Biblical Israel Tour Experiences for our 13 Day Combined Biblical Israel & Jordan Tour
March 13-25, 2017
DAYS 1 & 2 – MONDAY – TUESDAY, MARCH 13 & 14
Our day of departure finally arrived! Meeting at various departing cities, we boarded our flights en route to Israel the land of the Bible. Unfortunately because of the predicted winter storm along the east coast, a number of folks were delayed getting to Israel.
For those whose flights were on time, we landed this afternoon at the Ben Gurion Airport. Upon proceeding through passport control and getting our luggage, we loaded up our two buses and drove to Jaffa (also called Joppa). We simply walked the narrow alley ways and enjoyed a great view of the Tel Aviv Mediterranean Sea coastline. We remembered the stories of Jonah (Jonah 1) and Peter (Acts 9 & 10).
Fighting the Tel Aviv rush-hour traffic, we made it to Netanya. We checked in to your hotel, enjoyed dinner, and a brief orientation meeting that followed.
We are excited about being here in Israel and thankful to God for the experience that awaits us. We also hope and pray that the others who were delayed and/or canceled flights arrive here in a timely manner.
DAY 3 – WEDNESDAY, MARCH 15:
Today was our first full day in Israel. We were greeted with a sunny morning and mild temps. After breakfast we loaded the buses up and set out for Caesarea. This city built by Herod the Great in 22 BC was quite impressive. Sitting in the theater, we “connected the dots” with the Bible by reading from Acts 10 (Peter), Acts 12 (Herod Agrippa, Herod the Great’s grandson), and Paul (Acts 26). We also enjoyed singing here. Here in Caesarea we also saw the palace, the hippodrome, the harbor, mosaics, and part of the Crusader city built here in the 12th century AD. Before leaving the site, we saw the aqueduct that as used to bring water into the city from the Carmel Range.
Driving up to the Carmel Range, our next stop was to a Carmelite chapel located at the highest peak called Muhraqa (“burnt offering”). We read the story about Elijah defeating the prophets of Baal from 1 Kings 18. Other references were also shared about Carmel (2 Kings 4, Isaiah 35, Amos 9, and Songs of Songs 7). From the rooftop of the chapel we enjoyed our first view of the Jezreel Valley below. From here we could see the Nazareth Ridge, Mt Tabor (Judges 4-5), the Hill of Moreh (Judges 6-7), and Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 31).
Following lunch at a restaurant owned and operated by a Druze family, we visited Megiddo. This was a massive Canaanite and Israelite city in biblical days. Thutmose III, the Egyptian Pharaoh, conquered it. So did Joshua (Joshua 12) about 50 years later. Climbing the tel (“ancient mound”), we saw three gate structures (Middle Bronze, Late Bronze, and a Solomonic gate), stables, a Canaanite alter, and an Israelite granary. As it began to rain, we left the site by descending down 180 steps to the ancient water system.
After some heavy traffic, we finally arrived at Sepporis. This was the primary city in the Lower Galilee during the time of Jesus. Dogging the raindrops, here we saw some beautiful mosaics, one called the Mona Lisa of the Galilee. Towards the end of our visit, we were blessed with a beautiful rainbow over Nazareth!
We ended the day on the precipice of Nazareth. In full view of Mt. Tabor, the Hill of Moreh, and the Jezreel Valley below, we read from Luke 4. However, the lightning and rain storm shortened our gathering in a hurry as we quickly returned back to the bus. But to see Jesus’ “backyard” while growing up in this area was really special!
Driving to Tiberias we checked into our hotels and enjoyed dinner together and a free evening. Despite the afternoon rain, it was a great first day here in Israel!
DAY 4 – THURSDAY, MARCH 16:
Today we traveled north to the Golan Heights. The weather in the morning was overcast and a big foggy, but in the afternoon we enjoyed breaks of sun. Temps were in the 50s.
Driving from the NW to NE corner of the Sea of Galilee, we made our first stop at an overview of the area of Bethsaida. This was the home town of Peter, Andrew, and Philip. We read from Mark 8 (blind man healed) and John 6 (Feeding of 5,000), two stories that took place here. We also considered Philip’s words – “Come and see” (john 1) in regard to seeing Jesus as the Messiah. We listened to The Lord’s Prayer before leaving this place.
Next as Gamla. With the fog setting in, visibility was poor, limiting our view of this ancient Jewish city below. The city was involved in the 1st Revolt against the Romans in 66 A.D. A 1st century synagogue is located here, no doubt one from which Jesus taught. The only indirect reference to Gamla is Acts 5 that mentions a certain Judas the Galilean who may have been from here.
