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Tour Details

Itinerary

Although many of the places and sites we will be visiting are noted in the Itinerary below, the following websites provide more details:

Notes:

  1. The tour begins in Tel Aviv, Israel on Thursday, March 8, 2017, and concludes in Jerusalem on Tuesday, March 27.
  1. This is a walking tour. Eleven of the 20 days will be spent walking. Participants will need to be physically fit and able to walk for 15 to 20 kilometers per day. Most days will find us on hilly terrain. See the itinerary below for details and maps.
  2. Early Arrival: Participants may choose to arrive a day or two early in order to explore Tel Aviv and Jaffa (ancient Joppa) next door on their own.
  3. Optional extensions or excursions after the end of the tour:
    • Excursion to the Dead Sea, Qumran, and Masada
    • Jordan extension: Amman, Petra, Wadi Rum
    • For both add-ons, there is the option of staying in or returning to Jerusalem for Easter weekend.
  4. One certainty about international travel is that the best laid plans need to adapt to changing realities. The following represents current plans, with the recognition that changes may need to be made along the way.
 

Day 1: Thursday, March 8

Arrival in Tel Aviv at the Ben Gurion Airport. The group will meet for dinner and our first evening together at the Metropolitan Hotel. We will spent some time in the evening introducing ourselves and getting an orientation to the tour. Those who arrive early in the day may want to walk a few blocks to the beach or explore Jaffa (ancient Joppa), which is a long walk or a short taxi ride away.

 

Day 2: Friday, March 9

After a hearty buffet breakfast, we depart by bus for Nazareth. Along the way we will visit Caesarea Maritima, a major administrative centre for the Romans during the New Testament period, the place from which Pontius Pilate governed the region (article). Herod the Great dedicated the city to Caesar Augustus, and constructed a deep water seaport, a famous aqueduct (click for 360 panorama) to supply the community with water, and a quite spectacular amphitheatre for Roman games. It was here that Peter encountered Cornelius, a Roman Centurion (Acts 10).

On our way to Nazareth we will have opportunity to visit, as time permits, Mt. Carmel, Haifa, and Akko (Acre, the Capital of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem), now a UNESCO Heritage Site.

Walking time: approximately 1 hour

Accommodation: Villa Nazareth

 

Day 3: Saturday, March 10

We begin the day by exploring the wonderful Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. After our visit, we drive into the northern Galilee to Tel Dan, and see the high place where Jeroboam son of Nebat set up a golden calf (read article). In the Old Testament Dan frequently represented the northern boundary of Israel, as in the phrase, “from Dan to Beersheba.” Here Jeroboam set up one of the two golden calves to compete with the temple in Jerusalem. It is located at the head of the Jordan River. In 1993 an inscribed stone was discovered here on which an unnamed king (perhaps Hazael of Aram/Syria) boasts of having defeated the king of Israel and his ally the king of the House of David, the first time the name of King David has been found outside of the Bible. Continue on to the nearby Caesarea Philippi and the Druze villages of the Golan Heights. Caesarea Philippi (article on Banyas) is the site where Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16:15). A highlight of the day is a nature hike along the headwaters of the Jordan to the falls. We will make a stop at a Druze Market, where we can buy a light lunch.

Walking Time: approximately 3 hours

Accommodation: Villa Nazareth

 

Day 4: Sunday, March 11

Today we begin the first of three days on the “Jesus Trail.”

Carry water and a packed lunch with you. Ascend out of the old city and walk to Zippori National Park to visit the archeological ruins of the main administrative city in the Galilee at the time of Jesus. Admire the exquisite Byzantine mosaics, drink in the view from atop the Crusader fortress, and take a stroll through the ancient cistern system. Take a lunch break and refill your water before returning to the trail through the small village of Mashhad to arrive at Cana, traditional site of Jesus’ first miracle. Take a rest and have a snack in Cana before visiting the Orthodox and Catholic churches commemorating the water to wine miracle (John 2).

Distance: 15.1 kms

Map and Elevation Profile for the next few days

Full Jesus Trail Map (pdf)

Accommodation: Villa Nazareth

 

Day 5: Monday, March 12

On our second day on the Jesus Trail we walk from Kibbutz Lavi to Mt. Arbel. After breakfast we head out across agricultural fields to ascend the Horns of Hattin—a volcanic structure where a famous Crusader battle took place in 1187. Relish your first glimpse of the Sea of Galilee and the sweeping views into Arbel Valley. Continue down the rocky hillside to Nebi Shu’eib, the holiest shrine for the Druze religion. Visit the tomb of Jethro, father-in-law of Moses, and take a break at the picnic area. After lunch, continue on the trail through Arbel Valley past ancient olive groves and the ruins of Hattin village.

