Israel · 3535 Days · 33 Moments · October 2005

McIsrael Trip

18 June 2015

THE WESTERN WALL AND BELOW: Excellent place to see the only part of the original temple wall before it was destroyed (I think by the Muslims, there’s a lot of destruction here). We watched the Jewish faithful come and pray by the wall, their bodies rhythmically bowing back and forth as they cried aloud. It was good to see such dedication to their faith. Below we took a tour and discovered much, much more of the original temple walls that would have been there during the time of Jesus. The craftsmanship and art that they took the time to display was astounding.

17 June 2015

HEZEKIAH’S TUNNEL: Discovered in 1887, this tunnel is about 1700 feet long. And deep. Deep under the city of Jerusalem! When Hezekiah was king of Israel, he anticipated an attack by the Assyrians. These tunnels were carved by hand, and the men building it started on opposite sides. When they finally met in the middle, they were only 12 inches off in elevation from each other. When the Assyrians did attack, they were unable to get the Jerusalem water supply because all of the water was being funneled into the city! It was deep and a very tight squeeze. But overall it was a blast.
GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE: One of my favorite places overall in this trip. It was so peaceful and quiet there amid the loudness and turmoil of the rest of Jerusalem. We actually got to hang out there in the private garden for about an hour, just peacefully walking around and taking it all in. In Jesus’ time this place was pretty much the same. At the bottom of the hill (the Mt.of Olives) is where the olives would be pressed. On the other side of the hill was the temple mount and the city of Jerusalem. Picture two hills and a river in the middle. So when Judas and the Jewish police force were coming for the Jesus, he would have seen them coming out of the gates and up the mountain to the garden.
Overlooking the city.
THE POOL OF BETHESDA: “Do you want to be well?” The Pool of Bethesda, during Jesus’ time, was just outside the walls of the city near the Sheep Gate. It was used for everything from washing sheep in preparation for the temple sacrifice (hence the name of the gate) to people that had incurable diseases. The lame. The blind. The ones who had given up hope of any normal life in Jerusalem. Like the man in John 5:5 who had been paralyzed for 38 years. So Jesus asks the question. “Do you want to be well?” The lame man is instantly defensive, saying that before he can get in the water when it’s churning, people jump in and block him. He gives the story so many of us can give when we are asked the same question. Instead of s simple yes we give an excuse. Because saying “yes” means there is a belief in a higher calling. Saying yes means you have a life of action. Saying yes means that you have faith. Saying yes, means that you can never be the same again. Do you want to be well?
THE CHURCH OF ST ANNE: This church lies right next to the Pool of Bethesda. We sang in this check and it sounded INCREDIBLE. Another group heard us and they joined in. The church signifies Mary's mother and father that supposedly lived close by (not sure that's true, since they also lived in Saphorris). The church is in honor of grandparents and their teaching. It was a great morning and a wonderful start.

16 June 2015

THE GARDEN TOMB: There are two places where scholars think the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Jesus took place. The first is the Garden Tomb (and only the first because it was the first I went to). This place is amazingly peaceful. After a very loud and obnoxious trip to the Dome of the Rock (more on that later), this place was a welcome respite from Jerusalem. Don’t get me wrong, I like Jerusalem. But along with the usual hustle and bustle of a big city, you have the ever-present DISCORD. It’s always there. But not at the Garden Tomb. Discovered in 1867, this place certainly looks the part. You can almost see the skull in the rock above. In the pics you can see the entrance, with the giant stone taken away. You can also see the burial preparation site and the actual burial place. No matter which tomb was the actual one, there’s one good thing to remember: It's empty.
HERODIUM: What do you do when you’re a king and you believe that you are a god? You build yourself a palace for yourself, of course! Not to be confused with the other Herod’s we hear about later in Jesus’ life, this Herod is the daddy of them all. Just outside of Bethlehem you can see this giant, flat-topped mountain. This is exactly where the palace is located. Using slave labor of the Jews he ruled over, he built a seven-story marvel where he could practically see all of the kingdom he ruled over. Following the visit from the Magi (or “Wise Men”), Herod ordered “The Massacre of the Innocents,” where every male child under 2 would be put to death*. This would have been the place he ordered such a heinous decree, and also where the Magic would have stopped on their way to the Messiah. *-Of course, Jesus was born right under Herod’s nose in Bethlehem, fully visible from Herod’s palace.
BETHLEHEM: Bethlehem lies just over the line in the West Bank. I read before I went about the pickpockets, the looters and the salesmen that get up in your face and they didn't disappoint. Everywhere there are tourists they are there. But it didn't ruin the experience for me at all. Catherine the Greats mom helped find this location from the local people back in the 6 or 7th Century. The door you see someone going through is the door of humility. You'll also see engravings of the vine and branches before you go in ten cave where she would have had Jesus. The star is supposedly THE SPOT he was born. The last shot is the manger where HE lay.

