Israel 2012 Update #6

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Saturated. Overwhelmed. Overstimulated. Sensory overload. 

Just a few adjectives to describe how my mind & heart feel tonight.

The visit to the Temple Mount was dark. Extreme security surrounds the entire area. Although all of Jerusalem is under Israeli control, the Temple Mount is a different animal. Jewish security maintains the peace but, if I understand it correctly, everything else on the mount is controlled by the Muslims. The Mount is a huge site, the equivalent of 11 football fields. A Jew would be allowed up there to pray but for several reasons that is rare.

Although Jerusalem is never mentioned in the Koran, Muslims have assimilated the city and especially the Temple Mount into their religious traditions, thereby making it one of the most important sites for Muslims.

Messiah is supposed to return through the Eastern Gate, so the Muslims have blocked it, bricked it in, to prevent Him from returning. As an additional protective measure, they put a large grave yard outside the Eastern Gate as they know that would make the Messiah unclean. What do you think?  Is all hope lost for the return of the Messiah?

The smallest stone used in constructing the Temple was 2.5 tons. The largest is +\- 600 tons. It’s the 3rd largest stone in the world. At over 44 foot long it is longer than our tour bus. It’s used as a portion of the retaining wall.

The Western Wall is special to Jews because it is the closest place on the Temple Mount they can get to where the Holy of Holies would be.

We visited the Huldah Steps located on the southern side of the Temple area. These steps lead up to the Mount. Every visitor to the Temple would go up these steps as they entered the Temple. From these steps, one has a great view across the Kidron Valley of the Mount of Olives and the Jewish grave yard that lies on the hill below it. It’s likely that as Christ rebuked the Pharisees by calling them “white washed sepulchres” (Matt. 23:27), He was standing on these steps with the sepulchres easily within eyesight.

Sitting at the Southern Steps at the Temple Mount

We visited the Pool of Bethesda (John 5) where Christ healed the man who had been lame for 38 years. We took time to pray for those among us struggling with illnesses. I made sure to pray for many of you at home.

This area is under the control of the Greek Catholic church, an order called the White Brothers. A church sits just a few yards from the ruins of the pools built by the Crusaders. I learned that the churches of the Crusaders didn’t intend folks to preach in their churches. Instead, they were built for chanting. And for echoing. We were told that an echo would last for 7 seconds. So we tried it out! We sang ‘Amazing Grace’ and they weren’t fooling! It was very cool!!

After a visit to the Temple Institute early this morning, we had the rest of the day off. More about that presentation at another time. Make sure I tell you about it some time, though, because it is worth hearing about!

On my freetime, I did some wandering around and only got lost once. (That’s good for me!) I did some shopping, mostly in the Muslim section of the Cardo. Those guys are sharks! I was no match for them! Those guys are shrewd. One guy stopped me and asked if I could come into his shop, to the register, to write an English phrase for him, then he immediately began trying to sell me stuff. He knew English. He was just trying to get me in the shop! It was a lot of fun and totally different from everything else we had seen and done so far on the trip.

I have really enjoyed many of the guides we’ve met at the different exhibits. One young man was 26, born outside of Jerusalem and had served his mandatory time in the military. He recently completed his tour guide education. I asked him about what that entailed. He said it was a two year course that included botany, zoology, archeology, architecture, weather patterns, ancient history, politics and the study of Judaism, Christianity & Islam. Knowing other languages is helpful too. He said that half of those who attempt the class flunk out. Currently there are about 1500 guides in Israel. Jane, our guide has been doing this for 40 years! He gets married in May — to a girl from Lower Merion! They met while she was here studying.

We’ve met tons of Americans who live here now. I met another young man from Miami who is serving in the military. One guide this morning was from Edison, NJ. I bought a painting from a young lady from Baltimore. She suggested we buy honey-roasted cashews from the guy on the next street. She said he used to live across the street from her in Baltimore. As we were standing on a street corner today with our map out, a guy walked out of a shop and in perfect English asked what we were looking for. His hands were full from his shopping, so he handed me a heavy bag and said to follow him  because he was going to that street.  Along the way, we learned that he had lived here for 18 years, was from San Francisco and his name was Dan. When we got to our street, he pointed it out and took his packages back. He said he made it his mission to help people standing on corners looking at maps. Glad we helped him fulfill his mission!

Tomorrow is our last day. It is packed! We will be hitting many of the sites we read about in the events of the last week of Christ’s life — Mt of Olives, Gethsemane, Golgotha, the praetorium and others. I anticipate an emotional day.

I hope to get one more post off while on the bus tomorrow night on the way to Tel Aviv to catch our plane.  If not, I’ll do it when I get home.

So that’s all for now.

Pray for the peace of Israel!

