Biblical Israel Tour Experiences of the 14 Day Extensive Israel Trip
January 10-23, 2017
DAYS 1 & 2 TUESDAY-WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 10-11
The day of departure finally arrived. With excitement and great anticipation for all, we met at the JFK and Toronto airports for our non-stop flights to Tel Aviv. The total group size for this tour is 23. This is a milestone tour for Pastor John, leading his 50th tour. Unfortunately, the weather caused a number of delays, even cancellations, for our flights. On Wednesday, 17 of us arrived at two different times at the Ben Gurion Airport. One other comes in tonight at 3:30 a.m., while five were delayed getting here not until Thursday. For those who cam in on the earlier flight, we made a brief stop in Jaffa (Joppa, Jonah 1, Acts 9 & 10) for a view of the Tel Aviv beachfront before driving to Netanya and our hotel. For those who came in this afternoon, we drove directly through Tel Aviv rush-hour traffic to the hotel. After our first wonderful dinner together, we enjoyed an orientation meeting. After the meeting, a few walked down to the beach and back. It is good to be in Israel, and we pray for the rest of the group to arrive safely and join us tomorrow.
DAY 3, THURSDAY, JANUARY 12
Today was our first full day of touring. The weather was perfect, with sunny skies and a high in the upper 60s. We were also thankful that by the end of the day everyone who had flights canceled were able to join us! Following breakfast and checkout of the hotel, our first stop was Caesarea. Located along the coast of the Med Sea in the Sharon Plains, this city was first built by King Herod in 22 BC. As we sat in the theater, we “connected the dots” with hat happened biblically here – both Peter and Paul shared boldly about their faith (Acts 10, 26). Paul also sailed in and out of the famous port here as well. Besides the theater, we saw the replica of the “Pilate Inscription” (found in 1961), the palace, the hippodrome (for horse races), the harbor/port, mosaics, the Crusader moat and gate, and the aqueduct.
Driving to the Mt. Carmel Range, we visited Mukraqah, a Carmelite chapel located on the highest peak of this mountain range. We read from 1 Kings 18 about the story of Elijah defeating the 450 prophets of Baal. Other references to Mt. Carmel were also mentioned – 2 Kings 4 (Elisha), Isaiah 35 (“the splendor of Carmel”) and Song of Songs 7. We enjoyed singing Amazing Grace from the chapel. Ascending to the top of the roof of the chapel gave us our first view of the Jezreel Valley. Here we heard about the many stories from the OT that could be seen from here – Deborah/Barak & Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5), Gideon & the Hill of Moreh (Judges 6-7), Saul & Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 31), and Nazareth (Luke 1, 4). We ate lunch nearby at a Druze restaurant.
Driving down into the Jezreel Valley to Megiddo, we were fascinated at the vast archaeological ruins here. The city was strategically located and served as the city that guarded the main entrance into the valley from the southwest. Thutmose III even said that to “capture Megiddo as like capturing 1,000 cities!” After seeing the model of the “tel” (ancient mound), we walked through the excavations. We saw numerous gate structures (Middle Bronze, Late Bronze, Iron Age/Israelite), Solomon’s stables, a sacrificial altar (Early Bronze), a grain bin (Israelite), and an impressive water system. Climbing down to the water tunnel was remarkable! We read from I Kings 9:15 and Revelation 16. The Jezreel Valleyis also called the Valley of Armageddon.
Next was Sepporis. This was the primary Jewish city of the Lower Galilee during Jesus’ time. Located only 4-5 miles from Nazareth, it is no doubt that Joseph, Mary, and Jesus visited this city. Here we saw amazing mosaics, one referred to as the Mona Lisa of the Galilee.
Our last stop was the precipice of Nazareth. Arriving just at sunset, the view from here was terrific, With Mt. Tabor, Hill of Moreh, Gilboa and Mt Carmel in front of us, this was the “backyard” of Jesus while he grew up. We read from Luke 4 and John 1 and were invited to “come and see”Jesus. It was a very special and quiet moment here.
