Follow the Matriarchs, heroines and prophetesses of the Bible and the New Testament in this special tour of Israel.
Jerusalem: city of prophetesses, heroines and queens.
Overview of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives – this spiritually significant mountain is also the place for a bird’s-eye view of the mountains and valleys surrounding the city and the way it grew through the ages.
Huldah's Tomb –Huldah the prophetess (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chron. 34:22) has been commemorated here since the Middle Ages. The lady buried here is sacred by other names to other faiths: to Christians, she is St. Pelagia, a fifth-century singer from Antioch who abandoned her former life to devote herself to God. To Muslims, she is Lady Raba’ah, a ninth-century religious luminary.
Eleona (Pater Noster) – one of the first churches to be founded on the Mount of Olives in 326 CE by Queen Helene, the mother of King Constantine who was the first Christian emperor. Queen Helene also identified Calvary and the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem; in this and other ways she left an indelible mark on Christian history.
The Western Wall – a last remnant of the Second Temple, and as such, the holiest place in the Jewish world and a scene of fervent prayer and Bar Mitzvah celebrations (Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays).
The Southern Wall Archaeological Park – a “still-life” of the original Herodian street, revealing Roman destruction Robinson’s Arch, and where a highlight is Hulda’s Gates, named after the prophetess, and by tradition a teacher, who both censured and comforted at the end of the First Temple period.
The Davidson Visitor Center – housed in an eighth-century CE palace, where beautiful displays and a virtual-reconstruction, high-definition interactive model bring Jerusalem’s history alive.
The Israel Museum – the Ethnography Wing reveals ways that customs involving women and families in traditional cultures can reflect those of the Bible; the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered; the 1:50 Model of Second Temple Jerusalem.
Jerusalem: highlights of the Old City.
The Jewish Quarter – including the Cardo, Jerusalem’s ancient main street; the First Temple-era Hezekiah’s Wall; and the Burnt House, destroyed when the Romans conquered Jerusalem in 70 CE, where a moving audiovisual presentation highlights questions of class, the place of women, and the tragic end of one ancient Jerusalem family.
The Syriac Orthodox Church of St. Mark – over the traditional house of Mark (Acts 12:13-16), where visitors can consider the part played by the servant girl Rhoda in the story of Peter’s return to the community and other “lowly” female figures in Scripture.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre – the most sacred ground in the Christian world, this ancient church stands over the Tomb of Jesus and the last of the Stations of the Cross.
The Dormition Abbey – marking the site of the Assumption of Mary, with an unusual representation of Mary surrounded by a mosaic of Old Testament women.
The Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem – study comparisons between two biblical women’s praise-poems: the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), which Mary uttered here, and the paean Hannah recited in Shiloh when she offered her son Samuel to God’s service (1 Sam. 2:1-10).
Rachel’s Tomb – Rachel was another biblical mother-to-be on the road to Bethlehem. After she died giving birth to Benjamin, Jacob built her a monument here (Gen. 35:20). To this day, women come to Rachel’s tomb to pray for fertility and safe childbirth.
Kibbutz Ramat Rachel (“Rachel’s Height”) – the remains of a First Temple royal citadel unusually accented with artwork by sculptor Ran Morin. From here, an overview of the Judean Desert, Bethlehem, and the Mountains of Moab recalls that Ruth the Moabite changed history by braving the unknown to come to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law Naomi.
The Church of Mary’s Seat – some years ago during road work here the remains came to light of the Katisma (“seat”), a church previously known only from pilgrims’ literature, where tradition says the heavily pregnant Mary rested on her way to Bethlehem. It is hoped the remains, including magnificent mosaics, will someday be restored. Meanwhile, the stone seat and the form of the octagonal church around it are still visible.
From the Mediterranean to the Sea of Galilee: women in their private and public lives.
Caesarea – the showcase Roman port built by Herod the Great, figuring centrally in both Jewish and Christian history. In addition to touring the theater, amphitheater, Crusader walls and other highlights Caesarea, as the home of the four daughters of Philip (Acts 21:8-9), is an excellent place to explore the role of women in public life in the early church. Visit the Hannah Senesch Museum at adjacent Sdot Yam to hear the moving story of a modern-day heroine.
Mount Tabor – to this mountain, the “high mount” of Transfiguration (Mark 9: 2-9), the judge Deborah called Barak to fight the Canaanites (Judges 4:4-16). With the ancient ruins and beautiful views as inspiration, find out who Deborah really was.
Nazareth– most of the monuments in Nazareth, the town where Jesus grew up, are devoted to Mary, this is where the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38) took place. Highlights include the Church of St. Gabriel, built over the spring where Mary no doubt drew water for her family, and the magnificent Basilica of the Annunciation. At the reconstructed Nazareth Village, learn about the daily life of women in Jesus’ day and take part in a weaving workshop.
Sepphoris – traditional birthplace of Mary, Sepphoris was built by Herod Antipas. Joanna, the wife of Cuza, Herod’s steward (Luke 8:3), who might have lived here, was among Jesus’ early supporters. Visit the restored theater, the “Mona Lisa of Galilee” mosaic, the Nile House and the Cardo. Another highlight is the sixth-century synagogue that tells a story of redemption and reveals an unusual representation of Sarah.
Around the Sea of Galilee: spirits of protection and the pioneering spirit.
Tiberias – this ancient city on the lake is the location of the tomb another Rachel, who loved and supported her husband, the great Rabbi Akiva, through thick and thin. Among the city’s Roman ruins, a first-century Herodian palace has been discovered, including a room with a marble floor where visitors can imagine Salome, the daughter of Herodias, dancing for the head of John the Baptist (Matt. 14:3-11).
The tomb of Rachel the poetess – the passionate verses of Israel’s pioneering poet laureate are some of the best-loved in modern Hebrew literature. Reading them in this tranquil lakeside setting provides fertile ground for exploring women’s experiences as pioneers in this land in the early 20th century and elsewhere.
A boat ride on the Sea of Galilee – emulating the experience of Jesus and the disciples, and recalling the story of “Miriam’s Well”: Miriam died in Kadesh, but immediately thereafter, according to legend, a miraculous spring appeared that nourished the Children of Israel everywhere in their hour of need and eventually found its way to the Sea of Galilee.
The Mount of Beatitudes – an overview of the Sea of Galilee from the place where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount.
Capernaum – scene of many miracles and teachings, and known as Jesus’ “own town” (Matt. 9:1), including the house of St. Peter – (Mark 1:29) and the Ancient Synagogue – built over the site where Jesus preached. Healings of women figure centrally in Jesus’ Galilee ministry, and the Capernaum synagogue is an excellent place to delve into these stories.
The Tabha Benedictine Monastery Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes – the site of the feeding of the 5,000 (Matt. 14:13-21).
Job's Spring – a warm spring surrounded by an old stone tower, where local women came seeking healing in days gone by. According to tradition, Job's wife, who had sold her long hair to support the family when they became destitute, was reunited with her husband here.
Bethsaida – the home of Peter, Andrew and Philip (John 1:44; 12:21), Bethsaida is now undergoing excavation, revealing homes and a street from the Roman period, and remains of the biblical city of Geshur, including a huge gateway and a palace. David himself may have come to the throne room discovered here to ask Talmai King of Geshur for the hand of his daughter, Maacah (2 Sam. 3:3).
Mount Arbel National Park – with an ancient story of its own and a magnificent view of the entire region, particularly old and new Magdala, the hometown of Mary Magdalene, at its foot. Delve more deeply into the story of this “proclaimer.”