October 2009

Biblical Israel Tour Experiences from October, 2009

Group Photos

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People

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Wednesday/Thursday, October 28 & 29 (Day 1 & 2)

The day of our departure for our Christian Israel tour to the Hoyland arrived!  We arrived safely!  Our group is a total of 34.  Leaving the airport, we headed to our hotel in Netanya, we stopped at Joppa (Jaffa), and read from Acts 10.  After dinner about half of the group enjoyed a walk together.  The weather is mild (70’s), but with some rain on the forecast.

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Friday, October 30 (Day 3)

We began the day with an optional walk down to the Mediterranean beach.   A few of us enjoyed the stroll together.  It was a rainy start to the day however as we left the hotel for our first stop at Caesarea in the rain.   The rain was off and on while we toured this remarkable excavation.  Our next stop was to Mt. Carmel, reading the I Kings 18 story about Elijah.  It was foggy and rainy, so the view of the Jezreel Valley was not possible.  It cleared a bit for our stop at Megiddo however.  What an impressive OT site!  Revelation 16 was read as we celebrated God as the One who reigns!

Crossing the Jezreel Valley, we ascended the ridge of Nazareth, stopping at the Well of Mary’s church.  Luke 1 and 4 were read.  Passing through Cana (John 2), our final stop was the cliff of Arbel.  Even though the area was closed because of Shabbat, we hiked the path to the top, enjoying the view of the Sea of Galilee below.

We ended the day at Maagan, our kibbutz/hotel for two nights.  Following dinner, we enjoyed a gathering on the beach together.

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Saturday, October 31 (Day 4)

The day began by driving to Tiberias for our boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.  We experienced a great time of worship, and quiet devotion.  Following the boat ride, and despite the rain showers all morning, we visited sites on the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee: Nof Ginnosar (the “Jesus Boat”), Tabgha (feeding of the 5,000 site), Capernaum, and the Mt. of Beatitudes.

Heading north to the Golan Heights, we enjoyed lunch together along the Hatz Bani river, one of the tributaries of the Jordan.  Close by, we visited Caesarea Philippi where “Who do say I am?” was asked by Jesus of His disciples.  We enjoyed the sun breaking out over us here.  Continuing east and traveling through various “Druze” villages, we ascended to the heights of the Golan, with a great overlook into Syria from Katzrin.

From here we turned south once again to return to the Sea of Galilee basin.  Our last stop of the day was Yardenet, the baptismal site.  About 20 of our group were baptized, along with others from around the world (Ecuador, Ireland) joining our group.  It was a very special ecumenical moment. 🙂

Following dinner, we enjoyed another night of interacting together on the beach under a nearly full moon.

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Sunday, November 1 (Day 5)

This sunny new day began with a unique visit to the Kinneret Cemetery.  Shlomo, our guide, shared a few poems written by a Jewish immigrant named Rachel.  She, as well as other early Jewish settlers, is buried here.  From here we started our trip south towards Jerusalem.  We first stopped at Bethshean, an impressive Roman city (the only city of the Decopolis west of the Jordan River).  There is also an Old Testament tel associated with the city (mentioned in I Sam. 31).  It is where Saul’s body was hung on the wall following his death on nearby Mt. Gilboa.

After lunch at the Al Mog rest area, we traveled into Jericho.  Climbing the tel, we read the famous Joshua 6 passage about the walls that came tumblin’ down!   From here, we ascended nearly 4,000 feet in elevation to Jerusalem.  We spent the remainder of the afternoon in Bethlehem, visiting the Church of Nativity and the Shepherd’s Fields.   We returned to the Moriah Classic hotel in Jerusalem for our first night’s stay here in the capital of Israel.  Some of enjoyed an orientation walk to the Old City.

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Monday, November 2 (Day 6)

The morning began early with an entrance into the Old City by way of the Dung Gate.  Together we enjoyed an unique walk through what is called the Western Wall Tunnel.   It is a walk parallel along the western wall retaining wall of the Temple Mount.  Our first stop once we exited the tunnel was the Pools of Bethesda.  We enjoyed some great singing in St. Anne’s Church, where a 9 second echo can be heard.

From here we exited continued upon the Via Delorosa.   We stopped along several stations of the cross,including Sisters of Zion Church where we read the Gospel account of Christ’s suffering on the Lithostrotos(e.g. The “Pavement” – John 19).  We walked to the Holy Sepulcher Church, one possible site for both the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  We exited the Jaffa Gate.

