Biblical Israel Tour Experiences for the 11 Day Biblical Israel Tour (with a 3 Day Jordan/southern Israel option)
November 3-13, 2018
DAYS 1 & 2 – SATURDAY-SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 4: DEPART U.S.A., ARRIVE IN ISRAEL, JAFFA, NETANYA
How exciting… our Israel-Jordan trip started today! With great anticipation, our group of 121 people arrived at various departing cities for our International flight to Tel Aviv. While the flight was long, we began to arrive at the Ben Gurion Airportin mid to late afternoon. After going through the long Passport Control lines and securing our luggage, we were greeted by Dr. John, our guides (Shlomo, Eli, and Benji), and our drives (David, Messiach, and Ziv). Because of the lateness of the hour, we drove and drove past Jaffa (Jonah – Jonah 1 & Peter – Acts 9,10) directly north.
Battling the Tel Aviv rush hour traffic, we finally arrived our our two hotels in Netanya for a late dinner and a brief orientation meeting to follow. Though we are all tired, it is a thrill to be here in Israel. We are looking forward to the friendships we will make on the trip as well as our journey here in the land of the Bible!
DAY 3 – MONDAY, NOVEMBER 5: CAESAREA, CARMEL, MEGIDDO, PRECIPICE OF NAZARETH, TIBERIAS
Today was our first full day in Israel. With a mix of Old and New Testament sites, the connections we made with Scripture already has made the Bible come alive. The weather was pleasant, with highs in the low 70s. The afternoon brought a few showers.
After a great breakfast, we checked out of our hotel and loaded the bus. By 7:35, we were off to Caesarea. Located on the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea, the city was built by Herod the Great starting in 22 BC. In the theater we read from Acts 10 (about Peter and Cornelius), Acts 12 (Herod Agrippa), Acts 21 (Philip and Paul), and Acts 26 (Paul). We also enjoyed singing a few songs together. We also saw the palace area, the hippodrome, and many mosaics. Inside the Crusader part of the city, we saw the location where the harbor was. (Paul sailed in and out of this port a few times). Before leaving the site, we saw the aqueduct as well.
The Carmel Range
Driving north in the Sharon Plain, we drove to the Carmel Range. After a great lunch as a place owned by a Druze family, we drove the top of the Carmel called Muhraqa. It was somewhere here where Elijah confronted the 450 false prophet of Baal. We read from I Kings 18 (as well as Amos 1, Isaiah 35, and the Song of Songs 7). While the view was not the best, the rooftop of the chapel provided us our first perspective of the Jezreel Valley below.
Descending to the Jezreel Valley, our next stop was Megiddo. This site dates back to the Early Bronze period. The site has over two dozen stratigraphy levels spanning about 2,500 years! After a few our our folks getting locked in the bathroom stalls, we climbed the tel (ancient mound). We saw three gate structures from the OT period (including one built by Solomon, see 1 Kings 9), the stables, a few palaces, and the grain bin. Looking out over the valley (also called the Valley of Armegeddon, Rev. 16), we celebrated that in the end times, God has the last word! We left the site by descending down 180 steps through the water system.
Precipice of Nazareth
Driving northward through the Jezreel Valley, our last experience of the day was the Precipice of Nazareth. Following a fairly nice sunset and while sitting down on the rocks, we read from Luke 4 and John 1. We were invited to “come and see” (John 1). See this part of the Jezreel Valley at dusk was very special!
From here we drove to our hotel on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee. We checked in and enjoyed dinner together. Some walked down to the water’s edge and saw the lights of Tiberias.
It was a great first full day!
DAY 4 – TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 6: GAMLA, QATZRIN, SYRIAN BORDER, CAESAREA PHILIPPI, DAN
Today started out with a beautiful sunrise on the Sea of Galilee, followed by another very full buffet breakfast. The sun stayed with us all day as well, with ideal temps in the low 70s. We would spend the day in the Golan Heights.
Plain of Bethsaida
Leaving shortly after 7:30 this morning, we started with the familiar words of Matthew 4 (Jesus calling His first disciples by the lake). Driving to the northeastern corner of the Sea of Galilee and ascending the Golan Heights, we enjoyed a great view of this region below. We read from Mark 8 and John 6 (Feeding of the 5,000) as we talked about the two possible locations for Bethsaida. This was a town from where Peter, Andrew, and Phillip grew up.
