Caesarea – The Site of Major Events In the Life Paul

There are actually two cities that share the name of Caesarea. One is located near springs that feed the Jordan River and the other is Caesarea Maritima, that is found along the shores of the Mediterranean. This Caesarea was a port constructed by King Herod the Great. From its earliest times, it was predominantly a Roman settlement with a Gentile majority. In 6AD when the Romans took full control, it eventually became their capital.

Caesarea is a significant site in Christian history because this is where Pontius Pilate governed during the time that Jesus walked on earth. Today it’s known as a town on the Mediterranean coast where you can find the Caesarea National Park. Here, a Roman amphitheater and the remains of Herod’s palace are present, the same place where Paul was kept prisoner for over two years. We will explore a little about Paul, his time in Caesarea and what to expect if visiting modern day Caesarea.

The Apostle Paul

Paul, whose first name was Saul, was a devout Jew who unabashedly persecuted the early followers of Christ. His name was later changed to Paul when he had a revelation that convicted him of the truth of Jesus Christ and from here, spent the rest of his life spreading the news of Christ the Savior; writing various letters to different church congregations around the Eastern Mediterranean region.

Paul in Caesarea

Prior to arriving in Caesarea, Paul traveled to Jerusalem where he was soon arrested by Roman troops and escorted out of the city. Upon landing in Caesarea, he appeared before the Roman governor and was kept under guard for five days at Herod’s Palace where he awaited trial. He was accused by the Jews of public disorder in Jerusalem because he was believed to have brought Gentiles into the inner courts of the temple which was considered a capital offense.

Once trial proceeded, Paul defends himself and admits that he is a follower of Jesus; presenting a powerful speech before Governor Felix, Festus and King Agrippa but still ends up under house arrest by the governor as he felt further evidence was needed. As to what happened over the two years of his imprisonment, many argue over the exact details but it is believed that this is the time when Paul wrote the four epistles.

Outside of Paul’s trial and imprisonment, Caesarea is also the site known for Paul baptizing the Roman centurion Cornelius who was the first gentile to convert to Christianity, as well as being the place where Paul set off to preach the good news in communities all over the Mediterranean region prior to his two years of imprisonment.

Modern Day Caesarea

Modern day Caesarea is a diamond in the rough with much to offer. Its well engineered structures are why sites like the seacoast theater still remain to this day. If you stand in the center of the seacoast theater and speak normally, those sitting in the surrounding seats can still hear you clearly. That’s pretty impressive!

If your visit takes you along the shores of the beach near the sea palace of Pontius Pilate, you will find a hippodrome where one can learn about Roman horse races. Here you will also learn of how this amphitheater was used to feed Christians and Jews to the lions. Some of the unpleasant stories of history’s past. A Roman administrative center, bathhouse, public toilet, moat and fortress are also among the structures that still remain in this area. The most impressive though, is the port built by King Herod called the Sebastos. It was the largest seaport on the eastern Mediterranean made from volcanic ash called pozzolana.

In conclusion, today, modern day Caesarea is a bustling city of upper class community and a popular vacation spot. Boutiques and restaurants nestle themselves amongst the archeological remains, making Caesarea a visual storybook as old stones come to life and tell of times past.

An In Depth Tour of the Holy Land

An in depth tour of the Holy Land will take you to places like Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. There is so much history to tell, which is why Christians often seek to pilgrimage these areas. Enjoy the time spent and take in every facet these significant biblical landmarks.

Tour of Jerusalem

Jerusalem is located on a plateau in the Judaean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. It is surrounded on three sides by steep valleys. The Hinnom on the west and south and the Kidron on the east. You will find the golden Dome of the Rock standing on the Temple Mount, also known as Mount Moriah where Abraham set out to sacrifice his son Issac.