Driving through Cana, we arrived to the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee to Nof Ginnosar, our home for the next four nights. After checking in, we enjoyed dinner together and a free night. Some enjoyed walking down to the water’s edge. With a full moon, it was quite beautiful! It was a great first full day here in Israel.
DAY 4 – FRIDAY, JANUARY 13:
Following breakfast we departed around 7:40 and drove north today to the Golan Heights. The weather was foggy for the first few hours of the day, but it later cleared up nicely, with temps in the 60s. Our first stop was to the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee. Shortly after ascending the Golan Heights, we stopped for an overview of the region below. Looking down to the city of Bethsaida(where Peter, Andrew, and Philip were from, John 1:44), we read from Mark 9 (healing of blind man) and John 6 (Feeding of the 5,000). It was from here where the disciples got caught in a storm while sailing back to Capernaum at night. Jesus came walking to them on the water.
As we drove further up in elevation, the visibility worsened. We turned into Gamla, our scheduled next site, but it was too foggy to see anything (the pictures displayed at Gamla are from a previous tour).Gamla was a Jewish city built on a camel-shaped ridge. THere is a 1st century synagogue here. Jesus no doubt taught here. So we left Gamla without seeing anything and drove to Katzrin, with the visibility improving as we drove. At Katzrin we visited the reconstructed house of Rabbi Abun. Although it dates to the Talmudic Period, we enjoyed listening to the Mark 2 passage about the man being lowered through the roof to Jesus within this restored stone house that was probably very similar to the houses of Jesus’ day. We could see the story unfold before our eyes!
From here we drove north and east to the Syrian Border. We could look across the border and see the city of Quneitra. Shlomo shared some modern Israeli history of the 1967 and 1973 wars. Nearby we also stopped by the Valley of the Tears where the famous tank battle took place.
Following a lunch of bananas, apples, and pretzels, we descended the Golan Heights. On the way to Caesarea Philippiwe made a brief stop to see the Sa’arwaterfalls. The city of built at the Banias Spring, one of the three tributaries of the Jordan River. We read from Matthew 16 and pondered the question Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?”We visited the grotto area of the city.
Close by was Tel Dan, our next stop. We walked through the nature preserve that is located along the largest of the three tributaries of the Jordan. We stopped in the middle of the walk to listen to song played by Shlomo on his recorder. We also enjoyed reading and singing Psalm 42 as well. The pathway led us to the archaeological part of Dan. We read from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12 about the pattern of disobedience that was on display here. It was here where Jeroboam established a high place and a sacrificial altar. Located right on the border with Lebanon, we also heard some of the recent history about this northern neighbor of Israel as well.
On our way back to the hotel, we made an extra stop at Omrit. Hiking through the cow pastures and mud, and up a narrow lane, we reached this impressive Roman city. Against the backdrop of the beautiful snow-capped Mt. Hermon, we saw the remains of a newly discovered Roman imperial temple complex. Its temple is identified as the Augusteumdescribed by Josephus and built by Herod. Driving back along the Huleh Valley, we arrived back to our hotel on the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee. After dinner we enjoyed a group gathering down on the water’s edge. It was a great second full day!
DAY 5 – SATURDAY, JANUARY 14:
Today was a mixed day in terms of weather. We enjoyed overcast skies (yet with great visibility) in the morning, with rain in the afternoon. Temps were about 60. After another great and filling breakfast, we departed the hotel for the trailhead for Mt. Arbel. Four in the group hiked up this 800 foot mountain, while the rest bussed to the other side to the visitor center and walked the remaining 300 yards to the top. The view of the Sea of Galilee and even Mt. Hermon 30 miles away was really good from the top. Perhaps this was a mountain where Jesus came to in order to escape the crowds from time to time. We remembered a few of Jesus’ kingdom parables’ from Matthew 13.
Driving down through Tiberias, we arrived at Magdala. One of only seven 1stcentury synagogues found in all of Israel was uncovered here a few years ago. Mary Magdalene was from here. Jesus and His disciples also sailed into the harbor here (Mark 9) and Jesus no doubt taught from this synagogue. Besides enjoying the ruins here, we also stepped into the new chapel built here, complete with beautiful wall mosaics. We also blended our voices in singing a few songs together.
