Optional Turkey Pre-Trip
Explore Istanbul and other Fascinating Places
Today, we arrive in Istanbul to meet for our connecting flight to Izmir (Ancient Smyrna). Our tour guide will meet the group at the airport and transfer us to our hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure. Dinner and overnight are at the hotel in Izmir. Following breakfast, our touring begins in ancient Pergamum (Bergama) – center of the rule for the Roman Empire. Sights include the Asklepion, an ancient healing center, the Acropolis with its pagan temples, Alter of Zeus (some call the throne on the site) and the Temple of Trajan. In the afternoon we continue to Thyatira, the smallest of the Seven Churches of which John writes in Revelations. Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Izmir. Our morning touring takes us to Philadelphia (Alasehir) the church that “kept the Faith”, and Sardis, the capital of the Lydian Kingdom, and the first city to use coins of gold and silver. Our visit in Sardis will take us to the amazing ruins of the Temple of Artemis, the picturesque gymnasium, and the synagogue with intact mosaic tile artwork. Next, we continue our drive to Hierapolis (Pamukkale). Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Pamukkale. After breakfast, we will visit the Hierapolis visiting the vast, ancient necropolis (burial grounds) large amphitheater, St. Philip’s Church, and famed Roman baths. The white travertine falls and hot springs of Pamukkale are a beautiful secret of nature that we will enjoy today. Afternoon, we will continue traveling to ancient Laodicea, a city known for its riches, development of medicines and where the church was known for being “lukewarm in belief”. Late afternoon drive to Kusadasi for dinner and overnight. After breakfast, we take a short drive to Ephesus. Walking in the great, marble Ephesian road will take us by the Church of the Virgin Mary, the site of the council of Ephesus – the great amphitheater where the rioters against Paul cried, “Great is the Diana of Ephesians”, the spectacular and famous Celsus Library, the Agora (marketplace) and the city bath ruins. This afternoon we fly from Izmir to Istanbul for our flight to Tel Aviv. Upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, we meet our local Israeli representative who assists us with baggage and transfers us to our motor coach. We take a short drive to our hotel in the Tel Aviv area for dinner and overnight beside the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.
Experience the Holy Land (Israel Main Trip)
Upon arrival at Ben Gurion Airport, we meet our local Israeli representative who assists us with baggage and transfers us to our motor coach. We take a short drive to our hotel in the Tel Aviv area for dinner and overnight beside the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. After an abundant breakfast buffet, we journey north along the coast to Caesarea, built 2000 years ago by King Herod. We walk through the ancient theater, the Crusader city and see the fantastic aqueduct that served as a backdrop for the book of Acts. From here we depart to Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18), site of Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal. Then we proceed to Megiddo (Armageddon; 1 Kings 9:15; Rev. 16:16). Across the Jezreel Valley is the precipice of Nazareth (Luke 1 and 4). We end our day here as we are introduced to the life and ministry of Jesus in this area. Driving through Cana (John 2), we finally arrive at the outskirts of Tiberias (John 6:23). We arrive at our “kibbutz-hotel” located right on the Sea of Galilee shoreline. After dinner, we enjoy gathering together for a time of fellowship and worship. We begin the day by driving into the Golan Heights. Stopping on the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee, we are able to see the area of Bethsaida and the location where the Feeding of the 5,000 took place (John 6). Then our next site is Gamla, a Jewish city that was taken by the Romans during the Revolt in the 60’s A.D. Here we see a first century synagogue (one of seven that date to the first century), as well as the ruins of the city, called the “Masada of the north.” Close by is the site of Qatzrin, a partially reconstructed Talmudic village. We see what a typical village looked like during the days of Jesus. Sitting in a reconstructed stone house, we’ll read from Mark 2 about the lame man being lowered down to Jesus through the roof. Driving along the northern border, we will stop and look into southern Syria. Here we learn about the modern wars of Israel, primarily the 1967 and 1973 wars with Syria. Next, we drive past Mt. Hermon (Psalm 133) and descend the Golan Heights and visit Caesarea Philippi. It was here Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Mt. 16). Nearby is the amazing nature preserve and archaeological site of Dan, one of the sources of the Jordan River. We walk through this quiet national park and hear the stories of disobedience that took place here (Judges 18, 1 Kings 12). We end the day by driving back through the Huleh Valley to our hotel in Tiberias. After dinner, we meet down by the water’s edge once again to review the day.
