2019 Israel Tour with Covenant Retirement Communities


Have you always wanted to see the Holy Land?

Would you like to walk where Jesus walked?

Do you have a thirst to learn more about the Bible?

Would you like to see the official brochure? Click Covenant Retirement Communities Israel Brochure

To sign up for the trip online, click here and then go to Online Registration. Your online registration deposit of $300 a person can be made with a credit card. (Mercer Island folks, please go ahead and fill out a hard registration form with your campus leadership.)

The three California homes have already had their presentation. Those who live on Mercer Island will have a presentation in mid-September (listen to your announcements for details!).


Day 1: Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019: LAX OR Seattle departure

We will gather at LAX or SEATAC via bus for our Lufthansa flight. This includes snacks, drinks, and full meals along with on-board entertainment.

Day 2: Monday, Feb. 25: FRANKFURT / TEL AVIV / NETANYA

Today we arrive in Frankfurt in the afternoon (thanks in part to a 10-hour change in time) and transfer to a flight to Tel Aviv with a scheduled 7:10 p.m. arrival. We will be met by our Israel guide Andre, checking into our hotel in the coastal city of Netanya that evening. (Dinner provided on the flights.) We will be in our hotel for two nights.

Day 3: Tuesday, Feb. 26: CAESAREA / MT. CARMEL / NETANYA

Today will be a casual day, with only two sites on the agenda. This morning we proceed to Caesarea, an ancient city built by Herod the Great, to visit the Roman port, Crusader’s Moat, Hippodrome, theater, and aqueduct. We will also head over to Mt. Carmel, the site where Elijah and the priests of Baal gathered together to determine the true God. (I think we all know who won!) In the afternoon we will head back to our hotel on the Mediterranean Sea so we can relax on the beach and take it easy to prepare ourselves for the rest of the trip.


We begin the morning by going to Megiddo to check out the excavations revealing 20 different civilizations. It is better known as Har Megiddo, or “Armageddon,” according to Revelation. Next comes Nazareth Village, located in Jesus’s hometown. We travel back 2,000 years, with a chance to interact with shepherds, carpenters, and other folks living in the boyhood days of Jesus. Our final destination of the day is Bet Shean, the city where Saul was hung from the city gate. It is also known as Scythopolis, the only Decapolis city west of the Jordan River. From here, we make our way to the hotel on the shore Sea of Galilee (another 2-day stay). What a perfect location to swim in the Sea of Galilee and watch the sun rise each morning while you read your devotions on the shore!


This morning is a special time to practice the ordinance of water baptism. We make our way to the Jordan River where those who have never been baptized (or who do not remember their infant baptisms) will have a chance to give their testimony and be immersed the same way as Jesus. (If there is nobody needing baptism, we can observe others who are getting baptized.) Next, we head over to the Mount of Beatitudes to see the traditional site where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. This is the perfect time to read through Matthew 5-7 as a group and remember the words of the Savior. From here we visit Magdala–the home of Mary Magdalene–where a synagogue was recently uncovered from the time of Jesus. After this, we’ll be hungry, so let’s stop by St. Peter’s restaurant to experience a fish lunch (or chicken, if you prefer). (This is the only lunch provided on our tour.) We head over to Capernaum and visit, among other things, the excavated house where Peter lived. We’ll cap this day off by visiting the Jesus boat, which was discovered a few years ago during a drought in Israel, before boarding our own boat on the Sea of Galilee, giving us the chance to meditate, worship, and even learn a Jewish dance!


Today features a trip from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea, the lowest place on the earth. Our first stop is Qumran, the village where the Essenes lived. These people were known for compiling the Dead Sea Scrolls, with the first cave discovered in 1947. After lunch in the cafeteria, we next head over to Masada and ascend by cable car to the magnificent ruins of the fortress where, from AD 70-73, Jewish defenders made their historic stand in the Judean revolt against Rome. We then head over to the Dead Sea in the early afternoon where we have planned a special retreat at a resort hotel. Here you can enter the waters of the Dead Sea for a swim or visit the basement spa area of the hotel—just sit back and let the bubbles relax you. The dinner tonight is awesome, a relaxing evening for sure.


We head back north and make today’s first stop in Ein Gedi. This was the place where David cut off a piece of Saul’s robe in hopes of deterring the king from trying to kill him. From here, we head over to the Herodium, the palace near Bethlehem set in an artificial mountain that was built by Herod the Great and where his tomb was uncovered in 2007. Herod was visited by the Wise Men and he did what he could to prevent the “King of Kings” from being born, including killing the city’s babies. After seeing this man’s monument to himself, let’s go visit one of the possible sites for the Shepherds’ Fields—perhaps we could celebrate Christmas a bit early by singing “Silent Night” inside one of the caves! We can visit the Church of the Nativity where, in a basement cave, we will stand in the same place where the Savior was born. We will also visit the study where Jerome translated the Latin Vulgate of the Bible in the fourth century. From here we will shop at an olive wood store run by Christian believers before driving a short distance to Jerusalem and heading over to the Mt. of Olives to get our first overview of the holy city.  Our final destination is our hotel, home for the next six nights. Take everything out of your suitcase and make yourself feel at home.