The next site were Chorazim. Located high off the water’s edge on this NW corner of the Sea of Galilee, this city (along with Bethsaida and Capernaum, was condemned by Jesus for their unbelief. We saw a miqve (ritual bath) here as well as the 3rd/4thcentury synagogue. In the synagogue we saw a replica of the Moses’ Seat found here (Matthew 23). The entire city was built with basaltic stone.
The last site before lunch was Capernaum(the “village of Nahum”). It was where Peter, Andrew, James, and John were living, along with Matthew the tax collector). In the 5thcentury synagogue (the 1stcentury one was located beneath) we read Mark 1,2, 9; Luke 7; and John 6 – all stories about Jesus here in this prominent city. We also saw the 5thcentury octagonal church also built here over the traditional house of Peter.
Following lunch, we visited the Ancient Boat (the “Jesus Boat”) on the grounds of our hotel, Nof Ginnosar. This as a 1stcentury boat found in 1986. We could picture the Galilean fisherman using boats like this. We also enjoyed our own boat ride on the lake. We paused to read Mark 4 and Matthew 14, the two storm narratives. We worshipped and praised God for the peace He offers us as we trust in Him!
We ended the day at Yardenit, the baptism site. Here, six reaffirmed their baptism vows in the chilly waters of the Jordan River! We also celebrated he baptism of Isabella, a young 15 year old proclaiming her faith for the first time!
We returned back to the hotel for dinner and a free evening. Despite the rainy weather this afternoon, it was another great day.
(** We also ask you to pray for a lady in our group who fell and broke her hip/upper femur two days ago. At the time of this update, she is in scheduled to have surgery in a hospital in Tiberias to repair the break.)
DAY 6 – SUNDAY, JANUARY 15:
Today was a “reflection day.” After the rain that fell during the night, we had a rain-free morning, with full sun towards noon. The temps were quite pleasant too, around 65. Following a late breakfast, we gathered at 9 for our first experience. Separating on our own down along the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee, we enjoyed a parable walk as well as a time of solitude. We reflected upon the passages where Jesus Himself was intentional to spend time with his Father in solitude. We also listened to one of our tour family sing I Walked Where Jesus Walked.
We returned to the main hall where we gathered together for some worship. With the smooth stones we picked up along the shore’s edge, we enjoyed painting them. It was very special to see what each person decided to paint on his/her stone. The stones will help us remember this morning of reflection.
At 12:30 we boarded the bus for lunch nearby. Then we drove to the Mt. of Beatitudesfor the afternoon. Sitting on rocks on this traditional hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee suggested to be where Jesus shared His Sermon on the Mount, we heard the first few verses of Matthew 5 read in Hebrew. We then separated to various places on the hill, reading the entire Matthew 5-7 passage. To think that Jesus could have said this right here in this place was quite special! After gathering again, we walked down the hill to the Church of Primacy. Located along the shoreline of the lake, this is where according to tradition where Jesus appeared to His disciples after the resurrection. It was here where Jesus asked, “Do you love me?”The entire afternoon was quite moving!
Towards late afternoon, we drove to the Tiberias Poriya Hospitalto visit Mary Ann. She had surgery yesterday on her broken hip and femur. It as fun and encouraging to see her! She was in remarkable good spirits! We hope she will be discharged in a few days, following which she will be fly home for recovery and rehab.
This evening we enjoyed dinner together and a free evening. We pack up tomorrow morning and drive south.
DAY 7 – MONDAY, JANUARY 16:
Today we depart from the region of the Sea of Galilee. The weather was once wonderful, with sun and temps in the 60s and low 70s. Our first stop was the KinneretCemetery where a famous Ukrainian Jewish woman pioneer was buried in the early 20thcentury. Her name is Rachel. She was born in 1890 and was part of Israel’s first kibbutz in 1910. She died in 1931. We heard some of her poems. Her picture will be featured on the Israeli 20 shekel bill this year or next.
