The Itinerary for the 15 Day Extensive Egypt – Jordan – Israel Biblical Tour October 29 – November 12, 2017
Group Photos for this Israel Tour
Israel Tour Itinerary:
DAYS 1 & 2 – SUNDAY-MONDAY, OCTOBER 29-30:
Start of our trip
Our day of departure finally arrived! God brought together a total of 39 people for this tour. 23 in the group flew from various airports (Toronto, Dulles) into Cairo, Egypt. 16 others in the group will begin their “Israel-only” tour when they fly from the States to Tel Aviv Israel on Wednesday, November 1st. With most flying through Vienna, Austria, most had plane delays or even cancellations.
Arrival in Cairo
As a result, most were re-routed on others flights. So at three various arrival times (3 p.m., 7 p.m., and we hope the last five will arrive at 1:30 am.), we are now here in Cairo. This capital city of Egypt has a population of about 25 million now and is the 15th largest city in the world. We were greeted by our agent, guide, and bus driver.
Taking care of passport procedures and gathering our luggage, we loaded the bus and fought the crazy traffic to our downtown Intercontinental Semiramis Hotel near the famous Tahrir Square. The hotel is located right on the Nile River! After checking in we enjoyed dinner together. For the few who arrived early, this was followed by an optional walk along the Nile River. It’s hard to believe we are here in one of the oldest lands of the Bible!
DAY 3: TUESDAY, OCTOBER 31:
Today was our first full day here in Cairo. It was a perfectly sunny day, with temps in the high 70s. Following a great buffet breakfast, all 23 of us (praise God…the last five in the group arrived last night at 2:30 a.m. from their delayed flight) boarded the bus shortly after 7:30 a.m. As we departed, we read from Genesis 44 about Joseph and his brothers. Our first destination was the ancient city of Memphis.
Located on the west side of the Nile River, we drove through the “farmland” of the area to Memphis, the first capital of ancient Egypt. Although only a small part of the city has been excavated, we saw a massive statue/colossus of Ramses II (around 1280-1220 BC) as well as a smaller sphinx and other stone items from the New Kingdom. Some of the OT prophets mentioned Memphis (Isaiah 19:13; Jeremiah 2:16, 46:14,19; Ezekiel 30:16; and Hosea 9:6).
Close by is the site of the oldest pyramid, Sakkara. It is one of about 120 pyramids found in Egypt so far. Built close to 5,000 years ago (pre-dating Abraham by about 700 years and Moses about 1,200 years), this pyramid is a stepped pyramid. This oldest pyramid was designed by Imhotep. The body of the Pharaoh/King Zoser buried here was not placed in the pyramid but rather under it (about 90 feet). Also here was a smaller pyramid. Most in the group went inside this one. The entrance in was low but it opened up to a larger room where the sarcophagus was placed. We also went in the tomb of Idut (5th Dynasty, 2,360 BC). The hieroglyphs and painting on the walls were still very colorful. Close by we stopped at a carpet school.
Giza Pyramids & Great Sphinx
After a quick also lunch at a convenience store (On the Run), we were all blown away by the magnificence of the Giza Pyramids. The Great Pyramid of Khufu (also called Cheops) is the largest (around 500 feet high) and is comprised of 2.3 million stone blocks, each weighing an average of 2.5 tons. The this pyramid predates Abraham by about 500 years. This pyramid is so large that it is hard to capture it on camera! The mathematical dimensions of this pyramid are quite interesting as well (e.g. Twice the length of here base of the pyramid, divided by the heights in cubits is 3.14159, or the mathematical equivalent of pi.)
From here we drove to the smallest of the three pyramids (Menkaura). Many in the group enjoyed the opportunity to descend into this pyramid. Driving a bit further we enjoyed a panoramic view of the three larger pyramids. Here we also enjoyed a camel ride.
Also in this area we visited the Great Sphinx. The body of the sphinx is that of a lion (strength) while the face is that of the Pharaoh (wisdom). Like the Great Pyramid, getting close to it really made us realize how big it is (66 feet high, 240 feet long, 63 feet wide). An embalming temple was nearby. It made us remember Genesis 50 and the embalming of Jacob.
We returned back to the hotel, arriving shortly after 5 p.m. We enjoyed dinner together at 7 p.m. followed by a brief group gathering at 8 p.m. It was a great day here in Cairo!
