Day 1: Departure from the USA
Our adventure begins with an overnight flight to Tel Aviv.
Day 2: Arrival in Israel, transfer to Tel-Aviv
After passport control and baggage claim, we will meet our guide, board our bus, and transfer to Tel Aviv.
Day 3: Joppa, Shephela, Dig for a Day
We begin our tour of the Holy Land at the ancient port of Joppa. Here Peter had a vision that led him to convert Cornelius and initiate the church’s mission to the Gentiles. We continue by way of the Shephela to Beit Guvrin to join the Dig for a Day Experience, excavating on an ancient tel and crawling through the caves of Maresha. In the late afternoon, we drive to Beersheba and our guest house at Kibbutz Mashabei Sadeh. This evening, hear from a kibbutz spokesman on the challenges of raising crops and building a community in the desert
Day 4: The Negev and the Wilderness of Zin
This morning, we drive south to view the stupendous wilderness of Zin. We begin at the ruins of Avdat, the city Aretas the Nabatean built up from a camel station at the time of Paul (see 2 Corinthians 11:32-33). We continue south to the observatory of Mitzpe Ramon to view the eerie lunar landscape of the crater and learn of the geology of the area and the path of the Nabatean Spice Route. Continuing south, we stop at Timna Park, 20 miles north of Eilat in the Arava Valley. It is a region of startling beauty, including ancient copper mines, odd rock formations, and the remains of a Midianite tent-sanctuary related to that of the exodus. We then drive to the Arava Border with Jordan and cross into Jordan. We pick up our Jordanian bus and guide and drive to the Jordanian Red Sea city of Aqaba and our hotel.
Day 5: Wadi Rum and Petra
Early in the morning, we proceed along the Exodus route to Wadi Rum, made famous by Lawrence of Arabia. This is the heartland of Midian, which played a crucial part in early Israel’s faith (Exodus 3: 1-18). We drive up to Petra, in the heart of the Seir Mountains, where Aaron brother of Moses was buried. Walk through the Siq, the main entrance to Petra and the Treasury (the one in the Indiana Jones movie!). We continue past tombs and burial chambers to one of the largest theaters in Jordan, carved into the sandstone mountains. Apparently, some sacrificial rituals used to take place here. Then we walk uphill to the Royal Tombs for the view of the lower part of Petra and its Roman remains. Some may want to continue to the church of Petra and the Palace of Pharaoh’s Daughter, which is really a Nabatean tomb.
Day 6: King’s Highway and the Dead Sea
This morning we continue on the Exodus route, driving north along the historical King’s Highway, passing by the well-conserved Crusader city of Kerak. Drive through Wadi Mujeb to Umm al Rassas, whose churches offer more examples of Mosaic art. From there we go to Madaba, with its 6th-century mosaic map depicting the Holy Land as Christian pilgrims knew it then. We end the day at Mt. Nebo, from which God showed Moses the Promised Land. We then drive to the salty Dead Sea to float and relax. Dinner and overnight at the hotel on the Dead Sea.
Day 7: Baptismal site, Jericho, Mount Gerizim, Jacob’s Well, Sea of Galilee
First thing in the morning we take a short drive to the baptismal site of “Bethany beyond the Jordan” (John 1: 28). The recently discovered site, known in Arabic as al-Maghtas, is located at the head of a lush valley just east of the Jordan River. Then we cross over the Allenby Bridge, near Beit Abara, where Joshua, Elijah, and Elisha crossed the river. After we finish the border proceedings, we rejoin our bus and guide from the Holy Land and drive to Jericho. We climb Tel Jericho to view the ancient walls and towers, as well as the Mount of Temptation (Luke 3) and Mount Nebo, where Moses looked out over the promised land he could not enter. Continue up the Jordan Valley, turning west into the dry river bed opposite Penuel, where Jacob wrestled with the angel and was renamed ‘Israel’. We ascend the winding road to Mount Gerizim, the Hill of Blessing (Deuteronomy 27) for the breathtaking view of Mount Ebal, the hill of curses, Shechem and all of Samaria. Visit the Passover altar, where all 600 Samaritans still gather each year for the Passover sacrifice. Descend to the standing stone of Joshua (Joshua 24:26) and to Jacob’s Well at Sychar, where Jesus spoke with the Samaritan woman (John 4). Continue through the rugged hill country of Samaria and the En Harod Valley to the Sea of Galilee. Overnight at the Sea of Galilee for three nights.
Day 8: Sea of Galilee: Boat Ride, Mount of Beatitudes, Tabgha, Capernaum, Mount Arbel
We begin our day boarding a wooden boat for Ginnosar – sailing in the footsteps of Jesus! We drive to the Mount of Beatitudes, where we view the areas of Jesus’ lakeside mission – Galilee and the Decapolis – and reflect on the new commandment Jesus taught here. We then descend the hillside (twenty minutes by foot or by bus) to Tabgha (Heptagon – Greek for seven springs), visiting the Church of Loaves and Fishes marking Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the Five Thousand (Mark 6:30-44) as well as the Church of Mensa Christi, where, after the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples on the lakeshore (John 21). After lunch (those who wish can savor “St. Peter’s Fish” native to the Sea of Galilee), we proceed to Capernaum to see the house of Peter and the synagogue where Jesus preached and cast out demons (Mark 1). Finally, we drive up to the cliff of Mount Arbel for the eagles’ nest view of the Sea of Galilee. The more adventurous may want to hike down the (scary but safe) cliff face, while others return to the hotel to bathe in the Sea of Galilee or relax.
