Our first day in Jerusalem, and what a busy day! We woke up early and a bus took us to the top of the Mount of Olives. From the top of the Mount, you can see most of the Old City, including the Temple Mount. The area used to be covered in olive trees, but is now used as a cemetery. Our guide, Neftali, told us that David, Absalom, and some of the prophets are buried at the bottom of the hill. Our journey took us down the hill, where were stopped at a church named after the place where Jesus wept over the city (Dominus Flevit). The church here is in the shape of a traditional Jewish tear jar. (more…)
Archive for September, 2010
Yay for sleeping in! Since we didn’t have to leave the hotel until 11am, Jill and I slept in. We had intended on watching the sunrise over the Dead Sea from our hotel room… but we missed it by about 15 minutes. A bit disappointing, but I got to see pictures of it from others. It was nice, however, to take our time getting ready and repack our suitcases. My suitcase had gotten fairly disorganized by this point, so it was nice to make sure everything was in its proper place and to keep dirty clothes from fraternizing with the clean ones.
By 10:45 most of us had boarded the bus, and we headed back north a little ways to Masada. The word “masad” means “strong foundation.” Masada is a mountain plateau – it is 23 acres on top, and sits 900 feet high with a fabulous view of the Dead Sea. It was here that Herod built another one of his palaces as well as an army fortress. At the bottom we boarded a cable car that took us smoothly to the top. One of the first things I noticed at the top was how windy it was, but this helped the high temperatures feel not quite so hot. (more…)
Baptism day! Woot woot!
I woke up with a beautiful view of the Sea of Galilee one last time. We headed a few miles down the road to the Yardenit baptismal site on the northern part of the Jordan River. “Yardenit” is the Hebrew name for a baptismal pool in a church – obviously in a Messianic church. It literally means “tiny Jordan”. The thing that struck me as funny is that I got baptized in the “tiny Jordan” but it was in the Jordan River. The water was chilly as I walked down the steps into the river. Dave and Pastor John did the honors of baptizing me. It was really amazing to be baptized in the same river that Jesus was baptized in. (more…)
I can say this of our day: we definitely got our money’s worth! We packed a lot into September 3rd.
After eating a leisurely breakfast with a view of the Sea of Galilee, we boarded the bus to head north. Our driver took us around the eastern side of the lake since later we would be on the western side, and he wanted us to get every view possible. One of the interesting things I learned about the Sea of Galilee is that it is 600 feet below sea level. I knew that the Dead Sea was below sea level, but I had no idea that the Sea of Galilee was too. On our way up the eastern side, our guide pointed out the place believed to be where Jesus cast the demons into the pigs and the pigs ran off the cliff. Unfortunately I couldn’t get a picture of it from the bus but it was a pretty impressive cliff. (more…)
And our first stop was not disappointing. We headed north a few miles to Caesarea. It was built by Herod the Great (or Not-So-Great, depending on who you ask) as a tribute to Rome for being chosen as a king. He built an entire Roman city there, complete with a man-made harbor (see picture). Now, this was kind of a big deal since there were no other harbors along the entire coast of Israel. But of course he saved the best for himself and built a 3-story palace, complete with his own private swimming pool.
Because of Caesarea’s location, there was also the problem of available fresh water. So, Herod, being the brilliant man he was, created aqueducts to carry fresh water into the city (see below).
Our next stop was at Mount Carmel. This is where Elijah took on the hundreds of prophets of Baal, and God delivered in a huge way. The story goes that for hundreds of years after this encounter, people still called it “The Place of Burning”, because they could still see scorch marks on the rocks from fire. I looked around for some scorched-looking rocks, but I was unsuccessful. From on top of the observatory area, you can see the entire Jezreel Valley (pictured below). So many things have happened in this valley, but I think what I think is so interesting is that its history is not done yet. That’s right, Armageddon will be taking place in that very valley. In fact, the word Armageddon comes from the Hebrew “Har Megiddo”, which means “hill of Megiddo”… which, coincidentally is where we went next, after our first lunch of falafels and Jesus-Coke-cans (see my facebook page for further explanation).
Megiddo is a mountain, but it is man-made. Man has been building on that site for so long, that it has created a mountain. It is likely that Abraham visited this site on his journeys, because Megiddo dates back to before him as a Canaanite city, plus it has a natural spring, which makes it a likely stopping place for any travelers. We also know that Solomon built here. He had stables, silos, a cistern, and a defense post on this mountain. From it’s height, it makes it a great defense, because you can see anyone coming across the valley. And Megiddo will once again be important in those final days as a defense post.
Our final stop of the day was in Nazareth where we visited a recreated village from Jesus’ time. Our guide through the village was actually a nice Canadian woman, so it was refreshing to listen to a much subtler accent. She took us through the village and showed us what life in that time would have been like. We met a shepherd and his flock of sheep and goats, we met “Joseph” in his workshop, and his sister “Hannah” who was spinning wool and weaving. We saw an original wine press that was on the grounds, as well as an olive press. They also reconstructed a first century synagogue, and I had the privilege of reading Luke 4:16-30 to everyone. It was really interesting since it was the most historical-looking place we visited – almost everywhere else has a church built on it, so you lose some of the originality of the place.
When we left Nazareth, we drove through the city of Cana (where Jesus turned water into wine), and we could see Mount Tabor in the distance. But finally we got to the Sea of Galilee and our hotel, which was on the very southern part of the Sea. What a fabulous hotel. All of our rooms had a view of the Sea, and they had peacocks running around the grounds. It was so beautiful and peaceful there!
Stay tuned for the next installment of tales from Israel!
(See my facebook for more pictures!)
I arrived back in the States on Saturday from a simply wonderful time in Israel. Unfortunately I’m still fighting the effects known as jet-lag. One thing is for certain – they got the ‘lag’ part right! My body is revolting against coming back to my time zone. Why is it that it is so easy to get into a new time zone? Could it be the adrenaline that helps us adjust quickly to a new place? Maybe I need to get more excited about coming back home so my body eases into the time of origin better. But, to be honest, I wasn’t excited about coming home. Not that I don’t love Knoxville and the people here… I just completely fell in love with Israel and it’s people. I told my group that they could sell me for camels and leave me behind – I would have been completely content with that. (more…)