DAY 4: WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 1:
Today was another sunny day, with perfect temps (in the 70s). It would be a day of traveling from one country (Egypt) to another (Jordan) by day’s end. Following a very full breakfast once again we identified our luggage, checked out of the hotel, loaded the bus, and began our journey to another part of Cairo.
Our first stop was the Citadel. This is one of the highest places in Cairo, offering a great panoramic view of the city. Located on top is the Alabaster Mosque (also called the Mohammed Ali Mosque). It was built in the 1800s. While it is a beautiful building, it sadly represents a religion void of truth and hope.
From here we drove to Old Cairo. A wonderful experience awaited us as we visited a Coptic Church. The St. Sergius Church (a 5th century church) is still used by Coptic Christians today.
We also visited the Ben Ezra Synagogue. It was built in 882 AD. While it is primary functioning as a museum today, there was once a large Jewish population here (there still is one active synagogue nearby used by a tiny population of Jews today).
In the late morning we drove (battling the crazy Cairo traffic once again) to the Egyptian Museum. It houses 200,000 artifacts from ancient Egypt. It is quite massive. Heba took us around to see the highlights of the museum. This included the Rosetta Stone (the only replica in the museum), statues of Menuhotep (who was reigning when Abraham met came to Egypt, Gen. 12). Thutmose III (great conqueror who captured Megiddo and other places in Israel, perhaps the Pharaoh of the Exodus?), Hatshepsut (queen who took in Moses?), Amenhotep II (the probable Pharoah of the Exodus?), Akhenaton (the monotheistic Pharaoh), and Ramses II; many papyri and sarcophagi; the Merneptah Stele (which mentions “Israel”), the Amarna Letters (which mentions cities in Israel during the time of there Judges), and much more. We made a few connections with the Bible (e.g. Abraham, Joseph, Moses, etc…). The highlight on the second floor is the King Tutankhamen (“Tut”) burial artifacts. This included seeing the famous gold masks and sarcophagus. Most in the group also visited the famous mummy room where the mummies of many of the well-known pharaohs are on display.
Flight to Amman, Jordan
Leaving the museum, we made our way to the Cairo Airport once again for our flight to the capital of Jordan – Amman. Our Egyptian agent (Tamar) was of great help in getting us through on time. While the sun was setting, our flight took us east over the Sinai Desert and then due north to Amman over southern Jordan.
Once we landed and following the normal passport procedures, we boarded our Jordanian bus and drove about 35 minutes to our hotel. After checking in, we enjoyed dinner together and then retired for the night.
It is good to be here in Jordan, and we are excited to spend two days here!
DAY 5: THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 2:
Today was our first full day in Jordan. The sun greeted us once again, with comfortable highs in the 70s. After breakfast, check-out, and loading the bus, we departed from the hotel shortly after 8 a.m. With our Jordanian guide, Sammy, aboard, we drove to our first site of the day, Medeba, the city of mosaics. On the way, we began with reading Deuteronomy 31 and 32, about the end of the life of Moses.
Medeba is actually the largest “Christian” city in Jordan. The population is about 200,000. It is mentioned in the Bible (Joshua 13, Isaiah 15). The stop here allowed us to see the famous 6th century “Medeba Map” of the ancient near eastern world at that time. The map serves as part of the floor of an active Greek Orthodox Church (St. George). Quite clearly, places like the Dead Sea, Jordan River, Jerusalem, Jericho, and many others are displayed with great detail. Near the church a lady was harvesting olives. In this area of Moab, we also recalled the stories of Ruth (Ruth 1) and Ehud, the Israelite judge and Eglon, the fat Moabite king (Judges 3).
Driving about 7 miles west from Medeba, we arrived at Mt. Nebo. According to Deuteronomy 34, Mt. Nebo was where Moses died. The view from here this morning to the west was excellent, clear enough to see the Jordan Valley, the city of Jericho, the northern tip of the Dead Sea quite clearly. We could even see the hills of Jerusalem far on the western horizon. We also read Joshua 1 and Hebrews 11 (about the faith of Moses) and considered the amazing leadership of both Moses and Joshua. It would be Joshua who, by faith, led the Israelites across the Jordan River into Israel. The “Conquest” took place in 1,410 BC, with Jericho being the first of 31 cities being taken.
