Biblical Israel Tour Experiences for our 14 Day Biblical Israel Tour
January 13-26, 2020
Group Drone Videos (2):
Camel Rides in Judean Desert:
The Israel Tour Itinerary:
DAYS 1 & 2 – MONDAY-TUESDAY, JANUARY 13-14: DEPARTURE FOR ISRAEL & ARRIVAL IN TEL AVIV.
Our day of departing for Israel finally arrived! God brought together 36 people for this Israel tour. 10 in the group arrived on their own, while 26 of us flew on flights today.
Ben Gurion Airport
Traveling through either London or Rome, our approach pattern into Israel took us over the Island of Crete before we all landed at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv this afternoon. After passport control, we were greeted by our Israeli agents and bus driver.
On our way to our hotel in Bat Yam (south of Tel Aviv), we made a brief stop in Jaffa (Joppa). By the replica of the big fish, we read from Jonah 1. We also read from Acs 9 and 10 about Peter here. Additionally, Solomon would use the port of Joppa for the importing of cedars from Lebanon used in the Temple in Jerusalem.
Arriving at the hotel, we checked in. Following a nice dinner at a nearby restaurant, we had a brief orientation meeting. Some even walked along the beach before retiring or the evening! We are excited about being here in Israel, the land of the Bible!
DAY 3 – WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 15: GEZER, BETH SHEMESH, AZEKAH, BEIT GUVRIN, LACHISH, BEERSHEBA
Today was our first full day here in Israel. The weather was nice and sunny, and highs near 70. We spent the entire day in the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah.
After a great breakfast on the 7th floor of our hotel (with a great view of the Med Sea), we left at 7:30. Our first stop was to Tel Gezer. Located along the Aijalon Valley, Gezer was both a Canaanite and Israelite city. We saw ruins from the Middle Bronze (Canaanite) period. This included a massive fortification tower, wall, and chambered gate. We also saw a replica of the Gezer Calendar. We read from Ecclesiastes 3 about the “seasons of life.” We also saw the water system. At another part of the site we saw ruins from the Iron Age (Israelite) period. This included a city gate built by Solomon (1 Kings 9). The city was given to Solomon’s wife, perhaps Pharaoh Siamun. Before leaving the site we saw the standing stones of Gezer, most likely part of a Canaanite cultic center.
Traveling south, Beth Shemesh was our next site. Located along the Sorek Valley, we stood on top of the site as we remembered that Samson was from this area (from Zorah across the valley, Judges 13-16). He married a Philistine from Timnah only a few miles down the valley. We also read from 1 Samuel 6 about how the Philistines returned the Ark of there Covenant here. We saw the newly-discovered Israelite ruins on the other side of the road. Also, some in the group descended down into an ancient cistern.
Located along the Elah Valley, we drove to Socohnext. We climbed this unexcavated site in order to get a good view of the suggested battle field of David and Goliath. We read from 1 Samuel 17. The story unfolded before our very eyes! God still helps us win our “battles of life” when, like David, we place our total confidence and faith in him.
Continuing southward, the next site was Beit Guvrin. After grabbing a light lunch here, we visited the Roman site first. Here we saw an amphitheater. Near the Old Testament site of Mereshah (the original name of the city and home town of Micah the prophet. ), we descended down into a columbarium. This caves was the home for pigeons. We also read from Micah 1 and 5.
Our last site of the day was Lachish. This was first a Canaanite city taken by Joshua in 2 days (Joshua 10). Later, King Rehoboam of Judah re-fortified this city (2 Chronicles 11). Lachish was a city that was seized by Sennacherib and the Assyrians (2 Kings 19-20, 2 Chronicles 32, and Isaiah 36-37) and later completely destroyed by the Babylonians. We saw a replica of the Lachish Letter #4 that matches perfectly with Jeremiah 34:7. Climbing the site we saw the double stone walls and gates, and the palace area.
From here we drove about 50 minutes to Beersheba in the Negev. We checked into our hotel and enjoyed dinner together. After this great meal, we gathered for a brief time of worship and reflection. It was a great first day here in Israel!
