Sample 10 Day Itinerary
ENTERING THE PROMISED LAND
Your plane arrives at Ben Gurion International Airport, just outside the shimmering Mediterranean city of Tel Aviv. Shalom, and a warm welcome to Israel, where your tour guide will meet you and your air-conditioned coach will whisk you to your hotel for dinner and a good night’s rest.
Overnight Tel Aviv.
THE VIA MARIS – WAY OF THE SEA
After a hearty breakfast, visit the seaport of Joppa (Jaffa) – ancient gateway into the Land of Israel. Here the way was opened for Gentiles, too, to enter the Kingdom of God. Visit Independence Hall, where David Ben Gurion proclaimed the rebirth of the Jewish national home – the State of Israel – as prophecy was dramatically fulfilled in 1948.
Head north along the coastal plain, tracing routes followed by swaying camel caravans, warring Egyptian pharaohs, scimitar-wielding Arabs, conquering Crusader knights, empire-building Europeans and, down the centuries, millions of Jewish and Christian pilgrims, hearts set on holy destinations.
Visit the magnificent ruins of Caesarea Maritima – first of many legacies you will see left by the vicious and brilliant Herod the Great. Ascend the southern edge of Mount Carmel and – overlooking the sweeping vista of the Jezreel Valley – relive Elijah’s fiery face-off with the prophets of Baal to decide on the question, “Who is God?”
Descend to the valley floor and explore the Biblical tel of Megiddo – a multi-tiered city that has seen millennia of wars and today waits silently to witness the gathering of the nations at the staging ground for the final and greatest battle of all time.
After skirting the Jezreel Valley – rich with stories of judges, prophets, soldiers and kings – drop to the shimmering shores of the Galilee – why call it a sea? – our home for the next three days.
First thing in the morning our wooden boat – modelled on a fishing craft from Jesus’ day – casts off and points her prow at the heart of the harp-shaped Lake Kinneret (the Israelis’ name for the Sea of Galilee). As reflection and celebration wash over us, we will worship our Lord, our songs of praise carrying across the fish-rich waters while we gaze out at the ministry centers where Jesus of Nazareth made His name.
Back on land, let’s visit Capernaum – home to five of the disciples and headquarters of Jesus’ ministry in the north. This exciting site has authentic, uncovered first century ruins, including the foundations of what was likely the synagogue built by the centurion who “loved the Jewish people” and whose demonstration of faith outshone anything Jesus had experienced in Israel.
After enjoying a famous “St Peters’ Fish” lunch, take the winding road up the Mount of Beatitudes, where, in the lush green setting with the blue lake spread out below, we reflect on Jesus’ ‘road map’ for righteous living which He shared – as the “Sermon on the Mount” – with those who chose to follow Him.
Our hearts and thoughts prepared, we will go to Yardenit at the southern edge of the Galilee and conclude this Jesus-centered day with a meaningful and joyful baptism/re-dedication service in the cool green waters of the River Jordan.
THE NORTHERN FRONTIER
Boots on: we’re headed for Israel’s borders with her northern hostile neighbours, Syria and The Lebanon. Driving through the Huleh Valley, the Mountains of Naftali rising to our left, the dominating Golan Heights away to the east, we will learn a great deal today about modern Israel. Our topics will include Zionism and early Jewish settlement, including that unique Israeli enterprise – the kibbutz. We will discuss what it was like for Jewish families here to live under Syrian guns for 19 frightening years and under PLO and Hizb’Allah missiles from the Lebanon for many more.
Making our way along that frontier, we’ll take a break to calm the soul, and hike beneath the tall trees and cool overgrowth lining the rushing sweet waters of the River Dan, tributary of the Jordan. See the excavated city of Dan and, preceding that 3500-year-old city by about six more centuries, the stunningly-preserved arched gate into the Canaanite city Abraham passed through en route to rescue his nephew Lot.
Jesus was also in this region, as we will recall during our visit to the “Gates of Hades” adjacent to the city of Caesarea Philippi. Here Peter – but not of himself – identified Jesus as Messiah and Son of God. And here Jesus, not for the first or last time, admonished His followers not to disclose His identity. Why?
