Biblical Israel Tour Experiences from the 11 Day Biblical Israel Tour, March 6-16, 2016 (with option to southern Israel & Jordan, March 16-20)
Individual Photos of Tour Members
DAYS 1 & 2 – SUNDAY-MONDAY, MARCH 6-7
God brought 48 people from all over the country to join this March, 2016 trip to Israel (& Jordan). Meeting at JFK Airport, 40 of us enjoyed greeting one another while we waited our boarding. Once on board, we were served dinner before we all tried to get some sleep on this night flight. Arriving in Tel Aviv around 5 p.m. (Israeli time), we proceeded through customs and baggage with the help of our Amiel Tours agents before meeting our guide and driver. The weather was sunny and mild, with temps around 70.
Loading the bus and leaving the Ben Gurion Airport, we drove north about an hour to Netanya. We checked in, freshened up a little before enjoyed an amazing dinner together This was followed by an “orientation” meeting to help us prepare for the days ahead. Following the meeting, a number in the group walked down to the beach.
We are looking forward to our first full day tomorrow here in the land of the Bible!
DAY 3 – TUESDAY, MARCH 8
Today was our first full day here in Israel, and it was a good one! With temperatures reaching a perfect 75 degrees with full sun, the weather provided optimal conditions. After a full buffet breakfast, we loaded the bus and left about 7:45. Our first site to visit was Caesarea. This was a city built by King Herod the Great. The building project started in 22 BC and included a theater, hippodrome, palace, and a massive harbor. We heard the stories from Acts 10 (about Peter) and Acts 12 (about Herod, the grandson of Herod the Great), and Acts 22 & 26 (Paul). Praise God for the boldness of faith of both Peter and Paul as they proclaimed their testimonies.
After seeing the aqueduct of Caesarea, we drove to the Mt. Carmel Range. Gathering in a small Carmelite chapel (called Muhraqa – “burnt offering”), we heard the story of Elijah defeating the prophets of Baal here (1 Kings 18). We enjoyed singing a few chorus here in the chapel as well. From the rooftop of the chapel, our first view of the Jezreel Valley below came into full view. From here we could we the Nazareth Ridge (Luke 4), Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5), the Hill of Moreh (Judges 6-7), and Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 31). Following this visit, we had lunch (our first falafel of the tour) at a very nice Druze restaurant.
Descending by bus into the Jezreel Valley, Megiddo was our next visit. This is an impressive archaeological site of over 2 dozen “levels” of ruins. The city was strategically located, guarding the main route into the valley from the southwest. Here was saw a model of this ancient “tel” (ancient mound) before climbing to the site itself. We saw three gate structures from the Middle and Late Bronze (Canaanite) period, as well as an Iron Age gate built by Solomon. From the edge of the site we again reviewed the stories from the OT as we viewed Mt. Tabor, Hill of Moreh, and Mt Gilboa here. We recalled the words of Revelation 16 that reminded us that God will be victorious in the last great battle. It will be God who will have the last word! We descended through Megiddo’s impressive water system before boarding the bus on the other side.
Our last stop of the day was the precipice of Nazareth. Looking north, we could see the city of Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus while growing up. Looking south, the gained our third and final perspective of the Jezreel Valley. We read from Luke 4 and John 1 as we were invited to “come and see” Jesus. We enjoyed a time of worship and praise as well as the sun set to the west.
Driving through Cana and the hills of the Lower Galilee, we arrived at Nof Ginnosar, our hotel for the next three nights. It is located on the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee. Following dinner we enjoyed a time down on the water’s edge.
It was a great first full day! Yet much more to come!
DAY 4 – WEDNESDAY, MARCH 9
It was another perfect weather day today, with sun and temps around 75. After breakfast, we drove to the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee. We began to climb the Golan Heights. Although a bit hazy, the view from our first stop of the plain of Bethsaida below set the context for the stories of Mark 8 (blind man healed) and John 6 (Feeding of the 5,000). Following this miracle, Jesus sent his disciples off in a boat heading back to Capernaum while He stayed behind to pray. As the nightly storm arose, Jesus came walking on the water. This took place at this corner of the lake.
