DAY 01 Wed . Jun . 21
Today we depart for our overnight flight to Tel Aviv, Israel, arriving at Ben Gurion Airport.
DAY 02 Thu . Jun . 22
Arrive in Israel - Coastal Plain, Jezreel Valley and Galilee
We arrive in Tel Aviv this morning and proceed through passport control where we are welcomed by our Wilcox World Travel representative. After claiming our bags, our representative will lead us to the airport exit to meet our guide, board our bus, and begin our tour. We drive north to the Sharon Plain on the Mediterranean coast to Caesarea Maritima where the baptism of the Gentiles began. Here we view the sunken harbor, the hippodrome, the theater, and the Roman aqueduct. We then drive to Mt. Carmel where Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal took place. We enjoy a panoramic view of the Jezreel Valley through which we will drive on our way to Nazareth. In Nazareth, Jesus’ boyhood home, we visit the Church of the Annunciation, and Mount of Precipice, a likely place from which, at one point, the townspeople attempted to throw Jesus over. We continue to our hotel located on the Sea of Galilee in Tiberias.
DAY 03 Fri . Jun . 23
We begin today by driving north toward the Golan Heights and experience spectacular views of the Sea of Galilee. We stop at the Mount of Beatitudes to begin our tour with a reading of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. We then drive to Tel Hazor and observe the ruins of the largest city of the Old Testament. From here we gaze toward Mt. Hermon in the distance. We travel to Dan where we combine a nature walk beside the upper Jordan River with a visit to more ancient ruins, including the Israelite high place that supported a golden calf. Afterwards, we take a brief ride to the spring of Caesarea Philippi where Peter confessed his recognition of Jesus as The Christ, and we visit the stunning remains of a first century palace belonging to Agrippa II. We continue our ride to an overlook from which we can view the city of Damascus, Syria, some 45 miles away. We end our day with a spectacular drive through the Golan Heights, back to our hotel in Tiberias.
DAY 04 Sat . Jun . 24
Around the Sea of Galilee
Today we begin with a cruise on the Sea of Galilee in a wooden boat modeled after boats from Jesus’ time. We visit the newly discovered archaeological site of the fishing village of Magdala. Here we view a first century synagogue typical of the various synagogues that dot the Galilee region where Jesus first preached. We then visit churches in Tabgha including The Church of the Multiplication where Christians have long-remembered Jesus’ feeding of the multitude, and The Primacy of Saint Peter Church which is situated on the shore of the Sea of Galilee and thought to be where, after his resurrection, Jesus prepared breakfast for his disciples and commissioned Peter. After a St. Peter’s Fish Lunch (included), we make our way to Capernaum where Franciscan archaeologists believe they have uncovered Peter’s house. We end our day at a baptismal site on the Jordan River where we will observe the ordinance of baptism for all who wish to participate. We overnight at our hotel in Tiberias.
DAY 05 Sun . Jun . 25
Lower Galilee and Samaria
Our day begins with a Lord’s Day sunrise worship service, then breakfast before leaving Tiberias. We drive south to Beit She’an, one of the cities of the Decapolis, and visit the site of the magnificent community with its Roman and Byzantine ruins including a theater, bathhouses, ancient restrooms, market areas and colonnaded streets. Next, we enjoy a scenic drive into Samaria where we visit Sebastia, believed by some to be the burial place of John the Baptist. Farmers here are still uncovering Roman glass as they plow their fields. Also in Samaria, we visit the Greek Orthodox church in the town of Nablus (ancient Shechem). This modern-day church stands over Jacob’s well. We then head further south to Jericho, the oldest continually populated city on earth. We visit the Tel of this ancient city and view the mountain traditionally held as the Mount of Temptation. At the end of the day, we make our way to the top of Mt. Scopus (Lookout) and behold majestic Jerusalem. We check in to our hotel in Jerusalem.
DAY 06 Mon . Jun . 26
The Judean Wilderness and The Negev
We drive south through the wilderness to visit the fortress of Masada rising 1,200 feet above the desert plain. We see the restoration efforts of buildings dating back to the fourth and fifth centuries AD. We then head back north and visit Ein Gedi and climb a path to a waterfall where David may have hidden when he was running from Saul. We make our way to Qumran once home to the Hebrew sect known as the Essenes. We can look over to a cave where a Bedouin shepherd discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1948. Afterward, those who wish may enjoy a “float” in the Dead Sea. Then we are back at our hotel in Jerusalem.
DAY 07 Tue . Jun . 27
The Outskirts of Jerusalem
We begin our day in some fields outside Bethlehem where the angels announced the birth of Jesus. Several caves, used by shepherds to shield their animals at night, dot the landscape. We then travel to Bethlehem to visit the church of the nativity. We descend a narrow flight of steps into the grotto, or cave, in which Jesus was born and laid in a manger. We visit Herodium, one of Herod’s most magnificent and best-preserved fortresses, and his likely burial place. As we head back into Jerusalem we stop at the Israel Museum, home of the Shrine of the Book which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls. Also, we view an outdoor scale model of Jerusalem as the city may have looked in 66 AD. We overnight at our hotel in Jerusalem.
DAY 8 Wed . Jun . 28
Outside the City Walls
We drive to the top of the Mount of Olives with its breathtaking view of Jerusalem and begin a descent down the traditional Palm Sunday pilgrims’ road. We stop first at Church of Pater Noster (Our Father) and then the Dominus Flevit Church (Our Lord Weeps). We view olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane that are said to have existed during the time of Jesus, as well as the Church of All Nations which stands over the rock believed to be the place Jesus prayed in agony just before being arrested. We drive across the Kidron valley and visit the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (Cock Crow). This church stands over what is believed to be the house of Caiaphas where Jesus was kept prior to his crucifixion. We then visit the southern side of the temple mount and examine ruins that include steps where we may be certain Jesus and his disciples walked as they entered the temple complex. We visit the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site and then walk through the Rabbinical Tunnel along the western wall and view two stone blocks each weighing around 600 tons. Overnight at our hotel in Jerusalem.
DAY 9 Thu . Jun . 29
Inside the City Walls
Today we ascend the Temple Mount and view the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam. Just to the north we visit the Pools of Bethesda and St. Anne’s Church, perfectly preserved from the Crusader period with remarkable acoustics. We follow the Way of the Cross (Via Dolorosa) to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We then walk through the Arab souks and exit the Old City from the Damascus gate. We make our way to Gordon’s Calvary and the Garden tomb where we complete our tour. We celebrate with a Middle Eastern farewell dinner at our hotel before driving to the airport for our flight home.
Day 10 Fri . Jun . 30
Today we arrive in Newark and return to our cities of origin.