Biblical Israel & Jordan Tour, March 2017 – Day 11 Summary

DAY 11 – THURSDAY, MARCH 23:

Western Wall

The Western Wall of Jerusalem

Today was our second day in Jerusalem. Once again, although it rained a little over the night, the skies were partly sunny, with highs in the 60s. Almost perfect!

We started our day a little early this morning. Leaving the hotel around 7:15, we drove down through the Hinnon Valley (2 Chronicles 28:3, Jeremiah 7:31) and then up towards the Old City. Entering through the Dung Gate, we first visited the famous Western Wall. This served as the western retaining wall of the Temple when Herod expanded the Temple Mount (a project that began in 20 BC). From here we walked parallel to this western wall through what is called the Western Wall Tunnel. We saw massive Herodian stones placed precisely. One called the Master Course, weighs 400+ tons!

Temple Mount Sifting

Participating in the Temple Mount Sifting Project

Walking out of the St. Stephen’s Gate, we then enjoyed being “archaeologists” at the Temple Sifting Project. Located on Mt. Scopus (the northern end of the Mt. of Olives), we sifted through the debris brought directly from the Temple Mount. A number of the group found some interesting things, including a coin probably dating to the 2nd Temple Period. We ordered in falafels for lunch and ate them before we left.

Driving now to the western part of Jerusalem, we next visited the Israel Museum. Here we saw a 1:50 scaled model of Jerusalem as it looked just prior to its destruction in 70 AD. We carefully examined the locations here key stories from the Gospels and the life of Christ took place. Also here at the museum we walked through the Shrine of the Book where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls are on display. Lastly, we walked through the archaeological wing of the museum, seeing a few highlights (Dan Inscription, Moses’ Seat from Chorazim, the “place of trumpeting” inscription from the pinnacle of the Temple, the Pilate Inscription, and the sarcophagus of Herod the Great, among other things (1,900 year-old Roman glass pie plate).

Temple Model

The 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem during the time of Jesus (2nd Temple Period).

We ended the day with a moving visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial & Museum. It was a gripping experience as we saw the Children’s Memorial. We all heard Shlomo’s story of losing 12 family members from Vilna, Poland. We also walked through the museum itself on our own, reading and hearing the many stories of the Holocaust.

We returned to the hotel for dinner, followed by an optional walk to Ben Yehuda Street for shopping and a taste of modern Israeli life.

DAY 12 – FRIDAY, MARCH 24: CITY OF DAVID, HEZEKIAH’S TUNNEL, SOUTHERN WALL EXCAVATIONS, FREE AFTERNOON, GARDEN TOMB

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Biblical Greece Tour, February 2017 – Day 9 Summary

DAY 9 – TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 21:

Hydra Greece

Hydra Island, Greece. 4,000 people live on this island. No cars or motorbikes are permitted.

Today was another spectacular weather day here in Greece, making our visit to three Greek islands absolutely perfect! The high temp was in the mid 60s. It as a wonderful relaxing day out on the Aegean Sea!

Following an early breakfast, we drove to one of the ports of Athens for a day-long ferry ride. Sailing on the Aegean Sea about two hours, we arrived at the first island, Hydra. This island in particular provided a picturesque port. We had about an 75 minutes to explore the island. About 4,000 live on Hydra. After boarding back on the ship, we enjoyed lunch provided to us by the ferry.

Poros Island

Poros Island, Greece

The second island was Poros. After docking, most in the group hiked up to the city tower. This island is used by the Greek Navy in training their young sailers.

The third island, Aegina, was a largest of the three we visited. Known for the growing of pistachios here, many bought goodies. A few in the group explored the Temple of Apollo that once stood here in the 5th century BC. It was quite impressive. An early city was established here back in the Middle Bronze Periods (e.g. 2,000 BC). This island also had many of the shops open for coffee and shopping.

Aegina Greece

The group on Aegina Island, Greece

The sunset on the way back to Athens was very nice. We also enjoyed some “Greek dancing” (especially Sue!) before we arrived back at port. Christos picked us up here. We drove back to the hotel for a late dinner.

The beauty of these Greek islands was simply breathtaking!

DAY 10 – WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22: FREE MORNING IN ATHENS, CAPE SOUNION/TEMPLE OF POSEIDON

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September 2016 Israel Tour – Day 6

DAY 6 – SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 24:

jerash jordan

The Temple of Artemis, Jerash, Jordan

Today we left the Sea of Galilee area and drove south to the Jordan border. It would be another very nice sunny day, with mild temps. On the way to the border we made a brief stop to the Kinneret Cemetery located at the south end of the Sea of Galilee. This is where a famous “Rachelis buried. She was an early Jewish pioneer to the land.