Driving further eastward, we visited Gamla. Driving down to the site itself, we walked to the ruins of this 1st century city. We sat in the synagogue here as we considered how Jesus taught in many towns and villages. We also read from Acts 5 about “Judas the Galilean” who was probably the one who led a revolt here in 6 AD. Here we also saw a number of the Griffon vultures.
Qatzrin (Katzrin) was our next site. This was a Talmudic village (3rd-7th century AD). We sat in a marvelous reconstructed stone house, probably very similar to the type of houses during Jesus’ day. We heard the story of the lame man being lowered through the roof (Mark 2). We celebrated Jesus’ physical and spiritual healing of this man. Jesus came to save sinners like us. By His grace we are saved too! There is also a synagogue here as well, but it dates much later than Jesus’ day.
Driving north, Bental was our next stop. This was the location of an Israeli military bunker/lookout built high on a old volcano. From the top we could look into Syria. All was quiet. Shlomo shared with us some of the history involving the 1967 and 1973 wars and the strategic importance of this place.
Stopping at a grocery store in one of the Druze villages (for a quick lunch of bananas and pretzels J), this allowed us ample time to visit Caesarea Philippi as well as the nature preserve and archaeological site of Dan. It was in the region of Caesarea Philippi where Jesus asked the question, “Who do you say I am?” (Mathew 16). This was a powerful question Jesus with which He challenged His disciples. We visited the grotto area of this pagan city, which included a Temple dedicated to Augustus as well as a worship center for Pan, the shepherding god.
Dan was our last site here in the north. We walked through a beautiful nature preserve located along the headwaters of the Jordan River. We enjoyed a quite time of song and reflection (Psalm 42). Here we considered the pattern of disobedience displayed here throughout Israelite history. We sat on the steps of the high place established by Jeroboam as we listened to the stories of Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12. The Lebanon border can also be seen from here. We saw the Middle Bronze (Canaanite) mud-brick gate here as well as we left the site.
Heading back to the Sea of Galilee, our final stop was the Mt. of Beatitudes. We heard the reading of Matthew 5 in both Hebrew and English. We considered these kingdom principles for our lives as followers of Christ. Most in the group walked down to the water’s edge, enjoying a time of solitude and reflection.
Arriving back to our hotel, we freshened up for dinner. This was followed by a time of fellowship and sharing once again at the water’s edge. It was another great day!
DAY 5 – THURSDAY, MARCH 10
On yet another sunny and perfect temperature day (70s), we begin the day by visiting Mt. Arbel, a mountain on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. About a third of the group hiked up the trail, while the rest of the group drove the bus around to the other side of Arbel and approached the top with a shorter walk to the top. The view from the top was great! We recalled the parables of Jesus, especially the kingdom parable of Matthew 13.
Next, we drove about 20 minutes north to Chorazim, one of the three cities condemned by Jesus (Matthew 11). We visited the 3rd century AD synagogue here, Here we saw a replica of the Moses’ seat mentioned in Matthew 23. We also reflected upon what Jesus said in this chapter about the Pharisees. Closeby and right on the water’s edge was Capernaum. We visited this synagogue as well (5th century AD) but also saw some of the 1st century ruins. We read from Mark 1, 2 and 9, Luke 7, and John 6, all stories that happened here. We also saw a Late Roman church, and took the time for some quiet reflection along the shore’s edge.
After our traditional “St. Peter’s fish lunch,” we saw the 1st century ancient boat (the “Jesus boat”) that was found in 1986 at Nof Ginnosar. We also enjoy a boat ride out on the lake, with some singing and a devotional on the storm narrative (Mark 4) by Pastor Richard. Brother Dan also shared a few songs.
