Oct-Nov 2017 Egypt-Jordan-Israel Tour Update – Day 14


Today was our last day here in Jerusalem. What a blessing to have a set of fully sunny days these last two weeks! Today’s sun boosted the temps to the low 70s. Perfect once again!

Mt. Of Olives


The Oct-Nov 2017 Tour Group on the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem

We started off at 7:30 p.m. once again. Reading Psalm 137 as we departed the hotel, our first destination was the Mt. of Olives. The view from the top was stunning, enabling us to see the entire Old City of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, and beyond!

After a review of things we could see from the top, we began our walk down the western slope of the Mt. of Olives. Our first stop was at a chapel called Dominus Flavet. This area preserves where Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Here we read from Luke 19 about the Palm Sunday event as well as Jesus’ prediction of Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 AD. The closed Eastern Gate came into view (Ezekiel 44).

Garden of Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemane on the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem

A little further down the slope we enjoyed a time of reflection in the Garden of Gethsemane (which means “a place for pressing oil”). In this special garden of the Church of All Nations, we were greeted by Brother Diego. We read from Luke 22, listened to a song, and then spent some intentional time of silent reflection. Jesus took the weight of the sins of the world upon Himself as He poured out His love for us!

Old City

From here we walked into the Old City through the St. Stephen’s/Lion’s/Jericho gate. Right inside the gate we stopped at the Pools of Bethesda and St. Anne’s Church (a Crusader church from the 12th century AD). Singing in the church was special with the eight-second echo. We read from John 5 at

Bethesda & St. Anne’s Church

Holy Sepulcher Church

The Holy Sepulcher Church in Jerusalem

From here we walked on the traditional Via Dolorosa (“way of the cross,” although it probably went the complete opposite direction). This took us to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It dates to 325 AD. It preserves the most likely place for both the crucifixion and burial site of Jesus. Although it was very crowded, most in the group went inside. Nearby we enjoyed lunch in the Christian Quarter.

Garden Tomb

Our walk after lunch through the Muslim Quarter was, let’s say, quite the adventure. It was jammed packed with people coming and going in both directions. After a few precarious moments of not being able to do anything other than go with the flow of the crowd, we made it out the Damascus Gate and to the Garden Tomb. This location preserves an alternative site for the for the place of crucifixion and burial of Jesus. We really enjoyed a time of not only seeing the suggested tomb, but also a time of worship and Communion.

Garden Tomb

The Garden Tomb in Jerusalem

In the late afternoon, some got dropped off at the Jaffa Gate (for some extra exploring and shopping) while others went back to the hotel. Gathering for our “last supper” together, we enjoyed sharing various stories and tour highlights among each other. While the tour came to an end, we will cherish life transformational experiences on this trip.

A number in the group were driven to the Ben Gurion Airport for their night-flight home while the rest of the group fly home early tomorrow morning. Praise be to God for a great and meaningful trip!


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Oct-Nov 2017 Egypt-Jordan-Israel Tour Update – Day 13


Today was our second day in Jerusalem. On yet another (but cooler) day, the sun greeted us! We have been blessed with perfect weather and temps!

Western Wall Tunnel

Western Wall

An ultra-Orthodox Jew at the Western Wall

We left this morning at 7:15, in time to make our reservation at the Western Wall Tunnel. We read John 2 and Mark 13 along the way. Arriving shortly after, we spent some time at the Wall. Many of the ultra-Orthodox were praying under their tallies (prayer shawls). At 8, we embarked on a fascinating walk that took us north along this western retaining wall of the Temple Mount. We saw massive stones, one (the Master Course) weighing hundreds of tons! Indeed, these Herodian stones are impressive (see Mark 13:1-2).

Moshe @ Shorashim

Walking up to the Jewish Quarter, we visited Shorashim (“roots” in Hebrew). Here, an Orthodox friend named Moshe shared about his Jewish thought and practice. It was very interesting to hear him respond to a few questions in regard to our Christian view of faith. This biblical shop was also a great place to purchase jewelry (as well as other items) that has a connection with the Bible.

