Welcome to Israel! When you arrive at Ben Gurion Airport I will personally meet you.We will travel a short distance to the city of Jaffa via our comfortable motor coach (air conditioned with WiFi).
One of the oldest seaports in the world, Jaffa is described in beautiful Biblical stories and Greek mythology. Depending upon your arrival time, we may visit the ruins and stroll along the old port. If desired, this may be just a quick stop to enjoy the panoramic view of Tel Aviv before checking into the hotel. (Walking tour with lots of steps and inclined sidewalks)
Our first day of touring begins with a visit to
Caesarea National Park, one of the largest archaeological sites of Israel.
Originally a large Roman port city, Caesarea features preserved ruins of Greco-Roman architecture and reconstructed structures. The theater is one of the oldest in the Middle East from the 1st century AD.
We will see the site of Apostle Paul’s arrest and trial in Caesarea, Pontius Pilate’s stone, statue garden and the hippodrome designed for chariot races. Along the shore of the Mediterranean, ruins of the artificial port are visible, designed by one of the greatest builders of the past, King Herod the Great.
(Walking tour on flat, paved paths, about 1-1.5 hours).
Our next site is Mount Carmel and holy sites related to the Prophet Elijah such as the Cave of the Prophets and his cave within the church at the Catholic monastery of the order of the Carmelites.
Next we will drive north to Haifa and view the famed Baha’i Gardens, a UNESCO heritage site. Nestled on the northern slope of Mount Carmel, the formal garden has 19 terraces, truly a marvel of landscape architecture! The golden domed Shrine is the final resting place of the Prophet-Herald of the Baha'i Faith whose name isThe Báb (or The Gate in Arabic).
We will continue on to the summit where Elijah is believed to have defeated the prophets of Baal by miraculously bringing fire down upon the alter. There is a breathtaking view of our next destination, Armageddon Valley. We will enjoy a Mediterranean lunch of falafel or schnitzel stuffed in a round pita bread ($10) before entering Tel Megiddo National Park, a UNESCO heritage site. Highlights include underground water system, tunnel and city gate.
(Walking tour on paved paths to the top of hill. Lots of steps to an underground water tunnel but this optional).
As we drive towards the Sea of Galilee, we will enjoy the beauty of the mountainous terrain and pass modern day Nazareth and Cana of Galilee where water was miraculously turned to wine. (Some groups opt to view these places from the coach while driving but itinerary can be adjusted or consider the 10-day tour which includes Cana and Nazareth as destinations). * Final itinerary depends upon hotel locations.
Our last stop is Magdala (Midgal in Hebrew) believed be the home of Mary Magdalene to whom Jesus appeared following His resurrection (John 20:14-18). Here we will see the walls of a synagogue which dates to the time of Jesus. The Magdala Stone is another important discovery on the site and bears the image of a seven-branched candelabra (Menorah) from the Second Temple era, making this carving one of the oldest ever discovered.
After that we will check in one of the hotels by the Sea of Galilee.
Today we visit the Sea of Galilee where Jesus began His earthly ministry, walked on the water, recruited his disciples, performed miracles and taught thousands! We will either begin or end our day with a boat ride followed by a meal of St. Peter’s fish, a type of native tilapia (meal includes Mediterranean salads with Turkish coffee for dessert, $15. Other choices also available).
Capernaum is our next destination, one of the largest cities along the Sea of Galilee. It is situated on the trade route Via Maris which connected Mediterranean coastal cities with Damascus. Ruins from biblical times include St. Peter’s house and the synagogue which probably was built between the 3rd and 5th centuries AD.
We will travel to Israel’s northern border to visit two spectacular National Parks. Tel Dan Nature Reserve has mature woods, lush vegetation and clear waters of the spring fed River Dan, the largest tributary of the Jordan River.
Caesarea Philippi National Park (Banias) is the site of ancient Greek and Roman civilizations against the stunning mountainous background of Mount Hermon. Pagan worship and rituals were performed in the sanctuary ruins to the god, Pan, a half goat-half man deity. Time permitting, we may visit the Mount of Beatitudes or drive by the beautiful Golan Heights where Syria is visible in the distance. We can also visit famous Galilean Olive press or winery in the evening.
Our morning starts with a drive through the famous Jordan Valley to visit Beth Shan National Park. Here we will to see the spectacular ruins of the ancient city Beth Shean and also ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Nysa-Scytopolis from New Testament times. We will stand (and maybe even sing) on the stage of the largest theater ever found in Israel, see the market place and public bath house, then stroll along the colonnaded streets of the city.
