Journey through the Bible
We meet today at the airport for our flight to Tel Aviv, Israel. We arrive at the Ben Gurion Airport and are met by our Israeli guide and driver. We leave the airport and drive to Netanya, north of Tel Aviv. We spend our first night here along the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. We enjoy dinner and an orientation meeting to help us prepare for the exciting days of studying God’s Word “in context.” 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 see the fantastic aqueduct that served as a backdrop for the book of Acts. From here we depart through the Yokneam Pass to Tel Yokneam on the other side of the Carmel Range on the edge of the Jezreel Valley. We read from 1 Kings 18 about how Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal on the slopes of Mt. Carmel. A short distance away is Tel Megiddo (Armageddon; 1 Kings 9:15; Rev. 16:16). We will see many archaeological ruins here from the Canaanite to Israelite Periods. Next we drive across the Jezreel Valley to the precipice of Nazareth (Luke 1 and 4). Here, we are introduced to the life and ministry of Jesus in this area. We end the day by driving to the Beit Netofa Valley and to the off-the-beaten-path site of Khirbet Cana. This is where Jesus turned water into wine. Here we read John 2 and John 4. From here we drive to our “kibbutz-hotel” located right on the Sea of Galilee shoreline. After dinner, we enjoy the first of four nights of the Gallelujah Festival.
Sail the Sea of Galilee
We begin the day by driving to the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. This was the area of the Feeding of the 5,000 (John 6). Our first stop will be at the excavations of El Araj, probably Bethsaida, the home of Peter, Andrew, and Phillip (John 1). Next, we ascend into the Golan Heights to 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 north and east, we will look across the border to see southern Syria. Here we learn about the modern wars of Israel, primarily the 1967 and 1973 wars with Syria. Next, we visit Mt. Hermon (Psalm 133). We will ride the ski chair lift to the top for a spectacular view of the region! An option will be given to hike back down the trail. Descending down from the Golan Heights we visit Caesarea Philippi. It was here where Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16). Nearby is the amazing nature preserve and archaeological site of Dan. We walk through this quiet national park and impressive Old Testament city and hear the stories of disobedience that took place here (Judges 18, 1 Kings 12). At the end of the day we will make a brief stop at Abel Beit Macaah (2 Samuel 20). It is located near the Lebanon Border today. We drive back to our hotel in Tiberias. After dinner, we will enjoy more of the Gallelujah Festival, where we will enjoy music from leading Christian artists on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. We begin the day by visiting Arbel, a mountain NW of the Sea of Galilee. An option will be given 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 on top is the best there is of the whole Sea of Galilee! From here we drive to the southern end of the lake for an optional baptism service. We reaffirm our faith in Christ in the waters of the Jordan River (Yardenit). Driving back to the NW corner of the lake we visit Magdala. Here we see another ancient synagogue that dates to the time of Christ. Mary “Magdalene” was also from here (Luke 8). Following a lunch (which is included on this day only), we visit Chorizim, one of the three cities condemned by Jesus (Matthew 11). We see the basaltic ruins and synagogue which dates to the 3rd century. Capernaum is next, the home center of ministry for Jesus in Galilee. Here we read from the Gospels about the many things that took place here (Mark 1,2, 9; Luke 7; & John 6) in the 4th-5th century synagogue. In the midafternoon we visit the traditional Mt. of Beatitudes. Here we will sit on the rocks and listen to the reading of Matthew 5. We end the day with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, with a quiet and peaceful worship service together. We recall the storm narratives (Mark 4 & 6). Upon landing, we also see the “Jesus boat” from the first century, a vessel found here along the shores of Galilee in 1986. We return to the hotel for dinner and the third night of the Gallelujah Festival concerts.
Float in the Dead Sea
We begin the day by driving north of the Sea of Galilee to Hazor. This was a large city (up to 200 acres) with lots of archaeology! The Canaanite city was destroyed by Joshua (Joshua 11). Solomon refortified it (1 Kings 9). We will see Canaanite and Israelite ruins here. We then return to the Sea of Galilee and head south on the eastern side of the lake to Hippos (Sussita). This was one of the Decapolis cities mentioned in the Gospels. We will enjoy the spectacular view of the lake from here amidst the Roman ruins of this city. From here we drive south of the Sea of Galilee down the Jordan Valley to Beth Shean. This was a massive Roman city. In the days of the Old Testament, this is also where the body of Saul was hung on the city walls (1 Samuel 31). From the Roman city we will see bathhouses, mosaics, pillars, the market place, and the theater. On our back to the Sea of Galilee area, we will make a brief stop at the Kinneret Cemetery where some of the early Jewish pioneers to the land are buried. We return to our hotel for dinner and the final night of the Gallelujah Festival. We leave the Sea of Galilee area this morning. We drive south back down the Jordan Valley. We head west through the Valley of Harod. Our bus will climb to one of the highest peaks of Mt. Gilboa for a spectacular view of the Jezreel Valley, and the Hill of Moreh. There are so many biblical stories to connect to here! Nearby are pools fed from the natural springs of Harod. We will enjoy an hour or so of swimming here in the national park called Sachne. From here we uniquely drive through the beautiful Hill Country of Ephraim (Samaria) to Shiloh. Here we revisit the stories of Eli, Samuel and the Ark (1 Samuel 2-4) and see where the Tabernacle once stood. We continue south past Bethel (Genesis 15,28), Michmash (1 Samuel 13-14) and through the