After a stop at a mosaic store and having a great lunch back in Medeba, we drove southwest to Machaerus. This is an archaeological site of one of the “fortress-palaces” of Herod the Great. It was built first by the Hasmoneans (in 90 BC) and then destroyed by the Romans in 57 AD. In 30 BC, Herod the Great rebuilt it. This was where John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod Antipas (Mark 6, Matthew 14). Herod Antipas, one of the three sons of Herod the Great who took over their father’s kingdom, reigned from 4 BC – 39 AD. He was married originally to the daughter of the Nabatean ruler, King Aretas IV (he reigned from 9 BC – 40 AD. Paul mentions him in 2 For. 11:24-25). Most in the group hiked to the top of this “fortress” where we saw the palace, a few miqve (Jewish ritual baths), and a few other structures. The view over into Israel (across from Engedi where we will be in 2 days), was fairly good!
Road to Petra
From here we drove primarily on the Desert Highway but also on portion of the King’s Highway (Numbers 20-21). The desert sunset was very nice! We stopped about half way for restrooms and snacks before arriving at our hotel in Wadi Musa outside of Petra about 7:15 p.m. We enjoyed dinner together before retiring for the evening.
We all are looking forward to spending 6+ hours in Petra tomorrow.
*Note – For the 16 who are doing just the Israel portion of the tour, they arrived tonight into the Tel Aviv Airport. Greeted by Shlomo (our Israeli guide) and David (our Israeli driver), they enjoyed their first hotel stay in the Tel Aviv area. Tomorrow they will drive south through the Shephelah (Lowlands) of Judah and through the Negev en route to the port city of Elat and the Red Sea.
DAY 6: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 3:
Today was a spectacular day here in Jordan! Again, although it was a cool start (50s), the sun and warmer temps (70s) by noon made it a wonderful day to explore one of the seven wonders of the world!
Waking up a little earlier for breakfast and check-out, we left the hotel around 7 a.m. for our start of 6+ hours in Petra located in the heart of the Seir Mountains. We are in the land of the Edomites. This ancient “red-rose city” Nabatean city is an amazing site, with the handiwork of God’s incredible creation all around.
We entered the city by walking about a 1/2 mile down the pathway that leads to the top of the Siq (canyon) of Petra. After another mile or so through the Siq, we arrived at the first monument – the famous “Treasury” (formally called “Al-Khazneh”). This well-preserved monumental tomb appears in the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” It was most likely the burial chamber or memorial for the Nabatean King Aretas IV. He reigned from 9 BC – 40 AD and is mentioned actually by the Apostle Paul (see 2 Corinthians 11).
From the Treasury some in the group went on ahead to tackle two optional hikes to the Monastery Tomb and to the High Place. Others enjoyed walking the same direction and taking in the royal tombs. At every turn there is something incredible to see here in Petra!
Monastery Tomb & High Place
Passing by many more royal tombs and burial chamber we came to one of the largest ancient theaters in Jordan. It dates to the 1st century AD. The theater could hold about 3000 people. It is cut literally into the side of the red sandstone cliff.
At the end of the Roman street begins the climb up to Monastery Tomb . The climb includes about 850 steps. Getting there is quite worth the effort though. Like the Treasury, this Monastery tomb is also quite well preserved and is about the same size. From the viewpoint even further higher above this tomb we could look westward into the Rift Valley and Negev of Israel. After returning down the same pathway, we climbed the back side of the High Place. The walk was equally spectacular, providing a great view of the city below.
Leaving Petra in the early afternoon, we boarded the bus and drove south to Wadi Rum. This was an area made famous by Sir Lawrence of Arabia during WWI against the Ottoman Turks. We enjoyed a jeep ride through this unique desert and a great sunset before checking into our “private” Bedouin Village accommodations in the heart of the desert. We enjoyed a unique dinner together followed by a devotional gathering under the full moon desert sky and a walk in the desert. It was fantastic!
Today was a wonderful and unique experience here in Jordan!
DAY 7: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 4:
Today we would enter our third country, Israel. After a very unique and special night sleeping in tents, we woke at dawn. Greeted by the sun once again rising in the east, the day would be a sunny yet warmer day.
