Jerusalem – The City of Gold

Jerusalem is Israel’s eternal capital. Since the days of David 3,000 years ago it has been Israel’s capital. 1000 years before David a man named Abraham took his son Isaac here (specifically to Mt. Moriah). It is a special city like none other. Because of the city’s uniqueness and rich history, there are no words that can describe Jerusalem. However, one particular song comes close!

Jerusalem city of gold

Jerusalem – the City of Gold

Jerusalem of Gold is a classic song that portrays in every way the specialness of Jerusalem. A rendition of this song was just performed and shown on the Israel Video Network. Performed by the Portnoy brothers, the song was written by Naomi Shemer in May of 1967. Raphael Israeli states, “At that time, the Old City was still controlled by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and under its sovereignty rule. Jews had been banned from the Old City and the rest of Jerusalem east of it, losing their homes and possessions and becoming refugees. All Jews were barred from either returning or entering the areas under Jordanian control, and many holy sites were desecrated and damaged during that period” (Introduction: Everyday Life in Divided Jerusalem”. Jerusalem Divided: The Armistice Regime, 1947–1967, 2002). Thus original song described the Jewish people’s 2,000-year longing to return to Jerusalem. A final verse was added after the Six-Day War to celebrate Jerusalem’s re-unification.

South wall excavations in JerusalemThe song is really a love song about Jerusalem. The song actually captures the essence of Psalm 137 when the Judeans in Exile in Babylon yearned for the day to return to Jerusalem – “If I forget Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do  not consider Jerusalem my highest joy (Psalm 137:5-6).”

The video itself features a number of various places in and throughout Jerusalem.Here is the video. Below are also the English words of this moving song!


Translation of Jerusalem of Gold:

Verse 1
The mountain air is clear as water
The scent of pines around
Is carried on the breeze of twilight,
And tinkling bells resound.

The trees and stones there softly slumber,
A dream enfolds them all.
So solitary lies the city,
And at its heart — a wall.

Oh, Jerusalem of gold,
and of light and of bronze,
I am the lute for all your songs.

Verse 2
The wells are filled again with water,
The square with joyous crowd,
On the Temple Mount within the City,
The shofar rings out loud.

Within the caverns in the mountains
A thousand suns will glow,
We’ll take the Dead Sea road together,
That runs through Jericho.

Oh, Jerusalem of gold,
and of light and of bronze,
I am the lute for all your songs.

Verse 3
But as I sing to you, my city,
And you with crowns adorn,
I am the least of all your children,
Of all the poets born.

Your name will scorch my lips for ever,
Like a seraph’s kiss, I’m told,
If I forget thee, golden city,
Jerusalem of gold.

Oh, Jerusalem of gold,
and of light and of bronze,
I am the lute for all your songs.

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Jerusalem IS Israel’s Biblical Capital!

Jerusalem Embassy

The plot of land in Jerusalem designated for years now for the future US Embassy

The present discussion whether Jerusalem should be defined as “Israel’s capital” has been quite captivating. However to be perfectly honest, this discussion has also been quite disappointing, to say the least. Although one cannot escape this being at least in part a political issue, to me it primarily an historical issue and ultimately is a biblical one.

Now I usually try and stay away of political issues in my blogs and in social media. However, at least some political observations must be made here. Thus, within politically circles, I must confess that I continually am appalled (but of course not surprised like most of you I suspect) by anti-Semitic world organizations such as United Nations, Unesco, the Arab League of Nations, etc… who do not consider Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The outright hatred and scorn against the tiny State of Israel trumps (no pun intended) everything else. At the same time and to be perfectly honest (and this may upset some of you), I am equally very troubled to hear our present US Administration disclose their intentions to not move the US Embassy to Israel’s capital of Jerusalem. I hope I am wrong on this observation, but for now it appears that no move is imminent.

