Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Last Day Experiences

This has been a bonus day that was added after the trip was planned. We visited the Israeli Parliament Building. Interestingly Israel has no constitution and everything is decided by their Supreme Court Justices. Our guide tells us that people who live in Israel have to have an idological reason to live here because of the difficulties of conflicting cultures
and ideas.

We see Solomon's quarries from which the Temple building blocks were taken. Some of the blocks were 3 feet high, 15 feet long and several feet thick weighing over 10 tons each. The quarry looks like a huge cave but it was all hand carved out of the rocks. We also saw what is considered the Upper Room of the Last Supper and we sang hymns in the reverberating chamber.

We spend the rest of the afternoon roaming through the shops of the Old City of Jerusalem and trying to avoid being taken in by the shopkeepers. We succeeded for the most part.we enjoyed a great dinner with our touring mates before heading to the airport and starting our trip home.

Thank you for all who prayed for us. This has been a wonderful experience we pray we can share with you sometime. As they say at Passover- "Next year in Jerusalem."

Some of our Last Day

Solomon's Quarry

Old City Shopping

The Upper Room

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Last Toursday

Today (Tuesday) is the last day of visiting historic sites. We start at the Holocaust Museum--the first and largest in the world. It is terrifically moving in a terribly disturbing way. From there we travel outside Jerusalem to En Kerem the traditional site of the birth of John the Baptist. Then we travel to the Valley of Elah where David slew Goliath. Thelma picked up smooth stones from the same dry brook where David got his.

We have lunch at a famous Israeli place--McDonald's. David has a McLafel. We return to Jerusalem and see the House of Caiaphas and the pit where Jesus was held before being put on trial there. The Roman Road next to the house is very certain to be the very stones Jesus was led over from the Garden of Gethsemane when He was arrested.

We end up the day visiting the Pater Noster Catholic church on the Mt. Of Olives where a tradition says that Jesus taught His disciples to pray the Model Prayer. The Mt. of Olives overlook (viewing the Kidron Valley and the eastern wall of the Temple and the Dome of the Rock) is nearby and we all have our pictures taken on camel rides.

It's hard to believe we're coming to the end of a life changing trip. Tomorrow we prepare to leave and will spend some time (and money) in the Old City shops.

Tuesday Pictures

Schindler's Memorial

Felafel at McDonald's

Valley of Elah

Road to Caiaphas' House

Thelma Having Fun!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Marvelous Monday

We started this day on the Temple Mound. Today the Muslim, solid gold plated Dome of the Rock stands where the Temple once stood. Just outside the northern Temple walls we saw the place of the expansive and deep Pool of Bethesda, although there is no water now present. From there we crossed to the east side of the Kidron Valley to the top of the Mt. of Olives where we walked the path of Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We stopped at the Garden of Gethsemane to pray where Jesus prayed, "Not my will but Thine be done." Back across the Kidron we visited the original, small City of David. We saw the nearby Gihon Springs which provided the ancient city with water and was the place were King Solomon's ascension to the throne of his father was announced. I sloshed through the wet 1800 feet of Hezekiah's Tunnel that was used to bring water into the ancient city.

After lunch we visited the Museum of Israel which contains such significant artifacts which corroborate the Biblical record. It was a thrill to see with my own eyes the only archeological find mentioning king David, the inscription from Caesarea which names Pontius Pilate as the Prefect of Judea, the Precipice Stone from the highest corner of the Temple, and the Isaiah Scroll of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

We finished the day at Gordon's Calvary on Golgotha at the height of Mt. Moriah and we worshiped at the Garden Tomb, the very likely place Jesus' body was placed for 3 days before conquering death with His Resurrection!
Jesus' Grave is Empty

Around Jerusalem

Muslim Dome of the Rock

Olive Tree in Gethsemane

Hezekiah's Tunnel


Entrance to Garden Tomb

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Jerusalem Wailing Wall and Bethlehem Birthplace

Today we started at the Temple in Jerusalem and walked the tunnel over Herod's road along the western wall. You would think that everything that could have been found about the Temple would have been discovered already but archeologists are continually excavating and finding more. After all the Temple has been subject to centuries of destruction, burial and excavation along with periods of re-construction.

We followed the traditional stations of the cross. Tradition has 14 events whereas Scripture only records less than half that number. There are two divergent opinions for the direction of the Via Dolorosa but there are several known exact spots of Jesus' walk.

