Trip Experiences for our 11 Day Adventure Israel Tour
August 4-14, 2022
A unique physical & spiritual adventure trip designed for the more active Bible student!
The Israel Tour Experiences:
Day 1-3 – Thursday-Saturday, August 4-6: Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Caesarea, Megiddo, Jaffa, Tiberias
The day of departure finally arrived, at least for seven of us in the group of 16. We gathered from various parts of the world (the U.S., Canada, and New Zealand) for our flights to Tel Aviv. Unfortunately for nine in the group, the flights were delayed. This caused a re-scheduling of flights, causing a day-late arrival in Israel. For those who did make it to Israel on time, we all made it through the procedures at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv before making our way to the first night’s hotel in Herzliya. On Saturday, the seven of us began the day following breakfast, We read from Psalm 100 as we left the hotel about 8 a.m. We also learned a new song (The Sun’s Coming Up) as we drove north through the Sharon Plain
Our first site of the day was Caesarea. This coastal city was built by Herod the Great over a 12 year period (22- 10 BC). We first gathered in the reconstructed Roman theater where we read about Peter (Acts 10), Herod Agrippa (the grandson of Herod the Great, Acts 12), Philip (Acts 21), and Paul, who spent two years here following his third missionary journey (Acts 24-26). Among the impressive ruins we saw the palace (Praetorium), the hippodrome, many mosaics, the Crusader moat and walls, and the area of the harbor. We also drove to see the aqueduct (one of four) that was used to bring water into the city from there Carmel Range.
From here we drove to the Carmel Range (Amos 1, 9; Isaiah 35; Song of Songs 7, and 1 Kings 18) for lunch at a Druze restaurant. We then descended to the Jezreel Valley to the Canaanite and Israelite city of Megiddo. Following a list to see a model of this archaeological site, we then climbed the “tel” (ancient mound) and saw a series of ancient gates (Middle Bronze, Late Bronze, and Iron Age), the suggested stables of Solomon, the Early Bronze altar, and the grain silo. From on top of the site we could see Mt. Carmel, the Nazareth Ridge (Luke 4), Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5), the Hill of Moreh (Judges 6-7), and Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 31). We left the site by walking down 180 steps through the water system.
Jaffa/Ben Gurion Airport
About 2 p.m., we drove back towards to the Tel Aviv area towards the airport to pick up the nine who just arrived a day late. Traffic wasn’t bad since it was Shabbat. Before arriving at the airport, we made a brief stop at Jaffa (Joppa). We walked the narrow alleyways and enjoyed a nice panoramic of the Tel Aviv coastline. We remembered the stories of Jonah (Jonah 1) and Peter (Acts 9-10). Upon arriving at the airport, we warmly greeted the nine, loaded the bus, and started our drive back north to Tiberias.
The drive from the airport to our hotel along the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee took about an hour and a half. The drive took us through part of the Lower Galilee, past places like Cana (John 2). Approaching Tiberias, we stopped for a view of the lake. It was remarkable! Upon checking into the hotel, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner, after which a few in the group enjoyed a moonlight swim in the Sea of Galilee. We are thankful that everyone has now arrived and we are eager to explore some sites and hiking in the Golan Heights tomorrow.
Day 4 – Sunday, August 7: Gamla, Qatzrin, Syrian Border, Mt. Hermon, Dan, Misgav Am, Upper Galilee / “Hill 713”
Today was our first full day, and a long yet great one. We hiked at four sites and enjoyed the cooler temperatures on there Golan Heights. Highs were around 90 in the north, with full sun. We left the hotel following breakfast at 7:35.
Our first first was Gamla. We drove around to the northeast side of the lake (passing Capernuam and Bethsaida) and ascended into the Golan Heights to this 1st century Jewish city destroyed by the Romans in 67 AD. Gamla was the first major city that fell in the First Revolt. The entire group hiked down to the site from the top overlook to see the 1st century synagogue. Even though Gamla is not mentioned in the Bible, there’s a high likelihood that Jesus taught here (Mathew 4 and 9). We hiked back up to the bus, refilled our water bottles, and boarded the bus for the next site.
Driving north we stopped at a place where we could overlook the border with Syria. The battles of 1867 and 1973 were both fought in this area. We could see the Syrian city of Quneitra (also Kuneitra) across the border.
