July 2: Madaba, Machaerus, and Mt. Nebo
Today we transfer to our early morning flight to Amman, Jordan.
After arriving in the morning, we travel south toward the famous city of Petra. Along our way we will make several interesting stops. Our first stop will be to the city of Madaba. Once a Moabite border city (mentioned in Numbers 21:30 and Joshua 13:9), Madaba is well known for the remains of a famous mosaic map called the Madaba Map. The map dates to the 6th-century and contains the earliest extant representation of Jerusalem, labeled the "Holy City". The map has been a major key in developing scholarly knowledge about the physical layout of Jerusalem after its destruction and rebuilding in 70 AD.
After lunch, we will make two more stops on our way to Petra. The first will be to the Herodian Fortress of Machaerus. Machaerus is one of the desert fortress palaces occupied by Herod the Great. It is also the place where Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, imprisoned and executed John the Baptist--after Herodias' daughter Salome danced and demanded John's head on a plater.
From here we travel to Mount Nebo, a 3,300 foot high mountain located 6 mi NW of Madaba in Jordan, and opposite the northern end of the Dead Sea. According to ancient tradition, this is the mountain from which Moses saw the Promised Land before he died. Because of its connection to Moses, Mt. Nebo has long been an important place of Christian pilgrimage.
Dinner and Overnight at the Petra Guest House Hotel.
July 3: Petra
Following breakfast, we depart for our tour of Petra--the ancient capital city of the Nabataeans built sometime around the 6th century BC. Petra, which means "rock" in Greek, is a fitting name for this city surrounded on all sides by rocky cliffs and magnificent tomb, sanctuaries, and dwelling places carved out of solid rock. Our journey to this spectacular city, known to most students in connection to the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, begins via a mile-long narrow gorge that emerges dramatically in front of a building called the Treasury. The source of Petra's vast wealth was her control of the ancient trade routes connecting the Roman Empire with the East. Unfortunately, when these trade routes shifted, Petra was deserted and forgotten for centuries. It was only rediscovered in 1812.
Lunch is included in the tour today. Dinner and overnight at the Dead Sea Holiday Inn.
July 4: Bethany Beyond the Jordan, Dead Sea
On our way to the Israeli border, this morning we will stop at Bethany Beyond the Jordan--the place were John the Baptist baptized Jesus and others.(John 1:28). Experience what it would have been like to have responded to the call of John by being baptized in the Jordan. Note: This Bethany should not be confused with Bethany in Jerusalem, where Mary Magdalene lived and Lazarus was raised from the dead.
From here we will head down to the Dead Sea for an early lunch. 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 crossing the border, 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.
July 5: Masada
While traveling through the Judean desert on our way to Galilee, today we will make two 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 taking the cable car to the top. We will explore the palace cisterns, the remains of Herod's palace fortress, and venture down the Roman siege wall. Our final stop will be the interactive museum.
After Masada we travel a few miles up the road to Ein Gedi and then to Qumran.
Ein Gedi is a beautiful desert oasis, where David and his men often stayed after he fled from King Saul. In fact, it was in one of the caves around En Gedi that David chose not to murder King Saul. Not recognizing that David was hiding in side the cave, Saul entered the cave to relieve himself. We will have the chance to cool off by swimming in some of the beautiful spring pools and waterfalls located there.
July 6: Nazareth Village, Sepphoris, and Mt. Arbel
We spend our first Sabbath on our trip walking in the steps of Jesus in ancient sites around the Sea Galilee. We begin by stopping at the little town where Jesus grew up, Nazareth. Here we will visit Nazareth village, an open air museum that reconstructs and reenacts village life in the Galilee in the time of Jesus. Next we travel to Sepphoris--a city near Nazareth where Jesus probably worked as a young boy helping Joseph. We end our day on the top of Mount Arbel with its magnificent view of Galilee. Overnight at the Ron Beach Hotel