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Tour Details


Search for images and articles on any of the archaeological sites or geographic areas visited on the study tour. Many of these are linked at various places in the itinerary below as well:

April 25-May 16, 2016

This itinerary can be used as a study resource to prepare you for the tour. Click on the various links throughout the itinerary to learn about the places we will be visiting and people we will be meeting.

The daily schedule and all visits to sites are subject to change depending on local conditions and available time. The identification of “Living Stones” guest speakers is illustrative. All of the accommodations listed below have been confirmed, but may be changed due to unforeseen circumstances.

  1. Monday, April 25 – Depart from various North American cities.
  2. Tuesday, April 26  Arrive in Amman, Jordan. Overnight in Amman at the Toledo Hotel.
  3. Wednesday, April 27  Following a visit with Mennonite Central Committee workers in Amman for an update on their work (particularly on the refugee crisis in Syria and Jordan), we will drive to Petra, stopping at Madaba and Mt. Nebo. Overnight at the Petra Guest House, which is at the entrance to the site.
  4. Thursday, April 28  Full day walking tour of the rock city of Petra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. See also the information about Petra at the Visit Jordan website. We stay at the Petra Guest House for a second night, which allows us to have a leisurely day in the Petra site.
  5. Friday, April 29  After an early morning departure we will drive to the Allenby (King Hussein) Bridge, where we will cross the Jordan River. From there we will drive to Bethlehem. We will be arriving on Orthodox Good Friday! Read the National Geographic article (Dec. 2007) on Bethlehem and a response to it by Omar Tesdell. Overnight at the Casa Nova Palace Hotel, which is located on the square beside the church. Because it is Orthodox Easter weekend, Bethlehem will be bustling with activity.

The activities on the next two days must at this point be described as tentative, since the Orthodox Easter weekend may open up some opportunities for us, but may preclude some others. The following two days reflect what I hope we can do on Saturday and Sunday. On one of these days we are scheduled to visit the village of Battir, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where we will also do a short hike (click on gallery to see pictures of the site).