We drove through a few Druze villages to get to the base of the ski resort of Mt. Hermon. We took the gondola to the top and enjoyed a steep hike back to the bottom. The trail was quite rocky with boulder fields. The views of Lebanon to the north and the Huleh Valley to the south was incredible. Mt. Hermon is mentioned in the Bible (Psalm 42, 89, 133).
The nature preserve and archaeology site of Dan was next. Located off the slopes of there Golan, we first hiked along the impressive spring waters. This led us to the cultic area of the OT site of Dan. Here we saw the sacrificial altar and high place established by Jeroboam (1 Kings 18, who followed in the pattern set by there Danites (Judges 18). We also saw the priestly chamber, the Middle Bronze mud-brick gate, and the gate complex of the Israelite (Iron Age) city.
Misgav Am is the most northern kibbutz in Israel. It’s located high on the hills of Naphtali over looking the Lebanon border. The view into Lebanon was excellent. The border has been quiet for 16 years now, but the presence of Hezbollah presents an ongoing challenge for Israel.
Upper Galilee / “Hill 713”
Our last stop was “Hill 713” (as called by Dr. John’s former historical geography professor). This was an extra hike in the Upper Galilee inserted into the day’s program. The 25 minute walk to an spectacular view of the entire width of Israel was well worth it. We could see the Golan Heights and Sea of Galilee to the east, and the Carmel Range to the west, and everything in-between (e.g. Tiberias, Arbel, Horns of Hattin, Mt. Tabor, Mt. Gilboa, Nazareth Ridge, etc…).
We returned to the hotel for a late dinner (7:45). We enjoyed the great food and especially the ice cream for desert! 🙂
Day 5 – Monday, August 8: Arbel, Yardenit, Kinneret Cemetery, Magdala, Capernaum, Mt. of Beatitudes, Ancient Boat, Sea of Galilee Boat Ride
Today was another sunny and hot August day, with temps in the afternoon around 100. There were many biblical connections today, specifically with the life and ministry of Jesus. We left our hotel at 7:30, reading the first part of Matthew 13 on the way to our first site.
We began the day by visiting Mt. Arbel, a mountain on the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee. Eleven in the group choose to hike the trail to the top, while the others drove around the back side and walked to the top from the visitor center. The view of the lake was spectacular. Even Mt. Hermon was barely visible far to the north 35-40 miles! It could have been the top of this cliff where Jesus met His disciples after His resurrection (Matthew 28).
We drove to the southern end of the lake where the Lower Jordan begins. Here, eight in the group reaffirmed their faith in baptism in the Jordan River at a place called Yardenit. Jesus Himself was baptized at Bethany Beyond the Jordan further south across from Jericho (John 1). The experience was special for all of us! We were the only group here and had the place to ourselves.
Near by is the Kinneret Cemetery. Many Jews who were pioneers to the land in the late 19th and early 20th century are buried here. This includes Rachel Bluwstone, an Ukrainian who wrote many poems. As we sat in the shade, Shlomo read, sang, and even played (on recorder) some of her poems now put to tunes. She died in 1931. Her picture appears on Israel’s 20 shekel bill today!
We drove back through Tiberias to the northwest side of the lake where we visited Magdala. Here, we saw an impressive but simple 1st century synagogue. There are only about seven synagogues that date to the time of Jesus in the country. Magdala is only mentioned once in the Gospels (Matthew 16). We also saw a few ritual baths (mikveh or mikvot, plural).
After a great St. Peter’s Fish lunch in Magdala, we visited Capernaum. This Jewish town served as Jesus’ “home base” for His Galilean ministry. In the 5th century synagogue, we read from passages such as Mark 1, 2; Luke 7, 8; and John 4, 6. We also saw the Byzantine church, octagonal in shape, that dates to about the same time period. This ancient church surrounds a 1st century house structure suggested, by tradition and archaeology, to be Peter’s house. Down on the lakeshore by the harbor of the city (one of 16 now identified around the lake), we read from Mark 9. Serving in Christ’s kingdom requires a heart of humility and servanthood.
Mt. of Beatitudes
Further up the hill from Capernaum is the traditional location of the Mt. of Beatitudes. We gathered on the lower slopes of the hillside where we heard Matthew 5:1-9 read in both Hebrew and English. The kingdom proclamation of Jesus was His “go-to” message throughout His ministry!
