Day 1 & 2 Trip Summary – January 2018 14 Day Israel Tour


Fight and arrival in Israel

Tel Aviv

The Med Sea & coastline of Tel Aviv

Today our departure date finally arrived!  With enthusiasm, we met at the Newark Airport in NJ for our flight to Tel Aviv, Israel. Praise God that everyone’s flight was on time getting into Newark. Our international flight took off at 4:50 p.m. After dinner, a few movies, a few hours of sleep (for most of us), and breakfast, we arrived at the Ben Gurion Airport shortly after 9 a.m. Flying over the coastline of the land of Israel was exciting! Following going through the Passport Control and luggage, we were greeted by our guide (Shlomo Ben Asher) and our driver (David Elimelech).

Tel Gezer

Gezer Gate

The Solomonic Gate at Tel Gezer

Leaving the airport at about 10:30, we drove to our first site of the day, an Old Testament site called Gezer. Located in the Shephelah (“Lowlands”) of Judah along the Aijalon Valley, Gezer was strategically located city during the Canaanite and Israelite Periods. We read from Joshua 10 (the “sun standing still over Aijalon…), I Kings 9 (Solomon re-fortifying the city) and Ecclesiastes 3 (the “seasons of life”). We also read from the Gezer Calendar (found here about 100 years ago). Archaeologically, we saw the Canaanite tower, wall, gate, and water tunnel, and the Israelite wall and gate. Leaving the site we passed by the standing stones (messabot) of Gezer.

Independence Hall

Independence Hall

Inside Independence Hall

Driving into Tel Aviv (a city of about 400,000 people started in 1909) we enjoyed lunch along the Rothchild Boulevard before visiting Independence HallIt was here where Israel became a State! It was on May 15, 1948 and in a very modest building where David Ben Gurion (Israel’s first Prime Minister) declared Israel’s statehood!


Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv from Joppa

Our last stop of the day was to Joppa (Jaffa). We enjoyed walking through the quiet alleyways of this city located just south of Tel Aviv along the Mediterranean Sea. We read from Acts 9 and 10 (about Peter) and celebrated God’s redemptive plan now widening to include Gentiles.

Arriving at the Tal Hotel in the heart of Tel Aviv, we checked in and enjoyed some rest time before dinner. Following dinner some in the group enjoyed walking along the beautiful sandy beach!

Although tired from the long flight and jet lag, we are thrilled to be here in the land of the Bible!!


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September 2017 Israel Tour – Day 13


Today was our last full day here in Israel. Rising with the sunrise in the desert this morning, we enjoyed a simple breakfast before packing up and driving east towards the most impressive of all of Herod the Great’s fortresses – Masada! We read Psalm 18:1-2 as we began the day, rejoicing that God is our “metzada” – our fortress! Today would be a predictably hot day as we traveled along the Dead Sea area.

Masada roman ramp

Hiking up the Roman ramp at Masada

Masada was a fortress built by Herod but then later used by 967 Jews between 70-73 AD. These Jews found refuge up here against Silva and the Romans. Since we approached the site from the west, most in the group hiked to the top up the Roman ramp, while others bussed around to the other side, taking the cable car up. Once on top, we saw storehouses, cisterns, the casemate wall, the synagogue, the bathhouse, and the impressive northern palace. We exited the site by taking here cable car back down. Some in the group hiked down the Snake Path.

Engedi waterfalls

A few of the waterfalls at Engedi

Driving a short distance north along the Dead Sea, our next stop was Engedi. This was where David hid from King Saul. We read from 1 Samuel 24, as well as from Song of Songs 1. We hiked back to some of the water falls and enjoyed getting wet! It is such a beautiful area! No wonder David came to this “oasis in the desert.” We even saw a few ibex and coneys here.

Our last site of the day was Qumran. This was where the Essenes scribed the Dead Sea Scrolls, the most important archaeological find in all of Israel. During the lunch hour, some in the group hiked to Cave 1 where the first scrolls were found in 1947 (including the famous Isaiah Scolls). At the site we saw many miqvot (ritual baths), cisterns, and the scriptorium. In front of Cave 4 (a total of 12 caves have now been identified), we read from “Psalm 151” (an extra psalm written by David), and Psalm 19. We rejoiced together in the preservation of God’s Word!