Be Baptized in the River Jordan
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! Driving south to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, we arrive at Yardenit. You will have the opportunity to reaffirm your baptism in the waters of the Jordan River. From here we drive to back to the NW corner of the lake to Magdala, the home of Mary Magdalene. Here we will see another 1st century synagogue. Jesus must have taught from here! Among the other ruins are ritual baths. After lunch we see Capernaum, the home center of ministry for Jesus here in Galilee. Here we read about the many stories related to the ministry of Jesus in the 4th-5th century synagogue. We also spend some reflection time on the shoreline. It was in this area where Jesus called His first disciples. Close by is the Mt. Of Beatitudes. Here we read from Matthew 5 on the Mount of Beatitudes and consider the kingdom principles of Jesus. To end the day, we see the “Jesus boat” from the first century, a vessel found here along the shores of Galilee in 1986. Following this we take a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, with a quiet and peaceful worship service. Upon landing, we return to our hotel for dinner. 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. Driving south along the Jordan Valley and then turning west into the area of Samaria, we visit the rather new excavations of Shiloh. This is where the Tabernacle once stood. Here, we see impressive archaeological ruins dating to the days of Samuel. Driving past Bethel (Gen. 12, 28) and through the Desert of Pareth (Jeremiah 13), 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” (Joshua 6). From here we drive to the southern end of the Dead Sea to our hotel. Prior to dinner, you will have a chance to float in the salt and mineral-rich waters of this unique body of water! This morning we begin our drive northward along the western coastline of the Dead Sea to Masada. Here we ascend high upon the wilderness mountain by way of cable car to the fortress built by King Herod. 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 is Ein Gedi, where David hid from King Saul, and we enjoy a walk to some of the waterfalls in the canyon. Finally, we visit Qumran and the settlement of the first century sect known as the Essenes, the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Over the lunch hour, you will have the opportunity to explore the famous Cave 1 where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. En route to Jerusalem, we end the day with a brief stop at Wadi Qelt. Here we hear the words of Isaiah 40 and Psalm 23 in the context of the Judea Desert. From here we drive the rest of the way to Jerusalem for overnight. After checking in our hotel and dinner, an optional evening walk to the Western Wall will take place.
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 Pools of Bethesda (John 5). We also enjoy some marvelous singing in St. Anne’s church from the Crusader period. Our walk through the Old City will take us to the Christian Quarter and to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Then 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 (called the Western Wall Tunnel) along the retaining wall of the Temple Mount itself. Upon completing this unique walk, we will visit Moshe, an Orthodox Jew to listen to him talk about his Jewish faith. We end the day with a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum. We see the Children’s Memorial and walk through the museum on our own. We return to our hotel in Jerusalem for dinner and a free evening to allow you to explore or relax. We begin the day by visiting the City of David and the new excavations of 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 then sit on the steps of the Siloam Pool and listen to the story of John 9. From here, we walk up through an exposed Herodian drainage channel that takes us to “Robinson’s Arch” and the southern wall excavations. We walk on a Roman street and ascend the Temple steps. We eat lunch in the Jewish Quarter (not included) and enjoy a few hours of free time (or visit the Western Wall). In the morning, we 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). Here, we also explore some of the artifacts in the archaeological museum. In the afternoon, we visit Herodium. Located on the edge of the Judean Desert, this is where Herod the Great was buried. We end the day in Bethlehem. We first go to the Shepherd’s Fields for a quiet time of reflecting upon God’s redemptive story. We also visit an olive wood factory and store. We drive back to Jerusalem and our day ends at the Garden Tomb for communion. We return to our hotel for a Farewell Dinner. Based on flight schedules, some will fly home tonight or tomorrow morning.