I’m surprised. Why should I be?

Walnut Hill’s group in Herod’s palace at Caesarea

After over ten years of following what goes on in Israel closely, why am I surprised when I read the newspaper anymore? This morning the Times of Israel reported that “The Roman Amphitheater and the hippodrome in the ancient Israeli coastal city of Caesarea have been sold off, in secret, to a mysterious overseas holding company by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.” (Article here)
What also was surprising to learn was that the Greek Orthodox church is the second largest land owner in Israel.
It will be fascinating to see how the sale in Caesarea plays itself out and what will happen to the theater.

Tragic events on the Temple Mount and Isaiah 65

This morning I finished reading through the Prophet Isaiah. I was startled by the words of chapter 65. The chapter is a prophecy of the judgment and final salvation of Israel.
In light of the tragic events of this past week, allow me to quote from the latter half of verse 25:
“In those days, no one will be hurt or destroyed on my holy mountain. I, the LORD have spoken!”
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! Maranatha. Jesus come quickly.

Does archaeology “prove” the Bible?

If you’ve been to Israel, without a doubt you’ve visited at least one tel. Can what is found in the tel prove the Bible to be true? Seldom is there direct evidence from the ground that matches the biblical record.
The following quote is taken from a blog post linked below:
The biblical accounts, Sennacherib’s written and pictorial records, and the excavated remains from Lachish provide us with a rare glimpse from multiple angles of an important historical event in the lives of God’s people during a time of national crisis. The picture that emerges is one that gives us great confidence in the historicity of the biblical report, and in a God who hears and responds to the prayers of his people.

“We do well to remember that God has actually intervened in human history–in real time, in real space, and in the lives of real men, women, and children. The battle of Lachish did not take place in Middle Earth nor in Narnia (no disrespect to Tolkien or Lewis!). It happened in the land of Judah, in the fourteenth year of the reign of King Hezekiah. Lachish did indeed fall, but, by God’s grace and according to his promise, Jerusalem was spared. Even Sennacherib had to admit it!”


In this case what’s in the ground proves that the Biblical account is true.

Buyers remorse

As I type this blog, it is 3:20 in the morning. Jet lag will linger for several days. Was it worth it? Absolutely!!!!
Being in Israel is always worth it. We had a wonderful time touring parts of the country by visiting 10 national parks. On our day at the Dead Sea it was 104 degrees F on top of the mountain that is Masada. Yesterday, when we arrived in New York, it was 40 degrees cooler. Quite the contrast and we had a number of people who wanted to forget New York and head back to Jerusalem.
The beauty was not the only thing we enjoyed. The trip started with individuals and couples who didn’t realize that in 11 short days they would become friends. There was a lot of helping and looking after each other which is a beautiful thing to see.
Besides the beauty and friendship, there were the lessons learned and the new incites into Scripture. None of us will every read the Gospels the same way again.
Buyers remorse? No way!

Israel always provides the unexpected.

Amer, our guide in the synagogue at Nazareth Village.

Our amazing driver Johny. Thanks for a safe and amazing 10 days.

Day 10–Last day in Jerusalem

We arranged for a late start today to allow for some packing in the morning. Over half the group went to the Garden of Gethsamene to pray, meditate, and fellowship with one another. The smaller group went to the Israel museum to view the model of first century Jersusalem and spend some time in the Shrine of the Book.
The model is impressive since it provides a very detailed picture of what Jerusalem was like in the time of Jesus.
The Shrine of the Book is equally impressive since it contains the story of the Dead Sea Scrolls and copies of a few of them. In the center of the building is a copy of the scroll of Isaiah. When that scroll was found it moved the dating of copies of Isaiah back 1000 years. The significance is that Isaiah 53 could not be a report of what happened to Christ but rather prediction.
We finished our day at the Garden Tomb. Just north of the Damascus Gate is an old tomb that may have been the site of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. It is a much more peaceful place but a less likely place than the site in the Old City. Our time there concluded with communion.
Amazing trip, wonderful people, great guide, superalive driver, and we come home with new friends and a greater appreciation of the Word of God.

Model of 1st century Jerusalem and the temple.

Two temples

We began our day by heading north out of Jerusalem on the road that leads through the middle of the hill country to the city of Shechem, the site of Jacob’s well. We passed by Bet El a town whose name may appear familiar to some if you add the letter “h” in the middle. The one here in Israel is the original one.
We stopped in the city of Shechem and entered a church that houses it, descending into the lower area of the church that has a small room that holds the well, some icons, and a small gift shop where you can by water from the well. The well still works and Johny, our driver, began the task of winding up the rope to retrieve the bucket from deep in the well. He gave several people the chance to help him and the bucket finally arrived at the surface. Several people took a drink from the well.
We next ascended Mount Gerizim to view the surrounding countryside and the site of the Samaritan temple. On that old site, an Orthodox Church had been built and a small mosque. It was quite windy on top, but the breeze was refreshing from the heat.