On our way to the southern end of the lake for our optional baptism, we made a brief stop at Magdala. Here we saw another 1st century synagogue. No doubt Jesus taught in this one too. The baptism in the Jordan that followed (at Yardenit) that was special for all. 20 in the group reaffirmed their commitment to follow Jesus as one of His disciples.
On our way back to the hotel, we made a brief stop at the Kinneret cemetery. This is where some of the early Jewish pioneers are buried, including a single woman named Rachel. Shlomo shared here story, read some of her poems, and offered a few songs. Back at the hotel we enjoyed dinner and a free night. What another great day it was!
DAY 6 – FRIDAY, MARCH 11
Today we checked out of our hotel here at Nof Ginnosar. Following a wonderful sunrise (it would be another perfect weather day, with temps around 80) and full buffet breakfast again, we drove south through Tiberias, down the Jordan River Valley to Beth Shean (also Beth Shan). This was a huge Roman city, the only Decapolis city located on the western side of the Jordan. Here we saw the massive bathhouse, Cardo (main Roman street), numerous pillars, a public latrine, and a theater. We read from 1 Samuel 31 about Saul’s death and the subsequent hanging of his body here on the walls of the Canaanite city. Some hiked to the top of the tel for a great view of the surrounding area (Mt. Gilboa, Hill of Moreh, Jordan River Valley, and Jabesh Gilead on the Jordan side. Pastor Tim showed us where he excavated back in the early 90s.
Beating the 12 buses of 550+ people from the Chuck Swindoll group out of the site, we then drove west and ascended in the Hill Country of Ephraim/Samaria. The drive was beautiful, passing by hills and valleys preserved like they probably looked like back in biblical days. When we arrived at Shiloh, we walked up the tel for a great video presentation of the stories that took place here. For 369 years, the Ark of the Covenant resided here in what was probably a more permanent Tabernacle structure. We read from 1 Samuel 3 about God’s call upon Samuel’s life. We also read from Jeremiah, who mentions Shiloh in his words of disappointment with his Judean people. We walked down to the flat area where it is believed the Tabernacle once stood. It was incredible to be standing where perhaps Samuel once was.
Continuing our drive south, we past places like Bethel (Genesis 12, 27 – Abram, Jacob), Michmash (1 Samuel 13-14 as he battled the Philistines), and the Desert of Pareth (Jeremiah 13). The scenery as spectacular! We even saw one gazelle.
Our next stop is Jericho. After eating lunch here, we climbed the tel and connected the dots with the stories that took place here or near hear (Moses’ death on Mt Nebo on the other side of the Jordan, Deut. 31-34; Elijah’s chariot of fire / Elisha’s purification of Jericho’s spring, 2 Kings 2; Jesus’ baptism, John 1; Zacheaus and Bartimeus, Luke 19, Mark 10). – yet the primary story related to Jericho comes from Joshua 6. Here we saw the double-walled fortification that surrounded the city. It was the retaining/revetment walls that supported the mud-brick walls that “came tumblin’ down.” We celebrated the historicity of the Bible despite attempts (and misinterpretations of the archaeological evidence) to destroy it.
We end the day by driving to our hotel at the Dead Sea. We stopped for a gorgeous view of the sunset. Arriving at the hotel, we checked in, enjoyed dinner, and a free evening. What a great day again! God is good!
DAY 7 – SATURDAY, MARCH 12: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, WILDERNESS OF JUDAH
Today began for most with a “float” in the Dead Sea. Some even got up for another spectacular sunrise. Following experiencing this unique sensation, we enjoyed breakfast together before departing about 9 a.m. for Masada, our first stop. Located on the western shoreline of the Dead Sea, we ascended to the top of this 1,000 foot high “mountain fortress/palace” built by King Herod. Shlomo introduced the story of Masada in one of the deep cisterns. We also saw the southern and northern palace, the Roman ramp, the casemate wall, the synagogue and the bathhouse. A good number in the group enjoyed the hike down the Snake Path. The site reminded us that God is our ultimate “fortress” (metzada, see Psalm 18:1-2).
