Category: Israel 2018

10-18-18 – Caiaphas, Upper Room, Garden Tomb & Herodian

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10/18/18 – After waking up on our last day in Israel, we check out of the hotel and proceed to the French church built on the scene of Caiaphas’ house where St. Peter denied Jesus before the cock crowed. The church is located on the side of a hill overlooking the southern part of the city and Doron is pointing out something special in the first picture. The second picture is what he was pointing out. Do you know what it is? Neither do I. And I can’t seem to remember now – but it was important enough at the time for me to take a picture.   Maybe someone will help me out. (It was the Field of Blood where Judas hung himself) But the third picture is looking to the east where we have a good picture of the southeast corner of the Temple Mount. In Jesus’ day this was known as “the Pinnacle of the Temple and it was here that Satan tempted Jesus to jump to see if the angels would catch Him.

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10/18/18 – This is the front exterior of the French “Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu” a/k/a Caiaphas’ house, with murals and magnificent metal door art depicting Peter’s denial as Jesus looks on. Gallicantu means cock’s crow.

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10/18/18 – Down in the basement of the church are what would have been dungeons or holding cells from from Jesus day and include what were likely scourging stations for whipping prisoners.

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10/18/18 – These are some of the excavations of Caiaphas’ extensive house complex and the original stairway within in.

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10/18/18 – A bronze statue of St. Peter chickening out in front of the servant girl and male chicken – The inscription “I do not know him.”

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10/18/18 – The mural on this side of the church is a picture of the restoration that happened in Galilee and where we visited on (I think) was our second day in country. The inscription reads, “I give you the keys.” Inside the church is a mural of the trial of Jesus behind the altar, but they are conducting mass, so I settle for a far away shot.
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10/18/18 – After Caiaphas’ house we go to the traditional sight of King David’s tomb. Doron is skeptical about the authenticity of the site. The monument can be traced back to Herod the Great, but this would have been nearly 10 centuries after King David’s death and he (Doron) thinks the tomb is too far from what was the city in David’s day. I’m not certain that King David needed to be buried in what was “downtown,” and in the 10th century BC, this would have been a nice peaceful place overlooking David’s Jerusalem. But Doron is an expert and I’m not, so I feel the need to pass along his skepticism. What is important, is that even in Jesus’ day, it was popularly considered to be King David’s tomb.
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10/18/18 – Inside the tomb complex are a mosque, a synagogue and a church because David is an important character in all three of the great monotheistic religions. Here we dawn our kippahs and the men only proceed through the synagogue with its library to view the traditional resting place of the great king himself – trying not to disturb the Orthodox Jew concentrating in his fervent prayers. The green and gold curtain is the door to the ark, where the hand written Torrah scrolls are kept. The women went in thru a different entrance to view the sarcophagus which is what is believed to contain one of the crusaders. When asked “who is buried in David’s tomb?” the correct answer is “No one knows”.
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10/18/18 – This is the Christian chapel, built by the crusaders on what they believed to be the site of  David’s tomb. It had once been used as a mosque as demonstrated by the frame on the left edge of the photographs which showed the direction of Mecca. More importantly however, this is the site of the upper room where Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Last Supper. It’s also the same location where St. Peter gave his great Pentecost sermon in Acts chapter 2, including the line “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.” Acts 2:29.
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10/18/18 – I’m not sure how old the tree statue is, but it’s in the chapel and it’s three branches represent the Holy Trinity while the grapes and wheat represent the bread and wine of the Eucharist.

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10/18/18 – Finally we arrive at the penultimate place in our visit, and for many in our group, the most moving – the Garden Tomb
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10/18/18 – The Garden Tomb was discovered by Maj. General Charles Gordon when he was in Jerusalem. Gordon was a bit of an eccentric, and I agree with Doron, that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is much more likely the actual place of Jesus crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. However we cannot know for 100% certain and the Garden tomb and nearby skull rock do make a compelling alternative. Regardless of all that however, the Garden Tomb certainly evokes more of a feeling of what the garden Jesus was buried in looked like at the actual time of His burial. Additionally, since the Garden tomb is available for viewing, only by appointment, and is flatly rejected by non-Protestant Christians, it is not the scene of mob chaos that the Church of the Holy Sepulcher is. The tour guide gives us a very interesting story about the garden and its history, then leaves us to look about and enter the tomb before we celebrate a Eucharistic service in one of the out door chapels.
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10/18/18 – Time for one more site before heading to the airport. This is the Herodium, another of Herod’s fortresses, this time in the wilderness just east of Jerusalem. Herod was not popular with the religious Jews in Jerusalem, so he built himself a subdivision in the suburbs on top of a hill, after he had the height of the hill doubled.
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10/18/18 – The scale model in the visitors’ center, half way up the slope, give an indication of the size of the fortifications and the extensive pool complex big enough for boats to row around and a village for servants and visitors at the foot of the hill.
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10/18/18 – Taking the path up to the summit, the remains of the facilities at the base are still visible, even though they were trashed during the Jewish War (66-73 AD) and Bar Kochba Revolt (132-136 AD).

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10/18/18 – arriving at the summit, the recently excavated ruins of the fortress begin to give a picture of the one time splendor of the facilities, as does another scale model
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10/18/18 – The commanding view in all directions (which includes a view all the way to the Dead Sea on a clear day), give an indication of why the site was chosen for Herod’s residence and eventually his tomb. He actually wasn’t buried there long however. Did I mention his unpopularity? Shortly after his death and burial, Jewish Zealots broke open and looted his tomb. I don’t think anyone knows what they did with his body, but I suspect there were several well fed jackals walking around the desert around the same time.
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10/18/18 – As extensive as the buildings were atop of the man made mountain, they don’t scratch the surface (couldn’t resist that one) of the facilities inside the mountain itself. These include an extensive tunnel and cistern system, not to mention the private theater and tomb.
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10/18/18 – As I mentioned, the mountain was designed to be a fortress and was used as such by Jewish rebels in their two wars against Rome. These are “rolling stones” – nothing to do with a rock band, used to roll downhill at formed bodies of troops below to discourage attacks against the mountain top.