Driving around the northern end of the city, we next arrived on top of the Mt. of Olives.  We enjoyed walking down the pathway, stopping at Dominus Flavet.  Here, we read the Palm Sunday event, Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, and Zechariah 14’s prophecy about Christ’s second coming.

After eating lunch at Ramat Rachel (just north of Bethlehem), we drove to western Jerusalem.  We enjoyed two stops here: the Israel Museum (Jerusalem Model and the Dead Sea Scrolls Museum/Shrine of the Book), and Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum).

We came back to our hotel for dinner.  The evening rain prevented our optional walk to Ben Yehuda from taking place.

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Tuesday, November 3 (Day 7)

What another great day!  We headed to the Wilderness of Judah early at 7 a.m.  Our first stop was Engedi.  Even though the hike back to the falls could not be done (due to potential flooding), we saw the 3rd century synagogue here.  We also climbed to an overview of the Engedi wadi where David hid from Saul in a cave.  We also saw a number of ibex and coneys too.

From here we headed further south along the Dead Sea to Masada.   A cable car took the group to the top, with about 10 hiking down the snake path.  The story that took place here 73 A.D. is a remarkable one!

We drove back along the Dead Sea as we headed north to Qumran.  Following lunch here, we toured the archeological site where the Essenes scribed the Dead Sea scrolls.  We thank God for the preservation of the Hebrew Scriptures!

The day of touring ended with a “float” in the Dead Sea.  Everyone had a great time floating around.  Some even coated themselves with mud.

We returned to the hotel in Jerusalem for another great dinner.  An optional walk to the Ben Yehuda street was enjoyed by many.

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Wednesday, November 4 (Day 8)

Another great day in Jerusalem!  We began with visiting the Temple Mount.  This was the location of both the 1st and 2nd Temple.  Now being an entirely Muslim area, the Dome of the Rock and El Asca mosque are there.  From here we visited the southern excavations of the Temple.  These archaeological discoveries date to the time of the Herod and the 2nd Temple he built.  This was the Temple that the disciples commented on as they left the Temple (see Mark 13:1).  We walked on the Herodian street as well as saw massive stones that were once part of the Temple but destroyed in 70 A.D. by the hands of the Romans.  We also sat on the Temple steps, marking the southern entrance into the Temple complex itself.  Here, Mark 12 and Acts 2 were shared.

In the late morning we walked up to the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.  We enjoyed stepping into Moshe’sShoreshim store where he shared about his Jewish Orthodox faith.  we enjoyed his willingness to share with us on the topic of Jewish and Christian thought.  We then ate lunch here in the Jewish Quarter.

Following lunch we visited the City of David excavations.  In addition to the OT remains of the city, we talked about the stories of David conquering the city as well as Hezekiah protecting the city.  About a dozen walked through the 1,720 foot-long water tunnel built by Hezekiah in 701 B.C.

The day ended at the Garden Tomb.  Here, we visited a presentation of the alternative location for Christ’s death and resurrection.  We shared a Communion Service together following visiting the tomb of Christ.

Following dinner and a group meeting, some ventured to the Mount of Olives for an optional walk.  We all are preparing for the free day tommorrow.

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Thursday, November 5 (Day 9)

Today was a free day!  With a few getting up early for a 6:30 a.m. “prayer walk” to the Western wall, it was a leisurely start for most.  At 9 a.m., the majority of the group walked together into the Old City, to the heart of the Christian Quarter.  Here, we each went our own way.  Additional sites and experiences included Mt. Zion (traditional tomb of David, Upper Room, Caiaphas’ house, and Shindler’s tomb).  Everyone enjoyed shopping all around, sitting and watching people, and simply absorbing the unique encounters of the day.

By 5 p.m., most everyone was back at the hotel.  We eat together for the last time as a large group, with 12 going home tonight, and the rest staying one more night before our departure tomorrow morning to the Red Sea, the Taba border crossing, and Sinai.

Here are a random selection of photos from the day.

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Friday, November 6 (Day 10)

22 of us left the Jerusalem hotel for Elat and the Red Sea.  We stopped a few times (along the Dead Sea and at a dairy kibbutz) for snacks and ice cream.  We continued to Timnah, a National Park.  Here, the ancient Egyptians mined copper.  We saw a model of the Tabernacle here.  We also climbed around the rock formations at Solomon’s Pillars.

