Jerusalem Old and New
As we stand above the Jewish cemetery on Mount Scopus we see the Old City and the Temple Mount where the Solomon’s Temple, destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BCE, and the Second Temple, destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE once stood.
Entering the Old City through the Zion Gate we pass the Armenian Quarter on our way to the Jewish Quarter and the Byzantine Cardo. Partially destroyed and unused during the Moslem conquest it had a brief new lease of life during the Crusader period. The excavated Crusader shops are now modern stores.
We stop at the Kotel, the Western Wall where Jews have prayed since the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. Built by King Herod it was a supporting wall enclosing the enlarged Temple Mount area.
The Via Dolorosa, also known as the Way of the Cross, is the route many pilgrims follow on their way to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the church built over the place of the crucifixion of Jesus and the burial tomb. Although the Byzantine church was partially destroyed during the Persians and Moslem conquests the rebuilt and redesigned Crusader Church preserved much of the earlier church.
We exit the Old City via the market and the Jaffa Gate for a short tour of the new city.
A visit to Yad VeShem, the Holocaust museum, reveals artifacts and photographs documenting the discrimination, persecution and finally the annihilation of the Jewish communities of Europe. It also remembers those righteous among the nations who risked their lives while trying to save Jews.
*Modest dress – shoulders to be covered / No shorts allowed.
*On Fridays, Saturdays & High Holidays – Holocaust Museum is closed. Visit instead Kind David’s Tomb, Hall of Last Supper & Garden of Gethsemane.
Bethlehem and Jericho
We drive south from Jerusalem in the direction of the Dead Sea on the way we pass the Inn of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37) and continue on through the Biblical wilderness of the Judean Desert. We pass Wadi Kelt and can see the 5th century Monastery of Saint George.
We pause at the mark which indicates that we have reached “sea level” and from there we continue on to Jericho 258 meters below sea level. This ancient city features in both the New and Old Testament. Joshua led his troops around the city walls until they fell (Joshua 6) and Jesus entered Jericho after his sojourn in the wilderness (Luke 19:1-10). When Jesus entered Jericho, The City of Palms, the tax collector Zachaeus climbed a sycamore tree to see him better and we stop to take a look at this ancient tree.
Jesus spent forty days and forty nights on the nearby Mount Temptation, here the devil tried to turn Jesus away from God but Jesus responded “Man shall not live by bread alone.” (Mathew 4:1-4).
Our journey takes us back towards Jerusalem and the Judean Mountains where we visit Bethlehem, both the home of Jesse, King David’s father and the place where Jesus was born (Mathew 2:1).
From Manger Square we enter through a small door into the Church of the Nativity. The church is built in the 4th century over the grotto where Jesus was born and later in the 6th century the church was reconstructed. In recent times the church has been restored and renovated. Within the church is the Grotto of the Nativity where a star marks the spot where Jesus was born; the Manger and an altar to the three Wise Men. Next we visit the Crusader Church of Saint Catherine and see the underground grotto where Saint Jerome painstakingly translated the Bible from Hebrew to Latin, creating the Vulgate.
We make another stop in Bethlehem as the Milk Grotto where Mary nursed Jesus then we leave Bethlehem and travel to Shepherds Field where an Angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds on Christmas night to tell them of the imminent birth of the savior.
*Modest dress: Shoulders to be covered / No shorts allowed.
*Bethlehem &Jericho are under Palestinian Authority Rule. In order to enter you need a valid passport.
*At the border meeting your Palestinian guide will begin the tour.
*In order to enter Palestinian Authority a change of vehicle may be necessary.
Jerusalem In the footsteps of Jesus
We start the day on the Mount of Olives were we visit the Church of the Ascension. The church marks the spot where Jesus ascended to heaven and there is a rock with an imprinted footprint thought to be where Jesus stood before his ascension (Luke 24:50 – 51). The original church built here was in 390 but most of the chapel building we see today is from the Crusader period (1150).
Nearby is the Church of the Pater Noster (Sanctuary of the Eleona), on this spot Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer. There are plaques on the walls with the Lord’s Prayer written in more than a hundred languages. We see a Crusader cloister and the grotto where Jesus would have taught. This is also where Jesus told his disciples of the eminent destruction of Jerusalem and the 2nd coming.
From the Mount of Olives we look out over the City of Gold across the ancient Jewish cemetery and to the Old City and the Temple Mount beyond. We begin to descend the mount pausing at the Dominus Flevit (the Lord Wept). It was here that Christ cried as he envisioned the destruction of Jerusalem. The Dominus Flevit was designed by architect Antonio Berluzzi to resemble a teardrop. Through the window above the altar we can see the Old City where the Second Temple once stood.
A little further along we get to the Church of All Nations and the Garden of Gethsemane. It was here that Jesus preyed before his arrest (Mark 14:32-46). The church was funded by a number of nations which each have their coat of arms displayed in decorative glass on the ceiling. The entrance is through tall columns which support a mosaic showing Jesus as the connection between God and man.
We cross the Kidron Valley and arrive at the Lion’s Gate of Jerusalem’s Old City. We see the pools of Bethesda as mentioned in the Gospel of John. We visit the Crusader Church of Saint Anne constructed above a grotto thought to be where Jesus’ mother Mary was born.
In the Convent of the Sisters of Zion we enter the cellars to see the water cistern dating back to the Second Temple. We see the Lithostratos, engraved Roman flagstones, which are part of extensive archaeological findings beneath the convent. It is believed that here Pontius Pilate stood in judgment of Jesus in the courtyard of Praetorium.
From here we set out along the Via Dolorosa retracing the route Jesus took as he carried his cross towards his crucifixion. We see some the Stations of the Cross where Jesus stopped along the Way of Sorrows. It was here that Jesus was crucified on Golgotha and Christ’s burial tomb is within the church. The vast Byzantine basilica has many alters and within the church are five of the Stations of the Cross.
* Dress code: Shoulders to be covered / No shorts allowed.
* At certain locations you will need to pay entry fees. Have small change available.
* Walking shoes are strongly recommended as the tour includes a considerable amount of walking.
Nazareth, Tiberias and Sea of Galilee
We begin our day traveling north along the coastal road parallel to the Mediterranean sea. We turn inland and drive through the Valley of Armageddon (Revelations 16:6), from here we can see Megiddo. On our way towards Nazareth we visit the Mt of Precipitation (Luke 4:28-30).
In Nazareth we visit the Church of Annunciation which was constructed on the spot where Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her she would soon be with child (Luke 1:26). Next-door we find the Church of Saint Joseph where Jesus’ father, Joseph had his carpentry.
We depart Nazareth and travel to the Sea of Galilee on the way we pass Cana where Jesus turned water into wine. (John 2:1-12). At the bottom of Mount Beatitude we visit Capernaum on the shore of the Kinneret or Sea of Galilee. Here we see the home of Peter and the Church of the Multiplication. (Mark 6:30-44).
We travel along the waterfront of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus calmed the sea and walked on the water. (Mark 4:35-41), 6:45-52)Across the water we can see the Golan Heights forming a beautiful backdrop as we pass the city of Tiberius which was settled more than 2000 years ago and named after the Roman emperor Tiberius.
We reach the southern region of the Kinneret where the Jordan River flows into the Sea of Galilee and where Jesus was baptized. Here you may be able to participate in a baptismal ceremony in the very same spot that Jesus did so many years ago. (Mark 1:9-11)
As we head south on our return journey we can see Mount Tabor where the Transfiguration took place. (Matthew 17:1-9)