Biblical Israel Tour Experiences for our 14 Day Biblical Israel Tour
January 17-30, 2022
(note: The trip is now updated through Day 5 – Thursday, January 21st. Each day’s experiences will be updated every evening, or about 3 p.m EST).
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The Israel Tour Itinerary:
DAYS 1& 2 – MONDAY-TUESDAY, JANUARY 17-18: DEPART FOR & ARRIVAL IN ISRAEL
Today was the day we all have been waiting for! Israel finally re-opened for groups from the U.S.! Eighteen of us gathered in Chicago, while give others in the group flew from Newark, NJ. We went through a lot of procedures (e.g. Covid testing, Entry forms, etc…), but we all made it! Praise God!
Ben Gurion Airport
We landed today at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. Upon arrival, we had to get another PCR test before heading to our hotel. The group flying in from Chicago went through Jaffa (referencing Jonah and Peter being here, Jonah 1, Acts 9 & 10) before arriving at the Herod’s Hotel (nicely located on the coastline of there Mediterranean Sea! After check-in, we were served dinner in our rooms.
Now we wait
Now we wait for our PCR test results. We are hopeful that we will begin our trip to there south tomorrow morning after the results. We head to the Shephelah (lowlands) tomorrow and a number of OT sites.
DAY 3 – WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 19: TEL GEZER, BETHSHEMESH, SOCOH, BEIT GUVRIN, LACHISH, BEERSHEBA
Today was our first full day herein Israel. Following negative Covid results, we loaded up the bus after breakfast (served in our rooms) for the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah. We would have a quite rainy and cold day, yet thankful for the few breaks of “no-rain” throughout the day. Temps were in the 50s.
Our first stop was Tel Gezer. Located on the Aijalon Valley, this was both a Canaanite and Israelite city, full of walls, towers, and gates. With the strong rain upon us upon arrival, we walked directly to the water system where we were out of the rain. The impressive new steel stairway allowed us go to the bottom (175 steps down). This water system was originally used by Canaanites. We ascended back up to see the Solomonic gate (1 Kings 9). Walking back to the bus we saw the Canaanite high place and standing stones.
The rain continued as we visited Beth Shemesh. Located on the Sorek Valley, this city was privileged to see the Ark of the Covenant returned to them by the Philistines from Ekron (1 Samuel 6). Before this, this was the area where Samson grew up (in Zorah across the valley). Further west down the valley was Timnah where Samson’s first wife was from (only 3.5 miles away).
Continuing south, we climbed the site of Socoh. This ancient city, not excavated yet, is located along the Elah Valley. Socoh is mentioned in the story of 1 Samuel 17 where the Philistine camp was located. It was in the narrow part of the valley below Socoh where David battled Goliath.
The rain held back when we visited the columbarium and the Bell Cave of Beit Guvrin. This area is known for all the underground soft limestone caves. Also in this area is the site of Mareshah, the home of Micah, the prophet. We read from Micah 1 and 5, reflecting upon the prophet’s words of mourning and hope. We ate lunch at a gas station outside the Late Roman site of Beit Guvrin. Following a bite to eat, we saw the amphitheater here.
Our last site of the day was Lachish. This was a Canaanite city taken by Joshua in two days (Joshua 10). Later, it became an important well-fortified city under the leadership of Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11). The Judean city saw two destructions, one at the hands of the Assyrians (2 Kings 20, Isaiah 36), and late by there Babylonians. We saw a replica of the Lachish Letter #4, one of about 20 ostraca (pottery with inscriptions). It mentions Azekah and Lachish as two Judean cities holding out. Jeremiah 34:7 says the same thing. Among the ruins we saw the double walls and gates, the Assyrian siege ramp, and the palace.
From Lachish, we drove 50 minutes to Beersheba where we checked in to our hotel. We enjoyed dinner together, followed by a brief gathering. It was a great first day!
DAY 4 – THURSDAY, JANUARY 20: BEERSHEBA, SDE BOKER, ZIN CANYON, ARAD, HANOKDIM
Today was our second full day as we explored the region of the Negev. After a good nights rest in Beersheba and breakfast , we checked out of our hotel and began our day at about 7:40. We read from Psalm 126 (about the “watercourses of the Negev”) to begin the day. The day would once again be cool, with some occasional sprinkles throughout the day.