Driving south in the Jordan River Valley, our next stop was a huge archaeological site called Beth Shean. This was both an Old Testament city (where Saul’s body as hung after his death, 1 Samuel 31) as well as a very large Roman city. Here we saw the pillar-lined Cardo (main street), a bathhouse, mosaics, a public latrine, and the city theater (and amphitheaterfrom a distance). Some in the group climbed up to the top of the OT tel for a wonderful view of the city below as well as the Jordan River Valley.
From here we headed southwest through the heart of the Samaritan Hill Country (also called Ephraim). It was a beautiful ride through very biblical-looking lands! We recalled the stories of Jacob that took place at nearby Shechem (Gen 34, Joshua 24), and Mt. Ebal & Gerazim, Deut. 11, Joshua 8).
Arriving at Shilohwe climbed the tel and watched a wonderful video of the story of this place. It was here where the Tabernacle was established (Joshua 18) and stood for 369 years. This was also where Hannah dedicated Samuel who became the prophet who anointed Saul and David. Jeremiah also references this place (Jer. 7). We read from 1 Samuel 3 and the call of Samuel upon His life. We also read from Jeremiah 7 and heard the condemning words of this Jerusalem prophet. He mentions Shiloh in his address.
Leaving Shiloh we continued south past places like Bethel (Abraham & Jacob – Gen. 15, 28, 35) and Michmash (Jonathan – 1 Samuel 13-14). Driving through the Judean Desert (specifically here called the Pareth Desert, Jeremiah 13), we turned east towards the Jordan River. This drive down into this desert canyon was also spectacular! We saw a number of gazelles along the way!
Arriving at Jericho, we had lunch. We then climbed the tel (ancient mound). We first looked east across the Jordan River towards Mt. Nebo where Moses died and where the “leadership baton” was passed to Joshua (Deut. 34, Joshua 1). We also learned about the stories connected with New Testament Jericho (located about 1.5 miles south, Mark 10, Luke 10, 19. This was also where King Herod died in 4 BC). At the southern end of the tel we saw the retaining walls dating to the time of Joshua. We could see the story of Joshua 6 come to life! We rejoiced in the historicity and accuracy of the Bible!
Just about 5 minutes south of Jericho (Al Mog) was where we spent the night. We enjoyed dinner together followed by a relaxing evening.
DAY 8 – TUESDAY, JANUARY 17
Today we were greeted to another sunny day, with temps in the 70s. It would be an entire day along the Dead Seaand within the Judean Desert. Leaving shortly after 7:30 we first visited Qumran. This was where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. We began by driving to Cave 1 (where the famous Isaiah Scroll as found) and Cave 11 (where the Temple Scroll was found). A few went to Cave 1 while others saw Cave 11. Then we entered the archaeological site where we saw mikvot (ritual baths), cisterns, scriptorium, and Cave 4. We celebrated the preservation and holiness of the biblical text. We read from 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Psalm 19, and “Psalm 151” (one of the few “extra” psalms found here).
Next we enjoyed a float in the Dead Sea. It is remarkable that it is impossible to sink! Although the water was a bit cool, it was a great sensation to float effortlessly.
After showering up, we continued driving south along the western coastline of the Dead Sea. About half way down we stopped at Engedi. Here we walked back to a few of the water falls. We read from 1 Samuel 23 (about David hiding in a cave), 2 Chronicles 20 (Jehosaphat and the “Ascent of Ziz”) and Song of Solomon (the “henna blossoms of Engedi). We also saw a few ibex and coneys (Psalm 104).
Our last stop was Masada, the “fortress: (“metzada” in Hebrew). First built as a palace/fortress by Herod the Great, the site was later used by Jews following the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The site was used as an escape area of refuge against the Romans. After nearly three years, the Jewish community (967 of them) killed themselves (all except five). Taking the cable car to the top, we saw cisterns, palaces, the casemate wall, and storage rooms. The story of Masada is gripping! We walked down the Roman ramp where David picked us up on the western side.
From here we drove to Hanokdim, the “Bedouin Village” hotel for the night. Upon arriving, we enjoyed camel rides, followed by dinner. We also enjoyed a time of devotion and sharing out under the stars before sleeping in tents. What a unique experience!
