June 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 12

DAY 12 – THURSDAY, JUNE 21: SOUTHERN BORDER CROSSING INTO ISRAEL, RED SEA, TIMNAH, EIN BOKEK/DEAD SEA

With Sammy’s wake-up call, we arose out of our private tents for breakfast. After packing up the bus, we said goodbye to the Wadi Rum desert enroute for the Israel border. The day would be a warmer, with temps in the afternoon in the low 100s.

Rabin Border Crossing / Coral Beach – Red Sea

Coral Beach

Coral beach, Elat

It took about an hour’s drive to reach the border with Israel. This southern border crossing is called the Rabin Border, named after the late Prime Minister. The crossing went smoothly. 57 of us crossed in about 75 minutes! We were met on the Israeli side by Shlomo and Eli (our guides) and our Israeli drivers.

Upon packing up, we drove to Elat and to Coral Beach. Many went swimming the Red Sea. The fish, coral, and deep blue color of the water was remarkable! The underwater world of God’s creation is also beautiful!

Timnah

Tabernacle Model

The Tabernacle Model at Timnah

Driving north we arrived at Timnah. This was an ancient Egyptian copper mine back in the days of the 14-12th centuries BC. We drove around to the other side of Timnah to the full-scale replica of the Tabernacle. The dimensions are 150 x 75 feet. We were guided by a Messianic believer who shared the details of the Tabernacle as well as the many ways in which Christ fulfilled the Tabernacle. We read from Hebrews 9. Before leaving Timnah, we also saw Solomon’s Pillars, with some in the group hiking up and around this unique stone cliff.

Yovata

Continuing north we stopped for a late lunch at Yovata. This is a dairy kibbutz in southern Israel that has some of the best ice cream!  We enjoyed the many flavors they offered!

Ein Bokek/Dead Sea Hotel

Dead Sea

Southern end of the Dead Sea (at Ein Bokek)

About two hours north is the hotel city of Ein Bokek. It is located on the southern end of the Dead Sea. We checked into our hotel and enjoyed dinner and a free evening. Some also floated again prior to dinner in the Dead Sea and/or in the hotel pool filled with Dead Sea water. 

DAY 13 – FRIDAY, JUNE 22: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, QEIYAFA/ELAH VALLEY, GEZER

This will be our last full day!

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June 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 10

DAY 10 – TUESDAY, JUNE 19: ALLENBY BRIDGE, BETHANY BEYOND THE JORDAN, MT. NEBO, MEDEBA, MACHAERUS, PETRA

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.

Machaerus

Machaerus

Machaerus

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!

DAY 11 – WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20: PETRA, WADI RUM

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June 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 8

DAY 8 – SUNDAY, JUNE 17: WESTERN WALL TUNNEL, SOUTHERN STEPS, CITY OF DAVID, HEZEKIAH’S TUNNEL, SILOAM POOL, DRAINAGE CHANNEL, HOLY SEPULCHER CHURCH, POOLS OF BETHESDA, FAREWELL DINNER

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

Edicule

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.

DAY 9 – MONDAY, JUNE 18: ARRIVAL BACK IN THE STATES (for 25).

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

Or

DAY 9 – MONDAY, JUNE 18: OLD CITY, TEMPLE MOUNT, HERODIAN MANSION, MOSHE/SHORASHIM, ISRAEL MUSEUM, YAD VASHEM (for 57)

 

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June 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 7

DAY 7 – SATURDAY, JUNE 16: JERUSALEM, MT. OF OLIVES, BETHLEHEM, HERODIUM, GARDEN TOMB

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

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!

Herodium

Herodium

Herodium

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

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!

DAY 8 – SUNDAY, JUNE 17: WESTERN WALL TUNNEL, SOUTHERN STEPS, CITY OF DAVID, HEZEKIAH’S TUNNEL, SILOAM POOL, DRAINAGE CHANNEL, HOLY SEPULCHER CHURCH, POOLS OF BETHESDA

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June 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 6

DAY 6 – FRIDAY, JUNE 15: KINNERET CEMETERY, BETH SHEAN, JERICHO, DEAD SEA, JUDEAN WILDERNESS, JERUSALEM

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.