Ascending higher to the plateau of the Golan Heights, Gamla was our next stop. This was a Jewish city from from the 1st century BC until it was destroyed in 66 AD in the First Revolt again the Romans. We were introduced to Josephus here, someone who actually was part of the battle here in 66 AD against the Romans. We looked down to his ancient city from a cliff above the city. We also saw a few Griffon Vultures here as well (Gamla serves as a refuge for these protected birds).
Next, we continued north to Katzrin, a Talmudic village from the 3rd – 8th centuries AD. Sitting in an ancient yet restored stone house, we read form Mark 2 about Jesus healing the paralytic who was lowered down through the roof. We could see the story unfold before us! We celebrated the amazement of God who forgives our sins too! Before leaving we also saw the synagogue here.
Syrian Border / Quneitra
Driving now northeast, we arrived on the border with Syria. Here all three our of guides shared the past and present situations with Syria. We looked across the border to the Syrian town of Quneitra. Since the 1973 war, the UN monitors the buffer zone between Israel and Syria.
From here we passed Mt. Hermon (Psalm 42, 89, and 133; Songs of Songs 4). This is Israel’s highest mountain (7,300 feet, while Syria owns the highest peak of the mountain, 9,200 feet). Israel even has a ski resort on top (4 chairs, and 12 runs or so). Descending off the Golan Heights, Caesarea Philippi was our next destination. It was here where Jesus asked the most important question of His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” In the region of this pagan city, Jesus prepared His disciples for His ultimate mission for them. At the site we saw the sacred grotto area where the Temple of Augustus once stood, as well as the place where Pan, Jupiter, and Nemesis were honored.
Dan – Nature Preserve and Site
Our last stop of the day was to the nature preserve and archaeological site of Tel Dan. First we enjoyed a gentle walk along the largest of the three tributaries of the Jordan. In the backdrop of the quiet flowing waters, we also enjoyed a reflective time of hearing Shlomo play his recorder as well as reading/singing Psalm 42. Ascending to the top of the site we sat on the steps of the High Place as we read about the patterns of disobedience from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12. Before leaving the site, we saw the Middle Bronze mud-brick gate of Laish (the former name of the city) that dates close to the time of Abraham.
It took about an hour to drive back through the Huleh Valley to our hotel for dinner and a free evening. What another great day here in Israel!
DAY 5 – WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 7: ARBEL, JORDAN RIVER BAPTISM, MAGDALA, CAPERNAUM, MT. of BEATITUDES, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE, BEACH REFLECTION
Today our focus was on the life and ministry of Jesus! Site after site we could see Him teach and heal in some places, serve and calm the water in others, and lead His disciples everywhere! It was a perfect weather day too, with sunny skies and highs in the mid 70s.
Leaving at 7:20 after another great breakfast we drove to the trailhead of the cliffs of Arbel. We read Matthew 13 on the way. About 40 in the group hiked to the top of this mountain, about a 800 foot ascent. Others bussed around to the other side and walked to the top from the visitor center. The view of the Sea of Galilee below was wonderful!
Yardenit/Jordan River Baptism
Driving to the southern end of the lake we arrived at Yardenit. Here about 65 renewed their faith in the waters of the Jordan River. It was a special time for all, and we were the only group there (unlike other sites throughout the day).
Driving back north through Tiberias, we arrived at Magdala. Located on the NW corner of the lake, this city served as the home of Mary Magdalene. Here we saw a 1st century synagogue, only one of about seven that date to the time of Jesus. It made an impression on all of us just to think that Jesus most likely taught from inside the synagogue! This also was the town that Jesus sailed back to after the Feeding of the 4,000 miracle on the SE corner of the lake (Matthew 15).
Following a traditional “St. Peter’s fish” lunch, we drove to Capernaum. Located on the shoreline and main travel route, this city (the “village of Nahum”) served as the main city in this region. Jesus served this city in many ways. He healed (Mark 1, 2; Luke 7,8) and He taught (Mark 9, John 6). He demonstrated His authority in many ways! Reading all these passages inside the 5th century synagogue was special. We also spent some quiet time sitting on the lakeshore, recalling that Jesus called many of His disciples here (Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew/Levi, Matthew 4).
