A Holy Land Pilgrimage
Last updated: 4 March 2000
On the 8th of
1999, 30 people from Columbus Ohio (mostly members of Bethel
Presbyterian Church) and 10 friends from places in California made
a 2 week pilgrimage through the Holy Land in Israel. This is a
journal of our trip and the experiences it brought us. Our
in going was more than just to see "holy places or shrines", but more
seek our Christian roots, to learn more about the places and people
ancient and modern) that bear witness to our Faith. We were all
rewarded and would like to make this record of our experience for the
of ourselves and others.
One doesn't go on a
of this sort without doing some preparation. Many of us were
inspired to make this trip after watching the popular video series That
the World May Know, by Ray Vander Laan. This series showed us
that historical places connected with events in the Bible are not only
interesting places to visit, but have lessons to teach us today.
Our friend (and Bethel
Church member) Dr. Sam Meier, professor of Hebrew and Near Eastern
at Ohio State University, was coaxed into designing and leading a tour
through the Holy Land for those who might be interested in going.
Dr. Meier taught a very interesting Sunday School class on the history,
peoples and places of the Land that we were about to visit. We
learned some useful Hebrew words. Thirty people signed up to go
Columbus, Ohio, joined by ten people from California who are friends
family of Dr. Meier.
The tour was
by MTS Tours in Ephrata, PA. They put together a tour package
included the places we wanted to visit. The package included air
fare, hotels, 2 meals a day, a tour bus and driver, a tour guide, and
fees. MTS did an excellent job of handling all these arrangements.
During the last several
weeks prior to leaving, we had a few meetings to talk with people who
been to Israel and discuss details of preparation for the trip.
a year of planning and preparation, we were ready to go.
Sunday, August 8: USA - Tel Aviv
The group from Columbus
boarded their first plane at 2:00 PM on Sunday afternoon for a flight
Chicago where we were met by the group from California, then a
flight to Frankfurt, Germany, then another flight to Tel Aviv,
We arrived at 3:05 PM on Monday, August 9. The flights and
took about 18 hours. The time difference between Columbus and Tel
Aviv is 7 hours. They showed 2 movies during the flight from
to Frankfurt: Dance With Me and Entrapment.
Monday, August 9: Tel
After the airports we
been in the Ben Gurion Tel Aviv airport was not impressive. In
ways it looked like an airport still under construction. But our
first glimpse of our long-awaited destination was a welcome one.
After a year of planning, and many hours of travel, we were finally in
Israel! We descended the steps from the plane to the pavement in
bright sun and temperature somewhere in the 90's F. We got onto a
bus and rode to the baggage claim building which had an impressive sign
on it saying, "Welcome to Israel". Entering the building we found
several long lines of people waiting for passport checks. We
for an hour or more to go through these. Our lines were barely
This was our first chance to observe how the "rest of the world" waits
in line. They don't; but move in wherever they please--saying
The lines for people with Israeli passports were moving much
Finally, all of us got our passports stamped and made it thorough the
claim. Everyone found their bags except for one. Adrienne
luggage was missing. She was compensated with only 400 shekels
$100 US). What a disappointing start for the two weeks!
was not to be disappointed for too long, however.)
Our tour bus was
at the airport. Our luggage was loaded onto the bus and we got to
meet our driver, Badaran, and tour guide, Jackie Feldman. They
be with us for the duration of the trip. Jackie grew up in New
but moved to Israel about 19 years ago to become a citizen. He
just finished his Ph.D. in anthropology at the Hebrew University.
He is a very experienced tour guide, having guided many tours for
groups in the past.
A Guide and a
I think all of us "pilgrims" would agree that we couldn't have gotten a
better tour guide than Jackie Feldman. He is very knowledgeable
the history and geography of the area and was very good at
that knowledge to us. (I only wish we had it all on tape.)
At each place we stopped during the tour, and at many places we passed
in the bus, he gave fascinating explanations of the meaning and
of what we were seeing. He displayed an excellent understanding
the religious beliefs and sensibilities that have shaped the culture
history of the land and its people. And this not only of his own
Jewish background, but of Christianity and Islam as well. He
seemed to get tired or impatient with the many questions we
He was very accommodating to the special needs and interests that
had during the trip. Not only this, but he was also a great joke
and story teller! He went out of his way to make the whole trip a
very enjoyable and educational experience for all of us. We loved
Once on the bus we had
a brief ride to the Avia Hotel for dinner and a night's sleep before
our tour the next morning. Jet lag was taking its toll on most of
us. We had gotten very little or no sleep on the plane trip and
biological clocks were set 7 hours earlier (10 hours earlier for those
from California). Still, some hearty souls couldn't resist a swim
in the hotel pool before dinner. Dinner at this hotel (as it was
for most meals at all the other hotels) was a buffet, with a good
of foods to choose from. There were some familiar food items as
as the local cuisine. Those who were less adventuresome in their
culinary pursuits, could usually find something that they could chew
Likewise, it was great to have Badaran for our driver. He
us supplied with plenty of fresh bottled water at a reasonable
He was always there when we needed him. He took that bus places
we thought no bus could go. Like Jackie said, "If you want to
how to get a camel through the eye of a needle, just watch Badaran
Of all the hotels we
stayed in, the Avia was probably the one hotel that we would have left
off our list. The food and service were good, but the quality of
the rooms was a problem. Many had inadequate air conditioning, or
Tuesday, August 10: Tel Gezer -
After breakfast at the
Avia Hotel, we loaded up the bus and headed to the excavations at Tel
While trying to find the road back to the site, we got a tour of a nice
looking neighborhood nearby. We parked the bus and walked on the
hot, dusty dirt road leading up to the site. On the way we found
a large fig tree with plenty of ripe fruit for us to enjoy.
After the long hot
up the hill of the tel, we were rewarded with the sights of the
The first thing we saw were some "standing stones" marking a Canaanite
"high place" of worship dating back to 1800 BCE. This city had
importance, guarding access to the trade route from the hill
It was fortified with 30 foot thick solid walls made of stones. A
portion of this wall had been excavated. There was also a water
descending to the water table from inside the walls. We also saw
the excavation site of the the city gate from the time of King
The foundations and outline of the gate could be seen clearly.
excavated were some casemate walls near the gate.
by a Fig
back yard of the small house where I grew up in Texas had fig trees
produced large brown (Texas size) figs in late summer. We ate
off the trees; sliced them over cereal for breakfast, and made a winter
treasure, fig preserves. I loved fresh, ripe figs and have missed
them since moving to Ohio.
Jesus too seemed to have some kind of fig as a favorite fruit. I
say "some kind" because surely the figs that grew in Texas were
different than the figs Jesus ate.
Then comes the first day and we're off to the desert and Tel
Jackie, leading the way, points out a lonely fig tree adding, "the
ones are the ripe ones."
I knew that, but still they had to be somehow different. With the
experienced eye from my youth I spot a small one that yells, "ripe" and
Then comes the surprise. With the first bite I am mentally and
no longer in Tel Gezer; I am a boy in Texas. But just as quickly
I imagine a young Jesus experiencing the same rich sweetness because I
am not in Texas but in his land.
The epiphany! God incarnate, Jesus and I shared - share the taste
for the same fruit, experienced the same sensations - the pleasure of
fresh, very ripe, figs. The divine was miraculously very human
for a few treasured moments, very close on a hot dusty road leading up
to Tel Gezer. Jesus too, had he been there would have reached for
the same fig.
In some strange way, maybe he did. -- John Kirn
We traveled to Beth
the sight of many Israelite conflicts with the Philistines.
this area was situated between the lowlands near the Mediterranean Sea,
controlled by the Philistines, and the hill country of Judea.
territory was often in dispute. Here, where we could
see these hills and lowlands, Jackie spread out his map and gave us a
interesting overview of the area and its history. It was here,
example, that the Ark of the Covenant was returned to the Israelites
it had been captured by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4-6). With a
imagination, one could see two oxen, yoked to a cart carrying the Ark
the Covenant up the valley below and back to the people of Israel.
Somewhere in here we
stopped the bus near the dry stream bed where David chose five smooth
for his battle against Goliath (1 Samuel 17). Almost everyone got
off the bus to pick up some smooth stones of their own. There are
plenty of stones in Israel. A few less won't be missed.
Beth Guvrin National Park
Next we visited some
that were originally made under surface dwellings dating back to the
century BCE. Here the earth is made of relatively soft chalk
the surface. These caves were made to hold water, raise doves,
store other supplies. The the caves were connected into a large
of underground rooms. Walking through them was a cool, refreshing
change from the hot weather on the surface. One room contained
fittings for three large olive presses (used to make olive oil).
One press was reconstructed so we could see how it worked. Long
beams were anchored into a wall of the cave at one end and placed over
the olive press. The other end of the beams were weighted with
stones to squeeze the large basket containing the olives. The oil
ran out into large vats dug into the floor of the cave.
We also visited some
large bell shaped caves that were dug in the 6th - 10th centuries
These were chalk quarries, also dug in the bell shape so that the roof
of the caves would be supported. We could see figures carved into
the walls in some places. These were made by those who originally
worked the quarry. The acoustics were wonderful. We sang
We visited the Tomb
of Apollophanes, one of the Sidonian Tombs in the area. Carob
were growing around the parking lot. Some of us picked the pods
chewed on them. Don't eat the seeds. Jackie told us that a
carob seed weighs one carat. This unit of weight for gems originally
from the carob seed. All the seeds did seem to be of very uniform
size and weight.
The tomb was very
to see. It was a family tomb in a cave with several burial
carved into the sides. The wall paintings of animals originally
in the tomb have been restored. Jackie read translations of some
of the amusing inscriptions on the walls.
At the end of the day
drove to Ashkelon, to the Shulamite Gardens Hotel on the Mediterranean
Sea. There was a beach there and some of us enjoyed a wonderful
before dinner. Dinner was an outdoor barbecue and buffet.
was plenty of good food to eat and wonderful desserts. Those of
who are used to waiting in line patiently while others ahead of us get
their food at the self-serve tables would end up waiting a long
For the most part Israelis don't practice queuing. Just jump in
you see an opening and try not to feel like you're being rude.
dinner the hotel put on a loud party until midnight, which kept some of
us awake for longer than we wanted.
Wednesday, August 11: Ashkelon - Arad
After breakfast, we
up the bus and left Ashkelon and continued south by way of Beer-Sheeba
to Mitspe Ramon and the massive Maktesh Ramon crater. This is
an awesome sight! There's a small visitor's center on the edge of
the crater where we saw an educational film and learned about how the
was formed. Geologists say that this crater was once part of a
whose summit was worn away by erosion leaving many layers of the
crust exposed on the walls of the crater. The view from atop the
visitor's center and the other lookout points was breath taking.
