A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: revbeard

Dead Sea area and Jerusalem Again

Days Nine and Ten

Hello friends,

I am writing one last time from Jerusalem. It has been a good trip, but I am ready to be home and see all those whom I left behind and miss dearly. These last two days were a little more low key than the previous, so I decided to take a brief break from writing. But now I have a little time before dinner and our bus ride to Ben Gurion airport.

Yesterday we drove down from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, a drop of roughly three thousand feet. The environment in many ways reminded me of the deserts of Arizona, while Jerusalem reminds me of the mountains in Arizona. Even the temperature change made me think of driving from Phoenix to Prescott and that sudden chill I feel when I finally get home.

The first stop we made was Masada where we learned about Herod's giant fortress palace there. While Herod ended up using the place very little, a group of a thousand or so Jewish rebels withstood the onslaught of 20 or 40 thousand Roman soldiers after the fall of Jerusalem for several years. There is a 1980s Hollywood production about it that some might be familiar with.

Waiting for the cable car to the top

The two Roman encampments

The ramp built by the Romans that helped them finally break down the walls.

One of the things the Jewish rebels did to survive was trapping pigeons in these little holes. I saw this pigeon at the top.

A mosaic left over from Herod.

This Rabbi was at the top doing scribe work. I didn't really understand why he was there, but it was neat to see.

This was the smallest of several cisterns that they used for water. At the bottom of the mountain, there is a wash that Herod damned so that the water would be pushed into other cisterns and then it was carried up. Because the wash was at the bottom of a canyon of sorts the rebels were far enough from the Romans that they could safely get to the bottom to get water.

Next, we went to Qumran. We learned a bit about the Essene community and the Dead Sea Scrolls. It is interesting, they went out into the wilderness because they thought the world was ending. In some senses, it would seem it did.

A cave that archeologists opened up a little bit so we could see what they look like without risking disturbing anything. Our guide told us they found many parchment pieces on the bottom of this cave.

Our final stop yesterday was the Dead Sea. I was pretty ambivalent about that stop, but that's okay.

Today we did a little more exploring of Jerusalem. We went to the Israel Museum which has a massive model of the Old City of Jerusalem and is next to the Shrine of the Book and exhibits about the Dead Sea Scrolls. Pictures weren't allowed at the Shrine of the Book, but I was able to get a panoramic of the model:


Next, we went to the Garden Tomb. This was another one of those things that I had mixed feelings about - but it was definitely interesting. This is the "protestant" location of the crucifixion and resurrection. As one person in our group noted, it was easier to imagine here - because there's less over the site, but at the same time, it's so new. At the end of the day - I think we want to rest in the hope of our resurrected Lord, not on where he buried.


Inside the tomb

Next, we went to Yad Vashem - the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

I didn't want to take pictures while I was here - but you can visit their website here: https://www.yadvashem.org/visiting.html

I have three immediate thoughts on this:

1 - I spent about 40 or 50 minutes talking with someone whom I disagree with politically and theologically, but he's thoughtful, and we found there was much we did agree on. We both found it distressing how polarized and angry our country is. We could both see how it feels as though it's a tinder box and how much it has changed since we were in college (he's about my age). We talked about how profoundly nuanced things are now. I guess my take away from this conversation is this - let us learn from our history - remember that "the other" whoever they may be - a Jewish person, an immigrant, our political rival, or someone from the middle east is a fellow human being. I know there are dangerous people out there. I know that life can be scary - but there are two hope-filled things for the Christian - our security, the only one that will never fail us is Jesus Christ and our hope as Christians is not a temporal one but an eternal one. (Okay - enough of a sermon for now).

2 - One of the things that the museum does is display a ton of primary sources. So we can read the actual letters victims were writing. It made this horrible period of human history all the more real and tangible.

3 - As you leave the museum you face out over a valley. All I could think of was our eternal hope and Andrew Peterson's song "After the Last Tear Falls." (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GiPb6gwuPQ) It is a hope-filled thing - this final promise of eternity with our Lord who will wipe away all our tears, who will bring justice.

The view leaving Yad Vashem.