The Jordan-Israel Border Crossing
Following breakfast, about half the group rode a camel about 2 miles to the visitor center (where the bus was all night), while others took a ride in the jeeps. After packing up the bus, we drove to Aqaba, the southern most city of Jordan. We read Deuteronomy 6 on the way. After picking up some more lost luggage in Aqaba, we drove to the Rabin Border into Israel where we said goodbye to Sammy our “wild and crazy” guide. It was a delight to have him with us the last 2 days.
The Red Sea
Crossing the border into Israel all went fine (and quite quickly actually … 40 minutes!). David (our driver) and Shlomo (our guide) greeted us after we finished with the crossing procedures. We then went to Coral Beach where we met up with the 16 others in our group who began their tour in Israel only a couple of days ago. It was wonderful to be all together! We all enjoyed the beach here, with a number in the group swimming in the water of the Red Sea. The water was very clear, with colorful fish and coral.
Timnah & the Tabernacle
Leaving from here, we drove north in the Aravah Valley to Timnah. Back in the 13-12th century BC, this was the location of an ancient Egypt copper mine. The highlight here was seeing a full-size replica of the Tabernacle. The size was 150 x 75 feet. We saw the sacrificial altar the bronze laven, the Holy Chamber that included the Menorah, the Table of Showbread, and the Incense Altar. We then entered the Holy of Holies where we saw the replica of the Ark of the Covenant. We paused to celebrate God’s redemptive plan fulfilled by Jesus, our High Priest and Savior. We read from Hebrews 9 about Christ fulfilling the sacrifice “once and for all.”
From here we continued to drive north in the Aravah. Since we had a late check-in at our hotel, we made an extra stop at the Hai-Bar Yotvata Nature Reserve Safari. It is an Israel national park. It was fun to see man ostriches, the white oryx, the addax, and the Solami wild donkey. The ostriches came right up to the bus window.
After a brief stop at Yovata (a dairy-kibbutz known for its ice cream), we drove about an hour and a half to our hotel in Ein Bokek along the Dead Sea. While we waited for our rooms to get ready, many went down and floated in the Dead Sea. It was a remarkable and unique experience!
Following dinner, we retired for the evening.
DAY 8 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 5:
Today we traveled north all the way from the Dead Sea to the Sea of Galilee. On the way however, we enjoyed a number of sites that once again connected us to the Bible. The day would be another sunny one, with temps around 80.
Leaving at 8 a.m. following a hearty breakfast, we first drove to Masada. We read Psalm 18:1-2 on the way, celebrating God as our “fortress” (e.g. in Hebrew, metzada). Upon arriving at this palace-fortress of Herod built in the early 30s BC at the beginning of his reign (37-4 BC), we rode the cable car to the top. The peak of Masada stands about 1,000 feet higher than the valley below. On top we saw a number of things, including Herod’s southern palace, the Roman ramp, cisterns, catapult stones, the synagogue, the northern palace, and the Roman bath. Shlomo unfolded the story of Masada with passion, reflecting how the site is still significant to Israelis today! It was in 73 AD (after about 3 years of being seized by Silva and the Romans) that Masada fell. 967 Jews committed suicide here, with only a few women and children surviving. To end our tour of the site, most rode the cable car back down while about 15 in the group hiked down the Snake Path.
Continuing north along the coastline of the Dead Sea, Engedi was our next stop. Here we hiked back into Wadi David (a canyon). Gathering together, we read from Song of Songs 1, 2 Chronicles 20, and 1 Samuel 24. It was here where the David and Saul “cave encounter” took place. We also hiked back to see some of the water falls of in this desert oasis.
About 30 minutes north is Qumran, the home of where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found between 1947-1956. During the lunch hour, about 15 in the group hiked to Cave 1 where the first scrolls were accidentally discovered. After lunch we gathered together to see a video as well as the archaeological site itself. We saw many mikvot (plural for “ritual baths”), cisterns, and “Cave 4” – of the 12 caves where scroll texts were found. We read from psalm written by David (“Psalm 151”), from 2 Timothy 3, 2 Peter 1, and Psalms 19 and 119.
We ended the day at Tel es Sultan or Jericho. Climbing the “tel” (ancient mound), we first look east across the Jordan River and remembered the stories of Dt. 34, Joshua 1-2, 2 Judges 3, and 2 Kings 2, all about Jericho. We also looked about 2 miles south to “New Testament” Jericho where Zachaeus and Bartimaeus lived. This was also where King Herod died.