DAY 4 – THURSDAY, JANUARY 16: BEERSHEBA, SDE BOKER, WILDERNESS OF ZIN, ARAD, JUDEAN DESERT
On this second full day here in Israel, we once again enjoyed sunny and mild weather, with highs near 70. We spent the entire day in the Negev in the southern region of Israel.
Following another full breakfast, we departed our hotel about 7:30. The drive to Tel Beersheba was a short one. Upon arriving at the site, we immediately saw a replica of the 4-horned altar that was found here. Walking to the top of the site, we saw a deep water well. Although this does not date to the time of Patriarchs, we read from Genesis 21 about how Abraham made a treaty here. Later, Isaac (Gen 26), and Jacob (Gen 49) would come here too. Elijah (1 Kings 19) stopped by here on his way to Mt. Horeb/Sinai. We reflected upon Psalm 23 and the “trough/cup that overflows.” Praise God for His goodness that continually overflows into our lives in the dry seasons of life. Among the ruins we also saw a Solomonic gate, and 4-room Israelite houses. We left the site by walking down through the impressive cistern system.
Sde Boker/Desert of Zin
Driving south through his arid area, our next stop was Sde Boker. This is where David Ben Gurion and his wife Paula are buried. Shlomo shared a bit about the life of Israel’s first Prime Minister in 1948. The view of the Zin Desert was spectacular! We even drove down through this canyon and hiked back to the water falls. About two-thirds in the group hiked to the far rim of the canyon. The ascent was steep but rewarding. We enjoyed popsicles at the end of this hike.We ate lunch nearby at Avdat.
From here we drove to the northeastern area of the Negev and to the site of Tel Arad. This was a one-level Canaanite city that was later on taken by Joshua (Josh. 12) although it’s Canaanite king prevented Moses and the Israelites to pass by this region (Numbers 21). On the top part of the tel (the citadel), we saw what’s left of a false temple built by Judeans. Kings like Hezekiah and Josiah brought an end to this practice (2 Chr. 34). Upon leaving the site, we walked down through the lower Canaanite part of the city.
Hanokdim – Judean Desert
We drove east from here through the modern city of Arad to Hanokdim. This is a Bedouin-like camp serving as our hotel tonight. First, we enjoyed a camel ride. No one fell off! :). We also enjoyed dinner and listening to a Bedouin man talked about his customs. Before retiring for the evening, we sat around a campfire and enjoyed the star-lit sky.
DAY 5 – FRIDAY, JANUARY 17: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, DEAD SEA
Following an unique experience here in the Judean Desert, we spent all day seeing sites located along the western shoreline of the Dead Sea. The morning weather provided sun but it was overcast in the afternoon, with high temps about 65. We read Psalm 18:1-2 (metzada = fortress) as we departed after breakfast.
Our first site was Masada. While this stand-alone mountain probably served as the stronghold for David (1 Samuel 24), it was Herod the Great (37-4 BC) who built this incredible palace-fortress in the 30s BC. We arrived at the western entrance to the site where 23 in the group climbed the Roman Ramp to the top. Others bussed around to the eastern side and ascended to the top via cable car. The site is filled with ruins from the 1st century, with palaces, casemate walls, cisterns, and a synagogue. In 70 AD, 967 Jews made Masada their protective fortress against the Romans. The story of Masada involves all but five of the Jews taking their own lives. Josephus records this history. Leaving the site, most took the cable car down while about 10 hiked down the Snake Path.
We drove north from here about 15 minutes to Engedi. On the way, we red from Ezekiel 47 about the Dead Sea becoming fresh. Arriving at Engedi, we walked back into Wadi David, the canyon that flows with water all-year around! We read from Song of Songs 1, 2 Chronicles 20, and 1 Samuel 24. In this last text we find David trying to find refuge from King Saul. David spares his life and returns back to the stronghold (Masada). Many in the group walked back to see the water falls. It is a beautiful place. We saw a bunch of coneys (Psalm 104) along the way.
