Travel throughout Biblical Israel
Tour members meet for our flight. After dinner is served, sit back and relax, enjoying the on-board entertainment as you prepare for this exciting adventure of a lifetime. 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 transfer to our hotel in the Tel Aviv area for dinner and overnight. Depending on arrival time, we will visit Jaffa today (or tomorrow). We leave the Mediterranean coast today and head inland to a couple extremely important sites in the Shephelah (the low rolling hill country). Our first stop is the site of Azekah, from which we gain commanding views over Philistine Gath (hometown of Goliath) and the fabled Elah Valley where David met this giant. From here we head to Lachish, a key site of conflict between the kingdom of Judah and the Assyrian Empire. Continuing south, we move into the region of the arid Negev and visit Beersheba, where the Patriarchs roamed. From Beersheba we traverse the Negev and arrive at our hotel in the city of Arad for dinner and overnight.
Overlook the Beautiful Dead Sea
We start this day with a visit to ancient Arad, which was a fortress for the kingdom of Judah and which connects to Edomite incursions mentioned in the prophetic book of Obadiah, among others. Next, we head south into the great wilderness to get a sense of the landscape through which the Israelites wandered and through which the lucrative spice trade of Jesus’ day flowed. Leaving Arad, we stop for a lookout over the Great Rift Valley and the Dead Sea. From here we navigate to the famous site of Masada where over 900 Jewish rebels held out against Rome in the 1st century AD. We will hike to the top of the site, explore the fantastic Herodian palaces, and enjoy captivating views of the Dead Sea and Jordan beyond. Descent by hiking or by cable car takes us to the excellent Masada Museum and then on for a swim in the Dead Sea. Dinner and overnight are at our hotel near the Dead Sea. We proceed along the western shore of the Dead Sea to the Oasis of Ein Gedi, where David hid from Saul. After a hike to see waterfalls, we head to the site of Qumran, famously associated with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Then we travel to Old Testament Jericho and see the famous site destroyed by the Israelites and renowned as one of the oldest cities in the world. A stop at New Testament Jericho to see the palaces of the Hasmoneans and Herod the Great precedes our climb into the central mountains in which Jerusalem is located. We will stop for overviews of the region of Bethel and the Judean Wilderness before arriving in Jerusalem.
Explore the Old City of Jerusalem
An early morning sees us arriving at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the traditional location of Jesus’ birth. This stop is followed by a visit to the Herodium, a fortress built by Herod the Great, and his burial place. Following this, we head to the Israel Museum where we will visit the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed, and the archaeological wing, to see the greatest discoveries from Israel from every period of history. A late lunch precedes a free afternoon to explore the Old City of Jerusalem. And a voluntary trip to the Western (Wailing) Wall in the evening provides an amazing Sabbath experience. We explore the famous Temple Mount before visiting the Pools of Bethesda, where Jesus healed a lame man (John 5). Then we walk to the Garden of Gethsemane before taking in a panoramic view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. The afternoon is free to explore the Old City of Jerusalem. Dinner and overnight are at our hotel in Jerusalem. Today we explore Jerusalem’s oldest part, the City of David, where the kings of Judah resided. From David’s possible palace we will climb through Hezekiah’s Tunnel before entering the Pool of Siloam from the days of Jesus. From here we climb the monumental staircase built in the Tyropoean Valley before entering the ancient sewers where Jews sought to escape Rome’s destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. We arrive at the archaeological park at the southwest corner of the Herodian Temple Platform and enjoy the monumental nature not only of this structure, but of numerous other structures from the days of Solomon to the 8th c. AD. A stop at the Wohl Museum to see a mansion from the 1st c. AD is followed by exploration of the Jewish Quarter and ultimately a tour of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the traditional location of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. Dinner and overnight are at our hotel in Jerusalem.
Adventure through the Jezreel Valley
We head north to the coastal site of Caesarea Maritima, Herod’s elaborate port city and location of Paul’s incarceration while awaiting shipment to Rome. Next, we head to Elijah’s monastery to recount his famous battle with the prophets of Baal and to look out over the Jezreel Valley and Lower Galilee. Then we explore Megiddo, Armageddon of the New Testament, before crossing the Jezreel Valley to end up at Mt. Precipice just east of Nazareth. This is the traditional location where Jesus was accosted and almost thrown down by an angry mob. Time permitting, we will also climb the Horns of Hattin, overlooking the battlefield between Muslims and Crusaders on July 4, 1187. We check-in to our hotel near the Sea of Galilee for dinner and overnight. Today we explore the lush region of Galilee and the Huleh Basin. Our first stop is at Hazor, which was famously destroyed by the Israelites and later built by king Solomon. Next, we travel to Tel Dan to see one of the headwaters of the Jordan River, along with king Jeroboam’s cultic compound that rivaled Jerusalem’s Temple. After this we explore the site of Caesarea Philippi and consider Peter’s declaration of Jesus’ messiahship. Then we ascend the Golan Heights for views of the region as we ponder ancient and modern political aspirations. Dinner and overnight are at our hotel near the Sea of Galilee.
Sail Across the Sea of Galilee
We traverse the shores of the Sea of Galilee on our last day. First, we visit the Mount of the Beatitudes, which commemorates Jesus’ sermon on the mount. Next, we visit Capernaum and the house of Peter, the center of Jesus’ Galilean ministry. Then we head to Bethsaida, which was likely the capital of the kingdom of Geshur taken over by King David. From here we can look out over Tell el-Araj, which has been identified as New Testament Bethsaida, the home of Andrew, Peter, and Philip. We then visit the site of Magdala, home of Mary Magdalene, to see one of the earliest synagogues in the Galilee. Last, we enjoy a swim in the Mediterranean at Netanya (where you will also be able to shower and freshen up) before having dinner in Jaffa and heading to the airport. We arrive back in the U.S. and after going through U.S. Customs, we board our domestic flights back to our respective homes at the end of a life transforming trip!