Biblical Israel Tour Experiences from our 14 Day Israel-Egypt-Jordan Tour
October 28 – November 11, 2009
Tour Member Photos:
DAYS 1 & 2 – SUNDAY-MONDAY, JUNE 10 & 11: DEPART FOR & ARRIVE IN TEL AVIV, ISRAEL
Our day of departure finally came! The group of 82 that God has brought together used primarily three flights, with some flying to Israel on their own. All the flights went well with the unfortunate exception of part of the group flying out of Chicago. Because of the delay of their flight, 14 in our group missed the international flight. We hope they are able to be re-scheduled in a timely manner.
The rest in the group arrived at the Ben Gurion Airport in the Lod/Tel Aviv area. Arriving at various times and meeting each other, we loaded up the two buses after the usual passport and luggage procedures. with sunny skies and temps in the mid 80s, we drove to Jaffa/Joppa, a southern suburb of Tel Aviv (600,000 people). We walked the alley-ways, read from Jonah 1, and Acts 9 & 10, and enjoyed our first great view of the Tel Aviv coastline.
Arriving at our hotel just north of Jaffa in Tel Avivand right on the shoreline, some enjoyed a nap while others enjoyed a swim in the Med Sea. The water was very warm (about 80), the sane was white and soft, and the waves were beautifully rolled in.
We enjoyed dinner at 6:30, followed by an orientation meeting to help prepare us for the trip ahead. We met out on the beach and enjoyed a marvelous sunset on the Mediterranean Sea! Following the meeting, some enjoyed a stroll on the promenade, while others retired for the evening.
It was a long day but we’re excited to be here in Israel, the land of the Bible! We pray for a timely arrival of the rest of the group!
DAY 3 – TUESDAY, JUNE 12: CAESAREA, CARMEL, MEGIDDO, BETH SHEARIM, PRECIPICE OF NAZARETH, TIBERIAS
Today was our first full touring day here in Israel. While we dearly missed the 14 who were delayed from Chicago to get here, it was a great day! We were greeted with sunshine and temps in the low 70s, and highs in the 80s.
Leaving the hotel at 7:30, we drove north to Caesarea. This was a city built by Herod the Great in 22 BC. Unique, after hearing about biblical connections to this city (Peter – Acts 10; Herod Agrippa I – Acts 12), Phillip (Acts 21), and Paul (Acts 26) while sitting in the reconstructed theater, we we poured upon! It never rains in Israel in June… but it did for about 15 minutes. After watching a video about the city, we saw the palace, the hippodrome, the area of the harbor, and the Crusader part of the city. Before leaving, we saw the aqueduct that brought water into the city from the Carmel Range.
Carmel Range/ Muhraqa
Driving form the Sharon Plain, we climb the Carmel Range. Upon arriving at Muhraqa, the highest peak of the Carmel, we entered a small chapel. Here we read from Isaiah 35, Song of Songs 7, and 1 Kings 18 (Elijah). Fro the roof of the chapel we saw our first of three views of the Jezreel Valley below. The visibility was very good for this time of year. We ate lunch at a Druze restaurant near by.
Driving down into the Jezreel Valley, Megiddowas our next stop. This was our first OT archaeological site, complete with over two dozen occupationlevels spanning about 2,500 years. Climbing the tel (“ancient mound”), we saw three different stone gates, horse stables, a train bin, among other ruins. We remembered the stories of Thutmoses III who captured this city in the 15th century BC prior to Joshua’s conquest. Solomon would eventually re-fortify the city (1 Kings 9). We left the site by walking down 180 steps through the water system.
Because of a big traffic jam and lack of time, we could not make it to Sepporis near Nazareth. However, we stopped at Beth Sheariminstead. This was where some of the early Jewish leaders int eh Talmudic Period (3rd- 7th century AD) were buried. It was a large underground necropolis!
