Here is part two of my Abraham coverage. First up was reviewing their offering of hostels around Israel and now I’m taking a critical look at their Israel tour packages: Abraham Tours! This is the Abraham Tours review (for your viewing pleasure).
I’ve come into these tours with Abraham with a particular set of questions to appropriately assess them. I’ve also tried looking at them from multiple angles; not only my own but also the type of traveller that would be interested in tours in Israel.
Are they worth the money? Are they the best way to tour Israel?
Do they offer insight into some of Israel’s unique places to visit? Do they treat the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict fairly and justly? (That last one was of particular importance to me.)
C’mon then. Let’s take a ride in the magic tour bus and find out!
A Disclaimer Before Hitting the Abrahams Review
In regards to both my work reviewing Abraham Hostels and their associated tours…
I got this stuff for free. Straight off the bat, I want you to know that because I don’t like lying and I especially don’t like lying to cutiepies. And yours is the cutest of pies.
This whole grandiose adventure touring Israel’s hottest (and most contentious) destinations came to a grand total of $0… That’s a lotta free crapola! If that changes how you feel about this review, well, that’s totally fair, but I am not, by any stretch, a ‘tour guy’.
I’ve made a very special note of carefully considering the price of each tour and the value offered. Furthermore, I’ve made special note to keep this review of Abraham Tours as honest and un-influenced as possible because, frankly, considering the subject matter, anything less would be highly disrespectful to certain groups of people.
The Abraham Tours Review: The Setup
Ok, so what’s the deal? Well, I partook in a number of the Abraham tours in Israel, but not all of them. Have a look at the Abraham Tours site and you’ll see that there is a lot.
Abraham Tours categorises them a bit differently but for the sake of simplicity, I’m dividing them into four categories as such:
- Nature adventures
- Cultural tours
- Smaller hostel events/activities
- The multi-day grand adventures
Of those, I only embarked on several of the cultural tours and a few Abraham hostel events. I can give you an overview and recommendations on the nature tours and the multi-day adventures based on feedback from other travellers (and I will), but my first-hand reviews of Abraham Tours will only cover the following:
- The Other Tel Aviv Tour
- Meet the Ultra-Orthodox Jews (a tour in Jerusalem)
- The Best of the West Bank Tour
- The Gaza Border Reality Tour
- The Hebron Dual Narrative Tour
Did I have a favourite that I’d definitely recommend? Yup! Meet the Ultra-Orthodox Jews.
It’s crazy insightful on a crazy interesting topic, just the right length, and not too expensive either. I’ll go more in-depth in a sec, but as a tour-virgin prior to this escapade (congrats, Abraham, you popped my cherry), I really am genuinely grateful I embarked on this one.
It’s my pick for the best day tour in Israel that I did with Abraham Tours and it definitely was fascinating (and well run). Have a look below!
A Quick Review of Abraham Tours’ Basics
As a general overview, the tours are well structured and they jam a whole lot of good stuff in there. You’ll definitely be exhausted by the end and craving your pillow, but I kinda feel if you came back from a guided tour in Israel craving a pub crawl, something went wrong.
- Guides: On the whole, I was seriously impressed by this aspect! A number of the guides possessed insider knowledge on the destinations throughout Israel we were touring and of those that didn’t, they were still mega-smartypants. Expect plenty of wild hand gesticulations.
- Meals: When they were included, they were food-coma inducingly delicious. When they weren’t, they were equally delicious (backpacking Israel always promises in the food department) but probably should have been included in the tour price. An Israel tour package should have it all, right?
- Transport: The wheels on the bus go round-and-round; no complaints there.
- Any Complaints?: Yeah, I feel like a mid-way coffee break halfway through a full-day tour should be standard. Sometimes it wasn’t and most people in the group (myself included) were flagging pretty hard in the second half. I definitely caught some sneak-naps in between stops.
Specific Abraham Tour Reviews
I made a sweet list with jump-to anchor text! That way, you won’t have to listen to me babble.
- The Other Tel Aviv Tour
- Meet the Ultra-Orthodox Jews (a tour in Jerusalem)
- The Best of the West Bank Tour
- The Gaza Border Reality Tour
- The Hebron Dual Narrative Tour
Loved it! Take a tour to the ‘underbelly of Tel Aviv’. To be fair, I wouldn’t call a neighbourhood with more ethnic diversity, drugs, and prostitution an underbelly. I’d just call that home.
Mixing food and politics (which Mum told me to never do), you’ll tour the off-beat Tel Aviv neighbourhood, Neve Sha’anan, which has become the haven for many of Israel’s refugees and lovable gutter trash from the inflated prices and espresso-culture of Tel Aviv. Walk the streets, eat copious amounts of delicious food from everywhere but Israel, discuss the history and plight of the refugees (North African in particular) all before the municipality pushes them all out.
Gentrification is a bitch.
I had a look at the price of this Abraham tour and it’s well worth it, especially considering there’s a metric shitton of amazing free food included (plus the knowledge bombs). I also know that there are a couple of guides but I’d specifically ask for Rikki because she actually lives in Neve Sha’naan.