Mt. of Beatitudes
Up the hill from Capernaum is the Mt. of Beatitudes. Sitting on the rocks overlooking a natural amphitheater, we heard the first part of Matthew 5 read in both Hebrew (by Shlomo) and then English. These kingdom principles are meant to guide us in our walk of faith with Christ. We even took a group photo from a drone! 🙂
Boat Ride/Beach Gathering
We finished the day with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. With two boats tied together, we enjoyed a time of worship and reflection. We read form Mark 4 and Matthew 14 about the two storm narratives. Jesus still calms the storms of our lives too! The sunset was also spectacular over Arbel! After leaving the boat we enjoyed a time of sharing on the beach. It was fun to hear peoples’ highlight experiences so far in the tour.
We returned to our hotel for dinner and a free night.
DAY 6 – THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 8: KINNERET CEMETERY, BETH SHEAN, SHILOH, JERICHO, DEAD SEA
Today we left the Sea of Galilee area. Once again, the sun warmly greeted us, with very nice temps in the afternoon around 80.
Driving to the southern end of the lake, we first made a brief stop at the Kinneret Cemetery. This is a cemetery that dates back to the days of the earliest of Jewish pioneers coming to the land and settling the land through the establishment of kibbutz (e.g. communal way of life). A famous Ukrainian Jew, Rachel Bluwstein is buried here. Shlomo shared about kibbutz life and about Rachel. Her poems are still used (and sung) still today. She died in 1931. He picture appears today on the new 20 shekel bill.
Contining south in the Jordan Valley, Beth Shean was our next site. In the days of the Old Testament, it was on the walls of this city where the bodies of King Saul and his sons were hung (they died at nearby Mt. Gilboa, I Samuel 31). Later, the city developed into one of the Roman cities of the Decapolis. At this massive site we saw many mosaics, the bathhouse, the colonnaded street, the public latrenes, and the theater. Many in the group climbed to the top of the Old Testament site for a view of the Roman city below.
Hill Country of Samaria/Shiloh
From here we took a unique route through the Hill Country of Samaria. We passed by Shechem (Jacob, Gen 34), Sycar (John 4) on the way to Shiloh. This city served as the location for the Tabernacle for about 310 years (during the time of the Judges). At the site we saw a replica of the Tabernacle (not yet opened to the public). Near the spot where the Tabernacle once possibly stood, we read from 1 Samuel 3 about young Samuel hearing the voice of God. It was amazing and moving to stand on this same holy ground.
Desert of Pareth / Jericho
Leaving Shiloh, we drove through past Bethel (Gen 12, 28) and Michmash (1 Samuel 13-14) to the Desert of Pareth. We read from Jeremiah 13 as we descended down this part of the Judean Desert. We even saw a few small gazelles. Continuing east, we arrived at Jericho. After grabbing a quick bite to eat, we climbed the Old Testament site. Looking east we could see on the horizon Mt. Nebo (where Moses died, Dt. 34), and the area of the Jordan River (where Jesus was baptized, John 1). To the south we also could see the area where New Testament Jericho was located (the home of Zacheaus – Luke 18 and Bartimeus – Mark 12). This served as the winter palace for King Herod. As for the OT site, we saw the very stone retaining walls on top of which the mud bricks were placed. When the shofars blew, it was the mud brick wall that came tumblin’ down (Joshua 6). We celebrated the accuracy and truth of Scripture!
We ended the day by driving to Ein Bokek at the southern end of the Dead Sea. After checking in, we enjoyed dinner. Some in the group went down to the Dead Sea for a quick float in this unique body of water. Most plan on floating tomorrow morning.
DAY 7 – FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 9: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, WILDERNESS OF JUDAH
Today was sunny and and mild morning here in the Dead Sea area (in the 80s). This would change in the early afternoon, with a surprise thunderstorm that caused torrents of water falls and flooding. This is unique to see this here in a usually dry and unique region of the Bible.
Prior to breakfast, many in the group enjoyed floating in the Dead Sea. In this unique body of water (33% salt and minerals), it is impossible to sink! It was a wild experience for all!
