Baby, It’s Hot Outside!

For the majority of our time in Israel we stayed at this hotel – Prima Kings.  It’s a very nice hotel within walking distance of the Old City.


Andy and I liked sitting on this terrace and people watching.  It was such a busy intersection right underneath us.  People are aggressive drivers and like to honk a lot.  Made for interesting entertainment.


So, our last touring day.  We headed to the desert.  And, Baby, it was hot!  Notice the changing geography as we headed out of Jerusalem into the Dead Sea area.


Date palms.  They use cherry pickers to get the dates at the top.  Donkeys mow the grass below.


Camels by a gas station.


Bedouin camps


The terrain gets rocky and barren very fast.

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Kidron Valley below.

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We arrived at Masada.  I didn’t know anything about this towering mountain until I toured it.  Such an interesting and unexpected place.  If you look closely at the photo below, you can see where the gondola reaches a station at the top.  You can take the gondola ORrrrrr you can climb that path.  What would you do in 100 degree heat?


At the bottom of Masada at the visitor center.


Getting ready to get on the gondola.  There were about 50 of us in it, all standing close to one another.  No air conditioning, so it’s good it went fairly quickly.  You can see some of the stairways leading up to the top.


Whew, we made it!  What a view!  You can see the Dead Sea in the background.


We learned about how this place was built as a palace and fortress for Herod and was later used as a fortress for fleeing rebel Zealot Jews after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D.  Around 74 A.D. Roman soldiers were able to finally breach the walls of Masada only to find that all 960 inhabitants, except for a couple of women and children who escaped to tell about it, had committed mass suicide and burned all their buildings and supplies except for the food storehouse.  They wanted to show that their death was not caused by starvation.  It was so heart-wrenching to think that fathers killed their wives and children, and the men killed each other, ending in a suicide, so that their families would not end up as slaves, mistreated terribly.

I encourage you to read the signs I’m posting.  It is so interesting.

The Snake Path is the winding one up the side of the mountain.

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Here is a google photo of the top of Masada.


Look at the model below that Sheila is taking in.  Can you imagine this palace being built on the side and top of that rocky hill?  Many slaves died building it.


What an incredible view from the top.  The rectangular areas are where the Romans camped outside of Masada to get ready to storm it in pursuit of the Zealots living there.



The tiered palace on the side of the mountain.


The birds are used to friendly visitors.



Entrance to Bath House.


They had different rooms for cold, tepid and steam baths.



Huge cistern for water.


Model showing how the water came down the valleys into cisterns and was gathered.


More Roman encampment areas.


The Synagogue.


A boy’s bar mitzvah with family.



Animals for eating and for sacrificing were kept here.


Headed back down.


We drove along the Dead Sea again.


Because the water level is so low, sink holes are popping up all over near the coastline.  It’s a big dilemma because water from the Jordan is pumped to so many other areas.  It can be very dangerous to walk in these areas because you can fall in a hole 10 to 15 feet deep!


This road and tourist area were destroyed.


It’s taking down trees.


A family of Ibex!


Coastline of the Dead Sea.  You can see the salt around the edges.


More sink holes.


Another tourist area destroyed.  Sue on our team said that she had swam there about 8 years ago.


Baby palm trees planted.


Next, we traveled to Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.  Three Bedouin shepherds were tending their sheep in these mountains, tossed a rock into a cave and heard it hit something.  They went in to investigate and found some scrolls in jars, took them into town, tried to sell them to a dealer in Bethlehem who said they were worthless.  Later they were sold to a Syrian Christian man.


Next we got to go swim in the Dead Sea!  What a trippy dip!  You get in and it feels like regular water but then you try to sit on the bottom and you only bob like a bobber.  You can’t sink.  If you get onto your stomach, you feel as if your face is going to go under, so you have to turn on your side to get upright.  In the deeper parts I tried to push my arms up in order to touch the bottom.  Couldn’t happen.  In the Dead Sea there is 10 times the amount of salt as in the ocean, so you are 10 times more buoyant.  You have to wear shoes here because the sand is SO hot in the summer and you can hurt your feet because of salt formations.  The dark clay at the bottom felt amazing and soft.  It’s no wonder they sell so many beautifying treatments from the Dead Sea.


Back to Jerusalem where we met King George!  He is a shop owner who is an Arab Christian.  These Christians are persecuted by their muslim neighbors.  We were glad to give him some business.  He sold beautiful works of art made out of olive wood.


Notice how Andy isn’t enjoying the shopping?  I think he’s worried.  The big nativity set in front of him is probably a few thousand dollars.


My favorite piece.


So, that was the end of our journey.  The next morning we got up at 2:45 am and had good, uneventful flights back home.

We now have Israel in our hearts, like never before.

I’m so thankful for this amazing team and for our fearless leaders, all a testament to the Holy Spirit’s power and grace.  I can’t wait to get back to Israel.

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Thanks for coming on this journey with me!


The Lord gives strength to His people;
    the Lord blesses His people with peace.

– Psalm 29:11 (NIV)


The LORD bless you, O abode of righteousness, O holy hill!

– Jeremiah 31:23 (NIV)


Their descendants will be known among the nations
    and their offspring among the peoples.
All who see them will acknowledge
    that they are a people the Lord has blessed.