Cave 4 at Qumran

From here we drove west up towards Jerusalem. On the way, we stopped for quick showers along the Dead Sea as well as a Hebron glass store in Jericho. Skirting around the city center of Jerusalem, we continued to Abu Gosh for our farewell dinner. The food was tasty and it was a great time of reviewing the entire trip and sharing. We then drove to the Ben Gurion Airport for our night flight home.

NOTE: At present, we are awaiting our flight home. The web site and pictures will be updated sometime later on Saturday.


We plan to arrive back in the States today. What an incredible trip! Praise be to God for a life-changing experience!

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September 2017 Israel Tour – Day 12


Today was a day spent in the Negev. The sun and warm temps still followed us, but it was manageable in the shade.


Tel Beersheba

After breakfast, we visited Tel Beersheba. This city has many connections to the Bible. It was a place visited by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Elijah, and others. Climbing the tel, we first saw the city gate and well. We also saw a replica of the 4-horned altar found here. Even though the well does not date to the time of the Patriarchs, we read from Genesis 21 about Abraham making a treaty here. Entering into the city we saw typical “4-room Israelite houses,” and a storehouse. We left the site by descending down through the water-cistern system.

Ibex in Israel

Ibex at Sde Boker (Ben Gurion’s grave)

Driving south, we visited Sde Boker and the grave of Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion. His grave overlooks the amazing Desert of Zin. On the way to the grave, we saw a few dozen ibex (wild goats, Psalm 104). Shlomo shared a little about the life of Ben Gurion, a man who loved the Negev. Driving down into the canyon of Zin, we recalled the stories of the 12 spies who came up through this area (Numbers 13) as well as the story of Moses striking the rock (Numbers 20). From the trial head, we walked in the canyon to the water falls and back. Some in the group hiked to the far rim of the canyon, about a 400 foot ascent.

Following lunch, we drove a little further south to Israel’s “grand canyon” called Machtesh Ramon. We stood on the rim of the canyon and looked down to the unique geology of this region. We then drove back to the NE corner of the Negev to Arad. From the citadel of the city, we could look down to the Early Bronze/Caananite city below. However, it was on the citadel that the Judeans built a false worship center. Today, we could see the courtyard of this temple, the altar, and the Holy of Holies. It would the likes of both Hezekiah and Josiah who brought an end to this worship. We remembered the reforms of Josiah (2 Chronicles 34). We also were invited to be a living sacrifice to God (Romans 12:1-2)

Camel Rides

Camel rides in the Judean Desert

Driving east into the Judean Desert, we arrived at Hanokdim, our “Bedouin Camp/Hotel” for the night. We are staying in bungalows for the night. After camel rides into the desert for about 30 minutes, we enjoyed a time of “bedouin hospitality” followed by dinner. After dinner we gathered together under the stars for a time of worship and sharing around a camp fire.


(This day may not be posted until the end of the trip).

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September 2017 Israel Tour – Day 11


Today we left Jerusalem. After breakfast and loading the bus, we read from Zephaniah 3 as we drove towards yet another region of the Bible, the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah. The day would be again sunny and warm, with temps around 90.

Solomon's gate

The Solomonic gate at Tel Gezer

Our first stop was Gezer. Located along the Aijalon Valley (Josh 10), this Canaanite & Israelite city was an important one in the days of there Bible. We saw various ruins, including a Middle Bronze (Canaanite) tower, gate, and water system, and an Iron Age (Israelite) gate attributed to King Solomon (1 Kings 9). We also read from Ecclesiates 3 about how God has in control all our seasons of life. We also saw the famous standing stones of Gezer and were invited to be “living stones” to those around us.

Driving south from here to the Sorek Valley, Beth Shemesh was our next stop. We read from 1 Samuel 6 here about the return of the Ark of the Covenant from Philistine hands. Samson (Judges 13-14) was also from this area, and he took his wife Deilah from near by Timnah. We saw ruins dating from the Israelite period through the Roman period. Some descended into an ancient cistern here.