Distance: 17 kms

Accommodation: Ron Beach Hotel (Sea of Galilee)

 

Day 6: Tuesday, March 13

Start early for the stunning morning light from the Arbel Cliffs. Carefully descend the steep trail down the mount, passing ancient cliff dwellings and caves. Drink from the fresh spring at Wadi Hamam before continuing past Midgal (home of Mary Magdalene) to Tabgha via rolling agricultural land. Explore the mosaics at Tabgha, the traditional site of the feeding of the 5,000. Continue around the northern side of the Sea of Galilee to visit the church of St. Peter. Ascend a small ridge to visit the Mount of Beatitudes, the traditional site of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. Finish your journey at Capernaum by wandering the ruins of the city that was the center of Jesus’ ministry, and visiting the church built over the home of Simon Peter.

Distance: 18.5 kms

Accommodation: Ron Beach Hotel (Seof Galilee)

 

Day 7: Wednesday, March 14

Today we drive from the Sea of Galilee to the West Bank city of Nablus. Along the way we may have time to visit the ancient site of Samaria (capital city of Israelite king Omri and others for 160 years), and Jacob’s Well in ancient Shechem (modern Nablus), We will enjoy a delightful walking tour of the old city of Nablus, including a tour of the Souk with its market, tahini factory, knafeh shop, the sweet factory, soap factory, and Turkish Bath. The highlight of the day will be participation in the cooking school that is run by a group of women at Bait Al Karama (see the short video).

Walking: 1 hour at Samaria and 2 hours in the Nablus’s Old City

Accommodation: Al Yasmeen Hotel with dinner (we hope) at the hotel’s restaurant Zeit ou Zaater.

 

Day 8: Thursday, March 15

Today we begin our walk through the West Bank along the Abraham Path. Our route today, from Awarta to Duma, is challenging for its steep inclines and descents, yet spectacular for its blooming almond trees in springtime, the barely known Mt. Arma, and breathtaking views of the Jordan River Valley.

Distance: 18.6 kms

Elevation Profile:

Accommodation: Home-stay with families

 

Day 9: Friday, March 16

Today we walk from Duma to Kafr Malek. Despite a few small sections on paved road, this section takes you alongside the deep, rocky wadi to Samia Spring and finally up a steep final ascent to Kafr Malek where warm hospitality awaits.

Distance: 14.9 kms 

Elevation Profile

Accommodation: Home-stay with families

 

Day 10: Saturday, March 17

Kafr Malek to Auja – The hike through Wadi Auja is one of the best in the area. There is a lot of scrambling, including on some steep sections of trail, though it is all worth it when at the end of the walk you reach a gushing wadi of cool water where you can dip your feet! Enjoy lunch with the Bedouin community in Al Auja. From Auja we will travel by bus to Jericho.

Distance: 14.4 kms, mostly downhill

Elevation profile

Accommodation: Oasis Hotel (Jericho)

 

Day 11: Sunday, March 18

Free Day in Jericho. Options on your own:

Accommodation: Oasis Hotel (Jericho)

 

Day 12: Monday, March 19

Today we begin three days of walking from Jericho to Mar Saba Monastery, near Bethlehem. On this, our first day, we will walk from Jericho to Nabi Musa via the spectacular canyon of Wadi Qelt to St. George’s Monastery. Passing by ancient palaces and monasteries, this walk meanders through Wadi Qelt (reminiscent of the psalmist’s “valley of the shadow of death”) and continues to remote village of Nebi Musa, an ancient Muslim holy place and pilgrimage site.

Distance: 16.8 kms

Elevation Profile

Accommodation: Oasis Hotel (Jericho)

 

Day 13: Tuesday, March 20

After a transfer by bus from Jericho to Nebi Musa, we hike to the Bedouin community at Sea Level. We will experience the hospitality and listen to the stories of the Bedouin community.

Distance: 14 kms

Accommodation: with the Bedouins at their sea level community

 

Day 14: Wednesday, March 21

Sea Level to Mar Saba – You will likely see Bedouin camel and goat herds along this ancient pilgrimage route through the desert. The path curves up steep trail and over the Kidron Valley to Mar Saba, among the most fascinating monasteries in the Holy Land. From Mar Saba we will be transferred by bus to our accommodation in Bethlehem.

Distance: 18 kms

Elevation Map

Accommodation: Hosh Al-Syrian Hotel (Bethlehem)

 

Day 15: Thursday, March 22

Travel to Hebron to visit Il Ibrahimi Mosque (where the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs are buried). The cave was purchased by Abraham as a burial place for his wife Sarah. In the Bible see Gen 13:18; 23:2, 19; 35:27; 37:14; Joshua 10; Judges 1:20; 16:3; David in Hebron, 2 Samuel 2-5; 15. The Tomb of the Patriarchs is the world’s most ancient Jewish site and the second holiest place for the Jewish people, after the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. It is the most splendid example of Herodian architecture in the land. Spend time with the Christian Peacemaker Team to hear of their work. If time permits, visit a glass factory in Hebron. Then, in the late afternoon, wander the streets of Bethlehem.

