February 2018 Israel Tour Summary/Update – Day 8 and 9

DAY 8 – FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16: SOUTHERN WALL EXCAVATIONS, CITY OF DAVID, HEZEKIAH’S TUNNEL, JEWISH QUARTER, A FEW FREE HOURS, GARDEN TOMB

Today is our last full day here in Jerusalem. The weather was perfect, with sun and highs in the mid 60s. We would encounter the best of both OT and NT Jerusalem!

Southern wall Excavations

Massive Herodian stones

Some of the massive stones of the Temple (Mark 13)

Leaving again shortly after 7:30, our first destination was the southern wall excavations. The Temple of Herod began in 20 BC and according to John 2, 46 years were already invested in this massive building project. Here we saw massive Herodian stones, some weighing hundreds of tons! We also saw the Herodian street. Jesus would have walked on this stone pavement! At the southern end, we ascended the steps that would have led into the Temple. We read from many passages that placed Jesus and others using these steps (e.g. Luke 2, Mark 13, Luke 18, Acts 2, etc…) While sitting on these steps we took some time to reflect about the specialness of this place and the life and ministry of Jesus here!

City of David – David’s Palace, Warren’s Shaft, Hezekiah’s Tunnel, Siloam Pool, Drainage Channel

Hezekiah's tunnel

Inside Hezekiah’s Tunnel at the “meeting point”

Walking south out of the Dung Gate, we entered the excavations of the City of David. After seeing a 3-D movie, we began to explore the area. This was where David built a palace after he conquered the city from the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5). Walking down through Warren’s Shaft (a series of tunnels and a 52 foot shaft), we made out way down to the Gihon Spring. This spring served as the water source for the city since its beginning. Over half in the group walked through the “wet” Hezekiah’s Tunnel while the others walked through the “dry” earlier Canaanite tunnel. Both were great experiences!!

Siloam pool steps

The very stone steps of the Siloam Pool (John 9)

Both groups converged at the Pool of Siloam where we read the story of the blind man healed by Jesus (John 9) in “dramatic fashion.” From here, some walked back up to the southern excavations through the drainage channel discovered just a few years ago. Others bussed to the Zion’s Gate and walked to the Jewish Quarter.

“Moshe” & the Jewish Quarter

About noon we enjoyed a conversation with Moshe in the Jewish Quarter. He talked about his Jewish faith in the context of our Christian faith. He and his brother own a store called Shorashim. Following lunch on our own, we enjoyed a few hours of free time (for shopping, exploring, and people-watching).

Garden Tomb

Garden Tomb

The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

Our last visit was to the Garden Tomb. This location serves as an alternative site for Christ’s crucifixion and burial. While we worship the person and not the place, what is important is that “He is Risen!” We enjoyed a time of worship & Communion here. We ended the service with an “A-men” and three Swedish “horah’s!” 🙂

We drove back to the hotel for dinner and free evening. It was a great last day here in Jerusalem!

DAY 9 – SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 17: FLIGHT HOME

The plans are to drive to the airport for our late morning flight to Toronto and then back home. Keep us in your prayers as we fly home!

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February 2018 Israel Tour Summary/Update – Day 6

DAY 6 – WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 14: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, JUDEAN DESERT

Today was spent along the west coast of the Dead Sea and in the Judean Desert. It would be a perfectly sunny and warmer day, with highs in the 70s. We read from Psalm 18 as we left the hotel, claiming God as our metzada (“fortress”) and strength.

Masada

Masada

Masada, a palace-fortress of Herod the Great and place of refuge for Jews after 70 AD

Leaving shortly after 8 this morning, we drove north along the Dead Sea to Masada. This was one of Herod the Great’s palace-fortress (actually the first one built). Taking the cable car to the top of this 1,000 foot-high stand-alone mountain, we saw ruins from the 1st century. This included the palaces of Herod, the case-mate wall, the Roman ramp, the synagogue, and the bathhouse. Shlomo shared passionately about the remarkable story of this place, with 967 Jews using this site as a place of refuge against the Romans after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Most in the group took the cable car back down while others hiked the Snake Path to the bottom.

