Biblical Israel Tour Experiences of our 14 Day Israel Study Trip
January 16-29, 2023
The Israel Tour Daily Experiences:
DAYS 1 & 2 – MONDAY/TUESDAY, JANUARY 16-17: DEPART FOR ISRAEL, ARRIVAL IN TEL AVIV.
God brought together a total of 64 for this January 2023 Israel trip. This includes church groups from Nebraska and Pennsylvania, and a one-year discipleship college from Minnesota! We are in two buses on this trip (33 and 31).
Upon arriving at the Ben Gurion Airport we were greeted by our Israeli guides (Shlomo and Eli) and drivers (David and Asi). After loading the buses we drove to our hotel in Tel Aviv. It’s located right on the beach of the Mediterranean Sea! We checked in and enjoyed a wonderful dinner together. Many also enjoyed a stroll/walk on the beach and promenade before turning in for the night. It’s a pleasant evening, with clear skies and around 60 degrees!
We are all looking forward to our first full day here in Israel tomorrow!
DAY 3 – WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 19: TEL GEZER, BETHSHEMESH, AZEKAH, BEIT GUVRIN, LACHISH, BEERSHEBA
Today was our first full day herein Israel. Following a wonderful breakfast at the hotel, we drove south out of Tel Aviv and spent the entire day in the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah. Many biblical connections were made with the five biblical sites wee visited. The weather was also perfect, with full sun and temps near 70. We read from Psalm 44 as we left the hotel at 7:35.
Our first stop was Tel Gezer. Located on the Aijalon Valley, this was both a Canaanite and Israelite city, full of walls, towers, and gates. We saw the replica of the “Gezer Calendar.” We also read from Ecclesiastes 3 about the “seasons of life.” From the observation mound we saw the Aijalon Valley mentioned in Joshua 10. Among the Middle Bronze ruins many of us used the new steel stairway down to the bottom of the water system (175 steps down). Even Victoria supported my the unique one-wheel chair provided by the Luke 5 Adventures team made it to the bottom and back. This water system was originally used by Canaanites. We then left these Canaanite ruins and continued to the Israelite (Iron Age) area to see ancient house structures and a chambered gate dating to Solomon (1 Kings 9). Walking back to the bus we saw the Canaanite high place and standing stones.
From here we continued south to visit the site of Beth Shemesh. Located along the Sorek Valley, Bethshemesh was a prominent Israelite town known for their many water cisterns. Across the valley is Zorah, the hometown of Samson. Further west down the valley was the Philistine city of Timnah where Samson’s first wife was from (only 3.5 miles away). We also read the narrative of 1 Samuel 6 about the Ark of the Covenant being returned to Israel by the Philistines living in Ekron. We could see the story unfold right before our very eyes!
Continuing south, we climbed the site of Azekah. This ancient city that has been excavated in recent years is located along the Elah Valley. Azekah is mentioned in the story of 1 Samuel 17 (the Philistines camped on the ride between Azekah and Socoh further east. It was in the narrow part of the valley where David battled Goliath. David faced the battle with this giant in the confidence of the Lord!
Following grabbing a bit to eat at a local gas station, we visited the columbarium and the Bell Cave of Beit Guvrin. This area is known for all the underground soft limestone caves. Also in this area is the site of Mareshah, the home of Micah, the prophet. In the Bell Cave, Shlomo played an Israeli tune on his recorded. We then read from Micah 1 and 5, reflecting upon the prophet’s words of mourning and hope. We also blended our voices in a couple of songs as well. The acoustics in the cave were wonderful!
Our last site of the day was Lachish. This was a Canaanite city taken by Joshua in two days (Joshua 10). Later, it became an important well-fortified city under the leadership of Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11). The Judean city saw two destructions, one at the hands of the Assyrians in 701 BC (2 Kings 20, Isaiah 36), and later by the Babylonians in 587 BC. We saw a replica of the Lachish Letter #4, one of about 18-20 ostraca (pottery with inscriptions). It mentions Azekah and Lachish as two Judean cities holding out. Jeremiah 34:7 says the same thing. Among the ruins we saw the double walls and gates, the Assyrian siege ramp, and the palace.
From Lachish, we drove about 50 minutes to Beersheba where we checked in to our hotel. We enjoyed dinner together, followed by a brief gathering. It was a great first day!