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10/18/18 – Finally, after nearly two weeks in Israel, we say goodby to the ruins of the Herodium and head for the modern world of the Ben-Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv-Yafo
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However, before we head to the airport we stop in Bethlehem at The Tent for our fair well dinner. Here we presented Pr Dave with a thank you gift.
A weary group headed for the airport and their long flight home. No mater how wonderful an experience we have there is nothing like our own bed and shower!
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SHALOM UNTIL NEXT TIME!!
Thank you to Scott Miller who’s commentary I plagiarized from his Facebook posts – with his permission.  Also Will Imfeld did the commentary for 10/7 – 10/10/18.
Thanks guys, I would never have finished this without you.

 

Categories: Israel 2018

10-17-18 Baptism, Jericho, Qumran, Masada, Dead Sea, Valley of Shadow of Death

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10/17/18 – We head down from Jerusalem across the Judean wilderness to where the Jordan flows into the Dead Sea where we see a series of churches mostly on the Jordanian side.

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10/17/18 – Five meters across the river is the nation of Jordan. Doran says often we will see Israeli or Jordanian soldiers – but more often than not, they’re drinking coffee somewhere. Today must have been the Jordanians’ turn to drink coffee and only the elite of the Israeli army are keeping guard on the border.

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10/17/18 – The spiritual significance is that this was the spot where John the Baptizer baptized Jesus in the Jordan River and here Pastor Dave leads us in our morning devotional and reaffirmation of our baptism.
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10/17/18 – After the devotional and a dip for many in the river, we head through farmland to the city of Jericho. Jericho is the oldest continually inhabited city on earth. Today it is a popular vacation spot for wealthy Arabs, and Doron calls it “the Florida of Israel.” At least for Arabs. Jews have Tel Aviv-Yafo, which is where most of them live anyway.
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10/17/18 – Of course for most Christians, mention of Jericho immediately brings to mind the story of Zacchaeus who climbed the Sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus in Luke chapter 19. Of course, some enterprising Arabs are glad to show Christians the very tree, but in reality this sycamore tree is only a few hundred years old, but is of the same type as in the Bible.
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10/17/18 – The mountain just beyond Jericho is purported to be “the Mount of Temptation” where Satan tempted Jesus after his baptism in the Jordan. There’s no way to know for certain if this is the same mountain, but the location makes sense.
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10/1718 – A monastery rests on the side of the mountain.

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10/17/18 – I had some fun posing for this pic. It looks like I am standing on the very edge of a precipice, but in reality it’s only s very steep slope into a deep wadi. Standing on the edge, I pretended to lose my balance and was about to fall over the edge. It got a good reaction from some of the others.

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10/17/18 – Date palms, which don’t require much moisture, do very well in this sunny environment.
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10/17/18 – Heading south along the western shore of the Dead Sea, we come across the cave of Qumran in whose cave complex the 1st century Essene community hid the scrolls that later became known as the Dead Sea Scrolls – the greatest archeological discovery of the last millennium. The first pic is the cave where the Isaiah scroll was discovered and the other 2 are cave #4 where more than 400 of the roughly 1000 scrolls were found.
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10/17/18 – OF course the Essenes were not cave dwellers, but lived in an extensive settlement. Their homes and other buildings are being excavated in the area near the caves.
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10/17/18 – Continuing south we pass En Gedi where David and his men hid out while being pursued by King Saul.
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10/17/18 – In the distance ahead we see a mountain shaped like a ship rising above the desert , the Herodian fortress of Masada which had lain abandoned for centuries after the Jewish revolt in 73 AD until its rediscovery by some Americans in 1838.
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10/17/18 – Most people are probably familiar with the siege of Masada which was held by 900 some odd Jewish Zealot men, women, and children against the 10th Roman Legion for about 6 months in 73 AD – the last Jewish stronghold after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. What I was unprepared for was how big the mountain top was. A model is in the visitor’s center.
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10/17/18 – From the top of the mountain, one has a clear view of the Dead Sea – or what’s left of it with the falling water levels, off to the east. In the lower right of the second pic, the outline of one of the Roman camps is still visible.
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10/17/18 – Again, a nice scale model gives an idea of how the north end of the fortress would have looked in its glory days after Herod built it.

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10/17/18 – These pictures are just two of the dozen or so HUGE storerooms that were full of grain and other supplies. The fortress had enough storage space for supplies to withstand a siege almost indefinitely. The last pic shows that some of the buildings were plastered and had frescoes painted on the walls.
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10/17/18 – Doron explains the three tiered palace complex that rested against the inaccessible north side of the mountain.
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10/17/18 – Meanwhile, moving around to the west, we can see more Roman camps from where the Romans put Jewish slaves to work in the summer heat building a ramp against the most accessible western side of the mountain.

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10/17/18 – Some of the plastered walls and mosaic floors give an idea how much trouble went into making Herod’s remote “vacation home” comfortable.
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10/17/18 – The remains of the multi-roomed Roman bathhouse.
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10/17/18 – the main Roman camp and the remains of the man made ramp built to advance a siege tower against the walls is still visible on the west side of the mountain
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10/17/18 – As the Roman tower rose up the ramp and the ram began breaking down the wall, the Jews knew that the next day they would be killed or enslaved, their women violated and their children sold into a lifetime of slavery. So they wrote their names on pot shards – “the lots.” By agreement the men killed their own wives and children then selected 10 men by lot to kill the other men. The 10 men left, a minyan, or minimum number of men left to make a synagogue then prayed the kaddish for the dead. There were 2 women and 5 children who survived by hiding in the cistren. The lots with names were found in the excavation.
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10/17/18 – Finally the last 10 men drew lots to kill each other and the last man killing himself. In the Synagogue building, they burred their scrolls. The scrolls were discovered. It appears that the last reading was from Ezekiel 37: “And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” Ex 37 3-7.

As Doron pointed out: The Jews are still here and here to stay. Where are the Romans?

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10/17/18 – after a hot day on top of a mountain in the desert, what can be more refreshing than a nice dip in the Dead Sea? That is if you consider warm water with almost 10 times the salinity of the ocean as refreshing. Some people went for the full experience, but Jackie and I were satisfied with getting out feet wet and then drinking beer in the lowest bar on earth – bout 1300 feet below sea level.

