Long trips, whether for leisure, work, or a study tour, all begin with getting there. A group of 31 students, alumni, family members and friends of Campbell University Divinity School began a 12-day tour of Israel and Jordan May 18. We range in age from fresh out of college to the high side of 70 and, while still getting to know each other, have been compatible so far.

We were fortunate to have smooth travel. Despite a delay leaving RDU, we arrived in Philadelphia in plenty time to make our connecting flight from there to Tel Aviv, an overnighter during which I think we all managed to get some sleep — I know I was out before the turned the lights off in the plane, and when I awoke the first time, it was very quiet.

Everyone’s luggage arrived safely, our tour guide (Doron Heiliger) was waiting, and we happily boarded a nice bus for a two-and-a-half hour ride to Tiberias. Along the way, we drove north along the pre-1967 border between Israel and the West Bank, then turned east through the Megiddo Pass and the fertile patchwork fields of the Jezreel Valley, eager to see the sights as Doron explained how we could tell the difference between Arab and Israeli towns (Arab towns feature tall minarets common to mosques and more individual houses, while Israeli towns tend to look more modern and rely more on apartment buildings for housing). We drove past Tel Megiddo, which we’ll examine closely later on, took note of Tel En-Dor, home of the infamous ghostwife of 1 Samuel 28, and passed Mt. Tabor, where Deborah sent Barak into battle against King Sisera of Hazor (Judges 4).

In time, we were winding down the folded hillsides to the Sea of Galilee, located some 700 feet below sea level. Approaching it from the south, we drove north to the city of Tiberius, where we’re lodging at the Mineral Tiberias hotel. Dinner, like most hotel buffets I’ve experienced here, was delicious, loaded with a variety of breads, fresh vegetables, and salads to go with several meat-based entrees.

Afterward, we walked down to the edge of the Sea of Galilee, where we gathered on a bank while Rebecca Aikens led us in our first devotional, a daily event. We thanked God for safe travel and prayed for the experience to be meaningful and perhaps even transformative.

I hope to post an update each day, at least through May 28. Israel is seven hours ahead of EST, so the blogs will usually show up by 4:00 p.m. or so each day. I hope you’ll consider joining us for a vicarious study tour, and if you’ve been to some of the places we’ll explore, feel free to share your experiences by posting a comment.

Tomorrow: the Mount of Beatitudes, Hazor, the Golan Heights, Banyas/Caesarea Philippi, and Tel Dan.

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