Biblical Israel Tour Experiences from October, 2010
Saturday & Sunday, October 24 (Day 1 & 2)
The day for our Christian Israel Tour to the Holyland, and to Egypt finally arrived! We depart from NY on Saturday, October 23rd, arriving in Cairo on the 24th. The flight went well. Flying in over Cairo and the Nile River was amazing. We were met by our travel agents. We boarded our busses to our hotel – the Hilton near the pyramids. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner, followed by an orientation meeting. Most every then headed to bed after a long day of travel. We are all excited about seeing the pyramids tomorrow.
Monday, October 25 (Day 3)
We woke up to a hazy sunny day. Our first stop here in Cairo this morning was Sakkara. Here, we visited a tomb dating to 2,400 BC. We also entered into a pyramid. Next, we saw the main attraction of Sakkara, the 200 foot high “stepped pyramid.” After leaving this site, we stopped at a carpet school where we saw many teenage kids make rugs.
At noon, we visited the pyramids of Giza. There 3 pyramids (3 of about 115 discovered pyramids in Egypt), stand nearly 500 feet high. We were able to descend into the middle of the 2nd one, quite an experience for many! Nearby is the Great Sphinx.
Our last stop of the day was the Egyptian Museum. We spent nearly 2 hours here, seeing archaeological find from the Old, Middle, and New Kingdom. This included the magnificent discoveries of King Tut!
Driving back to the hotel, we enjoyed dinner together again. It’s to bed early tonight since we wake up at 1:30 a.m. for our day flight to Luxor and back tomorrow.
Tuesday, October 26 (Day 4)
It was an early wake-up call at 1:30 a.m. Leaving the hotel at 2:30, we headed to the Cairo airport for Luxor, 500 miles to the south in “Upper Egypt.”. We arrived in Luxor at 6:30, and headed straight to the Valley of the Kings. We entered 3 tombs. We then visited the Temple of Hatshepsut and the Valley of the Queens. We ferried across the Nile River for lunch.
In the afternoon we visited the Temples of Luxor and Karnak. They were both quite impressive in the own way. We boarded the plane in Luxor for our return flight home at 5:30 p.m. back to Cairo. Fighting the horrendous Cairo traffic, we finally arrived at 8:45 p.m. for dinner. What a long but spectacular day! We make the “Exodus” tomorrow as we look forward to driving along the northern Sinai and crossing into Israel.
Wednesday, October 27 (Day 5)
Today we left Cairo and headed across the northern Sinai Desert. The route took us to the Suez Canal. We crossed under the Red Sea via a tunnel. We read from Exodus story about how Moses parted the Red Sea. This 6 hour drive took us through flat and sandy territory as well as the granite mountains of the Sinai.
We arrived at the Taba border at about 3 p.m. Crossing into Israel took less than 1 and a half hours … not bad for a group of 72! We arrived at the Reef Hotel right on the Red Sea. Many enjoyed the refreshing warm breezes, with some going swimming. From here, we look right across into Jordan, our destination tomorrow.
Thursday, October 28 (Day 6)
Today we crossed the Arava border into Jordan at 7:30 a.m. The crossing went fairly quickly. We met our Jordanian busses and guides across the border. It took about 2 hours to get to Petra. We entered the site together, with a few using horse-drawn carriages through the “Siq” (canyon) that leads into the site. At the end of the Siq is the magnificent “Treasury Building,” the tomb of the Nabatean King Aretas IV. From here, we continued into the site, seeing the Roman theater, and many other tombs. On the Roman street we met a Bedouin family (but only the son, Salah, was there). Pittsburgh Steeler shirts were given to them by Pastor John :).
In the afternoon, everyone was on their own. Some hiked to the High Place while a few made it to the Monetary (another impressive tomb). We all walked out of the Siq back to the busses for our ride back to the Israeli border. We crossed in time to get back for a late dinner in our hotel in Elat.
Tomorrow begins the Israel portion of our tour.
Friday, October 29 (Day 7)
The morning we headed north to Masada. Coming from the very south of Israel from the Red Sea, the drive took about 2.5 hours. We stopped once, however, at Yadvota, a dairy kibbutz. Many enjoyed their fantastic ice cream at 8:30 a.m. We arrived at Masada, where we we met by our Israeli guides, Shlomo and Ryya. We ascended and descended Masada by a cable car, although about a dozen or so walked down the snake path. We saw remains of Herodian structures, his palaces, store houses, and the siege ramp built by the Romans.
From Masada we traveled 15 miles north to Engedi. Here, we walked back to the 2nd falls. We saw numerous ibex (mountain goats), and coneys (like a badger, mentioned in Psalm 104). Following lunch nearby, we continued north along the beautiful Dead Sea to Jericho. Here, John and Tom led the tour of the archaeological site, the oldest one in all of the Israel.
We ended the day by driving another 2 hours north to the Caesar hotel in Tiberias, our home for the next 2 nights.
Saturday, October 30 (Day 8)
We left the hotel this morning at 7:45 a.m. and walked just a few blocks to board our boat. We spent about an hour on the water, singing songs and reflecting upon the storm narratives from the Gospel. It was a meaningful experience for all. We landed at Nof Ginnosar, where a 1st century boat was found and preserved for display. From here, we went to Tabgha (feeding of the 5,000) and Capernaum, where numerous passages about Christ’s ministry were shared. We then headed north about 30 miles to the the Golan Heights. We ate lunch on one of the 3 tributaries of the Jordan River.
After lunch, we enjoyed the city of Dan. We walked through the nature preserve as well as the excavations of this impressive OT city. We even saw a Canaanite gate that dates to the time of Abraham.
