Once in a Lifetime Clergy Tour of Israel
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. On the way, we make a brief stop in Jaffa (time permitting), the home of the Jonah and Peter’s stories (Jonah 1, Acts 9 & 10). 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 to Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18), site of Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal. Then we proceed to Megiddo (Armageddon; 1 Kings 9:15; Rev. 16:16). Across the Jezreel Valley is the precipice of Nazareth (Luke 1 and 4). We end our day here as we are introduced to the life and ministry of Jesus in this area. Driving through Cana (John 2), we finally arrive at the outskirts of Tiberias (John 6:23). We arrive at our “kibbutz-hotel” located right on the Sea of Galilee shoreline. After dinner, we enjoy gathering together for a time of fellowship and worship. 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 to back to the NW corner of the lake to Magdala, the home of Mary Magdalene. Here we will see another 1st century synagogue. Jesus must have taught from here! Among the other ruins are ritual baths. After lunch we see Capernaum, the home center of ministry for Jesus here in Galilee. Here, we read about the many stories related to the ministry of Jesus in the 4th-5th century synagogue. We also spend some reflection time on the shoreline. It was in this area where Jesus called His first disciples. Close by we enjoy a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee with a quiet and peaceful worship service. Upon landing, we also see the “Jesus boat” from the first century, a vessel found here along the shores of Galilee in 1986. We end the day by reading from Matthew 5 on the Mount of Beatitudes. We return to our hotel for dinner and an optional gathering once again by the water.
Boating on the Sea of Galilee
We begin the day by driving to the southeast corner of the Sea of Galilee to Hippos/Sussita. Located in the southern end of the Golan Heights today, this was one of the Decapolis cities mentioned in Gospels. Among the impressive Roman ruins, the panoramic view of the Sea of Galilee from here will be stunning! From here ,we drive south to the Jordan Valley to the site of Beth Shean (1 Sam. 31), a massive Roman city of the Decapolis. Next, we drive south along the Jordan Valley to Jericho. 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 Dead Sea for a unique “float.” Close by is our kibbutz-hotel at Almog where we check into our hotel, followed by dinner. 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, and we 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, (weather permitting) you will have the opportunity to hike up to the cliffs of the Judean Desert. This is where the Essenes; authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, lived. The scrolls were first discovered in Cave 1 in 1947. 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 see the fascinating Israel Museum and the model of Jerusalem (1:50 scale 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 in Bethlehem. We first go to the Shepherd’s Fields for a quiet time of reflecting upon God’s redemptive history. We also visit an olive wood factory and store. From here, we drive west to the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah. We begin by driving to various biblical sites in this region (note: the specific sites we end up going to will be determined by time and weather). Lachish, a city that was conquered by the Assyrians (2 Chronicles 32). Here, we see where the famous “Lachish Letters” were discovered. Close by is Beit Guvrin (Mareshah). We will see the famous bell cave here. Next, we travel to Azekah and the Elah Valley where David fought Goliath (1 Samuel 17). As we listen to the story we see how this famous battle took place! Lastly, we drive to Beth Shemesh and the Sorek Valley. It was here where the Ark of the Covenant was returned by the Philistines (1 Samuel 6). We drive back to Jerusalem for dinner and another optional walk. We begin the day by visiting the City of David and the new excavations of David’s palace. Those who want will take an optional adventurous 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 then visit the Western Wall Tunnels. Enjoy a few hours of free time. Our day ends at the Garden Tomb for Communion and we return to our hotel for a Farewell Dinner. Then we transfer to the airport for our return flight home. For those doing the Egypt extension, you will return to the hotel for one more overnight in Jerusalem.