We would like you to follow us as we experience the Holy Land

in March 2011?



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On March 18, 2011, and from many directions, we arrive at JFK Airport in New York City.  Some making the journey from Boise, Seattle, California, Arizona, and Texas.  Leaving JFK at 9:00 p.m., we flew directly to Tel Aviv, Israel, arriving at about 1:20 p.m. [local time] on Saturday, March 19.

At Tel Aviv, we are met by Israeli tour guide Johanin Opher, who was substituting until tomorrow when Ikey Korin will be available.  We boarded the bus, rode to the city of Ein Karem, the birthplace of John the Baptist.  A church has been built there.  After a short visit, we headed for Jerusalem, On our way to our hotel, we drove to Mount Scopus where we get a great view of Old Jerusalem.  This was the location of the Roman garrison at the time of Christ.


Text Box:    Prima Royal Hotel  We arrived at our hotel, the Prima Royale, where we will spend the next four nights.  We are treated to the first of many wonderful buffet meals, and used the occasion to get more acquainted with others who have joined on this trip.


Our hotel is located ½ mile directly west of Mt. Zion in the Old City.


 Our Hotel for four nights in Jerusalem Prima Royal Hotel




Sunday, March 20


We rise early (7am), and after a buffet breakfast, we learn our itinerary has changed.  This often occurs when one part of the itinerary has to shift the time we can see that site.  Today, Yad Vashem called our guide to change the time we would be admitted to the Holocaust Museum.  So, several places had to be shuffled.


First was the Yad Vashem, which, no matter how many times you have seen it, it is a very sobering time.


Following the Holocaust Museum, we visit the model city.  The is a 1:50 scale model of what the city of Jerusalem might have looked like during the Second Temple Period (the time of Christ).  Many historical documents were used to construct how Jerusalem looked in the first century.


Near the model city is the Shrine of the Book, a place where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed.


In the afternoon, we boarded our bus and headed for the Arab city of Bethlehem, the place of our Savior's birth.  We first had lunch at a nice restaurant.  


In Bethlehem we visited the Church of the Nativity as well as the Shepherd's cave and Shepherd's field.








Monday, March 21


Today, we rise at 6:00am and after breakfast we head for the top of the Mount of Olives.  It is a spectacular view of the Old City of Jerusalem as we looked across the Kidron Valley. Today will be a day of much walking.  From the top of the mount, we walked the probable path Jesus took entering Jerusalem prior to His crucifixion, we stopped at Dominus Flevit  (The Lord Wept), then on to the Garden of Gethsemane, where we had a time of individual prayer.  For me this is always a special place – the place where Jesus prayed, “Not my will but thine be done.”  With tears, I prayed the same prayer today.


From the Garden, we walked across the Kidron Valley that separates the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives.  Walking south, around the southeast corner of the wall of the Temple Mount, we walked to the Mount’s southern steps, where you will see what were the most used entrances to the Temple Mount, today called the Hulda Gates.


We walked a few yards to the southwest corner of the Temple Mount, where we saw the remains of Robinson’s Arch, and several mikvehs in the this area


We then walked a short distance to the Western Wall Plaza, where we had the opportunity to pray for Jerusalem and the Jewish people at the Wall.


We walked to the Jerusalem Cardo, the place where they have uncovered the ancient Roman street running north-south, with the Damascus Gate at the north end.  In the Cardo we had a bite for lunch, some having falafel and others shwarma.


At 2pm, we had an appointment to visit the City of David which lies south of the Temple Mount.  This ridge is bordered on the west by the Kidron Valley and on the East by the Tyropoeon Valley.  We walked up and down many steps, eventually descending towards Hezekiah’s Tunnel, without going in, but walked along the western (Kidron) hillside, where they have uncovered many ancient structures on the outside of the wall, but we also viewed parts of the wall as they were in the time of Hezekiah.  We walked around the southern end of the City of David, arriving at the Pool of Siloam.


