Early Ministry of Jesus
Upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, we meet our local Israeli representative and take a short drive to our hotel in Netanya for dinner and overnight beside the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. On the way, we make a brief stop in Jaffa, the home of the Jonah and Peter’s stories. After an abundant breakfast buffet, we journey north along the coast to Caesarea, built 2000 years ago by King Herod. We will walk through the ancient theater, Crusader city and the fantastic aqueduct that served as a back drop for the book of Acts. From here we depart to Mt. Carmel, site of Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal. Then we proceed to Megiddo and across the Jezreel Valley is the precipice of Nazareth. We end our day as we are introduced to the life and ministry of Jesus in this area. Driving through Cana, we finally arrive at the outskirts of Tiberias. We make our way to our “kibbutz-hotel” located right on the Sea of Galilee shoreline. After dinner, we enjoy sitting together for a time of fellowship and worship. We begin the day by visiting Arbel, a mountain on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. We will have the option to hike to the top of this 800-foot cliff (the bus will take others to the top from the other side). The view from the top is the best there is of the whole Sea of Galilee below! We will enjoy about an hour-long boat ride on the Sea of Galilee and from here, we will read the storm narratives about Jesus calming the wind and waves. We will also enjoy a time of worship and reflection. Next, we visit Magdala, the home of Mary Magdalene where we will see a 1st century synagogue where Jesus no doubt taught. After lunch, we visit Capernaum, the home center of ministry for Jesus in Galilee. Here we read about the many stories related to the ministry of Jesus in the 4th-5th century synagogue and also spend some reflection time on the shoreline. It was in this area where Jesus called His first disciples. Next we visit Chorazim. Here we will see a 3rd century synagogue made from basaltic stones and read from Matthew 23 about the “Moses Seat” that was found here. Following Chorazim, we drive to the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee where we are able to see the area of Bethsaida and the location where the Feeding of the 5,000 took place. Conditions permitting, we will actually try and visit the new excavation of El Araj, possibly Bethsaida! We end the day by reading from Matthew 5 on the Mount of Beatitudes. We then provide the opportunity to walk down the pathway, recollecting the transforming words of Jesus shared in this place. We return to our hotel for dinner and an optional gathering once again by the water.
The Judean Wilderness
We begin the day by driving south to the Jordan Valley to the site of Beth Shean (1 Sam. 31), an impressive Roman city of the Decapolis. We will drive along the Jordan Valley and then turn west into the area of Samaria, where we’ll visit the rather new excavation of Shiloh where the Tabernacle once stood. Here we’ll see impressive archaeological ruins dating to the days of Samuel. Driving past Bethel and through the Desert of Pareth, our next stop is Jericho. After a late lunch, we climb the tel (ancient mound) to see portions of the fortification wall that supported the mud-brick walls that “came tumblin’ down”. We end the day by driving further south along the western shore of the Dead Sea to our hotel. We have dinner together and a free evening. We will begin our day by enjoying a “float” in the Dead Sea with a late breakfast to follow. We will drive northward to Masada, where we will ascend high upon the wilderness mountain by way of the cable car to the fortress built by King Herod. Here we survey the ruins of the fortifications, waterworks, synagogue, temples and palaces. (An optional walk down the snake path will be offered.) Our next stop will be Ein Gedi where David hid from King Saul. We will enjoy a walk back to the waterfalls, hopefully seeing ibex and cooneys along the way. Finally, we visit Qumran and the settlement of the first century sect known as the Essenes, the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. From here we ascend 4,000 feet towards Jerusalem. As time permits, we will make a quick stop to enjoy an overview of the Wadi Qelt and the Judean Wilderness and hear the words of Isaiah 40 and Psalm 23 shared in the context of this desolate area! We travel the rest of the way to Jerusalem for dinner and our first optional walk to the Western Wall.
