Fly to Tel Aviv. After meeting our guide for the week we transfer to our hotel in Tel Aviv.
In the morning we drive to the city of Jaffa (or 'Joppa'), the oldest part of Tel Aviv, for a short walking tour through the picturesque streets of the old fortified town. During the walk we will pass the fabled house of Simon the Tanner, which was said to have hosted the legend of Saint Peter bringing Saint Tabitha back to life. Driving north along the coast our next stop is a visit to the archaeological ruins of the Caesarea. Built by Herod the Great in honour of Augustus Caesar this fascinating city shows evidence of a once thriving community with roads, markets, baths, temples and the construction of a deep sea harbour. Before arriving at Tiberius for the night, we visit Megiddo, the site that in the book of Revelations set the scene for an apocolyptic battle called 'Armageddon' (a name derived from the Hebrew 'Har Megiddo' meaning Mount of Megiddo).
Our day starts in the historic city of Tiberies where Jesus lived, sojourned and preached on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. After a hearty breakfast we then drive to the fishing village of Capernaum, which contains a ruin of a church said to have been the home of Saint Peter. Further north we travel to Tabga, the site of the Christ's miracle 'feeding of the 5,000'. We will visit the Church of Multiplication where a mosaic floor depicts this miracle with a basket with loaves and two fishes. From here we drive on to the Mount of Beatitudes, overlooking the sea, where Jesus preached the 'Sermon of the Mount' and where it is believed that he picked his 12 apostles. Before returning to Tiberius we will head up to the Golan Heights where were are rewarded with a fantastic panoramic view of the peaks of Mt. Hermon and the green pastoral Huleh valley.
In the morning we head to Cana to visit the wedding church where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine. From Cana we then proceed to Nazareth where Jesus speant his childhood. In Nazareth we will also visit the Church of Annunciation, built on the site where archaeologists believe the Archangel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary. From here we head on through the Jordan Valley to Beit Shean, a strategically placed city that played important roles due to its position at the junction of the Jordan River Valley and the Jezreel Valley. Much of the Roman city was destroyed by earthquake, however amongst the ruins of the town we will also see the recent beautifully excavated amphitheatre. In the afternoon we head on to Jerusalem, our base for the next four nights.
Our tour of Jerusalem starts with a visit to Yad Vashem. Established in 1953 and located on the foot of Mt. Hertzel, Yad Vashem is the official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. From here we then head to the picturesque village of Ein Karem on the south westen outskirts of Jerusalem, which is said to be the birthplace of John the Baptist. In the afternoon we head on to the Israel National Museum that holds many exceptional artifacts, most noticeably the 'Shrine of the Book' that houses the Dead Sea scrolls. These manuscripts contain the earliest known survivng copies of biblical and extra-biblical documents, as well as preservig evidence of great diversity in late Second Temple Judaism. After time at the museum we then continue on to Bethlehem and to the Church of the Nativity, passing the Knesset (House of Parliament) and the campus of the Hebrew University enroute.
Today begins with an iconic view over Jerusalem seen from the top of Mt. Scopius. From here you can really step back and take in a city that not only dominates the landscape but is also the focal point for the three major Abrahamic religions. We then head to the Mount of Olives, the site where Jesus first gave the Lord's Prayer and then on to Gethsemane where Judas betrayed Jesus. In the afternoon we will take a walk through Jerusalem's Old Town where we will visit two iconic sites, the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock. The prominent golden dome belonging to the Dome of the Rock is the roof of a shrine that houses the Foundation Stone, a spot that holds great religious significance to Muslims, Jews and Christians, with each religion claiming different accounts of its importance. The Western or 'Wailing' wall is arguably the most sacred site recognised by the Jewish faith due to it's origins of being the closest point to the Foundation Stone that Muslim authorities allowed them to pray. Just over half of the wall, including its 17 courses located below street level, dates from the end of the second temple period, commonly believed to have been constructed around 19 BCE by Herod the Great, but recent excavations indicate that the works were not finished during Herod's lifetime. It has been a site for Jewish pilgrimage for centuries; the earliest source mentioning Jewish attachment to the site dates back to the 4th Century. We then walk the Way of the Cross, the Via Dolorosa, to Cavalry and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, housing both the traditional site of the Crucifixion and the Tomb of the Resurrection. Before returning to the hotel we head southwest, just outside the Old City, to Mount Zion, with the traditonal tomb of King David and the room of the Last Supper.
Our last day takes us through the remarkable scenery of the Dead Sea to the UNESCO site of Masada, which is located on an isolated cliff in the Judean Desert. Ascending by cable car to the fortress, which was the last stronghold of the Jewish Zealots in their war against the Romans, we visit the archaeological sites such as King Herod's palace, the synagogue and bath house. En route to the Dead Sea itself we will pass the Qumran Caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls where discovered. Nearly 1,300 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on the earth's surface. Make sure you bring your swimsuit to experience a 'float' on the salty, mineral-rich water. In the evening we return to Jerusalem.
Transfer back to Tel Aviv. Fly to London.