The "Greece: A Jewish Odyssey" Seminar will be led by Melton Travel Educator Avi Ben-Hur. The seminar is open to all adults who enjoy in-depth educational travel, including Melton students and graduates.
For more information about this seminar, please click the tab headings in this section or the ≡ icon on mobile devices.
- Accommodations: 10 nights
- Meals: Hotel breakfasts; opening and closing meals; Shabbat dinner. Note that these meals will be kosher or kosher style. Vegetarian options are available.
- Educational Programming: All entrance fees and programs as per the itinerary.
1 PM - Monday, Day 1, Athens – WHY JEWISH GREECE?
Note: Gil Travel will gladly assist with individual transfers to the hotel.
Why (Jewish) Greece? After checking in at the hotel, we will have an Introductory Session, and then visit the Acropolis Museum and the Acropolis. This UNESCO World Heritage Site and its monuments are universal symbols of the classical spirit and civilization that form the greatest architectural and artistic complex bequeathed by Greek Antiquity to the world.
Finish your first day in Athens with a welcome dinner.
Tuesday, Day 2, Athens – ATHENS AND JERUSALEM AS SYMBOLS
After breakfast at the hotel, you’ll take a visit to the Ancient Agora of Athens. Walking through the Agora will take you back to the economic center where the wealth, reach and influence of classical Athens was visible by the wide range of goods shipped in from the nearby port of Piraeus, which ranged from wheat produced on the shores of the Black Sea to precious dyes from the Levant. An outdoor study session under the trees and among the ruins will allow for questions regarding two ancient cultures, Jewish and Greek, and the worldviews they espoused.
Emperor Hadrian wanted to create a place of academic study worthy of the reputation of ancient Athens in Letters and Science, so he built your next destination, Hadrian’s Library, containing three floors of books, reading rooms, teaching rooms, gardens, and a pond. From there, we will proceed to his Temple of Zeus, and consider the ascendance of the Hellenistic culture that so fascinated Hadrian, a figure so despised in Jewish sources.
You’ll then have time to explore the markets and other public spaces in Athens and have dinner on your own.
Wednesday, Day 3, Volos & Makrinitsa – WHAT IS A ROMANIOTE JEW?
Following breakfast, we depart for Volos, a charming city at the foot of Mt Pelion. On the way, we will learn about some of the greatest clashes in ancient Greek history, and reach Volos by lunchtime, when we will break near the waterfront.
We will proceed to the Synagogue and meet with a member of the community, also visiting the Volos Jewish cemetery with its magnificently carved matsevot (gravestones).
Your day will finish with a trip to Makrinitsa on Mt. Pelion. Known as the noble village because it was mostly inhabited by wealthy people, its houses have tall, decorated walls and windows and are truly works of art. All the climbing streets of Makrinitsa are stone paved and lead to a beautiful large square, shadowed by tall plane trees. The story of the role of these mountain villages during the dark days of World War Two needs unpacking, even as the unparalleled views enchant us.
Thursday, Day 4, Meteora & Ioannina – MATTERS OF IDENTITY
After breakfast, we will hold a study session introducing the world of Greek Christianity, so different from the West European models you may be familiar with, this in the broader context of national and religious identity. We will then head to Meteora, one of the biggest and most important groups of monasteries in Greece. There, we will either visit St. Stephens Monastery or the Great Meteora Monastery.
St. Stephens Monastery is the most accessible monastery, where you simply cross a small bridge to reach the entrance. This monastery includes two cathedrals; the old 16th century chapel that was severely damaged during WWII and the consequent Greek Civil War, and the 18th century main cathedral, dedicated to Saint Charalambos.
The Great Meteora Monastery is nicknamed the "monastery suspended in air" because of the gigantic rock formation it was built on. Take a look inside the old refectory of the monks, where part of an original 16th century table is preserved, with the original cutlery on it. Don’t forget to take a glance at the monastery’s old kitchen on your way out, still black with smoke, with the original bread oven and soup hearth.
After a lunch break in nearby Kalambaka, we will travel to the lakeside city of Ioannina, longtime home to a Romaniote Jewish community. The natural environment, the climate and character of the town are defined by this stretch of water – the area’s trademark. In this castle town, we will visit the Jewish Quarter and the Synagogue of Ioannina, barely active today, and meet with Allegra Matsa, the life force behind the dwindling Jewish community in Ioannina.