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10/17/18 – Just a passing safety tip, in case anyone reading this is considering a trip to the Dead Sea. If any are dangerous heart patients or own high blood pressure, maybe you should see if you can sell it before your trip.

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10/17/18 – As the sun starts to set over the Judean wilderness, we make one more stop. This is practically an unknown place. In the distance, leading from the isolated Monastery of St. George, one can see the lighter colored path. This was the old Jericho Road. This is the setting of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Many believe that it was here, in this wilderness, not far from Bethlehem that David wrote the 23d Psalm and that this gorge was what he had in mind when he wrote of the Valley of the Shadow of Death.
Categories: Israel 2018

10-16-18 – Sifting, Bethany, Holocaust Museum

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10/16/18 – This may have been the funnest thing we did on the whole tour of Israel. Remember about the tunnels excavated under the city? Ever wonder what they did with all the dirt they hauled out of there? Well, they have archeologists sift through it for artifacts, and we got to spend some time doing just that. Will, Aunt Harriet’s grandson, even found a small coin, likely from the Herodian period.

10/16/18 – After the archeology fun, we drove over the Mount of Olives (actually it was rather circuitous because of the Israeli security fence) to the village of Bethany, most famous for the place where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. In Jesus’ day (before the fence) Bethany was only about 4 1/2 miles east of Jerusalem and raising Lazarus was on everyone’s mind when he rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The Arabic name for the town is now Al Azariah in honor of its most famous resident.

10/16/18 – The modern Franciscan church is built near the site of an older Byzantine one that had been destroyed by the Persians and now sits nearby the large mosque. The columns and mosaic floors of the old Byzantine church are still visible in places.

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10/16/18 – Inside the church are beautiful murals commemorating the raising of Lazarus with the story from John chapter 11 in Latin.

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10/16/18 – A little further up the hill from the church is the traditional site of the tomb itself. There’s no doubt this was a 1st century tomb, but there’s no way to absolutely verify it was THE tomb of Lazarus.

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10/16/18 – This is the border wall that separates Bethany from East Jerusalem and the Israeli administered West Bank from that administered by the Palestinian Authority.

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10/16/18 – After Bethany we visited Yad Vashem – literally “Hand and Name,” or simply the Holocaust Museum. My VERY basic Hebrew had some trouble understanding the title Hand and Name, but Doron tried to explain some of the subtlety of Hebrew that does not come across in a literal translation. The Yad or hand indicates a remembrance and the Shem or name evokes the millions of Jews killed in the Holocaust and the efforts to catalogue each of their names that the Nazis tried to erase from history. What is interesting is that the Nazis kept very good records and recorded the names. This was a VERY moving experience, so I did not take many pictures. Sorry. Much of it was just too intense. But here Doron is explained the trees that were planted and dedicated to the remembrance of the “Righteous Among the Nations,” who tired to save Jews from being murdered.

10/16/18 – This is the entrance to the special hall dedicated to the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered in the Holocaust. It was dedicated by the parents of Uziel Spielgel, who was murdered at 2 1/2 years of age. They survived and later moved to the United States and became successful enough to build the hall. The intensity was beyond description inside, so I won’t even try, but people frequently exit wiping tears from their eyes.

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10/16/18 – This is a memorial dedicated to Jansuz Korczak who organized an orphanage in the Warsaw Ghetto and eventually was able to care for about 250 children. When he received word that the children were to be transported to Treblinka, he knew that they were to be killed. So he convinced the Nazis to let him organize the transfer “like a field trip” and to accompany the children, so that they would not be afraid. Even though he did not have to go with them, he did so and was put to death with them.

10/16/18 – The main hall of the Holocaust museum could take hours to go through and read each exhibit. but at the end, after coming through the holocaust, one is greeted by the view – the land of Israel and the hope that NEVER AGAIN will the Jews have no country and be at the mercy of those who would want to exterminate them.

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10/16/18 – I would be VERY much amiss if I did not mention our indomitable drive, Tamer, an Israeli Arab, who drove us around. We were all IN AWE of this guy and his ability to maneuver a bus better than most of us could drive a sports car. He not infrequently passed through tight squeezes with, not inches, but millimeters to spare on either side. He had HUGE arms, but was always smiling, polite, and pleasant and never showed a bit of displeasure no matter what he had to put up with. I cannot speak highly enough of him. We had to say goodbye to him today since he was reassigned to another group of tourists flooding to the Holy Land.

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Categories: Israel 2018

10/15/18 Old City

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10/15/18 – We finally enter the Old City of Jerusalem though Herod’s Gate instead of the busier Damascus Gate. When St. Stephen was stoned in chapter 7 of Acts, the traditional place was either here or at the Damascus Gate, but Doron assures us it actually took place at the other gate. I believe tradition has it at the Damascus Gate, but it happened here, but I may have it backwards. I’m not clear on how they determined either one of those things, so there you go.

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10/15/18 – stepping inside to the narrow streets of Muslim Quarter of the Old City is like stepping back in time, although Doron assures us that the streets in Jesus’ day were 10-15 feet beneath these and not necessarily in the same place.

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10/15/18 – This is the pool complex of Bethesda. The pillars are the remains of a Byzantine Church built by St. Helena, the mother of Constantine. She did so after demolishing the pagan Roman temple that was built to keep the Christians away, but marked the spot for her, although here the pool marked the spot anyway. The Muslims destroyed the Byzantine church and the Crusaders put up a new one. The Mamluks destroyed that one, but the Turks allowed the French to build a new one in appreciation for helping them fight the Russians in the Crimean War in the 1850s.
10/15/18 – This is a Crusader era Church to St. Anne, the mother of St. Mary. It is claimed to be the birthplace of Mary, but this is dubious as Mary was probably born and raised in Nazareth. It is right next to the Pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed the crippled man. Bethesda was an extensive pool complex on the northern end of the city, opposite the Pool of Siloam where Jesus healed a blind man in the South part of the city, that we passed coming out of Hezekiah’s Tunnel the other day.

