Biblical Israel Tour Experiences for our 10 Day Biblical Israel Tour (with Optional 4 Day Extension: Jordan, Red Sea & southern Israel, with Extra Day in Jerusalem)
June 16-25, 2019
(NOTE: This page will be updated every night between 9-11 p.m. Israeli time, or 2-4 p.m. EST. This web page is now updated through Day 11, Wednesday, June 26. Thanks for praying for us and following our daily experiences!)
GROUP DRONE VIDEO:
TOUR MEMBER PHOTOS:
DAYS 1 & 2 – SUNDAY-MONDAY, JUNE 16-17: DEPART & ARRIVAL FOR TEL AVIV
Our departure day for our Israel trip finally came today! God brought together 38 of us for this journey of faith to the land of the Bible. Using various flight connections, we all arrived safely here.
Ben Gurion Airport/Tel Aviv
We landed at the Ben Gurion airport. Following the regular passport procedures, we met our driver (David) and guide (Shlomo). In the late afternoon, the majority of the group made a brief stop in Jaffa (also Joppa), a southern suburb of Tel Aviv. We read from Acts 9-10 here as we walked the alleyways of the city. In the days of the Old Testament, Jonah sailed from here (Jonah 1).
Driving north through Tel Aviv rush-hour traffic, we arrived in Netanya. We checked into our hotel and enjoyed dinner together. Some went swimming in the Med Sea too!
We are all looking forward deepening our walk of faith here in the land of the Bible!
DAY 3 – TUESDAY, JUNE 18: CAESAREA, CARMEL, MEGIDDO, SEPPORIS, PRECIPICE OF NAZARETH, TIBERIAS
Today was our first full day here in Israel. We saw a total of five sites, making connections with the Bible all day long. The weather was sunny, with highs around 90. A nice breeze kept it comfortable.
Leaving the hotel at 7:30 after a full breakfast, we drove north to Caesarea. Located along the Mediterranean Sea, the city was built by Herod the Great beginning in 22 BC. Among the ruins we saw the palace, fresh-water swimming pool, the hippodrome (for horse / chariot races), mosaics, the harbor area, statues, and part of the Crusader city. In the theater we read from Acts 8 (Philip), Acts 9, 21, and 26 (Paul), Acts 10 (Peter and Cornelius), and Acts 12 (Herod Agrippa). Before leaving the site we saw the aqueduct that was used to bring fresh water to the city from the Carmel Range.
Driving from the Sharon Plain, we ascended to the heights of the Carmel Range. At a place called Muraka, we enjoyed our first view of the Jezreel Valley. We read from 1 Kings 18 (Elijah) and other passages (Amos 1, Isaiah 35, Song of Songs 7, 2 K kings 4) We also sang a few songs in the chapel before viewing the valley from the rooftop. Nearby we ate lunch at a Druze restaurant.
Following lunch, we descended down the edge of the Jezreel Valley to one of the many impressive archaeological sites in Israel, Megiddo. This ancient site has about 25 levels/layers of occupation spanning about 2,500 years. Among the ruins we saw three city stone gates, fortification walls, a palace, a Canaanite sacrificial altar, and an Israelite grain bin. We also could clearly see Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5), and the Hill of Moreh (Judges 6-7), Mt. Gilboa (1 Sam. 31). We read from Revelation 16 that mentions Armageddon. We rejoice that God will have the final word when Jesus returns!
Driving along the Jezreel Valley, Sepporis was our next site. This was the largest Jewish city in the days of Jesus in the region of the Lower Galilee. Located only about 4 -5 miles from Nazareth, Jesus would have been very familiar with this city. Among the ruins we saw massive stone pavements, the theater, and many mosaics. The two most famous mosaics are the Nilometer and the Mona Lisa of the Galilee.
Precipice of Nazareth
Our final stop of the day was to the Precipice of Nazareth. Walking to the edge of the rocky quarry, the view of the Jezreel Valley was stunning from here. We enjoyed a closeup view of Mt. Tabor and the Hill of Moreh especially. Enjoying a time of reflection together, we read from Luke 4 and John 1 about the ministry of Jesus. Heeding Philip’s three words, we were invited to “come and see” Jesus anew. It was a great way to end our first day here.
