One of the most uplifting views imaginable is the one we’ll begin our tour with in Jerusalem, an inspiring panoramic overview of the Old City from the Mount of Olives. From where we’ll continue to the Church of All Nations and the Garden of Gethsemane.
Rounding up this spiritual first encounter with the Holy City will be an overlook at the Temple Mount, where Abraham’s offering of Isaac took place.
Nowadays, it is marked by the famous Dome of the Rock, dwelling next to the Western Wall, Judaism’s most sacred site as the last remnant of the Second Temple. On Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays you can see Bar Mitzva ceremonies here, the Jewish rite of passage on a boy’s 13th birthday when he gets to read from the Torah in public for the first time. Here, it’s also possible to visit the ancient Western Wall Tunnels, the street through which visitors 3000 years ago would reach the Temple Mount.
On Mount Zion which holds a great importance to all Abrahamic religions, we’ll visit the King David’s Tomb in the same building as the Room of the Last Supper, before we’ll head to our last stop here, the Church of Dormition, where according to Catholic tradition, Mary fell into an eternal sleep.
Indeed, Jerusalem offers innumerable Christian holy sites around the Old City. As we’ll walk through Saint Stephen’s Gate, also known as the Lions’ Gate, we’ll be able to visit the Pool of Bethesda, the site of the miraculous healing of a paralyzed man by Jesus, as well as the Church of Saint Anne, where Christian groups love to sing hymns during their visit.
We’ll then retrace the very steps that Jesus himself took along the , passing the Stations of the Cross on our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, arguably the most important site in the entirety of Christendom, where Jesus was crucified and buried.
The Old City markets also offer marvelous sights, sounds and aromas, the likes of which Jesus must have encountered as he himself wandered through the streets of Jerusalem in his day. The markets also offer quite the experience if you’re interested in trying your hand at hunting down and bargaining for treasures.
The New City is today’s agenda and we’ll start off at Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust memorial, with includes an astounding new historical museum, the Hall of Remembrance, the Children’s Memorial among other moving monuments.
We’ll drive by the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament which is open for tours on Sundays and Thursdays and built not too far from the country’s Supreme Court. Both buildings offer much in the way of symbolical architecture.
Nearby is also the Israel Museum, one of the ten biggest museums in the world that offers, amidst its many treasures, the opportunity to delve into the mysteries of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Shrine of the Book and a chance to see a spectacular open air model of Jerusalem as it was at the time of the Second Temple.
Nature is one of Jerusalem’s strong suits, despite being less renowned, and we’ll have an eyeful as we make our way to the picturesque village of Ein Karem. As testimony to its being the birthplace of John the Baptist, the Church of John Be’harim (John in the Mountains) was built here. We’ll also stop by the Church of Visitation or the Russian Orthodox Church.
In the afternoon, we’ll return to the Old City to stroll the alleys of the rebuilt Jewish Quarter with the Roman Cardo, which was the town’s commercial center during antiquity, the Herodian Mansions and the Burnt House which originate in the Second Temple era, the Broad Wall which has survived since the time of the First Temple, in addition to getting a glimpse of the city’s variety of galleries, restaurants and people.
The cool evening breeze will welcome us as we stride down the pedestrian, open air malls of Ben Yehuda Street and Nahalat Shiva, enjoying this restored quarter of shops, cafes and restaurants which is so beloved among both locals and tourists.
Overnight: Tel Aviv.
Jaffa is today’s destination, the ancient port city mentioned in the biblical narrative of Jonah and the whale and in the story of Solomon’s import of the cedars from Lebanon. The ancient fishing port will lead the way, as Saint Peter’s Church, the Artists Quarter with its unique atmosphere, the Visitors Center and a panoramic view of Tel Aviv’s shoreline are all highlights.
Next on our way north is Caesarea‘s national park on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea, where we’ll find the remains of the former Roman capital, which also served as home to Philip the Evangelist and lastly, was where Paul was imprisoned and appeared before Festus, Felix and King Agrippa. We’ll explore the Roman Theater, the hippodrome and the promenade which leads to the renovated Crusader City.
Taking our farewells from this moving site, we’ll move on to Muhraka, a cave where it is traditionally believed that Elijah confronted the prophets of the pagan Ba’al in the name of the Lord and where today we’ll find the Carmelite Monastery of Saint Elijah.