Engedi

Engedi

The spring/oasis of Engedi

Driving about 15 minutes north, our next stop was at the oasis of Engedi. This was where David hid from King Saul (1 Samuel 24). We also remembered the story of 2 Chronicles 20 that happened here as well as the romantic language of Song of Songs 1. Hiking back to some of the water falls, we took some time for reflecting and journaling.

Qumran

Qumran

Qumran and the Dead Sea

Continuing north, we visited Qumran. This was where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. During the lunch hour, many in the group hiked to Cave 1 where the first scrolls were found (this included the famous Isaiah Scroll). We also then visited the small ruins of Qumran, see many ritual baths (miqvot), the scriptorium, and Cave 4. We read from “Psalm 151,” an extra psalm found here humbly written by David. We also read from Psalm 19 and 2 Timothy 3. Before we left, we could also see the new cave (Cave 12) that is currently being excavated further.

Judean Desert/Wadi Qelt

Wadi Qelt

Wadi Qelt – Judean Desert

Driving now west and ascending almost 4,000 feet in elevation to Jerusalem, we made a brief stop overlooking the beautiful Wadi Qelt. It is actually part of the Judean Desert. Here we heard the powerful words of Isaiah 40 proclaimed by this 7th century BC prophet of God. John the Baptist would echo the same words as he “prepared the way for the Lord” (e.g. Jesus) as well! The beauty of the desert in the winter was breath-taking!

The Western Wall

The Western Wall in Jerusalem

Continuing our drive to Israel’s capital, we checked into our hotel and enjoyed dinner together. Following dinner, most in the group walked to the Western Wall, the most holy place for Jews today! This wall served as a retaining wall for Herod’s Temple, a project he began in 20 BC. It is good to be in Jerusalem!

DAY 7 – THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 15: MT. OF OLIVES, POOL OF BETHESDA, VIA DOLOROSA, ISRAEL MUSEUM, BETHLEHEM

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February 2018 Israel Tour Summary/Update – Day 5

DAY 5 – TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 13: MT. OF BEATITUDES, BEIT SHEAN, JERICHO, DEAD SEA

Today we left the Sea of Galilee area and drove south. Our final destination today on a day that started with steady rain through the first part of the morning was the Dead Sea. The weather improved as by late morning, with sun and clouds and highs in the 70s.

Mt. of Beatitudes

Mt. of Beatitudes

The Mt. of Beatitudes on a rainy morning

Leaving our hotel shortly after 7:30 again, we first drove to the Mt. Of Beatitudes. This was one location where Jesus delivered His sermon on the kingdom principles (this sermon would be His “go-to” message, and He shared it in other places too, see Luke 6:17-49). Overlooking a natural amphitheater and huddling together under umbrellas, we heard part of Matthew 5 in Hebrew and then in English. We enjoyed a time of reflection, song, and prayer. The words of Jesus came alive here in this place!

Kinneret Cemetery

Rachel Bluwstein

The grave of Rachel Bluwstein at the Kinneret Cemetery

Driving south to the end of the Sea of Galilee, we made a brief “extra” stop at the Kinneret Cemetery. Here Shlomo shared with us about kibbutz life in Israel. We also heard of the story of a Russian/Ukrainian Jew named Rachel Bluwstein. She was an early Jewish pioneer in the land. She is famous for her poems. She died in 1931. Her face is now on the new Israeli 20 shekel bill!

