Israel 2019: Part 8 – Bethlehem, The City of David, and more

I have found the afternoon of June 1st is the hardest to share. There is much I’d like to say… but I feel the need to be very sensitive.

After leaving the Garden Tomb we drove toward Bethlehem, first stopping for a tasty lunch at an Arab restaurant. Outside of it is where the cute photo with the lamb was taken.  I was surprised to see some large buildings that are part of a Palestinian refugee camp, and to see that Bethlehem is such a large city — not many fields in sight, but I understand the Shepherds Field was there somewhere!

I can’t share about the people we met that afternoon or what they said, because it might put them at risk. But I do ask you to pray for them, for protection, godly wisdom, angelic help — and to pray that more and more Arab and Muslim people are ministered to and come to know Jesus through their ministry.

We started our next day out with a visit to the City of David, seeing the grave sites (including very ancient ones which are in caves at the very bottom), the archaeological finds and then visiting a lovely shop there. You can learn more about the City of David and the shop here.

I’ll share more about June 2nd in my next post. I think its the day I walked the most steps. My fitbit recorded 27 flights of stairs, but it was so worth it.

For now I will close with I Chronicles 15:1  and I Corinthians 6;19-20

And David made him houses in the city of David, and prepared a place for the ark of God, and pitched for it a tent.

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

It is amazing that this God, the only true God, whose presence filled the temple in Jerusalem with glory has chosen to make all those who come to Him through Jesus Christ to be His temple, His dwelling place. Oh how He loves you and me!

 

 

Part 7: Israel 2019 – Jerusalem, The Old City

This city, this beautiful old city, ever since I got my first view of it in 2001 has been in my heart. I believe it will be forever. I think it has something to do with this scripture:  “But I have chosen Jerusalem that My Name (and the symbol of my presence) might be there…” 2 Chronicles 6:6a (AMPC). I felt His presence more strongly here than anywhere else, and in a way I can’t explain, it felt like home.

I took these first photos in November of 2001:

On June 1st, 2019 we started our day with a lovely breakfast at the Inbal Hotel we were joined by a very brave bird who helped himself to leftovers o a nearby table), then we got on the Red bus and headed to our 1st stop, the Mount of Olives. Shelli Brim taught us there and I so wish I had brought a notebook, or could get a recording! It was so very good.

Next we had a chance to take photos from this place of breath-taking views.

We then followed the steep path that Jesus would have taken down to the Garden of Gethsemane; Pastor George and Terri taught us there. I believe one of the Olive trees there is old enough to have been there when Jesus was. My heart aches for what He went through in that garden, and yet it overflows with gratefulness at the same time. I believe he saw us, we were the joy that was set before him, the reason he was willing to bear our sins, to do what was necessary to save us. Wow, what love!

After a quick ride on the bus we were walking into the old city and singing Hallelujah in the Upper Room. Right after that we visited the Garden Tomb and Pastor George and Terri led us in taking communion. It was sweet, and precious, and powerful – all at the same time.

Believe it or not… this all happened before lunch! And our afternoon included more adventures, but I will save that for part 7. 🙂

Right now, thinking of Gethsemane again… my heart is longing for Jesus, our soon coming King. So I will end with these words from Revelations chapter 20 (TPT):

Then I saw heaven opened, and suddenly a white horse appeared. The name of the one riding it was Faithful and True, and with pure righteousness he rides to battle…His title title is called the Word of God…on his robe and on his thigh he had inscribed a name: King of Kings.

Scripture quotations marked TPT are from The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017, 2018 by Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ThePassionTranslation.com.

Part 6: Israel 2019 – Jerusalem Views, Masada, The Dead Sea and More


Waking up in Jerusalem almost felt surreal. So much history and beauty in the small and amazing land of Israel. Breakfast was lovely in the open air atrium between the lobby and the dining area. Lots of things to try, including wonderful, melt-in-your mouth fresh dates – oh my!

Next we were off to the red bus where we enjoyed the humor and knowledge of our bus leaders (Harrison, Julie and Lily) as we headed toward Mt. Scopus for more views of this amazing city.

A drive through the Judean desert was up next as we traveled to Masada. The desert mountains were so rugged and beautiful. I don’t think the pictures do justice to them, or to one of the many date palm orchards we passed.

 

Masada — Wow! It was SO….SO high when going up the tram, SO hot (108 degrees), and SO Big! To learn more and understand it’s history (Jewish & Roman) view this video or visit this website. To give some perspective… the tram in the center top photo held maybe 30 people, and it looked like a small dot when it was at the top landing (center photo). The center bottom photo shows remains of a Roman bath house and steam vents.

