From the Historical Main Cities to the Beautiful Country Side and the Smallest Towns
Greece is a country of beautiful contradictions, a constant journey in time, from the present to the past and back again. Walk through the olive groves, through archaeological sites and mountains and explore the breathtaking scenery. In Greece the succession of images is not just our imagination; it is a sheer reality from the historical Main Cities to the beautiful country side and the smallest towns all filled with historical significance.
Jewish Greece: The first archeological evidence of Jewish presence in Greece is a 300-250 B.C.E. inscription from Attica. The oldest synagogue of the Diaspora was found on the island of Delos, and dates from the early 1st century B.C.E. When in Thessalonica, Apostle Paul found a well-organized Jewish Community, as in many other Greek cities, including Philippi, Verroia, Corinth and probably Athens.
In Roman times, the number of Jews rose due to immigration, and constituted the core of the Byzantine Jewish communities. In the 12th century C.E., the Spanish Jewish traveler, Benjamin of Tudela, mentions Jewish communities in many cities on the mainland and on the largest Greek islands. Their main occupations were weaving, dying of textiles and the silk industry. These Jews, who were later called “Romaniotes”, spoke Greek and espoused the Greek culture; they even wrote in Greek using Hebrew characters.
The Ottoman occupation relegated all non-Muslims to second place; they were, however, free to practice their faith and had limited autonomy on community matters. Recognizing the importance of an active Jewish population, the Ottoman Empire opened its doors to the persecuted Jews of Spain and Portugal, who settled in Greece mainly in the 15th century and brought with them their language (Judeo-Espanola), customs and traditions. Other, smaller groups arrived from Hungary and Southern Italy.
Between the 16th and 18th century, the Jewish community of Thessalonica was one of the largest in the world. Other important ones were those of Rhodes and Crete; the latter was renowned for the local development of Rabbinical philosophy.
After the modern Greek State was founded in 1832, all citizens, including Jews, were granted equal civil rights from 1882 till 1920 all Jewish communities in the country were recognized as legal entities. Following the expansion of the Greek border after the Balkan Wars (1912-13), the number of Jews in Greece grew to approximately 100,000.
During World War II, when Italy (1940) and Germany (1941) attacked Greece, many Jews fought in the ranks of the Greek Armed Forces. During the Occupation, most Jewish Communities were almost completely wiped out, as the majority of their members were murdered at the death camps. The losses reached a staggering 87 percent of the pre-war Jewish population, one of the highest in Europe.
Those who survived the War owe their lives to the help of their Christian compatriots. Several joined the Resistance or the Greek Army in the Middle East.
The Jewish population of Greece declined even further after the end of WW II, due to emigration, mainly to Israel and the U.S.A. Today only about 5,000 Jews live in Greece, organized in 9 communities.
The Jews of Greece have always participated, and still do very actively, in the country’s public life. In the past, they were represented both in the parliament and the Senate (now abolished). Many Jews held key positions in the Public Sector and Higher Education Institutions. Today, the Jews of Greece excel mostly in the private sector (commerce, industry, business enterprises, sciences, etc.)
Join Kosher X as we explore the ancient wonders of Jewish Greece. Our historians, guides and lectures will bring to life more than 2300 years of Jewish history and heritage including the ancient wonders that make Greece one of the world’s most exciting and visited destinations!
Day 1: Tuesday 19th November – Athens: Upon arrival in Greece, greeting from our representative at the airport and transfer to your hotel. Dinner and overnight in Athens
Day 2: Wednesday 20th November – Athens: Start your day with a guided tour of the Jewish Museum for an introduction to Jewish Greece, then continue with a visit the Beth Salom Sephardic synagogue, with its white marble neoclassical exterior. After lunch we visit the Acropolis, a symbol of the glory of ancient Greece. Climb the smooth marble steps as visitors have for centuries. Stand in awe of what is considered the most perfect example of classical architecture in the world – the Parthenon, designed as a shrine to Athena and at one time housing a massive gold and ivory statue of the warrior goddess. After the visit of the Acropolis, a brief walk will bring you to the new Acropolis museum situated right opposite by the foot of the Acropolis. It features 14.000 sq. meters of exhibition space, where treasures from the previous museum are displayed alongside other surviving antiquities discovered at the site. Dinner and overnight in Athens
Day 3: Thursday 21st November – Chalkida – Larissa: This morning you will depart for your Jewish tour, around Greece. After a drive of approximately 60 minutes we arrive in Chalkida, home of the oldest Jewish Community in Europe, still inhabiting the same town for over 20 centuries. Visit the Jewish Synagogue, rebuild in 1855, after a catastrophic fire. The votive steles that are built in the walls of the synagogue provide the most important data related to it. After the visit of the synagogue, we visit the Jewish Cemetery, with its small museum and Holocaust Memorial. More than 600 well preserved graves, most of which belong to Rabbis, justifies the name “little Tsfat” that was given to the community for being an important spiritual center. Lunch in Chalkida then depart for Larissa. Dinner and overnight in Larissa.
Day 4: Friday 22nd November – Larissa – Salonica: Begin your tour with a short photo stop at the Anne Frank Memorial and the Jewish Martyrs Monument, before our visit to the synagogue, located in the heart of the city, most famous for the “piyutim” (poems) that were written in Larissa and are considered some of the most inspired creations in Jewish culture. After lunch, depart for Salonica. Arrive before Shabbat, settle in the hotel and prepare for Shabbat with the local Jewish community of Salonica.