The massive trench formed by this crater is nearly 1000 feet deep and
for miles. Large areas of black volcanic rock and reddish colored
rock can be seen on the bottom of the crater. There is a small
operation there which extracts silica sand for making glass.
along the edge of the crater we saw many birds flying near the
It was a strange sight to look down on flying birds.
On our way to Maktesh
Ramon, we saw an observatory. Jackie remarked that it would
be a busy place this afternoon with a partial (80%) solar eclipse
place. We would be riding camels during the eclipse.
Our next stop was at
for a visit with the local Bedouins and a ride on their camels.
bus pulled up and the men working this "camel ranch" gave us a friendly
greeting. The camels seemed less happy to see us. Most of
were saddled and lying in the fenced yard looking hot and tired.
Our hosts served us some sweet Bedouin tea that had quite a remarkable
taste. It contained mint and other herbs. After drinking it
most of us felt more like climbing up on a camel and riding off into
After our tea we were
taken to the camel pen to get atop our camels. Each camel had a
that would hold two persons. The camels were lying on their
with legs folded under them. Some of them gave loud groans of
as they were being coaxed to their feet under their human load.
voice of Chewbacca in the Star Wars films was probably played by a
After all the camels were up and on their feet, the men led us out
a half mile or so into the desert in a camel train. Their dog, a
large Great Dane, trotted along with us. One needs a big dog to
camels, perhaps. We bumped along on the backs of our camels,
our way along some pretty steep hillsides until we came to a flat spot
near the edge of a ravine where we could get off and listen to our host
talk about camels and answer our questions. Many of us didn't
to what a great extent camels are designed to live in desert
After a drink of water, we got back on our camels and rode back to the
ranch. This was great fun.
Next we traveled to the
excavations at Avdat, a city originally built by the Nabateans in the
century BCE. Much good excavation and restoration work has been
here and there were many interesting things to see: Nabatean
caves, a kiln and pottery workshop, a Roman camp, a Byzantine bath
wine press, house, two churches, monastery and fortress. This
had been built and rebuilt many times over the centuries. There
a large cistern in the middle of the area surrounded by the fortress
and a nice view from the towers on the walls. Inside the North
ruins there is a model showing what the church probably looked like
it was built.
This city lies along
an ancient trade route between the Mediterranean Sea and Saudi
When the trade route shifted, the Nabateans developed desert
in order to survive. One side of a hill was terraced for planting
crops and channels were dug along the other hillsides to divert rain
to the terraces. Though there is very little rainfall and the
is very dry, the loess soil prevents much of the rain water from
into the ground. By diverting the runoff into the terraced area
the hill where crops are planted, the Nabateans were able to grow
and other crops requiring 3 to 5 times the normal rainfall of the
There is an actual agricultural demonstration of this method maintained
on one of the hills near the city ruins.
After Avdat we drove to
another very interesting site; the excavations at Tel Arad. This
is probably the best example of an early Bronze age city in the
On top of the hill was a fortress with high walls (restored) containing
the remains of an Israelite temple constructed on a smaller scale to
Temple in Jerusalem. Inside the temple are an altar of sacrifice
and a "Holy of Holies" flanked by two small incense altars
of the originals found there).
The older city, lower
down the hill from the fortress, contained a large cistern in the
The city was designed catch runoff from the surrounding hills in the
season and divert it to the cistern. Several houses and other
have been excavated and partially restored.
To end the day's trip,
we got back on the bus and drove to the Margoa Hotel in the modern city
of Arad for dinner and a good night's rest. This hotel was very
and comfortable. Upon our arrival, we were greeted with the
news that Adrienne's luggage had been found and was waiting for her
at the hotel. We all cheered. What a relief!
The modern city of
Arad is only 30 years old. The only ruin seemed to be a burned
hotel just down the street from ours. Just past this hotel was a
beautiful overlook where we could see part of the Dead Sea in the
After dinner we gathered in the courtyard of the hotel for conversation
and for prayer. Later at night several of us went star
It's wonderful to see so many stars in the sky on a clear night away
the lights of a big city.
Thursday, August 12: Arad - Jerusalem
In the morning, back on
the bus, we began our long decent toward the Dead Sea. But first
a stop at Masada. To better appreciate the significance of this
it is good to read Yigael Yadin's account of the excavations here
the 1960's: Masada: Herod's Fortress and the Zealot's Last Stand. This
book has a fascinating account of the excavations, many good
and includes the account of the fall of Masada to the Romans in 73 CE,
given by Josephus.
On this huge,
flat-topped, hill in the desert, overlooking the Dead Sea, King Herod
Great built a well appointed fortress to protect his family in case of
revolt or treachery. Here are the remains of two large palaces,
style bathhouses, a swimming pool, large storerooms and casemate walls
with towers around the whole top of the hill. There are also the
partially restored remains of a synagogue
and ritual baths (mikve) used by the Zealots, and a Byzantine church.
We pulled up in our
bus to the western wall of Masada. We were going to climb up to
top by way of the earthen ramp built by the attacking Romans over 1900
years ago. At the base of the ramp, near the parking lot,
some of the original siege works and catapults used by the Roman
(in the Hollywood movie Masada).
It was still early
in the morning, but the sun was already very hot as we began our climb
up the ramp. On average it took 20 minutes to reach the
The ramp is a huge structure made of chalky earth. Remains of
of the wooden beams used to stabilize the ramp as it was being built
be seen along the path up the ramp. Along the face of the hill
can also see openings that were used to collect water for the large
that were dug underneath. Masada is flanked by two wadis that
plenty of water to these cisterns in the rainy season. Halfway up
we entered some shade that made the rest of the walk cooler.
Davis (Bethel Youth Director and designated video cameraman for the
found the quickest way to the top. Part way up the ramp he found
a short cut; climbing straight up using some metal rungs that were
into the rock. (Way to go, Michael!) At the top, the first
thing most people wanted to do was find some shade and take a long
of water. Fortunately there were places to sit in the shade,
and rest rooms for visitors.
When we were all at
the top, Jackie led us around through some of the more important places
on top, stopping in shady spots to provide interesting details and
to what we were seeing. We walked through Herod's western palace
and saw the mosaic floors, wall paintings and the luxurious
the location and climate of this place) bathhouses.
The largest bathhouse
had three rooms off the entrance: cold, warm and hot. The hot
had a raised floor, and its walls were lined with clay tile
Hot air from a furnace outside was circulated under the floor and up
sides of the walls through these pipes. Water could then be
onto the floor to make a steam bath.
At the northern palace
there is a splendid view of the valley below and the Dead Sea.
built a palace on this end at three levels, terraced on the north
wall of Masada. This not only provided a wonderful view, but the
most protection from the heat of the sun and south wind. Near
there was also a model of what the buildings on the northern part of
originally looked like. Most of the southern part was undeveloped
and used for quarrying rock, collecting rainwater, or growing food.
When it came time to
descend on the eastern side we had two choices: Either take the
car; a nice ten minute ride, or walk down the 'snake path', a long
walk in the full heat of the sun. Most of the group seemed to
the cable car, but there were plenty who chose the path. If the
down was hot and dusty, the view on the way more than made up for
Don't try it without plenty of water in your bottle. Of course,
view from the cable car was wonderful as well, if shorter lived.
One sight the cable car riders from our group spied was that of
Bryan Dubuc practically running down the snake path. (Trying to
the cable car to the bottom?) He was one red-faced and thirsty
when he got to the bottom. Fortunately there was plenty of
at the end of this journey. An air conditioned gift shop and
lay at the bottom and drink stands selling an irresistible, ice cold
juice drink. (What did it cost? Who cared what it
We rested and had our lunch in the restaurant before boarding the bus
the Dead Sea.
Back in the bus, our
destination was the Dead Sea. No one expected it to be a cool and
refreshing dip and it wasn't; even on a very hot and dry day like
Still, it would be a shame to come out here and not be able to say
that you floated in the Dead Sea. Not all were agreed on this
Some decided they would rather watch.
only regret I can think of having for the whole trip (besides not
better notes while Jackie was talking) was that I didn't spend more
on top of Masada. The heat was intense and it was easy to get
and hot. But I had spent a lot of time reading about this place
wanted to see as much of it as I could. I did get to see most of
what I had read about. Still, I would have liked to descend to
lower levels of the northern palace and to have explored the casemate
and the cisterns. (As it turned out, there would have been enough
time for more of this if I had hung back for a while and caught up with
the group later. Oh, well ...) This is a fascinating
I can't help but stand in places like this and try my hardest to
what it might have been like to have been there in the times to which
ruins bear witness.
What was it like to visit in Herod's day? What a spectacle it
have been to see such luxury on top of a hot rock in the desert on the
shore of the Dead Sea. What was it like during those final hours
for the Zealots when the Roman soldiers broke through the walls?
Did the Romans find them all dead like Josephus says? How must it
have felt for these Jews to have been faced with such a decision?
Things like this are hard to imagine. (And I can't say that
movies like Masada help much.) I chafe against the bond
time. I wish I could see it as it really was. This is one
the things that I hope will be possible when I exchange this mortal
for an immortal one (1 Cor. 15:53) and can see things more as God sees
them (1 Cor. 13:12). --Paul Dubuc
was one of those places I most wished I could magically go back in time
and see in its full glory. Mind you, I would not want to have
back then, the sewage in the cisterns convinced me of that. It
however, for me one of those places where Jackie worked some of his
I had read Josephus’ account of Masada years ago. We were
in what was assumed to be a synagogue constructed by the Zealots in
had once been a villa. Jackie described the events that lead to
fall of Masada. But when he got to the part of describing the
of the defenders probably on the very spot where we were, he quoted
of the speech Josephus placed in the mouth of Eleazar the Zealot
“...let us die before we become slaves under our enemies, and let us go
out of the world, together with our children and our wives in a state
freedom.... Let us therefore make haste, and instead of affording
them (Romans) so much pleasure, let us leave them an example which
at once cause their astonishment at our death. ...”
Jackie had not only memorized whole sections of the Old and New
but knew at least this part of Josephus as well.
It may have been Jackie who said that all recruits and draftees into
Israel army are taken to this spot perhaps for induction into the
I can imagine that that speech being part of the induction ceremony as
a reminder of their heritage. Maybe it is memorized by school
in Israel with the addition of “Never again.”
