May 2018 Extensive Israel Tour Summary – Day 13


(Theme of the Day: Seeking God to restore the “ruins” of our life) 

Today was our last full day here in Israel. The skies were once again bright and sunny, with warmer temps in the mid 80s.

Southwall Excavations

Corner of temple

SW corner of the Jerusalem 2nd Temple

Leaving at 7:30 following another full breakfast, we arrived at the southern excavations of the Temple. It was amazing to see the magnificence of this temple, especially in light of one massive stone placed upon another. No wonder the disciples were equally amazed (Mark 13, Luke 21)! At the SW corner we walked on a Herodian street no doubt used by Jesus too! We also saw the massive stones toppled by the Romans in 70 AD. On the southern end, we walked up the temple steps. We reflected upon who all used these steps during the time of Jesus and the apostles. Above us was the royal stoa. On the east side was Solomon’s Porch (John 10, Acts, 3, 5). We also remembered Acts 2. Perhaps Peter gave his stirring testimony here (Acts 2).

City of David – Warren’s Shaft – Hezekiah’s Tunnel, Pool of Siloam

Hezkiah's Tunnel

Hezekiah’s Tunnel

Walking south we entered the visitor center leading to the City of David excavations. From the observation deck, we could see in all directions, connecting again this location to the Bible. After seeing a 3-D movie, we walked down through the “Area G” excavations (where Pastor John dug in 1982) and Warren’s Shaft (previously thought as the 52 foot “water shaft” used by David’s men to conquered the city (2 Samuel 5). 

This led us down to the Gihon Spring (where Solomon was made king, 1 Kings 1:33). Here many walked through Hezekiah’s Tunnel (2 Kings 20, 2 Chr. 32, a water tunnel that was 1,720 feet long) while others walked through the “dry” Canaanite tunnel. Both groups converged at the steps of the Pool of Siloam where we read John 9 in “dramatic” fashion!

From here some walked back up to the SW corner of the Temple through the drainage channel (underneath the herodian street), while others bussed back up to the Jewish Quarter. We enjoyed some lunch and free time on our own.

Garden Tomb

Garden Tomb

Garden Tomb

In the mid-afternoon we walked northward through the Old City. Exiting through the Damascus Gate, we visited the Garden Tomb. Here we toured the place suggested to be an alternative site for the crucifixion and burial site of Jesus. We enjoyed a time of worship and Communion as well. It was very special to end our tour with this experience!

Returning to our hotel, we enjoyed a farewell dinner together. We are all thankful to God for the rich experience we encountered together!


The majority of the group flies back today. Some fly out at about 9 am, while others fly out shortly after noon. Praise be to God for a life-changing experience!

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May 2018 Extensive Israel Tour Summary – Day 12


This morning we began the day early again because of our visit to the Temple Mount. So with breakfast again at 6, we left the hotel shortly after 6:45. Today would be once again sunny but warmer, with highs in the 80s.

Temple Mount

Temple Mount

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Both the 1st and 2nd Temples stood here!

We arrived in the Old City and walked through the Dung Gate shortly after 7 a.m. Here we entered through the security area that leads up to the Temple Mount. All was quite quiet on the Temple Mount as we heard about the history of this very sensitive area today. It was here both the 1st and 2nd Temples once stood. We saw the El Asca Mosque (built in 710 AD), the Dome of the Rock (built in 691 AD), and the inside of the Eastern Gate (Ezekiel 44). We also remembered the story of John 7 involving Jesus and the Water Libation Festival.

Jewish Quarter “Herodian Mansion”

Herodian Mansion

Herodian Mansion

Leaving the Temple Mount we walked to the Jewish Quarter. Here we entered a fascinating “underground” excavation called the Herodian House. We saw massive house structures, mosaics, ritual baths, and frescos that al date to the 1st century! This was a Jewish house that was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

“Moshe” at Shorashim / Redeemer Lutheran Tower / Shopping / Lunch

Next, each group had the opportunity to enter into the Shorashim shop and listen to Moshe (an Orthodox Jew) who shared about his Jewish faith and practice. Others climbed the 180 steps of the spiral staircase leading to the top of the Redeember Lutheran Church tower. Others enjoyed a time of shopping and wondering around. We all ate lunch here in the area.

