule is not posted yet): December 22. The first stop is Tel Aviv, with a city tour and a welcome Shabbat dinner at the Sheraton Moriah to start. Sights include the Diaspora Museum, the Roman amphitheater in Caesarea built by Herod the Great, and stops include Haifa, Tiberias, Galilee, Golan Heights, the Dead Sea, and Jerusalem. Other good things to know: Their tours are also kosher, and the company also runs customize tours--which is good, because they can design a trip to suit your budget.