It should be noted that Jackie did not consider Josephus
When we were at the scale model of Jerusalem, he was asked where
would have been with Titus when he attempted to negotiate the surrender
of the city on behalf of Titus. Jackie’s response was, “we have a
saying” which he quoted in Hebrew, and then “in English it means
him, but suspect him.’” --John Kirn
We pulled up at a beach
were there were changing rooms and showers. Those who wanted to
the Dead Man's Float in the Dead Sea changed into their bathing suits
headed down to the rocky shore where it was hard to find a place to put
down one's foot in order to walk into the water. The Dead Sea
contain the kind of water that you can jump into and splash around
Just sit back and float and paddle around gently. Don't get the
in your eyes or mouth or you'll be in for a stinging experience.
The water was very warm and left a gritty, oily sensation on your skin;
like you had just rubbed yourself with mineral oil. For people
normally have a hard time floating in other water, this was quite an
Absolutely no effort is needed to stay afloat here. This was
good fun. Many say that bathing in the Dead Sea can have healing
effects on some skin problems. Still, this isn't the kind of
to which anyone wants to go and spend the whole day. We were all
done with our salt water bath within an hour and were ready to rinse
in the showers and be on our way.
After the Dead Sea we
a short distance to visit the spring fed stream at En Gedi, a cool and
refreshing place for a swim. There is a nice spot for swimming a
short way up the trail. Some of us stayed there. Others
further up the trail to a beautiful waterfall. In contrast to its
hot and dry surroundings, lush tropical vegetation grows around the
here. Cave openings could be seen in the sides of the canyon
It was in some cave in this area that David cut off a part of King
robe (1 Samuel 24).
After a refreshing
to En Gedi, it was back into the desert and on to Qumran. Here
was a visitor's center where we saw a film about the Essene
community that lived here. We walked through the site where
showed the buildings, ritual baths, and cisterns built and used by the
Essenes. There seemed to be no individual dwelling places
The Essenes were a religious community who separated themselves from
worship at Jerusalem to prepare themselves for the coming of the
and to devote their time to writing, making pottery, work, study and
They held all property in common. Josephus describes the Essenes
in some detail in The Jewish War. From here we
also see the caves where the Dead
Sea Scrolls were found.
After Qumran, our
stop was the Ritz Hotel in Jerusalem. It didn't quite live up to
its name, but was still a pretty nice hotel in the Arab section just
the Old City. We would be spending the next few days there,
the sights in and around Jerusalem.
Friday, August 13: Jerusalem
Our morning in
we boarded the bus and drove up to the top of the Mount of
We posed there for a group picture. We also got our first
with street vendors selling postcards, bookmarks, maps, pictures and
trinkets. They can be very persistent.
From atop the Mount
of Olives we had a very good view of the Old City of Jerusalem.
Dome of the Rock, a Muslim shrine, dominates the view of the Temple
Jackie stood facing us, with his back turned toward the city and
described the important places and buildings that we would visit
Jackie lives here in Jerusalem and knows the city very well. This
hillside, covered with olive trees, is a very desirable place to be
It seemed to be one huge cemetery, with tombs dating back thousands of
years and some graves still new or yet to be used. Many Jews
that those buried here will be among the first to rise from the dead.
After taking in the
view, we walked down the hill toward the "Tombs of the Prophets", a
old part of the cemetery and our first "holy place". Inside we
at a large open tomb similar to the one that might have been used for
Inside we could see the small stone containers (ossuaries) that were
to bury the bones of the deceased after the body had decomposed.
further on, we visited Dominus Flevit, a tear shaped church built to
the place where Jesus wept over Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37-39). We
this beautiful little church and had a brief devotional reading and
a hymn together. The church faces the Old City of Jerusalem
and has a window in the front offering a very good view of the city.
a holy place, requires special attention to dress and demeanor on the
of the visitor out of respect for the sensibilities of those who highly
revere these places. Women (and men) should, at a minimum, have
shoulders and knees covered by their clothing. Women might also
to have some sort of head covering. Public displays of
(hand holding, hugging or kissing) by couples are frowned upon (or
If you are not dressed properly, you may be stopped at the gate and
not to enter. In our group, men and women who wore shorts,
along loose fitting long pants or a skirt to slip on over their
For people who are caught without proper covering, some gatekeepers
a supply of brightly colored veils they will lend. (We saw some
who looked pretty funny wearing these around their waist to cover their
bare legs.) In addition, visiting a mosque required taking off
shoes before going inside.
We then entered the area of the Garden of Gethsemane and visited the
of Nations (so called because many countries contributed to the expense
of building it) It is built around a large rock in the garden,
as the traditional site where Jesus prayed on the night of his
The rock is encircled by a low iron work that resembles a crown of
Some of the other tourists there went up to the rock and touched it, or
kissed it, or had their picture taken there.
Outside we found an area of the garden, enclosed and planted with
and olive trees. Some of these olive trees are purported to be
years old, but they probably weren't standing at the time of
The Romans almost certainly would have cut all the olive trees down
they destroyed the city in 70 CE. It's possible, though, that
of these trees grew back from the stumps of those that were here in
day. In a small, quiet and peaceful section of the Garden we had
time together to read the account of Jesus betrayal and arrest and to
A Jewel in God's
As I stood in the garden, looking across the Kidron Valley to
I remembered in a wave of emotion, how Jesus wept over the city.
There it was in all of its limestone splendor, rising up from the
as a setting in God's ring--the city for His chosen people set on a
Just now, considering this, I am reminded of those first views of Earth
from space, and how the same thought wrapped me round. (Luke
Gethsemane we boarded our bus again and drove to the fortress of
build on top of a hill resembling a volcano. This was another of
Herod the Great's building projects. At the base of the hill we
see the remains of a large swimming pool with a small circular island
the middle. Also in the excavations nearby are a Byzantine Church
building and what is believed to be a chariot race course. (Herod
must of enjoyed drag racing.)
After getting out of the bus we broke up into two groups: Those
wanted to climb to the top by way of the stairs, and those who wanted
get inside via the tunnels. These tunnels were made during the
Kokhba Revolt in 132-5 CE. They connect three cisterns under the
fortress with a network of tunnels. Those who took this route
the many steps up through the tunnels, emerged inside the fortress
and were greeted from above by those who had taken the shorter route up
the outside steps.
Once inside we wandered around the ruins. The fortress is
It's walls surrounded a large courtyard and rooms containing a bath
a large dining room (later converted to a synagogue by Jewish rebels)
living quarters. The view from the top of the wall is
Even on that hazy day we could see part of Jerusalem (Herod probably
on being able to keep an eye on the city from here), the Dead Sea,
and many other small villages and towns.
on the bus after our visit to Herodion, we drove to Bethlehem.
we visited the Church of the Nativity, built over a cave that was
to have been the birthplace of Jesus. We went down into the cave
to see the shrine then up into the Armenian Orthodox section of the
where a service was being performed by four priests. The church
in a bad state of preservation because the different branches of the
contend for ownership and won't let each other preserve or improve the
We drove through the narrow streets of Bethlehem looking for a place to
eat lunch. We stopped at a place called "The Christmas Tree
for falafel and schwarma. By this time Michael Davis had had
of the food we'd been eating and found a great American-style pizza
just down the street.
We drove by the Tomb
of Rachel on our way through Bethlehem. It is a holy site,
guarded by Israelis since Bethlehem is in the Palestinian West Bank.
Also, near Bethlehem, we visited a place called the Shepherd's
Here is a very peaceful garden and a small chapel inside a shepherd's
The places where shepherds would have watched their flocks by night
in caves. Here we had a devotional reading of the angels'
of Jesus' birth to shepherds (Luke 2:8-14).
Our last stop was at a very fine shop called the Bethlehem Souvenir
Here they sold all sorts of fine olive wood carvings, jewelry and other
items. This is a very good place to buy mementos of the trip and
gifts for friends and family back home. After this we returned to
our hotel in Jerusalem.
Saturday, August 14: Jerusalem
Today was spent seeing
sights in and around the Old City of Jerusalem. Entering through
the Dung Gate, we began by visiting the south-west sections of the wall
of the Temple Mount that had been recently excavated. Up until
excavations were done the only part of this wall, dating back to the
of Herod's Temple, was the Western Wall (formerly known as the Wailing
Wall). We could see the huge blocks of stone with drafted margins
framing the edges of the stones at the base of the wall. These
characteristic of Herod's building. When the Romans destroyed the
temple they threw down many of these stones from the upper part of the
wall so that the Temple Mount could no longer be used as an inner
of the city.. Many of these large stones were then reused in
building. In the 7th and 11th centuries, the Temple Mount walls
repaired with smaller stones.
We walked around to
the southern part of the wall where we could see the original steps
up to the Temple Mount. These were the steps built by Herod and
there in Jesus day. There is a wide set of steps (used for
the Temple area) which are partially covered by a medieval tower.
It may have been on these steps that Jesus predicted the destruction of
the Temple (Matt. 24:1-2). There is also another narrower set of
steps further East which were used to ascend to the Temple. Many
of the original stones remained but much had also been restored.
The gates at the top of these steps had been blocked up long ago.
Near these steps we could also see many baths (mikve) used for ritual
before entering the Temple courts.
We also visited the
Western Wall. We had to go through a security check to enter this
area. It was the Jewish Sabbath and there were many people coming
and going and praying at the wall.
It's Saturday, the Sabbath. We're in Jerusalem. A bright
morning, heading for hot, day. We can't take pictures on the
We're overlooking the Wailing Wall which, because it is the Western
is in cool shadow while we stood in the morning heat of an August
On top of the Temple
we visited the El-Aksa Mosque. We had to take our shoes off
entering. The interior of the mosque was spacious, its walls
with elaborate colored tile. The floors were covered with small
The center area was roped off for visitors and the surrounding areas
used for prayer and study. We also visited the Dome
of the Rock nearby. This beautiful building dominates the
Mount. By its location (on the site of Herod's Temple) and ornate
construction (competing with Christian churches of the time) it was
as a statement of Islamic supercession over both Judaism and
as well as a shrine to Mohammed's night journey to Jerusalem. We
only had a short time to look around inside at the Dome. It was
close to prayer time and visitors were being encouraged to leave.
expanse before the
left section wall is filled with dense clusters of men--old and
boys. Black is the dominant color. Black suits.
Black hats--some looking like small fur squat barrels. Black
There are prayer shawls, white shawls draped casually across
There are lots of beards and curled locks.
Give these men a haircut and a shave; put them in blue jeans and polo
and they would blend anonymously into any Western European crowd.
They'd look just like us. Perhaps what was so disconcerting that
the reverse was true. We could easily look like them. We
part of the same family.
