Biblical Israel Tour Experiences from July, 2010
Wednesday/Thursday, July 14 & 15 (Day 1 & 2)
33 of us met at the Atlanta Airport for our night-flight to Tel Aviv for our Christian Israel Tour. Everyone made it on time. Once again, God has brought together a great group from all over the country. We arrived in Tel Aviv at 5 p.m.. We were greeted by our guide, Shlomo. On the way to our hotel in Tel Aviv, we made a quick stop in Joppa (Jaffa). Acts 9 and 10 were read. We enjoyed dinner at the hotel, followed by an orientation meeting and an optional walk out in the “night life” of the beach area. We are all ready for our first full day tomorrow.
Friday, July 16 (Day 3)
This first full day began early with many waking up early to take advantage of swimming in the Med sea. The temperatures were perfect (water was about 80), with a mild sunny start to the day. Following breakfast, we had a morning filled with sites in the “Shephelah” (Lowlands) of Judah. First it was Beth Shemesh where I Samuel 6 was read about the return of the Ark of the Covenant from the Philistines. Next, we climbed Tel Azekah where David fought Goliath from nearby Gath in the Elah Valley (I Samuel 17). Next was Maresha (or later called Beit Guvrin), the home town of Micah, the Prophet. We visited the Bell Cave. Next further south was Lachish, a Judean city conquered by both the Assyrians and Babylonians.
Following lunch, we visited Tel Beersheba. Here, we recalled the “oath” that Abraham (and later Jacob) concerning the well. This round-street city was impressive. Our last stop was at the tomb of Ben Gurion (the father of the State of Israel) at the edge of the Wilderness of Zin in the southern Negev.
We arrived at our unique home for one night, the Bedouin Village. Here, many enjoyed a 30 minute camel ride. We ate in “Bedouin” style, on a matted floor in a tent. Following a worship sing-along and recap of the day under the starry sky, we slept under one large tent. A unique and adventurous experience!
Saturday, July 17 (Day 4)
The day started at Masada. We took a cable car up. Already this morning it was close to 100 degrees (dry though). We saw houses, cataplat stones, the Roman ramp, synagogue, palaces, storerooms, and a bathhouse. Because of the heat, we all took the cable car down (as opposed to walking down the snake path). Next, we enjoyed Engedi. We walked back to the 2nd springs where many enjoyed the water and water falls. This is where David hid from Saul in a cave. We continued north to Qumran to see where the Dead Sea scrolls were written. We also enjoyed floating in the Dead Sea near by. Our last stop of the day was Jericho. We walked to the top of the site and saw the the revetment foundational walls upon which the mud brick walls once stood, the same walls that came tumbling down.
We drove north along the Jordan Valley until the Sea of Galilee. We arrived at Nof Ginnosar, our hotel for the next 3 nights. We enjoyed dinner and then a good night’s rest.
Sunday, July 18 (Day 5)
Today started by traveling to the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee to visit Bethsaida. Next, we traveled in the Golan to Qutzrin, a partially reconstructed “Talmudic village.” We continued north to Ben Tal, a military site crucial in the 1967 and 73 wars. Here, we looked down upon Syria and the village of Quneitra. We also has a great view of Mt. Hermon. Following lunch at a Druze place, we visited Nimrod, a Crusader castle from the 12th century AD. We enjoyed the towers and secret passage ways the best!
Further west in the Golan is the Dan nature preserve as well as the city of Dan. Here, the Jordan River begins. We enjoyed the nature walk that exits at the city of Dan where was saw a Middle Bronze gate dating perhaps back to the days of Abraham. Our last stop was a unique one, rafting down the Jordan River. Although calm with only one rapids, we enjoyed the relaxing hour or so of drifting. We traveled back to Nof Ginnosar and dinner. We enjoyed a group gathering out on the rocks by the Sea of Galilee to end the evening.
Monday, July 19 (Day 6)
Today we spent most of the day around the Sea of Galilee. Our first visit was to see the 1st century boat found in 1986 right here at Nof Ginnosar. next, we enjoyed a boat ride out in the lake where we had a time of Scripture and worship. We headed to the cliffs of Arbel next, providing a great overview of the Sea of Galilee below. Most everyone made the climb to the carob tree on top.
After lunch, we visited Capernaum, Tabgha (feeding of the 5,000), and the Mt. of Beatitudes. The westerly winds picked up this afternoon, causing white caps on the lake. The day ended with a baptism at Yardenit, the baptismal site on the Jordan River. 24 were baptized. We returned to Nof Ginnosar for our third and final night.
