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.
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.
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.
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).
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!
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
Our first stop on Monday was at Masada, a massive palace and fortress. While one palace was already there, Herod the Great improved that one for his wives and children and then built another one for himself. In AD 70 the Jewish Zealots inhabited it. They lived in Masada for 3 1/2 years before the Romans breached the walls, only to find the Zealots had killed themselves.
Next, we visited En-Gedi, a spring close by. David had hidden from Saul in a cave there, and had the opportunity to kill Saul but didn’t.
After a swim in the Dead Sea, our group went to the site of old Jericho and saw the part of the wall that is still standing.
Finally, we saw a presentation of the Tabernacle in the evening.
I know you want to see pictures, and I will try, but internet is very “iffy.”
We spent Sunday in the Negev which is desert in the southern part of Israel. This is the area where the children of Israel wandered for 40 years before entering the Promised land.
The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them: and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as a rose. It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing… (Isaiah 35:1-2)
In 1948 the desert area was 84% arid, unusable land. At this time it stands at 62% unusable land. By using drip irrigation, the Israelis are reclaiming the land for farmland. They have just finished their harvest of wheat. The desert is truly “blooming”!
We also rode camels and slept in a Bedouin tent, similar to what Abraham and Sarah had done. What an interesting lifestyle!
Wheat fields of Negev
Camel ride at Bedouin Oasis
We traveled all day and night Friday, and arrived at the hotel about noon. With no sleep, I have been in a fog all day. It’s 9:30 in the evening now, and I’m going to bed.
Tomorrow we will follow Abraham’s steps in Israel, and then down into the desert where Moses led the Israelites. Then off to a camel ride and ending up sleeping in abediune tent.
My roommate’s name is Liana, and she wrote that we will be “sleeping with the camels.”
On Friday, Lord willing, I will be traveling to Israel, and will spend two glorious weeks walking where Jesus walked. Hopefully, I will be able to post some of my experiences to share with anyone interested.
May God bless each of you in the coming weeks.
Recently, I decided to make a sun hat to take on my trip to Israel. I pulled out the pattern, “sort of” measured it, to make sure the crown of the hat would fit, and quickly put the entire hat together, brim and all, before carefully measuring. As you may see from the picture, the crown was not shaped properly. Of course, the hat didn’t fit the way I wanted it to, so I had to take it apart the restitch the crown.
In the Christian life, we often get ahead of what God would have us to do. We think we are fully prepared for something, and merrily go ahead with our plans, thinking everything will be okay. I thought of this following verse, knowing that God would want me to be more careful, even in my sewing.
For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish (Luke 14:28-30, KJV).
Of course, in the passage in Luke, the Lord Jesus was talking about discipleship, and giving up everything in order to serve Him. He wants us to be willing to surrender to His leading completely. Then, as we follow His directions for our lives, He perfects us to be more like Him.
Some of you may know that I will be going to Israel on a tour in a few weeks. My sister, who is the organizer of tour, recently wrote this to the group that is going:
I’m sure you will be celebrating Christ’s Resurrection in the next few weeks. We will be too, beginning this weekend, with our granddaughters (4 and 6 yrs old). In our Bruce family tradition, we’ll act out the Easter story again and again, changing who gets to be Jesus, or the angel, or whatever. Sometimes a hole in the bushes doubles as the tomb; last year the tomb was under the piano bench. They have a great imagination, but I’m thrilled that they are learning the Scripture truths so well.
The “Hill of the Skull” just outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem has been overtaken by a modern bus stop. While you get the sense that one of our holiest places has been desecrated by smelly buses, in a sense that is appropriate, because Jesus was crucified right on the main thoroughfare, where all travelers could see the spectacle of the Son of God carrying our sin on a rugged cross.
There is a walk-in tomb near Calvary that might have been the tomb of Jesus. If so, it was once sealed tightly shut, but the seal on the door wasn’t strong enough to keep the Son of God inside. After three days he rose again, alive and victorious over death!
That tomb is certainly empty today, and we can visit it. In fact, we plan to celebrate Jesus’ death and resurrection with communion together there.
Blessings, Les & Kathy Bruce