After we left the museum we went up to an overlook that looked at the city from the south and from there I shall bid you ado. Please pray for our group's safe travel home. There are several people who sound like they may be getting sick - please pray that they will not, and please pray that I won't get sick!

Till we meet again.

Posted by revbeard 05:59 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Around Jerusalem

Days Seven and Eight

Sunday was a day to do as we pleased around the old city, so I won't post much about it. Most of what we did then we did more in-depth today. I will mention a couple of sweet things really quickly.
First, our group started the morning by worshipping together at the little chapel at the fifth station. It was good to worship our Lord with this group. Following that, we went to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. I'll include more about this as I write about today. Finally, we had the day to ourselves. A group of us went and walked the city walls, had a very expensive, but delicious lunch, and wandered around the Jewish quarter, and finally, on our way back we walked through the Valley of Gehenna, which was pretty interesting.

Views from the Old City Wall. Dated from the 1500s.

Walking through the Valley of Gehenna.

Today started early. First, we went to the Temple Mount. That was a very overwhelming experience. It felt fairly peaceful on the top of it, but there was a lot of security. It is amazing - they think that this was also where Abraham brought Isaac to sacrifice him. Muslims believe it was Ishmael.

Dome of the Rock, which I learned is not a Mosque but a Moselium or memorial to someone, whose name I cannot remember.

The Golden Gate, where Jesus would enter the city. Jewish tradition also says the Messiah will come through this gate. It is currently a mosque. It had been closed until the last week when they decided to reopen it. The tension at this place was palpable.

From the Temple Mount, we made our way to the St. Anne's Church, where it is believed Mary was born. We also saw the pools of Bethesda (John 5).

A mosaic in the traditional birthplace of Mary.

The pools of Bethesda.

After this, we started the Via Delarosa. It was a pretty whirlwind tour but definitely interesting. For me being both modern in mindset and a child of the Reformation it is hard for me to judge what is fact and what is legend. That is not to say the two can't be one and the same. It was still neat to know that where we walked was probably similar to Christ's journey to the cross.

An archway where Pilate may have stood to offer to exchange Christ for Barabus.

The edge of the old city walls from Christ's time. The location of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher would have sat outside the walls.

Stamps of Pilgrims from many years ago in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

The Holy Sepulcher and looking up.

A tomb from the time of Christ.

After the Holy Sepulcher and lunch, we headed to the Jewish Quarter. It was interesting to pass through this area again. We had already seen it the day before. We also stopped at the Western or Wailing Wall.

Western Wall

Next, we walked to the Garden of Gethsemane. I think this has been the highlight of the trip so far for me. I'm not sure why but the unsettled stillness of Gethsemane in the Biblical accounts, the will of man and God in Christ thrashing up against each other resonates so deeply with me. We were given about 20 minutes to pray and so I prayed about my life, some things that have been going on, and most specifically that God's will would be done in it. Our tour guide arranged for us to be allowed into the fenced off area. I felt very rich to be able to do that.

Tombs on the way to the Garden of Gethsemane. While I believe the larger ones came after the time of Christ - he would have walked along this pathway beside a graveyard, knowing what his fate would soon be.

A two-thousand-year-old olive tree.

The Garden.

We ended our day by going to the top of Mount Olives. There Christ ascended into Heaven and started his Triumphant entry into Jerusalem. There is also a church celebrating the Lord's Prayer.

The very top of Mount Olives

Pater Noster


Alright, my friends, I am tired and it is time to do something else and soon eat delicious Israeli food.

Correction: I couldn't remember which station we worshiped at - it was the Fifth Station, not the Seventh.

Posted by revbeard 06:45 Archived in Israel Comments (0)


Day Six

Good Evening friends,

Today we went to Bethlehem, which is in Palestine, which added an interesting dynamic to our trip. I have heard lots on the news about the conflict here, and it was interesting to meet people who live there, and the way in which both sides of the conflict relate to their lives. One of my new friends who is more outgoing than me asked really normal questions of our temporary tour guide. Our normal tour guide could not come with us because, as a Jewish Israeli citizen he is not allowed into the cities and villages in Palestine, although he may drive through. I am still processing my thoughts on all of this, so I will leave this here for now, and move on towards our day. But the one thing I would add - pray for Palestinian Christians, and pray for Christians around the world who are minorities, oppressed, or marginalized, that they would continue to shine the light of Christ which we so freely enjoy.

