MICHAEL and JEANNIE in ISRAEL
“From Dan to Be'er Sheva”
Many, if not most, Christians dream of visiting the places where lived Abraham, King David, Jesus, His earliest disciples, and so many other biblical characters. We were blessed to tour Israel in 2011 and then again 12 years later with good tour companies, great local guides, and precious friends. We highly recommend that every Christian plan to visit this “holy land” during their lifetime. The experience truly strengthens one’s understanding of Scripture and enhances faith in the King of kings.
After lunch we used Uber to return us to the airport, where we hung out in the American Airlines lounge awaiting the arrival of Calvin and Judy Warpula from Texas who were joining us on the flight to Tel Aviv, Israel. We met them at their arrival gate at 7 o’clock. We departed Miami about 9:15 p.m. After takeoff we enjoyed an ample evening meal then slept about 6 hours after taking a mild sleeping pill.
Thursday, 9 March 2023
We awoke a couple hours before time to land. We were served breakfast before experiencing lots of turbulence at 41,000 feet going 650 miles per hour.
We arrived safely in Israel at 3:10 p.m. Going through passport control was easier than the four of us expected. We gathered our bags and soon found two men in our tour group that arrived about an hour before us. Sixteen others arrived together about an hour after us. Our group with Kenneth Mills Tours, now with 22 members, were met by our temporary, very knowledgeable Israeli guide, Anton Farah. We were transported to Hadera Resort Hotel in Hadera, Israel, in the bus that we would use throughout our touring. We arrived after dark in time for supper.
Our first stop was the archaeological site of Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean coast. Founded by Herod the Great in 22 B.C., it was the seat of the Roman government in Judea for over 500 years. The relatives and close friends of Cornelius, a Roman centurion, were the first Gentile converts to Christianity after the Apostle Peter preached at his house in Caesarea. (See Acts 10.) The Apostle Paul later spent two years in prison at Caesarea. (See Acts 23–27.)
Our next bus stop was at Mount Carmel where the prophet Elijah proved that Jehovah God’s power was without limit and that the false god Baal and his prophets should be eradicated from Israel. (See I Kings 18.)
Lunch at 12:00 took almost an hour. We arrived at Tel Megiddo at 1:20. This ancient Canaanite city had a very strategic location overlooking the Jezreel Valley and was witness to many wars. Archeological finds tell us that it was destroyed and rebuilt at least 26 times. King Solomon fortified the city as an important defense post. (See 1 Kings 9:15 and 10:26.) King Josiah was killed here in 609 B.C. when he unwisely interfered with the Egyptian army marching through the land on their way to bring military aid to the king of Assyria to battle Carchemish at the Euphrates River. (See II Kings 23:29–30 and II Chronicles 35:20–24.)
Next we visited the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. This is the traditional site of the angel Gabriel announcing to the virgin Mary that she would give birth to Jesus, the “Son of the Most High.” (See Luke 1:26–38.) At 5:00 we departed for the Leonardo Plaza Hotel in Tiberias on the west shore of the Sea of Galilee. The Sabbath began and we enjoyed the evening banquet meal in the hotel restaurant.
We enjoyed our view of snow on Mount Hermon as we drove in the Golan Heights following what many have called the “road to Damascus” which led to Saul's conversion to Christ. (See Acts 9, 22, and 26.) We visited the archaeological site of the Temple of Pan at Caesarea Philippi. It was in this region at the foot of Mount Hermon that the disciple Simon Peter proclaimed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” in response to Jesus' question, “Who do you say that I am?” (See Matthew 16:15-16.)
At 4:15 we departed for the 1-hour ride back to our hotel at the Sea of Galilee. Supper was served at 6:30.
Our group climbed aboard a boat at 9:15 and sailed on the Sea of Galilee for about an hour. Before returning to the bus, we saw the Ancient Galilee Boat, also known to some as the “Jesus Boat.” This ancient fishing boat from the first century A.D. was discovered at the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee when the water level was low in 1986.
After a 20-minute bus ride we arrived at 10:50 at the top of the Mount of Beatitudes. The Church of the Beatitudes stands in the general area and with a similar setting to where Jesus would have delivered his famous Sermon on the Mount, though it may not have been this exact spot. (See Matthew 5-7.)
After lunch we traveled 15 minutes to Korazim, located 3 miles northwest of the Sea of Galilee. We spent 30 minutes exploring the ruins of this ancient Jewish village. It is better known in our English Bibles as “Chorazin.” (See Matthew 11:20-22.)
At 2:30 we departed for Mount Arbel which overlooks Tiberius and the Sea of Galilee. Some scholars believe this mountain was the site of the Great Commission, perhaps because so much of the surrounding region can be seen from the summit. Arriving at 3:20, we did not have time to walk the trail to the Arbel Cliff before the park closed at 4 p.m. Instead, we found some picnic tables in the shade and participated in a Communion service.
