Sample 12 Day Itinerary
This faith-impacting journey begins on your intercontinental flight, which touches down at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. There you will be met and assisted with your transfer and check-in to your Tel Aviv hotel. Enjoy an evening stroll along the Mediterranean Sea shore – all the way to Jaffa Port if you like. Welcome to Israel!
Overnight Tel Aviv.
ON THE COASTAL PLAIN
Wake to see the blue Mediterranean Sea lapping Israel’s shores. Visit Independence Hall, where David Ben Gurion declared the rebirth of the Jewish national home 2000 years after its dismemberment. Drive to Jaffa, the ancient port city from which Jonah set sail for his unintended rendezvous with the ‘whale.’ Here Peter raised Tabitha from the dead, then camped out at the House of Simon the Tanner and saw a sheet filled with animals descending from heaven. Moments later Cornelius’ servants were at the gate, come to summon him to Caesarea – our next stop!
Caesarea was Herod’s dream city – with an artificial harbor that rivalled the great Mediterranean ports of his day, luxurious bathhouses, temples to the gods of Rome and venues for the obligatory games! Here Pontius Pilate had his residence – far from the heat and religious ‘fanaticism’ of Jerusalem. Here Cornelius became the first Gentile convert to Christianity and here Paul was held prisoner for two years before being sent in chains to Rome. We will stand in the theater where he addressed Herod Agrippa! Later the Byzantines were here – so were the Arabs, the Crusaders and even some Bosnians!
Continuing north we will visit Zichron Ya’akov, named after the great philanthropist and land buyer Baron Edmund James de Rothschild. One of the earliest Jewish settlements in the country, it was established in 1882 as the first large wave of Jewish immigrants began flowing in. The price they were willing to pay to make a new home in their ancient homeland will stun you. And then there’s the riveting story of the Nili Jewish spy ring!
Up coast, nearer Haifa, we will stop by the British Detention Camp at Atlit to learn about how Great Britain tried to close the doors of Palestine to Jewish refugees fleeing from Germany as Hitler rose to power. Optional walking tour of the picturesque German Colony.
THE JEZREEL VALLEY
We begin today at the Muhkraka – a Carmelite Monastery on Mount Carmel with its stunning view over the lush Jezreel Valley. A century ago everything we will see was black, mosquito- and malaria-infested swampland. Millennia before that, Elijah and the prophets of Baal went toe to toe here and it was the God of Israel who was glorified. Down in the valley we’ll see the striking mound of Tel Megiddo – our next stop.
Megiddo’s origin is dated to 9000 years ago – it has layers of 26 cities, each built on top of its destroyed predecessor. Wars were responsible for much of that destruction and although it has not been inhabited since the First Temple was destroyed, Megiddo is believed by many to mark the site or territory of the final great battle that will be fought between the armies of heaven and the armies of this world – Armageddon! But will the War to end all wars really happen here?
We will drive east in the valley and visit the Harod Spring. Here Gideon selected his valiant 300 men and with them routed the Midianites who were oppressing the people of Israel. Also here lies buried Yehoshua Chenkin, known as “The Redeemer of the Land.” We will find out why. Also here, the British army officer and Christian Zionist Orde Wingate trained his Special Night Squads, laying the foundations of the military doctrine of today’s Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
A scenic drive will take us over Mount Gilboa, where the Philistines defeated King Saul, mortally wounding him and his sons, including David’s soul-mate Jonathan, dead. Their bodies were tied onto the walls at Beth Shean, the city guarding the intersection of the Jezreel and Jordan valleys, site of our next stop.
Beth Shean – one of the Decapolis (ten cities) of Jesus’ day. Apart from the Philistines, Canaanites, Egyptians, Israelites, Romans, Byzantines and Umayyads all lived here through the ages – until a massive earthquake flattened the city in 749. Crusaders and Arab villages occupied what was left, but the glory was gone. The ruined remains we will see are still impressive.