 

After lunch we left Masada for a visit to the Dead Sea.  You can read it’s history here, and as  the photos below show, it is beautiful, but a bit dangerous. I am glad to have visited, but the bath house was very crowded and hot, and the journey down to and up from the water was very steep. I rubbed some of the dead sea mud on my skin… but the water felt almost oily and not very pleasant. Regardless, it was beautiful and worth the visit. And, on the trip back I got a couple photos of the local wild life (smile).

 

I’m not sure if this was a 2nd stop at Mt. Scopus… but we stopped here to sing and welcome in Shabbat before going back to the Inbal for a very pleasant Shabbat dinner. I even got a photo with Shelli Brim (yay!). Dinner was hosted by a local Rabbi and his wife. It was a blessing, and a very blessed day indeed.

 

In honor of our Shabbat (Sabbath) meal in Jerusalem, below is the blessing of the bread (Hebrew transliteration and English). I like to picture our Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ) as He (the Bread of Life) spoke this blessing at the last supper.

Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, hamotzi lechem min ha’aretz.
Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has brought forth bread from the earth.

You can go here to learn about the Shabbat meal and it’s blessings.

Part 5: Israel 2019 – 2 special stops on the way to Jerusalem

I so enjoyed our days in The Galilee, I found it easy to picture Rabbi Jesus and his disciples there. But this was our day to leave, and I was excited about two special stops we would make before ascending up to Jerusalem.

Our first stop was in Migdal (Magdala in the Greek) at a very precious piece of property called, Migdal Arbel. It was indeed a blessing to be there with Shelli Brim, Pastor George and Terri, and others that were also there when I first stepped on to this land in November of 2001. That’s when I heard the vision for this prayer and study center — it pierced my heart and has never left me, since that time I have felt that a piece of my heart was planted there. The project has been a rocky road, but much progress has been made and we serve a God of miracles. And, in my heart I believe I will return to it again.

Next we traveled to Ariel in Samaria (Hotel Eshel HaShomron) after crossing a security check-point as we entered the West Bank. There we visited with an amazing, courageous couple who run a hotel in Ariel. We heard how Tova Gilboa survived a 2002 suicide bomber attack in the lobby of the hotel, and about her husband, Menachem Gilboa, who was awarded Israel’s highest honor for his heroism that same year. Many Israeli soldiers were saved as Menachem prevented a suicide bomber from completing his mission at a nearby gas station and restaurant. Following that we visited their model of the tabernacle and toured the beautiful city of Ariel.

We then began our ascent up to Jerusalem. We read some of the Psalms, and as we entered the city they played “Jerusalem, Jerusalem.” My heart was lifted and my eyes filled with tears. We arrived in time to visit a park overlooking the city, where Guy, one of our guides also talked about the importance of our visit and support of Israel. Next we made our way to The Inbal and settled in for our first dinner and night in the city.

The second part of our thrilling trip was just beginning, but I’ll share more about that in my next post. Until then, did you know that The Psalms of Ascent (Psalms 120-134) were sung by worshipers as they made the journey up to Jerusalem for the annual feasts? These Psalms are inspiring and amazing, pick up your bible and have a look. Here’s a taste:
I was overjoyed when they said, “Let’s go up to the house of the Lord.” And now at last we stand here, inside the very gates of Jerusalem! O Jerusalem, you were built as a city of praise, where God and man mingle together.
Psalm 122:1-3 TPT

Scripture quotations marked TPT are from The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017, 2018 by Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Part 4: Israel 2019 – The Golan Heights and more…

This day was about seeing some of the incredible raw beauty in the area of the Golan, hearing from some Israelis, and prayer.

We started the day on a long bus ride, leaving the Sea of Galilee and climbing high up to the area of the Golan Heights. First we visited the look out point at Misgav Am. The views were breathtaking as we heard from a leader about some of the history of this Kibbutz located literally on the border of Southern Lebanon. Our group took time to pray here too… for the people on the other side of the border, as well as for the people of the kibbutz and the soldiers stationed there. We really wanted to bless them, so I think we may have just about “bought out” their small store.

Next we visited Caesarea Phillipi near the foot of Mt. Hermon. It’s a beautiful park now with springs and more (including fig trees as in the photo above), but it has a dark and pagan history. If you want to learn more, you might find this article interesting, it includes some of the things that were shared by our Pastors and guides that day.

Our last stop for the day was The Valley of Tears Memorial, on the border of Syria (so close we could see buildings in the distance) and the site of one of the largest tank battles in history. It commemorates those who fought and lost their lives in the 1973 Yom Kippur War. Rani Levy passionately shared the story of what turned out to be a miraculous battle and victory with us, as well as the importance of the Golan Heights to Israel. It was very clear how much he loves his country. If you want to learn more, check out this book: The Heights of Courage.

