Sample 8 Day Itinerary
SHALOM – WELCOME TO ISRAEL
Your plane arrives at Ben Gurion International Airport outside Tel Aviv. Shalom and welcome to Israel! Your tour guide will accompany you to your hotel, where you will have an opportunity to freshen up before taking a short stroll along the beachfront to Jaffa. Enjoy a light evening meal on a rooftop restaurant overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
Overnight Tel Aviv.
PROPHETS, CRUSADERS AND ARMAGEDDON
After a hearty Israeli breakfast (our hotel tables positively groan with variety of the very best foods) 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 – against Jerusalem and against the Lord Himself.
After transecting the Jezreel Valley – rich with stories of judges, prophets, soldiers and kings – drop into negative altitude and the shimmering shores of the Galilee – why call it a sea? – our home for the next three days.
Drive north through the Huleh Valley, the Mountains of Naftali rising to our left, the dominating Golan Heights away to the east. Today you will learn a great deal about modern Israel. 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 the northern 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?
Drive back down to the Sea of Galilee and enjoy a sumptuous St Peters’ Fish lunch, dates and coffee right on the shore.
After lunch, 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 very synagogue built by the centurion who “loved the Jewish people” and whose demonstration of faith outshone anything Jesus had experienced in Israel.
Take the winding road up the Mount of Beatitudes, where, in the lush green setting, 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 on 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.
JORDAN VALLEY TO THE DEAD SEA
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 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 then forges 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 Israel on the one side and Jordanian-occupied Samaria and Judea on the other. Driving through Palestinian Bedouin villages and farmlands, and past 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.
UP MASADA AND UP TO JERUSALEM
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 craggy castle fortress the second-most visited site in Israel? You’ll soon know. We’ll cable-car up and down, unless you prefer to climb.
A little north, nestling in the hard-yellow limestone Judean mountains, lies the spring-fed oasis of En Gedi – the Spring of the Wild Goats. This was 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 Saul here. 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 and birth in a day 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 of all the sons of David – the Prince of Peace.
On arriving in Jerusalem 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.
OUT OF THE ASHES
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 Jews’ 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 – 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.
CRADLE OF ISRAEL – THE LAND THE WORLD WANTS
Today we head into “occupied territory” – except we don’t use that politically correct and charged term, opting rather for the accurate historical names of Judea and Samaria. This is the Biblical heartland, the cradle of Israel’s nationhood. First we travel south, past the PLO-controlled town of Bethlehem and the Jewish town of Efrat, to Hebron. Hebron is the pantheon of Israel’s founding fathers. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lie buried here.
After visiting the Cave of Machpela we meet with leaders of the Jewish community in Hebron; learn about their deep faith attachment to this place and the challenges they face living in what is a large Hamas support base.
Heading back north, we stop off at the Etzion Bloc and see “The Bunker” where the British-officered, -trained and -armed Jordanian Legion massacred most of the Jewish community on the very day Israel became independent in May 1948. We will learn about the tragedies, but also about the triumphs as the Jews returned to rebuild the bloc after the 1967 Six Day War.
Passing right through Jerusalem, we head out north into the land of Benjamin and from there through Ephraim’s inheritance. Awaiting us: Bethel, where the Lord specifically designated the land as the everlasting possession of Jacob/Israel; Shiloh, where the Tabernacle stood for nearly 400 years; the Mount of Blessing with its almost extinct Samaritan community; and the Israeli settlement of Itamar, where courageous Jews have endured vicious murders of its citizens, including almost entire families.
IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF JESUS
On our last day: the highlight as we experience Jesus’ Jerusalem. Begin on 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 into 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 Empty 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.
After a farewell dinner – your last taste of Middle Eastern cuisine for now – we take the 45 minute drive down to Ben Gurion Airport for your flight home. You will leave Israel a different person from the one who arrived eight short days ago.
Israel is now attached to your heart, as she is to His.