Before leaving the city this morning we went to Mt. Zion where we saw a traditional place for the upper room, the tomb of David, and the traditional place of the Dormition of St. Mary. These were all interesting. Seeing the Jewish people praying at the tomb of David was quite moving, and hearing our group sing praises in the location of the upper room was also quite stirring.

A sculpture of the ingrafting of the Gentiles (at least that's what I think was going on here).
Pictures from Dormition Abby

It was a very short walk from there over to Ciaphasis Palace. On the way, we were able to see the tombs on the side of Mt. Olives. I think the tour guide said there were 900,000 people buried there.


Inside the church built over the last parts of Ciaphasis's Palace is a prison, likely where Christ was held. They would have thrown the prisoners down into the holes we see. Some would have broken bones. It was baren, and heartbreaking to stand in that small room. One of the things I've been struck by is the humiliation of Christ at the crucifixion.


A map of old Jerusalem for perspective.

After this, we headed to Bethlehem.

It was interesting to be in the city in which Christ was born. For me, the Church of the Nativity was a little overwhelming. I enjoyed talking with my new friends and learning about the tour guides live as a Christian in Palestine. I will post a couple of pictures to give you some perspective.

The door of humility to enter the church of the Nativity.

Inside the church of the Nativity, primarily the Greek Orthodox chapel.

Going into the area where tradition says Christ was born

Following the Church of the Nativity, we headed to the Shepherds Field. This was the area that it was likely that the Angel announced to the shepherds that Christ was born.

Shepherds' Fields. It is greener than normal due to the fact that they have received a considerable amount of rain lately.

Caves where shepherds would hide their sheep. The second photo there is a long skinny cave that you can walk/crawl through and leads to another spot on the mountainside which was pretty cool.

That's all for now friends. It's been a great trip, but I'm tired.

Posted by revbeard 07:47 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Galilee to Jerusalem

Day Five

We arrived safely in Jerusalem this evening. We ended our day a little earlier than normal which is probably just as well, I am feeling tired, and I've been able to catch up on a handful of small things I needed to get done. As I look back I'm pretty amazed by how much we covered.

My first observation on the day is the incredible distance between Galilee and Jerusalem. On our comfortable bus, it was a good two hours of driving. It is amazing that people made the pilgrimage from Galilee to Jerusalem, with regularity not to mention the young, pregnant mother Mary, or Christ knowing that he was walking to his death.

Our first stop was the church of the multiplication. As with the Mount of the Beatitudes, while we can't be 100% sure that this is where Christ performed one of the miracles of feeding four and five thousand there's a reasonable amount of evidence to believe it's likely. One of the most interesting things we saw here was an old olive oil press.

The large rock on the top is a millstone, this is what Christ is referring to in Matthew 18:6

Next, we went to Cana and saw the wine cellars for the town. It is likely this was where Christ turned water into wine.


Next, we headed to Nazareth and saw the churches of the Synagogue, which was built over the location of the synagogue from Jesus's time and the church of the Annunciation built over the location that we think Mary may have lived.

Inside the church of the Synagogue
Grotto in the Church of the Annunciation
The ceil in the church of the Annunciation designed to draw our eyes upwards and to look like a Rose of Sharon, one of Mary's nicknames.
An image of mother and child donated from Japan.
This is designed to look like a lighthouse, which I thought was kind of cool.

After lunch, we went to a city called Beit She'an. There are just a couple of references to Beit She'an in scripture, it was one of the cities of the Decapolis, and it is the location of where Saul was hung (1 Samuel 31:10-12). So, it is not the scripture references that make it interesting, but that it is a fairly large city which archeologists have found or been able to reconstruct a large portion of it.

Amphitheater, which was pretty much intact once it was unburied.
The underfloor of a sauna room from the gym
The main street in the city
Public toilets

After Beit She'an we headed to Jerusalem. The most direct route is through the West Bank. From the road, we saw both Palestinian and Jewish settlements. It was really interesting to see these areas that are hot points in the news, both to get a better idea of what they are, and to have some perspective as to why tempers can rage so high on both sides.

