Begin your Jerusalem experience with one of the most magnificent views in the world: ancient Jerusalem as seen from the top of the Mount of Olives. Allow some time to visit the various churches on the summit, among them: Pater Noster, where the prayer “Our Father” is inscribed in dozens of languages, and the Church of Ascension, marking the place where Jesus ascended to Heaven.
Take the “Palm Sunday Walk” down the Mount of Olives in the footsteps of Jesus. On the way, stop atDominus Flevit Church (The Lord Wept), marking the site of Jesus’ weeping over the city (Luke 19: 37-42). At the Garden of Gethsemane at the base of the mountain, you can spend time pondering and praying about the time Jesus spent here with his disciples before his arrest.
Enter the Old City via Lion’s Gate, also known as St. Stephen’s Gate to the Pools of Bethesda, where Jesus healed a paralytic (John 5: 2-9). Christian groups love to raise their voices in song at the adjacent Church of St. Anne.
Walking up through the Old City streets, your next stop can be the Sisters of Zion Convent, built over the Praetorium, where Jesus was judged by Pontius Pilate and took up the cross, marked by the Ecce Homo (“Here is the Man” - John 19:5) Arch over the street. This site marks the beginning of the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Sorrows, which tradition says Jesus went with the cross to Calvary. Today, it passes through the colorful Old City markets to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is the site venerated by the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox world as the place of crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
The day will end with a visit to the Garden Tomb. Located 500 meters to the north of Damascus Gate, this ancient cemetery discovered approximately 130 years ago by the British General Charles Gordon has become a moving site in which to recall the crucifixion and burial of Jesus, and spend time in these peaceful garden surroundings in prayer, song, fellowship and communion.
Overnight in Jerusalem.
Head east out of Jerusalem through the Judean Desert to visit Qumran, where the famed Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Modern scholarship places a community of Essenes at this site, and it is possible that John the Baptist spent some time with the community here.
Drive along the shore of the Dead Sea, to the oasis at Ein Gedi, where David hid from King Saul, and you can hike to a desert waterfall.
In the afternoon, take the cable-car to the top of Massada, scene of the epic stand by Jewish rebels at the end of the great revolt against Rome nearly 2,000 years ago. The new museum at the visitor’s center reveals the secrets of the daily life of the rebels, the story of the excavations, and how the site became one of Israel’s most important symbols.
Enjoy a healthful and relaxing dip in the Dead Sea, the lowest, saltiest body of water on earth, before returning to Jerusalem.
Overnight in Jerusalem.
Head down to the Coastal Plain today past the Ayalon Valley, where Joshua called the moon to stand still during battle with the Canaanites. Stop in Jaffa, the picturesque ancient port from which Jonah set sail before being swallowed by the whale, where King Solomon imported the cedars of Lebanon to build the Temple in Jerusalem, and where Peter had his vision at Simon the Tanner's home. Don’t miss the visitor center in Kedumim Square that showcases the history of the city and is built around antiquities from the time of Jesus. Enjoy a beautiful view of modern Tel Aviv from Jaffa, before driving through the city and continuing north.
Continue across the Sharon Plain to the excavations of the ancient city and port at Caesarea National Park. King Herod built Caesarea in honor of his patron Emperor Augustus in the mid-first century BCE, and Pontius Pilate ruled the country from here.
Peter’s story, which you began to explore in Jaffa, continues here when he baptized Cornelius the Centurion in Caesarea. It was from this port that Paul set sail to preach in communities all over the Mediterranean, where he was later imprisoned for two years and appeared before Felix, Festus and King Agrippa. All these events are reflected in the ruins you’ll tour, including the Roman theater, the hippodrome and Herod's palace, as well as mosaics and other remains from the centuries when Caesarea was an important Christian center, and the Crusader walls, moat and gates.
Drive through the Ara Valley to Tel Megiddo, the Armageddon of Revelations 16:16. Tour the remains of one of the most intensively inhabited sites in the country with over 25 levels of settlement, spanning some 3,000 years, including walls, gates, palaces and dwellings from the time of King Solomon, King Ahab and the Assyrians. A highlight will be your walk through the water system, one of the great engineering marvels of antiquity. Take in the breathtaking view of the Jezreel Valley, sometimes called “the battlefield of the Bible.”
Cross the Jezreel Valley past Mt. Tabor scene of the battle of Deborah and Barak against Sisera of Hazor and Endor, where Samuel appeared to Saul, and continue to the Sea of Galilee and the Tiberias area.
Overnight in the Tiberias area.
Begin your day at Yardenit, the baptismal site located at the Jordan River on the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee. Continue with a boat-ride across the Sea of Galilee, stopping for devotions as the waves lap quietly around the boat, recalling ancient times.
Landing near Capernaum, begin to follow in the footsteps of Jesus' ministry in the villages around the Sea of Galilee, visiting the ruins of this village often called the hometown of Jesus, with its synagogue, church marking the home of Peter, and dwellings from the time of Jesus.
Continue to the Mount of Beatitudes, the hill where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount to the multitudes that stood below, with a beautiful view of the Sea of Galilee.
Stop at Kibbutz Ginosar, Kibbutz Ginosar to see the magnificent display of the wooden Galilee Boat, from the time of Jesus. Leaving the lakeside, drive through Cana, scene of Jesus’ first miracle changing water into wine at the wedding, and on to Nazareth, the boyhood home of Jesus.
Visit the centuries-old Church of St. Gabriel, which houses the village spring – one of Nazareth’s few authentic remains of the time of Jesus and enjoy a walk through the colorful market.
Crossing the Jezreel Valley again, head back to central Israel via the foothills of Mount Carmel.