Israel Study Trip

Day 9 – The Markets, Bethlehem, Olive Wood Shop and Welcoming Shabbat

Our first stop this morning was at the market. Simon, our guide, said this time would be the best time to visit while the Jewish people were getting ready for Shabbat. It was very interesting to weave our way through all the people, taking in their normal shopping experience. And of course we found a few food items to try and others to take back with us to the states.

Because of rearranging the schedule, our next stop was an extra bonus! We headed over for a quick visit to Bethlehem. We saw the Church of the Nativity and had the privilege of singing several Christmas songs in the church which had great acoustics. Then we walked through what would have been something like a shepherd’s cave. It was fun to imagine those many years ago when the area was a pastureland and the amazement the shepherds experienced on that special night!

Our next stop was an olive wood manufacturing shop. It was very interesting to see how they created the beautiful scenes and figures we saw for sale.

And a final finished piece.

The afternoon was hastening on and it was time for us to head into the Old City of Jerusalem as Shabbat was quickly approaching. We were dropped off at the Jaffa Gate and walked through the city to Tova’s house. Tova is an Orthodox Jewish lady that Andrew’s had met on a previous trip.

Pillars from Hezekiah’s time
Part of the old Roman Via in Jerusalem

We were with Tova as she welcomed in Shabbat by the lighting of the candles. Then she took us to a balcony overlooking the Western Wall as many Jewish went to pray.

After Tova taught us on the balcony, we wound our way down to the Western Wall. She requested that we wouldn’t take any phots while we were there this evening out of respect. It was quite a special experience to join with the many people there who had come to pray and also to sing and rejoice!

A little while later we walked back through the city and to our hotel where Tova led us in the Shabbat meal rituals. After supper, we enjoyed singing again. First we sang some songs from the Psalms for her and then she taught us a round in Hebrew, which I personally very much enjoyed.

Shabbat Shalom!

Israel Study Trip

Day 5 – Qumran and Bet She’an & Scythopolis

This morning we left our first hotel and started heading north, following the coast of the Dead Sea.

If you look closely at the right of the picture just above the sea, you can see the mountains of Moab. Andrew reminded us that it was from these mountains that Baalam did not curse the Israelites.

We have seen many fruit trees during our time on the road, including date palms, bananas, citrus, and olives.

Our first main stop today was at Qumran. A group Essenes men (and later some women as well) lived, worked, and studied together. They had many strict rules they kept. And they also copied books from the Old Testament.

They had rituals related to being cleansed and twice day they would dip themselves in water. One side of the steps they went down unclean, and would come up on the other side of the steps clean. This water must be flowing, which was a challenge in the desert, so they had just a trickle coming into their mikveh.
This is a copy of one of the scrolls they copied. The longest scroll was eight feet long.

After we were finished inside, we headed out to see the actual ruins and caves.

One day, a young Islamic shepherd boy kicked a rock into a cave and heard something break. He was too scared to investigate by himself so he took his brother along to see what they could find. They discovered clay jars and eagerly opened them, hoping for great treasures such as gold. However, much to their disappointment, all they found were parchments, and they actually burnt part of one! Later, a search was made of the surrounding caves and more parchments were found. It is generally assumed that Essenes hid their parchments before the Roman’s conquered the area.

Qumran ruins
Most of the parchments were found in cave four, which you can see in the center of the picture.

Our next stop was another overlook, and this one also brought more of the Bible to life.

Looking ahead, Andrew pointed out Jericho to the right and Jerusalem to the left. A road in the Wadi goes from one city to the other. This is the road Jesus was referring to in the story of the Good Samaritan. Andrew told us that it is still a dangerous road to travel today.

Looking at the sides of the mountain, Andrew pointed out what David’s mental picture was as he penned the phrase in Psalm 23. “He maketh me lie down in green pastures.” The shepherds knew just where to find the grass that has grown enough to give their sheep what they needed for the day. So our Shepherd does for us – gives us the grace and strength we need just for today, and He knows exactly where to lead us next! This grass grows not because of rain, but because moisture comes in the night breezes from the Mediterranean Sea.

Our last stop for the day was at Bet She’an and Scythopolis.

This model shows the main part of the Hellenistic city. You can see the theater on the left and the main city streets with shops along them.
The theater was an important part of town. The acoustics there also worked amazingly well. One of our group went down to the stage and spoke in his normal voice and we could easily hear him!
Looking down the Main Street of town.
More ruins of the city
This was the public bath house.
We noticed many beautiful mosaics in the floor

Above the city set Bet She’an, which the more energetic of our grouped climbed up to. That city was significant because that is where the bodies of Saul and his sons were hung after they died on Mt Gilboa.

A view of Scythopolis from Bet She’an
Andrew teaching on Bet She’an

During our travels north today, we left the Negev and came to the Jordan River valley, a more fertile part of the Land. We traveled up to Tiberius to our hotel that is on the banks of the Sea of Galilee.

Israel Study Trip

Day 1 – And We’re Off!

After weeks of preparation, the long anticipated day has arrived! Those of us from Pennsylvania met at Swatara Church and loaded all our luggage into the back of the Andrew’s van. After prayer, we started our eastward trek.

Ready to enter the airport. L-R Andrew, Julia, Warren, Willard, Miriam, Blanche, Marissa

Our first flight took us to Boston, where we met the rest of our group from that flew from Ohio.

L-R Brendan and Rylee, Dave and Michelle, Bailey, Dane

Our flight to Tel Aviv was delayed, but we finally found our seats and settled in for our long night ahead. Next stop – Israel!!!