Need a last minute gift idea for someone dear, or even for yourself? Time’s a wastin’ (as Snuffy Smif likes to say) for you to register for the gift of a lifetime — a trip to Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. Nurturing Faith Experiences and Campbell University Divinity School are jointly sponsoring the trip, slated for May 13-24, 2017.
People occasionally have concerns about safety, and my response is always the same: I feel more secure when traveling in Israel than I would on the streets of most American cities. We simply don’t go into areas where conflict might be likely. Our guide and bus driver are the best in the business, and they know how to keep folks safe. Your drive to the airport might be the most dangerous thing you undertake on the trip.
Want to know more? Here’s our itinerary:
May 13 (Saturday) – We depart from Raleigh-Durham or other airports for Newark, where we will board an overnight, non-stop flight to Tel-Aviv, Israel.
May 14 (Sunday) – We arrive in the morning to be met by Doron Heiliger, one of Israel’s finest and most experienced guides. We board our luxury motor coach and drive first to the seacoast city of Caesarea Maritima, the Roman capital of Israel. We then visit the strategic city of Megiddo, home to more than 20 layers of civilization, and Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth. We end the day with dinner and overnight at Nof Ginosar, our hotel on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
May 15 (Monday) – After a morning devotion at the Mount of Beatitudes, we drive on the Via Maris to the ancient city of Hazor, then to the northern city of Dan, site of Jeroboam’s rival temple and a gate that dates to the time of Abraham. We then visit Banyasand Caesarea Philippi, where Roman gods were worshiped. We enjoy lunch in the Druze village of Mas’ada, then drive through the Golan Heights on our way back to Nof Ginosar.
May 16 (Tuesday) – We spend this day around the Sea of Galilee, visiting the city of Bethsaida, Peter’s hometown of Capernaum, Migdal (home of Mary Magdalene), and other sites. From there we travel to the ancient city of Beth-Shean/Scythopolis, and to the Jordan River, where persons who wish may reaffirm their baptism. We end the day with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee before returning to Nof Ginosar.
May 17 (Wednesday) – We bid goodbye to Galilee and cross into the country of Jordan, where we will visit Mount Nebo, where Moses looked into the Promised Land. From there we drive south through the territory of ancient Ammon and Moab, ending with dinner and overnight at the Mövenpick Hotel in Petra.
May 18 (Thursday) – Today we visit the impressive Nabatean city of Petra, where the main street is lined with elaborate tombs carved from the colorful sandstone mountains. We then drive through the red desert territory of ancient Edom on our way to the Red Sea port city of Aqaba, where we check in for a relaxing evening at the Mövenpick Aqaba hotel, with an opportunity to swim in the Red Sea.
May 19 (Friday) – We leave early to cross back into Israel and drive through southern Judea en route to Herod’s desert fortress at Masada, the last Jewish holdout against the Romans in 74 C.E. Driving north along the coast of the Dead Sea, we stop to visit the oasis of Ein Gedi, where David confronted Saul, and pause for a quick look at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. We will have an opportunity to float in the Dead Sea before driving through Jericho on our way to our first night in Jerusalem, the Holy City. We arrive at Ramat Rachel, our home for the next four nights, as Orthodox Jews gather to welcome the Sabbath (Shabbat).
May 20 (Saturday) – We begin on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Temple Mount and the Old City of Jerusalem. We walk down the Palm Sunday Road, pausing to visit both modern and ancient Jewish cemeteries. We stop for a devotion at Dominus Flevit, traditional site of Jesus’ weeping over Jerusalem, then walk through the Garden of Gethsemane and visit the Church of All Nations. We drive to Bethlehem for lunch, a meeting with Palestinian Christians, and a visit to the Church of Nativity.
May 21 (Sunday) – Today we tour the Old City of Jerusalem, including the Western Wall, the Temple Mount, and the Pool of Bethesda. We will worship at Ecce Homo, where Jesus may have been held before the crucifixion, and walk along the Via Dolorosaon our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We experience the Jewish Quarter and the City of David, where excavations have uncovered monumental buildings from the time of David. We conclude with a walk through Hezekiah’s Tunnel to the Pool of Siloam, where Jesus healed a blind man.
May 22 (Monday) – Today we travel southwest to Beit-Guvrim, near the ancient town of Maresha, to participate in a hands-on archaeological dig. Afterward, we visit the city of Lachish, second only to Jerusalem in Judea, famously conquered by Sennacherib in 722 B.C.E. We drive back through the Valley of Elah, where David defeated Goliath, and stop to take in the view at Beth Shemesh. We end the day with a visit to the Yad-vaShem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum.
May 23 (Tuesday) – Our last day includes a visit to the Davidson Center and the Southern Steps, where Jesus and other pilgrims would have entered the Temple Mount. We will visit Gordon’s Calvary and the Garden Tomb, where we will share in a communion service before visiting the Israel Museum, home to the Dead Sea Scrolls and thousands of priceless antiquities. Afterward, we drive to Jaffa (ancient Joppa) for a fabulous seaside farewell dinner, and on to the airport for our late-night flight home.
May 24 (Wednesday) – After an overnight flight, we arrive early morning in Newark before transferring to our homeward flights.
Note: This is a study tour, so we pack as much as we can into each day. Participants need to be in good health and able to handle steps and occasional steep paths. The schedule is subject to change as we go. We will see many sights not specifically mentioned on the schedule, and may be able to add a bonus stop or two along the way.
To ensure your spot, sign up by January 1. After that, we’ll continue to add participants as long as we have room on the bus — excuse me — “the luxury motor coach.” If you have any questions, feel free to email me at email@example.com. Links for online registration and payment can be found here: http://divinity.campbell.edu/BibleLandsStudyTour.aspx. A $250 deposit due with registration, refundable before Feb. 1. The total cost is $3995, an incredible value for an incredibly meaningful trip.
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.