Praying at the Wailing Wall was an emotional experience to ask for God's blessing at the place He had determined for His people to pray. Sitting on the very steps where Jesus would have taught at the Temple and where Peter preached the first Gospel sermon and to see where the 3000 were baptized was thrilling.

The last part of the day we visited Bethlehem which is under Palestinian Authority. It was great to see the shepherd's fields where the angel announced Jesus' birth. Still today the most ordinary people (the bedouins) are the shepherds. God came for all people. At the church of the Nativity we saw the stone manger in the cave where the local Christians have prayed since the days of Jesus, because they understood it to be His birthplace.

We have stepped back in time visiting these places but still we have been following the One who transcends all time and meets us where we are.

Buckeye Fans are everywhere

Around the Temple and Inside Bethlehem

Praying at the Wailing Wall

Via Dolarosa

Bethlehem Shepherds' Fields

Nativity Stone Manger

Sunday Morning

We spent the morning at the Wailing Wall (the closest possible point to where the Holy of Holies was on the other side of the wall). We went through the tunnel which follows Herod's road along the western wall. We are standing at the gate at the southern end of the Temple mound. This is Huldah's Gate and the steps we're on is the place where Jesus taught people at the Temple. It is also where Peter preached the first gospel sermon on the Day of Pentecost. At the foot of these steps are a series of Jewish baptistries called Mikveh where the first 3000 Christians were baptized. There are 62 Mikvehs in this area. Jewish people immersed themselves in the waters before going into the Temple. The stairs into the Mikvehs were section right and left. They descended on the left before purification and ascended the right hand stairs purified. 3000 could have been baptized there.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

On the Sabbath in Judea

We started out today at the Mt. of Olives in order to see the dramatic view of the entire city before the rain. I can understand Jesus' anger at the merchants in the Temple because there were enough intrusive street vendors to spoil the inspiration this wonderful sight

The rest of the day we spent in the environs of the Dead Sea about an hour away. We visited the Qumran community where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered overhead in the cliff caves. In addition to Bible texts there were also 500 Temple scrolls discovered there. We visited the only natural oasis on the west side of the Dead Sea--the springs of En-Gedi and saw the Hyrax (rock badgers) and Ibex (mountain goats) for which the springs are named. It was here that David hid in the cave from King Saul. We visited the Ahava factory where the Dead Sea beauty and skin care products are manufactured. (How much would I need to erase 20 years of wrinkles?) The cable car ride was dramatic to the top of the Masada fortress where the last 936 Jews of the 66-73 AD rebellion against the Romans committed suicide. Our Jewish guide, Isaac, said in the psyche of all Jews, "There must never be another Masada."

We ended the day at the lowest spot on the face of the earth at 1300 feet below sea level. Floating on the Dead Sea is easy because of its 50-70% mineral content, but you don't need sunscreen because the atmosphere is so dense UV rays don't reach the water's surface.

More Judean Wilderness

the Cliffs of Masada

Floating in the Dead Sea

The Judean Wilderness

Barren Judean Wilderness

Qumran Cave

En-gedi Falls

The Hill of Masada

Dead Sea beyond Masada

Friday, January 14, 2011

From Galilee to Jerusalem

Early this morning we saw a 2000 year old fishing boat which was only discovered in 1986 in the Sea of Galilee near Migdal the village of Mary Magdalene. It is called "the Jesus boat" because it was sailing Galilee when Jesus was there. We traveled north through the Jordan Valley to within a mile of the Lebanon border to see Tel Dan. The Dan springs is one of the three tributaries which eventually form the Jordan River. The oldest existing city gate in human history--the 4000 year old Abram's Gate--is there. We also visited one of the other tributaries, the Hermon Springs called Banias, at the Temple of Pan in Caesarea Philippi where Peter confessed Jesus as Lord.

Traveling south along the Syrian border we stopped at the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee at the Jordan River to witness a baptism. Beit'shean was our next stop heading south. It was a major crossroads and the city where the Philistines hung the bodies of Saul and Jonathan after their defeat on nearby Mt. Gilboa. Beit'shean was a major ancient Roman city of 60,000 before being destroyed in the earthquake of 649 CE when Capernaum, Chorazin and other Galilean cities were also ruined. Jesus spoke their fate when He judged them for rejecting Him when He ministered in those cities.

