Biblical Israel Tour Experiences from January, 2011
Monday & Tuesday, January 10th & 11th (Day 1 & 2)
We meet in Newark, NJ for our oversees flight directly into Tel Aviv for our Israel Tour. The flight was smooth and on time, arriving us into Israel at 9:30 a.m. Upon leaving the airport at 10:30, we we greeted by Shlomo, our Israeli guide, and Azam, our driver.
We took advantage of the half-day we had by stopping first at Joppa. Here, we heard the stories about Jonah and Peter (Acts 10). We enjoyed our first “falafel” sandwich for lunch at a small quant restaurant right in Joppa. Next, we drove north to Caesarea. Here, we sat in the theater and listened to readings about Peter, Herod Agrippa, Philip, and Paul (Acts, 9, 10, 26). We walked along the shores of the Med Sea by the hippodrome. We left the site by means of the Crusader gate. We all enjoyed the sunset by Caesarea’s aqueduct along the shoreline.
We drove further north to our first night’s hotel in Haifa. We enjoyed dinner, a meeting, an an optional walk. A great start to the trip!
Wednesday, January 12th (Day 3)
The morning started with a visit to Mt. Carmel. I Kings 18 was read as we enjoyed the view of the Jezreel Valley below. Next was the impressive archaeological site of Megiddo. We read Rev. 16 and referenced “Armageddon.” Here we also saw ruins from the early Canaanite period through the time of Solomon and Jeroboam. Everyone enjoyed walking down through the water system. We ate lunch here too.
Our first stop of the afternoon was Nazareth. Luke 1 & 4 were read as we overlooked the Jezreel Valley and the the main section of the city of Nazareth from the “precipice.” From here we traveled through Cana to Arbel, the most impressive overview of the Sea of Galilee. The visibility was good, allowing us to see the snow-capped mountain of Mt. Hermon to the north on the border of Israel/Lebanon. Matthew 13 was read here. A quiet time for reflection was also enjoyed as we gazed down below to the main area of Jesus’ ministry. Out last stop of the day was to the Kinneret Cemetery. Here, Shlomo shared about the life of an early 20th century pioneer/poet named “Rachel.”
We arrived at Nof Ginnosar, a kibbutz on the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee in time for dinner. Following dinner, we enjoyed a group time out by the shores of Galilee. We thank God for the sun and pleasant temps once again today (about 60-65).
Thursday, January 13th (Day 4)
The morning began by visiting the museum at Nof Ginnosar. Here we saw the 1st Century boat that was found in the mud of the banks of the Sea of Galilee. From here we visited three sites along the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee: Capernaum, Tabgha (i.e. feeding of the 5,000), and the Mt. of Beatitudes. We read from numerous passages pertaining to these sites: Mark 1 & 2, Luke 5, John 6, and Matthew 5. By late morning we traveled north to the Golan Heights, having lunch by one of the tributaries of the Jordan River.
Nearby is the site of Caesarea Philippi. This is where Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am? “(Matthew 16). We returned to the Sea of Galilee area for a boat ride. It was windy but sunny & mild (60’s again). We read the ‘storm narratives’ from Mark. To end the day, 5 were baptized in the Jordan at Yardenet. Although the water was “chilly,” it still was a special time of re-affirming faith in Christ.
We returned to our hotel at Nof Ginnosar for dinner and a relaxing evening. Tomorrow we head towards Jerusalem.
Friday, January 14th (Day 5)
We said goodbye to the Sea of Galilee as we left the Galilee and traveled south through the Jordan Valley. Our first stop on this sunny and mild day was Beth Shean. Here, Saul’s body was hung on its walls after his death (I Sam 31). The site is also an impressed Roman city, with impressive ruins (theater, Roman baths, street, and pillars. From here we traveled another 50 miles south to Jericho. Here we saw a portion of the walls mentioned in Joshua 6. Pastor John talked about the role of archaeology within the context of the historicity of the Bible.
Finally, we “ascended” to Jerusalem. We traveled to the south side of the city to Bethlehem. We visited the Church of Nativity. We stood in line to see the “traditional” location for the birth of Christ. We sang Christmas carols in one of the caves in the Shepherds’ Fields. We also enjoyed shopping at an olive wood shop.
We arrived at the Grand Court, our hotel for the next 5 nights. We enjoyed dinner and an optional “orientation” walk through the Old City to the Western Wall. On our way back, we saw our first rain showers of the trip.
Saturday, January 15th (Day 6)
Starting at 7:30 this morning, we drove down to the Dead Sea area through the Judean Desert. Our first stop was Engedi. We enjoyed seeing dozens of ibex and coney. 2 ibex even climbed a tree in search of tasty leaves to eat from the acacia trees. We walked back to the 2nd falls where I Samuel 24 was read about David and Saul. Next, we continued driving south along the Dead Sea to Masada, an impressive rock-fortress. A cable car took us to the top. We learned about the Jewish history that took place here in 70-73 AD. We saw palaces, the Roman ramp among the ruins. 4 walked down the snake path.
In the afternoon we drove back north to Qumran. After eating lunch, we visited the site of Qumran. Here, the Dead Sea Scrolls were written. From here, a 10 minute drive took us to the Dead Sea for the “float” Almost all experienced the uniqueness of the 30% salt/mineral content of the water. Our last stop of the day was to a wonderful overlook of the Judean Wilderness at a place called Wadi Qelt. Here, Psalm 23 and Isaiah 40 were read.
We arrived back at our hotel for dinner and an optional walk to Ben Yehuda Street, experiencing some of the more modern Israeli life.
