Gath Dig – Day 4 – Thursday, June 28

Gath Dig – Day 4

Iron Age wall Gath

Iron Age fortification wall at Gath

Today was another dig day. This means an early start at 5:20, arriving at the site by 5:30, and digging shortly before 6 a.m. The weather was again sunny, with morning/late morning temps in the high 80s.

Archaeological Approach

dirt pile Gath

Our growing pile of dirt at Gath

When we arrive at the site each morning, the procedure is this: Put up breakfast/break canopy; unlock chairs and tables and put them up too (seating for lunch and breaks); take all metal tools out of there trailer and that them to the area; raise the dig canopy over our area; map out a game plan for your square (in conversation with the area supervisor), and begin digging. Biblical archaeology is not rocket science, but it is science.

Archaeology is done in a way where there is certain way to dig, a certain time to use picks, hand tools, brushes, etc… There is a time to go down quickly (e.g. in order to find lower levels that may be stone walls, etc…) and a time to excavate more slowly. At all times, we are on the careful lookout for pottery, bones, and special objects.

grinding stone

A grinding stone

We also set loci (location levels) and gather pottery (and bones) into buckets from that locus. Based on the pottery and architecture uncovered (e.g. walls, whether they are mud-brick or stone), we gain a good sense of the stratification of each level we are digging through.

The Day’s Highlights

Today’s highlights in the square where I was working in were a few. First, we were able to dig through about a foot and a half of dirt today. Our objective is to hopefully find part of the gate structure that is believed to be still under us. Along the way, I have a basaltic grinding stone. This is classified as a special object. Levels were taken where it was uncovered, along with publishable pictures. Finding grinding stones is not that uncommon, but it was the first object found in our area so far.

Philistine pottery

Philistine flask

We continued to find lots of Philistine pottery as well. All totaled, we collected about 4 full buckets of pottery today, with lots of rims, bases, and bi-chrome ware. We even found a very nice top of a flash again (pictured). If we are digging in a chambered gate, the volume of pottery we are pulling from this area (maybe the gate?) should not be surprising. By the way, Philistine pottery is much different than Israelite pottery.

In our square and in the square next to us, we are hopeful that we both will be excavating down to the other side of the gate. This is at least the theory. While my last day is tomorrow, the dig continues for 3 more weeks. So hopeful some confirmation will eventually come to prove the theory correctly. 🙂

Pottery Washing & Reading

pottery from Gath

One day’s worth of pottery drying in the sun

After our watermelon break at 11 a.m., we continued to dig for another hour before packing it in for the day. We returned home for lunch and pottery washing in the afternoon. We also had our first pottery reading as well, with the experts (Dr. Erin Maeir) sitting around the table and identifying all the pottery food so far.

We also enjoyed a pizza party for dinner. Given how below par the food has been all week so far, the pizza was enjoyed by all!

Bedtime came early for most of us although some stay up and watch a World Cup soccer match. Not for this old guy! 🙂

Here are all the pictures from today.

Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018 Philistine pottery
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018 grinding stone
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018 grinding stone
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018 Philistine pottery
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018 pottery bucket
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018 fortification wall
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018 watermelon break
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018 bulk lines
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018
Gath es Safi excavation June 2018


Tomorrow is my last day to dig. An update will be shared.


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Gath Dig – Day 3 – Wednesday, June 27

Gath Dig – Day 3

Today was another early alarm clock day, getting up about 4:45 and leaving the kibbutz around 5:20. The day would be warm, with highs in the 90s. This is one reason why all excavations take place during the morning and early afternoon hours.

Highlight Discoveries

Clay flask

A spout of a Philistine clay flask

In the square where I am digging, we have an Israeli gal (Ahuva), a German gal (Ericka), and an New Zealander (John). We are digging inside an area where there may be the outer gate of the city. It it believed that already two chambers of this outer gate were uncovered in the last few seasons. Below our square is a 12th century wall (Iron Age I or IA I – 1,200 – 1,000 BC). However, towards the end of the IA I period and into the IA II period (1,000 BC – 586 BC), a gate may have been part of the fortification wall in this location.

