May 2018 Extensive Israel Tour Summary – Day 12


This morning we began the day early again because of our visit to the Temple Mount. So with breakfast again at 6, we left the hotel shortly after 6:45. Today would be once again sunny but warmer, with highs in the 80s.

Temple Mount

Temple Mount

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Both the 1st and 2nd Temples stood here!

We arrived in the Old City and walked through the Dung Gate shortly after 7 a.m. Here we entered through the security area that leads up to the Temple Mount. All was quite quiet on the Temple Mount as we heard about the history of this very sensitive area today. It was here both the 1st and 2nd Temples once stood. We saw the El Asca Mosque (built in 710 AD), the Dome of the Rock (built in 691 AD), and the inside of the Eastern Gate (Ezekiel 44). We also remembered the story of John 7 involving Jesus and the Water Libation Festival.

Jewish Quarter “Herodian Mansion”

Herodian Mansion

Herodian Mansion

Leaving the Temple Mount we walked to the Jewish Quarter. Here we entered a fascinating “underground” excavation called the Herodian House. We saw massive house structures, mosaics, ritual baths, and frescos that al date to the 1st century! This was a Jewish house that was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

“Moshe” at Shorashim / Redeemer Lutheran Tower / Shopping / Lunch

Next, each group had the opportunity to enter into the Shorashim shop and listen to Moshe (an Orthodox Jew) who shared about his Jewish faith and practice. Others climbed the 180 steps of the spiral staircase leading to the top of the Redeember Lutheran Church tower. Others enjoyed a time of shopping and wondering around. We all ate lunch here in the area.

Temple Mount Sifting Project


Herodian or Roman Coin

Walking out the Zion’s Gate, we boarded our bus and drove to the Temple Mount Sifting Project. After listening to a brief lecture about the endeavor, we enjoyed “wet-sifting” through the debris brought from the Wilson’s Arch area of the Temple. Among the many pieces of pottery, bones, and mosaic stones we found, two in the group found a coin! It probably dates to the 1st-2nd century AD!

Israel Museum

Jerusalem model

1:50 scale model of Jerusalem

Our last stop of the day was the Israel Museum. Here we saw three things – a 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem looked like in 70 AD, the Shrine of the Book museum, and because to limited time, the highlights of archaeological wing of the museum. Each of these continued to help us connect the dots with the archaeological world and the Bible.

We drove back to our hotel for dinner and an optional walk to the southern Promenade of Jerusalem.  Can’t believe we just have one more full day here in Jerusalem!


(Theme of the Day: Seeking God to restore the “ruins” of our life) 

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Biblical Israel & Jordan Tour, March 2017 – Day 11 Summary


Western Wall

The Western Wall of Jerusalem

Today was our second day in Jerusalem. Once again, although it rained a little over the night, the skies were partly sunny, with highs in the 60s. Almost perfect!

We started our day a little early this morning. Leaving the hotel around 7:15, we drove down through the Hinnon Valley (2 Chronicles 28:3, Jeremiah 7:31) and then up towards the Old City. Entering through the Dung Gate, we first visited the famous Western Wall. This served as the western retaining wall of the Temple when Herod expanded the Temple Mount (a project that began in 20 BC). From here we walked parallel to this western wall through what is called the Western Wall Tunnel. We saw massive Herodian stones placed precisely. One called the Master Course, weighs 400+ tons!

Temple Mount Sifting

Participating in the Temple Mount Sifting Project

Walking out of the St. Stephen’s Gate, we then enjoyed being “archaeologists” at the Temple Sifting Project. Located on Mt. Scopus (the northern end of the Mt. of Olives), we sifted through the debris brought directly from the Temple Mount. A number of the group found some interesting things, including a coin probably dating to the 2nd Temple Period. We ordered in falafels for lunch and ate them before we left.

Driving now to the western part of Jerusalem, we next visited the Israel Museum. Here we saw a 1:50 scaled model of Jerusalem as it looked just prior to its destruction in 70 AD. We carefully examined the locations here key stories from the Gospels and the life of Christ took place. Also here at the museum we walked through the Shrine of the Book where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls are on display. Lastly, we walked through the archaeological wing of the museum, seeing a few highlights (Dan Inscription, Moses’ Seat from Chorazim, the “place of trumpeting” inscription from the pinnacle of the Temple, the Pilate Inscription, and the sarcophagus of Herod the Great, among other things (1,900 year-old Roman glass pie plate).

Temple Model

The 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem during the time of Jesus (2nd Temple Period).

We ended the day with a moving visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial & Museum. It was a gripping experience as we saw the Children’s Memorial. We all heard Shlomo’s story of losing 12 family members from Vilna, Poland. We also walked through the museum itself on our own, reading and hearing the many stories of the Holocaust.

We returned to the hotel for dinner, followed by an optional walk to Ben Yehuda Street for shopping and a taste of modern Israeli life.