Elah Valley, Israel

The Elah Valley – the place where David defeated Goliath (1 Sam. 17)

Next, we visited Kh. Qeiyafa located along the Elah Valley. Here we read from I Samuel 17 about the story of David and Goliath. We could see the entire story unfolding before our very eyes in the narrow part of the valley below. This relatively new archaeological site has two gates, perhaps being the city of Shaaraim (“two gates”).

Following lunch, we entered the site of Beit Guvrin (called Maresha during OT times and served as a home of Micah the prophet). Here we walked into two caves one a columbarium (for pigeons) and the other the Bell Cave. We read from Micah 1 & 5 about his words of both warning and promise. Shlomo played his recorder once again and we enjoyed singing a couple of songs as well.

Bell cave

The Bell Cave at Beit Guvrin

Lastly, we drove to Lachish. Located at the southern end of the Shephelah, this was both a Canaanite and Israelite city. It was a city taken first by Joshua (Josh 10, 12). During the divided kingdom, the Assyrians attacked the city in the end of the 8th century BC. 115 years later, the Babylonians destroyed the city. Lachish was one of the two last-standing cities of Judah (Jer. 34:7). Within this double-walled city we saw two gates and the palace (perhaps built be Rehoboam, 2 Chronicles 11:9).

Lachish table grapes

Lachish table grapes ready to be harvested

From here we drove about 50 minutes to Beersheba, the primary city here in the Negev of Israel. We checked in, enjoyed some relaxing time (including the pool), dinner, and a free evening.


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September 2017 Israel Tour – Day 10


We spent the entire day in Jerusalem. It was another sunny day, with highs unusually in the mid 90s.

Rabbinical tunnel

Western Wall Tunnel

Leaving shortly after 7:30 again after another great buffet breakfast (and opening the day with Mark 13:1-2), we drove back to the Western Wall. It was interesting to see the many ultra Orthodox Jews praying under the canopy of their tallits (prayer shawls). Here we entered the Western Wall Tunnel (also called the Rabbinical Tunnels). After a brief explanation of the Temple Mount expanded by Herod the Great in 20 BC, we walked parallel to this western retaining wall of the Temple. We walked north about 300 yards. Along the way we saw many fascinating things, including huge Herodian stones (one called the Master Course that weighs hundreds of tons). It was quite fascinating!

Exiting the tunnel in the Muslim Quarter, we walked back to the Jewish Quarter. Here, we enjoyed listening to an Orthodox Jew named Moshe. He and his brother own a shop called Shorashim. Moshe talked about his Jewish thought and practice. It was quite enlightening to hear him share.

Yad Vashem

Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum & Memorial

After eating lunch here in the Jewish Quarter, we walked out of the Old City through the Zion’s Gate. Meeting David and the bus here, we drove to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust. Museum & Memorial. First, we walked through the Valley of the Communities. We then listened to Shlomo’s own personal family story before walking through the Children’s Memorial and the museum itself. We also saw trees dedicated to “Righteous Gentiles” such as Oscar Schindler, Corrie ten Boom, and others It was a sober experience here knowing that 6 million Jews died at the hands of the Nazi regime during WWII.

Jerusalem Model

The 1:50 scale Model of Jerusalem (70 AD)

Our last stop was the Israel Museum. Here we walked around a 1:50 model of Jerusalem as it looked like in 70 AD. We made a lot of connections with the life and ministry of Jesus in and around the Temple. Next, we walked through the Shrine of the Book dedicated for the display of some of the Dead Sea Scrolls that were found at Qumran. Lastly, we saw the highlights of artifacts in the archaeological wing of the museum. We saw the Dan & Pilate inscriptions, the high place of Arad, the place of trumpeting inscription found at the SW corner of the Temple, and Herod’s sarcophagus, among many others.

City of David

The Sound and Light Show at City of David, Jerusalem

We returned to the hotel for dinner, followers by a special excursion to the City of David to see the brand-new sound & light show. It was excellent!


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September 2017 Israel Tour – Day 9


For those who did the 9 day tour, they returned from Israel early in the morning. After going through US Customs, everyone boarded their domestic connecting flight back home.