Precipice of Nazareth
Our last stop of the day was the Precipice of Nazareth. With a great view ofMt. Tabor(Judges 4-5), the Hill of Moreh (Judges 7) Mt Gilboa (1 Sam 31) and even the hills of Gilead to the east. We read from Luke 4 and John 1 ad were inited to “come and see.”
Driving through Cana (John 2), we arrived at our hotel in Tiberias. We enjoyed dinner together before retiring for the night. We also were delighted to hear that the “missing 14” from Chicago finally arrived in Israel tonight after 50+ hours of travel!
DAY 4 – WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13: GAMLA, QATZRIN, MT. HERMON SKI LIFT, NIMROD, CAESAREA PHILIPPI, DAN
Today we traveled up to the Golan Heights. It would be a partly sunny day, with perfect temps around 80. We even had a late afternoon shower at our last site, once again very unique for June in Israel. We also celebrated the arrival of our 14 delayed friends. They arrived at our hotel at 11:15 last night!
Leaving shortly after 7:30, we drove to the northern end of the Sea of Galilee (13 miles long). Taking a dirt road through fields, we visited the new archaeological site of El Araj.It is suggested that this was Bethsaida, the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John 1). The water’s edge of the lake probably came up very close to the town. While the excavations are minimal at this point, the next season of excavations that begin next week show promising results. We read from Mark 8 and John 6 as well here.
Ascending to the heights of the Golan, we visited Gamlanext. This was a 1st century Jewish city located 6 miles east of the northern point of the Sea of Galilee. From an observation area above the city we looked down and saw the 1st century synagogue (one of seven found in Israel) and the city walls. While Gamla is not mentioned in the Gospels, Jesus probably taught in this synagogue. The city was destroyed by the Romans in 66 AD.
Driving further north we came to Katzrin. This was a Talmudic village (3rd – 7th century AD). Sitting in a reconstructed stone house of Rabbi Abun, we read from Mark 2 (the paralytic healed by Jesus who was lowered down from the roof). We could see the story come alive! We also saw the synagogue here.
Syrian Border / Quneitra
Continuing northeast, we stopped for a brief stop on the border with Syria! Both Eli and Shlomo shared about the 1967 and 1973 wars as well as the current situation with the Syrians. We looked across the border and saw both the old and new Syrian cities of Quneitra.
As we enjoyed an “apple, banana, and snacks” lunch, we drove through a few ˆDruze towns to ascend to the bottom of the ski resort of Mt. Hermon. Yes, Israel has a ski resort! Because of the cloud cover and the threat of rain, we could not ride the ski lift to the top.
Coming down off the Heights, we visited Nimrod. This was a massive Crusader stone castle/fortress. While the name of the fortress comes from Genesis, it has no biblical connection. We explored various parts of the castle, including the main chamber, the cistern, and secret escape route.
One of the most pagan Gentile cities during Jesus day in this northern region was Caesarea Philippi(also called Banias today, one of the three tributaries of the Jordan River). Pastor Mike shared with us the most important question Jesus would ask His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” It was in the region of this city where Jesus also shared a word of promise about the forward advancement of the kingdom! Not even the gates of death could keep the message from penetrating even Gentile cities! Walking up to the grotto, we saw where the Temple of Augustus was as well as the niche for Pan and Nemesis.
Dan Nature Preserve & Site
Our last stop for the day was the nature preserve and archaeological site of Dan. We enjoyed walking along the largest of the tributaries of the Jordan. We stopped to hear Shlomo share a son on his recorder. We also read from Psalm 42. At the high place of Dan we read from Judges 18 (Danites taking the city of Laish) and I Kings 12 (Jeroboam’s false worship center established here) about the pattern of disobedience that developed here. Upon leaving the site we, also saw amud-brick gate (Abraham’s gate?, Gen. 14:14. It dates to the Middle Bronze period) and the Iron Age/Israelite fortification walls and gates.
Driving back home to our hotel, we passed by Abel Beit Maacah (2 Samuel 20) and Hazor (Joshua 11). After dinner we enjoyed a gathering down by the water’s edge.
