Biblical Israel Tour Experiences for our 14 Day Israel Tour
January 14-27, 2019
This trip will be updated each night between 9-11 pm. Israel time (or 3-5 p.m. EST). *NOTE: The tour is now updated through Day 14, January 27. At the present time (11 am Israeli time), we are now awaiting our non-stop flight home.
DAY 1-2 – MONDAY-TUESDAY, JANUARY 14-15: DEPART FOR & ARRIVE IN ISRAEL, KIRIATH YEARIM, GEZER, TEL AVIV
With great anticipation for the start of this trip, most of the group met today at the Toronto Airport for our non-stop flight to Tel Aviv, Israel. Coming from all different parts of the country, we all were so excited that departure day finally came! The flight to Tel Aviv was a good one, landing at about 10:15 a.m. After the usual passport procedures and securing our luggage, we met the others who had arranged their own flight to Israel.
With the afternoon ahead us, we made good use of our time by first traveling to a site located on the western edge of the Hill Country of Judah, Kiriath Yearim. In addition to a Crusader Church built here, this is where new excavations took place last summer. We saw some of the large 8th century BC retaining walls used here. According to I Samuel 7, this is where the Ark of the Covenant was for 20 years. David (2 Samuel 6) would be the one to take it to Jerusalem. Just to think that David and and Ark was once here is amazing to ponder!
Traveling back west into the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah, we carefully traversed the rained out dirt road in our bus to Tel Gezer. Here we saw a Canaanite/Middle Bronze ruins (a stone tower, water system, fortification walls, and a 6-chamber gate) as well as IIsraelite/Iron Age ruins (this includes a gate built by Solomon, 1 Kings 9). We also learned about the Gezer Calendar found here about 100 years ago and read from Ecclesiastes 3. We celebrated God’s control over all of our seasons of life!
Driving to the area south of Tel Aviv, we made a brief stop in Joppa (Jaffa). Jonah sailed from here (Jonah 1). Peter also healed from here. We also saw a vision to take the Gospel to Gentiles here (Acts 9 & 10). The view of the coastline of Tel Aviv was very nice.
We drove to our hotel in Tel Aviv, where we checked in, enjoyed dinner together, and an orientation meeting to follow. Some walk on the beach before retiring for the night! Int is so very good to be here in Israel, the land of the Bible!
DAY 3 – WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 16: BETH SHEMESH, AZEKAH, GATH, BEIT GUVRIN, LACHISH, BEERSHEBA
Today was our first full day here in Israel. The predicted rains didn’t come until about 4 p.m., so while the wind was strong all day and temps were cool (in the 50s), at least we remained dry. We would spend the entire day in the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah!
After a great breakfast and checking out of our hotel on the Med Sea, we drove to Beth Shemesh. Climbing the tel (ancient mound of layers of ruins), we could see a few things that connected us to the Bible. Across the Sorek Valley we could see Zorah, where Samson was from (Judges 13). Looking west we also could see the area where ancient Timnah was located (where Samson’s first wife was from). We also read the story from 1 Samuel 6 about the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Beth Shemesh from the Philistines (the Sea Peoples, as the Egyptians called them, a people group from the Aegean Sea area).
Driving south to the Elah Valley, we climbed to the top of Azekah. Looking west, we could see Gath, the home-town of Goliath. Looking east, we could see the narrow part of the valley where the battle between David and Goliath took place. We read from 1 Samuel 17. During the Babylonian invasion of the land, Azekah was the one of the two last-standing Judean cities left (Jer. 34:7).
Driving west along the Elah Valley, we arrived at Gath (Tel es-Safi; this is where Dr. John dug in 2018). Since the bus couldn’t make it through the muddy patches of the dirt road, we walked to the lower areas of excavations. We stood in the gate where we read from I Samuel 21 and 2 Kings 12). It was Hazael, the Aramean from the north, who brought an end to Gath in 830 BC. Most in the group then climbed two the crest of the tel, braving the incredible 40+ mph winds on top! The top ruins we saw date primarily from the Canaanite, Philistine, and Israelite periods.