Speaking of the Crusaders, we will make our last stop today at the massive Crusader fortress of Belvoir. Its name means “beautiful view,” and as you look north to the shimmering surface of the Sea of Galilee and east to the Mountains of Gilead, you will know why.
Overnight Kibbutz Maagan Guesthouse on the southern shore of Lake Kinneret.
THE LOWER GALILEE
Jesus loved this place and doubtless you will too. We begin today on top of the beautifully formed Mount Tabor, traditional site of the Lord’s Transfiguration. Imagine the possibility that Peter, James, John, Moses, Elijah and Jesus were all on top of this very hill!
Nazareth beckons – and we will drive through the town where millions of pilgrims come to commemorate the Angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary with that breathtaking announcement. Here Jesus grew up, helping Joseph out in his carpentry. Our stop will be in the reconstructed Nazareth Village where we’ll get a more realistic idea of how Jesus’ boyhood town really looked.
Heading north we will pass through Cana – traditional site of the wedding feast where Jesus performed His first miracle, turning water into wine. Our bus will then take us back to the Sea of Galilee, to where the Jordan River exits the lake. There, at the Yardenit baptismal site, you may wish to be baptized for the first time or to commemorate your baptism.
Overnight Kibbutz Maagan.
AROUND THE SEA OF GALILEE
For an awesome view of the Sea of Galilee and its surrounds, we will begin our day on the imposing Arbel Cliffs above Tiberias and enjoy a hike down its face, meeting our bus not far from Magdala, home of Mary of Magdalene. In a museum at Kibbutz Ginnosar we’ll see the preserved hull of a fishing boat recently discovered, but dating back 2000 years to the very time when Peter and his fellow fishermen worked the lake. Jesus called them to follow Him and together with His disciples He sailed back and forth across the sea; healing the sick, driving out demons and teaching the multitudes about the Kingdom of God.
We will visit the Mount of Beatitudes and celebrate a communion service on the side of the green hill. Ruined Chorazin will provide a sobering view of what a cursed city looks like. From there we go to Tabgha, where the water of the Galilee laps on the pebbled beach; we will read from the New Testament of how Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed the 5000 and how, after His resurrection, He prepared a fish breakfast for Peter and the others.
On to Capernaum, Jesus’ ‘base of operations’ after He was expelled from Nazareth, and home to Peter’s mother-in-law, healed by the Lord. We will see the ancient synagogue whose remains have been preserved. Did Jesus or his followers preach in this place?
Surely the highlight today will be our boat ride on the lake from Capernaum to Kibbutz En Gev. There a delicious supper of St Peter’s Fish will bring our day to an end.
Overnight Kibbutz Maagan.
THE GOLAN HEIGHTS & UPPER GALILEE
Today we’re headed for the territory that was given as an inheritance to the half-tribe of Manasseh, son of Joseph, son of Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham. The Bible calls it the Bashan; today it’s known as the Golan Heights. In 1967 Israel drove the Syrians – who for 19 years had used it as a platform for attacking Jewish farmers in the Galilee – from these heights. No less than 62 synagogues dating back to the Roman and Byzantine periods have been found on the Golan, attesting to the rich Jewish heritage of this land.
Our bus will climb the breath-catching pass that winds up from the southern edge of the escarpment and its border with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan – a former enemy Arab state with whose ruler Israel has made peace. After a stop at the Peace Lookout with its beautiful view west across the sea, we will go on to visit dramatic Gamla, the “Masada of the North.” Here the Romans under Titus and Vespasian crushed the Jewish Revolt in the Galilee before marching on to besiege Jerusalem, as Jesus said they would.
Mount Bental is our next stop. From atop this extinct volcano we can see deep into Syria – one of Israel’s most implacable foes. Experience the cramped confines of an Israeli army bunker, from where Yom Kippur War battlefields are clearly visible.