Temple Mount Sifting Project


Herodian or Roman Coin

Walking out the Zion’s Gate, we boarded our bus and drove to the Temple Mount Sifting Project. After listening to a brief lecture about the endeavor, we enjoyed “wet-sifting” through the debris brought from the Wilson’s Arch area of the Temple. Among the many pieces of pottery, bones, and mosaic stones we found, two in the group found a coin! It probably dates to the 1st-2nd century AD!

Israel Museum

Jerusalem model

1:50 scale model of Jerusalem

Our last stop of the day was the Israel Museum. Here we saw three things – a 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem looked like in 70 AD, the Shrine of the Book museum, and because to limited time, the highlights of archaeological wing of the museum. Each of these continued to help us connect the dots with the archaeological world and the Bible.

We drove back to our hotel for dinner and an optional walk to the southern Promenade of Jerusalem.  Can’t believe we just have one more full day here in Jerusalem!


(Theme of the Day: Seeking God to restore the “ruins” of our life) 

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May 2018 Extensive Israel Tour Summary – Day 11


(Theme of the day: Facing the “walls” of life)

This morning was an early start here in Jerusalem. With breakfast at 6 a.m., we departed shortly after 6:30 because of the early reservations made for the Western Wall Tunnels. We enjoyed the sun and perfect temps (mid 70s) once again. The day would also be a lighter day, with some free time.

Western Wall Tunnels

Master Course

The “Master Course” in the Western Wall Tunnel

Visiting the Western Wall was special. Here we saw many Orthodox and Ultra-Orthodox Jews gathered at the Wall for morning prayers. In three groups, we saw more than just this part of the exposed Wall. We entered into the Western Wall Tunnels and walked parallel to this western retaining wall about 400 yards. Here we saw huge stones on the Temple placed by Herod the Great, a project he began in 20 BC. One stone, called the Master Course, weighs several hundred tons. For sure, the Temple was the most extensive building project in the ancient near eastern world at this time!  Up to the time of Jesus, the temple was already in its 46th year of building (John 2).

Peter Gallicantu Church

Herodian street

Herodian Street

After returning to the Wall for more time here, we walked out of the Dung Gate and boarded our bus for the short drive up the hill to the Peter Gallicantu Church. This is the traditional location for the house of Caiphias, the High Priest who bound Jesus (Luke 22). After visiting the church, we descended further down the slope. The most impressive thing to see here was the stone steps dating to the 2nd Temple period. These set of steps would have connected the upper city with the lower city of Jerusalem. Jesus would have used these steps!  We also saw a model of Byzantine Jerusalem.

Yad Vashem

The Children’s Memorial at Yad Vashem

From here we drove to western Jerusalem to Israel’s Holocaust Museum & Memorial called Yad Vashem. We first visited the Valley of the Communities, highlighting all the cities and towns throughout Europe effected by the Nazis. Both Eli and Shlomo shared their personal stories.

In the visitor center we ate lunch, followed by walking through both the Childrens’ Memorial (1.5 million children were killed), and the museum itself. Along all the pathways are trees planted in memory of the righteous Gentiles who saved Jews during WWII. Certainly, this place is a difficult yet important place to visit.

Old City/Free Time

Leaving Yad Vashem, we drove back to the hotel. Many on both buses got off at the Jaffa Gate for some free time in the Old City. Some walked on the ramparts (Turkish walls of the city), gaining a unique perspective of the city and people below.  

Returned to the hotel for dinner and a free evening.