Overnight: Tel Aviv.
Known as the ‘Land of Jesus‘ for good reason, this area will offer us many Christian holy sites around the Sea of Galilee that we’ll visit on this day, starting with the Mount of Beatitudes, which is traditionally considered to be the site of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount with its beautiful view of the lake and its sacred sites.
Capernaum will be our next station for the day, referred to as “Jesus’ Town” in the New Testament.
It is located right on the shore of the gorgeous Sea of Galilee and is home to one of the earliest churches in the world, as well as a monumental ancient synagogue. This was also Saint Peter’s home town and the place where Jesus performed many of his miracles.
We will now make our way to Tabha, where Jesus’ miracle known as the Multiplication of the Fishes and Loaves is illustrated beautifully in an ancient mosaic found in the Byzantine church which stood here. We’ll also get to inspect a renovated Benedictine church, built in the same style and along the same lines as the original one that preceded it.
The Yigal Alon Museum at Kibbutz Ginosar stores a magnificent display of the wooden Galilee Boat (Jesus boat (, dating back to the time of Jesus. When discovered, it was mired in the mud on the Sea of Galilee’s shore and has been put on exhibition as to give us a good idea of how a boat taken by Jesus and his disciples in upon these shores must have looked and functioned like.
In the afternoon, we’ll drive to the scenic Mount Tabor, the place where Deborah and Barak conducted their battle against Sisera and where the Transfiguration of Jesus took place. For your consideration is the possibility to conclude this day with an evening ride on a boat sailing the Sea of Galilee.
Overnight: The Sea of Galilee region.
We’ll head out to Caper Cana, the village where Jesus performed his very first miracle, turning water into wine. Here we’ll make sure to visit the Wedding Church and the Church of Nathanael.
A huge attraction to any true believer comes in the form of Nazareth, the childhood town of Jesus, offering such meaningful sites as the Basilica of the Annunciation, the Church of Saint Joseph, the intriguing Well of Mary.
Then, it’s on to Megiddo, which lent its name to the biblical Armageddon, where we’ll see the excavations of the ancient fortified city which once was one of Solomon’s most important centers, overlooking the Jezreel Valley and the ancient Via Maris.
Overnight: The Sea of Galilee region.
Kicking off our day with some refreshing waters is always a good idea, but it’s particularly true when we’ll do so at Yardenit, the baptismal site for pilgrims on the bank of the Jordan River, south of Tiberias.
Southbound from the Jordan Valley, we’ll advance in the direction of the Dead Sea and as we do, we’ll pass the Qumran caves, the ruins of an ancient Essene settlement made famous worldwide when a team of archeologists discovered there the Dead Sea Scrolls.
In the afternoon, we’ll take the cable car to the top of Masada, the mountain which provided the arena to the epic last stand of the Jewish rebels at the end of the Great Revolt against Rome nearly 2000 years ago.
The new museum at the Visitors Center unravels the secrets of the rebels’ daily life, the story of the excavations and how the history of this site made it one of the modern State of Israel’s most important symbols.
While we prepare for the night falling down on the desert, awaking it to a new kind of life which can only come out as the heat slowly expires, we’ll take some time to enjoy a relaxing float in the healthful waters of the lowest, saltiest body of water on earth, the Dead Sea, where it is practically impossible to drown.
Overnight: At the Dead Sea.
Heading south via the central part of the Negev Desert and the Ramon Crater, we’ll be stopping at the Visitors Center in Mitspe Ramon, where we’ll be told the story of this amazing natural wonder.
Smoothly leading to a further exploration of nature as tamed by Man, we’ll progress to Avdat. Once a central city built and maintained by the Nabatean people and found on their trade route (globally renowned as the Incense Route), this town later became a Christian city of pilgrimage.
Our last stop in the Negev region of Israel will be to its capital, the biblical town of Be’er Sheba, whose vital wells are believed to have been dug by the patriarch Abraham and his son, Isaac. This was also the Israelite tribes’ most southern city.
If time permits, we will visit the air force museum of the IDF in Hazerim.
This marks the end of our journey together, as we say our goodbyes and head north to whichever point you decide on.