10/15/18 – This place goes by the name of Lithostratos. It’s way down in the basement of a modern building up at street level. In fact, it is the original floor of the old Antonia fortress located and attached to to northwest corner of the Herod’s Temple Mount. It is believed that here Jesus appeared before Pilate for his trial and was scourged by the Roman soldiers. The first picture is a little hard to see, but it is the remains of a game board scratched into the surface of the rock by Roman soldiers. The game was called the game of kings and the Romans would use it to decide what manner of humiliation they would impose upon condemned prisoners before their crucifixion.

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 10/15/18 – A signpost for what may be the most famous street on the face of the earth. Doron took a dismissive view of what he calls “the catholics” making a big deal of walking along it since, like he said, the real street would be 10-15 feet under this one and no one knows the route for sure anyway. To my perspective, even if these aren’t the very bricks Jesus walked on, they have been sanctified by the millions of feet of passing pilgrims meditating on Jesus’ passion. I was even moved enought to sing “the Via Dolorosa” in Spanish because, well it’s named after the street and is one of the only songs I know the words to in Spanish.
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10/15/18 – Along the via Dolorosa are the Stations of the Cross. They used to be the same stations that people mark on Good Friday in Catholic Churches around the world until Pope John Paul II changed them from the traditional events to the biblical events. I believe the ones on the via Dolorosa still maintain the traditional stations. This is station # 3, Jesus falls for the n time [I forget which] and #4, Jesus meets his mother. If you want to know the traditional events of the stations of the cross, watch Mel Gibson’s “the Passion of the Christ” because it’s basically the station of the cross on film.
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10/15/18 – The Arab market in Jerusalem. Long before there were shopping malls in America, the Arabs had already perfected the system.

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10/15/18 – Before he became the boogie man of his age, Kaiser Wilhelm II built two churches in Jerusalem. One for the Catholics and one for “die Evangelisch.” This is often referred to as “the Lutheran Church of the Resurrection” although how “Lutheran” was the Church in Germany by this time is a matter of some dispute, especially for those of us in the LCMS, whose progenitors fled Germany for America to practice a purer form of Lutheranism, uncorrupted by the Calvinism that had snuck into German Protestantism under King Friederich Wilhelm III. But I’m going off on one of my tangents. This is Kaiser Wilhelm’s beautiful Protestant church in Jerusalem.
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10/15/18 – Finally we arrive at what is, for many, the apex of their visit to Jerusalem – the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the likely sight of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Crowds wait for hours to get into the traditional grave site which is inside a shrine inside the larger church. The grey dome above and to the right of the entrance is over the traditional place for mount Golgotha – the exact spot of execution.

The dome over the main nave of the church.

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10/15/18 – This is the line of people going up to the place of Golgotha under the grey dome we saw from outside the building. They come down from the other side.

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10/15/18 – This is a mural above “the slab” depicting Joseph of Amirmathea and others putting Jesus into Joseph’s tomb.

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10/15/18 – This stone inside the doors of the church that people are praying over and kissing is called “the slab.” It is a piece of marble where tradition says Jesus body was laid after the “deposition” or removal from the cross and where his body was cleaned and dressed for burial.

10/15/18 – This is the shrine over the burial crypt of Jesus and part of the hours long line waiting for a chance to go in a few at a time for 5 seconds. A priest waits outside to control “visiting hours” – actually seconds inside. Behind the shrine in a side narthex are more tombs of a similar nature. Doron tried to get us in there, but the crowds were so big we could not even get in there. We’ll talk about this a bit more when we get to the Garden tomb in a few days.

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10/15/18 – More stores. Doron brought us to another store run by some of his many friends where we know we’ll get a fair deal. Jackie was able to find an elaborate piece of gold and ruby jewelry that Doron was able to make affordable for her.

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10/15/18 – We enter the Jewish Quarter of the Old City. Although still part of the “Old City” the Jewish Quarter is almost entirely new construction put up since 1967. The previous Jewish community was evicted after the 1948 War of Independence and the buildings largely demolished by the Arabs. When Israel took control of the Old City in 1967 they resettled Jews in the Jewish Quarter and invested heavily in new construction.

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10/15/18 – This is one of the excavated streets in Jerusalem. This street was part of the city in Jesus’ day and was actually WIDER than the part we can now see.
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10/15/18 – We finally arrive at the Western, or “Wailing” Wall of the Temple Mount. The corner of the wall in the first picture, near the Al-Aqsa Mosque is looking down on the spot that I took the picture the other day looking UP at the wall.
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10/15/18 – This is the part of the city most sacred to Jews. It’s the retaining wall of the old Temple Mount and the closest place ABOVE GROUND to where the Holy of Holies within the Temple would have been. Women have to go to the right to pray. Men go to the left and are required to wear a loaned kippah, or yarmulke from a basket of them if they don’t have their own hat, to approach the wall. Many people, Jews and Gentiles leave written prayers in the cracks in the wall. It is illegal to remove or read anyone’s prayers from the cracks and subject to harsh punishments. I don’t know what happens to the old notes, or if they ever run out of space.
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10/15/18 – Turning around and looking west from the Wailing Wall, the new construction of the Jewish Quarter is evident.

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10/15/18 – A lesser known fact is that excavations under the city have uncovered even more of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount and the 1st century street running along it.
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10/15/18 – From here, beneath the modern street, it is possible to get even closer to the location that would have been the Holy of Holies and Jews can avail themselves of the opportunity to pray here as well.
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10/15/18 – the massive size of the Herodian stones is evident in these pics. Some of the stones would have weight as much as 500 tons – the weight of a small ship. It is no wonder that the disciples remarked to Jesus about the large stones in Mark chapter 13, just before Jesus predicts the downfall of the city.
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10/15/18 – The stones were quarried not far from the northern end of the wall. When Herod died in 4 BC, the workers walked away from the quarries leaving some stones half way quarried or laying about.

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10/15/18 – We leave the Old City through the Lions Gate. What this has to do, if anything, with the film company, I don’t know. How the gate got its name is obvious, but the back story is thus: Suleyman the Magnificent, 16th Century Ottoman Sultan had a dream where he was commanded to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The dream warned that if he did not do so, he and his family would be eaten by lions. The lions on the gate are in honor of the beasts who did not eat him.