After this, we will drive through the Jordan Valley along the national border between Israel and the country of Jordan to our destination, the Jordan River. This is the traditional site believed to be the location where John the Baptist performed the baptism of Jesus. This site is free of charge and pilgrims are allowed to immerse in the river if desired (lavatories available).
Our hotel is in the resort city of Ein Boqek on the Dead Sea shore, just one hour away. You will have free time to float in this wonder of the world! Complimentary spa facilities are also available and you will enjoy a delicious dinner at the hotel. We can also visit Dead Sea cosmetics factory Ahava.
Our journey today will take us through Dead Sea region, one of the hottest in the Land. Our first destination is Masada National Park, the third most visited site in Israel and a UNSECO heritage site since 2001. This fortress was built by King Herod and rests atop a high plateau overlooking the Dead Sea, accessed by cable car ride.
On this site, a small band of Jewish zealots and their families defiantly held out against the Roman legions shortly after Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus and the Romans in 70 A.D. If desired, you may decide to take the 30-minute walk to the site instead of using the cable car.
Next will be a visit to Ein Gedi Nature reserve which is rich in Biblical history and the second largest oasis in the Dead Sea region. This beautiful wilderness area is where David and his men hid from King Saul. We will walk along the Ein Gedi stream to the largest desert waterfall named after King David. I will introduce you to vegetation and animal life common to the desert region while we take a hike! (Optional).
Our last stop today is Qumran National Park on the shore of the Dead Sea with excavated ruins from the 2nd century BC settled by the Essenes Jewish sect. This religious community's lifestyle was similar to a monastery with communal living while studying the sacred scriptures. Qumran is famous for being the site of the most sensational find of the 20th century was discovered - the Dead Sea Scrolls! From there, we will drive to Jerusalem.
This morning we will spend time in the Holy City of Jerusalem, beginning with the Mount of Olives. From the height of 2,690 feet, we will enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of world-famous landmarks such as Temple Mount, the Kidron Valley and the Old City. Here, we will discuss the biblical significance of the Mount of Olives from which Jesus ascended into Heaven. We will walk down Palm Sunday Road if desired (about 0.5 miles with downhill descent, some areas are gravel).
At the bottom of the Mount, we will visit the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed on the night of His betrayal. Our next stop is at one of the most magnificent churches in the Holy Land, the Church of All Nations, also known as the Basilica of the Agony. This holy site is believed to have been built over the rock where Jesus prayed during his nighttime vigil.
Our walk continues through the Kidron Valley to St. Stephen’s Gate where we will proceed to the Way of the Cross, also known as Via Dolorosa. Along the way, we will view different chapels passed by Jesus on His way to Calvary. Our next destination is one of the world’s most holy site for Christians, The Holy Sepulchre Church. This sacred site is accepted as the place where Jesus was crucified and died. There will be time to pause for personal reflection and prayer.
Lunch will be in the Old City (falafel or shawarma, $10) followed by a visit to Christ Church, one of the first Protestant churches in the Middle East which was founded in 1849 near the Jaffa Gate. The compound has an interesting museum with models of Temple Mount and the City.
Our day concludes with an optional visit to the Garden Tomb, the alternative site of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. It is a beautiful place to read Scripture and have a devotional together if desired. We can visit local Olive wood factory at the end of the day.
Today our day begins at the City of David, renowned as one of the most excavated sites in Israel. This important historical site has ruins of Jerusalem from the times of king David and King Hezekiah.
We will go Hezekiah’s Tunnel which he built as a secure source of water from the Gihon Spring, protecting it from the invading Assyrian army in the 8th century BC (optional, 30 minute walk in knee high water in the dark).
After this adventure, we will see a newly discovered Siloam Pool, the site where Jesus performed a miracle to restore the sight of a blind man.
We will enjoy a boxed lunch then drive to the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall built by Herod the Great in 20 BC during an expansion of the Second Temple. This portion of the Wall is one of the holiest places for the Jews and all mankind. Time will be provided for prayer and reflection. You may wish to participate in the tradition of writing your prayer then placing it in a crack of the Wall.
At the end of our day we will visit the Cenacle, also known as the Last Supper Room where Jesus broke bread and drank wine with the disciples before His betrayal and arrest. Following this, we will view the ruins of the house of Caiaphas the high priest where Jesus was taken following His arrest and charged with blasphemy.
(At this point, our tour is concluded. If planning to depart from Israel the same day, a late afternoon or evening flight may be scheduled. Shalom!)