DAY 01 Sat . May . 27
Today we depart for our overnight flight to Tel Aviv, Israel, arriving at Ben Gurion airport.
DAY 02 Sun . May . 28
We arrive at Tel Aviv early 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 of The Holy Land. We drive north to the Sharon Plain on the Mediterranean coast where the baptism of the Gentiles began at Caesarea Maritima (Acts 10). Here we view the sunken harbor, the hippodrome, the theatre, and the Roman aqueduct. We then drive to Muhraka (“burnt offering”) on Mt. Carmel with a panoramic view of the Plain of Jezreel (Esdraelon--I Kings 18, the confrontation between Elijah and Jezebel with the prophets of Baal). On the way to Nazareth, we pass the ruins of Tel Megiddo (Armageddon, Revelation 16). In Nazareth, Jesus’ hometown, we visit the Church of the Annunciation. We continue to our hotel located on the Sea of Galilee in Tiberias.
DAY 03 Mon . May . 29
UPPER GALILEE / THE JORDAN RIVER
After breakfast, we drive north toward the Golan Heights and experience spectacular views of the Sea of Galilee. We stop at the Mount of Beatitudes (Matthew 5-7) for a worship service. We then drive to Tel Hazor and observe the ruins of the largest Canaanite city of the Old Testament. We gaze toward Mt. Hermon in the distance. We travel to Dan where we combine a nature walk beside the upper Jordan River and a visit to more ancient ruins, including the Israelite high place that supported a golden calf (I Kings 12). Afterwards, we take a brief ride to the spring of Caesarea Philippi (Banias) where Peter confessed his recognition of Jesus as The Christ (Matthew 16). We visit the stunning remains of a first century AD palace belonging to Agrippa II. We continue our ride to an overlook for a glimpse of Damascus, Syria, 45 miles away. We then end our day with a spectacular drive through the Golan Heights to our hotel in Tiberias.
DAY 04 Tue . May . 30
BEIT SHE ’AN / THE SEA OF GALILEE
Today we drive south to Beit She’an, one of the cities of the Decapolis, and visit the site of this magnificent Greek and Roman community. Here we can climb the tel and view the setting of the death of Saul (I Samuel 31). We survey the Roman and Byzantine ruins: the theatre, bathhouses, ancient restrooms, market areas, and colonnaded streets. Then, we drive back to the area just north of Tiberias to visit the newly discovered archeological site of the fishing village of Magdala. Here we view a first century synagogue typical of the various synagogues that dotted the Galilee region where Christ would have first preached. After a St. Peter’s Fish Lunch, we make our way to the Primacy of Saint Peter, a church that is thought to be the place where Jesus prepared breakfast for His disciples (John 21). We visit Capernaum, where Franciscan archaeologists believe they have uncovered the house of Peter (Mark 1 and 2). Next, we visit Tabgha where Christians have long remembered the feeding of the multitude (Mark 6). We visit the Yigal Allon Museum at Kibbutz Ginosar where we view “The Jesus Boat.” And at the end of the day, we cruise the Sea of Galilee in a wooden boat modeled after one from Jesus’ time (Matthew 8). We disembark within walking distance of our hotel.
DAY 05 Wed . May . 31
THE JORDAN RIVER / JERICHO / JERUSALEM
Today we drive south again toward Jericho. Along the way we visit a baptismal site on the Jordan River where John the Baptist most likely baptized Jesus. Entering Jericho, we stop for a brief look at a sycamore tree (Luke 19:1-8). We then visit the tel of this ancient, inhabited city. We view the mountain traditionally held as the Mount of Temptation (Matthew 4). Ascending the old Roman road along Wadi Qilt, we stop at an overlook to view St. George’s Monastery. From there we drive into Bethlehem for shopping. At the end of the day, we make our way to the top of Mt. Scopus and behold majestic Jerusalem. We proceed to our hotel to check in and overnight.
DAY 06 Thu . Jun . 01
BETHLEHEM /MOUNT OF OLIVES
This morning we return to Bethlehem. We walk through the town making our way along its alleys and markets to the Church of the Nativity. We visit the Shepherds’ Field where the angels announced the birth of the Holy Child proclaiming: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace among men!” We ascend the Mount of Olives with the Old City tilted toward us. We then descend the Mount of Olives following the traditional Palm Sunday Road to Dominus Flevit (“The Lord Weeps”). As we make our way, we are reminded of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19). We view olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26) that are said to have existed during the time of Jesus. We visit the Church of All Nations. Then on to the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. This church stands over what is believed to be the house of Caiaphas where Jesus was kept prior to His crucifixion. We return to our hotel for dinner and overnight.
DAY 07 Fri . Jun . 02
MASADA / EIN GEDI / QUMRAN / THE DEAD SEA
After breakfast, we drive through Ein Gedi to visit the fortress of Masada rising 1,200 feet above the desert plain. We see the restoration efforts of the remains of buildings dating back to the fourth and fifth centuries AD. We then return to Ein Gedi and climb a mountain path to the waterfall where David may have hidden when he was running from Saul (1 Samuel 24). We make our way to Qumran once home to a Hebrew sect known as the Essenes. Close by overlooking a cave, we see where a Bedouin shepherd discovered the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1948. Afterwards, those who wish may enjoy a “float” in the Dead Sea! Then it’s back to Jerusalem for dinner and overnight.
DAY 8 Sat . Jun . 03
JERUSALEM / THE ANCIENT COUNTRYSIDE
After breakfast we begin our day at the Western Wall, Jerusalem’s holiest site. We walk through the Rabbinical Tunnel and examine two stone blocks each weighing about 600 tons. We visit the southern side of the Temple complex and examine ruins that include steps where we may be certain Jesus and the disciples walked. We drive to the Shrine of the Book and view the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient artifacts, and an outdoor model of Jerusalem as the city may have looked in 66 AD--built to scale! We then enjoy a spectacular, scenic drive to Samaria. There we visit Sebastia, believed by some to be the burial place of John the Baptist. Farmers in Sebastia are still uncovering Roman glass as they plow their fields. In Samaria, we also visit a Greek Orthodox church in the town of ancient Shechem (now Nablus). This modern-day church stands over Jacob’s Well. We then return to our hotel for dinner and overnight.
DAY 9 Sun . Jun . 04
THE OLD CITY OF JERUSALEM
We begin our day by ascending to the Temple Mount. Here we view the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, one of the holiest sites of Islam. Just to the north we find the Pools of Bethesda (John 5) 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 the Garden Tomb where we conclude our day with a communion service. In the evening we celebrate our tour with a Middle Eastern farewell dinner before driving to the airport for our flight home.
DAY 10 Mon . Jun . 05
Today we arrive in Newark and return to our cities of origin.