Now it was about 4pm, and we took the bus to two more destinations – the House of Caiaphas, where Jesus was interrogated and where the apostle Peter denied Christ three times.  Then it was on to the Upper Room, where Jesus observed the Last Supper with His disciples, and also where the Holy Spirit fell on the Day of Pentecost.


As mentioned earlier, we walked a great deal today.  That’s not a complaint, just a fact.  Two people had pedometers which said they walked between 11,000 and 11,500 steps.  In the end, it was another great day.  Praise the Lord.




Tuesday, March 22


We boarded our bus and traveled to Herodium, located some 3 – 4 miles southeast of Bethlehem.  Herodium is the burial place of King Herod the Great, which was been uncovered only in the past three or four years by the late archaeologist, Ehud Netzer.  King Herod had one of his royal palaces built on this man-made mountain.  Underground was located an amazing cistern and water supply system.  The Herodium was both a palace and fortress of King Herod.  On one side, this king was a very wicked man, but on the other a great architect and builder.  Herodium was truly an amazing edifice showing that skill.


After spending some time at Herodium, we drove back to Jerusalem to visit the Pool of Bethesda, the place where Jesus healed the man who had an infirmity for 38 years.  Nearby is the Church of St. Anne, where we sung a couple of choruses, finding the acoustics to be phenomenal.


From  there we walked along the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrow) to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, an edifice built to commemorate the place of both the crucifixion and the burial of Christ.  At the church you always find it very crowded and a little difficult to navigate its many places, and such was the case today.

From the church, we exited the Old City through the Damascus gate, and walked to the Garden Tomb, a very tranquil place in the middle of a busy city, and then visited the empty tomb in the garden.  We observed the Lord's Supper, with pastor Jay Smith presiding and Karen von Krosigk, praying in both Hebrew and English over the communion elements.  This is always a special occasion.







Wednesday, March 23


We boarded our bus early and leave Jerusalem, traveling west to the Mediterranean Sea, then north along the plains of Sharon, to Caesarea Maritima.  The word, “Maritima” is added to distinguish it from Caesarea Philippi.  This was a Roman city, built to honor the Roman Caesar Augustus, and it became the center of Roman rule in the Judean area during the time of Christ.  This is where Pontius Pilate had his home, and he would travel to Jerusalem during the Jewish Holidays.  Thus he would be in Jerusalem during the Passover when Jesus was arrested.


Every time I visit this place, I am amazed by the abundance and new archaeological endeavors.  And yet, I am told that this site has an abundance of yet uncovered ruins, showing the importance of this city.  At the time of its construction, it had the largest harbor in the world.


From Caesarea Maritima we traveled north to Mount Carmel, the place where the prophet Elijah challenged the 450 prophets of Baal, and fire fell from heaven.  The mountain range overlooks the city of Haifa on the sea.  While at Carmel, it began to rain heavily, so we had a short Faith Lesson (given by Pastor Jay), then back to the bus.


We stopped for lunch at a very nice Druze village.  The Druze religion is an offshoot of Islam, but other Moslems do not recognize them.  Over the centuries, they have had to protect themselves from other Moslems, and in almost all place where they live is in the mountains, where it would be easier to protect themselves.


Then it was on to Megiddo, the ruins of which overlook the Valley of Jezreel to the north and northwest.  It is mentioned in the Bible that this valley will be a staging area for the Battle of Armageddon.  Armageddon’s only mention in Scripture is Revelation 16:16. We also descended into the water system used at Megiddo.  There are about 160 steps in the descent and 70 steps up at the other end.


We arrived at Kibbutz Nof Ginosar, where we will spend the next three nights.  We arrive there to check in and enjoy our evening meal.  This Kibbutz is located directly on the Sea of Galilee.




Thursday, March 24



Early this morning we visited the Mount of Beatitudes, where it is believed Jesus delivered theSermon on the Mount - Matthew 5 – 7.  This is a beautiful site overlooking the Sea of Galilee.


