Bible and Nature
Bible and Nature
Spring Tour (planned for the period between the last week of February and the end of April)
Day 1. Meet your local guide at Ben Gurion Airport and drive through the Sharon Plain (Isaiah 35:2) to a hotel on the shore of the Mediterranean.
Day 2. We begin the day watching birds in a coastal fishpond. We may also hope to see wild tulips. We then drive along the Mediterranean coast to Caesarea Maritima (Acts 10) to view the Herodian, Byzantine and Crusader city. We drive past Megiddo, through the Plain of Jezreel to Nazareth, visiting part of the ancient village. We end the day at the Arbel cliff, which changes its dress of flowers many times in the season, while offering a panorama of the Lake of Galilee and the main sites of Jesus’ ministry. We then drive to the lake shore for three nights at the holiday village of Kibbutz Ma’agan.
Day 3. We drive to the Christian holy places: Capernaum (Mt 4:13), the city of Jesus; Tabgha (Mt. 15:32 and Jn. 21) with the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, which has beautiful Byzantine bird mosaics; an easy ascent through carpets of flowers takes us to the Mt. of Beatitudes (Mt 5-7). We then drive to the Gamla Nature Reserve to view a battleground in the Jewish revolt against Rome (67 AD), while Griffon Vultures sail only a few feet above our heads. On the way back to Ma’agan we stop on the Golan Heights for a glorious panorama of the Sea of Galilee and the Galilean mountains beyond.
Day 4. We drive north to the Hula Nature Reserve to walk through its wide stretches of papyrus and meet pelicans, marbled teal and a wide spectrum of other birds. We shall almost certainly be able to approach nutria, see water buffalo and perhaps wild boars, as well as catfish in the lake. Further north at Caesarea Philippi (Banias) (Mt. 16:13), we follow one of the Jordan springs through colorful meadows filled with cyclamen and many other flowers. Time permitting, we may also visit the Tell Dan Nature Reserve to walk through this natural paradise and to visit the high place built when the Israelite kingdom split (1 Kgs. 12). On the way back to Ma’agan we stop to see the last of the winter’s concentration of cranes in the northern Hula Valley.
Day 5. We drive through the Jordan Valley past Beth Shean (1 Sam. 31:10) to swim in the warm springs of Gan haShlosha (Sakhne). Fully refreshed, we return to the Jordan Valley to see the huge flocks of waders in the International Birdwatching Centre at Kfar Ruppin. The journey continues through the Great Rift Valley to Jericho. Here we study the remains of what is probably the oldest city in the world. Next we experience the breathtaking drive through Wadi Qelt, with a view of St. George’s Monastery. We then drive to the Mt. of Olives for a panorama of the Old City of Jerusalem. We lodge in Jerusalem for three nights.
Day 6. Returning to the Mt. of Olives, we view the Old City in the morning light. We walk down the traditional Palm Sunday Road (Mt. 21:7-9) to Gethsemane. Crossing the Kidron Valley, we enter the Old City through the Lions’ (Stephen’s) Gate. We visit the Pools of Bethesda (Jn. 5:2) and the Early Gothic St. Anne’s Church, whose astounding acoustics bid us raise our voices in song. Next, we walk the Via Dolorosa (Way of the Cross) to the Holy Sepulcher (Mt. 27:33 and 57). In the afternoon we drive to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity (Lk.2) and the nearby Shepherds’ Fields. In the evening (having made arrangements two weeks in advance) we may visit with families.
Day 7. Today we come to the Western Wall (once called the “Wailing Wall”) and ascend the Temple Mount (1 Kings 6; Mt. 21:12-16) to visit the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third most important holy site. On Mt. Zion we visit the Dormition Abbey and the Room of the Last Supper (Mt. 26:20-29). The rest of the day is free. You may wish to visit the Shrine of the Book (entrance fee), the Holocaust Memorial Yad va Shem, or stroll at leisure through the bazaars of the Old City.
Day 8. Today we drive through the Great Rift Valley as far as the Gulf of Eilat. On the way we visit the ancient desert monastery of Qumran, presumed source of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In the oasis of Nahal David at Ein Gedi we walk through sub-tropical vegetation up to a waterfall and observe remarkable avifauna as well as ibex and hyrax (the coneys of Proverbs 30:26 and Psalm 104:18). (The resident leopard is never seen during visiting hours.) Next we visit the Herodian stronghold Masada, site of the rebels’ last stand against Rome nearly 2000 years ago. We then drive to En Boqeq to float on the Dead Sea 1350 feet (!) below sea-level. We continue south through the Arava to Eilat. Passing the Hai Bar acclimatization park, we may get a glimpse of the animals. We stay three nights at an Eilat hotel.
Days 9 and 10. On these days in Eilat:
· We visit the fabulous Marine Observatory. In the underwater tower, 14 feet below the Red Sea, we observe the shoals of multi-colored tropical fish in their coral habitat.
· We visit the Bird Ringing Station to hear about bird migration. (In the Spring of 1986, 1.2 million raptors flew over Eilat.)
· We make two visits to the mountains overlooking Eilat in hopes of observing the vast raptor migration.
· We drive at dusk to watch Sand Grouse at their human-made watering place
· We visit Solomon’s Pillars in the huge Timna erosion basin, observing Flamingo on our return.
Day 11. Driving north, we may see once more the great stream of raptors. From Mt. Hezekiah we look into Egypt’s Moon Valley with a panorama of the Gulf of Eilat. Occasional stops in the moonscape of the Negev Mountains allow us to study birds, plants and geomorphology. At Mitzpeh Ramon we look into the 25-mile-long Ramon Crater. Next we pass Avdat, where 2000 years ago Nabateans harnessed the occasional rain storms to make the desert bloom. We walk through the canyon of Ein Avdat to the spring of this oasis, then either return to the bus or climb the canyon walls with the help of ladders. At nearby Sde Boqer we visit the tomb of Ben Gurion, Israel’s first premier, with a panorama of the Zin Valley. We then drive to Jerusalem for one night’s lodging.
Day 12. Departure from Ben-Gurion Airport
There may be changes to optimize the program and to take account of new developments, weather, opening times etc.
There will always be a bus alternative to hiking.