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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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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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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January 2017 Pastors Israel Tour – Day 7

DAY 7- SUNDAY, JANUARY 29:

Mt. of Olives

The January 2017 Pastor-Spouse group standing on the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem

We awoke today to a wonderful sunny day. Although the air was cool (high 40s), it provided very clear visibilities. We left the hotel shortly after 7:30. Circling the Old City of Jerusalem (with walls dating to 1537 AD), we drove up the Mt. of Olives. Here we got our first panoramic view of the Old City and Temple Mount. Walking down the western slope of the Mt. of Olives we stopped at the Dominus Flavet chapel. Here we read from Luke 19 about the Palm Sunday event and Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. We also recalled His ascension (Luke 24, Acts 1) as well as His return on the Mt. of Olives (Zech. 14).

Continuing our walk further down the slope we stopped at a special place connection with the Garden of Gethsemane. We read from Luke 22 and enjoyed some quiet time of reflection. It was here where Jesus said, “Not my will but Yours be done.” It was also here where Jesus was betrayed by Judas.

Eastern Gate

The Eastern Gate in Jerusalem (closed since 810 AD)

From here we walked across the Kidron Valley to the St. Stephen’s Gate (also called Lions & Jericho Gate). We saw the Eastern Gate (Ezekiel 44) which has been closed shut since 810 AD. Entering the Old City, we enjoyed singing in a Crusader church called St. Anne’s Church. The acoustics produce an echo of about 8 seconds. On the same grounds is the Pool of Bethesda. We read John 5 about the lame man being healed here.

Walking through the Muslim and Christian Quarters, we arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is one of to suggested places for the crucifixion and burial site of Jesus. Inside we saw an example of a 2nd Temple tomb dating to the time of Christ.

Dead Sea

Incredible view of the Dead Sea from Herodium

After lunch in the Christian Quarter, we walked out of the Jaffa Gate and drove southeast about 8 miles to Herodium. This was where King Herod was buried when he died in 4 BC. Climbing this palace-fortress, we enjoyed a spectacular view of the area. The clear skies enabled us to see Jerusalem to the north, Bethlehem to the east, and the Judean Desert & Dead Sea to the east. We descended down through the cistern system. Through glass, we also were able to see the Herodian frescos.

In Beit Sahour (an eastern suburb of Bethlehem), we enjoyed singing Christmas carols in a cave in the Shepherds’ Fields. We also sang in the Chapel of the Shepherds. We read from Luke 2 and Galatians 4:4 (“for just at the right time God sent His Son…”).

We ended the day in Bethlehem at an olive wood shop and store. This shop and store is owned by Palestinian Christians. We returned to our hotel for dinner and an optional walk to Ben Yehuda to get a taste of some Israeli modern life.

DAY 8 – MONDAY, JANUARY 30: OLD CITY, WAILING WALL, WESTERN WALL TUNNEL, JEWISH QUARTER, ISRAEL MUSEUM, YAD VASHEM

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February 2015 Tour – Day 7

February, 2015 Tour – Day 7 – February 7 Our first full day here in Jerusalem was a great one! Leaving the hotel at 8 on yet another perfectly sunny day (highs in upper 60s), we first drove south to Herodium, a fortress/palace built by Herod the Great. We climbed this “artificial” tel to the top and saw the impressive ruins. The view from here was quite good, allowing us to see Jerusalem to the north, the Judean Desert & Dead Sea to the east, Tekoa (home of Amos) to the south, and Bethlehem to the west. We exited Herodium by going down through the cistern system. We saw where this evil king was buried (uncovered by the late Ehud … Continue reading

June, 2013 Israel Tour, Day 9

DAY 9 – TUESDAY, JUNE 25 We start the day with an orientation of Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives. Driving to the top, we enjoyed the spectacular view of the Old City and Temple Mount below.  From here we can relate to hat the psalmist said, “As the mountains surrounded Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds His people” (Psalm 125).  From here on the top, we began our descent down the traditional Palm Sunday route to the church known as the Dominus Flevit (“the Lord weeps”). From here the Eastern Gate really comes into focus (Ezekiel 44).  We read not only the Palm Sunday passage (Luke 19), but also from Zechariah 14 about the prophecy of Christ’s return.  Further down the slope … Continue reading