Exploring Biblical Israel
Tour members meet for our evening flight. After dinner is served, sit back and relax, enjoying the on-board entertainment as you prepare for this exciting adventure of a lifetime. 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. After an abundant breakfast buffet, we journey north along the coast to Caesarea, built 2000 years ago by King Herod. We walk through the ancient theater, the Crusader city and the fantastic aqueduct that served as a backdrop for the book of Acts. Then we proceed to the top of Mt. Carmel for our first view of the Jezreel Valley. We’ll read from 1 Kings 18 about Elijah. Next, situated along the valley is Megiddo (Armageddon; 1 Kings 9:15; Rev. 16:16). We’ll see impressive Canaanite and Israelite archeological ruins here, including an ancient water system. From here, we uniquely drive to Tel Jezreel. We’ll make a brief stop here before driving to the top of one of the peaks of Mt. Gilboa. This is where King Saul and his sons died (1 Samuel 31). The view towards the east is spectacular. We end the day with another great view on the north side of the valley. We’ll drive to the top of the Precipice of Nazareth where we will briefly introduce to the life and ministry of Jesus in this area(Luke 1 and 4). We will spend the night in Nazareth. Following breakfast, we’ll load the bus and drive to Sepphoris. This was the most prominent Jewish city in the Lower Galilee in the days of Jesus. We’ll see impressive mosaics here. We will uniquely then drive to the north side of the Beit Netofa Valley to Kh. Cana, the archaeological site for biblical Cana (John 2). The last few miles we’ll take a dirt road to get there. We’ll hike to the top of the site (15 min walk). We’ll see what is proposed as being the synagogue. Jesus was here at least twice (John 2, 4). In the afternoon we’ll descend to the Sea of Galilee and visit Capernaum, the home center of ministry for Jesus here in the Galilee. Here we read about the many stories related to the ministry of Jesus in the 4th-5th century synagogue. We end the day on the traditional Mt. of Beatitudes. We’ll read Matthew 5 and enjoy a great view of the lake below from his hilltop. Along the western shoreline of the lake is our “kibbutz- hotel.” After checking in, we’ll enjoy dinner and an optional gathering by the water’s edge.
Witness the Sea of Galilee
We begin the day by driving into the Golan Heights. Circling the northern end of the Sea of Galilee we will see where the Feeding of the 5,000 took place (John 6). Driving to the southeastern corner of the lake we ascend to the site of Hippos (also called Susita). This was a massive Roman city, one of the Decapoliscites mentioned in the Gospels. Our view of the lake below will be panoramic here from the small theater! Up on the plateau of the Golan Heights 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 along the northern border, we will stop and look into southern Syria. Here we learn about the modern wars of Israel, primarily the 1967 and 1973 wars with Syria. Next, we drive past Mt. Hermon (Psalm 133) and 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, 1Kings 12). We end the day by driving back through the Huleh Valley to our hotel in Tiberias. After dinner, we’ll enjoy a free evening. 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 back to the NW corner of the lake to Magdala, the home of Mary Magdalene. Here we will see another 1st century synagogue (and hopefully a second synagogue that was just uncovered in 2021). Jesus must have taught from here! Among the other ruins are ritual baths. After lunch we visit Chorazin, one of the three cities condemned by Jesus (Mt. 11). We see the basaltic ruins of this city, including a synagogue dating to the 3rd century AD. We end the day by visiting the “Jesus boat” discovered from the first century. This was a wooden vessel found here along the shores of Galilee in 1986. From here we’ll enjoy a short boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, with a quiet and peaceful worship service. We return to our hotel for an optional pre-dinner swim in the lake before enjoying great food once again for dinner.
Scaling King Herod’s Fortress
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. Driving south along the Jordan Valley and then turning west into the area of Samaria, we visit the rather new excavations of Shiloh. This is where the Tabernacle once stood. Here we see impressive archaeological ruins dating to the days of Samuel. Driving past Bethel (Gen. 12, 28) and through the Desert of Pareth (Jeremiah 13), our next stop is Jericho. After a late lunch here, we climb the tel (ancient mound) to see portions of the fortification wall that supported the mud-brick walls that “came tumblin’ down” (Joshua 6). From here we drive to the southern end of the Dead Sea to our hotel. Prior to dinner, you will have a chance to float in the salt and mineral-rich waters of this unique body of water! This morning, we begin our drive northward along the western coastline of the Dead Sea to Masada. Here we ascend high upon the wilderness mountain by way of cable car to the fortress built by King Herod. 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 is Ein Gedi, where David hid from King Saul, Here, we’ll enjoy a walk to some of the waterfalls in the canyon. Finally, we visit Qumran and the settlement of the first century sect known as the Essenes, the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Over the lunch hour, you will have the opportunity to explore a few of the caves above the site. En route to Jerusalem, we end the day with a brief stop at Wadi Qelt. Here we hear the words of Isaiah 40 and Psalm 23 in the context of the Judea Desert. From here we drive the rest of the way to Jerusalem for overnight. After checking in our hotel and dinner, an optional walk to the Western Wall will take place. We get our first glimpse of Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives, beholding a breath-taking panorama of the Holy City. We walk down the “Palm Sunday” route to the Garden of Gethsemane. Next, we enter the Old City of Jerusalem through the Lion’s Gate (St. Stephens) and visit the Pools of Bethesda (John 5). We also enjoy some marvelous singing in St. Anne’s church from the Crusader period. Our walk through the Old City will take us to the Christian Quarter and to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. In the afternoon after lunch, we drive west to see a few sites in the Shephelah (Lowlands) of Judah. Dependent upon time, we will see sites such as Gezer, Beth Shemesh, Kh. Qeiyafa (or Socoh) where David fought Goliath, and perhaps Lachish (time permitting).
