Tour the Land of the Bible
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 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 (Jonah 1, Acts 9 & 10). 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 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) where we see layer upon layer of ancient ruins dating to the time of the Old Testament. From here we cross the Jezreel Valley to Sepporis. This city was the primary Jewish city in Jesus’ day. We end the day with a visit to the Precipice of Nazareth (Luke 1 and 4). Here 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 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 driving to the area of Bethsaida. This was the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John 1) and the location of the feeding of the 5,000 (Matthew 14). We then ascend to the southern Golan Heights to Hippos/Susita. This was one of the Decapolis cities. The site has impressive roman ruins and a great view of the entire Sea of Galilee! Driving north 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 will 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 investigate southern Syria. Here we learn about the modern wars of Israel, primarily the 1967 and 1973 wars with Syria. Next, we drive to Mt. Hermon (Psalm 133) and take the ski lift to the top of Israel’s highest mountain (7,300 feet). If there is time, we will provide an option to hike down the trail back to the bus. Others will take the ski lift back down. From here we 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.
Explore Biblical Sites
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! Next, we drive to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee to Yardenit. An option to be baptized in the Jordan River will be offered here. Next, we visit Magdala, the home of Mary Magdalene where we will see a 1st century synagogue where Jesus no doubt taught. After lunch, (not included) 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 spend some reflection time on the shoreline. It was in this area where Jesus called His first disciples. Next, we visit Chorazin. 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. Close by is the Mt. of Beatitudes. Here we will read from Matthew 5. We have the opportunity to walk down the pathway, recollecting the transforming words of Jesus shared in this place. We end our day with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee and from here, we will read the storm narratives (Mark 4, Matthew 14) about Jesus calming the wind and waves. We return to our hotel for dinner and an optional gathering once again by the water. 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. Closely is Sachne where will will enjoy swimming in a natural springs pool here. Driving past Bethel (Gen. 12, 28) and through the Desert of Pareth (Jeremiah 13), our next stop is Jericho. After a late lunch (not included), we climb the Tel (ancient mound) to see portions of the fortification wall that supported the mud-brick walls that “came tumbling’ down.” (Joshua 6). We visit Qumran and the settlement of the first century sect known as the Essenes, the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We end the day by driving further south along the western shore of the Dead Sea to our hotel. Before dinner you will have the chance to float in the salty/ mineral-rich waters of the Dead Sea! We then enjoy dinner together and a free evening. We start the day with a drive northward to Masada, where we will ascend high upon the wilderness mountain by 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. You will also have a chance to get wet here! 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 will drive into the area of Samaria Hill Country and visit the excavations of Shiloh where the Tabernacle once stood for over 300 years. Here we will see archaeological ruins dating to the days of Samuel. We travel the rest of the way to Jerusalem for dinner and our first optional walk to the Western Wall.
Walk through the Old City
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 Gospels. From here we enter the Old City, where we will visit the Pool 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 Sepulcher, stopping along the way to consider all 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. The day ends with shopping at an olive wood store. Dinner and overnight are in Jerusalem, with another optional walk. We begin the day by visiting the Garden Tomb. We 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 can 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. We ascend to the Jewish Quarter where we enjoy free time on our own and grab a bite to eat, explore the Old City, or shop. We enjoy a Farewell Dinner followed by a transfer to the airport for our return flight home.
OPTIONAL SOUTHERN ISRAEL EXTENSION
We begin the day by entering the Old City and 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 return to the Jewish Quarter for a visit to see the Herodian Mansion. This was a 1st century house that was perhaps used by the priests in Jesus’ day. Following this, we will visit Moshe, an Orthodox Jew to listen to him talk about his Jewish faith. In the afternoon, 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 explore some of the 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. A free night is planned to allow you to explore or relax. We spend the day in the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah. We begin by driving to Gezer. Here we see ruins from Solomon’s day and beyond. The famous “Gezer calendar” was found here. From here, we drive to Beth Shemesh, where the Ark of the Covenant was returned. Next, we travel to Tel Qeiyafa (a newer archaeological site) and see where David fought Goliath (1 Samuel 17). As we listen to the story, we see how this famous battle took place! Continuing south, we visit the Maresha Caves in Beit Guvrin with hundreds of bell-shaped caves caused by ancient Roman quarrying. This was the home of the prophet Micah (Micah 1). Our last site of the day is Lachish, a city that was conquered by the Assyrians (2 Chronicles 32). Here, we see where the famous “Lachish Letters” were discovered. We end the day by driving south to Beersheba for our overnight. After dinner, we gather to review the day and prepare for tomorrow. (REGIONS to study: Shephelah, Negev) Our first stop of the day is the ancient site of Beersheba, the primary city in the Biblical Negev. We see the well and gate structure, the rounded streets, and a typical four room Israelite house (Genesis 21). Driving east, we arrive at Tel Arad. This was a Canaanite (destroyed by Joshua) and Israelite city with impressive ruins. Next, we drive south to Sde Boker, the site of the tomb of Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister. Here we learn about the history of the State of Israel. Next, we enjoy hiking in the majestic canyon of the Wilderness of Zin, we have the option to hike all the way to the opposite rim of the canyon. From here we drive further south to the Machtesh Ramon. We overnight here in the area, with dinner and a free evening. We begin the day by driving south through part of the Machtesh Ramon. This is Israel’s Grand Canyon. At a certain point, we will transfer to a safari truck to take us off-the-beaten-paths all the way to Israel’s site of Mt. Sinai. Today it is called Har Karkom. This site was close to ancient Kadesh Barnea in the northern Sinai. On an archaeological and geographical basis, many believe this is where Moses received the 10 Commandments. The site serves as an alternative to St. Catherine’s (in the southern Sinai today) and Saudi Arabia. We head back to our bus where we then drive to Tel Aviv for dinner and overnight.