We arrived at Tel Beersheba at 8 a.m. This is small but interesting archaeological site. We saw a replica of a 4-horned altar found here, the city well, walls, gates, and a few Israelite “four-room houses. We read from Genesis 21 about Abraham. Isaac (Gen. 26), Jacob (Gen. 47), and Elijah (1 Kings 19) were all here. We left the site by walking through the impressive water system.
Sde Boker / Gravesite of David and Paula Ben Gurion
We drove about 50 minutes south to the Zin Desert. The small town of Sde Boker overlooks the beautiful canyon of the Zin. We walked the pathway that was full with dozens of ibex, a wild goat that is referred to in Psalm 104. This led us to the graves of David Ben Gurion (Israel’s first Prime Minister). His wife Paula is also buried here. From here we drove down into the canyon for a hike to the water falls and back. Some in the group continued the hike, ascending to the far rim.
We drove about an hour back north to Tel Arad, an early Canaanite and Israelite/Judean site. Arad was a city whose king opposed the Israelites at the time of Moses (Number 21). The city would later be conquered by Joshua (Joshua 12). We started our visit on top of there citadel. Here we saw the false worship center here, complete with a courtyard, sacrificial altar, and a “Holy of Holies” inner chamber. King Hezekiah (and later Josiah) brought an end to these high places (2 Chronicles 31 & 34). We also saw an impressive cistern. We also walked down to the Canaanite city to see the reservoir, house structures, and the walls and towers of the city.
We made a brief stop in modern-day Arad to pick up some snacks before driving into the Judean Desert and Hanokdim, our “bedouin-style tent hotel” for the night. Upon arriving we rode camels in there desert. We enjoyed listening to a bedouin share about his lifestyle, followed with dinner a bonfire.
DAY 5 – FRIDAY, JANUARY 21: MASADA, EIN GEDI, JERICHO, DEAD SEA
We enjoyed a sunny day today as we travels took us up the coastline of the Dead Sea. The temperatures rebounded (as expected in this region of the Judean Desert) to the 60s, a welcome delight. We read from Psalm 18:1-2 (metzada) following a great breakfast at the Bedouin camp.
We drove east about 7 miles to get to the western side of Masada, a palace-fortress built by King Herod in the 30s BC. Most in the group hiked up the Roman ramp, and upon cresting the site saw the southern wall, a huge cistern, the western palace, and the casemate wall. The rest in the group bussed around to the east side and ascended to the top in the cable car. Both groups met in the 1st century synagogue. We then walked to the top of the northern palace and through the bathhouse and storerooms. Remarkably, no one was here besides us! We had the entire site to ourselves! We all took the cable car down to the bottom. The courageous story of Masada (with 967 using the site as a place of refuge) is incredible!
We drove about 15 minutes to a unique place here on the eastern edge of the Judean Desert. Ein Gedi is one of only a few natural springs. Together we walked into the canyon (Wadi David) where we stopped to read from Song of Songs 1 (mentioning the henna blossoms), 2 Chronicles 20 (mentioning the Ascent of Ziz), and 1 Samuel 24 (the David and Saul “cave encounter”). Most then walked back to the far water falls.
From here we drove to the northern end of the Dead Sea. As we drove we read from Ezekiel 47 and Zechariah 14 (about how one day the Dead Sea will become fresh). We arrived at Tel es-Sultan, or Old Testament Jericho. After a wonderful falafel sandwich here, we climbed the site. We looked east and could see the Jordan Valley the Mt. Nebo on the ridge on the horizon. Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River at “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” (John 1). The archaeology of this ancient site of Jericho supports and confirms the Bible’s historicity. Besides seeing the oldest structure (a round tower) in Israel, on the southern end we saw the double retaining walls of this Canaanite city taken my Joshua (Joshua 6). A mud brick wall once stood on top of these stone walls. They came tumblin down.
Our last experience of the day was to float in the Dead Sea. Once again, no one was here besides us! We enjoy floating in this unique body of water (33% salt and minerals). We drove to our “kibbutz-hotel” (Al Mog) close by for dinner and overnight.