Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Sad Day and Joyous Day

On our final day, we headed for the Temple Mount.  The line was long and was cut off when we were closing in on the checkpoint.  We would have to come back.  We then walked through the Old City to the Pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed the crippled man, telling him to pick up his mat and walk.  We also visited St.Anne's church.  It is a marvel of acoustics.  Thanks for singing for us Donn and Jen.  It is named in honor of Mary's mother.  We walked out through the Lion's Gate where the IDF broke through in 1967 to make it to the Western Wall.  A short bus ride around the corner and up the hill and we were at Mt. Zion, the site of David's tomb and the Upper Room.  It was here that the last supper was held and Pentecost happened.
Following a quick lunch, we returned to the line and made it up to the Temple Mount.  What an experience to stand on stones that were there when Jesus cleansed the Temple and taught.  It was neat to see when the Temple stood and to think about Jesus' return.  We then walked to the Jewish quarter once again to see a broad wall that has survived from the time of Hezekiah when he expanded the city for defense. 
After coffee outside the Jaffa Gate, Pam and I and Szumadas parted from the group to prepare to go to Bethlehem to speak at Pastor Khoury's church.  Parting was the sad part.  We were so blessed to share life with each other on this journey and we were sad to not finish it with them.  We also felt great joy in sharing with the church, including Skyping back to Eastern Hills and praying for each other.
The rest of the group visited the Knesset, a large Menorah nearby, and the Elah Valley where David slew Goliath.  After having a final meal together they winged their way home and should be arriving in about 7 hours from the writing of this blog.  Shalom Pilgrims!!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

An Arab Christian Perspective with Pastor Steven Khoury

We spent an insightful morning visiting with three families from the Calvary Church in East Jerusalem which is led by Pastor Steven Khoury.  The testimonies of these saints told the story of God's grace, protection, provision and joy.  One sister, Hala, has two challenged syblings to care for.  The three of them live literally in two caves that at one time belonged to the palace of King Herod.  Everywhere you turn there is history under your feet.  God has used Hala to teach children for over four decades.  Fifi, an Ethiopian sister and the other sister, Manala, also told stories of God's miraculous provision in the midst of need.  The persecution they face is real.  They are seen by Muslims as traitors to their faith and by Jewish folks as suspect because of their lineage.  But they are our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We must always see the Arab Israeli conflict as political but Arabs and Israelis as people who need a Savior.  Pastor Steven shared the ministry of Holy Land Mission in general and Calvary Church in particular with us at the church and we shared lunch together.  Many in our group saw this morning as the highlight of the trip.
   This afternoon was free.  Some went to the Israeli Museum to see the Dead Sea scrolls and Model of Jerusalem.  Some others walked back into the Old City to see and shop.  As I write this blog I am listening to the final songs of Shabbat being sung by observant Jews here in our hotel.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Day of Opposites

We had a day of opposite emotions.  We started our day with a couple hour visit to Yad Vashem.  The name means a memorial to the name and is the Holocaust Museum here in Jerusalem.  It is emotionally draining to walk through the experience of man's inhumanity to man and the result of others saying nothing.  We then made our way to Bethlehem and visited the Church of the Nativity.  We ended our day by returning to the Old City and visiting the Garden Tomb.  The experience of the Garden tomb combined with communion lifted our hearts as much as Yad Vashem was emotionally draining. 

We have felt safe throughout and our time in Bethlehem helped us understand what our Christian brothers and sisters face as well.  We made a brief stop to visit Pastor Naim Khoury and see his church in Bethlehem.  That is Steven's father.  Tomorrow we see Steven and his people.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A Heavy, Wonderful Day

We are tired.  Exhausted may be better.  We spent the day walking, uphill, downhill, in multiple tunnels. But we can tell you the story of Jerusalem much better after today.  We started our day at the Western Wall plaza, praying at the wall and the men visiting the synagogue at the wall. We also got to observe a number of Bar Mitzva processions as they happened.   If you want to see the wall online at any time, visit:

We then walled down to the City of David.  This was the original Jerusalem, only 12-13 acres in size.  The parking lots of Eastern Hills combined are larger.  How exciting.  We saw what are believed to be the ruins of David's palace based on some seals and inscriptions found there.  We then walked up toward the Old City using a path Jesus would have walked.  It went from the Pool of Siloam (Shiloach in Hebrew) where Jesus healed the man born blind to the corner of the Western Wall and Southern Wall.  We sat on the steps where Jesus and other pilgrims would have traversed to enter the Temple Mount for the Festivals.  Following lunch we entered the Rabbinical tunnel that travels along the Western Wall all the way to the Antonio fortress foundations.  We ended our day along the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  In this massive complex historians believe were located the site of Calvary and the tomb of Jesus.  It was a physically challenging day but a good one.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

We Came Up Today

Its been quite a day.  We started the day in the desert on top of Masada, the site of the deaths of 960 zealots who killed themselves rather than become Roman slaves.  Men killed their family members.  They then drew lots for who would be the last one standing and commit suicide.  We concluded Herod was an eccentric and arrogant genius as far as construction was concerned.  Frescoes on the walls of his palace still exist.  We then stopped at the nature reserve of Ein Gedi where David hid out from Saul.  What a peaceful, beautiful place.  Following lunch, we went up into the Holy City of Jerusalem.  No matter how many times I see the Old City for the first time in a trip, my heart is still stirred.  After some camel rides and explanation at the top of the Mount of Olives, we went down the Palm Sunday road, the same path Jesus would have ridden on His donkey.  A quick stop at the tear drop church, Dominus Flevit, built over the site where Jesus sat and wept over the city, and we were on to Gethsemane.  We wondered if we would have kept watch with Jesus?  We ended our day at the home of Caiaphas the high priest and read Psalm 88 in the pit where Jesus was imprisoned. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

From North to South

Today we left the beauty and coolness of the Galilee and headed south to the desert.  Beth Shan, the town that witnessed the death of King Saul, Jonathan and two of his brothers on Mt. Gilboa, was our first stop.  While nothing much is excavated up on the tel (hill), the later Roman and Greek city of Scytopolis is magnificent.  It was destroyed by an earthquake in the 700's.  We then climbed Mt. Gilboa where Saul and family died and read the lament David wrote for his father-in-law and close friend.  What a view of the lower end of the Jezreel Valey, the Jordan Valley, the Samaritan mountains and the mountains of Jordan.  We stopped for lunch and toured Qumran. A shepherd boy found the first Dead Sea scrolls here in 1947.  Written by the Essenes, a reclusive group whose main task seems to have been copying the Scriptures, the scrolls contained a complete copy of Isaiah and pieces of every other Old Testament book except Esther and Ezra.  We continued south to our destination for the night, the Dead Sea.  Most of our group took a dip in the less than warm water, walking out to waist deep and sitting.  You can't sink.  It was a blast.  Tomorrow we begin by visiting the top of Masada and then it is up to the Holy City of Jerusalem.