After lunch at gas station cafe, we visited the Roman ruins of Beit Guvrin. Here we saw an amphitheater, one of only two in Israel. Boarding back on the bus, we drove to the east side of the site where we entered two caves, the Columbarium (for raising pigeons), and the Bell Cave. Here Shlomo shared a song on his recorder. We also read from Micah 1 and 5. The prophet Micah was from here (called Moreshah in the OT).
Our final site of the day was Lachish. This was first a Canaanite city taken from Joshua. Later Rehoboam refortified it (2 Chr. 11). King Sennecheriband his Assyrian army besieged the city at the end of the 8th century BC (Isaiah 36-37, 2 Kings 19). Part of the siege ramp can still be seen today. 155 years later, the Babylonians destroyed the city. Climbing to the top of the tel, we saw the 2 gates and walls, and the palace foundation. The rain began here all the while the winds howled at nearly 50+ mph. We were almost swept off the tel. 🙂
Our drive to Beersheba from Lachish took about 50 minutes. As we drove, we past by the southern portion of the 700 km protective fence/wall that was built about 15 years ago in order to protect Israelis from Palestinian terrorism. We arrived at our hotel in Beersheba for dinner and another brief gathering. It was a great first full day!
DAY 4 – THURSDAY, JANUARY 17: BEERSHEBA, SDE BOKER, WILDERNESS OF ZIN, MASADA, JUDEAN DESERT
While it rained all night, we woke to partly sunny day here in Beersheba. The sun broke out early in the day, providing temps eventually around 60. Today was our second full day here in Israel.
Leaving our hotel after breakfast and loading at 7:30, we drove to Tel Beershebaclose by. We read Psalm 126 on the way, a passage that speaks about the water courses/streams of the Negev. At the site, we walked to the water well that reminded us of Abraham who made a treaty here (“well of the oath or seven,” Gen. 21). We also read from Psalm 23 and reflected upon God “keeping our cup to overflowing”. Isaac was also here (Gen. 26). So was Jacob (Gen. 46) and Elijah (1 Kings 19) at various times. The ruins we saw (Solomonic gate, “four-room houses,” and a quite impressive water cistern system) all date to the time of the 10th – 6th century BC.
From here we drove south to See Boker. Overlooking the beautiful Zin Desert, this is where David Ben Gurion and his wife Paula were buried. He was the first Prime Minister of Israel in 1948. He loved this region of the Negev. We also saw a few ibex here as well.
Driving down into the canyon and hiking to the water falls also gave us a spectacular feel of the uniqueness of this Zin Desert. The 12 spies (Num. 13) came up through here. Moses also struck the rock here to obtain water (Num. 20) somewhere in the Zin. Many in the group enjoyed an optional hike to the far rim of the canyon.
Because of some maintenance being done on the cable car on the east side of Masada (and causing it to be closed), we changed our program today by visiting this ancient palace-fortress of Herod the Great today! This meant climbing up and down the Roman ramp on the west side. Everyone made it to the top just fine! While on top, Shlomo shared with us the story of Masada as described by Josephus. 967 Jews found refuge here against the Romans in 70 AD after the fall of Jerusalem. All but five perished in 73 AD. We saw the casemate walls, the western palace and the synagogue.
Upon walking back down this ancient ramp, we boarded back on the bus and drove back west to Hanokdim, our “Beduoin Tent” facility for the night. First, we enjoyed camel rides in the Judean Desert. No one fell off! We also enjoyed hearing about Beduion life from a real Beduioin who lives in the desert. Dinner was wonderful too, served family style. To end the evening, we enjoyed marshmallows around the camp fire.
DAY 5 – FRIDAY, JANUARY 18: ARAD, SHILOH, JUDEAN DESERT, DEAD SEA
Today was a partly sunny day, with highs in the 60s. Waking up in the desert in our “huts” and stepping out to see a beautiful sunrise was special. Our itinerary was also tweaked a bit today, taking us through the Hill Country of Judah & Samaria.