Friday, Day 5, Thessaloniki – PORTRAIT OF A COSMOPOLITAN CITY
We will leave bright and early for Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city. This city’s Jewish community was already famous two millennia ago, when visited by Paul. It flourished after Sephardi Jews found refuge in the Ottoman Empire after the Expulsion, and by the 20th century, Jewish life in Salonika even determined the pace of the whole city; 96 percent of the community was to perish during the years of the Holocaust.
We will visit the Jewish Museum, learning about the city's Jewish community, its synagogues and commercial involvement, its educational and other public institutions.
After a lunch break, we will go on a tour along the old defensive walls, including the Citadel and the White Tower, to gain an overall impression of this magnificent city, before checking in and preparing for Shabbat.
You’ll then have the chance to welcome Shabbat with a Kabbalat Shabbat service with the local Jewish community, followed by Shabbat dinner at the community center.
Shabbat, Day 6, Thessaloniki – JERUSALEM OF THE BALKANS
You will have the bulk of the day free to explore the city, including its excellent museums, especially the Archaeology Museum. In the mid-afternoon, we will go on a walking tour of the heart of the Jewish community before the Great Fire of 1917, including the Karasso Arcade, the Modiano Market, Yahoudi Hammam, and Freedom Square, established in remembrance of the 50,000 Salonika Jews exterminated by the Nazis.
In the late afternoon, we will meet at the hotel for a study session, Seuda Shlishit and group discussion.
Sunday, Day 7, Macedonia THE CRADLE OF HELLENISM, FROM FATHER TO SON
After breakfast at the hotel we will visit the Railway Freight Station where Jews were packed into livestock carriages and sent off to Auschwitz-Birkenau and Bergen-Belsen. Next, we head for the Old Jewish Cemetery at Aristotle University, which housed 300,000 Jewish tombs. Very few gravestones survived the Nazi assault of 1942.
Then we will head past some of the Jewish-owned villas on the East Side of Salonika, before departing for two amazing Macedonian sites: Vergina and Pella. Vergina, a UNESCO World Heritage Monument and one of the most important archaeological discoveries of the 20th century, is first on the list. This site holds the tomb of Philip II. After lunch, we will head for Pella, home city of Alexander the Great. Here, we have the ideal backdrop for our discussion on the clash between Judaism and Hellenism and its contemporary dimensions.
Monday, Day 8, Veroia & Larissa – IN THE SHADOW OF THE SHOAH (1)
We depart for Veroia/Veria, a town where the Jewish community was important enough 1900 years ago for Paul to visit the synagogue and preach to the unconverted! Alas, there are no Jews here anymore (the last individuals left at the end of the 20th century) but there is a synagogue, and we will walk around the Jewish Quarter of the city.
Following a lunch break, we will make our way south, to Larissa. The views of the narrow pass between two mountains, Ossa and Olympus, are stunning. We will visit the town’s synagogue and Holocaust Memorial, and meet members of the community to discuss how this small but solid community survives.
From there, we will travel to Kamena Vourla to end our day at this resort town.
Overnight: Kamena Vourla
Tuesday, Day 9, Distomo, Delphi & Athens – IN THE SHADOW OF THE SHOAH (2)
Our day will start with an educational session introducing Nazi policies regarding collective punishment. We will then depart for the site of the Distomo Massacre, one of the most atrocious crimes the Nazis committed against innocent women and children, only months before the German occupying forces pulled out of Greece.
We will break for lunch before visiting Delphi for an encounter with the most important ritual site of ancient Greece, and an outstanding museum in a spectacular location. Oracle? Urim and Thummim? Who can we ask? From there we will return to Athens.
On reaching Athens, we will drive by the Panathenaic Stadium, site of the Olympic Games both when they were revived in 1896 and in 2004.
Wednesday, Day 10, Athens – WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR GREEK JEWRY?
We will open this day with a tour of the Jewish Museum of Athens, and, after exploring the exhibits, meet with Zanet Battinou, director of the museum. We will also visit Beth Shalom Synagogue, the Holocaust Memorial and Jewish Cultural Center, and meet community leaders, including the young Greek-born Chief Rabbi of Athens, Rabbi Negrin. After lunch we’ll have some free time, returning to the hotel to hold a concluding session and then continuing to our farewell dinner.
Thursday, Day 11, Departure - RETURNING TO THE DIASPORAS – AND ISRAEL!
After breakfast at the hotel, you will proceed with check out.
Gil Travel will gladly assist with private transfers to the airport.
Note: Itinerary subject to change. Museum visits and personal shopping time may be disrupted due to unforeseen circumstances or the many religious, state and local holidays observed in the destinations being visited.
