Pictures from day 1

Yes, I am finally getting to the pictures! Jet lag was a bug a bear, and then, you know, Thanksgiving. But going through the pictures and sorting them out has been great (still doing it, which is why I’m posting it day by day). It’s tasting the experience just a bit more and remembering the high points, of which there are many!

So, here are the pictures from our day in Judea and Samaria (See post here).

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We were at Ha Yovel, and one of the leaders played for us a song about where we stand – it’s the only song he’s written, and it’s fantastic!

 

Israel last days

The last of the summaries – further posts will be more in-depth processing. But you should really check out this testimony video; it’s just a few stories of what the Connect to Israel tour meant to us. Totally worth watching the whole thing, but if you want to skip ahead, I’m at 37:30 (ish), and there is a really good analogy used at 41 minutes, there abouts.

So I began the next adventure by taking the light rail (with all my luggage) to the central bus station, to catch the bus to Furadis Junction, near Caesarea on the way to Haifa. I am soooo glad that everyone I met spoke enough English to get me where I needed to be!! My friends Ephraim and Rimona picked me up at the tiny little stop, took me for lunch, and settled me in. Near sunset, Ephraim took me to the next community over, Binyamina,  on a hilltop to watch the supermoon come up. It was quite cloudy, so the sunset was absolutely spectacular, but we only got to see about 5 minutes of the moon before the clouds hid it. It was a bummer that we both forgot our cameras!

The next day was a visit to Zichron Ya’acov to the first Aliyah museum. It was very interesting, tracking a family from Poland, I think, before the war, and their hardships and trials. We took a brief stroll through the town, where the main street was pretty much the way it was then. Walking and touching history is amazing. We made our way to Jerusalem, where I joined my host in several meetings, then returned late and conked out.

We spent a leisurely morning eating breakfast on their back patio. I could easily stay there a long time; there was so much peace, and I felt so restored there, it was absolutely amazing. They then took me to Mt. Carmel, one of my (many) favorite stories – Elijah and the Ba’al prophet showdown. There is a small little church there, and we went up on the roof, and you could see much of the country from there. I have an amazing picture of the Jezreel valley (I’m working on pictures, I should have them up in a couple of days). We worked our way around to Haifa, where we visited with Ephraim and Rimona’s daughter and had lunch. There we saw the Baha’i Gardens. Even though it wasn’t in full bloom, it still was rather breathtaking. Home we came, and then I began my chore of packing up.

As I said, more thoughts will come; right now as I am back in the States and recovering from jet lag, it seems all so surreal. It was a  wonderful time, and awe-inspiring time, and it’s one that I know has affected me deeply, and changed me in ways I can’t begin to catalog, or even recognize at the moment.

And evening came, and then it was morning. And it was all very, very good.

Back to Jersualem

I’m back in the States, trying to catch up, get over jet lag, and process. There will be A LOT of processing, and you get to join me in that journey as well. Lucky you. But in the mean time, I will finish up initial thoughts of the rest of my time in Israel. As always, you can check out pictures and videos at the Joined to HaShem site.

Jerusalem – Last Tour Day

The last day of the tour took us to the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem. As our tour guides say, it is not a museum, but a place to remember the atrocities and those who suffered. I sit here, and I have no idea how to put into words the horror and sadness that comes over me. The English term is Holocaust; I prefer the Hebrew term “Shoah”, which means catastrophe, as opposed to a word that means “burnt offering”. After time at the memorial, including a personal teaching at the tree of Corrie Ten Boom just outside the building, we were released once again into the Old City to wander around, make last purchases, and imprint the city in our spirit. After a couple of hours,we gathered together, and those who had a flight to catch went on their way to Tel-Aviv for the airport, and the remaining few of us went our individual ways. And though evening had just peeked through, and morning had not come yet, that was day 10, the last day of the tour. And it was very good. 😉