We then proceeded to the northern border crossing called the Sheik Border. After a delayed border crossing, we finally entered into Jordan where we met our guide, Sam. He is a Jordanian Christian. Boarding our bus after taking care of the last passport check, we began our drive through the northern Jordan country-side. After about an hour’s drive, we arrived at Jerash, the largest Roman city in the area. We spent about an hour and a half exploring this amazing ancient site. Among the things we saw included the Arch of Hadrian, the hippodrome, the Temples of Zeus and Artemis, the theater, and the Cardo.

cardo at jerash jordan

The Cardo Street, Jerash, Jordan

Boarding back on the bus, we drove south by the Jabbok River (where Jacob wrestled with God, Genesis 32) and through Jordan’s capital, Amman. It is a city with such diversity, the very poor the refugee, and the affluent. In the mid-afternoon we arrived at Mt. Nebo. Visibility was fair, but at least we could see down to Jericho, the Dead Sea, and the hills of Gilead to the north. The Hill Country of Judah & Jerusalem were barely visible on the horizon. We read from Deuteronomy 31, 34, and Joshua 1. It was on Mt. Nebo where Moses died. Joshua would succeed him, leading the Israelites to cross the Jordan River and enter into the Promised Land.

Because of time, we could not see the 6th century AD Medeba Map. However, we did stop at a mosaic school where we saw how mosaics today are made. Here we saw a full-scale replica of the map. As a bonus, we also enjoyed watching the owner of the shop glue together the soles of Tim’s shoes that fell apart.

Mt. Nebo, Jordan

Standing on Mt. Nebo, Jordan

From here, we left Medeba and drove 3 hours to Petra, stopping once on the way for a rest-stop. We finally arrived at Wadi Musa, the town of Petra. We ate a late dinner before retiring for the evening.

We are all excited to see Petra tomorrow, one of the seven wonders of the world!!

DAY 7 – SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25: PETRA, WADI RUM

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April, 2016 Israel-Egypt Tour, Days 1 & 2

welcome to israel sign at ben gurion airport

DAYS 1 & 2 – SUNDAY-MONDAY, APRIL 10-11  Our departure day finally arrived! God brought together 57 people from all over the country for this journey of a lifetime trip to Israel, the land of the Bible.  The majority of the group met in JFK (New York) for the non-stop flight to Tel Aviv, while others flew from other departing cities.  Unfortunately three people missed their connection flight and had to catch a later flight.  After this 10 hour flight, we landed at the Ben Gurion Airport. The weather sunny and mild (around 80).  Following passport control and gathering our luggage, we met our guide Shlomo.  We also saw the Ethiopian marathon runner who will be representing Israel in the Brazil Olympics.  We … Continue reading

Israel’s Red Sea

The underwater world of the Red Sea

The underwater world of the Red Sea

Israel has three “seas,” as we like to say -The Red, the Med (as in the Mediterranean), and the Dead.  Recently, Israel broke through the “world rankings” and is now considered having one of the top 10 beaches in the world. Israel’s beaches are both beautiful and unique.  While the Dead Sea is the sea you “float” in (33% salt and minerals), and the Med Sea is the sea you surf in, the Red Sea is the body of water you dive in.

Speaking of the Red Sea, it was in January, 1982 when Karl (a felllow student, from Westmont College) and I took an Egged bus (Israel’s public bus company) all the way to Jerusalem to Sharm el Sheikh located at the very tip of the Sinai Peninsula. This was a time when half of the Sinai was still Israel’s (they would give it to Egypt in June, 1982).  Today Sharm is now a huge beach resort run by Egyptians (my April, 2017 Israel/Egypt tour will go here) and is one of the leading coral diving locations in the world.

Red Sea coastline

Red Sea coastline

But back Sharm was a just a desolate southern southern tip of a barren land called the Sinai. But after being dropped off literally “in the middle of nowhere,” Karl and I began our backpacking trip 100 miles, hugging the coastline as we hiked north.  We would hike, snorkel, eat our pre-planned diet (primarily of PJ sandwiches, apples, and Oreo cookies), snorkel some more, and sleep. We even ran out of water for two days (one of the oasis we were counting on was dried up). In fact, while cleaning out my church office last week, I came across my Red Sea Diving Book, complete with the location of spectacular coral reefs.  We used it as we explored some of the various shipwrecks along the way. About a week later, we returned to Elat, Israel’s Red Sea port city, for some relaxation and real food.

