Israel Study Trip

Day 11 – Temple Mount, Jewish Bookstore, Hurva Synagogue, Southern Steps, City of David, Hezekiah’s Tunnel, Pool of Siloam, Pilgrim’s Path

Today our tour began with viewing the various ruins on the Temple Mount, the holiest property in all Israel, and claimed as a religious spot by Jews, Muslims and Christians. Muslims claim the mount for Allah as that is where the rock remains with the footprint of Mohammad when he ascended. Jews claim the Western Wall since it is the closest they can come to approach the Holy of Holy place. For the Christian, it is Mt Moriah, and the temple site where Mary & Joseph would have taken Jesus, and where he went to celebrate passover as a child and later in his ministry. We viewed the place of Solomon’s stables, the Golden Gate, which has been secured since it was built, Antonio’s fortress, and numerous other structures.

Gate known as the Eastern Gate, Mercy Gate or Golden Gate
Muslim market

Our Temple Mount tour ended by exiting through the Cotton gate into the Muslim market. We continued on foot to the Jewish quarter where we met Moshe at his Shorashim Shop to discuss his interpretation of scripture through a Jewish versus Christian view.

We purchased lunch on the street in the Jewish Square where the Golden Candlestick resides until the building of the 3rd temple. Beyond it stands the Hurva synagogue which was originally built by the Ashkenazi Jews and destroyed in 1948. More recently, it was rebuilt incorporating a portion of the original stone structure and completed in 2010 according to the original blueprint. The wrap around balcony has phenomenal acoustics! When standing directly across from each other, even a whisper could be heard!

Our tour guide took us through narrow, cobblestone streets and alleys to our next destination at the Southern steps outside Temple Mount where we viewed original stones thrown down from the second temple, the pinnacle of the temple, remains of Wilson’s arch, Robinson’s arch, and the place of trumpeting, where the priest would blow the trumpet.

Pinnacle of the temple, rock of trumpeting, original rubble pile
Bro. Dave teaching us from John 8:1-11 “Power of the Pause”

Andrew also taught us that these steps were spaced unevenly so as to be intentional when bringing a sacrifice and approaching God’s presence. There are still some of the original steps intact that Jesus could have walked on as he was teaching the crowds. This is also where he would have walked from the Mt of Olives and into the city before his crucifixion.

Partial excavations of David’s palace

In David’s City we viewed more excavations that could have been David’s palace according to the type of structure and furnishings found in it. We continued on down the path to the entrance of Hezekiah’s Tunnel built in about 7th or 8th century BC. Two main water systems, Warren’s shaft and Hezekiah’s tunnel, allowed water from Gihon Spring to be channeled into the City of David. It was a bit more challenging for some than others to pass through the low, narrow areas in the 1,750′ long tunnel in 12″-15″ of 64.4° clear spring water with headlamps to light our way. The acoustics were also great as we sang “Open the Wells of Grace and Salvation”. The Tunnel exits at the Pool of Siloam which was rediscovered in 2004. From there we were able to travel a few of the excavated stairs of the Pilgrim Road.

Hezekiah’s tunnel
The tunnel exits at the Pool of Siloam which was rediscovered in 2004. From there we were able to travel a few of the excavated steps from the Pilgrim Road.

The tour ended early enough to refresh ourselves and renew our energy with supper then take the tram to Ben Yehuda Street for shopping and breathing more of the Jerusalem air. It’s been another inspirational day in the Land!

Israel Study Trip

Day 7 – Mt. Of Beatitudes, Tel Dan Nature Reserve, Golan Heights, and Katzrin

Another lovely sunrise over the mountains of Moab and across the Sea of Galilee greeted us as we began our day from the 2nd floor of our seaside hotel.

The bus driver carefully steered our van on the crowded switchbacks along the Sea of Galilee until we climbed the hills to the Mt of Beatitudes. The site was ideal for Jesus to instruct his disciples and the crowd with his teachings of a new way of life for those who desire to follow him. Sadly, the area has become commercialized and we only spent a short time photographing a few points of interest.

We continued our ride to the Northern most section of Israel known as the area of Tel Dan. Enroute, we enjoyed a time of singing then Andrew taught us the meaning of Talmadim and how the Jewish boys would go to school to study the Torah then choose someone they admired to be their Rabbi and diligently strive to follow his ways to become an honored Rabbi. He challenged us to follow Jesus (our Master Rabbi) closely to be able to imitate him in our daily lives.

Dan Spring that feeds the Jordan River

Tel Dan Nature Reserve has both natural beauty and historical sites. We learned that Tel means “mound” and Jordan means “out of the Dan”. Here is the location of Dan Springs which feeds approximately 2/3 of the Jordan River. It’s icy waters come from the Mt. Hermon snow melt although there was no sign of snow on the mountain today.