Day 9: Upper Jordan Valley: Hazor, Huleh Valley, Caesarea Philippi, Golan Heights, Gergesa, Jordan River baptismal site
Our day begins with a drive to Tel Hazor. From the top, we can appreciate how this 4000-year-old town dominated the trade routes and earned its reputation as “the head of all kingdoms” (Joshua 11:10) before it was destroyed by Joshua. We then stop at the Huleh nature reserve, the last remnant of the large swamp around which the Via Maris would detour on its way to Damascus. From the wooden walkway, we will see nutria, water buffalo and perhaps wild boars, as well as catfish and pelicans in the lake. 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). Climb to the cave and the remains of the pagan temples of Roman times. We continue to the top of the Golan Heights, where we will stop atop Mount Bental, a former Israeli military outpost. We will hear of the strategic importance of the Golan in Israel’s wars and, looking out on the road to Damascus, be reminded of the conversion of Paul (Acts 9). We descend towards the eastern shores of the Sea of Galilee, to the remains of the church at Gergesa in the province of the Decapolis, where Jesus drove the evil spirits out of the possessed man into the swine (Matthew 8:28-34). We end our day with baptism or the renewal of baptismal vows at the site for baptism developed on the upper Jordan River. This evening, we will hear a talk on the current situation in Israel/Palestine and the prospects for peace.
Day 10: Lower Galilee and the Mediterranean Coast: Nazareth, Megiddo, Mount Carmel, Caesarea, Jerusalem
Reluctantly, we must take leave of the Sea of Galilee, ascending to the city of Nazareth. We look out from the Hill of Precipitation (Luke 4:14-30). As we look across at Mount Tabor, Mount Carmel, Mount Gilboa, the Hill of Moreh, and the Gilead, we reflect on how Jesus, as a young man in Nazareth, was inspired by the acts of God that occurred here as he prepared himself for his mission. We can only imagine the clouds of dust raised by the tramp of Roman boots along the Via Maris below! We descend to visit the Church of Mary’s Well in town. Next, we cross the Valley of Jezreel to the ancient Har-Megiddo or Armageddon, dominating the vital crossroads where so many battles have taken place. This afternoon, we continue through the narrow pass to the Mediterranean Sea at Caesarea, visiting the aqueduct, the ancient Herodian harbor, the remains of the seaside palace of Pontius Pilate and the theater. With the conversion of Cornelius by St. Paul (Acts 10), this impressive Roman harbor became the beachhead of the Christian mission to the Gentiles. We then continue through the Sharon Plain and ascend to the Holy City of Jerusalem. We catch our first glimpse of the city from Mount Scopus, where your guide will welcome you with a short ceremony of bread and salt (Genesis 14).
Day 11: Mount of Olives, Ophel Ridge, Mount Zion, City of David, Hezekiah’s Tunnel
We begin our tour of Jerusalem at the Mount of Olives, with its breath-taking view of the Old City. At first glance, we comprehend that Jerusalem has no good natural reason to be a great city – no harbor, no river, and no natural resources. Yet it is the place God has chosen. We descend the traditional Palm Sunday Road, to the Church of Dominus Flevit (Luke 19). As we gaze out on the magnificent walls and domes, we reflect on Jesus’ weeping over the city that has yet to know peace. We continue to the Garden of Gethsemane (Aramaic for ‘oil press’), meditating on the sorrow of Jesus the night preceding his judgment. We marvel at the ancient olive trees in the garden. Drive to the Ophel Ridge, where Jesus and his disciples must have walked often entering and leaving the Temple. This afternoon, we drive to Mount Zion to visit the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, where Jesus may have been questioned before the High Priest Caiaphas. The terrace offers a magnificent view of the City of David and the Terrapeaon, as well as access to the stepped road to the Mount of Olives of Jesus’ day. 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 at Hezekiah’s Tunnel, built 2,700 years ago to resist the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 32) – an amazing feat of engineering! This evening we have a special treat, walking through underground tunnels to see the remnants of the Temple Mount of Jesus’ day including hewn stones weighing over 400 tons!
Day 12: Western Wall, Temple Mount, Herodion, Shepherd’s Field, Bethlehem
We begin at the Western (Wailing) Wall, a remnant of the Temple in which Jesus preached and a sacred place of prayer for Jews from all over the world. If we are fortunate, we may see Bar Mitzvah services in progress! We continue to the Temple Mount, viewing the Dome of the Rock, built on Mount Moriah, on the site of the Second Temple. We then cross into the West Bank, traveling south into the Hills of Judea to the fortress of Herodion, built by King Herod as part of his escape network. Climb the spiral path to the cone-shaped top to view the frontier between desert and farmland, and identify the towers of Jerusalem and Bethlehem from afar. Return to Bethlehem to visit the 5th-century Church of the Nativity. Conclude with a stop to shop for the famous olive wood and mother-of-pearl crafts that have been produced by the Christians of Bethlehem for centuries. This evening we will meet with a prominent member of the Palestinian Catholic community, to hear of the struggles of Christians to maintain their faith in difficult times.
Day 13: Old City Ramparts, Bethesda, Holy Sepulcher, Garden Tomb
We conclude our tour of Jerusalem by walking the ramparts from Jaffa Gate to Lions’ Gate and “counting her towers” (Psalms 48:12). The four quarters finally fit together as we view magnificent religious monuments and humble courtyards of the Old City. Descending at Lions’ Gate, we visit 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. Hymns never sounded this good! We then proceed up the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We conclude our voyage with a communion celebration at Golgotha and the Garden Tomb.
Day 14: Depart for Home
We leave Jerusalem, passing Gibeon and descending the Beth-Horon road and view the lush Valley of Ayalon below us. Here, Joshua made the sun stand still in his battle against the Canaanites (Joshua 10:12). We arrive at Ben Gurion airport for our flight home.
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