Finally, we remembered the story of Joshua 6 and the conquering of the city. Indeed the archaeological ruins of Jericho confirm the historicity of the Bible! We saw not only an old stone tower (that predates even Abraham by more than 1,000 years), but at the southern end we saw what still stands today as the two stone “retaining” walls of the city Joshua conquered. It was the mud brick walls on top of this stone wall that came tumblin’ down! Praise God for the truth of His Word!
Sea of Galilee
From here we drove nearly two hours north to our the Sea of Galilee area. Passing through Tiberias, we arrived at Nof Ginnosar about 7 p.m. After checking in, we enjoyed dinner together before retiring for the evening.
We will spend three nights here on the NW shoreline of the Sea of Galilee, the area of Jesus’ Galilean ministry!
DAY 9: MONDAY, NOVEMBER 6:
Today was the first of two days here in the north. It would be another wonderfully sunny day, with a bit cooler temps (as expected in the Golan Heights) in the 70s.
We left this morning at 7:30 a.m. We read from Matthew 4 about Jesus’ calling of the disciples. Our destination: the Golan Heights. Making our way from the NW corner to the SE corner of the Sea of Galilee, we included taking a small dirt road to the new excavations of El Araj. It is an archaeological site proposed as the possible location of Bethsaida. It was just excavated this past summer. While standing around this new site, we read from Mark 8 (the blind man) and John 6 (Feeding of the 5,000), two events that took place here. This possible new site of Bethsaida was also the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John 1).
From here, we ascended to the heights of the Golan to Gamla. On the way, we made a brief stop for a panoramic view of the entire northern area of the Sea of Galilee and beyond. Visibility was quite good today. Arriving at Gamla, we viewed this Jewish site from above. This was a Jewish city that was destroyed by the Romans in 66 AD. There is a 1st century synagogue here. Perhaps Jesus taught here (?). We read from Acts 5 about a certain “Judas the Galilean” who led the first revolt. We also saw a griffon vulture.
Close by is the Talmudic city of Katzrin. Here we saw the stone ruins of this city that dates from the 3rd-7th century AD. We sat in a reconstructed stone house that resembled what a house in Jesus’ day must have looked like. We read from Mark 2 and celebrated the forgiveness He offers to each of us. We also walked through the synagogue here.
Driving further north (and east), we arrived at the Syrian border. Shlomo shared with us about the 1967 and 1973 wars with Syria. It was interesting to look across the border at this war-torn country. The Syrian city of Kuneitra could be seen directly across the border.
Traveling westward and passing by Mt. Hermon (Israel’s highest mountain – 7,300 feet, Psalm 133), our next site was Caesarea Philippi. The Banias spring starts from here. This was a very pagan city during the days of Jesus. We read from Matthew 16 and 17. It was in this region where Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Among the grotto area, we saw the location where the temple of Augustus was, as well as the niches of Pan, and other gods (Zeus, Nemesis).
Our last site of the day was the nature preserve and archaeological site of Dan. Walking along the main tributary of the Jordan River was amazing. We stopped in the middle of our walk to listen to Shlomo play a Jewish song on the recorder. We also read form Psalm 42 and sang a song. Sitting on the steps of the high place, we read from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12 about the “pattern of disobedience” established here. It was here (and at Bethel) where Jeroboam set up a golden calf.
Nearby the high place, we looked into Lebanon while Shlomo shared the current geo-political situation with this country. We even saw three jackals down in the fields.
Leaving the site we saw a Middle Bronze/Canaanite mud-brick gate perhaps used by Abraham (Ge 14:14). We also saw the Iron Age/Israelite walls and gates of the city.
We drove back to the hotel for dinner and a group gathering on the shoreline of the lake. It was a nice time of worship and sharing.
DAY 10: TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 7:
Today was a day spent all around (and on) the Sea of Galilee. The brilliant sun provided warm temps in the 70s. We have been blessed with wonderful weather so far!
Leaving the hotel again around 7:30 (and reading Mt. 6 as we departed), our first destination was only 5 minutes away – the trailhead of Mt. Arbel. About 15 in the group enjoyed a hike up this cliff – an ascent of about 800 feet. The rest in the group bussed around to the other side and walked about 300 yards to the top. The view from on top was spectacular! We could look down and see much of the region of the Sea of Galilee, including the Mt. of Beatitudes and Capernaum on the NW corner of the lake.
