February 2018 Israel Tour Summary/Update – Day 5

DAY 5 – TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 13: MT. OF BEATITUDES, BEIT SHEAN, JERICHO, DEAD SEA

Today we left the Sea of Galilee area and drove south. Our final destination today on a day that started with steady rain through the first part of the morning was the Dead Sea. The weather improved as by late morning, with sun and clouds and highs in the 70s.

Mt. of Beatitudes

Mt. of Beatitudes

The Mt. of Beatitudes on a rainy morning

Leaving our hotel shortly after 7:30 again, we first drove to the Mt. Of Beatitudes. This was one location where Jesus delivered His sermon on the kingdom principles (this sermon would be His “go-to” message, and He shared it in other places too, see Luke 6:17-49). Overlooking a natural amphitheater and huddling together under umbrellas, we heard part of Matthew 5 in Hebrew and then in English. We enjoyed a time of reflection, song, and prayer. The words of Jesus came alive here in this place!

Kinneret Cemetery

Rachel Bluwstein

The grave of Rachel Bluwstein at the Kinneret Cemetery

Driving south to the end of the Sea of Galilee, we made a brief “extra” stop at the Kinneret Cemetery. Here Shlomo shared with us about kibbutz life in Israel. We also heard of the story of a Russian/Ukrainian Jew named Rachel Bluwstein. She was an early Jewish pioneer in the land. She is famous for her poems. She died in 1931. Her face is now on the new Israeli 20 shekel bill!

Beth Shean

Beth Shean

The Roman city of Beth Shean

Continuing south through the Jordan Valley, we arrived at Beth Shean. By the time we started our tour of this site, the rain stopped and the sun came out! Beth Shean was one of Israel’s most extensive archaeological site. It was on the ancient walls of the Old Testament city where King Saul’ body was hung after his death on Mt Gilboa (1 Samuel 31). Beth Shean was also a very large Roman city as well, peaking from the 2nd-5th century AD. We walked on the colonnaded stone pavements/streets, saw Roman bathhouses and many mosaics as well as the agora (market place), public latrenes, and the massive theater. Some in the group climbed to the top of the OT tel for a great view of the Roman city below. Following seeing the site, we had lunch near by.

Jericho

Jericho walls

The Late Bronze retaining walls of Jericho

From here we drove a little over an hour south down the Jordan Valley. At the northern end of the Dead Sea is the city of Jericho. This was our last stop of the day. Jericho was the first city taken in Joshua’s Conquest (Joshua 6). We saw the retaining/revetment walls of the city on top of which was a mud-brick wall. It was the later that came tumblin’ down when the shofars (trumpets) were blown (David actually blew a small shofar when we read the story! Just a couple of miles to the south was New Testament Jericho. It served as Herod’s winter palace. It was here where Zacheaus (Luke 19) and Bartemaeus lived (Mark 10). It was also here where Herod the Great died in 4 BC.

Dead Sea

Dead Sea and Moab

The Dead Sea and mountains of Moab (in Jordan)

Driving south along the Dead Sea, we enjoyed spectacular visibility. The mountains of Moab (in Jordan) and clouds in the sky were so colorful as the sun began to set. After we arrived at our hotel in Zin Bokek, we changed into our swim suits for a unique float in the Dead Sea. Again the backdrop of the Jordanian mountains was amazing! Following a good hot shower, we enjoyed dinner together and a free evening.

DAY 6 – WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 14: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, JUDEAN DESERT

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Day 6 Trip Summary – January 2018 14 Day Israel Tour

DAY 6 – FRIDAY, JANUARY 19: WADI QELT, SHILOH, BETH SHEAN, GALILEE

Once again, we left the hotel shortly after 7:30 following breakfast and check-out. We woke up to no power in the hotel due to the unique storm in this Jericho area last night at 4 am. Today would be a day of driving through the Judean Desert, the Hill Country of Ephraim/Samaria, the Jordan River Valley, and finally to the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee. The weather was rainy at times throughout the day, especially the further north we went, with temps very cool/cold in the 40s – 50s.