Temple Institute

Temple Institute

A model of the Jerusalem Temple

Next, we visited the Temple Institute. Located close by, we learned about how this Jewish organization is preparing to build the Third Temple. All the temple furnishings are prepared already. Following the completion of this tour, we enjoyed lunch on our own here in the Jewish Quarter.


Herodium view of Judean desert

A view from Herodium of the Judea Desert (and Dead Sea)

Following lunch here in the Jewish Quarter and some free time for shopping and “people-watching,” we walked together out of the Old City through Zion’s Gate. Upon boarding the bus, we drove south and east of the Jerusalem about 8-9 miles to Herodium. This was where Herod the Great himself was buried (he died in Jericho in 4 BC). Following a brief explanation at the site, we hiked up this “artificial mound” to the top. The view from the top allowed us to see many things: To the east – the Judea Desert & the Dead Sea; to the west – Bethlehem (just a few miles away); to the north – the Mt. of Olives; and to the south – Tekoa, the hometown of Amos the prophet. Among the archaeological ruins we saw the synagogue, the bathhouse, and a quick peak at the royal arches (not yet open to the public). We read Psalm 63 and Isaiah 40, passages that have the Judea Desert as its context. We left the site by descending down into the cistern system, used primarily by the Bar Kochba Jews in the 2nd century AD.

Shepherds’ Fields & Bethlehem

Olive wood - Bethlehem

Olive wood in Bethlehem

A few miles to the west are the Shepherds’ Fields. Walking down into a cave, we read from Luke 2 about the birth of Jesus. We celebrated with a few Christmas carols God’s redemptive history being fulfilled with Jesus’ birth! Jesus came “just at the right time…” – Gal. 4:4). We also enjoyed some singing in the Shepherds’ Chapel. What great acoustics! Driving into Bethlehem, we ended the day by going to an olive wood shop and store.  On the way back to the hotel, we made a very nice surprise visit to Shlomo’s community. The view of the lights of Jerusalem was spectacular!

We returned to our hotel for dinner and a free evening. We have one more day to go here in Jerusalem!


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Oct-Nov 2017 Egypt-Jordan-Israel Tour Update – Day 11


This morning we left the Sea of Galilee area. After breakfast, we loaded up the bus and began our drive south through a few more of the regions of the Bible. The day would be another sunny one, with highs in the 70s. We read from John 1 as we left the hotel and were invited to “come and see”  Jesus anew!

Precipice Nazareth

Precipice of Nazareth

Precipice of Nazareth

Driving through the Lower Galilee and driving through the outskirts of the city of Nazareth. Arriving at the precipice (an adjacent hilltop of the city), we walked to the edge and enjoyed our first full view of the Jezreel Valley below. From here we could see Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5), the Hill of Moreh (Judges 7), Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 31), and Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18). We read from Luke 4 about Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue of Nazareth. We quietly listened to The Lord’s Prayer before leaving.



Some of the Canaanite ruins of Megiddo

Driving across the Jezreel Valley, we arrived at Megiddo, a large archaeological site on the SW side of the Jezreel Valley. The site has over 24 layers of ruins spanning about 2,500 years. Megiddo was strategically located on the main natural pass into the valley. It was so important that Thutmose III said, “…to capture Megiddo was to capture 1,000 cities…” After seeing a model of the city, we climbed the tel (ancient mound) and saw three gate structures, a storehouse/stable, a Canaanite altar, and even a grain silo. On top of the tel we read from Revelation 16. We celebrated the fact that God has all of redemptive history in His capable hands! We are on the winning side where God has the last word! We then exited the site by walking down into the amazing water system (180 steps down, 80 up). It was quite impressive to see.

Mt. Carmel

We drove to Mt. Carmel where we had lunch. Nearby we visited Muhraqa, a place remembering the story of Elijah. We read from 1 Kings 18 about God’s amazing intervention in his time of crisis. It was against all odds that Elijah defeated the 450 prophets of Baal. From the top of the chapel we gained yet another view of the Jezreel Valley below. We also enjoyed singing together in the chapel.