Descending from the Golan, we will drive past the imposing Mamluk fort known as Nimrod’s Castle then stop to visit Caesarea Philippi, otherwise known as Banias. It was in this area that Peter made his confession of belief in Jesus as “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Passing Tel Dan, where Jeroboam, king of the northern Kingdom of Israel, erected one of two golden calves, we will drive through part of the town of Kiryat Shemona – favorite target of PLO missiles, now those from Hizb’allah – then head up to Metulla – smack on the border with Lebanon. Here we will learn about the founding of this strategic town that is surrounded on three sides by hostiles. It wasn’t always this way. Hear the heartwarming story of “The Good Fence” – a picture of how wonderful things would be for the Lebanese people if they were willing to live in peace with their Jewish neighbors. Isaiah foretells that this will one day be the reality here.
DOWN THE JORDAN VALLEY TO THE DEAD SEA
We begin today driving along the top of the Mountains of Naftali that take us past frontline kibbutzim Menara and Yiftach, then drop us down into the Huleh Valley. Huleh Lake, which for millennia acted as a natural water filter for the Sea of Galilee, was drained as part of the Zionist settlement movement in the first half of the 20th century. It has been partially restored and is one of the country’s most popular nature resorts, especially during migratory season, when hundreds of millions of birds fly along this valley between Europe and Africa.
The Bible calls the city of Hazor “the head of all those kingdoms,” so it is not surprising that the archeological remains found here have been described as the largest and richest known in modern Israel. At 200 acres in size it is also by far the largest biblical tel in the land. Here we will be able to envisage how Joshua, after conquering the city from the Canaanite king Jabin, burnt it to the ground. And there’s much more.
One of what are called Israel’s four holy cities, Safed is high above the valley floor and was coveted and fought for by Crusaders and Saracens – both whom left their mark. When Spain’s Catholic monarchs expelled its Jews in 1492, some of the community’s most venerated rabbis came to make Safed their home. The battle for the town in 1948 was fierce and bloody. We will have our lunch break here, and then bid l’hitra’ot (farewell) to the Galilee.
Now we head down the long, arid, but geologically grand Jordan Valley, part of the Great Syria-Africa Rift, where seismic activity is almost non-stop. Our route will trace the Jordan River, today’s border with Jordan that is fenced off, mined and patrolled against infiltrations. We’ll pass the towering pyramid-shaped Mount Sartaba with its ruined fort, atop whose summit signal fires were lit during the Babylonian Period – conveying the message from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem that the New Moon had been sighted and a new month begun.
We will skirt Jericho – close enough to see what some have called the oldest city in the world – but far enough to stay away from the Palestine Liberation Organization, the terrorist group given control of the city in 1993, in a so-far-failed attempt to make peace with the Palestinian Arabs. In the Judean Wilderness high above this oasis, monks whose forebears go back centuries commemorate Jesus’ victory over the temptation by Satan after His baptism. John the Baptist is believed to have baptized Jesus (and multitudes of others) in the Jordan River at our very next stop.
We will stop at the ‘authentic’ baptismal site which is called, in Arabic, Qasr al-Yahud (the crossing (or castle) of the Jews). Not only did John likely baptize here, centuries earlier Joshua may well have led his Israelites into the Promised Land at this very spot – while the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant stood in the middle of the miraculously dried-up riverbed.
Now sit back and enjoy the air conditioned comfort of our bus as we wind our way along the western shore of the Dead Sea – the lowest place on the planet. The sites we pass as we head south we will visit on our return journey tomorrow. Later this afternoon we will bathe in the warm, medicinal waters of this almost surreal inland sea.
Overnight En Bokek.
FORTRESSES AND HIDEOUTS IN THE JUDEAN WILDERNESS
A tour highlight for many visitors, the dramatic desert stronghold of Masada rears its seemingly impregnable head 400 meters above the Dead Sea Valley floor. A cable car will whisk us to the summit, where we will once again marvel at Herod’s architectural genius – he created a luxurious winter palace in this inhospitable place. While Herod might impress us, the Jewish Zealots who here made their last stand against the mighty Roman army – and chose to die rather than allow themselves to be killed or enslaved – move, challenge and in some ways inspire us.
