The Early Ministry of Jesus in Galilee
We arrive in Tel Aviv and proceed through customs and security and meet our agent who assists us to our motor coach. We have a short drive to our hotel in the Tel Aviv area in time for dinner and overnight. The next morning, we depart for the Galilee to visit Biblical sites at Caesarea Maritima, where Peter proclaimed the Good News to the Roman Centurion. We also see Megiddo and Mt. Carmel, where Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal. Time permitting, we will stop at the Druze Village for a short lunch break (not included). Then we continue on to Nazareth (Jesus’ childhood home), Cana (location of Jesus’ first miracle – John 2) and the Mt. of Precipitation. We then arrive in Tiberias for dinner and overnight near the Sea of Galilee. Nothing compares to watching the sun rise over the Sea of Galilee! We begin today at Tabgha (the traditional site of the feeding of the 5000) and the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter. We then spend time reflecting and worshiping at the Mt. of Beatitudes and then head to Capernaum, Jesus’ base for His early ministry. Afterwards, we board a replica wooden “Jesus Boat” to set sail on the Sea of Galilee. For those interested, our lunch stop includes the option of ordering the special St. Peter’s Fish (not included). After lunch, we head to Gadara and Bethsaida (time permitting) before making our way to the Jordan River. Dinner and overnight are back in Tiberias. After breakfast, we travel north to the Golan Heights for a beautiful view of northern Israel’s landscape. Then we head to Caesarea Philippi where Peter confessed, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-16). We embark on a short hike to Tel Dan to see the altar of Jeroboam before heading to Gideon Springs. Next, we visit Beit Shean, one of the best preserved Decapolis Roman cities. This is where King Saul and his sons’ bodies were hung from the city walls after being defeated by the Philistines. Finally, we ascend to the majestic city of Jerusalem in time for dinner and overnight. “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord.’ Our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:1-2 NASB).
The Holy City
We begin today on the beautiful Mt. of Olives to behold the famous, breathtaking panorama of the Holy City. Our pilgrimage proceeds down the Old Palm Sunday Road to the ancient olive grove at the Garden of Gethsemane. Then we continue on to the Church of the Agony (Church of All Nations) where tradition says Jesus prayed before his arrest. We enter Jerusalem through the Zion Gate and proceed to the Western (Wailing) Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. Beyond the wall lies the 35-acre temple area purchased by King David, which is called the Temple Mount. This area is the third holiest shrine in Islam, housing both the El-Aqsa Mosque and the magnificent Dome of the Rock. From the temple area we make our way to St. Stephen’s Gate to walk the Via Dolorosa – including St. Anne’s Crusader Church, Pools of Bethesda, the Pavement (where Jesus stood while being tried by Pilate), Ecce Homo Arch, and the ancient Cardo. We continue to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and then conclude our day with a short walk to the original steps that Jesus climbed as he entered the Temple area. We finish off our sightseeing with a visit to Bethlehem as we pass by Rachel’s tomb on the outskirts and then visit the Church of the Nativity and Shepherds’ Field. We have dinner and overnight in Jerusalem.
Did You Know? Ein Gedi is an oasis and a nature reserve in Israel, and is where David hid from King Saul.
The Dead Sea & Judean Wilderness
After breakfast, we drive to Qumran, the settlement of the Essenes. They were the first century sect who authored the Dead Sea Scrolls. From here, we head to Ein Gedi where David hid from King Saul. We then travel south along the western shore of the Dead Sea toward Masada where we ascend by cable car up to King Herod’s astonishing fortress. Afterwards, we make a special stop at the Dead Sea (the lowest spot on earth) for a short swim or float. Time and conditions permitting, we’ll include a visit to Qasr El-Yahud, the newly excavated site where tradition holds that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. If possible, we will also include a short visit to Jericho. Dinner and overnight are again in Jerusalem. The next morning, we visit the Shrine of the Book Museum to see the Dead Sea Scrolls and the fascinating 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem as it would have appeared in Jesus’ time. Next, we drive to the City of David, and then we go on a short walk to Hezekiah’s Tunnel (conditions permitting). Be sure to bring a flashlight and water shoes to walk through the tunnel. Anyone wanting to stay dry can walk through Hezekiah’s shaft. If time permits, we will visit the newly excavated Pool of Siloam and the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. We end our day in worship at Golgotha and the Garden Tomb. Dinner and overnight are in Jerusalem. In the morning, we have leisure time in Jerusalem and then we depart the city late morning/early afternoon for the Elah Valley to see the brook where David slew Goliath. From here, we continue our drive to Jaffa for a special Farewell Dinner. We then transfer to Ben Gurion Airport for our flight back to the U.S.A. Those taking the Jordan extension will return to the hotel in Jerusalem for overnight.
Optional Jordan Extension
This morning we depart Israel for Jordan via the Allenby Bridge, where we meet our agent and are assisted through security and customs. We board our motor coach to Madaba, the Moabite town of the Bible to see the Ancient Holy Land Map. Next, we travel to Machaerus (Mukawir). Perched on a 700-meter-high hill southwest of Madaba are the ruins of the fortress of Herod the Great. Machaerus is where John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod Antipas. We continue south to Petra, “the Red Rose City.” Dinner and overnight are in Petra. After breakfast, we visit Petra, a 2000-year-old Nabatean city. We’ll walk about a half-mile through the narrow passageway with cliffs on either side (called the “Siq”). At the end of the Siq appears Petra’s Treasury, a massive royal tomb carved out of the solid mountain rock. Time permitting, we will see Jabal Harun – the place where Aaron is buried. We then leave in the afternoon for Amman. Dinner and overnight are in Amman. This morning we travel to Mt. Nebo to view the Holy Land from where Moses stood, a breathtaking view across the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea to the Mt. of Olives and the roof tops of Jerusalem. We then return to the Allenby Bridge for our return to Israel. After our border formalities, we arrive back in Israel and continue with a visit to Jaffa. Then we have dinner and an evening transfer to Ben Gurion Airport for our return flight back to the U.S.A.