But those folks before the wall were acting outside of our Western,
norm. Clearly they were venerating a place. Some seem
Others were part of a small group. There was a low hum of a
cant as the Torah was read. The general focus of each group was
Here and there men
rocked back and forth where they stood reading. Different.
Jackie explained that the Wailing Wall is the closest point available
the Jew to the location of the Holy of Holies. It was the
wall put up by Herod the Great to shape Mt. Moriah into a massive floor
on which to build the Second Temple complex. From where we stood
access to the wall is
divided, men on
the left, women on the right.
I made my way to the wall. Up close it was massive. I was
I reached out, touched it with my fingers, then placed my right palm
it. Telling myself I came here to pray I bowed my head and
for words. No coherent words came but suddenly there was a
sense of awe--a presence--arriving in waves. I knew that if I
praying I would be in tears. Men don't allow themselves tears and
certainly not around oddly behaving strangers. I willed my hand
from the wall, took a deep breath and backed away.
walked back up to the observation area above the wall. I found
Zanhiser. She looked rather dazed. I asked her if she went
down to The Wall. She nodded, took a deep breath and said, "I had
not expected it to be so emotional."
I understood and yet I didn't ... and still don't.
Moving off the Temple
Mount we came to the excavations of the Lithostratos and the Roman
from the time of Christ. We had to go below street level to see
This may have been the place where Christ was condemned to death by
Pilate. We saw the King's Game scratched into the stones
This is thought to be a game that Roman soldiers played to amuse
at the expense of a slave. The winner was treated like a king for
the day, then killed. Some think that perhaps the Roman soldiers'
treatment of Jesus after his arrest was similar to that given to the
of this game.
Back on the surface
we walked the Via Dolorosa; the traditional way of the cross where
was led to his execution. We walked through the narrow streets,
thickly for most of its length by a busy market place. Crowds of
people pressed together moving along the streets and pressed from both
sides by vendors selling food, souvenirs, clothing, jewelry, shoes,
you-name-it. This market was called the "suc" (rhymes with
Jackie went first and waited downstream to pull us out of the flow near
the place we could eat lunch.
Whether or not the
route was authentic, this experience of being led through a narrow
full of noisy distracted people going about their business was probably
an authentic experience of Jesus as he was lead off to die.
might turn their attention to him for a little while to see who the
were going to crucify this time, then turn back to their dickering over
the price of a lamb or a goat.
After lunch at a street
cafe, we headed to the Church of the Holy
Sepulchre. Like the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, this
church is a shrine that is divided among different branches of
Many of the common parts of it are in disputes over ownership and have
remained in a state of disrepair for centuries. As a notable
restoration work was completed in 1997 on the beautiful dome of the
In the central part of the church, under the dome, hundreds of pilgrims
were lined up to see relics of the tomb of Christ. The original
found on this site was destroyed by Hakim in 1009 CE. All that is
left are fragments of later reproductions of the tomb and a piece of
that may have been part of the stone that originally covered the
The building complex also includes Golgotha, the place nearby where
was crucified. Jerome Murphy-O'Connor's description of this place
the central shrine of Christendom to stand out in majestic isolation,
anonymous buildings cling to it like barnacles. One looks for
light, but it is dark and cramped. One hopes for peace, but the
is assailed by a cacophony of warring chants. One desires
only to encounter jealous possessiveness: the six groups of
Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenians, Syrians, Copts, Ethiopians--watch
one another suspiciously for an infringement of rights. The
of humanity is nowhere more apparent than here; it epitomizes the human
condition. The empty who come to be filled will leave desolate;
who permit the church to question them may begin to understand why
of thousands thought it worthwhile to risk death or slavery in order to
pray here." (The Holy Land, p. 45.)
There is a good
that the Church of the Holy Sepulchre does sit on the actual site of
crucifixion and burial. However, the last place we visited today
felt closer to the scene for our group. This is a place called
Tomb. This spot is maintained as a peaceful garden adjacent
a tomb that is more typical of tombs in the 9th - 7th century
The side of a hill behind the garden vaguely resembled a skull to
Charles Gordon who was the first visitor to popularize this site as
in 1883. Although it is certainly not the real sight of Jesus death,
and resurrection, it definitely is a beautiful place in which to pray,
and to reflect on those events. Our group had a wonderful
service in this spot. It was a beautiful way to end the day's
The souvenir shop in Bethlehem had given our group some small olive
cups to use in this service. In his message, Pastor Watson
us of the way Jesus said that he wanted to be remembered. Not so
much with beautiful buildings and shrines, but in the simple act of
a meal together.
The Garden Tomb
A tall, massive rough stone outcropping arose prominently from the face
of the hill at the end of the lovely shaded garden walkways. It
the look of a large skull, and on top of that hill was what could have
been the place of our Lord's crucifixion. At the base of the hill
and to the left of the skull was a smooth limestone facade in which was
carved a door and a window. Through it is claimed that this might
not be the actual place of His burial, nonetheless the scripture
fit perfectly believable.
brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a
(Mark15:22); "And so they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen
wrappings with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews.
in the place where He was crucified there was a garden; and in the
a new tomb, in which no on had yet been laid." (John 19:40-41);
(of Arimathea) took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and
laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he
rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away."
To step inside and stand alongside the stone platform on which Jesus
have been laid made it seem the legitimate place. There were no
wall hangings, glitter of gold, or anything to detract from what could
be a simple statement of fact, uncluttered by man's embellishment,
in many spots where Jesus walked or acted, made it hard to feel
the glitter. (Man gets so in the way!) It was a "special
to cherish. --Vivian Sidle
The present condition and atmosphere of some of the more significant
shrines like the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Nativity are
to me and many other Christians. Our guide, Jackie, was sensitive
to this sentiment in our group and tried to give us a good
of the historical events and thinking that have shaped these
Most of us would probably have liked them to have been preserved in
pristine condition, if at all. Why all the gold and glitter,
and brick building over, and obscuring of, any sense of what it might
been like to "be there"? We would have been more inspired to get
a glimpse of the humble beginnings of our faith rather than the gaudy
encrusted over it by so many centuries of often misplaced Christian
Some of these places, like the Church of the Nativity, almost certainly
do not sit on the actual places they commemorate. Like Jackie
Jesus' disciples didn't walk behind him with a piece of chalk, placing
an 'X' marking the important places of his life and ministry.
Christians were persecuted for the first four centuries of the
of their faith, and could not preserve holy places in any conspicuous
permanent ways. The present form of these shrines has more to do
with the people who built and preserved them than the One who inspired
them to be built.
When Christianity became the state religion of the Roman Empire, the
Constantine and his mother commissioned the building of churches and
to mark important places of Jesus' ministry. As to location,
often had to make their best guess. As to the magnificence of the
shrines, well Jesus was a king wasn't he? Kings live in beautiful
palaces don't they? By the reasoning of earthly kings, a heavenly
king required that much earthly splendor be put down in his name.
It would have been unthinkable to do otherwise. Yet Jesus is as
an unthinkable sort of king as he was an unlikely Messiah. In
this kind of expense on places to honor Jesus Christ, kings may as well
have been justifying their own grand style of living. I enjoyed
fine architecture and beautiful atmosphere of many of the shrines we
(the Catholic Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth, for
But the more that they seemed to focus on the preservation of relics or
places as objects of affection rather than on the glorification of God
as such, the more I felt alienated by them.
If the alternative to the present form of these Christian holy places
that they not be preserved at all--perhaps having a parking lot or
built over them--then I suppose we have a far better of two less than
outcomes. Still, I can't help but feel that these attempts to
the Manna from Heaven in gilded containers made with human hands as
in a much decayed testimony to the life giving power of Jesus Christ
For me, at least, a simple communion service in an unlikely place of
death and resurrection did the most to renew by desire to be his
It's always a wonder the way God often shows himself in ways, times,
places that we least expect to see Him. --Paul Dubuc
Sunday, August 15: Jerusalem
Sunday morning was free
time for our group. There were no scheduled activities. We
had spent the time after dinner yesterday evening discussing the
ideas people had for what to do this morning. Some attended
service at a nearby church. Others set out to explore various
of Jerusalem. Another group explored Hezekiah's Tunnel and walked
the Old City ramparts.
about 2:00 in the afternoon, the whole group got on the bus and we
out to the Shrine of the Book
at the Israel Museum where parts
Sea Scrolls are on display. It was all Hebrew to us, but
gave us a fine appreciation of the background and importance of the
scrolls and manuscripts on display here.
a Walk on the Ramparts
Sunday morning, seven of our group (Sam and Sammy Meier, Stuart
Jenny Daniel, Paul, Jessica and Bryan Dubuc) headed out for a walk
Hezekiah's tunnel. This is a tunnel built by King Hezekiah
BCE) to carry water inside the city walls from the Gihon Spring (2 Chr.
32:2-4,30; 2 Kings 20:20). In order to get to the tunnel we
through part of the Kidron Valley to the Gihon Spring. Many old
could be seen on the sides of the valley. We explored one large
tomb and found it littered with trash and debris. Others were
used for living quarters. Part of the valley contained heaps of
trash; a real dump. The spring is underground. A medieval
leads down to the tunnel entrance which was blocked by a locked gate.
gatekeeper came and tried to let us in, but some women were inside
bathing in the spring. We waited about 15 minutes for them to
Water still flows from the spring, through the tunnel and into the Pool
of Siloam. The water was cool and clear. It rarely got more
than knee deep (lower than usual due to a serious drought in
The passage was, perhaps 28 inches wide and varied in height. In
some places we had to stoop to get through. In other places the
of the tunnel appeared to be 25 feet high. This was done to
more ventilation for the workers digging the tunnel. We could see
clearly the marks in the hard rock walls made by the axes of the
who dug the tunnel.
This activity may not have been fun for the claustrophobic, but we all
had a great time. It was fun to turn off our flash lights and
our way in the dark. It was impossible to get lost. Though
there are many twists and turns in the tunnel there is only one
It took us about 40 minutes to walk through, perhaps, three quarters of
a mile. We emerged at the Pool of Siloam where we had to wait for
(yes) more women to finish bathing before we could emerge. All
walking in cold water had cooled us off considerably. We walked
the hill through an Arab neighborhood to the Old City.
