Venture Through Israel, Land of the Bible
Following our arrival, we proceed through the passport and luggage area where we meet our guide and driver. We load the bus and head for Netanya north of Tel Aviv. We arrive at our hotel for a late dinner and orientation meeting in preparation for our trip together. 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 the fantastic aqueduct that served as a back drop 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 sitting together for a time of fellowship and worship. We begin the day by driving to the southeast corner of the lake to a Hippos/Susita. This was a city located high in the Golan Heights above the lake from the 1st century BC – 7th century AD. The ruins are primarily Roman. The view from the top is spectacular, allowing us to see the entire length of the Sea of Galilee below. Further north is 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 along the northern border, we will stop and look into southern Syria. Here we learn about the modern wars of Israel, primarily the 1967 and 1973 wars with Syria. Next, we drive past Mt. Hermon (Psalm 133) and descend the Golan Heights and visit Caesarea Philippi. It was here Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Mt. 16). Nearby is the amazing nature preserve and archaeological site of Dan, one of the sources of the Jordan River. We walk through this quiet national park and hear the stories of disobedience that took place here (Judges 18, 1 Kings 12). We end the day by driving back through the Huleh Valley to our hotel in Tiberias. After dinner, we meet down by the water’s edge once again to review the day. 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! From here we drive to Chorazim, one of the three cities condemned by Jesus (Mt. 11). We see the basaltic ruins of this city, including a synagogue dating to the 3rd century AD. Close by on the water’s edge is 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. After lunch, 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 walk down the pathway, recollecting the transforming words of Jesus shared in this place. We return to our hotel for dinner and an optional gathering once again by the water.
Visit Masada & the Fortress of King Herod
We begin the day by driving south to the Jordan Valley to the site of Beth Shean (1 Sam. 31), an impressive Roman city of the Decapolis. Driving south along the Jordan Valley and then turning west into the area of Samaria, we visit the rather new excavations of Shiloh. This is where the Tabernacle once stood. Here we see impressive archaeological ruins dating to the days of Samuel. Driving past Bethel (Gen. 12, 28) and through the Desert of Pareth (Jeremiah 13), our next stop is Jericho. After a late lunch here, 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). Following our visit here, we drive to the southern end of the Dead Sea for dinner and overnight. This morning before breakfast, you will have the opportunity to float in the Dead Sea. After checking out, 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, you will have the opportunity to explore the famous Cave 1 where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. En route to Jerusalem, we end the day with a brief stop at sunset at Wadi Qelt. Here we hear the words of Isaiah 40 and Psalm 23 in the context of the Judean 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 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 time to meditate on the Gospel text. From here, we enter the Old City, where we first visit the Pools of Bethesda (John 5) and St. Anne’s Church, perfectly preserved from the Crusader period with remarkable acoustics. We then walk the Via Dolorosa to the Holy Sepulcher, one of two possible locations 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 spend the day in the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah. We begin by driving to Nebi Samuel. Here we see the Central Benjamin Plateau and the city of ancient Gibeon. We then drive to the Shephelah (lowlands) and 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 Azekah 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, 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 a late dinner and free evening. We begin the day with a wonderful visit to the City of David (2 Samuel 5) and the 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. From here, we visit the Jewish Quarter and see the Cardo. We also visit Shoreshim where we hear Moshe, an Orthodox Jew, talk about his faith. In the Jewish Quarter, we visit the Herodian Mansion, a house destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. We will also enjoy some free time on our own before heading back to the hotel for dinner. In the morning, we begin with a visit to the Garden Tomb, a second possible location for the tomb of Jesus. Here we’ll enjoy a Communion Service. Following this meaningful service, we will drive to West Jerusalem, where we visit the Israel Museum and the spectacular Jerusalem Model of the Second Temple Period. Dr. DeLancey will take us around the archaeological display, seeing the highlighted artifacts from sites we visited. We end the day with a visit Yad Vashem and the Holocaust Memorial. Following our dinner back at the hotel, we board our bus to the Tel Aviv airport for our night-flight home. Those taking the Turkey extension will overnight in Jerusalem.
Optional Turkey Extension
We bus together for our morning flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul and then onto Izmir, Turkey. Our Turkey representative will meet us upon arrival into Turkey and help us make our way to Izmir. Upon arrival into Izmir, we will meet our guide and begin our sightsee tour to ancient Pergamum (Bergama) – center of the rule for the Roman Empire. Sights include the Asklepion, an ancient healing center, the Acropolis with its pagan temples, Alter of Zeus (some call the throne on the site) and the Temple of Trajan. Dinner and overnight in Izmir. Our morning, We will continue on to Thyatira, the smallest of the Seven Churches of which John writes in Revelations. Afterwards, Our visit in Sardis will take us to the amazing ruins of the Temple of Artemis, the picturesque gymnasium, and the synagogue with intact mosaic tile artwork. Touring takes us to Philadelphia (Alasehir) the church that “kept the Faith”, and Sardis, the capital of the Lydian Kingdom, and the first city to use coins of gold and silver. Continue our drive to Hierapolis (Pamukkale). Dinner and overnight at our hotel in Pamukkale. After breakfast, we will visit the Hierapolis visiting the vast, ancient necropolis (burial grounds) large amphitheater, St. Philip’s Church, and famed Roman baths. The white travertine falls and hot springs of Pamukkale are a beautiful secret of nature that we will enjoy today. Afternoon, we will continue traveling to ancient Laodicea, a city known for its riches, development of medicines and where the church was known for being “lukewarm in belief”. Late afternoon, we drive to Kusadasi for dinner and overnight. After breakfast, we take a short drive to Ephesus. Walking in the great, marble Ephesian road will take us by the Church of the Virgin Mary, the site of the council of Ephesus – the great amphitheater where the rioters against Paul cried, “Great is the Diana of Ephesians”, the spectacular and famous Celsus Library, the Agora (marketplace) and the city bath ruins. Following our visit to Ephesus and time permitting, we drive south to Miletus. Here, there also are extensive remains of the 5th century BC to Roman times. The Greco-Roman theatre and its adjoining Byzantine castle are the most impressive of the site’s ruins. We then drive to Izmir for our flight to Istanbul. After our evening flight from Izmir to Istanbul, we arrive at our hotel in time for dinner and overnight. After breakfast, we transfer to Istanbul Airport for our return flight back to the USA.