Our last archaeological site to see today was Qumran. Located on the northern end of the Dead Sea, this site is Israel’s most significant site namely because of the Dead Sea Scrolls found here in 1947. Located in 12 caves, over 900 fragments of Scriptural and sectarian texts were found. These scrolls were written by the Essenes. Following lunch here we walked through the ruins. In front of Cave 4, we read from “Psalm 151” (an extra psalm found in 1956) and Psalm 19. We celebrated the perseverance of God’s Word here and the joy, direction, and hope it offers us!
We ended the day at the Dead Sea. This unique body of water (the north end is 35 miles long and about 900 feet deep) consists of 33% salt and minerals. Many enjoyed floating effortlessly. Coating ourselves with mud was also fun!
With drove a short distance from here to our kibbutz-hotel (Almog). We enjoyed an early Shabbat dinner followed by a free evening. So far the weather has been great, but we are expecting some rain the next two days.
DAY 6 – SATURDAY, JANUARY 18: JERICHO, BETH SHEAN, NAZARETH, MEGIDDO, GALILEE
Today was another great day here in Israel. We would drive north through a few more regions of the Bible on our way to the Sea of Galilee. While it rained overnight, we had a rain-free day, with highs in the 60s.
Our day started with the site of Jericho. We read from Joshua 6We climbed to the top of this ancient site. Looking eastward, we could see towards Jordan. Mt. Nebo is located there (Dt. 31-34, where Moses died). Also Elijah served along the Jordan Valley and was taken up into heaven (2 Kings 2). Elisha then purified the spring of Jericho. It was also in the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized (John 1). The city of Jericho was the first city conquered by Joshua. We saw the retaining walls on the southern end of this double-walled city. It was the mud-brick wall that was placed on top of this stone retaining wall that came tumblin’ down after the Israelites circled the city seven times.
Driving northward through the Jordan Valley we arrived next at Beth Shean. We past by a few Arab shepherds and families tending to their flocks. The site includes both Old Testament and Roman ruins. Within this massive Roman city we saw the bathhouses, colonnaded streets, the agora/market place, mosaics, the public latrenes, and the well-preserved theater.Appreciating the tall-standing pillars in the Roman city, we remembered the Apostle Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians 15 and his admonishment to stand firm in our faith in Christ. Also, some in the group climbed 180 steps up to the top of the OT site that overlooks the Roman one below. Saul and his son’s bodies were hung on the wall here after they died on Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 31).
Megiddo was our next site to visit. Located in a strategic area that guarded one of the primary entrances into the Jezreel Valley, this ancient site was 25 levels of occupation that spanned about 2,500 years!After lunch we climbed the site. We saw three city gates from different time periods, Solomon’s stables and storehouses, a grain silo (from the time of Jeroboam II’s day), and the water system. Because of the floods from last week, we could not however descend down through this. On top of the site we could see Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18), Nazareth (Luke 4), Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5), the Hill of Moreh (Judges 6-7), and Mt. Gilboa ( Samuel 31). We also remembered Revelation 16 and the mentioning of Armageddon. In the end when Christ returns, God will have the final word!
Precipice of Nazareth
Driving across the Jezreel Valley, our last stop was to the Precipice of Nazareth. From here right in front of us we could get a closer view ofMt.Tabor and the Hill of Moreh. We read from Luke 4 and John 1 and spent a moment of reflection. As Philip said (John 1), we were invited to “come and see” Jesus anew!
At dusk we drove about an hour to the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee. We are staying at Nof Ginnosar for the next four nights.
DAY 7 – SUNDAY, JANUARY 19: KURSI, BETHSAIDA, CHORAZIM, CAPERNAUM, HAMAT TIBERIAS, KINNERET CEMETERY, YARDINIT – JORDAN RIVER BAPTISM, MAGDALA
Today was our first rainy day of the trip. It rained off and on all day, with highs in the 60s. We changed around our program because of the weather. We actually added three extra stops to the itinerary.
Leaving our hotel at 7:30 following a wonderful full breakfast, we drove to the northeast side of the Sea of Galilee to Kursi. Here we saw the ruins of an early church from the Byzantine Period (4-6th century AD). This ancient church was built in memory of the Mark 5 story of the transformation of the Geresene demoniac. We read from Mark 5 about the encounter Jesus had with this man. The 2,000 pigs most likely entered the lake just to the north of this site where there is a cliff still today.