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Categories: Israel 2018

10-14-18 – Davidson Ctr, City of David, Israeli Museum

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10/14/18 – We enter the old city of Jerusalem through the Dung gate in the south wall past an Israeli Army guard post. The actual walls date back to Suleyman the Magnificent and his 15th century construction.

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10/14/18 – After gathering everyone inside the gate, we go to the old old city of Jerusalem, which is to say the part of the city that would have been Old Jerusalem back in the first century when modern Old Jerusalem was just Jerusalem. It’s the part of the city that was the original city captured from the Jebusutes by King David, and is outside the Turkish walls that were constructed in the wrong place – but that’s another story altogether.
10/14/18 – In spite of the crowds evident in the most famous parts of the country, these stairs are almost unvisited by most tourists. But we can say with near 100% certainty that Jesus walked up and down these stairs and may have even taught on them. The archways to the southern end of what had been the temple mount have been bricked up by the Muslims when they built the Al-Aqsa Mosque, but we can still see their outlines in the walls to the left where another wall juts out.

10/14/18 – Looking to the south we can see the spur of land running down from Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount) wherein the old city of David rested across from the modern Palestinian’s houses on the southern end of the Mount of Olives. Excavations of the old city run up to the aforementioned stairs on the south end of the present Temple Mount.

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10/14/18 – Looking to the south we can see the spur of land running down from Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount) wherein the old city of David rested across from the modern Palestinian’s houses on the southern end of the Mount of Olives. Excavations of the old city run up to the aforementioned stairs on the south end of the present Temple Mount.

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10/14/18 – We go around the corner of the newer construction and can see the massive stones from the Herodian period. This is the southwest corner where the trumpet was sounded during the days of the Herodian Temple to announce the sabbath.

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10/14/18 – Going down underneath the buildings of modern Jerusalem, we look at what are likely the ruins of the Royal palace of David and Solomon from the 10th century BC. The carved stone capital are typical of the stonework from that time period.

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10/14/18 – These stones would have lead up to the royal palace above and seemed to have been part of the residence of one of David’s high officials. His status is indicated by the indoor bathroom that was excavated in the house. A model hows how the house would have looked during its glory days.

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10/14/18 – Across the Kidron Valley on the southern part of the Mount of Olives, we can see modern Palestinian houses built almost on top of each other and on top of caves used as ancient Israelite burial crypts.

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10/1418 – Finally we come to one of the funnest parts of the tour – a meandering walk through of the tunnel system built by Hezikiah to direct water from the Gihon Spring into the Pool of Siloam.

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10/14/18 – WE come through Hezekiah’s tunnel and arrive back inside the city walls near the pool of Siloam.

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10/14/18 – At the Israel Museum we get a walk around of the 1:50 scale model of the city of Jerusalem as it would have appeared shortly after Jesus time, just before its destruction in 70 AD.
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10/14/18 – Inside the museum we have (inter alia) a nice collection of sarcophagus and ossuaries (bone boxes) including those from Caiaphus, the high priest during Jesus’s day.
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This is the original stone bearing Pontius Pilate’s name recovered from Caeserea Maritima.

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This is the outside of the Shrine of the Book which contains numerous scrolls and fragments from the caves at Qumran discovered in 1947 by a Bedouin shepherd boy. The scrolls contained excerpts from every book of the Old Testament except Esther and an intact compete scroll of Isaiah from the first or second century BC. The scrolls and fragments are conclusive proof that, contrary to skeptics opinions, the Bible has been faithfully transmitted across more than 10 centuries from the time of the scrolls to the Aleppo and Westminster/Leningrad codices from the 10th century AD. Doron says that Israel considers these writings to be the greatest archeological discovery of the last millennium and more valuable than all the rocks and holy places in Israel. I tend to agree.

When the Shepherd boy found the scrolls he delivered them to someone in Bethlehem who tried to sell them on the black market. In 1948 Israeli agents of the new country told the first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion, about the scrolls and inquired whether they should buy them, because for the money they could buy three tanks. David Ben Gurion without hesitation said to buy them because they are more valuable than 1000 tanks.

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10/14/18 – Heading back to the hotel at Kibbutz Ramah Rahel (where we had stayed earlier), we stopped at the new US Embassy in Jerusalem. The site is something of an attraction to the American tourists who s\use it for photo ops, but actually a matter of indifference to the locals (despite what you may have heard on CNN). By the way, the Israelis we met said we should tell Americans to ignore CNN because it’s fake news and come to Israel.

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10/14/18 – One final note on the day. After dinner we saw some of the capitals from columns that have been recovered from the grounds of the kibbutz. You may notice how closely they resemble the ones found in the old City of David. In Israel, 3,000 year old carved stones are laying all over the place and as likely to find their way into the hotel lobby as the Israel museum.
Categories: Israel 2018

10-13-18 Mt of Olives, Gethsemane and Bethlehem

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On Saturday morning we drive up to the mount of olives where we can see the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount from the Jewish cemetery in the east. These are the most expensive grave sites in the world and soon there will be no more available, but this is the point where Jews believe the resurrection will begin and where Christians believe Jesus will return.

Walking down the western slope of the Mount of Olives, following Jesus route on Palm Sunday, we see some first century cave tombs, complete with osuary boxes for the bones of the decomposed family members.

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We paused at the Chapel of Dominus Flevet, where Jesus wept over Jerusalem and prophesied its complete destruction by the Romans about 40 years later. We have an excellent view of the Golden Gate through which he most likely entered Jerusalem. The gate as subsequently bricked up and Muslim tombs are placed in front of it. Our guide, Doron, pointed out that in bricking up this entrance, the Muslims unwittingly fulfilled the prophecy contained in Ezekiel 44:1-4. The golden domes of the Russian Orthodox convent of Mary Magdalene are visible though the trees.

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There is still an active olive grove where Franciscan nuns harvest the olives from trees, including a couple that could be as much as 2000 years old.

