June 28: Macherus, Baptismal Site, and the Dead Sea
After an early breakfast in Petra, we head north 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. We will hike to the top of the mountain, where we will see some of the remains from the palace that was once there.
After lunch, we will journey to 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.
After visiting the Bethany Beyond the Jordan, we head to our Hotel, which is located on the coast of 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 water and mud of the Dead Sea are helpful in treating skin diseases. Whether this works or not will be left up to you to decide as you head to shore for a swim--or rather a float--in the Dead Sea.
Dinner and overnight at the Dead Sea Holiday Inn
June 29: Ancient Jericho, and Qumran
After crossing the border into Israel in the morning, we stop in Jericho to see the fascinating remains of the ancient city that dates back to the time of the Exodus. After lunch, we will then 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.
June 30: 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 eating lunch, we head north to Galilee, the place where Jesus spent most of His ministry. Before arriving at our hotel, we end our day of touring on the top of Mount Arbel with its magnificent view of Galilee.
Dinner and Overnight at the Ron Beach Hotel.
July 1: Katzrin, Caesarea Philippi, and Tel Dan
Today we visit several important sites. We will first travel to Katzrin, where we will see a reconstructed Talmudic Village that will enable us to see what a town like Capernaum would have looked like. In addition to dressing in ancient customs, we will get to experience how grape juice was made in the ancient world, as well as making some bread.
After lunch, we head 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 the ancient remains of the city of Dan--known as Tel Dan. This ancient city is mentioned in the book of Judges as being conquered by the Tribe of Dan when they were forced out of their original lands by the Philistines. Centuries later, after the nation of Israel split in two during the days of Rehoboam, the wicked king Jeroboam erected and worshipped a golden calf Dan. Remains of a sanctuary built at that time--patterned about the sanctuary in Jerusalem--are visible at the site today.
Dinner and overnight at the Ron Beach Hotel in Tiberias.
July 2: Capernaum, Magdala, and the Jesus Boat
Our day begins as we retrace the steps of Jesus by walking through the hills around Capernaum, where Jesus often taught and instructed his disciples as recorded in the Semon on the Mount in Matthew. After walking down to the Sea of Galilee, we will see the remains of an ancient boat that dates to the time of Jesus and then take a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.
After sailing from Tiberias to Capernaum, we visit the ancient remains of the city of Capernaum. Capernaum is an ancient fishing village on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. Capernaum was the hometown of the Apostle Peter, and the place where Jesus healed a paralytic and Peter's mother-in-law (Mk. 1:21, 29). Jesus made Capernaum the main base of his Galilean ministry. Today a church stands on the spot where Peter's house was supposedly located. The house does date back to Jesus' time and appears to have been a sacred site by the mid-1st century.
After lunch, we will visit two other towns Jesus frequented: Chorazim and Magdala. We will end our day with a Friday night, Sabbath vespers.
Dinner and Overnight at Ron Beach Hotel, Tiberius.