DAY 10: THE GARDEN TOMB & ABRAHAM’S TENT

He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. Matthew 28:6

The last touring day was considered by some, including this blogger, to be the best day yet. We reentered the “Old City” and visited the Pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed the lame man, stirring up a ruckus because it was the sabbath (John 5). In the same area was the Crusader built Church of Saint Anne, aka the “singing church”. The acoustics are so amazing that even our motley crew sounded awesome.
We walked a portion of the Via Dolorosa, the way of suffering, and had a Bible study on the 2000 year old Roman pavement stones where it is thought that Pilate sentenced Jesus to death on the cross.

From there we proceeded to the site that many scholars believe to be Golgotha, or Calvary, where Jesus was crucified. In the area is a 1st century Jewish tomb, hewn into the rock, that could have been Jesus’ temporary tomb. This was all very exciting to see what we have always read, the tomb is empty. We had a time of joyous praise and communion.

A bus ride into the Judean desert took us to Abraham’s tent where we met “Abraham”, enjoyed a delicious lunch, and rode camels! A fun way to wind up our trip. We had a farewell dinner that evening, packed and headed to bed.

And now, as I write, we are sitting in Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, waiting for our flight home.

A worthwhile trip, to say the least. Thank the Lord.

DAY 9: SHILOH & JERUSALEM MUSEUMS

Now the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of meeting there. Joshua 18:1

Another amazing morning, today at Tel Shiloh, the early capital of the 12 tribes of Israel. The tabernacle was located here from the time of Joshua until King David moved it to Jerusalem. Our guide, aptly names Israel, shared much of the history of the area and the archeological discoveries. They think the tabernacle site has been discovered and expect their excavations will prove it. It was at this site that Steve taught about prayer from 1 Samuel 1, where Hannah prayed at this very place for a son.

We returned to Jerusalem and visited the Israel Museum. The model of Jerusalem in the second temple period was very impressive and informative. It gave us a sense of the location and distances between the places and buildings we read about in scripture. The Shrine of the Book is home to the renowned Dead Sea Scrolls, archaeological artifacts, and rare medieval manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible.

Next we visited Yad  Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. It is a strong thought provoking experience that I will not attempt to describe. Learn more at the website: www.yadvashem.org

DAY 8: JERUSALEM (TEMPLE MOUNT & MORE)

After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. John 5:1

We arrived early at the security check point to enter the Temple Mount. We learned much about the history of the mount, the site of both the 1st and 2nd Jewish temples. The Muslim Dome of the Rock, completed in 691 AD, today sits where most Jews think those temples once stood.

We then visited the City of David; not Bethlehem, but the area on the south side of the Temple Mount where David set up his headquarters after becoming king. We walked through the narrow tunnels and caves under the city used by the ancient Jebusites and later the Jews to supply the city with water.

For lunch we spread out and tried several of the restaurants in the bustling Jewish Quarter of the Old City and then walked to the Christian Quarter to browse the many shops and haggle for bargains.

After dinner, many went back out for the western wall tunnel tour. A few of us, including this old man, remained at the hotel in order to rest up for tomorrow.

DAY 7: JERUSALEM, VALLEY OF ELAH, KIBBUTZ REVADIM

Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” Mark 14:32

We started at the top of the Mount of Olives and followed Jesus’ Palm Sunday route to the Garden of Gethsemane. Among the ancient olive trees Steve taught from Mark 14, the passage where Jesus prayed from this same garden. Then we spread throughout the garden for some private time of prayer and contemplation.

The next highlight was a visit to the Church of St Peter in Gallicanti, a place few of us had ever heard of. A complex of caves under the church includes a dungeon thought to be the cell where Jesus was detained for the night following his arrest. We packed into this tiny cell while Steve read Psalm 88. It was both disturbing and moving as we gained insight into to the awful suffering Jesus endured for us.

After lunch we headed to the Valley of Elah where David slew Goliath. Steve shared a passage from Romans 5. What does Romans have to do with an ancient battle? You’ll have to read it to find out.

Next we traveled to the Sorek Valley, near where the ancient Philistine city of Ekron once stood, and visited Kibbutz Revadim, the home of our tour guide “Uncle” Kenny. He showed us around and explained kibbutz life. We met his wife and enjoyed refreshments at their home before planting a tree for Calvary Chapel Fluvanna on the kibbutz.

After dinner many went to see the amazing “Night Spectacular Show” at the City of David. A fitting end to our first full day in the Holy City.

DAY 6: MASADA, EN GEDI, JERUSALEM

Then David went up from there and dwelt in strongholds at En Gedi.  I Samuel 23:29

Our first sunny day! We were up and packed early to board the bus to our first stop, Masada, Israel’s number one national historic site. It was on this desert mountain top in 74 AD where 960 Jews, men, women and children, committed suicide rather than surrender to Roman slavery. Because of this, most Jews hold this site in great reverence.

After a short ride we arrived at the oasis of En Gedi where David hid from King Saul and his army. It’s a beautiful natural area with waterfalls and abundant wildlife. We saw rock badgers and ibexes, both mentioned in the Bible. The study here was from 1Samuel 24.

We had lunch at a waterfront cafe, said goodbye to the Dead Sea and headed to the holy city of Jerusalem arriving just before the start of Shabbat. We saw the walls to the old city and joined other worshippers in prayer at the western wall. This place is known to Jews throughout the world as their most holy site.

I can’t remember all the places we are going tomorrow, but we are starting with the Mount of Olives.