Jordan River Baptism
Driving south to Yardenit, we enjoyed an optional renewal of our baptism in the Jordan River. Fourteen in the group entered the waters of the Jordan for this special time of reaffirming our faith in being followers of Christ. Pastors John and Phil officiated. We had the entire place to ourselves.
Driving back north through Tiberias (a city Jesus would not have entered), we entered the archaeological site of Magdala. This was the home of a certain “Mary Magdalene.” Here we saw a 1st century synagogue. No doubt Jesus must have taught from here. We also enjoyed a time of singing in the newly-built prayer chapel. The acoustics were wonderful!
After lunch (a nice St. Peter’s fish lunch), we saw the ancient boat (“Jesus Boat”). It was discovered in 1986 by two brothers from the Nof Ginnosar kibbutz. This wooden boat dates to the time of Jesus.
Driving to the NW shoreline of the lake, Capernaum (Kefar Nahum, the village of Nahum) was our next stop. This city was located right on the main route through this region, and because of this it served as Jesus’ “home base” for his Galilean ministry. Sitting in the 5th century synagogue, we read from Mark 1, 2 and 9; Luke 7; and John 6 … all stories that took place here. In addition to seeing stone structures (e.g. houses) from Jesus’ day, we enjoyed some reflection time on the shoreline. This was where Jesus most likely called Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew, the port-tax collector.
Mt. of Beatitudes
Up on the hillside nearby, we enjoyed listening to portions of the Beatitudes. This was shared by Jesus to probably 1000s of people. This “Sermon on the Mount” is found in Matthew 5-7. We listened to the Beatitudes shared first in Hebrew and then in English. Following a time of reflection once again, some in the group walked down the path to the road below.
We ended the day with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. As the sun was setting over the cliffs of Arbel, we enjoyed a time of worship, Scripture (Mark 4, Matthew 14), and quietness on the calm waters of the lake. It was a great way to end a great day of focusing on Jesus, the Master.
We returned to the hotel for dinner and an optional gathering down on the lake’s shoreline. We leave this place tomorrow morning.
DAY 11: WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 8:
This morning we left the Sea of Galilee area. After breakfast, we loaded up the bus and began our drive south through a few more of the regions of the Bible. The day would be another sunny one, with highs in the 70s. We read from John 1 as we left the hotel and were invited to “come and see” Jesus anew!
Driving through the Lower Galilee and driving through the outskirts of the city of Nazareth. Arriving at the precipice (an adjacent hilltop of the city), we walked to the edge and enjoyed our first full view of the Jezreel Valley below. From here we could see Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5), the Hill of Moreh (Judges 7), Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 31), and Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18). We read from Luke 4 about Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue of Nazareth. We quietly listened to The Lord’s Prayer before leaving.
Driving across the Jezreel Valley, we arrived at Megiddo, a large archaeological site on the SW side of the Jezreel Valley. The site has over 24 layers of ruins spanning about 2,500 years. Megiddo was strategically located on the main natural pass into the valley. It was so important that Thutmose III said, “…to capture Megiddo was to capture 1,000 cities…” After seeing a model of the city, we climbed the tel (ancient mound) and saw three gate structures, a storehouse/stable, a Canaanite altar, and even a grain silo. On top of the tel we read from Revelation 16. We celebrated the fact that God has all of redemptive history in His capable hands! We are on the winning side where God has the last word! We then exited the site by walking down into the amazing water system (180 steps down, 80 up). It was quite impressive to see.
We drove to Mt. Carmel where we had lunch. Nearby we visited Muhraqa, a place remembering the story of Elijah. We read from 1 Kings 18 about God’s amazing intervention in his time of crisis. It was against all odds that Elijah defeated the 450 prophets of Baal. From the top of the chapel we gained yet another view of the Jezreel Valley below. We also enjoyed singing together in the chapel.
Our last stop of the day was Caesarea. Located along the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea, this was a city built by Herod the Great in 22 BC. In the reconstructed theater we read from Acts 10 (Peter) and Acts 26 (Paul). Philip the evangelist lived here (Acts 21). Walking from the theater, we saw the hippodrome, the harbor area, statutes, and many mosaics among other things. Upon leaving, we made a brief stop at the Herodian aqueduct that brought water into the city from the Mt. Carmel range. The sunset was spectacular over the Med Sea!
