Today we visit several important sites. We will first travel to Caesarea Philippi, the place where Peter first confessed that Jesus was more than a prophet, but the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. From here we visit Tel Dan, and ancient site that dates back to around the time of the divided kingdom of Israel. It is here that Jeroboam constructed a place to worship golden calf at Dan. We will see the remains of a four-horned altar. Our next stop is Bethsaida, the birth place of the disciples Peter and Andrew and location of many of Jesus' miracles. We then head south to Masada. Dinner and overnight Masada Youth Hostel.
While traveling through the Judean desert on our way to Jerusalem, today we will make several important stops. Our first stop will be at the massive palace/fortress built by Herod the Great and known as Masada. During the Roman Administration of Palestine, Masada became home to a garrison of Roman soldiers. At the beginning of the Jewish-Roman War in A.D. 66, a group of Jewish extremists surprised and overcame the Roman garrison on Masada. Due to its strategic and nearly impregnable location, the Jewish extremists and their families successfully held off the Romans for some six years. After multiple failed attempts to breach the wall, the Romans built a massive rampart using thousands of tons of dirt and rock. Shortly before the Romans finally gained access to the city, the Jews all committed suicide, choosing to die free rather than be taken captive.
Our tour of Masada begins by stopping at the remains of one the Roman siege camps (camp F). Then we will climb the siege rampart to the top of Masada, where we will first visit the museum, and then see the remains of Herod's palace fortress. After our tour we will descend the mountain by cable car.
After Masada we travel a few miles up the road to Qumran. In Jesus' day, Qumran was a monastic-like community of radically conservative Jews known as Essenes. Convinced that the Jewish nation had completely gone astray from the worship of God, the Essences founded their own community in the Judean desert where they could more closely keep the Mosaic law and maintain remain ritually pure. They also believed that the end of time was at hand and that it would involve a battle between the "sons of light" and the "sons of darkness." The Essenes also appear to be the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls that were discovered in 1947. While the Dead Sea Scrolls contain various documents about the beliefs of the Essences, they more importantly contain our oldest copies of the Hebrew Scriptures--dating back to around the year 300 B.C., over a thousand years earlier than all other copies of the Hebrew Scriptures. The caves where these scrolls were discovered can be seen in the distance when we visit Qumran.
Next we travel to the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is located some 1,385 feet below sea level, making it the lowest place on earth. Because of its high salt content no life exists in it. It is said that the waters and muds of the Dead Sea are helpful in treating skin diseases. Whether this works or not will be left up to you to decide for yourself as we stop for a swim--or rather a float--in the Dead Sea. After checking into our hotel in Jerusalem later in the day, we will eat supper and then head out to the City of David Light Show. Dinner and overnight in Jerusalem at the Leonardo Hotel.
Today we walk in the steps of Jesus as we spend the day exploring the sites and sounds of the old city. Our first stop will be the Temple Mount Sifting Project. Here we will get the opportunity to play archaeologist as we looking for ancient treasure as we sift through dirt that was illegally removed from the Temple Mount by Muslims several years ago. Israel is allowing volunteers to sift through this dirt. We will find all kinds of stuff. The second stop our walking tour takes us the city ancient city of David. In addition to seeing remains of the palace build by David and his descendants, we will also walk through Hezekiah's tunnel, a 1,500-foot-long-tunnel created by King Hezekiah in 701 BC to protect Jerusalem’s water source, the Gihon Spring, from the invading Assyrians (2 Chron. 32:2-4). After lunch we will visit the Herodium, Herod the Great's desert fortress, located just outside of Jerusalem.
Today we experience the Sabbath in Jerusalem. After a morning worship, we will walk the ancient walls of Jerusalem. This will give us a unique view of the Jerusalem. Other sites today include, visiting the Hinnom Valley, the tomb of the high priest Annas, as well as the remains of his ancient mansion. We will also visit the Last Supper Room. We will then return to our hotel for some relaxation. Later in the day, after eating supper, we will head off to the Mount of Olives for a special Sabbath vespers in the Garden of Gethsemane.