Gath es safi dig

Work in our square (Ericka from Germany and John from New Zealand)

We moved a lot of dirt again today, much more than every other square in Area D East. We found about 10 bases of small storage jars, a rim of an oil lamp, and a spout of a flask. All totaled, our square yielded 2.5 buckets of pottery, more than any other square in our area. All of it was either IA I or IA II.

Once again, we started digging around 5:45, with a 10 minute coffee break at 7 a.m. and breakfast at 9 a.m. At 11 a.m. is our “melon” break (watermelon and cantaloupe). While working under the shade of the canopy, the air is hot. So the fruit is a nice refreshing snack!

Pottery Washing

Philistine ware

Philistine ware

We returned back to the kibbutz for lunch. At 3 p.m., we all joined in with pottery washing. Together we scrub all the pottery from the buckets taken from the site yesterday (they sit in water for a day). Not a lot of pottery was pulled yesterday, so it did not take too long. Washing pottery is a very important task, for it’s the pottery that helps us date structures (e.g. stone or mud-brick walls, and other architecture).

The rest of the day was for napping, relaxing, dinner and going to bed early! It all starts again tomorrow at 4:45 a.m.!

For all the pictures from today:

Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation Philistine pottery
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation Philistine pottery
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation Gate chamber?
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation oil lamp
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
spout flask Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation pottery washing
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation pottery washing
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation Philistine ware
Gath es Safi June 2018 Excavation pottery guide


Stay tuned for tomorrow’s update!

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Gath Dig – Day 2 – Tuesday, June 26

Gath Dig – Day 2

Today was the second day of the Gath dig and first real excavating day. We again left at 5:20 and arrived at the site for sunrise to the east. It would be a productive day of getting into our squares.

Shade Canopy Raising


Raising of the shade canopy at Area D at Gath

Shortly after arriving and unloading the equipment & tools for the day, we raised the shade canopy. Supported by about 25 poles and tension lines, we all together raised our poles and up went the canopy. Each square now in Area D is now shaded from the hot Israel sun.

The Digging Begins

So with tools in hand (picks, tareas -hoes, hand tools, spades, and brushes, etc…), we began to dig. Each square is managed by a square supervisor. The square where I am digging is located just inside the 12th century BC fortification wall. It shows promise that this was also the location of a city gate. But we’ll see what is discovered over the next 3.5 weeks. The area supervisor is Dr. Jeff Chadwick from BYU University here in Jerusalem.

Philistine ware Gath

Philistine ware

The digging begins within each square by first getting elevation readings and then determining how to continue to dig down based on last year’s records. The objective (and hope) in our square is to get down to a level that matches the possible two “chambers” protruding from the opposite wall. By the end of the day we dug down about 8-10 inches.

Of course a dirt pile was started. We discard dirt from the squares by using small buckets. We then carry them to the wheel-barrows and then dump it in one pile. From early morning to when we left the site at 1 p.m., the dirt pile is off to a good start. :). It’s getting bigger and bigger. This is the non-glamorous part of archaeology.

Buckets for pottery and bones are also used. Each piece of pottery that comes from the squares is collected in buckets and recorded. “Special finds” (e.g. objects) will get their own identification. In our square we filled about 1.5 buckets with pottery. Some pieces were large jar handles, while other pieces were classic 2-color bi-chrome ware. This type of pottery is Philistine from the 10th century. Reddish pottery (9th century BC) is also Philistine in nature.

Back to the Kibbutz

Re returned back to the kibbutz by 1:30 for lunch. We brought back the buckets of pottery from each of the squares. We filled the buckets with water and will wash and sort this pottery tomorrow. A few lectures took place this afternoon and evening.

For a complete collection of pictures from the day:



More updates tomorrow.


