And while Chaves lauds Israel’s “wonderful wining and dining and its beautiful beaches,” she reminds agents that Americans are going to Israel for the history, the culture and its role in the development of the world’s three great religions—Judaism, Christianity and Islam. And, she says, one of the company’s most popular programs to Israel has all of those elements in it.
“Overall, whether it’s for individuals traveling or families traveling, we have a program called In the Footsteps of Our Lord, which is a motor coach tour that can also be adapted so you can follow the exact same itinerary with a private car and driver, which is what a lot of families choose to do,” she explains. “I think that’s our most popular. It’s a really great itinerary and it’s a good blend of the historical and religious.”
The 8-day program is a whirlwind tour of pretty much all Israel has to offer in terms of historical and religious sites and there’s a lot of them. Clients will tour the excavations of ancient Caesarea, the capital of Judea under the Romans, as well as those of Megiddo, identified as the site of Armageddon. In Haifa, they’ll see the world-famous Persian Gardens at the Baha’i Temple before heading to Acre, the capital of the Crusaders for more than a century. Other highlights include a stay at the Kibbutz Hotel Lavi, not far from the Sea of Galilee, where they’ll learn about life in a kibbutz, then take a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.
They’ll visit Tabgha, the site of the miracle of fish and loaves, and the Church of Multiplication with its fourth century mosaic floor; the Mount of the Beatitudes, where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount and then the Banias Spring and Waterfall, where Jesus was recognized as the Messiah by his disciples. In Nazareth, clients visit the Church of the Annunciation, St. Joseph’s Workshop and Mary’s Well, before going on to the Jordan River and the Baptismal site.
In Jerusalem, they’ll visit the Church of All Nations, Mount Zion and the tomb of King David as well as the nearby Room of the Last Supper. They’ll view the Temple Mount and the Western Wall, walk the Via Dolorosa, where Jesus carried his cross to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, make a visit to the garden tomb and finally, walk through the colorful Arab market. On the last day, they’ll go to Qumram where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found and take the cable car up to the top of the legendary Masada stronghold. That’s a lot of touring starting at just $1,375 per adult.
“You know, one of the things that’s nice about traveling in Israel is that you don’t have to cover enormous distances so when you are traveling with kids—let’s face it, kids get restless whether you’re traveling in a motor coach or a car—it’s not as if you’re going to be cooping them up in a car for nine hours,” Chaves explains. “When you look at the itineraries and the distances in Israel, the amount of time in a vehicle is not excessive. It’s a good destination to see a lot without the kids getting overtired.”
Chaves also points out that family travel has been very strong this summer with a lot of business booked in June for summer travel. “It’s unusual to see that much business booking and traveling within 45 days for our destinations—everything we’re doing is a long-haul destination. I think more and more people are realizing that they are able to travel with their kids easily because the destinations welcome them and make it more affordable for them. As I said, a lot of our families take the itineraries and then add the car and driver.… And the difference in price is not huge, not huge at all.”
Finally, Chaves adds, “There are certainly vacations you can take with your kids where there are whole separate sets of activities for children where you can literally drop your kids off and they’re going one way and you’re going another because there’s a whole program that’s designed for children. Israel is a family destination—the packages that go, the tours, the way the receptive atmosphere is—it’s with the idea that families will be together. Whether you’re going to a kibbutz, going to the Dead Sea, whether you’re experiencing fine dining or hiking—culturally, these folks want to be together with their own families and they want to show off Israel to families as families, not adult programs and children’s programs.… It’s very much a whole family experience and that’s pretty wonderful.”