Welcome to Israel! I will personally meet you upon arrival at Ben Gurion airport. From here, we will travel about an hour to Jerusalem via our comfortable motor coach (air conditioned with WiFi).
If your flight arrives early in the day, we will visit the ruins of Emmaus village (Luke 24:13-35) and the Valley of Ajalon where battles were fought from ancient Biblical times (Joshua 10) through the modern era. While enjoying the scenery, we will have time for coffee. If your flight arrives late day or evening, we will proceed directly to the hotel in Jerusalem.
On the drive to Jerusalem, the landscape changes dramatically along the way and we will literally ascend to the mountains of Jerusalem. As we travel, we may sing together and listen to the famous Biblical Psalms which are called the Songs of Ascent. In Jerusalem, we will check into our comfortable hotel. The rest of the evening is yours to rest and relax or take a walk around the city.
Today, our tour begins with the visit to the Mount of Olives. Our driver will take us to the Mount’s top and we will see the magnificent and awe inspiring view of the historical part of Jerusalem - the Old City and the Temple Mount.
We will discuss the geographical locations of the Kidron Valley, Gethsemane and the Palm Sunday Road and you will see Ancient the skyline of one of the most famous cities in the world.
Our driver will transport us down into the Kidron Valley to visit Gethsemane garden where Jesus spent His last hours in prayer before His arrest. This is also the site of the beautiful Church of the Agony of Christ (also known as the Church of All Nations) where we will admire the work of Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi who built the Church in 1922.
Next, we will drive to the Western Wall (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 Christians with thousands of visitors from around the world every year. 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.
Our next tour will be led by a local Jewish guide through the Western Wall Tunnel excavated in 1967. This short walking tour is "Behind the Scenes" and you will enjoy seeing the foundation of the Wall which is an engineering marvel. We will take a break to enjoy a delicious Mediterranean lunch of falafel, hummus or shawarma and the very important cup of pure 100% Arabic (Turkish) coffee!
After lunch, we will visit Bethesda pools mentioned in John 10 and a few stations of the Via Dolorosa (the Way of the Cross) which are mentioned in the Gospel narrative.
Our day starts with a visit to the Cenacle, also known as the Last Supper Room where Jesus broke bread and drank wine with the disciples before His betrayal and arrest. We will also see the Tomb of King David.
After a short walk, we will see one of the most famous churches in Jerusalem, St. Peter Church in Gallicantu, traditionally believed to be the site of the house of the High Priest (Caiaphas House) where Jesus’ disciple, Peter, denied Him three times.
We will board the coach once again to visit the Jaffa Gate, the main entrance of the Old City, built by Suleiman in 1538. We will take a short walk along the last Five Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa (the Way of the Cross) including Calvary and the tomb of Christ which are within the Holy Sepulchre Church.
Nearby, there is a large market and we will have free time for shopping. 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 (founded in 1849) which has an interesting museum and models of the Temple Mount and the City.
Today, our tour begins with a visit to the historic cradle of ancient Jerusalem, the City of David Archaeological Park. To make the tour as easy as possible, we will start at the recently discovered site of the Siloam Pool where Jesus healed a blind man (John 9).
A shuttle will drive us to the entrance of the archaeological site where we will watch a short 3D movie about Jerusalem from the times of David and Solomon as well as excavations of ancient Jerusalem.
Next we will drive to the nearby Museum of Israel where highlights include a spectacular Model of Jerusalem from the Second Temple period which replicates the City at the time of Jesus. The 1:50 scale model is based on the writings of historian Josephus and includes a replica of the Herodian Temple. The Shrine of the Book Museum is also at this location and was built as the repository for the first seven Dead Sea scrolls discovered in the Judean Desert at Qumran the late 1940s.
We will have lunch followed by a visit to Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, the National Holocaust Memorial established in 1953. Here, over over 6 million Jews in Europe, Africa and the Middle East as well as other groups of people exterminated by the Nazi regime during World War II are commemorated. The famed Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations is a beautifully serene area for remembrance of Non-Jewish people who risked their lives to save the Jews from Hitler and the Nazis.
