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).


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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather

Israel’s Growing Population

From our friends at United with Israel, the following article features a new update on the growing population in Israel. It is quite amazing! For the full article, go HERE.

On its 70th Independence Day, Israel can be proud of its booming population and thriving economy.

By: United with Israel Staff

Tel Aviv

The coastline of Tel Aviv

Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) released its traditional statistics report on the citizens of Israel in honor of Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israeli Independence Day, which is celebrated this year on Wednesday night and Thursday.

Israel boasts 8,842,000 citizens, more than 10 times as many as the 806,000 at the time of the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948.

On Israel’s 100th birthday, in 2048, the CBS estimate that Israel’s population will grow to about 15 million citizens. According to CBS projections, Israel’s population will surpass 10 million some time between 2025 and 2030.

The Jewish population stands at 6,589,000 million, 75 percent of the entire population. Israel’s Arab citizens constitute 20.9 percent of the total population, numbering approximately 1,849,000. Non-Arab Christians and other religious groups constitute 4.65 percent of the population.

1948 Newspaper

The Statehood of Israel declared in May, 1948

Since last year’s Independence Day, Israel’s population grew by 163,000, constituting a 1.9 percent growth, including 177,000 newborn babies; 41,000 people have died.

Israel’s population is young in comparison to other Western countries. Children up to the age of 14 constitute 28 percent of the population.

Israel welcomed 28,000 new immigrants. Some 3.5 million people have made Aliyah (immigration to Israel) since 1948, making up 42 percent of the total population.

About 75 percent of Israel’s population is Israeli-born – known as “sabras” – half of them second-generation. In 1948, only 35 percent were sabras, and their numbers have since more than doubled.

In 2018, over 70 years after the Holocaust, the largest Jewish population lives in Israel. This figure represents 43 percent of world Jewry.

Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, is the most-populated city, with some 882,700 residents – almost 10 percent of the population.


Jerusalem at night

In 1949, Israel had merely 500 cities and towns. Today, it boasts over 1,200.

In 2018, over 70 years after the Holocaust, the largest Jewish population lives in Israel. This figure represents 43 percent of world Jewry.

Israel boasts 63 academic institutions, as opposed to only two in 1948.

Israel was the 11th happiest country in the world in 2017, the fifth consecutive year Israel received this high ranking, after reaching 14th in the first 2012 report. Israel came out ahead of the US, Germany, Japan, Italy, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Britain, Brazil, France and Mexico.

According to data from Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, over 93 percent of Israelis say they are happy or very happy with their lives.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather

The Quiet Capernaum Shoreline

One of the many special places in Israel to experience is the Capernaum shoreline of the Sea of Galilee. Today Capernaum is a well-maintained archaeological site, with its property belonging to the Franciscan Catholics. Back in the days of Jesus, it was the main Galilean town located right on the northwest corner of the lake. It was a busy place. Yet, it was also a special place! A Special Place There are several reasons why this is such a special place still today: Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John here (Matthew 4). They were fishermen who were asked to leave their profession in order to follow the Master! Matthew (Levi) also lived here in Capernaum. He was a port tax collector … Continue reading

Our Easter Joy & Hope

The centerpiece of our Christian faith is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter serves as the bedrock of our spiritual and eternal joy and hope. The wonderful words of the angel at the tomb says it all – “He is not here!  He is risen! (Matthew 28:6).”  


Jewish ossuaries

Display of Jewish ossuaries in the Hecht Museum. (Credit: Photo by Ferrell Jenkins)

An ossuary is a small stone box containing the bones of the deceased person. These were used in the days of Jesus. 100s have been found in Jerusalem alone. Some ossuaries were quite ornate, decorated with rosettes. Others had the name of the deceased scratched on the outside of them, identifying whose bones they were. Archaeologists actually found an ossuary with the following name written in Aramaic – Yeshua bar Yoseph” (e.g. “Jesus, son of Joseph”). Of course this ossuary wasn’t our Yeshua’s ossuary. To be very clear, He didn’t need an ossuary! Rather, the tomb of Jesus was empty, not because of the body of the Savior was stolen nor because His followers hallucinated or made up the story. The tomb was empty because Jesus was literally raised to life!


In Israel, 100s of Second Temple Tomb (tombs dating to the 1st century) have been found. About two dozen tombs have actually been found in and around the Holy Sepulcher Church, one of there three oldest churches in the world (4th century AD). But whether this is the place of Jesus’ tomb or not, we honor not merely the traditional place but rather the historical truth and reality of Christ’s resurrection. We worship the Person, Jesus, raised from the grave! It is what brings us the joy and certainty of our faith!