DAY 4 – THURSDAY, JANUARY 19: BEERSHEBA, SDE BOKER, ZIN CANYON, ARAD, HANOKDIM
Today was our second full day as we explored the region of the Negev. After a good nights rest in Beersheba and breakfast, we checked out of our hotel and began our day at about 7:40. We read from Psalm 126 (about the “watercourses of the Negev”) to begin the day. The weather was once again perfect, with full sun and temps in the low 70s.
We arrived at Tel Beersheba at 8 a.m. This is small but interesting archaeological site. We saw a replica of a 4-horned altar found here, the city well, walls, gates, and a few Israelite “four-room houses. We read from Genesis 21 about Abraham. Isaac (Gen. 26), Jacob (Gen. 46), and Elijah (1 Kings 19) were all here. We left the site by walking through the impressive cistern water system.
Sde Boker / Gravesite of David & Paula Ben Gurion, Zin Desert
We drove about 50 minutes south to the Zin Desert. We saw a few ibex on the way, a wild goat that is referred to in Psalm 104. The small community of Sde Boker overlooks the beautiful canyon of the Zin. This is where the graves of David Ben Gurion (Israel’s first Prime Minister) are located. His wife Paula is also buried here. From here we drove down into the Zin canyon for a hike to the water falls and back. Many in the group continued the hike, ascending to the far rim. The 12 spies came through the Zin Desert (Numbers 13) and Moses struck the rock somewhere here as well (Numbers 20).
We drove about an hour back north to Tel Arad, an early Canaanite and Israelite/Judean site. Arad was a city whose king opposed the Israelites at the time of Moses (Number 21). The city would later be conquered by Joshua (Joshua 12). We started our visit on top of there citadel. Here we saw the false worship center here, complete with a courtyard, sacrificial altar, and a “Holy of Holies” inner chamber. King Hezekiah (and later Josiah) brought an end to these high places (2 Chronicles 31 & 34). We also reflected upon how we are to be a “living sacrifice” to God by laying ourselves on the altar of His purpose and will for our lives (Romans 12:1-2). We also walked down to the Canaanite city to see the reservoir, house structures, and the walls and towers of the city.
From here we drove through modern-day Arad to the eastern side of this large modern city. We stopped for a brief walk out into the edge of the Judean Desert for a fantastic view of the mountains of Moab in modern Jordan today. We boarded back on the bus and drove on a windy road into the Judean Desert and to Hanokdim, our “bedouin-style tent hotel” for the night. Upon arriving we check into our “tents” and/or private huts. We also enjoyed listening to a bedouin share about his lifestyle and a tasty dinner. To end the night we enjoyed a bonfire.
DAY 5 – FRIDAY, JANUARY 20: MASADA, EIN GEDI, JERICHO, DEAD SEA
We enjoyed a sunny day once again today as we travels took us up the coastline of the Dead Sea. The temperatures were a bit warmer, with highs in the mid 70s. We read from Psalm 18:1-2 (metzada) following breakfast and checking out of our Bedouin camp.
We drove east about 7 miles to get to the western side of Masada, a palace-fortress built by King Herod in the 30s BC. Everyone in the group hiked up the Roman ramp, including Victoria in the Luke 5 Adventure wheelchair! The team of those transporting her are amazing! This has to be a first ever in Israel that someone scaled Masada in this fashion! Upon cresting the site saw the the casemate wall, huge cisterns, the synagogue, the northern palace, storehouses, and the bathhouse. Since the cable car is being renovated, we all walked back down the Roman ramp. The courageous story of Masada (with 967 using the site as a place of refuge) is both incredible and inspiring!
From here we drove back through the desert to Arad and then down to the southern end of the Dead Sea. The rest of the took us northward on the Rt. 90 along the western shoreline of the Dead Sea to Ein Gedi. Together we walked into the canyon (Wadi David) where we stopped to read from Song of Songs 1 (mentioning the henna blossoms), 2 Chronicles 20 (mentioning the Ascent of Ziz), and 1 Samuel 24 (the David and Saul “cave encounter”). About half the group walked back to the far water falls while others enjoyed the first falls.