Beth Shean

Beth Shean

The Roman city of Beth Shean

Continuing south through the Jordan Valley, we arrived at Beth Shean. By the time we started our tour of this site, the rain stopped and the sun came out! Beth Shean was one of Israel’s most extensive archaeological site. It was on the ancient walls of the Old Testament city where King Saul’ body was hung after his death on Mt Gilboa (1 Samuel 31). Beth Shean was also a very large Roman city as well, peaking from the 2nd-5th century AD. We walked on the colonnaded stone pavements/streets, saw Roman bathhouses and many mosaics as well as the agora (market place), public latrenes, and the massive theater. Some in the group climbed to the top of the OT tel for a great view of the Roman city below. Following seeing the site, we had lunch near by.

Jericho

Jericho walls

The Late Bronze retaining walls of Jericho

From here we drove a little over an hour south down the Jordan Valley. At the northern end of the Dead Sea is the city of Jericho. This was our last stop of the day. Jericho was the first city taken in Joshua’s Conquest (Joshua 6). We saw the retaining/revetment walls of the city on top of which was a mud-brick wall. It was the later that came tumblin’ down when the shofars (trumpets) were blown (David actually blew a small shofar when we read the story! Just a couple of miles to the south was New Testament Jericho. It served as Herod’s winter palace. It was here where Zacheaus (Luke 19) and Bartemaeus lived (Mark 10). It was also here where Herod the Great died in 4 BC.

Dead Sea

Dead Sea and Moab

The Dead Sea and mountains of Moab (in Jordan)

Driving south along the Dead Sea, we enjoyed spectacular visibility. The mountains of Moab (in Jordan) and clouds in the sky were so colorful as the sun began to set. After we arrived at our hotel in Zin Bokek, we changed into our swim suits for a unique float in the Dead Sea. Again the backdrop of the Jordanian mountains was amazing! Following a good hot shower, we enjoyed dinner together and a free evening.

DAY 6 – WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 14: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, JUDEAN DESERT

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February 2018 Israel Tour Summary/Update – Day 4

DAY 4 – MONDAY, FEBRUARY 12: ARBEL, CAPERNAUM, CHORAZIM, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE, MAGDALA

Today was all about Jesus, with a focus on the “where and what” He taught and “how” He shared His kingdom message. The weather was actually very comfortable. While we had some showers in the early morning, we actually had breaks of sun and clouds the rest of the day, with highs in the 60s.

Mt. Arbel

Sea of Galilee from Arbel

The view of the Sea of Galilee from on top of Arbel

Leaving the hotel shortly after 7:30, we drove to the trailhead (in the Valley of the Doves) for the path that leads to the top of Mt. Arbel. Seven in the group decided to climb this peak (about an 800 foot ascent taking about 80 minutes) while the majority in the group drove to the visitor center on the back side, and walking about 300 yards to the top. The view from the top was breath-taking, enabling us to see the entire NW corner of the Sea of Galilee below. This was primarily where Jesus served!

Magdala

Magdala synagogue

The 1st century synagogue at Magdala

Driving back down through Tiberias, we arrived at Magdala. Here we saw a 1st century synagogue. While not specifically mentioned in the Gospels, it is highly probable that Jesus taught here! Among the other ruins we saw the marketplace, miqveh (ritual baths), and the harbor area. We also enjoyed a time of singing in the newly-built chapel on the grounds. The acoustics were very good.

Chorazim

Chorazim synagogue

The 3rd century AD synagogue at Chorazim

Following a “fish lunch” in the area, we drove to Chorazim. This was one of the three cities condemned by Jesus because of their unbelief and lack of repentence (the other two were Bethsaida and Capernaum). Located on a hillside on this NW corner of the lake and about a few miles away from the water’s edge, we saw the 3rd century synagogue. We read from Matthew 23 about the Moses’ Seat (one was found here in earlier excavations) and about Jesus condemnation of the Pharisee’s hypocrisy.

