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Core 650 Study Tour to Israel

Whitworth in the Holy Lands with Whitworth University Professor Emeritus of Theology Jim Edwards, '67, and his wife, Janie Edwards, '68

May 26-June 8, 2018

Join alumni, parents and friends of the university as you experience biblical locations across sun-drenched lands and hear daily on-site instruction and lectures from acclaimed teacher and author Jim Edwards. Highlights of this tour will include traversing historic archaeological sites, learning Judaic and early Christian history, spending nearly a week exploring Jerusalem and its environs, interacting with the culture of Palestine and Israel, and recharging each evening in first-class hotels.

Proposed Itinerary (subject to change)

Day 1 – Saturday, May 26 – Flight Day

Depart the U.S. on a flight to Tel Aviv, Israel.

Day 2 – Sunday, May 27 – Tel Aviv

Arrive in Tel Aviv and transfer via coach to the hotel. In the evening we will enjoy our first group meal together.

Renaissance Hotel Tel Aviv

Day 3 – Monday, May 28 – Tiberias

Caesarea Maritima's fishhook-shaped harbor, built by Herod the Great, was ancient Israel's only harbor. Caesarea was Rome's strategic headquarter in Palestine, and the city where Cornelius, a Roman centurion, was converted (Acts 10), thus commencing the Gentile mission of Christianity.

Tel Megiddo, or Armageddon (Hebrew Har Megedon = Mount Megiddo), figures in Revelation 16:16 as the site of the conclusive battle of world history. Megiddo is one of the oldest cities in the world. Megiddo's 22 layers of civilization became the template for James Michener's The Source.
We arrive on our second night at Tiberias, on the Sea of Galilee, nearly 700 feet below sea level. The Sea of Galilee is the major geographical feature in Jesus' Galilean ministry. As the only water source in the entire region, it plays a major role in the modern politics of Israel and Syria.

U Boutique Kinneret Hotel, Tiberias

Day 4 – Tuesday, May 29 – Galilee

Today we visit primary sites where Jesus conducted his Galilean ministry. These include:

  • Mount of Beatitudes, the gently sloping hillside to the Sea of Galilee where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount to thousands of people in a natural amphitheater. We will visit the Chapel at Tabgha, which commemorates Jesus' sermon.
  • Capernaum, just north of Tabgha, is the lakeside village that Jesus made home base for his Galilean ministry. A fourth-century white-limestone synagogue is beautifully preserved on the foundation of the synagogue where Jesus worshipped. The remains of a house that likely belonged to the Apostle Peter are preserved under a modern church resembling a flying saucer.
  • We will stop to view the recent excavations at Magdala on the west shore of the sea, home of Mary Magdala, where a first-century synagogue (the oldest yet discovered) was uncovered in 2010.
  • Bethsaida, at the north of the sea, the home of four of Jesus' disciples, is also undergoing recent and exciting excavations.
  • Time permitting, we'll drive down the east shore of the sea, passing the site of Kurzi, where Jesus healed the demoniac (Mark 5), and enjoy the spectacular acropolis of Hippos, which affords the most commanding view of the entire Sea of Galilee.


Day 5 – Wednesday, May 30 – Galilee

Today we drive to northern Galilee, close to the border of Lebanon.

  • Our first stop is Hazor, an ancient city of 21 layers of civilization dating back to the third millennium B.C. and the largest archaeological site in northern Israel. Hazor was "the head of all the kingdoms" (Joshua 11:13), and was destroyed by Joshua and the Israelites in the conquest of Canaan following the Exodus.
  • Continuing to our northernmost point we visit refreshing Caesarea Philippi (Banyas), where underground water gushes out of a cave at the base of 10,000-foot Mount Hermon to form the Jordan River. Banyas was famous for its ancient pagan sanctuary to the god Pan (half god-half man). We will consider why Jesus would bring the disciples to this pagan outpost to ask them his most important theological question, "Who do you say that I am?", to which Peter declared, "You are the Christ!" (Mark 8:27ff).
  • Time and interest permitting, we will continue to Nimrod Castle, a well-preserved Crusader fortress standing sentinel over all northern Galilee.


Day 6 – Thursday, May 31 – Nazareth

Today we drive due west from Tiberias. As soon as we rise above the Cliffs of Arbel (used as hideouts by both the Maccabees and Herod the Great), a long low hill with a peak at each end will become clearly visible. This is the Horns of Hattin, where on July 4, 1187, the Muslim general Saladin defeated the Crusaders under the command of Guy de Lusignan, thus halting forever the Western Christian campaign to reclaim the Holy Land.