Continuing our drive north, our next stop was Ein Gedi. where David hid from King Saul. We read from Songs of Solomon 1, 2 Chronicles 20 (the “ascent of Ziz”) and 1 Samuel 24. We also enjoyed a walk back to a few of the waterfalls. We saw ibex and cooneys (Psalm 104). We even encountered to very young (perhaps a day or 2 old?) ibex newborns. They were being protected inside of a very small crack of a rock.
Driving still northward, we arrived at Qumran for a late lunch. During lunch a few explored the water channel chiseled out of the rock face above the site. We then visited the ruins of this ancient settlement of the first century sect known as the Essenes. They were the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Here we saw not only the ruins, but also a few of the 11 caves in which the scrolls were found. Some then hiked up to Cave 1 (where in 1947 the two Isaiah scrolls, Thanksgiving scroll, the War of Light against Darkness scroll, the Habakkuk pesher/commentary, among others) while most hiked to Cave 11 (the Temple scroll). We rejoiced in the preservation and purposes of God’s Word. We read from “Psalm 151” (found here in 1956) and Psalm 19.
En route to Jerusalem, we ascended about 4,000 feet in elevation. About half way to Israel’s capital, we stopped for a wonderful view of the Judean Desert. This area is called Wadi Qelt. In the backdrop of this desert, we heard the words of Isaiah 40. The passage came to life as we enjoyed the imagery of this unique region. Shlomo also sang Psalm 23.
We continued to Jerusalem. Checking in to our hotel, we enjoyed dinner together as well as an optional “orientation walk” to the Western Wall. It is good to be here in Israel’s capital, the eternal city!
DAY 8 – SUNDAY, MARCH 13
Today was our first day in Jerusalem! We woke to sunny skies and temps in the 50s. Highs today would reach in the 70s, again ideal. Leaving the hotel at 7:35 today, our first destination was the Mt. of Olives. The view of the Old City and the Temple Mount is the very best from here! We read from Luke 19 (the Palm Sunday story) and Zechariah 14 (the return of Christ) from Dominus Flevet (a chapel preserving the place where Jesus wept over Jerusalem) as we considered Jesus’ first and second coming in God fulfilling His redemptive plan for the world.
Walking down the “traditional” Palm Sunday road, we walked to a more private area where we reflected upon Christ’s passion. Here in the Garden of Gethsemane we read from Luke 22 and considered Jesus’ words, “Not my will, but yours be done.” It was special to spend some time alone here.
Walking into the Old City through the Lion’s/St. Stephen’s Gate, we arrived at St. Anne’s Crusader Church. We enjoyed the almost 10 second echo as we sang a few songs together. Shlomo played Amazing Grace as well. We also read John 5 overlooking the Pool of Bethesda. The ruins of the 5 “colonnades” could be seen below. The walk through the Old City continued from here on a pathway commonly called the Via Dolorosa (although the “way of the cross” of Jesus was probably from the other direction). We ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is one of two suggested locations for both the crucifixion and burial site of Christ.
Following lunch in the Christian Quarter, we walked out of the Jaffa Gate and boarded the bus to Herodium. This was where Herod the Great was buried. His tomb was discovered 5-6 years ago here. Herodium is a unique archaeological site that offers a great view of the surrounding areas. Although it was a bit hazy, we could see the outline of Moab (Jordan), the Dead Sea, the Mt. of Olives, Tekeo (where Amos was from), and Bethlehem.
Driving to Beit Sahor, we enjoyed a time of reflection and Christmas caroling at the Shepherds’ Fields. Sitting in a cave together, we celebrated that “just at the right time, God sent His Son ((Gal. 4:4).” We also sang carols in the chapel as well.
Our last stop of the day was in Bethlehem. Here we visited an olive wood factory and store. We enjoyed some shopping here. Driving back to our hotel, we ate dinner together. It was followed by an optional walk to Ben Yehuda Street. David drove us there in the bus. We walked back together to the hotel.
It was a great first day here in Jerusalem!