Communion for the Garden Tomb
We begin the day by driving southeast to Herodium. This was one of Herod the Great’s palace-fortresses. The view from the top of this site of Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Tekoa, the Judean Desert, and on a clear day the Dead Sea will be amazing! Herodium is where Herod was buried. Nearby are the Shepherd Fields. Located in Beit Sahour, we will sing a few Christmas carols in celebration of Christ’s birth. We will also visit an olive factory/store in Bethlehem. In the afternoon after lunch, we drive back into western Jerusalem to see the fascinating Israel Museum and the model of Jerusalem (1:50scale model of Herodian Jerusalem as it would have appeared in Jesus’ time). Here we also 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 and walk through the museum on our own. We return to our hotel in Jerusalem for dinner and a free evening to allow you to explore or relax. We begin the day by visiting the City of David and the new excavations of David’s palace. Those who want to will take an optional walk through the water of Hezekiah’s Tunnel (1,720 feet long). We then sit on the steps of the Siloam Pool and listen to the story of John 9. From here, we walk up through an exposed 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 eat lunch in the Jewish Quarter (not included) and enjoy a few hours of free time (or visit the Western Wall). Our day ends at the Garden Tomb for Communion, and we proceed to a restaurant for our Farewell Dinner. After dinner, we will transfer to the airport for our flight back to the U.S.A. (Those taking the extension will have one more overnight in Jerusalem). We arrive back in the U.S.A. After going through U.S. Customs, we board our domestic flight back to our homes at the end of a life-transforming trip!
Optional 4 day Jordan Extension
We begin the day by driving south to the Jordan Valley the Allenby Bridge. Here we make the crossing from Israel to Jordan. After border formalities, we meet our Jordanian guide and bus and drive to nearby Bethany Beyond the Jordan. According to John 1, this is where Jesus was baptized. Elijah also had his ministry in this area as well. From here we drive to Wadi Mujib. This is believed to be the Arnon in the Bible (Numbers 21). While there, we will walk into the canyon. Part of this fun experience is getting wet, so a bathing suit and water shoes/sandals are a must! In the afternoon we ascend the hills of Moab to Mt. Nebo. Here, we stand where Moses stood and viewed the Holy Land (Deut. 34) then take in a breathtaking view across the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea. We drive to nearby Medeba to see the 6th century mosaic map. We also overnight here. This morning we drive down to Petra, using both the Desert and King’s Highways. In the late morning we arrive at the entrance of Petra and spend the entire rest of the day within this red-rose ancient city. We are in the heart of the Seir Mountains, Land of Edomites, mentioned in the Bible in Genesis. These mountains house the Aaron Peak, the highest in Petra and the burial place of Moses’ brother Aaron. A walk through the Siq, the main entrance to Petra, brings us to the first monument “The Treasury” (Al-Khazneh) a dramatic site. This well-preserved monumental tomb appears in the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” A walk further down through the outer siq with all of its tombs and burial chamber brings us to one of the largest theaters in Jordan. A 3000-seat theater from the early first century is carved in the sandstone mountains at the bottom of the High Place of Sacrifice Mountain. Apparently, some sacrificial rituals had taken place here.From here we walk uphill to the Royal Tombs for a great view of the lower part of Petra with all its Roman remains. There will be the option to walk to the “Monastery” of Petra and/or the High Place led by Dr. John. We come back to the entrance of the site, on our own, at any time before sunset. We then enjoy a late dinner at our hotel here in Petra. What an incredible day! This morning we enjoy a leisurely departure from the hotel. We drive back north. On the way we’ll stop at the Karak castle. Constructed in the mid 12th century AD, it is one of the largest crusader castles in the area. We drive back towards Medeba where we take a windy side road to out to the archaeological site of Machaerus, one of Herod’s palace-fortresses. It was here where John the Baptist was beheaded (Mark 6). We will overnight again in Medeba, getting some sleep before our early morning flight home tomorrow. We wake early for our morning flight back home. Depending on the airline, we will catch a transfer flight somewhere in Europe on our way back to the States. Once landing in America, we go through the usual passport procedures before boarding our domestic connecting flight home.