Ancient Boat / Boat Ride
We end the day visiting Nof Ginnosar. When the shoreline was very shallow in 1986, this is where a 2,000 year-old boat was discovered. It was a boat that was apparently repaired multiple times with 12 different kinds of wood. From here we boarded our own modern boat for a time of worship and reflection out on the water. The water was peaceful as we read from Mark 4 and Matthew 14. We return to our bus and drove back to our hotel in Tiberias. We enjoyed swimming in the lake (and pool) and dinner. It was a great two days up here in the Galilee!
Day 6 – Tuesday, August 9: Beth Shean, Jericho, Qumran, Dead Sea
Today we left the Sea of Galilee area and headed south to the area of the Dead Sea. The temps were once again hot, with a high in the low 100s this afternoon. After checking out of the hotel, we read sections of Matthew 5-7 as we began the day!
About 20 miles south of the Sea of Galilee is Beth Shean. This was the only one of the Decapolis cites locate on the western side of there Jordan Valley. This is a massive archaeological site. We walked through the Roman ruins, first seeing the bathhouse, the colonnaded street, the agora. The massive pillars toppled in the 749 AD earthquake. Some in the group hiked up to the top of the Old Testament site. Here, the bodies of Saul and his three sons were hung on the walls of the town square (1 Chronicles 10, 1 Samuel 31). We finished the visit of the site by walking through the theater. The day warming up quickly, many of us enjoyed popsicles before we left!
From here we drove about 45 miles south to Tel es Sultan or Jericho along there Jordan Valley. The country of Jordan is to our east across the valley. Arriving at Jericho we climbed the small eight acre site. We first looked east. In the haze was Mt. Nebo (where Moses died, Deuteronomy 34). Elijah also ascended across the valley to heaven (2 Kings 2). Also, Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River at a place called Bethany Beyond the Jordan (John 1). In the middle of the site we saw a large stone tower (predating Abraham). At the southern end of the site we saw massive stone retaining walls. On top of these walls was a mud-brick wall. This was the wall that Joshua saw fall down as they circled the city seven times (Joshua 6). Following a visit to the site, we enjoyed lunch at a restaurant at the site and a Hebron glass store nearby.
Located on the northwest corner of the Dead Sea is Qumran. We hiked to the area of the cliffs and sat in the shade as we learned about the importance of the Dead Sea Scrolls being discovered here in 1947. To date, over 900 texts/fragments of texts have been found in 12 caves. We walked through the small archaeological site, seeing many ritual baths (mikveh), and cisterns. In front of Cave 4, we read from “Psalm 151,” an extra psalm written about David. Here at Qumran we celebrated the perseverance of God’s Word.
Our last stop was the Dead Sea. This is a body of water made of up 33% minerals and salts. We all floated effortlessly and enjoyed the unique experience.
We drove south to Masada after we showered up. We stopped for a view of the Dead Sea on the way. We checked in to “Guest House” here, and enjoyed dinner at 7 p.m. We retired early, for some are planning to hike up the Snake Path at 5 a.m. tomorrow morning for the sunrise.
Day 7 – Wednesday, August 10: Early Morning Optional Hike up Masada, Dead Sea, Ein Gedi, Judean Desert, Mt. of Olives, Western Wall
Today was another great day as we transitioned from the hot Judean Desert to the much cooler city of Jerusalem! Temps throughout the day were about 100 again until we enjoyed 80s in Jerusalem this afternoon.
The day began early at 5 a.m. for those who hiked Masada. Our goal was to see the sunrise from this stand-alone mountain build as a palace-fortress by Herod the Great. The sunrise was spectacular! We all then hiked back down the same way (the Snake Path) to get cleaned up and for breakfast. Then at 8:30 we all returned to the top (via the cable car) for a visit of the site. We saw the southern casemate wall, the western and northern palaces, the Roman ramp, the synagogue, the bathhouse, and the storehouses.
About 20 minutes north is En Gedi. This was and still is an oasis in the Judean Desert. We read from Song of Songs 1, 2 Chronicles 20, and 1 Samuel 24 (David hid here from Saul) before we all hiked back into the canyon (Wadi David). We so much enjoyed getting wet in a couple of the water falls. It’s incredible the amount of water that flows here, even on a hot August day!