DAY 9 – MONDAY, MARCH 14
We departed today a little earlier than our usual time. It was noticeably cooler when we left, yet temps would rebound into the high 50s to low 60s, with a mix of clouds and sun. Our first stop was the Western Wall. Breaking into two groups, we entered what is called the Western Wall Tunnel. We walked northward along this “retaining” wall of Herod’s Temple. The stones were huge, with the “Master Course” weighing an estimated 600 tons! This Temple project (started in 20 BC) was a remarkable engineering feat. No wonder the disciples comment about it when leaving the Temple (“What a magnificent building…” Mark 13:1-2)From the end of the walk, we returned to the Western Wall.
Climbing the steps into the Jewish Quarter, our next stop was a unique visit to the Temple Institute. Here, we saw and heard about some of the preparations being made for the Third Temple. Following this, we visited Moshe, an Orthodox Jew. He shared with us about His Jewish faith. It was quite interesting to understand more about Jewish thought, theology, and practice.
After lunch here in the Jewish Quarter, we walked out the Zion’s Gate where we met our bus. Driving to the west Jerusalem, our first stop of the afternoon was the Israel Museum. We saw three things here: the 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem as it would have appeared in Jesus’ day, the Shrine of the Book (displaying some of the Dead Sea Scrolls), and some of the “highlight” artifacts in the archaeological museum.
We end the day with a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum. Here we heard Shlomo’s story about losing 12 members of his family in Vilna, Poland. We also saw the Children’s Memorial and walked through the museum on our own. The experience here was “heavy,” but insightful.
We return to our hotel in Jerusalem for dinner and a free evening.
DAY 10 – TUESDAY, MARCH 15
Today was our last day in Jerusalem. While it was cooler (50s), we had a mix of sun and clouds without the rain that was predicted. Our first stop was the City of David. We saw many things here related to the Bible. After a 15 minute video about the history of this ancient city, we descended down to the excavations. We saw portions of David’s palace as well as a number of Israelite ruins. This was the area where Pastor John dug in 1982. It was David who conquered this city from the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5), and Hezekiah who re-fortified the city at the time of the Assyrian attack (2 Kings 20 & 2 Chr. 32). Hezekiah also cut out of the rock a water tunnel 1,720 feet long in order to safely bring water into the city during the siege.
Walking down through Warren’s Shaft, we finally descended to the water system, the tower that protected it, and the Gihon Spring. About half of the group walked through the water of Hezekiah’s Tunnel, while the other half walked through the “dry” Canaanite tunnel. Both groups converged at the Pool of Silom where John 9 was read in “dramatic” fashion.
From here we ascended back up to the SW corner of the Temple Mount. Some walked through the drainage channel under the Roman street. At the SW corner of these excavations, we again saw the Roman street and the massive Herodian stones. We sat on the southern steps of the Temple as we heard all the stories from the Gospels of all those who used these steps themselves.
From here we enjoyed about 2.5 hours of free time. Some ascended to the Temple Mount, while others saw the Upper Room and Oscar Schindler’s grave on Mt. Zion. Others walked the rampart walls, while most everyone did their final shopping.
We ended the day at the Garden Tomb. Here we viewed the beautiful grounds as well as the tomb suggested to be the tomb of Christ. Whether it is the tomb or not, we worship the Person and not the place. We also enjoyed a time of worship and communion as well.
We drove back to the hotel to freshen up before enjoying our Farewell dinner held at the Olives & Fish nearby. It was a wonderful time of great food and fellowship. After dinner, Shlomo and David took those who are flying home tonight to the airport, while those doing the extension to southern Israel and Jordan walked back to the hotel.
DAY 11 – WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16
Today those who only did the 11 Day Israel portion of the trip returned home after a night flight. Taking off at 10:30 p.m., the flight arrived back in New York. After US Customs, everyone caught their domestic connecting flight home.