US Embassy Israel

The US Embassy is presently in Tel Aviv

Listening to primary sources these last few days about not moving the Embassy to Jerusalem signals not only a huge broken promise to the US voter this past November, but it also serves as a slap in the face of Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East. Of about 210 world countries where the United States recognize without hesitation their declared capital, Israel is the only country whose capital is not recognized as legitimate. Simply, to not recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital (where, by the way, the Kinesset, the Prime Minister’s office, and all the Israeli government buildings are located) is a big-time betrayal in every respect. Today, the United States only have their consulates (two of them, one in west Jerusalem and the other in east Jerusalem) in Israel’s capital. The Embassy is in Tel Aviv. We pass it on each and every tour I lead.

This means at this point of Trump’s presidency, it appears as if nothing has changed in decades. Every recent president has made endless campaign promises to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, but have always fallen short of acting upon the promise. So once again, the tragic and a-historic statement that “no state has sovereignty over Jerusalem” wins the day. Such a statement is based on false historical assumptions (e.g. namely about the historicity of the so-called Palestinian people and the even bigger myth that Israel occupies and even settles land that is not theirs). This is so very disappointing to me. But in today’s world, truth just doesn’t matter any more. Only fiction and false narratives/news does. Tragic!

In a recent Conservative Review article (by Jordan Schachtel, May 17, 2017), it was said that “by proclaiming that ‘no state has sovereignty’ over Jerusalem, the Trump administration finds itself in a position that is wholly rejected by a bipartisan consensus of congressional leaders.” Schachtel writes, “The Jerusalem Embassy Act, which was originally passed in 1995 by an almost unanimous consensus in Congress, calls for the United States to move its embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” Even more appalling was the statement made by certain congressional leaders refer to the Western Wall of the 2nd Temple (the most holy place for Jews today) as not being part of Israel. What? Even the spokesperson for the White House yesterday fell short of recognizing the Western Wall as “part of Israel.” Really? Respectfully, but are you kidding me?  At least I hold out hope that when the President himself plans to visit the Western Wall on May 22, that he declares loud and clear something different.

South wall excavations in Jerusalem

The Southern Excavations of the Temple in Jerusalem

But let’s change direction and talk about the historical and the biblical issues. The historical roots of Jerusalem being the capital of Israel goes back 3,000 years. It goes back to the days of King David when he captured the city from the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5). Jerusalem would become such an important part of “biblical Israel” that it is even mentioned slightly over 800 times in the Bible. Parenthetically, I must also say that Jerusalem is not even mentioned once in the Koran. From ancient times, Jerusalem has always been Israel’s capital city. Yet in today’s environment it is seemingly wrong to bring up anything that is anchored in the historical, let alone the biblical. Yet the truth of Scripture clearly states that Jerusalem was the Jewish capital until 70 AD when the Romans destroyed it.

Yet I suppose part of the acceptance of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital is connected with how one views what happened in 1948. It was in May of 1948 that Israel became a Jewish State, with David Ben Gurion the first Prime Minister. While it was only a small portion, relatively speaking, of the historic land given to modern Israel (“biblical Israel” consisted of lands in Judea, Samaria, and even on the east side o the Jordan River according to the land given by God to the 12 Tribes), the Jewish State now has land they could call their own!  Even though the United Nations trimmed dramatically from the League of Nations declaration in 1920 the amount of land Israel should have, Israel at least had some land.

The ISraeli flag

The Israeli flag

Was 1948 the fulfillment of biblical prophecy? I personally believe that 1948 revealed the beginning stages of the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan for not only His people, our Jewish friends. Like clay in the potter’s hand, God is shaping and molding ethnic Israel in the last days for His glory and honor. Yet even more exciting, God is also shaping the world for a redemptive purpose as well. There is coming a day when the whole world will gather in Jerusalem and recognize the coming of God’s redemption (Zechariah 14). In fact, this will come about when the Messiah stands on the Mt. of Olives. We, of course, believe that this Messiah will be none other than Jesus when He returns.  But it will be Jerusalem where this all unfolds for the world to see! How glorious!

