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


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.


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.


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.


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