Back inside the city wall, we ran into a few more people from our tour
group who were out shopping. Some of us went shopping with them
four others (Sam, Sammy, Bryan and me) went for a tour of the city
We had to purchase tickets to get up on the walls. From there you
could walk almost all the way around the Old City; and we nearly
The present wall was built in medieval times. Steps up onto the
were at the gates of the city. We found a gate that was open to
upper walls and started our walk. It was quite a long hike, but
enjoyed some excellent views of the City and surroundings for our
The ramparts weren't crowded. We only saw a few people up
We came down near Stephen's Gate (also called Lion's Gate) and walked
the city and out the Damascus Gate (pressing our way through the
after grabbing a falafel and a drink for lunch. From there it was
a short walk back to the Ritz Hotel. --Paul Dubuc
We also visited the Yad Vashem,
a memorial to the martyrs and heroes of the Nazi Holocaust. A
through the museum was a sobering tour through a very dark period of
history. Outside there were groves of carob trees;
planted in memory of a Gentile who helped save Jews from the
We saw one new tree there planted for Corrie
ten Boom. The Hall of Remembrance was closed part of the time
due to a service going on inside.
Our last stop was a visit to a 50:1 scale model of how Jerusalem is
to have looked in the first century. Jackie gave us a wonderfully
original and entertaining tour of this city and a good feeling of what
it might have been like for a Jew from Galilee to go to Jerusalem for
This was a very valuable aid in helping us put together the pieces of
century Jerusalem that we have seen. Without this it can be very
hard to visualize the way things might have looked in Jesus' day.
Monday, August 16: Jerusalem - Tiberias
We left Jerusalem this
morning to drive North through Samaria. Our first stop was at Nablus
(biblical Shechem). We visited some excavated ruins behind an
repair shop. We had a good view of Mt. Ebal and Mt Gerizim.
It was here that Abraham received the promise of the Land of Israel;
Israelites carried the bones of Joseph from Egypt for burial; and Jesus
met the woman of Samaria at Jacob's Well.
After leaving the ruins
from the city of Shechem, we visited Jacob's Well. Construction
the Russian Orthodox church over the well is being finished. The
building was interrupted about 100 years ago. The First World
the Russian Revolution, and the conflicting priorities of the USSR
to the delay. Now the Greek Orthodox church is providing money to
finish the building. Under the floor of the church there is a
room that surrounds the opening of the well. An attendant drew
water and some of us tasted it. The well was quite deep.
a stone was dropped into the well, it took several seconds to hear a
Jackie told us that it is fairly certain that this is Jacob's Well,
the well has been here a very long time and it's difficult to dig wells
in this area.
Just how was Jacob able to dig such a deep well? Here we were
alongside the well housing where Jesus sat and spoke with the Samaritan
woman, even though she was obviously a harlot. She couldn't
that a Jewish man would even speak to a hated Samaritan woman.
He was asking for a drink. He was thristy and tired from His
and here we were, tasting some of the same sweet water which Jesus
How amazing! It was here that, for the first time, Jesus revealed
who He was and offerend the woman the Living Water which only He could
give, which would spring up in her unto eternal life, as for all
thereafter. (John 4:3-26) --Vivian Sidle
Nablus has a high
of automobile repair shops. Jackie told us that many people from
out of town bring their cars to be repaired here because of the cheaper
parts and labor.
Our next stop was
established by King Omri and improved by his son Ahab. The
Elisha and Obadiah are believed to be buried here, along with the head
of John the Baptist. We saw the ruins of a Roman basilica.
(Church buildings were later patterned after this type of
building.) There were also the remains of a theater, a shrine to
Caesar, and King Ahab's summer palace. There was also the ruin of
a church marking the spot where John the Baptist's head was supposedly
had a good lunch at a very nice restaurant here. The gift shop
also worthwhile. As we came out of the shop two little boys with
a donkey were standing next to our bus. They were so cute, they
a few coins from our group just for posing for pictures.
The Head of
was a steel door to a crypt in the floor of the church. A local
who had been following our group and trying to be helpful in different
ways, noticed my interest in the door and opened it so we could look
It was dark at the bottom of the dozen or so steps that led down in,
the way was barred by a gate. I was curious, but I didn't go
No one is buried there now. Had John the Baptist's Head
buried here at one time? Maybe. We can't know for
Someone asked Jackie why the boy had been following us and trying to do
favors. "Perhaps so some will give him a few shekels", he
When we were through, I saw the boy standing next to the path on our
to lunch and, not wanting his earlier efforts to be in vain, I pulled a
5 shekel coin (about $1.25 US) out of my pocket and gave it to
I don't know if it was a "proper" thing to do or not and I couldn't
from the boy's reaction how pleased he was with my offering. At
he had some reward for his efforts. --Paul Dubuc
After another hot day, Jackie had a treat for our next stop: A
swimming hole. The water was very refreshing. Most of us
resist going for a swim, or a dip under the small waterfalls
This place is known as Gan Hashlosha (the Park of the Three - killed in
the Independence War) in Hebrew or as Sachne
(meaning the warm one) in Arabic. Temperatures at about 28 degrees c.
F) the whole year round. It flows out in the Jezreel Valley at the foot
of Mount Gilboa.
After our swim we got back on the bus and drove toward Tiberias.
"As we rounded a curve in the road, it 'took my breath away' to see the
south end of the Sea of Galilee come into view. (Such and
reaction!)". [Vivian Sidle] Curving west and north we came
to Tiberias. This city was originally built by Herod the Great's
son, Herod Antipas, to impress the Romans. On the way Jackie
to take anyone who wanted to get up early on a hike to climb the cliffs
around Tiberias and watch the sunrise. A few brave people would
him up on that. Others thought the sunrise would look just as
from their hotel room windows.
In Tiberias we stayed at the Golan Hotel. It was the best hotel
Very good food and rooms (some with balconies) with wonderful views of
the Sea of Galilee.
Tuesday, August 17: Tiberias
Sunrise Over the
For those willing to rise in the morning a couple of hours earlier than
usual, Jackie offered an extra adventure. Badaran (who also had
rise early) drove us to the top of Mt Arbel just north-west of
From this angle, the mountain appeared more like a broad hill because
were really on a plateau several hundred feet above the Sea of
It was a short easy hike over the shallow crest of the mountain to a
edge looking east over the Sea. The terrain was a compromise of
and exposed rocks with a single tree to provide a photographic
The tree reminded me of the famous cypress on the California coast
the 17 mile drive which was once called the "most photographed tree in
We settled in on the rocks to await the appearance of the sun over the
distant mountains. Through the pre-dawn light, Jackie pointed out
various landmarks along the northern shore of the Sea. One of
was the village of Migdal, home of Mary Magdalene. It was somehow
refreshing to see that Migdal was still a small village rather than a
city like so many other places of New Testament fame. We could
see cave openings in the cliff faces across the valley to the
They looked similar to those in Qumran and near the Mamshit camel
I found it amazing to see how prolific caves are in the Holy Land, the
results of the geological forces of the eons and the human forces of
Soon our attention was focused on the intensifying light on the east
An exclamation of "there it is" announced the very first speck of
light to burst through a notch in the mountains. The speck
grew into a line, then an arch, and eventually a full disc signaling
transition from a comfortable morning temperature to another hot day.
As the sun continued its climb into the sky and the valley began to
to life, we began what had been promised to be an exciting hike.
We followed a mildly descending trail westward among the rocks for
15 minutes where it made a few steps down into the rocks then literally
dropped over the edge of a cliff! For the next several hundred
we were in a purely vertical world. The trail's route was implied
by the color variation between the well worn and the rarely touched
Strategically placed cable holds and steel cleats hammered into the
provided passage through zones which would otherwise be available to
rock climbers only.
The trail then continued eastward back toward the Sea of Galilee at a
leisurely slope but not without a few uncomfortably steep descents on
gravel. We could now see that the cliff faces below our sunrise
point were also riddled with caves, some of which had brick walls built
within them. Jackie said these caves, along with many of the
in this area, were used as hiding places by the Zealots who gained a
for melting into the hills when being pursued by the Romans. This
land is so full of historical places!
The land below the cliff was being used to pasture cows. I
that since we were in the Holy Land, these must be Holy Cows! By
now, the day was getting hot and we could see the bus waiting at the
of the hill.
Looking back up at the cliffs, we could trace our path and be humbled
the fact that we had traversed the cliff face at its lowest point on a
well maintained path. The Zealots and Romans did not have that
while fighting their war. This is a demanding land.
Church of the Beatitudes
Our first stop today
at a site chosen to commemorate Jesus' Sermon on the Mount: The
of the Beatitudes is in a lovely spot situated overlooking the shore of
the Sea of Galilee. It would likely have been on a hillside like
this that Jesus would have stood to teach on occasions like the Sermon
on the Mount recorded in Matt. 5-7. After soaking up the setting
and reading the Beatitudes, we leisurely viewed the inside of the
and walked around the surrounding beautifully landscaped
This is a lovely and peaceful place where a quiet reverence was evident
While cruising along the shore in a wooden ship named "Mark", enroute
Tiberias to Capernaum, we passed the small basalt chapel called the
of the Primacy, situated close to the western seashore. The
commemorates the place where the resurrected Christ appeared a third
when His disciples, coming in from a night of fruitless fishing found
standing on the shore with fish already cooking on a glowing
Jesus called to them that if they would follow His direction and cast
net on the right side of the boat, they would get a catch. When
did, they dragged in a bursting net, and knew that it was the
Then, after breakfast, Jesus asked Peter three times, whether he loved
Him. When he affirmed that he did, Jesus chared him to tend His
and shepherd His sheep. How? "Follow Me". (John
When we landed we
the excavations of the first century town. Peter's House is
where Jesus healed Simon's (named "Peter" by Jesus) mother-in-law (Mark
1:29-31). This site is most probably the real site of Peter's
because of the archeological evidence, tradition and historical record
dating its use as a place of worship by Christians back into the first
century. There is a church, built above the site of the house,
on arches that make it look like a flying saucer space ship hovering
More of the town has been excavated nearby. The houses were made
of basalt, a black volcanic rock that is very common to this
These homes must have heated up like ovens in the summer. There
also the remains of a synagogue, built with limestone, on top of the
foundation from the earlier synagogue.
also visited the Church of the Loaves and the Fishes which commemorates
the feedings of the 5000 and the 4000. This church had beautiful,
well preserved (partially restored) mosaic floors.
didn't fit the pictures. All Bible story towns had sand colored
and houses. All the Sunday School literature's illustrations had
houses or buildings with light colored stones. And now we were
to Capernaum. I had already looked at the church on the shore of
Galilee where Jesus
with "do you love me?". That church was black, except for the
corner stones and the tile roof. Surely the black stones had been
imported. That was before Capernaum.