Any Israeli chick that chooses to live where the other Tel Avivians dare not tread is a straight-up badass. Easy recommendation!
Well, you already know that this gets two thumbs-up (three if I had the opposable digits). I will say, however, that the title is a flat-out misnomer. We met precisely zero ultra-Orthodox Jews on the tour.
But we didn’t need too! The guide was an ex-UO (yep, I’m abbreviating that) of 21 years of practising before his departure. See! The guides for Abraham tours are crazy insightful; this guy was basically a Jewish sleeper agent!
There’s actually not much to say: you walk around a UOJ neighbourhood in Jerusalem and observe the UFOs in their natural habitat. You’ll discuss the history, culture, and gain insight on what is, otherwise, a set of fairly impenetrable communities. It’s like the David Attenborough of Jerusalem!
You’ll also probably come away with some political opinions but it’s nigh-on impossible not to in pretty much every place you visit in Israel unless you’re wearing a blindfold. That said, the tour was far from politicised (which I’m pretty sure is what people want from tours in Israel).
The price seems a little bit overdone considering it’s only 10 less sheks than the Other Tel Aviv tour and there are no meal breaks, but it’s still totally worth it.
And now the Abraham Tours review is taking us into Palestinian territory – oh boy! Let’s hope I can keep my big, fat mouth shut.
First up, it’s not political. The Abraham Tour to the West Bank is primarily for visiting a number of tourist spots in Palestine and mostly of biblical history. You’ll be attending:
- The Jordan River (Jesus’s baptism site)
- Jericho (the walls came tumbling down)
- Ramallah (the administrative capital of the Palestinian National Authority)
- Bethlehem (Jesus again)
Ooh, and a home-cooked meal in a Palestinian home – oath!
Secondly, the guides are Palestinian which makes a big difference. This guided tour steers far clear from Israel’s politics but you’ll still be handed some objective (and extremely interesting) facts on both the history of Palestine and the life of the Arabs currently residing in the West Bank. As always, there is subtext to find for those that read between the lines and I’ve also decided that Arabs are just so on-point with edgy humour – my people.
It’s a whirlwind tour of some of the tourist destinations in Palestine and perfect for those who want that (due to time constraints). They’re important places to visit in Israel but not necessarily places to stay for most people so blasting through them in a day is a pretty good idea. It’s a good tour for that purpose and I did really appreciate the slight glimpse of the Palestinian side of the occupation: that was the highlight for me.
Ohhh, no. Look, discussing Israel’s politics and conflicts is like playing ‘The Floor is Lava’. Except everything is lava.
Look, I definitely do have a stance on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (think of a word starting with ‘O’, ending with ‘N’, and has ten letters in it) so going into this Abraham Tour I had three main questions:
- Is it tacky-touristy? For the most part, no. A couple of moments definitely left me feeling uncomfortable or even angry enough to need a breather, and the unstoppable force of selfie-culture will always be a gross-out. However, I’m also aware that I’m way too sensitive for my own good and no one else in the group seemed noticeably perturbed.
- Is it informative? Yeah, 100%. The lucid nightmare of Gaza is extremely complicated, to say the least. Multiple internal and external players, decades of history, and every shade of grey on the moral spectrum. The guide did a really good job of unpacking that Pandora’s Box.
- Is it balanced? Kind of…? It doesn’t shy away from the Palestinian side of the narrative but “dual-narrative” also feels like a stretch. I’d say it’s about as balanced as you could expect from a tour of the Israeli side of the Gaza border by an Israeli tour company with an Israeli-American-Jewish tour guide. It’s still jam-packed with information though.
I do need to mention, however, that we got hit by three hefty delays (props to the bus driver for gunning it like a lunatic and taking me back to South Asia feels) so things were rushed and some important things were skipped (particularly on the Arab side of the story). This could have coloured my perception.
It’s also worth mentioning that lunch isn’t included (45 sheks) and neither is the extra transportation for people taking the tour from Tel Aviv to meet the Jerusalem group (approx. 50 sheks). That feels kinda lame but past that is it worth it?
I genuinely don’t know. I really, truly honestly can’t make that call; I’m not comfortable being that arbiter. This one is on you.
The Hebron tour, conversely, was definitely dual-narrative and more power to Abraham Tours for that. It was the same guide as the Gaza border tour and there was a definitely a feeling that you were being shown two sides of something almost unapproachable.
Hebron, arguably the most contested city in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is split into two areas: there’s the Israeli side which Palestinians are allowed to cross into and then there’s the Palestinian side where they’re kept. “Contained” would be putting it lightly for the Palestinian area of the city.
The Hebron tour painted the picture well, not necessarily for the information it delivered but rather for giving you the power to see and experience the conflict with your own eyes. The Israeli narrative was more a presentation of a decently pro-Zion perspective with statistics and stories you’d get from a documentary. The Palestinian narrative (as imparted by a Palestinian guide in the locked-down area of the city) was more of a “look at how we live”, show-rather-than-tell.
And my heart bled for them.
So do I recommend this tour? Absolutely and without a single doubt. For the record, I broke away from the group to steal a couple of extra hours in the Palestinian area. One criticism of the Hebron tour and the Gaza border tour is that they feel rushed – sometimes it’s better to say less and say more of value.