We’ll begin our up-close look at Jerusalem as we head to the Western Wall, the holiest place in all of Judaism, before touring the Rabbi Tunnel, which takes us down to the very foundation of the walls. This wall is the only thing not destroyed by the Romans in AD 70. We’ll then climb up to the Temple Mount where Al Aska mosque and the Dome of the Rock are located. This is the site where the temple stood for a thousand years. We’ll go back down and head over to the Southern Steps—Jesus was certainly here just outside the temple area. It is here where we can have a sermon devotional for our Sunday, a great place to understand the significance of the Old City of Jerusalem. After lunch, we will go to Yad Vashem, the site of the Jewish Holocaust memorial where it is said, “Never again.”


We begin this morning at the Pool of Bethesda, the five-columned portico pool where Jesus healed a man in John 5. The church memorializing that event is St. Anne’s Church, which has great acoustics. Let’s sing Amazing Grace together. Next we’ll get on our bus and head to the Church of All Nation, memorializing what took place in the Garden of Gethsemane. Then we’ll drive over to the Garden Tomb and partake in communion together – it’s a service you will never forget. After lunch, we will go to the Israel Museum, where a number of important biblical artifacts can be found. It is here where we can get an overview of Jerusalem from 2,000 years ago by walking around a scale model of the city that is the size of half a football field. Here is also the Shrine of the Book, where the world’s best collection of Dead Sea Scrolls are located. We’ll go back to the hotel for dinner, and after we’re done we’ll have filmmaker/ archaeologist Joel Kramer speak to us about the science of archaeology. He is our guide for the next three days.


(With Joel Kramer) We begin our day by heading over to Jacob’s Well in Nabulus where Jesus had a conversation with the Samaritan woman (John 4). You will have a chance to drink a cup of cold water from this deep well! Our next stop is Shechem where a gate from the time of Abraham and a temple mentioned in Judges are located. After an incredible lunch in Samaria (the best one we’ll have all trip!), we take a hike to see the Israelite ruins from the capitol of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Few tourists ever see these authentic sites! We’ll end our day by going to Jericho, the city of Palms, where Joel will give us an on-site “rest of the story” to the DVD that you received for signing up on this trip. (Every family that comes receives this complimentary documentary, Jericho Unearthed.) We return back tour hotel. For those who would like to go shopping in the Old City after dinner, we can take cabs there and pick up souvenirs. For those who are interested in purchasing ancient coins and pottery, I can introduce you to two reputable dealers there in the Christian quarter.


(With Joel Kramer). We begin the day at the place of the Praetorium where the judgment by Pontius Pilate would have taken place. Let’s then journey together to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where Jesus was crucified and buried. We move to the Church of the Apostles, located near Zion’s Gate. Finally, we head over to Hezekiah’s Tunnel, which was chiseled out 2700 years ago. Haven’t you always wanted to walk through a tunnel that is 1,700 feet in length? Bring your flashlights and water shoes, as the Gihon Spring is still bringing water into Jerusalem this many years later! (NOTE: There is a shorter “dry” tunnel for those who don’t want to hike through the wet tunnel.) Just after we exit, we can see the newly dug Pool of Siloam mentioned in John 9. And for those who still have energy and can walk 80 yards up a straight hill, we can see the authentic tomb of David—no longer recognized by tourists but it has history attached to it. It’s been another big day! (Again, after dinner, anyone who would like to do some shopping in the old city can do so by taking taxis.)


On our final full day in Israel, we are going to start at Azekah, which is the hill overlooking the Valley of Elah, the place where David and Goliath fought their famous battle. We will open up the Bible and be able to see exactly what took place, including where each of the armies was located and where they fought. Next, we will go to Lachish, the second most important city in Judah that was completely destroyed by the Assyrians in the 8th century BC. In fact, we will be able to see the ramp that they built to siege the city. We will drive back to Jerusalem and have lunch in the Jewish quarter before going on a short walking tour where we will see, among other things, a street of Aelia Capitolina and the Broad Wall built by Hezekiah. We then get back on our bus and we have two options: 1) get dropped off at the Damascus Gate to do more shopping; 2) go explore a part of the Old City yourself; 3) head back to the hotel early to rest up and get packed for our early departure the next day. Those who are done with their shopping and would like to do one final hike this afternoon can decide to go with Eric Johnson to see, among other things, some ancient tombs 2,000 years old and the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu that has a dungeon where many think Christ was held during his trial. Also, we can visit the gravesite of Oskar Schindler. This walking tour is about 2.5 miles. Many choices, you choose! We head back to the hotel for dinner and our final night.

