May 2018 Extensive Israel Tour Summary – Day 10

DAY 10 –MONDAY, MAY 14: JERUSALEM, HERODIUM, BETHLEHEM

(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

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.

Herodium

Herodium

Herodium

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!

Bethlehem

Shepherds

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.

DAY 11 – TUESDAY, MAY 15: OLD CITY, WESTERN WALL TUNNEL, JEWISH QUARTER & SHORASHIM, CHURCH OF ST. PETER GALLICANTU, YAD VASHEM

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

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March 2018 Israel-Jordan Tour Update – Day 10

DAY 10 – TUESDAY, MARCH 20: MT. OF OLIVES, GETHSEMANE, OLD CITY, POOL OF BETHESDA, CHURCH OF HOLY SEPULCHER, HERODIUM, BETHLEHEM

Today was our first day in Jerusalem, and it was a great one! The weather was perfect, with full sun and temps in the low 70s.

Mt. of Olives

Mt. of Olives

The Old City and Temple Mount from the Mt. of Olives

Leaving the hotel about 7:30 after breakfast, we drove around the Old City of Jerusalem to the Mt. of Olives. Here we enjoyed a panoramic view of the entire Old City, the Temple Mount, the the City of David to the south. Walking down to the chapel called Dominus Flavet, we read from Luke 19 and Zechariah 14. From here we continued our walk to the Garden of Gethsemane. Brother Diego greeted us here. We also enjoyed a quite reflective time here, considering the passion of Jesus (Luke 22).

Old City

Garden of Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemane

We walked to the Old City from here through St. Stephen’s Gate (also called the Lion’s and Jericho gate). At the Pools of Bethesda we read from John 5 about the healing that took place here. We also sounded angelic as we sang a few songs in St. Anne’s Church (Crusader, with an eight-second echo!). We continued our walk to the Holy Sepulcher Church in the heart of the Christian Quarter. This is one of two possible places for the crucifixion and burial tomb of Jesus. We explored the church on our own. It dates to 325 AD. We also ate lunch nearby.

Herodium

Herodium

Herodium – where Herod the Great was buried

We walked out of the Old City through the Jaffa Gate and boarded our bus. We drove southeast to Herodium. This was where Herod the Great was buried in 4 BC. We climbed this partially artificial hill to the top, offering us a good view of Jerusalem to the north, the Judean Desert to the east, Bethlehem to the west, and Tekoa to the south. We even saw some migrating storks fly overhead. We descended down through the cistern system of the site.

Shepherd’s Fields/Bethlehem

small lamb

A small lamb at the Shepherds’ Fields

Nearby in Beit Sahour, we made a brief stop at the Shepherds’ Fields. Descending into a cave at the Shepherds’ Fields, we read from Micah 5 and Luke 2, in celebration of Christ’s birth that came “just at the right time (Galatians 4:4).” We also sang a few carols in the cave as well as in the chapel. To end the day, we visited an olive wood shop and store owned by Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem. The olive wood pieces are amazing!

We drove back to the hotel for dinner and an optional walk to Ben Yehuda Street for some shopping and a taste of more modern Israeli life.

DAY 11 – WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21: SERVICE PROJECT WITH BRIDGES FOR PEACE, FREE TIME

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February 2018 Israel Tour Summary/Update – Day 7

DAY 7 – THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 15: MT. OF OLIVES, POOL OF BETHESDA, OLD CITY, ISRAEL MUSEUM, BETHLEHEM

Today was our first day in Jerusalem. We were greeted with sun and cooler temps. But we would later enjoy a perfect day with highs in the low 60s.

Mt. of Olives

Mt. of Olives

Standing on the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem

Leaving the hotel shortly after 7:30, we drove around the western and northern side of the Old City to the Mt. of Olives. This is the mountain range east of the Old City and Temple Mount. The Kidron Valley separates the mountain with the Temple Mount. The view from here was fantastic!

Dominus Flavet & Garden of Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemane

From the top we walked down the steep pathway down the western slope of the Mt. of Olives. We made a brief stop at the Dominus Flavet chapel. Here were read from Luke 19 about Jesus’ Palm Sunday entrance into Jerusalem as well as how we wept over this city. Seeing the Eastern/Mercy Gate, we also read from Ezekiel 44 about how one day this gate will be opened. We also recalled the words from Zechariah 14 about the Mt. of Olives splitting into two when Christ returns, with water flowing to the Dead Sea.

A little further down the slope of the Mt. of Olives is the Garden of Gethsamane. From a private garden arranged by a Franciscan Brother Diego read from Luke 22 about Jesus’ prayer – “not my will but yours be done” – and later betrayal here by Judas. We took some time for reflection and journaling. It was a special time!

