Most Christian tours to Israel follow a predictable route. Begin in Tel Aviv, work your way up the coast, and spend a few days in Galilee before driving south to Jerusalem. Time is short.
But if you find yourself in Israel with a day or so to burn, you might want to try something unusual. This post will highlight 5 things to do in Israel you probably haven’t considered.
I wrote last week about volunteer opportunities for Christians in Israel—a wonderful way to demonstrate our faith in the land we call holy.
Whether you’re into learning, walking, climbing, talking, or thinking you’ll likely find one of these uncommon activities inviting.
Most Christians who travel to Israel go to experience the land of the Bible—and they should. But there’s a unique way to experience Israel that 99% of visitors don’t get to do.
(Picture: Volunteers at the excavations at Khirbet el-Maqatir, Israel.)
Not long ago the Israel Ministry of Tourism asked me to identify some volunteer activities that Christians would enjoy. These range from activities any tour could do in a couple of hours to volunteer opportunities that last for months, depending on one’s availability, ability, or interest.
Obviously, you don’t have to be a Christian to participate in these volunteer opportunities in Israel, but here are 15 I think you would enjoy.
Your pastor likely has never seen the places he preaches about each week: the holy city of Jerusalem, the waves on the Sea of Galilee, the rocky slopes of the Judean wilderness. You can change that.
To your pastor, these places may be mere words on the pages of his Bible—places he’s experienced only in his mind’s eye through pictures, Bible atlases, and travel videos.
Your pastor’s seminary gave him the biblical languages. But YOU can give him the Bible lands.
It’s easier than you think. Here’s how.
Have you noticed how often hymn writers use the Jordan River as a metaphor for transitions in the spiritual life? That may be because the Bible does the same.
The Jordan River usually flowed a hundred feet wide at the place across from Jericho where Israel crossed over into Canaan after the Exodus (Joshua 3:14–4:23). But because the Israelites crossed at flood stage, the river surged much wider and deeper.
- When the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped into the Jordan, the water ceased its flow 16 miles upstream.
- This left a stretch of dry land some 20 miles wide for the nation to cross en masse, perhaps several thousand abreast.
Joshua compared the miracle of the parting of the Jordan River with the miraculous parting of the Red Sea (Joshua 4:23). He linked the power of God that allowed them to enter Canaan with the power that freed them from Egypt.
This was a critical comparison. Why? The same grace that redeemed them from bondage led them home.
This also reflects our own spiritual lives.
I doubt you’ll meet a person who goes to Israel without seeing Jerusalem. It’s the most important city in history, and it offers so much to see. But often, it’s seen only from this view.
There are many great views of Jerusalem. Like looking at the various facets of a diamond, each direction offers a different perspective on the same city.
Here are 4 views of Jerusalem every visitor should see—from the north, south, east, and west.
Good news: 3 of the views are free.
Anyone who wants a taste of the environs the Hebrews experienced during their wilderness wanderings needs to visit southern Israel. Here you can see far.
For instance, in the southern Wildernesses of Paran and Zin the ground is composed of flint and sharp rocks, gravel, and soil with deep cracks.
- Here the Hebrews wandered for four long decades (Numbers 10:12; 12:16).
- From here Moses sent the spies out to check out the Promised Land (Numbers 13:1-3).
- Four centuries earlier, this wilderness saw Hagar and Ishmael after they left Abraham (Genesis 21:20-21).
This wilderness area of southern Israel lets you see far—in more ways than one.
The New Testament never records Jesus visiting Tiberias. However a number of His followers came from there (John 6:23). Today, most of His followers go there to sleep in hotels.
Mentioned only once in the Bible, the city of Tiberias rested along the western shore of the Sea of Galilee (John 6:23). For this reason the lake sometimes has been called the “Sea of Tiberias” (John 6:1; 21:1). Although Christ may never have passed through Tiberias, He would have seen it many times from the lake.
For most Christians who visit Tiberias today, the city serves as little more than a place to sleep. Modern hotels cling to the northwestern shores of the Sea of Galilee.
But there is more to see in Tiberias today than hotels.
All tours to Israel have to prioritize the sites they see. However, after the “big rocks” get put in the jar, there isn’t much room in the itinerary for much else. But there’s so much more to see.
Most pilgrims limit their seaside stops in Israel to Joppa and Caesarea along the coast. However, there are several seldom seen places by the Mediterranean coast—at Acco, Dor, and Rosh HaNikra—that offer visitors surprising benefits.
In addition to biblical history, these places offer beautiful scenery, stunning panoramas, and even a little fun.
Today we toured the sites of Beth-shean and Jericho before we made our way through the Judean Wilderness up to Jerusalem. Read about these sites below.
Also, Purim begins tonight in Israel. How interesting to be here! Purim represents more than costume parties for kids and eating triangular cookies filled with fruit. The holiday remembers the historical event in the book of Esther where the Jews survived a plot to exterminate them.
(Photo: Hand-written scroll of the Book of Esther in Hebrew. By Chefallen. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia)
My favorite part of Purim includes the reading of the book of Esther.
- It’s the only book in the Bible that never mentions God.
- It never speaks of prayer.
- It has no miracle.
- And yet it’s Scripture.
The story of Esther is built on a growing series of seeming coincidences, all of which play essential to the story.
God is never seen or spoken of—yet He works quietly behind the scenes, orchestrating His sovereign will.
Just like in our lives.
When we think of the Red Sea, we tend to picture Moses holding up his arms and dividing the waters. This body of water parted like curtains in the opening act of Israel’s history. The parting of the sea set the stage for one of history’s most incredible escapes (Exodus 14:29-31).
But this part of the Red Sea represents only half of its northernmost edges.
The sea has two fingers that point north, divided by the Sinai Peninsula. The more famous finger, the one that parted in the exodus, is the western one—today called the Gulf of Suez.
If the western finger of the Red Sea represented Israel’s beginning as a nation under God, the eastern section, or the Gulf of Aqaba, could embody Israel’s ongoing relationship with the Lord.
And it offers a spiritual lesson for those who will look below the surface.