Capernaum

synagogue Capernaum

The 5th century synagogue at Capernaum

Driving back down to the shoreline of the lake, we visited Capernaum. This city served as the home-base for Jesus’ Galilean ministry. Sitting in the 5th century synagogue (built overtop the 1st century one), we read from Mark 1,2, and 9; Luke 7 and 8; and John 6. Jesus taught here and performed many miracles of healing here. Besides seeing some of the 1st century ruins, we spent some reflective time down on the shoreline. It was most likely here where Jesus called at least five of His disciples (Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew – see Mt. 4) Each of us also picked up a smooth stone (for painting after dinner).

Boat Ride

Sea of Galilee boat ride

Mt. of Beatitudes from our boat ride on the Sea of Galilee

We ended the day with a boat ride on the lake. After seeing the small 1st century boat found here in 1986, we “sailed” to the northern end of the lake. On the way we read from Matthew 14; Mark 4, 5, and 8; and John 6. The two storm narratives were particularly meaningful as we sailing on the water ourselves. We also enjoyed a time of worship, reflection, and journaling.

We returned to your hotel for dinner and a gathering. We painted the rocks we collected from Capernaum. It was a great day of focusing on the life and ministry of “Rabbi Jesus!”

DAY 5 – TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 13: MT. OF BEATITUDES, BEIT SHEAN, JERICHO, DEAD SEA

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February 2018 Israel Tour Summary/Update – Day 3

DAY 3 – SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 11: CAESAREA, CARMEL, MEGIDDO, PRECIPICE OF NAZARETH, TIBERIAS 

Today was our first full day here in Israel. While the visualities due to hazy skies was very limited today, the temperatures were mild, with highs in the low-mid 70s.

Caesarea

Caesarea Theater

Sitting in the theater at Caesarea

Leaving the hotel around 7:45, we drove north in the Coastal Plains to Caesarea. This was a city built by Herod the Great in 22 BC. Located on the Med Sea shoreline, we saw some of ruins left from Herod’s day. This included the theater (most reconstructed), the palace, the hippodrome, the Temple of Augustus, and the harbor. We also saw many mosaics from the Late Roman Period. In the theater made these biblical connections: Acts 9-10 (Peter and Cornelius), Acts 12 (Herod Agrippa), Acts 21 (Philip) and Acts 26 (Paul). Paul would sail into (after his mission journeys) and out of the harbor here (to Rome). We also the Crusader part of the city, and the aqueduct (built by Herod) that brought fresh water into the city.

Mt. Carmel

Megiddo water system

The water system at Megiddo

Driving northeast, we ascended to the top of the Carmel Range. At a place established by the Carmelite sect of the Catholic Church called Muhraqa (“burnt offering”), we read from 1 Kings 18. Here, Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal and Asherah. We also read from Isaiah 35 and Song of Songs 7 that refer to this mountain range. While the view from the roof of the chapel was very limited by the hazy sky, we recalled the many stories that took place in the Jezreel Valley below (Deborah & Barak defeating Sisera on Mt. Tabor – Judges 4-5; Gideon defeating the Midianites on the Hill or More – Judges 6-7; Saul and his 3 sons dying on Mt. Gilboa – 1 Samuel 31; and the Nazareth Ridge where Jesus grew up).  We enjoyed lunch at a near by Druze restaurant.

Megiddo

Megiddo water system

The water system at Megiddo

Driving down to the Jezreel Valley, our next stop after lunch was Megiddo. This is a 35 acre archaeological site that spans about 2,500 years with over two dozen levels of occupation.  Megiddo was a strategically-located city that guarded the entrance into the Jezreel Valley from the south. It was a city taken by Thutmose III (Egyptian pharaoh in the 15th century BC) and later on also by Joshua (Joshua 12). Still later, Solomon re-fortified the city (1 Kings 9). Climbing the site we saw three gate structures, stables, and the Canaanite altar area. Overlooking the valley (e.g. Armageddon),we also read from Rev. 16. We celebrated that in the end times, God as the final word! 