As a city in the Middle East, it is one of the world’s oldest cities and is considered holy by three major religions. Known as the region of Jesus’ ministry, it was also a center of religious and political affairs and a major landmark in biblical times. For Jews, Jerusalem is the city of King David and the capital of his kingdom. It is where the Temple stood and contained the Ark of the Covenant. It is also the location of the well known Western Wall. Known in recent centuries as the “Wailing Wall,” the Western Wall was built by Herod the Great as the retaining wall of the Temple Mount complex. The plaza was created as an area for prayer when Israel captured the Old City in 1967. For Christians, Jerusalem is where Christ died, was buried and was resurrected as well as being the birthplace of the first church. For Muslims it is considered holy because it is believed to be where Muhammad ascended to heaven.

Today, modern Jerusalem is a bustling city where 3.5 million visitors are known to have come just last year. A tour of Jerusalem offers different blends of sights, culture, religion, markets, synagogues, mosques and churches.

Tour the Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee goes by many names. Lake or Sea of Tiberias, Lake Kinneret or Kinnereth and Lake Gennesaret are among them. It is the lowest freshwater lake on earth and the second lowest lake in the world. Here the Jordan River flows to and from this body of water; bringing fresh water in as well as fresh water out. It is highly regarded for its biblical associations with Jesus’ ministry and the infamous story of Jesus walking on water. Though some names refer to it as a Sea it is not a real sea but rather, out of tradition, has been coined the term. What you will find today is not much different from Jesus’ time except that the lake has experienced years of drought and is undergoing plans to ensure that it will not dry up. Your guided group tour of Israel will take you on a boat ride in the Sea of Galilee which includes the town of Migdal, the birthplace of Mary Magdalene.

Visit Bethlehem

Bethlehem is well known for being the biblical birthplace of Jesus. In Hebrew, it means ‘house of bread’. It is located in the hill country of Judah which was originally called Ephrath, Beth-lehem Ephratah or Beth-lehem-judah and Christians are familiar with its name ‘the city of David’ as it was David’s birthplace. South of Jerusalem in the West Bank, it was first noticed in scripture as the place where Rachel died and was buried directly north of the city. To the east was the setting for the story of Ruth; the fields that she gleaned and the road that she and Naomi returned to town.

Because of its history, Bethlehem is considered a very distinguished city above others. It closely neighbors Jerusalem where a well maintained highway links the two cities. Today, Bethlehem is a thriving trade town where many come to visit its roots and tour popular sites such as The Church of Nativity and Rachel’s Tomb.

Get Baptized in the Jordan River

As mentioned above, the Jordan River in the Middle East, flows north to south through the Sea of Galilee and onto the Dead Sea where it ends. This river is regarded with major significance as Jesus is known to have baptized John the Baptist in this river. It is also where the Israelites crossed into the Promised Land. The city of Jordan and Golan Heights border the river to the east and the West Bank and Israel sit to the west. Both the city of Jordan and West Bank get their names from the Jordan River. Many who come to visit this area seek to be baptized in the River Jordan because of its significance to Jesus.

These are just some of the main areas you will tour on an in depth tour of the Holy Land. Other surrounding sites such as Qumran, Ein Gedi, the Dead Sea and Masada are also toured.

15 Travel Tips When Your Planning A Trip To Israel

Planning a trip to Israel? Do you have questions about local laws, social norms, or safety concerns? It’s always a good idea to be aware of what to expect and what you should plan for when planning a trip. Traveling tips can make a big difference in your traveling experience. From getting baptized in the Jordan river, visiting the Western Wall, worshiping in the Garden of Gethsemane to taking boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, where Jesus prayed, here are 15 travel tips when planning a trip to Israel that will aid you on your trip.

Get To Know Some Of Israel’s History And Culture

Israel is a historic land with many spiritual roots. People often visit to experience different parts of the Holy Land which is an area roughly located between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Jerusalem itself, is known as the holiest city in Judaism and the ancestral and spiritual homeland of the Jewish people since the 10th century BCE. The city of Jerusalem is given special status in Jewish religious law.