3 Tomb Reconstruction copy

A model of an “arcasolium” tomb

The most likely type of Second Temple Tomb Jesus was laid in on Friday afternoon was an arcasolium tomb.  The most common type of tomb during the period of the New Testament was the koch (kochim, plural) or niche tomb.  However, it seems as if they angels in the resurrection story couldn’t sit at the feet and head of Christ (John 20:12) within a narrow and elongated niche tomb. Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb was a newly-hewn tomb (Matthew 27:60), and must have been a tomb of prominence. What a dramatic event it must have been for the women at the tomb who were told by the angels of Christ’s resurrection! What an amazing experience also for Peter and John who ran to the tomb shortly after!

Flowers at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

Flowers at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

The Empty Grave

So this weekend, all the Christian world rejoices in the resurrection of Jesus! Easter lilies stand tall in celebration! Easter flowers bloom brilliantly as a sign of life! May our hearts rejoice in Christ’s resurrection!

Enjoy this song that celebrates the beautiful and powerful name of Jesus!


Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather

Herod’s Palace – The Place of Jesus’ Sentencing

The passion of Jesus during His last week in Jerusalem can be seen in each of the four Gospels. He would die on a Friday. While He predicted for the first time His death and resurrection up north in a place called Caesarea Philippi (see Matthew 16), Jesus was only one day away from fulfilling the first part of this prediction, namely, His crucifixion.

Antonia Fortress

Herod's palace

A model at the Israel Museum of Herod’s Palace

Traditionally, the place of the trial and the sentencing Jesus by Pontius Pilate was the Antonia FortressThis tradition is based on the discovery of a stone pavement (in Greek, lithostrotos, see John 19) that can be seen today below the Sisters of Zion convent. However, this pavement dates to the 2nd century AD, or to the time of Hadrian. This traditional location for the trial of Jesus happening here is what has led to the Via Dolorosa starting here and ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (the place for the death and burial of Jesus according to a 4th century AD tradition).

Herod’s Palace

Herod's palace

The newly uncovered palace area of Herod the Great (credit: Tower of David’s Citadel)

At the opposite end of the Old City today, however, is Herod’s Palace. It was built by Herod the Great. Today, this palace can be seen in the area just south of the Jaffa Gate in an archaeological park called David’s Citadel. Here in recent excavations, a 1st century stone pavement has been uncovered. This is the most likely place where Jesus stood in front of Pilate (who was in town from Caesarea during Passover). Following sentencing, it was from here where Jesus bore His cross and carried it to Calvary.



Herodian ruins in the palace area known as the Kishle (credit: Ferrell Jenkins)

The video below offers a quick peak into the lower reaches of Herod’s palace. Over the last few years, the archaeological excavations have been quite thorough and revealing.

Eventually, Jesus would die on a cross. Starting with being humiliated before Pilate here at Herod’s palace, Jesus would die scorned and rejected on a cruel cross. As the hymn states,

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.


Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather

March 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 13

DAY 13 – FRIDAY, MARCH 23: CITY OF DAVID, HEZEKIAH’S TUNNEL, SOUTHERN WALL EXCAVATIONS, FREE AFTERNOON, GARDEN TOMB Today was our last full day here in Israel the land of the Bible! The sun was bright again with temps in the mid 80s today. Wow… what a great streak of weather we have had the last two weeks! Praise God! Southern Wall Excavations Departing once again this morning at 7:30 after breakfast, we drove to the southern wall excavations. Walking in the Dung gate, we focus here was to retrace the steps of Jesus here. The Temple Mount expansion project of Herod began in 20 BC, and seeing how massive these stones were was incredible. Even Jesus’ disciples made a … Continue reading

March 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 12


Today began in the Old City and ended in western Jerusalem. The sun was bright and sunny again, with temps around 80.

Western Wall/Tunnel

Western Wall

The Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem

Following breakfast, we left again around 7:30 this morning. We read John 2 (Temple…. 46 years to build, etc…) on the way to the Western Wall. Entering the Dung Gate into this area called the Kotel, this wall served as a retaining wall for the expanded platform of the Temple Mount built by Herod the Great beginning in 20 BC. After spending some time at the Wall, we walked about 400 yards north along this retaining wall. Here we saw massive stones, including the “Master Course” stone that weighs 100s of tons! Pastor John even was able to get a picture of the new small theater discovered recently among the ruins.