Our bus will take us up alongside the towering Mount Hermon – site of the winter season ski-slopes – then swing south and make its way along the Syrian border. The Vale of Tears will sober us with the realization of Israel’s near-destruction during the Yom Kippur War – and of God’s miraculous intervention to save. At this point we will be nearer to Damascus than to Jerusalem. What lies ahead for the Syrian capital?
Descending the Golan we return to our seaside hotel for one more night.
DOWN THE GREAT RIFT VALLEY
If you haven’t yet done so, rise early to catch the sunrise that transforms the grey waters of the dawn-reflecting Galilee into sheets of beaten gold most mornings of the year. Say goodbye to this special place and we head south to Beth Shean – on whose ancient walls the Philistines once hung the headless bodies of King Saul and his son Jonathan. In Jesus’ day this was the capital of the Decapolis.
Our journey now takes us deeper into the 6000 km/(3800 mile-long Syrian-African Rift, whose sections in Israel include the hot and dusty Jordan Valley that will take us to the northern reaches of that other famous inland lake – the Dead Sea. En route we will pass through an IDF checkpoint marking what was, before the Six Day War, the ceasefire line between Jordanian-occupied Samaria and Judea. Passing through Palestinian Bedouin villages and farmlands, and Jewish-owned collective farms, we will wend our way along the border with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, learning about the geopolitical history of this once volatile frontier. Since 1994 a peace treaty has been in place between Israel and the Jordanian monarch. Its future? Uncertain.
Gilgal and Jericho, along with the site where Joshua led the Israelite armies across Jordan into the Promised Land, will feature in our day, before we navigate the western shore of the world’s deepest hypersaline lake and enter the haven of our Dead Sea hotel.
Overnight Dead Sea.
GOING UP TO ZION
After an early morning dip in the healing waters of the super salty sea, dress for hiking as we head out to tackle Masada. Why is this the second-most visited site in Israel? You’ll soon know. We’ll cable-car up and down, unless you’d prefer to climb.
A little north, nestling in the hard-yellow limestone Judean mountains, lies the spring-fed oasis of En Gedi – home to the outlaw David and his band of ‘merry men,’ as they sought to evade the scouting parties of a vengeful and demented King Saul. David could have killed him there. Why didn’t he? Horned Nubian Ibex leap on the cliffs far above, while furry Rock Hyraxes lie panting in the shade of Christ-Thorn Jujube and Acacia trees.
We will continue towards the northern edge of the Dead Sea. Before leaving its otherworldly shores, though, let’s stop at the small site of Qumran. What was found here towards the middle of the last century would render archaeologists ecstatic and Scripture skeptics speechless. The discoveries would trumpet and underscore the supernatural coming-to-pass of one of the most awesome of all Biblical prophecies: the resurrection of the long-dead nation of Israel.
And now, at last, we begin our ascent to the most famous city in the world! The city of cities was King David’s capital, and is the eternal and indivisible capital of the modern State of Israel. Jerusalem will soon house the restored Davidic Dynasty, for it is destined to welcome into its precincts the greatest Son of David – the Prince of Peace.
On arriving we will pause on Mount Scopus for a breathtaking first view of the city, before checking into the hotel that will be our lodging place for the duration of this tour.
FROM DRY BONES TO LIFE
Our first full day here will take us through modern Jerusalem (not the New Jerusalem – that comes later), where we will stop first outside the Knesset – seat of the Israeli Parliament and the offices of the Prime Minister. View a large Menorah etched with scenes from the Jewish people’s Biblical and modern history. At the Israel Museum, marvel at the 50:1 scale model of Jerusalem as it is was in the time of Jesus. Then enter the evocative Shrine of the Book and see the repository of the Dead Sea Scrolls we first learned about at Qumran.
Driving across to the western side of the city, we will climb up the Mount of Remembrance, also known as Mount Herzl. The northern side of the hill houses Israel’s National Military Cemetery. Above it is the grave of Theodore Herzl – the father of the Zionist movement – and Israel’s National Pantheon. Our destination, however, is the southern face of the hill – high above En Kerem – traditional birthplace of John the Baptist.