Shiloh Tabernacle

Standing where the Tabernacle possibly stood for 369 years in Shiloh!

For those who stayed in Israel for the optional 5 day trip, we started out once again at 7:30 on what would be another predictably sunny. Highs would be in the 90s this afternoon in the Judean Desert.

Our first site was Shiloh the location of the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant for 369 years. On the way to Shiloh (about 20 miles north in the Hill Country of Samaria), we tried to stop at Kh. Maqatir (identified by many now as Ai in the story of Joshua 7-8 and the second city conquered by Joshua). We saw the site from the distance. Arriving at Shiloh we climbed the tel and watched a high-tech presentation about the biblical history of this site. We saw ruins dating from the time of Joshua through the time of the Judges.


The gazelles we saw in the Desert of Perath

Shiloh was destroyed by the Philistines (1 Sam. 4). We read from 1 Samuel about the call of Samuel, the prophet. We also remembered the words of warning mentioned by Jeremiah that referenced Shiloh (Jer. 7). We walked down to the location where the Tabernacle once stood and where young Samuel heard the voice of God. It was special!

Leaving Shiloh, we drove back south and eventually east past Michmash (1 Samuel 13-14) and through the Desert of Pareth. This was where Jeremiah hid the linen belt (Jer. 13). We drove all the way to Jericho for lunch.  We saw shepherds, sheep & goats, and even gazelles along the way.

Wadi Qelt

St. George monastery in Wadi Qelt (Judean Desert)

Returning west, we arrived at the Wadi Qelt. We first overviewed the St. George Monastery built into the high cliffs. We considered some of David’s psalms written in the context of this desert (Ps 61, 63). Some on the group then hiked down all the way to the monastery with some even hiking east on the trail leading to Jericho. It was a unique experience.

Wadi Qelt

Hiking in Wadi Qelt

We returned to our hotel in Jerusalem for dinner and a free evening.


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September 2017 Israel Tour – Day 7


Temple Mount Old City of Jerusalem

Standing on the Mt. of Olives, with the Old City and Temple Mount in the background

Today was our first full day in Jerusalem, and it was a great one! The weather was a bit cooler (Jerusalem is about 2,800 feet above sea level) than yesterday, with full sun and highs in the high 80s.

Leaving at 7:40 after another great breakfast, we drove around the Old City of Jerusalem to the top of the Mt. Of Olives. The view of the Old City and Temple Mount (and even the City of David to the south) from here is spectacular! We read from Luke 19 and Zechariah 14 about Christ’s Palm Sunday story (proclaimed King) and about His second coming (when he will be proclaimed King once again). At a chapel called Dominus Flavet, we remembered how Jesus wept over Jerusalem. We walked down the Mt of Olives to the area of the Garden of Gethsemane. Here we read from Luke 22 about Jesus passion and his betrayal. We enjoyed some time of silence and reflection here.

Eastern or Golden Gate

The Eastern Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem

Walking towards the Old City, we saw the sealed Golden Gate (Eastern Gate, Ezekiel 44). We then entered the city through the St. Stephen’s Gate (also called the Lion’s Gate & Jericho Gate) and walked to the Pools of Bethesda & St. Anne’s Church (a Crusader church). We saw the ruins of this ancient pool mentioned in John 5. We also enjoyed some great singing inside the church. The 8 second echo was amazing!

From here we walked on the traditional Via Dolorosa (“way of the cross”) to the Holy Sepulcher Church. This was a church first built in 325 AD. It preserves the traditional location for both the crucifixion and burial area of Jesus. Today, six primary denominations use this ancient church.

Tomb of Jesus

The traditional tomb of Jesus within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

For the next two hours we enjoyed lunch and some free time for shopping and exploring the Old City on our own.

We ended the day at the Garden Tomb, discovered in the end of the 19th century as a Protestant alternative site for the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. After seeing the tomb, we enjoyed a wonderful time of worship and Communion together. We read from John 19 & 20 and celebrated the death and resurrection of Jesus!