Precipice of Nazareth

Precipice of Nazareth

Reflection time on the precipice of Nazareth

Driving across the Jezreel Valley, our last stop was the precipice of Nazareth. From here we could at least see the Hill or Moreh and Mt. Tabor.  We read from Luke 4 (Jesus teaching in the Nazareth synagogue) and John 1. We were invited to come and see Jesus anew! We also enjoyed a time of journalling and reflection in this quiet place.

From here we drove through the outskirts of Nazareth and through Cana to get to our hotel on the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee. After checking in, we enjoyed dinner followed by a gathering down by the water’s age.

DAY 4 – MONDAY, FEBRUARY 12: ARBEL, CAPERNAUM, CHORAZIM, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE, MAGDALA

 

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February 2018 Israel Tour Summary-Update – Days 1 and 2

DAYS 1 & 2 – FRIDAY-SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 9-10: DEPARTURE FROM U.S.A /LAND IN ISRAEL

Welcome to Israel

Welcome to Israel sign within the Ben Gurion Airport

Our trip began today! Our group of 25 flew drove from MN to Winnepeg where we caught a flight to Toronto. While the international flight was delayed a little because of snow, we were able to take off despite deteriorating winter conditions. Once on board, we we served dinner and breakfast.

We landed at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv around 11 a.m. where we proceeded through Passport Control. After securing our luggage, we met our guide (Shlomo) and driver (David). We loaded the bus and left the airport to spend a half a day in the Shephelah (Lowlands) of Judah. The weather was mild, with afternoon highs in the mid 70s.

Gezer

standing stones gezer

The group at the “standing stones” of Gezer.

Our first stop was Tel Gezer. Located along get Aijalon Valley, this was an ancient Canaanite and Israelite city located strategically on the Coastal Plains. The city was conquered by Joshua (Josh 12) but not fully controlled until the days of Solomon (1 Kings 9). We also read from the Gezer Calendar (10th century BC agricultural seasons) and Ecclesiastes 3 about the seasons of life. Several times the Egyptians conquered this city from the Canaanites as well. At the site we saw the Middle Bronze tower, wall, gate and water system as well as the Iron Age (or Israelite) ruins including a 6 chamber stone gate built by Solomon. We also saw the standing stones of Gezer, probably used by Canaanite).

Beth Shemesh

Driving south to the Sorek Valley, we stopped briefly at Beth Shemesh. Close by (on the other side of the valley) is Zoar and Eshtoal, the home area of Samson (Judges 13-14). He was attracted to Delilah, just a few miles west down the Sorek Valley. We also remembered the story from I Samuel 6 about the return of the Ark of the Covenant here from the Philistines.

Azekah

Elah Valley

Elah Valley (the battle took place at the far eastern narrow end of the valley)

Our last stop of the day was to Azekah. Located along the Elah Valley, this ancient city is mentioned a few places in the Bible. With a great view of this valley below, we read from 1 Samuel 17. It was in the narrow end of the valley where the battle between David and Goliath took place. Looking west from the top of the site we could see Gath (Tel es Safi), the home of Goliath.

Netanya

From here we hopped on Israel’s toll road straight to Netanya. We checked into our hotel and enjoyed dinner together. Over half in the group then enjoyed a great walk to the beach of the Medeterraian Sea.

We are feeling very blessed to be here in the land of the Bible!

DAY 3 – SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 11: CAESAREA, CARMEL, MEGIDDO, PRECIPICE OF NAZARETH, TIBERIAS

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Day 13 Trip Summary – January 2018 14 Day Israel Tour

DAY 13 – FRIDAY, JANUARY 26: CITY OF DAVID, SOUTHERN EXCAVATIONS, A FEW FREE HOURS, GARDEN TOMB

Today was our last day in Jerusalem and the last day of this trip. While it was once again cold, at least the predicted rain didn’t come until we finished the day! What a blessing!

