Israel Tour Experiences from March, 2010
Saturday/Sunday, March 20 & 21 (Day 1 & 2)
Our Israel Tours and journey of a lifetime began with meeting in NY (on Saturday, March 20th) for our international flight to Tel Aviv. Following a nice tailwind, we arrived in Tel Aviv about an hour early. Once we all gathered our luggage, we met our guide and driver. Blue sky and bright sun, with temps in the 70’s greeted us on this Sunday afternoon.
We stopped at Jaffa (Joppa) on our way to the hotel. The Med Sea was beautiful to see. Here, Acts 9 & 10 were read. We even saw a young couple taking wedding photos. We all wished them a mazel tov (“good luck”). We continued through Tel Aviv, Israel’s large and “busy” city on the coast. We arrived in Netanya at the Seasons Hotel. It is located right on the coast line of the Med Sea. A gorgeous sunset was enjoyed! Dinner was served at 7 p.m., with an “orientation meeting” at 8 p.m., followed by an optional walk into the center of Netanya. About 20 enjoyed this walk together. We are all looking forward to our first full day tomorrow!
Monday, March 22 (Day 3)
The day began with an optional walk at 6 a.m. on the beach of the Med Sea. An typical Israeli breakfast was served at 7 a.m. We left the hotel after luggage was packed. Caesarea was our first stop of the day. This grand Herodian city was impressive. We heard the stories of Peter and Paul (Acts 10, 25-26) while sitting in the theater. We also saw the palace area, a replica of the Pilate inscription, the hippodrome, the harbor, and the aqueduct that brought water to this city form the Carmel Range.
The next stop was Mt. Carmel. I Kings 18 was read about the story of Elijah vs. the prophets of Baal. The visibility was outstanding. The entire Jezreel / Armageddon Valley could be seen below, including the Nazareth Ridge, Mt. Tabor, the Hill of Moreh, and Mt. Gilboa. We could even see the snow-capped mountain of Hermon from here… quuite unbelievable and rare! From here we drove to Megiddo. Daniel 2 and Revelation 16 were read. This an in impressive archaeological site. Most everyone climbed down and back up the water system/tunnel.
Driving across the Jezreel Valley we arrived at Nazareth. Here, Luke 1 and 4 were read. We visited the Greek Orthodox church of “Mary’s Well.” While we arrived at the cliffs of Arbel a little too late in the afternoon (this park now closes at 4), we still were able to get a few panoramic view of the Sea of Galilee (plans are to hike to the top of Arbel on Wednesday morning). The day ended in the Kinneret cemetery along the southern shoreline of the Sea of Galilee.
We arrived at our “kibbutz” hotel (Maagan) for dinner. We also enjoyed a gathering along the shores of Galilee after dinner. What a great first day here in Israel!
Tuesday, March 23 (Day 4)
The day began with an optional sunrise prayer and praise time. We gathered along the shoreline for a special time of devotion and prayer. Following breakfast, we drove to Tiberias for a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. The time on the boat included praise, prayer, and Scripture (the storm narratives from the Gospels). With another sunny and warm day, it was enjoyed by all. We ‘sailed’ to Nof Ginnosar where we saw the 1st century AD boat that was found here in 1986.
We continued north to the Mt. of Beatitudes. Matthew 5 was read in Hebrew by Shlomo, then in English by Pastor John. We visited the church, and enjoyed the quietness of the place. From here we drove to the Golan Heights to a city of Caesarea Philippi. It was here where Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” (Mt. 16). Somewhere here at the foot of Mt. Hermon was where Jesus was transfigured also. We then enjoyed lunch along one of the Jordan River tributaries. Most had another ‘falafel,” while some went to McDonalds. 🙂
The afternoon was equally special. We stopped at Tabgha, the suggested location of the feeding of the 5,000. Nearby is Capernaum. Stories of Jesus (Mark 1,2, Luke 7, John 7) were read in the synagogue here. We also saw 1st century AD houses made from the local basaltic rock, one of which is suggested to be Peter’s house.
The touring day ended with baptism in the Jordan River. 24 reaffirmed their baptismal vows. We celebrated personal faith and commitment to follow Jesus as His disciples.