We boarded our busses once again to drove to the northern end of the Dead Sea. As we drove we read from Ezekiel 47 and Zechariah 14 (about how one day the Dead Sea will become fresh). We arrived at Tel es-Sultan, or Old Testament Jericho. After a wonderful falafel sandwich here, we climbed the site. We looked east and could see the Jordan Valley the Mt. Nebo on the ridge on the horizon (Dt. 34). Elijah was taken to heaven in the area across the river (2 Kings 2). Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River at “Bethany Beyond the Jordan” (John 1). Looking south we could see the area of NT Jericho (where Zachaeus and Bartimeaus lived, and where Herod the Great died in 4 BC). We then turned our attention to the ancient OT site of Jericho. The archaeology of this ancient site of Jericho supports and confirms the Bible’s historicity. Besides seeing the oldest structure (a round tower) in Israel, on the southern end we saw the double retaining walls of this Canaanite city taken my Joshua (Joshua 6). A mud brick wall once stood on top of these stone walls. They came tumblin down.
Our last experience of the day was to float in the Dead Sea. We enjoy floating in this unique body of water (33% salt and minerals). We drove to our “kibbutz-hotel” (Al Mog) close by for dinner and overnight.
DAY 6 – SATURDAY, JANUARY 21: QUMRAN, BETH SHEAN, MEGIDDO, NAZARETH PRECIPICE, GALILEE
Today was another brilliantly sunny day, with wonderful temps in the 70s. We have appreciated so far this dry weather pattern here in Israel. After a modest breakfast (because of Shabbat), we headed to Qumran. We read from Luke 10 as we departed Al Mog, the kibbutz were we stayed last night.
The most significant discovery in all of Israel were the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran in 1947. We arrived here at about 8 a.m. We walked up to the edge of the cliffs of the Judean Desert to see Cave 6, one of 12 caves in which fragment of scrolls were found. At the site itself we saw many miqvot (plural for mikve, or ritual baths), cisterns, and the scriptorium. In front of Cave 4 (and 5 & 10), we read from Psalm 19 and “151,” an extra psalm found here. We also remembered 2 Timothy 3:16 about God’s inspired Word. Thanks be to God for the preservation of His Word and the joy, instruction, direction, and hope it provides us!
We traveled north from here along the Jordan Valley to Beth Shean. The ride took about an hour and a half. This ancient site is an incredibly large site, with many ruins from the Roman Period. We saw colonnaded streets, the bathhouse, agora, public latrenes, and the theater. Some in the group climbed to the top of the OT site. According to 1 Samuel 31 (and 1 Chronicles 10), the body of Saul was hung on the walls of the town square after he died on near by Mt. Gilboa. The men from Jabesh Gilead (located on the east side of the Jordan Valley), came at night to rescue the body of Saul.
Located along the edge of the Jezreel Valley is Megiddo. We first ate lunch when we arrived. This archaeological site was about 25 layers of occupation spanning a period of about 2,500 years! It was a Canaanite and Israelite city. Pharaohs like Thutmose III conquered it in 1468 BC. Climbing the site, we saw 3 series of city gates, Solomon’s stables and palace, a sacrificial altar from the Early Bronze Period, and a grain silo. We left the site be descending down through the water system that was engineered to bring water safely inside the walls of the city. We also had a great view of the Jezreel Valley referred to as the Valley of Armageddon in Revelation 16. In the end, God wins when Jesus returns!
Precipice of Nazareth
We drove north across this broad valley to get to the Precipice of Nazareth. The visibility from here of Mt Tabor (Judges 4), the Hill or Moreh (Judges 7), and Mt. Carmel to the west (1 Kings 18) was impressive! We could even see the Hills of Gilead across the Jordan Valley (in Jordan today). We considered the life of Jesus as read from Luke 4 and John 1. We listened to Jesus Messiah as the sun set to the west.
DAY 7 – SUNDAY, JANUARY 22: HIPPOS, YARDENIT/JORDAN RIVER, KINNERET CEMETERY, MAGDALA, CHORIZIM, CAPERNAUM, ANCIENT BOAT, SEA OF GALILEE BOAT RIDE
We work up to a beautiful sunrise this morning on the Sea of Galilee. It was another perfect weather day, with full sun and highs around 75. We spent the entire day around the Sea of Galilee, visiting sites connected to Jesus and His ministry. Following breakfast, we departed at 7:35 for our first site, reading Matthew 4 on the way!
