September 2017 Israel Tour – Day 5

DAY 5 – THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 7:

Sea of Galilee - Kinneret

The Sea of Galilee from the top of Mt. Arbel

Today was a great day of focusing upon the life and ministry of Jesus around the Sea of Galilee. The day would be another sunny day, with highs around 90. Leaving shortly after 7:30 and reading the kingdom parable from Matthew 13 on the way, we drove to the trailhead that leads to the top of Mt. Arbel. 15 in the group hiked to the top (about a 800 foot climb), while the rest of the group bused around to the western side and walked up a more gentle path to the top from there. The view of this NW corner of the lake below was wonderful!

From here we drove to the southern end of the lake to the place called Yardenit. It was here where 20 reaffirmed their commitment to be followers of Christ in the waters of the Jordan River. It was a special time for all.

Baptism at Yardenit

Baptism in the Jordan River

We returned to the NW corner of the lake and visited Magdala. This was the home of Mary Magdalene. We walked around the 1st century synagogue discovered just a few years ago. No doubt Jesus would have taught from this modest synagogue. We also enjoy a time of devotion and singing in the newly-built chapel.

After lunch, we visited Chorazim. The ruins at this site date to the 3rd century AD. Standing in the synagogue here, we read from Matthew 23 where it mentions the Moses Seat. One was found here. Chorazim (like Bethsaida and Capernaum) was condemned by Jesus (Mt. 11).

Chorazim synagogue

Synagogue at Chorazim

Driving back to our hotel, we visited the museum that houses the famous 1st century wooden boat discovered here in 1986. It was probably a boat like this that the fishermen used in Jesus’ day. Taking our own boat ride from here, we “sailed” for 45 minutes or so along the coastline. We enjoyed a time of worship together. Reading from Mark 4 and Mathew 14 (the two storm narratives), we paused to consider that when we encounter the unexpected “storms of life,” Jesus cares for us!

We ended the day on the Mt. Of Beatitudes. Reading from Matthew 5 (in Hebrew and in English), we considered the kingdom principles that Jesus shared here. Most in the group walked down the path that leads to the shoreline of the lake. We walked in silence, reflecting upon the words Jesus shared in this area.

The view of the Sea of Galilee from the Mt. of Beatitudes

We returned back to our hotel for dinner and a free evening. Some went swimming in the lake and the pool. It was another great day here in Israel!

DAY 6 – FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 8: CAPERNAUM, BETH SHEAN, JERICHO, DEAD SEA, JUDEAN WILDERNESS

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September 2017 Israel Tour – Day 4

DAY 4 – WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 6:

El Araj

The recent excavation at El Araj – possible “Bethsaida” of the Bible.

We began our day with a great breakfast before leaving the hotel at 7:45. We read from Matthew 4 about Jesus calling His disciples on the shoreline as we drove to the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee. Our first stop was to El Araj, a brand new excavation! We took a small dirt road to get there. It is very possible that this site was ancient Bethsaida, the home of Peter, Andrew, and Phillip. Although the ruins were limited, it was thrilling to be here! We read from Mark 8 (blind man) and John 6 (Feeding of the 5,000), with both events taking place here.

Ascending to the Golan Heights, we visited Gamla next. This was a 1st century Jewish city that revolted against the Romans. In 66 AD the city was destroyed. A 1st century synagogue is located here. Jesus perhaps taught here.

Close by was Katzrin, a Talmudic village (3rd – 7th century AD). We crowded into the reconstructed house of Rabbi Abun. Here we read from Mark 2 about Jesus physically restoring the lame man and spiritually forgiving his sins. We also walked through the synagogue here.

Katzrin Rabbi Abun

Reconstructed Talmudic stone house of Rabbi Abun at Katzrin

With David providing bananas, apples, and snacks for us for lunch, we continued our way to the Syrian border. Here, Shlomo shared some “modern history” about the 1967 and 1973 wars with Syria. It was remarkable to learn that Israel continues of provide health services to 1000s of displaced Syrians from the war.

Traveling through a few Druze villages, we arrived at the base of Israel’s ski resort at Mt. Hermon. We took the chair lift to the top of this mountain (the mountain is shared by three country: Syria – peak of 9,200 feet, Israel – peak of 7,300, and Lebanon – peak of less then 7,000 feet). The view on top was excellent. We read from Psalm 133 about the “dew from Mt Hermon…”. Seven in the group took the very difficult hiking trail down, while the rest descended by the chair lift.