We drove through Cana (John 2) to the west side of the Sea of Galilee. We passed Mt. Arbel (the mountain we will hike tomorrow morning) towards the end of our drive to our hotel. We enjoyed dinner together and an optional gathering down by the water’s edge. What a great first day!
DAY 4 – WEDNESDAY, JUNE 19: ARBEL, YARDENIT/JORDAN RIVER, MAGDALA, CAPERNAUM, MT. OF BEATITUDES, BOAT RIDE
Today we focused on Jesus’ ministry in the Galilee. In many ways it was an eye-opening day. It was also a special day to be able to walk in the footsteps of Jesus. The day was sunny and warmer, with highs in the mid 90s. The afternoon breeze made it comfortable.
Leaving the hotel at 7:30, our first destination was to the peak of Mt. Arbel. Towering about 800 feet above the Plain of Gennesaret, the view from the top of the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee was spectacular! About 15 in the group hiked up the trail while others approached the top from the other side.
Yardenit/Jordan River Baptism
Next, we drove to the southern end of the lake and to the Jordan River. Here at a place called Yardenit, 10 in the group were baptized in the waters of the Jordan River. It was a special time of renewing our commitment to be a follower of Jesus! The water was warm!
Returning to the area north of Tiberias to the western side of the lake, Magdala was our next site. This 1st century site was the home of Mary Magdalene. We also know that Jesus was here too (Mt. 15, Jesus sailed here after the Feeding of the 4,000 narrative). The highlight was seeing the 1st century synagogue here! It was amazing to picture Jesus teaching from this structure! Also among the ruins we saw two impressive miqveh (ritual baths).
Following an incredible fish lunch, we drove to the NW corner of the lake to Capernaum. This city served as the home-base for Jesus’ Galilean ministry. Sitting in the 5th century synagogue (with the 1st century one below it), we read from Mark 1,2 and 9; Luke 7; and John 6. Many of Jesus’ teaching and healing took place here. In addition to the 1st century ruins, we also saw an Octagonal church dating to the 5th-6th century AD. Before leaving the site we enjoyed a time of reflection down on the shoreline. Five disciples were perhaps called to follow Jesus here!
Mt. of Beatitudes
Close by is the Mt. of Beatitudes. Located on a hill above Capernaum, this is a traditional site for where the Sermon on the Mount was taught by Jesus (Mt. 5-7). We heard the first part of Matthew 5 read in Hebrew and English. The Hebrew word, ashrey (blessed, happy, privileged) is used here. We ended our time of reflection here with an optional walk down the slope of the hill to the shoreline.
Ancient Boat/Boat Ride
Our day ended by returning to the area of our hotel. First, we saw a 1st century ancient wood boat extracted from the water in 1986. We also enjoyed a boat ride on the lake. Following a time of worship, we read the two storm narratives (Mark 4, Matthew 14). It was special to visualize these stories unfolding here!
From the boat ride we walked back to our rooms for dinner and a free evening. Many in the group enjoyed a swim in the warm waters of the lake too!
DAY 5 – THURSDAY, JUNE 20: KINNERET, BEIT SHEAN, SACHNE, JERICHO, DEAD SEA
Today was another warm day, with sunny skies and highs near 100. We enjoyed connections once again with both the Old and New Testaments.
After breakfast we loaded the bus and drove to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. Here we made a brief stop at the Kinneret Cemetery. The is one of the oldest “modern” cemetery in Israel, with many early Jewish pioneers buried here from the early 19th 20th century. One of these pioneers is a Ukrainian Jew named Rachel. She died in 1931. Today, she is famous for her poems she wrote. Her picture appears on the new Israeli 20 shekel bill.
Driving south of the Sea of Galilee about 20 miles, we arrived at one of the largest archaeological parks called Beth Shean. In the Old Testament, this was a Canaanite and Israelite city. The bodies of Saul and his three sons were hung on the walls of this city after they died on Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 31).But most of the archaeology dates to the time of the Roman period. Beth Shean was one of the Decapolis cities. We saw a massive Roman bathhouse, colonnaded stone streets, the agora (forum), public latrines, and a large theater. Some in the group walked to the top of the OT tel for a spectacular view of the Roman city below.