DAY 13 – Friday, March 8 – TEL AVIV/ USA

We transfer to the airport for an early flight back to Los Angeles or Seattle that day (we have our lost hours returned to us!) Knowing we have walked in the footsteps of Jesus and the early Christians on such a memorable tour will bring new meaning to our Bible reading and will enable us to better “own our own faith.” Truly this has been an unforgettable experience!

What does the price of the trip include?IMG

  • RT international transportation from LAX
  • Full-time guide / bus / driver
  • 4-star hotels
  • All admission fees
  • 2 meals a day, breakfast and dinner buffet
  • A St. Peter’s fish lunch
  • Travel Diary of the Holy Land, specifically for your trip (designed and produced by Eric Johnson–see the diary from the 2015 trip to your right)
  • Email correspondence throughout the months before the trip from Eric Johnson, including teaching, tips, video links, etc
  • A 50-day Devotional Preparation Guide
  • And so much more!
  • Not included is transportation to and from LAX, the insurance policy, most lunches, snacks, and souvenirs.


February 25-27: Leonardo Plaza in Netanya

February 27-March 1: Caesar Premier in Tiberias

March 1-2: David Resort at the Dead Sea

March 2-8: Prima Royale in Jerusalem

Actual comments from previous travelers

“Whoever goes with Eric Johnson is happy and satisfied because he cares about his passengers”–Andre Shama, Tour Guide in Israel

“This trip has so much power to change you!”

“The thrill of walking where Jesus walked and seeing the hills that Jesus preached from…it changes the way you read the Bible. It’s definitely worth it!”

“My experience on this trip was unlike any other. I will never forget what I saw and felt as we took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee — I knew I was seeing the same things that Jesus Himself saw. This was the trip of a lifetime and it was worth every cent!”

“Just wanted to take a moment to thank you for such a life changing trip. I am so grateful for your time and planning for the last 10 days. This Easter has new meaning to me now that I have walked where Jesus walked, prayed where He prayed and saw where He was sacrificed. What a gift it is to visit the Holy Land and get to fellowship with such an amazing group of people.” K.B., traveler on the March 2018 trip

2018 Video Testimonies

“There are no words to express the appreciation we have for this most outstanding trip-of-a-lifetime. Our hearts and minds are overflowing with new, deeper knowledge of the land and history of our precious Savior and Father. All glory to Him!!” –Jim and Shelley Anderson (February 2018) (click to see video)

“As I reflect back on our amazing trip and continue to try to adjust for the time zone change (smile), I just wanted to drop you a note and thank-you for the incredible journey you led. As people have been asking me about our time in Israel I am finding that it is so very difficult to put into words the dramatic impact that it had strengthening my faith and opening my understanding of God’s Word.”–Pat McCarty (March 2018) (click to see video)

“Just want to say one more time how grateful I am for your leadership of such a life-changing trip.  There is not a single person that didn’t have an incredible time, and many people’s faith grew significantly because of the experience. . . . You really did a great job at managing the details and all you did to make the trip smooth and enjoyable was noticed and appreciated.”–CVCS Superintendent Chris Rutz (March 2018) (click to see video)

Check out these additional videos from Ritch Sandford

About archaeologist Joel KramerDSC04326

Joel Kramer has led a life of adventure. (If you doubt this, just read his 2001 book Beyond Fear: A Harrowing Journey Across New Guinea through Rivers, Swamps, Jungle, and the Most Remote Mountains in the World).  Joel has produced a number of feature-length and short-length videos on a number of topics, including Mormonism, polygamy, the Worldwide Church of God, and archaeology. (You can see his DVDs on sourceflix.com.) Joel served as a pastor at the Brigham City Main Street Church before moving to Israel about a decade ago. Joel has studied archaeology at schools in Israel and has worked hands-on with top-notch archaeologists, including Shimon Gibson. Having Joel with us for three days is worth the price of admission!

Do we need passports, visas, and shots?

Passports, YES! Your passport should not expire before October 2019 or you will need to renew it. You can apply for a passport at your local post office. Do yourself a favor and obtain this before 2018! Sometimes passport deliveries are delayed and you don’t want to risk it. As far visas and shots, the answer is no to both!

Do we need the insurance policy?

