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Selecting a group tour to Israel for Oct. 2010

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Selecting a group tour to Israel for Oct. 2010

My husband and I (both a young 61 yrs.), have been looking for and comparing Jewish Heritage tours to Israel (for adults). Only other time there was 38 years ago. If you can give any comments, experiences with - positive/negative and/or suggestions on the following companies, we'd really appreciate it. They all seem good.

Shalom Journeys, Ayalet, ITC (these 3 seem very similar), Arza World, ITAS, IAT, Israel Discovery Tours. Thanks in advance for any help.

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1. Re: Selecting a group tour to Israel for Oct. 2010

Arza works with Daat (the tour operator in Israel), and they deal with Jewish Heritage tours for groups and individuals. Another excellent company is Artzeinu which have regular tours to various places with the possiblity of building your own tour, using a private guide. Both companies allow the the clients to feel and recieve a better understanding of the Jewish aspects of the Land of Israel.

Chana

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2. Re: Selecting a group tour to Israel for Oct. 2010

I just saw your post and have the same questions as you. We also are looking for a tour in October and am confused by all of the various tours that all seem to be the same. I had also look at at American Israel Tours which has exactly the same itinerary as Shalom Journeys. Hopefully someone will respond who can make sense of all of the possibilities.

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3. Re: Selecting a group tour to Israel for Oct. 2010

Hi - After calling several tour places, the nicest, most informative person, who followed through and called me back was Israel Tour Connection or ITC.

The man's name is Harvey Geller and the number is 1 800 247-7235.

Maybe you'd like to give him a call. He will answer all your questions and not be rushed or anything. He seemed very nice.

My husband and I still haven't decided to definitely go yet, but I think I'd select his company. It does have a similar itinerary as a few of the other tour groups.

If you'd like, let us know what happens. :-) Shelley

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4. Re: Selecting a group tour to Israel for Oct. 2010

After just having spent a full week reviewing tours of Israel I realize the following:

Many tours are geared for particular clients. For example, there are some that seem to have far more Christian sights, some for far more Jewish sights, some that have prayers affiliated with each sight, some that request that participants wear "proper" attire and seem more orthodox, some that are very light and general, and some that are more historic and archaeological in focus.

The price differences are significant and may range from $4500. for two people for 11 days (which is really shorter since they count the day of departure) to much less for a backpacker's tour to much more for groups such as Tauck or even going on your own with a private tour guide/driver.

The best time of year weatherwise seems to be Oct. Nov. and spring- around April. Since April is Passover and would limit food options, I ruled out April and decided that optimal for us would be the second half of October or the first half of November and in fact the tours are often sold out for that time of year by now.

We decided that we prefer to go non stop rather than changing planes with long wait times so we paid extra for better flight times. We also decided that we prefer the historic/archaeological perspective with more Jewish sights than Christian ones but definitely do not want any orthodox leanings, clothing rules, or the primary emphasis on participating in religious events. We also felt that if we are joining a tour group (very unusual for us as independent travelers) that we also want time to travel and explore by ourselves. So we compromised and picked the King David Gate 1 tour through vacations to go with upgraded non stop flights from NY and with 6 additional free days after the tour ends to explore on our own but then use their flights home. We think this will allow us to go to Eilat if I want to snorkel in the Red Sea, return to some favorites for more time, visit Haifa which is not part of the tour, and shop more at the end rather than dragging purchases around with us.

You need to make some decisions about religiosity, focus, time period, size of group, places you want to go, types of flights, what you are prepared to pay, and which are your priorities in terms of where you want to go and what you want to see. Go to your local library and take out some guide books and read and skim them. Then it will become clear to you which are the right tours for you.

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5. Re: Selecting a group tour to Israel for Oct. 2010

Larktrav, you've given excellent advice to travelers looking for group tours (a lot of the people who visit this site), and I thank you for that.

I write simply to note that May is a wonderful time to visit, at least as good as April, and you thus avoid Passover.

Thanks again.

Douglas Duckett

Vacationing in Vancouver, Canada

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6. Re: Selecting a group tour to Israel for Oct. 2010

I'm so glad to hear that Douglas since we arrive May 1.

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7. Re: Selecting a group tour to Israel for Oct. 2010

Agreeing with Douglas that Larktrav--you wrote an excellent post. Just one comment--many religous sites ( including the Kotel) ask that you be covered--to a degree--when you visit. That may be why some tours ask you to bring something that is more modest. Then of course, there are tours that are geared for Orthodox--and if you aren't those aren't the tours for you.

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8. Re: Selecting a group tour to Israel for Oct. 2010

Just wondering what tour organization you chose to go with? Im in the planning stages of a trip for May 2011, and welcome any advice you may have.

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9. Re: Selecting a group tour to Israel for Oct. 2010

Also agreeing that Larktrav has put together some excellent advice.

I'd also agree with Douglas (Labatt) - personally, I think that May is the best time of year. Weather-wise it is warmer than October/November, but usually not too hot, and more importantly, in May we have daylight savings, so you get quite a few additional daylight hours. In November, it gets dark around 5pm, and can be quite chilly.

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10. Re: Selecting a group tour to Israel for Oct. 2010

So many of the tours seems to have the same Itinerary and hotel options. Is there much difference in the quality of the hotel categories? It also seems like the tour companies are operators who contract with other companies to actually drive and provide the tours. I think that is why it is so difficult to differentiate the varous companies. If anyone has thoughts, please let me know. We are planing a trip for spring 2011. thanks