From here we drove about 2 hours to Jerusalem. Arriving at our hotel, we enjoyed dinner followed by an optional walk to the Western Wall. We are thrilled to be in this capital city of Israel for 3 full days!
DAY 12: THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 9:
Today was our first day in Jerusalem and it was a good one. The weather was a bit cooler but with very enjoyable partly sunny skies. Temps were in the low 70s.
City of David
Leaving the hotel around 7:30, we drove directly to the City of David excavations. First, we enjoyed a view and briefing of the area from an observation tower. Looking east we saw the Mt. Of Olives. Looking north was the Temple Mount (the location of the 1st and 2nd temples). Looking south we saw the ancient site of Jerusalem as described by the Bible.
Following a short video, we walked down through the excavations. We saw David’s palace (2 Samuel 5) and other stone structures from Hezekiah and Nehemiah’s time. Continuing south, we descended through Warren’s Shaft (proposed back in the last 70s/early 80s as the “water shaft” through which Joab climbed up in oder to defeat and conquer the Jebusites (2 Sam. 5). Finally we arrived at the new excavations that revealed the water system of the Canaanites. The Gihon Spring here was protected by a massive stone tower.
At the Gihon Spring (where Solomon was initiated as king, I Kings 1) some walked through the Hezekiah’s Tunnel (2 Kings 19-20, 2 Chronicles 32) while others walked through the older Canaanite tunnel. Hezekiah’s Tunnel is 1,720 feet long and was chiseled through the rock in order to bring water to the inside part of the city. Both groups gathered at the Pool of Siloam where we read from John 9 in dramatic fashion.
Southern Wall Excavations
Our last stop of the morning was the south wall excavations of the Temple. Some in the group walked through the drainage channel to get there, while others bussed there. Gathering together again there, we saw the Herodian pavement (used by Jesus) and there SW corner of the Temple (the pinnacle?). We also walked up the steps of the southern steps of the Temple as well. We recalled the many stories related to the Temple (Luke 2; Mark 12, 13; John 10; Acts 3 and 5). We also considered that we are to be living stones (I Peter 2) connected to Jesus, the Living Stone!
Leaving the Old City through the Dung Gate, we drove to the Israel Museum. After having lunch there, we saw three things here: (1). A 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem. We could see many of the places where Jesus ministered here and around the Temple courts. (2). The Shrine of the Book. Here we saw a few fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered at Qumran. (3). Highlights from the archaeological wing of the museum. Here we saw many artifacts related to the Bible (e.g. the Dan & Pilate inscriptions, Asherah figurines, ancient weaponry, the “to the place of trumpeting” inscription, and Herod’s sarcophagus, to name a few).
Our last stop was to Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum & Memorial. The name is taken from Isaiah 56:5. Shlomo shared about his family (he lost 12 family members in Poland due to the Holocaust). We then walked through the Children’s Memorial before taking time on our own inside the museum itself. It was an emotionally-moving experience.
Driving back to the hotel around 6, we enjoyed dinner, followed by an optional walk to Ben Yehuda for a taste of “modern Israeli life” and some shopping.
DAY 13: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 10:
Today was our second day in Jerusalem. On yet another (but cooler) day, the sun greeted us! We have been blessed with perfect weather and temps!
Western Wall Tunnel
We left this morning at 7:15, in time to make our reservation at the Western Wall Tunnel. We read John 2 and Mark 13 along the way. Arriving shortly after, we spent some time at the Wall. Many of the ultra-Orthodox were praying under their tallies (prayer shawls). At 8, we embarked on a fascinating walk that took us north along this western retaining wall of the Temple Mount. We saw massive stones, one (the Master Course) weighing hundreds of tons! Indeed, these Herodian stones are impressive (see Mark 13:1-2).
Moshe @ Shorashim
Walking up to the Jewish Quarter, we visited Shorashim (“roots” in Hebrew). Here, an Orthodox friend named Moshe shared about his Jewish thought and practice. It was very interesting to hear him respond to a few questions in regard to our Christian view of faith. This biblical shop was also a great place to purchase jewelry (as well as other items) that has a connection with the Bible.
Next, we visited the Temple Institute. Located close by, we learned about how this Jewish organization is preparing to build the Third Temple. All the temple furnishings are prepared already. Following the completion of this tour, we enjoyed lunch on our own here in the Jewish Quarter.