Pastor Tim

P.S. There might be errors in some of my comments, dates or something like that. I’m taking notes on my iPhone or iPad as best I can and it isn’t always best for me to ask questions since I’m part of a group of 38 folks, so bear with me if you see an obvious error!

P.P.S. I just lost my latest “the trip so far” — it got deleted via an erroneous ‘paste’ command that I can’t undo in my notepad. Sorry about that but at this late hour I’ve got no juice left to recreate it!


Israel 2012 Update #5

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 The Trip So Far — Part 2
Bet Shean — This is the city where King Saul’s body was hung on the wall by the Philistines.

Jordan River — We visited the region where Jesus was baptized.

En Gedi — A national park in the Judean desert.

Looking from En Gedi out to the Dead Sea

Dead Sea — You really do float!

Masada — One of King Herod’s many palaces. The site of the last stand ofthe Jewish revolt of 70 AD.

Qumran — The Essene community where the Dead Sea scrolls were found.

The Mount of Olives — Stunning view overlooking the Temple Mount!

City of David– The area of Jerusalem settled by King David.

Hezekiah’s Tunnel — walked through one of the tunnels used to provide water to Jerusalem

The Pool of Siloam — My favorite mention of this site is in John 9, where the man born blind washed himself when Jesus healed him.

Yad VaShem — The National Holocaust Memorial

Ended the night with a quick visit to the Western Wall. Very cool to be here at night with no crowds, just sit and watched those who were praying.

Looking down at the Western Wall with the Dome of the Rock looming over it.

Israel 2012 Update #4

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From Sunday, Monday & Tuesday March 4th, 5th & 6th, 2012:
Hey Church!

You really DO float in the Dead Sea! The salt content is determined by the level of the sea. Currently, the salt level is 33%. How salty is that? If I heard our guide right, the Pacific is 1.4% !!!  The water was bitter cold, but I had to do it!  All you do is walk out into the water and sit down, BOOM, you’re floating!

Other Dead Sea facts that are only important if you are playing Trivial Pursuit:

-Nothing but one tiny algae grows in the Dead Sea.

-It’s the lowest point below sea level in the world.

-Presently, the Dead Sea is declining by 3 feet every year.

-Some of the most important exports for Israel are the minerals extracted from the Dead Sea.

-The Egyptians used them for mummification.

-Cleopatra was given the city of Jericho by Mark Anthony, but she had her eye on the Dead Sea.

-The region of the Dead Sea is where the geological plates of Africa and Asia meet. Movement on the water surface is often due to seismic shifts on the sea bottom.

 Enough about the Dead Sea!

The land around the Sea of Galilee is full of agriculture. Everywhere you look there are orchards, vineyards & groves. As you would expect there are grapes. They also grow figs, pomegranates, oranges, wheat and so much more. But the big surprise to me where the banana groves. Yes, bananas! Often they are under white canopies.

What’s interesting about all this agriculture is that those who occupied the land before the Israelis could never make the land productive. Many areas of the region were unusable due to the vast marshes & wetlands. But since 1948, when the Jewish people returned, they began to reclaim the land, finding constructive means to make it productive. This is just another instance where I’m convinced that God is still blessing His Chosen People!

We passed through the region of Jericho with Mt. Nebo on our left. Jericho is the oldest walled city in the world.  Ruins have been found that show the ancient walls fell outward away from the city instead of inwards, the way walls fell when invaded. Wonder how that happened? (GOD!) The city lies in a very large plain not far from the Jordan River. It is so easy to imagine Joshua and the people marching across that plain.

We were able to visit Jericho since our guide and bus were Israeli. But our Arab taxi driver tonight sure tried to convince us to take the trip with him!


The ruins of Bet Shean

We visited the city of Bet Shean. It was one of the ten Roman cities of the Decapolis, east of the Sea of Galilee. It was destroyed by earthquake in 749 AD. It was only discovered in 1986 just like it was left after the quake. There is astonishing detail — frescos, paved streets, columns, well- defined rooms & buildings, and a really cool public, unisex bathroom that could accommodate over 45 men & women at one time! I posted a fun pic on my Face Book page!

Exhibit of Herod’s palace at Masada

I was thrilled to have the privilege to visit Masada. This site is not mentioned in the Bible but has huge significance in Israeli history. It was built by Herod the Great as his palace of last resort. It soars off the Judean plain to a large, flat-topped plateau with only one natural way up. We talked about it in our Christmas series briefly. In the Jewish rebellion of 70AD, Masada was the last hold-out against the Romans. It took the Romans 7 months to build a siege ramp high enough to reach the top of the plateau. The 900+ Jewish rebels chose to take their own lives instead of going into slavery. (That’s the cliff notes version of Masada.) We rode a cable car up and walked the 700 steps down!