Jerusalem – My Wanderings

I stayed at a hostel, along with a few other people from the tour who were staying over. After getting settled in, we headed out to Ben Yehuda street to take it in some more and have dinner. It was Thursday night, the night before Shabbat, and it was very active. As one of our tour guides had mentioned, it was kind of like “date night” and hangout time before the weekend, so there was a lot to see. It was rather fun to stroll and people watch. The next day, I walked the streets of the corner of Jerusalem I was in, just watching and observing, taking time not to think, but just be. I picked up a couple of things again at Ben Yehuda street, dashed into a market to buy some lunch before everything closed at 4 or 5 for Shabbat. I loved the custom of shutting everything down for the day of rest. Not everyone does it anymore, even in Jerusalem, but most people and shops do. The hostel had a Erev Shabbat (Shabbat evening) dinner, mostly a cultural experience to teach those staying there. I got picked to read the blessing that traditionally is said by the woman of the house. That was a fun little experience. On Shabbat afternoon, I made my way to the Old City to meet some folk, and we sat and read the Torah portion for the week, and talked about the scripture – a wonderful study of the Bible overlooking Jerusalem and the Temple Mount! What also was fun was that a portion of the study was Genesis 12, the place where we began our tour. Reading it and having been there brought the scripture to life in a very tangible way. Dinner happened at a rooftop restaurant, where we could again watch the sunset over the city. Sunday was visiting day; I spent time chatting with one of the tour guides who was still in the city, and then had tea with a young lady who had just moved to the city from the States via New Zealand. It was great to share our stories and experiences. After that, I had dinner with a couple from the tour who were also seeing Jerusalem at their own pace. It was a precious, precious time. As the day drew to a close, I packed up my bags and got ready to travel northward to stay with some friends in the Carmel region. But that is a story for another blog…

Jordan River, Qumran, Tamar, and Masada

Did I mention drinking from a fire hydrant? Everything has been so amazing, but so much packed in so little time. I’m still here in the land, trying to process and catch up. I will try to summarize the last days of the tour, and will continue to post subsequent thoughts as I process. Continue to check out Joined To Hashem for awesome pictures and videos.

Jordan River, Qumran, and Tamar

We began our day with mikvahs (baptisms) in the Jordan River. It was a special time with some real powerful testimonies. Unfortunately, I was recovering from a bad cold and had to pass. Incentive to return!  We went on to the Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. It was an interesting place, seeing the caves where this sect of Jews maintained the scriptures in simplicity and purity. Touching stones, clay, and dust of times past – pretty surreal. Afterwards, we made our way to Tamar – the biggest spring in the Arava are there. We stayed at Tamar Park, an archaeological biblical park. It is one of the oldest places in Southern Israel, and spans seven time periods in her history: The Abrahamic period, the Mosaic period, the Israelite period, the roman Christian period, the Islamic period, the British period, and the Israeli period. Check out their site here. And then it was evening, and then it was morning, day 8!

Masada, Dead Sea, and Ein Gedi

There are few sites that groups of all faiths come to, and this is one of them – Massada, the Gamla of the south (Post on Gamla). The plateau was built at the time of the Maccabees, and King Herod built a fortress here. There is a fascinating story, and when I return, I will post an audio and video narration of the account that happened here. We went from there to swim (float) in the Dead Sea – or rather, the Salt Sea. Note – do not let that water touch your eyes… but otherwise, much fun. We then hopped on over to the falls of Ein Gedi, and saw the caves in an area where David may have hid from Saul. We climbed around the falls and splashed in the pools, and got up close and personal with the ibexes and irexes. Then back to Tamar to pack up and be on our way back to Jerusalem. And then it was evening, and the it was morning, day 9!

 

 

The Golan Heights

Sunrise over the Kinneret; view from our room

Sunrise over the Kinneret; view from our room

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a very long day, and we had to get up stupid early in the morning, but with a view like this, I wasn’t in too bad of a humour. We headed up to the Golan Heights to do our touring today. From one of the points, we were surrounded by the Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon. Imagine living in an area where all of your neighbors want to kill you and take your land… Anyway, though we didn’t go to Mount Hermon, the highest point in the Golan Heights, we did go up pretty high on windy roads though the mountains. Again, you can see pictures at the Joined to Hashem site until I’m able to post my own photos.

