10-day Exploring Israel Trip $3962.00
On the ground: 7 nights, 8 days, with 2 travel days. This itinerary and cost include your flight on American Airlines from ATL-TLV. Lap babies only pay airline taxes ($127.17), and kids under 13 are $200 off adult price, when staying as the third person in a room with two adults.
Latest update: 9-20-22 flight departure time has changed (arrival is the same). 2.) if you want to pay on credit card online, that is now on option, plan to add 3.5% vs. paying by check. 3). Baby cribs and adjoining rooms are available for families with small children.
The locations where we stop will remain flexible throughout our time together as no location stop can be guaranteed, thus is the nature of international travel and Israeli traffic.
Day 1 (Wednesday, Feb 1) Travel Day
Your group flight AA 3550 now departs at 4:54 pm. Meet your group at the airport American Airlines Flight Desk Domestic Terminal to check in together for your group flight. You need to check in a FULL three hours ahead of boarding, to make sure your luggage and security all goes smoothly! Be ready to line up and turn over your luggage at 1:45 PM. You'll board starting around 4:30 for your quick flight to Miami. This delayed departure means you now only have 70 minutes between flights. with this many people, you'll need to plan ahead to make 0 stops enroute to your new International Gate, before boarding your international overnight flight. There is another security check and mini-interview ("random" selection LOL, I always get picked!) conducted by Israeli Security before you start boarding. Once you pass through this, there is no food-for-purchase. So, bring any meals or snacks with you. (Because of the tight turnaround, I'm going to suggest that strollers and carryon bags are NOT gate checked, and that you use the restroom on the plane rather than the Miami airport).
Day 2 (Thursday, Feb 2) Arrival Day!
Fly and fly, and finally arrive in Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport (around 3:30 pm). Go through Foreign Entry Customs, grab your luggage, exchange any cash you want or use an ATM, then trickle through to meet Kim and our guide in the group meet up point to the far-right corner of the Entry Lobby. (Tables and chairs with space for piles of luggage, and near a rest room.) We'll load up and ride our bus to the Coastal town of Netanya. (View of the sunset over the Mediterranean Sea as we go.) About 1 hour and 10 mins to get there. After check-in and dropping our luggage in rooms, we can go to dinner in the hotel, and then enjoy a good night's sleep. One night at this hotel, Resort Hadera Hotel or similar. (Still awaiting confirmation of our rooms).
Day 3 (Friday, Feb 3) Transfer from Coast to Galilee
After a bountiful Israeli breakfast with rich Israeli coffee and juices, we will check out and load up the bus for the day. First stop is the ancient Port of Caesarea Maritima, (stroller semi-friendly). Then drive inland to Nazareth Village for a Biblical lunch experience (included) and exploring what a town might have looked like in Jesus' day. From here we drive up Mount Carmel to Muchraka, the site of Elijah and God defeating the prophets of Ba'al, and a view of the Valley of Armageddon! (did you know those were in the same place?!) We will continue to the Ron Beach Hotel for an early check in for families. Anyone who wants to go experience (or watch) will meet back in the lobby to drive back through Tiberias to the Jordan River for an optional Yardenit baptism (re-baptism) $15 USD can rent a gown and towel. Beware though, the water will be frigid! Back to the hotel for dinner.
Day 4 (Saturday, Feb 4) Christian Sites around the Sea of Galilee Day
After a nice Israeli breakfast, we will visit the Jesus-Biblical sites around the Galilee today. Today's itinerary is flexible as all sites are fairly close together, and their order will depend on the time the boat pilot is able to accommodate us. We will include a contemplative time at Magdela, the hometown of Mary Magdalene and a 2009-discovery of a 1st-century synagogue where Jesus would have preached! Then on to St. Peter's Primacy, where Jesus cooked the fish breakfast and Peter found forgiveness. Then on to Capernaum to see Peter's home near a 300-B.C. Synagogue. We'll stop to see the Jesus Boat Museum and take a 50 minute "cruise" on the Sea of Galilee. For lunch we will a restaurant where we will enjoy an included St Peter's Fish lunch (or chicken fingers etc., lol) and explore a working Kibbutz. We will be back at the hotel for our dinner. In the evening, anyone who wants can take a short walk into town to explore the boardwalk area on their own. (shopping, ice cream, street musicians, etc.)
