Explore History in the Judean Desert
We begin our historical Israel tour by traveling through the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah, a location of many Old Testament stories. Our first stop is Beit Shemesh located on the Sorek Valley. Here is where the Ark of the Covenant was returned from the Philistines. Next, we travel to the Valley of Elah where David fought Goliath and reenact the scene in our imagination as we listen to I Samuel 17. From Tel Azekah, we see before our very eyes how this famous battle took place! Continuing towards the biblical Negev, it’s on to the city of Beersheba. Here we see the well and gate structure, the rounded streets, and a typical four-room Israelite house. Then we visit Arad to stand on the Israeli citadel and talk about Josiah’s reforms. We end the day by driving to the hotel in the Dead Sea. Prior to dinner, we have the opportunity to “float” in the salty and mineral-rich body of water. We then enjoy dinner together before retiring for the night. Following breakfast, we visit Masada. We ascend in the cable cars to the top of this Herodian fortress in the heart of the Judean Desert. On top we’ll see cisterns, dwelling places, storehouses, the city “casemate” walls, a synagogue, and a bathhouse. We’ll descend in a cable car (although the option to walk down the “Snake Path” will be given). From here we drive north along the Dead Sea to Ein Gedi, hiking into the valley to enjoy the waterfalls. Along the way, we hope to see the ibexes (animals that reside in this desolate area of Israel). We’ll read about David (I Samuel 24). From here it’s on to Qumran and the possible settlement of the first century sect known as the Essenes, the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. After Qumran, we enjoy a late lunch in Jericho (not included) before visiting this site where “the walls came tumbling down”. We drive north along the Jordan Valley to the Sea of Galilee to overnight for the next three nights.
Don't Forget Be sure to bring a flashlight and water shoes if you want to walk through Hezekiah's tunnel.
Travel Through History in Galilee
After breakfast, we drive around the northern area of the Sea of Galilee before driving east into the Golan Heights. We make a stop for a beautiful overlook of the northeast corner of the lake. Here we see the area of Bethsaida, the home of Peter, Andrew, and Phillip. From here we visit Gamala, an impressive first century site destroyed by the Romans in 66 A.D. We see an ancient synagogue, one of only seven that date to the time of Jesus. Our next stop is Katzrin, a Talmudic village where we walk through a reconstructed house very similar to the type of dwellings from the days of Jesus. Here the story of Mark 2 will come alive! Following lunch (not included), we descend the Golan Heights to Caesarea Philippi. Here Peter made his declaration about Jesus. Here, we are also at the foothills of Mt. Hermon. Our last stop of the day is the Old Testament site of Dan and its refreshing springs, one of the sources of the River Jordan. Here we walk through the wonderful nature preserve. We will also see the “high place” of Dan, and a Middle Bronze gate that dates to the time of Abraham. Dinner and overnight are at our hotel in Tiberias. We begin the day by visiting Arbel, a mountain on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. An option will be given 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 on top is the best there is of the whole Sea of Galilee below! From here we drive to Chorazin, one of the three cities condemned by Jesus. Here we will see the “seat of Moses” within the partially-restored synagogue. Next is Capernaum, the home center of ministry for Jesus here in Galilee. Here we will read from Mark 1 in the 4th-5th century synagogue. Following lunch (not included), we enjoy a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, for a quiet and peaceful worship service together. Upon landing, we also see the “Jesus boat” from the first century, a vessel found here along the shores of Galilee in 1986. Next, we travel to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee and enjoy an optional baptismal in the Jordan River at Yardenit. We end the day by reading from Matthew 5 on the traditional Mount of Beatitudes located on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. The next morning we head toward Nazareth where we view the city from the “precipice” from which Jesus was almost thrown. We continue into the Jezreel Valley to Megiddo, which gave its name to Armageddon. Our day continues as we ascend Mt. Carmel, site of Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal. Descending the mountain, we drive toward Caesarea, nestled between the banana groves and the sand-skirted sea. We enter Caesarea Maritima to explore this Roman bridgehead to the east, which became the Christian springboard to the west. We end the day by driving to Jerusalem to King of Kings for their evening worship service.
Experience the History of Jerusalem
We start the day with an orientation to Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives. We then follow the traditional Palm Sunday route to the church known as the Dominus Flevit (“the Lord weeps”). After viewing the Golden Gate, we walk downhill to Gethsemane, where we take time to meditate on the Gospel text. From here we enter the Old City where we first will visit the Pools of Bethesda and St. Anne’s Church, perfectly preserved from the Crusader period with remarkable acoustics. We then follow the Way of the Cross (Via Dolorosa) to the Holy Sepulchre, stopping along the way to consider all that Christ endured on his way to His crucifixion. 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 by driving into Bethlehem. We visit the Shepherds’ Field and the Church of the Nativity. The day ends with shopping at an olive wood store. We begin the day by entering the Old City through the Dung Gate. We visit the famous Wailing/Western Wall, the most holy place in Judaism, for some time for personal prayer and reflection. Then we return to the Jewish Quarter for a visit to the Temple Institute. Here, we will see some of the preparations being made for the 3rd Temple. Then we have a visit to the Friends of Zion Museum. In the afternoon, we will be fascinated by our visit to the Israel Museum and the model of Jerusalem (1:50 scale model of Herodian Jerusalem as it would have appeared in Jesus’ time). Here, we explore some of the highlight artifacts in the archaeological museum. We end the day with a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum. We see the Children’s Memorial as well as walk through the museum on our own. We return to our hotel in Jerusalem for dinner and overnight. In the morning, we begin by visiting the Garden Tomb. We will also enjoy a quiet Communion Service together. From here, we spend the rest of the morning visiting the amazing ruins from Biblical days! First, we visit 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). Be sure to bring a flashlight and water shoes if you want to walk through the tunnel. We then sit on the steps of the Siloam Pool and listen to the story of John 9. From here, we are given the option to walk up through a 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. Then we have a visit to the Tower of David Museum. We enjoy a Farewell Dinner followed by a transfer to the airport for our return flight home.