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Jerusalem Temple Floor Tiles Discovered

Temple tiles Jerusalem Herod's temple

Dr. Gaby Barkey, head of the Temple Sifting Project since 2004, displays what the floor of Herod’s Temple looked like. (Picture credit: Menahem Kanana)

The Temple was the centerpiece of Herodian Jerusalem.  The Temple project started by King Herod the Great in 20 BC was one that brought marvel to everyone who saw it. Even the disciples of Jesus made passing comments about the beauty and magnificence of the grandeur of the Temple (Mark 13:1– “As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!“).  According to John 2:20, this Temple Project took 46 years to complete (around 27 AD). Josephus, the Jewish historian, even mentions that the “finishing touches” of the Temple were just barely completed just prior to the Temple’s destruction by the Romans in 70 AD.  The bottom line is this: The Temple was truly a magnificent building!

Temple tiles

Frankie Snyder showing example of two restored floor tiles from the courtyard of the Second Temple (Picture credit: Temple Mount Sifting Project)

The Temple Sifting Project began as a result of the the building of an underground mosque below the Temple Mount by the Islamic Waqf. What was destroyed in building this underground gathering place large enough to hold 200,000 people was archaeological evidence of the Temple itself. Debris from in and around the structures referred to as Solomon’s stables (these were arch structures that essentially supported the platform of the Temple. The term Solomon’s stables was a term wrongly attributed to these arches by the Crusaders) was then taken out in over 200 truck loads and literally dumped in the Kidron Valley and a few other places. Under the leadership of Dr. Gaby Barkay, this debris was then “rescued” and brought to the Mt. of Olives where the debris is carefully sifted. Remarkable things has been discovered in this “salvage” dig since 2004.

Temple Mount Sifting Project

The Sifting Project on the Mt. of Olives. Occasionally, our groups participate in this project.

Among the finds, over 600 colored floor pieces have been discovered, with about 100 dating to the 2nd Temple Period. According to the Haaretz article, “The tiles were made of polished multicolored stone perfectly cut in a variety of geometric shapes. The flooring has been dated partly on the basis of the types of stones from which they were made. Most were imported from Rome, Asia Minor, Tunisia and Egypt.” This seems to match the description of the Temple courtyard floor made by Josephus who wrote, “… the uncovered [Temple Mount courtyard] was completely paved with stones of various types and colors…” (The Jewish War 5:2). Interestingly, it has been suggested from other archaeological digs that “a key characteristic of Herodian tiles is that they were sized to correspond to the Roman foot.”

fragments of temple floor tiles

Fragments of Temple floor tiles

What is remarkable for the Christian to ponder is this: Jesus and His disciples (as well as the Apostle Paul as recorded in Acts) walked on this courtyard tiled floor! Jesus entered the Temple often while in Jerusalem. So to think that Jesus walked on perhaps these same tiles (or those like it) is incredible!

For the full article on this amazing find, click HERE.

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July 2015 Israel Tour – Summary

Standing in the Israelite gate at Kh. Qeiyafa

Standing in the Israelite gate at Kh. Qeiyafa

This most recent (July 12-24) was yet another great trip!  With another wonderful group (19 this time), we saw many sites and shared in numerous unique experiences together.  Over the course of the 40 trips to Israel I’ve had the privilege to lead over the last 20+ years, I am once again humbled to be part of “God-sightings” each and every day.  To travel to Israel and have the opportunity to “meet God in His land” is life-changing.

On top of Mt. Hermon

On top of Mt. Hermon

We visited many, many sites on this trip.  This includes at least 15 sites that many tours don’t go to.  Among the unique sites we visited were the new excavations at Kh. Qeiyafa (Elah Valley), a visit to Cave 11 at Qumran, and taking the ski lift ride up Mt. Hermon and then hiking back down the trail.  I love taking people to “off-the-beaten-path” sites that no one goes to, but are still tied to the Bible.

Standing on the Mt. of Olives

Standing on the Mt. of Olives

Once again (and predictably), safety was not an issue.  Virtually everyone in the group had either family members or friends say, “I think you are crazy for going to Israel … it’s so dangerous, etc…”  While well-meaning loved ones and friends express their care and concern, perspectives like this are simply unfounded, and are created by the sensationalized media coverage of the area.  Never once did the group feel unsafe.  Never once was there any concern for our safety and well-being.  I literally feel sorry for those who put on hold or never consider joining an Israel trip out of fear.  What is missed are life-changing experiences with God in His land!  I am glad that those in this group responded to the call to encounter the land of the Bible personally!   So if you are considering a trip to Israel, please, please don’t allow a well-intentioned but “under-informed” person talk you out of it. 🙂

To see the entire trip unfold on one web page, complete with 22 daily pictures, click HERE.  This link will take you to the July, 2015 web page.

Thanks also to the many who held us up on prayer too and to those who followed out daily program.  I hope your heart was encouraged as you followed our daily encounters.

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June, 2014 Israel Tour – Day 9

JUNE 17 – DAY 9 Our first day here in Jerusalem was a great one!  Once again perfectly weather day greeted us, our first stop was the top of the Mt. of Olives.  This is the grand view of the Old City / Temple Mount from here!  From here we can see the City of David excavations to the south, the southern steps, the Temple Mount, the Holy Sepulcher Church, and much more.  As we began walking down the “Palm Sunday” path, we stopped at a church called Dominus Flavet where we read from Luke 19 and Zechariah 14, among other passages mentioned here pertaining to Jerusalem.  We continued to the bottom of the Mt. of Olives to the Garden … Continue reading