This morning, we will check out of our hotel and leave Jerusalem behind to travel to the region which is home to one of the wonders of the world, The Dead Sea. On our way we will also visit interesting archaeological and nature sites.
Our first stop is Qumran to see the ruins of the settlement that existed from the times of the Iron Age until the first century AD when it was destroyed by the Roman army.
We will see a short fictional movie which tells the story of the Yahad community who left us the legacy of these Biblical scrolls. We will also visit a small museum and see the archaeological site. In the souvenir shop, you may purchase world famous Dead Sea cosmetics!
We will drive to the nearby Ein Gedi Nature Reserve which is rich in Biblical history and is the second largest oasis in the Dead Sea region. This beautiful wilderness area is where David and his men hid from King Saul “in the wilderness” (I Samuel). There is a level paved path along the Ein Gedi stream which leads to the desert waterfall. Here I will introduce you to vegetation and animal life common to the desert region. After a short break for coffee and ice cream, we will travel to Masada, one of the most visited sites in Israel and a UNESCO heritage site
Via a cable car, we will travel to the Summit to see spectacular panoramic views of the Dead Sea and the surrounding desert and hills. 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. The inspiring story of the heroism and strength of the Jewish freedom fighters will be discussed during our visit. Along a 30-40 minute walk (paved paths) the excavated and reconstructed ruins of King Herod's palaces and the fortress are visible and you will have a glimpse of life within the stronghold.
After a short 15 minute drive, we will arrive at our hotel in the resort city of Ein Bokeq. The remainder of the day is yours to relax along the beach of the Dead Sea (a short walk from the hotel). Enjoy floating in the Dead Sea or you may prefer to remain at the hotel where there is a complimentary Spa and swimming pool.
After a late check out of the hotel, we will travel to the Jordan River through the Dead Sea region and the Jordan Valley, the border
between Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan.
This site at the Jordan River is traditionally believed to be the location where John the Baptist performed the baptisms of multitudes and Jesus Himself. Entry is free of charge and pilgrims may immerse in the river if desired (lavatories available).
We will continue our journey to the North of Israel to visit Beth Shan National Park (about 1.5 hours drive). On the way, we will pass by the West Bank city of Jericho and discuss the story about its significance. From the coach, we will see a few Christian monasteries established here at the dawn of the Christian era.
At Beth Shan National Park, we will walk among the remains of the Greco-Roman polis, former capital of Decapolis (paved paths). The city ruins have the largest theater ever discovered in the Land, public bath house and large colonnaded streets. At the top of the mound ruins were discovered from Old Testament times when the residents of Beth Shan engaged in fierce wars with the sons of Israel. The body of a defeated King Saul was fastened to the walls of Beth Shan (2 Samuel 21:12). Our hotel is about 30 minutes away on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The remainder of the day is yours to enjoy.
Today we will begin our tour around the Sea of Galilee where Jesus began His earthly ministry, walked on the water, recruited his disciples, performed miracles and taught thousands!
The ancient city of Capernaum is our next destination, one of the largest cities along the Sea of Galilee situated on the trade route Via Maris which connected Mediterranean coastal cities with Damascus. The evangelist Matthew calls it "His town" (9:1). Jesus preached here in the local synagogue and stayed at the house of Peter's mother-in-law. Both places have been identified but hotly disputed by scholars.
Our next destination is the Mount of Beatitudes, the site where it is traditionally believed that Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, Luke 6). We will enjoy the outstanding landscaped design of the grounds and tour the beautiful Church of Beatitudes which has windows and a balcony overlooking a spectacular view of the Sea of Galilee. After a drive down the hill we will arrive at Heptapegon (Tabgha in Arabic) which means Seven Springs.
According to the 4th century Christian tradition confirmed by the record of pilgrims from Europe, this area where lots of springs flow into the Sea of Galilee occurred many events described in the Gospel. Here is the Church of the Multiplication of loaves and fish, built to commemorate where Jesus fed 5000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish (Matthew 14:13-21). The Church of Table of Christ (Mensa Christi) identifies a small wharf and a stone where the Resurrected Christ appeared to Peter and the disciples (John 21).