Our next stop was on the north side of the lake. It stopped raining at this site for us too! In the Old Testament, this was a site in the region of Geshur. Absalom fled here for three years after slaying Amnon. He apparently stayed with his grandparents (2 Samuel 3:3). We saw a very impressive 6-chamber gate here from the time of the Israelite period. Later, we saw 2nd century AD ruins. This has been a site identified though with Bethsaida (although there is now a new site closer to the water for this town), the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John 1). We read from Mark 8 about the blind man being healed by Jesus. The Feeding of the 5,000 also took place in this area (John 6).
Our next visit was to Chorazim. This was one of the three cities condemnedby Jesus (Matthew 11). First we saw an impressive miqveh (ritual bath). We also saw a newly-excavated winepress. In the synagogue we read from Matthew 23 and saw a replica of the Moses’ Seat. These ruins date to the 3rd-4th century AD.
Down on the shoreline of the lake is Capernaum. This city, a prominent one in the 1st century with a population of about 1,500, served as the “ministry-base” for Jesus. In the 5th century synagogue (built over top the 1st century one), we read from Mark 1, 2 and 9; Luke 7; and John 6. Jesus demonstrated His authority here (s’mekah in Hebrew), causing many to be amazing at both His teaching and miracles. We also saw the 5th century Byzantine Church built around a first century structure believed traditionally to be the home of Peter himself (this is most likely not the location). With the wind and rain picking up, we then returned to the bus.
Following our fish lunch, we added Hamat Tiberias to the program as well. One of the best preserved mosaics from the 3rd century AD is well displayed here. The details in the mosaic are incredible. A few of the hot springs of Tiberias are also here (up to about 105 degrees!).
Driving to the southern end of the lake we stopped in a historic cemetery called the Kinneret Cemetery. Here, many of the earliest Jewish pioneers are buried from the early 20th century. One is a lady named Rachel Bluwstein. She was a Ukrainian Jew who never married and who died at the age of 40 in 1931. It was interesting to hear some of her poems she wrote. As of last year, she appears on the new 20 shekel Israeli bill.
Yardenit – Jordan River Baptism
Yardenit is the baptismal location at the very southern end of the Sea of Galilee. Here where the southern Jordan River begins, 14 in the group renewed their faith as disciples of Christ. The waters were a bit chilly but it was a special time for all.
We drove back through Tiberias to get back to our hotel. We stopped for one more site, however, on the way. Magdala was a 1st century prominent Jewish city located on the western shoreline of the lake in the days of Jesus. It is mentioned once in the Gospels (Mt. 15). Jesus sails into this harbor following the Feeding of the 4,000. We saw a 1st century synagogue here, only one of seven found in the country. It was special to think that Jesus walked into this synagogue and taught here! It is a modest structure that could only fit perhaps 50-70 people. We also saw a few ritual baths (miqveh) here as well. These were unique, for they were equipped with a stone pipe that brought water in from the lake.
We returned back to our hotel for dinner and a free evening. Despite the rain, we saw a lot of sites that connected us with Jesus!
DAY 8 – MONDAY, JANUARY 20: GAMLA, QATZRIN, OLIVE OIL FACTORY, SA’AR WATER FALLS, CAESAREA PHILIPPI, DAN
Today we had to change around our program once again because of the rain (sometimes heavy!) and dense fog on the Golan Heights. While we enjoyed a few very brief breaks of sun here and there in the afternoon, the morning was cold and dreary, with highs in the 50s.
We left our hotel once again at 7:30 following a full breakfast. Driving northward first, we then turned east to ascend the Golan Heights. We made a brief stop overlooking the Plain of Bethsaida and the northern end of the Sea of Galilee before arriving at Gamla. This was a Jewish site located six miles east of the northern tip of the lake. We enjoyed one very brief break in the fog to allow us to see the ruins. We could see the walls and towers of the city as well as the 1st century synagogue. Although Gamla is not mentioned in the Bible, it is likely that Jesus would have taught here (see Mt. 9:35).