Judean Desert- Wadi Helt & Desert of Pareth

Judean Desert

Judean Desert looking west to Jerusalem

Our first stop was Wadi Qelt and the heart of the Judean Desert. The view of this “wilderness” was spectacular even though we were there with wind and rain. We heard the words of Isaiah 40. It was here where this OT prophet “prepared the way” for the coming of God’s promise and redemption! About 700 years later, John the Baptist proclaimed the same words as he prepared the way for the Lord’s coming! From here we uniquely drove through another area of the Judean Desert referred by Jeremiah as the Desert of Pareth (Jeremiah 13). This wadi (dry river bed) was gushing with water! As we drove we stopped for very nice panaramic views of this unique region as well as for the dozen or so gazelles we saw along the way. We also drove through the area of Michmash, the location where Jonathan defeated the Philistines (1 Samuel 13).

Shiloh

Shiloh and Tabernacle

Shiloh and the location where the Tabernacle once stood for 369 years!

Driving north of Jerusalem we past by Bethel where Abraham built an altar (Genesis 12, 28). It was around here where it started sleeting! Arriving at Shiloh, we walked through the rain climbed the tel and enjoyed a vey good presentation of the stories that took place here. Samuel was called by God here (1 Samuel 3). The Tabernacle, which stood here for 369 years, was destroyed by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4). We saw a few of the ruins from ancient Shiloh as well as the area where the Tabernacle most likely stood! During a wonderful break of sun, we paused to pray in celebration of the holiness of this area and God’s call upon our lives!

Beth Shean

Sheep and shepherd

A shepherd and his sheep in the Samaritan Hill Country

Our last stop of the day was a massive archaeological city located on the edge of the Jordan Valley called Beth Shean. On the way, we stopped to see huge flocks of sheep and goats along the road. The rain and flooded wadis in this generally dry area of the Samaritan Desert was exciting to see. We explored much of the Roman city here. The excavation of Beth Shean is the largest in Israel.

Beth Shean

Beth Shean – Roman city

We saw the bathouse, Roman street, many stone pillars, the theater and even the public latrines. A number in the group climbed the OT tel where Saul’s body was hung (on the walls, 1 Samuel 31).

Sea of Galilee

Driving north to the southern tip of the Sea of Galilee and then around the western side of this fresh-water lake, we arrived at Nof Ginnosar, our kibbutz-hotel for the next four nights. Along the way we enjoyed a rainbow over the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. Following check-in, some relaxing time, and dinner, we enjoyed a time of gathering down on the water’s edge.

We are looking forward to spending three full days here in the north!

DAY 7 – SATURDAY, JANUARY 20: JORDAN RIVER BAPTISM, TIBERIAS, MAGDALA, CHORIZIM, CAPERNAUM, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE

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Oct-Nov 2017 Egypt-Jordan-Israel Tour Update – Day 8

DAY 8 – SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 5:

Today we traveled north all the way from the Dead Sea to the Sea of Galilee. On the way however, we enjoyed a number of sites that once again connected us to the Bible. The day would be another sunny one, with temps around 80.

Masada

Masada Israel

Masada, the amazing fortress-palace in the 1st century!

Leaving at 8 a.m. following a hearty breakfast, we first drove to Masada. We read Psalm 18:1-2 on the way, celebrating God as our “fortress” (e.g. in Hebrew, metzada). Upon arriving at this palace-fortress of Herod built in the early 30s BC at the beginning of his reign (37-4 BC), we rode the cable car to the top. The peak of Masada stands about 1,000 feet higher than the valley below. On top we saw a number of things, including Herod’s southern palace, the Roman ramp, cisterns, catapult stones, the synagogue, the northern palace, and the Roman bath. Shlomo unfolded the story of Masada with passion, reflecting how the site is still significant to Israelis today! It was in 73 AD (after about 3 years of being seized by Silva and the Romans) that Masada fell. 967 Jews committed suicide here, with only a few women and children surviving. To end our tour of the site, most rode the cable car back down while about 15 in the group hiked down the Snake Path.

Engedi

waterfall Engedi

Engedi waterfall

Continuing north along the coastline of the Dead Sea, Engedi was our next stop. Here we hiked back into Wadi David (a canyon). Gathering together, we read from Song of Songs 1, 2 Chronicles 20, and 1 Samuel 24. It was here where the David and Saul “cave encounter” took place. We also hiked back to see some of the water falls of in this desert oasis.

Qumran

Cave 1 Qumran

Inside Cave 1 at Qumran. This is where the first Dead Sea scrolls were discovered!

