Travelers offered five different pathways to Jerusalem

Sign up for Weekday J and get the latest on what's happening in the Jewish Bay Area.

Lehrhaus Judaica associate director Jehon Grist will lead the archeology and history tour in an exploration of Western Wall excavations and the tunnel to the retaining wall built by King Herod. His group will have a chance dig at an archeological site.

"For me, as an historian and archaeologist, the real meaning of Jerusalem 3000 lies in the city's beginnings," said Grist.

"If you understand a city's birth and `childhood,' you hold the key to comprehending the full significance of Jerusalem's momentous journey through time."

Arts and culture tour guide Sheila Braufman, curator of paintings and sculpture at Judah L. Magnes Museum, will lead her group on visits to the studios of Israeli artists, a dress rehearsal of the Israeli Philharmonic conducted by Zubin Mehta, and a peek at what goes on behind the scenes at the Museum of Italian Jewish Art and the Israel Museum.

"We want to give our travelers the memorable experience of sampling the variety of wonderful cultural events in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in a way that they could not do on their own," said Braufman. "Every aspect of the trip is being designed to be yotzei min haclal [outstanding]."

Naomi Lauter, regional director of American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), will focus on Israeli journalism and politics. She will lead her group to meetings with CBS and CNN foreign correspondents and spend time in a newsroom observing the process of putting stories together.

"Politically, Israel is one of the most interesting democratic nations in the world," said Lauter. "Freedom of the press is one of its most honored institutions. Few countries have as many newspapers in as many languages with as many points of views."

Congregation Beth Israel's Rabbi Eliezer Finkelman will head the modern Jewish thinkers tour with trips to study centers and yeshivot, including Hebrew Union College, Pardes Institute, Shecter, Yakar, Hartman Institute and Bravenders/Midreshet Lindenbaum.

"Like a magnet," said Finkelman, "Jerusalem attracts some of the most brilliant scholars of Judaism."

Amnon Gideon, former East Bay shaliach (Israeli emissary), will steer first-time visitors toward geographical and cultural must-sees in Israel. His group will visit the Western Wall, Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Knesset, Masada, then travel to Tiberias, the Golan Heights, Tel Aviv and Yaffo.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be in Jerusalem during its 3000th anniversary," said Jerry Yanowitz, vice president of the East Bay federation and Pathways co-chair.

The trip includes round-trip airfare from San Francisco, five-star hotel accommodations, daily breakfast plus six kosher lunches and six kosher dinners, ground transportation, tips, transfers and entry fees. Cost is $2,950 per person, double occupancy. Participants are asked to make a minimum $365 donation to the East Bay federation.

Additional sponsors include AIPAC; the East Bay Jewish Community Centers, Jewish Community Services of Oakland-Piedmont, Lehrhaus Judaica, Judah L. Magnes Museum and East Bay synagogues.

For information, call Jamie Hyams at (510) 839-2900.