Through the heavy fog we next drove to Katzrin (also spelled Qatzrin). There was an ancient Talmudic village here (3rd-7th c. AD). Among the interesting ruins we saw many stone houses. One of these houses was fully reconstructed. We all gathered in this house and read from Mark 2. While it was a story that happened in Capernaum, we could envision the story well. Jesus displayed His authority (s’mekah) in not only healing the paralyzed man physically, but also forgiving his sins! Mark 2 is a remarkable story of transformation.
Olive Oil Factory
While in Katzrin we stopped at an olive oil factory. It was interesting to see how this common ancient use of harvesting and preparing olives is still done today. We enjoyed sampling and buying some of their products.
Sa’ar Water Falls
Because of the dense fog up on the Golan Heights causing limited visibilities, we did not drive to the Syrian border. Rather, we drove north along the lower Huleh Valley to the Sa’ar water falls. With the amend of rain Israel has received the last two weeks, the water falls were impressive! In the summer this is completely dry.
Close by is Caesarea Philippi. The Banias Spring starts here. In Jesus’ day, this was a very pagan city. A Temple of Augustus was here. The god Pan was also venerated here. Later, a Temple of Zeus, Nemesis, and a shrine to the dancing goats was built here in the grotto area. We read from Matthew 16, for it was in the region of this city where Jesus asked the most important question, “Who do you say I am?” Peter is the one who responded, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God!” Jesus promised that not even the Gates of Hades (e.g. Gentile cities) could withstand the forward advancement of the kingdom!
Nature Preserve & Tel Dan
Our last stop of the day was to the nature preserve & archaeological site of Tel Dan. We first walked along the largest of the tributaries of the Jordan River, the Dan Spring. Again, the water flowing here was impressive. The trail we hiked led into the archaeological site. On the steps of the high place, we read from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12. The pattern of disobedience displayed here by the Danites and by Jeroboam led to the end of the northern kingdom of Israel (destroyed by Sargon II in 722 BC). Standing now in pouring rain, we overlooked the border with Lebanon. Shlomo stared with us the current geo-political status with this northern neighbor. As we left the site, we saw a mud-brick gate that dates to the Middle Bronze period (probably after the time of Abraham), and some of the ruins of there gate area of the Iron Age/Israelite period.
From here we drove back to our hotel for dinner and another free evening. On the way, we enjoyed a wonderful full rainbow over the Huleh Valley! Although it was another very wet day, we still had a great time visiting these sites.
DAY 9 – TUESDAY, JANUARY 21: REFLECTION-REST DAY: BOAT RIDE, MT. OF BEATITUDES, ARBEL CLIFFS
Today was a “reflection-rest day.” We experienced three intentional times of reflection. Our focus for the day was the kingdom teaching of Jesus from Mathew 5-7 and Matthew 13-14. And while it poured and stormed through the night here in the Galilee (although Mt. Hermon, Safed, and even parts of Jerusalem got snow!), we enjoyed some sun from the late morning through the afternoon. Highs reached about 60.
Boat Ride / Ancient Boat
Following a later breakfast at our leisure, we enjoyed a 9 a.m. departure time today. We walked directly to our boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. The water was calmed and the time of worship and reflection was special! We read from Mark 4 and Matthew 14, the two storm narratives. What a joy it is for us to be able to cast our cares, trials, and storms of life upon God who cares for us! Following the boat ride, we saw the ancient 1st century boat discovered in 1986 by two brothers from the kibbutz here. It is no doubt the type of boat used in Jesus’ day.
Mt. of Beatitudes
From here we drove north to the Mt. of Beatitudes. This is a traditional location only suggested in the late 1930s. However, the natural amphitheater here would have allowed many people to listen to Jesus share His Sermon on the Mount here! We listened to the first parts of Matthew 5 in Hebrew before hearing these Beatitudes in English. For the next 30 minutes, we spread out in this area as we read all of Matthew 5-7 on our own. It was a time of reading, reflecting, and praying.