Amongst its spiritual roots, Israel has also experienced many violent and traumatic wars. Some, like the holocaust, are not even fathomable or can be put into words. Knowing that a nation has undergone so much war, death and grief; it is only honorable to understand some of its history upon visiting.

Friday Through Saturday Is A Time Of Rest

For the Jewish community, the weekend falls on Friday through Saturday as they honor the Sabbath; the Jewish day of rest. It starts just before sundown on Friday and goes through the night until the first three stars appear in the sky. During this time, Jewish people traditionally stay indoors, putting aside weekday stressors so they can commit themselves to higher pursuits. There are a number of activities that are prohibited during this time that can affect visitors; like electricity being shut off, closing down of restaurants and shops as well as transportation not operating. Having awareness of this Jewish custom allows for visitors to plan accordingly. One may even consider this to be a good time to visit the Western Wall where the Jews mark the start of the Sabbath.

Western Wall of Jerusalem

Be Mindful Of What You Pack

Even though Israel is mostly a liberal country, there are varying dress codes and requirements throughout some of its parts. In Tel Aviv anything goes but in places like Jerusalem, modesty is expected. Shoulder coverage and covering down to the knees is appreciated in places like Jerusalem. Having a scarf or shawl on hand is always a good idea as they can be quickly used to cover oneself if the need arises.

Traveling Throughout Israel Can Be Costly

Israel is an expensive country, so know what the current currency is going for and what you plan to buy before traveling. Researching prior to your trip on the cost of general items in the areas you’ll be visiting is a good idea.

No Need To Worry

Since July of 2018, visitors no longer need to worry about receiving the foreboding Israeli passport stamp. Instead, when you arrive you’ll have your photo taken and a barcode issued to you along with personal information on a small blue Israel visa card. This tourist card will be used at all hotels, car rental agencies and basically be your identification as a tourist. You’ll want to make sure you hang onto this card but if you lose it, don’t worry! You’ll just have to pay a tax for a new one. Upon departure you’ll be given another card similar to this but in pink. You can keep both as souvenirs, so be sure not to keep it in your passport case as it could be taken and discarded by staff upon checkout.

Expect To Be Questioned

Don’t take it personally. It’s completely normal that when you arrive you’ll be asked why you are visiting and where you are staying; along with other personal questions. On departure they’ll most likely go through your passport and question you about the stamps from countries you’ve visited if they’re wary of them. This is all normal protocol. Even being asked to step aside and dump your belongings is no concern for panic. They are just doing their due diligence in efforts to keep everyone safe.

Safety Is Important But Don’t Fret About It

Knowing anything about Israel’s history can put you on edge, however, Israel as a whole is a safe and peaceful place. Exercising natural and normal levels of caution is all that is needed. If you really want to be proactive, check in with your local government travel advisory prior to hopping on your plane to receive current news updates.

Don’t Be Surprised By Military Personnel

At the age of 18 all genders are required to serve in the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). It’s a right of passage for Israeli citizens and though once restricted, women have held positions since 1995. Today they make up 51% of Israel’s army. Seeing these military personnel on the streets should be expected. They are regarded as being a contributing factor to Israel’s economic success and safety.

Transportation

Places like Jerusalem are typically walkable cities. Most tourists expect to be on their feet much of time. But if your in need of transportation it’s good to know what’s available. Metro trams operate at different ends of the city and there is a multitude of busing options available. Shared taxis operate throughout the country as do mini bus shuttles between key destinations. For everything else there is Uber, or in this case, Gett. Its a taxi app that is the equivalent of Uber and will help you with your transportation needs.

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth so it’s a must visit if your in the area. Known for its high salt content, visitors can float effortlessly in the Dead Sea and for therapeutic purposes, you can rub some of the mud from the waters edge on your skin. Remember, it has an extremely high salt content so don’t shave beforehand.