Mt. Hermon

View from the top of Mt. Hermon

Driving off the Golan Heights, our next stop was Caesarea Philippi. We read from Matthew 16 and heard the question Jesus asked His disciples – “Who do you say I am?” Here in the region of this pagan city, Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” We saw the grotto (cultic) area of the city, where the Temple of Augustus was as well as other pagan shrines.

Our last stop of the day was at the nature preserve and archaeological site of Tel Dan. We walked along the Dan spring under the shade of the Eucalyptus and fig trees. We stopped to listen to Shlomo share a song on his recorder. We also read (and sang) Psalm 42. We continued to the high place of Dan, established by Jeroboam (1 Kings 12). He continued a pattern of disobedience from the time of the Judges (Judges 18) when the Danites re-located here. We also saw a Middle Bronze-Canaanite gate that dates close to the time of Abraham (Gen 14:14).

Mudbrick gate

The Canaanite mud brick gate at Tel Dan

Driving back to our hotel through the Huleh Valley and past Hazor (Joshua 11), we enjoyed dinner together as well as a gathering down on the shoreline. Under a brilliant full moon, we shared and reflected. About eight in the group went swimming under the moonlight afterwards.

DAY 5 – THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 7: ARBEL, MAGDALA, CHORAZIM, CAPERNAUM, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE, YARDENIT, MT. OF BEATITUDES

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September 2017 Israel Tour – Day 3

DAY 3 – TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 5:

Caesarea theater

Caesarea Theater

Today was our first full day here in Israel and it was a good one! With sunny skies greeting us, with eventual highs in the high 80s, we loaded our bus after breakfast and drove to Caesarea. Located in the Shalom Plain, this was a city built by Herod the Great in 22 BC. Walking from one end of the city to the other, we saw the theater, the palace, the hippodrome, the Crusader part of the city, the harbor (used by Paul), and the aqueduct that brought fresh water into the city from the Carmel Range. We read from Acts 10 (Peter and Cornelius), Acts 12 (Agrippa), and Acts 26 (Paul).

Driving to our region, the Carmel Range, we ascended the highest peak called Muhraqa (“burnt offering”) today. Here we heard the story (1 Kings 18) about Elijah and the prophets of Baal and Asherah. We also remembered other passages that connect us to this region (2 Kings 4, Song of Songs 7, Isaiah 35, and Amos 1). After entering the small chapel to sing a few songs, we went to the rooftop for our first view of there Jezreel Valley. From here we enjoyed lunch nearby.

Jezreel Valley

Jezreel Valley from Mt. Carmel

Following lunch, we descended down to the valley and to the ancient site of Megiddo. This is a large archaeological site with over 2 dozen levels of ruins spanning a time period of about 2,500 years. After seeing a model of the site, we climbed the tel (ancient mound). We saw two difference Canaanite gates, a Solomonic gate, stables, and a granary/grain silo). We stopped to look across the valley where we could see Mt. Gilboa (1 Sam. 31), the Hill or More (Judges 6-7), Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5), and the Nazareth Ridge. We also celebrated Christ’s victorious return and the end-time battle where God has the final word (Rev. 16 and the Valley of Armageddon). We left the site by descending down 180 steps through the water system.

Megiddo

Megiddo water system

Driving across the Jezreel Valley we came to Sepporis. Even though this city (located only 4-5 miles from Nazareth) is not mentioned directly in the Bible, it was the most prominent site at the time of Jesus. Here we saw lots of Roman ruins including many mosaics. The most famous being the Mona Lisa of the Galilee mosaic.

We ended the day by ascending to the precipice of Nazareth. Here we saw the Jezreel Valley from yet a different perspective. We read from Luke 4 (Jesus in the synagogue) and John 1. It was Phillip who invited us to “come and see” Jesus! We enjoyed a quiet reflection time before getting back on the bus and driving through Cana (John 2) to our hotel located on the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee north of Tiberias.

Jezreel Valley

The September 2017 group on the Precipice of Nazareth, with the Jezreel Valley in the background.

As we arrived at Nof Ginnosar our “kibbutz-hotel” for the next three nights, the full moon over the Sea of Galilee was spectacular! We enjoyed dinner together and a free evening.