Accommodation: Hosh Al-Syrian Hotel (Bethlehem)

 

Day 16: Friday, March 23

We will begin our day with a visit to the Church of the Nativity. Our walk for the day will begin in the village of Beit Jala and will end in the village of Battir, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (click on Gallery to see pictures of the site). See also the website of the World Monuments Fund. We will have lunch in Battir, prepared by the people of the village. There will be some free time in the afternoon for exploring Bethlehem. See the Battir Landscape Museum Facebook Page. Before dinner we will transfer to our hotel in Jerusalem so as to be ready for an early start the next day.

Walking Time: 3 hours of walking

Accommodation: Golden Walls Hotel (Jerusalem)

 

Day 17: Saturday, March 24

From the Mt. of Olives to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre – On our first day in Jerusalem, we begin early in the morning (8:00) at the top (on the eastern slope) of the Mt. of Olives. We begin at the Pater Noster (Lord’s Prayer) Church, and then continue to walk down the Mount of Olives, stopping at the shrine of Dominus Flevit (“Jesus Wept”), the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations in the Kidron Valley. After visiting the Church of All Nations, we will return to the Old City via St. Stephen’s Gate and walk the Via Dolorosa inside the Old City, beginning with the crusader St. Anne’s Church (or here)and Bethesda Pool (John 5; and here). From there we walk along the (Medieval) Via Dolorosa to Church of the Resurrection/Holy Sepulcher (read article). You might want to read Dennis Bratcher’s article on Stations of the Cross.

We will spend several hours in the afternoon at the fabulous Israel Museum and its newly renovated Archaeological Wing, the amazing Second Temple Period Model of Jerusalem, and Shrine of the Book (Dead Sea Scrolls), commemorating one of the most famous finds of the 20th century.

Accommodation: Golden Walls Hotel (Jerusalem)

 

Day 18: Sunday, March 25

Palm Sunday: Free Day – Options for the day include: morning worship with a congregation in Jerusalem. Although we will have walked the Palm Sunday walk on Saturday (without the Sunday crowds), you may wish to participate in the Traditional Palm Sunday Walk (2:00-4:30 p.m.). You will be given a list of things to do in Jerusalem, including: walking the ramparts of the Old City, exploring the four quarters of the Old City, visiting the Citadel Museum, browsing in the bustling Mahane Yehudah market in West Jerusalem, and much more.

Accommodation: Golden Walls Hotel (Jerusalem)

 

Day 19: Monday, March 26

Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif/The Noble Sanctuary, excavations at the Southern Wall – We begin the day with an early morning visit to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, the Dome of the Rock, and the Al Aqsa Mosque. Although disputed, the Temple Mount is often identified with Biblical Mount Moriah, where Abraham came to sacrifice his son Isaac, as well as Mount Zion where the original Jebusite fortress stood, which David conquered when he made Jerusalem his capital. Judaism considers the Temple Mount to be the place chosen by God for his Divine Presence, and where Solomon then built the first Temple (ca. 950 BCE), and Zerubbabel the second (ca. 515 BCE). This second temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD after Herod the Great had made extensive renovations.

The site is also a sacred site for the Muslim community, some of whom consider it to be the third most sacred site in their tradition. The Temple Mount has been controlled continuously by the Muslims since their re-conquest of the area in the 12th century. The Jewish Knesset enforces a ban on all non-Muslim prayer on the Mount. Two buildings dominate the Temple Mount. The Dome of the Rock, with its magnificent gold dome, was originally constructed in the late 7th century, supposedly on the spot where Muhammad ascended to heaven. Next to it is the Al-Aqsa Mosque, first built in the 8th century, with the current structure dating back to the 11th century.

The area south of the Temple Mount is rich in archaeological remains (see: Archaeological Park of the Davidson center). Here we see the Huldah Gates and the Southern steps, which probably led to the main entrance of the Temple Mount. If there is any place in Jerusalem where one can with some confidence say that “Christ walked here,” it would probably be on these steps. Here we will also see other remains dating back to the time of Herod, including a 1st century street, the “Pinnacle of the Temple,” and the Huldah Gates (see the videos: Virtual Reconstruction of the 2nd Temple Period temple mount and the Umayyad period buildings.

In the late afternoon you will have the option of a late afternoon (3:00–5:00 PM) visit to Yad Vashem, The World Holocaust Remembrance Center.

Accommodation: Golden Walls Hotel (Jerusalem)

 

Day 20: Tuesday, March 27

Departure, or connection to add-on to Dead Sea and/or Jordan (Amman, Petra, Wadi Rum).