We finally come to the magnificent Church of All Nations constructed in the 1920s at the foot of the Mount of Olives to commemorate the end of WWI and the mistaken belief that Christian nations would no longer go to war against each other. Today, the bigger question might be whether there are any Christian nations.

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Getting back on the bus, we leave the mount of olives, driving down the Kidron Valley and head toward Bethlehem which was a sleepy little village four miles south of Jerusalem in Jesus’ day, but now has become a virtual suburb of greater Jerusalem, although it is separated by a wall.

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We stopped for lunch at Ruth’s for Falafel, schnitzel or shawarma
In Bethlehem, famous as the birthplace of both Jesus and King David, we first go to The Shepherd’s Field. This is the traditional place where Boaz owned a field and met Ruth, the great grandmother of David and also where the angels appeared to the Shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus.
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we hold a brief devotional inside one of the caves celebrated as where the shepherd’s stayed while caring for the sheep that first Christmas day and visit the beautiful church built to commemorate the site.

We finally arrive at the Church of the Nativity, or traditional birthplace of Jesus. This is very likely the place. What happened in the first century was that Christians were congregating at these sites while Christianity was illegal. To prevent this the Romans would put up pagan shrines to profane the ground in the Christians site. At the time it seemed obvious that the Roman Empire was there to stay, and Christianity was not, so it seemed like a logical thing to do. However, what the pagan Romans inadvertently did was to mark the sites for later generations of Christians who demolished the temples and erected churches in the 4th century. In turn the pre-Muslim Sassanid Persians came through and demolished the churches when they conquered the land in 614 AD. But the Church of the Nativity they left in place because of the frescoes depicting the Persian Magi. So the Church of the Nativity is one of the oldest in modern Israel.

The modern structure is divided and squabbled over by the Roman Catholic Franciscans, the Greek Orthodox, and the Armenians who own the structures to the left, right, and center respectively.

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Entering the Church is only possible though a door constructed to force people to bow upon entering.

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Due to the massive crowds, we do not go into the actual grotto marking the traditional site of Jesus’ manger, but instead visit the Franciscan Convent of St. Catherine which contains the cave where one of my favorite saints, St. Jerome, created one of the most important pieces of literature in the history of the world – the Latin Vulgate translation of the Bible from Greek New Testament and Apocrypha and Hebrew Old Testament.

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Coming out of the Church of the Nativity, the muezzin starts the Muslim call to prayer from loudspeakers in the minaret of the Mosque across the street, reminding everyone that Islam is the dominant religion of the area now.

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We joined Doron and Harriet at the coffee shop next door where she was enjoying an ice cream and beer.  Here’s to Ken

Some enterprising Palestinians set up a coffee house on a street between the bus stop and the Church of the Nativity with a clever name that attracts people to a familiar beverage.

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Categories: Israel 2018

10-12-18 From the Galilee to Jerusalem

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After a sunrise service with dawn breaking over the Golan Heights across the sea of Galilee, we prepare to leave our hotel at the Kibbutz Nof Ginosar to view more sites closer to the Mediterranean coast before moving on to the Holy City of Jerusalem.

First stop is Megiddo. The first mention of this strategic fortification (so far as we know today) in from about 1400 BC during the reign of Egyptian Pharaoh Thutmose where it was an outpost of the Egyptian Empire. In the pic, Doron explains to us why Megiddo is so critically placed astride the Jezreel valley along the Way of the Sea between Damascus and Egypt.

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The interactive model in the visitor’s center gives a brief demonstration of the status of the archeological exploration that showed Solomon’s (10th century BC) fortifications to be the 17th in a series of fortifications stretching back to the Canaanite period, each built on top of the preceding one.

The plaque gives a brief description of the City of Megiddo as it relates to the Bible. For etymology nerds like myself, Har Meggido is the same place that is called Armageddon in the book of the Revelation. In Hebrew Har means mountain, so Har Megiddo is mountain of Megiddo. There is no letter H in Greek (the one that looks like H is actually the vowel Eta and the H sound is represented by a breath mark over the first vowel or diphthong in Greek), so words starting in H often drop the H. As a neuter noun, it has to end in the letter N because otherwise the O ending would look like a masculine noun in the dative/instrumental/locative case of highly inflected Koine Greek. Therefore Har Megiddo becomes Armageddon in Greek. Of course the word Armageddon has picked up all kinds of not necessarily biblical meanings in our world today.

Excavations has uncovered the stairway leading up to the main gate of the fortress in Solomon’s day.

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Ancient cities being built one on top of the other, it becomes tough to sort out which layer of strata belongs to which epoch and which one to emphasize for the tourists, so most of the displays are geared toward showing the city either in the Solomonic period or the period of the Northern kingdom of Israel after it’s division under Jeroboam.
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Megiddo’s commanding view over the surrounding countryside can been seen from these pics. Pastor Brad, a retired ELCA pastor, now part time chaplain is in the third shot next to the flags. He was a GREAT addition to the trip, and was able to play #1 support for Pastor Dave’s exhausting duties.

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Pastor Dave’s 14-year-old son Josiah was our group’s resident prankster as he was continually looking for ways to burn off excess energy, if not by climbing on things, then by annoying Pastor Brad or attaching snap-links to our baggage.

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Helpful plaques are posted around in Hebrew and English to explain what it is you’re looking at.
This last part of the tour was perhaps the most interesting. It describes how a water supply system was developed and brought inside the protection of the walls, then its entrance as bricked up to camouflage it from would be infiltrators. Thus providing the fortress with a supply of fresh water in case of a siege while hopefully avoiding the fate of Jebustie Salem/Jerusalem when David’s men utilized the Gihon Spring to capture the city.
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After Megiddo, we head off up Mount Carmel where a Church marks the spot of Elijah’s epic battle with the priests of Ba’al as recorded in 1 Kings 18.

he Kishon brook is just visible in the valley below Mount Carmel where the prophets of Ba’al were slaughtered after their god failed to send down fire and consume the sacrifice the way the true God did. The brook is in the foreground where it emerges next to a road under the highway overpass. In the second pic the Mediterranean is just visible in the distance where a cloud arose from the sea announcing the end of the drought in Elijah’s day.