Leaving our Bedouin camp at 7:30, we drove to Tel Arad. This was originally a Canaanite city from the Early Bronze period. It was later taken by Joshua (Josh 12). On the top of the tel (the citadel), we saw Israelite ruins, including a false temple built here by Judeans in the 8-7th centuries BC. It was discovered in 1962. Good kings like Hezekiah and Josiah brought an end to these high places (2 Chr. 30 & 34). Standing in the main chamber of the temple we considered how God wants us to be living sacrifices to Him (Romans 12:1-2). From here we walked down to the earlier Canaanite ruins to see the well, the broad houses, and the impressive walls and towers of the city.
The Drive to Shiloh
Driving north from here was very interesting. We drove past Tel Ziph (1 Samuel 23 & 26), and Maon (I Samuel 25, where Nabal and Abagail were from). Passing by Hebron (where the Patriarchs are buried, Gen. 35, 49), we drove around the western side of Jerusalem. Upon reaching the north side, we continued north past Bethel (Gen. 15, 26), Ai (Joshua 7-8), and Michmash (1 Samuel 13-14).
When we arrived at Shiloh, we climbed to the top of the tel. Here we first watched a short movie about the life of Hannah, Samuel, and the Tabernacle. We read about the call to Samuel by God (1 Sam. 3) and the destruction of the Tabernacle (1 Sam. 4). We also considered the words of Jeremiah (Jer. 7), mentioning Shiloh specifically. Before leaving, we walked down to the area suggested to be where the Tabernacle once stood a little over 300 years!
On our way back south we ran into two long traffic jams caused by accidents. On the road leading to the Desert of Pareth (Jer. 7), we saw an partial overturned bus booking the road. Backtracking to the main Jerusalem-Jericho road, we also were delayed about 45 minutes. However, we did stop at an amazing overlook of Wadi Qelt. Here we heard the prophet “Isaiah” share encouraging words about preparing the way for the Lord (Is. 40). Shlomo also sang Psalm 23. This area of the Judean Desert serves as the backdrop for these passages.
Because of the lack of time to stop at Jericho (we’ll see it tomorrow), we ended the day by floating in the Dead Sea. It was an amazing sensation! Many coated themselves with mud!
At our hotel nearby (Al Mog), we enjoyed dinner and a free evening together.
DAY 6 – SATURDAY, JANUARY 19: ENGEDI, QUMRAN, JERICHO, BETH SHAN, SEA OF GALILEE
Today we spent the morning on the western side of the Dead Sea. Full sun greeted us as we started out at 7:20 following breakfast. The temps were cool on this Shabbat morning, but warmed up to a pleasant 65.
Because of our change of itinerary yesterday, we drove about 40 minutes south to Engedi. This is one of only a few locations on the edge of the Judean Desert where water springs can be found. Walking into the canyon (Wadi David), we stopped briefly to read from Song of Songs 1 (3 couples married over 45 years shared romantic language together… “the henna blossoms of Engedi…”), 2 Chronicles 20 (and the Ascent of Ziz), and 1 Samuel 24. It was here where David hid from Saul. We then hiked back to some of the water falls. It is a beautiful area! We also saw a few ibex (Psalm 104).
Returning north now, our next stop was Qumran. This is the most significant site in all of Israel because of the Dead Sea Scrolls found here. 21 in the group hiked up to Cave 1 (where the first scrolls were found in 1947). Others in the group toured the archaeological site where miqvot (ritual baths), cisterns, and the scriptorium could be seen. Cave 4 (where the majority of the scrolls were found) can clearly be seen. The Cave 1 experience was uniquely special. This group then walked over to the site as well. While both groups re-boarded the bus, we read from Psalm 151, an extra Psalm found in 1956 in Cave 11.
Near by on the NW corner of the Dead Sea is Jericho. We entered the modern city (about 20,000 residents) where we walked to the top of the ancient OT site of Jericho. We first looked eastward towards Mt. Nebo (Dt. 34), the Plains of Moab (where Elijah ascended to heaven, 2 Kings 2), the Jordan River (where Jesus was baptized, John 1). While looking west to the cliffs of the desert, this is where Jesus was tempted (Mt. 4). We also saw the oldest tower as well as the stone reventment/retaining walls on the southern side that supported a mud-brick wall. It was the mud-brick wall that tumbling down in the Joshua 6 story! After seeing the site, we enjoyed a falafel here.