After a 30-minute bus ride we returned to our hotel at 4:30. Supper was served to our group at 6:30.
From 8:50 to 10:30 a.m. we explored the Roman remains of the ancient city of Bet She’an, called “Beth Shan” in most English-language Bibles. According to Joshua 17:11-16, the city was given to the tribe of Manasseh, but they never succeeded in driving out the Canaanites. The Philistines were in control of the city when they hung the dead bodies of King Saul and his sons from the city wall after they were killed in a battle on Mount Gilboa. (See I Samuel 31:10-12.) Called Scythopolis by the Romans during the time of Christ, it was one of the chief cities of the Decapolis.
At 10:45 on Highway 90, we entered the West Bank where Israel and the Palestinian Authority overlap. We stopped briefly on the west side of the Jordan River at Qasr al-Yahud (once called “Bethabara”), the site of the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist. (See John 1:28.) Some consider it one of the possible points where the Israelites crossed the Jordan River on dry land when they reached the Promised Land. (See Joshua 3:14-17.) Directly across the river we saw a similar site in the country of Jordan where only a few tourists were visiting on the east bank. Before we left at 12:15 we filled an empty one third liter water bottle from the muddy river to take home as a souvenir.
At 12:40 we arrived at Jericho, one of the world's oldest cities. The archaeological site was still mostly buried with little that we found identifiable. It had once been an important city with many recorded stories in the Bible. Joshua 6 tells of the walls tumbling down. It was here that Elisha made pure the bitter water. (See II Kings 2:19-22.) It was at Jericho that Jesus spotted Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree and blind Bartimaeus was healed. (See Luke 19:1-6 and Mark 10:46-52.) We had a nice lunch at a restaurant near the ruins at 1:15 and left the city at 2:30.
From 2:50 till 4:00 we were at Qumran, uninhabited since the first century. Manuscripts used by its citizens were hidden in clay jars in the caves of Qumran in 68 A.D. In 1947 the Dead Sea Scrolls, including the oldest known copies of Old Testament books, were discovered at this ancient site, providing proof that the Scriptures have been accurately reproduced for over 2,000 years.
We left the West Bank at 4:30 and arrived about 5 o’clock at the Royal Dead Sea Hotel at Ein Bokek. After getting settled in our hotel room, we walked across the street to watch people float in the Dead Sea. Neither of us were interested in getting in the water. Supper started at 6:00.
We left in the rain for En Gedi at 10:45. When we arrived 20 minutes later, we discovered it was closed due to risk of flash flooding. We made an unscheduled, very brief visit to a traditional site for Sodom that was about 20 minutes south of our hotel. We snapped photos of an interesting rock formation that is commonly called Lot's Wife Pillar next to Highway 90 beside the Dead Sea.
When we returned to the hotel, eight of us walked across the street for lunch at Agadir Burger. The three ladies in this group visited the nearby shops after lunch and we had the rest of the afternoon to rest. Supper was served in the hotel at 6:00.
Between 10:45 and 11:30, we explored Tel Arad, a Canaanite city that was conquered by the Israelites near the end of their journey in the wilderness. (See Numbers 21:1–3.) There we saw the remains of an unlawful Jewish temple patterned after the temple in Jerusalem.
At noon we arrived at Tel Bere Sheva where we saw the well dug by servants of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham and Isaac named the place “Beersheba” based on an agreement with King Abimelech, a Philistine, about ownership of this well. (See Genesis 21:25-34 and 26:26-33.) By the time of the judges, the land of Israel stretched from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south. (See Judges 20:1.)
Around 1:00 we stopped at a McDonald’s for a quick lunch. At 3:00 we stopped in the Valley of Elah for 45 minutes. We had fun searching for rocks in the brook from which the shepherd boy David chose five smooth stones. We saw the general location where Goliath, the Philistine giant, was killed by a rock and David's faith in God. (See I Samuel 17:2-51.)
By 5:00 we were checking into the Dan Jerusalem Hotel on the campus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. It was nice that we could stay here for five nights in a row. We were served supper on the ground floor at 6:30.
After a 30-minute bus ride, we stopped for an hour at Tabash Jewelry and Souvenirs shop in Bethlehem for “educational shopping,” as our guide called it. We had pita sandwiches for lunch at Ruth Restaurant, then walked to Shepherds' Field at 12:55. With its awesome acoustics, our group sang a song together in Shepherds' Field Chapel, built where, according to tradition, angels announced the birth of Christ. Our group then sat in a cave in Shepherds' Field where we had a brief devotional about the events that occured nearby when Mary gave birth to her firstborn Son.
