Experiencing the Holy Land
Today we depart from the U.S.A. for Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel. We arrive at Ben Gurion International Airport where we are met by our guide and driver. Then we transfer to the Mediterranean coastal city of Netanya for check-in, opening dinner, and overnight in the Netanya/Tel Aviv area. En-route to Galilee we will be visiting the following Biblical sites: Caesarea (Acts 10, 12, 23), Megiddo (Armageddon; 1 Kings 9:15; Rev. 16:16), and Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18). We complete our tour overlooking the Jezreel Valley at Mt. Precipice, the traditional site for Jesus being chased out of Nazareth (Luke 4). Dinner and overnight are at our hotel near the Sea of Galilee. After breakfast, we make our way north through the Hula Valley stopping first at Tel Dan where we will tour extensively and include a visit at the Canaanite – Bronze era mud brick gate that has been nicknamed the “Gate of Abraham”. At the foot of Mt. Hermon, we will visit the springs of Banias and the site of Caesarea Philippi. This is where Peter made his declaration about Jesus (Matt. 16). Next, we will visit one of the Druze villages perched on the Golan heights where we will have a stop for lunch (not included). After enjoying the tastes and spices of this Syrian/Lebanese cuisine we will head out into the Golan Heights and stop off for some lookout points along the Damascus Road to hear some of the modern military history in this region. We conclude our day with an opportunity to experience a Baptism or renewal in the waters of the Jordan! Dinner and overnight are at our hotel near the Sea of Galilee.
Set Sail on the Sea of Galilee
We start our day atop the Mount of Beatitudes and read from Matthew 5, the Sermon on the Mount. We continue to Capernaum, the center of ministry for Jesus in Galilee. Next, we visit Tabgha, remembering the story of the feeding of the 5,000 and John 21 with Jesus calling out to Peter to cast the fishing net on the right side. A recently excavated highlight to visit in Galilee is the 1st Century remains of Magdala including the greatest relic of all: A 2000-year-old Synagogue. Following our stop for a St. Peters Fish optional lunch (not included) we will conclude our touring around the Sea of Galilee. Today we bid farewell to Galilee but not before enjoying a spectacular boat ride on the Sea of Galilee and a visit to Kibbutz Ginnosar (Gennesaret) where we will see the remains of a fisherman’s vessel discovered on the shores of the Sea of Galilee dating from the time of Jesus. Leaving the Sea of Galilee behind us, we drive through the Jordan River Valley to Beit Shean built where the Jezreel Valley meets the Jordan Valley and tour the extensive Roman-Byzantine remains of the city that was once part of the Decapolis, and where the bodies of King Saul and his sons were exhibited after battling the Philistines (1st Samuel 31). Continuing through the valley we enter the Judean Desert where we visit Jericho, one of the oldest cities in the world. Our journey from Jericho – the lowest city in the world – to Jerusalem – the highest city in the world (spiritually speaking!) – concludes our day and opens the next chapter of our pilgrimage journey. Dinner and overnight are at our hotel in Jerusalem. We start the morning on top of the Mount of Olives, following the Palm Sunday route down the mountain walking in the footsteps of Jesus and Holy Week. Arriving at the Garden of Gethsemane we will have some private time for prayer and devotion in the garden. Continuing in the footsteps of Jesus and the betrayal we arrive at the site that commemorates the trials of Jesus presented to the Sanhedrin and the Denial of Peter in the courtyard of Caiaphas. We will continue with a drive to the city of Bethlehem where we will walk through Manger Square to visit the Church of Nativity, the oldest Church in the Holy Land. Next, visit Shepherds’ field and hear the tale of Bethlehem from the local Christian Palestinian population both historically and also a glimpse into everyday life today and the traditional artwork of olive wood carvings made here by local Christian artisans of Bethlehem. Dinner and overnight are at our hotel in Jerusalem.
Make your way through Jerusalem
We will spend today exploring the Judean Desert. We will pass the “Inn of the Good Samaritan” on the ancient route pilgrims would have followed to Jerusalem, on our way to the shores of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. Following the coast of the Dead Sea we will arrive at Masada, the tabletop fortress built by King Herod and used by Jewish Zealots for their last stand against the Roman Empire. Having toured the site, we will continue to the desert oasis of Ein Gedi, prominent in King Saul’s pursuit of the young King David. Following lunch, you are invited to take a short float in the mineral rich lake of the Dead Sea, before continuing to Qumran where an ancient Jewish sect chose to live at the time of Jesus and where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Dinner and overnight are at our hotel in Jerusalem. First thing in the morning is to rise up and onto the Temple Mount, visiting the site of where the Temple once stood. Outside of the Temple Mount, and outside the city in the context of John 5, is the relics of the Bethesda pools! We will continue to the excavations that have unearthed the City of David and then arrive at the Pool of Siloam (John 9). After readings and time to reflect, we will travel back into the Old City and arrive at the sites that represent the traditions and places of Good Friday leading from the trial of Pontus Pilate up to the Rock of Calvary and the Tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. We then enter the Old city and tour the Jewish Quarter including the Southern Steps, Robinson Arch and Ophel excavations adjacent to the Temple Mount and Western Wall – where we will witness the prophecy of destruction, as not one stone will be left upon another. We end the day at the Garden Tomb also known as Gordon’s Calvary, linked to the Crucifixion, Burial, and The Resurrection of Jesus; here we will celebrate Communion together having toured through the garden. Overnight is at our hotel in Jerusalem. Today we will spend the day at leisure, exploring Jerusalem independently. Dinner and overnight are back at our hotel in Jerusalem. We travel in Jerusalem to visit the Israel Museum including the Dead Sea Scrolls housed in the iconic Shrine of the Book exhibition and the impressive model of Jerusalem from the Second Temple Period. En-route we will see the Knesset, Israel’s parliament building and the Supreme Court building before arriving at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial and exhibition. This afternoon we travel down to the coastal plain via the Ellah Valley and read scripture at the site of the battle between David and Goliath. We complete our tour at the most important port city from all eras, including the biblical Land of Israel, that is Jaffa (Joppa). Here we find the footsteps of everyone from Pharaoh Rameses the Great through to Napoleon!! In the city where Peter meets the vision at Simon the Tanners home in the book of Acts is where we will enjoy a farewell dinner before being transferred to the Airport. Today we arrive back in the U.S.A.