Day 01. Arrival in Tel Aviv, Israel.
After passport control and baggage claim. You will meet your guide and board your bus and transfer to your hotel in Tel Aviv.
Day 02. From the coast to the Negev.
We start our day at Joppa (Jaffa), where Jonah boarded a ship (Jonah 1:3) and where Peter raised a believer named Tabitha from death (Acts 9:40). Then we drive to Beth Shemesh, in the area of conflict between the Israelites and the Philistines. We head south to the Valley of Elah, scene of David’s encounter with Goliath. We continue through Philistine country to Beershseba, the city of the Patriarchs.
Day 03. Deep into the Negev desert.
We visit Abraham’s Well in Beersheba and then drive south to the stupendous wilderness of Zin. We drive through the Negev to Timna. We continue to Eilat for dinner and overnight at our hotel.
Day 04. Wadi Rum.
Leaving Israel, we drive to the Arava border with Jordan. Acquiring a free collective visa, we meet our Jordanian bus and guide. We then proceed along a possible Exodus route to Wadi Rum, whose fame goes back not merely to Lawrence of Arabia and the Hashemite Bedouin, but deeper into biblical history. We can take time here for a jeep tour, hiking and/or for making contact with the Biblical experience of the desert. Wadi Rum was in the heartland of Midian, which played a crucial part in early Israel’s faith: Exodus 2:15; 3:1-14; 18. Overnight in Petra.
Day 05. Petra.
We spend the day touring Petra, now counted as one of our world’s seven wonders. A walk through the siq brings us to the first great monument, the Treasury. Continuing through the outer siq, with its tombs and burial chambers, we reach a large theaters carved out of the sandstone. Next we go to the Royal Tombs, which afford a great view of the city. From here we can visit the Byzantine church and view its mosaics. We can also enter the so-called Palace of Pharaoh’s Daughter, which was really one of Petra’s oldest Nabataean temples. We lunch a few yards away and then enjoy free time: we can wander through the Civic Center and climb to the High Place of Sacrifice or to the Deir. Toward day’s end we walk or buy a buggy ride back to the entrance and check into our nearby hotel.
Day 06. Exodus Route and Byzantine Christians.
This morning we continue driving north along the Exodus route, following the famed King’s Highway, passing the Crusader fortress of Karak. We drive through Wadi Mujeb to Umm al-Rassas, whose churches offer fine examples of mosaic art. From there we go to Madaba, with its mosaic floor from the 6th century, showing a map of the Holy Land as envisioned by Christian pilgrims. We end the day at Mt. Nebo, from which God showed Moses the Land. We then drive down for a float in the salty waters of the Dead Sea. Dinner and overnight at your Dead Sea hotel.
Day 07. Crossing the Jordan.
First thing in the morning we take a short drive to the recently excavated site where ancient pilgrims located the baptism of Jesus by John. For Christians, the most significant event associated with the River Jordan is undoubtedly this event. There are strong indications that it took place very close to an old fording place, where Joshua, Elijah and Elisha crossed the river dry.
We then drive to the Allenby Bridge. After finishing the border proceedings, we rejoin the bus and guide from the Holy Land and drive to Jericho. Here we visit the tell of this city, by far the oldest yet discovered, and view the traditional mountain of Jesus’ temptation. We then drive north through the Jordan Valley into Israel, reaching Beth Shean (aka Scythopolis). Here we take in the setting for the death of Saul (I Samuel 28 – II Samuel 1). We survey the magnificent Roman and Byzantine ruins: theatre, bathhouses, ancient restrooms, market areas, and colonnaded streets. We continue north to the Lake of Galilee for D/O.
Day 08. A day on the Sea of Galilee.
