2022 Holy Land Tour (Israel + Rome)

Tour Guide: Dr. David Ritsema

10 Day Trip Itinerary for Israel (March 13-22)

DAY 1, SUN, MAR 13 USA/TEL AVIV

Today we depart from the USA on our overnight journey to the Holy Land. (meals aloft)

DAY 2, MON, MAR 14 TEL AVIV/NETANYA

We arrive today in Tel Aviv, which was founded on the outskirts of Jaffa (biblical Joppa) in 1909 and today encompasses the ancient port city. From the airport we drive north along the coast to Netanya and check into the Leonardo Plaza Hotel (or similar), overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, for dinner and overnight. (meals aloft,D)

DAY 3, TUE, MAR 15 CAESAREA/MT. CARMEL/ MEGIDDO/NAZARETH/TIBERIAS

This morning we tour the ancient city of Caesarea, built by Herod the Great several years before the birth of Jesus. The capital of Roman Palestine, Caesarea had a harbor that could accommodate 300 ships, a theater where the famous “Pilate stone” was found, a hippodrome that could seat over 20,000 people at chariot races, an impressive aqueduct that brought fresh water to the city, and later a Crusader fortress. Caesarea played a prominent role in the ministries of both Peter and Paul, and for several centuries the city was a key center of early Christianity. Then we ascend Mt. Carmel to visit the traditional site of Elijah’s battle with the prophets of Baal. From atop a Carmelite monastery on Mt. Carmel we get a panoramic view of the Jezreel Valley where many key events in the history of Israel occurred. Our next stop is Megiddo, biblical Armageddon, where we see Ahab’s stables and the famous water system. We then go to Nazareth, the boyhood home of Jesus, to visit Mary’s Well at St. Gabriel’s Church, the traditional site where the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to announce that she would bear the Son of God. Following our time there, we drive to the top of Mt. Precipice, the traditional site where the angry mob in Luke 4 attempted to throw Jesus off a cliff. Then we drive to Tiberias for overnight at the Sea of Galilee Hotel (or similar) on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. (B,D)

DAY 4, WED, MAR 16 MAGDALA/MOUNT OF BEATITUDES/ CAESAREA PHILIPPI/SEA OF GALILEE/ CAPERNAUM/MOUNT ARBEL/TIBERIAS

We begin our day at Magdala, home of Mary Magdalene. When excavating the synagogue, archaeologists found a coin minted in Tiberias in 29 A.D., indicating that the synagogue dates back to the time of Jesus' ministry here in the Galilee. Then we go a short distance to the Mount of Beatitudes. Somewhere on this green hillside overlooking the Sea of Galilee, Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount. From there we drive north into the foothills of Mount Hermon to Banias (Caesarea Philippi) near the headwaters of the Jordan River. In this area, Peter memorably proclaimed Jesus to be "the Messiah, the Son of the living God" and Jesus affirmed this by declaring "...on this rock I will build my church...” From there we drive through the Golan Heights and pass by Kursi, where a herd of demon-possessed pigs rushed into the Sea of Galilee and drowned after Jesus cast the demons out of a man. We continue along the eastern shore of the sea to Ein Gev, where we enjoy a traditional lunch of St. Peter's fish. After a memorable boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, we visit the ruins of ancient Capernaum. Jesus came here after being rejected by his hometown of Nazareth and adopted Capernaum as "his own town." Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew all lived here, and this area became the center of Jesus' ministry in the Galilee. We conclude our afternoon atop Mount Arbel, taking in the breathtaking view of the Galilee, and then we return to our hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

DAY 5, THU, MAR 17 JORDAN RIVER/BEIT SHE’AN/ JERICHO/EIN GEDI/DEAD SEA

We begin our day at a baptismal site on the River Jordan located near the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee. Then we continue south through the Jordan River Valley. Our first stop is Beit She’an, the site where King Saul and his sons were hung from the city walls by the Philistines. During the Roman era the city was renamed Scythopolis and was the capital of the Decapolis – the only one of the 10 cities on the west side of the Jordan River. The site offers some of the best preserved ruins in the Middle East. Then we travel to the oasis of Jericho, the world’s oldest continually inhabited city. Jericho was the first city conquered by the Israelites when they entered the Promised Land. Jesus passed through this city on several occasions, restoring the sight of Bartemaeus and confronting Zacchaeus who was in a sycamore tree. Further south, on the western side of the Dead Sea, we come to the oasis of Ein Gedi. Nestled at the base of majestic mountains and cliffs, this is the place where David hid from Saul and chose to spare Saul’s life. After our stop at Ein Gedi, we travel to the David Dead Sea Resort & Spa (or similar) for check-in. The remainder of the day is reserved for floating in the Dead Sea or enjoying the hotel’s spa. (B,D)

DAY 6, FRI, MAR 18 MASADA/QUMRAN/QASR EL YEHUD/ W ADI QELT/JERUSALEM

Today we go first to the majestic fortress of Masada, constructed by Herod the Great on top of a rocky plateau overlooking the Dead Sea. We ride the cable car to the top to explore the ruins and learn about the huge storerooms and cisterns that enabled Jewish defenders to stay well-provisioned for several years while under siege by the Romans following the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD. After riding the cable car back down the mountain, we drive to Qumran to view caves where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Then we proceed to a site on the Jordan River known as Qasr El Yehud, believed to be in the area where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. It is also traditionally considered to be the place where the Israelites crossed the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land. On our way to Jerusalem, we pause at a viewpoint overlooking the Wadi Qelt, the traditional "valley of the shadow of death," to see the spectacular Monastery of St. George, which was constructed by carving into sheer rock wall. Then we proceed to Jerusalem and the Dan Boutique Hotel (or similar) for check-in, dinner, and overnight. (B,D)