For the 19 who are doing the extension, the day started at 7:30 once again. It was raining hard while we loaded the bus and said goodbye to Jerusalem. However, the day turned out to be very nice, with clouds and sun and cooler temps around 55. Descending west from the Hill Country of Judah to the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah, our first site was Gezer. This was an OT city located in the Ayalon Valley mentioned in Joshua (Josh. 10, 12), and later in the context of Solomon (1 Kings 9). It was Solomon who re-fortified this city because of its strategic importance and location. We saw a replica of the famous Gezer Calendar found here 100 years ago. We read Ecclesiastes 3 about the “seasons of life.” We also saw two gate structures here, one Canaanite, and the other a gate built by Solomon during the First Temple period. Before leaving the site, we saw the messabot or “standing stones” most likely used in a Canaanite cultic center here.
Continuing south to the Sorek Valley, we made a brief stop at Beth Shemesh. Here we read from 1 Samuel 6 about the Ark of the Covenant being returned from the Philistines living west in the coastal region. We could see it happening right before our eyes! Most picked up pottery here, while some explored one of the many cisterns.
The next valley to the south is the Elah Valley. Here we began to have bus transmission problems. David carefully drove us on the muddy lane that led to Kh. Qeiyafa. This is a relatively new archaeological excavation. We sat on one of the chambered gates while we read the story of the battle between David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17). This was another story where we could picture it happening at the narrow part of the valley below. Leaving the site from the other gate (hence, this may have been the city Sha’aryim,” a fortress city built perhaps by David), we slowly drove south the Beit Guvrin where we had lunch. A mechanic came to address the issue with the bus here, but it as decided to use another bus.
Following lunch, we visited the Roman amphitheater before driving to the earlier part of the city (called Maresha). Here we visited the columbarium (pigeon cave) as well as the Bell cave. Here, Shlomo played his recorder. We also read from Micah 1 and sang a few choruses.
Now with a new bus, we drove south to Lachish for our final stop of the day. This is another under-developed OT site, yet full of biblical history. Here we saw the gate structure, the double fortification wall, the siege ramp (built by Sennecherib, the Assyrian), and the palace (probably built by Rehoboam). We read from Jeremiah 34:7 about Azekah and Lachish being the two last-standing cities in Judah, just as the Lachish Letter #4 says. Again archaeology reveals the truth and historicity of Scripture!
We drove to Negev where we checked into our hotel in Beersheba. This is a city of about 200,000 people and serves as the capital of the Negev. We enjoyed dinner together, followed by a walk around the town.
It as a great first day of this extension!
DAY 12 – THURSDAY, MARCH 17
After a cool start, it was another perfect weather day. Leaving after breakfast at 7:35, we drove to the outskirts of Beersheba to the ancient site of Tel Beersheba. After seeing a replica of a 4-horned altar found here, we walked to the gate of the city. Although this well doesn’t date to their time, we considered the stories of Abraham (Gen. 21) and Jacob (Gen 26). We also considered the beauty of Psalm 23 (“my cup overflows…”), with the cup perhaps referring to the overflow trough (or “cup”) used by ancient shepherds. On top of the tel, we could see Israelite 4-room houses. These are quite common in OT days. We left the site by descending down through the water/cistern system.
Driving south through the Negev (Psalm 126:3… the “water courses of the Negev”), we stopped at Sde Boker. Here we saw the grave of David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister. His and his wife’s grave overlook the beautiful Zin canyon. Boarding the bus, we drove to down into this canyon (“wadi”) where we enjoyed a walk between the canyon walls. About half the group hiked up to the southern rim of the canyon. We even saw a female ibex feed her newborn. It was quite a scene!
Continuing south, the view from the northern rim of the Machtesh Ramon was spectacular! This is Israel’s “Grand Canyon.” It is a unique geological wonder, with many rock levels exposed.
Driving down into the canyon and on through towards the Aravah Valley, we enjoyed lunch at Yotvata. We especially enjoyed the ice cream here. Just south was the copper mines of ancient Timnah. A full-size replica of the Tabernacle is constructed here. We had a wonderful tour of it by a Messianic Jew from Australia. Nearby we ended our time at Timnah with visiting a rock formation called “Solomon’s Pillars.” An Egyptian temple is also here.