Jewish Quarter

Jerusalem model

The 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem at the Israel Museum

We returned to the Jewish Quarter. Here, we enjoyed a visit to Shorashim (“roots”) where we heard Moshe (an Orthodox Jew) share about his Jewish faith in the context of our Christian faith. It was quite interesting. Also, all the items in the store here has a biblical connection. A great place!

Israel Museum

Coffin of Herod

Herod the Great’s coffin (found at Herodum)

Following lunch on our own in the Jewish Quarter, we walked out of the Zion’s Gate and boarded the bus to the western part of the city. Our first stop of the afternoon was the Israel Museum. We saw three things here. First, a 1:50 model of Jerusalem as it looked like in 70 AD. We re-traced the steps of Jesus in and through the city that was populated by around 60,000 people. We saw the Temple (John 2, 7, 10; Mark 13, Acts 3, 5, etc…), the Siloam Pool (John 9), Herod’s Palace (Luke 23), and the two possible crucifixion sites, the southern steps, Robinson’s Arch, and many other locations.

Next, we walked through the Shrine of the Book where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed. We even saw two scroll jars from Cave 1. Lastly, we saw the highlights from the archaeological museum. This included artifacts such as the Dan and Pilate Inscriptions, Hazor’s and Arad’s cultic center, Asherah figurines, ossuaries, and Herod’s coffin (among many other things).

Yad Vashem

box car Yad Vashem

A box car used in the Holocaust, at Yad Vashem

We ended the day with a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum. While walking through the Valley of the Communities, Shlomo shared his story of losing 12 family members in Vilna, Poland as a result of the Holocaust. We also walked through the Children’s Memorial and lastly the museum on our own.

We returned to our hotel in Jerusalem for dinner and an optional walk on the Promenade. Before going to bed, we also had turned our watches forward one hour for Israel’s daylight savings.


Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather

March 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 11


Today was a unique day here in Jerusalem. We not only enjoyed fantastic weather again (full sun, with highs in the mid 70s), but also a special service project in an Israeli school.

Bridges for Peace Service Project

Bridges for Peace

Our Bridges for Peace Project in Jerusalem

Leaving the hotel at 8 a.m. today, we drove to the center of town. Here we arrived at Bridges for Peace, a 50 years old organization aimed to provide care and compassion to Jewish people all over the world! We heard the Director of Bridges (Rebecca Brimmer) share about the history, goal, and their objectives in extending care to needy people here in Israel. We also toured their facility.

Bridges for Peace

Painting and planting flower pots

We again boarded the bus from here and drove to the Zalman Aran School. This is an elementary school in the Talpiot community in Jerusalem. We were greeted with a few songs offered by some of the students. It was very touching!

Breaking into four groups, each of us helped with either a painting or art project, a gardening project, as well as helping with soccer. The interaction with the students was special. We helped until lunch time (with a few continuing the painting and art project after lunch). We left about 2:30.

Old City/Rampart Wall Walk/Ben Yehuda

Rampart walls Old City

Walking the rampart walls in Jerusalem

We enjoyed the rest of the afternoon on our own at various places. Some got dropped off near Ben Yehuda Street, while most went into the Old City through Jaffa Gate. About 25 in the group walked the rampart walls (the Turkish walls built in 1537 AD). We walked from Jaffa gate to the Damascus gate.

We walked back to the hotel for dinner and a free evening. Many in the group walked to the old train station for a taste of Israeli entertainment, shopping, and coffee shops.


Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather

March 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 10


Today was our first day in Jerusalem, and it was a great one! The weather was perfect, with full sun and temps in the low 70s.

Mt. of Olives

Mt. of Olives

The Old City and Temple Mount from the Mt. of Olives

Leaving the hotel about 7:30 after breakfast, we drove around the Old City of Jerusalem to the Mt. of Olives. Here we enjoyed a panoramic view of the entire Old City, the Temple Mount, the the City of David to the south. Walking down to the chapel called Dominus Flavet, we read from Luke 19 and Zechariah 14. From here we continued our walk to the Garden of Gethsemane. Brother Diego greeted us here. We also enjoyed a quite reflective time here, considering the passion of Jesus (Luke 22).

