We went south again this morning. We saw the burned and damaged vehicles from the music festival. Photo by Ruby.
We prepared and served brunch for soldiers in Sa’ad. Then we had an opportunity to enter Be’eri. We donned vests and helmets as protection against rocket shrapnel. The frequency of rocket attacks from Gaza has diminished considerably, but they do happen.
A IDF spokesperson gave a short tour. We saw houses that had been burned. The terrorists brought gasoline and tires so they do a lot of damage quickly.
The people here had been trying to reach out to Gazans to facilitate peace. We visited the house of a well-known peace activist. Another family would fly a kite with a message of shalom every Shabbat. The kite was found ready in their living room and the family murdered.
We heard stories from survivors. We had a prayer with them when we parted. It is difficult to imagine the horrors the people of this kibbutz experienced. I found the visit sobering.
We left the hotel and drove south. We saw some Iron Dome equipment in a field. They’re constantly moving them around.
We met with other volunteers and dispersed to various activities. I was hoping to work on irrigation systems but got citrus harvesting instead.
We picked pomelits, a cross between grapefruit and pomelo. I spent most of the time picking the fruit in the higher branches by climbing into the center of the tree.
One of the goals for FIRM is to spread the news of Christians coming to the Land. They see this not as self exaltation, but as a way of spreading the message of the love of Yeshua. CBN was there interviewing people, including Ruby.
We saw and heard the Iron Dome. We heard the noise of war throughout the day. I won’t give the precise location, but it was within a couple kilometers of the Gaza border.
This morning some of more hardy folk rose early and climbed the cliffs of Arbel before breakfast.
After breakfast we visited Mount Precipice in Nazareth. We read from Luke 4 the story of Jesus in the synagogue of Nazareth. Also, Isaiah 11 refers to a shoot, or nezer, from Jesse. This seems to be why the NT refers to prophecy calling Jesus a Nazarene. We heard from a Palestinian Evangelical Christian about their work and growing congregation.
From there we went to a distribution site shared by multiple ministries. We packed boxes of supplies to be delivered to families.
This is the before picture. I didn’t take any during the packing as I was busy working. I didn’t take any of the packed boxes as I was too worn out from working.
Continue to pray God’s blessing and protection on this work. I am thankful for the opportunity to be here and to serve, even in a small way.
After breakfast we drove to Capernaum. A boat was waiting for us. We had a worship, prayer, and sightseeing voyage on the Lake Kinneret. Michael spoke of Jesus and His miracles. He still calms storms today. Ours was the only tourist boat on the lake.
We’ve had beautiful, sunny, warm weather so far on this trip. Michael said it’s sunny with a side of rockets. In December it can be cool and rainy at times.
Right now we’re driving around to the “other side” of the lake. We plan to visit a kibbutz in the Golan Heights. They are hosting forty-seven displaced families from the north. Connection with believers paves the way for us to help here.
On the bus, Michael shared his story of growing up in the states. He felt the Lord calling him to serve in Israel. He later discovered his grandmother had been Jewish. He was able to become an Israeli citizen.
At the kibbutz, we heard about what they’ve been doing to help people. With support from FIRM, displaced families are being hosted here. Their location near the border makes their homes unsafe. For some, their homes have become military zones. For some, just outside the evacuation line, they’re not safe, but the government doesn’t provide housing.
They had a display of pictures and letters sent by children around the world.
After a pizza lunch from a local business, Moshe and Janette, residents of the kibbutz gave some of their story of living here. They are believers.
Our job was to paint a building that had brought back into service after forty years of disuse. The population of children on the kibbutz expanded tremendously. They are providing school options on the kibbutz. We ended up painting three buildings. They were quite happy to have so much done so quickly.
Meanwhile Ruby was at the “Kids Fun Day.” This was organized as a way of showing love and bringing sunshine and laughter to the dark experiences of life in a time of war. About three hundred children enjoyed the bouncy houses and other activities.
We helped with cleanup and headed back to the hotel.
We packed our bags and checked out of the Grand Court Hotel. Leaving Jerusalem, we traveled north, skirting around the West Bank. Our security guard believed it would be unsafe to travel through the West Bank.
During the three hour trip, Michael gave us a historical overview of the Land, from biblical times to today.
Our security guard spoke of his time as a military commander in Gaza. They destroyed Hamas tunnels in 2014. The day after they withdrew, Hamas was already rebuilding them.
We crossed the mighty Jordan River and entered the Hula Valley.
We visited a moshav (like a kibbutz but more economic autonomy for the members) in the Golan Heights. They are far enough from the border to not be evacuated. The couple who welcomed us are believers. We planted trees for the 1200-tree memorial the moshav is doing for the 1200 victims of October 7.
A good friend (and tour guide) from previous trips, Ohri, is stationed nearby he was able to get permission to drive over and see us. It was great to see him again.