Once we showered up and enjoyed breakfast, we loaded the bus and left about 8:15 for Masada. We read Psalm 18:1-2 on the way, realizing that God is our fortress (“metzada”) and strength! Upon arriving at this palace-fortress built by Herod the Great, we ascended to the top in the cable car. On top we saw the palace, casemate walls, the Roman ramp the synagogue, and the bathhouse. The story of Masada is an amazing one. 967 Jews used Masada as a place of refuge against the Romans after 70 AD. All but five took their own lives in 73 AD. Because of time restrictions, we took the cable car down instead of walking down the Snake Path.
Driving north along the western shoreline of there Dead Sea, Engedi was our next stop. Walking into the canyon (“Wadi David”), we paused to read Song of Songs 1 (e.g. the henna blossoms of Engedi), 2 Chronicles 20, and 1 Samuel 24. It was here where David hid from Saul’s pursuit. We also walked back to the second water falls. It was amazing to see so much water here!
Continuing north we arrived at Qumran. During the lunch hour, many explored Cave 1 where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. It was a wild hike because of the downpour and flooding that took place!There was streams of water everywhere! Thankfully we all made it back to the bus safely! Following lunch, we visited the archaeological site. Here we saw many cisterns, ritual baths (miqveh), and a few more caves. In front of Cave 4, we were amazed at the amount water overflowing from the high cliffs! A very unique scene for sure. Before leaving the site, we also read from Psalm 19 and “151” (an extra psalm written by David found in Cave 11 in 1956). We rejoiced in the preservation and authority of Scripture!
On our way to Jerusalem, we made a brief stop at Wadi Qelt. This part of the Judean Desert is most picturesque. Here we heard the words of Isaiah 40 – “Prepare the way for the Lord…” Shlomo also sang Psalm 23. We considered the promises of Jesus being our shepherd. This chalk-limestone wilderness/desert also served as the backdrop for some of David’s psalms (e.g. Psalm 61, 63, etc..).
We arrived at our hotel in Jerusalem as Shabbat was coming in. It was special to see this holy city for the first time! After checking into our hotel, we enjoyed dinner together followed by an optional walk to the Western Wall. It was spectacular to see this most holy place for Jews at night!
We are looking forward to spending the next three days here in Israel’s capital city!
DAY 8 – SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 10: MT. OF OLIVES, POOL OF BETHESDA, VIA DOLOROSA, HERODIUM, BETHLEHEM
Today was our first of three days in Jerusalem! The weather was once again sunny, with a little cooler temps (highs around 65). Everywhere you turn here in Israel’s capital you connect somehow with the Bible.
Mt. of Olives
Leaving out hotel around 7:30, we drove around the Old City to the top of the Mt. of Olives. On the eastern side of this mountain range are the biblical cities of Bethany (the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, John 11) and Bethpage. But our first stop was to look westward, providing us a panoramic view of the Old City and Temple Mount of Jerusalem! It was incredible! As we walked down to Dominus Flavet, the traditional place where Jesus wept over Jerusalem after His Palm Sunday entrance (Luke 19). In front of us was the Eastern Gate. Closed since 810 AD, Ezekiel 44 says that when the Messiah comes (again for us) He will walk through this gate (it also could be the gate discovered in 1969 below this current gate, or it also could be a gate associated with the new Temple). We also read from Zechariah 14 about Christ’s return, and how the Mt. of Olives will split into two! And the world will all recognize Jesus as the King of kings and Lord of lords. In God’s perfect and sovereign timing, all of this will unfold! Praise God!
Garden of Gethsemane
From here we went to a place on the northern end of the Mt. Of Olives. Surrounded by olive trees, we took the time to reflect upon Jesus’ passion in the Garden of Gethsemane. Although it could have been anywhere along this western slope of the Mt. of Olives, we read from Luke 22 about Jesus’ passion and eventual betrayal by Judas. Jesus’ words echoed into our hearts, “Not my will, but Yours be done.” Jesus came and fulfilled Isaiah 53 through the cross!
Walking into the Old City through the St. Stephen’s gate (also called Lion’s and Jericho gate), we visited St. Anne’s Crusader church. We enjoyed singing here with the 8 second echo. On the same grounds of the church are the Pools of Bethesda (“house of mercy”). We remembered John 5 about Jesus healing the paralytic here.