We drove to the modern and relatively new Tiberias Mall for lunch. We had lots of choices. We then drove to Mt. Arbel. We climbed to the top for one of the best views of the lake below! Once again we spread out on our own, this time reflecting upon the kingdom parables from Matthew 13-14. Because it was too muddy to hike from the very bottom to the top up the more suggest trail, some in the group descended down and then back up the path to get a taste of the trail. Following our reflection time, we painted stones we collected from on top. We can only think that possibly Arbel was the mountain where Jesus met His disciples following His resurrection (Matthew 28:16).
We returned back to the visitor center and boarded our bus back to the hotel. We got back around 4 p.m. We enjoyed some free time, dinner, and a free evening. We are looking forward to getting to Jerusalem tomorrow night!
DAY 10 – WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 22: MT. CARMEL, CAESAREA, SHILOH, PERATH & QELT DESERTS, JERUSALEM (& OPTIONAL WALK TO WESTERN WALL)
This morning we left the Galilee area. At the end of the day we would arrive in the capital of Israel, Jerusalem! The weather was once again rainy, with some breaks. High temps were in the 60s.
We left the hotel shortly after 7:15 and drove to Mt. Carmel. We past through the Jezreel Valley en route to this 13 mile mountain range. The elevation is around 1,500 feet above sea level. Once we arrived to the top called Muhraqa, hiked along a short path to a view of the valley below. The morning fog limited our view however (the picture included in this gallery are from last January’s trip). We read from 1 Kings 18 about Elijah bold stand here. God displayed His awesome power in intervening on this prophet’s behalf. Carmel is also mentioned elsewhere in the Bible (2 Kings 4; Amos 1:2, 9:3; Isaiah 33:9, 35:2; Jer. 50:19).
Our next visit was Caesarea Maritima. Located along the Mediterranean Sea in the Sharon Plain, this was a city built by Herod the Great. The project took 12 yeas (22-10 BC). Starting with a brief movie and then moving to the theater, we read all the Biblical connections with this Roman city (Acts 9, 10, 12, 21, 26). Peter, Philip, and Paul were all here proclaiming Jesus boldly! At the site we also saw the hippodrome (horse stadium) and the palace (with a fresh-water swimming pool even!). We also saw the Crusader part of the city as well and the location of the grand harbor Herod built. The porphyry statue was also quite impressive. Before leaving the site we saw the aqueduct that brought water into the city from the Carmel Range.
In the afternoon we drove up into the Hill Country of Ephraim/Samaria. We past by biblical cities (e.g. Samaria, Shechem) on our way to Shiloh. This was a Canaanite city before it was used in the time of the Judges as the location of the Tabernacle. It stood here for about 305 years (the Talmud says 367) until the Philistines destroyed it (1 Samuel 4). After climbing the tel and watching the movie, we saw some of the walls and structures of the city that date to the time of the Israelites. We read from 1 Samuel 3 (about the call of Samuel here) and Jeremiah 7.
Judean Desert -The Perath & Wadi Qelt
We drove southward from Shiloh. We close to places like Bethel (Gen. 12, 28), Ai (Joshua 7-8), and Mishmash (1 Samuel 13-14). We then descended down to the bottom of the Perath Desert (Jer. 13). We saw a few gazelles along the way. We then arrived at the overlook to the Wadi Qelt. Here in the heart of the Judean Desert we heard the words of the prophet Isaiah (from Is. 40). Shlomo also sang Psalm 23 in Hebrew for us. What a great way to end the day!
We drove to Jerusalem from here and checked into our hotel. Following dinner we enjoyed an optional walk to the famous Western Wall. We are looking forward to spending three full days here in Jerusalem!
DAY 11 – THURSDAY, JANUARY 23: JERUSALEM: MT. OF OLIVES, OLD CITY; HERODIUM, BETHLEHEM
Today was our first full day in Jerusalem. We enjoyed some sun in the morning, with showers in the afternoon. Temps were on the chilly side, with highs in the high 40s.
Today was also a day when about 40 leaders of the world gathered at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum, for the 75th anniversary of Auschwitz. Thankfully during the day we avoided the heavy traffic and closed roads. In the afternoon in our bus we watched a portion of the speeches given by Putin and Pence at Yad Vashem.