Next, we returned to Nof Ginnosar, where there is a Museum for an ancient boat that issometimes called the “Jesus Boat.”  A decade or more ago, at a time when the level of the Sea of Galilee was at a record low, two brothers from the Kibbutz, while walking along the edge of the Sea of Galilee, found a boat submerged in the mud.  It was carefully removed, and after many years, is now on display for us to see.  It has been date from 100bc to 70ad, thus could possibly have been sailing the Galilee when Jesus was here.


We then boarded a boat at the dock at Nof Ginosar.  This boat is a replica of 2,000-year-old boats that traveled this sea.  Arriving at the middle of the Sea we had a very nice time of singing and worship.  This is always one of the highlights of the trip.  The waters were sometimes quite choppy.  For me, this is the first of the four times on the Sea of Galilee that it was anything but calm.  But it did cause many of us to think of the disciples trying to make headway during a storm that had come up suddenly.  Fortunately for us, we had diesel engines in our boat, not oars.


Next, we traveled to Capernaum, which was the center of the ministry of Christ.  At this location we saw an ancient synagogue, one of the largest known in the Galilee region.  We also visited the city of Tabgha, in the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee, where we find the Mount of Beatitudes.


It is a very short distance to the city of Migdal where we had lunch.  Migdal was the home city to Mary Magdalene.  During lunch, it rained very heavily, accompanied by thunder.  Once again, like our time on Galilee, we were reminded how quickly storms could arise without much warning.  It may be sunning, but stormy only 10 minutes later.


In the afternoon, we drove into the hills west of Galilee, to the city of Nazareth.  To get to Nazareth, we drove through the city of Cana, the place of the first recorded miracle by Jesus.  We visited a place called Nazareth Village, an actual 1st century farm that has been uncovered and turned into the manner such a place probably looked like during the first century.  The people at the Village dressed in period dress and conduct work and chores (carpentry, weaving, processing olive oil) as they may have done them at the time of Christ.


We were scheduled to visit the Precipice at Nazareth, where it is believed the people of Nazareth tried to kill Jesus after he read the scroll of Isaiah 61 in the synagogue, then said the prophet was speaking of Him.  But for us, it was again raining hard, and the site requires walking in the open air for several hundred yards, so it was decided not to stop.



Friday, March 25



First thing this morning we traveled south to Yardenit, on the Jordan River, just a few hundred yards south of where the Sea of Galilee empties into the River.  Pastor Jay baptized seven from our group, one for the first time and six as a re-confirmation.


The next site we visited was not on our original itinerary.  I want to give thanks to our guide, Ikey, who stopped for a short time at Hazor in answer to my request.  The reason I wanted to stop was to get some samples of the ashes which were the result of Joshua conquering Hazor and setting this city on fire.  Thanks Ikey.


We then traveled 25 miles north of the Sea of Galilee to Tel Dan, now a large nature preserve, and the place named after the 5th son of Jacob.  At Tel Dan, they have recently uncovered an ancient Canaanite gate that would have been there at the time Abraham traveled with Sarah and Lot came into Canaan.  The karstic springs, formed by underground runoff of melted snow from Mount Herman come to the surface here to form the Dan River, which becomes another of the sources for the Jordan River, and is the largest of the three.  By the way, the word "Jordan" (Yarden in Hebrew) literally means "down from Dan."


We travel 3 or 4 miles east to Banias (Caesarea Philippi).  At this place is a cave, in which is a spring, out of which flows fresh water to forms the Banias River, which becomes another of the three headwaters of the Jordan River.  This is also the most northerly location recorded in the Bible where Jesus and His disciples went and is the place where Jesus asked His disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" to which Peter responded, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God."  It is from here that Jesus and His disciples began their last trip to Jerusalem before the crucifixion.


We then drove further into the hills - inside the Golan Heights - to Mt Bental, where we saw a series of bunkers that are used by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) at times of emergency.  From here we could look out over the Syrian countryside located less than 40 miles from Damascus, the capital of Syria.



