A Travellerspoint blog

The mysteries of the Holy City

Day 6

Today began in the bowels of the Temple Mount as we traced the Rabbi's Tunnel. This was an exceptional way to see how the layers of civilizations and empires built on and around the Temple. The Western Wall was bustling with flutes, drums, singing, and celebration because it was Bar-Mitzvah Day. It was so cool to see how much Biblical training and responsibility goes into manhood of a Jewish boy. Next, we traveled to the Southern steps and saw steps that Jesus actually walked on. We also gained some new perspective on the birth of the church at Pentecost.

The second half of the day began with an in-depth tour of the city of David. We saw David's palace being excavated, the Old Testament History surrounding the Gihon Spring, and Hezekiah's tunnel. Two brave explorers dared to take the partially submerged (and very dark) portion of the tunnel. After returning to the top of the slope of the city of David, we were blessed with an incredible surprise. Just a few days ago, the news was flooded with a new archeological discovery. They found many of the very ornate tiles from the floor of the Temple Mount. They had been discarded in a massive pile of rock and dirt that the Muslims bulldozed off the top of the Temple Mount years ago. Well, they were sitting on display in a little courtyard where we walked through. They were intended for Licensed Israeli Tour guides to see for the first time. However, we got to get up very close and even touch them. What a rare and wonderful experience. I talked with the Archaeologist who discovered them and had my picture taken with her (below).

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Posted by Budwenzel 10:25 Comments (1)

Fun Exploring Jerusalem

Day 5

Jerusalem is the most beautiful city in the world. Today, our pilgrims learned first hand how amazing this city is. We got an early start to make it up to the Temple Mount before anyone else got up there. After making it through security, Gilla gave us a wonderful lecture. I learned several things that were new to me. Everyone on the group was literally hanging on her every word. We stood in the middle of the Court of the Gentiles and learned where and why Jesus overturned the money changing tables. We walked right up to the spot where the Temple Laver, Altar, and Holy Place would be.

Walking through the city gates, we journeyed accross the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane. There, each person had a chance to reflect on Jesus' sorrowful struggle as he sweated as great drops of blood. We took some time to pray among the ancient 2,000 year old Olive Trees in the garden. For many, this was a powerfully moving time. Next, we spent some time on the Mount of Olives where some of the brave ones took off on a donkey ride. Others enjoyed taking in the magnificent view of the Temple Mount, Old City, and the City of David. We also got to hear Karen sing trying out the natural acoustics90_IMG_0712.jpgIMG_0711.jpgIMG_0708.jpgIMG_0702.jpgIMG_0698.jpg90_IMG_0694.jpg90_IMG_0692.jpg90_IMG_0681.jpg90_IMG_0687.jpg90_IMG_0689.jpg of a beautiful church (gave us all goosebumps).

Other activities for the day included a drive through Bethlehem to view the Shepherd's fields, lunch at a local Kibbutz, and a visit to the High Priest Chaiaphas' House. Of course, the day involved ice cream stops all along the way (don't tell my wife).

Posted by Budwenzel 11:12 Comments (2)

Our feet have been standing within your gates, O Jerusalem!

