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Israel Study Trip

Day 12: Last Day, Packing up, Garden Tomb, Old City Exploring, Jaffa

We started our last day at the Garden Tomb, a possible location for Jesus suffering and death. The traditional site is the church of the Holy Sepulcher. The place that we visited was discovered in the 1800’s because of a rock face that looks like a skull. It is also in an intersection of three major roads, and outside of the city walls, making it a likely place for the crucifixion as it fulfills at least these three biblical details. About 70 years after the rock face they found a tomb nearby and a wine press lending even more credibility to this site.

Our guide pointed out the skull shaped rock face, look for the two caves in the photo, and reminded us that Jesus’ suffering, though glorious for our salvation, was not beautiful or attractive from an earthly perspective.

After a short walk into the garden we visited the tomb and saw for ourselves that IT IS EMPTY! He is Not Here for He is RISEN! (Matt. 26:8, Mark 16:6, Luke 24:6, John 20:3-8)

We had a time of sharing in a quiet spot in the Garden, we remembered the Hope we have because our Jesus lives, and we enjoyed singing together. Andrew pointed out that as the Jewish blessing on bread was being said, Jesus the bread of life was being placed in the tomb, and when Jesus rose as the first fruits of the resurrection, the Jewish feast of first fruits was beginning. God cares about even the smallest details.

After the Garden Tomb we walked into the Old City for lunch and a bit more exploring and shopping. After buying souvenirs and saying goodbye to the Old City we piled in the bus and headed for Jaffa

It was dark when we reached Jaffa, we walked the streets to see the church of St. Peter, and the house of Simon the Tanner where Peter was when he received his vision about reaching the gentiles. After going to the harbor for one last view of the Mediterranean Sea, we drove to the Tel Aviv Airport. Our flight left at midnight for New York.

It was a wonderful trip! Each person and place added something special and we were blessed to be a part. Please consider a Holy Land tour if you get the chance.

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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!

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Israel Study Trip

Day 10: Israel Museum, Mount of Olives, Church of All Nation, Gethsemane

We started our day with a visit to the Israel Museum. One of the highlights was the scale model of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus, the model was completed a few months before the 1967 6-day war, in which Israel regained control of Jerusalem. We also visited the shrine of the book which normally houses the originals of the Dead Sea scrolls found in the caves of Qumran. Unfortunately there were no originals out today but even the copies were amazing.

The Museum is huge, our guide told us even if you gave everything only a part of a second you would need 3 days. We spread out and visited several different wings, Archaeology, Jewish Art and Life, Synagogue, and various Art exhibits. We even found a coffee shop.

After the Museum we went to the Mount of Olives where we had lunch at a restaurant with a beautiful view and then drove to another spot for a panoramic view of the Old City, with large domes at holy sites for the Christians, Muslims and Jews.

In the picture you can see the Eastern Gate behind and towards the right of the group. In the 1500’s an Ottoman ruler blocked the gate shut and placed a cemetery in front to prevent the Messiah from entering the Temple by the Eastern Gate. I am so glad to know that Nothing can prevent our King of Kings from returning victoriously.

After the lookout we walked down the Palm Sunday Way (the road down the Mt of Olives toward Jerusalem) and came to the Church of All Nations. It is a large basilica built around a rock that is the traditional site where Jesus prayed. It has amazing architecture and some 4th century mosaic floor now protected with glass.

We left the church and walked through the nearby gardens, they contained very old olive trees and a wine press was found near here, so while we don’t know the exact location, this is the area where Jesus prayed

We got a private corner of one of the gardens and had a small service to remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us, and though about what it was that He wrestled with in the Garden. We sang several songs together and it was possibly my favorite part so far. We could see the Eastern Gate from our corner and it was amazing to be in community in that place, celebrating and remembering Jesus’ death while knowing that He lives and will return.

Following our time in the garden we went to Yaffa Gate to briefly explore more Old City shops then up to Soldiers Square for a picture with the Jerusalem sign. After dinner a few of us rode the train to a popular shopping area and watched it come alive as Shabbat ended.