We traveled around the north end of the lake, passing by traditional sites connected with Jesus. We also passed by two possible locations for Bethsaida, the home of Peter, Andrew, and Philip (John 1). The Feeding of the 5,000 took place in a remote area near this fishing village. We then turned south on the east side towards Hippos/Sussita. On the way we made a brief stop to see the cliffs mentioned in Mark 5. At Hippos (a Decapolis city), we saw many Roman ruins. During the Byzantine Period (4th-6th centuries AD), there were no less than a half a dozen churches were built here. With a great view of the lake, we read the transformational story of the demoniac from Mark 5.
Following our visit at Hippos, we drove to the southern end of the lake to Yardenit. About 20 in the group reaffirmed their faith as they were immersed in the waters of the Jordan River. For a few it was their first and primary baptism. The water was a bit cold, but the experience warmed our hearts.
From the southern end of the lake we now drove north along the western shoreline of the lake. We included an extra stop at the Kinneret Cemetery. This is where an early Jewish pioneer woman named “Rachel” is buried. She was an Ukrainian Jew who wrote poems, some of which were put to songs. She died in 1931.
From here we drove to the Plain of Genesseret. Following a very tasty fish and salad lunch we visited the ancient city of Magdala. This was a large Jewish city in the days of Jesus. We saw a modest 1st century synagogue here. Although the city is only mentioned once (Matthew 16), Jesus must have taught here. We saw a few more ritual baths as well.
Close by down on the shoreline of the lake is the location of Capernaum. This was the “home base” for his ministry here in the Galilee. Sitting in the 5th century synagogue, we read from Mark 1,2; Luke 7; and John 6. We also saw many 1st century house structure ruins dating to the time of Jesus. Before we left the site, we spent some time down on the shoreline of the lake where we read the tender passage recored in Mark 9.
Ancient Boat / Boat Ride
We ended the day towards sunset back to Nof Ginnosar. In the museum here we saw an ancient 1st century wooden boat that was discovered in 1986. We then walked out to the dock for our own boat ride. We enjoyed a time of worship and the reading of Mark 4 and Matthew 14, the two storm narratives. We keep our eyes on Jesus! He is the One who brings peace to our lives!
We walked back to our hotel rooms to freshen up for dinner. A free evening of leisure followed.
DAY 8 – MONDAY, JANUARY 23: GAMLA, QATZRIN, BENTAL, CAESAREA PHILIPPI, DAN
Today we spent the day primarily in the Golan Heights. This region extends 38 miles east from the southern end of the Sea of Galilee up to the slopes of Mt. Hermon and the Syrian border. Sunny skies were enjoyed all day long again, with temps around 70, although a little cooler in Mt. Bental. We left the hotel after a hearty breakfast at 7:35, reading Mark 8.
We drove once again around the northern part of the lake and began our ascent to the Golan Heights. As we climbed we stopped briefly to look down to the Plain of Bethsaida where the Feeding of the 5,000 took place (Luke 9). Once we arrived at Gamla, we walked to the overlook of this camel-hump shaped city. This was a city that was destroyed in 67 AD in the 1st Revolt against the Romans in 67 AD. Among the ruins discovered was a 1st century synagogue here where Jesus may have taught (Matthew 4).
Further north is Katzrin. Here is an ancient Talmudic Village that dates from the 3rd-7th centuries AD. Among the ruins we saw the synagogue and house structures, including a partially-restored house. However, in the completely reconstructed stone house we gathered to hear the story of Mark 2. Pastor Kevin also shared about the Luke 5 Adventures ministry.
Continuing northward, we stopped for a brief stop to look over into Syria. We climbed with the bus to the top of Mt. Mental, an old military outpost used in the 1967 war. The view into Syria, including the city of Kuneitra, was fairly good despite the haze.
Driving past the partially snow-capped Mt. Hermon, we drove down off the Golan Heights we visited Caesarea Philippi. This was a pagan city in the days of Jesus that included temples to Augustus, Zeus (Jupiter), and Nemesis. The Pan deity was especially honored here. It was good to see that recent excavations of the Augustus Temple revealed amazing mosaics and other structures. The Banias Spring begins here, one of the three tributaries of the Upper Jordan River. It was in the region of this city that Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16).
