13-Day Biblical Tour of Israel

Caesarea Philippi, Israel
Mt of Beatitudes and Sea of Galilee, Israel
Sea of Gallilee, Israel
Tel Aviv, Israel

Enjoy the Beach of the Red Sea

We depart for this Israel tour by flying from the U.S. to Tel Aviv, Israel. This overnight flight will land at the Ben Gurion Airport the next day. Once we land, we will be met by our Israeli agent, driver, and guide. We drive to our hotel in Tel Aviv for dinner and overnight. Following breakfast, we drive through the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah. We will make stops at Beth Shemesh (overlooking the Sorek Valley) and Azekah (overlooking the Elah Valley). It was in the Elah Valley where David defeated Goliath and the Philistines (1 Samuel 17). We continue driving south to Beersheba. Located in the Negev, Beersheba is associated with Abraham’s well (Genesis 21). In the afternoon we drive to the Machtesh Ramon, Israel’s “Grand Canyon”). We’ll stop at the rim of the crater for a spectacular view. We end the day by driving the remaining distance through the Southern Highlands and along the Arabah to Elat. Located on the Red Sea, we’ll check into our hotel and enjoy dinner and overnight here. Following a leisurely breakfast, we will enjoy the beach of the Red Sea while we wait for Dr. John DeLancey’s group to cross the border from Jordan (at this point, Dr. John will have led a tour to Egypt and Jordan). You will have a chance to swim in these crystal-clear waters. From here we drive north through the Aravah (Rift Valley) to Timnah. In ancient days, this was a copper mine of the Egyptians. We also walk through a full-size replica of the Old Testament Tabernacle. Continuing north along the Aravah, we arrive at the Dead Sea. After checking into our hotel, you will have a chance to float in this unique body of water (33% salt & minerals)! Dinner at your leisure following this unique experience.

Drive to the Top of Mt. Gilboa

Following breakfast, we drive to the famous site of Masada. We ascend to the top in the cable car. Originally, this was a palace-fortress built by Herod the Great. Later, 967 Jewish zealots who resisted the Romans for about three years after the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed used this stand-lone fortress as a place of refuge. We will see palaces, casemate walls, a synagogue, storerooms, and a bathhouse. 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 the opportunity to hike into the valley and enjoy the waterfalls. 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 (hopefully for sunset) by overlooking the Judean Desert and Wadi Qelt. We will hear the words of Isaiah 40 and Psalm 23 shared here. We drive to our hotel on the outskirts of Jericho. 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). We then drive through the Pareth Desert where we will stop and enjoy a brief hike. We consider the role of the prophet Jeremiah here (Jeremiah 13). From here it’s on to the ancient site of Shiloh. Here we revisit the stories of Eli, Samuel, and the Ark (1 Samuel 2-4) and see where the Tabernacle once stood. We will take time to reflect upon Samuel’s response to God, “Here, I am!” (Hineni, in Hebrew). 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). 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. To end the day we drive to the top of Mt. Gilboa for a great view of the Jezreel and Harod Valleys and the life and death of King Saul (1 Samuel 31). We drive to the western shoreline of the Sea of Galilee to our hotel. We enjoy dinner together and a brief gathering by the water’s edge. We begin the day by driving north along the Huleh Valley to 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 also see some amazing archaeology here! Close by is Caesarea Philippi. It was in the region of this pagan city where Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Mt. 16). We will see the Grotto (cultic area) of this city. Then we begin ascending into the Golan Heights. We will drive past Mt. Hermon (Psalm 133) to the border with Syria. Here we learn about the modern wars of Israel, primarily the 1967 and 1973 wars. From here we drive south on the plateau of the Golan Heights to Katzrin, a partially reconstructed Talmudic village (3rd – 7th centuries AD). 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. We end the day at Hippos/ Sussita, one of the ten Decapolis cities. Located high on the SE corner of the Sea of Galilee, we will see many Roman ruins here. We will also read from Mark 5 about the demoniac transformed by Jesus. We return to our hotel for dinner and a free evening.

View the Jezreel Valley

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 (a wonderful “St. Peter’s Fish lunch, not included) 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. It was in this area where Jesus called His first disciples. Just up the hill is the Mount of Beatitudes. We will read from Matthew 5 here, listening to the primary message of Jesus about the kingdom of heaven! We end the day by seeing the “Jesus boat” from the first century, a vessel found here along the shores of Galilee in 1986. We also will enjoy a boat ride on the lake. On the boat we will enjoy a time of worship. We will also the two storm narratives from Mark 4 and Matthew 14. We return to our hotel for dinner and a free evening. This morning we depart the Galilee towards Jerusalem. Our first stop will be the Precipice of Nazareth where we will gain our first of a number of views of the Jezreel Valley below. We will talk about Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5) and the Hill of Moreh (Judges 6-7), among other biblical stories. We will also consider the story of Luke 4. We then drive across the valley to Megiddo, a Canaanite and Israel archaeological site with about 25 layers of occupation. We will climb the site and see many interesting ruins, including the impressive water system. Next, winding our way up and through the Mt. Carmel range, we visit Muhraqa, where we read the story about Elijah and the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). Our last 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. From here we drive to Jerusalem. After checking in to the hotel and dinner, we enjoy an “orientation walk” to the Western Wall within the Old City. 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 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. We end the day by visiting Yad Vashem and the Holocaust Memorial. We return to our hotel for dinner and overnight in Jerusalem. After dinner you will have the opportunity to hear Shlomo’s family story about the Holocaust.

Visit the Shepherds’ Field in Bethlehem

We begin the day by entering the City of David and the excavations of David’s palace (2 Samuel 5). 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 for lunch on our own. We will also visit Shoreshim where we hear Moshe, an Orthodox Jew, talk about his faith. 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. In the morning, we begin with a Communion Service at the Garden Tomb, a second possible site for the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. Next, right inside Jaffa Gate is David’s Citadel. This was the site of Herod the Great’s palace and the most likely location of where Jesus was condemned by Pilate to crucifixion. In the afternoon, we enjoy a free afternoon in the Old City! You will have time to grab a bite for lunch, explore, and shop. Enjoy a “Farewell” dinner at local restaurant before driving to the airport for our night-flight back to the U.S. After our night flight home, we arrive back in the U.S. After Passport Control, we find our domestic connecting flights back to our respective homes. The end of an amazing journey-of-a-lifetime!