Day 4

Our fourth day was fabulous!! We started out early leaving from the Galilee and heading South toward the Dead Sea. The first stop was one I have been wanting to make for a long time. It was so meaningful for me to stoop down and touch the waters from Gideon's Spring. We gathered in the shade alongside of the headwaters of the spring and read Judges 7 together. This was the account of God winnowing down the Gideon's army to only 300 men by choosing those who lapped up the water by putting their hand to their mouths. We talked about how God does not need our cunning, craftiness, strength, or ability to provide victory in our lives. Each person had some private prayer time to settle personal issues of struggle. We concluded by seeing that "The battle belongs to the Lord".
Heading further South, we stopped at Beit Shean, a Hellenistic city built by Alexander the Great. There were remarkable artifacts and structures still standing as they were when destroyed in the earth quake in 749 AD. The ancient part of the city contains a wall from the Philistine era where King Saul and His sons' bodies were hung. Some very few brave ones (Mike and Jessica) ventured with me up to the top of the Tel to see the ancient ruins. Of course, I joined them mostly to burn the calories for my daily Ice Cream quota.
Beit Shean also had some other very special surprises for some of our group. In order to try out the wonderful acoustics of the amphitheater, we asked Karen to stand on the stage and sing for us. It was beautiful! Also, we ran into a group of Christians visiting from Vietnam. Two of our men who served in Vietnam were able to stop, visit, and take pictures with them. This was especially meaningful for Dr. Confer as he was a Chaplain stationed there praying for their protection and eventual salvation. He felt extremely blessed to be able to meet the fruit of his prayer and labor.IMG_0679.jpgIMG_0677.jpg90_IMG_0674.jpg90_IMG_0673.jpg90_IMG_0672.jpg90_IMG_0671.jpg90_IMG_0670.jpg90_IMG_0667.jpg90_IMG_0666.jpg90_IMG_0664.jpg90_IMG_0663.jpg90_IMG_0653.jpg90_IMG_0656.jpg90_IMG_0649.jpg90_IMG_0645.jpg90_IMG_0646.jpg90_IMG_0644.jpg180_IMG_1165.jpg
Tracing the Jordan River further South, we stopped at the site of the Crossing of the Jordan River. This site is also extremely significant to those in our church because we recently heard from God while studying Joshua about trusting Him to move forward. We spend sweet time reading Joshua 2 together about the Children of Israel miraculously crossing over on dry ground. Then, we saw where they may have camped (Gilgal) to be restored and renewed by God for their obedience. This is a faith building encounter as well because we learned how we are called to step out into areas that may seem frightening. However, God is always faithful to provide victory for us (again).
Turning West from there, we headed "up to Jerusalem" for the first time. We sited Jericho along the way. This was perhaps the most moving time of the trip so far. As we climbed the final miles leading to the great city of God, we read the Psalms of Ascents (learning how the Jewish people of old would sing them while climbing in a walking caravan), sang a beautiful song, and finally crested the top revealing the most beautiful sight. Jerusalem is magnificent! We got our first glimpse of the Temple Mount while driving to a museum that has a scaled model of the city and the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Finally, after a long and exciting day, we arrived at our Hotel in Jerusalem where we will spend the next three nights.

Posted by Budwenzel 07:56 Comments (2)

Up North in the Galilee for day 3

Day 3

Today was a little slower and cooler. Everyone enjoyed the slightly cooler weather, and we had time to take a nice walk in the nature preserve at Dan which led to some magnificent archaeological finds. Our drive to Dan included some breath taking views of the upper Galilee. It also afforded us the benefit of some top notch lectures from Gilla, our guide, about the history and geopolitical intricacies of being surrounded by hostile neighbors. Everyone was struck by the potential vulnerability of Israel concerning the possession of the Golan Heights. We learned about the Six day war and the Yom Kippur war specifically.

Once we arrived at Dan, the group enjoyed a nice leisurely walk through the nature preserve that led to the uncovered remains Israel's Northern Kingdom palace and King Jeroboam's copy of the temple altar. We took the opportunity to talk about how God's people take liberties with His ways based on convenience. The end of the trail at Dan revealed one of the most incredible finds of the trip so far. I was thrilled to see everyone's awe at the 3,800 year old city gate that Abraham walked through when rescuing Lot.

Next, we traveled to the site of Caesarea Philippi. Here we read from Matthew 16 and saw exactly where Jesus was when telling the disciples that He would build His church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. We toured the ancient temple of the god pan to see what Jesus was referring to. After eating lunch in a little Druze community, we toured the Golan Heights for more modern history and geography. Of course, no trip would be complete to the Northern Galilee region without a stop to my wife's favorite site...the Naot shoe factory.

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Posted by Budwenzel 10:51 Comments (0)

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