At 1:30 our bus took us to the traditional location of Jesus' birth. The Church of the Nativity, built about 333 A.D., is the oldest site continuously used as a place of Christian worship thanks to the mother of Emperor Constantine, Helena, undertaking the first pilgrimage ever made to the Holy Land. Many believe that a major contributing factor to the Crimean War occurred in 1847 when Greek monks stole the silver star that marked the exact spot where it is claimed that the Christ Child was born.
After an hour ride, we arrived back at our hotel at 3:30 and had 3 hours to relax before supper was served.
We explored the City of David where most believe was the original settlement of Jerusalem. King David’s palace was discovered here in 2010. About half our group walked through the water of the Siloam (also called “Hezekiah”) Tunnel, constructed by King Hezekiah in 701 B.C. to provide water into Jerusalem in preparation for an expected siege by the Assyrian army. (See II Kings 20:20.) [Last year in the Istanbul Archaeological Museum we saw the inscription removed in 1891 from the tunnel wall proving Hezekiah ordered the tunnel's construction.] The other half of our group walked through the nearby dry Canaanite Tunnel that originally ran from the Gihon Spring to fill the Pool of Siloam and irrigate agricultural plots in the Kidron Valley since about 1800 B.C.
After our group reunited at the waterless Pool of Siloam excavation site, we were transported up the hill in two minibuses back to our tour bus at 11:20. We disembarked near Herod's Gate in the city wall to enter into old Jerusalem.
We visited where once stood the Antonio Fortress, which served as a barracks for Roman soldiers. Though it is the first stop on the Via Dolorosa, it has been determined not to be related to the trial of Jesus, which would have occurred at the former royal palace on the opposite side of the city.
Leaving the walled city at Damascus Gate, we walked to the Garden Tomb. After viewing inside the empty tomb, our group met together for a brief devotional. We left the garden area at 2 o’clock and walked half an hour to the more traditional site of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. After legalizing Christianity in 313 A.D., Emperor Constantine the Great sent his mother, Helena, to Jerusalem to search for Christ's empty tomb. A temple to gods Jupiter and Venus at this site was replaced around 335 with this place of Christian worship which has been modified and expanded over the centuries. The church has been a major Christian pilgrimage destination since its creation. Keys to the church have been continually in the possession of the same Muslim family in every generation since the 12th century. Since 1757 various parts of the church have consistently remained under the control of specific Christian groups who have major doctrinal disagreements. It is a very strange place to visit, because it is not remotely like any other church on earth.
We left the old city on our tour bus at 4:30 and arrived at our hotel 10 minutes later. The timing was never right for lunch, so we were all quite hungry when supper was served at 6:30. The Jewish Sabbath began about the same time, so there were different choices for the evening meal than were standard on Saturday through Thursday nights.
We walked from the top of the Mount of Olives down to the Garden of Gethsemane. We visited the adjacent Church of All Nations, also known as the Basilica of the Agony, built over the rock traditionally accepted as where Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest. We reboarded our bus at the bottom of the Mount of Olives at 10:25 and were transported across the Kidron Valley.
In the area called Mount Zion, just south of the old city walls, we walked by the Abbey of the Dormition, believed by some to mark the spot where Mary, mother of Jesus, died. We visited the Upper Room, traditionally recognized as the site of the Last Supper and where Jesus first appeared to the Apostles after His resurrection. (See Mark 14:14-16; Luke 24:33; Acts 1:13.) On the ground floor of this building is the so-called “David's Tomb” in a synagogue that we visited. Since 2010 after the discovery of what remains of the likely palace of King David, which we visited the previous day, archeologists are convinced the tomb of David would not have been in the location of this synagogue.
We then went into the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu at the site of what many believe was the palace of Caiaphas, the high priest, where the first trial of Jesus was held and where Simon Peter denied Him three times. (See Matthew 26:57-75.) On the north side of the church we walked on part of the ancient stone staircase which most believe was the path Jesus and eleven of His disciples followed that lead down to the Kidron Valley on the way to Gethsemane the night of His arrest.
We departed the area at 12:00 and arrived for lunch at 12:30 at the Elias Restaurant adjacent to the Greek Orthodox Mar Elias Monastery in East Jerusalem.
At 1:30 we arrived at the 22,000 square foot reproduction of Jerusalem as the city appeared immediately before the first rebellion of the Jews against the Romans in 66 A.D. We viewed this remarkable outdoor model as the temperature was dropping and the wind was increasing. We then entered the nearby Shrine of the Book where some of the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed and exhibited as well as being the permanent home for the Aleppo Codex, dating from the 10th century A.D., the oldest known copy of the complete Hebrew Bible. Our guide then accompanied our group though the Israel Museum. He pointed out numerous displays with discoveries that confirm so many facts in the Old Testament. The quantity and quality of these extra-biblical, faith-building evidences were almost overwhelming. We left the museum at 3:30 and returned in about 30 minutes to our hotel.