Old City – Pool of Bethesda, Via Dolorosa, Holy Sepulcher Church

Edicule Holy Sepulcher

The “edicule” of the Holy Sepulcher church. This covers the traditional tomb of Christ.

Walking into the Old City through the St. Stephen’s Gate (also called Lion’s & Jericho Gate), we stopped at the Pool of Bethesda and St. Anne’s Church. We read from John 5 about the healing of the paralytic here. We also enjoyed singing in this Crusader church. We sounded heavenly with the 8 second echo. Walking the Via Dolorosa (the way of the cross), we entered the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is one of two locations for the death and burial/resurrection of Jesus. We ate lunch in the Christian Quarter (pizza!)

Israel Museum

1:50 scale model of Jerusalem

The 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem

Walking out of the Jaffa Gate, we drove to the Israel Museum. Here we saw three things: 1). 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem as it looked like in 70 AD prior to its destruction. It was helpful to “connect the dots” between the ministry of Jesus and the different locations around the city where Jesus served. 2). The Shrine of the Book. Here we saw a few samples of the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumran. 3). The highlights in the archaeological wing of the museum. We saw many special artifacts connecting us to the Bible (e.g. the Dan & Pilate Inscriptions, Herod’s coffin, ossuaries, the Moses’ Seat, etc…)

Bethlehem – Shepherds’ Fields & Olive Wood Store

Pilate inscription

The Pilate Inscription

Our last two stops of the day were south of Jerusalem. First, we walked into a cave at the Shepherds’ Fields. Located actually in Beit Sahour, we enjoyed a time of considering the role of the shepherds in the birth narrative of Jesus. We read from Luke 2 and considered that it was “just at the right time that God sent His Son (Gal. 4:4).” We also sang a few carols both in the cave as well as in the Shepherds’ Chapel. We ended the day by stopping briefly at an olive wood store in Bethlehem.

Driving back to the hotel, we enjoyed dinner together, followed by an optional walk to Ben Yehuda street for some coffee shops and shopping.

DAY 8 – FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16: SOUTHERN WALL EXCAVATIONS, CITY OF DAVID, HEZEKIAH’S TUNNEL, JEWISH QUARTER, A FEW FREE HOURS, GARDEN TOMB

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Day 11 Trip Summary – January 2018 14 Day Israel Tour

DAY 11 –WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 24: JERUSALEM, HERODIUM, BETHLEHEM

Today was our first full day here in Jerusalem! It would be a colder day, with highs in the upper 40s/low 50s, but we didn’t get the rain that was forecasted. What a blessing!

Mt. of Olives

Mt. of Olives

Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives

Leaving the hotel at about 7:30, we read from Psalm 122 and 125. Driving around the northern side of the Old City, we made it to the top of the Mt. of OlivesWhat a view of the Temple Mount and Old City from here! Walking down the slope of the Mt. of Olives, we stopped briefly at Dominos Flavet, a chapel traditionally connected to Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. We read from Luke 19 and Zechariah 14.

Garden of Gethsemane

Walking all the way down the Mt. of Olives brought us to an area known as the Garden of Gethsemane. While we can’t specifically pinpoint where this was other than on the western slope of the mountain, this is where Jesus displayed His passion (“Not my will but yours be done“) and was betrayed by Judas. We read from Luke 22 and considered the passion and obedience of Christ even unto death.

Old City – Eastern Gate, Pools of Bethesda, Holy Sepulcher Church

Eastern Gate Jerusalem

Eastern Gate Jerusalem

Next, we walked to the base of the Eastern Gate. It is a massive gate that was closed in 810 AD. Ezekiel 44 mentions that when the Messiah comes, it will be opened. From here we entered the Old City through the St. Stephen’s (or Lion’s) Gate. Our first stop inside the Old City was the Pools of Bethesda. We read from John 5 here. Close by is the start of the Via Dolorosa. We walked to the Church of the Holy SepulcherThis is one of two locations for the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. We had lunch here in the Christian Quarter.

Herodium

Walking out of the Old City through the Jaffa Gate, we drove southeast about 12 miles to HerodiumThis was where Herod the Great was buried (he reigned from 37-4 BC). We climbed this “artificial mound” to the top. While the view wasn’t great to the east, we could see back to Jerusalem from here to the north, the Judean Desert to the east, Tekoa to the south, and Bethlehem to the west. We walked down through the elaborate cistern system here.

Shepherds’ Fields / Bethlehem

Herodium

Herodium – a palace-fortress of Herod the Great

Driving to the Shepherds’ Fields (in Beit Sahour), we enjoyed descending down into a cave. Here we considered Jesus being born perhaps in a cave like this. We read from Micah 2, 5, and Luke 2. We also sang a few Christmas carols. Before leaving the site, we entered the small chapel and enjoyed the acoustics there too! We sounded like heavenly angels! We ended the day by driving into Bethlehem to an olive wood shop and store.