Our last site of the day was Tel Dan. We walked through the beautiful nature preserve along the Dan Spring. We stopped by the water to hear Shlomo play another song on his recorder. We also read from (and sang) Psalm 42, As the Deer. We continued our walk to the culture center. Here, Jeroboam built an altar and set a golden calf on the high place. Sitting on the steps of the high place, we read from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12. We also overlooked the border with Lebanon. Before leaving, we saw the Canaanite mud brick gate and the Israelite gate complex.
We drove south along the Huleh Valley back to our hotel, passing the Canaanite city of Hazor on the way. Once again, we enjoyed a huge dinner and a free evening.
DAY 9 – TUESDAY, JANUARY 24: OPTIONAL SUNRISE HIKE TO “HILL 713, ” ARBEL, MT. OF BEATITUDES
Today was our “reflection” day and it was a fabulous one in many ways. The sun was bright once again, with temps in the 70s. We only visited a few sites, with a slower pace. Following a late breakfast, we left the hotel at 9:30. We read a few of the kingdom parables from Matthew 13 as we began.
Optional Hike to “Hill 713” (Har Mitzpe ha-Yamim)
Well before sunrise, 32 of us left the hotel at 5:05 to drive north into the Upper Galilee. We enjoyed a 30 minute hike to “Hill 713” (or Har Mitzpe ha-Yamim in Hebrew). This is a trail that leads to a stunning overlook! We made in plenty of time before the sunrise. We could see literally across the width of the country, from the the Golan Heights to the east to the Carmel Range and Haifa to the west (beyond which is the Med Sea!). Looking south we could see Mt. Tabor, Hill of Moreh, and Mt. Gilboa. It was a special optional experience! We spent time in silent reflection and worship as the sun rose to there east over the Golan Heights. We returned to the hotel at 8 a.m. for breakfast.
At 9:30 the entire group of 64 left the hotel and headed to the trailhead of Mt. Arbel. Many in the group hiked to the top, while others bussed around to the other side and ascended to the top from there. The view was stunning! While we cannot be sure, perhaps this was where the Jesus’ Transfiguration took place (Mt. 17), or where he taught the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7) or where He met His disciples following His resurrection (Mt. 28). We intentionally spent some solitary time here reading Matthew 5-7 on our own before we walked back down to the busses.
Mt. of Beatitudes
After a more simple lunch (falafel and shawarma), we drove to the traditional Mt. of Beatitudes (since our usual place is now blocked off with a high fence and gate). Sitting on the side of the hill, we heard Shlomo read Beatitudes in Hebrew. We visited the chapel (designed by the Italian Antonio Barluzzi in the 1930s) and the grounds before loading back on the buses. Some in the group walked down the path to the lakeshore.
We ended the day early, allowing us some free time before dinner. Some even went swimming in the Sea of Galilee. It has been a great three full days here in the north!
DAY 10 – WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 25: MT. CARMEL, CAESAREA, SHILOH, JERUSALEM, JUDEAN DESERT, WESTERN WALL WALK
Today was yet another sunny day, with highs in the 70s. For January weather, this has been an incredible streak of sunny and rain free days! Today was also a longer driving day as we eventually made our way to Jerusalem. We saw three sites on the way, all of which we inspiring.
We left our hotel and the Sea of Galilee area about 7:35. We read Luke 7 and 2 Kings 2 along the way. Our first destination was to Mt. Carmel, a mountain range overlooking the Jezreel Valley on one side and the Mediterranean Sea on the other. At a place called Muhraha, we went into the Carmelite chapel to read passages such as Isaiah 35, Amos 1 & 9, 2 Kings 4, Songs of Songs 7, and 1 Kings 18. This last narrative is about the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal! We enjoyed singing a few songs too! What wonderful harmony! Also, we walked to the rooftop for the view of the Jezreel Valley. The hazy skies did not allow us to see very far other than Mt. Tabor in the distance.
Next we descended down to the Sharon Plain to Caesarea. We first began at there aqueduct that brought water into this city built by Herod the Great over a 12 year period (22-10 BC). In the theater we read from Acts 10 (Peter), Acts 12 (Agrippa 1), Acts 21 (Philip), and Acts 26 (Paul). From here we walked across the city to see the palace, hippodrome, the location of the grand harbor, and the Crusader gate, wall, and mote. We also saw an impressive porphyry (purple) statue, probably that of Hadrian.