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Gath Dig – Arrival Day – Sunday, June 24

Gath Dig – Arrival Day

Today was “arrival day” at the Gath (Tel es Safi). This is the 23rd season for this archaeological excavation. The Director for the dig is Israeli archaeologist Dr. Erin Maeir. Gath is located in the Shephelah of Judah.


Philistines at GathWe arrived at Kibbutz Manachem. Most arrived at around noon. Some of the projects of the afternoon were to transfer the tools and equipment for the site from the storage containers near by. We also checked into our rooms, met some of the staff of the excavations, and lunch.

Tour of the Site

At 3 p.m., we bussed to the site of Gath. The tour of the entire tel was led by Dr. Maeir. We walked to the top of the site from the northern side. The site has occupation levels from Early Bronze/Canaanite (3,500 – 2,050 BC) through the Late Bronze/Canaanite (2,050 – 1,500 BC) and Iron Age I & II/Israelite periods (1,200 – 586 BC). The site of Gath was a massive city occupied by both Canaanites and Philistines. When the Philistines were here (from 1,200 – 830 BC when the city was destroyed by Hazael, the Aramean king from the north (2 Kings 12:17). The tour took nearly two hours.

Tel Gath

Tel Gath / es Safi

We returned to the kibbutz for dinner. Since we bus to the site at 5:20 a.m. tomorrow morning, it’s early to bed for most of us!

The area of excavation will be on the lower portion of the site, concentrating on Iron Age/Israelite. It is a privilege and honor to dig here this summer!

Below are more pictures from today’s tour of the site.

Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018
Gath - Tel es Safi Excavation June 2018


Updates will be posted every day.


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June 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 13 & 14


Today was our last full day in Israel. It was a hot and dry one, with high temps about 105 at the Dead Sea area and 90s later in the afternoon. 



Sunrise on the Dead Sea

Leaving the hotel just before 8 a.m. (greeted by a wonderful sunrise), we drove just a short 15 minutes to Masada. On the way we read from Psalm 18:1-2 about God being our metzada (“fortress”). The site of Masada may also have been David’s stronghold as mentioned in the last part of 1 Samuel 24.

We took the cable car to the top. From both Eli and Shlomo, we heard the remarkable story of 967 Jews who found refuge from the Romans on this “palace-fortress” from 70-73 AD (originally built by Herod the Great about 100 years prior). All but 5 of them took their own lives, convinced that this was a better way to die than to fall to the swords of the Romans.


Masada (northern palace)

On top we saw one of Herod’s palaces (he also had a three-tier northern palace), the case-mate wall, the Roman ramp (on the west side), the bathhouse, and the synagogue. Because of the heat, the Snake Path was closed, preventing us from walking down. So we all descended on the cable car.


Engedi Israel


About 15 minutes north is Engedi. Walking up into the canyon (Wadi David), we read from Songs of Songs 1 (“henna blossoms of Ein Gedi…”), 2 Chronicles 20, and 1 Samuel 24. This last story involves David hiding from Saul in one of the many caves here. We also walked back to the 2nd water falls, with some enjoying getting wet under some of the water falls. This must have also been an oasis of water back in biblical days! It is also the home of many ibex and coneys (Psalm 104). We saw many ibex!


Cave 1 Qumran

Inside Cave 1 at Qumran

The last site here in the Judean Desert along the Dead Sea was Qumran. During the lunch hour, some braved the extreme heat and hiked to Cave 1. This was where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found. Biblical scholarship changed with this discovery in 1947!

After the lunch hour, we visited the small archaeological site of Qumran. We saw any miqvot (ritual baths), the scriptorium, and the aqueduct. In front of Cave 4 (one of 12 caves now where scrolls were found), we read from “Psalm 151” (one of a few extra psalms found here at Qumran, written by David), 2 Timothy 3:16, and Psalm 19. Praise God for the preservation of His Word!