From here we drove to the Rabin Border. Saying goodbye to Shlomo and David, we crossed into Jordan after the normal passport procedures. Our Jordanian agent and bus was waiting for us. We drove to our 5+ hotel south of Aqaba located right on the Red Sea. We had a fabulous dinner together before retiring for the night.
We are all looking forward to Petra tomorrow!
DAY 13 – FRIDAY, MARCH 18
What a great start to the morning. Many got up early and enjoyed some time on the beach of the Red Sea. This hotel is really fabulous too! After a great breakfast, we met our Jordanian guide (Ra’ed) as we loaded up our bags on the bus. We drove north along the Red Sea and through Aqaba and biblical Edom on what was called in the Bible the Desert and Kings’ Highways. As we got closer to Petra and the heart of the Seir mountains, we stopped for a few panoramic shots. Finally, we arrived at this famous site of Petra. It is one of the seven wonders of the world.
After entering the site, some arranged “buggy” rides through the Siq (canyon gorge) while others walked. At the end of the Siq the famous “Treasury” (or “Al-Khazneh”) came into dramatic view. This well-preserved monumental tomb appears in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
From here we entered into the site. We saw many tombs (there are close to 4,000 tombs through Petra’s 40 square miles), sandstone of many colors, and the Roman theater cut right into the rock. It is one of the largest theaters in Jordan. Carved in the sandstone from the early 1st century at the bottom of the High Place, the theater once held 3000 people.
From here about 10 in the group hiked to the outer western edge of Petra to the “Monastery.” It is also quite spectacular. It was worth the hike up over 800 steps.
Everyone returned back to the entrance of this amazing site at their leisure, enjoying the beauty of Petra at every turn. 6 in the group hiked up to the High Place. It was a great view from the top. Returning back at the hotel, we enjoyed dinner together and telling stories of the adventures of the day.
Petra … what an amazing and uniquely beautiful place!
DAY 14 – SATURDAY, MARCH 19
Today was our last day in Jordan. Checking out at 8 a.m., for the last time we loaded the bus and drove north to Amman. On the way we stopped not only for another panoramic view of Petra, but also three other sites.
Soon after leaving Petra, we made a brief stop to see Shobak, a Crusader castle. We enjoyed a nice view of this 12th century fortress. We continued on to Machearus, a fortress of Herod the Great overlooking the Dead Sea and the location where John the Baptist was beheaded. On the way, we saw a black iris. It only blooms for a few weeks in the spring. When we arrived at Machearus, half in the group climbed this fortress. The view of the Dead Sea and Israel was spectacular. Looking across the Dead Sea, we could see Engedi to the south, Jericho to the north, and even the Mt. of Olives on the western horizon. While the ruins are not well preserved, we read from Matthew 11. It is interesting that the daughter of Arêtes IV (mentioned in 2 Cor. 11) was married to Herod Antipas before Herod divorced her and married his brother’s (Phillip) wife.
Medeba was the next visit. It is called the “City of Mosaics” due to the wonderfully vivid 6th century AD Byzantine mosaic map seen in the Greek Orthodox church of St. George. We picked up a quick lunch here too as we walked back to the visitor center.
We continued to Mt. Nebo. The view into Israel was a bit more hazy than this morning’s view from Machearus. While looking into the “Promised Land” we read Deuteronomy 34, and Joshua 1 about Moses’ death and Joshua’s encouraging words. Ross and Amy also renewed their wedding vows here. It was a special time!
We then traveled to Amman and enjoyed a farewell dinner at a classic Jordanian restaurant. It was very good. This followed by driving to the airport for our late night flight (1:15 a.m.) home.
DAY 15 – SUNDAY, MARCH 20: FLIGHT HOME
We all board our flight from Amman to Paris. From here we all made our connecting flights home. What a great tour!