In the meantime, we are to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6).” I also believe we should pray for boldness for world leaders (including our very own president) to recognize the historic and biblical roots of Jerusalem for the Jewish people.

Pray for the peace of JerusalemPolitically, I do hope and pray that not only the US Embassy, but the embassies of many other countries move to Jerusalem. I am thankful for those in leadership positions on both sides of the aisle who boldly support Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Moving the embassy to Jerusalem would be much more than symbolic. Specifically, such a move would be in recognition of the historical and biblical roots of our Jewish friends! It would recognize Israel’s biblical right to exist!



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April-May 2017 Israel-Egypt Tour Update: Day 14


Today was our last day in Cairo and the last full day of our trip! The weather was the same as yesterday as we traveled to various sites around this huge city!

Coptic Church

Worship in Coptic Church in Cairo

Following breakfast, we departed the hotel around 8 a.m. and headed for the Citadel. This is the highest point of Cairo, providing a great view of the city below. Also on the Citadel is the Alabaster Mosque (also called the Mohammed Ali Mosque). It was built in the 1800s. While it is a beautiful building, it represents a religion void of truth and hope.

From here we drove to Old Cairo. A wonderful experience awaited us as we visited one of three Coptic Churches. The first church (St. Sergius) was in the middle of their Sunday worship service. It was special to listen to the prayers and see the people engaged in the service. We also visited the Ben Ezra Synagogue. It was built in 882 AD. While it is primary functioning as a museum today, there was once a large Jewish population here (there still is one active synagogue nearby used by a tiny population of Jews today).


The view from the Citadel of Cairo

Over the lunch hour, we strolled through the Khan El Khalili Bazaar for some shopping and a snack & coffee. A few of us enjoyed bargaining here!

This afternoon we drove to the Egyptian Museum. It houses 200,000 artifacts from ancient Egypt. It is quite massive. Heba took us around to see the highlights of the museum. This included the Rosetta Stone (the only replica in the museum), statues of Thutmose III (great conqueror who captured Megiddo in Israel), Hatshepsut (queen who took in Moses?), Amenhotep II (Pharoah of Exodus?), Akhenaton (monotheistic Pharaoh), and Ramses II; many papyri and sarcophagi; the Merneptah Stele, the Amarna Letters, and much more. We made a few connections with the Bible (e.g. Abraham, Joseph, Moses, etc…). The highlight on the second floor is the King Tutankhamen (“Tut”) burial artifacts. This included seeing the famous gold masks and sarcophagus.

Egyptian Museum in Cairo

Egyptian Museum in Cairo

About mid-afternoon we returned to the hotel for a time of relaxing and late check-out at 6 p.m. We enjoyed dinner at 7 p.m. We then drove to the airport for our flight home.

The end of an wonderful and exciting optional extension!

Golden mask of King Tut

Golden mask of King Tut (Egyptian Museum)

(*Note: At present we are will be driving to the airport for our night flight home.)


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April-May 2017 Israel-Egypt Tour Update: Day 13


Today was our first day in Cairo, a city of 21 million people. We had pretty typical Cairo weather today for this time of year… hazy sun with temps around 90. A breeze kept it comfortable.

Nile River

Nile River in Cairo

After an amazing breakfast, we left at 7:30 for Giza. Located on the other side of the Nile River, we drove through the “farmland” of the area to Memphis, the first capital of ancient Egypt. Although only a small part of the city has been excavated, we saw a massive statue/colossus of Ramses II (around 1280-1220 BC) as well as a smaller sphinx and other stone items from the New Kingdom.

Close by is the site of the oldest pyramid, Sakkara. It is one of about 120 pyramids found in Egypt so far. Built close to 5,000 years ago, this pyramid is a stepped pyramid. It was designed by Imhotep. The body of the Pharaoh/King Zoser buried here was not placed in the pyramid but rather under it (about 90 feet). Also here was another smaller pyramid. Most in the group went inside this one. The entrance in was low but it opened up to a larger room where the sarcophagus was placed. We also went in the tomb of Idut (5th Dynasty, 2,360 BC). The hieroglyphs and painting on the walls were still very colorful. Close by we stopped at a carpet school. We also had quick lunch at a convenience store.