The Best Time To Visit

It depends on why your visiting in order to answer this question. Overall, there is never a bad time to visit as Israel is a wonderful country but there are different seasons and festivals going on throughout the year that you may want to plan your trip around. Summer is considered June through September and is best for those planning to spend a lot of time at the beach. Spring comes in April through May and Autumn falls in October and November. These times are the best for touring the country. Winter lies throughout December and into March, which is perfect for those seeking to hit the highlands for skiing.

Is Tipping A Custom In Israel

Tipping in Israel is discretionary but expected like that of the Western world. The going rate is between 10-15% with 10% being the lowest, 12% average and 15% for great service. Waiters and bartenders are generally paid a low salary with the majority of their earnings coming from tips. Taxi drivers, on the other hand, are not customarily tipped.

Water Is Safe To Drink

Water in Israel is safe to drink but it does have a higher mineral content which may not sit well with your stomach. Having a bottle that you can fill or buying bottled water may be helpful if you find this to be the case. Almost all of the hotels will have a water fountain where you can fill up if you prefer to do so.

Guess What? Smoking Inside Is Allowed

Over here in the Western States we’ve grown accustomed to the ban of smoking cigarettes inside public places. In places like Tel-Aviv however, this is a normalcy, and even smoking Marjuana is allowed, so be forewarned if that’s not something you care to be around.

Beaches In Tel Aviv

Remember how we mentioned that Tel-Aviv is a lot more liberal? Well, expect that at their beaches. Most beaches around this area are themed to bring in certain people groups. Gender specific beaches, family friendly beaches and even yuppie beaches are a thing. Know what your looking to enjoy before just setting out on the water. The whole point in visiting the beach is to enjoy and embrace your vacation so don’t let the atmosphere of a specific beach ruin that for you.

All in all, almost anywhere you travel, you’ll need to have some idea of what to expect. Especially if your traveling out of the country. Israel is a beautiful country with many destinations that will fit just about anyone’s tastes. Crystal clear waters and white beaches, delectable foods, awe inspiring architecture and strong historical roots are just some of the reasons that make Israel worth visiting. But before you go, just do a little research when planning your trip, so that you can settle comfortably into your vacation. Better yet, book a group tour with an expert guide which can help to answer questions and help to make the most of your trip.

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Is it safe to plan a trip to Israel?

Get Baptized in the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized

The baptismal site, commonly known as the “Yardenit” or “Bethany Beyond Jordan” on the Jordan River is an experience of the Holy Land you will not want to miss. Many tourists will not only visit, but also choose to be baptized in the same place where John baptized Jesus Christ. This site of the Jordan River offers twelve separate baptismal pools, allowing different groups to comfortably enjoy private worship ceremonies. Every year, over half a million visitors and pilgrims from all over the world visit this site of the Jordan River upon their Holy Land tour.

Jordan River israel baptism

Things to prepare for upon visiting the Jordan River on your Holy Land Tour

  • The spring and summer, generally around May until mid-October, are the best times of the year to visit as the weather is perfect for baptizing but the Jordan River is suitable for baptizing all year round.
  • Admission is free and wheelchair accessible
  • The premises offers towels and robes for rent along with special robes for sale if you desire.
  • Visitors are required to change in the changing facilities where there are showers and dressing rooms to access, which is included with your rental or purchase of a baptismal kit.
  • A restaurant is located on the premises but you are welcome to bring your own food and water.
  • Your sure to want to capture this moment on camera so don’t forget to bring that along and you also have the option to purchase a DVD of you getting baptized.
  • Baptisms are only allowed while wearing the robes and swim suits must be worn underneath.
  • There is no resident pastor on site but one can be referred to you according to your denomination prior to your visit if you are interested.