Qatzrin was our next visit. This was a Talmudic village (3rd-7th century AD or so). We gathered in a reconstructed stone house (very similar to a house at the time of Jesus) where we read from Mark 2. We could see the story of the lame man healed physically and spiritually here unfold! We also saw the synagogue here dating to the same time period.
After lunch “on the fly” (bananas and apples), we drove north and east to the Syrian border. Here we learned about the 1967 and 1973 wars with Syria. We could see across the border to the Syrian town of Qunetra.
Driving west down of the Golan Heights, Caesarea Philippi was the next stop. One of the tributaries of the Jordan River (Banias) begins here. We read from Matthew 16 and considered the question Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” We walked up to the Grotto area where some of the pagan temples and ritual places once stood.
Close by was the nature preserve and archaeological site of Dan. Walking along the largest tributary of the Jordan through the wooded preserve was impressive. We stopped to listen to Shlomo play his recorder. We also read from Psalm 42 and enjoyed a quiet time of reflection. Entering the archaeological part of the site, we saw the high place established by Jeroboam. We read from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12 about the pattern of disobedience displayed here. Upon leaving the site, we also saw a Middle Bronze / Canaanite gate (Gen 14 … used by Abraham perhaps) and the gate structure dating to the Israelite Period.
On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at Misgav Am. This is located ½ mile away from the Lebanon border. The view was spectacular, not only into Lebanon, but also Mt. Hermon and the Huleh Valley. We read about Abel Beit Maacah, an archaeological tel located below in the valley (2 Samuel 20) and heard some modern history about Lebanon.
Upon arriving back at the hotel in Tiberias, we enjoyed dinner together and a free evening.
DAY 5 – FRIDAY, MARCH 17:
Today was a day around the Sea of Galilee, called Kinneret in Hebrew. The temps warmed to the high 60s, with partly sunny to overcast skies.
Leaving the hotel at 7:40, Mt. Arbel was our first stop. 17 in the group hiked the trail (about a 800 foot ascent), while the rest of the groups approached the top by bus and a short walk. Although a little hazy, the view from on top was spectacular. We all could imagine Jesus on top here as well.
Driving back down through Tiberias, Magdala was our next site. This served as the home of Mary Magdalene. Among the ruins, we saw a 1st century synagogue here (one of only seven in Israel). Jesus no doubt would have taught from here! We also enjoyed singing in the newly-built chapel. The acoustics were amazing!
From here we drove to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee to a place called Yardenit. Here, 15 in the group re-affirmed their faith in Christ by being baptized in the Jordan River. Although the water was “cool,” it was a special time for all!
Following lunch (St. Peter’s fish), we drove to the NW corner of the lake to Chorazim. This was one of three cities condemned by Jesus. Here we saw a 3d century synagogue and a replica of the “Moses Seat” found here. We read from Matthew 23.
Down below on the shoreline was Capernaum, the “home base” city for Jesus’ ministry. Sitting in the 5th century synagogue (most likely, the 1st century synagogue Jesus knew was below), we read from Mark 1, 2, 9; Luke7; and John 6. All of these stories took place here. We also saw a 5th century Byzantine Church here. We enjoyed a quiet moment also on the shoreline as we remembered that the disciples were called by Jesus here (Mt. 4).
At Nof Ginnosar we saw the “Jesus Boat,” a 1st century wooden boat found here in 1986. This visit was followed by our own boat ride out on the lake. On the very calm waters we read from Mark 4 and Matthew 14. Praise God that we can cast all our cares upon Him, for He cares for us through the “waves and storms” of life! On the boat we also enjoyed a time of worship.
We ended the day on the Mt. of Beatitudes. As the sun was setting, we reflectively read from Matthew 5 (in Hebrew and English) and considered these kingdom principles for our own lives.
Returning to our hotels, we enjoyed dinner together. We returned to our rooms, packing our bags for check-out tomorrow as we leave in the morning for Jordan!
DAY 6 – SATURDAY, MARCH 18:
Today we made our northern crossing into the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Following breakfast we loaded our luggage on the bus and drove to the Sheik Border crossing. The procedures always require a “patient spirit.” However completing upon all the border formalities (and after some “challenge” to get brother Steve’s entrance approved for some unknown reason), we met our Jordanian guides (Sam and Omar ) and drivers. Leaving from here we drove about 1.5 hours to the largest of the Decopolis cities – Jerash. On the way we passed Jabesh Gilead (Judges 21, 1 Samuel 31) and Pella.