Walking the traditional Via Dolorosa, our destination was the Holy Sepulcher church. Built in 325 AD, this church probably preserves at least the area for the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. Because of the massive crowds, we did not make it into the church (we’ll plan on making this an option on Monday). We enjoyed lunch together in the Christian Quarter of the Old City.
Leaving the Old City through the Jaffa Gate, we drove south to Herodium. This was yet another palace-fortress of Herod the Great. It was here where his tomb was found about 10 years ago now. Climbing the site enabled us to see in all directions, and the visibility and clearness of the air was remarkable!! To the north is Jerusalem; to the west is Bethlehem; to the south is Tekoa; and to the east is the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea. We left the site by walking down through the cistern system.
The day ended with a brief visit to the Shepherds’ Fields and Bethlehem. We read from Luke 2 and Galatians 4:4 and celebrated that “just at the right time God sent His Son…” We also enjoyed singing a few carols in the chapel (again, with great acoustics!). We joined a small group of African women in the singing a few additional carols. In Bethlehem we enjoyed an olive wood store. We drove back to our hotel for dinner and a free night.
DAY 9 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 11: OLD CITY, WAILING WALL, WESTERN WALL TUNNEL, JEWISH QUARTER, ISRAEL MUSEUM, YAD VASHEM
Today was our second day here in Jerusalem. The day would begin with a focus on the 2nd Temple, with the end of the day providing an opportunity to remember the Holocaust. The weather was perfect, with sun and highs in the mid 60s.
Western Wall / Rabbinical Tunnel
Leaving shortly after 7:30 again after breakfast, we arrived at the Western Wall or Kotel. This wall (also referred to as the Wailing Wall) served as a retaining wall for Herod who expanded the platform of the Temple. A number went down to the Wall for a time of prayer. From this area, we walked north parallel to this wall in what is called the Rabbinical Tunnel. Along this 400 yard section of the wall, we saw the massive stones placed by Herod, some of which weighed 100s of tons! We also snuck quick peak at the newly discovered small theater called an odion. It is located near an archway that served as a pathway for priests to enter the Temple.
Walking through the Muslim Quarter back to the Jewish Quarter, we enjoyed a time with Moshe. He and his brothers are Orthodox Jews who have a store called Shorashim. Moshe shared some very interesting things about his faith and Jewish practices. Following his talk, we enjoyed an hour of free time and lunch.
Walking out of the Old City through the Zion’s Gate, we boarded our buses and drove to the Israel Museum. Here we first saw a 1:50 scale model of 2nd Temple Jerusalem. Seeing this model gave us a great perspective of what the city and Temple looked like when Jesus was here. Seeing the model really helped us to retrace Jesus’ footsteps and ministry in and around the city as well as 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 and the archaeological wing of the museum. Here we saw the highlights of some of the artifacts discovered. Among what we saw included the Dan and Pilate Inscriptions, the Beersheba altar, the silver amulet from the Ketef Hinnom tomb, the Lachish Relief (replica), the Siloam Inscription (replica), and the sarcophagus of Caiaphas, the High Priest. We also aw the newly displayed 1st century BC “Yerushalyim” inscription recently found here in Jerusalem.
We ended the day at Israel’s Holocaust Memorial & Museum. Called Yad Vashem (a “memory/hand & a name,” from Isaiah 56:5), this is the largest museum of its kind. Here we heard personal stories from our guides. We also walked through the Children’s Memorial and the museum. The experience here was quite sobering.
We returned to our hotels for dinner. Some enjoyed a short walk on the Promenade, south of the city.
DAY 10 – MONDAY, NOVEMBER 12: CITY OF DAVID, HEZEKIAH’S TUNNEL, SOUTHERN WALL EXCAVATIONS, A FEW FREE HOURS, GARDEN TOMB
Today was our last day in Jerusalem. With a chilly start (around 50), the sun warmed things up for a high in the mid 60s again, making it ideal one again. Jerusalem is indeed a special place!
City of David
Leaving shortly after 7:30 again, we arrived at the City of David 10 minutes later. Our focus this morning is upon what the city was like during the Old Testament. We walked through some of the excavations on the western slope of this small city. Looking north to the Temple Mount, it was Solomon who built the 1st Temple. We also first talked about how David conquered this city from the Jebusites (he used the water shaft to apparently infiltrate the city, see 2 Samuel 5). Walking down the staircase, the old theory was that Warren’s Shaft was used. With new excavations at the Gihon Spring (where Solomon eventually was initiated into kingship, see 1 Kings 1), this “water shaft” was probably part of a water system at the southern end of the city.
