Day 1: Departure from the USA
I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. (Matthew 18:19-20).
Our singles adventure begins with an overnight flight to Tel Aviv.
Day 2: Arrival in Israel, Jaffa, Mediterranean Coast
I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.” (Psalm 122:1).
The adventure begins! We arrive at Ben Gurion Airport and go on to Jaffa for an orientation to the land and stretch our legs walking through Jaffa’s artists’ quarter. Here Peter had a vision that led him to convert Cornelius (Acts 10) take the Church’s mission to the Gentiles. We drive through Tel Aviv on the way to our hotel in Netanya on the Mediterranean Sea. Who said they’re too tired to swim in the Med?
Day 3: Caesarea, Mount Carmel, Nazareth, Mount Arbel, Sea of Galilee
The angel said to her, ‘Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favor. Look! You are to conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus (Luke 1:30 – 31).
This morning, we follow in the footsteps of Saint Paul as we make our way to Caesarea. With the conversion of Cornelius by St. Paul (Acts 10), this Roman city became the beachhead of the Christian mission to the Gentiles. We visit the ancient Herodian harbor, the remains of the seaside palace of Pontius Pilate, the theater and the aqueduct on the beach. Go ahead and get your feet in the water! We’ll continue to the altar of Elijah at Muhraka atop Mount Carmel. Looking out over the Valley of Jezreel, we remember how Elijah called down the fire. (1 Kings 18:39). We drive across the Valley of Jezreel to Nazareth, where we will stop for a lookout over the town and visit the Church of the Annunciation for a welcoming Mass to the Holy Land. Continue to the cliff of Mount Arbel, where we’ll help each other down the Cliffside to Magdala, birth place of Mary Magdalene, on the Sea of Galilee. Overnight at a hotel on the Sea of Galilee.
Day 4: Sea of Galilee: Boat Ride, Capernaum, Tabgha, Mount of Beatitudes, Caesarea Philippi, Jordan River Rafting
Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. (Matthew 5:1-3).
We start out early, boarding a wooden boat for Ginnosar – sailing in the footsteps of Jesus! We drive to Capernaum to hold Mass over the house of Peter and the synagogue where Jesus preached and cast out demons (Mark 1). Continue to Tabgha, visiting the Church of Loaves and Fishes marking Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the Five Thousand (Mark 6:30-44) and the Church of the Primacy of Peter, where Peter was named shepherd of the Church. We then drive up the hill to the Mount of Beatitudes to reflect on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Onward to the foothills of Mount Hermon and the headwaters of the Jordan at Banias – Caesarea Philippi, where Peter acknowledged Jesus as Messiah (Matthew 16:13-28). Then climb to the cave and the remains of the pagan temples of Roman times. We drive a few miles down the road to the Jordan River, where we will board rubber dinghies to raft down the Jordan (seasonal conditions permitting). Hallelujah! This evening we enjoy a glass of wine and a St. Peter’s Fish meal in a restaurant on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
Day 5: Baptismal Site on the Jordan, Jericho, Qumran, Ein Gedi, Dead Sea
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.’ (Luke 4:1-4).
We leave the Sea of Galilee and travel to the Jordan River baptismal site, where we will have the chance to renew our baptismal vows. Descending the Jordan Valley, we pass Mount Gilboa, where King Saul and his sons were slain in battle, and head down the Jordan Valley to Jericho, the world’s oldest city, climbing the Tel to view the ancient towers and the Mount of Temptation, marking Jesus’ temptation by Satan in the wilderness (Luke 4). We travel down the Dead Sea coast past Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were written and hidden in a cave until their discovery by a Bedouin shepherd in 1947. We then travel on to the desert oasis of Ein Gedi. See the ibex and conies and cool off under the rushing waterfall! No wonder Solomon was inspired to write to his beloved about it! (Song of Solomon 1:14) In the late afternoon, float in the Dead Sea or enjoy the waters of the spa. Overnight at the Dead Sea.
Day 6: Masada, Mount of Olives, City of David, Hezekiah’s Tunnel
Say to the daughter of Zion: Look, your king is approaching, humble and riding on a donkey and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden (Matthew 21:5).
