Biblical Israel Tour Experiences for our 11 Day Israel Trip (with a 4 Day Egypt option)
February 17-27, 2020
(The trip is now updated through Sunday, Day 7 – February 23)
Group Drone Video:
DAYS 1 & 2 – MONDAY/TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 17-18: DEPART U.S., ARRIVE IN ISRAEL
The trip for 47 of us started today! God brought together people from all over the country for this Israel study tour. This includes a number of pastors and their spouses. The group was booked on a few different flights, with almost everyone arriving at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. The majority in the group were greeted by Shlomo, our guide, and David, our driver. With the last group arriving from NY, the luggage was loaded on the bus to begin the drive to our hotel in Netanya. Dinner was enjoyed by all!
For the 16 who flew through from London, only 5 made the Tel Aviv flight, with 11 others (including Dr. John) missing this connection. With us being re-booked on the 9 p.m. flight, this allowed us to take the train and explore the city of London on our own (including the British Museum. Some of the items seen on display include the Rosetta Stone, statues of Ramses II and Thutmoses III, the Lashish Sieg Relief from Ninevah, statues of Alexandria the Great, some of the pediment from the Parthenon in Athens, Nebuchadnesser’s lion from Babylon, and the black obelisk of Shalmaneser II, and much more). Though needing sleep, the 11 are scheduled to arrive in Tel Aviv tomorrow morning at 4 a.m.
Despite the challenges of long flights and miss connections, we know that God is watching over us. We all are looking forward to a great trip together here in the land of the Bible.
DAY 3 – WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 19: CAESAREA, CARMEL, MEGIDDO, PRECIPICE OF NAZARETH, TIBERIAS
Today was our first full day here in Israel. The sun greeted us in the morning and at sunset, with some clouds and a few showers in between. Also, the 11 on the delayed flight from London arrived to the hotel at 6:05 a.m. We squeezed in a quick shower and breakfast before departing.
Leaving the hotel around 7:45, we drove north in the Sharon Plain to Caesarea Maritima. This was a city located along the Mediterranean Sea. It was built by Herod the Great in 22 BC. It took 12 years to complete. Sitting in the reconstructed theater, we read from Acts 10, 12, and 26 about the bold ministry and testimonies of Peter and Paul. Paul spent two years here before sailing to Rome from the massive harbor. Philip was also here (Acts 21). Among the other ruins we saw the palace, the hippodrome, mosaics, statues, and the Crusader city. Before leaving the site, we saw the aqueduct as well.
From here we drove the Carmel Range. We first enjoyed lunch at a Druze restaurant. Following this falafel meal, we drove to the top of this mountain range called Muhraqa. The elevation is about 1,500 feet above sea level. This is a Carmelite chapel built a few hundred years ago on the highest peak of the Carmel. We read from Song of Songs 7, Isaiah 33 and 35, and 1 Kings 18. This last passage records the bold confrontation of Elijah upon the 450 prophets of Baal. In the chapel we sang a few songs as well, celebrating the awesomeness of God! The view of the Jezreel Valley from the rooftop of the chapel was fairly good despite the cloud cover and showers.
Descending down off the upper slopes of Carmel, we came to Megiddo. This was a late Canaanite and late Israelite city guarding the primary pass (e.g. entrance) into the wider Jezreel Valley. Climbing the tel (e.g. ancient mound), we saw three series of gates, fortification walls, a stable, remnants of the palace, a sacrificial altar, a grain silo, and the water system. Unfortunately, this interesting water system was still closed form the heavy rains of January. The biblical connections we made as Joshua 12 (Megiddo was one of the 31 cities destroyed by Joshua). Solomon also re-fortified the city (1 Kings 9). King Josiah also gets critically injured here by Pharaoh Necho of Eypt (2 Chr. 34).
Precipice of Nazareth
Our last visit took us to the top of the Precipice of Nazareth. The sun broke through as we walked to the top. The view of Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5), the Hill of Moreh Judges 6-7), Mt. Gilboa 1 Samuel 31) was fairly clear. Considering the life and ministry of Jesus, we read from Luke 4. We celebrated the uniqueness of Jesus’ ministry as we heeded Philip’s own words of challenge, “Come and see” (John 1). It was a meaningful time of reflection together!