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after Mount Carmel, we head down to Herod’s specially built city of Caeserea Martitima (not to be confused with the Caesarea Philippi built by his son near Dan). The magnificent aqueduct was constructed to provide the city with fresh water before being buried under the sand until recently uncovered.
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Herod’s massive theater has also been recovered and restored and is again the venue for concerts and plays today. In the Book of Acts, Herod Agrippa received the adulation of the crowd and because he agreed to pass himself off as a god, he was struck dead and eaten by worms. This is the spot where it transpired.
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Ruined statuary and capitals of fallen columns are evidence of the intrusions of the invasion of the iconoclastic Muslims in the 7th century.
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We move on to the remains of the once great harbor itself. Now mostly a beach for vacationing tourists and locals. Jackie and I, being Floridians from the land of beaches decide to forgo the incomprehensible pleasure of getting our feet wet and covering everything with sand.

This is a copy of one of the stones recovered from what had been paving stones used by subsequent builders in the post-Roman world. The original is in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. It’s a stone with Pontius Pilate’s name carved into it from the time of Jesus; again stifling the voice of critics who had maintained that Pilate was a fictional character in the fictional story presented in the four gospels.

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We make a brief stop in Tel Aviv (actually Tel-Aviv-Yaffo) or what had once been the city of Jaffa, near the place traditionally assigned to Simon the Tanner, the friend of Simon Peter where he had the vision allowing him to go off and visit the centurion, Cornelius.
We arrived in the holy city of Jerusalem as the sun was setting. From our perspective south of the Temple Mount we hear the Shofars announce the arrival of the sabbath with the setting of the sun as the lights simultaneously start to come on in the city. We were welcomed into the city by the Order of Melchizedek which was the way Abraham was welcomed  by Melchizedek to Salem which is now Jerusalem. (Gen 14:17-18)
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Categories: Israel 2018

10-11-18 The Galilee Area and Nazareth

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Excerpts from Scott Miller posts on Facebook

The next morning we get up and proceed with the other 10 billion tourist buses (maybe a bit of an exaggeration) to the Church of St. Peter’s Primacy. This marks the traditional spot on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee where Jesus appeared to His disciples after his resurrection while they were fishing near the shore. After he calls to them and tells them to throw their nets on the other side of the boat, they catch a “boatload” of fish – literally. Peter swims to shore to see Jesus and going alone alone with him, Jesus asks him 3 times if he loves him. The English translation doesn’t carry them same emphasis of the exchange between them as the Greek, but the point is that Jesus tells Peter to feed his sheep, restoring him after Peter’s earlier denial at Caiaphas’s house and making him the leader of the soon to be established Church.

after a brief service and message on the beach where Jesus had cooked fish and bread (that part of the story fascinates me for some reason), we look around and I tool these pics of the stones that formed part of the older 4-5th century Byzantine church that had been destroyed by the Sassanid (pre-Muslim) Persians in 614 AD.

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Inside the new church that was built over the stones marking the place where Jesus traditionally cooked and/or served the bread and fish breakfast.

Speaking of fish and bread, this is Tabgha, right down the street from the Church of St. Peter’s primacy. It’s the traditional place where Jesus fed the crowd of 5,000 men (not to mention women and children).

If you’re wondering where the name of the place Tabgha, came from, it’s an Arabic corruption of the Greek name επταπαγον, or Heptapagon. But to simplify things, a German community runs the place and gave it the nice easy name Brotvermehrungskirche. That’s Bread Multiplication Church for us Anglophones. The word Heptapagon actually means seven springs, but not wanting the place to be confused with a golf course in Pasco County, the ancient Byzantines picked something that would confuse the Arabs when they took over.

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Our tour guide, Doron, explains the development of Tabgha through the varying epochs of the history of the Holy Land since the time of Christ; Roman, Byzantine, Persian, Muslim, Crusader, Ottoman, British, and Israeli. By the end of the trip we could all rattle them off in our sleep.

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After milling about with the crowds rivaling the one that Jesus fed, Doron did what he does best. He took us aside to a place almost completely missed by most tourists and showed us this ancient baptismal font recovered on the grounds of the church and now seemingly forgotten.

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Continuing clockwise around the Sea of Galilee, we come to Capernaum, Jesus’ adopted home town. We don’t know why Jesus decided to move here after his neighbors from Nazareth decided to try and throw Him over a cliff, but it probably has a lot to do with the fact that his best friend Simon (a/k/a Peter) lived there with his mother in law and presumably his wife – if she was still alive at that time.
These are ruins unearthed in Capernaum (I believe) from the time of Christ. The black stones are quarried or collected from the nice basalt collection on the Golan Heights, while white limestone rocks in the background are from later construction and gathered from somewhere else, but they give an idea of the size of some of the common houses along the main street in Jesus’ day.
Capernaum’s mostest favoritest house. This is the one traditionally assigned to Peter where Jesus healed his sick mother-in-law and immediately got up to resume her Jewish mother roll and served everyone. They know it was Peter’s house because it seemed like the nicest one in town and, of course being the future first pope, it stands to reason he must have lived in the one house closest to being a palace.

 

These are the remains of what was a beautiful synagogue built over the remains of the one from Jesus time. The original synagogue was destroyed by the Romans in 66 AD during the Jewish War. You can see the black basalt rocks from the first synagogue under the foundation from the later synagogue that (I believe) was destroyed by the Muslims in their 7th Century conquest.

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This elaborately carved piece appears to be one of the lintels from atop of the columns in the Synagogue. The actual details of the carvings are rich with important symbology to Jewish worshipers, and not just the magan (shield or star of) David evident in the picture.

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We had lunch at a restaurant owned by a Russian Jew in the beautiful little city of Tiberias. In Jesus’ day Tiberias was mainly a gentile city, but I took the pictures of us eating lunch because the restaurant was in a building that was once the Crusader fortress of Tiberius. It was here that the Countess of Tiberius was holding the city against the marauding army gathered by Salah-al-Din (Saladin) while her husband was with the Christian army gathered by King Guy of Jerusalem in the hot summer of 1187 AD. Her husband advised Guy that his wife knew what she was doing and would be fine and that he should not advance the army in an effort to relieve the siege. Of course King Guy goes down in history as one of the most incompetent military leaders in history because he ignored the count’s advice and ended up getting it slaughtered at the Horns of Hattin on 4 July 1187, dooming the castles and cities of the kingdom to fall one by one with no army to relieve them.