DAY 5 – THURSDAY, JUNE 14: ARBEL, MAGDALA, CHORAZIM, CAPERNAUM, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE, YARDENIT, MT. OF BEATITUDES
Today was a day for primarily focusing on the life and ministry of Jesus. We spent the entire day around and even on the Sea of Galilee. It was also a day that was back to a normal June weather day here in Israel, with full sun and highs in the 90s.
Our first experience was Mt. Arbel. About 35 climbed to the top (800+ foot ascent), while others bussed around and approached the top from the other side. Among the hikers was an 84 year old named John. Incredible effort! On top we could see much of the NW corner of the lake below. Jesus must have experienced the top of Arbel as well.
Yardenit / Jordan River
Driving to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, our next stop wasYardenit. 42 in the group entered the waters of the Jordan River. 40 reaffirmed their faith and commitment as followers (talmidim) of Jesus, while two in the group proclaimed their faith in Christ for the first time. It was a special time for all!
We returned to the NW corner of the lake and visited Magdala. This recent excavation revealed a 1st century synagogue. Jesus must have taught here, even though it is not mentioned in the Gospels. The synagogue is quite small and modest, holding only about 50-60 people. The city was destroyed in 66-67 AD by the Romans.
After a great “fish lunch,” we drove to Chorazin. This was one of the three cities condemned by Jesus for their unbelief in Yeshua/Jesus. The ruins are from the 3rd century AD. While in the synagogue here, we read from Matthew 23, which references the Moses’ Seat.
Down on the water’s edge is Capernaum. While the ruins are not overly impressive, the 5th century AD synagogue is! Below this one is the 1st century one Jesus taught in. Sitting on the synagogue’s stone benches, we read from Mark 1,2 and 9; Luke 7 and 8; and John 6. Jesus performed many miracles here. He also taught here with authority (s’mekah). Here, we also saw the octagonal 5th century AD church. Some went down to the shoreline of there lake. This was where Jesus called His first disciples.
Ancient Boat / Sea of Galilee Boat Ride
We returned to Nof Ginnosar where we saw a 1st century wooden boat. It was extracted out of the mud of the lake in 1986. Sailing in our own boat, we enjoyed a time of worship and reflection. We read the two storm narratives (Matthew 8 & 14) and considered Jesus our ultimate source of peace!
Mt. of Beatitudes
Our last stop of the day was to the Mt. of Beatitudes. Also located on the NW corner of the lake, we walked partially down the slope where we sat on some rocks. We listened to the reading of Matthew 5, first in Hebrew, and then in English. We were invited to seek first (Mt. 6:33) and live out these kingdom principles and to be the salt and light of the world.
We return to our hotel at 7 pm for dinner and a free evening.God blessed us with a great day again!
DAY 6 – FRIDAY, JUNE 15: KINNERET CEMETERY, BETH SHEAN, JERICHO, DEAD SEA, JUDEAN WILDERNESS, JERUSALEM
We checked out of our hotel this morning and left the Galilee area. The day would be sunny and hot, with highs in the low 100s.
Driving towards the southern end of the lake again, we made our first stop at the Kinneret Cemetery. This was a cemetery used by early Jewish pioneers to the land. We stood around the grave of a certain Rachel(Bluwstein). She immigrated from Ukraine to Israel in 1909 and died in 1931. She is known for her poetry. She even appears on the new 20 shekel bill.
Continuing south in the Jordan Valley, Beth Sheanwas our next stop. It was a massive Roman city. In the days of the Old Testament, it was first a Canaanite city (even controlled by Egyptians at times). After Saul died on Mt. Gilboa close by, his body was then hung on the walls of the OT city (1 Samuel 31). Some in the group climbed to the top of this OT tel for a great view of the Roman city below. In the Roman city we saw bathhouses, the agora, many mosaics, the colonnaded street, public latrenes, and the impressive theater. Leaving the site, we ate lunch nearby.
About 10 minutes from BethShean is Sachne. It is yet another national park and it was a fun extra experience! This is a spring-fed natural swimming hole. Many in the group enjoyed swimming here. The water was clean and refreshing!