Day 5: Saturday 23rd November – Salonica: Shabbat at leisure with the Jewish community of Salonica
Day 6: Sunday 24th November – Salonica: Start your day with an orientation drive, around the city, of Salonica where we will have the chance to admire some of the most significant Jewish mansions of the city. Arrive at Eleutherias Square, to visit the Holocaust Memorial, unveiled by the Greek President to honor the 50,000 Jewish Greeks of Thessaloniki, who died during the Holocaust. From there, after a short walk, we will visit the Jewish Museum. Housed in one of the rare Jewish buildings that survived the fire of 1917, the museum incorporates many artifacts and documents that narrate the history of the vast Jewish presence in Salonica, from the 3rd century B.C.E. until World War II, due to which the city gained the name “Jerusalem of the Balkans”. After the museum, visit the Yad Lezicaron Synagogue, opened in 1984 and dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. After lunch we drive to Stauroupoli, to visit the Jewish Cemetery, founded after the liberation to replace the Ancient Cemetery that was destroyed by the Nazis. Some tombstones from the old cemetery were carried there and a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust has been erected. Return to your hotel for dinner and overnight.
Day 7: Monday 25th November – Salonica – Veria – Trikala: Depart from Salonica and drive to Veria, to visit the old Jewish Quarter. Though empty of a Jewish presence today since the Nazi action of 1943, Veria once hosted a lively Sephardic community strongly connected with the community of Salonica. Walk around Barbouta, the Jewish quarter of Veria, with its traditional houses and the synagogue that were repaired and re-dedicated in 1997 in the framework of a special program of the Municipality of Veria, supported by Jewish Organizations. After lunch we drive to Vergina to visit its famous archaeological site and museum. Vergina, identified as ancient Aegae, was the first capital of ancient Macedonia. Visit the site where a monumental palace was brought to light, as well as the imposing exhibition of the Tombs, one of which was identified as the Tomb of King Phillip II, father of Alexander the Great. Drive to Trikala for dinner and overnight.
Day 9: Wednesday 27th November – Delphi – Athens: Visit the site and the museum of Delphi, considered by the ancients to be the physical and spiritual center of the earth. The shrine of Apollo, set nearly 2,000 feet up on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, exerts today a potent grip on the visitor. Here was the most respected oracle of antiquity. The tour continues with a visit to the museum housing many treasures. Omphalos, which marked the center of the world and the Charioteer, one of the finest pieces surviving from the fifth century B.C.E. are among the many wonders housed in the museum. After lunch we depart for back to Athens for our farewell dinner. Dinner and overnight in Athens.
Day 10: Thursday 28th November – Athens Depart
Custom group departures (minimum 20 or more participants) are available upon request. Please call us for details.
Our program includes walking and bus tours exploring the wonders of Greece and its unique Jewish history and heritage. Accompanied by expert guides and historians who supply you with an in-depth educational opportunity that brings to life this fascinating country.
20-29 Participants: $3290 pp/dbl
30-39 Participants: $2890 pp/dbl
40+ Participants: $2590 pp/dbl
Single Supplement: $290 pp
*Please note prices are subject to change
Accommodation, full time Kosher Expeditions tour leader, guides, scholar, all activities and touring listed in the itinerary, all transfers and entrance fees, all Glatt kosher meals under strict supervision.
Price does not include:
International airfare, optional activities and tours not listed in the itinerary, personal expenses, travel insurance, gratuities.
*Discount pricing is available for youth & student groups please contact us for details.
*Pricing is “from” and based on payment made by check or bank transfer. Additional fees apply for payment made by credit card. Please see registration form or contact us for details.
Athens 5*: Our luxury hotel, entwining old and new, sits just below the shadow of Acropolis, moments away from the old quarter of Plaka, the new Acropolis Museum and a short walk from the Synagogue. Each room offers a harmonious blend of modern convenience and classical charm. Everything, from the elegant furnishings and flowers to the outstanding staff, demonstrates the hotel’s close attention to detail and pride with which its services are delivered. Most rooms offer beautiful views to Acropolis, Lycabettus Hill and Philopappou Hill and are equipped with sizable desk, marble bathrooms with bathtubs and amenities.
Larissa 5*: A modern 5 star hotel ideally located at the heart of the commercial center, just minutes away from the city’s main square, it has been recently renovated and it has since become the new luxurious meeting point in Larissa. Decorated in a classical style, the spacious rooms offer private bathrooms equipped with bathtubs, comfortable beds and deluxe in room amenities.
Salonica:3* Superior:Excellently situated in the heart of the city, our recently renovated 3 star superior hotel, is importantly located within walking distance from the Monasteriote’s Synagogue and the Jewish Museum to accomoomdate our Shabbat with the local Jewish community. All 97 rooms are equipped with private bathroom facilities (shower or bathtub), hair-dryer, air-conditioning, mini bar, satellite TV, safe, soundproof windows and balcony.
Trikala 4*: Located very close to the city center, our 4 star hotel offering a relaxed and comfortable stay. Decorated in a neo-classical style, with wooden floors and spacious bathrooms, all rooms are equipped with mini bar, safe, satellite TV, air-condition, bathroom amenities, hairdryer and internet access.
Delphi 4*: Our hotel is situated in the modern city of Delphi, at an ideal location with a majestic view of the Corinthian gulf, just minutes away from the archaeological site and the museum of Delphi. Built in a local traditional style, it combines uniquely wood and stone. The hotel’s luxury rooms and suites are equipped with modern facilities such as: mini bar, safe, hair-dryer, internet access and satellite TV.