There was a lot, and I’m suffering the syndrome of drinking from a fire hydrant. Our first stop at the Peace Vista, we looked down on the 1967 border. We could look at the Decapolis cities (think the demoniac from the Gadarenes), and where many of the accounts of Yeshua happened. From there, we could could really see, really get a sense of how small Israel is. If you remember, Israel is in a drought – 3 rivers converge into the Kinneret, and they happen to lead the world in waste water reclamation.

We went on from there to Gamla. We stopped at a nature preserve, and are where they are bringing back almost extinct vultures, and sat and heard about what we were looking at. Gamla means camel, but also large rope (look at Matthew 19:24 with that in mind). The Jewish historian talked about Gamla, but didn’t know if it really existed. After 1967 when Israel reclaimed the land, they began to map out the land, a surveyor happened to look over from where we were and saw a mountain that looked like a camel, and realized he found Gamla, and they began to dig. Now, I didn’t know the story of Gamla, so I will add a brief summary that you should inspire you to look further. For those who know about Massada, this was before that, and it was more intense.

In 66 C.E. Gamla turned rebellious under the influence of refugees from other locations. It was one of only five cities in the Galilee and Golan who stood against Vespasian’s legions, reflecting the cooperation between the local population and the rebels. At the time of the revolt, the town minted its own coins. Bearing the inscription “For the redemption of Jerusalem the H(oly)” in a mixture of paleo-Hebrew (biblical) and Aramaic, only 6 of these coins have ever been found.

Josephus also provides a detailed description of the Roman siege and conquest of Gamla in 67 CE by components of legions X Fretensis, XV Apollinaris and V Macedonica. The Romans first attempted to take the city by means of a siege ramp, but were repulsed by the defenders. Only on the second attempt did the Romans succeed in breaching the walls at three different locations and invading the city. They then engaged the Jewish defenders in hand-to-hand combat up the steep hill. Fighting in the cramped streets from an inferior position, the Roman soldiers attempted to defend themselves from the roofs. These subsequently collapsed under the heavy weight, killing many soldiers and forcing a Roman retreat. The legionnaires re-entered the town a few days later, eventually beating Jewish resistance and completing the capture of Gamla.

According to Josephus, some 4,000 inhabitants were slaughtered, while 5,000 threw themselves down a ravine to escape capture.

We went on to Mount Bental, which looks over Syria, where we heard of the miracles of the 1967 and 1973 wars. 1967, the Golan Heights were liberated by Israel, and immediately began preparing for the next war. Unfortunately, Israel was resting on their laurels and ignored the signs of attack until either hours before or the day before, depending on sources. So the Egyptians and Syrians attacked on Yom Kippur, and there were 1600 Arab tanks against 160 total in the Israeli army. During one section of time, there were only about Israeli tanks holding back 600 Arab ones. They were cruising and advancing, and the Syrian army suddenly stopped. When they were captured, they asked why they didn’t go on, and the said they saw and army of soldiers of light, angels, and they had to stop.

While we were there, you could here shots in the distance, and it was explained that there were constant fighting – within Syria – and no one ever says anything. It’s when things happen in Israel that it turns into an international incident.

We went on to Tel Dan, which was the first tribe that was lost. We saw the old city gates, and talked once again about when the kingdoms split; this was the other site where the idol alters were set up to draw the house of Israel away from the true worship at Jerusalem. We headed back to the hotel, then took a stroll off the boardwalk before preparing to head to the south. It’s been an exciting and full day. And it was evening and then it was morning, day 7!