(Theme: We finds hidden treasure in God)

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May 2018 Extensive Israel Tour Summary – Day 10


(Theme of the Day: Jesus and His redemptive plan) 

Today is an historic day here in Jerusalem. It is special to be here the day that the US Embassy officially moves to Jerusalem. It would be another sunny day, with highs in the 70s.

Mt. of Olives


Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives

Leaving the hotel around 7:30, we drove around the Old City to the Mt. of Olives. Here we enjoyed a panoramic view of the City of David (to the south), the Temple Mount, and entire Old City below. We read from Luke 19 (Palm Sunday), and Zechariah 14 (Christ’s Second Coming). We celebrated Christ as King!

Garden of Gethsemane

We walked down this western slope of the Mt. of Olives to an area designated as the Garden of Gethsemane. In full view of the Eastern Gate (Ezekiel 44), we pondered the words of Jesus, “not my will but yours be done…” from Luke 22. These were words that displayed Jesus’ willingness to endure the cross. 

Old City: Pools of Bethesda & St. Anne’s Church, and Holy Sepulcher Church

Bethesda Pool

The Pool of Bethesda

Walking down to the Kidron Valley and then back up to the St. Stephen’s (also called Lion’s and Jericho Gate), we entered the Old City. Our first stop was the St. Anne’s Church. It was a Crusader Church with wonderful acoustics (an 8 second echo). We sang a few songs, with Ruth sharing a special song as well. On the same grounds are the archaeological ruins of the Pools of Bethesda. This is where the paralyzed man was healed by Jesus (John 5). Built over these ruins were Late Roman and Crusader churches. 

Walking the Via Dolorosa (the “way of the cross,” even though Jesus carried the cross from the opposite direction), we arrived at the Holy Sepulcher Church. It was built in the 4th century AD. This location serves as one of two suggested sites for the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. Inside the Edicule is the suggested actual tomb of Jesus. Close by in the Christian Quarter we ate lunch.




Walking out of the Jaffa Gate, we met our bus and drove to Herodium. This is an archaeological site excavated for over 35 years. It was a palace-fortress of Herod the Great. While this Judean king died in Jericho in 4 BC, he was buried here. We climbed to the top of the site where we had a wonderful view of the area. To the north we could see Jerusalem; to the east the Judean Desert and the Dead Sea; to the south the village of Tekoa; and to the west Bethlehem. Among the ruins we saw were the towers, the synagogue, the bathhouse, and the cistern system. 

Shepherds’ Fields

Driving to Beat Sahour, we visited the Shepherds’ Fields. Gathering in a cave, we considered the role of the shepherd in biblical days. We read from Micah 5 and Luke 2 about the birth narrative of Jesus. Also before leaving we enjoyed singing a few carols in the Chapel of the Shepherds. We sounded angelic!



Shepherd and angel relief (chapel of the Shepherds)

We ended the day in Bethlehem at an olive wood shop and store. The store is owned by Palestinian Christians. Bethlehem is known for its olive wood carvings. We enjoyed some shopping here.

We returned back to tour hotel. We passed close to where the new Embassy is now located.  Following dinner, we went to Ben Yehuda Street for a little taste of modern Israeli culture, shopping, and ice cream. We walked back to the hotel.


(Theme of the day: Facing the “walls” of life)

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May 2018 Extensive Israel Tour Summary – Day 9


(Theme of the Day: Learning to trust God in our battles)

Today we checked out of our hotel in the Galilee. Leaving shortly after 7:30, we headed to our first site on what would be another very nice day (with a mix of sun and clouds, good visibility, and temps in the high 70s).


Mona Lisa Galilee

The “Mona Lisa of there Galilee” mosaic at Sepporis

Located in the Lower Galilee, Sepporis was our first site. This was a huge Hellenized Jewish city in the time of Jesus and served as the capital city of the region. Here we saw beautiful mosaics, including the Nile and Mona Lisa of the Galilee mosaics. This was a cute that flourished through the Roman period. We also saw a small theater. Even though not mentioned in the Gospels, Jesus must have visited this city, especially while growing up only 5 miles away in Nazareth.