Sachne

Sachne

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!

Jericho

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.

Jerusalem

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!

DAY 7 – SATURDAY, JUNE 16: JERUSALEM, BETHLEHEM, HERODIUM

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June 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 5

DAY 5 – THURSDAY, JUNE 14: ARBEL, MAGDALA, CHORAZIM, CAPERNAUM, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE, YARDENIT, MT. OF BEATITUDES

Today was a day for primarily focusing on the life and ministry of Jesus. We spent the entire day around and even on the Sea of Galilee. It was also a day that was back to a normal June weather day here in Israel, with full sun and highs in the 90s.

Arbel

Arbel and Sea of Galilee

Arbel and Sea of Galilee

Our first experience was Mt. Arbel. About 35 climbed to the top (800+ foot ascent), while others bussed around and approached the top from the other side. Among the hikers was an 84 year old named John. Incredible effort!  On top we could see much of the NW corner of the lake below. Jesus must have experienced the top of Arbel as well.

Yardenit / Jordan River

Baptism Jordan

Baptism at Yardenit

Driving to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, our next stop was Yardenit. 42 in the group entered the waters of the Jordan River. 40 reaffirmed their faith and commitment as followers (talmidim) of Jesus, while two in the group proclaimed their faith in Christ for the first time. It was a special time for all!

Magdala

Magdala

Magdala 1st century synagogue

We returned to the NW corner of the lake and visited Magdala. This recent excavation revealed a 1st century synagogue. Jesus must have taught here, even though it is not mentioned in the Gospels. The synagogue is quite small and modest, holding only about 50-60 people. The city was destroyed in 66-67 AD by the Romans.

Chorazim

After a great “fish lunch,” we drove to Chorazin. This was one of the three cities condemned by Jesus for their unbelief in Yeshua/Jesus. The ruins are from the 3rd century AD. While in the synagogue here, we read from Matthew 23, which references the Moses’ Seat. 

Capernaum 

Synagogue Capernaum

Capernaum synagogue

Down on the water’s edge is Capernaum. While the ruins are not overly impressive, the 5th century AD synagogue is! Below this one is the 1st century one Jesus taught in. Sitting on the synagogue’s stone benches, we read from Mark 1,2 and 9; Luke 7 and 8; and John 6. Jesus performed many miracles here. He also taught here with authority (s’mekah). Here, we also saw the octagonal 5th century AD church. Some went down to the shoreline of there lake. This was where Jesus called His first disciples.

Ancient Boat / Sea of Galilee Boat Ride

We returned to Nof Ginnosar where we saw a 1st century wooden boat. It was extracted out of the mud of the lake in 1986. Sailing in our own boat, we enjoyed a time of worship and reflection. We read the two storm narratives (Matthew 8 & 14) and considered Jesus our ultimate source of peace!

Mt. of Beatitudes 

Beatitudes

The Mt. of Beatitudes

Our last stop of the day was to the Mt. of Beatitudes. Also located on the NW corner of the lake, we walked partially down the slope where we sat on some rocks. We listened to the reading of Matthew 5, first in Hebrew, and then in English. We were invited to seek first (Mt. 6:33) and live out these kingdom principles and to be the salt and light of the world.

We return to our hotel at 7 pm for dinner and a free evening.God blessed us with a great day again!

DAY 6 – FRIDAY, JUNE 15: KINNERET CEMETERY, BETH SHEAN, JERICHO, DEAD SEA, JUDEAN WILDERNESS, JERUSALEM

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June 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Days 1 & 2

DAYS 1 & 2 – SUNDAY-MONDAY, JUNE 10 & 11: DEPART FOR & ARRIVE IN TEL AVIV, ISRAEL

Welcome to Israel

Welcome to Israel sign at the Ben Gurion Airport

Our day of departure finally came! The group of 82 that God has brought together used primarily three flights, with some flying to Israel on their own. All the flights went well with the unfortunate exception of part of the group flying out of Chicago. Because of the delay of their flight, 14 in our group missed the international flight. We hope they are able to be re-scheduled in a timely manner.