Jerash is a huge Roman city. Probably 20,000 lived here in ancient times. Upon entering the site, we saw Hadrian’s Arch and the hippodrome. After eating lunch inside the site, we saw the Temple of Zeus, the agora (market area), the Cardo (main street), and the theater. Some in the group also walked to the northern side of the site to see the Temple of Artemis.
Boarding back on the bus, we drove past the Jabbok River (Genesis 32, where Jacob wrestled with God) to Mt. Nebo. Here we viewed into the Promised Land as Moses did before he died here. We read from Deuteronomy 34 and Joshua 1. We could picture Joshua leading his people across the Jordan River (on dry ground) to Jericho on the other side of the Jordan. We also visited the newly-reconstructed church here beautifully decorated with mosaics. Nearby we made a brief stop at a mosaic shop where handicapped people are trained.
From here we drove about three hours to Petra (Wadi Musa). We checked into our hotel and enjoyed a late dinner before retiring for the night.
It was a great first day here in Jordan!
DAY 7 – SUNDAY, MARCH 19: PETRA, WADI RUM
This early morning we entered one of the 7 wonders of the world – Petra! The day would be mostly cloudy at first, but sunny by mid-morning, with temps in the 50s. We would spend around seven hours here in the heart of the Seir Mountains within the land of the Edomites.
We entered this ancient red-rose city by walking through the Siq. This is about a mile long. It led us to the first monument “The Treasury” (formally called “Al-Khazneh”). This well-preserved monumental tomb appears in the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.” It was most likely the burial chamber or memorial for the Nabatean King Aretas IV (see 2 Corinthians 11).
A walk further down through the outer siq with all of its royal tombs and burial chamber brought us to one of the largest theaters in Jordan. Dating to the 1st century AD, the theater could hold about 3000 people. Some in the group enjoyed exploring some of these royal tombs.
An option was given to hike about 2.5 miles further out to the most western part of the city. The Monastery Tomb is located there. This was quite impressive as well. From here we could look back into the Rift Valley and Negev of Israel.
On the way back, some in the group added an extra hike up to the High Place. The walk was equally spectacular, providing a great view of the city below.
Leaving Petra in the mid afternoon, we boarded the bus and drove south to Wadi Rum. This was an area made famous by Sir Lawrence of Arabia during WWI against the Ottoman Turks. We enjoyed a jeep ride through this unique desert and a great sunset before checking into our Bedouin Village accommodations called Captain’s. We enjoyed dinner together (with the meat especially prepared underground) followed by a worship, a devotional, and Communion gathering under the star-lit desert sky. It was fantastic!
Today was a wonderful and unique experience here in Jordan!
DAY 8 – MONDAY, MARCH 20:
This morning we left Wadi Rum. We were greeted by bright sun yet cool morning temps. The afternoon high would recover to about 70.
After loading the busses, we drove to the Rabin Border crossing back into Israel. With patient spirits, we proceeded through the usual security checks and passport control. Being greeted by David and Itzaq, our Israeli drivers, we loaded our buses and drove to the southern end of Elat. Here we entered the coral reef national park where we enjoyed the beach and the crystal-clear water of the beautiful Red Sea. A number of people went swimming among the colorful fish and coral.
About noon we drove north to Timnah. This was an ancient Egyptian copper mine in the 14th century BC. However, our focus was to visit the full-size model of the Tabernacle. We were guided by Allison, a Messianic believer. She made numerous connections with the OT Tabernacle (the altar, the laver, the Holy Chamber consisting of the Table of Showbread, the Menorah, and the Incense Altar, and the Holy of Holies containing the Ark of the Covenant) with how Christ fulfilled all the sacrificial requirements through His death. We read from Hebrews 9. It was an eye-opening lesson.
Traveling further north, we made a brief stop at Yotvata, a dairy kibbutz located hee in the Aravah/Rift Valley. Many enjoyed the ice cream!
Driving about 2 hours further north, we arrived at our hotel at Ein Bokek. Many experienced the uniqueness of floating in the salty waters (33% salt and minerals) of the Dead Sea. A wonderful dinner followed.
DAY 9 – TUESDAY, MARCH 21:
Today would be a day spent in the Judean Desert! The day would be mostly sunny, with highs in the low-mid 70s. Perfect!