Precipice of Nazareth


Precipice of Nazareth

Close by is the city of Nazareth. It is predominately an Arab city (who are Israeli citizens) of about 80,000 today. Driving through the edfe of this city, we arrived at the Precipice of Nazareth. Here we enjoyed our first of three views of the Jezreel Valley. We saw Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5), the Hill of Moreh (Judges 6-7), Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 31), and Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18). We considered the story of Luke 4 (Jesus teaching in the Nazareth synagogue) and John 1. We were invited to “come and see” Jesus anew. We also enjoyed a time of worship and reflection here as well.



The excavations at Megiddo

Driving across the Jezreel Valley, we visited Megiddo. This is an archaeological site that has over two dozen levels of occupation over a 2,500 year period (from Early Bronze to Israelite). Climbing the tel (ancient mound), we saw three gates complexes( from both the Canaanite and Israelite time period), Solomon’s stables, a Canaanite stone altar, and a grain bin (9th century BC) among other things. Looking out upon the valley (Armegeddon) we recalled Revelation 16 and celebrated that God has the final word in the end times! We exited the site through the water system.

Mt. Carmel/Muhraka

Jezreel Valley

The Jezreel Valley

Following lunch at a place owned by Druze, we made a brief stop at Muhraka. Here we gathered in a small chapel and read from Isaiah 35, Song of Songs 7, and 1 Kings 18. It was here God displayed His power and glory to Elijah. We enjoyed singing in the chapel too! The roof of the chapel provided us a marvelous last view of the Jezreel Valley below.



Hippodrome at Caesarea

Our last stop of the day was Caesarea. Tis was another huge city built by Herod the Great in 22 BC. Sitting the the theater, we read from Acts 10, 12, 21, and 26. Both Peter and Paul proclaimed their faith boldly here! We also saw the palace and hippodrome. Before leaving the site, we enjoyed seeing the aqueduct that was used to bring water into the city from the Carmel Range.


Western Wall

Jerusalem Day at Western Wall

From here was drove about 2 hours to Jerusalem. Traffic was heavy heading into this capital city of Israel. We checked into our hotel, enjoyed dinner and then an optional walk to the Western Wall. It is both exciting and historic to be here for Israel’s 70th Anniversary tomorrow and the moving the the US Embassy to Jerusalem!


(Theme of the Day: Jesus and His redemptive plan)

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Our Easter Joy & Hope

The centerpiece of our Christian faith is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter serves as the bedrock of our spiritual and eternal joy and hope. The wonderful words of the angel at the tomb says it all – “He is not here!  He is risen! (Matthew 28:6).”  


Jewish ossuaries

Display of Jewish ossuaries in the Hecht Museum. (Credit: Photo by Ferrell Jenkins)

An ossuary is a small stone box containing the bones of the deceased person. These were used in the days of Jesus. 100s have been found in Jerusalem alone. Some ossuaries were quite ornate, decorated with rosettes. Others had the name of the deceased scratched on the outside of them, identifying whose bones they were. Archaeologists actually found an ossuary with the following name written in Aramaic – Yeshua bar Yoseph” (e.g. “Jesus, son of Joseph”). Of course this ossuary wasn’t our Yeshua’s ossuary. To be very clear, He didn’t need an ossuary! Rather, the tomb of Jesus was empty, not because of the body of the Savior was stolen nor because His followers hallucinated or made up the story. The tomb was empty because Jesus was literally raised to life!


In Israel, 100s of Second Temple Tomb (tombs dating to the 1st century) have been found. About two dozen tombs have actually been found in and around the Holy Sepulcher Church, one of there three oldest churches in the world (4th century AD). But whether this is the place of Jesus’ tomb or not, we honor not merely the traditional place but rather the historical truth and reality of Christ’s resurrection. We worship the Person, Jesus, raised from the grave! It is what brings us the joy and certainty of our faith!