We finally arrived in Jerusalem.


Okay, my friends - I am feeling very tired. I hope this blog makes sense. Lord willing, I'm tired enough that I'll sleep a full eight ours tonight and wake up tomorrow feeling bright eyed and bushy tailed.

Posted by revbeard 07:53 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

Around Galilee

Day Four

Greetings friends,

Last night I walked out to a small pier at the hotel we're staying at and watched the moon on the Sea of Galilee. It was simply magnificence to see. There is a stunning beauty in this country that I was not expecting.

Moonrise over the Sea of Galilee

I am still adjusting to the time change and found myself wide awake at 4 am, by 5:45 I was dressed and ready to go for the day. So I walked out to the pier again and watched the sunrise with a few fellow travelers. Later in the day, we found out that the men who fish on the Sea of Galilee do so at night because the weather during the day can be so unpredictable and adverse. I noticed several little fishing boats scurrying around, but I assumed they were heading out to fish, not heading home.

Sunrise over the Sea of Galilee

We started our day by seeing a ship that was unearthed about 30 years ago. It was a ship that would have been sailing around the time Christ was ministering around the lake. It was fascinating to hear how it was excavated and then what they were able to learn about those boats. Basically, because it is so old, and had been buried in mud for so long, as they were uncovering it, they had to keep it constantly wet. Then, since it was so delicate they needed to figure out how to move it, so they covered the whole thing in foam. After they got it to a safe place, they soaked all the beams in hot wax which has preserved it so we can see it today.


At the same site, they found an oil lamp and a food pot that was used on the ships as well as some nails. Since the ship was constructed with pegs and the nails were found outside of the ship they are probably not related to the boat itself, but they are artifacts from the same time period. It is likely the ship, the pot, the oil lamp were like the ones Christ would have used. It is like the nails were like the nails used in the crucifixion.

Oil Lamp, Foot pot, nails from the time of Christ.

We then went out on a boat on the Sea of Galilee, while on the boat we read about Jesus calming the storm and sang praises to him.

View from the boat on the Sea of Galilee

Following our lovely boat ride, we went up the Mount of the Beatitudes. This is a likely site where Christ gave his sermon on the mount. The area has been tested and it seems that it forms a natural amphitheater so, Christ really would have been heard by the multitude as he taught.

A church on the summit of the mount.
View from the church
A neat fish mosaic

Next, we went to the ruins of a town called Chorizan or Korazin. This is one of the cities that Christ curses in Matthew 10:20-24. Interestingly, in the 700s Chorizan was hit by an earthquake, never to be rebuilt. We found three interesting things here - an intact ceremonial washroom, a triclinium table, and an intact Moses seat in the synagogue.

Ceremonial washroom
Replicat of the Moses Seat found in the synagogue
The rocks which we're standing around is a triclinium table. People would recline around the outside of it, and enjoy dinner and company. It is likely Christ sat at a similar table for the last supper.

Finally, we made it Capernaum.

It is hard to see but on these rocks was a game commonly played by Roman Soldiers. I will try and find out the spelling later on. However, the point of the game was to become the king and not die. When we read about the soldiers gambling for Christ's clothes it is likely this is the game they were playing for it, using the game to mock Christ. "Are you the king of the Jews?" knowing full well they would be killing him soon.

A church built over a Byzantium Church which is thought to have been built over St. Peter's mother's house. It is very likely that Christ resided here when he ministered in the Galilean region.

An inscription mentioning the sons of Zebedee. It may not have been the same sons as the apostles, but none the less we know that this was a real family at the time of Christ.

After that, we went to lunch and then to the river Jordan.

The Jordan River. While it was pretty touristy, there was also an incredible peace there.

An organization has paid for the story of Christ's baptism to be published in numerous languages from around the world. It was really amazing to behold.

We ended our day in Magdala, the ruins have recently been unearthed. This picture shows some of the mosaics from the synagogue.


Alright, my friends, I am tired, and it is time for dinner. I hope everyone back home is doing well. Prescott friends stay warm and safe.

Posted by revbeard 07:53 Archived in Israel Comments (0)

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