Continuing to the southern end of the Jordan Valley, Jerichowas our next stop. Climbing this ancient site (the oldest city in Israel), we first looked east across the Jordan River. We recalled that Moses died on Mt. Nebo (Dt. 34). Joshua also cross the river on dry ground. Elijah and Elisha had part of his ministry in this region as well. It was also in the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized (“Bethany Beyond the Jordan, John 1). Looking west we could see the high cliffs of the Judean Desert where Jesus was tempted. Archaeologically, we saw the oldest standing tower in Israel as well as the two retaining or resentment stone walls upon which was also a mud-brick wall. It was the mud-brick wall that came tumblin’ down just as Joshua 6 says! We rejoiced in the historicity of the Bible!
At the northern end of the Dead Seais where we enjoyed floating! The Dead Sea is about 33% salt and minerals, causing us to float effortlessly. Though it was very hot here (low 100s), this was a very unique experience! Almost everyone got in. Some even plastered themselves with Dead Sea mud!
Judean Desert / Wadi Qelt
From here we began our ascent (4,000 feet) to Jerusalem. On the way, we made one last brief stop oat a place where we overlooked the Wadi Qelt. We heard the words of Isaiah 40(“a voice of one calling:“In the desert prepare the way for the Lord;make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain….”). This is the most-likely setting/backdrop for Isaiah the prophet to share these words of hope and promise.
Completing our ascension to the Hill Country of Judah, we arrived at our hotel in Jerusalem. After checking in, we enjoyed dinner together followed by an optional walk to the Western Wall. It was amazing to see the Wall at night! We are looking forward to spending the next few days here in Israel’s capital city!
DAY 7 – SATURDAY, JUNE 16: JERUSALEM, MT. OF OLIVES, BETHLEHEM, HERODIUM, GARDEN TOMB
Today was our first full day in Jerusalem. We were greeted by sunny skies and high temps this afternoon around 90.
Mt. of Olives
Leaving the hotel shortly after 7:30 again, we drove around the northern side of the Old City in order to make our way east to the Mt. of Olives. Our first full view of the Temple Mount and Old City from the top was spectacular! From here we could also see the City of David (to the south), the Hurva synagogue (in the heart of the Jewish Quarter), the Holy Sepulcher Church (in the heart of the Christian Quarter), and the Eastern Gate (Ezekiel 44). Of course in the center of the Temple Mount is the Dome of the Rock (built in 691 AD). This was built on the same site as the First Temple (built by Solomon in 967 BC, Chr. 3) and the Second Temple (built by Herod the Great beginning in 20 BC).
Walking down the slope of the Mt. of Olives we stopped at a small chapel called Dominus Flavet. This gave us a closer view of the Temple Mount. Here we read from Luke 19 (Jesus’ Palm Sunday event) and Zechariah 14 (Jesus’ second coming).
Garden of Gethsemane
Further down the slope we stopped for a time of reflection in the area of the Garden of Gethsemane. We paused to read Luke 22 and John 17 as we considered the prayer of Jesus, “Not my will but yours be done…” To consider the passion of Jesus here was special!
Driving southeast from the Old City, we arrived at an archaeological site called Herodium. It was here where Herod the Great was buried. Climbing the “bowl” (artificial mound) we had a great view of the Dead Sea to the east, Tekoa to the south, Jerusalem to the north and Bethlehem to the west. We left the site by climbing down through the cistern system. We also saw where Herod’s grave was located.
Shepherds’ Fields / Bethlehem
After eating lunch in Beit Sahour (east of Bethlehem), we visited the Shepherds’ Fields. From inside a cave, we read from Luke 2 about the birth of Jesus. He was first announced by angels and greeted by shepherds. Jesus came to be the passover lamb. Jesus came “just at the right time” (Gal. 4:4) to be the Savior of the world! We also enjoyed singing Christmas carols both in the cave and in the Shepherds’ chapel.