Upon arriving back at Maagan, our kibbutz hotel, we enjoyed another great dinner, followed by a campfire on the beach. We reviewed the day’s experiences and planned for tomorrow’s eventual drive to Jerusalem.
Wednesday, March 24 (Day 5)
This next sunny and warm day began with a 15 minute hike up the cliffs of Arbel. Being the first group there, we enjoyed the view from above of the Sea of Galilee. Visibility was fairly good. Some of the parables from Matthew 13 were shared. From here, we drove through Tiberias back to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. We then headed south down the Jordan Valley. We stopped at a huge site called Beth Shean. This site was both an Old Testament and New Testament strategic city. Some hiked up to the top of the OT tel where Saul’s body was once hung after his death.
Next, we traveled another 50 miles south to the Jericho area. Following lunch, we drove into Jericho for a tour of the Old Testament city. Jericho was a double walled city destroyed by Joshua. Joshua 6 was read as we envisioned “the walls tumblin’ down.”
The afternoon ended with driving to Jerusalem. Our first view of the Temple Mount and the Old city was from the top of the Mt. of Olives. We walked down the “Palm Sunday” route. Scripture was read about the Palm Sunday even as well as Zechariah’s prophecy of Christ’s return to this place (Zech. 14). Continuing our walk we visited the Garden of Gethsemane. We entered the Church of All Nations where traditionally Jesus was betrayed by Judas. We ended the day in a nearby olive garden where we remembered Christ’s garden experience.
We arrived at our hotel (The Leonardo), a beautiful hotel in walking distance to the Old City. A great dinner was enjoyed. An optional walk took place following dinner. We walked to the Western Wall and back.
Thursday, March 25 (Day 6)
After another great breakfast, we started yet another sunny and warm day by entering the Old City of Jerusalem through the St. Stephen’s Gate. Our first stop was at the Pools of Bethesda where John 5 was read. We also enjoyed the singing in St. Anne’s Church, with a 10 second echo making us sound like a grand choir. From here we continued along the Via Dolorosa (“Way of the Cross”). The stops included the “Lithostrotos” (stone pavement) of the Antonia Fortress, and the Holy Sepulcher Church. We left the Old City through the Jaffa Gate.
Heading to west Jerusalem, we stopped at the Israel Museum. Here we saw the huge Jerusalem Model of the 1st Century and the “Shrine of the Book” where some of the fragments of the Dead Sea scrolls were on display. From here it was off to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum. We heard Shlomo, our guide, share his personal stories of his family in Poland during WW II.
The day ended by driving into Bethlehem. We visited the Church of Nativity. Here, we gathered in one of the caves below (Jerome’s Cave) to read Luke 2 and sing a few Christmas carols. We also enjoyed some shopping at an olive wood store.
Following dinner, 14 of us walked to Ben Yehuda, an outdoor gathering area of modern Israelis. It was a fun walk to help walk off all the desserts we ate. 🙂 Another great day.
Friday, March 26 (Day 7)
It was once again an early start. Following breakfast, we entered the Dung Gate for a visit to the Western Wall. This is the most holy place for Jews because of its proximity to the Temple Mount. Most of not all of us went down to the Wall to pray and reflect. Just to the south is the southern wall excavations. Here we appreciated the massive temple Herod built (started around 20 BC). Even the disciples of Christ commented upon its massive stones and beauty (Mk. 13:1). We walked on a Roman street (one that Christ would have used), saw numerous miqvas (ritual baths) and other structures. We sat on the southern steps of the Temple where Mark 12 and Acts 2 were read.
Leaving the Old City, we descended upon the “City of David,” the location of OT Jerusalem as David knew it. We saw the area where Pastor John excavated back in the 80’s. From this area, we walked through a series of dry tunnel and passage ways called “Warren’s Shaft.” Then cam a walk through Hezekiah’s Tunnel. This is a 1,720 foot tunnel still flowing with water from the Gihon Spring. About 25 experienced this adventure with flashlights on hand. We exited the tunnel at the Siloam Pool (John 9) and the new excavations that have taken place here.
We ate lunch in the Jewish Quarter, followed by some free time until 3 p.m. Some went to see the Upper Room and Oscar Schindler’s tomb, while others shopped in the Old City.