15 June 2015

QUMRAN and IN GEDDI: Made two quick passes by these spots on the way to Jerusalem. Qumran is the spot where they found the Dead Sea Scrolls. Jewish monks, fed up with politics in Jerusalem went and made a habitat for them to live. In the dessert. I could find a lot better places around here, but ok. The scrolls contained many books from the Bible (the OT), and they were exactly the same as the Bible read over a 1000 years later when they were found in 1952ish. IN GEDDI is where David hid from Saul in caves around this waterfall.

14 June 2015

THE DEAD SEA: We made a road trip over Mt Gilboa ('twas quite a high road) and we quickly made our way down to the Dead Sea for an overnight stay. First, the drive. It was here that I've noticed the distinct cultural differences here. With Jordan right across the Sea, it's very apparent that both sides are always ready to go to war. We even saw a fighter jet pass over our hotel several times on border patrol. It's never scary, but it's a constant reminder of where we are. Back to the sea. Swimming in it is like having baby oil mixed with water all over you. It's full of minerals and almost impossible to not float in. You can actually feel your feet being pushed up by the water! How salty is it? Well, have you ever made homemade ice cream? If you took your finger and wiped the rim and ate the salt, that's how salty it is. It's disgusting. But glad I jumped in to try it! Tomorrow it's time for Masada and into Jerusalem.
JERICHO: The oldest city IN THE WORLD! At first glance this looks like just another pile of rocks. It's actually 10,000 years worth of history here. Of course, one part of that history is the walls of Jericho coming down. From what I see, it worked. Neat place to visit but wasn't one of the main places I wanted to go. But very glad we did! Saw several excavation sites and evidence of civilizations going back 1,000s of years.
LEAVING GALILEE: Hated to go but it was time for more touring! This morning we worshipped at the Church of Christ in Nazareth. Being with them gave me chills. To see their conviction amidst persecution and violence made me proud for them. After it was on to Jericho!

13 June 2015

CANA: We visited the church where purportedly Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine. The church claims to have one of the barrels that held the wine. You'll see the barrel and also the floor from the church at that time.
LAST PICS OF SAPPORIS: The picture of the temple, on some of the corners, the Byzantines used sarcophagi from the Jewish graveyards to help brick the building, an ultimate shaming of Jewish life. It was a reminder to the Jews how they were regarded. The rest is a chariot found there and more tiles. The one with writing on it was found inside a home with an indoor lavatory, the writing means "Live Well." The Romans did here. Very well. And they needed craftsmen just like Jesus to build the city. He could find ample work here, line close to his in-laws (tradition has them living in this city), and he could be just far enough away from Roman attention by living in Nazareth.
The small columns you see in the ruins held the floor above, while water ran below and was heated by hot stones. Ye, a steam room. You'll also notice the intricate mosaics, some with writing. We could walk up and touch the tiles and see the handiwork of who laid them. No place else like this is Israel. Also, look at the stone road. The stones are laid at an angle so the chariots and wagon wheels wouldn't get stuck in the cracks. Clever Romans!
SAPHORIS/ZIPPORIS: Of all the places we've been, this one may be the most special to me. During the last 20-10 years this city has been more excavated and understood to be an important city and Roman post during Jesus' time. In fact it is highly likely that Jesus worked of run here in this city, since it's reconstruction was taking place at this time. The city lies just across from Nazareth, on another hill and took about a forty or hour long walk to reach. In about 5-10 years I'm convinced you won't be able to get as close to this city as we did. We could touch the mosaics, walk the hallways and discover. This cite hasn't had the money for excavation that others have. That will change. It's the most exciting site concerning Jesus in a long time. I was amazed.
MORE BET SHE'AN: Views from the colosseum and through the streets. Also a few shots from atop the temple hill. NOTE: not an easy feat when ones blood sugar is dropping like a rock. FYI
BET SHE'AN: There aren't many places in the world that has a more perfectly preserved Roman city than Bet She'an. The area went through many rulers, and has had significance for many cultures. During the time of Jesus it was called "Synthopolis," and was one of the 10 Decapolis, one of the 10 cities not given to Herod the Great. Jesus spent time here (Mathew 4:25, Mark 5:20). In the OT, King Saul's body was hung here along with his armor at the top of the hill after he was killed by the Philistines.
THE JORDAN RIVER: We made a quick stop at one spot on the Jordan River. There are two spots believed to be "Bethabara," this is one of the places. This location makes sense because it's closer to Galilee, but there are numerous places that could be the actual location. This is one of those spots that I believe is very inconclusive. No matter! He was baptized, and that's the main point. There were many baptisms going on, it was a beautiful place and very peaceful.

