DAY 9 – TUESDAY, JUNE 20:
This morning we left the Galilee area and headed south. Leaving about 7:30 on what would be another sunny and hot day (90s), we drove to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee to the Kinneret Cemetery. Here a famous Jewish pioneer is buried. Her name was Rachel. She was an Ukrainian Jew who immigrated here in the early 1900s. She wrote many poems that are still read and sung today. She was born in 1890 and died in 1931.
Driving south in the Jordan Valley, our next stop was Beth Shean. While this was both an Old Testament site mentioned in 1 Samuel 31 (where Saul’s body was hung on the walls), it was a huge Roman city. Here we saw the Cards, bathhouses, many mosaics, the agora, many pillars, a public latrine, and the theater. It was perhaps a city similar to this where the prodigal son ran to (Luke 15). Some in the group climbed to the top of the OT tel for a panoramic view of the area below.
Leaving Beth Shean, our route took us through the heart of the Hill Country of Ephraim/Samaria. Abraham came through this region a few times. So did Jacob. Jesus even did at least once as he confronted the Samaritan woman (John 4). We saw many shepherds along the way.
We eventually arrived at Shiloh. It was here where the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant resided for 369 years. Samuel grew up here as well. It was here where Samuel heard the voice of God calling to him in the night. We read from 1 Samuel 3 as well as Jeremiah 7. Among the ruins we saw an olive press as well as the probably located for the Tabernacle.
Driving past Bethel (Genesis 15, 28), and Michmash (1 Samuel 13-14), we drove through the rugged Desert of Parath (Jeremiah 13) and the Judean Desert. Following lunch here, we climbed the tel of Jericho. We first looked east across the Jordan River (Joshua 2, 2 Kings 2, John 1). We then looked south to New Testament Jericho (Luke 10, Mark 10). Among the ruins here, in addition to seeing the oldest tower ever found, we walked to the southern end of the site to see the stone retaining walls that supported the mud-brick walls that “came tumblin’ down” according to the Joshua 6 story. We celebrated the historicity of the Bible.
On our way to Jerusalem, we made a brief stop overlooking the Wadi Qelt (the main part of the Judea Desert). Here we heard the words of Isaiah 40 and Psalm 23 within the context of this unique region of the Bible.
Continuing to Jerusalem, we checked into our hotel. Following dinner we enjoyed an orientation walk to the Western Wall. We are looking forward to three full days here in Jerusalem!
DAY 10 – WEDNESDAY, JUNE 21: JERUSALEM, MT. OF OLIVES, OLD CITY, BETHESDA, VIA DOLOROSA, HERODIUM, BETHLEHEM