Old City

Garden of Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemane

We walked to the Old City from here through St. Stephen’s Gate (also called the Lion’s and Jericho gate). At the Pools of Bethesda we read from John 5 about the healing that took place here. We also sounded angelic as we sang a few songs in St. Anne’s Church (Crusader, with an eight-second echo!). We continued our walk to the Holy Sepulcher Church in the heart of the Christian Quarter. This is one of two possible places for the crucifixion and burial tomb of Jesus. We explored the church on our own. It dates to 325 AD. We also ate lunch nearby.



Herodium – where Herod the Great was buried

We walked out of the Old City through the Jaffa Gate and boarded our bus. We drove southeast to Herodium. This was where Herod the Great was buried in 4 BC. We climbed this partially artificial hill to the top, offering us a good view of Jerusalem to the north, the Judean Desert to the east, Bethlehem to the west, and Tekoa to the south. We even saw some migrating storks fly overhead. We descended down through the cistern system of the site.

Shepherd’s Fields/Bethlehem

small lamb

A small lamb at the Shepherds’ Fields

Nearby in Beit Sahour, we made a brief stop at the Shepherds’ Fields. Descending into a cave at the Shepherds’ Fields, we read from Micah 5 and Luke 2, in celebration of Christ’s birth that came “just at the right time (Galatians 4:4).” We also sang a few carols in the cave as well as in the chapel. To end the day, we visited an olive wood shop and store owned by Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem. The olive wood pieces are amazing!

We drove back to the hotel for dinner and an optional walk to Ben Yehuda Street for some shopping and a taste of more modern Israeli life.


Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather

March 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 9


We spent the entire day in the Judean Desert along the west side of the Dead Sea. The sun would be bright with warm but bearable temps in the high 80s.



Masada – a palace-fortress built by Herod

Following breakfast and check-out, we left the hotel a little after 7:45. Driving just 15 minutes north along the Dead Sea and reading Psalm 18:1-2 as we started the day (God is my rock, my fortress – “metzada” in Hebrew), our first stop was Masada. Taking the cable-car to the top of this 1,000 foot high “stand alone” fortress originally built by Herod the Great, we saw the ruins (southern palace, Roman ramp, casemate wall, synagogue, northern palace, and bathhouse). We also heard the story of Masada shared passionately by Shlomo. After the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, Masada was used as a place of refuge for 967 Jews. Leaving the site, we took the cable car back down. Nine in the group hiked down the Snake Path.



Engedi water falls

Continuing to drive north, we arrived at Engedi, the oasis in the Judean Desert. Walking back into the canyon, we read from Song of Songs 1 (about the henna blossoms of Engedi), 2 Chronicles 20 (the “Ascent of Ziz”) and 1 Samuel 24. This is where David encountered King Saul in a cave. We walked back to the water falls further up in the canyon. Some enjoyed getting very wet!


Inside Cave 1 Qumran

Inside of Cave 1 at Qumran

Only about 30 minutes further north is Qumran. This was the most important archaeological site in all of Israel, for this is where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. During the lunch hour, 15 in the group hiked to Cave 1 where the first scrolls were found (including the famous Isaiah Scrolls). Following lunch we visited the site itself, seeing the ruins of the scribes of the texts, the Essene community. Standing in front of Cave 4 (and where #5 was), we read from “Psalm 151” (an extra psalm found in Cave 11) as well as Psalm 19 and 2 Timothy 3:16. Praise God for the amazing preservation of God’s Word!


Jericho walls

The retaining walls of Jericho

From here we visit Old Testament Jericho. This city is located just north of the Dead Sea. Climbing the “tel,” we first looked east across the Jordan Valley to see Mt. Nebo (Dt. 34). It was in the Jordan River across from where Jesus was baptized (John 1). We also talked about how the archaeology here matches well (“confirms”) the biblical story of Joshua 6. Standing on the southern end, we saw the double retaining stone walls of the city. It was on top of these stone walls that the mud brick wall was placed. It was this mud brick wall that came tumblin’ down when the shofars sounded! Praise God for the reliability of Scripture!

Wadi Qelt & on to Jerusalem

Wadi Qelt

Wadi Qelt – Judean Desert

On our drive west to Jerusalem (18 miles), we made a brief stop overlooking the Wadi Qelt. This is part of the Judean Desert. As the sun was setting, we heard the words of Isaiah 40 shared with us as well as Psalm 23. The desert here serves as the context for these passages!

Arriving in Jerusalem, we checked into our hotel. Upon finishing dinner, we enjoyed an orientation walk to the Western Wall! We walked through the Jewish Quarter of the Old City to there and back. It is exciting to be in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital!



Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmailby feather