12 June 2015

The synagogue at Capernaum really was humbling. Knowing that Jesus walked and taught and worshiped in this very place had me in awe. Almost can't comprehend it, really. It's so easy to just dismiss it as just another place we've visited. But it's not. The darker, lower sections of the foundation is during Jesus time. Later, when more money and notoriety came to the town, the more they could spend on the facade of the synagogue. It's a stark contrast to the black basalt rock that was prevalent in the area. That's mostly what you see the houses made of.
Finally made it to Capernaum. This is where Jesus made his home after leaving Nazareth (or bring forced out!). So many of Jesus miracles were performed here. More on those in a sec. The town itself sits almost directly across from Tiberius, a visual reminder of how directly opposite it was of Tiberius, where we are staying. Capernaum was a border town with fishing as its main trade. James, John and Peter all came from this region. In fact, the octagonal home you see in the pics is believed to be Peters home, which is where his mother in law lived as well. Evidence suggests that the people of the town worshipped there. The remains here are remarkable and really show how many people could live in a town like this. Usually one or two room houses. Some of them two stories high with living quarters above and an animal barn below. Most of these were just living quarters for the people of the city.
Cesarea Phillpi: "Who do you say that I am?" This was the question that Jesus asked Peter, at a every specific location. One that I had the opportunity to see today. It was here that Jesus and his disciples had taken a very arduous and tiring 4-day walk. Several things were happening here: 1) the worship of Pan took place here, with followers sacrificing children and throwing them into the rocks and water. 2) Baal was worshipped in the area and 3) Herod, the Romans had a post there, was also worshiped as a god. "Gods" everywhere. So it was here Jesus asked the all important question. Look at the pictures and the visual cues that Jesus uses are everywhere. Their walk was no accident. His purpose wasn't either. I was awed. And the words have become all the more real to me.
A few more pics from this morning. You can really see the opening of the cave in one of these.
Some quick pics from our boat ride across the Sea of Galilee. It's beautiful and so peaceful. The city you see is Magdala, home of Mary Magdalene. The other is looking Southeast toward Jordan (I think).
Two visitors, and a shot of the south side of Tiberius, the original part of the city.

11 June 2015

MT CARMEL: Elijah defeated the followers of Baal here. Read 1 Kings 18:19-39. An amazing view Elijah had while giving Baal's followers something to think about.
MEGGIDO: This place was one I was least excited about, turns out it was fantastic! Nearly every road in the region converged here, at a city that sat 60m high. It overlooks a beautiful valley, one that travelers and even Jesus would take into Jerusalem on the Via Maris, meaning "to the sea." It's no wonder to me that this place would be the scene of the last battle on Earth: Armageddon. Every major point is somewhat visible from this location. I was in awe of the view, and reminded of a verse after seeing Mt. Tabor in the distance: Jeremiah 46:18- "Surely one shall come who looks up Tabor among the mountains, or like Carmel by the sea." More on Carmel shortly. Also we took a very deep walk into Ahab's Tunnel. It's 100 feet down and over 200 feet long and yes, sort of freaky to walk down. But also it was humbling to see how the ancient people of this city got their water so their enemies wouldn't know it's location.
THE RUINS OF CEASAREA: Herod the Great developed this harbor to show Tiberius how much of a man crush he had on him. Crush or not, the harbor was magnificent and a marvel of engineering with materials that allowed the concrete to harden underwater. Also, the aqueduct you'll see in the pics brought water to the harbor and city 7 miles away. Biblical significance: •Peter took the message of the Gospel here and baptized a centurion. This was a big deal, since centurions were in control of an entire city. Acts 10:1-48 •Paul left for many of his missionary journeys here since the port was so busy and could get patrons most anywhere in this part of the world. Paul was ultimately held prisoner here until he could have his trial in Rome. Acts 24: 1,27 He spent two years here and was probably tried in this very hall located in the ruins. Acts 23:31, 26:32

10 June 2015

Pics from Joppa!

13 October 2005

CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE: This is the other place where scholars believe that Jesus was killed on the cross and then buried. And then, of course, was resurrected. I’ve included a few pics that I found that helps explain why there is a church over arguably the three most important sties on our trip. Simply put, it was built over them to protect it, much like the Church of the Nativity and others we’ve visited. (More pics to come)