City of David

Hezekiah's Tunnel, City of David

Hezekiah’s Tunnel (1,720 feet long, chiseled from bedrock between 705-701 BC).

After breakfast, check-out, and loading the bus in preparation for tonight’s flight home, we drove to the City of David. This small 11 acre piece of land was first taken by David (2 Samuel 5).

We would spend over 2 hours here seeing the excavations. We saw David’s palace, Jebusite and Israelite fortification walls and houses. Further down the slope we walked through Warren’s Shaft. This series of tunnels leads to the massive tower that protected the source of water for the city, the Gihon Spring. Solomon was made king here (1 Kings 1). It was also here where a number in the group walked through Hezekiah’s Tunnel (1,720 feet long that still flow with water, see 2 Kings 19-20 and 2 Chronicles 32) while others walked through the dry Canaanite tunnel. Both groups converged at the Siloam Pool where we read from John 9 in “dramatic” fashion!

Southern Excavations

Temple Steps

The steps of the Temple in Jerusalem

After we all loaded the bus, a number in the group were dropped off at the new Gavati excavations where we walked to the SW corner of the Temple further north through the northern end of the drainage channel just recently discovered a few years ago. Meeting at the SW corner of the Temple (Robinson’s Arch), we saw massive stones lying on the Herodian street. This was a stone street for sure used by Jesus! On the southern steps of the Temple we remembered passages like Luke 2 and 18, Mark 13, and Acts 2 (among others). Jesus would have used these steps many times.

Walking up to the Jewish Quarter for lunch and a few hours of free time, we enjoyed shopping and exploring on our own. Some went to Oscar Schindler’s grave on Mt. Zion. Some also climbed the 178 steps up the tower of the Lutheran Church in the heart of the Christian Quarter. What a view from there!

Garden Tomb

Garden Tomb

The Garden Tomb

Our last experience of the tour was to visit the Garden Tomb. This is another possible location for the crucifixion and burial tomb of Jesus. Here we enjoyed a brief time of worship & Communion. It was a special time together!

Flight Home

As we said goodbye to Jerusalem, we drove west through heavy rain (it held off until now) to Abu Gosh for our Farewell Dinner. The meal was excellent (lamb chops!) and we enjoyed a time of reviewing the trip and sharing stories! Continuing driving west, we arrived at the Ben Gurion Airport for our night-flight home.

At present… we are through the ticketing and passport procedures and are waiting at the gate for our non-stop flight back to Newark and then to our respective states.

DAY 14 – SATURDAY, JANUARY 27: ARRIVE BACK IN THE U.S.A.

We plan to arrive back in the States early Saturday morning. Praise be to God for a life-changing experience!

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Day 12 Trip Summary – January 2018 14 Day Israel Tour

DAY 12 – THURSDAY, JANUARY 25: OLD CITY, WESTERN WALL TUNNEL, ISRAEL MUSEUM, YAD VASHEM

Today was a colder day, but with just a little rain (the predicted rain came during the night). We were also glad that those who were not feeling well and stayed back yesterday were able to join us today.

Western Wall Tunnels

Western Wall in Jerusalem

The Western Wall in Jerusalem

Leaving just after 7:15 this morning and reading John 2 (a reference to the Temple being built over 46 years) as we left the hotel, we arrived at the Western Wall. Before our walk in the Western Wall Tunnels, we had time to go to the Wall and pray. Many ultra Orthodox were there as well for morning prayers.

The walk through the tunnels was fascinating! Herod’s Temple project (that he began in 20 BC) was an incredible feat! We saw some stones that weighed several hundred tons! We walked the entire distance of this western retaining wall of the Temple.

Jewish Quarter – Cardo, Herodian House, Shorashim

Herodian mansion

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

Exiting the tunnel, we walked to the Jewish Quarter. Here we saw the Cardo (the main north-south street of the city). It dates to the 2nd century AD. We also saw the very impressive 1st century ruins of the Herodian Mansion. This was a massive house destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

Close by we met an Orthodox Jew named Moshe. He and his brother (Dov) own a store called Shorashim. Moshe shared about his Jewish faith. We also had the chance to ask him questions. After this interesting conversation, we enjoyed lunch in the Jewish Quarter.