– Isaiah 61:9 (NIV)


Photos by Susie Stewart






Our next day was a day of contrasts.  We started out at the Wailing Wall.  It is a relatively small segment of a much longer ancient retaining wall, known also as the “Western Wall”, as a whole.  It is considered holy because of its connection to the Temple Mount.  Jews and Gentiles alike bring prayers written on paper to slip into the cracks of the wall.


Men and women are split into two different sections.  Women actually stand on the plastic chairs sometimes to peer over the little fence that separates.  I did this to get the photo of the men.  It gave me a taste of what it would have been like in Jesus’ day when women worshiped in a separate area from the men.


Many people held their Torahs and rocked back and forth as they prayed and chanted.



This woman caught my attention.  She was crying into her Torah, literally “wailing” quietly, staining the pages with her tears.


The Orthodox, or Hasidic Jews wear mostly all black, and the males have the curled side burns coming down from their temples.


Looking at the photos below, notice the wall that fits adjacent to the wailing wall.  This is part of the Muslim Quarter.  There is conflict because the wall cuts into the Western Wall as a whole and the Jews want access to it.


In contrast, we then went nearby to the security area leading to the Temple Mount, currently controlled by Muslims.  We were told to cover up to the neck and below the knees, men and women.  People who try to come in with tank tops and shorter shorts or dresses are sent to a certain area where they need to buy something to cover up.

We came into this courtyard, mostly barren, with just dirt.  No beautiful trees or flowers.  There were crows cawing and cats walking around.  It was quiet and felt lifeless to me.


A very large mosque that can hold 3 to 4 thousand.


While Daniel was teaching to us quietly, Israeli guards walked in with a Jewish family.  We were told that most Jewish families do not come in here, but certain people insist on it.  They are told by the muslims that they are not allowed to pray.  They are escorted by the Israeli police for their protection and followed by muslim men to make sure they don’t worship or pray.  It was a sobering sight to see.


We were told not to touch each other in pictures and forgot.  We were reminded after this photo.


Chris and Kelly forgot too.  It just comes so naturally.



We headed up the stairs to the Dome of the Rock, a muslim mosque.  It is also the site believed to be where Abraham was about to sacrifice his son Isaac.


The smaller dome structure is called Dome of the Chain and has been used as a place of prayer.



We stopped to watch Israeli helicopters in the distance.


We were walking behind the structures and stopped for Daniel to read a few verses of Scripture.  A man came over to put pressure on us to stop and so we moved on.

Next was the Beautiful Gate.  It was sealed by those who would try to keep Jesus from coming back at that spot.  I think it would take a lot more than stone blocks and metal bars to stop the Lord Almighty.


Women in their head coverings watched as we exited the Temple Mount area.  One stopped Andy to ask where we were from.  When he said America, she said, “May God take care of you.”  We weren’t sure if it was meant in a kind way or not.  It saddens my heart that we don’t speak of the same God.


In contrast, as soon as we left that area (and were able to expose our shoulders and knees) we came upon a beautiful garden.  It was like an oasis after being in the desert.


It was right next to the Pools of Bethesda!  Daniel pronounced it Bet-hes-dah.  The area was so large.  The place where Jennifer is standing next to these stairs all the way to where the people stand in the background had not yet been excavated.


Can you find the weed eater in this photo? 🙂


From the pool area we walked next door to a beautiful stone church.  There we sang praises as a group to our great God of freedom and grace.  The acoustics were the most beautiful I had ever heard.


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From there we traveled outside the Old City walls to the place believed to be where Jesus had communion with his disciples in the Upper Room.  The Last Supper.


Lions’ Gate


Another beautiful view.


The upper room where the last supper took place was at the site of this building.  It made me wonder if the picture in my mind of a quaint home may have been wrong all along.  No one knows for sure.  This church is said to be built over David’s tomb.



Daniel told us that peacocks symbolize eternal life and pelicans symbolize Eucharist (remembering Christ’s sacrifice through communion).  They are both carved into this pillar.


Back through the Zion Gate this time, we traveled through the Jewish Quarter to areas excavated and exposing Roman roads and columns.




This man is a Messianic Jew who has had biblical store for 30 years.


Everywhere we went, we saw adorable children.

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We spent time shopping and eating lunch at a restaurant called The Quarter Cafe which had a spectacular view and delicious food!


We met two men who were biblical scribes.  It takes them about a year and half to print one copy of the Torah with feather quills.


Traveling on from there we went to The Israel Museum where they had a huge replica of ancient Jerusalem.  It was so neat to hear Daniel point out the different areas where we had walked.

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And then the Holocaust Museum.  I had never been to one, and it affected me deeply.  This statue really got me.  It is a representation of Dr. Janusz Korczak who was offered a position as a doctor with the Nazis and he chose to stay with the orphaned children he took care of, all the way to the gas chambers.  After spending many years working as director of an orphanage in Warsaw, he refused sanctuary repeatedly and stayed with his orphans when the entire population of the institution was sent from the ghetto to the Treblinka Extermination camp.  No photos were allowed inside the museum.


A tree planted for each family or individual who helped protect and hide Jews.


Driving back to the hotel I was reminded about how Daniel told us that Jewish families have white water barrels on their homes.  Muslims have black barrels.  Everyone knows where you fit into society by how you dress and the appearance of your home.


A day of contrasts.  A day to ponder.  We know our spiritual struggle is real.  Here in Israel, it is glaringly apparent.

I will bless those who bless you,
    and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
    will be blessed through you.

– Genesis 12:23 (NIV)


Photos by Susie Stewart and Lorie DiSaia