About 30 minutes north is Qumran, the home of where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found between 1947-1956. During the lunch hour, about 15 in the group hiked to Cave 1 where the first scrolls were accidentally discovered. After lunch we gathered together to see a video as well as the archaeological site itself. We saw many mikvot (plural for “ritual baths”), cisterns, and “Cave 4” – of the 12 caves where scroll texts were found. We read from psalm written by David (“Psalm 151”), from 2 Timothy 3, 2 Peter 1, and Psalms 19 and 119.

Jericho

We ended the day at Tel es Sultan or Jericho. Climbing the “tel” (ancient mound), we first look east across the Jordan River and remembered the stories of Dt. 34, Joshua 1-2, 2 Judges 3, and 2 Kings 2, all about Jericho. We also looked about 2 miles south to “New Testament” Jericho where Zachaeus and Bartimaeus lived. This was also where King Herod died.

Ancient Jericho walls

The retaining walls of ancient Jericho

Finally, we remembered the story of Joshua 6 and the conquering of the city. Indeed the archaeological ruins of Jericho confirm the historicity of the Bible! We saw not only an old stone tower (that predates even Abraham by more than 1,000 years), but at the southern end we saw what still stands today as the two stone “retaining” walls of the city Joshua conquered. It was the mud brick walls on top of this stone wall that came tumblin’ down! Praise God for the truth of His Word!

Sea of Galilee

From here we drove nearly two hours north to our the Sea of Galilee area. Passing through Tiberias, we arrived at Nof Ginnosar about 7 p.m. After checking in, we enjoyed dinner together before retiring for the evening.

We will spend three nights here on the NW shoreline of the Sea of Galilee, the area of Jesus’ Galilean ministry!

DAY 9: MONDAY, NOVEMBER 6: GAMLA, QATZRIN, BENTAL, CAESAREA PHILIPPI, DAN

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September 2017 Israel Tour – Day 6

DAY 6 – FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 8:

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.

DAY 7 – SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 9: JERUSALEM, OLD CITY, GARDEN TOMB

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June 2017 Israel Tour – Day 5 Summary

DAY 5 – FRIDAY, JUNE 16:

Today was a day in the Judea Desert and in the region of the Dead Sea. It was hot today, with temps in the low 100s.

Masada

Masada Roman Ramp

We left our “Bedouin” hotel in the desert at 7:30. Driving just about 15 minutes and reading from Psalm 18:12 (that mentions metzada – “fortress”), we arrived at Masada, one of six of Herod the Great’s “palace-fortresses.” This one is a stand-alone mountain about 1,000 foot high. Our group had the unique experience of hiking up the Roman ramp on the western side. Others in the group bussed around and ascended to the top in the cable car. Once on top, we saw cisterns, the case-mate wall, the western and northern palaces, the bathhouse, and storerooms. The story of Masada is a gripping one, with 967 Jews withstanding Roman siege of the fortress for three years (70-73 AD) until all but five of them taking their own lives and dying in freedom. Because it was too hot, they closed the Snake Path, preventing us from hiking down.

Just 10-15 minutes north is Engedi. Here we read the story about David hiding in a cave from Saul (1 Samuel 24). The story of 2 Chronicles 20 also took place in this area. Song of Songs 1 also mentions the henna blossoms of Engedi. We also hiked into the canyon to see the many waterfalls. A number in the group enjoyed getting wet in the hour we spent here.

Engedi

Getting wet at Engedi

Continuing north along the Dead Sea, Qumran was our next site. During the lunch hour, 15 in the group joined Pastor John for a trek to Cave 1 where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. At the archaeological site of Qumran, we saw a few of the ruins here that date back to the time of the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD. The Essenes who lived here were the ones who scribed the Dead Sea Scrolls. In front of Cave 4 (where the majority of the texts were found), we read from “Psalm 151” (an “extra” psalm found here) and rejoiced in God’s amazing preservation of God’s Word!

Driving to the Dead Sea close by, we ended the day with floating in this amazing body of water. It is 33% salt and minerals. It was a wild experience!

Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea

Driving north in the Jordan Valley and then heading west in and through the Hill Country of Ephraim/Samaria, we arrived our our hotel in Netanya for late dinner and a free evening. The sunset over the Med Sea was spectacular!