Jerusalem & the City of David
We get our first glimpse of Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives, beholding a breath-taking panorama of the Holy City. We walk down the “Palm Sunday” route to the Garden of Gethsemane. Next, we enter the Old City of Jerusalem through the Lion’s Gate (St. Stephens) and visit the Pool of Bethesda. We will also enjoy some marvelous singing in St. Anne’s church from the Crusader period. Our walk continues along the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We will eat lunch near by. In the afternoon, we walk to the Jewish Quarter and visit with Moshe, an Orthodox Jew. He will share about his Jewish faith and practice. We end the day at the Israel Museum. Here we will see the fascinating Israel Museum and the model of Jerusalem (1:50 scale model of Herodian Jerusalem as it would have appeared in Jesus’ time). We will also walk through the Shrine of the Book to see some of the Dead Sea Scrolls as well as explore some of the highlight artifacts in the archaeological museum. The next day we begin by entering the Old City through the Dung Gate. We visit the famous Western (Wailing) Wall, the most holy place in Judaism. After some time for personal prayer and reflection, we walk 400 yards along the retaining wall of the Temple Mount itself. Upon completing this unique walk, we will drive south of Jerusalem to Herodium, another palace-fortress of Herod the Great. It was here where Herod was buried in 4 BC. Next, we visit the Shepherds’ Fields outside of Bethlehem. We will enter a cave and consider the redemptive plan of God in sending Jesus. We’ll sing a few Christmas carols too! Entering Bethlehem, we will stop at an olive wood factory and store. In the afternoon we will drive a little west to the Shephelah (Lowlands) of Judah to visit Kh. Qeiyafa and the Elah Valley. Qeiyafa is a relatively new excavation dating to the time of David. It was in the valley where David defeated Goliath (1 Samuel 17). If time permits, we will also visit either Beth Shemesh and/or Gezer, two other Old Testament sites (see I Samuel 6 and I Kings 9). We drive back to Jerusalem to our hotel for dinner and overnight. We begin the day by visiting the City of David and the amazing new excavations here, including David’s palace. Those who want to will take an optional adventurous walk through the water of Hezekiah’s Tunnel (1,720 feet long). We will then sit on the steps of the Siloam Pool and listen to the story of John 9. From here, we will walk up through a newly exposed drainage channel that will take us to “Robinson’s Arch” and the southern wall excavations. We will walk on a Roman street and ascend the Temple steps. After lunch in the Jewish Quarter, we will enjoy a few hours of free time for shopping and exploring. We end the day at the Garden Tomb where we will enjoy a quiet Communion service together. Returning to our hotel to freshen up, we will enjoy our Farewell Dinner. Following the dinner, those not going to Egypt will board the bus and transfer to the Ben Gurion Airport for our night flight home. For those doing the Egypt extension, you will return to the hotel for one more overnight here in Jerusalem.
OPTIONAL EGYPT EXTENSION:
We depart Jerusalem and continue to Ben Gurion Airport for our short flight to Cairo. In Cairo we change planes for a short flight to Luxor, which is often referred to as the “Heart of Egypt.” We arrive mid-afternoon and begin our sightseeing tour of classical Luxor, the East Bank, which includes Karnak and Luxor Temples. Dinner and overnight are in Luxor. After breakfast, we begin our sightseeing of the West Bank to see the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Deir El Bahari Hatshepsut Temple and Clossei of Memnoon. We enjoy an included lunch at Sonesta Luxor Hotel. We then continue to the Luxor Airport for our return flight to Cairo. Our sightseeing tour begins with a visit to the world famous Egyptian Museum and then a brief visit to the area that contains the treasures of King Tutankhamen. Dinner and overnight are in Cairo. Following breakfast, we begin our sightseeing with a visit to the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. Our sightseeing includes the Citadel and Mohammed Ali-Mosque, called the Alabaster Mosque. There we see a beautiful view of Cairo and the Nile River, the historical dwellings and mosques. Then we continue to Old Cairo to see the Coptic Churches, the site of where Joseph and Mary fled from Herod with the baby Jesus. Next, we continue to see the Alabaster Sphinx, and the statue of Ramses II. If time permits, we’ll include a visit to the Necropolis of Sakkara, containing the funerary monuments from various periods of Egyptian history. We view the Step Pyramid of King Zoser and several mastabas (tombs of nobles), including the tombs of Ti and Ptah, some of the most notable excavations of Egypt. Dinner and overnight are in Cairo. We transfer early morning to Cairo International airport for our flight home.