Nearby is a natural swimming hole called Sachne. The water is fed by the Spring of Harod (Judges 6-7). Many of us had fun swimming here. It was a refreshing experience.
Following lunch back in Beth Shean, we drove south through the Jordan Valley to Jericho. Called Tel es-Sultan today, this was the first city conquered by Joshua around 1410 BC. Climbing the tel (ancient mound), we first looked east into Jordan. We could see Mt. Nebo (Dt. 34) and the area of the Jordan River (Jesus was baptized at Bethany Beyond the Jordan, John 1). Looking west towards the Judean Desert, we recalled Jesus’ temptation here (Mt. 4). Looking south we could see NT Jericho (where Zacheaus and Bartimeaus lived). On the southern end of the site we could see the stone retaining walls that date to the time of Joshua. On top of these stone walls was a mud brick wall. It is this wall that came “tumblin’ down” (Joshua 6). We rejoice in the historicity of God’s Word!
Our last stop of the day was to an amazing overlook of the Judean Desert. Specifically called the Wadi Qelt here, we heard the words of Isaiah 40 echo through the desert. Shlomo also sang Psalm 23 for us. This Judean Desert served as the context of many other OT texts (e.g. Jeremiah 13 – Desert of Parath; Psalm 63).
Driving south along the Dead Sea we arrived at the Masada Guest House. We checked in for the evening and enjoyed dinner together. Some of us are getting up early tomorrow morning for a pre-dawn hike to the top of this palace-fortress of Herod the Great.
DAY 6 – FRIDAY, JUNE 21: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, DEAD SEA, WILDERNESS OF JUDAH
Today was a day spent in the hot desert. Temps hovered around 100 most of the day until we got to Jerusalem this late afternoon. It was another day of a combination of hikes, archaeological sites, life-lessons, and unique experiences!
There were 9 in the group who got up at 4:30 and hiked to the top of Masada (metzada in Hebrew, “fortress” in Psalm 18:1-2). It took about 35-40 minutes to climb, making it just in time for sunrise over the mountains of Moab in Jordan. We then walked back down for breakfast. At 8 a.m. the entire group then took the cable car back up to the top. We saw the palaces, cisterns, the case-mate wall, the Roman ramp, the synagogue, and the bathhouse. Masada was built as a palace-fortress by King Herod the Great. Later, 967 Jews found refuge on top after 70 AD. Shlomo passionately shared this heroic story with us. We all took the cable car down.
Driving north along the Dead Sea we arrived at Engedi. Along the way, we read from Ezekiel 47 about the Dead Sea becoming fresh water one day. Engedi served as an oasis here in this dry area because of the unique springs of water present here all year around. Walking back into the canyon, we read from Song of Songs 1, 2 Chronicles 20, and 1 Samuel 24. This last story finds David and Saul here in a cave. Many in the group enjoyed getting wet in the water falls here. We also saw a few ibex and coneys (Psalm 104).
Continuing northward along the western shoreline of the Dead Sea, we arrived at Qumran. This is the most important archaeological site in all of Israel all because of what was discovered here. In 1947, the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered here. Many texts of Scripture as well as sectarian texts describing the Essenes who lived here were discovered in the excavations between 1952-56. All total, 12 caves have now been found with fragments of texts. We visited the site following lunch here. We read from Psalm “151” here (written by David), 12 Timothy 3:16, and Psalm 19. Dr. Dan also shared his research about the fragment of the 2 Samuel text found in Cave 4. We rejoiced in how these texts were preserved so well.
Our final stop of the day was the Dead Sea. This unique body of water is over 30% salt and minerals. Despite the hot temperatures here, most in the group enjoyed floating. It was a wild sensation!
After showering up, we drove west and literally ascended about 4,000 feet to Jerusalem. We checked into our hotel and enjoyed a special Shabbat dinner. Many in the group then walked to the Western Wall. We all all looking forward to spending the next few days here in Israel’s capital.
