This program focuses on the life and mission of Jesus. Groups with more time can take it as a framework, including First Testament sites as well.
Arrival. Transfer to Bethlehem, where we overnight.
“Let’s go to Bethlehem, now, and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15). We drive to a hilltop for a view of Bethlehem, noting its relation to the rest of the central mountain range, including Jerusalem, as well as to the desert and the area of ancient Moab. We then drive to one of the possible sites forShepherds’ Fields. We continue into Bethlehem itself, walking through the restored old town to theChurch of the Nativity and visiting the manger. After lunch we tour Herodium, the palace set in a conical mountain built by Herod to mark his tomb. We continue to Mamre (Genesis 18) and then toHebron. Here we shall study, from outside, a completely preserved Herodian structure – identical in design with the exterior of the vanished Jerusalem Temple: it commemorates the tombs of the patriarchs. We return to our Bethlehem hotel.
“He will be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2: 23) We drive via Bethany to Qumran, where the Dead Sea scrolls were found. Then, a few miles from the place where ancient pilgrims remembered Jesus’ baptism by John, we visit Jericho, the world’s oldest city. We then drive north through the Jordan Valley. Conditions permitting, we turn west into Wadi Fariah, Abram’s and Jacob’s way to Shechem. Here we shall visit Jacob’s Well (John 4). We continue on through Samaria and the Jezreel Plain to Nazareth, where we lodge.
“Leaving Nazareth, he came and lived in Capernaum, which is by the lake in the region of Zebulon and Naphtali” (Matthew 4:13). We spend the morning getting acquainted with Nazareth, visiting its spring, where Mary would have done her family’s laundry, and walking through the present-day bazaar to the site of the ancient village, where today stands the Church of the Annunciation. We then drive to nearby Sepphoris, the only city in the midst of Galilee at the time when Jesus was growing up – today a rich archaeological site. After a stop at Cana, where Jesus performed his first sign (John 2), we walk to the edge of theArbel cliff, overlooking the northern part of the Sea of Galilee, including the main sites of Jesus’ mission.
“Seeing the multitudes, he went up onto the mountain. When he had sat down, his disciples came to him.” (Matthew 5: 1). We begin on the Mt. of Beatitudesconsidering Jesus’ teachings. We then descend toTabgha at the northwestern shore of the lake, an area intense with Christian memories. Here we visit a church commemorating the first feeding of the multitude (loaves and fishes). We go on to Capernaum: with the help of the ruins, we remember the miracles Jesus worked there. We then drive north to Caesarea Philippi (Banias), a source of the Jordan at the foot of Mt. Hermon – where Peter confessed his recognition of Jesus as the Christ. We return to the lake via the Golan Heights, with a view toward Damascus. We then sail across the lake in a wooden boat, modeled on one discovered from the time of Jesus.
“We are going up to Jerusalem.” (Matthew 20:18). We cross the Plain of Jezreel to Megiddo, the Armageddon of Revelation. We then drive through the historic pass of Wadi Ara (Iron) to Caesarea Maritima. Here we shall view the site of the ancient harbor, as well as the hippodrome, aqueduct, and theatre. (Acts 10.) We then go up to Jerusalem for our lodging.
“If you, even you, had known today the things which belong to your peace” (Luke 19:42) We start on the Mt. of Olives for an orientation to the city. We descend the traditional Palm Sunday Road, stopping at the church of Dominus Flevit, to the Kidron Valley. We then ascend, as Jesus did, to the traditional site of the Temple Mount and visit the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque. We visit theWestern Wall and explore the Ophel excavations south of the Mount, including the Temple steps – on which, we can be confident, Jesus and the disciples trod. After lunch, we proceed to the Upper Room onMt. Zion, where we remember the Last Supper, and then to Gethsemane for quiet time. We conclude atPeter in Gallicantu, possibly the site of Caiaphas’ house where Jesus was tried and kept overnight.
“He has risen!” (Mark 16:6) We start quite early, walking the Via Dolorosa – the Way of the Cross – to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We then bus back to our hotel for a late breakfast, after which we may visit the Garden Tomb and hold a communion service. We shall then explore the Tombs of the Kings, dated to 20 years after the Crucifixion. We bus to the Shrine of the Book, containing the Dead Sea scrolls, and survey an outdoor model of Jerusalem as the city may have looked in 66 AD. We complete our pilgrimage at Ein Kerem, traditional birthplace of John the Baptist.