We take a boat, modeled on one from Jesus’ time, from the western shore of the lake to Capernaum, the headquarters of Jesus’ public mission, where Franciscan archaeologists believe they have uncovered the house of Peter (Mark 1 and 2). Then we ascend theMount of Beatitudes, with ample time to consider the Sermon (Matthew 5-7). We visit Tabgha: here Christians have long remembered the first feeding of the multitude (Mark 6) and also, nearby, the breakfast of John 21. After lunch, we drive along the north end of the Sea of Galilee heading east, stopping at one of the two possibilities for Bethsaida, the fishing village that was home to Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John1:44). In this place, as well as Capernaum and Chorazin, Jesus performed most of his miracles; he cursed all three cities for their failure to repent. He healed a blind man here. In Luke’s account, the feeding of the 5000 occurred in the area of Bethsaida. We continue driving around the eastern shore, passing Kursi, perhaps the “Gergesa” of Matthew’s Gospel, where the evangelist locates the miracle of the swine. We end the day with a visit to the modern baptismal site at the point where the Jordan flows out of the lake.
Day 09. The sources of the Jordan.
We stop briefly at Hazor, the largest Canaanite city, for a look at the newly uncovered Canaanite palace and a view of Mount Hermon. Onward to Dan. Here we combine a nature walk beside the Upper Jordan with views of the ancient ruins, including the Israelite high place that supported a golden calf (I Kings 12). A short drive takes us to the spring of Caesarea Philippi (Banias), where Peter confessed his recognition of Jesus as Christ (Matthew 16). Here we can visit the stunning remains of a first-century AD palace belonging to Agrippas II. We drive around Mt. Hermon for a glimpse of Damascus, 45 miles away, then head back over the Golan Heights to our home on the Sea of Galilee.
Day 10. “We are going up to Jerusalem…” (Matthew 20:18).
This morning we drive to Nazareth, visiting the site of the ancient village. We continue to the mound of Megiddo, har meggido in Hebrew, which gave its name to Armageddon. Our day continues with an ascent of Mt. Carmel, where Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal. Descending the mountain, we drive to Caesarea Maritima. This Roman bridgehead to the land became the Christian springboard to the West (Acts 10). The day’s end finds us atop Mt. Scopus, where we behold majestic Jerusalem. Tonight we dine at our Jerusalem hotel.
Day 11. Mount of Olives and Bethlehem.
We start the day with an orientation to Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives. We then follow the traditional Palm Sunday route to the church known as Dominus Flevit (“the Lord weeps”). After viewing the Golden Gate, we walk downhill to Gethsemane, where we take time to meditate on the Gospel text. Then we drive to Mt. Zion: to the grounds of a church called Peter in Gallicantu, which affords the best view of early Jerusalem from the west. (Here, the Assumptionist Fathers propose, was the house where the High Priest Caiaphas interrogated Jesus.) Driving south, we visit Solomon’s Pools, Jerusalem’s main source of water for almost 2000 years. We continue to Shepherds’ Fields. Thence we go up to Bethlehem “and see this thing that has happened” (Luke 2:15), walking through the town’s alleys and markets to the Church of the Nativity.
Day 12. Temple and Holy Sepulcher.
We ascend to the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque, located on the traditional site of the ancient Temple Mount. Just to the north we find the Pools of Bethesda (John 5) and St. Anne’s Church, perfectly preserved from the Crusader period – with remarkable acoustics. We then follow the Way of the Cross (Via Dolorosa) to the Holy Sepulcher. After lunch in the Old City, we visit the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site, followed by the Garden Tomb.
On a Tuesday evening, we drive to West Jerusalem, passing the Israeli parliament (Knesset), to theShrine of the Book at the Israel Museum, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls. There we also survey an open-air model of Jerusalem, representing the city on the eve of the first revolt against Rome, 36 years after the Passion of Jesus.
Day 13: Dead Sea.
We drive to Masada, visiting Herod’s mountain bunker and the last stronghold of the Jewish revolt against Rome (66-73 AD). After an optional float in the Dead Sea, we visit the nature reserve at Ein Gedi, where Saul caught up with David (1 Samuel 24). We then drive north to Qumran. After viewing Cave # 4, which contained the greatest quantity of Dead Sea scrolls, we return to Jerusalem.