Visiting Israel is more than just an ordinary tour; it is a faith-building journey of discovery. The Western Wall, the Via Dolorosa, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Garden Tomb and the Sea of Galilee are but some of the most popular biblical sites to visit while touring Israel on a faith journey.
If you have been to Israel before and visited all of these popular sites, maybe even multiple times, you are probably curious as to what else is there to see, since the Bible is full of great and life changing events that took place throughout the land. With a vast amount of history, archeology and culture, the small and newborn nation of Israel has much to offer…
The Galilee for example, is an ever-growing location that offers unique and important sites for Christians, featuring new discoveries around the Sea of Galilee and breathtaking sites on the Golan Heights. At Sar-El Tours & Conferences, we take special care to always include the added value of our “Sar-El Difference”; our faith-based approach, deep knowledge, Bible-based touring and the many additional services that we provide including visiting ‘off the beaten trail’ sites that others may not offer. We share just a few of these sites here with you, sites that can be a source of education and inspiration for your group on your next trip to Israel. Don’t miss out!
Bethsaida – Jordan Park
The northeastern shore of the Sea of Galilee is the location where the feeding of the 5,000 likely took place. Israeli maps and archeological excavations currently locate the New Testament city of Bethsaida at an ancient site known as “Et-Tell.”
It is believed that the towns of Bethsaida, Chorazin, Tabgha and Capernaum were home base to most of Jesus’ Galilean ministry according to the gospels, and extensive local excavations keep yielding exciting discoveries supporting the biblical claims. Though Bethsaida was a thriving and dynamic community during Jesus times, it was abandoned and forgotten for many years.
Today, visitors can enjoy the Yarden Park, where the excavations of Bethsaida lie. In addition to touring the excavations, the park offers scenic walking trails, ancient sites, aqueducts and pools as well as fun activities for the young of heart such as kayaking, water tubing and fishing within the nature reserve. Your group can enjoy leisure time in Israel while taking in recent and exciting biblical discoveries.
Harod Spring – Ma’ayan Harod National Park
Harod Spring, though only briefly mentioned in Chapter 7 of the Book of Judges, serves as the spot for one of Israel’s greatest tests of faith. In the biblical account, we read how Gideon was told by God to dismiss 22,000 of his soldiers because they were not prepared for battle. Of the remaining 10,000 soldiers, God gave specific instructions to Gideon to again decrease their number by watching how they drank from the spring of water. Only those who drank while remaining alert and on guard qualified. After sorting the soldiers based on this test, only 300 remained who were selected to fight in that miraculous battle. By following God’s instructions to the letter, Gideon and his small army gained victory over the huge Midianite forces and their entire camp.
Also known as the Well of Harod, or Gideon’s Spring, the Harod Spring is located within the Ma’ayan Harod National Park at the foot of Mount Gilboa. The spring flows from a cave that overlooks the tomb of Yehoshua and Olga Henkin. Yehoshua was a Zionist activist who purchased lands for the Zionist Organization in Ottoman Palestine in preparations for Jewish immigration and settlement, and Olga joined his historic mission after they were married.
The park offers magnificent views of the valley and particularly of the fresh water spring. Visitors are able to wade in the same spring that God used to guide Gideon’s battle. Due to the growing popularity of the site for Christian audiences, the Park Authorities welcome biblical teachings, performances and recreational activities at the spring.
Magdala, an ancient city on the western shores of the Sea of Galilee, is the birthplace of Mary Magdalene and the site of some of the Lord’s Galilean ministry. Recent archaeological excavations brought to light the biblical town that was hidden for millennia, and revealed the most important discovery in the site — and perhaps in all of Galilee: an ancient Second Temple era synagogue from the time of Jesus. It is the oldest synagogue found in the Galilee, and one of only seven synagogues from that period found in the entire country. Also discovered in the synagogue was the “Magdala Stone”, a beautifully decorated artifact that probably served as the bench upon which the scrolls of the Torah were opened for the public readings, featuring a seven-branched menorah symbol carved upon it. It is the earliest menorah to be discovered outside of Jerusalem, and profound evidence of the strong connection between the Jerusalem Temple and the smaller synagogues throughout the land.
In addition to the groundbreaking historical site and its biblical significance, Magdala is home to the Duc In Altum complex, which serves as a spiritual gathering place for prayer and worship. The unique facility includes a women’s atrium, the inspiring Boat Chapel, four beautiful Mosaic Chapels and the emotive Encounter Chapel. No doubt, a visit to Magdala draws every person of faith closer to Jesus and to His message.
Zippori (Sepphoris) – Tzipori National Park
The city of Zippori/Sepphoris is located in Lower Galilee and is considered to be the traditional birthplace of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Zippori is located just four miles from Nazareth and was destroyed in 363 AD by an earthquake but was quickly rebuilt. Given its proximity to Nazareth and commercial significance, it is safe to assume that both Joseph and Jesus often traveled to work in the affluent and busy city, arriving from the sleepy and tiny village of Nazareth.
Under Crusader rule during the 12th century, a small watchtower and church were built and dedicated to Mary’s parents, Anne and Joachim. These still remain today on the city hilltop. Excavations of the town began in 1990 that uncovered an amphitheater, synagogue, public buildings and baths, a market building, industrial installation, a complex drainage system and glass factory. Visitors are able to tour these sites at the Zippori National Park today.
Zippori, called the “Jewel of the Galilee” by historians and archeologists, had an international appeal and visitors can see the many beautiful relics which remain from the Roman and Byzantine eras. The rock-cut theater that was built at the end of the first century can hold 4,500 people with musical performances still held there today. Additionally, within the park the visitors will discover a crusader fortress and an ancient Roman villa whose floor has a famous mosaic of a woman dubbed the “Mona Lisa of the Galilee.” Visit Zippori, and thousands of years of biblical history will come to life before your eyes.
Gamla – Gamla Nature Reserve
Gamla is often referred to as the Masada of the north due to its rich story of courage, struggle for freedom and fierce resistance against the Roman pagan oppression. During the Great Revolt (66 AD – 70 AD), Gamla became a symbol of heroism for Israel as it served as the northern stronghold for Jewish resistance fighters in their struggle against the Romans. This ancient city overlooking the Sea of Galilee was founded in the third century BC and was destroyed in 67 AD when the Romans eventually seized the settlement and brought the defenders’ stand to a bitter end. Remains of the settlement are visible today at the foot of the observation deck of the Gamla Nature Reserve.
Prior to this time, Gamla was a thriving Jewish settlement and those who visit the Gamla Nature Reserve upon the Golan Heights are able to explore remains of the oldest synagogue in the world. In addition to its historical significance, the natural beauty of Gamla will capture every visitor’s heart with its stunning view of the Sea of Galilee in the distance and the tallest waterfall in all of Israel. You may even catch a glimpse of the famed eagles and vultures that inhabit the region as you wander the trails of the reserve, hearing the echoes of ancient battles and the fierce cry for freedom for all God’s children.
Sar-El Tours always provides highly-knowledgeable licensed Israeli tour guides, many of whom are believers and guide with the “Bible in hand”. Sar-El offers flexible schedules and custom tour itineraries for tour groups who desire to dig deeper and discover all that the Holy Land has to offer.