Familiarization Experience of the Holy Land
Tour members meet for our flight to Israel. After dinner is served, it’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the on-board entertainment to prepare for this exciting adventure of a lifetime. In Tel Aviv, we proceed through customs and security and meet our guide who assists us to our motor coach. We transfer to our hotel in Jerusalem for dinner and overnight. We begin the day with worship on the beautiful Mt. of Olives to behold the breathtaking panorama of the Holy City. Our pilgrimage will proceed down the Old Palm Sunday Road to the Garden of Gethsemane with its ancient olive grove, and the Church of Agony, where tradition holds that Jesus prayed. We will walk to the holiest site in the whole Jewish world, the Western (Wailing) Wall of Herod’s temple to walk through the Rabbinical Tunnels. Beyond the wall lies the 35-acre temple area purchased by King David (2 Samuel 24:18- 25). On this site now stands El-Aksa Mosque and the magnificent Dome of the Rock (the third holiest shrine in Islam). We then 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 Sepulcher. A short walk takes us to stand on the original steps that Jesus walked on as he entered the Temple area. We will have dinner and overnight in Jerusalem. If time permits, we will visit Solomon’s Quarry or visit the Museum at the Notre Dame Jerusalem Center, which hosts the Shrouds Exhibition. Dinner and overnight are in Jerusalem. After breakfast, we begin our sightseeing as we drive to the Wilderness. The road from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea region is a descent of 4,000 feet in 13 miles. Our first stop will be at Masada, where we take a cable car up to the fortress built by King Herod. Next, we drive to Ein Gedi where David hid from King Saul. A short drive takes us to Qumran and the settlement of the first century sect known as the Essenes, authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here, we survey the ruins of fortifications, waterworks, the synagogue, temples and palaces. Afterwards, we follow the road south along the western shore of the Dead Sea (the lowest spot on earth) where we will stop for a short swim. Then, time permitting, we stop in Jericho to visit Seeds of Hope. Dinner and overnight are in Jerusalem.
Exploring Ancient Jerusalem
This morning, 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, an incredible archaeological find. Afterwards, we take a short walk to Hezekiah’s Tunnel (conditions permitting). Be sure to bring a flashlight and water shoes to walk through the tunnel. Anyone wanting to stay dry can walk through Hezekiah’s shaft. If time permits, we will visit the newly excavated Pool of Siloam. Finally, we see the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. Dinner and overnight are in Jerusalem. After breakfast, time permitting, we will have a visit to Lazarus’ tomb. We have a visit to Bethlehem, where we pass by Rachel’s tomb outskirts and visit the Church of the Nativity and Shepherd’s Field. Then, we drive to Herodium. This “palace-fortress” built by King Herod (Matt. 2) is located on the edge of the Judean Desert, where he would be eventually buried. Afterwards, we will visit Bethany (conditions permitting). We return to Jerusalem, where we end our day with worship and communion at Golgotha and the Garden Tomb. Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Jerusalem. This morning, we leave Jerusalem and drive north to Megiddo (Armageddon, Rev. 16:16). From Megiddo, we drive to Mt. Carmel where Elijah the Prophet challenged Ahab (1 Kings 18). For lunch, we have the option to try the famous Israeli “falafel” (not included). After lunch, we drive to Nazareth (Luke 1 & 2), and time permitting will see Mary’s well and Mt. Precipice, before visiting the Church of the Annunciation. Then, we walk through the market to the Synagogue (Luke 4:16-30). Afterwards, we drive via Cana to Tiberias for dinner and overnight on the Sea of Galilee.
Views Across the Galilee
There is nothing like watching a sunrise on the Sea of Galilee from our hotel. After breakfast, we travel north to the Golan Heights for a beautiful view of northern Israel’s landscape. Then we will 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 the special St. Peter’s Fish for those interested (not included). Afterwards, we make our way to the Mt. of Beatitudes (Matthew 5-7), with time for reflection and worship. Then we visit Capernaum (Jesus’ base for His early ministry). Next, we board a replica wooden “Jesus Boat” for our boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. We conclude our sightseeing with a visit to the new Magdala archaeological site, which is rich in cultural history for both Jews and Christians. If time permits, we see Gadara, followed by dinner and overnight in Tiberias. This morning, we leave the Sea of Galilee and drive south to Beit Shean, where the bodies of King Saul and his sons were hung by the Philistines on the walls of this city (1 Samuel 31:8-12). Beit Shean is one of the best-preserved Decapolis Roman cities, and here we visit the ruins of the Roman Theatre, the main street, and the bathhouse. We then continue to Gideon Spring, where the chosen 300 drank, and read from Judges 7. We are reminded that any minority with God is an overwhelming majority. Afterwards, we drive to Caesarea to visit the Roman Theater and the Crusader ruins. This is where the first Gentile, Cornelius, became a Christian (Acts 10). It was also where St. Paul defended himself in front Felix (Acts 23:23) and was imprisoned for two years before he sailed to Rome. Time permitting we will have a brief visit to the Old City of Jaffa. We have a Farewell Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Tel Aviv or Netanya, on the Mediterranean Coast. This morning, we transfer to Ben Gurion Airport for our return flight to the U.S.A. We arrive back in the U.S.A. same day. At the close of an unforgettable tour, we take home wonderful memories of the Old and New Testament, a renewal of our faith.