Jerusalem / Mt. of Olives
From here we drove north to Jericho and then took the road that ascends to Jerusalem. Our destination was the Mt. of Olives. What an amazing view of the Old City and the Temple Mount from here. We read from Luke 19 (Palm Sunday), Luke 22 (Gethesemane), Acts 1 (ascension), and Zechariah 14 (Christ’s return). We walked down the slope to meet David and the bus.
Old City/Western Wall
On the way to our hotel (St. Andrew’s Scottish Guest House), we made a brief stop at an olive wood store. After checking in to the hotel, we met together to walk into the Old City. After grabbing dinner in the Jewish Quarter, we continued to the Western Wall. We walked back to our hotel through the Zion’s Gate and then across the Hinnom Valley. It was a long but another great day! We are looking forward to our first full day in Jerusalem tomorrow.
Day 8 – Thursday, August 11: Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum & Memorial, City of David, Hezekiah’s Tunnel, Southern Wall Excavations
Today was our first full day in Jerusalem. It was a mix of emotions, as a somber visit to Israel’s Holocaust museum, and a fun experience of walking through Hezekiah’s Tunnel in the City of David in the afternoon. The weather was very pleasant today, with a high in the high 80s, and a cool breeze in the shade.
Yad Vashem – Holocaust Museum & Memorial
As we started at 7:45 (following David’s magical maneuvering of his big bus to get us out of the parking lot of the hotel!), we read from Psalm 137 about how special Jerusalem was to those in Exile in Babylon. Our first stop of the day was Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum and Memorial. It is named after Isaiah 56:5 (“To them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name…”). We first entered the Valley of the Communities, marking all the towns and cities where Jews were killed throughout Europe. We then heard Shlomo’s testimony about how he lost 12 family members in Vilna, Poland. All total, the Jewish population decreased from 18 million to 12 million because of the Holocaust (it has never regained the loss, with the Jewish world population today around 14 million). We also walked through the Children’s Memorial. 1.5 million children were killed. We also saw many trees planted in dedication too the “Righteous Gentiles” (there were 26,000 of them, including Oscar Schindler, Corri ten Boom, etc…). On our own, we walked through the Museum. It was a somber experience.
City of David/Hezekiah’s Tunnel/Pool of Siloam
We drove back to the area of the Old City and to the City of David excavations just south of the Old City. We saw the excavations where Dr. John dug for over four weeks in 1982. We saw remnants of city walls and houses in “Area G.” We then walked through Warren’s Shaft all the way down to the Gihon Spring. Here, some walked through the “wet” Hezekiah’s Tunnel (1,710 feet long) while others took the “dry” Canaanite tunnel. Both groups converged at the Pool of Siloam where we read John 9 in dramatic fashion. 🙂
Southern Wall Excavations/Western Wall
From here some in the group climbed up through the Drainage Channel to the SW corner of the Temple Mount (Robinson’s Arch) while others bussed to this spot. Here we saw Herodian pavement and massive stones. Jesus walked on this pavement! On the southern end of the Temple, we sat on the very steps used by Jesus and others. We considered that we now are the temple empowered by God’s Spirit (2 Corinthians 3).
We walked to the Jewish Quarter next. We then enjoyed meeting and listening to Moshe, an Orthodox Jew who owns (with his brother Dov) a biblical shop called Shorashim.
At the end of the day, we drove back to the hotel. We then wandered off on our own for dinner (this hotel does not serve dinners) and a free evening of exploring on our own or resting.
Day 9 – Friday, August 12: Hike in the Wadi Qelt to the St. George Monastery & Jericho, Drive through Mea Shearim, Ketef Hinnom Tomb, Old City, Holy Sepulcher Church, Free afternoon/evening
Today was a mix of a hike in the “Judean Desert” in the morning, and walking through the “Old City” of Jerusalem in the afternoon. It was our second-to-last day here in Israel. The day was again predictably sunny (for August), with highs around 90 about 11 a.m. in Jericho, and the high 80s in Jerusalem this afternoon.
Wadi Qelt, St George Monastery, NT Jericho
We left this lovely small hotel at 7:30 and drove around the northern end of Jerusalem to the Judean Desert. Our first stop was to an overlook of the Wadi Qelt. Here we heard the words of Isaiah 40 echo through the canyon walls, and Psalm 23 sung. We then drove to the St. George Monastery further east. We all hiked a steep trail down to this chapel built right into the cliff. The trail then took us eastward towards New Testament Jericho. Throughout the morning drive and hike, we considered some of the biblical connections with this unique region of the Bible (Jeremiah 13, 2 Samuel 15, Psalm 23, 61, 63, and Luke 10 and 19). David spent time here in the desert writing some of his psalms. The trail ended at Herod’s winter palace.
