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Israel Tour with Dr. Bryan Widbin Stanwich Congregational Church

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Day by Day

New York, Tel Aviv

Tour members are welcomed for our departing flight to Tel Aviv via wide-body aircraft arriving the next day. Meals served on board.

Arrive Tel Aviv, Caesarea Maritima

Upon your arrival, we motor up the coast to the capital city of Roman Palestine, Caesarea by the Sea. This expansive city built by Herod the Great just before the birth of Jesus furnishes an experience in the worlds of Greek culture and Roman imperialism. It also sets the stage for our understandings of early Christianity, with both Jewish and Gentile influences. Important comparisons of Herod the Great with Jesus furnish an opening look at early Christians’ understanding of our Lord.

Jesus in Anticipation: Greeks, Romans, and Second Temple Judaism

Mount Carmel, Megiddo, Nazareth Precipice, Nain. Our morning opens with a drive to Mount Carmel, which bisects the land cutting off the largely Gentile north from the core of the country in the central mountain range. We begin on the highest peak of the mountain with a consideration of the encounter between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal (I Kings 18). Understanding the collision between alternative kingdoms envisioned by the kings, on one hand, and the prophets, on the other, is exceedingly important for gaining a proper foundation for Jesus’ life and teachings. We then travel along the ridge above the Jezreel Valley to the Old Testament city of Megiddo (I Kings 9:15) and a look at the Valley of Armageddon. Lots of insights and experiences here laying a foundation for the days to come. Then it’s on to the city of Nazareth. From atop the precipice south of town we lay out the battle lines of the northern tribes as they encountered the chariot forces of the Canaanites (Judges 4 and 5) and then speak about synagogue activities prior to the first Jewish revolt and the essence of Jesus’ presentation to the scholars who sought to cast Jesus from these very cliffs (Luke 4:1-16). Before settling in for the night then, we stop at the village of Nain in lower Galilee, where Jesus raised the widow’s son from the dead (Luke 7), and then traverse the hills that Jesus knew so well to our stop for several nights in the city of Tiberias on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus in Distinction: Chorazin, Mount of Beatitudes Walk, Capernaum, Tanureen stop, Boat Ride (Francis Jordan Galilee Sailing)

Then we motor on to the northwest corner of the Sea for a spectacular view of the lake, stopping at the area of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). Here we consider Jesus’ teaching in these sermons to the multitudes which came to hear him. We’ll discuss the major points of Jesus’ teaching on the Kingdom of God and its relationship to the historic covenant faith of the Jews. After this, it’s on to the Jewish town of Chorazin, once condemned by Jesus for its failure to repent. This medium-sized town gives us a complete picture of normal life in the Jewish Galilee of Jesus’ day. Then, before lunch, we stop at the ruins of Capernaum, where Jesus established a “safe house” for himself and his disciples while in the area of the Sea. Lots to take in here at this town that Jesus knew so well. Finally, after lunch, we’ll board a boat fashioned from the ferries of Jesus’ day, relaxing with modern day fishermen on the waters of the Sea. Finally, we stop at the ruins of Tiberias, part of the great urbanization of Galilee project implemented by Herod the Great’s son, Antipas, during Jesus’ teen-aged years.

Jesus in Exiting: Dan, Caesarea Philippi, Qa'alat, Nimrod (Mount of Transfiguration), Damascus Road, Kursi, Jordan River Site

This day in the region of upper Galilee moves us to the phenomenal Old Testament city of Dan. We’ll view here the spring and head waters of the Jordan River, the ruins of King Ahab’s fortress, and the “high place” of King Jeroboam where he placed the infamous Golden Calf during the early days of the northern kingdom of Israel. From here, we also view the isolated Mount of Transfiguration (Qa’alat Nimrod) in the foothills of Mount Hermon, discussing the nature of the transfiguration and its significance for Jesus and his disciples leading into the “finalizing” phase of Jesus’ ministry.. Nearby we stop at Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus tested his disciples about his messianic character (Matthew 16). We pause for lunch near the peak of Mount Hermon at the Druze village of Birket Ram. Afterwards, we cut a swath through the Golan Heights passing by the Damascus road, where Paul met the resurrected Christ. Finally, we drop back to the lake on the southern shore. Our day continues at the site of the so-called “swine miracle” on the opposite side of the Sea of Galilee at Kursi/Gergesa. Here Jesus encountered the demoniac from the Decapolis. Then a final moment before this day ends finds us at the Jordan River where it exits the sea for an Old Testament water rite together, which was celebrated at the Feast of Sukkot in ancient Israel. 