Day 5 (Sunday, Feb 5) North to the Golan
After a nice Israeli breakfast, we begin our day with another contemplative stop at the Mount of Beatitudes. The we drive north and up into the beautiful Golan Heights. Our next stop is Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus asked Peter, “But who do you say that I am?” and discover the significance to His phrase “and the gates of hell will not prevail against (the coming of the Kingdom).” We have a paid lunch at a Lebanese restaurant planned for today. Then we have an option: A. drive to a 30-minute stair-hike to hidden Banias waterfall viewed from a hanging wooden (but very stable!) pathway bolted to a cliff wall in the forest. Or B. if our group feels more connected to climbing in the ruins of Nimrod's Castle, we can do that. Then we will head toward the border with Syria at Mount Bental to climb into a circa 1960/70s IDF bunker and view the lay of the land. The coffee shop here is called Kofi Anon, and the whole walkway to the coffee shop and bunker is decorated with creative art pieces designed from army leftovers after the Yom Kippur War of 1973. Then we drive back down to the Ron Beach Hotel for dinner. (If the boardwalk didn't work out last night, we can try again tonight).
Day 6 (Monday, Feb 6) Transfer South toward Jerusalem
Today after an early breakfast, we checkout, load the bus and head south. (There are sidewalk options for strollers everywhere today). Along the way we will stop at Bet She'an, where once David went in to remove the bodies of King Saul and his sons, later this Roman Baths spa-city became a haven for the Christian community until it collapsed and was frozen in time by an 8th century earthquake. From here we will drive a few more minutes over to Gan Ha Slosha, an Eden-like paradise of green lawns, turquoise pools (swim or wade if it's decent weather), and we will enjoy a boxed picnic lunch together here. Then we continue on to Jerusalem, stopping at the top of the Mount of Olives on our way into the city for an iconic view of the city. Those who want to walk down the mountain (very steep, but paved) can walk 15 minutes to the Garden of Gethsemane. The driver will be pulling the bus around, and those who prefer to ride, should go with him and meet back up with us for a walk through the ancient olive trees and a time of contemplation at this powerful stop. We will load back on the bus and head to our hotel, confirmed at The Dan Boutique, in Jerusalem, on Hebron Road, in time for dinner.
Day 7 (Tuesday, Feb 7) Jerusalem Walking Tour
We will start after breakfast at the Old City's Jaffa Gate to climb up to walk on top of the Old City Ramparts (walls) (bec's of many steep and uneven stairs, there is an option to walk at street level for this 45 mins and meet us) over to Zion Gate, where we will go to the Upper Room for some "Come, Holy Spirit" time and stop by King David's tomb (not much to see, but to say you were there). Then we walk down to Caiaphas's house to stand in the cistern where Jesus may have been held prisoner before his crucifixion. Then we have a highlight adventure in the City of David (active archaeological dig video) where we will change into our water shoes & submerge into a 533-meter underground tunnel containing the Gihon Spring up to 2.5 feet deep in Hezekiah’s Tunnel. It's very close quarters (as small as 16 inches wide in some places & definitely watch your head!) for~ 1 KM, and completely dark so bring a flashlight or headlamp! If you’re claustrophobic or just need a break, you’re welcome to grab an ice cream or coffee and chill or talk to some locals on the shaded patio and wait. We will come out at the Pool of Siloam and take a bus back up to the entrance of the City of David to pick up anyone as needed. There is a shorter dry tunnel for those who don't mind the underground darkness but are not interest in putting their feet in freezing water in February. Lunch today will be on your own near the Cardo (options from falafel, to juices, smoothies, to burgers and pizza and fish n chips.) Dinner back at our hotel.
Day 8 (Wednesday, February 8) Desert Wilderness Day
After an early breakfast, climb on our bus for a busy day in the desert. On our way out of town we will drive by for a bus-view of Bethlehem. We will also see the modern city of Jericho enroute. Our first stop is Masada (video), Israel’s last stand in 73 AD. [You may take a strenuous climb up the “snake path” (no snakes) in 40-50 minutes ~1800 feet from the valley floor then catch up to our group; or take the cable car to the top.] We’ll learn the story of Herod’s Fortress in the Desert and tour the massive grounds. Then we head north along the Dead Sea coastal road to Ein Gedi where David hid from King Saul and hike up to David’s waterfall. Bring wet/dry sandals for hiking and a bathing suit because you can climb into any number of enticing blue pools or waterfalls and the desert air will dry you off before you return to the bus! We will then move on to Qumron, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947. We can eat lunch at a cafeteria here (on your own) and there's some nice souvenir shopping here too.
Since we are not staying at a Dead Sea Resort, access to the silky water is not included, however, you'll have an opportunity to try a Dead Sea float at Kalia Beach. Interestingly, if you make even a small food purchase for your lunch at Qumron, the entry fee for Kalia Beach is waived! They tout themselves as the "lowest bar on earth" and that sounds like somewhere I'd like to enjoy a good Vineyard-inspired beverage.