Driving north through the Jordan Valley, our last stop was Beth Shean. This was first an OT site (where Saul and his three sons’ bodies were hung on its walls, 1 Samuel 31). Later it became a huge Roman city. We saw the bathhouses, the agora, many mosaics, the colonnaded street, the public latrenes, and the impressive theater. Many in the group hiked to the top of the OT tel for a great view of the Roman city below, Mt. Gilboa & Hill of Moreh to the west, and the Jordan Valley to the east.
Sea of Galilee
From here we drove to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. Our first view of this lake mentioned in the Bible was impressive! We even could see the snow-capped Mt. Hermon about 40 miles to the north!We continued to the NW corner of the lake where we checked into our hotel. We enjoyed dinner and a brief gathering on the water’s edge. With the moon being a day away from being full, it was spectacular!Our next three days were here in the north!
DAY 7 – SUNDAY, JANUARY 20: ARBEL, JORDAN RIVER BAPTISM, MAGDALA, CHORIZIM, CAPERNAUM, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE
There was a cool start to the day today, but the sun warmed things up to around 65 in the afternoon. The entire day was a focus on the life and ministry of Jesus. We would spend the day around the Sea of Galilee.
Leaving the hotel (Nof Ginnosar) at 7:30 (we read from Mt. 4) following a great breakfast, we drove a short distance to the trailhead leading up 800+ feet to to the top of Arbel. While this mountain is not specifically mentioned in the Gospels, the view from the top provides a panoramic perspective of the entire NW side of the lake below. Mt. Hermon 35 miles north was in clear view too! 21 in the group hiked to the top while the others bussed around and walked to the top from the visitor center. This mountain may have been the place where Jesus met his disciples following the resurrection (Mt. 28:16) as well as at others times during his ministry.
Yardenit / Jordan River
Driving to the southern end of the lake, we celebrated six in the group who were baptized in the the chilly waters of the Jordan River. The baptismal place here is called Yardenit. It was a special time for all. Jesus was also baptized in the Jordan River, but further south across from Jericho (John 1).
From here we drove north along the shoreline of there lake to the Kinneret Cemetery. We stopped here to hear the story about Rachel, an early Jewish pioneer to the land. This woman died in 1931. Many of her poems are read here. Rachel even appears on the new 20 shekel bill.
Our next site we visited was Magdala. This was the home of Mary Magdalene. This was a prominent Jewish harbor-city that eventually was destroyed by the Romans in the First Revolt (66 AD) by the Romans.After the Feeding of the 4,000 (perhaps on the SE corner of the lake), Jesus sailed into this city (Mt. 15:39). Among the ruins we saw here was a 1st century synagogue. Jesus must have taught from here!It is quite modest, with stone benches for perhaps 50-60 people only. It was incredible to picture Jesus entering this synagogue and teaching here!
After lunch, we visited Capernaum. This city in Jesus’ time located on a prominent route served as the home-base for Jesus’ Galilean ministry.Sitting in the 5th century AD synagogue, we read from Mark, 1,2 and 9; Luke 7 and 8; and John 6. Jesus taught here and performed many miracles. After seeing the other ruins (and 5-6th AD octagonal church), we sat on the shoreline for reflection. It was probably here where Jesus called his first four disciples. Matthew (or Levi) also lived here as a tax collector.
We ended the day with an extra site not on the program. Driving around to the east side of the lake. On this east side is the site of Kursi. It is only a traditional site for the Mark 5 narrative of Jesus exorcizing the demoniac from the land of the Garazenes. But we drove past this site to one of the Decapolis cities, Hippos, also called Susita. This is an off-the-beaten-path site founded during the Hellenistic Period (2nd century BC). However, most of the ruins we saw were from the Roman and Byzantine Period (1st – 7th century AD). We saw the city gate, colonnaded stone streets, the forum, and a few Byzantine churches. The building stones were massive! Better yet, the view of the entire length of the Sea of Galilee (13 miles) below us to the west was spectacular! We could easily retrace some of the events (e.g. boat excursions) of Jesus from here. The sunset from here was equally amazing!What a great way to end our day!