Our last stop of the day was back on the north side of the Old City. Here we visited the Garden Tomb. This site developed as an alternative location for the Holy Sepulcher Church as the place for Jesus’ death and burial/resurrection. After touring the grounds and seeing the suggested tomb, we enjoyed a brief time of worship and Communion.
Following the service, some went to the Jerusalem Prayer Center close by while others bussed back to the hotel. Following dinner, an optional walking excursion to Ben Yehuda was offered. Many in the group enjoyed the shopping and ice cream! It was a great day here in Jerusalem!
DAY 8 – SUNDAY, JUNE 17: WESTERN WALL TUNNEL, SOUTHERN STEPS, CITY OF DAVID, HEZEKIAH’S TUNNEL, SILOAM POOL, DRAINAGE CHANNEL, HOLY SEPULCHER CHURCH, POOLS OF BETHESDA, FAREWELL DINNER
Today was another great day! It was the last day for those not doing the trip extension. The sun was bright again with temps a little cooler in the high 80s today.
City of David
Departing once again this morning at 7:30 after breakfast, we drove down in the Hinnom Valley to the City of David. At first we did two things: we viewed the area from an observation tower and we watched a 3-D movie about the history of the city. We focused on David’s conquering of the city of Jebus (the previous name of the city, 2 Samuel 5), and Hezekiah’s defense of the city against the Assyrians (2 Kings 20, 2 Chr. 32, Is. 36-37), the Babylonian destruction of the city (2 Chr. 36), and Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the city (Neh. 6).
We walked past David’s palace (2 Samuel 5), through the “Area G” excavations, and descending down through Warren’s Shaft(the original theory was that this was the “water shaft” up through which Joab and the rest of David’s men conquered Jebus). Arriving at the Gihon Spring(where Solomon was brought into kingship, 1 Kings 1), most walked through Hezekiah’s Tunnel (1,720 feet long) while some walked through the “dry” Canaanite tunnel. Both groups converged at the Pool of Siloamwhere we read from John 9 in dramatic fashion.
Drainage Channel / Jewish Quarter
While the bus drove some in the group up to the Southern Wall excavations, others walked up through the Herodian drainage channelback to the SW corner of the Temple. We literally walked under the Herodian stone pavement all the way back up to the SW corner of the Temple!
Southern Wall Excavations
Gathering below Robinsons Arch, our focus here was to retrace the steps of Jesus here and understand more about the Temple in His day. This Temple Mount expansion project of Herod began in 20 BC, and seeing how massive these stones were was incredible. Even Jesus’ disciples made a similar comment (Mark 13:1-2). Here we saw not only massive stones, but we walked on the same Herodian pavement as Jesus did! Here at the SW corner of the Temple may have been the same location of Jesus’ temptation (some suggest the SE corner). On the southern end of the Temple we walked up the very same steps Jesus did. Sitting on the steps we recalled the stories from the NT of those who used the same steps (Mark 12, Luke 2,18; John 10; Acts 2,3,5).
Holy Sepulcher Church / Via Dolorosa / Pools of Bethesda / St. Anne’s Church
After eating in the Jewish Quarter and an extended lunch break, we walked to the Holy Sepulcher Church. This was a church built in 325 by Helena, the mother of Constantine. We explored the church on our own before walking through the Old City. We followed the Via Dolorosa (“way of there cross” even tough the most likely route Jesus took to Golgatha was from Herod’s palace right inside Jaffa Gate today).
This took us to the Pools of Bethesda (John 5, healing of the paralyzed man) and St. Anne’s Church. This Crusader church has an amazing 8 second echo. We sounded like an angelic choir here as we sang a few songs.
From here we returned to the hotel. We enjoyed our farewell dinner together. Those leaving tonight were then escorted to the airport. The rest of the group was taken to the Western Wall Tunnels where we walked the entire length of this retaining wall. We saw the Master Course (a stone that weighs 100s of tons) as well as other large stones carefully placed. We returned to the hotel and retired for the night.
DAY 9 – MONDAY, JUNE 18: ARRIVAL BACK IN THE STATES (for 25).
