Much like last year’s trip to Greece, I got to lead another international study tour, this time to the Israel and Jordan. It was my first time in Israel but my second time in Jordan. My parents went on a Holy Lands tour when I was 10 and I saw so many slides from that trip (yes, I said “slides”) that I felt like I had been to Israel. But nothing can compare to actually being there and seeing the places from the Bible in real life.

After arriving in Tel Aviv we drove north into Galilee, where we spent a couple days. Some of the highlights were taking a sailboat ride across the Sea of Galilee, walking down the Mount of Beatitudes, visiting Nazareth, and seeing the site tradition believes to be Peter’s house in Capernaum. We also saw the ruins of King Herod’s Palace at Caesarea, went up Mt. Carmel where Elijah had a show down with the prophets of Baal, and the town in Decapolis where Jesus met the demoniacs and cast out their demons.

One place I had never really heard of that was really cool was the ancient Roman city of Beit She’an. It is very well preserved and you could see Roman baths, the colonnade, and an amazing colosseum. You could even see the public toilets and the brilliant plumbing system they had for the time.

Next we moved down to Jerusalem and saw all the sites in that amazing city. Highlights were of course the Garden of Gethsemane, the ancient walls from the City of David, and the Western Wall (aka the Wailing Wall). We went to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where the both the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches have shrine for where Jesus was crucified and buried, as well as the Garden tomb, which was discovered in the late 1800 and many believe fits more appropriately the Biblical description of Galgotha and tomb that Jesus was buried in.

One of the coolest things we did in Jerusalem was walk through Hezekiah’s Tunnel, the tunnel dug by King Hezekiah to bring water under the city walls into the Pool of Siloam during the siege by the Assyrians. The tunnel is carved out of solid stone and runs for close to half a mile, although, walking slowly moving slowly through the dark and walking through

We visited Bethlehem and Jericho in the Palestinian West Bank, as well as the Israeli side of the Jordan River where Jesus was supposedly baptized and floated in the Dead Sea, although this time there was no time for mud treatments. We also took a trip up the tram to Masada, the Jewish mountain-top fortress that fell to the Romans in 70 AD, and the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.

We finished the tour by spending 2 days in Jordan, visiting the same sites I was at in February. We did get to spend more time in Petra, which I was thrilled about. I got to hike up some 800 stairs to The Monastery, one of Petra’s most remote temples. I also got to visit The Royal Tombs and walk down the Colonnaded Street. We even got to do Petra at Night, which was an a spectacular event. Walking through the canyon walls of the Siq with a nearly full moon out was a thing of beauty. At The Treasury, they had a cultural event with music and an amazing tea.

My experience in Holy Lands was better than I expected, even as I was working the whole time to manage the logistics for my group. It reinforced my love for the Middle East and I can’t wait until I can return, hopefully next time without the work responsibilities.