We will have lunch and enjoy the native "St. Peter's fish", a type of tilapia (other choices also available). The highlight of the afternoon will be a boat ride
where we will be able to imagine life in this region at the time of Jesus and His disciples who frequently used a boat as means of transportation.
We will also visit the Boat Museum where an ancient boat discovered at the shores of the sea of Galilee is displayed. A souvenir shop and cafeteria are on the premises of the museum for a short break.
We will travel along the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee to the North of the country where there is beautiful green landscape and highest mountains in the region. On the way, we will pass community farms (kibbutz) that developed outstanding high tech agriculture, the modern wonder of the land.
As we cross the upper section of the Jordan River, we will pass through the Golan Heights to the major headwaters of the Jordan Rver, the Dan Stream.
The Tel Dan Nature Reserve has paved paths where we will enjoy a walk along the Dan Stream to the the excavations of the famous Biblical city Dan (walk is about 20 minutes on level ground). The story of the Israeli tribe of Dan and their adventures is recorded in Judges 18-19. We will see one of the oldest gates found in the world from the times of the patriarch Abraham (Genesis 14:4). Perhaps this was the gate where Abraham redeemed his nephew, Lot!
The Banias Nature Reserve is a few minutes away and the site of the renowned Ceasarea Philippi ruins! Here we will enjoy the view of another tributary of the Jordan River, the Hermon (Banias) Stream and visit the ruins of the Greco-Roman city where Jesus and His disciples gathered and Peter confessed Jesus The Messiah (Matthew 16:13-16).
After a Lebanese cuisine lunch, we will drive to the Golan Heights. We will pass by the Israeli-Syrian border, Gamla and other beautiful sites of the Golan Heights. We may visit one of the famous wineries or the olive oil factory.
Today we will check out from our hotel and leave the inspiring area of the Sea of Galilee behind and to travel to another sea, the Mediterranean or the Great Sea as it known in the Bible. Our journey and the sightseeing will take the whole day. About 40 minutes away from the Sea of Galilee we will pass by Cana of Galilee (John 2) and Nazareth, the city where Jesus spent his childhood.
Soon afterwards we will reach the Jezreel Valley, also known as the Valley of Armageddon (Revelation 16). Here stand the Biblical city Megiddo ruins, now Tel-Megiddo National Park, a UNESCO heritage sites. We will see the short movie about ancient Megiddo and explore the excavations of the city which was fortified and expanded by the legendary king Solomon and the location of the battle described in the Book of Revelation by the Apostle John.
After lunch we will arrive to the area of Mount Carmel. At the summit is the beautiful Carmelite Catholic chapel. Tradition says here the Biblical prophet Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal and Ashera and brought down fire unto the alter from Heaven (1 Kings 17).
From the top of the monastery opens a breathtaking view to the Jezreel Valley (or Valley of Armageddon). Here we can recall the prophecies from the Bible and be inspired by the incredible sight of the Land of Israel.
We will continue our journey through the Mediterranean Coastal Plain in central Israel where most of the population is concentrated in its large coastal cities. .
We will arrive at the largest archaeological park in the Land - Ceasarea on the Sea, originally a large Roman port city which features ancient preserved ruins of Greco-Roman architecture as well as 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 hour).
At the end of our touring day we will arrive at the hotel by the Mediterranean Sea which is near Ben Gurion International Airport. At the end of the day we will enjoy on the beaches of the Mediterranean Sea.
After checking out of the hotel, we will either depart for the airport or visit the economical and cultural hub of Israel, the city of Tel Aviv.
In Tel Aviv, we will visit Rabin square and the site which commemorates the place where the Prime Minister of Israel Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.
A short drive will take us to Jaffa,
a Canaanite city which was under strong Egyptian influence confirmed by ancient ruins then you will enjoy a beautiful view from Jaffa's ancient mound called Tel Jaffa. There will be time for a leisurely walk through the narrow streets of the Old City lined with art galleries and shops with plenty of last minute souvenirs to purchase.
We will also stop by the house of Simon the Tanner who once welcomed Apostle Peter under his roof. After a lunch in one of the Mediterranean sea food restaurants (other choices available), we will continue to our last destination, Ben-Gurion International Airport where we say farewell and, as the Jewish people say, "See you next year in Jerusalem!"