Day 1: Nazareth, Tiberias & Sea of Galilee
Drive up north along the coast and then inland through the Valley of Armageddon (Revelations 16:6), from here we can see Megiddo. On our way towards Nazareth we visit the Mt. of Precipitation (Luke 4:28-30).
In Nazareth we visit the Church of Annunciation which was constructed on the spot where Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she would soon be with child (Luke 1:26). Next-door we find the Church of Saint Joseph where Jesus’ father, Joseph had his carpentry.
We depart Nazareth and travel to the Sea of Galilee. On the way we pass Cana where Jesus turned water into wine (John 2:1-12). At the bottom of Mount Beatitude we visit Capernaum on the shore of the Kinneret or Sea of Galilee. Here we see the home of Peter and the Church of the Multiplication (Mark 6:30-44).
We travel along the waterfront of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus calmed the sea and walked on the water (Mark 4:35-41, 6:45-52). Across the water we can see the Golan Heights forming a beautiful backdrop as we pass the city of Tiberias which was settled more than 2,000 years ago and named after the Roman emperor Tiberius.
We reach the southern region of the Kinneret where the Jordan River flows into the Sea of Galilee and where Jesus was baptized. Here you may be able to participate in a baptismal ceremony in the very same spot that Jesus did so many years ago (Mark 1:9-11).
As we head south on our return journey we can see Mount Tabor where the Transfiguration took place (Matthew 17:1-9).
Day 2: Haifa, Acre & Rosh Hanikra
The city of Caesarea was constructed under Herod and named after the Roman Emperor, Caesar. From what remains of the ancient city we can see that it was a prosperous and luxurious city. Among the archaeological excavations we can see gateways, a moat and well preserved walls and rooms. There is a perfectly preserved Roman amphitheater which is still used today for performances by Israeli and international artists. The Roman remains were preserved for centuries by the sea sand which covered and protected the stones. Next to the amphitheatre is part of what was once a hippodrome. We can see the remains of a Roman Temple which stood above the port overlooking the busy commercial ships which carried treasures from the east and the Nabatean caravans which were on route to Rome. Following the Romans the city stood neglected for centuries until the Crusaders arrived but in the years after the Crusaders the city once again sank into oblivion.
We continue driving north passing through Haifa where we stop to see the breathtaking Baha’i Shrine and gardens. The terraced gardens cascade down the mountain towards the city below, each of the 19 terraces bursts with colorful flowers and meticulous landscaped designs.
Our next stop is at Rosh HaNikra, the most northerly point along Israel’s Mediterranean coast. We descend by cable car into the network of limestone grottoes created by the constant bombardment of waves against the rocks.
We stop at Acre (Acco), the largest Crusader city in the country. The city is extremely well preserved and you can’t help being impressed by the incredible architecture and how it has survived. Part of the city is alive with markets and people still living in the ancient buildings. We see the walls and moat which was reconstructed and repaired by El Jazzar at the end of the 1900s. The mighty walls prevented even Napoleon conquering the city. We can see the Crusader remains, the prison used under Turkish rule and the gallows which were later used under the British Mandate to hang Jews who broke the British law limiting Jewish immigration to Palestine following World War II.
Day #3: Jerusalem Old & New
As we stand above the Jewish cemetery on Mount of Olives we see the Old City and the Temple Mount where the Solomon’s Temple, destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and the Second Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE once stood.
Below us the garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations in the Kidron Valley with its ancient Jewish burial tombs
Entering the Old City through the Zion Gate we pass the Armenian Quarter on our way to the Jewish Quarter and the fifteen year old Byzantine Cardo. Partially destroyed and unused during the Moslem conquest it had a brief new lease of life during the Crusader period. The excavated Crusader shops are now modern stores.
We stop at the Kotel, the Western Wall where Jews have prayed since the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. Built by King Herod it was a supporting wall enclosing the enlarged Temple Mount area.
The Via Dolorosa, also known as the Way of the Cross, is the route many pilgrims follow on their way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the church built over the place of the crucifixion of Jesus and the burial tomb. Although the Byzantine church was partially destroyed during the Persians and Muslim conquests the rebuilt and redesigned Crusader Church preserved much of the earlier church.
We exit the Old City via the market and the Jaffa Gate for a short tour of the new city. A visit to Yad VaShem, the Holocaust museum, reveals artifacts and photographs documenting the discrimination, persecution and finally the annihilation of the Jewish communities of Europe. It also remembers those righteous among the nations who risked their lives while trying to save Jews.
Day #4: Masada, Dead Sea & View of Qumran
This journey begins by taking the route down from Jerusalem descending below sea level through the Biblical wilderness towards the Dead Sea. On the way we will see the Inn of the Good Samaritan and stop en route to look out across the desert as we pass the point marking “sea level.” The ancient city of Jericho can be seen in the distance where Joshua’s troops caused the walls to fall (Joshua 6) and where Jesus healed the blind (Mark 10:46-52).
We reach the shores of the Dead Sea encrusted with white salt and follow the shoreline towards Masada. Although it’s possible to climb the ancient snake path up Masada as the Romans did 2,000 years ago, we take the convenient cable car up to the mountaintop plateau. It was here that King Herod built a fortified palace complete with every convenience. See Herod’s swimming pool, water cisterns, two palaces, store rooms and even a synagogue.
Following Herod’s death the mountain top was the last outpost of Jewish zealots when the Romans tried to rid the land of Jews. The Jewish zealots maintained their position for three years before the Romans finally managed to scale Masada using a ramp built by slaves. The 960 Jews didn’t wait for the Romans to successfully reach the summit, instead they killed themselves, becoming religious martyrs. Shortly afterwards, in 70CE, the Second Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed.
It was on Masada that the first parchment from this era was discovered in an Israeli archaeological excavation. On the parchment was the prophecy of Ezekiel “…I will take the children of Israel from among the nations… and bring them into their own land…” (Ezekiel 37).
Heading back to the Dead Sea we pass the desert oasis of Ein Gedi where there is lush foliage and hidden waterfalls and where David hid from angry King Saul. We also pass by Qumran where the 2,000 year old Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in a number of hillside caves.
To end off a perfect day we stop at the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth, and a contender for the title of one of the Seven Wonders of the World. People come from across the globe to enjoy the therapeutic mineral-rich waters. And don’t worry if you don’t know how to swim, the high salt content will keep you afloat.