Take a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee while on your Holy Land Tour

Some nearby places that are often in conjunction with Holy land tours along the Jordan River are the Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Kinneret. The waters of the Jordan River flow through the Sea of Galilee, near the ancient ruins of Bethsaida and out toward the Dead Sea at the lakes southernmost tip. Descending 689 feet below sea level, this lake is the lowest body of freshwater in the world and the lands surrounding it are warm in the winter and oppressively hot in the summer, making this body of water a popular and refreshing swimming spot to stop and enjoy for visitors and pilgrims when on their Holy Land Tour.

isreal boat tour
This lakes history stretches back into Biblical times, when Jesus walked on its waters and fed crowds on its shores by multiplying bread and fish to the masses. Jesus stood overlooking the lake while giving the Sermon on the Mount, which is of particular importance to the Christian world for its reiteration and elaboration on the Old Testament’s Ten Commandments. Renowned for being the beautiful waterfront where Jesus performed his miracles, the Sea of Galilee has also been acknowledged in the New Testament as a lush and rich source of fish stock for the Israelites. To this day, the Sea of Galilee supplies Israeli fishermen, in the town of Tiberias, with enough freshwater fish to be sold commercially. For all its beauty and splendor and for the rich history that it harbors, the Sea of Galilee is a sight not to be missed by anyone embarking on a biblical tour to the Holy Land.

Other Holy Land tour sites to visit along the Jordan River

Capernaum, Tabgha, the Mount of Beatitudes, Tiberias and Kibbutz Ginosar are all within close proximity of the Jordan River when taking your Holy Land Tour. Specifically within Yardenit is the Wall of New Life. This is a unique and beautiful memoriam the celebrates the diversity of cultures all over the world. There are eighty five panels inscribed with different languages and dialects. The Wall of New Life runs along the banks of the Jordan River leading right up to the baptismal pools. Every section represents a different community where visitors have come to Yardenit, all of which are dedicated to Christians around the world who have followed their Savior, Jesus Christ, through the baptismal waters of the Jordan River.

The Olive Grove is also a must when experiencing the beauty of what the Jordan River has to offer. Community leaders are given a special opportunity to plant a tree along the Jordan River, symbolizing peace and their communities dedication to the land of Israel. Currently there are twelve trees planted along the Jordan River.  

Worship in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed the night before he was crucified

Bible Tours to the Garden of Gethsemane

The garden of Gethsemane was well known to the disciples of this time, as it is close to the natural route from the Temple to the summit of the Mount of Olives and the ridge leading to Bethany. As you can gather, the name in Hebrew means “oil press”. Oil is still pressed from the fruit today and is even used for the sanctuary lamps in Gethsemane and the pits used for making rosary beads, giving the garden a timeless and inspiring heritage. Beside the garden is the Church of All Nations, built over the rock on which Jesus is believed to have prayed in agony before he was betrayed by Judas Iscariot and arrested. About 100 metres north of the church is the Grotto of Gethsemane, where Jesus and his disciples often camped at night. In this natural grotto, it is believed, the disciples slept while Jesus prayed. A bible land tour through this rich and beautiful garden is sure to provide you with an experience for your soul as you walk around and take in these magnificent landmarks.

On your biblical land tour you can look just beyond a fence of iron tracery and see gnarled trunks of eight hoary olive trees creating a spiritual atmosphere for visitors on bible tours to the garden of Gethsemane. The present Gethsemane trees, however, were not standing at the time of Christ. The historian Flavius Josephus reports that all the trees around Jerusalem were cut down by the Romans for their siege equipment before they captured the city in AD 70. Research, reported in 2012, showed that three of the eight ancient trees dated back from the middle of the 12th century and all eight originated as cuttings from a single parent tree. The Gethsemane olive trees are quite possibly descendants of one that was in the garden at the time of Christ. This is because when an olive tree is cut down, shoots will come back from the roots to create a new tree. Whatever the datings of these ancient trees may be, the existent trees provide an immeasurable sense of what it was like in the time of Christ.

