This specially designed tour for Latterd-Day Saints groups and families is a great way to Explore in-depth the Holy Land. It covers many destinations relating to the Bible, Mormon heritaage, and the modern history of Israel. The itinerary also included optional extreme activities, hikes, swims, a sail and more!
Day 1 – Heading North
WELCOME TO ISRAEL! Pending on the time of your landing, we could make a visit to Caesarea, a metropolis in Roman times. We will review its highlights, focusing on Paul’s prison (Acts 23-26) and the baptism of Cornelius by Peter (Acts 10).
We could also visit Megiddo. This site was a major city in the Israelite Kingdom. It is also identified with “Armageddon” (Revelations 16:16). We will also pass by Mount Tabor, possible site of the transfiguration (Luke 9), and Nain, where Jesus rose from the Dead the Widow’s son (Luke 7). As it gets dark we will arrive at our hotel, by the Sea of Galilee.
Day 2 – Exploring around the Sea of Galilee
This day is devoted to exploring holy Christian sites around the Sea of Galilee. We start with the hometown of Mary Magdalene – Magdala. New research has uncovered a 2,000 year old synagogue. Perhaps this is where Mary saw Jesus for the first time? Next we will visit another astounding discovery – the 2,000 year old “Sea of Galilee Boat,“ displayed in a Kibbutz right next to the lake. From here, we can also go on a Sail on the Sea of Galilee. After lunch, in a local fish restaurant, we continue to the “town of Jesus” – Capernaum. Here, Jesus recruited his first disciples, performed miracles, and formed his church! Nearby, we could visit Mount of Beatitudes , possible locations of the Sermon on the mount (Matthew 5). If time permits we could also visit the church marking the Miracle of the Multiplication of Loaves and Fish (Luke 9), and the chapel by the water marking the “Primacy of Peter” (John 21).
Day 3 – On the Way to Damascus
Heading to the sources of the Jordan river, at one of the springs of the Jordan river we exlpore ancient Caesarea Philippi (Banias) where Jesus named Simon Yona “Peter”, and then head up the Golan Heights, along the possible historical path “on the way to Damascus” (Acts 9). In the Golan heights we have a lunch break at a Druze village, and then head up to a panoramic view from the top of Mt. Bental. We will also drive along the Syrian border and learn about the modern conflicts in this region.
Day 4 – From Nazareth to Mount of Olives
Heading towards Jerusalem, our first stop will be the Arab village of Cana. In the heart of the village, two churches mark the event of the “first miracle” of Jesus (John 2) – turning water into wine during a wedding. We will review the archaeological discoveries made at the site, and possibly conduct a ceremony of “renewal of the vows.”
Next we will head to Jesus’ hometown – Nazareth. Strolling through the local market, we will reach the mass-scale Church of Annunciation. Here, by centuries-old tradition, was the home of Mary. This is also whwere the angel announced to Mary that God would make her pregnant by a miracle (Luke 1). In the market itself, we will visit the Synagogue Church. Here, Jesus spoke for the first time about his messianic role (Luke 4), yet rejected. This event led Jesus to move to Capernaum. We will end the tour with a visit to Mount Precipice, where the people of Nazareth, rejecting Jesus’ claims, tried throwing him off a cliff. The site also offers some breathtaking panoramas of the Jezreel Valley, the Carmel Mountains, the Jordan Valley and the Gilead Mountains. We now join the coastal highway and head to Jerusalem! If time permits, upon arrival we will greet it from Mount of Olives Viewpoint.
Day 5 – Jerusalem in the Footsteps of Jesus
Our own pilgrimage of Jerusalem begins with a visit to the Garden of Gethsemane and the Grotto of Gethsemane. These sites mark where Jesus rested and was arrested after the “Last Supper” in Jerusalem. Next, we cross the Kidron valley and enter the Old City via the “Lions gate.” We visit the remarkable remains of the Pools of Bethesda, where Jesus once again demonstrated his healing powers (John 5). After that, we will join the Via Dolorosa, the holy path, by Christian tradition, that begins from the place of Jesus’ trial, to the site of his crucifixion. After a lunch break, we enter the Church of the Holy Sepulchre to see and touch the Golgotha, the “Stone of Unction,” and the Tomb of Jesus. A souvenir shopping break will also be possible, before we continue to Mount Zion. By local tradition, several significant events took place here – the Last Supper (Cenacle), the Pentecost (Dormition Abbey), and the place where Jesus was interrogated by the High-Priest Caiaphas (Petrus in Gallicantu). On our way we will pass some remains of Jerusalem’s fortifications from the time of King Zedekiah. These might be the wall and gate mentioned in I Nephi 4:5.
Day 6 (FRI) – Tracing Goliath, Samson, and Prophet Lehi
A day devoted to the Judean Lowlands (the Shfela) will start with a visit of ancient Beth Shemesh. Here, some 3,000 years ago, the Ark of the Covenant was displayed after being held by the Philistine for 5 months. We will view the latest finds related to this Biblical story, and also review places and events related to Samson and his deadly love affairs. We then continue to the Battle site of David and Goliath, and check out the children’s skills in operating a slingshot with local pebbles.
After lunch, we explore the important site of Lachish. The site was the second capital of the Judean Kingdom in Biblical times, yet was conquered and destroyed after a fierce battle by the Assyrians in 701 BCE. If we arrange off-road transportation, we could also drive to the site related to the estate of Lehi – Khirbet Beit Loya / Beit Lehi.
Day 7 (Saturday) – Visiting BYU, Orson Hyde Park and Bethlehem
Saturday (Shabbath) will begin with attending morning prayers at the beautiful Brigham Young University Jerusalem Center campus on Mount Scopus. It will be followed with a visit to Orson Hyde Memorial park on Mount of Olives, and possibly setting a guided tour at the Garden Tomb. Later, you will be lead by a Palestinian guide into Bethlehem, and learn about the birth of Jesus at the Church of Nativity and also have a local Palestinian barbecue lunch. If time permits, you will also visit the Shepherds’ Field before heading back to Jerusalem.
Day 8 – Explore the Dead Sea region
Heading to the lowest place on the planet, we pass by Jericho, whose ancient site was conquered by Joshua (ch. 6). Nearby, we visit the Baptism site of Jesus by John the Baptist. It will also be possible to conduct our own baptismal ceremony. Afterwords, we will drive to the viewpoint where the famous Dead Sea Scrolls were found (around Qumran). Among others, this is where the Copper Scroll was found. Its discovery forms a great parallel to story of hiding the Brass Plates in antiquity.
We will then pass by the Ein Gedi oasis, and possibly spot some local ibex. Using the cable car, we will reach the top of Masada. The site was magnificently built by King Herod some 2,000 years ago. However, it is also famed for its dramatic and tragic end, where Jews favored death over Roman slavery . We end the day with an optional swim at the Dead Sea.
Overnight: Jerusalem or Tel-Aviv
Day 11 – Stroll in Jaffa and Tel-Aviv
The last day of the tour will be devoted to old Jaffa and Modern Tel-Aviv. In Jaffa we review of remains from Canaanite times at Ramesses II’s Gate Garden, and then search for the House of Simon the Tanner at the Armenian home of the Zakarians. We continue to modern Tel-Aviv, and at Rothschild Boulevard present the site where the modern State of Israel was declared (“Independence Hall“). If time permits we will also stop at Rabin Assassination site before heading to the airpot.