Garden Tomb

The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

David picked us up at 4:15 and we drove back to the hotel. We enjoyed some leisurely time before our 6:30 dinner. Following dinner, many in the group enjoyed an optional walk to Ben Yehuda Street for a little taste of modern Israeli life and culture. A number bought shofars (ram’s horns)! We walked back to the hotel, stopping briefly to see the rolling stone of King Herod’s family tomb located nearby the King David hotel.

It was a great first day here in Israel’s capital!


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September 2017 Israel Tour – Day 6


Capernaum synagogue

Standing in the 5th century AD synagogue at Capernaum

Today we checked out of the hotel and loaded up the bus. The day would once again by sunny, with highs over 100 at Jericho and the Dead Sea.

Before leaving the Galilee area, we visited Capernaum (the “Village of Nahum”). This town served as the “ministry base” for Jesus’ Galilean ministry. Sitting in the 4-5th century synagogue, we read many of the stories that took place here (Mark 1, 9; Luke 7; John 6). It was here where Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew, the tax collector). Besides seeing the 4-5th century church also built here, we enjoyed a quiet time by the shoreline.

Beth Shean

The Roman city of Beth Shean

Driving to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, we made a brief stop at the Kinneret Cemetery. This is where some of the early pioneers of Israel are buried, including a certain Rachel. She was a Ukrainian Jew who died of TB here in 1931. She is still known for her poetry.

Traveling south in the Jordan Valley, we came to Beth Shean. This is one of the most extensive archaeological sites in all of Israel. Here we saw the Roman city, complete with a bathhouse, a theater, colonnaded streets, and even a public latrine. The tall tel (ancient mound) preserves the story of 1 Samuel 31 (Saul’s body was hung on the walls of this OT city). Some in the group climbed to the top.

Jericho walls

The Walls of Jericho

After lunch nearby, we continued driving south to Jericho. Climbing the tel, we saw the ruins dating to the time of Joshua. This included the very retaining walls on top of which was the mud brick wall that came “tumblin’ down” according to the story of Joshua 6. Also among the ruins is the oldest tower in Israel, predating even the Canaanites.

Close by is the Dead Sea. Here we enjoyed a time of floating in this unique body of water (33% salt and minerals). It was a very unique experience!

Wadi Qelt

Wadi Qelt in the heart of the Judean Desert

From here we drove to Jerusalem, literally ascending nearly 4,000 feet. On the way, we made one last brief stop overlooking the Wadi Qelt (part of the Judea Desert). Here “Isaiah” showed up and shared the comforting words of Isaiah 40. Shlomo also shared the Hebrew version of the song of Psalm 23.

Arriving at our hotel in Jerusalem, we enjoyed dinner, followed by an orientation walk to the Western Wall, the most holy place for Jews today. It was amazing to walk through this ancient city.


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September 2017 Israel Tour – Day 5


Sea of Galilee - Kinneret

The Sea of Galilee from the top of Mt. Arbel

Today was a great day of focusing upon the life and ministry of Jesus around the Sea of Galilee. The day would be another sunny day, with highs around 90. Leaving shortly after 7:30 and reading the kingdom parable from Matthew 13 on the way, we drove to the trailhead that leads to the top of Mt. Arbel. 15 in the group hiked to the top (about a 800 foot climb), while the rest of the group bused around to the western side and walked up a more gentle path to the top from there. The view of this NW corner of the lake below was wonderful!

From here we drove to the southern end of the lake to the place called Yardenit. It was here where 20 reaffirmed their commitment to be followers of Christ in the waters of the Jordan River. It was a special time for all.

Baptism at Yardenit

Baptism in the Jordan River

We returned to the NW corner of the lake and visited Magdala. This was the home of Mary Magdalene. We walked around the 1st century synagogue discovered just a few years ago. No doubt Jesus would have taught from this modest synagogue. We also enjoy a time of devotion and singing in the newly-built chapel.

After lunch, we visited Chorazim. The ruins at this site date to the 3rd century AD. Standing in the synagogue here, we read from Matthew 23 where it mentions the Moses Seat. One was found here. Chorazim (like Bethsaida and Capernaum) was condemned by Jesus (Mt. 11).

