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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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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April-May, 2015 Tour – Day 7

DAY 7 – SATURDAY, MAY 2 Today we said goodbye to the Sea of Galilee. Checking out and loading the bus on what would be another sunny and warm day (temps in low 80s again), we drove south through the Jordan Valley to Beth Shean. We entered the site by walking in through the upper gate. On the way we saw a snake giving birth to little snakes in a hole she burrowed. It was very unique to see this. Climbing the tel of Old Testament Beth Shean from one side, and then looking down to the Roman city below was amazing. The view was spectacular. Walking down 180 steps, we visited the agora (market place), the colonnaded Roman street, … Continue reading