Sunday, January 16th (Day 7)
We departed the hotel this morning for the Mt. of Olives. The view of the Temple Mount and the Old City is spectacular from here. We walked down the “Palm Sunday” route down to the Garden of Gethsemane. Next, we entered the Old City by the Dung Gate and ascended to the Temple Mount. Here we saw the Dome of the Rock (built in 691 AD) and the inside of the Eastern Gate. We left the Temple Mount and visited the Pools of Bethesda. We enjoyed singing with the 10+ second “echo” in St. Anne’s Church. Following this visit, we re-entered the Old City and visited the “Southern Wall” excavations. We sat on the southern steps of the Temple and talked about the many events of the life and ministry of Jesus that took place in and around the Temple. It was most likely here that Peter preached his sermon in Acts 2 during the Day of Pentecost (Shavuot).
We ate lunch at the Jerusalem theater. From here we made two more stops: The Israel Museum (seeing a 1:40 model of the 1st Century Jerusalem, and the Scroll of the Book where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed) and Yad Veshem (the Holocaust Memorial). Shlomo shared his personal story of his family in Poland, many of them perishing at the hands of the Nazis during WWII.
We drove back to the hotel for dinner and an optional walk from from the Mt. of Olives (we took a taxi up to the top). The view of the Old City at night was special. Another great day, again with cool temps but no rain (as predicted).
Monday, January 17th (Day 8)
The day began by entering the Old City. We visited the Western wall tunnel where we walked parallel to the Wailing Wall for 400 yards. We exited the tunnel where the Via Dolorosa begins. We walked this “way of the cross” to the Holy Sepulcher, one of the possible sites for the crucifixion and tomb of Christ. From here we entered the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. We visited a store called “Shoreshim” where we listened to Moshe share about his Jewish faith. We also ate lunch here in the vicinity.
After lunch, we visited the Western Wall. We then changed into shorts and water shoes for our visit of the City of David excavations and Hezekiah’s Tunnel. II Samuel 5 and II Kings 20/II Chronicles 32 were mentioned about David’s conquering of the city as well as Hezekiah building the water tunnel. 8 of us walked through this 1,702 foot tunnel still flowing with water from the Gihon Spring. We ended the day with a Communion Service at the Garden Tomb. We returned to the hotel for dinner.
Tuesday, January 18th (Day 9)
Our free day was enjoyed by everyone. Leaving the hotel at 8:15, we walked as a group into the Old City. From the center of the Christian Quarter, most of us visited Mt. Zion (Upper Room and Oscar Schindler’s tomb). We entered back into the city and walked the “rampart walls” of the Old city from Jaffa Gate to Herod’s Gate. We then walked back to the Jewish Quarter for lunch.
Following lunch, most took the 190 steps up the Lutheran Church for a great view in all directions. The rest of the afternoon was enjoyed by visiting other places (Kidron Valley), and shopping. Returning to the hotel, we enjoyed a nice farewell dinner together. 6 in the group fly home tonight, while 8 of us stay one more night in preparation of the extension tour to the Red Sea, Petra, and southern Israel.
Wednesday, January 19th (Day 10)
This morning 8 of us said goodbye to Jerusalem as we drove east then south along the Dead Sea once again. Our first stop was Arad , slightly south and west from Masada. Located in the Negev, Arad is an impressive site to see. We visited both the upper city (Israelite) and lower city (early Canaanite). From here we continued south. We stopped at the Yotvata, a dairy kibbutz, for lunch and ice cream.
Following lunch we continued to Timnah. The site marks an ancient Egyptian copper mine. Here we were also blessed to see a full-size replica of the Tabernacle, with a wonderful tour by a Messianic Jew. We also climbed the impressive rock structures named “Solomon’s Pillars.” We made our final drive of 15 miles to Elat on the Red Sea. We arrived just in time for sunset.
Together, we enjoyed dinner and a walk around Elat. We’re all looking forward to crossing into Jordan and seeing Petra tomorrow.
Thursday, January 20th (Day 11)
What a great day! Under another brilliantly-sunny day, we departed for the Jordanian border, crossing in about an hour. We met our Jordanian guide, Naj, and traveled the two hours to Petra. We spend 5.5 hours at Petra. We walked the “Siq,” (canyon), and saw the famous “Treasury Building,” theater, Run Tomb, and Roman Street. We met Pastor John’s Bedouin friends as well. Even a few hiked the back way up to the high place.
We left Petra at 4:30, arriving at the Araba border at 6:30. Crossing back into Israel, we arrived at our hotel for dinner.
Friday, January 21st (Day 12)
This last day began at 8 a.m., leaving the hotel in Elat. We headed north through Israel’s “Grand Canyon,” the Machtesh Ramon. Next we stopped near Avdat to see Ben Gurion’s tomb (he was Israel’s first Prime Minister in 1949) and the Wilderness of Zin. From here we went to Beersheba, seeing the well, Solomonic gate, 4-room Israelite houses, and the cisterns.
Following a snack lunch at a local gas station, we visited a few cities in Judah’s Lowlands (or “Shephelah”). They included Lachish (2 Kings 18, Jeremiah 3:7), Azekah (and the Elah Valley – the story of David vs. Goliath in 1 Samuel 17), and Beth Shemesh (1 Samuel 6).
We drove to Jaffa for a great dinner at Abu Nasser’s, an Arab restaurant. From here we drove to the Ben Gurion Airport. We are presently awaiting departure. What a great last day with again sunny and mild temps! Other than a few sprinkles on a day or two, we had great weather!
Saturday, January 22nd (Day 13)
We arrive back in the States in the morning.