Temple site in the city of Dan

Excavations have uncovered the ancient city of Dan including the gate area and double wall at the entrance of the town and the king’s seat beside the gate. They also had an altar or high place for golden calf worship which was indicated by the cut stone, size, and steps which are pagan practices. This type of worship began when the kingdom of Israel was divided and Jeroboam wanted to keep the people from having to travel to Jerusalem to worship. I King’s 12:26-33

Market Street

More recently a stone was found outside the city gate in the market place area that records that the Syrians met David’s army which helps historians and archeologists verify David’s existence during this time.

Another very fascinating excavation is the ancient Canaanite gate at the town of Leahem, likely seen or passed through by Abraham when he came to save Lot. (Gen. 14:13-16) Found in 1966.

Gates of Hell and Grottoes for images of Pan and 2 other idols

Caesarea Philippi was built by Philip, the son of Herod the Great. The Banias River flows through the cave and is one of the 3 tributaries of the Jordan River. This is where the shepherds came to sacrifice goats and to appease the god, PAN. They threw the sacrifice into the water and thus the water turned to blood and became known as the Gates of Hedes. It was here that Jesus visited with his disciples and where Peter identified Jesus as the Messiah.

We continued our journey through the hills of the Druze people who are a minority group and have a very confusing form of religion but have developed tremendous terraced agriculture and made the land fruitful and productive with the best cherries and apple orchards, along with planting grapes on 4 different altitudes to create a variety of flavors from the same root stock. The grapes bring in revenue through wineries.

View from our Druze Restaurant, Al Sultan
Pita bread, falafel, and an array of toppings including French fries, hummus, baba ghanoush. Coffee and baklava for dessert and fresh lemonade.

The next stop was at an overlook close to the Syrian Border where we could see the UN Buildings and other abandoned cities due to the destruction of ISIS.

Our journey continued to Katzrin which is a reconstructed 4th-7th century Talmudic village where we viewed the stone called Moses’ seat. We were challenged with the thought of whether we would be able to sit in Moses’ seat. We were also able to see the only ancient working olive press in Israel and a wine press.

Sunset on the Sea of Galilee after a rain shower that refreshed the landscape.

We were privileged to experience rain and sleet today and rejoice with the Israelis that the early rains are a part of their promise from a Faithful Creator. James 5:7

Israel Study Trip

Day 4 – Ein Gedi, Masada and the Dead Sea

Bro. Willard Hackman led our group in a Lord’s Day morning meditation at a lookout point along the route to Ein Gedi. After drawing our minds to God’s promises to his saints listed in the book of Hebrews, we were encouraged with the thought of us also being included in the promises if we remain faithful to  God.

Our tour guide and tour host make a great team of instructing us along the way.

The barren wilderness stretched around us as far as our eyes could see. Occasionally a few shrubs dotted the hillsides and a few more grew randomly along the dry waterbed. The acacia tree is always green and found near water sources. The Israelites were instructed to construct the Ark of the Covenant from this wood as a reminder of their wondering in the wilderness. It is a type of wood that is unaffected by termites or other pests. No detail in the Scripture is without significance. God cares about the details of our lives just as he did about his children that he guided through this wilderness on their way to the promised land.

Acacia tree

It was a lovely morning to spend hiking through the desert and experiencing shade from the bright desert sun under scrubby desert balsam trees, thorny shrubs, bamboo grasses and other native plants that grew from small cracks in the rocks.

Ein Gedi is Hebrew for “spring of the young goats.” Ein Gedi is a symbol of refreshment. It flows freely from it’s source deep within the earth. God is our Ein Gedi, meaning He is the “Living Water”. We were encouraged to not be a broken cistern with stagnant water but to allow God through the Holy Spirit to enable us to be refreshment to others. When we refresh others, we also become refreshed. We found this refreshment while sitting on the rocks as we sang “As the Deer Panteth” and observed fellow travelers singing along in their native languages. Praising God is universal and we are all in need of Ein Gedi!

Masada is a natural mesa where King Herod built a magnificent fortress at the top right.

Masada, which is Hebrew for stronghold, is located near the western shore of the Dead Sea and can be reached on foot by a snake path or by cable car. It was the site of the Jewish Zealots’ last stand in AD 72. The stone structure included a quarry, a cistern, several storehouses, elaborate bathing pools, grand porches, a synagogue, and plenty of rooms for 967 people. The rooms were lavishly painted and the floors covered with mosaic tiles. He also wanted to provide a 10 year water supply and had narrow trenches built along the sides of the mound so they could collect water runoff when it rained.

Top: Original wall designs Lower left:heated spa area Lower right: cistern

Rather than giving in to defeat when they realized that they were being invaded, they killed the women and children then the last 7 men drew names to determine who should be killed next until they thought everyone had died. History says there were 2 women and 3 children hidden in a cistern who survived and wrote the story as we know it today.

Our next activity was a lovely time of floating in the Dead Sea to refresh our hot, weary bodies with it’s many natural minerals and health benefits.

As our souls have been refreshed through visual Biblical teachings, so our bodies have been sustained. We have been served a plethora of delicious fresh vegetables and fruits along with tasty main dishes and dainty desserts.