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 2015 Tour – Day 10

DAY 10 – WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 9

Mt. of Olives

Mt. of Olives

Today was clearer than yesterday, with temps around 90. The dust in the air settled a bit. We left the hotel again at the usual time (7:30 or so). We drove to the Mt. of Olives. The view of the Temple Mount and Old City from here was spectacular. We walked down the narrow street to Dominus Flavit. Here we read from Luke 19 and Zechariah 14 about Jesus’ first and second coming. We also recalled the words from Ezekiel (Ez. 44:1-2) that speaks about the Eastern Gate.

From here our walk continued to the Garden of Gethsemane. We read Luke 22 and reflected together about the passion of Christ. It was a quiet moment of considering the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus for us.

Mt. of Olives

Mt. of Olives

We walked into the Old City through the Lion’s Gate (also called St. Stephen’s Gate). Our first stop inside the city was St. Anne’s Church and the Pools of Bethesda. We enjoyed singing in this Crusader church, with a 8-10 second echo. We also read from John 5 about the miracle that took place here.

The Via Dolorosa begins nearby. We read from John 19 (about Jesus being condemned to crucifixion on the lithostrotos – “stone pavement”). Although this “way of the cross” was most likely from the opposite direction, it was interesting to see so many following the stations to the Holy Sepulcher Church (one of two possible locations for both the crucifixion and burial area of Christ). Here we explored this 4th century church on our own before lunch in the Christian Quarter.

Herodium

Herodium

After lunch we walked through the Jaffa Gate, and boarded back onto the bus. We drove about 7 miles SW of Jerusalem to Herodium. This “palace-fortress” was the burial place for King Herod (he died in 4 BC). We climbed this “artificial” mountain, built by Herod himself, to the top. We read from Isaiah 40 about the Judean Wilderness. Next, we stepped through the cistern system. We also saw the area where Herod’s tomb was found.

Driving towards Bethlehem, we made a stop in the Shepherds’ Fields in Beit Sahour. We entered a cave, where we considered that “God sent His Son… just at the right time” (Gal. 4:4). We also sang a few Christmas carols here as well as in the chapel. We sounded like angels!!

Olive wood crosses, Bethlehem

Olive wood crosses, Bethlehem

Next, we drove into Bethlehem proper where we visited an olive wood store. We had an opportunity to do some shopping here. We also saw how these products are made.

We ended the day with a “surprise” visit to Shlomo’s community. We enjoyed some cookies and drinks while Shlomo shared some information about his community as well as other “current events” insights.

We drove back to the hotel for dinner and an optional walk to Ben Yehuda Street. Here we enjoyed a taste of modern Israeli life. It was a great first day here in Jerusalem!

DAY 11 – THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 10: OLD CITY, WESTERN WALL TUNNEL, JEWISH QUARTER, ISRAEL MUSEUM, YAD VASHEM

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