Strongholds of a different sort were employed as hideaways at Ein Gedi (the Gedi Spring). We will hike into the gorge and wade under the sweet, cold waterfall, gazing at the caves hollowed out in the hillside. The Bible tells us that when King Saul wanted to kill David, the shepherd musician and his loyal men fled to En Gedi to hide.
After a short refreshment break, we’ll head for Qumran and lunch! Here there are many more caves, but what made these ones special was the discovery, in 1947 and 1948, of what became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls. A complete copy of the book of Isaiah was found among these 2000-year-old parchments. He foretold that Israel would be born “in one day.” And so it happened, on May 14, 1948, the very year the ancient prophet’s scroll was found!
Excitement will flood your soul as our bus climbs up to Jerusalem. En route we will stop at the Inn of the Good Samaritan to see the new exhibition of beautiful mosaic floors lifted – to preserve them – from excavated ancient synagogues, churches and mosques. As our bus bursts out of the tunnel through the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem’s Old City will lie spread out before us in all her splendor. After checking into your Jerusalem hotel, you’ll have the evening free to gift shop on Ben Yehuda Street and at the glittering new Mamilla Mall just outside Jaffa Gate.
Overnight Kibbutz Ramat Rachel, Jerusalem, overlooking the little town of Bethlehem.
JERUSALEM: THE OLD CITY
First thing today we will enter the Old City at the Dung Gate and ascend the Temple Mount, believed to be Mount Moriah, where Abraham bound and prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. Here stood the temples to the God of Israel: Solomon’s glorious House of the Lord; the poor rendition built by the exiles under Zerubbabel, and Herod the Great’s architectural masterpiece that the disciples so excitedly pointed out to Jesus. And here, Ezekiel tells us, another temple will one day stand – to welcome the coming King!
Exiting down the Street of the Chain we will see remains of the still-functional Mamluk buildings in their distinctive style. We’ll walk along the restored Cardo and gaze on the foundations of Hezekiah’s 2700-year-old Broad Wall then marvel at the beautiful, fully renovated Hurva (Ruin) synagogue.
After lunch in the Jewish Quarter we will walk down to what is arguably Israel’s most exciting archeological site – the City of David. Here, in the still ongoing excavations, has been found what may have been David’s palace. There is evidence of the Babylonian attack that saw Jerusalem sacked and those who survived taken into exile in 586 BC. Before that tragic event, Hezekiah had a tunnel built to keep the water from the Gihon Spring inside the city. We’ll walk (or wade!) through that tunnel! Today it exits near the Pool of Siloam where, in the Second Temple Period, Jesus healed the man born blind.
Next we visit the Jerusalem Archeological Park at the southern end of the Temple Mount to see the selling areas from which Jesus likely drove away the merchants and moneychangers, and bear witness to the enormous pile of dressed stones the Romans sent crashing down when – just as Jesus foretold – they destroyed the Temple in AD 70. We will stand on the 2000-year-old Southern Steps Jesus Himself would have climbed to enter the Temple complex.
After returning to the Western Wall for a time of prayerful reflection, we will make our way up through the evocative and aromatic Arab souk and meet our buses outside of Jaffa Gate.
JESUS’ JERUSALEM – HERE HE WALKED AND TO HERE HE WILL RETURN
You begin your day on the summit of the Mount of Olives, site of the ascension 2000 years ago. Before you is the Valley of Jehoshaphat – where Joel says God will judge the Gentile nations for scattering His people and dividing up His land. The morning sun turns the Old City to gold across the Kidron Valley. And there it is once more. The Temple Mount – the Throne Room of the Lord! From here you can see Jerusalem’s most famous landmarks; you’ll be touching many of them soon.