While we were visiting I heard a distant boom. Ohri said that’s just the Iron Dome getting a rocket. He said we had nothing to worry about as they’re not targeting where we were.
The sun was getting low as we finished up.
We drove down to Tiberias to a great hotel on the Galilee. Dinner was delicious. Time to quit and get some rest for tomorrow.
We spent a day around Jerusalem to prepare our hearts for the days of service. Our group includes 74 believers from 10 different countries. The goal of the trip is to bring hope and healing through the love of Jesus to the hurting people of Israel.
We started on the Mount of Olives. Michael spoke of the three times we know of when Jesus wept. All three were on or near this mountain. David’s flight from Absalom crossed this mountain.
We walked down the Palm Sunday path, and into the Garden of Gethsemane. The Church of All Nations is a great reminder of Jesus’ time in the Garden.
We had a time of prayer and worship in the private olive garden across the street. You can join our prayer by praying by name for the hostages from this list: https://firmisrael.org/praybyname/
We had a great learning time and lunch at Christ Church. The organization has been in the Land for 180 years. By the way, the coffee shop is great if you’re ever in the area of Jaffa Gate.
Notice the olive tree depicts both a menora and a cross. There is no cross in the church. The building combines characteristics of both church and synagogue.
We visited the Kotel, the Western Wall.
And of course, there’s always a great dinner at the hotel in the evening.
The tour we had planned for November had to be canceled because of the war. Then I heard about FIRM Israel and their work in the Land. Ruby (15) and I decided to join their Hope and Healing Trip.
I booked tickets to Rome and then Rome to Tel Aviv to save money. Then I found the process called self transfer can be tricky, and the two hours we had in Rome was considered too short. I finally decided to stop worrying and take the chance, rather than buy direct tickets. I also wasn’t bashful about asking people to pray specifically for our Rome connection.
We left Newark on Monday evening.
Flying east shortens the night considerably.
We had a good flight to Rome. The process for entering Italy, then Israeli security, check-in, and security again all went smoothly. We had a good 30 minutes extra. Praise God!
The first glimpse of Israel, as we crossed the coast from the Mediterranean, was exciting.
We saw evidences of the war almost immediately. Signs pointing the way to shelter, and posters of hostages told me it was not the same Israel I had visited a few months ago.
We did the automatic passport thing to get a visa ticket, went through the line to speak to an officer, and then through the gates. We were in the Land!
We found out the direct flight from Newark to Tel Aviv had been canceled.
We found the Hope and Healing people in the meeting area in the exit hall.
I plan to post more about this trip, God willing. Part of my vision for our Israel tours has always been to bridge the schism between the Jewish people and Christians. During this time of trauma and difficulty there are opportunities to show the love of Jesus.
After a week of 4 AM breakfasts we returned to a more relaxed schedule. We walked to the Grand Court Hotel for our pickup bus and transferred to a meeting place at the Mount of Olives overlook. We found our bus 14 and rode down, down, to sea level, and down, down, some more.
At Kahlia Beach on the Dead Sea we met our Bedouin guide Ali. We embarked on a desert safari advertised as for “the more adventurous.”
Ali first took us to a high cliff overlooking the Dead Sea. The air was hazy with dust and some humidity. Ali said it may be from a storm in the Sahara or somewhere. This kind of weather is hard on people with asthma.
We took the 4×4 Toyota deep into a nature reserve in the Judean wilderness. Ali has a wealth of knowledge of the desert plants and animals. He also has a great sense of humor, mentioning something about getting lost in the wilderness for forty years. Easing the Toyota across boulders in a washed out part of the trail, he said not to worry, it’s his wife’s car
He found a bit if shade under a cliff and served us watermelon and cookies.
Then we went looking for scorpions.
This tree he said is a Bedouin forest. It’s actually a thorn tree, maybe like the one used for Jesus’ crown of thorns.
We finished the day with a float in the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on earth.
At Shiloh we used the normal excavation method of working in 5 meter squares. We “drain the bathtub,” taking down the level of the square in a uniform fashion, unearthing pottery pieces and other objects inside the square.
In addition, they have a full-time metal detectorress, Ellen Jackson. She usually finds several coins per day around the site. When she comes to your square, you remove all the metal tools and vacate the area. Usually it’s time for a water break.
One of the unique features here is the emphasis on sifting. All of the dirt, minus the rocks, from the square is sifted. The team on dry sifting finds additional bones, flint, pottery, etc. The small pieces left in the sifter screen are then bagged in mesh bags.
The bags from dry sifting are then wet sifted. Additional small objects, including coins and scarabs, are found using this method. Julia and I first learned about wet sifting at the Temple Mount Sifting Project back in 2019.
We had a great week if digging and sifting. We’ll stay in the land for a couple days of exploring.