DAY 6 – SATURDAY, JUNE 17: CAESAREA, MT. CARMEL, MEGIDDO, NAZARETH PRECIPICE, SEPPORIS, SEA OF GALILEE

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April-May 2017 Israel-Egypt Tour Update: Day 6

DAY 6 – SATURDAY, APRIL 29:

Today we checked out of our hotel and left the Sea of Galilee region. The sun was once again bright, with afternoon temps still comfortable although reaching the 90s.

Beth Shean

The Roman city of Beth Shean (located along the Jordan River Valley)

After breakfast and loading the bus, we drove south to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. We made a brief stop at the Kinneret Cemetery. Many Jewish pioneers are buried here, including the famous “Rachel” (Rachel Bluwstein). She was a Ukranian Jew who died in 1931 at the age of 40. Her poems are still read today! She will soon appear on the 20 shekel bill.

Driving south about 20 miles through the Jordan River Valley, we arrived at the huge archaeological site of Beth Shean. This was not only an Old Testament site but also a massive Roman city. It was the only Decapolis city on the west side of the Jordan. We spent about 1.5 hours here, seeing many ruins. This included the Roman bathhouse, agora, street, many pillars, a shrine, public latrines, and the theater. Some in the group climb to the top of the OT tel, providing a great view of the region as well as the Roman city below. We read from 1 Samuel 31 (death of Saul, with his body being hung on the walls of this city), and 1 Corinthians 15 (“standing firm” on the foundation of Christ).

Retaining walls of Jericho

The retaining walls of Jericho

Close by was the 6th century AD synagogue of Beit Alpha. Here the impressive mosaic floor of this synagogue is preserved. The fictional story about the making of the mosaic was entertaining.

From here we drove on a road leading us through the Samaritan Hill Country. We saw many shepherds along the way of this barren landscape. We drove nearby Shechem /Sychar (Deut. 34, Joshua 24, John 4), Shiloh (1 Samuel 3-4, Jer. 7), Bethel (Genesis 15, 28), and Ai (Joshua 7-8). Driving towards the Judean Desert we past by Michmash (1 Samuel 13-14). On the way to the specific desert of Pareth (Jeremiah 13), we saw a number of gazelles.

Dead Sea

Reflections upon the Dead Sea

Meeting up with the main east-west road leading to Jerusalem, we descended east and arrived at Jericho. Following lunch we climbed the ancient tel of OT Jericho. We first looked east across the Jordan River towards Mt. Nebo (Deut. 34). Elijah & Elisha also had their ministry in this area. It was also in the Jordan River here (John 1) where Jesus was baptized by John. NT Jericho was about 1.5 miles to the south (where we remembered guys like Zacheaus, Bartimeaus. Looking west we remembered Jesus’ temptation. But besides seeing the oldest standing structure in Israel (the round tower), we walked to the south end of the tel where the two stone retaining walls can still be seen. These walls date to the time of Joshua. It was the mud-brick wall on top of these stone walls that came “tumblin’ down.” Yes, the Bible is historically accurate in every respect!

Floating in the Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea

Driving south along the western shoreline of the Dead Sea, the reflection of the afternoon sun against the slopes of Moab on the Jordanian side as brilliant. Arriving at our hotel in Ein Bokek, we also enjoyed floating in the Dead Sea (33% minerals & salt) as well as dinner.

DAY 7 – SUNDAY, APRIL 30: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, WILDERNESS OF JUDAH, JERUSALEM, MEMORIAL DAY SERVICE

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January 2017 Pastors Israel Tour – Day 5

DAY 5 – FRIDAY, JANUARY 27:

Beth Shean

The Roman ruins of Bethshean (from the Old Testament site of the city)

Today we left the Sea of Galilee area. On this day with a mix of sun, clouds, and rain, it was an amazing day of rainbows! We saw at least 4 or 5 different rainbows throughout the day.

Driving south down the Jordan River Valley about 20 miles from the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, our first stop was the massive city of Beth Shean. We approached this OT & NT city from the north. The path took us from the farthest city gate to the top of the OT tel. The view of the Roman city below was breath-taking! Before seeing this incredible Roman city, we first read 1 Samuel 31. It was on the walls of Beth Shean that Saul’s body as hung (he died close on Mt. Gilboa). As we descended down to the Roman city, we saw may things, including Roman streets, pillars a bathhouse, a theater, and even a public latrine. It was probably a pagan Gentile city like this one where the Prodical Son went too before running back to his compassionate father.