3 Tomb Reconstruction copy

A model of an “arcasolium” tomb

The most likely type of Second Temple Tomb Jesus was laid in on Friday afternoon was an arcasolium tomb.  The most common type of tomb during the period of the New Testament was the koch (kochim, plural) or niche tomb.  However, it seems as if they angels in the resurrection story couldn’t sit at the feet and head of Christ (John 20:12) within a narrow and elongated niche tomb. Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb was a newly-hewn tomb (Matthew 27:60), and must have been a tomb of prominence. What a dramatic event it must have been for the women at the tomb who were told by the angels of Christ’s resurrection! What an amazing experience also for Peter and John who ran to the tomb shortly after!

Flowers at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

Flowers at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

The Empty Grave

So this weekend, all the Christian world rejoices in the resurrection of Jesus! Easter lilies stand tall in celebration! Easter flowers bloom brilliantly as a sign of life! May our hearts rejoice in Christ’s resurrection!

Enjoy this song that celebrates the beautiful and powerful name of Jesus!


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Herod’s Palace – The Place of Jesus’ Sentencing

The passion of Jesus during His last week in Jerusalem can be seen in each of the four Gospels. He would die on a Friday. While He predicted for the first time His death and resurrection up north in a place called Caesarea Philippi (see Matthew 16), Jesus was only one day away from fulfilling the first part of this prediction, namely, His crucifixion.

Antonia Fortress

Herod's palace

A model at the Israel Museum of Herod’s Palace

Traditionally, the place of the trial and the sentencing Jesus by Pontius Pilate was the Antonia FortressThis tradition is based on the discovery of a stone pavement (in Greek, lithostrotos, see John 19) that can be seen today below the Sisters of Zion convent. However, this pavement dates to the 2nd century AD, or to the time of Hadrian. This traditional location for the trial of Jesus happening here is what has led to the Via Dolorosa starting here and ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (the place for the death and burial of Jesus according to a 4th century AD tradition).

Herod’s Palace

Herod's palace

The newly uncovered palace area of Herod the Great (credit: Tower of David’s Citadel)

At the opposite end of the Old City today, however, is Herod’s Palace. It was built by Herod the Great. Today, this palace can be seen in the area just south of the Jaffa Gate in an archaeological park called David’s Citadel. Here in recent excavations, a 1st century stone pavement has been uncovered. This is the most likely place where Jesus stood in front of Pilate (who was in town from Caesarea during Passover). Following sentencing, it was from here where Jesus bore His cross and carried it to Calvary.



Herodian ruins in the palace area known as the Kishle (credit: Ferrell Jenkins)

The video below offers a quick peak into the lower reaches of Herod’s palace. Over the last few years, the archaeological excavations have been quite thorough and revealing.

Eventually, Jesus would die on a cross. Starting with being humiliated before Pilate here at Herod’s palace, Jesus would die scorned and rejected on a cruel cross. As the hymn states,

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.


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March 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 13

DAY 13 – FRIDAY, MARCH 23: CITY OF DAVID, HEZEKIAH’S TUNNEL, SOUTHERN WALL EXCAVATIONS, FREE AFTERNOON, GARDEN TOMB Today was our last full day here in Israel the land of the Bible! The sun was bright again with temps in the mid 80s today. Wow… what a great streak of weather we have had the last two weeks! Praise God! Southern Wall Excavations Departing once again this morning at 7:30 after breakfast, we drove to the southern wall excavations. Walking in the Dung gate, we focus here was to retrace the steps of Jesus here. The Temple Mount expansion project of Herod began in 20 BC, and seeing how massive these stones were was incredible. Even Jesus’ disciples made a … Continue reading

March 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 12


Today began in the Old City and ended in western Jerusalem. The sun was bright and sunny again, with temps around 80.