We drove through modern-day Cana to get to our hotel in Tiberias. We enjoyed a great dinner followed by a free evening. We hope everyone will rest well tonight!
DAY 4 – THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20: GAMLA, QATZRIN, SYRIAN BORDER, CAESAREA PHILIPPI, DAN
Today was our second full day here in Israel. We were visibly challenged by the morning fog but the sun peaked out towards late morning, providing a delightful day with temps in the 60s.
Following a full breakfast, we departed from our hotel at 7:30. We read about Jesus calling His first four disciples from Mathew 4 as we started out. We drove around the northern end of the lake and past the site of Bethsaida (Mark 9, John 6 – Feeding of the 5,000). From here we climbed to Golan Heights to an ancient Jewish city called Gamla. This was where there first major battle in the 1st Revolt took place between the Jews and the Romans in 66 AD. The fog didn’t allow us to look down to the site (the picture in the gallery is from another trip). While Gamla is not mentioned in the Bible, some suggest Jesus would have taught from the 1st century synagogue found here in the 1980s.
From here we drove to an ancient Talmudic village called Katzrin (Qatzrin). The ruins at this site date from the 3rd-7th centuries AD. Sitting and standing crowded in a reconstructed stone house, we listened to the story of Mark 2. While this event in Jesus’ life took place in Capernaum, we could picture the story unfolding. Jesus not only healed this paralytic lowered down through the roof by his four friends, but his sins were also forgiven. Jesus displayed His s’mekah (authority) here! Before leaving the site we also saw the Talmudic synagogue as well.
Driving to the northeast, we made a brief stop overlooking the border with Syria. Shlomo shared with us some modern history, including details about the 1967 and 1973 wars. We looked across to the Syrian city of Kuneitra.
We past by Mt. Hermon (Psalm 133) on our way down the slopes of the Golan Heights to the Sa’ar Falls. With the winter rains the falls were filled with lots of water! It was beautiful to see. Some in the group also enjoyed some saclav (a hot Druze drink) and some corn-on-the-cobb.
We continued from here to Caesarea Philippi. This is where one of the three tributaries of the Jordan River begin. This spring, called the Banias, was flowing with an abundance of water. We read from Matthew 16 here. It was somewhere in the region of this city where Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” We visited the grotto area of the city, see where the Temple and/or shrines of Augustus, Zeus, Nemesis, and Pan once stood.
Close by is the nature preserve and archaeological site of Tel Dan. We first walked along the Dan Spring (another tributary of the Jordan). Shlomo played a song on his recorder. We also read from (and sang) Psalm 42. We continued our walk to the archeological site. Sitting on the steps of the high place we read from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12 about the pattern of disobedience that took place here. We also saw a mud-brick gate from the Middle Bronze period (a gate used by Abraham? See Gen. 14:14) and the Israelite ruins.
Our last stop of the day was to Misgav Am. Here we enjoyed an incredible view of Lebanon. The border was right in front of us! Shlomo shared the past history of the two Lebanese wars with Israel and the current situation.
We returned to Tiberias after about an hour drive south. We drove through the Huleh Valley. Upon arriving at our hotel, we enjoyed dinner and fellowship together.
DAY 5 – FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 21: ARBEL, YARDENIT, MAGDALA, KINNERET CEMETERY, CAPERNAUM, MT. OF BEATITUDES, ANCIENT BOAT/BOAT RID
Today was a sunny day, with highs near 70. Clouds rolled in this afternoon. It spent the entire day around the Sea of Galilee. It was a day of focusing upon the life and ministry of Jesus.
We departed from our hotel this morning at 7:20. We read from Matthew 13 on our way to the cliffs of Arbel. 20 in the group hiked up the trail, while others bussed around to the western side and walked to the top of this 800 foot cliff. While Arbel isn’t specifically mentioned in the Gospels, some suggest that this mountain may be the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt. 17) while others suggest it was there high mountain where Jesus met His disciples after the resurrection (Mt. 28).