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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!

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Israel Study Trip

Day 8: Nazareth Village, Megiddo, Mount Carmel, Caesarea Maritima

Sunrise over Galilee

We left the shores of beautiful Galilee this morning with our bags packed, ready to make several stops on our way to Jerusalem.
Our first stop was Nazareth Village.
At the time of Jesus’ birth, Nazareth was so small it wasn’t even listed as a city of Galilee in many records. Around 400 people lived there. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Today over 80,000 people call it home.

Nazareth Village and Modern Nazareth

Nazareth Village was the only open field left in the city limits and was owned by a Catholic hospital who was thinking of possibly turning it into a parking lot, if I have the story right. They were happy to give it to a Christian group who had a vision to create a living history museum so travelers could see for themselves how people lived in the time of Christ. When they acquired the land they were surprised to uncover the only ancient wine press that has been found in the entire city and a tomb right next to it. The tomb was a rich man’s tomb, carved out of rock with a stone over the opening, similar to the one our Lord was buried in. It was as if God had been preserving that plot of ground for the right era and for the right vision.

We watched a weaver, and olive press in action, a potter, and a re-enactment of Jesus reading from the scroll in Isaiah in the synagogue. It was a very worthy stop and enjoyed by all.

Postcards showing Village life

Next we toured Megiddo. There we saw a tel with 35 layers of civilization. This is where our guide, Andrew, had worked on a dig earlier this year. It was fascinating to see this large tel where so many people from different times had lived on top of another. Solomon had stables here. Being in a direct path between Africa and Asia made it a trade stop and a battleground many times over the years. The Jezreel Valley is located in this spot and the Battle of Armageddon will be fought here someday.

Next we had a great view of the land from Mt Carmel, remembering when Elijah had prayed to the living God, and He sent fire down from heaven, consuming the altar and the sacrifices before the prophets of Baal. So thankful that Elijah’s God still lives today!

Caesarea-by-the-Sea is a favorite stop of mine. Catching it in the golden hour is breathtaking. The large stone theater, the aqueduct, and remains of Herod’s palace and temple are incredible sights, the Mediterranean Sea making a spectacular backdrop to it all. Yet the kingdom that was once so glorious is gone and it’s remains are slowly but surely turning to rubble, while the kingdom that lives in our hearts grows larger as the centuries move on. Peter converted the first Gentile, Cornelius, and Paul was imprisoned in this place.

Then it was time for a two hour drive to Jerusalem, the city of David. We found our hotel and had supper. We look forward to tomorrow, when we get to discover new sights and watch the Sabbath begin.

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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

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Israel Study Trip

Day 6: Mount Arbel, Capernaum, Beit Tsaida, Magdala, Sea of Galilee

We started our day at Mount Arbel, some chose to hike up and some rode the bus and hiked to the lookout. It was a beautiful hike, with views of the sea of Galilee, but challenging in places and required some almost vertical climbing. Mount Arbel is the tallest mountain around the sea of Galilee. Probably the mountain where Jesus went to pray, (Matthew 15:22-27) as it’s high and has a view of the sea, and also where he gave the great commission in Matthew 28:16-20.

After Mount Arbel we went to Capernaum, name from Caphar (Village) of Nahum. Capernaum was a Jewish fishing village on the Roman road, and was the center of Jesus’ ministry after he was rejected in Nazareth. Here the woman with the issue of blood was healed, Jarius’ daughter raised, the 12 chosen, Peter’s mother-in-law healed, Matthew called, and many other things. Today we walked in a synagogue from the 3rd-4th century AD, built over the original synagogue where Jesus would have taught. We saw Peter’s house, the house of Jarius next to the synagogue, and a place for pressing olives. The newer synagogue has columns with inscriptions which seem to represent donors, and contain the family name “Zebedee”.

“and leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, By the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; And to them which sat in the region and shadow of death Light is sprung up.”