But, yes, I recommend this tour completely. I can’t imagine there are many tours in Israel that allow such a stark portrayal of reality to be witnessed. Furthermore, no matter how much it may hurt, I believe it’s important all travellers in Israel see this. Hebron isn’t an easy visit, but for many reasons, it is amongst the best places to visit in Israel.
Summing Up the Remainder of the Abraham Tours to Review
Ok, let’s move it away from the politics now – there are pretty sunsets to take photos of!
Clearly, most of the Abraham Tours I did partake in were of the more mind-bending variety but the scope of tours Abraham offers to explore Israel extends way past this and I really want to talk about it. Stepping outside of the controversial jazz, there is a lot of beauty in Israel and I’d be doing it a disservice to not show it.
Is Abraham Tours one of the best tour companies in Israel to explore it? Yeah, for sure! They run a tight ship and the guides are both extremely insightful and personable. As someone who generally stays away from tours, I actually had a really good time!
If a tour in Israel is what you be seeking, I honestly think staying at Abraham Hostels and running the tours from there is a fantastic choice. To be clear, it ain’t cheap, but you get what you pay for… i.e. plenty! Longterm broke-ass backpackers don’t stay at swanky accommodations and go on tours anyway.
For anyone on a brief visit to Israel and who just wants to maximise their learning in the shortest time possible, Abraham Tours is the go-to tour company in Israel. Sometimes, a tour really is the best way to learn about a place.
Abraham Nature Tours
Obviously, taking a guided tour into nature loses the bonus of self-exploration and discovery but, again, people have time constraints. Some of us do have to go home eventually.
If you’re not planning on hitching into the desert and bombing some dunes, then a tour with Abraham is a stellar Plan B! Check out the site because there are a camel-load of tours but what would I suggest?
Well, the Red Canyon Tour from Eilat is choice! It covers some of the real highlights in south Israel (like the Red Canyon, in case that wasn’t clear) and you’ll learn a little bit about kibbutz living too for that bonus cultural goodness.
Alternatively (or additionally, you sneaky thing), there’s the Sea of Galilee and Golan Heights Tour from Nazareth. Why? Just because the north of Israel is super dope and you should visit there.
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Abraham Cultural Tours
I feel like I already covered this extensively but are there any honourable mentions of the Abraham Tours cultural offerings? Yup – the Kibbutz Experience Tour!
This Abraham Tour from Tel Aviv covers kibbutz life – something pretty key to the whole Zionist revival arc (coming soon to a theatre near you). Plus, lunch is included and those kibbutz communities cook up a mean feed!
Abraham Hostel Events
You can book these from the hostel too but there are a few you can book through their site (and, thus, attend even when you’re not a guest). The Tel Aviv Pub Crawl is a no-brainer because what even is the point of Tel Aviv if not to get crunked? You’ve also got the Jerusalem Pub Crawl which is actually pretty cool for a window into Jerusalem’s nightlife.
Any more? Yeah, do the Hummus Workshop in Jerusalem. Why? Why not?
It’s goddamn hummus! I’ve eaten so much hummus this past month that my blood is 90% chickpeas.
Abraham Multi-Day Adventure Tours
Again, the scope of these are blisteringly impressive: anything from a 2 or 3-day tour from Israel to Jordan or Egypt ranging up to the final-form 12-day Abraham Tour package bonanza! Although fair warning, 12 days of touring is going to be nearly as exhausting as a 12-day work week.
The Jordan tour and Egypt tour (to Petra/Wadi Rum and the Sinai respectively) are pretty major standouts but I would like to mention that this isn’t necessarily the best way to experience these magnificent marvels. Sometimes, tours are insightful and excellent but it always pays to go slow and at your own pace. Check out our Backpacking Jordan and Backpacking Egypt guides for more info on these spectacular creatures.
Otherwise, for those doing the short trip to Israel, yeah, this is excellent. You’ll cover a lot of ground and see a lot of beautiful places. It’s pricey, sure, but you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck!
You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.
Abraham Tours Review – Conclusion
So, I guess the ultimate question is…
“Are Abraham tours worth the investment?”
My answer: honestly, yeah they are. You could take that as coming from someone who did all these Abraham Tours across Israel for free and that statement wouldn’t hold much weight.
But, alternatively, you could take that from someone who had never done a tour before at all in his travels and would, under no circumstances, ever be interested in paying for one. I’m not jumping out of my skin to do more (I’m currently bunkering down on a Rainbow hippy farm far from the cities, conflicts, and politics), but I do definitely see the value in them. Furthermore, these ones absolutely left me with a good taste in my mouth.
Some stuff you’re only going to be able to learn through a good tour. Not even my closest and smartest Israeli friends could tell me jack about the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish life or the intricacies of Neve Sha’anan. I mean, hell, most of them would never even step foot in Hebron.
If you’re looking to do some tours in Israel, Abraham is definitely the way to go. Combine that with their hostel offering, and they stand as one of the best ways to tour Israel. They’ll get you set up for some top-tier adventures around the Holy Land!
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