Certainly I was surprised at how close the Synagogue was to Peter's
He could have walked it in a couple of minutes and if the foundation
the Synagogue is the Synagogue from Peter's time there, we may have the
sight in which Jesus read from Isaiah. Wow. No wonder after
serving in the Synagogue, He went to Peter's house for a meal ... just
like we do after church on Sundays. The only difference is we
have to heal the cook to get fed.
The excavation of Peter's house was a revelation. Black stones
the walls. The floor was of the same black stones. Perhaps
charcoal gray is a better description, but in comparison with stones
in the rest of the country, they are black.
The tour of the area only served to confirm the revelation. All
streets--all the excavated buildings--even the round olive press was in
this same black stone. Basalt. Volcanic Basalt from
Jackie had pointed out flat topped mountains in The Galilee which were
extinct volcanoes, but nothing drove the point home like seeing
that could have been made in Hawaii.
My perception of The Galilee has changed forever.
Sammy Meier was baptized in the Sea of Galilee. We had the
on the shore near the YMCA hostel. It was an exciting time for
and the rest of us. He will have some wonderful memories of this
... as will we also.
we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord
Indeed we were singing joyfully as we stood beside the Sea of
Sammy Meier, his Dad, and Jack were carefully wading into the shallow
along the shore in preparation for Sammy's baptism. It was
a joyful occasion. So why was I standing there covering my face
crying? Vivian and I brought up the rear of our group, and she
noted my tears and kindly put her arm around me, not really
my weepy response to this happy event.
Our last stop on
journey was at Kibbutz Lavi where we were given a tour by one of the
and his daughter. The kibbutz is a farming community whose
live by the basic tenet of "from everyone according to his ability, to
everyone according to his need". Work and production are
by the community and all property is owned collectively. The
is governed democratically. General meetings are held every other
week to make all important decisions. Every member gets a
There are annually elected committees that make the smaller day-to-day
decisions, overseeing different aspects of community life.
works to support the community, even children and the older
There are no salaries paid, but a budget is allocated to each family
personal expenses like travel, clothing, books and gifts. Meals
prepared for the whole community and may be eaten in a common dining
or taken home since each apartment has a kitchenette. Laundry is
marked with an ID number and done at a central laundry. The
owns a number of automobiles that are loaned to members on an as needed
flowers before Thee,
Opening to the sun
The last time I had sung those words was 11 weeks earlier at the
service for my Mother. That was also a joyful time, but joyful in
a different way. We were celebrating Mother's entrance into Life
Eternal. For 101 years and 8 months she had live out her faith as
a child of God and now she had moved on beyond the bonds of time into
arms of her Creator and Savior. As we sang that morning, joyful
tears, my faith assured me that our Lord had welcomed her and called
of sin and sadness,
Drive the dark of
And now we were singing joyfully as young Sammy received his name as a
child of God. Jack slipped him under the waters of the Galilee
lifted him up, a visible sign of invisible Grace.
Fill us with the
light of day."
Joy in death and joy in life? How can that be? Lord and
of Life -- earthly and Eternal? How can that be? "Now we
in part, but then we shall know even as we are known." Yes, even
as we had seen a new day begin from Mt. Arbel that morning, we have the
promise of a New Day!
Which the morning
Father love is
Brother love binds
man to man.
Victors in the
Joyful music leads
In the triumph
The kibbutz assumes complete
responsibility for its members from the cradle to the grave.
are given care and schooling during the day. On many kibbutzim,
live separately from their parents in a children's house and spend only
a few hours a day with their parents. At Lavi, the children live
with their parents and spend the working hours of the day at the
house. Children are provided an education up through college and
a wedding by the community. When they are of age they may leave
kibbutz, or stay on as a member.
that Lavi has from most other kibbutzim is that it is an Orthodox
community. Most kibbutzim are non-religious. Lavi is one of
only a dozen or so religious kibbutzim in Israel. The kibbutz
started about 1908. Following on the heels of the Zionist
(1880), the kibbutz was an expression of Zionism influenced by
It was not a religious movement. Contrary to the belief of many
Jews that God would one day restore the nation of Israel, the Zionists
wanted to bring that about by their own efforts. For the kibbutz
they wanted Jews who would be primarily workers: farmers, shepherds,
(not intellectuals, teachers or professionals). They wanted to
to Israel to drain the swamps and make the desert green. Today
are less ideological, more simply a practical way of life. Many
the present members were born on a kibbutz.
In addition to
and raising domestic animals, Kibbutz Lavi runs a four star hotel and
furniture for synagogues and churches. Lavi also has a rich
life with performing arts and films and an adult education center with
After spending a
time in the hotel gift shop at Kibbutz Lavi, we were on the bus and
back to our hotel in Tiberius. In the evening some of us went to
see and interesting multimedia presentation about the area called "The
Wednesday, August 18: Tiberias
This morning we drove
to the Golan Heights on the
Syrian border with Israel. This area is something of a "no man's
land" with Israeli Army bases the only sign of occupation. We
past several deserted Syrian villages. Israel took this area from
Syria in the Six Day War in 1967. It seems that, if Israel were
to give this territory back to Syria, it would have to be under a very
strong peace treaty. Possession of this land by an enemy, makes
very vulnerable to artillery.
Beth and I were fortunate enough to get a hotel room with a balcony
East. I knew that yesterday morning's mountain hike would very
try my acrophobia beyond its limit after hearing Jackie describe it. So
I passed on that. I'm sure the sunrise looked just as beautiful
form our balcony. The mountains in the East provided a definite
When the sun peeked over it we could see the effects of the Earth in
as the horizon dipped and pulled us into a full view of the sun in just
a minute or two. I was surprised at how fast it seemed to
I'm not sure if I've ever been able to see the sun come up this way
In the heavens
has set a tent for the sun,
which comes forth
like a bridegroom leaving his chamber,
and like a strong
man runs its course with joy.
On our way we crossed
the Jordan River. In size the Jordan is what most of us would
a stream. It looked smaller than the Olentangy River in
Perhaps the drought had diminished it more than usual, but rivers in
are more like streams that don't dry up in summer. We read the
of Naaman's healing in 2 Kings 5. The Jordan didn't look
to Naaman either.
It was a very hot
We picked up a few hikers carrying very large packs on their
They were very glad to ride in our air conditioned bus for a while.
Gamla has been compared
in some ways to Masada. It was a fortress city to which many
rebels had taken refuge when Vespasian attacked. The name "Gamla"
comes from the word for "camel". The hill on which the city was
resembles a camel's back. Two steeply sloping sides along a high
mountain ridge. Most of the city appears to have been built on
slope and protected by a wall at the base of the mountain. Steep
cliffs on the opposite slope protected that side of the city. A
bit of excavation and restoration has been done to reveal the city
houses, mikve (ritual baths), an oil press and a synagogue.
Walking from the bus
to a lookout atop a nearby hill with a good view of Gamla, we were
a choice: The walk down, and then up to Gamla (not an easy one in
the heat of summer), or the easier walk to a nearby waterfall.
taking the "easier", reported it not easy, and rather disappointing
the drought had prevented much of a waterfall to develop. Those
wanted to explore the city had to make a steep and lengthy decent along
a footpath into the valley below. At the bottom there were some
of Roman missile launchers which looked something like large crossbows,
without the bow. The projectile looked like a spear with a large,
pointed iron head.
The story of the Roman
assault on this city is given by Josephus in The Jewish War.
At first the Romans had a difficult time fighting their way up the city
in its narrow streets. Fighting took place on the roofs of houses
which began to collapse under the weight and tumble down the hill,
the attacking soldiers in an avalanche of falling rock, dust and
Eventually, though, the Romans gained the advantage and drove the
to the top of the hill where they had no place to go. It is said
that 5000 people flung themselves to their deaths over the cliffs
than be captured by the Romans. Another 4000 died in the fighting.
Once we were at the
base of the city we had a steep climb up through the ruins. Those
who climbed all the way to the top were rewarded with a magnificent
of the valley and surrounding hills. Water from springs could be
heard flowing down the hill opposite Gamla. It was a beautiful
to rest before making the long walk back down and up the other hill to
Golan Heights (Syrian Border)
Our next stop took us
a former army outpost very near the border with Syria. Here,
a valley which was the site of many battles between Israel and Syria,
explored an army bunker which was no longer in use. We listened
Jackie describe the terrain and some of the fighting that took place
Close to the hill we were on we could see the remains of a Syrian town
that was destroyed by the war, and its populated replacement further in
the distance. Jackie described the tactics used by one group of
tanks, at the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War, to hold off a greatly
force of Syrian tanks for 18 hours until reinforcements could
The tanks fought behind mounds of earth to reduce their visibility
the battle. When they ran out of ammunition, their commander
them out in the open, to the top of the mounds which had protected
This fooled the Syrians into thinking that reinforcements had arrived
calling off their attack.
Back in the bus we
drove through some Druze villages and stopped for lunch.
Caesarea Philippi (Banyas)
After lunch we drove to
Caesarea Philippi, the place of the pagan shrines. The present
Banyas, is a corruption of Paneas, devoted to the god Pan. There
is a spring here which is one of the sources of the Jordan river.
Philip, the son of Herod the Great built up this city as the capitol of
his territory. To distinguish it from the coastal Caesarea, it
called Caesarea Philippi or Caesarea Paneas. It is now part of
Nahal Hermon Reserve.
We stopped here and
read the Gospel accounts of Jesus asking his disciples, "Who do people
say I am" and where Jesus rebukes the apostle Peter for suggesting that
the Messiah would not be one to suffer and die (Matt. 16:13-28).
The revelation of the absolute openness of Jesus ... the security of
sense of who he was ... was never clearer than when we visited Caesarea
Philippi. Here were the ruins of a totally Roman, pagan
The remains of the Temple of Pan were there were outlines of other
Here was a
intellectually displayed a belief in multiple gods. It was the
center for northern Galilee at the time of Jesus. It was here
Jesus posed the question.
Jack read from Mark 8 as Jesus asked, "Whom do men say that I
The answer to the specific came from the disciples who answered, "some
say you are Elijah or one of the prophets." In the setting
Jesus placed them, had he been doing in Caesarea Philippi the things he
had done in Capernaum, the people there might easily have answered,
are most certainly one of the gods." One wonders if that thought
crossed their minds.
Then Peter answered the next question, "But whom do you say that I am?"
to which Peter answers, "You are the Christ." We know from Jesus’
response that Peter’s answer was from the Holy Spirit. Without
prompting of the Spirit, what would the answer have been? Indeed,
what answer would the other disciples have given?