We returned to the hotel for dinner and a free night.

DAY 12 – THURSDAY, JANUARY 25: OLD CITY, WESTERN WALL TUNNEL, ISRAEL MUSEUM, YAD VASHEM

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

DAY 14: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 11:

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

Jerusalem

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!

DAY 15: SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 12: ARRIVE IN U.S.A.

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

DAY 13: FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 10:

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

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!

DAY 14: SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 11: MT. OF OLIVES, GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE, POOLS OF BETHESDA, VIA DOLOROSA, A FEW FREE HOURS, GARDEN TOMB

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September 2017 Israel Tour – Day 7

DAY 7 – SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 9:

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!

DAY 8 – SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 10: CITY OF DAVID, HEZEKIAH’S TUNNEL, SILOAM POOL, DRAINAGE TUNNEL, SOUTHERN STEPS, HERODIUM, BETHLEHEM

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June 2017 Israel Tour – Day 10 Summary

DAY 10 – WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21:

Jerusalem

Overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem

Today was our first full day in Jerusalem. The weather was sunny but with much cooler temps, with highs around 80. Leaving our hotel around 7:30 again, we drove to the Mt. of Olives. We drove around the western and northern parts of the Old City, and across the Kidron Valley to Gert there. The view from the top was spectacular, providing us a panoramic view of the City of David (to the south), the Old City, and the Temple Mount. Walking down to Palm Sunday path to Dominus Flevit (“the Lord weeps”), we read from Luke 19 and Zechariah 14 about Jesus’ kingship and 2nd Coming. Further down the slope we enjoyed a reflective time in the Garden of Gethsemane in a private garden. We read from Luke 22 and considered the passion of Jesus. Brother Diego warmly greeted us.

Walking into the Old City through the Lion’s Gate (also called St. Stephen’s and Jericho Gate), we visited the Pool of Bethesda (John 5). On the same grounds is St. Anne’s Church. We enjoyed singing in this Crusader church that has an eight second echo. We sounded like a grand choir!

Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane

Walking through the Old City we arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is the traditional location for both the crucifixion and burial of Christ. Going inside we saw a classic “2nd Temple” (New Testament era) niche tomb.

After lunch in the Christian Quarter, we walked out of the Old City through Jaffa Gate where our bus picked us up. We drove about 8 miles southeast to Herodium. This was another of Herod the Great’s “palace-fortresses.” This was also where Herod was buried. We climbed this “artificial” mound and saw the ruins. The view in all directions was very good as well. We could even see the Dead Sea from here. Descending through the cistern system, we saw some frescos as well as the place of Herod’s grave.

Herodium

Herodium

Close by are the Shepherds’ Fields. Descending into a cave, we considered God’s redemptive plan in that “just at the right time God sent His Son (Galatians 4:4).” We sang some Christmas carols both in the cave as well as in the small chapel. The gals who sang sounded angelic!

We ended the day by visiting an olive wood factory and store owned by Arab Christians. Bethlehem is known for the production of olive wood products.

We drove back to our hotel for dinner. An optional walk to Ben Yehuda for a taste of more modern Israeli life followed.

DAY 11 – THURSDAY, JUNE 22: OLD CITY, WESTERN WALL TUNNEL, ISRAEL MUSEUM, YAD VASHEM

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April-May 2017 Israel-Egypt Tour Update: Day 9

DAY 9 – TUESDAY, MAY 2:

Today we left around 7:30 a.m. once again after another great breakfast. The day would be gorgeous, with lots of sun, a few clouds, and temps around 80 again.

Mt. of Olives

Standing on the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem

Leaving the hotel, we read from Psalm 125 (“As the mountains surround Jerusalem”), we drove around part of the Old City to the top of the Mt. of Olives. Here we enjoyed a breath-taking view of the Temple Mount and Old City below. This included being able to see the City of David (OT Jerusalem), Mt. Zion, and Mt. Moriah (both Solomon built the 1st Temple, 2 Chronicles 3). Today the Dome of the Rock (691-2 AD) stands on the Temple Mount. We read from Luke 19 (about Jesus’ Palm Sunday entrance and His weeping over Jerusalem), and Zechariah 14 (about His 2nd coming).

Walking further down the Mt. of Olives, we had special entrance into a private area of the Garden of Gethsemane. Here we read from Luke 22 and spent time in quiet reflection as we considered the passion of Jesus. Father Diego greeted us and shared some thoughtful words with us.

Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane

Walking into the Old City through the St. Stephen’s Gate (also called the Lions and Jericho Gate), we visited the Pool of Bethesda. We read from John 5. On the same grounds is St. Anne’s Church. We enjoyed singing in this Crusader Church. The acoustics in the church were fantastic!

Walking along the Via Dolorosa, we arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It was built in 325 AD. We took a quick peak inside before lunch in the Christian Quarter.