Western Wall/Tunnel

Western Wall

The Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem

Following breakfast, we left again around 7:30 this morning. We read John 2 (Temple…. 46 years to build, etc…) on the way to the Western Wall. Entering the Dung Gate into this area called the Kotel, this wall served as a retaining wall for the expanded platform of the Temple Mount built by Herod the Great beginning in 20 BC. After spending some time at the Wall, we walked about 400 yards north along this retaining wall. Here we saw massive stones, including the “Master Course” stone that weighs 100s of tons! Pastor John even was able to get a picture of the new small theater discovered recently among the ruins.

Jewish Quarter

Jerusalem model

The 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem at the Israel Museum

We returned to the Jewish Quarter. Here, we enjoyed a visit to Shorashim (“roots”) where we heard Moshe (an Orthodox Jew) share about his Jewish faith in the context of our Christian faith. It was quite interesting. Also, all the items in the store here has a biblical connection. A great place!

Israel Museum

Coffin of Herod

Herod the Great’s coffin (found at Herodum)

Following lunch on our own in the Jewish Quarter, we walked out of the Zion’s Gate and boarded the bus to the western part of the city. Our first stop of the afternoon was the Israel Museum. We saw three things here. First, a 1:50 model of Jerusalem as it looked like in 70 AD. We re-traced the steps of Jesus in and through the city that was populated by around 60,000 people. We saw the Temple (John 2, 7, 10; Mark 13, Acts 3, 5, etc…), the Siloam Pool (John 9), Herod’s Palace (Luke 23), and the two possible crucifixion sites, the southern steps, Robinson’s Arch, and many other locations.

Next, we walked through the Shrine of the Book where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed. We even saw two scroll jars from Cave 1. Lastly, we saw the highlights from the archaeological museum. This included artifacts such as the Dan and Pilate Inscriptions, Hazor’s and Arad’s cultic center, Asherah figurines, ossuaries, and Herod’s coffin (among many other things).

Yad Vashem

box car Yad Vashem

A box car used in the Holocaust, at Yad Vashem

We ended the day with a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum. While walking through the Valley of the Communities, Shlomo shared his story of losing 12 family members in Vilna, Poland as a result of the Holocaust. We also walked through the Children’s Memorial and lastly the museum on our own.

We returned to our hotel in Jerusalem for dinner and an optional walk on the Promenade. Before going to bed, we also had turned our watches forward one hour for Israel’s daylight savings.


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March 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 11


Today was a unique day here in Jerusalem. We not only enjoyed fantastic weather again (full sun, with highs in the mid 70s), but also a special service project in an Israeli school.

Bridges for Peace Service Project

Bridges for Peace

Our Bridges for Peace Project in Jerusalem

Leaving the hotel at 8 a.m. today, we drove to the center of town. Here we arrived at Bridges for Peace, a 50 years old organization aimed to provide care and compassion to Jewish people all over the world! We heard the Director of Bridges (Rebecca Brimmer) share about the history, goal, and their objectives in extending care to needy people here in Israel. We also toured their facility.

Bridges for Peace

Painting and planting flower pots

We again boarded the bus from here and drove to the Zalman Aran School. This is an elementary school in the Talpiot community in Jerusalem. We were greeted with a few songs offered by some of the students. It was very touching!

Breaking into four groups, each of us helped with either a painting or art project, a gardening project, as well as helping with soccer. The interaction with the students was special. We helped until lunch time (with a few continuing the painting and art project after lunch). We left about 2:30.

Old City/Rampart Wall Walk/Ben Yehuda

Rampart walls Old City

Walking the rampart walls in Jerusalem

We enjoyed the rest of the afternoon on our own at various places. Some got dropped off near Ben Yehuda Street, while most went into the Old City through Jaffa Gate. About 25 in the group walked the rampart walls (the Turkish walls built in 1537 AD). We walked from Jaffa gate to the Damascus gate.

We walked back to the hotel for dinner and a free evening. Many in the group walked to the old train station for a taste of Israeli entertainment, shopping, and coffee shops.


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