DAY 7 – SATURDAY, JUNE 22: JERUSALEM: MT. OF OLIVES, OLD CITY, GETHSEMANE, HERODIUM, BETHLEHEM
Today was our first full day in Jerusalem. We enjoyed the sunny and yet cooler temps, with highs in the 80s. The refreshing breeze made it perfect!
Mt. of Olives / Garden of Gethsemane
We left our hotel at 7:30 this morning and drove around the northern side of the Old City to the top of the Mt. of Olives. What an incredible view of the Temple Mount, the City of David, and the Old City from here! Outside a chapel called Dominus Flevit (“the Lord weeps”), we read from Luke 19 and Zechariah 14 about Jesus’ kingship. One day He will return and the Mt. of Olives will split into two and Jesus will be proclaimed King over all the earth!
Walking down the western slope of the Mt. of Olives, we sat in an area of the Garden of Gethsemane. We read from Luke 22 and considered Jesus’ words, “Not my will but yours be done.” Jesus was betrayed by Judas here.
Pool of Bethesda / St. Anne’s Church
From here we walked to the Old City. Before entering we visited the Eastern Gate. Ezekiel 44 mentions that the Messiah will enter this gate when He comes. Within the Old City we visited the Pools of Bethesda. Jesus healed a paralyzed man here (John 5). The lower ruins date to Jesus’ day. On the same grounds is the St. Anne’s Church. We sang a few songs in this Crusader Church that has an 8 second echo. We sounded like a heavenly choir!
Holy Sepulcher Church
We walked through the Muslim and Christian Quarters on the traditional Via Dolorosa (“way of the cross”). While archaeological suggests this way of the cross came from the opposite direction, we ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This was a church built in 325 AD and it preserves one of two possible locations for the crucifixion and burial site of Jesus. Close by we ate lunch.
We walked out of the Old City through the Jaffa Gate in order to meet David and the bus. We drove about 8 miles southeast to the edge of the Judean Desert to yet another one of Herod’s fortress-palaces, Herodium. Herod died in Jericho and yet was buried here in 4 BC. Many in the group climbed this “artificial mountain” where we gained an excellent view of the area. To the east was the Judean Desert and Dead Sea. To the south was Tekoa. To the north was Jerusalem. And to the west was Bethlehem. We descended down through the cistern system.
Shepherds’ Fields / Bethlehem
We ended the day be visiting the Shepherds’ Fields. We descended down into a cave where we considered the role of the shepherd. We read from Micah 2 and 5 and Luke 2. We sang a few carols and rejoiced in the face that “just at the right time God sent His Son…” (Galatians 4:4). We also sang carols on the small chapel along with a group from Nigeria. Finally, we drove into Bethlehem to an olive wood factory and store.
We drove back to our hotel for dinner followed by a free evening. It was a great first day here in Jerusalem!
DAY 8 – SUNDAY, JUNE 23: CITY OF DAVID, HEZEKIAH’S TUNNEL, SILOAM POOL, DRAINAGE CHANNEL, SHORASHIM, FREE TIME IN THE AFTERNOON
Today was another sunny day, with highs in the high 80s. With a blend of Old and New Testament experiences, we once again connected with the Bible in eye-opening ways!
City of David
Leaving again at 7:30, we drove to the City of David. First, we enjoyed an overlook of the area from an observation deck. This was followed by watching a 3D movie that covered some biblical history of this ancient city. Walking down to “Area G” of the excavations, we saw parts of David’s palace and other Israelite ruins.
Further down the slope we walked through Warren’s Shaft. This was believed to be the “shaft” (52 feet) up through which David’s men used to conquer the Jebusite city (2 Samuel 5). This view is no longer held because of what was newly discovered near the Gihon Spring in recent years.