  1. Saturday, April 30  Begin the day by visiting one of the traditional sites of the “Shepherds’ Fields.” Experience the contrast between shepherds and kings by visiting King Herod’s Summer Palace (Herodion). According to the historian Josephus Flavius, Herod wanted to be buried in Herodion, the place that bore his name. On May 8, 2007, it was announced by the Hebrew University that the long search for Herod’s tomb had ended with the exposure of the remains of his grave, sarcophagus and mausoleum on Mount Herodion's northeastern slope. Living Stones Conversations: Zoughbi Zoughbi of Wi’am Conflict Resolution Center; get close to the Separation Wall from the Bethlehem side. We may have time to visit the Aida refugee camp and the Lajee Center, one of MCC’s partners in Bethlehem. End the afternoon with a visit to the Church of the Nativity, a marvelous Byzantine church built over the traditional site of Jesus’ birth (click here for UNESCO World Heritage Site and gallery). Possible Living Stones conversation in the evening with a faculty member at Bethlehem Bible College. Overnight at the Casa Nova Palace Hotel.
  2. Sunday, May 1  Worship at one of the churches of Bethlehem (suggestions will be provided; e.g. Christmas Lutheran Church, where Mitri Raheb is the pastor; you might want to read his book I am a Palestinian Christian or his most recent book Faith in the Face of Empire). There will be some free time in the afternoon for exploring Bethlehem. Possible dinner and evening with families in Bethlehem (depending on Easter scheduling). Overnight at the Casa Nova Palace Hotel.
  3. Monday, May 2  Living Stones Conversation with Mr. Ardie Geldman in the Jewish settlement in Ephrat (9:00 a.m.). 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 (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 (11:00 AM) to hear of their work. If time permits, visit a glass factory in Hebron. Overnight at the Casa Nova Palace Hotel.
  4. Tuesday, May 3  We begin the day with a visit to Abu Ghosh, one of the traditional sites of New Testament Emmaus. The Crusader Church there has some of the most beautiful frescoes in the land. We will reflect on Jesus’ encounter with the two disciples on the road (Luke 24). We will make several stops along our way northward to Nazareth. At Canada Park (site of a destroyed Palestinian village), we hope to meet with a representative of Zochrot, an organization dedicated to education about the Nakba, Palestinian catastrophe of 1948. A highlight of the day will be a visit to Caesarea Maritima (a Roman capital of Palestine; read article) with its magnificent harbor, theater and aqueduct (click for 360 panorama) constructed during the reign of Herod. It was here that Peter explained the way of salvation to Cornelius (Acts 10). If there is time, we may visit the ancient site of Megiddo (read article). The name of the site comes from the words har megiddo in Hebrew, from which the word “Armageddon” is derived. In Nazareth we hope to have a Living Stones conversation with Dr. Raed Muallem, a professor at the Nazareth Academic Institute (after supper). Overnight in Nazareth at the Sisters of Nazareth Guest House (if we are lucky, we may be able to visit the 1st century ruins underneath the guesthouse).
  5. Wednesday, May 4  In Nazareth we visit the Basilica of the Annunciation and St. Joseph’s Church. We will have a guided tour of Nazareth Village, a “reconstructed” first century village. We will be treated to a traditional 1st century lunch. In the afternoon, we will visit the ancient city of Sepphoris (read article). Overnight at the Ron Beach Hotel on the Sea of Galilee (which means that for the next three nights we’ll be swimming to cool off after our long days of touring!).
  6. Thursday, May 5  Explore northern Galilee: After a short stop at Hazor, we will visit the ancient site of Tel Dan and see the high place where Jeroboam son of Nebat set up a golden calf (read article). A highlight of the day is a nature hike along the headwaters of the Jordan to the falls. Continue on to Caesarea Philippi (article on Banyas), the site where Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16:15). We will make a stop at a Druze Market, where we can buy a light lunch. Overnight at the Ron Beach Hotel.
  7. Friday, May 6  The Ministry of Jesus around the Sea of Galilee: Visit two significant sites in the ministry of Jesus: Chorazin and Capernaum (also here; and read article). Several sites also commemorate events in Jesus’ Galilean ministry: Mt. of Beatitudes (also here), Tabgha/Heptapegon (Church of the Multiplication; read article), Primacy of Peter. One of the highlights of the day will be a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. If there is time, drive to Mt. Arbel for views over the Sea of Galilee. Overnight at the Ron Beach Hotel.
  8. Saturday, May 7  Drive south via the Jordan Valley to Jericho, where we will spend two nights. Along the way we will make stops at Belvoir (a Crusader Castle, #1 on the Ten Most Impressive list), the ancient Roman city of Bet Shean (read more), Hisham’s Palace, and the ancient site of Jericho. There may be time for a swim during the lunch hour at a delightful national park, Gan HaSheloshah. Overnight at the fabulous 5 star Oasis Hotel in Jericho (click on the photos link).