The Sakkara Stepped Pyramid

This afternoon we the classic site in Cairo – the Giza Pyramids. The Great Pyramid of Cheops is the largest  (around 500 feet high) and is comprised of 2.3 million stone blocks, each weighing an average of 2.5 tons. This pyramid is so large that it is hard to capture it on camera! We enter this pyramid and visit the King’s Chamber. It was remarkable to climb up to nearly the middle of this massive tomb!

Egypt Pyramids

The Great Pyramids in Giza, Egypt

From here we drove to a panoramic view of the three larger pyramids here (there are a few smaller ones as well). Here we also enjoyed a camel ride as well a visit to see the Solar Boat Museum. Housed here is a sacred ancient Egyptian cedar wood boat dating back 4,500 years.

Also in this area we visited the Great Sphinx. The body of the sphinx is that of a lion (strength) while the face is that of the Pharaoh (wisdom). Like the Great Pyramid, getting close to it really made us realize how big it is (66 feet high, 240 feet long, 63 feet wide). An embalming temple was nearby. It made us remember Genesis 50 and the embalming of Jacob.

Camel ride

Camel ride by the Great Pyramids in Giza

On our way back to the hotel we stopped briefly at a papyrus and cartouche store. Arriving at our hotel we enjoyed another marvelous dinner here at this 5 star+ hotel (the Intercontinental).


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April-May 2017 Israel-Egypt Tour Update: Day 12

DAY 12 – FRIDAY, MAY 5: 

This morning most in the group got up at 12:30 a.m. for our hike up Mt. Sinai, a mountain of about 7,300 feet. It would be a remarkable night/morning here in the heart of the Sinai Desert!

Sunrise Mt. Sinai

Sunrise on top of Mt. Sinai

At about 1 a.m. we were driven close to the St. Catherine’s Monastery. It is at this 4th century Greek Orthodox monastery where the trail to the top begins. Some in the group hiked while others rode a camel about two-thirds of the way up. After the trail ends, the steps begins. These are steps that were cut into the rock by monks over the last 15 centuries or so.

Mt. Sinai

Rest stop on the hike up Mt. Sinai

Arriving at the top in time for sunrise over Saudi Arabia was simply spectacular, breath-taking actually! So was the hike back down. The views were equally stunning! “Moses” read from Exodus 20! We arrived down about 7:45 a.m. At St. Catherine’s Monastery, we read Exodus 3 and were remembered Moses and the burning bush story and his encounter with God on this mountain!

After going back to the hotel to shower and eat breakfast, we drove to Sharm el Sheik, Egypt’s Red Sea resort town. We enjoyed relaxing on the beach for a brief time. The water’s clarity and beauty is really remarkable!

Mt. Sinai

View from the top of Mt. Sinai

Driving to the airport, we boarded our plane for our flight to Cairo. Flying over the Sinai and then the Nile River region was amazing too. Landing in Cairo, we loaded our bus and drove to our hotel located right on the Nile River. We checked in and enjoyed dinner together.

We are looking to spending the next two days in Cairo!


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April-May 2017 Israel-Egypt Tour Update: Day 11



Ostrich at Bar Hai Yovata Natural Animal Reserve

This morning those who flew home last night arrived back in the U.S. Those who choose to do the optional extension checked out after breakfast. We loaded the bus and left by 7:40 for the Taba Border into Egypt. David would drive us to the border. The day would once again be sunny, with temps down south around 90.

We drove east to the Jericho area before turning south along the western edge of the Dead Sea. We passed by sites we visited last Sunday (Qumran, Engedi, and Masada). Passing also by Israel’s potash and magnesium plants (at southern end of the Dead Sea), we arrived at the Hai-Bar Yotvata Nature Reserve Safari. It is an Israel national park. It was fun to see man ostriches, the white oryx, the addax, and the Solami wild donkey. The ostriches came right up to the bus window.