Sharm el Sheikh

Sharm el Sheikh

The Red Sea is a spectacular place. The water is clear and the coral and fish alike are amazingly colorful. Geographically, the Red Sea is located between Asia and Africa. At its most northerly point forms the Sinai Peninsula and stretches over 1,000 miles south to join the Indian Ocean, between Ethiopia and Yemen.  Below its surface, there are over 1,000 species of invertebrates and around 200 recorded coral types to be found. Additionally, the Red Sea boasts over a 1,000 species of fish, more species than any other proportional body of water. Not surprisingly, therefore, the Red Sea is considered by many to offer the very best diving available in the marine world.

Some breath-taking video of the Red Sea has been posted recently.  The underwater world of the Red Sea declares God’s majestic creation. The Psalmist speaks of God as “the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them. (Psalm 146:6).”

Enjoy this video of the underwater world of the Red Sea.

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January 2016 Israel Tour – Days 1 & 2

DAYS 1 & 2 – SUNDAY / MONDAY, JANUARY 17-18:

The high place at Gezer

The high place at Gezer

Our day of departure finally came!  Most in the group met at the Newark, NJ airport for our non-stop flight to Tel Aviv. Unlike most flights, our flight took off at around 4 p.m.  We landed in mid-late morning at the Ben Gurion Airport, named after Israel’s first Prime Minister.  Weather was quite normal, with temps in the low 60s and sun.

After finding our luggage and meeting up with others in the group, we spent the afternoon in the Shephelah  (lowlands) of Judah.  We saw three of the five major valleys in this region (Ajalon, Sorek, Elah).  We visited Gezer (We read from 1 Kings 9 and Ecclesiastes 3), Beth Shemesh (1 Kings 6), and Kh. Qeiyafa (1 Samuel 17, the story of David and Goliath!).  These were all Old Testament sites that played an important role in the days of the Bible.  So the afternoon of touring was a great first exposure to the world of archaeology and historical geography.  At these sites we saw ruins dating back to both the Canaanite and Israelite Periods.

Kh. Qeiyafa and the Elah Valley

Kh. Qeiyafa and the Elah Valley

In the late afternoon, we drove to Jaffa.  Here we visited the alley-ways and small streets of the city.  We reviewed the stories of Jonah (Jonah 1) and Peter (Acts 9 & 10) before getting a great view of the Tel Aviv shoreline.

From here we fought “rush-hour” traffic to Netanya where we checked into our first night’s hotel.  We enjoyed dinner together, followed by a brief orientation meeting.  Some then walked around the town and down to the beach before retiring for the night.

We’re all excited to be here in the land of the Bible!

DAY 3 – TUESDAY, JANUARY 19: CAESAREA, CARMEL, MEGIDDO, PRECIPICE OF NAZARETH, TIBERIAS

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Turkey, Erdogan & the Middle East

Figuring out the geo-political situation in the Middle East is a difficult task.  It is complicated. It is complex.  The “players” change so quickly that it is hard to keep up with everything.  This is why I often want to hear what Walid Shoebat has to say about it. Who is Walid Shoebat, you ask?  He is an ex-Palestinian terrorist who converted to Christianity. At an early age he accepted his calling to be a suicide bomber. As the story is told, in 1978 Shoebat was sent with a bomb strapped on him on a mission to kill Israeli Jews.  The mission failed. Shoebat survived.  He spent time in prison before being released.  The wonderful part of his story is … Continue reading

In the Beginning was the Word

What happened in Bethlehem was a theological statement made by God!  He made it with a double explanation point too!!  John says it most powerfully – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace … Continue reading

Ten Days of Awe Devotionals – Day 3

Here is the 3rd devotional from the Chosen People Ministries: Blowing of the Shofar (Shofarot) As mentioned before, the blowing of the shofar is one of the unique moments that set Rosh Hashanah apart from the other seven biblical festivals. There is so much to learn about the importance of the blowing of the shofar and the lessons God would have us learn from this great moment in the observation of the festival. For example, in Numbers chapter 10 the sacrifices of the holy day are detailed. The priestly sons of Aaron, moreover, shall blow the trumpets; and this shall be for you a perpetual statute throughout your generations. When you go to war in your land against the adversary … Continue reading

Ten Days of Awe Devotionals – Day 2

Traditionally, there are three dominant themes described in Jewish tradition that dominate the liturgy and prayers for Rosh Hashanah.  The first theme is Kingship (Malchiyot), the second is Remembrance (Zichronot) and the third is the Shofar (Shofarot). Each of these themes is designed to remind us God’s purpose and plan for mankind at the beginning of the New Year. Kingship On Rosh Hashanah, we remind ourselves that the Creator of the universe is King of the universe and Lord of our lives. According to Jewish tradition, In Malchiyot, just as trumpets are joyously sounded when a king ascends his throne, we sound the shofar as we reestablish God’s dominion over us as our King for another year. This also emphasizes the … Continue reading