DAY 9 – WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 18:
Today we left the Judean Desert this morning and spent the entire day in the Biblical Negev. It was another sunny day with temps in the 60s. Our first site was Arad. Driving to the top of the tel, we viewed the excavations together. Below we saw the Canaanite city. The King of Arad attacked the Israelites during the days of Moses (Numbers 21). Later Joshua defeated this city (Joshua 12). On the citadel are the Israelite ruins, including a temple complex. Both Hezekiah and Josiah brought reforms here and an end of this temple (2 Chronicles 34).
Driving south about an hour we arrived at the Machtesh Ramon, Israel’s “Grand Canyon.” This geological “crater” is about 800 feet deep. The view from the northern rim was spectacular!
From here we drove back north to Sde Boker. This is where David Ben Gurion(and his wife Paula) is buried. After his days as Israel’s Prime Minister, he spent the rest of his life here. His grave overlooks the beautiful Zin Desert. This was where the 12 spies came through as they explored the Promised Land (Numbers 13). This was also where Moses struck the rock (Numbers 20) instead of speaking to it.
Next, we hiked in the Zin Desert. With high chalky-white cliffs on both sides, we walked back to the waterfalls. Some in the group hiked up to the opposite rim of the canyon. The views were amazing!
Following lunch (at Avdat), we headed to Tel Beersheba, located on the NW corner of the Negev. We aw a lot of ibex (wild goats, Psalm 104) along the way! This was where Abraham and Isaac built wells (Genesis 21, 26). Jacob also was here (Genesis 47), as well as Elijah (1 Kings 19). After seeing a replica of the horned altar found here, we climbed the tel. We stopped at the city gate and the well. We remembered the promising words of Psalm 23 about the “cup” (water trough?) overflowing with God’s goodness. On the tel we saw the circular streets, “4-room Israelite houses,” and storehouses. We left the site by walking down the amazing cistern system. The stone steps leading down to the cisterns are still original from about 3,800 years ago.
We stayed tonight in modern Beersheba. After checking in, we enjoyed some down time prior to dinner. Following eating, some enjoyed a walk around the city.
DAY 10 – THURSDAY, JANUARY 19:
We left Beersheba and the Negev this morning and began our drive north through the Shephelah (Lowlands) of Judah en route to Jerusalem tonight. Once again it was a blessed weather day, with sun and temps in the 60s. Our first site to visit was Lachish. This double-walled city is famous for the “Lachish Letters” (“Ostracan” – inscriptions written on pottery) found here. Lachish Letter #4 matches the text of Jeremiah 34:7. The Assyrians conquered this city in the end of the 8thcentury, while the Babylonians did the same in the 6thcentury BC. Among the ruins we saw the double walls and gates as well as the palace (probably built by Rehobaom, 2 Chr. 9).
Next we visited Maresha / Beit Guvrin. Maresha was the home of the prophet Micah. We walked to the columbarium (“pigeon holes”) as well as to the Bell Cave, one of many here. We enjoyed some singing here as well as Shlomo’s recorder playing. We read from Micah 1 & 5.
Further north we arrived at Kh. Qeiyafa. Located along the Elah Valley, we read from 1 Samuel 17. It was in the valley where David defeated Goliath. It was inspiring to see where the battle took place and to hear the story of God bringing victory to the Israelites. At the site we saw two chambered gates as well as other ruins. This was probably the city of Shaaraim in the Bible (“2 gates”).
Along the western edge of the Elah Valley and on the other side of Azekah, we stopped to see Gath (Tel es-Safi). It was an very interesting and fun ride to get there as we drove on a few miles of “field road.” The Ark of the Covenant was brought here by the Philistines (1 Samuel 5). This was also the hometown of Goliath. Later in the 9th century BC, Hazael, the Aramean, destroyed the city in 830 BC.
The next valley further north is the Sorek Valley. Along this valley Beth Shemeshis located. We read from 1 Samuel 6 about the Ark of the Covenant being returned by the Philistines. We could really picture the cow-drawn cart carrying the Ark coming up the valley. While the ruins here are not impressive, to see the story come alive was special. Samson grew up nearby (Judges 13-14).