I highly recommend it! This policy has several different coverages. First, it is a medical insurance policy. On two trips, I have had people trip and break or sprain their ankles. One lady who tripped on stairs in 2017 had a $1300 emergency room doctor’s bill, not including follow up care/ And then the insurance paid for 4 days the tourist was not able to come with the group, resulting in a refund of over $1,000! Second, it is good for a traveler having to cancel because of a medical issue, such as the traveler getting sick or hurt in the weeks preceding the departure date–doctor’s note required. Third, it covers in cases of the trip getting cancelled because of something like a political issue, a natural disaster, etc. Fourth, it cover something such as a lost or broken suitcase. My suitcase was broken by the airline in 2013 and I filed a claim. I received $200 for a suitcase that I purchased for $10 at a garage sale–I was paid for what the suitcase was worth. In six trips to the Holy Land, I’ve only had one suitcase lost (in 2009), and the company paid for a full replacement of the suitcase and the possessions. This is the best peace of mind you could have!

What about safety?

I have to be honest, I feel much more safe in Israel, even in the West Bank, than I do in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Washington DC, and yes, even San Diego! Nobody on my trips has ever felt threatened. Please know that, as far as I understand it, no American tourist has been killed or even seriously injured for decades by any terrorist activity while going on a pilgrimage to Israel. The entire time we are in Israel, safety will be our highest priority. If anything is ever happens in a particular area during our trip, we will avoid that place–the guide will be in constant communication with the authorities. Also understand that security is all around us, especially in sensitive areas such as Temple Mount and the Western Wall. And security is tighter in the Ben Gurion Airport than anywhere in the world. You will be safer than if you traveled to London, Paris, or Rome.

About trip organizer Eric Johnson:

Photo to the left: Eric with daughters Janelle (now a University of Utah junior) and Carissa (CHS, class of 2010, now employed by Liberty University in Virginia and soon-to-be English teacher at a Christian school) stand on the Mount of Olives overlooking the old city of Jerusalem.

Eric Johnson graduated from Christian High (El Cajon) in 1980. In 1993, he returned to the school as a teacher, serving the Home of the Patriots for 17 years as the Bible department head, Genesis adviser, and JV softball coach. In 2009, he organized his first Holy Land adventure for 45 students, teachers, and parents. This was the first of six trips that he led. In fact, more than 200 people, including a dozen pastors, have traveled to the Holy Land with him. They have learned how the Bible speaks about real people and real places while describing historical events. Eric believes that everyone should come to the Holy Land and experience this incredible place for themselves in order to make the Bible come alive. Reading God’s Word will never be the same!

Eric is married to Terri (29 years) and has three daughters. After teaching at CHS for 17 years, he moved to Utah in order to become a full-time Christian missionary to the Mormon people. (Shadow Mountain Community Church is an official supporter of MRM’s President and Founder, Bill McKeever.) He received his Master’s of Divinity degree in 1991 and has written several books, including Answering Mormons Questions (with Bill McKeever, Kregel, 2013), Mormonism 101 (with Bill McKeever, Baker Books, 2015), and Mormonism 101 for Teens (MRM, 2016). He is the co-editor of the 2018 evangelism book Sharing the Good News with Mormons (Harvest House). He is a regular contributor to the Christian Research Journal and was a contributor for the Apologetics Study Bible for Students (Holman, 2010). Since 2015 he has taught at Alta Christian Seminary (for high school students), which he and a local pastor founded. The class gathers twice a week before school begins at Alta High School in Sandy, UT to study the Bible and apologetics.

Photo to the left: Eric stands in front of the Pontius Pilate inscription and the Caiaphas family ossuary located in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

Photo to the right: Eric and daughter Hannah on the CHS/CVCS trip in 2011 after Hannah’s baptism in the Jordan River

Previous trips to Israel taken by Eric Johnson

  • 1990 (passenger on a tour led by Dr. Ronald Youngblood, my professor at Bethel Seminary San Diego and a translator of the 1978 New International Version — see photo at right–he lived at Mount Miguel with his wife until he passed away in 2015)
  • 2009 (CHS): 47 students, teachers, parents, staff from Christian High School (CHS) in El Cajon, CA in April
  • 2011 38 students, teachers, parents, staff from three different Christian high schools in March (with Joel Kramer)
  • 2012 (CHS): 43 students, teachers, parents, staff from CHS in March (with Joel Kramer)
  • 2013 (Adult): 45 adult travelers, including several pastors in February (with Joel Kramer)
  • 2015 (Adult): 18 adult travelers in February (with Joel Kramer)
  • 2017 (Adult): 55 adult travelers in February, including five pastors (Feb-March 2017) (with Joel Kramer)
  • 2018 (Adult): 27 adult travelers in February, including members from Clairemont Emmanuel Baptist Church in San Diego (with Joel Kramer)
  • 2018 (CHS/CVCS) 57 students and parents from two different Christian schools  in March (with Joel Kramer)

I encourage you to talk to anyone who has been on one of my previous trips and they will tell you, “Go!” It will be something you never regret.

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