Beth Shemesh

Beth Shemesh

Beth Shemesh

From here we drove north and then west to Jerusalem. Ascending up and over Israel’s capital, we descended down on the western side to the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah. The first site (of two in this region) was Beth Shemesh. Climbing the southern end of the site, we viewed the Sorek Valley, Zorah & Eshtaol (where Samson was from, Judges 13), Timnah (where Delilah was from….it is located down the valley just a few miles to the west). We read from 1 Samuel 6 about how the Ark of the Covenant was returned here by the Philistines.

Kh. Qeiyafa


The Elah Valley (from Kh. Qeiyafa) where David defeated Goliath

Our last site of the day (and the tour) is a relatively new archaeological site called Kh. Qeiyafa. It is located along the Elah Valley. It may have been the ancient city of Shaaraim. We read from 1 Samuel 17 and could see David defeating the Goliath, the Philistine giant, in the narrow part of the valley to the east. We rejoiced together that God offers His help in all of our own battles of life!

Leaving the site, we drove west to our hotel in Tel Aviv. We enjoyed dinner together, followed by a free evening.  We pack up and leave on three different flights in the morning.


This morning we will fly home. Praise be to God for everyone He brought together!

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June 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 10


Today we left Jerusalem and drove to the border with Jordan. The weather was again predictably sunny and comfortably warm, Wirth highs around 90.

Bethany Beyond the Jordan

Bethany beyond the jordan

The view from “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” back to Jericho in Israel

It took about 50 minutes to drive to the Allenby Border Crossing. From departing Israel to completing the passport process in Jordan, the whole crossing took about two hours. On the Jordan side we met our guides, Sam and Wa’el. Driving just a short distance we arrived at Bethany Beyond the Jordan. We walked down to the Jordan River. Jesus was baptized in this area (John 1). In the days of the OT, Elijah also was taken to heaven here (2 Kings 2). We also read from Joshua 3 about the crossing of the Jordan River.

Mt. Nebo

Mt. Nebo

The view of the “Promised Land” from Mt. Nebo

Driving up the mountains of Moab, we arrived at Mt. Nebo. On the way we were delayed because of the car on fire on the side of the road. The view from on top was very good. We could clearly see the Dead Sea, Jericho, and even the taller buildings in Jerusalem! We read from Deuteronomy 31, 34, and Joshua 1. Moses died here and handed the leadership over to Joshua. His words, “Do not be afraid or discouraged…” reminded us to trust in God even though we do know know what tomorrow may bring. Nearby we stopped at a mosaic school and store. Handicapped people learn to do mosaics here. We also saw a replica of the Medeba Map, a mosaic map dating to the 6th century AD.




About an hour’s drive from here is Machaerus. This was first a Jewish-Hasmonian palace-fortress built by Jannaeus in about 100 BC. Later Herod the Great rebuilt it as one of his palace-fortresses. It would late serve as a fortress by Jewish rebels in the First Revolt (66 AD). Climbing to the top the view of there Dead Sea and the Judean Desert to the west was amazing! On top we saw the palace where John the Baptist’s head was brought (Matthew 14) as well as a few Jewish miqve (ritual baths).

Drive to Petra

Returning close to Medeba, we drove on the Desert Highway to Wadi Musa or the city of ancient Petra. It is located in the area of ancient Edom. The drive took about 3.5 hours. We stopped once on the way for snacks and bathrooms. We checked in to our very nice hotel, enjoyed dinner together, and then retired for the evening. We are excited to experience Petra tomorrow!


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June 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 9


Today was the first day of the optional extension. The weather was perfect, with comfortable highs in the mid 80s and full sun. It was our last full day here in Jerusalem.

Temple Mount

Temple Mount

The Temple Mount & Western Wall

Leaving the hotel shortly after 7:30 again, we arrived at the Western Wall. Here we stood in a short line to ascend to the Temple Mount. Going through security, we walked the ramp leading into this area where both the 1st and 2nd Temples once stood. Today stands the Dome of the Rock (built in 691 AD). We also saw the Al Asqa mosque (built 20 years after the Dome). We remembered the connections with the Bible with there Temples (Solomon’s First Temple, Jesus teaching in the Temple, Court of the Gentiles, Israelites, Chamber of Hewn Stone, Leviticsl steps, Holy Chamber, etc…). We walked to the inside of the closed Eastern Gate and departed from the western side.