Those flying back arrived back home after their night flight…the end of a great trip! Thanks be to God!
Optional trip extension:
DAY 9 – MONDAY, JUNE 18: TEMPLE MOUNT, JEWISH QUARTER, SHORASHIM, ISRAEL MUSEUM, YAD VASHEM
Today was the first day of the optional extension. The weather was perfect, with comfortable highs in the mid 80s and full sun. It was our last full day here in Jerusalem.
Leaving the hotel shortly after 7:30 again, we arrived at the Western Wall. Here we stood in a short line to ascend to the Temple Mount. Going through security, we walked the ramp leading into this area where both the 1st and 2nd Temples once stood. Today stands the Dome of the Rock (built in 691 AD). We also saw the Al Asqa mosque (built 20 years after the Dome). We remembered the connections with the Bible with there Temples (Solomon’s First Temple, Jesus teaching in the Temple, Court of the Gentiles, Israelites, Chamber of Hewn Stone, Leviticsl steps, Holy Chamber, etc…). We walked to the inside of the closed Eastern Gate and departed from the western side.
Climbing up to the Jewish Quarter, we visited the Herodian Mansion. Wow, this was quite impressive. After Israel took the Old City in 1967, the opportunity to excavate this area opened up. The ruins are primarily from the 1st century and were destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The ruins displayed reveal that this mansion was owned by someone important, perhaps even the High Priest (like Caiaphas?).
In the heart of the Jewish Quarter is a store named Shorashim. Cramming inside we heard both Dov and Moshe, two Orthodox Jews, share about Jewish customs and their faith. The Q & A time was interesting. Some of the questions touched on the topic of who the Messiah is. After about 30 minutes here, we had some free time to eat, shop, and explore (some climbed the Lutheran Redeemer Church tower for the view of the Old City.
This afternoon we drove to west Jerusalem, we arrived at the Israel Museum. Here we saw the 1:50 model of Jerusalem the way it looked in 70 AD. We retracted the steps of Jesus in and out of this city, including the Temple courts. We also walked through the Shrine of the Book. We saw some of the Dead Sea Scroll texts displayed here. Last, we walked through the archaeological wing of the museum to see the highlights of things that connect us to the Bible. This included the newly-displayed 9th century BC “kingly head.” It was made of faience (glass-like) and reveals the head of either Ben Hadad, Hazel (Aramean kings) or even Ahab (?).
Yad Vashem – Holocaust Museum & Memorial
We ended the day at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum & Memorial. We heard the personal stories of both Shlomo and Eli about their families. We walked through the Children’s Memorial and later the museum. Although the experience here was quite difficult, it was very moving.
We returned to our hotel for dinner and our last optional walk (south to the Promenade). The view of the Temple Mount was great! We leave for Jordan tomorrow morning!
DAY 10 – TUESDAY, JUNE 19: ALLENBY BRIDGE, BETHANY BEYOND THE JORDAN, MT. NEBO, MEDEBA, MACHAERUS, PETRA
Today we left Jerusalem and drove to the border with Jordan. The weather was again predictably sunny and comfortably warm, Wirth highs around 90.
Bethany Beyond the Jordan
It took about 50 minutes to drive to the Allenby Border Crossing. From departing Israel to completing the passport process in Jordan, the whole crossing took about two hours. On the Jordan side we met our guides, Sam and Wa’el. Driving just a short distance we arrived at Bethany Beyond the Jordan. We walked down to the Jordan River. Jesus was baptized in this area (John 1). In the days of the OT, Elijah also was taken to heaven here (2 Kings 2). We also read from Joshua 3 about the crossing of the Jordan River.
Driving up the mountains of Moab, we arrived at Mt. Nebo. On the way we were delayed because of the car on fire on the side of the road. The view from on top was very good. We could clearly see the Dead Sea, Jericho, and even the taller buildings in Jerusalem! We read from Deuteronomy 31, 34, and Joshua 1. Moses died here and handed the leadership over to Joshua. His words, “Do not be afraid or discouraged…” reminded us to trust in God even though we do know know what tomorrow may bring. Nearby we stopped at a mosaic school and store. Handicapped people learn to do mosaics here. We also saw a replica of the Medeba Map, a mosaic map dating to the 6th century AD.