The three major sites today include:

  • Sepphoris, "the ornament of all Galilee" (so Josephus), which was built by Herod Antipas to showcase Hellenistic art, architecture and culture. When you see the mosaic floors uncovered in the last two decades, you'll agree. Joseph and Jesus may have labored as artisans at Sepphoris, only 2 miles from Nazareth.
  • Compared to Sepphoris, Nazareth, which is never mentioned in the Old Testament and apart from a dozen references in the New Testament is never mentioned elsewhere until the second century, was an obscure hamlet of earthen dwellings. Philip asked if anything good could come from Nazareth (John 1:46) ... and the world is still being transformed by the goodness that came from it! Two beautiful churches (one to Mary and one to Joseph) commemorate Nazareth's importance today.
  • We continue our drive to the northwest corner of the Jezreel Valley to Beth Shearim, a unique necropolis of 31 decorated catacombs cut into the hillside, where famous Jewish rabbis and leaders mentioned in the Mishnah and Talmud were buried. These niche tombs (Kokhim) will prepare us for tombs of similar style we shall see related to Jesus' burial in Jerusalem.


Day 7 – Friday, June 1 – Jericho to Jerusalem

Today we say goodbye to Galilee and set our faces resolutely for Jerusalem, following roughly the same route that Jesus and Galilean pilgrims would have taken to celebrate the various Jewish festivals in the Holy City. We will see several sights en route, some familiar and some surprising.
As we follow the Jordan River south, our first stop is Beth Shean, where, following their defeat of the Israelites, the Philistines hung the bodies of Saul and Jonathan in disgrace on the city wall, and where David sang his famous dirge (2 Samuel 1:17-27). In Jesus' day, Beth Shean was a display city of Roman architecture and military might.

Driving a short distance westward, we encounter an oasis of waterfalls and Bougainvillea and swimming pools at Gan Hashlosha, where we can refresh ourselves, before visiting the stunning mosaic flooring discovered at the nearby Beth Alpha synagogue.
Our final stop will be at Jericho, the oldest continually inhabited city on Earth, lying some 1,000 feet below sea level. Jericho was the first city conquered by Joshua in the Israelite conquest, and it is memorialized in Jesus' Parable of the Good Samaritan. You will be impressed by the remains of Herod the Great's winter palace at the mouth of Wadi Qilt, beneath nearby Monastery of St. George, chiseled into the precipitous cliffs above Jericho.

Dan Panorama Jerusalem

Day 8 – Saturday, June 2 – Jerusalem

Jerusalem! My favorite city in the world (to visit). The best way to experience the Old City is on foot – so that is how we shall begin. The Old City is a maze of narrow and crowded passageways, in and out of bazaars and monuments, a delightful overload of all your senses as you pass people from all walks of life. Jerusalem is timeless, with all history seemingly omnipresent and compressed in the city. The first time you go to Jerusalem you feel like you've been there before, and the hundredth time you go to Jerusalem it seems new.

The morning tour will be focused on what in biblical times was the Jewish Temple. We'll visit the Western Wall, which welcomes peoples of all faiths to place their hands on the immense stones in the retaining wall of Herod's temple and pray for the peace of Jerusalem. From there we climb the steps to the Temple Mount to visit the second and third most important sites in Islam, the Mosque of Omar, commonly called the Dome of the Rock, with its beautiful lapus lazuli tile exterior and golden dome. The Dome stands on the site of the former Jewish Temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70 (and has never been rebuilt), and the Al Aksa Mosque stands where Solomon's Portico in New Testament times was located.

Afternoon is free for you to walk the Old City on your own, poke in shops, eat baklava or falafel, drink Turkish coffee and soak up Jerusalem's timeless ambiance!

Afternoon Option: Visit to the Garden Tomb. Jesus was not buried there — but he should have been!

Evening Discussion: Jewish-Islamic Relations in Israel.


Day 9 – Sunday, June 3 – Bethany/Mount of Olives

Today we approach Jerusalem as Jesus would have approached it for Passover. We begin with Bethany, 2 miles east of Jerusalem below the summit of the Mount of Olives, where Jesus' friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived.

From Bethany we proceed to Bethphage at the top of the Mount of Olives for an iconic panorama of the Kidron Valley, Mount Zion, the Temple Mount and all Jerusalem.

We follow the route Jesus would have taken down the Mount of Olives to the Kidron Valley and the Garden of Gethsemane, with its ancient gnarled trees and the Church of Dominus Flevit (The Lord Wept), shaped like a teardrop, designed to the most intimate detail by the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi in 1955 to reflect the sorrow of Jesus in Gethsemane. We continue to the nearby Church of all Nations, which stands on the site of the earliest pilgrim churches built in Jerusalem.

From Gethsemane we proceed up to Mount Zion and the ancient City of David, visiting an ancient grotto beneath St. Peter in Gallicantu (St. Peter of the Cock Crow) where Jesus may have been imprisoned before his crucifixion.

We conclude our day at the Church of the Apostles, which the Crusaders built on the traditional site of the Last Supper in the Upper Room.


Day 10 – Monday, June 4 – Jerusalem/Bethlehem

We begin today with a fascinating and informative walk around a Model of Herodian Jerusalem built on a scale of 1:50 by the Jewish archaeologist and historian Michael Avi-Jonah. The Jerusalem Model is like being taken back in a time machine to Jesus' day.

