Hey Everyone! I intended to blog everyday, and tried, but I just didn’t have the time, energy, or bandwidth to be able to. So I will do my best to recapture each day, if not only for myself, to keep the memories alive. This was the most special trip I’ve ever been on. Profound is an understatement.
Our hotel, the Ma’agan Eden Kibbutz Village on the Sea of Galilee was very beautiful, as you can see by these photos. This is a Kibbutz, which is a communal living cluster of homes and occupations. The hotel is part of it.
What these photos don’t really show you is the sweeping view of the Sea of Galilee. Taking that in was so beautiful. Tiberius was right across the lake through the haze. This time of year typically has a lot of haze.
It was interesting to observe Jews as families living and vacationing together. A wonderful sense of community and togetherness.
From this resort we headed out for a day of touring.
As we were driving around in our bus we would often see huge groves of banana palms covered in a massive box of netting to speed up growth and preserve as much water as possible inside.
We headed to Capernaum (or as our tour guide Daniel referred to it, Ca-per-na-HOOM), first thing this day because it can be one of the hotter places. Jesus spent two years here.
We walked around and in the area of where the synagogue was. You can see the difference in the color of stone from ancient times to more recent. In Jesus’ day the stone was at the bottom, darker, volcanic.
Being in Capernaum thrilled my heart. I imagined Christ walking in this town, spending time with people, teaching, and healing. He healed Peter’s mother most likely in this spot a modern-day church has been built over. We spent some time praying in the church.
We looked out at the water from Capernaum and stood with a statue of Peter with the inscription, “Thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my church.” ~ Matthew 16
We then drove through Tiberius. What a cool town on the hills of the lake! Andy was kind of obsessing over Tiberius.
On to the Mount of Beatitudes! Catholics have made this site, thought to be the place where Jesus spoke the Beatitudes, into a very beautiful spot to visit and worship in.
By the way, we were very blessed to have Bob Siegel and his wife Dana along with us. Bob is extremely knowledgeable in all things Bible and has his own radio program (bobsiegel.net). He spoke to us on descending stairs as Jesus would have spoken to the people on that hill, being at the bottom of the group. The Missions Pastor from our church, Crossroads Community Church, who did such a great job of leading our entire group to the Holy Land, is standing next to Bob teaching. Bob is his brother-in-law.
As we drove away from the Galilee area and headed south to the desert, I though a lot about how it would be to travel in the hot sun through these parts. Not an easy thing. Below is when we passed over one part of the Jordan River.
As we followed along the Jordan River path, we were right next to the border with Syria and with Jordan. You can see the security fences in the photos below. It was sobering to see first hand what the Jews need to do in order to protect themselves from hostile neighbors.
Trees planted always made a stark contrast with the rocky desert. Did you know that in the last 100 years, Jews have planted over 200 million trees in Israel? It adds so much!
One of the most shocking things for me during this day, was seeing Jericho. In all my imaginings growing up, I did not expect Jericho to look like this! Aaannd, modern day Jericho has a gondola! Who knew?!
In Jericho we stopped for lunch at the Sultana Restaurant. When we stepped off the bus it was 117 degrees and when we left it was 119. What?!?! The food was delicious and I especially loved this dessert. The staff of the restaurant were entertaining and made even our meal a drama. One of our team members, Carlie, was used as a model to demonstrate a dead sea mud mask that you take off with a magnet!
This man asked us if we wanted to buy a flying carpet. 🙂
One thing I didn’t realize before visiting Jericho is how close in proximity it is to the Dead Sea. All such a barren desert area.
Our guide brought our attention to a monastery cut into the mountains where they have kept the skulls of priests for hundreds of years, and to a very old sycamore tree like the one Zachaeus climbed.
As we headed to Jerusalem, large areas that have held refugees were also pointed out to us.
We saw surprising Jewish settlements in Arab areas, like this one on the hill.
Bedouin camps camps at the foot of mountains.
and Palestinian neighborhoods
I was struck by the differences in Arab and Jewish neighborhoods.
We drove steeply uphill through the desert until we got to
What a vast, interesting, beautiful place.
We overlooked the city from a place where many names were recorded of people who had given over a million dollars to help enhance and build Jerusalem. One of the names you might recognize – Steven Spielberg. Many Jews from all over the world contribute generously to furthering the building, education, agriculture, and more.
Not far from this site, was Bethlehem. We overlooked the city and the hills where the shepherds saw the angels at night. It looked nothing like I had imagined. I felt thankful to see what it was really like. Bethlehem is a town that is mostly muslim now, which also surprised me.
I took a small piece of this hyssop plant and brought it home. It has a very strong scent.
“Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” ~ Psalm 51:7
“Take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood in the basin and put some of the blood on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. None of you shall go out of the door of your house until morning.” ~ Exodus 12:22
“A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When He had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.”
– John 19:29-30
This was a sharp, beautiful thistle, and a ginormous aloe vera plant.
As if all of this wasn’t enough to fill a day, we got to go to a portion of the Jordan River and get baptized! How wonderful is that?
Thank you to Bob and Guy for baptizing us! And thank You Jesus for giving us a reason to testify to new life in You!
We capped it all off with a night out near the Old City at a happenin’ mall. We happened to be there for a light show and presentation. The old is mixed with the new in so many amazing ways in this city.
My favorite part of the evening was watching people dancing in the streets together. It was joyful and just made me happy.
So! Believe it or not, that was all in one day! The whole week the Israel Tour Company did such a phenomenal job making sure we experienced everything we intended to experience with the longer stay. I’m so grateful. Onto the next day!
I rejoiced with those who said to me,
“Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Our feet are standing
in your gates, Jerusalem.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May those who love you be secure.
May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels.”
– Psalm 122:1,2,6,7 (NIV)
Photos by Susie Stewart