DAY 7, SAT, MAR 19 HERODION/BETHLEHEM

This morning we take an excursion south from Jerusalem to Herodion, a cone-shaped hill near Bethlehem where Herod the Great built a fortress and palace, and where he was buried. At the base of the hill, Herod built a kind of royal "country club," including a large pool, a bathhouse, and a roofed pool, surrounded by magnificent gardens. From here we go to Bethlehem, birthplace of Jesus. First we drive along the wall that separates the West Bank from Israel and see some of the poignant artwork that sheds light on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Then we go to a wood-carving workshop to watch craftsmen fashion beautiful nativity scenes, figurines, and pieces of jewelry from olive wood. From there we continue to the Church of the Nativity, built over the traditional site of the birth of Christ and recently renovated to highlight the vibrant mosaics on its interior walls. Before departing Bethlehem, we drive by the traditional Field of Shepherds, where the angel announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds. Then we return to Jerusalem for dinner and overnight. (B,D)

DAY 8, SUN, MAR 20 YAD VASHEM/CAIAPHAS' HOUSE/ CITY OF DAVID/MT. ZION/ WESTERN WALL/CITADEL SHOW

This morning we pay a sobering visit to Yad Vashem, Israel's official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, which preserves the memory of the dead and honors those who worked selflessly to help Jews in need. Then we go to Caiaphas' palace, where Jesus was first brought before the high priest. We then visit the City of David, the original core of the ancient city where Jerusalem was born. Here we explore ancient shafts, view walls and fortresses that protected ancient Israelites, and see the Gihon Spring, a vitally important water source that fed the Pool of Siloam. At nearby Mount Zion, we see the traditional Room of the Last Supper. We continue to the Western Wall, the most holy place accessible to the Jewish people; and Jerusalem Archaeological Park, where we climb the “Southern Steps” leading to the original main entrance of the Temple Mount in the Second Temple period - stairs that Jesus would have climbed when he visited the temple in Jerusalem. From there we return to our hotel for dinner. This evening we take in the "Night Spectacular" sound and light show at the Tower of David, where the story of Jerusalem unfolds through giant breathtaking, virtual reality images projected onto the walls of the Citadel. After the show, we are taken back to our hotel. (B,D)

DAY 9, MON, MAR 21 MOUNT OF OLIVES/GETHSEMANE/ VIA DOLOROSA/GARDEN TOMB/TEL AVIV

This morning we drive to the top of the Mount of Olives, taking in iconic views of the Old City. From there we begin the “Palm Sunday Walk,” tracing the traditional route Christ took on his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Partway down the hill we pause at the Dominus Flevit chapel which commemorates the Lord’s weeping over Jerusalem. We continue on to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed while his disciples slept on the night of his arrest. A garden-like courtyard full of ancient olive trees has been preserved next to the Church of All Nations, also known as the Church of the Agony. From there we go to St. Anne's Church, near the Lion's Gate and the Pools of Bethesda. We follow the traditional path of the Via Dolorosa, commemorating the route Jesus took between his condemnation by Pilate and his crucifixion and burial. The route concludes at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We end our day at Gordon’s Calvary and the Garden Tomb, where in an inspiring service we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord. From there we return to our hotel with some time to rest and finish packing. After dinner at the hotel, we transfer to the airport to begin our journey home. (B,D)

DAY 10, TUE, MAR 22 RETURN USA

We arrive back in the USA and continue on to our hometown. (meals aloft)

3 Day Rome Extension Itinerary (March 22-25)

DAY 10, TUE, MAR 22 TEL AVIV/ROME

Today we fly from Tel Aviv to Rome. Upon arrival, we will be met by our local assistant and transferred to Hotel Twenty-One (or similar) for check in. Dinner is on your own this evening.

DAY 11, WED, MAR 23 ROME

This morning we visit the Basilica of St. Peter, the largest church in the world, said to be buried over the tomb of Saint Peter. Next we explore the Vatican museums, one of the most renowned and famous cultural institutions of the Holy See, known all over the world for its masterpieces that have been commissioned, collected and preserved in time by the Roman Pontiffs. An unforgettable highlight is a visit to the epic Sistine Chapel, over which Michelangelo labored for four years and which has been restored to its original glory. We continue to the Colosseum - begun about AD 72, and the best-known structure remaining from ancient Rome. It was capable of holding more than 50,000 to view gladiatorial contests, hunts, mock naval battles and perhaps Christian sacrifices. Many of the materials from this magnificent edifice were later used in the construction of various churches and palaces. We then spend some time exploring the Roman Forum, which served as the center of political life and commerce in ancient Rome. After our time here, we return to our hotel with dinner on your own. (B)

DAY 12, THU, MAR 24 ROME

We begin this morning at the Holy Steps. As Luther did, we climb the holy steps, which according to legend are the reconstructed steps of Pilate’s palace. From there we go to Mamertine Prison, traditionally believed to have imprisoned the apostles Peter and Paul. We continue with a visit to the St. Callisto Catacombs. Our touring day concludes at St. Paul Outside the Walls, one of the four great ancient basilicas of Rome and built over what was believed to be the burial place of St. Paul. This evening we enjoy a farewell dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight at our hotel. (B,D)

DAY 13, FRI, MAR 25 ROME/USA

We transfer to the airport early this morning for our return flight to the USA, arriving home later today. (B, meals aloft)