We drove back to our hotel by going back around the northern end. We enjoyed dinner together, followed by a free evening.
DAY 8 – MONDAY, JANUARY 21: GAMLA, QATZRIN, BENTAL, CAESAREA PHILIPPI, DAN
Today was another sunny day. Although it was a bit hazy, we enjoyed the temps in the mid to upper 60s. Very comfortable. We spent the day in the Golan Heights.
Leaving the hotel again at 7:30 (we read from Mt. 13) we drove to the Northeast corner of the Sea of Galilee and began our ascent up the Golan Heights. We first made a brief stop to overview the Bethsaida Plain. Bethsaida was the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John 1). It was also the home of the blind man healed by Jesus (Mark 8). We also read from John 6 (the Feeding of the 5,000) that took place below us. Today, there is now two possible sites for Bethsaida itself.
Driving on the plateau of the Golan we arrived at Gamla. This was a large Jewish city built on a camel-shaped hill about 6 miles east of the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee. Seeing the site from above, this was a city that fell to the Romans in 66 AD. Josephus was a leader here. There is also a 1st century synagogue here. While the site is not mentioned in the Bible, we read from Acts 5 about a certain Judas the Galilean who may have been from here.
The biggest town in the Golan Heights is Katzrin (8,000 residents). There is also a Talmudic Village here (from the 3rd-7/8th centuries AD). At the site we sat in a restored stone house no doubt similar to that type of houses used in Jesus’ day. We read from Mark 2. Jesus came to show compassion to the outcasts of the day (the shamed). He also came to forgive sins. While this story took place at Capernaum, we could picture it happening in a house like this! We also saw the synagogue here.
On the eastern border of the Golan we climbed (with the bus) to the top of Bental. This was an old military outpost overlooking Syria. Shlomo shared some history from the 1967 and 1973 wars. We could easily look across the border just a few miles away. Snow-capped Mt. Hermon also stood majestically in front of us to the north. In fact, on our way to the next site, we stopped for coffee and tea at a Druze restaurant at the base of the mountain!
Descending off the slopes of the Golan we made a brief stop at the Saar Falls. With the abundance of rain and snow fall in the north, the falls werequite beautiful!
The road continued past Nimrod (a Crusade castle) to Caesarea Philippi. Here the Banias spring was also flowing with an abundance of water. We read from Matthew 16. It was in the region of this city Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” It could very well be that Jesus was also transfigured somewhere on the slopes of Mt. Hermon (Mt. 17). At the grotto area we saw where the Temple of Augustus once stood as well as the shrine to Jupiter, Pan, and Nemesis.
Our last site of the day was Dan. Walking through the nature preserve here and along the largest of the springs (the Dan springs), we enjoyed a time of reflection and song at our first stop. Walking into the archaeological site, we sat on the steps of the high place while we read from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12. It was Jeroboam who established a golden calf on the high place here. We also saw a mud-brick gate from the time of the Canaanites (when the city was called Laish). While overlooking the border with Lebanon, Shlomo also shared a little about the situation today with this northern neighbor.
From here we drove back through the Huleh Valley (and past Hazor, see Joshua 11) to our hotel for dinner and a free night. Today was our second incredible day here in the north!
DAY 9 – TUESDAY, JANUARY 22: “REFLECTION DAY” – BOAT RIDE, LAKESHORE GATHERING, CHORAZIN, MT. OF BEATITUDES
Today was our reflection/rest day. The weather was very nice (although with haze in the sky), with sun and temps in the low 70s.It was a more slow-paced day with great experiences!
