A series of classes to help prepare for our journey is usually led by the pastor accompanying our Holy Land journey. These sessions meet at First UMC, in one of the adult discipleship classrooms, TBA. Tentative dates are typically published at the end of the summer. We’ll also share some travel tips each week as we build community and learn together. (Note: All are welcome to the classes. You do not need to be traveling with us to participate.)
Here is a sample of previous sessions:
Session 1: The Holy Land is a Land
We’ll get the overall lay of the Land in this first session. We will look at the route we will travel, get our bearings on the size, shape, and contour of the Land, and talk about the major geographical regions and their importance. And, of course, we will spend time in Bible study to understand what the Scriptures tell us about the Holy Land and to raise the question, Why does the physical and historical geography matter?
Session 2: Caesarea, Mt. Carmel & the Jezreel Valley, and Lower Galilee
One of our early stops in the Holy Land will be at Herod’s coastal marvel, the harbor called Caesarea Maritima. This was an important location in the ministries of both Peter and Paul, and we’ll learn why. We will also study why the Jezreel Valley (bounded by Mt. Carmel on the SW and the Nazareth Ridge to the N) was of such strategic importance in Bible times, and we’ll learn the rich history of this area where so many biblical events took place—including the annunciation to Mary, the place where Jesus grew up, and where he turned water into wine.
Session 3: Upper Jordan, the Sea of Galilee and its New Testament Towns
The Jordan River is such a key feature of the Holy Land in Scripture and today. We will talk about how the land was watered, where the Jordan’s headwaters are, and the Sea of Galilee into which it flows first. This leads us to get to know Caesarea Philippi, Banias, and Mt. Hermon in the north, the ancient grazing lands of Bashan (today’s Golan Heights) to the east, and, of course, the Sea of Galilee itself. So much action in the Gospels took place on and around the Sea, and we will learn about this region so that we can get a feel for how it unfolds.
Session 4: Jerusalem through the Ages: The Old and New Testament City
When we read or speak of ancient Jerusalem, it is important to know when in history we mean, because Jerusalem changed shapes and sizes many times. As the capital of David and Solomon’s united kingdom and later of the southern Kingdom of Judah, the capital of Roman Judea in Jesus’ time (until it was moved to Caesarea), and the place of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, this city is at the center of much of the biblical story. We’ll get to know this place called Jebus, Salem, Mt. Zion, the City of David, and many other names—one of the most archaeologically rich sites in the world.
Session 5: Hill Country of Judah, Judean Wilderness, Jericho and Masada
The landscape changes drastically to the east of Jerusalem, and this wilderness area became theologically important in the Bible. We’ll discuss the wilderness as well as the very ancient city of Jericho (both in Joshua’s OT times and in Herod’s and Jesus’ NT times). Also, we will look at Herod’s amazing mountain fortress where the Jews made their last stand against the Romans in AD 70, following the destruction of their temple in Jerusalem.
Session 6: The Dead Sea, Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls
The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth and a natural marvel. We will study the Jordan River’s “Dead End” and the nearby caves where the legendary Dead Sea Scrolls were recovered. The site is called Qumran, and we will look at and discuss these scrolls that were discovered under fascinating circumstances, and we’ll learn why they are so important to biblical studies. This will also give us an opportunity to discuss the period of Holy Land history between where the Old Testament leaves off and the New Testament picks up.
Session 7: Biblical Archaeology and the Holy Land: Digging In to Understand Biblical History
So much of what we know about history in the Holy Land comes out of the ground itself. Many of the places we will see are archaeological sites themselves. This session will focus on how archaeology in the Holy Land is carried out, what it can teach us, and what it can’t. And we will look at some of the most significant finds associated with biblical archaeology. We will also look at certain places in the Bible where archaeological results offer an especially helpful perspective. Come prepared to dig in!
Session 8: Bonus Session on Israel and Palestine Today
We have spent time in study and discussion especially of the biblical history of the Holy Land, that is, the Holy Land then. But what about the Holy Land today? We’ll bring in an expert to facilitate this session on the current state of affairs and the people of Israel and Palestine, and to help us process the modern world of the Holy Land that we have seen on our travels.