After a very nice sunrise over the Dead Sea and another hearty breakfast, we departed shortly after 8 a.m. for Masada. Located just 10-15 minutes or so north of our last night’s hotel in Ein Bokek, we ascended this 1,000 foot-high “fortress” (metzada in Hebrew, see Psalm 18:1-2) by the cable car. The story of Masada is quite amazing. Taking place between 70-73 AD, 967 Jews found refuge from the Romans here after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD. Among the ruins here, we saw palaces, the casemate wall, the Roman ramp (on western side), the synagogue, and the bathhouse. A number in the group walked down the Snake Path (1.1 miles) to the bottom while others took the cable car. Masada was probably the “stronghold” to which David fled following the 1 Samuel 24 story with Saul.
About 20 minutes north is Engedi. This was our next stop. Walking back the Wadi David towards the water falls, we read from Song of Songs 1 (the “henna blossoms of Engedi”), 2 Chronicles 20 (Jehoshaphat and the ascent of Ziz), and 1 Samuel 24 (David and Saul in a cave). Many walked back to some of the waterfalls here. Water flows all year around from this spring (“Ein”).
Continuing north is the site of Qumran. This is where we ate lunch. However, over the lunch hour, some in the group hiked to Cave 1 where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947 (this included the famous Isaiah scroll, among others). Following lunch we visited the ruins of Qumran. Here we saw cisterns, mikve (ritual baths), and the scriptorium. In front of Cave 4 (where the majority of the scrolls were found), we read from “Psalm 151” (one of a few “extra” psalms), as well as 2 Timothy 3:16 and Psalm 19. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls changed not only biblical scholarship, but also lives!
Our last archaeological site was Jericho. Located just north of the Dead Sea, we climbed the tel and remembered all the stories from the Bible relating to the Jordan River to the east (Joshua 3, John 1) as well as NT Jericho located 1.5 miles south (Mark 10, Luke 19). The NT site was also where King Herod died in 4 BC. We also recalled the story of Joshua 6 relating to the OT site that was conquered by Joshua at the end of the 15th century BC. Besides an old rounded tower found here (the oldest tower in the region, perhaps 6,000 years old or more), we also saw the reventment/retaining stones that Joshua saw. It was on top of these stone walls that a mud brick wall was placed. It was this mud brick wall that came ‘tumblin’ down’ with the trumpets! At the end of the telling of the Joshua 6 story, Jeremy blew his shofar (ram’s horn) to add to the story.
From here we drove nearly 4,000 feet in elevation towards Jerusalem. On the way, we made a brief stop at Wadi Qelt where we heard Isaiah 40 read and Psalm 23 sung. The imagery of these two passages in this Judean Desert came alive!
Upon reaching our hotel in Jerusalem, we checked in and enjoyed dinner together. Many in the group then walked to the Western Wall on our “orientation walk” through the Old City. We are excited to be here in Israel’s capital!
DAY 10 – WEDNESDAY, MARCH 22:
Today was our first day in Jerusalem. The weather was overcast in the morning, but with sun and clouds in the afternoon, with temps in the 60s.
Driving around the north part of the Old City of Jerusalem, our first glimpse of the Temple Mount and Old City below was from the Mt. of Olives. Looking across the Kidron Valley we could see almost the entire city from here. Walking down a little further we read from Luke 19 and Zechariah 14 about the Palm Sunday event and the prophecy about Christ’s return. Continuing down the slope we spent about an hour in the Garden of Gethsemane. It was a reflective time of contemplating the passion of Jesus who in this place said, “Not my will be yours be done.”
From here we walked into the Old City through the St. Stephen’s (Lion’s / Jericho) gate. Just inside the city was St. Anne’s Church and the Pools of Bethesda. We enjoyed the marvelous “echo” as we sang in the church. We also read John 5.
Walking the Via Dolorosa (mainly shops) to the Holy Sepulcher Church (one possible location for Christ’s crucifixion and burial), we visited the church inside and saw the newly-cleaned chamber that houses the tomb of Jesus.
Following lunch in the Christian Quarter, we walked out the Jaffa Gate and boarded our buses. Driving south and east about 8 miles, we arrived at Herodium. This was one of six “palace-fortresses” of Herod the Great. When he died in Jericho in 4 BC, his body was transported and buried here. It was discovered about 6 years ago. We walked to the top of this archaeological site and saw the towers of the fortress, the bathhouse, the synagogue, and the cistern system. On the way out we got a glance at the recently-revealed frescos that were part of the reception room to the tomb.
Driving to Beit Sahor, we enjoyed a time of singing Christmas carols in a cave in the Shepherds’ Fields. We read from Luke 2 and Galatians 4:4 and celebrated that “just at the right time God sent His Son.” We also sang a few carols in the chapel as well.