We traveled back down the mountains to the Sea of Galilee for our last night at the hotel there, with much to reflect on and pray about. I couldn’t help but notice the places where the land has been reclaimed and is once again fruitful. Just before laying down that night, I took one last photo, it’s Tiberias from the balcony of my room. I wish the photo would show how lovely it really was — the lights of the city were twinkling and shining brightly.

Jerusalem was coming next, and I was excited to go there. But still, leaving the Galilee was a bit heart-wrenching. It’s my desire to go back and spend time at Migdal Arbel, in His time.

Part 3: Israel 2019 – Jesus and The Galilee

Thoughts of Jesus filled and continue to fill my heart as I think of this day.  As the Gospels and historians confirm, the Galilee is where Jesus came after his baptism by John, his desert temptation and the miracle of the water & wine at Cana. It is on these shores where much of his ministry took place. I can picture him there, calling Peter, the miraculous net-breaking catch of fish, feeding five thousand, calming the storm, walking on the water.

We started our day at a 1st century synagogue in Magdala. Mary of Magdalene came from there and Jesus definitely would have taught there. The excavation was amazing, as was the beautiful mural in the church there. it represents the woman with the issue of blood who was made whole by her faith, and by touching Jesus.

 

Next was Capernaum (Kfar Nahum or Nahum’s village). Archaeological excavations there include Peter’s house and a 4th century synagogue (limestone) which was built on the foundation of a 1st century (black basalt) synagogue.  This was the hometown of Peter, James, John, Andrew and the tax collector Matthew. Its where Jesus healed the Roman Centurion’s servant, Peter’s mother-in-law and the paralytic lowered through the roof.

 

We spent time on the Sea of Galilee before going to lunch at Ein Giv. We enjoyed the peaceful waters, saw how the fishing net was thrown, sang worship songs and danced an Israeli dance (thanks to instruction from Eli, one of our guides), and were taught by Pastor Terri.

 

We visited the Jesus Boat Museum at Ginosar before continuing on to Yardenit, the baptism site on the Jordan river. At Yardenit many of us donned baptismal robes and were baptized by our pastors.  It was very meaningful for me, a reconfirmation of my dedication to Jesus, and it was so precious to be baptized by Pastor Terri . (I didn’t want to show myself crying, so the photo shows Pastor Terri smiling as I came up out of the water).

 

We ended our day with dinner back at the Sea of Galilee Hotel in Magdala, and rested in preparation for day 4.

 

 

I am so grateful to have been there, where he walked. I hope the next time you read about the Sea of Galilee and Capernaum in the Gospels that these images will help these places and stories come alive for you too.

And Jesus, getting into a boat, crossed over the Sea of Galilee and came to [Capernaum] His own city…

Part 2: Israel 2019, Memorial Day and the Sea of Galilee

This year my 1st full day in Israel was on Memorial Day for the U.S.  We started in Ceasarea and ended at the Sea of Galilee. But in the midst of it, we stopped to remember… to remember that freedom isn’t free, and to be grateful for all who paid the ultimate sacrifice for us.

MAY27009As on every day of the tour, we began by reading Psalm 91 out loud together (on this day Pastor George and Terri were on our bus and led us). Then we prayed and thanked God for his protection and leading.

 

Next we visited Ceasarea on the Mediterranean, saw some ruins (including an aqueduct) and other parts that are still in use (like the amphitheater).  We also visited Mt. Carmel and saw the Jezreel Valley (a.k.a, the Valley of Meggido).

We planted trees! It’s a big deal — over 2 Million have been planted since they Jews returned to the land in 1948. It was truly an honor to remember those who gave their lives by planting trees. Several leaders and guides shared, and then we got to work in the hot Israeli sun. Our trees will be irrigated for 2 years, and then grow on their own. I like to think of how big they’ll be in ten years – and the part they will plant to make a difference in the land. I am thankful for Albert who helped me plant it too!

On to the Sea of Galilee, with our next stop on the Mount of Beatitudes for a teaching from Matthew 5. I can picture the people sitting on the hills and hearing Jesus with the wild grasses and the wind softly blowing and the sea below. It seems so wild in spots, I think it probably looks pretty much the same as when He walked there with his disciples.

We stayed at the Sea of Galilee Hotel in Magdala (remember Mary Magdalene? – she came from there). The scenery was breath-taking, and as evening came the winds increased making the palm trees sway. We slept with our door cracked open, again… enjoying the gentle breezes and sounds of the Galilee.

I am grateful for every moment. and I for now will leave you with these words from Matthew 5:

“What delight comes to you when you wait upon the Lord! For you shall find what you long for. What blessing comes to you when gentleness lives in you! For you will inherit the earth. How enriched you are when you crave righteousness! For you will be surrounded with fruitfulness. What bliss you will experience when your heart is pure! For you will see more and more of God.”

And I say, amen, so be it Lord.

Scripture quotations marked TPT are from The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017, 2018 by Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.