Exploring the Living Bible
In Tel Aviv, we proceed through customs and security and meet our agent who assists us to our motor coach. We have a short drive to our hotel in the Netanya area in time for dinner and overnight. This morning, we depart for the Galilee to visit Biblical sites at Caesarea Maritima, where Peter proclaimed the Good News to the Roman Centurion (Acts 10). We also see Megiddo and Mt. Carmel, where Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). Time permitting, we will stop at the Druze Village for a short lunch break (not included). Then we continue to Nazareth (Jesus’ childhood home) to visit the Mt. of Precipice, Nazareth Village, and Cana (location of Jesus’ first miracle – John 2). We then arrive in Tiberias for dinner and overnight near the Sea of Galilee. This morning is at leisure on your own to explore the Galilee area or rest at the hotel. Then in afternoon we visit the nearby village of Yodfat, we will enjoy hospitality in this breathtaking location and taste selections from goat’s cheeses that are all fantastic and will make up a part of our dairy lunch. While we are tasting the local produce of these hills and valleys in lower Galilee, we will also recall the Jewish Great Revolt that was launched in the name of Jewish existence and autonomy in the Land of Israel and spread over this region 2000 years ago. The great revolt in this part of the land of Israel was led by Josephus Flavius against the almighty Roman empire in the year 67 CE. His only and final stance was in the siege of the ancient Jewish town of Yodfat, where we will be located. This will give us a taste and historical setting that makes up the low-lying hills of Lower Galilee in the 1st Century AD. Dinner and overnight are back in Tiberias.
Baptisms in the Jordan River
After breakfast, we travel north to the Golan Heights for a beautiful view of northern Israel’s landscape. Then we head to Caesarea Philippi where Peter confessed, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-16). We embark on a short hike to Tel Dan to see the altar of Jeroboam, our lunch stop includes the option of ordering the special St. Peter’s Fish (not included). We then spend time reflecting and worshiping at the Mt. of Beatitudes and then head to Capernaum, Jesus’ base for His early ministry. We will end the day at Tabgha (the traditional site of the feeding of the 5000), and the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter. Dinner and overnight are back in Tiberias. Nothing compares to watching the sun rise over the Sea of Galilee! We begin today at Magdala, Afterwards, we will see a boat from the time of Jesus, before boarding a replica wooden “Jesus Boat” to set sail on the Sea of Galilee. Then we will make our way to the baptismal site of “Yardenit” on the Jordan River. Next, we visit Beit Shean, one of the best-preserved Decapolis Roman cities. This is where King Saul and his sons’ bodies were hung from the city walls after being defeated by the Philistines (1 Samuel 31:10-12). Finally, we ascend 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). Dinner and overnight in Jerusalem. After breakfast, we visit the Shrine of the Book Museum to see the Dead Sea Scrolls and the fascinating 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem as it would have appeared in Jesus’ time. Next, we drive to the City of David, and then we go on a short walk to Hezekiah’s Tunnel (conditions permitting). Anyone wanting to stay dry can walk through Hezekiah’s shaft. If time permits, we will visit the newly excavated Pool of Siloam and the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. After dinner at our hotel, we will visit the Western Wall Tunnels. Overnight is in Jerusalem.
Prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane
After breakfast, we drive to Qumran, the settlement of the Essenes. They were the first century sect who authored the Dead Sea Scrolls. From here, we head to Ein Gedi where David hid from King Saul. We then travel south along the western shore of the Dead Sea toward Masada where we ascend by cable car up to King Herod’s astonishing fortress. Afterwards, we make a special stop at the Dead Sea for a short swim or float. Time and conditions permitting, we’ll include a visit to Qasr El-Yahud, the newly excavated site where tradition holds that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. We will also include a short visit to Jericho. On our return towards Jerusalem, we will make a stop overlooking the Wadi Qelt. This is the heart of the Judean Desert (Isaiah 40; Psalm 23). Dinner and overnight are again in Jerusalem. We begin today on the beautiful Mt. of Olives to behold the famous, breathtaking panorama of the Holy City. Our pilgrimage proceeds down the Old Palm Sunday Road to the ancient olive grove at the Garden of Gethsemane. Then we continue to the Church of the Agony (Church of All Nations) where tradition says Jesus prayed before his arrest. We enter Jerusalem through the Zion Gate and proceed to the Western (Wailing) Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. Beyond the wall lies the 35-acre temple area purchased by King David (2 Samuel 24:18-25), which is called the Temple Mount. This area is the third holiest shrine in Islam, housing both the El-Aqsa Mosque and the magnificent Dome of the Rock. From the temple area we make our way to St. Stephen’s Gate to walk the Via Dolorosa – including St. Anne’s Crusader Church, Pools of Bethesda, the Pavement (where Jesus stood while being tried by Pilate), Ecce Homo Arch, and the ancient Cardo. We continue to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and then conclude our day with a short walk to the original steps that Jesus climbed as he entered the Temple area. We finish off our sightseeing with a visit to Bethlehem as we pass by Rachel’s tomb on the outskirts and then visit the Church of the Nativity and Shepherds’ Field. We end our day in worship at Golgotha and the Garden Tomb. Dinner and overnight are in Jerusalem. In the morning, we have leisure time in Jerusalem and then we depart the city late morning/early afternoon for the Elah Valley to see the brook where David slew Goliath. From here, we continue our drive to Jaffa for a special Farewell Dinner. We then transfer to Ben Gurion Airport for our flight back to the U.S.A.
Optional Greece Extension
For those not doing the extension, we will arrive back in the U.S. After going through U.S. Customs, we board our domestic flight back. For those going to Greece, we will bus to the airport for our flight to Athens. Upon arriving, we will be met by our Greek guide and driver and enjoy a half a day visit in Athens. First, we enjoy a bus tour of the Constitution Square with the House of Parliament and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Temple of Zeus, the Old Olympic Stadium, and the Neoclassical Buildings of Athens. We then go to the world-renowned Acropolis to see the Propylea, the Erechtheum and the Parthenon. We also visit Mars Hill, where Paul delivered his ingenious speech on the “Unknown God” (Acts 17). From here we view the Agora, the ancient center of the economic and public life of the city, where Paul preached to the skeptical Athenians. We return to our hotel for dinner and overnight. An optional hike up to the top of Mt. Lycabetus (for the best view of Athens) will be offered. We start the day by visiting the site of ancient Corinth. We will cross the famous Corinthian Canal to get there. Located in the Peloponnese of Greece, this was the once glorious city near the Isthmus where Paul met Aquila and Priscilla and spent a year and a half preaching the Word of God. We visit the Archaeological Museum, the Forum, the Temple of Apollo, the Roman forum, and the famous Bema where Paul stood before Gallio, accused by the Jews of Corinth. About 30 minutes away is the site of Mycenae, the legendary city rival of Troy, and described by Homer as “Mycenae rich in Gold.” This citydates back to the late Bronze Age and is famous for the “beehive” Tomb of Agamemnon (Treasury of Atreus) and the gold masks. On the way back to Athens, we will pass by Cenchreae, the little harbor from which Paul sailed back to Asia, thus ending his second missionary journey. We arrive back to our hotel for dinner and a free night. We spend our last day here in Greece on the Aegean Sea to get a relaxing taste of Greek island life. We board a small ferry ship and visit the islands of Aegina, Poros, and Hydra. The quaint port free excursions provide a picturesque opportunity to experience a close-up taste of Greek culture, food, and shopping. On board the ship we enjoy lunch and folklore dances from various region of Greece. We return to our hotel in Athens for dinner and overnight. We wake up early for our morning flight back to the U.S. Upon arrival, we go through gar normal passport customs and board our connecting flights home.