The fact is, the answer Peter gave is so important, it makes all others
irrelevant. --John Kirn
It was most interesting that our Lord Jesus strode right into the enemy
camp (Satan's stronghold) to deliver His challenge regarding belief of
His divinity. And by the impression of the Holy Spirit given to
He conquered all uncertain or antagonistic responses. Jesus,
accepted and validated the response of Peter as being Truth.
last stop of the day was at Tel Dan. Here we saw excavations of
altar built at Dan. The gate to the city of Dan and the judgment
seat in the gate are from the time of King Ahab. There was
gate dating from the early Bronze Age, the time of Abraham (1800
This gate was made of mud brick and looked very fragile. It was
with a canopy to keep rain from washing it away. Archeologists
that this gate survived because it was defective. Being poorly
it was built over with another gate that covered and protected it.
Sam Meier told us that it is not uncommon for artifacts to survive,
because they are unused or defective in some way. Things that are
used play a larger part in the history they represent, but they also
to wear out and do not survive to become important and useful
One example is manuscript of the Bible called the Codex Sinaiaticus,
is the oldest complete manuscript of the Bible, but contains
scribal errors and defects. It survived for centuries on the
in a monastery.
Thursday, August 19: Tiberias -
At Belvoir we were
to a curious display of modern 'environmental art' by sculptor Yigal
before touring the remains of a crusader castle. Belvoir means
view", but it obviously wasn't given its name on a hazy day like
Views to the distance always seemed hampered by a hazy sky, but it was
especially so today in this place. Not a good opportunity for
We toured the ruins
of the castle built by the Crusaders about 1165 CE. It was build
with basalt rock and was used for about 27 years until Saladin's army
it after a 5 year siege. Jackie gave us a very interesting
of the Crusades, including various reasons that people came:
desecration of holy sites, persecution of Christians, glory for popes
kings, escape from hard feudal life.
A dry moat was dug
around the castle to prevent the Muslims from undermining the
Before Saladin, the Muslim armies were made up of seasonal volunteer
If they could be held off until planting time in the spring the
of the castle could break the siege. The moat made it so that the
attackers would have to dig deeper and from farther out to undermine
walls. Saladin's armies had paid soldiers who could stay long
to make a siege on such a fortress effective.
Built with three
walls, much of the castle was destroyed in the late 13th (?) century to
prevent later crusaders from using it as a fortress. Yet the
are still impressive. The innermost part of the castle showed the
remains of a kitchen with ovens, a cistern, and a bathhouse.
had a reputation for bathing very little. Their personal hygiene
was poor and disgusting to the local inhabitants.
the book Montaillou, by Emmanuel LeRoy Ladurie for an
picture about how life was lived by common people in medieval times (in
Our next visit was to
Bet-Alpha Synagogue National Park. The ruins of this synagogue
to the sixth century CE and were discovered by members of kibbutzim
here. The well preserved mosaic floor is very beautiful and has
interesting description. The floor depicts the Ark of the
seven branched candlesticks, a zodiac surrounded by women representing
the four seasons, and Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac. Our guide
out that it is interesting that the ram in this depiction is tethered
a tree. This may come from an idea in Jewish Literature that some
things were created in the last 18 minutes of the seventh day;
the ram used for this sacrifice. (This ram was reserved for this
sacrifice from the beginning of creation.) This is similar to the
picture of Jesus as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world"
The artists made
next to the inscriptions at the bottom of the mosaic. These
screw holes that were put in stone to mount plaques with inscriptions
After lunch we visited
the tel at Megiddo. There are extensive excavations here
the remains of 20 distinct historical periods from 4000 BCE to 400
Megiddo lies at the head of a mountain pass at the western end of the
of Jezreel. It controlled the main road from Egypt to Syria and
Its strategic importance has made it the sight of many battles recorded
in the Bible. The book of Revelation marks it as the site of the
last great battle of the world: Armageddon (a corruption of the
"Har Megiddo"). This city has been destroyed and rebuilt about 25
times in its long history. This was a chariot city for kings
and Ahab. There are some ruins of stables built by Ahab (9th
BCE) where stone mangers and hitching posts can be seen. There is
also a large silo sunk in the ground with a curving staircase along its
walls dating from the 8th century BCE. The city water system was
also very interesting to see. A large shaft was sunk 120 feet
rock to join a tunnel dug to a spring hidden outside the city
Built by King Ahab, this system provided a reliable source of water to
defenders of the city during a siege.
The museum on the site
had some very interesting and informative displays showing the layout
excavations of the city and a very good video presentation on the city
A village of 200 - 500
people in Jesus' day, Nazareth has grown to a town of 65,000 people
Driving through the city we saw many buildings in various stages of
Families here build their homes in stages, using much of their own
as family demands and available money allow. This is much less
than hiring a contractor to build the home all at once.
After getting off the
bus, we made our way to the crest of a hill, up a steep shop-lined
to the beautiful imosing Roman Catholic "Church of the Annunciation"
to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Once inside, some of us climbed the
many limestone steps of the circular stairwell of this beautiful
cathedral, built during the 1960's. A mass was being said on the
first level. Up above there was the main sanctuary, very
and bright with a domed roof. Through a large opening in the
the singing from below filled the air. Large tapestries honoring
Mary from different countries hung on the walls. Some were very
but we were not impressed by the one contributed from the USA.
This church was built
on the site of one of two ancient wells in the city. The Greek
Church of the Annunciation is built on the site of the other
The reasoning for this is that Mary's visitation by the angel must have
occurred outdoors, and a well was a very likely place for women to be
they were not in their homes.
This evening we
at a new Mariott Hotel in Nazareth. This was by far the most
and comfortable accommodations yet. Some of us spent time in the
pool and stayed up late talking after dinner. We did have to be
as early as usual for tomorrow's trip.
Friday, August 20: Nazareth - Tel Aviv
Our first stop this
was at Bet Shearim National Park. This is the site of an ancient
Jewish city of Bet Shearim where the Sanhedrin met during the 2nd
Rabbi Yehuda Hanassi, head of the Sanhedrin, was buried here. We
visited the large cemetery, used in the 4th and 5th centuries, where
wealthy Jewish families were buried. We walked though a large
where there were many large stone sarcophagi (coffins) with intricate
on them. Some of the smaller tombs on the hillside were also open
for looking though.
we drove to the city of Haifa. We rode past the Baha'i Temple and
stopped at the lookout point above the temple on Mt. Carmel. Here
we got a wonderful panoramic view of the city and harbor.
got back on the bus and continued up Mt. Carmel. We drove past
University which offers degrees in medicine, underwater archaeology,
work, and Arab-Jewish relations.
wound our way through modern Haifa to the top of Mt. Carmel where we
struck by the view of the harbor and the Mediterranean beyond.
us the Bahai Temple complex was a surprise--a riot of rich green lawns
and landscaping among sand colored off-white stone stair and walk ways
cascading down the mountain. Above where the bus parked to let us
overlook the city was a park at the mountain's top. At the
to the park was a prominently displayed sign. Here we were on the
where Elijah risked everything believing his God would act--the
where Elijah and the prophets of Baal met and fire fell from heaven to
consume Elijah’s water-drenched sacrifice. Here on the mountain
one of the Old Testament stories that we all wish we could go back in
and witness happened is a sign which reads: “LIGHTING OF FIRES
Just for the record I have the picture. --John Kirn
The prophet Elijah hid from Jezebel on this mountain. Here also
where his contest with the prophets of Baal took place. This
was a holy place for both Israel and the Baal worshipers.
We passed through some Druze villages and saw a wedding party on one
The Druze generally have good relations with Israel. Many of the
men serve as professional soldiers in the Israeli army.
great city built by Herod the Great. We entered the partially
theater and listened to Jackie describe its original form. Three
members of the Bethel Church choir sang for us from the stage. A
good bit of undersea archeology has been done in this area since it is
the site of the great man-made seaport built by Herod. A large
of stone pillars and capitals taken from the sea were lying nearby.
our walk over to see the remains of a crusader fortress, we had two
wildlife sitings. Someone spotted a chameleon on a palm tree and
many of us gathered around the tree to watch it as it climbed for the
of some palm leaves. The way it moved was strange and
Next, the bird watchers in our group excitedly pointed out some
These were fascinating birds to watch, especially when they take to
a young man in my twenties, I crewed on small sail boats out of the
Yacht Club. Sailing has always been a special activity for
As we overlooked the ruins of Caesarea from the partially reconstructed
theater. I looked out over what was left of one of the arms of
harbor in the
world, a harbor constructed by Herod the Great. I imagined
east and seeing the light house which rivaled the one at
What was it like to approach that harbor almost two thousand years ago,
captaining a square rigged cargo vessel, thrilled that I was going to
safe harbor before the winter gales stirred made the sea deadly?
Here was a safe haven with anything a travel weary sailor could want
except home. The crew's excitement was contagious as they
about what they were going to do over the winter in Caesarea, a very
For me, there would be great sport in the amphitheater. Man
man and team against team. Wonderful contests and
And then there would be the theater. I hoped there was a decent
acting troupe from Greece, called hypocrites, caught for the
Yep, that's the word
Jesus used like
a sword to skewer the posturing Pharisees of his day. But as I
to continue my fantasy, I had to stop.
Think of the lifestyles of Hollywood Celebs. Actors of the
first century were their prototype... Or worse, if
The plays, particularly the comedies, were vulgar, raunchy in a way
mirror--actually acted out--the grossest excesses of today's standup
That stage in Caesarea witnessed debauched Greek and Roman theater.
The central dais held a seat inscribed with the name of Pontius
One wonders what moved Pilot. What made him laugh? Could he
be made to weep? Did he think vulgarity funny?
What an irony! As we watched, three fellow Christians stood on
stage and celebrated their faith in Christ with song.
Did we really understand how remarkable an event that
The crusader fortress was similar to the one at Belvoir. Behind
was an excavation of a Byzantine street. Two pillars stand in the
street and next to them are sitting statues of men without hands or
Apparently the statues were originally made for the temple in Caesarea,
but were instead used by the Christians as street decorations.
heads and hands of the statues where designed to be replaceable (so
when a new emperor ascended the throne only these parts of the statues
had to be replaced). The one made of a purple colored stone is
to have been made for the emperor Hadrian.
Caesarea had between 20,000 and 30,000 people in Herod's time.
population grew to about 100,000 by Byzantine times. We visited
beach by the Mediterranean Sea near the Roman Aqueduct (built during
time of Hadrian). It was originally about 5 miles long and
water from several springs to the city.
This was the last stop on our tour.