Galilee and the Jordan River Valley

So, we left the Jerusalem hustle and bustle and headed north towards Galilee. Very quickly outside of the city, we met with the desert once again, and began passing through the Jordan River valley. We passed a checkpoint and said “Boker Tov” to nice friendly army soldier with friendly smiles and big guns. We drove by the Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) as we passed into the region. It is Israel’s single largest reservoir, and it is shrinking at an alarming rate. From living in Austin through the drought and watching the lake levels drop through the years, and just seeing the levels come up this last year, I know a place to pray for rain. Just saying. We touched on Teverya (Tiberius), where we would come back and stay, and went through Migdol, or Magdela. I remember a story or two that may have come from that area, do you?

We visited a place near the Kinneret where and ancient boat from 2000 years ago (more pictures to come, and here’s the link from Joined to HaShem with other pictures), then went a sailing on the sea, around and on which about 90% of the events of the gospels took place. The owner was a Jew who, after taking many people, Christian groups, out on his boat and hearing the message over and over, gave his life to Yeshua, and has been praising and worshipping Him in song ever since. He sang a couple of songs for us, and then he played a recording that Hillsong United did on his boat of Oceans (Where Feet May Fail). As soon as I can, I will upload it; it’s imperfect, with talking in the background, but I will tell you something: that song has always had an impact on me, the story of Peter has always had an impact on me, and listening to that song, sailing over that sea, seeing that story in my mind, and being where I am in life… there are not enough words in any language that I speak to describe the overwhelming sense that I had. I would say that was a defining moment, but I couldn’t define it for you. I kind of was there for the rest of the day. Here is their recording of that moment; again, I will post mine when I can.

The rest of the day to me was a view of beauty and history. We passed the probable places where the miracle of the loaves and fishes happened, and also the mount of the Beatitudes. We went to the temple where Yeshua probably taught. There was a “new temple” (in ruins) there, but underneath, you could see the darker volcanic stones that were from that time period where the original stood. Can you sense how awe inspired I am? As we saw the nature preserve and natural park and a view of The Galil, and heard a description of how lush and green it would be after the rainy season really began, it seemed a very touching and fitting end to our full day. And yet there is still more to come!! And there was evening, and there was morning, day 6!

Jerusalem Day 2, and Shabbat

So, our second day in Jerusalem started out with a wonderful surprise: Yehudah Glick, an active proponent of getting all people to be able to pray on the Temple Mount, as well as a member of the Knesset, can to speak to and with us. It was humbling and encouraging; as a peaceful demonstrator of peace, he was shot point blank in the chest 4 times. It was a miracle that he survived, and as he recovered, the refrain we heard over and over again was apparent – they tear down, we rebuild. He continued to spread the message of echad, oneness, and out of very great odds, was appointed to a place on the Knesset, the religious ruling body. The stories and experiences I get to share with you are absolutely incredible! Check out the full video on the Joined to HaShem site. After that, we went back to the Old City and wandered through the Kotel Tunnels. The tunnels were built by the Romans after they destroyed the temple to build a city over the valley that was next to the wall. So as we were walking the tunnels, city life was happening above us. There were very awesome and just… awe inspiring moments. We came to the end of a finished road, and one of our guides explained exactly where we were. Now, we can say Yeshua could have walked here, or there, but at this point, there was no doubt – to go to and from the city, everyone passed this place. Just sit and reflect on that. We were let loose in the Old City once again to roam around, eat lunch, and do retail therapy. We came back to the hotel early because we had to prepare for shabbat; lunch wasn’t served the next day, and we had to do the mad rush to the grocery store, as most people do before everything closes about 3 pm. We had Erev Shabbat (shabbat evening) dinner, and I went to bed with a cold. And it was evening and it was day, the 4th day.

Shabbat began with Torah reading and exposition from Genesis 6-11. Do you know how special it was to study scriptures together in the land? We read and talked and shared for about two hours, broke for lunch and ate at the benches outside enjoying the weather. We then gathered together once again and shared what was our highlight to that point. Many special stories, and I shared about Shiloh. It was a great enjoyable time to draw closer to one another. We had dinner once again, then went wandering down Ben Yehudah street, peeking into stores and enjoying the end of Shabbat. It was a wonderful way to spend the day. And there was evening, and there was day, and the 5th day. 🙂