Following lunch here in the Jewish Quarter and some free time for shopping and “people-watching,” we walked together out of the Old City through Zion’s Gate. Upon boarding the bus, we drove south and east of the Jerusalem about 8-9 miles to Herodium. This was where Herod the Great himself was buried (he died in Jericho in 4 BC). Following a brief explanation at the site, we hiked up this “artificial mound” to the top. The view from the top allowed us to see many things: To the east – the Judea Desert & the Dead Sea; to the west – Bethlehem (just a few miles away); to the north – the Mt. of Olives; and to the south – Tekoa, the hometown of Amos the prophet. Among the archaeological ruins we saw the synagogue, the bathhouse, and a quick peak at the royal arches (not yet open to the public). We read Psalm 63 and Isaiah 40, passages that have the Judea Desert as its context. We left the site by descending down into the cistern system, used primarily by the Bar Kochba Jews in the 2nd century AD.
Shepherds’ Fields & Bethlehem
A few miles to the west are the Shepherds’ Fields. Walking down into a cave, we read from Luke 2 about the birth of Jesus. We celebrated with a few Christmas carols God’s redemptive history being fulfilled with Jesus’ birth! Jesus came “just at the right time…” – Gal. 4:4). We also enjoyed some singing in the Shepherds’ Chapel. What great acoustics! Driving into Bethlehem, we ended the day by going to an olive wood shop and store. On the way back to the hotel, we made a very nice surprise visit to Shlomo’s community. The view of the lights of Jerusalem was spectacular!
We returned to our hotel for dinner and a free evening. We have one more day to go here in Jerusalem!
DAY 14: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 11:
Today was our last day here in Jerusalem. What a blessing to have a set of fully sunny days these last two weeks! Today’s sun boosted the temps to the low 70s. Perfect once again!
Mt. Of Olives
We started off at 7:30 p.m. once again. Reading Psalm 137 as we departed the hotel, our first destination was the Mt. of Olives. The view from the top was stunning, enabling us to see the entire Old City of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, and beyond!
After a review of things we could see from the top, we began our walk down the western slope of the Mt. of Olives. Our first stop was at a chapel called Dominus Flavet. This area preserves where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Here we read from Luke 19 about the Palm Sunday event as well as Jesus’ prediction of Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD. The closed Eastern Gate came into view (Ezekiel 44).
A little further down the slope we enjoyed a time of reflection in the Garden of Gethsemane (which means “a place for pressing oil”). In this special garden of the Church of All Nations, we were greeted by Brother Diego. We read from Luke 22, listened to a song, and then spent some intentional time of silent reflection. Jesus took the weight of the sins of the world upon Himself as He poured out His love for us!
From here we walked into the Old City through the St. Stephen’s/Lion’s/Jericho gate. Right inside the gate we stopped at the Pools of Bethesda and St. Anne’s Church (a Crusader church from the 12th century AD). Singing in the church was special with the eight-second echo. We read from John 5 at
Bethesda & St. Anne’s Church
From here we walked on the traditional Via Dolorosa (“way of the cross,” although it probably went the complete opposite direction). This took us to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It dates to 325 AD. It preserves the most likely place for both the crucifixion and burial site of Jesus. Although it was very crowded, most in the group went inside. Nearby we enjoyed lunch in the Christian Quarter.
Our walk after lunch through the Muslim Quarter was, let’s say, quite the adventure. It was jammed packed with people coming and going in both directions. After a few precarious moments of not being able to do anything other than go with the flow of the crowd, we made it out the Damascus Gate and to the Garden Tomb. This location preserves an alternative site for the for the place of crucifixion and burial of Jesus. We really enjoyed a time of not only seeing the suggested tomb, but also a time of worship and Communion.
In the late afternoon, some got dropped off at the Jaffa Gate (for some extra exploring and shopping) while others went back to the hotel. Gathering for our “last supper” together, we enjoyed sharing various stories and tour highlights among each other. While the tour came to an end, we will cherish life transformational experiences on this trip.
A number in the group were driven to the Ben Gurion Airport for their night-flight home while the rest of the group fly home early tomorrow morning.
DAY 15: SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 12:
The group took two different flights home – one last night and the other early this morning. Praise be to God for a great and meaningful trip!