Driving to the southern end of the lake from here, 12 reaffirmed their faith as a disciple of Christ in the chilly waters of the Jordan River. The place of baptism here is called Yardenit. It was a special time for all.
Nearby is one of there oldest Jewish cemeteries in the Galilee. It is called the Kinneret Cemetery. Many early Jewish pioneers to the land of Israel are buried here. This includes an Ukrainian Jewish woman named Rachel Bluwstein. She died at the age of 41 in 1931. She is known today for her poems. She now appears on the new 20 shekel bill. Her, Shlomo also shared a little about kibbutz life.
Following a wonderful St. Peter’s fish lunch, we visited Magdala. This was the city where Mary Magdalene was from (see Luke 8:2). A relatively new discovery was a 1st century synagogue. This is only one of about seven synagogues found that date to the time of Jesus. Jesus sailed into the port of Magdala following the Feeding of the 4,000 (Mt. 15). He no doubt taught about the kingdom here was well! We also saw a few ritual baths (mikveh) here. These are unique in all of Israel in that they were fed by a water pipe from the lake.
Next, we drove to the NW corner of the lake to Capernaum (Kefar Nahum). This city served as Jesus’ home-base for His Galilean ministry. Within the 5th century synagogue (built no doubt over the 1st century one), we read from Mark 1, 2 and 9; Luke 7; and John 6. Once again, Jesus displayed His s’mekah (authority) here through His teaching and healing miracles. We also saw what is left of a 5th century Byzantine church built traditionally around the supposed house of Peter.
Mt. of Beatitudes
Located on the hillside above Capernaum is the traditional site of the Mt. of Beatitudes. However, we listened to the reading of Matthew 5 in both Hebrew and English from below the hill near the water’s edge. Some suggest that the natural theater setting would certainly make this a possible location where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount to thousands! The kingdom message of Jesus was His go-to message shared everywhere (see Luke 6). Jesus was inviting people to allow the reign & rule of God to transform them. Jesus invites us today to submit to His reign and rule so that we can be the salt of the earth and light of the world.
Ancient Boat / Boat Ride
We ended the day at Nof Ginnosar where in 1986 a 1st century small wooden fishing boat was found. We also sailed from here on the waters of the Sea of Galilee to Tiberias. We read from Mark 4 and Mathew 14, the two storm narratives. We also shared in a brief time of worship together.
Landing in Tiberias, David picked us up and drove us to our hotel for dinner. It was a great day walking in the footsteps of Jesus!
DAY 6 – SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 22: BETH SHEAN, QUMRAN, EIN GEDI, DEAD SE
Today we left the Sea of Galilee region and drove southward. We read from portions of Matthew 5-7 as we started the day. Our final destination was the Dead Sea. It rained overnight, but there were only a few lingering showers in the morning. The afternoon was sunny, with highs around 70.
We left at 7:30 this morning and drove to Beth Shean. Located about 20 miles south of the Southern end of the Sea of Galilee, this was once an Old Testament city as well as an impressive Roman one. We saw many things here, including a Roman bathhouse, a colonnaded street, the agora/forum, mosaics, many pillars, public latrenes, and an intact theater. Some in the group climbed the OT site for a view of the Roman city below. We read from I Samuel 31 (Saul and his three sons). Seeing the pillars standing firm, we also remembered what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15.
We drove down through the Jordan Valley past Jericho to the northern end of the Dead Sea. Located on the NE corner of the sea is Qumran. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered here in 1947. After eating lunch here, we visited the archaeological site. We saw a number of miqvot (ritual baths), cisterns, and the area of the scriptorium. Scrolls have been found in 12 caves so far. Standing in front of Cave 4 & 10 (and where 5 used to be), we read from Psalm 151, and extra psalm of David found here. We rejoiced in the amazing preservation of God’s Word here and the joy and guidance the Scriptures offers us.