Traveling back to the Sea of Galilee area for our last stop of the day, the Mt. of Beatitudes. Here, Shlomo read Mt. 5:3-12 in Hebrew. We enjoyed the peaceful solitude of the area as the sun set to the west.
We ate dinner tonight at 6:30 p.m., with many enjoying taking a stroll in downtown Tiberias to experience a little Israeli modern cultural life.
Tomorrow we head to Jerusalem, and will be staying one night in Bethlehem!
Sunday, October 31 (Day 9)
We began our day with baptism in the Jordan River at Yardenet. A total of 30 were baptized. It was a special time for all. From here, we traveled through Cana and Nazareth. We enjoyed the overview of Nazareth as well as the Jezreel Valley (Armageddon) from the “precipice.” Revelation 16 was read as we celebrated God’s control in the “last days.”
From here, we drove across the Jezreel Valley to Megiddo where we climbed the “tel” (ancient mound). Impressive archaeological remains from Joshua’s day to Solomon’s day can be seen here. We descended down to the water tunnel as well.
After enjoying a “falafel” lunch at Mucraqa (Mt. Carmel), we ascended to the top of the mountain and read the I Kings 18 story about Elijah. The view was spectacular, with clear visibility. We could even see the Med Sea from here.
Our last stop was Caesarea, an impressive city along the coast built by Herod. We visited the theater, the hippodrome, and harbor area. The sunset over the water was amazing!
We arrived in Bethlehem for dinner and overnight. We are staying at the Intercontinental Hotel, a renovated old palace from last century. A unique place indeed. Tomorrow we visit the Church of Nativity and Shepherd’s Fields.
Monday, November 1 (Day 10)
The day started with leaving the hotel in Bethlehem for an Olive Wood shop. We shopped for about an hour before heading to the Church of Nativity. Here we saw the traditional place where Jesus was born. From here we drove to the Shepherd’s Fields. We entered a cave, read from Luke 2, and sang Christmas carols. It was a meaningful experience to encounter “Christmas” in Bethlehem.
We left Bethlehem around 11:30 a.m. and went straight into the Old City of Jerusalem. We walked the “Via Dolorosa” (the stations of the cross) up until the Holy Sepulcher Church. After eating lunch in the Christian Quarter of the Old City, we left via the Jaffa Gate. From here we headed to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum and Memorial. This visit ended the day.
We checked in to the Ritz Hotel, enjoyed dinner and an optional walk to the Western Wall. Those who went enjoyed seeing a “rejoicing over the new scroll of the Torah” celebration. It was loud and festive!
What another great day!
Tuesday, November 2 (Day 11)
This morning we began on the Mt. of Olives. Driving to the top, we then walked down to the Garden of Gethsemane. We stopped twice on our descent down, once for an overview and the other at the Dominus Flavet Church. The Palm Sunday event was read, as well as Zechariah 14 concerning Christ’s return to the Mt. of Olives. From the Garden of Gethsemane, we drove again again to western Jerusalem to the Israel Museum and Shrine of the Book. Here, we saw a 1:50 scale model of 1st century Jerusalem as well as a few Dead Sea scrolls from Qumran.
Our next stop was actually Qumran along the Dead Sea. We ate lunch here as well as toured the archaeological site. Nearby, we floated in the Dead Sea. Many enjoyed plastering themselves with mud! Wow, how so many now look so much younger. 🙂
Our last stop before returning to our hotel in Jerusalem was the Wilderness of Judah. At the overview called Wadi Qelt, we had a fantastic view of this barren land. Psalm 23 and Isaiah 40 were shared.
We arrived back to the hotel for dinner and an optional walk to Ben Yehuda Street in the modern part of the city.
Wednesday, November 3 (Day 12)
This morning began with a walk to the Temple Mount of Jerusalem. Upon arriving there, we saw the Dome of the Rock from the outside (we could not go inside). From here we visited the Pools of Bethesda and the Church of St. Anne’s. We all enjoyed singing in the chapel that boasts of a 10 second echo. We sounded like a heavenly choir!
Using portion of the Via Dolorosa once again, we returned to the Western Wall plaza where many went down to the wall. This is the most holy location in Judaism. Just south of the wall is the area of extensive archaeological excavations. Here we saw the huge Temple blocks that had fallen in 70 AD. We walked on portions of the Roman Street. To the west, we ascended the actual steps of the Temple. Here, passages relating to the life of Christ as well as the event of Pentecost (Acts 2) were shared. We left this area around 11:30 for lunch at the Jerusalem theater.
This afternoon, we visited the City of David excavations. Many walked down through Warren’s Shaft in order to get to Hezekiah’s Tunnel. This is a 1,720 foot long water tunnel that begins at the Gihon Spring. The water was a bit higher than knee deep at the beginning, but lowered to calf level for most of the way. At the very end of the tunnel is the Siloam Pool. We sat on the steps of this 1st century pool and listened to the story of John 9. The day ended with a Communion Service at the Garden Tomb.
A pre-dinner meeting was held to discuss the options for our free day tomorrow. An after-dinner excursion to the top of the Mt. of Olives followed dinner in order to see the Old City at night. Some walked back to the hotel.
Thursday, November 4 (Day 13)
This is planned as a free day here in Jerusalem. We will spend the day in the Old City. We all enjoyed wondering around the Old City on our own. Among the sites many visited: Upper Room, King David’s Tomb, Oscar Shindler’s tomb, Jewish Quarter, Western Wall, Shoreshim (a conversation with Moshe, an orthodox Jew), a climb to the top of the Lutheran Church tower (for a commanding view of the Old City!), a walk on the ramparts (Old City walls), and shopping! We enjoyed a “farewell dinner” at the Ambassador Hotel before driving to Tel Aviv for our night flight home.
Friday, November 5 (Day 14)
We arrived back to the U.S. early in the morning. The end of a great trip together!