Exploring Israel’s Southern Wilderness
We arrive at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport in the afternoon. We meet our expert Israel guide and driver who will take us south to the wilderness regions. Our first overnight will be in Ein Bokek, a resort area along the Dead Sea. In the morning we begin with a tour of Masada, Herod the Great’s impressive mountain fortress where Jewish zealots made their last stand against their Roman conquerors in AD 73. From there we visit the oasis and springs of En Gedi, David’s hiding place from Saul. Then we head to Qumran where Old Testament manuscripts, dating to the second century, were part of the famous Dead Sea Scrolls discovery. We’ll see the caves where these scrolls were hidden by the Essenes for nearly 2,000 years. We stop at Kaser-El-Yahud, Jesus’ authentic baptism place in the Jordan River, and continue via the Jordan Valley to the Sea of Galilee. Dinner and overnight will be in Tiberias.
Discovering Northern Israel
There is nothing like watching a sunrise on the Sea of Galilee from our hotel. Afterwards, we make our way to Tabgha, Primacy of Peter, and the Mt. of Beatitudes (Matthew 5-7), with time for reflection and worship. We then head to Capernaum (Jesus’ base for His early ministry). Next, we board a replica wooden “Jesus Boat” for our boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. We continue to the boyhood town of Jesus, Nazareth (Luke 1 & 2) and visit the “Nazareth Village” with detailed explanations of what life was like during the time of Jesus. We’ll view the Mt. of Precipice and visit the town of Cana where Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding reception (John 2). Couples may choose to renew their marriage vows. The next morning we drive to Beit Shean, where the bodies of King Saul and his sons were hung from the city walls (1 Samuel 31:10-12) after they were defeated by the Philistines. Afterwards, we drive to Caesarea Philippi, where Peter made the good confession of Christ as “the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-16). We will have a short hike/walk to Tel Dan where we will see the altar of Jeroboam and Abraham’s Gate (Genesis 14). Dinner and overnight will be in Tiberias. A short drive takes us to Tel Megiddo, and then up Mt. Carmel where Elijah prayed and God defeated 450 prophets of Baal with fire from heaven (1 Kings 18). We continue to Caesarea Maritima, where Peter proclaimed the Good News to the Roman Centurion (Acts 10). Next, we make our way to the majestic city of Jerusalem in time for dinner and overnight. “I was glad when they said to me, let us go to the house of the Lord. Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:1-2 NASB).
Walk the Steps of Jesus in Jerusalem
We begin our explorations with a drive to the beautiful Mt. of Olives to behold the breathtaking panorama of the Holy City. Our pilgrimage will proceed down the Old Palm Sunday Road to the Garden of Gethsemane with its ancient olive grove. There we visit the Church of Agony where tradition holds that Jesus prayed before his trials. We will enter Jerusalem through the Zion Gate and walk to the holiest site in the Jewish world, the Western Wall (Wailing Wall) of Herod’s temple. Beyond the wall lies the 35-acre temple area purchased by King David (2 Sam. 24:18-25). On this site now stands the magnificent Dome of the Rock and the El-Aksa Mosque. From the temple area, we make our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and then onto St. Stephen’s Gate, St. Anne’s Crusader Church, Pools of Bethesda, and the Sister of Zion Convent (to see the Pavement where Jesus stood as he was being tried by Pilate). We continue to Ecce Homo Arch, and the ancient Cardo (heart of the city), Jerusalem’s main street 1500 years ago. Afterwards, we walk to the Southern Steps to stand on the original steps that Jesus walked on as he entered the Temple area. We conclude our sightseeing with a short drive to Bethlehem and pass by Rachel’s tomb on the outskirts of Bethlehem. We visit the Church of the Nativity and Shepherds’ Field followed by dinner and overnight in Jerusalem. After breakfast, we begin our sightseeing with a visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. We continue to the Shrine of the Book Museum, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed. We will be fascinated by our visit to a model of Jerusalem (1:50 scale model of Herodian Jerusalem as it would have appeared in Jesus’ time). Afterwards, we drive to Hezekiah’s Tunnel (or shaft, conditions permitting) for a visit. (Be sure to bring a flashlight and good water shoes with you, as you will get wet walking through the tunnel). From here we make our way to the Church of Agony at St. Peter Gallicantu, and the house of Caiaphas. Then we make our way back to the Western Wall for a visit to the amazing Rabbi’s Tunnel. Dinner and overnight will be in Jerusalem. The next morning we travel to Shiloh. In the afternoon, we visit the Garden Tomb for a very special time of worship and communion. Then we drive to the Valley of Elah, the setting for the battle of David & Goliath (1 Sam. 17). We will have an opportunity to stop and walk in the Brook of Elah. We then drive to Jaffa for our Farewell Dinner and late evening transfer to Ben Gurion Airport for our flight home.