Tuesday, June 13

The last 2 days of our trip were spent in Jerusalem. There were so many things we did there that I will probably have to break up my comments into separate posts.

Our accommodations for three nights were in the Old City of Jerusalem, at the Lutheran Guest House. The rooms were small, but adequate. The room I shared with another traveler had no air conditioning, so we slept with the window and door opened every night. Of course, Ramadan was in full swing the entire time we were there, so every evening and morning horns were blasting, and people were celebrating until early morning. The horns started at 2:30 a.m. each morning–you can imagine the amount of sleep we got!

Lutheran Guesthouse

The streets of the Old City are narrow, in some cases much too small for cars, and everywhere were steps up or down.

Jerusalem Street

The guest house had a beautiful plaza in the back, overlooking the city. A number of us would spend the late evening hours outside, enjoying the cool air and scenery. It was a wonderful place for spending time in the Word in the morning.

Dome of the Rock

 

Monday June 12

Our first stop for this day was outside Bethlehem at a place called the “Shepherds Fields.” If you want a real name, we visited the Franciscan Monastery, where they feature a small cave that was probably used to house sheep at night. Jesus may have been born in a cave like this. All around this area are fields, and we even saw some sheep in the valley below.

Shepherd’s Cave

We then climbed up to the Herodium, a man-made mountain (by Herod the Great) with a palace on the top close to Jerusalem. In thinking about the places that Jesus was taken during His trial, He would have had to travel quite a bit during that night just to reach these places. as I may have mentioned, everything is up a mountain or down in a valley.

Herodium

During the afternoon, we visited Tel Maresha, a dig site in the Lower Judean hills. We were privileged to spend some time digging in the dirt, trying to find artifacts. Tel Maresha was originally given to Caleb (Joshua 15:44) and Micah the prophet was from here. It is also the site of a Canaanite village from the Intertestamental period, so everything we found would be dated before Christ (and we did find some items). I think we all enjoyed getting “down and dirty” for a little bit.

Les Bruce at Tel Maresha

Saturday, June 10

Saturday morning started early with a rededication baptism in the Sea of Galilea. Throughout the whole tour we were encouraged to listen to what the Lord would have us do with out lives and to submit to His will completely. What a blessed time, even for those who were not baptized!

Bethsaida, meaning “House of Fish,” was Peter and Andrew’s home town. During Jesus’ time, Bethsaida was on the upper shore of the Sea of Galilee, but currently is considerably north or the shoreline. Apparently, the delta from the Jordan River has filled in some of the land, and coupled with numerous years of drought in the land, the city is no longer close to the water.

Bethsaida

Close by Bethsaida is another possible site of the feeding of the 5,000. Shortly after that, Jesus walked (and Peter) on the water of the Sea of Galilee.

Hillside, possible site of the feeding of the 5,000

Next in our tour, we visited Dan, where the Israelites had set up an altar to Jehovah, which later turned into a place idolatrous worship. Dan is also the site of one of the springs that feeds into the Jordan River. It is a delightfully peaceful place, at least by the spring.

Kursi is the place where Jesus cast demons out of a man, and the herd of pigs ran down into the water. There are many caves and tombs in the hillsides, where the demon-controlled man could have lived.

Jesus took his disciples up north to Caesarea Philippi, also called Banias, or Panias. There is a massive cliff city names for the emporer, dedicated to Caesar as well as the goat-god Pan. Herod had built a temple over a cave, which was called “The Gates of Hell.” In this place, Jesus asked his disciples: “Whom say ye that I am?” (Matthew 16:15)

Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona; for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock [that Jesus is God] I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it (Matthew 16:16-18).

Friday, June 9

Our day started out with a trip to the Sea of Galilee, to see a 2000 year-old fishing boat that had been preserved in the mud. We also had a special time out on the Sea of Galilee, with singing and dancing, as well as a time of reflection that this is where Jesus walked on the water. Pictured here is one of the precious women in our tour group.

2000-year-old fishing boat

On the Sea of Gaillee

Magdala is the city where Mary Magdalene came from. We visited there shortly, seeing the synagogue where Jesus would have taught.

Jesus made his headquarters in Capernaum during his ministry in the Galilean territory.  Peter had built a house in Capernaum, and there was a 3rd century house-church built over the place his house may have been. Peter’s mother-in-law was healed here, as well as the paralyzed man let down through the tiles of the synagogue by four of his friends.

Taghba is the possible site of the feeding of the 5000. There are seven warm springs flowing into the Sea of Galilee here, and it may have been here that Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, John and Philip to be “fishers of men.” This may also have been the spot where Jesus met His disciples after His resurrection and encourage Peter by forgiving him of his denial.

Mt. Beatitudes is the supposed spot of the Sermon on the Mount. Everywhere you look there are possible places where Jesus may have walked and taught. It’s hard to really comprehend how wonderful the land of Israel is. Even after a week I’m still awed by the experience.

Thursday, June 8

Our first stop on Thursday was at Caesaria Maritima, built by Herod the Great (who was not so great, according to our tour guide, or Herod the Terrible, according to Kathy Bruce). The Holy Spirit first came upon the Gentiles at Caesaria when Peter came to meet Cornelius in Acts 10. Paul was in prison here, and appeared before Felix and Agrippa in Acts 25-27.

Caesaria Maratima

Caesaria Maratima

We next drove up to Mount Carmel, where God sent fire from heaven to consume the altar and sacrifice that Elijah had prepared. Elijah then slew 850 priests of Baal. Mount Carmel provided a wonderful view of the Jezreel Valley, also called the Valley of Megiddo. This is where the Battle of Armageddon will be held.

Jezreel Valley

Jezreel Valley

We also visited Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. Here is where Jesus taught in the synagogue, saying:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon  me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord….This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears (Luke 4:18, 21).

 

 

Wednesday June 7

On Wednesday we walked through Hezekiah’s tunnel. It takes about 45 minutes to go through it, in water up to your thighs at times. The tunnel is quite narrow and often so low you have to bend over to get through it. I wouldn’t have missed it! Unfortunately, my pictures didn’t come out because it was so dark.

At the end of the tunnel was the pool of Siloam, where Jesus healed a blind man. Just a few steps away from there, archaeologists have uncovered the temple steps from the time of Jesus. He would really have walked that path!

Temple steps

 

Tuesday June 6

Tuesday was a very special day. We visited Shiloh where the Tabernacle resided for  many years. It was here that Hannah prayed for a son and God gave her Samuel, who later became the prophet, who anointed David to be king. While there, we had a time of reflection and prayer for special needs.

Tabernacle dig site

We drove through the area where Joshua’s long day occurred, and on to Gezer, one of Solomon’s fortified cities. I Kings 9:15 lists three cities that he built, and archaeologists have determined all three of those city gates were built by the same man of that time period.

Another stop, Beth Shemesh, was where the cows brought the Ark of the Covenant once the Philistines released it.

Qeiyafa was the encampment of the Israelite army above the Elah Valley. Here David chose 5 stones from a small brook to kill Goliath. At Qeiyafah, we got into small groups and ran around trying to identify various gates, the palace, and other items of interest. We were able to find some pottery shards there from the 10th century B.C.

Qeiyafa & the Elah Valley