Sunset Med Sea Isral

Sunset at Caesarea on the Med Sea

Our last stop of the day was Caesarea. Located along the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea, this was a city built by Herod the Great in 22 BC. In the reconstructed theater we read from Acts 10 (Peter) and Acts 26 (Paul). Philip the evangelist lived here (Acts 21). Walking from the theater, we saw the hippodrome, the harbor area, statutes, and many mosaics among other things. Upon leaving, we made a brief stop at the Herodian aqueduct that brought water into the city from the Mt. Carmel range. The sunset was spectacular over the Med Sea!

From here we drove about 2 hours to Jerusalem. Arriving at our hotel, we enjoyed dinner followed by an optional walk to the Western Wall. We are thrilled to be in this capital city of Israel for 3 full days!


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Ancient Theater Uncovered in Jerusalem

Ancient Theater in Jerusalem

Ancient theater Jerusalem

An ancient Roman theater is excavated in Jerusalem’s old city, October 16, 2017. CREDIT: Olivier Fitoussi

Archaeology in Jerusalem continues to impress us all. New things are being uncovered on a regular basis, adding more an more details to the context of the Bible.

Just recently, an ancient theater was found near the Western Wall. According to HaAretzthe original purpose of the excavation in this area was to date a particular archway that led into the Temple during the days of the 2nd Temple. For over hundred years, this archway has been labeled Wilson’s Arch, named after the early explorer who originally discovered it in the 19th century. However, in probing further down to expose further levels of the Herodian western wallthis theater was discovered.

The Archaeologists

Ancient theater Jerusalem

Israel’s Antiquities Authority’s Dr. Joe Uziel works in an ancient Roman theater in Jerusalem’s old city, October 16, 2017. CREDIT: Olivier Fitouss

From a research perspective, this is a sensational find. The discovery was a real surprise. When we started excavating, our goal was to date Wilson’s Arch. We did not imagine that a window would open for us onto the mystery of Jerusalem’s lost theater …The discovery of the theater-like structure is the real drama,” Dr. Joe Uziel, Tehillah Lieberman and Dr. Avi Solomon, the archeologists in charge of the excavations, said in a statement.

Unlike larger theaters found at places like Caesarea and Beth Shean, this theater was quite small. The archeologists suggest that this is a theater-like structure of the type known in the Roman world as an odeon. These smaller structures were primarily used for musical performances. According to the article, it was also stated that the structure may also have been a bouleuterion, a place where the city council met.

Remarkably, the archaeologists believe the theater was never used.


Wilson's Arch

Workers restore a ceiling of the Western Wall tunnels near the site where Israeli Antiquity Authority recently discovered an ancient roman theatre, Jerusalem, October 16, 2017. CREDIT: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP

The questions we raise are two-fold: 1). What is the precise date of this theater? and 2). Why do the archaeologist believe that the theater was not used?

Yet a third question that arises is one that connects us to the Bible – “Is this a theater Jesus would have seen Himself during His visits (perhaps a total of five) to Jerusalem as recorded in the Gospels? It is fun to speculate.

Here is an amazing video of this incredible discovery:



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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 8


Today would be another sunny day, with highs in the 90s (a bit above normal for Jerusalem this time of year). Pulling out of the hotel once again shortly after 7:30, we drove to the excavations of the City of David.

City of David

The City of David

The City of David was previously called Jebus. According to the Bible, David conquered the city (2 Sam. 5). We saw many of the ruins here (walls towers, David’s fortress) dating to biblical times. Walking through Warren’s Shaft we came to the water source of there city, the Gihon Spring. Here is also where some in the group entered Hezekiah’s Tunnel, a 1,720 foot water tunnel carved out of the bedrock. Some in the group walked through the earlier “dry” Canaanite tunnel. Both groups converged at the Siloam Pool where we heard John 9 read in dramatic fashion. Here we celebrated that Jesus continues to open our eyes and hearts, allowing us to see Him.