Descending all the way down to the Gihon Spring, we saw the massive stones that once was a part of a tower that protected this water source. Here, many entered Hezekiah’s Tunnel, a 1,720 for tunnel cut with chisels at the end of the 8th century (701 BC, see II Kings 19-20, 2 Chronicles 32, Isaiah 8:6). Sennacherib, the Assyrian King surrounded the city then, but God intervened. Both groups converged at the Pool of Siloam where we read John 9 in dramatic fashion. This pool was discovered about 10 years ago now. The ancient Jewish Water Libation Festival during the Feast of Succot (Tabernacles) incorporated this pool into the celebration of God’s provision (see John 7).
South Wall Excavations
Our next visit was to the south wall excavations. Part of the group bussed there while others in the group walked through the newly-discovered drainage channel. This channel was built under the Herodian street that connection the Temple Mount with the Pool of Siloam. It also served the purpose of diverting rain/run-off water to the pool. Both groups converged at the SW corner (pinnacle?) of the Temple where was saw what was left of a large archway (“Robinson’s Arch”) that provided access into the Temple for dignitaries. From here was walked to the southern steps of the Temple where we recalled all those who used these steps and the southern gates above the steps to enter the Temple. This included Jesus and His disciples (see Luke 2, 19; Mark 12, 13; John 2, 10; Acts 3, 5, to name a few).
Jewish Quarter / Moshe’s / Free Time
From here we walked up to the Jewish Quarter for lunch and some free time. We also visited Shorashim, a store owned by two Orthodox Jews. Moshe, one of the brothers, shared with us a little about his Jewish faith. After some more free time, we returned back to the hotel for dinner. Following dinner, some walked to the Jewish marketplace (Mahane Yehuda).
DAY 9 – MONDAY, JUNE 24: SERVICE PROJECT WITH BRIDGES FOR PEACE, RAMPART WALK, GARDEN TOMB
Today was another sunny day, with highs around 90. The morning provided a unique service project with Bridges for Peace, while the afternoon included seeing more of Jerusalem.
Leaving the hotel this morning at 8:45, we drove to a school in Talpiot, a community within Jerusalem. The morning included doing several service projects through Bridges for Peace. First, we were greeted by the school principle and toured the school, meeting the young students in their classrooms. Next, we divided into groups, with some painting murals, and others painting outside railings. Others did handyman projects. We worked until about 12 noon, with lunch to follow. The interaction with the students was special!
We drove back to the Old City where we entered through the Jaffa Gate. We walked to the Christian Quarter where some in the group walked up 190 steps to the top of the tower of the Redeemer Lutheran Church. The view from the top of the Old City was incredible! Then some in the group enjoyed walking on the Rampart Walls. These walls date to the Ottoman Period (1537-44). We walked from the Jaffa Gate to Herod’s Gate. The perspective was unique.
We all walked to the Garden Tomb at about 4 p.m. The Garden Tomb is one possible location for the death and burial of Christ. We also shared in worship here, with partaking in Communion as well. It was a special time with reading John 19 and 20 and reflecting upon Christ’s accomplished work for us! As we were leaving, it was fun to see the Christian music artist Chris Tomlin there getting ready to sing there.
We returned to the hotel for our farewell dinner, followed by an optional walk to the King David Hotel and Herod’s family tomb (still intact with a rolling stone). Some are flying home tomorrow, while most in the group have another day in Jerusalem, and then cross into Jordan.
DAY 10 – TUESDAY, JUNE 25: ARRIVAL BACK HOME and/or JERUSALEM: WESTERN WALL TUNNEL, JEWISH QUARTER, YAD VASHEM, ISRAEL MUSEUM
For those doing the optional extension, today was another full day in Jerusalem. The weather was once again sunny, with highs around 90. We said goodbye, however, to nine in the group who flew home today on various flights.
Western Wall / Tunnels
Leaving the hotel at 7:35, we drove to the Western Wall. We entered the archaeological area called the Western Wall Tunnels (also called Rabbinical Tunnels). Here we saw massive stones that we part of the western retaining wall Herod used to expand the Temple platform. It was fascinating to see all the massive stones (Mark 13:1-2) remarkably put into place here 2,000 years ago. Before leaving the area, we also spent some time at the Wall itself.