Mt. of Olives
Leaving our hotel at 7:30, we drove around the west and northern side of the Old City to the Mt. of Olives. We read Psalm 125 as we started the day. Our first view of the Temple Mount and the Old City from the Mt of Olives was spectacular even though it was a bit foggy at first. We walked down the slope to the chapel of Dominus Flavit where we read from Luke 19 (Palm Sunday story) and Zechariah 14 (the return of Jesus). We celebrated Christ’s kingship, both past, present, and future. Further down the slope of the Mt. of Olives we paused for a time of reflection in the Garden of Gethsemane. We read from Luke 22 and considered Jesus’ words, “Not my will but yours be done.”
Before entering the Old City through the St. Stephen’s/Lion’s/Jericho Gate, we walked to the Eastern Gate (Ez. 44). Right inside the city we visited St. Anne’s Church. This was a church built by the Crusaders. We enjoyed singing a few songs in the church with its 8-second echo. On the same grounds is the Pool of Bethesda. This was a pool outside the walls of Jerusalem in Jesus’ day. We read from John 5 about the healing of the paralyzed man.
From here we walked to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. The Old City wasn’t overly crowded and the world dignitaries did not yet come to make their visits yet. This church was built in 325 AD and archaeologically speaking, this could be the possible location where Jesus was both crucified and buried. Close by to the church we enjoyed lunch together in the Christian Quarter.
Following lunch we walked out of the Old City through the Jaffa Gate. We then met David and our bus and drove to Herodium. On the way we saw the new US Embassy. Herodium was one of Herod the Great’s palace-fortresses. It was also where he was buried in 4 BC. We walked up to the top of the site for the view of the area. To the north is Jerusalem, to the east is the Judean Desert; to the south is Tekoa (the home of Amos the prophet), and to the west is Bethlehem. We saw the ruins on top, including the newly-exposed royal archway. We left the site by walking down through the water cistern.
Our last two stops were to the Shepherds’ Fields (located in Beit Sahour) and to Bethlehem. Descending down into a cave, we enjoyed learning about the role of shepherds in ancient days. Perhaps Jesus was born in a cave like this Himself. We read from Luke 2 and Galatians 4:4 (“Just at the right time God sent His Son…”). We also sang a few carols in the cave as well as in the chapel. We also drove into Bethlehem to an love wood factory and store. It was incredible to see how they work with olive wood.
We drove back to the hotel for dinner. Some in the group tried to get to Ben Yehuda Street for some shopping and a taste of the modern part of the city, but the roads were closed due to security for the diplomats.
DAY 12 – FRIDAY, JANUARY 24: SOUTHERN EXCAVATIONS, CITY OF DAVID, HEZEKIAH’S TUNNEL, POOL OF SILOAM, YAD VASHEM
Today the morning weather was a mixed bag, with bright peaks of sun one minute, and pouring rain another. Temps were only the 40s too, but we made the most of this second full day in Jerusalem. It cleared up in the afternoon.
Southern Wall Excavations
We left the hotel once again at 7:30. We read Psalm 137 as we left. A few stayed behind because of not feeling well. We drove down the Hinnom Valley(2 Car. 34, Jer. 7) and then up the Tyroppean Valley to the south end of the Old City. We entered the Old City through the Dung Gate. First we saw the SW corner of Herod’s Temple. We walked on a 2,000 year-old Herodian street, we saw massive stones of this western retaining wall used by Herod to expands the platform of the Temple. We also saw what’s left of an archway (“Robinson’s Arch“) that supposed an entrance into the Temple by dignitaries. We also saw some of the toppled stones of this wall that came down in 70 AD at the hands of the Romans. Moving to the southern end of the Temple, we walked up the very steps used by Jesus and His disciples. Entrance for commoners was through the Huldah Gates. High above this southern end was the Royal Stoa. The disciples even mentioned in passing their impression of the stones (Mark 13:1-2). After Jesus’ birth, Joseph would have used these steps to present Jesus in the Temple. Peter probably preached in this area on the Day of Pentecost (Shavuot, Acts 2).