DAY 4 – WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 6: GAMLA, QATZRIN, MT. HERMON SKI LIFT, CAESAREA PHILIPPI, DAN, ABEL BEIT MAACAH

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June 2017 Israel Tour – Day 8 Summary

DAY 8 – MONDAY, JUNE 19:

Sea of Galilee from Arbel

The Sea of Galilee from the top of Mt Arbel

Today we started out at about 7:30 once again. The sunny temps rose to the high 90s today, but the breeze and shade helped at most sites. Our first site as Mt. Arbel. Ten in the group choose to hike this 800 foot mountain while others bussed around to the other side and ascended to the top on a shorter trail. The view from the top of the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee below was amazing! No doubt Jesus traveled through the Valley of the Doves from the Lower Galilee to Capernaum, going past this mountain many times. While we can’t be sure, Jesus perhaps climbed this mountain from time to time also.

Driving to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee, 17 in the group were baptized in the Jordan River at a place called Yardenit. It was a special time of renewing our commitment to follow Jesus. One in the group (Chase, a 15 year old young man) proclaimed his faith and was baptized for the first time!

Jordan River baptism

Our baptism group in the Jordan River

Returning to the NW corner of the lake, Magdala was our next stop. Here we saw a 1st century synagogue recently excavated. Once again, we could picture Jesus teaching in this modest structure. Mary “Magdalene” was from here. Following the Feeding of the 4,000, Jesus and His disciples sailed into the port here. Before leaving the site, we enjoyed some music and singing in the newly-built chapel. The wall mosaics here are beautiful!

Following lunch, we visited Chorazim and Capernaum, two of the three cities condemned by Jesus (Matthew 11). At Chorazim we read from Matthew 23 in the 3rd century synagogue and saw a replica of the Moses Seat here. At Capernaum (Jesus’ “home-base” for his Galilean ministry), we read various Gospel stories about what happened here (Mark 1, 2 and 9; Luke 7; John 6). This was also most likely where Jesus called His first disciples (Matthew 4). It was special to spend some time on the shore’s edge thinking of this calling.

Sea of Galilee

The Sea of Galilee from the Mt. of Beatitudes

At Nof Ginnosar, we saw a 1st century wooden boat excavated from the shoreline in 1986. It is called today the Jesus BoatIt was amazing to see it so well preserved! It was from here where we boarded our own boat for a short ride out on the lake. We enjoyed a time of worship as well as reflection, reading Mark 4 and Matthew 14. These two storm narratives reminded us that Jesus calms even our fears and helps us when the “waves and the wind” blow against us!

Fox in Israel

A fox near the Sea of Galilee

We ended the day on the Mt. of Beatitudes. Shlomo read the first part of Matthew 5 in Hebrew for us. Overlooking the lake below, it was inspiring to consider these “kingdom principles.” Following a quiet time of reflection, most in the group walked down the path to the water’s edge.

We returned to our hotel for dinner and free evening. It was a great day here and around the Sea of Galilee!

DAY 9 – TUESDAY, JUNE 20: BETH SHEAN, MT. GERIZIM, SHILOH, WILDERNESS OF JUDAH, JERUSALEM

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June 2017 Israel Tour – Day 7 Summary

DAY 7 – SUNDAY, JUNE 18:

Gamla

Gamla – the “Masada of the north”

Today we headed north to the Golan Heights. We would once again have sunny skies, with temps a bit cooler (highs around 90). Driving around the the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee, we first stopped to overview Bethsaida. This was the home town of Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John 1). We read from Mark 8 (blind man healed) and John 6 (Feed of the 5,000) the took place in this area.

Driving to the plateau of the Golan Heights, Gamla was our second stop. It is located 6 miles east of the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee. This was a Jewish city in the time of Jesus, and the first city to revolt against the Romans in 66 AD. Although the road down to the 1st century synagogue was closed, the view of this “camel-shaped” city was great from above. Even though not mentioned in the Bible, we read from Acts 5 that mentions a certain “Judas the Galilean” who some think may have been from here.

Qatzrin

Qatzrin – Reconstructed house of Rabbi Abun

Continuing north, The Talmudic village of Katzrin was our next stop. Here we were introduced to the Hebraic background of Jesus. Sitting in a reconstructed stone house similar to one during the time of Jesus, we read from Mark 2 (that actually took place in Capernaum) about the lame man being lowered through the roof. We could see the story taking place in front of us! We also saw a synagogue dating to the same time period (4th-7th century AD).