At the Gihon Spring, many in the group walked through Hezekiah’s Tunnel. With flashlights in hand and with shorts and water shoes, it was thrilling to walk through this 1,720 foot tunnel mentioned in the Bible (2 Kings 19-20, 2 Chronicles 32, and Isaiah 8:6). The water was below knee deep most of the way. Others in the group walked through the dry Canaanite tunnel. Both groups converged at the Siloam Pool. Here we read from John 9 about the healing of the blind man.
South Wall Excavations
From here some bussed up to the south wall excavations while others walked through the drainage channel. At the SW corner of the Temple, we saw massive Temple stones brought down by the Romans in 70 AD. On the southern steps, we paused to recall the many who would have used these steps to enter the Temple. This included Joseph (Luke 2), the tax collector and Pharisee (Luke 18), and Jesus and His disciples (Mt. 13). It was also probably here where Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost here. 3,000 become believers!
Ascending to the Jewish Quarter, we enjoyed some free time on our own. We then walked together out of the Old City through the Damascus Gate to the Garden Tomb. Here we not only toured the grounds, but we gathered for a brief time of worship and Communion. Whether it was here or at the Holy Sepulcher Church where Jesus was crucified and buried, the bottom line is that Jesus rose from the dead. We also shared in Communion too.
We drove back to our hotels and enjoyed our last dinner as a larger group. Some are scheduled to fly home lat tonight or early tomorrow morning, while 60 in the group are crossing the border into Jordan. For some of those who stayed, we enjoyed an optional walk to Ben Yehuda St. Some of us even peaked into the King David Hotel and saw the famous signature floor there!
DAY 11 – TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 13: ARRIVE HOME OR START OF JORDAN EXTENSION: MT. NEBO, MACHERUS, PETRA
For those who flew home either last night or this morning, it was a travel day. After flying back to the States either all night or day, we proceeded through U.S. Customs. It was a life changing trip! For those who extended their trip to Jordan and southern Israel, it was another sunny day, with temps in the 70s.
Allenby Bridge Border Crossing
We said goodbye to Jerusalem today as we loaded up our two buses after breakfast. Departing at 7:30, we drove back through the Judean Desert to the Jordan Valley. Here we arrived at the Allenby Bridge crossing where we crossed into Jordan. The border crossing actually went very smoothly. Once making the crossing, we were greeted by Sam and Awad, our two Jordanian guides. Following the usual passport proceedings, we drove a short distance to our first stop.
Bethany Beyond the Jordan
Our first stop was Bethany Beyond the Jordan. This was where Elijah ascended to heaven in a fiery chariot, with Elisha taking over and purifying the water at Jericho across the valley. We read from 2 Kings 2 about this event. According to John 1, this was also where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Overlooking a few Byzantine ruins, we were privileged to meet the lead Jordanian archaeologist. He shared with us briefly. Down by the river we read from John 1.
Returning to our buses, we drove westward and ascended to the top of Mt. Nebo. We read from Deuteronomy 31 and 34, as wells Joshua 1 as we listened to the storiy of Moses’ death here. Joshua would take over and lead His people across to the Promised Land (note: because it was very hazy with poor viability, the pictures posted below are from another trip). Here we also visited the reconstructed Byzantine church, complete with impressive mosaics. Close by we also visited a mosaic shop and store.
From here we drove about 40 minutes to Machaerus. This was yet another palace-fortresses built first by the Hasmonians but later developed by Herod the Great. It looks a lot like Herodium near Bethlehem, but much larger. Before climbing to the top, we read from Matthew 14. John the Baptist was beheaded here. On top we saw the palace area, a deep cistern, and a few ritual baths – miqveh. (note: Again because of the haze, a few photos from a previous trip have been inserted into the gallery below).
Driving to Petra
Returning to the Medeba area, we began our long drive to Petra. Talking the Desert Highway, we made a rest stop about halfway there. Continuing to Wadi Musa, we arrived at our hotel in the Petra area for a late dinner. We are excited to see the site of Petra tomorrow, one of the seven wonders of the world.