On our way back to Tel Aviv, Michael Davis pressed Jackie to tell more
of his very entertaining jokes. Either he was too tired, or the
weeks had nearly exhausted his supply. He suggested that we take
turns coming up to the microphone and tell some of our favorite
Many good jokes were told during this ride. I think most people
agree that eleven-year-old Bryan Dubuc stole the show from his dad and
At the end of the day we were back at the Avia Hotel, where we had
our trip. We had dinner and got to bed early. We would have
to be up very early tomorrow to catch our flight back home.
Saturday, August 21: Tel Aviv - USA
Saturday morning we got
up very early in order to be at the airport 3 hours before
We needed to go through security checks: more waiting to answer
and open our luggage in front of security personnel to make sure that
in there was what we had packed that morning. Could the hotel
have slipped something in there between the time we packed our bags in
our rooms and the time they loaded them into the bus? They were
no chances. Once we got through security, we had about an hour to
browse the shops in the duty-free zone of the airport.
We boarded our plane
at 7:20 AM and flew to Munich, Germany; from Munich to Chicago (where
from Columbus and California said "good-bye" and we parted ways); from
Chicago to Columbus, arriving at 6:50 PM. Total time for the
was 18.5 hours. They showed 2 movies during the flight from Munich to
Entrapment and Dance With Me. (Where had we seen
General Impressions (Misc.)
It was hot.
in the South. Uncomfortably hot for most of the trip.
Having an air conditioned bus and hotel rooms made it bearable.
humidity was low, but sunscreen, a hat and bottle of water were
almost everywhere we went. This was midsummer and there has been
a serious drought in Israel. The temperature was in the range of
90 - 100F most days (cooler and usually comfortable in the
It never rained during our trip. Every day was clear and
Our hotels served us 2
buffet meals a day (breakfast and dinner). We were on our own for
lunch and usually stopped somewhere to eat lunch while traveling by
The hotel buffet meals were good with enough variety so that most
found plenty that they liked and plenty of new food to try.
We were suprised by
our first buffet supper, providing many varieties of melons, lots of
and tomatoes, as well as many other selections. The next morning,
our breakfast was also surprising. One wondered whether the same
dishes had be brought our frm the evening meal. Though this was
the case, it was doubtful that many of us were used to cucumbers and
for breakfast. We found most hotels provided much the same
We were glad to hae com of our own familiar food also--bacon and eggs,
rolls, cereal, etc. The hotels served meals each day (breakfast
dinner). In most places the dining rooms were nicely
The most outstanding "spread" was provided by Mariott Hotel in Nazareth.
Modern Life in Israel
Lots of people have
phones in Israel. It was a common site to see all sorts of people
using them in their cars and public places. Jackie told us that
phone service is less expensive here than in the USA. Israelis love to
talk, he says. It was pretty amusing to see the leader of
camel train take out his cell phone to answer a call during our ride
Jackie told us that
the average Israeli couple has 3 or 4 children and 0.35 dogs.
usually live in a rented apartment with about 1200 square feet of
space. Both parents usually work outside the home. The cost
of living is much higher than in the USA. A gallon of gasoline is
about $3.00 US. Cars cost 2 or 3 times what they would cost in
USA, so they're kept repaired and on the road longer. The minimum
driving age is 17 years.
Men are required to
serve 3 years in the armed forces. Women are required to serve 2
years. It was common to see soldiers carrying their
Even off duty and out of uniform soldiers must carry their firearms
them at all times. Our group often encountered groups of service
men and women with their rifles, sharing restaurant accommodations with
us. They always seemed to be having a good time and we did not
the feeling that we were being watched.
Gems from Jackie
This is what I remember from some of Jackie's talks on various
I wish we had a tape recorder and had gotten the whole thing.
When Jackie was asked how it could be explained that the Jews have
an ethnic identity even while being in exile for many generations when
every other ethnic group under the same circumstances has lost their
through intermarriage and assimilation.
Jackie said that scholars have studied this phenomena and have no easy
answer. It could be:
A miracle from
The Jews in
remain Jewish must have a community to provide the support needed
to remain Jewish. In order to be kosher you must have a butcher
kill the meat a certain way. To maintain a kosher kitchen you
prepare food in a certain way. This is all dependent upon a
to provide these supports.
The Jews have
wherever they went. The group has stood together to face
the faith is done mostly in the home. Prescribed activities in
home are an integral part of the Jewish faith. Holy days and
are an important part of worship. These are carried out in the
A synod and rabbi are helpful but not necessary to the passing on of
faith. [There is also the stress on the sacred text and the
to read it and study it. This has promoted a level of literacy
formal education that has further solidified Jewish identity.
in the Jewish home and community. Laws and celebrations help keep
the Jews Jewish.
Questions of the
do the Jews determine a law when a particular issue is not addressed in
the Torah or other sacred books? For example, how was it
that pressing a button for an elevator was considered work and
not allowed on the Sabbath?
The Jewish faith has rabbis and courts to pass judgment on items
not addressed specifically in the ancient writings. Electricity
not an issue when the law was written "Thou shall do no work on the
So councils determined that electricity provides energy for work,
it takes the place of work and should not be used on the Sabbath.
Often issues like this would be controversial and the issue would be
through the courts of rabbinate law. It was determined that the
opinion would win. These judgments and debates were gathered
to form the Talmud. The courts were looking for the principle
was behind the law before giving their judgment.
unexpected, breathtaking--because it was so unexpected--experience for
me happened near the Western Wall, but at a more prosaic time then when
I was actually at the Wall. I was filling my water bottle as we
getting ready to leave, when I heard a little boy calling, "Abba, Abba,
Daddy." I turned and saw father and son dressed in the black
clothing of the ultraorthodox. I remembered the passage in Romans
8 where Paul wrote that we have been adopted into God's family and can
call Him, "Abba, Father." Dave reminded me later that abba was an
Aramaic word, and it's Hebrew that's spoken in Israel. When we
at the Kibutz Lavi, I again heard several little boys calling their
abba. Sam explained that abba is one of the Aramaic words that's
been absorbed into Hebrew. --Jean Ives
My Cup Runneth
the trip I stopped once to wonder why the experience wasn't having a
stirring or inspiring impact on me. The only time during the trip
that I felt deeply touched by God's presence was during the communion
that we had by the garden tomb. I realized that the other
were coming to me compressed in rapid succession and this was
squeezing out the time needed for them to "sink in" and have an
Even my regular times of prayer, scripture reading and meditation were
getting squeezed out of my day. I got a little bit concerned
this. "Was I missing something?", I prayed. "Do you think
of this is only for the two weeks that you will be here?", was the
I got. This trip seemed like one long devotional quest. I
have to deal with the distractions in the normal routine of my life
This was one big distraction from everything else.
Even now, since I've been back only a few days, I'm beginning to see
there was enough pressed into my memory during that time for many years
of drawing out and expansion of those experiences. Getting back
guide, it led me to Judges 18, where the tribe of Dan took Laish
their possession after losing their allotment of land. "I was
there", I thought to myself. I stood by the Dan River (one of the
head waters of the Jordan) in the summer heat and wanted to jump in and
cool off. I walked around in a corner of that place. I did
it again then, in my mind, and realized what precious things memories
be. Then there was Mark 15:16-20, where the Roman soldiers mock
before leading him out to be crucified. I remembered the "King
from that time, which we saw chiseled into the pavement stones near the
Via Dolorosa, and remembered that the soldiers' treatment of Jesus was
probably similar to the way they treated the 'winner' of this game.
So, I'm looking forward to enjoying this trip for a long time to come,
to draw from the well of experience that this trip gave me, and to take
more of those memories out and turn them over again in my mind and let
God use them to add to my understanding of, and love for, Him and his
Many of the memories I have of this trip are of the active, living
not just stagnant mementos of a past experience. This is because
they are so intimately linked with the Faith that sustains my daily
-- Paul Dubuc
"Pil" - that which is generally distasteful yet necessary
"grim" - harsh, merciless
"age" - a period of time marked by the presence of a dominant figures
Our Pilgrimage showed that during the time of ages past the
of those ancient times lived in a distasteful environment under harsh
merciless rulers and the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ
gave hope to those who heard and accepted his message during their time
and for eternity.
The extremely arid conditions of the Negev and learning of the survival
of the Nabateans in the past and seeing the Bedouins in a desert so
dry was such a sharp contrast to our country.
While I was sitting at the Damascus gate a young Christian girl
Operation Mobilization from Holland started talking to me. (Maybe
to convert me.) Could this have been the same as in Jesus’ time
believers met one another in Jerusalem to encourage one another?
The rabbis at Qumran Caves who copied the precious scriptures so
that one error caused the whole page to be destroyed produced the
of the accurate Word we have today. Awesome.
The Bell Caves were impressive. Storing of the wine and oil
in the caves, pigeon holes and etc. So many, many things we
learned and saw fall in this category! The building stones and
of the Crusaders' Castles were impressive.
The wearing of the “Holy Clothes” made me aware of how careless we
in our churches here at home.
Seeing my grandson, Sammy, baptized in the Sea of Galilee by Jack
his pastor and his Dad, Sam, being a part of it was a moment I will
forget! (Isn’t that just like a grandmother.) Sammy’s first
communion taken at the Garden Tomb was another very moving
This trip was special to me because I was the benefactor of
Sam's knowledge as well as Jack and Jackie. All the friends of the tour
were wonderful. The trip was far more than I had ever
--Charlotte Meier 10/15/99
God chosen to make Ohio the "Promised Land", I doubt if His people
have used stones to kill offenders. But in Israel it was
logical. When I experienced the hills and stones of the land, I
see why "they took up stones" to kill Stephen (Acts 6:8, 7:51-60),
caught in adultry. They were readily available wherever one
They made terraces, walls, houses, wells, decoration and water troughs
surrounding trees to hold the little water expected to fall.
Holy Land (4th ed. 1998), by Jerome Murphy-O'Connor -- a very
archaeological travel guide to over 200 sites with maps, plans and
This is a great book to take along on the trip.
Israel -- another very
The Jewish War (Penguin
Masada: Herod's Fortress and the
Last Stand, by Yigael Yadin.
Bible Country: A Journey Through
Land, by Woodrow Michael Kroll -- a good armchair tour through the
A History of the Jewish People in
of Jesus (from Herod the Great to Masada), by Peter Connolly
Dubuc (editor) -- Columbus, OH
John Kirn -- Columbus, OH
Jean Ives -- Columbus, OH
Marjorie Ward --
-- Escondido, CA
Bruce Renard --
Mary Watson --
Vivian Sidle --