Late in the afternoon we traveled along the border with Jordan through the West Bank into Palestinian Authority territory which governs areas including Jericho and Bethlehem. Our Israeli guide was not allowed to go to Jericho with us where we saw the Mt. of Temptation and a sycamore tree designated as the Zacchaeus Tree. This is a desert environment which contrasts greatly with the fertile Galilean territory we started from this morning.

We ended the day at our hotel in Jerusalem which will be our base of movements for the rest of our visit.


The Jesus Boat

Jordan River


Mt. Temptation
"Zacchaeus Sycamore"

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Today In Galilee

We started today at the Mt. of Beatitudes where Jesus gave the sermon on the mount on the slopes in front of the Sea of Galilee. It was a God moment for me to see this spot where Jesus taught thousands His basic message for living life. It is very informative to see this region where Jesus spent the majority of His life and ministry. The whole territory can be seen in one panoramic view from the Sea of Galilee. The seashore which borders all this area is surprisingly less than 30 miles long. It is only 43 miles around the whole Sea which is 8 miles wide and 13 miles long and 150 feet deep.

You can see Capernaum from the Mt. of Beatitudes. It was a prosperous town with large homes. Peter's family home may have covered 5000 square feet. The synagogue there has been rebuilt but probably on the very spot where it was in Jesus' day. The nearby Jordan River is less than 1/3 the size of the Little Miami or Stillwater at the point it feeds into the
Sea of Galilee.

We had lunch in Nazareth with the pastors and wives of the churches in this area supported by the Christian Holyland Foundation associated with our fellowship of churches. There are 150,000 evangelical Christians in all of Israel and these pastors lead 5 churches in the Nazareth/Cana area. We saw the spring where Mary with preschool age Jesus would have gotten their water. Today it is inside a Catholic church built to honor it. In Jesus' day Nazareth had about 300 residents. Today Nazareth is a city of 30,000 just because it's where Jesus was from. In downtown Nazareth we visited a site that has been developed to look like life in Jesus' day. It is owned and operated by the evangelical Christians in town. Interestingly, there is a highly respected, private Baptist high school in Nazareth. The evangelical Christians are Arabic. Messianic Jews are an even smaller population than the evangelical Christian Arabs.

This afternoon we climbed Mt. Precipice where according to tradition Jesus was taken after His sermon in the synagogue that His fellow citizens were offended by and then sought to kill Him by throwing Him from the precipice.

We ended our tour today with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee at sunset and returned to our hotel in Tiberias.

Views of Galilee

Beatitude View

Capernaum Synagogue

Peter's House

Jordan River

Mt. Precipice

Sea of Galilee

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Northwest Sights

aqueduct at Caeserea

mosaic at Sephoris
Cana in Galilee

Touring Begins

We arrived in Tel Aviv late afternoon Tuesday. On the way to our hotel we stopped at the
old port at Jaffa where Jonah got a ticket to Tarshish and where Peter was staying when he
had the sheet vision. Our hotel was on the Mediterranean.

Wednesday morning we visited Caesarea and stood on the ruins of Herod's Palace where Paul was taken into protective custody when the Pharisees in Jerusalem had a plot to assassinate him. We saw the hippodrome next to the palace where they held chariot races (demolition derby style.) We saw Herod's aqeuduct that is 8 miles long.

We had felafel for lunch and ascended atop the highest point of Mt. Carmel where Elijah contested the prophets of Baal. Mt. Carmel is actually a mountain range 15 miles long north to south and 8 miles east to west. Mt. Carmel overlooks the valley of Jezreel with Nazareth on a hill to the east and Mt. Tabor in the background. From Mt. Carmel we traveled to
Megiddo at the pass where ancient east/west and north/south caravans crossed. Tel Megiddo was destroyed in battles and rebuilt 25 times. Revelation predicts earth's final battle
taking place here.

We visited Sephoris which is 8 miles from Nazareth and probably where Joseph and Jesus plied their skilled trade as carpenter/masons. Nazareth village had 300 residents and Sephoris
30,000. We ended today's visits with a trip to Cana the site of Jesus' first miracle. We
had the serendipity of meeting the pastor of the Christian Church of Cana supported by our
fellowship. We got to see their place of worship. Our hotel for tonight and tomorrow is in
Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee 300 feet below sea level.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Our Group Waiting

Jesus' Path

Fifty years ago I began my life's journey on Jesus' pathway. It has been a good road--learning, growing, experiencing life the way our Father created it to be. I haven't been perfect with my walk, but God has been perfect in His part. Today Thelma and I start a trip to walk some of the physical roads Jesus walked.