Red Sea Egypt

Red Sea, Egypt

Continuing to Elat and the Red Sea, we stopped briefly for lunch at a grocery store before continuing to the Taba Border. Leaving Israel and entering Egypt was quite simple. On the Egyptian side, we met Amir, our Travel Plus agent, and Heba, our Egyptian guide. Loading our small bus, we drove along the beautiful Red Sea. Across the Gulf of Aqaba (the eastern finger of the Red Sea) is both Jordan and Saudi Arabia (about 15 miles south from Aqaba).

Sinai Desert

The Sinai Desert

After stopping along the way for pictures and/or break, we arrived at our “hotel” located at the heart of the southern end of the Sinai Peninsula. The dark reddish granite mountains are quite rugged yet impressive. We checked in and enjoyed some rest time before dinner. Following dinner, we retired early for the evening since most in the group are getting up at 12:30 a.m. for the hike up Mt. Sinai (Jebel Musa) and visit St. Catherine’s Monastery during the early morning hours tomorrow.


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April-May 2017 Israel-Egypt Tour Update: Day 10


Today was our last day here in Jerusalem. We started the day by reading from Psalm 137 as we drove to the City of David excavations. The day would be another perfect day, with sun and temps around 80.

Hezekiah's Tunnel

At the “meeting point” in Hezekiah’s Tunnel, City of David, Jerusalem

Arriving at the City of David about 8 a.m., we first ascended the observation tower, viewing the city from various directions. To the north we saw the Temple Mount and the excavations of the Ophel. To the east is the Mt. of Olives. To the west is what is called Mt. Zion today. And to the south are the excavations of the City of David. We could see part of David’s palace and Israelite ruins.

Pool of Siloam

The Pool of Siloam (John 9)

After watching a 3-D movie about the history of OT Jerusalem, we walked down through the excavations. We read from 2 Samuel 5 (David conquering the city from the Jebusites). We also recalled the story of King Hezekiah, the Assyrian siege on the city in 701 BC, and the carving of the water tunnel (2 Kings 19-20, 2 Chr. 32, and Isaiah 36-37).

Continuing through Warren’s Shaft (what was once believed to be the “water shaft” Joab climbed in order to take the Jebusite city), we arrived at the Gihon Spring. This still flows today from ancient times. Part of the group walked through the 1,720 foot Hezekiah’s Tunnel, while others took the Canaanite tunnel. Both groups converged at the Siloam Pool where we read John 9 in dramatic fashion!

Herodian Street

Herodian Street at the SW corner of the Temple Mount

We ended the morning at the southern wall excavations of the 2nd Temple. Some in the group walked up to this SW corner of the Temple through the Herodian drainage channel. Up at this SW corner, we saw the massive stones toppled down by the Romans in 70 AD. They are still resting on the Herodian street that Jesus must have walked on! At the southern end of the temple are the temple steps. Sitting on these steps we recalled how many people used these steps to enter the Temple in the Gospels, including Jesus Himself (Luke 2 & 18, Mark 13, John 6, Acts 2 & 4, etc…).

Walking up to the Jewish Quarter, we enjoyed a talk with Moshe, owner of Shorashim and an Orthodox Jew who talked about his faith.

The Garden Tomb

The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

We also enjoyed a time for lunch, shopping, exploring, and people-watching. At 3:15 we walked out of the Zion’s Gate and bussed to the Garden Tomb. Here we had a tour of the place, including the suggested tomb used by Jesus. Following the tour, we shared worship and Communion together.

Returning to our hotel to freshen up, we drove to the Olives & Fish restaurant for our farewell “last supper” dinner. Following dinner, those flying home later tonight were driven to the airport, while those going to Sinai & Egypt tomorrow walked back to the hotel.

It was a wonderful Israel trip!


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April-May 2017 Israel-Egypt Tour Update: Day 9


Today we left around 7:30 a.m. once again after another great breakfast. The day would be gorgeous, with lots of sun, a few clouds, and temps around 80 again.

