Experience the Negev, Dead Sea and the Judean Desert
We arrive at the Ben Gurion Airport and are met by our Israeli guide and driver. We leave the airport and make a stop in Jaffa. This is where the Jonah story begins, as well as the story of Peter. Both were being asked by God to go to a people outside of Israel with the Good News of God’s grace. We spend our first night in Tel Aviv along the Mediterranean Sea. We enjoy dinner and an orientation meeting to help us prepare for the exciting days of studying God’s Word “in context.” We spend the next day in the Shephelah of Judah. We begin by driving to Gezer. Here we see ruins from Solomon’s day and beyond. From here, we drive to Beth Shemesh, where the Ark of the Covenant was returned. Next, we travel to Tel Qeiyafaand see where David fought Goliath. 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. Our last site of the day is Lachish, a city that was conquered by the Assyrians. Here, we see where the famous “Lachish Letters” were discovered. We end the day by driving south to Beersheba for overnight. Our first stop of the day is the ancient site of Beersheba, the primary city in the Biblical Negev. We see the well and gate structure, the rounded streets, and a typical four room Israelite hous. Next, we drive south to Sde Boker, the site of the tomb of Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister. Next, we enjoy hiking in the majestic canyon of the Wilderness of Zin and we have the option to hike all the way to the opposite rim of the canyon. After lunch at Avdat, we drive to the archaeological site of Arad, a Canaanite and later Israelite city where Josiah enacted his reforms. We end the day by driving into the Judean Desert and we spend the night at Kfar Hanokdim. Accommodations include “Bedouin tent” dwellings. Following dinner, we enjoy a time of worship under the stars. Following breakfast, we approach the famous site of Masada from the west. While you wait for the group to finish the guided tour, you will be fascinated with the view. Leaving the site, we have the option of walking down the Snake Path, while others ride the cable car down. Next, we drive north along the Dead Sea to Ein Gedi, where we relive the story of David hiding in a cave from King Saul. We have a chance to hike into the valley, enjoying the waterfalls as well as soaking our feet in the cool waters. Further north is Qumran, the settlement of the first century sect known as the Essenes, the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. At the site, we see first century miqvot, a scriptorium, and cisterns. We then visit nearby Jericho. Here we see the oldest structure in Israel as well as a portion of the actual revetment wall dating to the time of Joshua. We end the day by floating in the Dead Sea. Nearby we stay the night at Al Mog, a Jewish kibbutz. We begin the day with a beautiful view of the Judean Desert. We then drive through the Desert of Pareth, Michmash, and Bethel to the newly-uncovered site of Shiloh. Here we revisit the stories of Eli and Samuel and the Ark and see where the Tabernacle once stood. We then drive through the hill country of Samaria. Our next site is Beth Shean, a massive Roman city. In the Roman city we will see bathhouses, mosaics, pillars, the market place, and the theater. We drive north to the Sea of Galilee area to Tiberias where we will spend the next three nights.
Experience the Galilee Area & Northern Israel
We begin the day by visiting Arbel, a mountain NW of the 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. 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. Following lunch, we visit Chorizim, one of the three cities condemned by Jesus. Capernaum is next, the home center of ministry for Jesus in Galilee. In mid-afternoon, we enjoy a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. 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 on the Mt. Of Beatitudes. We return to the hotel for dinner and a free evening. We begin the next day by driving into the Golan Heights. Stopping on the northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee, we are able to see the area of the Feeding of the 5,000. Our first stop will be at the new excavations of El Araj, possibly Bethsaida, the home of Peter, Andrew, and Phillip. Our second stop is Gamla. Here we will look down to a first century synagogue, as well as the other ruins of the city. Close by is the site of Qatzrin, a partially reconstructed Talmudic village. We see what a typical village looked like during the days of Jesus. Driving north and east to the border, we will look across the border to see southern Syria. Next, we visit Mt. Hermon. We will ride the ski chair lift to the top for a spectacular view of the region. Descending down from the Golan Heights we visit Caesarea Philippi. Nearby is the amazing nature preserve and archaeological site of Dan. On our way back and if time allows, we will list the border with Lebanon. We drive back to our hotel in Tiberias. After dinner, we again meet together to review the day. In the morning we head towards the Lower Galilee. Our first stop is Sepporis. Here we will see impressive mosaics, including the Mona Lisa of the Galilee. Next, we travel towards Nazareth. Here we enjoy our first full view of the Jezreel Valley. We continue into the Jezreel Valley to Megiddo, which gave its name to Armageddon. Winding our way through the Mt. Carmel range, we visit Muhraqa, where we read the story about Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Our last site is Caesarea Maritima, to view part of the city initially built by Herod the Great. We visit the theater, palace area, and aqueduct. From here we drive to Jerusalem for dinner and overnight.
Experience the Holy City – 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. We stop to read the passages related to this area. 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. We see the brand-new excavations related to Herod’s tomb! We end the day by visiting the Shepherd’s 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. 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 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. The next day will be a unique day. We begin this morning by driving to the Judean Desert. Here we will hike 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. We return to our hotel and enjoy dinner followed by a free evening. The next morning begins with a visit to the City of David 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. We then sit on the steps of the Siloam Pool and listen to the story of the blind man healed by Jesus. 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. 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.