Our first stop was at Beth Shemesh. It was raining and so muddy that Michael slipped and fell to one knee. On the border between the tribes of Judah and Dan and adjacent to the territory controlled by the Philistines, this town was assigned to the tribe of Levi. (See Joshua 15:10 and 21:16.) When the Philistines returned the captured Ark of the Covenant by an unmanned cart back to Israel, the Ark temporarily remained at Beth Shemesh. (See I Samuel 6:7-21.) Dr. Dale Manor, the archeology professor who was unable to travel with us on this tour, serves as Field Director for the Tel Beth-Shemesh Excavation Project which is under the auspices of Tel Aviv University. Many students from Harding University in Arkansas have been involved in summer excavation trips to the site.
At 10:10 we arrived at ancient Lakhish, mentioned several times as “Lachish” in the Old Testament. Second in importance only to Jerusalem in the southern kingdom of Judah, the city was in the western hills of Judea on the border with the Philistines. The siege and capture of the city by Sennacherib, king of Assyria, in 701 B.C., was commemorated with a series of carved reliefs on his palace walls that are now on display in the British Museum. Due to rain, we remained only 20 minutes at this excavation site.
At 11:15 we arrived at Bet Guvrin-Maresha National Park. Maresha is mentioned a few times in the Old Testament, but the city was never a place of great importance. There are many natural and man-made caves here. We had our Communion service in one of the huge caves. We departed the area at 12:20.
For lunch we stopped between 1:00 and 1:45 at Hani Restaurant in Abu Ghosh. Located 6.2 miles west of Jerusalem, Abu Ghosh is recognized as one of the possible places for Emmaus, mentioned only once in the Bible. (See Luke 24:13.)
We returned to our hotel at 2:05 and enjoyed a relaxing afternoon. We spent time after supper packing for our return to the States.
Our first stop was a visit to the Western Wall at 11:00. This is a significant and sacred place to many who wish to pray as close as possible to the former location of the holy of holies in the temple that was destroyed by the Roman army in 70 A.D. Outside of Israel many incorrectly call this the “wailing wall.”
Next we walked to the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount, the original steps that once led the Jews into the temple complex from the south in the days of Jesus.
We were pleased to gain access to the Temple Mount at 12:45 where we stood for the first time beside the famous gold topped Dome of the Rock where the temple of God had first been built by King Solomon. We were not allowed inside. We were very disappointed on our Israel tour 12 years ago that we did not arrive at the right time to go up to the site where the temple had once stood.
At 2:00 we went to the Romanesque Church of Saint Anne built near the ruins we saw of the Pool of Bethesda. (See John 5:2.) Our group enjoyed the acoustics inside the church where we sang a few songs together.
We were on our way at 2:30 to the Holocaust Museum where some of us ate a very light lunch. At 5:00 we left for a nice supper at 6 o’clock at Azka Donya Restaurant in Jerusalem.
An hour later we were on our way to Tel Aviv airport where we arrived at 8:00 p.m. Our flight departed at 11:30 p.m. for a 13-hour, 7,000 mile trip to Miami. We were served a meal soon after takeoff. Then we each took sleeping pills and slept about seven hours.
Tuesday, 21 March 2023
We awoke on our plane 8˝ hours after departure in time for breakfast. We landed in Miami about 6:30 in the morning. Our connecting flight left a bit late around 11 o'clock. We were served lunch on the plane and arrived at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport at 12:30 p.m.
Our flight home to Fort Smith departed at 5:00. We reached Fort Smith airspace without landing. The plane returned to Dallas due to a problem with visibility and because the ILS (instrument landing system) at our airport was offline. The pilot initially planned to refuel and immediately return to Fort Smith, but a decision was made ten minutes after we landed to cancel the flight and rebook us for the following morning. We reserved a room for the night (at our expense) near the airport, then enjoyed an Italian meal (at our expense) in the terminal. We rode in a taxi (at our expense) to the Holiday Inn Express in Irving, Texas.
|Those of us who shared this adventure: Max & Ann Baker, Craig & Caryllee Cheatham, Michael & Jeannie Cole, Mark & Roxi Crews, Paul & Sandy Dolle, Jewel Eady, Andrew Ferren, Mark & Niki Frost, John & Terrie Gardner, Janelle Gray, James & Ann Haak, Tim & Tammie Hacker, Glenda Horton, David Knight, Tom & Colleen Larkin, Kenneth Mills, Jim & Mary Jo Norris, Belinda Olinger, Mike & Sandra Parker, Ryan & Valene Roseke, Joel Turner, Calvin & Judy Warpula, Frank & Sue Wright|
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