We then proceed to the Israel Museum, which preserves a trove of Israel's most important and famous archaeological remains, including the originals of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in 1948 and beautifully displayed in the Shrine of the Book.

We conclude the day by the 5-mile ride to Bethlehem, where we will have to pass through the high wall dividing Israel from its non-Jewish inhabitants, to visit the Church of the Nativity, which marks the traditional site of Jesus' birth. Below the church we shall visit a little-known but intriguing cave — where St. Jerome lived and translated the Bible into the Latin Vulgate in the fourth century.


Day 11 – Tuesday, June 5 – Jerusalem

This morning we walk the famous Via Dolorosa through the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem, following the way of Christian pilgrims throughout the ages and from around the world.

We shall pause to meditate in the Church of St. Anne, a Crusader church of simplicity and dignity — "the loveliest church in the city," according to Jerome Murphy-O'Connor.

As we wind our way through the close and evocative streets of the Old City we pass other sites associated with the passion of Christ — the Fortress of Antonia, the monastery founded on the traditional site of the whipping of Jesus, and the traditional Ecce Homo arch.

Our final destination is the holiest site in Jerusalem, the Church of Holy Sepulchre, the virtually certain site of Jesus' crucifixion. Not all holy sites are beautiful: This one is cavernous, coated with a dingy patina of incense and kisses, prayers and genuflections of 18 centuries of reverent pilgrims.

Afternoon: Free. (Optional group activities may include a walk through Hezekiah's Tunnel or visit to the Jewish Holocaust Museum at Yad Vashem.)

Evening Discussion: Christians in Israel.


Day 12 – Wednesday, June 6 – Dead Sea/Masada

We are on the road again today for the climactic finale of the tour, the bus ride down to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on the surface of the planet.

Our first stop is the ruins of Qumran, an encampment beneath an odd assortment of cliff dwellings where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by accident in 1948. It was the greatest archaeological discovery related to the Bible of all time, and we'll learn why.

We then proceed south along the seaside to En Gedi, where David hid from King Saul (1 Samuel 24), and where we can take a refreshing dip in the Dead Sea. No one has ever drowned in the Dead Sea: The salinity of the Dead Sea is so buoyant that the problem is getting wet.

We crown the day — and perhaps the whole trip — with a visit to Masada, where in A.D. 66 Jewish partisans made a last and heroic stand, repelling Roman invaders for months until they could repel them no longer, and then taking their own lives, "preferring to die free men rather than live as slaves," to quote their leader Eleazar. Masada is to the modern state of Israel what Gettysburg and Valley Forge and the Alamo and the Twin Towers are to Americans.


Day 13 – Thursday, June 7 – Hill Country

Our last morning takes us northward to the Samaritan hill country where Abraham and Jacob, Joshua and Samuel, David and Amos, and Jesus and Philip left their narrative autographs. We will be hosted for lunch in Taybeh, a Christian village seeking to be a witness for the Gospel in a land divided by many rivalries.

The afternoon back in Jerusalem is free until our traditional final group dinner together.


Day 14 – Friday, June 8 – Jerusalem

Return flight to USA

Program Details

Cost of this educational program, including round-trip airfare from Seattle, is $5,500 per person. Price includes all transportation (air from Seattle, coach, transfers), lodging (assumes double occupancy), tours, tickets, departure taxes and full breakfast plus at least one additional meal each day. Air to/from Spokane as part of the same group itinerary is an additional $300.

Land-only rate (for those intending a different departure/return date or home airport other than Seattle or Spokane) is $3,900. Single-occupancy land-only rate is $5,725.

Academic credit is available upon request and is subject to additional costs.

Prices are subject to change. A $1,000 deposit per person paid by check will hold your spot and is refundable until Dec. 1. Payment in full is due by Feb. 1, 2018. We're sorry, but we cannot accept credit cards for tours. Spaces are limited, so please reserve yours now.

What's included?

  • Hotel accommodations as indicated in the itinerary or similar
  • Two meals per day minimum, including a full breakfast each morning, six lunches and all dinners. Most meals will be in restaurants specializing in the local cuisine. Includes gratuities
  • Professional, English-speaking guide
  • Air-conditioned vehicle with professional tour bus driver
  • Arrival and departure group flight transfers
  • Complete program of tours as indicated in itinerary. All entrance fees,
    admissions and parking
  • Baggage handling (porterage) at hotels
  • Bottled water in the bus during the entire program
  • Gratuities for guides and drivers

What's excluded?

  • Six lunches
  • Beverages (other than water) during included meals
  • Travel and health insurance
  • Personal expenses including hotel incidentals


Send your reservations to:

Core 650 Israel Tour 2018
Office of Institutional Advancement
Whitworth University
300 W. Hawthorne Road
Spokane, WA 99251


Please contact Tad Wisenor, assistant vice president of institutional advancement, at 509.777.4401 or