Chorazim synagogue

Synagogue at Chorazim

Driving back to our hotel, we visited the museum that houses the famous 1st century wooden boat discovered here in 1986. It was probably a boat like this that the fishermen used in Jesus’ day. Taking our own boat ride from here, we “sailed” for 45 minutes or so along the coastline. We enjoyed a time of worship together. Reading from Mark 4 and Mathew 14 (the two storm narratives), we paused to consider that when we encounter the unexpected “storms of life,” Jesus cares for us!

We ended the day on the Mt. Of Beatitudes. Reading from Matthew 5 (in Hebrew and in English), we considered the kingdom principles that Jesus shared here. Most in the group walked down the path that leads to the shoreline of the lake. We walked in silence, reflecting upon the words Jesus shared in this area.

The view of the Sea of Galilee from the Mt. of Beatitudes

We returned back to our hotel for dinner and a free evening. Some went swimming in the lake and the pool. It was another great day here in Israel!


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September 2017 Israel Tour – Day 4


El Araj

The recent excavation at El Araj – possible “Bethsaida” of the Bible.

We began our day with a great breakfast before leaving the hotel at 7:45. We read from Matthew 4 about Jesus calling His disciples on the shoreline as we drove to the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee. Our first stop was to El Araj, a brand new excavation! We took a small dirt road to get there. It is very possible that this site was ancient Bethsaida, the home of Peter, Andrew, and Phillip. Although the ruins were limited, it was thrilling to be here! We read from Mark 8 (blind man) and John 6 (Feeding of the 5,000), with both events taking place here.

Ascending to the Golan Heights, we visited Gamla next. This was a 1st century Jewish city that revolted against the Romans. In 66 AD the city was destroyed. A 1st century synagogue is located here. Jesus perhaps taught here.

Close by was Katzrin, a Talmudic village (3rd – 7th century AD). We crowded into the reconstructed house of Rabbi Abun. Here we read from Mark 2 about Jesus physically restoring the lame man and spiritually forgiving his sins. We also walked through the synagogue here.

Katzrin Rabbi Abun

Reconstructed Talmudic stone house of Rabbi Abun at Katzrin

With David providing bananas, apples, and snacks for us for lunch, we continued our way to the Syrian border. Here, Shlomo shared some “modern history” about the 1967 and 1973 wars with Syria. It was remarkable to learn that Israel continues of provide health services to 1000s of displaced Syrians from the war.

Traveling through a few Druze villages, we arrived at the base of Israel’s ski resort at Mt. Hermon. We took the chair lift to the top of this mountain (the mountain is shared by three country: Syria – peak of 9,200 feet, Israel – peak of 7,300, and Lebanon – peak of less then 7,000 feet). The view on top was excellent. We read from Psalm 133 about the “dew from Mt Hermon…”. Seven in the group took the very difficult hiking trail down, while the rest descended by the chair lift.

Mt. Hermon

View from the top of Mt. Hermon

Driving off the Golan Heights, our next stop was Caesarea Philippi. We read from Matthew 16 and heard the question Jesus asked His disciples – “Who do you say I am?” Here in the region of this pagan city, Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” We saw the grotto (cultic) area of the city, where the Temple of Augustus was as well as other pagan shrines.

Our last stop of the day was at the nature preserve and archaeological site of Tel Dan. We walked along the Dan spring under the shade of the Eucalyptus and fig trees. We stopped to listen to Shlomo share a song on his recorder. We also read (and sang) Psalm 42. We continued to the high place of Dan, established by Jeroboam (1 Kings 12). He continued a pattern of disobedience from the time of the Judges (Judges 18) when the Danites re-located here. We also saw a Middle Bronze-Canaanite gate that dates close to the time of Abraham (Gen 14:14).

Mudbrick gate

The Canaanite mud brick gate at Tel Dan

Driving back to our hotel through the Huleh Valley and past Hazor (Joshua 11), we enjoyed dinner together as well as a gathering down on the shoreline. Under a brilliant full moon, we shared and reflected. About eight in the group went swimming under the moonlight afterwards.


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