Climbing the steps up to the Jewish Quarter, we entered an amazing site called Herodian Mansion. Excavated in the late 1960s and 70s, we walked through 1st century ruins that date to the time of Jesus. Some suggest that a house like this could be the home of the High Priest (Caiaphas?, Luke 22).
Walking out of the Zion’s Gate, we boarded back on the bus and drove to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial & Museum. We first visited the Valley of the Communities, a place that honors all the Jewish cities, towns, and communities throughout Europe. After lunch at the visitor center, we listened to Shlomo’s personal story. He lost 12 family members in the Holocaust who lived in Vilna, Poland. We then walked through the Children’s Memorial (1.5 million children were killed) before walking through the museum itself on our own. It was an emotionally-moving experience to be here.
Our last stop of the day was to the Israel Museum. We were pleased to have Lois Tverberg and her family walk with us here (Lois is the author of a number of books on the Hebraic background of Jesus, e.g. Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, etc…). We first saw an amazing 1:50 replica/model of Jerusalem of what it looked like in 70 AD. We made many biblical connections with the activity and ministry of Jesus here. We highlighted Jesus’ ministry in and through this city, including the location of His crucifixion and burial. Next, we walked through the Shrine of the Book where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed. Some of the original scrolls are displayed here! Finally, we walked through the archaeological wing of the museum, seeing the highlights (e.g. Dan & Pilate Inscriptions, Moses’ Seat, Asherah figurines, the Hazael or Ahab (possibly?) head, ossuaries, Herod’s coffin, among many other things. We even saw what looks like a glass pie plate that dates 1,900 years old!
At the end of the day we drove back to our hotel for dinner and a free night. We all look forward to crossing into Jordan tomorrow!
DAY 11 – WEDNESDAY, JUNE 26: ALLENBY BRIDGE, JORDAN – MT. NEBO, MACHAERUS, SHUBAK CASTLE, PETRA
Today we crossed into the country of Jordan. By now, we got used to the full sun and warm temps this time of year (highs in the upper 80s).
Allenby Bridge Crossing
Leaving at 7:30 following loading the bus, 29 of us drove east through the Judean Desert and around Jericho to the Jordan Valley and the Allenby Bridge. This is one of three border crossings into Jordan. The crossing all went well, but required some patience. On the Jordanian side, he met our guide (Sam) and our driver (Chalid). Following the visa procedures, we started our two-day journey through this Hashemite Kingdom.
From the border we drove and ascended to the top of Mt. Nebo. This was where Moses died, but not before handing the leadership baton to Joshua. We read from Dt. 31-34 and Joshua 1 (we also referenced Numbers 20 and John 3 about the Bronze Snake). While the view looking westward wasn’t perfect from here, we still clearly could see the area of Jericho and the Dead Sea. The eventual crossing by Joshua (Josh. 3-4) and the Israelites took place a little north of where we could see. Jericho would be the first Canaanite city taken!
Following a brief stop at a mosaic factory, we drove southeast to Machaerus. This was where Herod Antipas cut off the head of John the Baptist (Mt. 14). Many in the group hiked to the top of this palace-fortress, one of several built my Herod the Great. On top we saw the palace area, a few ritual baths (miqveh), and a few pillars. The view of the Dead Sea and the area of Engedi on the others side was very good!
Drive to Petra/Shubak Castle
The drive to Petra took a total of over 3:30 hours. Traveling on the Desert Highway as well as the King’s Highway (Numbers 21), we stopped once for restrooms and snacks and once to see the Shubak Castle built in the 12th century AD by the Crusaders. About 7 p.m. we arrived at our hotel in Wadi Musa (Petra). After a great dinner, we retired for the evening. We are all looking forward to seeing the ancient site of Petra, one of the seven wonders of the world!
DAY 12 – THURSDAY, JUNE 27: PETRA, WADI RUM
Chorazin was a city located on the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee in Jesus’ day. It was one of three cities cursed by Jesus for their unbelief. Today the ruins primarily date to the 3rd century AD. This includes the synagogue, although the foundations of the 1st century one was located underneath. The city was made from basaltic stone.
At the site we often see the coney (rock badger).