Close by we drove to the border with Syria and looked into this war-torn country. Quneitra is the city we could see directly across the border. Shlomo shared with us some history of the 1967 and 1973 wars with these northern enemies of Israel. Today, Israel medically treats many wounded Syrians.

Mt.. Hermon

View from top of Mt. Hermon

Eating lunch on the go today (apples, bananas, and snacks), we next drove through the dew Druze villages to Mt. Hermon. This is the highest mountain in Israel (7,300 feet!). Taking the ski chair-life up to the top, the view of the region from here was spectacular. Five couples renewed their wedding vows here as well. It was special for all. Most took the ski life back down although a few in the group joined Pastor John in waking down the steep trail back to the bus. We read from Psalm 133 that mentions this mountain.

Descending down off the Golan Heights, Caesarea Philippi was our next site. It was “in the region” (Matthew 16) of this pagan city where Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” We walked to the grotto area of this ancient cultic center. Also here was one of the three tributaries (called the Banias) of the Jordan River.

Lebanon

Looking into Lebanon from Kibbutz Misgav Am in northern Israel

Our last site we visited was Dan. This is actually both a nature preserve as well as an archaeological site. The walk along the Dan (the largest of the tributaries) was beautiful. On the walk we stopped for a brief time of song and devotional (Psalm 42). We also considered the stories of Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12 while sitting on the steps of the high place of the archaeological site of Dan. It was Jeroboam who established false worship here. Upon leaving the site, we saw the Middle Canaanite mud-brick gate that perhaps was used by Abraham (Genesis 14) as well as the Israelite gate complex from the 9th century BC.

On our way back to the hotel, we ascended to Misgav Am located on the Hills of Naphtali. The view into Lebanon, Mt. Hermon, and the Huleh Valley below was incredible. We read from 2 Samuel 20 (about Sheba and Joab at Abel Beat Macaah) and heard Shlomo share some modern history about Lebanon.

Driving back to our hotel, we enjoyed dinner and an optional gathering down at the shoreline of the lake together. It was another great day here in Israel!

DAY 8 – MONDAY, JUNE 19: ARBEL, MAGDALA, CHORAZIM, CAPERNAUM, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE, YARDENIT

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June 2017 Israel Tour – Day 6 Summary

DAY 6 – SATURDAY, JUNE 17:

Caesarea Theater

The theater at Caesarea

Today was another sunny day, with temps around 90. The breeze all day long made it comfortable. Checking out of the hotel, we drove north to Caesarea. Located in the Sharon Plain on the shoreline of the Med Sea, this city was developed by Herod the Great in 22 BC. The city served as the major harbor in the area. Sitting in the theater, we considered the bold witness of both Peter (Acts 10) and Paul here (Acts 26). Other people from the Bible (e.g. Phillip who lived here 20 years, see Acts 22; and Barnabas and Titus (who must have also passed through this city, see Galatians 2) were connected to this city as well. Herod’s grandson also died here (Acts 12). In addition to the theater, we saw the palace (where Paul was most likely tried), the hippodrome (for horse races), the Crusader part of the city, a few marble statutes, and the area of the harbor.

Driving inland, we ascended to the peak of Mt. Carmel. This is actually a 13 mile mountain range. In a small chapel called Muhraqa, we read from 1 Kings 18 about the story of Elijah vs. the prophets of Baal. In an awesome way, God revealed Himself that day! We also considered other passages that mention this area (Song of Songs 7, 2 Kings 4, Isaiah 33 & 35, and Jeremiah 50). From the rooftop, the view was wonderful. We looked down into the Jezreel Valley. We could see the Nazareth Ridge, Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5), the Hill of Moreh (Judges 6-7), and Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 31).

Megiddo

The Megiddo Water System

Following lunch (at a place owned by Druze), we drove down into the Jezreel Valley to Megiddo. Archaeologically, this ancient city has more than two dozen levels of occupation spanning about 3,000 years. Megiddo was a strategically-located city guarding the main entrance into the valley. Climbing the site we saw three different ancient gates, a stable, an altar, and a grain silo. From here we also could see Nazareth, Mt. Tabor, the Hill of Moreh, and Mt. Gilboa. We remembered Revelation 16 (“Armageddon”) and rejoiced that in the final day when Christ returns, God will have the final word!

