Sunday, February 27, 2011

Our Final Day

  Today was bitter sweet.  We spent our last remaining hours in Jerusalem viewing a couple of the most significant places on our journey.  We started on Mt. Zion, the place of David’s tomb and the Upper Room.  Jesus spent His Last Supper with the disciples at this location.  Sitting on top of David’s tomb, it is likely that the room was provided to Jesus by a distant relative.  We then walked through the Zion Gate, through the Armenian quarter and into the Jewish Quarter.  The gate was riddled with bullet holes because this was the dividing line between Israel and Jordan prior to 1967.  Viewing the Cardo, or marketplace area of Jesus’ day 20 feet below us, it reminded us how Jerusalem had been conquered and rebuilt several times since the time of our Savior.  We then arrived at a plaza above the Western Wall.  From here we could see evidence of the smaller cardo of Jesus’ day, situated at the upper part of the Cheesemaker Valley.  We could see the Western Wall (Jewish); the Dome of the Rock (Muslim); and the Church of the Ascension (Greek Orthodox) all in the same frame.  What a representation of the three faiths.  After praying at the Wall (and the men visiting the synagogue along side the Wall), we made our way along the Via Dolorosa to the Damascus Gate, and then to the Garden Tomb.  This gave us the “feel” of Calvary and the Tomb.  We ended our time there with communion.  He is RISEN!! 
   Following lunch at Ramat Rachel overlooking Bethlehem, we made our way to the Menorah in front the of  Kenneset, Israel’s parliament.  It is full of meaning and was donated by the British Government.  We then drove through the new part of Jerusalem, stopping in front of the Prime Minister’s residence to sign a petition for the release of Gilad Schalit.  He has been in captivity by Hamas for over 1707 days.  We met his father.  We ended our time in the Elah Valley, site of the battle between David and Goliath. 
On our long flight home, we raised the blessing, “Next Year in Jerusalem!!”

Personal Note:  This was a great group and Pam and I were honored to be a part of pilgrimage with them.  We look forward to future trips with other pilgrims (and returning pilgrims)  :-)   Shalom!!

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Draining Day

On our next to last day we had a draining experience.  We visited the Israeli museum first.  That was spectacular, seeing the scale model of first century Jerusalem.  It is very easy to see how the city looked in the days of Jesus and up to its destruction in 70 A.D.  Imagine how the Temple looked from a distance. Our draining time followed as we visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum.  The name means in memory of the name, meaning the names of the six million Jews who died in the Shoa.  We heard the names of the 1 1/2 million children who died being read.  The main museum is a learning experience that begins with life and ends with life.  But the steps in between help you "feel" the pain, suffering and inhumanity inflicted on the Jews.  We saw their shoes.  We heard from survivors.  We read accounts of the atrocities.  Our lunch break following was welcomed.  We ended our day by visiting Caiaphas's house, known as Peter en Gallicantu.  Gallicantu is latin for the rooster singing.  We saw the basement where Jesus was held before they took Him to Pilate to be tried. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Mixed Day of Borders

Today was an interesting day of mixed borders.  First, we went past the Western Wall (we will return tomorrow or Saturday) and entered the Rabbinical Tunnel that goes along the length of the Western Wall to the Antonio Fortress.  We viewed the arches that supported the bridges that crossed into the Temple mount.  We entered the Old City in the Muslim Quarter and saw the Pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed the crippled man sitting by the pool. We listened to singing in church of St. Anne, Mary's mother.  We then walked the Via Dolorosa and exited the Old City through the Jaffa Gate.
   We then traveled through the border into Bethlehem. Our Jewish Guide Reuven could not join us for this.  An Arab guide took us for lunch in a restaurant that mimics a bedouin tent in the Shepherd's field.  We then visited the church built over the area traditionally held to be the cave where they were staying when the angel appeared to them.  We then visited the Church of the Nativity, held to be built over the stable where Jesus was born.  We had to "humble" ourselves to enter through the very low door.
    It was a long but good day.  Tomorrow we see more modern Jerusalem.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Up To Jerusalem!

Today was a day of heights.  We left the desert floor along the Dead Sea (1280 feet below sea level) and made the climb by cable car to Masada.  This ancient fortress of King Herod was the location over seventy years after his death of a fierce battle between the tenth Roman Legion and some zealous Jewish rebels.  In the end, 960 of them entered into kaddish, or death on behalf of God.  Masada is therefore a symbol of Israeli courage and determination.  We then stopped by En Gedi where David hid from Saul.  We then went "up to Jerusalem" and followed the Palm Sunday trail from the Mt. of Olives down to the Church of All Nations in Gethsemane.  What a powerful time.  We stopped part way down the hill at Dominus Flevit where Jesus wept over Jerusalem.  We also learned about the three hills and three valleys that make up the area of Jerusalem.  The hills are Mount of Olives, Mount Moriah and Mount Zion.  the three valleys are the Kidron Valley; the Cheesemaker Valley and the Hinnom Valley.  We ended with a view from a southern promenade.  It was a spectacular day.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What a Day!!

We traveled over the distance of half the length of the country today as we left Tiberias and ended up south of Masada on the Dead Sea.  Our journey took us to ancient Beth Shean, site of where the bodies of Saul and his sons were hung on the wall after falling to the Philistines on Mt. Gilboa.  At the base of the Beth Shean tel is the Roman city of Scytopolis.  It was destroyed by an earthquake in 749 B.C.
We then climbed the Gilboa mountain and saw spectacular views of the Jezreel Valley, the Jordan Valley and Jordan itself, and the Samaritan mountains.  Reuven, our guide, read some of the lament David did over Saul and Jonathan's deaths for us in Hebrew.  (Check my facebook page for the video).  We then stopped by Qumran, site of the town for the Essenes.  It is possible John the Baptist was a part of their community for a while before he started his ministry.  We ended our day floating in the Dead Sea.  What fun!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Last Day in the Galilee

This was our last day in the Galilee.  The Scots has been a marvelous home for the past three nights.  We visited both Biblical and post-Biblical sites today.  It gave us an historic and present understanding of Israel's security situation.  We climbed the 3000 feet up out of the Galilee valley to the Golan Heights.  After crossing the Hula Valley, we stopped at a kibbutz called N'ot Mordekay.   I've included a picture of their bomb shelter.  They sit in the shadow of Lebanon.  We were able to buy some of their products in support of them.  We then visited the ancient tel of Dan. One of the northern most cities for ancient Israel, Jeroboam set up a worship center with Golden Calves here.  A thousand years earlier, Abraham visited here as he chased down the kings who kidnapped Lot and his family.  A picture of the gate of his time is included.  We also saw how Dan is one of the headwaters for the Jordan River.  We traveled on to Caesarea Philippi or Banias.  A pagan city in Jesus' day, it was in this region where Peter gave his confession of Jesus as the Messiah. (Read Matthew 16).  It is the second of three sources for the Jordan.  Following a lunch of swarma and falafal, we traveled to Gamla, known as the northern Masada.  It is an amazing place.  Throughout our journey today, we were by the Lebanese border, the Syrians boarder and the Jordanian border.  It gave us a real understanding of Israel's security issues.  Tomorrow we head south to the Dead Sea.