Ancient Boat / Boat Ride
We started at 8:30 this morning, an hour later than normal. From the lobby of our hotel we walked to the museum. Here we saw the 1st century wooden boat discovered in 1986. It was discovered in the mud of the lake and was carefully excreted and restored. Walking to the shoreline, we then boarded our own boat for a 50 minute “sail” in the Sea of Galilee. We enjoyed a time of worship and reflection. We read from Mark 4 and Matthew 14, the two storm narratives.
Lakeshore Stone Painting
Returning to the shoreline of Nof Ginnosar, we spent some time alone reflecting upon Jesus’ words from Matthew 4, “Come, follow me!” We then painted stones that each picked up, serving as reminders of this unique experience! Everyone painted incredible things on their stones, with wonderful spiritual lessons.
After driving to Tiberias and having lunch on the second floor of the shopping mall (the big favorite was the ice cream and frozen yogarts), we drove to the NW corner of the lake. Chorazin is located here. It was one of three cities condemned by Jesus (Mt. 11). Walking to the 3rd century synagogue, we saw the replica of the Moses’ seat (Mt. 23). We also read the words of Jesus from this chapter about humility.
Mt. of Beatitudes
About 2:30, we made our final experience of the day on the top of the Mt. of Beatitudes. Shlomo read the Beatitudes first in Hebrew before Pastor Rudy taught on the Mt. 5:1-16,inviting us to consider these life-transforming kingdom principles. Then for an hour we spread out and took time on our own to read the entire Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7). Most in the group then walked down the gentle slope to the water’s edge.
We returned to the hotel for dinner and an optional gathering out on the peer. These three full days up here in the region of the Galilee were amazing!
DAY 10 – WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 23: PRECIPICE OF NAZARETH, MEGIDDO, MT. CARMEL, CAESAREA, JERUSALEM
After three full days here in the Galilee, we checked out from our hotel on the Sea of Galilee and drove south. Our final destination would be Jerusalem later this afternoon. Once again, it was sunny, with perfect highs in the low 70s.
Precipice of Nazareth
Located in the region of the Lower Galilee, our first stop was to the Precipice of Nazareth. The view from here gave us our first look at the Jezreel Valley below. Although it was hazy again, we also could see Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5), the Hill or Moreh (Judges 6-7), and Mt. Gilboa in the distance (1 Sam. 31). We read from Luke 4 and talked about Jesus’ teaching in Nazareth’s synagogue. We also recalled John 1 about how Philip simply invited others to “come and see” Jesus! We even saw a blooming mandrake (Gen. 30, Songs of Songs 7) along the pathway.
Crossing the Jezreel Valley (Israel’s largest valley and bread-basket of the country) brought us to a large archaeological site called Megiddo. This site has at least two dozen layers of occupation spanning about 2,500 years! It was first inhabited in the Canaanite Period. Climbing the tel, we saw three different stone gate systems, Israelite stables, storehouse, and grain silo. An earlier Canaanite altar could also be seen. Overlooking the valley, we read from Rev. 16 that references Armageddon. We entrusted the end times scenario and the return of Christ to unfold in God’s sovereign way! We are on the winning side!
The mountain range that separates the Jezreel Valley and the Sharon Plain is the Carmel Range. First we ate lunch at another Druze restaurant. We then drove to Muhraha, a Carmelite chapel on the top peak of there mountain. It was here where Elijah defeated the 450 prophets of Baal, the Canaanite god of rain & thunder. In the small chapel we read the story from 1 Kings 18 (Songs of Songs 7, Isaiah 35, and Amos 1 also mention Mt. Carmel). We also enjoyed singing a song here. The view from the top of the chapel roof gave us our third and final view of the Jezreel Valley below!
Our last stop of the day was Caesarea. Located on the shoreline of the Mediterranean Sea, this was a harbor city established by Herod the Great in 22 BC. Peter was here (Acts 10), Phillip (Acts 21), and Paul (Acts 8, 21, 26). Among the many ruins we saw the reconstructed theater, the palace, the hippodrome, and Crusader city, and the area of the harbor itself. We also saw mosaics and marble statutes and pillars. We even saw a few couples taking their wedding pictures. Before leaving this ancient city, we made a brief stop at the aqueduct.