  9. Sunday, May 8  Today we visit Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found (read article and view 360 degree panorama or here), Masada (more photos and an article), float in the Dead Sea, and take a nature walk to the waterfalls at Ein Gedi (David’s hideout from King Saul; 1 Samuel 24). We should be back at the Oasis Hotel in Jericho in time for a swim before a late supper.
  10. Monday, May 9  Depart early from Jericho to hike the Wadi Qelt (in the Judean Desert) and visit the magnificent St. George’s Monastery. From the Monastery, we hope (if Israeli security allows) to hike for a few hours down “the Jericho road” to Herod’s winter palace (Kypros), where our bus will pick us up for our drive to Jerusalem. In the afternoon we will visit Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum before settling in at the Golden Walls Hotel in Jerusalem, where we will spend six glorious nights next to the walls and across the street from the Damascus Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem.
  11. Tuesday, May 10  Today we walk the “Passion Route,” and retell the story of Jesus from Palm Sunday to the Crucifixion. We begin at the top (on the eastern slope) of the Mt. of Olives, getting as close to Bethany and Bethphage as possible. We visit the Church of the Ascension, Pater Noster Church, the shrine of Dominus Flevit (“Jesus Wept”), the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations in the Kidron Valley. If we time our walk right, we will be able to visit the Church of St. Mary Magdalene (Russian Orthodox), which is only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM. After visiting the Church of All Nations, we will be taken by bus to Mt. Zion to visit the church of St. Peter in Gallicantu (“cock crow,” the traditional site of Caiaphas’s house), and then return by bus to St. Stephen’s Gate and walk the Via Dolorosa inside the Old City, beginning with the crusader St. Anne’s Church 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). Since this is the day when we will reflect on Jesus’ journey to the cross, you might want to read Dennis Bratcher’s article on Stations of the Cross. During our days in Jerusalem, we will become familiar with the various “stations” of Jesus’ trial (including the Antonia Fortress and Herod’s Palace, where Pilate met Jesus). We may have a Living Stones conversation in the late afternoon or evening. Overnight at the Golden Walls Hotel.
  12. Wednesday, May 11  “Ancient Jerusalem Day”: “Temple Day”: Early morning visit to the Temple Mount/Haram esh Sharif, the Dome of the Rockand the Al Aqsa Mosque. Continue to the Archaeological Park of the Davidson Center at 10:00 AM. Visit the archaeological garden around the ancient temple walls, including the Huldah Gates, Southern steps, Pinacle of the temple, Herodian excavations. In preparation, view the video of the Virtual Reconstruction of the 2nd Temple Period temple mount and the one on Umayyad period buildings. We will also spend time in Silwan, the oldest part of the city of Jerusalem, and become acquainted with the City of David (read article and read about the controversy here and here), will visit the Pool of Siloam. On the way back to our hotel, we will walk through the Jewish Quarter, including the Cardo. If there is time, we will become acquainted with the Armenian Quarter, including St. James Armenian Cathedral. Possible Living Stones Conversation in the evening. Overnight at the Golden Walls Hotel.
  13. Thursday, May 12  Free day in Jerusalem! See the list of Things to Do in Jerusalem. Overnight at the Golden Walls Hotel.
  14. Friday, May 13  In the morning visit the fabulous Israel Museum (open 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM) and its newly renovated Archaeological Wing, Second Temple Period Model of Jerusalem, and Shrine of the Book (Dead Sea Scrolls). In the afternoon we will be led on a tour of Lifta, a Palestinian village on the outskirts of Jerusalem that was abandoned during the war of 1947/48. Our guide will be a former resident of the village. Overnight at the Golden Walls Hotel.
  15. Saturday, May 14 – Today we travel north into the Occupied Palestinian Territories. We begin the day in Ramallah for a Living Stones Conversation. Then we continue northward to visit Jacob’s Well in ancient Shechem (modern Nablus), the ancient site of Samaria (capital city of Israelite king Omri and others for 160 years), and Mt. Gerizim (home of the Samaritans, who still live there). See the UNESCO World Heritage Site article. If we have time, we will experience a guided walk through the old town of Nablus (a taste treat awaits us there). Overnight at the Golden Walls Hotel.
  16.  Sunday, May 15  Worship this morning with a congregation in Jerusalem, followed by debriefing at our hotel. In the afternoon we travel to Jaffa (ancient Joppa) and consider Peter’s story again (Acts 10) along with that of the prophet Jonah (on the modern history of Jaffa, click here). We may have time for a drive through the scenic Ayalon Valley on our way to Tel Aviv for our final overnight at the Metropolitan Hotel (in time for a swim in the Mediterranean just around the corner).
  17. Monday, May 16  Departure from Tel Aviv.