Take a Bible tour to the garden of Gethsemane, named in the New Testament as the place where Jesus went with his disciples to pray the night before he was crucified. “Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” And He took with Him, Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed.” (Matthew 37-26:36) Sitting at the foot of the Mount of Olives, the tranquil garden has magnificent ancient olive trees that are producing olives to this day.

Enjoy the video below featuring a Friendship Tours group at the private garden at the Garden of Gethsemane.

Take a Biblical tour through Capernaum where Jesus performed many of His miracles

Capernaum is set beside the Sea of Galilee in the beautiful region of Northern Israel. In Biblical times Capernaum was one of the main trading villages in the Gennesaret area. It was a vibrant, populated and prosperous part of Palestine inhabited by about 1,500 people, many of whom were fishermen. Many travelers, caravans and traders passed through Capernaum on the Via Maris, the Way of the Sea, a primary trading route. It is here in Capernaum, that Jesus met five of his future disciples; Andrew, Peter, James, John and Matthew.

 

Around the time of the Galilean Ministry years is when Jesus performed many of his miracles.The paralytic man that Jesus healed is a familiar story to many of a man who was lifted down through a roof in the midst of a crowd and healed as Jesus recognized their faith. The demon possessed man who was freed and Peter’s mother in law who was healed from sickness, both found in Luke chapter 4, are among some of the other stories that we read concerning Jesus miracles.

 

It is in Capernaum where many believe to be the place Jesus fulfilled Messianic prophecy (Isaiah 53:4) (Matthew 8:17). From healing the sick and diseased, to raising the dead and healing the blind you will find scripture upon scripture throughout the gospels referencing Capernaum, which is mentioned sixteen times within the gospels. A place known as Jesus own city,  it is also where Jesus spent much of his time sharing sermons, one in particular known as the ‘Bread of Life’ which was spoken inside the walls of this ancient synagogue.

 

What was once the home and ministry place of Jesus after leaving Nazareth, is now an archeological site where tourists can visit and learn of its rich history. Capernaum has been through many renovations since its first establishment. What is left today is only one third of its original size. Capernaum is one of Israel’s most sacred Christian pilgrimage sites where believers can sit on the stone benches in the ancient synagogue that Jesus would have sat and walk the streets he would have walked. This old city is a must see visit throughout your bible land tour. 

Experience Capernaum on our Israel Ladder of Faith Christian Heritage Tour

Visit the Place of Jesus Crucifixion on a Biblical Tour Through Jerusalem

Bible Lands Museum

Jerusalem is a city in the Middle East, located on a plateau in the Judaean Mountains between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, and is considered holy to the three major Abrahamic religions—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. A visit through the Bible Lands Museum, an archaeological museum in Jerusalem, is an exploration of the culture of these people and their faiths. Located in David’s Citadel inside Jaffa Gate you will learn a fascinating story of the world’s three monotheistic religions.

The Western Wall

Other popular bible land sites to visit are The Western Wall, Wailing Wall, or Kotel, known in Islam as the Buraq Wall, an ancient limestone wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a relatively small segment of a far longer ancient retaining wall, known also in its entirety as the “Western Wall”. A place of prayer and pilgrimage sacred to the Jewish people, it is the only remains of the Second Temple of Jerusalem held to be uniquely holy by the ancient Jews and destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. The authenticity of the Western Wall has been confirmed by tradition, history, and archaeological research. The wall itself dating back from about the 2nd century BCE.

western wall tour israel

Calvary

Calvary or Golgotha, was according to the Gospels, a site immediately outside Jerusalem’s walls where Jesus was crucified over 2000 years ago. Matthew and Mark’s gospels translate the term to mean “place of [the] skull”. It is referred to in all four Gospels. The hill of execution was apparently near a road and not far from the sepulchre where Jesus was buried. Its exact location is uncertain, but most scholars prefer either the spot now covered by the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or a hillock called Gordon’s Calvary just north of the Damascus Gate. Wherever your feet travel you will not be able to deny the spiritual atmosphere of these biblical holy land sites.

Golgotha_calvary