Jaffa

Jaffa Tel Aviv

Jaffa and Tel Aviv beach

The rest in the group arrived at the Ben Gurion Airport in the Lod/Tel Aviv area. Arriving at various times and meeting each other, we loaded up the two buses after the usual passport and luggage procedures. with sunny skies and temps in the mid 80s, we drove to Jaffa/Joppa, a southern suburb of Tel Aviv (600,000 people). We walked the alley-ways, read from Jonah 1, and Acts 9 & 10, and enjoyed our first great view of the Tel Aviv coastline.

Hotel/Med Sea

Med Sea sunset

Sunset on the Med Sea

Arriving at our hotel just north of Jaffa in Tel Aviv and right on the shoreline, some enjoyed a nap while others enjoyed a swim in the Med Sea. The water was very warm (about 80), the sane was white and soft, and the waves were beautifully rolled in.

We enjoyed dinner at 6:30, followed by an orientation meeting to help prepare us for the trip ahead. We met out on the beach and enjoyed a marvelous sunset on the Mediterranean Sea! Following the meeting, some enjoyed a stroll on the promenade, while others retired for the evening.

It was a long day but we’re excited to be here in Israel, the land of the Bible! We pray for a timely arrival of the rest of the group!

DAY 3 – TUESDAY, JUNE 12: CAESAREA, CARMEL, MEGIDDO, SEPPORIS, PRECIPICE OF NAZARETH, TIBERIAS

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Israel’s Memorial and Independence Days

Last week Israel just observed two days that play a significant role in the life and culture of their country. Established just 70 years ago, the State of Israel remembers their fallen soldiers one day, and then the next they celebrate their Independence Day. On back-to-back days, Israelis go through a wide spectrum of emotions. To be in Israel during these two days is quite remarkable and moving.

Yom Ha’Zikaron

Israel’s Memorial Day is called Yom Ha’Zikaron. It is not a day of picnics, fun, and fireworks. Rather is a solemn day of remembering those who gave their lives for their country. Only one TV station plays through the day. It is a continual stream of honoring and remembering fallen soldiers. To honor these fallen, an alarm is sounded simultaneously throughout the country for one minute. This happens once in the evening and again the following morning. As the siren pierces the air and penetrates the heart, even all traffic comes to a halt as everyone stands in silence.

Yom Ha’Atzmaut

The following day is Israel’s Independence Day called Yom Ha’AtzmautUnlike the solemness of the previous day, this day is a day of joy and celebration. This year Israel celebrates 70 years since May of 1948 when they were recognized as an official country. The Ha-Tikvah (Israel’s national anthem) is once again sung (as also on the eve of Yom Ha-Zikaron).

Ha-Tikvah

The words of Ha-Tikvah were written in 1886 by Naphtali Herz Imber, a poet originally from Bohemia. The melody was written by Samuel Cohen, an immigrant from Moldavia. Ha-Tikvah means “the hope.”

The following are the words of Israel’s national anthem:

As long as Jewish spirit
Yearns deep in the heart,
With eyes turned East,
Looking towards Zion.

Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope of two millennia,
To be a free people in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem.

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Christmas – A Bethlehem Shepherd’s View

Charlie Brown’s Christmas

shepherd in Bethlehem

A shepherd in Bethlehem

Once again this Christmas Season I watched the Charlie Brown’s Christmas. It is an oldie from 1965. Watching it again takes me back not only to my childhood days when we watched the show on an old tube TV with a rabbit ear antenna drawing in the signal (my oh my, have days changed!). But this classic Charles M. Schulz cartoon also takes me back to Israel, specifically to the fields on the outskirts of Bethlehem. This is where the story of all stories took place 2,000 years ago! And shepherds were a big part of the story!