Mt. of Olives

Standing on the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem

Leaving the hotel, we read from Psalm 125 (“As the mountains surround Jerusalem”), we drove around part of the Old City to the top of the Mt. of Olives. Here we enjoyed a breath-taking view of the Temple Mount and Old City below. This included being able to see the City of David (OT Jerusalem), Mt. Zion, and Mt. Moriah (both Solomon built the 1st Temple, 2 Chronicles 3). Today the Dome of the Rock (691-2 AD) stands on the Temple Mount. We read from Luke 19 (about Jesus’ Palm Sunday entrance and His weeping over Jerusalem), and Zechariah 14 (about His 2nd coming).

Walking further down the Mt. of Olives, we had special entrance into a private area of the Garden of Gethsemane. Here we read from Luke 22 and spent time in quiet reflection as we considered the passion of Jesus. Father Diego greeted us and shared some thoughtful words with us.


The Garden of Gethsemane

Walking into the Old City through the St. Stephen’s Gate (also called the Lions and Jericho Gate), we visited the Pool of Bethesda. We read from John 5. On the same grounds is St. Anne’s Church. We enjoyed singing in this Crusader Church. The acoustics in the church were fantastic!

Walking along the Via Dolorosa, we arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It was built in 325 AD. We took a quick peak inside before lunch in the Christian Quarter.


The Edicule inside the Holy Sepulcher Church in Jerusalem

Walking out of the Jaffa Gate we met our bus and drove to Herodium. Located only a few miles east of Bethlehem, this was one of Herod’s palace-fortresses.” We climbed this “artificial” mountain and saw a great view of Jerusalem to the north, Bethlehem to the west, Tekoa to the south, and the Judean Desert to the east.

From here we drove to the Shepherds’ Fields. Entering a cave, we celebrated the role of the shepherds and the humble birth of Jesus. We considered the words of Paul, “For just at the right time, God sent His Son…” (Galatians 4:4). We also enjoyed singing a few carols, both in the cave and in the Shepherds’ Chapel. A Polish and Argentina group joined us in the singing of Silent Night.

Western Wall

The Western Wall at night!

We ended the day in Bethlehem. We visited an olive wood shop and store owned by Palestinian Christians living here. Here we also celebrated David’s (our bus driver) birthday with a cake and candle.

We drove back to the hotel for dinner, followed by an optional walk to the Western Wall.


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April-May 2017 Israel-Egypt Tour Update: Day 8


Today was our first full day in Jerusalem. On this Memorial Day here in Israel, it was a beautifully sunny day, with comfortable temps around 80.

Western Wall

Memorial Day at the Western Wall, Jerusalem

Leaving at 7:20 this morning, we drove to the southern end of the Old City and entered the Kotel Western Wall area. As we left, we read from Mark 13:1-2 that mentions the “massive stones” of the Temple, setting the theme for the morning. This is the most holy place for Jews because of it’s proximity to where the 1st and 2nd Temples once stood. This “Western Wall” (also called Wailing Wall) served as a retaining wall for the Temple platform expanded by Herod the Great.

After going down to The Wall for a time of prayer, we entered the Western Wall Tunnel. This has been an archaeological site since the 70s. We walked parallel to this western retaining wall for about 250 yards. We saw massive yet carefully-placed stones of the Temple Jesus saw, including one stone called the Master Course (weighing 250-600 tons, depending on who you talk to).

Master Course

The “Master Course” stone (250 – 600 tons)

Leaving the tunnels, we returned to the Jewish Quarter for a visit to the Temple Institute. This is operated by a small sect of Orthodox Jews who are preparing for the building of the 3rd Temple. It was quite interesting to see and hear about all the Temple vessels already prepared in anticipation of the Messiah’s coming.

Walking out of the Jewish Quarter through the Zion’s Gate, the memorial siren sounded at 11 a.m. We all stood in respect of the fallen IDF soldiers.

