Christian Focused Tour – 5 days:
Day 1: Arrival:
Welcome home J After landing and meeting your tour guide, we will head to Jaffa for a short walking tour. Visit St. Peter's church, commemorating the location Peter had a vision as well as Simon the tanner's home. Walk through the artist quarter and see Ran Morin's hanging orange as well as the scenic view from the hilltop and the port that Jonah tried to escape his fate from. Continue to Caesarea, the port city that was built by King Herod the great. After exploring the theater, palace, hippodrome and port we will continue north to Nazareth. Nazareth is the town turned city that Jesus grew up in and was not recognized as the Messiah by its people. We will start our visit here with the Church of Annunciation, where Mary was visited to the angel Gabriel and receives the news that she will be pregnant with god's child. End our experience in Nazareth with Mt. Precipice, where by local tradition the people of Nazareth attempted to stone Jesus.
Overnight: Galilee (2 nights)
Day 2: Jesus's ministry in the Galilee:
Start our day with a visit to the Banias nature reserve (Israeli Niagra falls) to understand the water and border issues and enjoy a short hike to the ancient worship site of the Greek and Roman deity Pan next to the excavated site of Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus changed Simon's name to Peter as he gives him the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Continue to the Mt. of Beatitudes to visit the site where the crowds gather to hear the Sermon on the Mount. Continue to Capernaum, the village Jesus moved into after leaving Nazareth. On our way we will pass Tabgha, where the miracle of the feeding of the 5000 took place as well as where Jesus recognizes Peter as his follower and asks him to lead his people. Capernaum is the village where Jesus lived in Peter's mother in law's home, where he taught at the synagogue and performed many healing. We will see the synagogue as well as the home he resided in. Continue to one of the many restaurants in the area for a traditional lunch of St. Peter's fish (or other option for non-fish eaters) followed by a boat cruise on the Sea of Galilee. End the day with a visit to the Yardenit baptismal site for the chance to go to the shore of the Jordan River and, if desired, even being baptized for the first time or reaffirmed.
Day 3: Jordan Valley & Dead Sea:
Check out and drive south bypassing Tiberias and through the Jordan valley. On the way get a better understanding of the West Bank situation as well as the Jordanian border. Enroute stop at the Island of Peace, a demilitarized zone between Israel and Jordan that was designed to allow Israelis and Jordanians to meet and talk. Continue to the Ein Gedi nature reserve for a short walk between waterfalls, Ibeks and Hyraxes at the nature oasis where Saul and David meet. Continue to Masada for a quick lunch and scale the Mt. by cable car to visit this amazing desert fortress built by King Herod and used by the Sikarees during the Great Revolt. This is where the final stand was made at 72 CE and is one of the best stories available here. Continue North to the Dead Sea and visit the Dead Sea factory for a bit of shopping followed by checking into one of the private Dead Sea beaches for a bit of floating and relaxation. Drive up to Jerusalem to check in for the night.
Overnight: Jerusalem (2 nights)
Day 6: 1st and 2nd Temple periods in Jerusalem:
Start by seeing the city from an uncommon angle as we walk on the Wall Ramparts from the Jaffa gate to the Dung gate. Visit the City of David, where it all began and see David's palace and more. Walk underground in Hezekia's Tunnel (dark and wet, great fun for kids) that brought the Gihon spring into the city to emerge at the Pools of Siloam, where later Jesus healed the Blind. Continue underground in the ancient Roman Street and emerge at the Davidson Center to explore the ancient entrance to the Temple and the pilgrim's route. Continue to the West Wall Plaza for a bit of reflection time. After lunch explore the Jewish Quarter and see Hezekia's wall, the Roman Cardo and more. Continue to Mt. Zion and visit the Room of the Last Supper as well as King David's Tomb. End the day by driving to Bethlehem to visit the Church of Nativity as well as local wood carving artists (very well-known and highly recommended).
Optional (If on Friday): In the evening be driven back to the West Wall plaza to witness Jewish preparation for Shabbat performed by thousands. Continue for a traditional Shabbat dinner at a local home or at the hotel.
Day 7: Christian Jerusalem:
Start the day by driving to the top of Mt. of Olives for an observation of the old city from the east as was seen by Jesus. Walk down Palm Sunday Road to the Garden of Gethsemane and visit the garden as well as the Church of All The Nations. Continue to Mary's Tomb and see a unique site shared by two different Christian denominations. Continue and walk uphill from the bottom of the Kidron Valley to the Lion's Gate. Enter the Muslim Quarter and visit the Pools of Bethesda, where Jesus healed the paralytic man. See the 3rd most holy site for Muslims in the world, The Dome of the Rock, from a very unique angle before walking the Via Dolorosa (Path of Suffering), visiting the various stations of the cross along the way. Continue to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to witness the locations recognized by Catholic and Orthodox Christians as the location of Jesus's execution by Crucifixion, Death on the cross and the Empty Grave. Optional: Continue to the alternative site of the Garden Tomb, recognized by Protestants as the location of Jesus's execution by Crucifixion, Death on the cross and the Empty Grave. Head back to the hotel for a bit of relaxation through the Arab Market for some final shopping.
Transfer to the Ben Gurion airport for your flight and farewells J