Herodian Mansion

Herodian mansion

The 1st century ruins of the Herodian Mansion in the Jewish Quarter

Climbing up to the Jewish Quarter, we visited the Herodian Mansion. Wow, this was quite impressive. After Israel took the Old City in 1967, the opportunity to excavate this area opened up. The ruins are primarily from the 1st century and were destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD. The ruins displayed reveal that this mansion was owned by someone important, perhaps even the High Priest (like Caiaphas?). 


In the heart of the Jewish Quarter is a store named Shorashim. Cramming inside we heard both Dov and Moshe, two Orthodox Jews, share about Jewish customs and their faith. The Q & A time was interesting. Some of the questions touched on the topic of who the Messiah is. After about 30 minutes here, we had some free time to eat, shop, and explore (some climbed the Lutheran Redeemer Church tower for the view of the Old City.

Israel Museum

royal head Abel Beit Maacah

The new display of the royal head from Abel Beit Maacah excavation.

This afternoon we drove to west Jerusalem, we arrived at the Israel Museum. Here we saw the 1:50 model of Jerusalem the way it looked in 70 AD. We retracted the steps of Jesus in and out of this city, including the Temple courts. We also walked through the Shrine of the Book. We saw some of the Dead Sea Scroll texts displayed here. Last, we walked through the archaeological wing of the museum to see the highlights of things that connect us to the Bible. This included the newly-displayed 9th century BC “kingly head.” It was made of faience (glass-like) and reveals the head of either Ben Hadad, Hazel (Aramean kings) or even Ahab (?).

Yad Vashem – Holocaust Museum & Memorial

Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem’s Children’s Memorial

We ended the day at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum & Memorial. We heard the personal stories of both Shlomo and Eli about their families. We walked through the Children’s Memorial and later the museum. Although the experience here was quite difficult, it was very moving.

We returned to our hotel for dinner and our last optional walk (to the Promenade). We leave for Jordan tomorrow morning!


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June 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 8


Today was another great day! It was the last day for those not doing the trip extension. The sun was bright again with temps a little cooler in the high 80s today.

City of David

Hezekiah's Tunnel

Hezekiah’s Tunnel

Departing once again this morning at 7:30 after breakfast, we drove down in the Hinnom Valley to the City of David. At first we did two things: we viewed the area from an observation tower and we watched a 3-D movie about the history of the city. We focused on David’s conquering of the city of Jebus (the previous name of the city, 2 Samuel 5), and Hezekiah’s defense of the city against the Assyrians (2 Kings 20, 2 Chr. 32, Is. 36-37), the Babylonian destruction of the city (2 Chr. 36), and Nehemiah’s rebuilding of the city (Neh. 6).

We walked past David’s palace (2 Samuel 5), through the “Area G” excavations, and descending down through Warren’s Shaft (the original theory was that this was the “water shaft” up through which Joab and the rest of David’s men conquered Jebus). Arriving at the Gihon Spring (where Solomon was brought into kingship, 1 Kings 1), most walked through Hezekiah’s Tunnel (1,720 feet long) while some walked through the “dry” Canaanite tunnel. Both groups converged at the Pool of Siloam where we read from John 9 in dramatic fashion.

Drainage Channel / Jewish Quarter

Drainage channel

The Herodian drainage channel

While the bus drove some in the group up to the Southern Wall excavations, others walked up through the Herodian drainage channel back to the SW corner of the Temple. We literally walked under the Herodian stone pavement all the way back up to the SW corner of the Temple!