Jerusalem Model

The 1:50 scale Jerusalem Model at the Israel Museum

After this moment of silence, we drove to the Israel Museum. Here, we saw three things – a 1:50-scale model of Jerusalem like it look like in 70 AD prior to its destruction (we retraced the ministry of Jesus, including the Temple Mount), the Shrine of the Book museum (where the Dead Sea Scrolls are on display), and lastly the archaeological wing of the museum (where we saw highlights of artifacts, e.g. the Dan & Pilate Inscriptions, Canaanite weaponry, cultic items, figurines, ossuaries, Herod’s sarcophagus, the Moses’ Seat, etc…).

We ended the day with a moving and emotional visit to Yad Vashem (literally a “place/memorial and a name” from Isaiah 56:5). This is Israel’s Holocaust Memorial & Museum. We first walked through the Valley of the Communities where we heard Shlomo share his personal story of losing 12 family members from Vilna, Poland. We then walked through the Children’s Memorial and the museum itself. It was a very moving experience, especially being here on Memorial Day.

Dan Inscription

The “Dan Inscription” in the Israel Museum

We returned back to our hotel for dinner. We then bussed to Ben Yehuda for a fun time of celebrating Israel’s Independence Day. It was packed with people. After enjoying some shopping, we walked back to the hotel.


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April-May 2017 Israel-Egypt Tour Update: Day 7


This morning we departed just shy of 8 a.m. Leaving the hotel, we read from Psalm 18:1-2 which mentions God as our “fortress” (metzada in Hebrew). The air here at the Dead Sea is dry. Temps would be warm the whole day, with highs around 95 (typical for this region this time of year).


The palace-fortress of Masada in the Judean Desert

Our first site was Masada. This was built originally as a “palace-fortress” of King Herod. Taking the cable car up to the top (about a 1,000 foot ascent), we saw the palaces, the casemate walls, the Roman ramp (on the west side), the synagogue, cisterns, storage rooms, and the bathhouses. The story of Masada is remarkable (967 Jews holding out against the Romans for about three years). At the end of the tour, some took the cable car back down to the bottom while others hiked the Snake Path (1.1 miles). Nine hiked down.



Driving north along the western coastline of the Dead Sea, we came to Engedi. This served as an oasis for many over the course of 1,000s of years. We hiked back to the last water falls here. We read from 2 Chronicles 20, Song of Songs 1, and the primary story from 1 Samuel 24. It was here where David hid from Saul. It was amazing to see so much water here in such a “dry and weary land” (Psalm 63).

Cave 1 Qumran

Inside Cave 1 at Qumran

Continuing north we arrived at Qumran. During the lunch hour some hiked to Cave 1 (of a total of 12 now – up from 11 – with the most recent announcement of a new cave) where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. The discoveries of these scrolls were the most significant in all of Israel! Following lunch we visited the site itself, seeing mikveh (ritual baths), cisterns, and a scriptorium. In front of Cave 4 we rejoiced in the remarkable preservation of God’s Word and read from “Psalm 151” and Psalm 19.

Driving north towards Jericho, we turned west to ascend to the Hill Country of Judah and Jerusalem. About half way there, we made a brief stop overlooking the Wadi Qelt (part of the Judean Desert). Here we heard the words of the prophet Isaiah (Is. 40) and Psalm 23. The view was spectacular of this unique and dry region of the Bible.

Wadi Qelt

Wadi Qelt & the Judean Desert

Arriving in Jerusalem at our hotel, we checked in. After getting freshened up, we enjoyed dinner. A little more than half of the group then bussed to Shlomo’s home community for a special Memorial Service (in Hebrew, “Yom Hazikaron“). It was indeed very moving and a unique experience as Israel remembered all of their 23,544 fallen soldiers since 1948. One of Shlomo’s sons sang in the service. We also enjoyed a time of desert at Shlomo and Rachel’s home. We drove back and retired for the evening.

We are looking forward to our first full day in Jerusalem tomorrow!


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