Next, we drove into the Hill Country of Ephraim to Shiloh. When we arrived, we made our way up this ancient site where the Tabernacle once stood here for over 300 years. It was destroyed by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4). We watched a short movie about the events that took place here. We also read from 1 Samuel 3 (the call of Samuel) and Jeremiah 7. Among the ruins we saw a massive Middle Bronze wall that was incorporated into the Israelite site. Other structures, including perhaps the Holy of Holies area (as proposed by archaeologist Dr. Scott Stripling) could also be seen. It was young Samuel who said, “Hineni” (“Here I am!”) When God called Him into service.
Driving now to Jerusalem from the north, we entered this magnificent city and saw our first glimpse the Old City. We checked into our hotel and enjoyed a great dinner. Following dinner, many in the group walked to the Western Wall, the most holy place for Jews today. It was wonderful to see this at night.
DAY 11 – THURSDAY, JANUARY 26: JERUSALEM, MT. OF OLIVES, HERODIUM, BETHLEHEM/SHEPHERDS’ FIELDS, PROMENADE
Today was our first full day in Jerusalem and surrounding area. The sun was once again shining bright all day, without a cloud in the sky. Temps were in the mid 60s. After breakfast, we left the hotel around 7:35, reading Psalm 125:1-2 as we departed for the Mt. of Olives.
Mt. of Olives/Gethsemane
Our first stop of the day was the Mt. of Olives. We drove around the north side of the Old City, passing the Damascus and Herod Gates on the way. Cresting the Mt. of Olives we drove to a spectacular view across the Kidron Valley of the Old City and Temple Mount below. From here we walked down to Dominus Flavet, a small chapel where we enjoyed singing a few songs together. Here we read from Luke 19 (Palm Sunday), Acts 1 (Christ’s ascension), and Zechariah 14 (about the return of Christ). Continuing down the slope towards the Church of All Nations (the traditional Garden of Gethsemane), we walked up to an olive tree park where we considered the passion of Jesus (Luke 22).
Our next stop took us south and a bit east of Jerusalem to Herodium. This was a palace-fortress built by Herod the Great. He was also buried in 4 BC. The site was incredible, with many new renovations and displays. Inside the well-preserved official’s chamber where we saw a wonderful presentation. We then walked up through the royal arches to the top where we saw the bathhouse, synagogue, impressive frescoes, and a great view of Jerusalem. We left the site by walked down through the cistern system,
Just to the west of Herodium is Bethlehem. After lunch, we visited an olive wood factory and story. These olive wood products were impressive. In Beit Sahour (an eastern adjacent Arab town), we enjoyed singing Christmas carols in the Shepherds’ Fields. We read from Micah 5 and Luke 2 about the birth of Jesus. It was “just at the right time God sent His Son” (Galatians 4:4).
Driving back towards Jerusalem, we made a brief stop at the Promenade that winds around on the west and south end of the Old City. We then returned to our hotel for dinner and another walk.
DAY 12 – FRIDAY, JANUARY 27: OLD CITY, WESTERN WALL TUNNELS, SOUTHERN WALL EXCAVATIONS, CITY OF DAVID, YAD VASHEM
The streak continues … today was another perfect weather day, with cloudless skies, full sun, and temps in the 60s. We have been blessed! Today was also a day of incredible experiences. It all started after a good night’s sleep last night and a hearty breakfast. We left the hotel at 7:30, reading Psalm 48 as well departed for the day.
Western Wall / Tunnel
We drove down along the Hinnom Valley and then on up to the Old City where we entered the Dung Gate into the Kotel (Western Wall area). Our tour of the Western Wall Tunnel was fascinating. Herod’s Temple project (beginning in 20 BC) was expansive! We doubled the size of the Temple platform from the size it was in the 1st Temple Period. We saw massive stones that were part of this retaining wall, as well as the small odeon. We also enjoyed some time down at the Western Wall. It was quite empty of people.
Southern Wall Excavations
We walked to the SW corner of the Temple where we walked on the Herodian pavement. This corner may have been the pinnacle of the Temple where Jesus was tempted (Mt. 4). We walked up the southern steps used by commoners in Jesus’ day. Jesus Himself would have used these steps to enter the Temple. We recalled the many mentioned in the NT who used these steps (Luke 2, 18; John 2; Mark 13; and Acts 2, etc…). Before leaving the steps, we considered how God wants us to be His spiritual temple (2 Corinthians 3).
