Off the Beaten Path photo

Off the Beaten Path: A Hiking Tour in Israel and Palestine

March 2 to 21, 2020

Get ready for something completely different. Join Gordon Matties (Emeritus Professor) and Lori Matties (Spiritual Director) for a small-group adventure in Israel and Palestine. Besides visiting key ancient sites, you will be hiking off the beaten path on nine out of 20 days (see the itinerary). Spend time hiking the stunningly beautiful hills and the valleys, meeting people along the way, and learning about their hopes and fears in this holy but troubled land.

Gordon has led 10 Middle East tours, every one packed full of visits to ancient sites and guest lectures on the political situation. This tour will slow down. The focus will be on the land, the people, and, of course, the food.

Hiking will include:

  • two days on the "Jesus Trail" in Galilee between Nazareth and Capernaum, via Mount Arbel
  • three days from Nablus (ancient Shechem) to Jericho via Awarta, Duma, Kafr Malek, and Ain Auja
  • the famous Wadi Qelt (and its lovely St. George's Monastery)
  • at the headwaters of the Jordan River (including Caesarea Philippi/Banyas)
  • from Bethlehem to Battir, a UNESCO heritage site

Paticipants will visit many of the traditional biblical sites: Jerusalem, Caesarea Maritima, Caesarea Philippi, Bethlehem, Jericho, Nazareth, and Capernaum. In addition, we will visit Hebron (the burial site of Abraham and Sarah and other biblical ancestors), participate in a cooking class in Nablus, spend time in a Bedouin community, and much more.

St. Jerome once said that the land itself is the fifth gospel. Walking the land will provide insight into the ancient world of the Bible in a way that no lecture or visit to ancient ruins could ever do.

You will also experience the current political situation in a unique way. You will hear the stories of people along the way. Walking the ancient paths will open your eyes to the realities of life on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territories, both for Jews and for Palestinians.

This will also be a pilgrimage tour—an experience of reflection on what it means to be human in our time. For Jesus followers on the tour, expect to discover something of the vibrancy of the church in the Holy Land beyond the so-called holy places.

Please note that this is a hiking tour. You will need to be physically fit. On some of the days you will be walking from 15 to 20 kilometers. Some days will find us on hilly, steep, and rocky terrain. This tour is not for those with challenged knees or hips.

The tour includes all breakfasts and dinners, plus nine lunches along the way. 

Optional extensions or excursions:

  • Excursion to the Dead Sea, Qumran, and Masada during the free day in Jericho
  • Jordan extension: Amman, Petra, Wadi Rum

Please send a note to tour leader Gordon Matties at if you are interested.


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