Here stands Yad Vashem – the memorial to the millions of Jews murdered in the Holocaust. This will not be an easy visit. It is essential, however, that we grasp something of the horrors of this darkest moment in Jewish history, and what this people has been through, if we are to fully appreciate the light and the still-unfolding miracle that is Israel today.
THE THRONE ROOM OF THE KING
Donning sturdy walking shoes, we will head out to explore the deep foundations of Jerusalem. Our first stop takes us back 3000 years to the fortified town and stronghold David would take from the Jebusites and establish as his capital. The City of David is the most exciting archeological site in the land. In it we will see the site of David’s palace, make our way down past the diggings that support the Biblical record of the city’s history, then roll up our trouser legs and switch on our flashlights to wade through the engineering masterpiece known as Hezekiah’s Tunnel. It will bring us out at the Pool of Siloam – where Jesus healed the man born blind.
Continuing underground we will climb up the Priest’s Way exiting in the Jerusalem Archeological Park at the southern end of Mount Moriah, there to sit and learn on steps Jesus Himself had to use to enter what He called “My Father’s house.”
After taking lunch in the beautifully restored Jewish Quarter, we will stop for some private moments at the Western Wall, then ascend the Temple Mount – aka Mount Moriah and the Biblical Mount Zion.
As the Jews say: The heart of Israel is Jerusalem; the heart of Jerusalem is the Temple Mount. This place – today straddled by the universally recognised golden Dome of the Rock and grey-domed Al-Aqsa Mosque – is the most volatile piece of real estate in the world. Jews and Christians are not permitted to pray here. Still, one day soon, as the now-banned Bible says, the throne room of the Son of David will be built on this site. And the name of Jerusalem from that day on will be: “The LORD is here.” (See Ezekiel 48).
Enjoy some shopping time in the Christian Quarter Arab souk, then we’ll make our way past Christ Church and the Tower of David, exiting the Old City through the renowned Jaffa Gate.
FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD
Today – our last full day in Israel – we will use to experience Jesus’ Jerusalem. Begin by heading to the brow of the Mount of Olives from where we can see so much of the city’s history unfold before us. This was His view of the place most beloved by His Father, the place where God desires to dwell, where He has put His name.
Down this hill Jesus made His way on the donkey, stopping to weep over the city as He foresaw its impending, terrifying destruction – and the beginning of a period of great tribulation for the Jewish people.
We will walk down the “Palm Sunday Path“, and then enter the Garden of Gethsemane – the ‘olive press’ in which the ‘crushing’ of Jesus would begin.
Arrested here, He was taken to the House of Caiaphas the High Priest, and we will go there too, entering the dungeon where He awaited trial, within earshot of the small courtyard where one of His closest friends would stand, warming himself at the fire, while vehemently denying that he knew – or had anything to do with – this Man.
Not far from here is the Upper Room – marking the place where the dramatic events of that fateful weekend began. Stopping there, we will ponder the institution of the Lord’s Supper, and we’ll look a little further in the future from that weekend to consider the awesome empowerment of His disciples, “when the day of Pentecost had fully come.”
Our continuing journey will take us deep into the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem, to the Pools of Bethesda where the One whose imminent execution we are focused on demonstrated – yet again – His power to heal. Our feet will then find, and travel along, part of the traditional course of the tortuous route Jesus would take as He carried His cross from the place where Pontius Pilate condemned Him to death to the execution ground at Golgotha.
Leaving that Via Dolorosa, we will walk through Damascus Gate to Gordon’s Calvary and the Garden Tomb – there to celebrate Communion and rejoice in His victory over sin, death and the grave. Without Calvary we would not be in Jerusalem today. Without the empty tomb, we would have no hope of ever seeing the New Jerusalem.
L’HITRA’OT YISRA’EL – UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN
After checking out of the hotel, we will board our bus one more time, taking leave (for now) of the City of the Great King, covering the short distance back to Ben Gurion International Airport, where you will board your plane for your journey back home. Your life – your faith! – will never be the same again. And we will part with the words that have sounded in Jewish homes down through the centuries: “Next year (again) in Jerusalem!”