All for now! More soon!

Israel 2012 Update #3

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From Sunday March 4th, 2012:
There are people from all over the world here. Today, I heard German, French, Vietnamese, & Spanish. We were talking with the owner of a museum & I asked him what nationality he saw most. His answer blew me away! Take a few guesses. I’ll tell you his answer tomorrow. 

 About all those people from around the world being here — There will be a day when people from every tongue, tribe, nation & people group will be in Jerusalem. That will be the New Jerusalem. But even now, people from around the world are drawn to this Jerusalem. This one is broken & dirty, filled with injustice, hatred and violence.  But in the New Jerusalem it will be filled with the glory of the risen King, the Lamb of God, and there will be nothing to compare it to!

Israel 2012 Update #2

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The trip so far . . . Part One


The Valley of Jezreel looking down from Mt. Carmel

Ceasarea:  A 4th century city founded by the Phoenicians. King Herod spent 12 years making the city into a premier port and his coastal palace. This is the city where Paul was imprisoned & interrogated by the Roman Procurate Felix.

Mt. Carmel:  Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18)

Tiberius:  On the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, 682 feet below sea level.

Ceasarea Philippi:  Peter proclaims “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” (Matthew 16)

Tel Dan:  Home of the tribe of Dan. Jeroboam builds an altar for the golden calf and practices idolatry. (1 Kings 12)

Sea of Galilee:  The centerpiece of so much of the ministry of Jesus. He walks on the water here (Matthew 14) among so many events.

The Sea of Galilee: Who is like Him that can calm the raging sea?

Mt of Beatitudes:  The traditional site where the beatitudes were taught and where the masses were fed. (Matthew 15)

Tabgha:  An ancient fishing port where the disciples most likely worked from. (John 21)

Israel 2012 Update #1

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Hey Church!

I wish we were all here together! This is … just … simply … AMAZING! But since we can’t do this together, I’m going to try to share some experiences & insights with you as I can. So, I hope you enjoy my first post.

Surprises: Part One

Looking across the Jordan River into Jordan

The Jordan River is much smaller than I imagined.  Maybe only twenty feet wide.

You can see across the Sea of Galilee easily. It’s only 13 miles long & about 6.5 miles at the widest point. I didn’t know I could see that far (especially with my eyesight).

There are hundreds & hundreds of Christian tourists here. Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa has 300 people in the same hotel as us. There are as many as 4-5 groups in our hotel here in Tiberius.

The orthodox Jews take their sabbath seriously. There is a ‘sabbath elevator’ that is programmed to stop at every floor so they won’t have to violate the sabbath by pushing a button. As a matter of fact, one of my friends on our tour was asked by a Jewish lady to help her with something In her hotel room. When she got to the room, my friend figured out that there was something wrong with the thermostat. Her new Jewish friend explained, through her broken English, that the room was too hot. My friend showed her the buttons to change that. Then the Jewish lady explained that she knew that but she couldn’t push the buttons since it was the sabbath. My friend gladly pushed buttons for her!

It’s astonishing how much they are still finding here. We had the opportunity to see a floor mosaic that they only discovered last week at Herod’s palace in Ceasarea.

If you think God is done performing miracles, then you need to learn about how God has protected Israel time and time again from her larger more powerful neighbors!  Simply mind blowing! GOD IS NOT DONE WITH HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE!

Richard Nixon saved the Jewish nation in 1973 because his mother read him Bible stories as a child and told him to never pass up the opportunity to help the Jews. You gotta ask me to tell you this whole story!

We were given entrance to an Israeli artillery base where we met & talked with a dozen or more young Israeli soldiers. None of them were older than 21 — boys! They were just boys! One was from New Orleans and another from Edison, NJ. Our interpreter was from England. He said the Israeli soldiers couldn’t understand why these Americans would want to serve in the Israeli army. We took them gifts and shared with them that we were there because of the Messiah. They started up a tank, shot off a smoke screen and posed with us for photos (that we are not allowed to post). It was the highlight of my day! As me why!!

Snow covered fields

They have had an abundance of rain here. They even had snow in the higher elevations. Some roads have been closed & Jerusalem was practically closed down yesterday. Jane, our guide, said that this much rain is unheard of here. She said it was the lead story on the evening news where the news anchor was telling viewers where to find the best places to see the swollen rivers. Today the shoulders of the roads were packed with cars pulling over & stopped to get out and watch the water. Jane has explained how much of the region’s politics are tied up over water & who has the rights & access to it.

I’m sorry but the cliche, “you’ll never read your Bible the same after a visit to the Holy Land” is so true. I’ve learned so much in the short time I’ve been here.

Our tour bus has free wifi on it. How cool is that!

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