Saturday, March 26



This morning, before we leave the area of the Sea of Galilee,we visited Mount Arbel, a cliff that overlooks the plains of Gennesaret and the northwest corner of the Sea of Galilee.


We then traveled south to Gideon's Spring (called the Spring of Harod in the Bible), where God told Gideon to put his army to the "drinking test," by which the army personnel was reduced to 300 men to fight the Midianites.


In the Jordan Valley, we then visited the ancient city of Beit Shean, where the Jezreel and Jordan Valleys meet, some 17 miles south of the Sea of Galilee.  Like Caesarea Maritima, this is another site where they have uncovered a massive amount of ruins.  The account of King Saul, the first king of Israel, and his sons end at this city.  After being killed by the Philistines, they took their bodies and hung them on the walls of Beit Shean.  During the time of Christ, this city was given the Roman name of Scythopolis.  Although not mentioned in the New Testament, it was included as one of the 10 cities making up the New Testament area called the Decapolis.


Then we drove south toward the Dead Sea, stopping for a short visit at Jericho.  Jericho is a Palestinian city, so our guide, Ikey, could not accompany us into the city.  We enjoyed a nice lunch and an overlook of the Jericho Tel.  There really isn’t much to see, and with limited time, we decided to move on to Qumran.


Outside the city limits of Jericho, we picked up our guide and headed for Qumran as our final site of this day.  This is the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, beginning in 1947.  We were given some time to shop in the gift shop.






Sunday, March 27



On Sunday morning, those who wanted could walk to the Dead Sea and float for a while.

The Hotel we stayed in was the same as when we were here on our last trip, but the name has changed.  Two years ago, it was called Novotel – now it’s Leonardo.


After we left the hotel, we drove into the mountains, through the city of Arab, to a Bedouin camel farm, where we experienced their hospitality - coffee (made here), teas and bread for refreshment.  Before leaving, many in the group had the enjoyment of riding a camel for about 15 minutes.


Next, we headed for Masada.  In the past times I have ridden the cable car, except on the last visit, Dr. Braddy and I walked up the Snake Trail.  This year, the bus dropped most of us off on the west side, where we climbed the trail near the Roman siege ramp.  Some drove around and took the cable car to the top.  We all rode the cable car down.


Masada is a diamond shaped rock mesa with high cliffs on all sides.  This site is most remembered as the place where Jewish zealots resisted the Roman army for nearly 3 years before succumbing.  The word "Masada" means "fortress" and on its northern point was a triple level fortress/palace built by King Herod.


This afternoon, we headed for the Jordanian border, where we crossed the Allenby Bridge, a short distance north of Jericho.  The land of Jordan is very rich in Bible history.  We left our Israeli guide, Ikey, and driver, David, behind, went through customs and boarded a Jordanian bus, driving about 1½ hours to Amman, the capital city of the nation of Jordan.  Amman is a very modern city of two million people.  The country’s total population is six million.


Our hotel in Amman is very nice, with very large rooms – Amman International Hotel.



Monday, March 28


Today, we take a lengthy trip down the ancient Kings Highway, to the Nabatean "Red Rose City" of Petra, one of the most visited cities in Jordan.  Once we arrived, we had the rest of the day to explore these ancient limestone carved structures.


The earliest inhabitants of this area were the Horites, or Hurrians.  Later, Esau, the brother of Jacob, settled in the territory south of the Dead Sea, and his descendants, the Edomites, gradually replaced the Hurrians. The Edomites lived here at the time the Israelites came from Egypt during the Exodus.  About 400 BC, the Edomites were driven out by the Arabian Nabataeans.


The city was carved from sandstone outcrops by the Nabatean people, and at its peak in the 1st century AD was a major trading route and home to 30,000 people.  Caravans passing through this area had to pay taxes to the Nabateans.