City of David
From here we continued walking south to the City of David. After gathering on the observation tower, we walked down through the excavations (“Area G”). We saw David’s palace, city walls, and 7th-6th BC house structures. One of them was excavated/uncovered by Dr. John in June-July, 1982. We all continued through Warren’s Shaft (2 Samuel 5). The upper part of this discovery was probably used by David but not the vertical 52 foot shaft. Finally, we descended down to the Canaanite/Jebusite pool to the Gihon Spring. Many in the group braved the waters of the 1,700 foot-long Hezekiah’s Tunnel (2 Kings 20, 2 Chronicles 32), while others took the “dry” Jebusite tunnel built 100s of years earlier. Both groups met at the Pool of Siloam where we read John 9 in dramatic fashion.
About noon we drove to West Jerusalem and to Israel’s Holocaust Museum & Memorial. It is called Yad Vashem, named after a verse in Isaiah 56 that mentions the “memorial and a name.” We only had time for a little over an hour to walk through the museum itself. It was a somber experience recalling the horrors of the Holocaust and the loss of six million Jews. Before leaving the area, in a nice shaded area outside Yad Vashem we heard the personal story from Shlomo about his family during this tragic event. He lost 12 family members in Vilna, Poland.
We returned to our hotels for some free time both before and after a wonderful Shabbat dinner! This second-last day here in Jerusalem was once again wonderful!
DAY 13 – SATURDAY, JANUARY 28: ISRAEL MUSEUM, OLD CITY, HOLY SEPULCHER CHURCH, A FEW FREE HOURS, GARDEN TOMB, FAREWELL DINNER, NIGHT FLIGHT HOME (for most in the group)
Today was our last full day here in Israel. We saw our first real clouds in the sky this morning, but the sun broke through midday. It was a slower-paced day but a good day of museum life, free time, and worship and communion to end the day! We read Psalm 137 as we left the hotel at 8 a.m.
Your first stop was the Kinesset, Israel’s parliamentary building. We stopped by a large Menorah built in the 1950s outside the Kinesset. Here, Shlomo shared about the Israeli government and political situation. Across the street is the Israel Museum. First, we saw 1:50 scale model of 2nd Temple Jerusalem. Next, we went through the Shrine of the Book where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls are displayed. Finally, we saw some of the “highlight artifacts” in the archaeological museum that relate to the Bible.
Old City / Holy Sepulcher Church
Driving back to the Old City, we entered the Lion’s Gate (also Called St. Stephen’s and Jericho Gate). We visited St. Anne’s Church, a Crusader Church with a 6-7 second echo. We enjoyed singing here! Next to the church is the Pool of Bethesda. We read John 5 of the miracle that took place here. After walking out of the Old City to the base of the closed Eastern Gate (Ezekiel 44), we entered back into the Old City and walked to the Holy Sepulcher Church. Built in 325 AD, this is the traditional location for the death and burial place of Jesus. The archaeological and historical records favor this site.
Following lunch in the Christian Quarter, most of us went inside the Holy Sepulcher church to where we saw the Edicule that encloses over the suggested tomb of Christ. Others enjoyed shopping, a walk on the rampart (Turkish walls), and exploring the streets and alleyways of the Old City.
At 3 p.m. we gathered for our walk to the Garden Tomb. This is an alternative location for the crucifixion and burial site of Jesus. The site is wonderfully operated by evangelicals. After we saw the suggested tomb, we enjoyed a time of worship and Communion.
Farewell Dinner & Flight
We returned to our hotel to freshen up for our Farewell dinner inside the Old City in the Armenian Quarter. It was a great last supper. Forty nine of us then drove to the Tel Aviv Airport for our flight home, while most others fly home early tomorrow morning. A few in the group are extending their trip on their own.
DAY 14 – SUNDAY, JANUARY 29: FLIGHT HOME – ARRIVAL BACK IN THE U.S.
The majority in the group God brought together arrived back to the U.S. today. We flew on a few different flights direct from Tel Aviv. Following our connecting flights home we made to our homes. It was a great trip blessed by God in many ways!
Hike Up Arbel
One of our optional hikes is to the top of Mt. Arbel. Located on the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee, the hike offers a wonderful view of the region. We ascend 800 feet to the top (for those not inclined to hike the bus takes people to the top from the other side).
The cliffs of Arbel has historical significance too. Jews during both the 1st century BC and later in 66 AD found refuge in these caves.