About an hour’s drive from here is Machaerus. This was first a Jewish-Hasmonian palace-fortress built by Jannaeus in about 100 BC. Later Herod the Great rebuilt it as one of his palace-fortresses. It would late serve as a fortress by Jewish rebels in the First Revolt (66 AD). Climbing to the top the view of there Dead Sea and the Judean Desert to the west was amazing! On top we saw the palace where John the Baptist’s head was brought (Matthew 14) as well as a few Jewish miqve (ritual baths).
Drive to Petra
Returning close to Medeba, we drove on the Desert Highway to Wadi Musa or the city of ancient Petra. It is located in the area of ancient Edom. The drive took about 3.5 hours. We stopped once on the way for snacks and bathrooms. We checked in to our very nice hotel, enjoyed dinner together, and then retired for the evening. We are excited to experience Petra tomorrow!
DAY 11 – WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20: PETRA, WADI RUM
Wow… what an incredible day and with an amazing display of God’s glory and splendor in the unique beauty of His creation. We enjoyed the sun and temps in the 80s.
Leaving the hotel at 7:30 again after breakfast ad packing up, we drove to the entrance of the ancient Nabatean city of Petra! This is the heart of the Seir Mountains, the land of the Edomites of the Old Testament. This is a red-rose city that is one of the seven wonders of the world! We spent 7 hours here!
Entering the site together, we walked through the 1.5 mile Siq or the canyon of Petra. It brought us to the first monument , the famous “Treasury” or “Al-Khazneh.” This well-preserved monumental tomb appeared in the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”
From here we continued into this city of tombs to the theater form the 1st century AD. We also passed by the Royal Tombs (e.g. Urn Tomb). Some explored these tombs. About 20 in the group continued down the Roman street to the trail that leads to the second most famous tomb, the Monastery tomb. From just above this tomb we could see across the Aravah valley into Israel!
We all returned to the Treasury for our walk out of the Siq back to the visitor center. Nine in the group, however, hiked up a back trail to the High Place. While this hike was more difficult, the view from the top made it worth it!
Leaving the site of Petra at 3 p.m., we drive south to Wadi Rum. Here we enjoyed an amazing jeep ride in the desert. Some road camels while all of us enjoyed the sunset over the beautiful mountains to the west. We then stay in Wadi Rum at Captain’s, a Bedouin Village. We ate dinner together in Bedouin style. This was followed by a brief devotional time under the brilliant desert stars.
The entire day was a unique experience!
DAY 12 – THURSDAY, JUNE 21: SOUTHERN BORDER CROSSING INTO ISRAEL, RED SEA, TIMNAH, EIN BOKEK/DEAD SEA
With Sammy’s wake-up call, we arose out of our private tents for breakfast. After packing up the bus, we said goodbye to the Wadi Rum desert enroute for the Israel border. The day would be a warmer, with temps in the afternoon in the low 100s.
Rabin Border Crossing / Coral Beach – Red Sea
It took about an hour’s drive to reach the border with Israel. This southern border crossing is called the Rabin Border, named after the late Prime Minister. The crossing went smoothly. 57 of us crossed in about 75 minutes! We were met on the Israeli side by Shlomo and Eli (our guides) and our Israeli drivers.
Upon packing up, we drove to Elatand to Coral Beach. Many went swimming the Red Sea. The fish, coral, and deep blue color of the water was remarkable! The underwater world of God’s creation is also beautiful!
Driving north we arrived at Timnah. This was an ancient Egyptian copper mine back in the days of the 14-12th centuries BC. We drove around to the other side of Timnah to the full-scale replica of the Tabernacle. The dimensions are 150 x 75 feet. We were guided by a Messianic believer who shared the details of the Tabernacle as well as the many ways in which Christ fulfilled the Tabernacle. We read from Hebrews 9. Before leaving Timnah, we also saw Solomon’s Pillars, with some in the group hiking up and around this unique stone cliff.