City of David
With the rain now pouring, we walked south across the street to the City of David. First, we watched a movie that included stories from the Old Testament such as David’s conquering of the Jebusite city (2 Samuel 5) and Hezekiah’s Tunnel(2 Kings 20, 2 Chr. 32). We then walked down through where David’s palace was located to Area G where Dr. John dug in the the summer of 1982. We then walked further down this eastern slope through Warren’s Shaft. When we arrived at the Canaanite/Jebusite water system and the Gihon Spring (the source of water for this ancient city), we split into two groups. Many walked through the wet 1,720 foot water tunnel chiseled by Hezekiah, while others walked through the dry water channel. Both groups converged on the steps of the Pool of Siloam. Here we read from John 7 (about the Water Libation Festival) and John 9. The man born blind was healed here.
At this point art the southern end of the City of David, David picked us up in the bus and we drove to Yad Vashem. This is Israel’s Holocaust Memorial & Museum. It is named after the verse in Isaiah 56:5, “To them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name….” We first went through the Children’s Memorial (1.5 million Jewish children were killed). We then continued to the museum itself. It was a humble and sobering experience!
Leaving at 2 p.m. (Yad Vashem closes early on Fridays), we drove back to the hotel where we sat and listened to Shlomo’s personal story. In Vilna, Poland, Shlomo lost 12 family members in the Holocaust. Some bought the book he wrote about it. The rest of the day We enjoyed a great Shabbat dinner, followed by a relaxing evening. Tomorrow we should have a sunny day for our last day in Jerusalem.
DAY 13 – SATURDAY, JANUARY 25: ISRAEL MUSEUM, SCHINDLER’S GRAVE, A FEW FREE HOURS, GARDEN TOMB
Today was our last day of this trip. The sun was bright today, but the temps remained unseasonably cold. Highs were only in the mid 40s.
We enjoyed a leisurely start to the day today. Following a late breakfast we left the hotel at 9 a.m. and headed directly to theIsrael Museum. We read from Psalm 48 on the way. At the museum we saw three things: a 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem the way it looked in 70 AD, the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed, and the archaeological wing of the museum where we saw the highlights of the artifacts found throughout Israel.
Oscar Schindler’s Grave
Shortly before noon, we drove from the museum to a Catholic cemetery whereOscar Schindleris buried. He was responsible for saving 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust. He was one of many 1,000s of righteous Gentiles who rescued Jews from sure death. He himself died in 1972.
Old City/Free Time
For about 3 hours we enjoyed some free time in the Old City. Some grabbed a bite to eat, while others walked up the high tower of the Lutheran Redeemer Church. The view from here was amazing! About everyone enjoyed some exploring and shopping on their own too.
In the mid afternoon we walked through the Muslim Quarter and out the Damascus Gate to the Garden Tomb. Located on the north side of the Old City, this is an alternative location for the crucifixion and burial site of Jesus. We really enjoyed the New Zealander who took us around the site, showing us the possible place of Golgotha and the tomb itself. Following this, we enjoyed a brief time of worship and Communion. We celebrated the empty tomb and the promise of eternal life we find in Christ.
We returned back to the hotel for a farewell dinner. The majority of the group then prepared their luggage and got a few hours of sleep in anticipation of the 1:30 a.m. departure for the airport and for our early morning flight home tomorrow.
DAY 14 – SUNDAY, JANUARY 26: BEN GURION AIRPORT, DEPARTURE FOR HOME
Most in the group flew home on flights early this morning. Some in the group are flying home later, while two are going to Jordan. It was a great trip, seeing lots of sites, many of which most “tour groups” never see. Praise be to God for this life-changing experience!
Greeting from Jericho
The biblical city of Jericho is a very important archaeological site. It provides us “confirmation” of the biblical text of Joshua 6. The walls we see at the southern end were indeed the same walls Joshua saw! The bible is accurate in every detail!
In this video, Dr. John shares personal words of greeting from here as well as details about the archaeological evidence supporting the Bible.