Driving across the Jezreel Valley, we arrived at Sepporis. This was the main Jewish city in the days of Jesus in the Lower Galilee. We saw many mosaics, including the famous Mona Lisa of the Galilee.

Precipice of Nazareth

The precipice of Nazareth

We ended the day at the Precipice of Nazareth. Located overlooking the Jezreel Valley, this was the “backyard” of Jesus when growing up. We read from Luke 4 and John 1 about Jesus’ ministry and were invited to “come and see” Jesus anew!

From here we drove through Cana (John 2) to our hotel located on the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee. We enjoyed dinner together. Some walked down the water’s edge before retiring for the evening. We will spend three nights here at Nom Ginnosar!

DAY 7 – SUNDAY, JUNE 18: GOLAN HEIGHTS, GAMLA, QATZRIN, MT. HERMON SKI LIFT, CAESAREA PHILIPPI, DAN, ABEL BEIT MAACAH

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April-May 2017 Israel-Egypt Tour Update: Day 6

DAY 6 – SATURDAY, APRIL 29:

Today we checked out of our hotel and left the Sea of Galilee region. The sun was once again bright, with afternoon temps still comfortable although reaching the 90s.

Beth Shean

The Roman city of Beth Shean (located along the Jordan River Valley)

After breakfast and loading the bus, we drove south to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. We made a brief stop at the Kinneret Cemetery. Many Jewish pioneers are buried here, including the famous “Rachel” (Rachel Bluwstein). She was a Ukranian Jew who died in 1931 at the age of 40. Her poems are still read today! She will soon appear on the 20 shekel bill.

Driving south about 20 miles through the Jordan River Valley, we arrived at the huge archaeological site of Beth Shean. This was not only an Old Testament site but also a massive Roman city. It was the only Decapolis city on the west side of the Jordan. We spent about 1.5 hours here, seeing many ruins. This included the Roman bathhouse, agora, street, many pillars, a shrine, public latrines, and the theater. Some in the group climb to the top of the OT tel, providing a great view of the region as well as the Roman city below. We read from 1 Samuel 31 (death of Saul, with his body being hung on the walls of this city), and 1 Corinthians 15 (“standing firm” on the foundation of Christ).

Retaining walls of Jericho

The retaining walls of Jericho

Close by was the 6th century AD synagogue of Beit Alpha. Here the impressive mosaic floor of this synagogue is preserved. The fictional story about the making of the mosaic was entertaining.

From here we drove on a road leading us through the Samaritan Hill Country. We saw many shepherds along the way of this barren landscape. We drove nearby Shechem /Sychar (Deut. 34, Joshua 24, John 4), Shiloh (1 Samuel 3-4, Jer. 7), Bethel (Genesis 15, 28), and Ai (Joshua 7-8). Driving towards the Judean Desert we past by Michmash (1 Samuel 13-14). On the way to the specific desert of Pareth (Jeremiah 13), we saw a number of gazelles.

Dead Sea

Reflections upon the Dead Sea

Meeting up with the main east-west road leading to Jerusalem, we descended east and arrived at Jericho. Following lunch we climbed the ancient tel of OT Jericho. We first looked east across the Jordan River towards Mt. Nebo (Deut. 34). Elijah & Elisha also had their ministry in this area. It was also in the Jordan River here (John 1) where Jesus was baptized by John. NT Jericho was about 1.5 miles to the south (where we remembered guys like Zacheaus, Bartimeaus. Looking west we remembered Jesus’ temptation. But besides seeing the oldest standing structure in Israel (the round tower), we walked to the south end of the tel where the two stone retaining walls can still be seen. These walls date to the time of Joshua. It was the mud-brick wall on top of these stone walls that came “tumblin’ down.” Yes, the Bible is historically accurate in every respect!

Floating in the Dead Sea

Floating in the Dead Sea

Driving south along the western shoreline of the Dead Sea, the reflection of the afternoon sun against the slopes of Moab on the Jordanian side as brilliant. Arriving at our hotel in Ein Bokek, we also enjoyed floating in the Dead Sea (33% minerals & salt) as well as dinner.

DAY 7 – SUNDAY, APRIL 30: MASADA, EIN GEDI, QUMRAN, WILDERNESS OF JUDAH, JERUSALEM, MEMORIAL DAY SERVICE

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April-May 2017 Israel-Egypt Tour Update: Day 5

DAY 5 – FRIDAY, APRIL 28:

Today was a day of focusing on Jesus. Spending the day around the Sea of Galilee, we visited many sites and locations, all connected with Jesus and His ministry. Beginning with a wonderful sunrise, today was another sunny one, with comfortable temps in the high 80s, with a nice wind.

