14-Day Israel/Holy Land Tour

Jordan River baptism
Mount Carmel, Israel

Enchanting Venture to the Holy Land

We arrive at the Ben Gurion Airport and are met by our Israeli guide and driver. We leave the airport and make a stop in Jaffa. This is where the Jonah story begins, as well as the story of Peter (Acts 10). Both were being asked by God to go to a people outside of Israel with the Good News of God’s grace. We spend our first night in Tel Aviv along the Mediterranean Sea. We enjoy dinner and an orientation meeting to help us prepare for the exciting days of studying God’s Word “in context.” (REGIONS to study: Coastal Plains) 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 Azekah 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 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 will see the well and gate structure, the rounded streets, and a typical four room Israelite house (Genesis 21). 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 will enjoy hiking in the majestic canyon of the Wilderness of Zin, and we have the option to hike all the way to the opposite rim of the canyon. After lunch at Avdat (not included), we drive to the archaeological site of Arad, a Canaanite and later Israelite city where Josiah enacted his reforms (2 Chronicles 34). We end the day by driving into the Judean Desert, and we spend the night at Kfar Hanokdim. Here, we experience the uniqueness of desert life, even a camel ride (it is recommended to bring a towel with you). Accommodations include “Bedouin tent” dwellings (upgrades must be reserved in advance, at an additional cost). Following dinner, we enjoy a time of worship under the stars. (REGIONS to study: The Negev, Judean Desert)

Float on the Dead Sea

Following breakfast, we approach the famous site of Masada from the west, where we will walk up the Roman ramp. Those who don’t wish to climb will be driven around to the eastern side, a 1.5 hour ride, and ascend to the top in the cable car. While you wait for the group to finish the guided tour, you will be fascinated with the view. We will hear the story of the Jewish zealots who resisted the Romans for three years after the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed. Leaving the site, we have the option of walking down the Snake Path, while others ride the cable car down. Next, we drive north along the Dead Sea to Ein Gedi, where we relive the story of David hiding in a cave from King Saul (1 Samuel 24). We will have a chance to hike into the valley and enjoy the waterfalls as well as soak our feet in the cool waters. Further north is Qumran, the settlement of the first century sect known as the Essenes, the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Those who want to can spend time hiking near some of the caves where the scrolls were discovered. At the site, we see first century miqvot (ritual baths), a scriptorium, and cisterns. We end the day by floating in the Dead Sea. Then, we drive to the northern tip of the Dead Sea (Ezekiel 47) and stay at Al Mog, a Jewish kibbutz. After dinner, we again meet to review the day’s encounters. (REGIONS to study: Aravah Valley, Dead Sea, Judean Desert) We begin the day at nearby Jericho. Here, we see the portion of the actual revetment wall dating to the time of Joshua (Joshua 6). Our next site is Beth Shean, a massive Roman city. This is where the body of Saul was hung on the city walls (1 Samuel 31), but in the days of Jesus, it was a large Roman city. We view the city of Nazareth from the “precipice” from which Jesus was almost thrown. Here, we enjoy our first full view of the Jezreel Valley. We talk about Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5) and the Hill of Moreh (Judges 6-7) among other stories. We continue into the Jezreel Valley to Megiddo (Har Megiddo in Hebrew), which gave its name to Armageddon (Revelation 16). We see some of the many ruins here, including gate structures, storage rooms, a sacrificial altar, a grain silo, and the water system. We drive north to the Sea of Galilee area to Tiberias, where we will spend the next four nights. Following dinner, we meet on the quiet shoreline to review the day. (REGIONS to study: Judean Desert, Samaritan Hill Country, Jordan River Valley, Sea of Galilee)