This morning, we get up before dawn to climb the winding Snake Path up to the top of the plateau of Masada. We arrive in time for sunrise over the Dead Sea – an unforgettable experience! View Herod’s palaces, the Roman siege ramp, the water system and the synagogue of the Zealots who chose death by suicide rather than slavery to the Romans. After a shower and breakfast, we traverse the Judean Desert to arrive at the Mount of Olives, with its breath-taking view of the Old City of Jerusalem. We recite the Lord’s Prayer in the Church of the Pater Noster, and go down the traditional Palm Sunday Road, to the Church of Dominus Flevit (Luke 19), where we reflect on Jesus’ weeping over the city. We continue to the City of David, site of the earliest buildings of Jerusalem. Explore Warren’s Shaft and the system of water tunnels. Walk through knee-high water in Hezekiah’s Tunnel, built 2,700 years ago to resist the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 32). An amazing feat of engineering! Then check into our Jerusalem hotel to rest before going to check out Jerusalem’s cafes and street life.
Day 7: Western (Wailing) Wall, Temple Mount, St. Peter in Gallicantu, Upper Room, Church of the Dormition, Yad Vashem, Ein Karem
At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” (Luke 1:39-42, 45)
We begin at the Western (Wailing) Wall, remnant of the Temple in which Jesus preached and a holy place for Jews from all over the world. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll see Bar Mitzvah services! We continue to the Temple Mount, viewing the Muslim Dome of the Rock, built on the site of the Second Temple. We then walk over to Mount Zion to visit the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, where Jesus may have been questioned before the High Priest Caiaphas, and see the Upper Room, traditional site of the Last Supper. We’ll also visit the Church of the Dormition, commemorating the Assumption of Mary. Crossing the New City of West Jerusalem, we visit Yad Vashem, the museum and memorial to the Holocaust. We’ll see films of survivor testimony, and appreciate the struggle of victims and survivors to maintain their human dignity. We conclude at the beautiful village of Ein Karem at the Church of the Visitation, marking Mary’s encounter with Elizabeth. This evening we meet with young Israelis at a Jerusalem café and talk about their lives and concerns.
Day 8: Bethlehem, Shepherds’ Field, Jerusalem Treasure Hunt
I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11).
This morning, we travel to the Shepherds’ Fields to rejoice over the glad tidings of the birth of Jesus and remember the faith of Ruth who gathered grain nearby. We then return to Bethlehem to visit the 5th-century Church of the Nativity and the Grottos of St. Jerome and the Massacre of the Innocents, and have some time for olive wood souvenir shopping. This afternoon we’ll separate into small groups for a Jerusalem treasure hunt. Bring your bibles, your maps, some Israeli change and a spirit of adventure. You’ll track down biblical sites, board local buses, buy local food items, learn some Hebrew or Arabic words, get lost in the alleyways and have locals help you find your way back. Special romantic dinner for the winning team! After dinner, we will go to the sound and light show at the Citadel of David or to a contemporary Israeli music concert.
Day 9: Gethsemane, Mary’s Tomb, Pools of Bethesda, Via Dolorosa, Holy Sepulchre, Tomb of the Kings, transfer to Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean
“He has risen!” (Mark 16:6)
We begin this morning with a prayer at the Church of the Agony and the Garden of Gethsemane (Aramaic for ‘oil press’), meditating on the sorrow of Jesus the night before his judgment (Luke 21). In the garden are olive trees thought by some to be over 2000 years old! Continue to Mary’s Tomb. Then, we cross the Kidron Valley and see the Pools of Bethesda, where Jesus healed the man paralyzed for 38 years (John 5) and sing in the adjoining Crusader Church of St. Anne. For good singers – this church will make you sound great! We then proceed up the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We conclude our voyage with a Mass to celebrate the resurrection in the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Kyrie Eleison! Christ is risen! Late this afternoon, we stop at the Tomb of the Kings to crawl through an intact rolling stone tomb of Jesus’ day. Then we drive down to Tel Aviv so you can relax on the shores of the Mediterranean or enjoy an iced latte in the cafes of Tel Aviv, Israel’s most metropolitan city.
Day 10: Wine tasting in the Shephela Monasteries, transfer to airport
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2-3)
This morning, flight schedule permitting, we descend to the Shephela, where we will visit the Benedictine Monastery of Latrun for morning prayers overlooking the Valley of Ayalon. We then sample the wine produced by the monks. Continue to the wine caves of the monastery of Deir Rafat, where we drink a toast to close our voyage and wish Godspeed on our way home. We make our way to Ben Gurion airport for the flight home, spiritually refreshed through the new relationships we’ve made with God and with each other.
© Faith Journeys LLC
Author: Dr. Jackie Feldman, Ben Gurion University, Beersheba, Israel