Having visited the Samaritan Temple, we headed back to Jerusalem where we intended to get a closer look at the Temple Mount. We began the exploration at the Davidson Center which encompasses the southern and a little of the western wall of the Temple Mount. We were able to walk under what is left of Robinson’s Arch and then along the southern wall to the steps that led to the double and triple gate in the south wall. On those first century steps we took time to reflect.

One of the amazing experiences in Jerusalem is to be able to walk up to the Western Wall and pray or place a prayer request in one of the cracks of the wall. Access to the wall is segregated so we divided accordingly and spent a few minutes in quiet prayer and meditation.

We finished our day before supper by having Craig Mowrey walk us through the Gospel of Mark and the sites we’d seen as we imagined them. It was a wonderful experience to reflect on what we’d seen and tie it into the Gospel story. Supper followed and as always was far more than we needed.

Sandi working at retrieving the water bucket from Jacob’s well

On top of Mount Gerizim looking across to Mount Ebal

Herodian stones used in the temple of Jesus’ time

Placing a prayer request into a crack in the Western Wall.

One HOT day

We left the hotel at 8:00 AM in cool weather with a pleasant breeze. We descended to the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea at 1330 feet below sea level.
Our goal was to reach Masada before it became to hot. We failed. It was hot by the time we watched a movie about the site and took the cable car to the top. Before we retreated from the top of Masada it was over 100 degrees F.
Headed north we stopped at Ein Gedi, a nature preserve and place where the anointed king David hid from King Saul. Several ventured under the first waterfall, claiming the experience was very refreshing after the heat we were experiencing.
Continuing north, we stopped at Qumran to have a late lunch, watch the movie depicting the events there and then touring the site. It was at Qumran that the Dead Sea scrolls were found in the caves above the site.
Our next stop was on the shores of the Dead Sea where the intrepid of our group took to floating on the waters. You don’t swim since the water is so mineral rich it supports your weight. It is also very painful if it gets in your eyes or any cuts. It was declaimed to be a once in a lifetime experience. Once is enough!
We stopped in Jericho on the way back to Jerusalem. Jericho and Jerusalem are only about 15 miles apart horizontally but are about 3600 feet different in elevation. Imagine the walk down and then back up (read Luke 2:48 and realize that Mary wasn’t probably being very gentle in her tone when she spoke to Jesus).
It was declared a long but enjoyable day in spite of the heat.

Demonstrating the water system at Masada.

The guard at Masada. An Ibex.

Yes Elim Park, that is your President!

Terry going for a camel ride.

A day within sight of the hotel

After breakfast, Johny, our driver, took us to the top of the Mount of Olives. There we spent some time learning the various places and layout of the old city of Jerusalem, its walls, and its churches.
Our path from there took us down the steep west slope of the mount to the Church of All Nations also known as the Church of the Agony. It is beside the Garden of Gethsamene, or what is advertised to be such. More likely the entire slope was covered with olive trees and there may have been a garden somewhere in the grove.
At this point the group divided and some went the long way through the old city, stopping along the way at the various stations of the cross on the Via Delarosa. The other group took the bus around the city to the Jaffa gate and walked to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where the two groups met. We toured the church and then headed back to the hotel. Along the way some decided to stay in the old city as it is only a short walk back to the hotel.
Throughout the day, Amer, our guide, filled us in on the history, the religious significance, and the spiritual lessons of the various sites. It was a good day and not as long as yesterday.

From the top of the Mount of Olives, looking over the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount

On the steps of the Church of All Nations

Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the possible site of Jesus’ burial

The road to Jerusalem

The Shepherd’s fields just outside Bethlehem

Not quite the original

The grotto in the Church of the Navtivity

We started our day with a tour of the Jesus Boat Museum. It has a first century fishing boat that was found by members of the Nof Ginosar kibbutz. We were then picked up by a 21st century boat that took us out into the lake for a unique view of the land around the western side of the Sea of Galilee.
Traveling to Jerusalem, as in Jesus’ time, is by one of three routes. There is the coastal route, the road through Samaria, and down through the Jordan Valley. We chose to go the coastal route since it was the quickest way to get to Bethlehem.
Our first stop was at the Shepherd’s Fields. The site overlooks a valley that runs east/west toward the Jordan Valley and would have been the route of Ruth and Naomi on their way back to Jerusalem along with the location of the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth.
The Church of the Navitity was next and amazingly there was no line to go down into the grotto. The church is under construction so it is filled with scaffolding.