Southern Wall Excavations

Temple Stones

Temple stones at the SW corner

Gathering below Robinsons Arch, our focus here was to retrace the steps of Jesus here and understand more about the Temple in His day. This Temple Mount expansion project of Herod began in 20 BC, and seeing how massive these stones were was incredible. Even Jesus’ disciples made a similar comment (Mark 13:1-2). Here we saw not only massive stones, but we walked on the same Herodian pavement as Jesus did! Here at the SW corner of the Temple may have been the same location of Jesus’ temptation (some suggest the SE corner). On the southern end of the Temple we walked up the very same steps Jesus did. Sitting on the steps we recalled the stories from the NT of those who used the same steps (Mark 12, Luke 2,18; John 10; Acts 2,3,5).

Holy Sepulcher Church / Via Dolorosa / Pools of Bethesda / St. Anne’s Church


The “Edicule” at the Holy Sepulcher Church

After eating in the Jewish Quarter and an extended lunch break, we walked to the Holy Sepulcher Church. This was a church built in 325 by Helena, the mother of Constantine. We explored the church on our own before walking through the Old City. We followed the Via Dolorosa (“way of there cross” even tough the most likely route Jesus took to Golgatha was from Herod’s palace right inside Jaffa Gate today).

This took us to the Pools of Bethesda (John 5, healing of the paralyzed man) and St. Anne’s Church. This Crusader church has an amazing 8 second echo. We sounded like an angelic choir here as we sang a few songs.

From here we returned to the hotel. We enjoyed our farewell dinner together. Those leaving tonight were then escorted to the airport. The rest of the group was taken to the Western Wall Tunnels where we walked the entire length of this retaining wall. We saw the Master Course (a stone that weighs 100s of tons) as well as other large stones carefully placed. We returned to the hotel and retired for the night.


Those flying back will arrive back home after their night flight.




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June 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 7


Today was our first full day in Jerusalem. We were greeted by sunny skies and high temps this afternoon around 90.

Mt. of Olives 

Mt. of Olives

Standing on the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem

Leaving the hotel shortly after 7:30 again, we drove around the northern side of the Old City in order to make our way east to the Mt. of Olives. Our first full view of the Temple Mount and Old City from the top was spectacular!  From here we could also see the City of David (to the south), the Hurva synagogue (in the heart of the Jewish Quarter), the Holy Sepulcher Church (in the heart of the Christian Quarter), and the Eastern Gate (Ezekiel 44). Of course in the center of the Temple Mount is the Dome of the Rock (built in 691 AD). This was built on the same site as the First Temple (built by Solomon in 967 BC, Chr. 3) and the Second Temple (built by Herod the Great beginning in 20 BC).

Dominus Flavet

Dome of the Rock

Dome of the Rock / Temple Mount in Jerusalem

Walking down the slope of the Mt. of Olives we stopped at a small chapel called Dominus Flavet. This gave us a closer view of the Temple Mount. Here we read from Luke 19 (Jesus’ Palm Sunday event) and Zechariah 14 (Jesus’ second coming).

Garden of Gethsemane


Garden of Gethsemane

Further down the slope we stopped for a time of reflection in the area of the Garden of Gethsemane. We paused to read Luke 22 and John 17 as we considered the prayer of Jesus, “Not my will but yours be done…” To consider the passion of Jesus here was special!




Driving southeast from the Old City, we arrived at an archaeological site called Herodium. It was here where Herod the Great was buried. Climbing the “bowl” (artificial mound) we had a great view of the Dead Sea to the east, Tekoa to the south, Jerusalem to the north and Bethlehem to the west. We left the site by climbing down through the cistern system. We also saw where Herod’s grave was located.

Shepherds’ Fields / Bethlehem


Looking towards Bethlehem from Herodium

After eating lunch in Beit Sahour (east of Bethlehem), we visited the Shepherds’ Fields. From inside a cave, we read from Luke 2 about the birth of Jesus. He was first announced by angels and greeted by shepherds. Jesus came to be the passover lamb. Jesus came “just at the right time” (Gal. 4:4) to be the Savior of the world! We also enjoyed singing Christmas carols both in the cave and in the Shepherds’ chapel. 

