TEL AVIV — Gov. John Bel Edwards and others with him on a diplomatic mission trip to Israel this week took in several of the country's Biblically significant sites on Tuesday, including the Sea of Galilee, the ruins of Capernaum and the Baptismal site on the Jordan River.

Tuesday was a municipal election day in Israel and declared a national holiday in an effort to encourage voter turnout, so most business was put on hold, creating a scheduling break for the governor to travel to northern Israel’s historical sites.

While many Israelis were on holiday, it wasn't all sight-seeing for Edwards, who bookended his day by starting with a security briefing with soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces atop Mt. Bental, overlooking the border with war-torn Syria, and dinner with representatives from Zim Integrated Shipping Services, the largest shipper to the Port of New Orleans.

"We have business on the front end and the back end, but I'll tell you, I think it's all important," Edwards said after arriving back to his Tel Aviv hotel Tuesday night.

Edwards, a Democrat, arrived in the Middle East on Saturday along with a delegation that includes First Lady Donna Edwards, state economic development and cyber security leaders, water research and ports experts, business leaders and others. Gilda Katz, the Israeli consul general for the Southwest who invited Edwards to Israel, has accompanied the governor during the trip.

Gov. John Bel Edwards meets with Israeli water, cybersecurity leaders and visits 'Iron Dome' base

The envoy, which has been billed as an opportunity to foster research partnerships and economic development opportunities for Louisiana, will meet with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, as well as additional groups of cyber security experts.

He is scheduled to depart Israel on Thursday after a day of additional meetings with business leaders and return to Louisiana Friday morning after an overnight flight.

Edwards, who is Catholic, read Bible passages aloud at several stops Tuesday as dozens of tourists from around the world flocked to the sites. He bent down to collect water from the Sea of Galilee, which is a prominent locale in the New Testament's teachings of Jesus Christ's life; and the first lady collected bottles of water from the Jordan River, said to be Jesus' Baptism site.

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"To be able to personally visit and lay eyes on, stand on, walk on places that are so critically important to any Christian ... to actually be there by the Sea of Galilee, that was very powerful to me and Donna and I think most of the people on this trip," he said. "As you read about and hear about these places in your mind, you have this image, but to actually be there today, you can actually see why Jesus would pick that spot to deliver the Sermon on the Mount because it is spectacularly beautiful."

This is Edwards’ first time in Israel and his third major trip out of the country since taking office in January 2016. He previously traveled to the Vatican, where he met Pope Francis and met with Catholic leaders on efforts to combat human trafficking. In 2016, he led an economic development mission to Cuba.

Edwards has been an outspoken supporter of Israel — a position more typically embraced by Republicans.

Earlier this year, Edwards issued an executive order to bar the state from doing business with entities engaged in boycotting Israel out of humanitarian concerns related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the region.

Edwards, an Army Airborne Ranger and graduate of West Point, said his military background gives him a different perspective of the ongoing conflict between Israel and its neighbors.

"We've been very well treated here by a long-standing, very important partner to the United States," he said. "Certainly, I'm not going to say anything here that would question that relationship or question how they have gone about managing those conflicts that they have in this region."

Edwards on Monday visited an Israeli Defense Forces base near the Gaza Strip and was briefed on the country’s “Iron Dome” air defense system.

Standing 1,165 meters above the Syrian border on Tuesday, Edwards was briefed on the conflict in the Golan Heights region.

"That was one the government of Israel really wanted us to do so we would have a first-hand perspective on the security situation here," Edwards said. "That was an important trip."

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.