Edicule

The Edicule inside the Holy Sepulcher Church in Jerusalem

Walking out of the Jaffa Gate we met our bus and drove to Herodium. Located only a few miles east of Bethlehem, this was one of Herod’s palace-fortresses.” We climbed this “artificial” mountain and saw a great view of Jerusalem to the north, Bethlehem to the west, Tekoa to the south, and the Judean Desert to the east.

From here we drove to the Shepherds’ Fields. Entering a cave, we celebrated the role of the shepherds and the humble birth of Jesus. We considered the words of Paul, “For just at the right time, God sent His Son…” (Galatians 4:4). We also enjoyed singing a few carols, both in the cave and in the Shepherds’ Chapel. A Polish and Argentina group joined us in the singing of Silent Night.

Western Wall

The Western Wall at night!

We ended the day in Bethlehem. We visited an olive wood shop and store owned by Palestinian Christians living here. Here we also celebrated David’s (our bus driver) birthday with a cake and candle.

We drove back to the hotel for dinner, followed by an optional walk to the Western Wall.

DAY 10 – WEDNESDAY, MAY 3: CITY OF DAVID, HEZEKIAH’S TUNNEL, SOUTHERN WALL EXCAVATIONS, FREE AFTERNOON, GARDEN TOMB

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Gethsemane – A Challenge of the Will

Garden of Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane on the Mt. of Olive

The Garden of Gethsemane was located on the western slope of the Mt. of Olives. This mountain range rises east of Jerusalem and the Temple. On the “back side” (eastern) of the Mt. of Olives are the biblical towns of Bethany (where Jesus stayed during His Passion Week) and Bethpage. It was just a few days prior to Jesus’ Gethsemane experience that a donkey was secured from this town. Jesus was placed on this donkey in fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9 and was heralded as King while he rode down the Mt. of Olives.

But it was immediately following the Last Supper (probably observing the Passover meal with His disciples in the upper part of the city of Jerusalem) that Jesus and His disciples walked across the Kidron Valley to Gethsemane. What a stark contrast to the Palm Sunday event. The word is actually a transliteration of Gat-Shemanim, an Aramaic term which means “oil press.” It was here where Jesus’ spirit is crushed beneath the weight of being betrayed by one of His disciples. Furthermore, Jesus knew what the next day would bring him… ridicule, torture, crucifixion, and ultimately death on a cross.

Olive press

Olive oil press at Shiloh

In ancient times, September through November was the time for harvesting olives. Near any ancient olive orchard was an olive press. The oil was extracted in several basic steps. This is how it has been described:

  • The farmer would grab the branches of the olive tree, and tap the branches with a stick. They would then pick up the fallen olives. Each olive is filled with oil.
  • Next, the pits are removed and the olives are gently placed in a large basin, and the pressing begins by rolling the large millstone. A large wooden stick is placed through the center of the stone to help roll over the olives. The oil would flow into a container and the crushed pulp int a basket. The first pressing was the purest oil and was used mainly for lamps, cosmetics, and holy anointing.
  • A second pressing was for the crushed pulp. The baskets themselves would be rolled (see Bible History On-line).
Olive press

Olive oil press at Shiloh

Let us take this image of the crushing of the olives and apply it to Jesus. It is within this context that we hear a remarkable statement by Jesus in the narrative of the Gethsemane event. It was here where, even in the midst of being betrayed and knowing that His death was nearing, Jesus says – “Not my will but Yours be done…!”  Gethsemane was all about the challenge of the will. And Jesus displayed a will that was both obedient and committed to the will of His Father. Jesus, the pure Son of God, was willing to pour out His life and die for the sins of the world!

Like an olive, Jesus was crushed for our iniquity. He was pierced for our transgressions (see Isaiah 53). He was betrayed, stricken, and afflicted. Yet from the Garden of Gethsemane to the hill called Calvary, Jesus exhibited a will committed to the very purpose of His coming. He came to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world…(John 1:29).”

At Gethsemane, Jesus was faced with a challenge of the will. While crushed in anguish and sorrow, His will was to do the will of His Father, even if that meant death on a cross.

garden of gethsemaneThe words of the hymn, Hallelujah, What a Savior, capture the essence of Gethsemane and the Passion of Christ and the committed will of our Savior!

“Man of Sorrows!” what a name
For the Son of God, who came
Ruined sinners to reclaim.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Guilty, vile, and helpless we;
Spotless Lamb of God was He;
“Full atonement!” can it be?
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

Lifted up was He to die;
“It is finished!” was His cry;
Now in Heav’n exalted high.
Hallelujah! What a Savior!

When He comes, our glorious King,
All His ransomed home to bring,
Then anew His song we’ll sing:
Hallelujah! What a Savior!   (Philip Bliss, 1875)

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