Sea of Galilee sunrise

Sunrise on the Sea of Galilee

Leaving the hotel at about 7:40 and reading Matthew 13, we drove to the trailhead that leads to the top of Mt. Arbel. Nine in the group choose to climb this 800 foot-high mountain that overlooks the NE corner of the lake. The others in the group bussed around through Tiberias and up the western side. Meeting at the top, we had a marvelous view of this region where Jesus served.

From here we drove to the southern end of the lake for an optional baptism service in the Jordan River. At this place called Yardenit, it was a special time for the group, with 12 reaffirming their faith in Christ and with being baptized for the first time! We even had the entire place to ourselves!

Baptism in Jordan

Baptism in the Jordan River (Yardenit)

Driving back north, we visited Magdala. Here we visited the 1st century ruins of this city where “Mary Magdalene” as from. This included seeing a 1st century synagogue uncovered just a few years ago. We also enjoyed a time of singing in the new devotional chapel built on the grounds.

After lunch (St. Peter’s fish!), we drove to Chorazim. Here among the basaltic-stone ruins we visited the 3rd century synagogue. We saw the replica of the Moses Seat. We read from Matthew 23.

Close by but down on the shoreline is Capernaum. This was the “home-base” for Jesus’ ministry in the Galilee. It was where Jesus called some of His disciples. Sitting in the 5th century synagogue we read from Mark 1, 2, & 9; Luke 7; and John 6, all stories about Jesus’ ministry here. Down on the water’s edge we enjoyed a time of reflection.

Sea of Galilee

Boat ride on Sea of Galilee

Nof Ginnosar (where our hotel is) was our next stop. Here we first visited the ancient boat (“Jesus Boat”) found here in 1986 by two brothers from the kibbutz. It dates to the time of Jesus! We could picture this being the type of boat used by Jesus and His disciples. Then we enjoyed out our boat ride out on the lake. We read from Mark 4 and Matthew 14 (the two “storm narratives”… the wind was strong across the lake, adding to the “effect” of the stories) and enjoyed a time of worship and quiet reflection.

We ended the day by sitting on the Mt. of Beatitudes and listening to the words of Matthew 5 in both Hebrew and English. This was where Jesus delivered His Sermon on the Mount. We reflected upon His kingdom principles as we walked down to the water’s edge in solitude. The scenery of the lake and mountains across the lake was spectacular!

Mt. of Beatitudes

Mt. of Beatitudes overlooking the Sea of Galilee

Driving back to our hotel, we enjoyed dinner and a free evening. What a fantastic day of focusing upon Jesus our Savior!

DAY 6 – SATURDAY, APRIL 29: KINNERET CEMETERY, BEIT SHEAN, BEIT APLHA, SHILOH, JERICHO, DEAD SEA

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April-May 2017 Israel-Egypt Tour Update: Day 4

DAY 4 – THURSDAY, APRIL 27:

Today we traveled north and east to the Golan Heights. It was another sunny day, with temps in the upper 80s to low 90s.

Gamla

Gamla in the Golan Heights

Departing after breakfast again at 7:30, we drove to the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee where we made our first stop overlooking the Plains of Bethsaida. We read from Mark 9 (blind man healed) and John 6 (Feeding of the 5,000). Peter, Andrew, and Philip were from Bethsaida.

Climbing a bit more to the plateau of the Golan, Gamla was our next stop. Although not mentioned directly in the Gospels, no doubt Jesus was here, teaching in the 1st century synagogue here. Gamla was mentioned by Josephus as a Jewish city attacked by the Romans in 66 AD. The only indirect reference to Gamla may come in Acts 5 (which mentions a certain “Judas the Galilean” who may have been from here). From the panoramic view on top, we could look down and see the synagogue as well as the city’s fortifications. The Griffon Vulture also is protected here. We saw a few flying around.

Katzrin

A reconstructed house at Katzrin (Qatzrin)

Next, we drove to the primary city in the Golan, Katzrin (Qatzrin). Here we visited a Talmudic Village (3rd-7th century AD). Here we were introduced to the Hebraic background of Jesus’ ministry. We sat in the reconstructed stone house of Rabbi Abun where we read from Mark 2. We could see the story unfold before our very eyes! There is also a synagogue here as well.