We continued to Taba, the Israeli/Egyptian border.  We crossed without difficulty, although we had to wait for our Egyptian bus, agent, and guide. From here, we had a short drive to our hotel (5 star +) at the Marriot along the Red Sea in Taba Heights.  What a spectacular hotel!  We enjoyed dinner together, then an early night’s sleep for those traveling to St. Catherine’s at later tonight.

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Saturday, November 7 (Day 11)

The day stated early for 10 in the group.  Departing at 10:30 p.m. (last night), we arrived at St. Catherine’s about 1:15 a.m. this morning.  Following our group picture, the climb up Mt. Sinai began.  8 rode camels 2/3rd’s of the way up, while 2 hiked the whole way.  With the almost-full moon, flashlights were not even needed.  It was so bright!  Everyone made it to the top for sunrise over Saudi Arabia.  It was an amazing experience of all, and just to think that Moses met with God somewhere up here!   Once the sun rose, the hike down was exhilirating as well, with every turn providing a picture-moment because of the beauty of the Sinai landscape.

With the other half of the group joining us at the Monestery of St. Catherine’s, the tour began of this 4th century building still maintained by 40 or so Greek Orthodox monks.

We arrived back to the Marriot at 1:30 p.m., with all of us enjoying the pool, the Red Sea, and simply relaxing together.  Following dinner, some enjoyed some nice quiet fellowship in the courtyard/pool area.

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Sunday, November 8 (Day 12)

The morning began with a beautiful sunrise over the Red Sea.  On this mild morning, we journeyed back to the Taba border to cross back into Israel.  Once we crossed, we were driven to the Rabin border to make our 2nd crossing, this time into Jordan.  Here, we met our Jordanian bus and guide, “Naj.”  We ate lunch in Aqaba, the Jordanian port city on the Red Sea.

The afternoon was spectacular as we drove north up the King’s Highway to Wadi Rum.  Lawrence of Arabia made this famous in the 1920’s.  Here, we enjoyed an almost 2 hour off-road jeep ride into the desert.  We even had the chance to climb a huge sand dune.  The scenery was breath-taking everywhere you looked.

Around dark, we drove close to 2 hours further north (and a bit west) to Petra.  We have two nights here at the Panorama Hotel which overlooks the site of Petra.  We enjoyed dinner together and a brief time of worship and fellowship afterwards.  We’re all looking forward to the entire day in Petra tomorrow!

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Monday, November 9 (Day 13)

What a day in Petra!  We started the morning with breakfast and a fantastic view of the Petra/Seir mountains below.  We embarked at 8 a.m., arriving at the site of Petra 10 minutes later.  Once we entered, a few took the horse drawn buggy down the “Siq” while the rest walk.  We were guided by “Naj,” who shared with us about the Nabateans and many of the sites in Petra.  The Treasury Building (made famous by Indiana Jones’ 3rd movie) awaited us at the end of the Siq.

From here, we continued through the site, observing many of the tombs and monuments along the way.  At the Urn Tomb, free time was offered.  Some walked to the edge of Petra to the west, to the “Monastery” tomb, while others hiked up to the High Place.  Spending most if not all of the day in Petra was special!

We returned to our hotel for dinner.  What a great day!

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Tuesday, November 10 (Day 14)

This morning we headed north to Amman on this last full day together.  Our first stop was at Mt. Nebo, where Dt. 24 and Joshua 1 were read concerning the life and death of Moses, and Joshua’s leading of the Israelites across the Jordan.  While the view was hazy, the Jericho area could be seen.  From here we visited the 6th century A.D. mosaic map of Medaba.  We enjoyed eating lunch here along the streets of this Christian section of town (Greek Orthodox primarily).

Following lunch, we headed towards the traffic and congestion of Amman, the capital of Jordan.  The view from the Citadel was tremendous.  Both the Old Testament and Roman ruins were impressive as well.

Our last stop of the day was the Jabbok River.  Here, we reviewed the “wrestling” story of Jacob (Gen 32).  We enjoyed the sunset here as we relaxed with coffee and juice.

For our farewell dinner, we traveled back into Amman for a unique Arab dinner at a well known local restaurant.  It was a 40 minute drive from here to the airport for our flight home.  As of 10 p.m. local time, we are currently waiting our 12:10 a.m. flight.  It was a great ending day to a great tour together!

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Wednesday, November 11 (Day 15)

We arrived back home!   What a great trip together!