Bethlehem Shepherds

There are many shepherds who live in and around Bethlehem. Located about five miles south of Jerusalem in the Hill Country of Judah, Bethlehem is an historic place. Mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), this was the ancient town connected with people from the Bible (e.g. Rachel, Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz, as well as with David). In the words of the prophet Micah, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times (Micah 5:2).” This ancient 8th century prophet continues (in 5:4) by mentioning the role of the shepherd. In fact, the one to be born in Bethlehem (Jesus) would be one who would “stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.”

Today, Bethlehem is inhabited by about 20,000 Arabs (not counting to two neighboring towns of Beit Sahour and Beit Jala). Of this population, only about 10-15% are Arab Christians. At the center of the city of Bethlehem is the Church of Nativity and Manger Square. Originally built by the order of Constantine’s mother Helena in the 4th century and later rebuilt by Emperor Justinian in the 530s, the church represents of the centerpieces of the Christian faith, namely, the location of the birth of Jesus!

A Shepherd named Mansour

The region of Bethlehem

The area of Bethlehem

About a year ago I came across this video about one particular Bethlehem shepherd named Mansour. With the help of the wonderful Arab Christian community in Bethlehem (e.g. Bethlehem Bible College, Rev. Danny Awad, and others), this video was produced to bridge the ancient with the present.

In the birth narrative, it were shepherds who were the first to greet the newborn Jesus. Going no doubt to a nearby cave where Jesus as born, these shepherds saw with their own eyes the fulfillment of what Micah the prophet of old mentioned 750 years prior.

In the video you will see modern day Bethlehem. Despite being surrounded with many religious and even political challenges that face them, the Bethlehem Christians you will see and hear in the video still speak of the hope and peace that Christ brings them. Especially powerful are the words spoken by one Arab Christian who says, “I think Jesus is knocking on the doors of the hearts of people. And he ask for anyone open to him to start a new Christmas with him…”

In the words of Mansour the Bethlehem shepherd, “Isa (Jesus) is the Prince of Peace!” This is the message of Christmas!

Is Jesus knocking on the door of your heart this Christmas Season? If so, be sure to let Him in and discover the true joy of Christmas!

 

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Baseball in Israel at Kibbutz Gezer!

The ancient city of Gezer has been the attention of the archaeological world these last few weeks since the discovery of apparently three Canaanite bodies among the ruins. Here is a recent blog about it (go HERE).

 

Gezer baseball

Baseball field at Kibbutz Gezer, one of three major fields in Israel. This was the first field in Israel, built in 1979.

However, modern Gezer has also been “in the news” recently as well. But not for the discovery of bodies, walls, and other ruins from the ancient past, but rather for (wait for it…..). baseballYes fans, you heard it correctly.

Gezer baseball

Pitching camp in Gezer

A number of years ago, an intentional effort was made to introduce Israel to the game of baseball. The kibbutz at Gezer was the first to build a baseball field in 1979. Since then, as crazy as it seems, lots of money and planning went into trying to attract modern Israelis to this great American pastime. For the most part, these efforts have failed, for the league that was established essentially fell through. There are approximately 2,000 in Israel who officially play baseball.

Play ball!

Play ball!

However, baseball is still played in limited parts of Israel today. The game is played primarily by a younger generation of Israelis who have immigrated from the States. Personally being an umpire, back here in the States I have actually officiated at International tournaments where every other year there is a team from Israel playing! This means Israel is sending baseball teams. In fact, Israel’s baseball team did surprisingly well in the recent World Tournament.

Below is drone video coverage of a game of baseball being played at Kibbutz Gezer. Located in the Shephelah of Israel (the “lowlands of Judah”), the Gezer field actually looks phenomenal!

I have my doubts, but I personally hope that baseball catches on in Israel. In the meantime, play ball!

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