Our last stop of the day was Engedi. This is an oasis here on the edge of the Judean Desert, with water that flows all year around. Walking up through the Wadi David, we stopped to read 1 Samuel 24. David hid from King Saul here. We then hiked back to the last (and tallest) waterfalls. It was incredibly beautiful!
Ein Bokek/Dead Sea
Continuing south to the southern end of the Dead Sea, we checked into our very nice hotel (David’s) in Ein Bokek. Most in the group changed up into swimming suits for the unique experience of floating in this unique water (33% salt & mineral). We then enjoyed dinner at the hotel.
DAY 7 – SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 23: MASADA , JERICHO, WADI QELT, SHILOH, JERUSALE
Today was a sunny and warmer day, with highs in the low 70s. We drove from the south end of the Dead Sea to Jerusalem, with great sites along the way!
We left our hotel at 7:30 once again. Driving about 15 minutes and reading Psalm 18:1-2 along the way, we arrived at Masada (Metzada – “fortress”). We took the cable care up to the top of this palace-fortress built by King Herod in the 30s BC. We saw the western palace, the Roman ramp, the casemate wall, the synagogue, the northern palace, and the bathhouse. Shlomo shared the story of the 967 Jews who used this location as a refuge against the Romans following the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. They were here nearly three years before they took their own lives. Most took the cable car back down, while about a dozen walked down the Snake Path.
We drove northward along the western shoreline of the Dead Sea. We learned about the recent tectonic research that took place last month in some of the gullies that reveal earthquake activity as well as the sea level during various periods of Biblical history. After arriving at Jericho, we enjoyed a quick a quick lunch prior to climbing the site of Jericho (Tel es-Sultan).
Looking eastward from the top of the site, we could see Mt. Nebo (Dt. 34), and the area of Bethany Beyond the Jordan (where Jesus was baptized, John 1). Looking west, we could see the edge of the desert where Jesus was tempted. Archaeologically, we saw a large stone tower (perhaps a tomb or memorial?). The date of this structure predates even Abraham by a few thousand years.
At the southern end of the site we could see what still stands of the retaining walls of ancient Jericho. These date to the time of Joshua. A mud brick wall once stood on top of this stone wall. It’s the mud brick wall that came tumbling down (Joshua 6). Praise God for the accuracy and historicity of His Word!
Judean Desert – Wadi Qelt & Desert of Parath
Driving westward and beginning our ascent toward Jerusalem, we made a brief stop overlooking the Wadi Qelt. Here we heard the words of Isaiah 40 and Psalm 23. The desert was green with life due to the winter rains. John the Baptist would proclaim the same words of Isaiah here. Continuing from here we turn north to go down to the Parath Desert. We read from Jeremiah 13 as we enjoyed the windy road.
The road eventually took us further north past Mishmash (1 Samuel 13-14), Bethel (Genesis 12, 28), Ai (Joshua 7-8). The city of Shiloh was our final stop today. We climbed the site and looked at the ancient ruins. The almond buds were in full bloom and were so beautiful! The Tabernacle once stood here (from about 1400 to about 1060 BC). We read from 1 Samuel 3 (about the call of Samuel), and Jeremiah 7 that references Shiloh). As Samuel did, we were encouraged to pray, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” We also saw a movie before leaving the site.
Jerusalem would be our final destination and home for the next three days. The drive took about 50 minutes. We checked into our hotel and enjoyed dinner together. Following eating together, many in the group enjoyed a walk to the Western Wall. We are looking forward to being here in Israel’s capital city!
DAY 8 – MONDAY, FEBRUARY 24: MT. OF OLIVES, GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE, POOL OF BETHESDA, ISRAEL MUSEUM, BETHLEHEM
Located in the southern region of Israel is the Zin Desert. Numbers 13 tells us that the 12 spies came up through this area. Numbers 20 also reminds us that somewhere in the Zin is where Moses struck the rock. Despite this being an very dry region, water still flows here because of the unique springs located here.
On this trip we will hike in the Zin and enjoy the beauty of this canyon!