The primary way to get to the ruins of Petra is the tall, narrow cleft in the rock, called the Siq (Cleft), which is a winding fissure in the eastern ridge.  At the end of the Siq, the path opens up to a canyon.  The first carving in the face of the canyon cliff is an edifice called the Treasury (Khasneh).  That is an odd name, since it was never used as a bank or for the transaction of business.  In reality, it is probably a royal tomb.


The Treasury was featured in the Indiana Jones movie, The Last Crusade.  Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones) is pictured in the movie as finding the Holy Grail inside the Treasury.


Although the name Petra is not contained in the Bible, there are many that believe it is alluded to in several Passages.  Many Bible resources identify the biblical Sela with Petra.  (Isaiah 42:11, for instance).  Like Petra, the word “Sela” means “rock.”  Petra was the capital city of the Nabateans.


In biblical times, this region was known as Mount Seir (or Sela).  Petra was its Greek name.  The Biblical Mount Hor, which is part of Mt Seir, is near Petra.  Aaron, the brother of Moses, died on Mt. Hor at the age of 123  (Num. 33:38, 39;  Deut. 10:6).


Some Bible teachers believe the people of Israel will flee to Petra during the period of the tribulation immediately preceding the return of Jesus Christ to earth to set up His kingdom.


What I did not know prior to coming to Petra the first time, was that there are so many cliff monuments.  There are approximately 750 carved monuments at Petra.  The gorge in which you find these ruins extends for about one mile.  Almost all of the cliff carvings at Petra are primarily burial places.



Tuesday, March 29


This morning we headed back to Amman, stopping at Bethany beyond Jordan.  This is the suggested site for the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.  John 1:28 speaks of John baptizing at Bethany beyond the Jordan, identifying it thus to distinguish it from Bethany where Lazarus, Mary and Martha, village about two mile southeast of Jerusalem.  The Jordan River is very narrow at this place today.  It would have been much wider at the time of Christ.  Much of the Jordan River and its headwaters are having much of the water taken for agriculture.  It is for this and the fact that there has been a drought in Israel for almost 10 years, that the Dead Sea is losing two feet of water per year.


At Mount Nebo, the place from where Moses was able to see the Promised Land before he dies atop this mountain.  Mount Nebo, also identified with Pisgah, was located northeast of the Dead Sea overlooking the Jordan Valley opposite Jericho.  A town with the same name was nearby.  It is unclear whether the town was named for the mountain or the mountain for the town.  Currently, the church that sits atop Mt. Nebo is being renovated.

The king of Moab took Balaam the prophet to "the top of Pisgah" in an effort to get Balaam to curse Israel (Numbers 23:13-14).  The tribe of Reuben receive the city of Nebo as part of their tribal inheritance (Numbers 32:3, 28). 

Isaiah predicted the inhabitants of Nebo and Medeba would weep at the time of their coming destruction (Isaiah 15:2). 

It must have been a very emotional moment for Moses, looking out from the top of Mount Nebo and seeing the promised land, while knowing that he would not enter. After all of his exploits during the Exodus, and after struggling 40 years in the wilderness leading the constantly complaining and disobedient Israelites, he was being allowed to go this far and no farther. Moses ascends Mount Nebo, sees the promised land, and dies there.  "Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died; his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated." (Deuteronomy 34:7 RSV).

Following some time atop Mt. Nebo, we drove the the city of Madaba (Mentioned in the Bible four times, but spelled, Medeba).  This city of some 65,000 people is the heart of the Christian community in the country of Jordan.  In Madaba, we visited a mosaic factory which hires handicapped girls in putting together some amazingly intricate designs, as shown in the photos here.


We drove through the city of Amman and were treated to a farewell dinner before heading for the Airport, from where we will fly home. 


I count it a privilege to have traveled and made acquaintances with the other 28 people on this trip.  Six people had birthdays during this trip and seven were baptized in the Jordan River, one for the very first time.   It was an incredible time in the land where Jesus and His disciples walked.  Though this was my fourth trip to Israel and second to Jordan,  the Bible still comes alive to me.