Rainbow

A rainbow in the Samaritan Hill Country

Leaving Beth Shean, we continued south in the valley before taking a road to the west. We ascended into the Hill Country of Samaria/Ephraim. While driving we saw many shepherds on the hillsides with their goat and sheep (Mt. 25). We also recalled the stories of Abraham and Jacob at Shechem (Genesis 12, 34), Joshua at Mt. Gerazim and Mt Ebal (Josh. 8), and Jesus with the Samaritan woman at Sychar (John 4). The landscape was scenic, especially with the spectacular rainbows that appeared!

We arrived at Shiloh just before noon. We walked to the top of the tel and saw a movie presentation. It was here where the Tabernacle stood for 369 years. It was also here where Samuel heard the voice of God (1 Samuel 3). We walked down to the place where some suggest the Tabernacle once stood! We also remembered the words of warning by Jeremiah who mentions this place (Jer. 7).

jericho rainbow

Rainbow over Jericho

Driving south, we past by Bethel (Genesis 12, 28), and Michmash (1 Samuel 13-14) before descending down into the Desert of Pareth (Jeremiah 13). We saw many gazelles here on the hillsides.

We finally arrived at Jericho. After lunch here, we walked to the top of the tel. Looking east, we could see Mt. Nebo (Dt. 34), and the crossing of the Jordan (Josh. 2). Jesus was also baptized in the Jordan here (John 1). We also saw where NT Jericho was located (Mk. 10, Luke 19). We also saw the double Canaanite retaining walls that Joshua saw. The mud-brick wall on top of this wall was the one that “came tumbling down!” We also experienced a very unique but brief driving rain and wind storm here as well another rainbow!

Dead Sea

The Dead Sea at sunset

We ended the day by driving down to the southern end of the Dead Sea. Remarkably, it was even raining here. Some enjoyed floating in the Dead Sea pool at the hotel prior to dinner together.

DAY 6- SATURDAY, JANUARY 28: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, WILDERNESS OF JUDAH

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January 2017 Israel Tour – Day 7

DAY 7 – MONDAY, JANUARY 16:

Beth Shean

Beth Shean. Located along the Jordan River Valley about 20 miles south of the Sea of Galilee.

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 Kinneret Cemetery where a famous Ukrainian Jewish woman pioneer was buried in the early 20th century. 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 amphitheater from 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.

Shiloh

The ruins of Shiloh. It is located in the Hill Country of Ephraim/Samaria.

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 Shiloh we 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.

The Judean Desert

The Judean Desert

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!

Jericho

The retaining walls of ancient Jericho (Joshua 6)

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: QUMRAN, DEAD SEA, EIN GEDI, MASADA, KFAR HANOKDIM

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Oct-Nov 2016 Israel Tour – Day 5

DAY 5 – FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 4

masada israel

Masada, located in the Judean Desert

Today was another bright and sunny day, with highs in the low 80s. Driving north along the western coastline of the Dead Sea, we started the day with Masada. This was a one of several “palace-fortresses” built by Herod the Great. Although not mentioned directly in the Bible, the Hebrew word metzada is mentioned in Psalm 18. The word means “fortress.” Long before this “stand-alone” mountain was developed by Herod, perhaps David used is as his “stronghold” (1 Samuel 24). Ascending to the top in a cable car, here at Masada we heard the valiant story passionately shared by Shlomo of the 967 Jews who held out in from the Romans for about 3 years. We saw a few cisterns and palaces, the synagogue, and the bathhouse. A number in the group enjoyed the hike down the Snake Path, while others road the cable care down.

engedi israel water falls

The waterfalls of Engedi. This is where the story of David and Saul took place (1 Samuel 24)

Driving north once more, Engedi was our next site. Here we read from 2 Chronicles 20, Song of Songs 1, and 1 Samuel 24. It was here where David hid in a cave from Saul. We walked to some of the water falls here. It’s remarkable to see so much water here in the Judean Desert.