From here we drove about 2 hours up to Jerusalem. Ascending from the Coastal Plains to the Hill Country of Judah, we arrived and checked in at our hotel in the west side of Jerusalem. After dinner, most in the group enjoyed an orientation walk to the famous Western Wall. The way to the Wall was incredible as we walked with about 750+ young Israel Defense Force soldiers who were heading to the Wall as well for a ceremonial induction. It was a special honor to experience this! On the way back we walked through the Jewish Quarter.
DAY 11 – THURSDAY, JANUARY 24: JERUSALEM, OLD CITY, JEWISH QUARTER, YAD VASHEM
Today was the first of three full days in Jerusalem. The sun once again greeted us, with cool temps to start (40s), but with a high temp in low 60s. The day was filled with a wide range of experiences and emotions.
Mt. of Olives
Leaving our hotel at 7:30, we drove around the northern side of the Old City and then east. Ascending the Mt. of Olives we enjoyed an incredible view of the city of Jerusalem! In front of uw across the Kidron Valley was the City of David (the OT Jerusalem), the Temple Mount, and the entire Old City. At the Dominus Flavet chapel we read from Luke 19, Acts 1, and Zechariah 14 to remember Jesus’ Palm Sunday celebration, His weeping over Jerusalem, His ascension, and His predicted return on this mountain!
Continuing to walk down the path to the Garden of Gethsemane, we gathered in a private garden for a time of reflection. We read from Luke 22 and considered Jesus’ passion, “Not my will but yours be done…” This was where Jesus was betrayed from Judas.
Walking into the Old City through the Lion’s Gate (also called St. Stephen’s and Jericho Gate), we stopped at the St. Anne’s Church. We sang a few songs in this Crusader Church that has an 8 second echo! We sounded likea wonderful choir!On the same grounds are the Pools of Bethesda where the lame man was healed by Jesus (John 5).
From here we walked to the Christian Quarter and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, one of the two possible locations for the crucifixion and burial site of Jesus. We ate lunch near by.
Walking to the Jewish Quarter after lunch we visited the Herodian Mansion. This was a 1st century AD large house structure excavated in the early 1970s. Today these ruins are completely under modern buildings. We also listened to Moshe, an Orthodox Jew. He and his brother Dov own a store called Shorashim.
Walking out the Zion’s Gate, our last stop of the day was Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum & Memorial.Here we walked through the Children’s Museum (1.5 million children were killed) and the main museum. We also heard Shlomo’s personal family story (he lost 12 family members who livd in Vilna, Poland).
We drove back to the hotel for a late dinner and an optional walk to Ben Yehuda Street for a taste of modern Israeli culture and shopping.
DAY 12 – FRIDAY, JANUARY 25: OLD CITY, WESTERN WALL TUNNEL, SOUTHERN EXCAVATIONS, CITY OF DAVID, HEZEKIAH’S TUNNEL
Today was another full sunny day, with highs in the low 60s. Our experiences included both Old and New Testament history and archaeology, with many connections to the Bible once again.
Western Wall Tunnel
Leaving at 7:30 again, we drove down through the Hinnom Valley and then up along the Tyropean Valley to the Dung Gate. Here we entered the Western Wallarea. Many Jews were here for morning prayers. We then walked parallel to this western retaining wall that Herod built. We saw massive stones (one called the Master Course that weighs hundred of tons!). We also saw the newly-discovered odeon (small theater). Back in the prayer area, many went down to the Wall for a time of prayer.
South Wall Excavations
At the SW corner of the Temple Mount is the South Wall Excavations. Here, most of the pavement and stones we saw date to the time of Jesus. We walked on the Herodian pavement and saw the massive stones of the Temple. On the southern side of the Temple we walked up the very steps used by Jesus and the disciples! We remembered the stories from the Gospels that place Jesus here. Like the disciples being impressed by the massive stones here (Mark 13:1-2), we were too.Peter also most likely preached here on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2).