Our last site of the day as Gezer. This was one site where Pastor John dug. We read from Ecclesiastes 3 (the “seasons of life”). 100 years ago the famous Gezer Calendar (10thcentury BC) was found here, giving us insights into the agricultural seasons of ancient Israel. We walked through some of the excavations that included a Canaanite gate, tower and wall system as well a Solomonic gate (1 Kings 9). Leaving the site, we also saw the standing stones of Gezer (probably a Canaanite high place).
From here we turned east and headed to Jerusalem located in the Hill Country of Judah. Entering the city, we arrived at our hotel. After dinner, many in the group walked to the Western Wall. It was amazing to see!
We are looking forward to seeing Jerusalem the next 3 days!
DAY 11 – FRIDAY, JANUARY 20:
Today was our first full day in Jerusalem! Once again, the weather was perfect, with full sun and highs around 60. Leaving the hotel at 7:35, we drove around the Old City of Jerusalem en route to the Mt. of Olives. Arriving on the top of this mountain we looked across the Kidron Valley and enjoyed a wonderful panoramic view of the Old City and Temple Mount. Both the Solomon’s and Herod’s Temples once stood on top. Now since 691 AD, the Muslim Dome of the Rock stands.
Walking down the slope of the Mt. of Olives, we stopped at Dominus Flavet.Here we read from Luke 19 about the Palm Sunday event and Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. With a closer view of the Eastern Gate, we read from Ezekiel 44 and Zachariah 14. These passages provide references to future events about Christ’s second coming.
Continuing our walk further down the slope, we stopped into a private garden to remember the Garden of Gethsemane passion of Christ. We spent some time in quiet reflection. We also listened to a “cross medley.” We read from Luke 22 and recalled Jesus’ words, “Not my will but Yours be done.”
From here we walked into the Old City through the St. Stephen’s Gate (also called the Lion’s and Jericho Gate). Inside this gate is the Pool of Bethesda (“house of mercy”). We read from John 5 about the miracle of the healing of the lame man. On the premises we also enjoyed singing in St. Anne’s Church, a crusader church with an 8-second echo. We sounded like a beautiful choir!
Passing by a few “stations of the cross” (as part of the traditional Via Dolorosa), we arrived at the Western Wall. This is the holiest place for Jews today. After some time at the Wall, we walked through the Western Wall Tunnel. Here we saw the massive stones of this “retaining” wall of the Temple. One stone (the “Master Course”) weighs an estimated 600 tons!
Walking to the Jewish Quarter, we interacted with an Orthodox Jew named Dov. He and his brother own a shop called Shorashim. Dov talked about his Jewish faith, with a Q & A time as well. It as quite interesting!
The afternoon provided some free time. Most did some shopping. Some enjoyed watching children play and families pass by in the Jewish Quarter. We then walked to the Holy Sepulcher Church, one of two traditional places for the crucifixion and burial place for Jesus.
Walking out of the old City through the Jaffa Gate, we enjoyed dinner together and a free evening!
DAY 12 – SATURDAY, JANUARY 21:
We left the hotel at 8 a.m. this morning. The day would our coolest day thus far (highs in mid 50s) but with a nice mix of sun and clouds. Our first stop was the Garden Tomb located on the north side of the Old City. Here we had a local guide show us the suggested places of crucifixion (“skull hill”) and the burial of Christ. After seeing and going into the tomb, we enjoyed a time of worship and Scripture. We also observed Communion together as we remembered Jesus’ death and resurrection. He is risen! He is risen indeed!
Driving to West Jerusalem, we visited the Israel Museum. Here we saw three things. First, the 1:50 model of Jerusalem as it looked during the days of Jesus was spectacular! We reviewed the life and ministry of Christ as it took place here in Jerusalem as well as specifically within the Temple. We recalled the words of Mark 12 and Luke 21 about how amazed and impressed the disciples were when they left this remarkable temple of Herod. Next, we walked through the Shrine of the Book. Here we saw some of the Dead Sea Scrolls that were found at Qumran. This included portions of the Temple Scroll found in Cave 11 (that some of us saw a few days ago). Lastly, we were led through the archaeological wing of the museum, seeing highlights of different discoveries at archaeological sites around Israel. This included such finds such as the Dan and Pilate Inscriptions, the Arad High Place, Herod’s coffin, and much more!