We ended the day by stopping at an olive wood factory and store in Bethlehem. Many purchased olive products made here from local olive wood.
We drove back to the hotel for dinner. Following dinner, most in the group enjoyed a special sound and light show at David’s Citadel.We was really well done.
It was a great first day here in Jerusalem!
DAY 11 – THURSDAY, MARCH 23:
Today was our second day in Jerusalem. Once again, although it rained a little over the night, the skies were partly sunny, with highs in the 60s. Almost perfect!
We started our day a little early this morning. Leaving the hotel around 7:15, we drove down through the Hinnon Valley (2 Chronicles 28:3, Jeremiah 7:31) and then up towards the Old City. Entering through the Dung Gate, we first visited the famous Western Wall. This served as the western retaining wall of the Temple when Herod expanded the Temple Mount (a project that began in 20 BC). From here we walked parallel to this western wall through what is called the Western Wall Tunnel. We saw massive Herodian stones placed precisely. One called the Master Course, weighs 400+ tons!
Walking out of the St. Stephen’s Gate, we then enjoyed being “archaeologists” at the Temple Sifting Project. Located on Mt. Scopus (the northern end of the Mt. of Olives), we sifted through the debris brought directly from the Temple Mount. A number of the group found some interesting things, including a coin probably dating to the 2nd Temple Period. We ordered in falafels for lunch and ate them before we left.
Driving now to the western part of Jerusalem, we next visited the Israel Museum. Here we saw a 1:50 scaled model of Jerusalem as it looked just prior to its destruction in 70 AD. We carefully examined the locations here key stories from the Gospels and the life of Christ took place. Also here at the museum we walked through the Shrine of the Book where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls are on display. Lastly, we walked through the archaeological wing of the museum, seeing a few highlights (Dan Inscription, Moses’ Seat from Chorazim, the “place of trumpeting” inscription from the pinnacle of the Temple, the Pilate Inscription, and the sarcophagus of Herod the Great, among other things (1,900 year-old Roman glass pie plate).
We ended the day with a moving visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial & Museum. It was a gripping experience as we saw the Children’s Memorial. We all heard Shlomo’s story of losing 12 family members from Vilna, Poland. We also walked through the museum itself on our own, reading and hearing the many stories of the Holocaust.
We returned to the hotel for dinner, followed by an optional walk to Ben Yehuda Street for shopping and a taste of modern Israeli life.
DAY 12 – FRIDAY, MARCH 24:
Today was our last day of our tour and our final day in Jerusalem. This last day would again provide almost perfect weather.
After loading up the bus with our luggage, we drove to the City of David. Here we heard the story of David (2 Samuel 5) conquering the city from the Jebusites, and the story of Hezekiah (2 Kings 20, 2 Chronicles 32, Isaiah 36-37). After seeing a movie about these stories from the Bible, we walked through the ruins dating from various times of the Old Testament. Descending down the slope of this ancient city, we walked through Warren’s Shaft down to the Gihon Spring, the water source of the city. Some in the group walked through the “wet” Hezekiah’s Tunnel (1,720 feet long) while others walked through the now “dry” Canaanite Tunnel. Both groups merged at the Pool of Siloam where we read John 9 in dramatic form!
From here some bussed back up to the South Wall Excavations while others walked up the Herodian drainage channel underneath the Roman street that extended southward from the Temple. At the SW corner of the Temple we saw the pinnacle of the Temple. On the southern steps we recalled all the people in the New Testament who used these steps to enter the Temple. This included Jesus, His disciples, Peter and the rest of the Apostles. We recalled the stories of Luke 2, Luke 19, John 10, Acts 2,3 and 5, and others.
From here we had a few hours of free time. Most walked to the Jewish Quarter where we enjoyed lunch and some shopping. It was fun watching people pass through this area.
Walking out of the Zion’s Gate, we met our bus and drove to the Garden Tomb. Here we enjoyed a visit of the suggested place of crucifixion as well as the suggested tomb of Christ. We shared in a time of brief worship, Scripture, and Communion as well.
Leaving the Garden Tomb we drove back to the hotel to freshen up for our night flight home. On the way, we stopped at the 9-11 Memorial just outside of Jerusalem. Continuing from here we had our farewell dinner in Abu Gosh. Continuing from here we arrived at the airport where we checked in and boarded our night flight back home to the States.
DAY 13 – SATURDAY, MARCH 25: ARRIVE HOME
After about a 10.5 hour flight, we landed back in the States. We proceeded through US Customs and made our connecting flight back home. We praise God for a great life-changing trip!