If we have time, we may stop to see the St George's Monastery clinging to a cliff side a.k.a. "the Valley of the Shadow of Death" and where Jesus' temptation is said to have occurred. You'll have a chance to meet some Bedouin peddlers who sell their wares at the top of the cliff. Another 25-30 minutes of bus time as we "go up to Jerusalem" and read the Songs of Ascent (Psalms 121-136) together just as they did in the ancient days. Dinner will be back in our Jerusalem hotel.
Day 9 (Thursday, Feb 9) Finale Day & Transfer to Airport
After breakfast on our last day, we will check out of our hotel, load our luggage (& keep 1 room for babies that might need to stay in today) and begin our adventures with a drop off at the Kotel Plaza for a few moments of individual prayer at the Western Wall, and then walk through the Rabbinical tunnels for an underground tour of Jerusalem. We will continue from the end of this tour to the Pool of Bethesda (no water for swimming or healing anymore) and explore the ruins, and have some worship time singing in the beautiful acoustics of Saint Anne's Church. After lunch (on your own) in the Arab Quarter we walk out the Lion Gate to meet our driver who will take us over to the Garden Tomb where we will see the empty tomb, view the Place of the Skull up close, and have some alone time with the Gardener of our Souls. Then we swing by the hotel to pick up anyone who has elected to stay in today, and head to Abu Gosh, for world renown pita and a traditional Middle Eastern feast to say "la hitraot" ("see you later") to Israel on our way to the airport. The bus and guide will drop off our group at Ben Gurion Airport back near Tel Aviv. You'll pass through about 15 security checks then board your flight home. Departing at 11:15. There will be a second dinner offered on your flight, if you have room to eat again by then. :)
Day 10 (Friday, February 10) Travel Day
Today will be super long as you fly west with the night. You should arrive back home via a Miami layover by Friday morning in Atlanta at 10:32, carrying memories and pictures galore and new and deepening relationships with the Lord God of Israel and friends from your church family!
All the Details You Really
Designed specifically for Cobb Vineyard Families
Down payment via check is $1500 per person. Download a family application to snail mail with your down payment & copy of your passport picture page:
Ruth Israel Initiative
9 B Chatham Court
Pelham, AL 35124
Click this pic below to pay online via Square. When acct balance is due, this "product" will be updated.
Easy Payment Schedule:
$1500 due with each application
Balance due Nov 18 (~80 days ahead of travel).
When paying on a credit card, please plan to add 3.5% to the cost of each payment as these prices do not include any office administration fees. (see link above to use this easy pay-on-line feature.)
Families Exploration Trip Features include:
1. Fewer hotel transfers when everyone needs to be on the bus all day.
2. Coastal, Galilee, Jerusalem and Desert exploration time.
3. Development of your friendship with Jesus and each other through spiritual formation exercises on site. (Can be age adapted.)
4. Small-ish group traveling with people you know.
5. As of latest info, NO vaccination or Covid testing required. There is a "travel statement" currently used to manage info on where people are entering Israel from. We will help you navigate that in the week before we fly.
We will try one new-to-me resort hotel (in Netanya) and stay in two of my favorites in Galilee and Jerusalem. They are my favorites due to comfortable beds, friendly staff, bountiful dining room buffets, convenient locations, and beautiful views.
There is a ton to learn and catch up on, even if you know your Biblical history. This will be like a college-level course, so we require some pre-req. reading so we all have an equal grid of understanding when arriving in Israel. This easy-to-read book, Israel Basics, is included in your price and has been used as a high school Bible curriculum in the past, so it is an easy on-ramp for everyone over 12. But you don't need to bring this one with you.
You will definitely want to purchase trip insurance to ensure your travel, trip interruption, lost luggage, or emergency medical evacuation insurance. Contact your personal insurance specialist or try our favorite here: Insurance.
Check out our packing suggestions here! and ignore suggestions related to summer! We highly recommend on checked bag and one carry-on sized bag or less per person. Those with children will likely want to bring a stroller or wearable baby wrap for hands free exploring with the team. For your carry-on. We suggest a backpack that rolls for ease of transiting long international terminals. Your carry on should contain a minimum of 2 days of clothes in case of lost luggage.
For this trip, we recommend lots of warm layers, and waterproof coat and shoes, plus an umbrella. It can be rainy, sleety, or snowy in February...it can also be quite pleasant. And perhaps we will get to see the almond trees in their pink and white blossoms!
We will have a team meeting on Zoom before we leave the country to prepare you and get your questions answered.
Once you arrive, all breakfasts and dinners are included and served at the hotels where we will stay. Lunch is usually on your own (plan about $7-12/per person/day), but we have arranged for about half to be covered in this particular trip (noted in the day-by-day itinerary). All snacks are on your own. We suggest bringing a box of protein bars in case lunch is delayed by our adventures. We don't want anyone to feel hangry!
Click the link below to download your application or a spreadsheet of our itinerary.