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We arrive at what in Jesus’ day was a little village, but today is the growing Palestinian city of Nazareth. Once a predominantly Christian town, the residents today are mostly Arab speaking Muslims. The Christians have either lower birthrates and/or have emigrated abroad due to being considered infidels by the Palestinian leadership and just more troublesome Palestinians by the Israelis. But details of such complicated political matters are best left the subject of other discussions. While expanding the city, developers came across an ancient olive press in this field and decided to make “Nazareth Village.” It’s a picture for tourists to see some details of daily village life in Jesus’ day. Of course the city continues to grow around the site and now people in period dress harvest olives surrounded by modern high-rises.

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n this reconstruction of what might have been a 1st century home, one of the “locals” is spinning the home grown-wool into strands that she works into a loom to produce a rough woolen cloth.

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In the nearby carpenter’s shop, a worker and our tour guide demonstrate the use of tools that are very familiar to most of us today, indicating how long some of the technology has been around.

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This reconstruction of the olive press is accompanied by an animated film showing how the precious oil is extracted from the olives for its multiple uses in the ancient world.

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The highlight of our tour was the visit to the reconstructed synagogue where we read from Luke chapter 4 where Jesus read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth and told them he was the fulfillment of the prophecy. At first they were astounded at is words, but when he mentioned that God performed miracles for gentiles, they got all riled up and wanted to toss him off a local cliff – maybe the site of our net stop.

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As with many of the stories in the gospel, it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact location, but this hilltop near Nazareth with a fantastic view of the Jezreel Valley is the most likely place where the local denizens of Nazareth decided to toss Jesus off the cliff. Of course the scriptures almost dismissively indicate that he walked through their midst, thus making his escape. Then he moved apparently to Capernaum. We didn’t go to the Church of the Annunciation due to the massive crowds and long lines to get in.

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Our tour “chaplain,” Pastor Dave, who is also Aunt Harriet’s home town LCMS pastor leads us in another Bible study about the story of Jesus being rejected in his hometown. Aunt Harriet, Will, Jackie and I pose for a group pic before moving on with the tour.

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Categories: Israel 2018

10-10-18 To the Golan Heights

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The morning was beautiful to those who woke up early enough to see the glorious sunrise over the sea.

 Our first stop was the Mount of Beatitudes. The grassy floor with the stone pathways made a truly tranquil place to stop and read at. Exploring the landscape we could not help but catch another glance a the shining blue sea.

We couldn’t believe the sea of buses we had to plow our way thru to find ours.  We heard the other day there were 70 buses at one time trying to fit into the parking lots and lining the streets later today.  It seems like Isaiah 2:2 is being fulfilled where it says “…all the nations shall flow to it…”

Our next stop was Dan where Jeroboam built the alter to the Golden Calf. The journey up to it was magnificent as the natural park was very well taken care of and clear running water made you want to take a refreshing drink on the spot. I could feel the smooth,solid, green leaves brushing against my arm and each area had something unique to it.

Next was the Abraham Gate that at one time was possibly the gate that Abraham entered to rescue Lot in Genesis 14. Seeing the sudden change in landscape was fascinating as it went slowly from tranquil and flushing green to a rocky and tan sand.

Our next stop was to the marvelous Banyas Falls. As we trecked down to the waterfall we could hear and feel it from the top all the way to the bottom. It was like hearing a marching army off in the distance and the breeze felt like it was coming from an air conditioner. We had a glimpse from time to time of the falls through the thick jungle like trees. The water flowing beside us was giving us a hopeful look at what smooth blue water we were going to see ahead.  The sight when we finally arrived was like nothing i had ever seen before, a pure and almost angelic white waterfall poured into a smooth pool of blue.

After lunch in a Druze Village our next stop was The Valley of Tears where we learned about the war of 1972. We could see off in the distance the border between Israel and Syria.  The tanks on the hill looked like they were still guarding the border like hallow sentinels. The sun was hot but the temperature was low and science as we all took the battlefield in fell over us but we spoke up and discussed and took photos of the closer tanks.

Our last stop was the home of Mary of Magdala which has just recently opened to the public. We saw the ruins of the oldest synagogue ever dug up dating back to the time of Jesus. We also got to see a beautiful new church they had built there. The art decorating the walls were meaningful to so many of us and the design was incredibly creative. Our great guide Father Kelly gave us great information,explanations and moving words.

 

 

 

Categories: Israel 2018

10-9-18 Out with the Sand and in with the Green

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We depart from our Hotel again but with passports and luggage in hand on our way to the border. The drive was long and full of the last sights to see. Jordan treated us will mountain high views of the land full of green off in the distance with plain desert standing in front.  At the border we said goodbye to our wonderful guide Omar and hello to our new guide Doran.

We were ecstatic to see the holy land and all she has to offer. Immediately we noticed the difference of landscapes. From trash ridden deserts to fields of vegetation and care. We met with our new five companions at Bet she’an and explored the ancient and destroyed roman city. It was fair to say the elements were not merciful to this historic place but we were still able to see so much of the old city. The old theater were debates took place and even the bathrooms held up quite well, so well that we could imagine ourselfs there back when the streets were bustling with Romans.

After a great pizza we ran back onto the bus and hustled to the Sea of Galilee. Not many sights we have seen so far could match the beauty and relevance of the sea. The boat ride we took put a cool refreshing breeze on our backs matched with the warmth of the sun. Daniel Carmel sang to us  and then we all sang together and had a peaceful time out on the smooth water.

After returning we went inside the ancient boat museum and saw the 2000 year old wonder. We learned about how the boat was taken from the sea and how it has been preserved for all this time.

We finally rested in our new hotel and waited with twitching anxiety for our next day and what treasures it would hold.

Categories: Israel 2018