Israel Museum

Dan Inscription

The Dan Inscription (“with reference to the “house of David”)

Walking out of the Old City through the Zion’s Gate, we drove to the Israel Museum. Here we saw three things: A 1:50 model of 2nd Temple Jerusalem, the Shrine of the Book (where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were displayed), and the Archaeological Museum. Here we saw some “highlights” of artifacts found here in Israel related to the Bible.

Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial & Museum

We ended the day at Israel’s Holocaust Museum & MemorialYad Vashem. We first walked through the Valley of the Communities where Shlomo shared his family story. He lost 12 family members in Vilna, Poland. We then walked through the Children’s Memorial and the museum itself. It was quite sobering.

We returned to the hotel for dinner and an optional walk to Ben Yehuda to experience some more “modern” Israeli life and shopping.

DAY 13 – FRIDAY, JANUARY 26: CITY OF DAVID, SOUTHERN EXCAVATIONS, A FEW FREE HOURS, GARDEN TOMB

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Day 11 Trip Summary – January 2018 14 Day Israel Tour

DAY 11 –WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 24: JERUSALEM, HERODIUM, BETHLEHEM

Today was our first full day here in Jerusalem! It would be a colder day, with highs in the upper 40s/low 50s, but we didn’t get the rain that was forecasted. What a blessing!

Mt. of Olives

Mt. of Olives

Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives

Leaving the hotel at about 7:30, we read from Psalm 122 and 125. Driving around the northern side of the Old City, we made it to the top of the Mt. of OlivesWhat a view of the Temple Mount and Old City from here! Walking down the slope of the Mt. of Olives, we stopped briefly at Dominos Flavet, a chapel traditionally connected to Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. We read from Luke 19 and Zechariah 14.

Garden of Gethsemane

Walking all the way down the Mt. of Olives brought us to an area known as the Garden of Gethsemane. While we can’t specifically pinpoint where this was other than on the western slope of the mountain, this is where Jesus displayed His passion (“Not my will but yours be done“) and was betrayed by Judas. We read from Luke 22 and considered the passion and obedience of Christ even unto death.

Old City – Eastern Gate, Pools of Bethesda, Holy Sepulcher Church

Eastern Gate Jerusalem

Eastern Gate Jerusalem

Next, we walked to the base of the Eastern Gate. It is a massive gate that was closed in 810 AD. Ezekiel 44 mentions that when the Messiah comes, it will be opened. From here we entered the Old City through the St. Stephen’s (or Lion’s) Gate. Our first stop inside the Old City was the Pools of Bethesda. We read from John 5 here. Close by is the start of the Via Dolorosa. We walked to the Church of the Holy SepulcherThis is one of two locations for the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. We had lunch here in the Christian Quarter.

Herodium

Walking out of the Old City through the Jaffa Gate, we drove southeast about 12 miles to HerodiumThis was where Herod the Great was buried (he reigned from 37-4 BC). We climbed this “artificial mound” to the top. While the view wasn’t great to the east, we could see back to Jerusalem from here to the north, the Judean Desert to the east, Tekoa to the south, and Bethlehem to the west. We walked down through the elaborate cistern system here.

Shepherds’ Fields / Bethlehem

Herodium

Herodium – a palace-fortress of Herod the Great

Driving to the Shepherds’ Fields (in Beit Sahour), we enjoyed descending down into a cave. Here we considered Jesus being born perhaps in a cave like this. We read from Micah 2, 5, and Luke 2. We also sang a few Christmas carols. Before leaving the site, we entered the small chapel and enjoyed the acoustics there too! We sounded like heavenly angels! We ended the day by driving into Bethlehem to an olive wood shop and store.