Walk down the mount, as Jesus did on the donkey just a few days before His death. Stop at the chapel called Dominus Flevit (Jesus wept), and recall how He paused as, gazing over the beloved city, He foresaw and mourned its coming destruction. Gethsemane awaits – the olive grove near where Jesus agonized and wrestled over taking the road to the cross. Here He submitted Himself to His Father’s will.
We’ll enter the Old City through the Lions’ Gate, also known as the Gate of St Stephen. It will take us through the substantial 16th century city walls erected by the Turkish sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent. In the grounds of the Crusader Period Church of Saint Anne we’ll see the Pools of Bethesda, believed to be where Jesus healed the infirm man.
Then we’re on the traditional road known as the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows) along which Jesus made His pain-filled journey under the heavy cross to the place of execution. The Ecce Homo Arch marks the Antonio Fortress, probable place where Pontius Pilate presented Jesus to the crowd. We’ll continue to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher – the site, many believe, of Golgotha and the tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea.
Our next stop is on Mount Zion. We will visit the Church of Peter in Gallicantu – where the cock crowed three times after Peter denied Jesus. Then it’s on to the Upper Room where Jesus and His disciples ate the Last Supper. Bussing to the northern side of the Old City, we will visit Gordon’s Calvary and the Garden Tomb, ending the day there with a private communion service.
MODERN JERUSALEM – ISRAEL’S UNITED AND ETERNAL CAPITAL
We will start today at Givat Ram (Government Hill) – location of the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament), the Prime Ministers’ Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Tourism Ministry and nearby, the headquarters of the Mossad! Among other things, we’ll see the giant, sculptured Menorah – official symbol of the State of Israel – that was a gift from the people of Great Britain. It stands in the beautiful Rose Garden near the Supreme Court.
Next we stop at the new Herzl Museum on Har HaZikaron (Memorial Mountain) to experience a spectacular audio-visual encounter with the visionary of the Jewish State. Recognizing the existential danger of anti-Semitism to his people, Herzl worked to lay the foundations for a homeland for his people. Before his vision could be realized, however, Hitler rose to power on the European stage.
And so we will visit Yad Vashem – the Holocaust Memorial Museum – in what will be a harrowing experience, but an essential one. We cannot know Israel until we have exposed ourselves to the truth about the incomprehensible slaughter of at least six million Jews – one third of all the Jews in the world, more than all Israel’s Jewish citizens today. And it didn’t happen centuries ago, back in the Dark Ages. In relation to the length of Israel’s history, the Holocaust took place ‘just the other day.’ Our voices will join those of the remnant of Israel and all who love this nation to declare and proclaim: “Never again!”
Israel, it has been said, was born out of the Holocaust. At the same time, the nation was reborn born in fires of its own. Since its establishment, the Jewish State has fought, or been attacked, in at least one war every decade – with unrelenting terrorism claiming Jewish lives in between all the wars. Mt Herzl is the country’s main Israel Defense Forces cemetery.
We will head downtown on the new Jerusalem Light Rail, across the eye-catching Bridge of Strings to the Mahane Yehuda Shuk – Jerusalem’s vibrant and colorful market. Here you can sample the wares, including the sesame seed candy called halva, and perhaps buy some of the tempting produce lining the walkways. This country is famous for the quality of its vegetables and fruit.
You will have another hour or two this afternoon to browse the stores for goodies to take back home.
HEADING HOME – AMBASSADORS FOR TRUTH
After breakfast, check-out and board your bus for your transfer to Ben Gurion Airport. Two weeks ago you arrived, a passionate Believer hungry to experience the modern day miracle of this land for yourself. You leave now as an Ambassador for this nation: Everything you have seen with your eyes and heard with your ears you will want to shout aloud from the rooftops when you get back home!
You’ll have your work cut out for you, but you will also have this enormous advantage over most those who rail against Israel: unlike them, you have been to Israel. When you speak, it can be with conviction and with authority.