From here some in the group walked up the Herodian drainage channel up to the south wall excavations of Herod’s Temple, while others took the bus up to this area. Meeting at the SW corner of the Temple, we stood amazed at the remarkable building project of Herod’s temple. Even the disciples made this comment (Mark 13:1-2). Finally, we walked to the southern steps of the Temple, the primary way for commoners to enter the Temple in Jesus’ day. We remembered the stories of many who would have used there steps (Jesus, disciples, Simeon, Peter, Paul, and the apostles, etc…). Before leaving this area, we also entered the Western Wall area.

HEzekiah's tunnel

Hezekiah’s Tunnel

This afternoon we drove south to the area of Bethlehem. First, we enjoyed lunch outside the Shepherds’ Fields before descending down into a cave. Here we considered the role of the shepherds in Jesus’ day and the amazement of God’s redemptive plan! It was “just at the right time that God sent His Son. (Gal. 4:4).” We enjoyed singing a few Christmas carols in the cave as well as in the small chapel.

Further east is Herodium. This was where Herod the Great was buried. The view from the top of this “palace-fortress” was good. We could see Jerusalem to the north, the Dead Sea and Judea Desert to the east, and Bethlehem to the west. We left the site by descending down through the cistern system. We also saw where Herod was buried.



Our last stop of the day was an olive wood factory and store in Bethlehem. We joined not only seeing how the olive wood items are made, but also some shopping here.

We drove back to the hotel for our farewell dinner. Nearly half in the group are flying home tonight back to the States. Shlomo and David drove these folks to the Ben Gurion Airport for their night-flight home. The other half of the group will enjoy a four more days here in Israel.


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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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Hezekiah’s Tunnel Explained

One of the most exciting “adventures” to experience in Jerusalem is to walk through what is known as Hezekiah’s Tunnel. It is also called the Siloah Tunnel

Hezekiah's Tunnel

A cut-away of the City of David revealing the path of Hezekiah’s Tunnel

In a few places, the Bible mentions about the chiseling of this tunnel (2 Kings 19-20, 2 Chr. 32, Isaiah 36-37). In the wider context, in 705 King Sennacherib from Assyria took reign. In preparation for his southern advance, Hezekiah carved out of the bedrock a 1,720 foot tunnel. The purpose for doing so was to allow the waters from the Gihon Spring (the source of water for the City of David) to flow south to the inside part of the city. So with two team of rock cutters starting at opposite ends, the tunnel was carved.

Hezekiah's Tunnel

Hezekiah’s Tunnel in the City of David. The tunnel is 1,720 feet long and was built at the end of the 8th century BC.

We even have an inscription (the Siloam Inscription) that tells us how it was precisely done. This inscription was discovered in 1880 and still today is housed on display in the Istanbul Museum. It describes how the the two teams of rock cutters met in the middle of the tunnel. They literally heard each other’s picks and axes until they broke through. Amazing!

The video below is yet another one that features Dr. Ronnie Reich. He is an Israeli archaeologist who excavated over 10 years at the City of David. He shares some interesting perspectives on the tunnel.

Also, a shorter video was produced by the City of David Foundation.

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The Conquering of Jerusalem … Another Theory

In the last blog (entitled David’s Conquering of Jerusalem), I offered a wonderful video on how David conquered Jebus, the Canaanite city later called Jerusalem. Archaeologists are continuing to discover how the city was taken by David back in the 10th century BC.

City of David or Jebus

A model of the City of David. It was called Jebus when David conquered it (2 Samuel 5)

The story of how it was conquered is mentioned in 2 Samuel 5. As I mentioned, the “old theory” was that Joab climbed up a vertical tunnel  (called Warren’s Shaft today). However, with new excavations over the last 10 years or so, this theory is no longer held. The “water shaft” used by Joab that day was probably another part of the Canaanite water system about 30 feet away.

So in this follow-up blog, I share with you another video. You will enjoy hearing Dr. Ronnie Reich, Israeli archaeologist, share his views about this water system.

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