Jesus in Finalizing: Beit Shean, Qumran, New Testament, Jericho Approach, Qumran, Camel Ride

Our day begins with a move along south to the impressive remains of “The Star of the Decapolis,” Beth Shean/ Scythopolis. We’ll take some time here to walk through a day in the life of a citizen of this world famous Roman-Byzantine city. Then just before lunch we drive on to the important site of Jericho in the days of the New Testament. We’ll stand at the entrance to the royal estate where Jesus encountered the blind man Bartemaeus (Luke 18) and walk through the city where He found tax farmer Zacchaeus in a sycamore tree (Luke 19). After lunch, we move to the vicinity of the Dead Sea (400 meters below sea level!) for a visit to Qumran. Here Essene sectarians produced the famous Dead Sea scrolls, which tell us much about the state of the Hebrew Scriptures at the time of Jesus. We’ll also view some of the caves where the scrolls were found. Then before bedding down for the night in Jerusalem, we offer an opportunity to ride camels at the site of Old Testament Jericho, where the walls fell down.

Dead Sea Adventures: Ein Gedi, Masada, Qalya Beach, Jerusalem

This morning we set out from Jerusalem to the canyon where David hid from Saul at Ein Gedi. We get a full experience of desert life here and a deep sense of what water in the desert meant to the psalmists and what it still means to the people who live here. Then it’s on to the infamous fortress of Masada where in 73 AD, Zealot rebels and their families held on to the last against the 10th legion of Rome. The impressive remains here will leave a last impression about what this site means to the state of modern Israel and can mean to us as well. Afterwards, we move north again for lunch on the northern shore of the Dead Sea and then a welcome swim (or float!) in this absolutely unique body of water (35% salt!). Our day comes to an end as our bus climbs once again to holy city of Jerusalem, our residence for the duration of our stay in Israel.

Jesus in Birth: Israel Museum, Wohl Archaeological Museum, Bethlehem

We begin this day at the Israel Museum in the modern west city for a look at the Jerusalem of Jesus’ day via a 1:50 scale model of Herodian Jerusalem. This mind-boggling model is necessary for appreciating the events of Passion Week tomorrow. Before leaving the museum, we view some of the actual Dead Sea Scrolls housed in the Shrine of the Book. Then we return to the upper city and descend three meters underground to enter the palatial estates of the Sadducees, who controlled the temple religious system and the economy on which it rested in second temple Jerusalem. Then it is on to Bethlehem for lunch and some interesting shopping at a Christian shop before our day ends with a visit to the birthplace of our Lord, at one of the oldest churches in the world, the Basilica of the Nativity. Here we enter a cave where records from as early as the 2nd century AD tell us Jesus was born.

Jesus and the Passion: The Mount of Olives, Gethsemane, Upper Room Site, St. Peter of Gallicantu, The Tower of David, The Church of the Holy Sepulcher

This very meaningful day in Jerusalem begins with a panoramic view of the city from just west of Bethany, on the Mount of Olives. Here we will lay out the steps of Jesus between March 27, and April 4, in AD 33, the days of his passion. Then we walk along the pilgrim route to Gethsemane, where we’ll enter the cave of the olive press, the “place” where Jesus met in secret with his disciples on the night he was betrayed. We also find a quiet spot in the olive garden to contemplate the agonizing temptation of our Lord. Just before lunch then, we visit the site of the Upper Room where Jesus ate the Passover feast with his disciples and the immediately go to the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu, where Peter denied Jesus just outside the interrogation before Caiaphas and the authorities of the Sanhedrin. After lunch and a visit with an Armenian ceramics artist, we visit the site of the Roman trials before Pontius Pilate, where Jesus was scourged and condemned to death and walk the historical Via Dolorosa together to the site of his crucifixion and resurrection. This very emotional day ends with our hands on the bedrock that shook when the earthquake released our risen Lord from the tomb. A lavish farewell meal and a meaningful communion celebration at the hotel conclude our extraordinary experience together, a foundation for the rest of our lives. Transfer to Ben Gurion Airport, Tel Aviv, for early morning flight to JFK/NY via Istanbul (Sunday, July 5).


This morning we arrive back in the USA and transfer to our flight home with unforgettable memories to cherish always. Knowing we have walked in the footsteps of Jesus and the early Christians on such a memorable tour will bring new meaning to our Bible Reading.

No Dates for this Tour.