Garden Tomb

Garden Tomb

Garden Tomb

Our last stop of the day was back on the north side of the Old City. Here we visited the Garden Tomb. This site developed as an alternative location for the Holy Sepulcher Church as the place for Jesus’ death and burial/resurrection. After touring the grounds and seeing the suggested tomb, we enjoyed a brief time of worship and Communion.

Following the service, some went to the Jerusalem Prayer Center close by while others bussed back to the hotel. Following dinner, an optional walking excursion to Ben Yehuda was offered. Many in the group enjoyed the shopping and ice cream! It was a great day here in Jerusalem!


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June 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 6


We checked out of our hotel this morning and left the Galilee area. The day would be sunny and hot, with highs in the low 100s.

Kinneret Cemetery

Rachel the poet

Rachel’s grave – Kinneret Cemetery

Driving towards the southern end of the lake again, we made our first stop at the Kinneret Cemetery. This was a cemetery used by early Jewish pioneers to the land. We stood around the grave of a certain Rachel (Bluwstein). She immigrated from Ukraine to Israel in 1909 and died in 1931. She is known for her poetry. She even appears on the new 20 shekel bill.

Beth Shean

Beth Shean

Beth Shean

Continuing south in the Jordan Valley, Beth Shean was our next stop. It was a massive Roman city. In the days of the Old Testament, it was first a Canaanite city (even controlled by Egyptians at times). After Saul died on Mt. Gilboa close by, his body was then hung on the walls of the OT city (1 Samuel 31). Some in the group climbed to the top of this OT tel for a great view of the Roman city below. In the Roman city we saw bathhouses, the agora, many mosaics, the colonnaded street, public latrenes, and the impressive theater. Leaving the site, we ate lunch nearby.



Swimming at Sachne

About 10 minutes from BethShean is Sachne. It is yet another national park and it was a fun extra experience! This is a spring-fed natural swimming hole. Many in the group enjoyed swimming here. The water was clean and refreshing!


Tel Jericho

Tel es-Sultan – Jericho

Continuing to the southern end of the Jordan Valley, Jericho was our next stop. Climbing this ancient site (the oldest city in Israel), we first looked east across the Jordan River. We recalled that Moses died on Mt. Nebo (Dt. 34). Joshua also cross the river on dry ground. Elijah and Elisha had part of his ministry in this region as well. It was also in the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized (“Bethany Beyond the Jordan, John 1). Looking west we could see the high cliffs of the Judean Desert where Jesus was tempted. Archaeologically, we saw the oldest standing tower in Israel as well as the two retaining or resentment stone walls upon which was also a mud-brick wall. It was the mud-brick wall that came tumblin’ down just as Joshua 6 says! We rejoiced in the historicity of the Bible!

Dead Sea

Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea

At the northern end of the Dead Sea is where we enjoyed floating!  The Dead Sea is about 33% salt and minerals, causing us to float effortlessly. Though it was very hot here (low 100s), this was a very unique experience! Almost everyone got in. Some even plastered themselves with Dead Sea mud!

Judean Desert / Wadi Qelt

Wadi Qelt

The Wadi Qelt (Judean Desert)

From here we began our ascent (4,000 feet) to Jerusalem. On the way, we made one last brief stop oat a place where we overlooked the Wadi Qelt. We heard the words of Isaiah 40 (“a voice of one calling:“In the desert prepare the way for the Lordmake straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain….”). This is the most-likely setting/backdrop for Isaiah the prophet to share these words of hope and promise.


Western Wall Jerusalem

Western Wall at night

Completing our ascension to the Hill Country of Judah, we arrived at our hotel in Jerusalem. After checking in, we enjoyed dinner together followed by an optional walk to the Western Wall. It was amazing to see the Wall at night!  We are looking forward to spending the next few days here in Israel’s capital city!


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