Driving east to the border of Syria, we looked into the city of Quneitra within this war-torn country. On the top of Bental (an old military site), Shlomo shared a little modern history, particularly about the 1967 and 1973 wars with Syria. It was amazing to be so close to Syria. We paused to pray for the victims of the war here.

Caesarea Philippi grotto

Caesarea Philippi

This afternoon we descended down from the Golan to Caesarea Philippi. This was a very pagan city in Jesus’ day. We read from Matthew 16. It was in the region of this city where Jesus asked the question, Who do you say I am?” Here we saw the grotto area where the pagan temples and niches dedicated to Pan were located. The Banias spring here is one of the three tributaries of the Jordan River.

Close by is the nature preserve and archaeological city of Dan. We enjoyed walked on the quiet pathway along the largest of the three tributaries of the Jordan here. We paused to listen to Shlomo share on his recorder. We also considered the words of Psalm 42 (“as the deer pants for water…”). It was a nice quiet time of reflection. Continuing on the path to the archaeological site of Dan, we sat on the steps of the high place of Dan. Here we read from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12 about the false worship that took place here. It was Jeroboam who set up a golden calf here (as well as in Bethel just north of Jerusalem). Upon leaving the site, we also saw a Middle Bronze/Canaanite mud-brick gate (used by Abraham, see Gen. 14:14), as well as the walls and gates of the Israelite city.

Lebanon

Looking into Lebanon from Misgav Am, Israel

On our way back to the hotel, we drove past Abel Beit Macaah where both Pastor John and Tom excavated in 2014. We read the primary story from 2 Samuel 20 about “Sheba” and the “wise woman” who lived in this city. We also ascended the hills of Naphtali to Misgav Am. Located on the border with Lebanon, we could look into southern Lebanon. We also had a wonderful panoramic view of the Huleh Valley and Mt. Hermon. Shlomo shared some more modern history about the conflicts Israel has had with this northern neighbor.

swimming

Swimming in the Sea of Galilee

Driving back to out hotel, we enjoyed dinner together (a few went swimming in the Sea of Galilee before dinner), followed by an optional devotional gathering on the water’s edge. It was a great day here in northern Israel!

DAY 5 – FRIDAY, APRIL 28: ARBEL, CAPERNAUM, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE, YARDENIT – BAPTISM IN THE JORDAN, MT. OF BEATITUDES

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Biblical Israel & Jordan Tour, March 2017 – Day 6 Summary

DAY 6 – SATURDAY, MARCH 18:

Jerash Jordan

Standing by Hadrian’s Gate at Jerash, Jordan

Today we made our northern crossing into the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Following breakfast we loaded our luggage on the bus and drove to the Sheik Border crossing. The procedures always require a “patient spirit.” However upon completing all the border formalities (and after some “challenge” to get brother Steve’s entrance approved for some unknown reason), we met our Jordanian guides (Sam and Omar ) and drivers. Leaving from here we drove about 1.5 hours to the largest of the Decopolis cities Jerash. On the way we passed Jabesh Gilead (Judges 21, 1 Samuel 31) and Pella.

Jerash theater

The theater at Jerash

Jerash is a huge Roman city. Probably 20,000 lived here in ancient times. Upon entering the site, we saw Hadrian’s Arch and the hippodrome. After eating lunch inside the site, we saw the Temple of Zeus, the agora (market area), the Cardo (main street), and the theater. Some in the group also walked to the northern side of the site to see the Temple of Artemis.

Boarding back on the bus, we drove past the Jabbok River (Genesis 32, where Jacob wrestled with God) to Mt. Nebo. Here we viewed into the Promised Land as Moses did before he died here. We read from Deuteronomy 34 and Joshua 1. We could picture Joshua leading his people across the Jordan River (on dry ground) to Jericho on the other side of the Jordan. We also visited the newly-reconstructed church here beautifully decorated with mosaics. Nearby we made a brief stop at a mosaic shop where handicapped people are trained.

Mt. Nebo

The view from Mt. Nebo

From here we drove about three hours to Petra (Wadi Musa). We checked into our hotel and enjoyed a late dinner before retiring for the night.

It was a great first day here in Jordan!

 

DAY 7 – SUNDAY, MARCH 19: PETRA, WADI RUM

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