Desert of Parath (Jeremiah 13) to Jericho (Joshua). We will see the walls that Joshua saw here as we read the story from Joshua 6. We end the day with an enjoyable “float” in the unique Dead Sea! Close by we will overnight at the Al Mog Kibbutz. We will enjoy a late dinner together and a free evening. Following breakfast, we load the bus and drive south along the Dead Sea to Masada. This was a massive palace-fortress built by King Herod in the early 30s BC. We will hear the story of the Jewish zealots who, about 100 years later, resisted the Romans for three years (between 70-73 AD) after the Jerusalem Temple was destroyed. We will all take the cable car up and down this “stand-alone” mountain. Weather permitting (e.g., if it is not too hot and they don’t close the path), those who want to hike down the Snake Path can do so. From here we drive back north to En gedi. You will have the opportunity to get wet here under one of the waterfalls of this desert oasis! Engedi is where David hid from King Saul (1 Samuel 24). Back towards the NW corner of the Dead Sea is Qumran. This was the settlement of the first century sect known as the Essenes, the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We will hike to the base of the cliffs to talk about the importance of the schools found here in 1947. At the site, we see first century miqvot (ritual baths), a scriptorium, and cisterns. To end the day, we drive through the Judean Desert to Jerusalem. We will make a brief stop overlooking the Wadi Qelt where we will hear the words of Isaiah 40 proclaimed. We then drive to our hotel in Jerusalem for dinner. Following eating together, an optional walk to the Western Wall will be offered.
Lookout over the City of Jerusalem
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 me to for Christ’s crucifixion and burial. 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. We begin the day by entering the Old City and walk 400 yards through the Western Wall Tunnel along the retaining wall of the Temple Mount itself. From here we visit the Jewish Quarter. We first visit the Herodian House. Here we will see ruins of a massive house dating to the 1st century that was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. We also visit Shoreshim where we hear Moshe, an Orthodox Jew, talk about his faith. In the afternoon, we drive to West Jerusalem where we visit Israel’s Holocaust Museum called Yad Vashem. We will see the Valley of the Communities, the Children’s Memorial and then walk through the museum on our own. We end the day at the Israel Museum. We will see the spectacular 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem from the Second Temple Period. We will also walk through the Shrine of the Book to see a few of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Lastly, we will see some of the highlight artifacts in the archaeological museum. We return to our hotel for dinner and overnight in Jerusalem. Tonight is a free night to explore the city on your own. This morning begins with a visit to the City of David (2 Samuel 5) and the new excavations of David’s palace. 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. After a later lunch in the Jewish Quarter, we enjoy a few hours of free time. We end the day with a Communion Service at the Garden Tomb, a second possible site for the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. Following this meaningful service, we enjoy our farewell dinner! We then load the bus and drive to the airport for the overnight flight home. Those taking the optional extension will overnight in Jerusalem. We arrive back in the States today following our night flight home. Praise be to God for a life-changing experience!
Optional 4 Day Jerusalem Extension
We spend the day in the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah. We begin by driving to Gezer. Here we see ruins from Solomon’s day and beyond. The famous “Gezer calendar” was found here. From here, we drive to Beth Shemesh, where the Ark of the Covenant was returned. Next, we travel to Tel Qeiyafa (a newer archaeological site) and see where David fought Goliath (1 Samuel 17). As we listen to the story we see how this famous battle took place! Continuing south, we visit the Maresha Caves in Beit Guvrin with hundreds of bell-shaped caves caused by ancient Roman quarrying. This was the home of the prophet Micah (Micah 1). Our last site of the day is Lachish, a city that was conquered by the Assyrians (2 Chronicles 32). Here, we see where the famous “Lachish Letters” were discovered. We end the day by driving back to Jerusalem for dinner and a free night. Today we enter the Hill Country of Samaria. First, we will gain a wonderful view of the Central Benjamin Plateau from the traditional burial place of the prophet Samuel, Nebi Samuel. We will look down upon the ancient city of Gibeon (Joshua 10). Then we’ll drive to the area of Michmash where Jonathan and his sword-bearer withstood the Philistines (1 Samuel 13-14). We will continue our drive northward to the site of Samaria. We will see the ruins dating from the time of Omri and Ahab as well as from the time of Herod. Next is Shechem/Sycar (Gen. 34, John 4), an ancient city that is located between two mountains, Mt. Ebal and Gerizim (Dt 11, Joshua 8). We will also try and arrange time at the Samaritan Village. Here we will learn more about the ancient Samaritans and how they still practice sacrifices today! We return south back to our hotel in Jerusalem for dinner and a free evening. Today will be a unique day. We begin this morning by driving to the Judean Desert. We will be hiking down into the canyon of the Wadi Qelt. We will see St. George’s monastery built into the cliff of the canyon. You will also have the opportunity to hike east to a place overlooking New Testament Jericho! About noon we return to Jerusalem for free time on your own. You can decide to explore the Old City on your own, or shop, or rest. (Please note: The morning hike is optional. If you decide not to do the hike, the entire day is free for you at your leisure. We return to our hotel and enjoy dinner followed by a free evening. We transfer to Ben Gurion airport for our flight home. We arrive back home after a life-transforming trip!