We returned to the hotel for dinner and a free night.

DAY 12 – THURSDAY, JANUARY 25: OLD CITY, WESTERN WALL TUNNEL, ISRAEL MUSEUM, YAD VASHEM

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Day 10 Trip Summary – January 2018 14 Day Israel Tour

DAY 10 – TUESDAY, JANUARY 23: NAZARETH, MEGIDDO, MT. CARMEL, CAESAREA, JERUSALEM

This morning we left the Sea of Galilee area. Following breakfast, checkout, and loading, we left shortly after 7:30 this morning. The weather changed from our last three sunny days. Today we had off and on rain and sun the entire day, with high temps in the low 60s. Thankfully at most sites, we avoided the heavier rains. Rain is predicted the rest of the week for Jerusalem.

Precipice of Nazareth

Mt. Tabor

Mt. Tabor in the Jezreel Valley

We drove to the region of the Lower Galilee towards Nazareth. Going through Cana (John 2) and the outskirts of Nazareth (Luke 1), we arrived at the Precipice of Nazareth. Here we enjoyed our first full view of the Jezreel Valley below. On our way to the overview, we saw a number of mandrake plants (Genesis 30, Song of Songs 7). Looking out to the Jezreel Valley, we could envision all of these stories unfolding: We read about Deborah and Barak battling on Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5), Gideon fighting the Midianites on the Hill of Moreh (Judges 6-7), and Saul and his sons dying on Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 31). We also read from Luke 4 about Jesus teaching in the Nazareth synagogue. We were invited to “come and see” (John 1) Jesus in the light of His Messiahship.

Megiddo

Megiddo

Tel Megiddo

From here we continued through the Jezreel Valley to Megiddo (Har Megiddo in Hebrew), which gave its name to Armageddon (Revelation 16). This site has over two dozen archaeological layers spanning a time period of about 2,500 years! After seeing the model of the ancient city, we climbed the site. We saw some of the many ruins here, including three gate structures, storage rooms, a sacrificial altar, and the grain silo. We read from Rev. 16 and celebrated that in the last day, God has the final word! We exited the site by walking down 180+ steps through the water system. The engineering of this system was extraordinary!

Mt. Carmel

Mt. Carmel

The Jezreel Valley from Mt. Carmel

Driving southwest, we climbed Mt. Carmel, a mountain range about 13 miles long that separates the Jezreel Valley with the Sharon Plain. After eating lunch at a Druze restaurant, we arrived at a place called Muhraqah (“burnt offering”) near by. In the chapel we read the OT story about Elijah and the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18).  We also read from Isaiah 35 and Song of Songs 7. We sang a few songs here as well, celebrating the awesomeness of God! Walking to the rooftop of the chapel provided us our third view of the Jezreel Valley below.

Caesarea

theater at Caesarea

The theater at Caesarea

Our last site of the day is located on the shoreline of the Sharon Plain. Caesarea was a city built by King Herod in 22 BC. He was indeed a great builder. Starting in the theater, we read from Acts 10, 12, and 26 (Peter, Herod Antipas, and Paul). Walking north we saw the palace (where Paul was bound?), the hippodrome, many Roman mosaics, and the areas where the Temple of Augustus and Herod’s harbor once stood. We exited the site through a Crusader gate. Before leaving for Jerusalem, we briefly stopped at the aqueduct.

It took about 2.5 hours to drive through the Tel Aviv area and up to the Hill Country of Judah to Jerusalem. Traffic in Jerusalem was backed up because of Vice-President Pence being here today. We arrived at our hotel, checked in, and enjoyed dinner together. Following dinner an optional walk was offered to the Western Wall. 16 went on the walk. To see this most holy site for the Jews today at night was amazing!

We are looking forward to three full days here in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel!

DAY 11 –WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 24: JERUSALEM, HERODIUM, BETHLEHEM

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