We concluded the day at the Garden Tomb. Here, we saw an alternative site for the place of crucifixion and burial of Christ. We shared a special Communion Service here together.
Following dinner, about 20 of us took a taxi to the top of the Mt. of Olives for a night view of the Temple Mount. We taxied back to the hotel to call it a night. What a great day! Tom morrow, the Wilderness of Judah and the Dead Sea await us!
Saturday, March 27 (Day 8)
This morning we traveled to the Wilderness/Desert of Judah. Our first stop was at Engedi. This was where David hid in one of the numerous caves as King Saul pursued him (I Samuel 23-24). From here we traveled further south to Masada. We climbed the cable car to the top. Very uniquely, it actually rained a bit on us on top (this region only gets a few days a rain a year). Nonetheless, the ruins of this fortress, destroyed in 73 AD, were amazing to see. About 20 of us walked down the famous “snake path,” descending 1,000 feet below.
Our next stop was Qumran. We ate lunch there before we saw the excavations. It was here that the Essene community scribed the Dead Sea Scrolls. From here we went to the Dead Sea. Quite unbelievably, there were big waves crashing on shore. Still, a few from the group went in the water attempting to float.
We ended the day with an panoramic overview of the “Wadi Qelt,” and the “Jericho Road” that ascended from Jericho to Jerusalem. Isaiah 40 was read.
We arrived at our hotel for dinner. We enjoyed our last gathering together as a big group. 10 were driven to Tel Aviv for their flight home, while 31 of us continue to Jordan tomorrow.
Sunday, March 28 (Day 9)
After breakfast, 31 of us let for the Allenby Border. It was about a 45 minute drive to this Jordanian crossing. Making it through passport and luggage checks, we crossed successfully into Jordan. We met our Jordanian driver (Nijaf) and guide (Naj) at the crossing.
Our first stop was in Medeba to see the 6th century AD map of the Holyland. Next, we traveled to nearby Mt. Nebo. Here, Deuteronomy 33, 34 and Joshua 1 were read from the top. The view back into Israel was fair, allowing us to see Jericho and the northern tip of the Dead Sea. We ate lunch nearby.
This afternoon we traveled 3.5 hours south to Petra. We arrived at the Panorama Hotel about 5:30. The view of the Seir/Petra mountains is spectacular! With the sun to the east tomorrow morning, we should have a great “wake-up” view of this city of red sandstone.
Monday, March 29 (Day 10)
We woke up to another sunny day. The view of Petra from this hotel is spectacular! Following breakfast, we drove in the bus about 10 minutes to the entrance of Petra. We walked together from the entrance through the “Siq” (canyon). The walk down through the Siq was amazing. At the end of the Siq is the famous “Treasury Building.” Here, we heard Naj, our guide, share a bit about the Nabateans who built all these tombs. We also learned how this tomb was built.
From here, we started our walk through Petra. We saw many other tombs, a Roman theater, the Urn Tomb, a Roman Street among the ruins. We also met Pastor John’s Bedouin friends, Salim and his family of 10. Gifts were exchanged for the group.
Following this, some continued with a hike to the “Monastery,” another famous tomb at the western end of Petra. The hike up 800+ steps took about 45 minutes. The hike was rewarding. Next, a few hiked to the “High Place.” The hike up to the top took about 25 minutes. The view from the top was amazing.
Following dinner, a number from the group returned to Petra for the new “night walk.” Lit with luminaries/candles throughout the entire Siq, a short program took place in front of the Treasury Building. It was a great experience under the clear skies and full moon.
Tuesday/Wednesday, March 30 & 31 (Day 11 & 12)
This day was a travel day back to Amman. Once arriving here in Jordan’s capital city, we visited the 2nd century AD theater as well as the Citadel. The Citadel contains ruins from the OT period, specifically those from the Ammonites. The museum contains the famous Capper Scrolls found at Qumran. Following these visits, we stopped at more last shopping place before dinner.
Everyone enjoyed our farewell dinner. It was a traditional Jordanian restaurant. Following dinner we arrived at the airport for our 12 hour flight home back to JFK.
The end of a great trip!