Continuing north we stopped for a late lunch at Yovata. This is a dairy kibbutz in southern Israel that has some of the best ice cream! We enjoyed the many flavors they offered!
Ein Bokek/Dead Sea Hotel
About two hours north is the hotel city of Ein Bokek. It is located on the southern end of the Dead Sea. We checked into our hotel and enjoyed dinner and a free evening. Some also floated again prior to dinner in the Dead Sea and/or in the hotel pool filled with Dead Sea water.
DAY 13 – FRIDAY, JUNE 22: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, BETH SHEMESH/SOREK VALLEY, QEIYAFA/ELAH VALLEY
Today was our last full day in Israel. It was a hot and dry one, with high temps about 105 at the Dead Sea area and 90s later in the afternoon.
Leaving the hotel just before 8 a.m., we drove just a short 15 minutes to Masada. On the way we read from Psalm 18:1-2 about God being our metzada (“fortress”). The site of Masada may also have been David’s stronghold as mentioned in the last part of 1 Samuel 24.
We took the cable car to the top. From both Eli and Shlomo, we heard the remarkable story of 967 Jews who found refuge from the Romans on this “palace-fortress” from 70-73 AD (originally built by Herod the Great about 100 years prior). All but 5 of them took their own lives, convinced that this was a better way to die than to fall to the swords of the Romans.
On top we saw one of Herod’s palaces (he also had a three-tier northern palace), the case-mate wall, the Roman ramp (on the west side), the bathhouse, and the synagogue. Because of the heat, the Snake Path was closed, preventing us from walking down. So we all descended on the cable car.
About 15 minutes north is Engedi. Walking up into the canyon (Wadi David), we read from Songs of Songs 1 (“henna blossoms of Ein Gedi…”), 2 Chronicles 20, and 1 Samuel 24. This last story involves David hiding from Saul in one of the many caves here. We also walked back to the 2nd water falls, with some enjoying getting wet under some of the water falls. This must have also been an oasis of water back in biblical days! It is also the home of many ibex and coneys (Psalm 104). We saw many ibex!
The last site here in the Judean Desert along the Dead Sea was Qumran. During the lunch hour, some braved the extreme heat and hiked to Cave 1. This was where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Biblical scholarship changed with this discovery in 1947!
After the lunch hour, we visited the small archaeological site of Qumran. We saw any miqvot (ritual baths), the scriptorium, and the aqueduct. In front of Cave 4 (one of 12 caves now where scrolls were found), we read from “Psalm 151” (one of a few extra psalms found here at Qumran, written by David), 2 Timothy 3:16, and Psalm 19. Praise God for the preservation of His Word!
From here we drove north and then west to Jerusalem. Ascending up and over Israel’s capital, we descended down on the western side to the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah. The first site (of two in this region) was Beth Shemesh. Climbing the southern end of the site, we viewed the Sorek Valley, Zorah & Eshtaol (where Samson was from, Judges 13), Timnah (where Delilah was from….it is located down the valley just a few miles to the west). We read from 1 Samuel 6 about how the Ark of the Covenant was returned here by the Philistines.
Our last site of the day (and the tour) is a relatively new archaeological site called Kh. Qeiyafa. It is located along the Elah Valley. It may have been the ancient city ofShaaraim. We read from 1 Samuel 17 and could see David defeating the Goliath, the Philistine giant, in the narrow part of the valley to the east. We rejoiced together that God offers His help in all of our own battles of life!
Leaving the site, we drove west to our hotel in Tel Aviv. We enjoyed dinner together, followed by a free evening. We pack up and leave on three different flights in the morning.
DAY 14 – SATURDAY, JUNE 23: ARRIVAL BACK IN THE U.S.A.
Most in the group are presently flying home now. Praise be to God for everyone He brought together!