Continuing to the northwest corner of the Dead Sea (Ezekiel 47), we came to Qumran. The Dead Sea Scrolls were found here in 1947. After eating lunch here, we saw the archaeological site where the Essene community scribed these scrolls (around 900 of them in a total of 11 caves). We read from “Psalm 151” (found in Cave 11) as well as from Psalm 19 and 2 Timothy 3:16 while standing right across from Cave 4 (where the majority of the scrolls were found). During lunch, a good number in the group hiked to the famous Cave 1 where the scrolls were first discovered.

walls of jericho

The retaining stone walls of Jericho

Jericho was our last stop of the day. We climbed the tel (ancient mound) and first looked across to Jordan and Mt. Nebo (where Moses died). We talked about a few of the stories that took place here, including stories from the New Testament (Zaccheaus, Bartimeaus, the Good Samaritan parable, etc…). At the site we saw the oldest standing tower in Israel as well as what is exposed of the double retaining walls of Jericho as seen and destroyed by Joshua (Joshua 6). Jericho was the first of 31 cities taken by Joshua (Joshua 12). We celebrated the historicity and accuracy of the Bible!

From here we drove north through the Jordan River Valley to Tiberias. We checked into Nof Ginnosar (north of Tiberias), while the pastors in our group are staying in Nazareth for the night.

We are looking forward to two days and three nights here in the region of the Galilee!

DAY 6 – SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5 – NAZARETH PRECIPICE, MEGIDDO, CAPERNAUM, CHORAZIM, MAGDALA, BOAT RIDE (this day has been altered because of the annual cycling race around the Sea of Galilee)

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September 2016 Israel Tour – Day 9

DAY 9 – TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 27

The "fortress" of Masada

The “fortress” of Masada

Today would the warmest day yet, with highs close to 100. This is quite normal for this region along the Dead Sea. Following a later breakfast, we drove about 15 minutes to Masada. Along the way, we read from Psalm 18:1-2 which mentioned God as our fortress (e.g. “metzada”). Masada was one of Herod’s palaces, and the earliest one built of all six of them. We ascended to the top in the cable car. Shlomo then shared with us the history of Masada. It was a place of Jewish refuge against the Romans in 70 AD after the Temple was destroyed. On top we saw the southern cistern, one of the palaces, the Roman ramp, a synagogue, and the bathhouse. Most took the cable car down, while six in the group hiked down the Snake Path.

Continuing north along the western coastline of the Dead Sea, our next stop was Engedi. Here we read from 1 Samuel 24 (and Song of Songs 1:14, and 2 Chronicles 20) within the canyon. It was here that David hid in a cave to escape Saul’s pursuit. Many walked back to the water falls here. It’s amazing to see so much water in such a “dry and weary land where there is no water…” (Psalm 63).

Gathering in the 1st century synagogue at Qumran

Gathering in the 1st century synagogue at Qumran

Qumran was a 35 minute drive northward. It was here in 1947 that the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found. About 900 texts (most fragmented) were found here in a total of 11 caves. This included every OT book except Esther. 8 in the group hiked up to the famous Cave 1 where the Isaiah Scrolls (actually two) were found. Next to the Temple Scroll (26 feet long), the one Isaiah Scroll is the second longest. We also saw the ruins of Qumran, inhabited by the Essense community, as well as Cave 4 where the majority of the caves were discovered.

Jericho was our next stop. We climbed the tel (Tel es Sultan) and first looked east towards the Jordan River. We remembered the death of Moses on Mt. Nebo which we could see (Dt. 34) and the crossing of the river by Joshua (Joshua 3). It was also here where Jesus was baptized (John 1, at a place called Bethany Beyond the Jordan). We also saw where NT Jericho was located, about two miles south (Mark 10, Luke 10, 19). We saw the oldest tower in Israel (pre-Canaanite even) as well as the very retaining walls seen by Joshua when he conquered the city (Joshua 6). It was the mud-brick wall on top of this double retaining wall that “came tumblin’ down.” We celebrated the historicity of the Bible.

Overviewing the Wadi Qelt and the Judean DesertOn our way to Jerusalem, we made a brief stop overlooking the Judean Desert. Here at Wadi Qelt we heard the words of Isaiah (Is. 40) in the context of this vast chalk-limestone desert. Shlomo also sang Psalm 23 in Hebrew.

Arriving at our hotel in Jerusalem (our home for the next three nights), we checked in and enjoyed dinner. Following dinner, some walked to the Western Wall.

We are thrilled to be here in the Holy City and eternal capital of Israel!

DAY 10 – WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 28: MT. OF OLIVES, POOL OF BETHESDA, VIA DOLOROSA, HERODIUM, BETHLEHEM

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