Tuesday, July 20 (Day 7)
Today we headed south. Our first stop was Sepporis, a grand city located just 4 miles from the small town of Nazareth. Here, we saw beautiful mosaics, including the “Mona Lisa” of Galilee. Next, we climbed to the top of the “Precipice” overlooking the modern city of Nazareth today. We enjoyed the view of the Jezreel Valley from here. Traveling across this fertile valley, we drove past Megiddo until we arrived at Mt. Carmel (where Elijah encountered the 450 prophets of Baal). Here, we also enjoyed lunch at another Druze place.
The afternoon drive took us to Caesarea, Herod the Great’s grand harbor along the Med Sea. Here, we saw the famous aquaduct, theater, hippodrome, and the harbor. We ended the day by traveling 1.5 hours further to Jerusalem, our home for the next 4 days.
Upon arriving at the Grand Court hotel in Jerusalem, we enjoyed dinner as well a our first “orientation walk” to the Western Wall.
Wednesday, July 21 (Day 8)
Today started by driving to the top of the Mt. of Olives for our first full view of the Old City. We walked down the “Palm Sunday” route that Jesus took. Along the way down, we stopped at the church called Dominos Flavet, where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. We enjoyed the entire place to ourselves where we sang in the chapel. We continued our walk down the Mt. of Olives to the Garden of Gethsemane. Here, we entered the Church of All Nations.
Next, we traveled to west Jerusalem and to the Israel Museum. Here we saw a reconstructed model of 1st century Jerusalem (built on a scale of 40:1). We also saw some of the Dead Sea scrolls here (displayed near by). Closeby, we visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum and Memorial. We spent a few hours here.
Our last stop of the day was Bethlehem. We drove through the security fence where we met our Palestinian guide. After visiting the Church of the Nativity, we enjoyed shopping at an olive wood store. We drove back to our hotel for dinner, and an optional walk to Ben Yehuda street.
Thursday, July 22 (Day 9)
Today began by visiting the Western Wall (also called the Wailing Wall). Here, many went to the wall to pray. It was very crowded because of all the Bar Mitzvah celebrations taking place. From here, we entered the Temple Mount. Here, we saw the Al Asca mosque as well as the Dome of the Rock (where the Temple once stood). Leaving the Temple mount area, our next stop was the Pools of Bethsesda, where Jesus healed the lame man.
From here, we followed the Via Dolorosa (the “way of the cross”). We stopped at the Sisters of Zion convent and saw the “lithostrotos” (Stone Pavement, John 19). We continued our walk to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. After enjoying lunch in the Christian Quarter, we exited the Old City by the Jaffa Gate.
In the afternoon, we enjoyed a unique experience of participating in the Temple Mount “Sifting Project.” Located on the Mt. of Olives, we sifted through debris brought from the Temple Mount area. Many found items dating 2,000 years old. We ended the day by visiting the City of David and walking through Hezekiah’s Tunnel. With flashlights in hand, many enjoyed walking through this 1,720 foot tunnel filled with water up to your knees. Exiting at the Pools of Siloam, we enjoyed the story from John 9 and Jesus’ healing of the blind man.
We went back to our hotel, enjoyed another great dinner, and an optional excursion to the top of the Mt. of Olives for a view of the Old City at night. A few walked back to the hotel from here.
Friday, July 23 (Day 10)
Today started by traveling back towards the Tel Aviv area. Our first stop was Emmaus, where we read from Luke 24 and enjoyed a time of worship there. Our “dog friend” put many a smile on our faces! 🙂 From here, we visited the Ayalon Institute, a kibbutz that secretly made bullets from 1945-48. It was fascinating to hear how bullets were made underneath the buildings.
Following lunch at Ramat Rachel, we visited Herodium, a castle-like palace built by Herod the Great. Located on the edge of the Judean Wilderness, this palace overshadowed the small town of Bethlehem. We ended the day with a Communion Service at the Garden Tomb. Here, we saw an alternative location for both the crucifixion and burial place of Jesus. We traveled back to the hotel, with a few venturing out on their own after dinner.
Saturday, July 24 (Day 11)
Today was a free day. Some slept in, while most ventured into the Old City for more experiences. Some saw the Upper Room and Oscar Shindler’s tomb on Mt. Zion, while others snooped around on their own. Most enjoyed shopping too. It was a great day to simply explore and enjoy the uniqueness of the Old City.
Following our “Farewell Dinner” at the Ambassador Hotel, we drove to the Tel Aviv airport for our night flight home.
Sunday, July 25 (Day 12)
We arrived back in the States at about 5:30 a.m. Here, we went through US customs before boarding our domestic flights home. The end of a “journey of a lifetime!”