City of David
Just south of the Temple Mount is the City of David. Here we walked down through the excavations after watching a 3D movie. We talked about how David conquered the city (2 Samuel 5, through the water shaft), and how Hezekiah re-fortifed the walls of the city and built a water tunnel during the attempted Assyrian siege (2 Kings 19-20, 2 Chr. 32, Isaiah 36-37). Walking down through Warren’s Shaft, we split into two groups. One group walked through the waters of Hezekiah’s Tunnel while the other group took the “dry” earlier Canaanite tunnel. Both groups converged at the Pool of Siloam where we read the John 9 story in dramatic fashion.
Free Afternoon in the Old City
Driving from here to the Zion’s Gate, many enjoyed some shopping on their own. Some visited the traditional Upper Room (unfortunately Oscar Schindler’s grave close by was closed). It was a fun time exploring the Old City on our own. It was also fun to simply sit and take in the culture.
We all walked back to the hotel for dinner and a free evening. It is hard to believe that we have only one more full day here in Israel!
DAY 13 – SATURDAY, JANUARY 26: GARDEN TOMB, ISRAEL MUSEUM, HERODIUM, BETHLEHEM
Today was our last day here in Jerusalem and the last full day of our trip together.The weather was the best yet, with full sun and highs in the upper 60s. We’ve had an incredible streak of superb weather!
Our first stop was the Garden Tomb. Located north of the Damascus Gate, this sites serves as an alternative site for the crucifixion and burial of Jesus.First we visited the grounds, seeing the proposed place of crucifixion and the tomb of Jesus. We also then enjoyed a time of worship and Communion together. It was very special.
Oscar Schindler’s Grave
Circling around to the southwest side of the Old City, we made a brief stop to see Oscar Schindler’s grave. It is located in a Catholic cemetery. He is credited for saving the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust. Some of us placed stones on his grave.
Driving to West Jerusalem, we spent about an hour and a half at the Israel Museum. Here we saw three things: A 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem as it looked in 70 AD. We connected the life and ministry of Jesus to many locations within the city.Next, we walked through the Shrine of the Book. Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed here. Among the artifacts displayed art the two clay jars that were found in Cave 1 as well some of the scrolls themselves (e.g. the Temple Scroll, etc…). Finally, we walked through the archaeological wing of the museum, seeing the highlights. THis included the altar of Beersheba, the Dan Inscription, the Arad high place, Asherah figurines, the Moses’ Seat from Chorazin, the Pilate Inscription, the ossuary of Caiaphas, andthe coffin of Herod the Great (among many more). On the way out we are amazed to see the 1,900 year old glass pie plate.
Before lunch, we drove about 8 miles southeast of Jerusalem to Herodium. This was another palace-fortress of Herod the Great. He actually was buried here. We climbed this artificial mountain. The views from the top were fair with the haze, but good enough to see Jerusalem to the north, Bethlehem to the west, Tekoa to the south, and the Judean Desert to the east. We exited the site by descending down through the cistern system.
After lunch in Beit Sahour, we visited the Shepherds’ Fields. Descending down into a cave, we talked about the role of the shepherd in biblical times. We read from Luke 2. We also remembered that “just at the right time God sent His Son…” (Gal. 4:4). We sang a few carols together both in the cave and then in the Chapel of the Shepherds. The acoustics were good!
Bethlehem Olive Wood Shop/Store
Our last stop of the day was to an olive wood shop and store in Bethlehem. We saw how the olive wood products are carved. We also shopped in the store above.
From here we drove home for our hotel. We had our farewell dinner together, followed by an optional walk south on the Promenade.
DAY 14 – SUNDAY, JANUARY 27: ARRIVE BACK IN THE U.S.A.
We all are set to fly home this morning. Currently, we are at the airport awaiting our non-top flight home… Thanks for following us and praying for us!
City of David
The City of David is the area just south of the Old City of Jerusalem today. Previously called the city of Jebus, David conquered the city (2 Samuel 5). Major excavations can be seen here today – Jebusite walls, David’s palace, Hezekiah’s Tunnel, and the Pool of Siloam.
Jerusalem is mentioned over 800 times in the Bible.