This afternoon we drove south of Jerusalem to the Bethlehem area. First after lunch in Beit Sahour (more shawarma), we enjoyed singing Christmas carols in one of the caves of the Shepherds’ Fields. We read from Luke 2 and Galatians 4:4 that reminded us that “just at the right time, God sent His Son…”We also enjoyed “Joseph’s Song” sung by one of our tour family. We also sang a few carols in the Chapel of the Shepherds.
Just east a few miles is Herodium. This served as one of King Herod’s fortress-palaces. This was where Herod was buried. Climbing the site provided a great view of the region around. We could clearly see the Dead Sea and Judean Desert to the east, Tekoa to the south, and Jerusalem & the Mt. of Olives to the north. We exited the site through the cistern system.
To end the day, we stopped at an olive wood factory and store. Bethlehem is famous for quality olive wood. The store is owned by Palestinian Christians.
Leaving Bethlehem, we arrived back to the hotel and ate dinner together. About half in the group then were driven to Ben Yehudafor some “off-traffic” browsing and shopping in a modern part of the city. Walking back, we stopped at the King David hotel to see the famous signatures written on the floor. We also saw Herod’s family tomb, complete with an intact “rolling stone.”
We have one more full day left here in this remarkable city of Jerusalem!
DAY 13 – SUNDAY, JANUARY 22:
Today was a great last day here in Jerusalem, Israel’s eternal capital. The sun was full, with cool temps in the low 50s. Leaving the hotel at 7:30 again, our first stop was nearby – the City of David.Upon arriving we enjoyed a view from an observation tower. Looking north we could see where the temples of Solomon and Herod once stood. Looking east across the Kidron Valley we could see the Arab village of Silwan. To the south was where the city of Jebus was located. David conquered this city (2 Samuel 5) and then built a palace here.
After seeing a 3-D video, we walked down through the excavations. We saw ruins dating to the time of the Canaanites through the time of Hezekiah. We also walked through Warren’s Shaft (once believed to be the “shaft” through which Joab and his men infiltrated the Jebusite city. Finally, we descended all the way down to the water source of the city, the Gihon Spring. Here, some walked through Hezekiah’s Tunnel (2 Kings 20, 2 Chronicles 32, Isaiah 36-37). This still flows with “gently-flowing water” (Is. 8:6) about knee deep. It is 1,720 feet long. We saw the “meeting point” in the middle of this tunnel where the two team of rock-cutters met (according to the Siloam Inscription). The others in the group walked through the earlier Canaanite tunnel. Today, this is a dry tunnel that runs south along the slope of the city. At the southern end of the City of David both groups convened at the Pool of Siloam. Here we read John 9 about the blind man who was healed by Jesus.
In the late morning, we visited the “south wall excavations.” To get there, some in the group walked up through the drainage tunnel that was built underneath the Herodian street. At the SW corner of the Temple at Robinson’s Arch, we saw here Jesus as tempted (the pinnacle). We also walked up the very southern steps of the Temple, the same ones used by Jesus, the disciples, and the apostles. Here we recalled the many stories that happened in the Temple (Luke 2, 18, 21; Mark 13; John 7, Acts 2, etc…). From here we walked to the Jewish Quarter for lunch on our own.
Leaving the Old City through the Zion’s Gate, we drove to Yad Vashem (which means a “place of memorial and a name” taken from Isaiah 56:5). This is Israel’s Holocaust Museum. We first walked through the Valley of the Communities before we heard Shlomo’s personal story about losing 12 family members in Poland during WWII. We also saw the Children’s Memorial as well as the museum itself. Walking through on our own, it was quite moving and sad.
We returned back to the hotel for our farewell dinner. After a time of sharing, some in the group were driven to the airport for their flight home. Others are planning to fly home tomorrow morning.
DAY 14 – MONDAY, JANUARY 23: FLIGHT HOME
Some in the group flew home last night, while others fly home this the morning.
It was a wonderful life-changing trip!