Drive through Mea Shearim – Jerusalem
On the way back to the hotel we drove through some of the Ultra-Orthodox parts of Jerusalem. The community of Mea Shearim provided us a unique perspective of how very religious Jews live. Because it was Friday about noon, the streets were packed with people preparing for the Shabbat at sunset.
Ketef Hinnom Tomb
Located below the steps of the St. Andrew’s Scottish Presbyterian Church is a series of Iron Age II tombs called the Ketef Hinnom Tombs. In one over 1,000 personal items of deceased Jerusalemites were found and 263 intact vessels. Most importantly, a silver amulet was also found, bearing the name of “God” from Numbers 6. Some in the group postponed themselves on the tomb benches where the dead bodies would have been placed. The tomb dates to the 7th-6th centuries BC.
We drove to Jaffa Gate where we entered the Old City. We first visited the Holy Sepulcher Church, the most likely location for Jesus’ crucifixion and burial site. We saw the area of the rocky scarp where the cross would have been, and the Edicule that encloses the suggested tomb of Christ.
The rest of the day was free. Some climbed the steps of the Redeemer Lutheran Church tower, while others explored the city on their own. We returned to the hotel for a good night’s rest!
Day 10 – Saturday, August 13: Garden Tomb, Israel Museum, Old City, Rampart Walk
Today was our last full day here in Jerusalem. The weather was perfect, with sunny skies and pleasant temps in the mid 80s. It was also a later departure time (8:30), allowing us to sleep in a bit. 🙂
We read Psalm 48 as we made the short drive to the Garden Tomb located on the north side of the Old City. This is a recent (since the end of the 19th century) suggested (and alternative) site for the crucifixion and burial sites of Jesus. After visiting the site and seeing the tomb, we enjoyed a time of worship and Communion together. Following in Jesus’ footsteps in the north and now here in Jerusalem, and seeing God’s redemptive plan fulfilled was special.
From the Garden Tomb just north of the Old City, we drove to the west part of Jerusalem to the Israel Museum. We saw three things here: The 1:50 scale-model of Jerusalem at the time of 70 AD, the Shrine of the Book (where we saw some of the fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls), and the Archaeological wing of the museum. We saw a number of highlights of the artifacts found from all over the country that have biblical connections. It is incredible the amount of antiquities that is on display from the ancient past!
Old City/Rampart Walk
We drove back from west Jerusalem to the Old City. We walked through the Jaffa Gate to the Christ’s Church Cafe where we enjoyed a bite to eat for lunch. We also visited the church itself. Christ’s Church was the first protestant church established here in Israel in the 19th century! We also enjoyed singing a few songs here. We then ascended the steps that lead us to the ramparts. We walked on top of the Turkish walls (built between 1537-1544 AD) of the Old City. We walked west and then north to the Damascus Gate. We then walked through the Muslim Quarter to Dr. John’s favorites “spice man” where we got a nice mix of spices for chicken barbecue.
At 4:15 we got a ride from David back to the hotel where we cleaned up for our flight home. Eleven in the group fly home tonight, while five in the group fly at various times tomorrow. On the way to the airport we stopped in for “the best hamburgers in Israel” at the “Elvis Restaurant.” We enjoyed an impersonator of Elvis sing some of the classic songs form the past (he only performs on Shabbat). It was a lot of fun and a unique way to end the trip! Who would ever thought “Elvis” in Israel? 🙂 We continued to the airport for our flights home. It was a great trip with a great group who God brought together.
NOTE: At the time of this posting, it is late Saturday night and we are awaiting our flight back to the States!
Day 11 – Sunday, August 14: Flight & Arrival Home
After our night flight, we landed safely in the U.S. Following the usual Customs and Passport procedures, we made our connecting flights home. Several in the group will be coming home tomorrow. Thanks be to God for a great trip together!
Hike Up Arbel
One of our optional hikes is to the top of Mt. Arbel. Located on the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee, the hike offers a wonderful view of the region. We ascend 800 feet to the top (for those not inclined to hike the bus takes people to the top from the other side).
The cliffs of Arbel has historical significance too. Jews during both the 1st century BC and later in 66 AD found refuge in these caves.