Matthew‬ ‭4‬:‭13‬-‭16‬

Next stop was lunch and a tour at Magdala, from Hebrew Migdal meaning tower. This synagogue and town were discovered in 2009 when construction began on a hotel/resort. Today the hotel is built around the ruins and the ancient synagogue is one of only seven found that date to Jesus’ time. As we know that Jesus taught in Galilee, He probably walked on this synagogue’s floor. Magdala was famous for building boats, it’s tower, (possibly used to store fish to be sold) and the story of Mary Magdalene, whom Jesus healed.

We visited a series of chapels built to celebrate the care of women in the life of Jesus and the church, including a very special one called “the Chapel of the Encounter” to commemorate the women who was healed by touching Jesus’ garment. We learned that “hem” is a slightly inaccurate translation, in the original language the word means the threads or tassels of his prayer shawl, the idea first appears in Malachi 4:2 with the word “wings”. Simply put, even the very very edge of Jesus’ clothing carries healing for us and He is Always near.

We finished our day with a tour through a museum that houses a boat found in 1986 that dates to the time of Jesus, and a ride on the Sea of Galilee. There was a lot of interesting information about how they saved the 2,000 year-old boat through a 9 year process and lots of chemicals. On the modern boat, Andrew and our guide both helped us to understand some of the illustrations Jesus used showing us a city on a hill, the proximity of a millstone producer to the lake, and what the other side of the lake meant. It was awe-inspiring to realize that we were on the waters where Jesus once walked and taught.

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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.

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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.

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Israel Study Trip

Day 3 – Tel Be’er Sheva, Wadi Zin and Tel Arad

We started our day with a hike up Tel Be’er Sheva, the site of Abraham’s well and a city dating from the 8th and 9th century BCE.

This is the place where Abraham came when God promised him the land, and instead of coming in to conquer, Abraham dug a well (Be’er) and swore an oath (Sheva) with Abimelech for the use of the water. Genesis 21:31 Beersheba is in the south of Israel, the north end of the Negev (desert, meaning to wipe dry).

Be’er Sheva is the end of the patriarch’s road, beyond it is only desert. The southernmost city in OT Israel, so the phrase “from Dan to Beersheba” means all the land. As we drove through this area we saw lots of Bedouin camps, the tents and camels seem to appear out of nowhere, as you look across the hills there are random dots of tents/shack houses and modern towns.

From Be’er Sheva we headed further into the Negev, south to Wadi Zin at Ein Avdat. Ein (Springs) Avdat (name of a ancient Nabataean city nearby), is truly streams in the desert. The source of the water is unknown but it is slightly salty. We tasted the needles of one of the trees for a little salt.

I never pictured the wilderness with such high hills, we were in a river valley (wadi) and the sides went very high above us. We all hiked back to a waterfall, then a few returned to the bus and the rest took a longer hike up to the top that included several switchbacks and two ladders to reach the top rim.

Andrew told us the wilderness is the land of God, and there is rabbinic teaching that the farther you go in the wilderness the closer you get to God. God brought his people through the wilderness to enter the land of promise, wilderness in our lives is to teach us something and God is always near,

After Ein Avdat we stopped for lunch at an area nearby with a gas station, coffee shop and McDonalds, then back towards our hotel to visit Tel Arad.

Tel Arad is an ancient city built ca.3500 BC, and later rebuilt as a Canaanite city. It is the oldest city in the area that shows signs of urbanization; a double wall, city planning, and use of trade. Because of its strategic location near the border and a crossroads it was important to several different civilizations including the Canaanites, who traded with Egypt, the Divided Kingdom of Judah, and the Romans.

There is a temple in Tel Arad set up and oriented East to West, just as the Jerusalem temple though on a much smaller scale. Because the altar is of uncut stone, it’s identified as a temple to YHWH probably buried during Hezekiah’s time (2nd Chronicles 31:1) and so preserved from destruction later. Interestingly, the temple has two altars of incense in the Holy of Holies possibly indicating mixed worship.

After more hiking around the site, we went back to the bus for a short ride back to the hotel and enjoyed dinner together in the hotel dining room. Some of us went out to explore the small shopping area and community space near the hotel, get some bottled water, and enjoy the lovely weather.