Journey to the Holy Land
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, 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 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). Afterwards, we visit Nazareth (Luke 1 and 4) Village for lunch (included) and to see how it would have looked during the time of Christ, and afterwards, we will visit the Church of the Annunciation. We begin the 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 Bethsaida and the location where the Feeding of the 5,000 took place (John 6). Time permitting, we will visit Gamla, a Jewish city that was taken by the Romans during the Revolt in the 60’s A.D. Here, we see a first century synagogue (one of seven that date to the first century), as well as the ruins of the city, called the “Masada of the north.” 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. 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) and visit Abraham’s Gate. 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! We will stop at the Mt. of Beatitudes and read from Matthew 5. 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 a traditional St. Peter’s Fish lunch (included), we visit 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. 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. 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. We return to our hotel for dinner and an optional gathering once again by the water.
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 (not included), we see portions of the fortification wall that supported the mud–brick walls that “came tumblin’ down” (Joshua 6). 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. From here, we drive to the southern end of the Dead Sea to our hotel. Prior to dinner, you will have a chance to float in the salt and mineral–rich waters of this unique body of water! 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. Afterwards, we stop for lunch (included) at a Bedouin Tent along with a camel ride (included). Then, we visit Qumran and the settlement of the first century sect known as the Essenes, the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. We can also 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 Wadi Qelt. Here, we hear the words of Isaiah 40 and Psalm 23 in the context of the Judea Desert. Fromhere, we drive the rest of the way to Jerusalem for overnight. After checking in our hotel and dinner, We proceed to the Western Wall Tunnels. Overnight is at our hotel in Jerusalem. 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 and visit the Church of the Nativity. 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 Lachish, a city that was conquered by the Assyrians (2 Chronicles 32). Here, we see where the famous “Lachish Letters” were discovered. Next, we travel to Tel Kh. Qeiyafa (Biblical Shaaryim) to see where David fought Goliath (1 Samuel 17). As we listen to the story we see how this famous battle took place! From here, we drive by Beth Shemesh and the Sorek Valley. It was here where the Ark of the Covenant was returned by the Philistines (1 Samuel 6). Then, we prepare to ‘get dirty’ as we participate in an archaeological dig and get an appreciation for the tedious work of archaeologists! We end the day at Gezer and the Aijalon Valley. Here, we see ruins from Solomon’s day and beyond. The famous “Gezer calendar” was found here. We drive back to Jerusalem for dinner and overnight.
Experiencing the Mt. of Olives
We get our first glimpse of Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives, a breath–taking panorama of the Holy City. We walk down the “Palm Sunday” route to the Garden of Gethsemane. Then, we visit 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. Afterwards, we visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum. We see the Children’s Memorial and walk through the museum on our own. In the afternoon after lunch (not included), we enter the Old City 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. We return to our hotel in Jerusalem for dinner and a free evening to explore or relax.We begin the day by visiting the City of David and the new excavations of David’s palace. Those who want to 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 enjoy a few hours of free time (or visit the Western Wall). Our day ends at the Garden Tomb for Communion, and we return to our hotel for a Farewell Dinner. Overnight is in Jerusalem. Morning transfer for our return flight back to the U.S.A. After going through U.S. Customs, we board our flight back to our homes at the end of a life–transforming trip!