- Electra Metropolis (Athens)
- Valis Resort (Volos)
- Grand Serai Hotel (Ioannina)
- Mediterranean Palace, classical premium rooms (Thessaloniki)
- Mitsis, superior sea-view rooms (Kamena Vourla)
- Electra Metropolis (Athens) - check out on the morning of the last day unless extended
Need to Know
- Group rates are per person based on double occupancy and a minimum of 20 fully paying participants. Should the number of participants drop below the minimum listed above, we may adjust the cost of the trip to reflect the additional expense of operating the program.
- Tour prices are per person in U.S. dollars. All hotel accommodations, motor coach transportation, special dinners, sightseeing, admissions, luggage handling and the services of local guides, drivers, and the tour guide/educator are included.
- A non-refundable sum of $500 is required for registration. This sum will be put towards the overall cost of the seminar. If the seminar is cancelled, the registration fee will be refunded.
- Hotel Accommodations: The tour price includes all hotel accommodations, in hotel rooms with private bathrooms. Our standard is to provide the best available hotels while considering value. Although the level of the accommodations may differ slightly from hotel to hotel, we are committed to your comfort. Two-bed rooms are reserved in most hotels. Triples are two-bed rooms with a rollaway cot where available and are not recommended when considering the comfort of those in the room. King-size beds are not available in most hotels; what is considered king-size usually consists of two single beds pushed together and made up separately, but with one headboard. Some two-bed rooms may have two twin - not full- or queen-size - beds.
- Meals are included as indicated in the itinerary. On this program, group meals are kosher or kosher-style, with fish, dairy or vegetarian options unless otherwise specified. Participants can order additional kosher meals at prices set by our local agents.
- All trips are conducted by a Melton educator who remains with the group throughout the tour.
- Baggage: The Travel Agent and/or Tour Operator, shall not be held responsible for any damage to or loss of luggage/personal items. All damage/loss must be reported at time of incident and documented in writing by local authorities for submission to the insurance company. With regard to airline baggage allowance, different carriers have different regulations for business and coach, please check with your individual carrier with regard to permitted number of pieces, weights and dimensions. The tour operator is not responsible for fees levied by any air carrier for the transport of personal belongings of any kind.
- Porterage at hotels. Please note that room service is not included.
- Flights and personal insurance.
- Transfers from / to the airport unless as part of an organized group travelling together.
- Personal Expenses, including meals not mentioned above or drinks during meals, unless specified above, or room service.
- Travel and health Insurance.
- Airline Security Measures: In the U.S., you must provide identification in the form of a passport at the time of airport check-in for travel to international destinations. Your passport name must match the name on your tour reservation and airline ticket or you may be denied boarding.
- If you are traveling from an airport outside the jurisdiction of the U.S, you will need to determine what travel documentation and identification is required for that particular airport.
- Due to heightened security regulations, certain items such as a metal nail file, pocketknife, cigarette lighter or tweezers, and some liquid, gel, or aerosol items may not be permitted in your carry-on luggage. Please call your airline prior to departure to obtain current information on non-permissible carry-on items and recommended airport check-in times. You may also wish to visit the Transportation Security Administration website at www.tsa.gov to obtain more information on acceptable identity documentation and prohibited luggage items.
- Holidays and Museum Closures - Museum visits and personal shopping time may be disrupted due to unforeseen circumstances or the many religious, state and local holidays observed in the destinations being visited.
- Photography During Tours: We will occasionally use photographs taken by fellow guests or your trip director for promotional purposes. If you prefer that your photo not be used in any marketing activities, please notify us at the start of your tour.
We strongly recommend that comprehensive health coverage and trip cancellation insurance be purchased.
Gil Travel recommends RoamRight Travel Insurance. Consider travel protection for:
- Trip Cancellation
- Trip Interruption
- Emergency Medical Expenses
- Emergency Evacuation/Repatriation of Remains
- Trip Delay
- Baggage & Personal Effects
- Baggage Delay and more…
For more information on the available plans or to enroll, visit RoamRight Travel Insurance or contact RoamRight at 1-866-891-6614 and reference Gil Travel.
Please Note: To be eligible for the waiver of pre-existing medical condition exclusion, the protection plan must be purchased within 21 days from the time you make your initial trip deposit, the entire non-refundable amount of the trip must be insured, and you must be medically able to travel at the time the premium is paid. However, the travel protection plan itself can be purchased any time prior to departure.