See the Sea of Galilee

We begin the day by visiting Arbel, a mountain NW 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! From here, we drive to Magdala to see another ancient synagogue that dates to the time of Christ. Mary “Magdalene” was also from here (Luke 8). Located also on this corner of the Sea of Galilee is Chorizim, one of the three cities condemned by Jesus (Matthew 11). We see the basaltic ruins and synagogue which dates to the 2nd-3rd centuries. Capernaum is next, the home center of ministry for Jesus in Galilee. Here, we read from the Gospels about the many things that took place here (Mark 1, Luke 7 & John 6) in the 4th-5th century synagogue. In the afternoon, we enjoy a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, with a quiet and peaceful worship service together. We recall the storm narratives (Mark 4 & 6). 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 baptism in the Jordan River at Yardenit. It will be a special time of recommitment to walk as a follower of Christ. (REGIONS to study: Lower Galilee, Sea of Galilee) 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 area of the Feeding of the 5,000 (John 6). Our first stop 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 to the border, we next visit Bental, an old Israeli military site. Here, we learn about the modern wars of Israel, primarily the 1967 and 1973 wars with Syria. Following lunch at a Druze restaurant (not included), we descend the Golan Heights and visit Caesarea Philippi. It was here where Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Matt. 16). Nearby is the amazing nature preserve and archaeological site of Dan. We walk through this quiet national park and impressive Old Testament city and hear the stories of disobedience that took place here (Judges 18, 1 Kings 12). We drive back to our hotel in Tiberias. After dinner, we again meet together to review the day. (REGIONS to study: Sea of Galilee, Golan Heights, Huleh Valley) Today is a mid-tour “reflection day.” We will have intentional times of group discussion and silent meditation. Our focus for the day is the teaching of Jesus from Mathew 5-7. Our only destination today is the Mt. of Beatitudes. We return to our hotel for dinner and another gathering out by the water. (REGIONS to study: Sea of Galile) This morning, we depart the Galilee towards Jerusalem. Winding our way through the Mt. Carmel range, we visit Muhraqa, where we read the story about Elijah and the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). Our next site is Caesarea Maritima, to view part of the city initially built by Herod the Great. Here, we visit the theater, palace area, and aqueduct. We then drive to the newly-uncovered site of Shiloh. Here we revisit the stories of Eli and Samuel and the Ark (1 Samuel 2-4) and see where the Tabernacle once stood. We then drive through the hill country of Samaria, talking about the stories that occurred here at nearby Bethel (Genesis 28), Shechem (Joshua 24), and Sychar (John 4) From here we drive to Jerusalem. We will take the Desert of Parath road to the Wadi Qelt. We will make a brief stop here where we will hear the words of Isaiah 40 and Psalm 23 echo in the Judean Desert. We then drive to our hotel. After checking in and dinner, we enjoy an “orientation walk” to the Western Wall within the Old City. (REGIONS to study: Lower Galilee, Jezreel Valley, Carmel Range, Sharon Plain, Hill Country of Judah)

Witness the City of David

We start the day with an orientation to Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives. We then follow the traditional Palm Sunday Road to the church known as the Dominus Flevit (“the Lord weeps”). We stop to read the passages related to this area (Luke 19, Acts 1, Zechariah 14). 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 visit the Pools of Bethesda (John 5) and St. Anne’s Church, perfectly preserved from the Crusader period with remarkable acoustics. We then walk the Via Dolorosa to the Holy Sepulcher, one of two possible locations for Christ’s crucifixion and burial. In the afternoon, we visit Herodium, located on the edge of the Judean Desert, where Herod the Great was buried (Matthew 2). We see the brand-new excavations related to Herod’s tomb! We end the day by visiting the Shepherds’ Field in Bethlehem. We step into a cave and read from Luke 2 as well as sing a few Christmas carols. We will also stop at an olive wood factory and store. We return to our hotel in Jerusalem for dinner and another walk around the city. (REGION to study: Hill Country of Judah) We begin the day by entering the Old City and walk 400 yards through the Western Wall Tunnel along the retaining wall of the Temple Mount itself. Then, we visit to the City of David (2 Samuel 5) 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, 2 Kings 20, 2 Chronicles 32, Isaiah 8 & 37). We then sit on the steps of the Siloam Pool and listen to the story of the blind man healed by Jesus (John 9). From here, we walk to the southern Temple excavations through a 1,300 foot newly-discovered Herodian drainage tunnel. We exit at the southwest corner of the Temple and the southern steps. We see the massive stones erected by King Herod and sit on the very steps used by Jesus and His disciples. From here, we visit the Jewish Quarter and see the Cardo. We also visit Shoreshim where we hear Moshe, an Orthodox Jew, talk about his faith. In the Jewish Quarter, we visit the Burnt House, a house destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. We end the day by visiting Yad Vashem and the Holocaust Memorial. We return to our hotel for dinner and overnight in Jerusalem. Tonight is a free night to explore the city on your own. (REGION to study: Hill Country of Judah) In the morning, we drive to West Jerusalem, where we visit the Israel Museum and the spectacular Jerusalem Model of the Second Temple Period. Dr. DeLancey will take us around the archaeological display, seeing the highlighted artifacts from sites we visited. In the afternoon, we enjoy a few hours of free time. We end the day with a Communion Service at the Garden Tomb, a second possible site for the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. Following this meaningful service, we proceed to our hotel for the farewell dinner! (REGION to study: Hill Country of Judah)