DAY 12 – WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 14: PETRA, WADI RUM
Today was a great day here in Jordan. The two sites we visited displayed the full beauty of Gods unique creation. The weather was perfect at Petra, with a chilly morning yet it warmed up later in the day. At Wadi Rum it actually showered briefly (very odd), but nothing more than this.
After a full breakfast at this beautiful 5 star hotel located on the slopes of Wadi Musa, we loaded up our buses and left for the site of Petra at around 7 a.m. The early start provided an opportunity to experience the Siq (canyon) without the large crowds. Most of us walked through this beautiful canyon down to the Treasury, while some took the horse-drawn carriage ride. The high walls of this Siq made the walk spectacular!
After arriving at the Treasury (or Al-Khazneh, the tomb of Aretas III or IV, and made famous by the 3rd Indiana Jones movie), we began walking into the site of Petra. Along the way, we saw the Royal Tombs, the Roman theater, and 100’s of other tombs cut into the red sandstone. Around every corner was a spectacular view! Further into the site, we walked on the Roman street. Many in the group enjoyed an optional walk to the Monastery Tomb at the far western end of Petra. On the walk back, others took a back path to the top of the High Place.
On our own, we all walked back (or carriaged back) to the visitor center. What an amazing experience it was!
Boarding the buses, we drove partly on the King’s Highway and then later back on the Desert Highway en route to Wadi Rum. This area was made famous by the Brit Sir Lawrence Arabia during the war involving the Ottoman Turks and the Bedouins. Here we enjoyed some jeep rides into the desert. The sunset was very nice too. The jeeps then took us directly to Captains, our “Bedouin-style” tent hotel. Each of us got our own private tent. Our dinner and entertainment was unique as well, with the meat prepared underground in coals. Following dinner, we enjoyed a camp-fire and a brief devotional time under the stars. We retired for the evening early.
Today was a unique and remarkable day!
DAY 13 – THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15: SOUTHERN BORDER CROSSING INTO ISRAEL, RED SEA, TIMNAH, MACHTESH RAMON, TEL AVIV, FLIGHT HOME (for some)
Today we re-crossed back into Israel. After a chilly start, the weather was sunny and warm most of the day (high 70s), but cooler towards evening. This would be our last full day of our trip!
Jordan-Israel Border Crossing
Following Sammy’s wake-up call (our guide yelling good morning), we ate breakfast and then load the bus. On our way from Wadi Rum to the Rabin Border Crossing and back into Israel, one of the buses had radiator problems. Thankfully after a temporary fix, we made it to the border. The crossing was relatively quick. Eli, Shlomo, David, and Meshaich greeted us with warm smiles on the Israel side.
Coral Beach/Red Sea
Driving south of Elat, Israel’s port city on the Red Sea, we enjoyed a little over an hour at Coral Beach, a national nature preserve. Some enjoyed swimming in the clear waters of the Red Sea, seeing brightly-colored fish and coral. It was a nice time of sitting on the beach as well and enjoying the view.
About noon, we drove northward through the Aravah to TImnah. Here we saw a full-size model of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25, and about 50 others chapters dedicated to the building and care of this transportable Tabernacle). We had a guided tour from a Messianic believer from Ukraine. We read from Hebrews 9 and celebrated Christ’s fulfillment of the Tabernacle as our High Priest. Just north of Timnah is Yovata, a dairy kibbutz. We enjoyed their famous ice cream here!
For the next 1.5 hours we drove through the Desert of Paran and the Machtesh Ramon. This is Israel’s grand canyon. Standing on the top rim/edge of this crater at sunset, we learned about this region’s unique geological formations. We also took our last group picture of the tour here.
Tel Aviv Area Hotel/Dinner
Continuing northwest and driving by Beersheba (Gen 21, 26), we arrived at our hotel near the airport. After dinner, some in the group were taken to the airport for their night-flight home. Most in the group retired early since most in the group fly home in the early morning hours tomorrow.
DAY 14– FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 16: ARRIVE BACK IN THE U.S.A.
Most in the group flew home on early morning flights. Upon arriving back in the States, we went through U.S. Customs and then caught our connecting flights. The end of a life-changing trip!