by Grace Krouse
There are so many things to talk about from our trip to Israel. Before Charlie starts MBA school and before I start my new job in August, we decided to take an extended vacation since we figured this might be the only chance to travel for such a long amount of time without kids until we retire, which feels like lightyears away.
We ended up joining this Israel tour group called Bible in Color, which was hosted through Morning Star Tours. The majority of the group were from Impact 360, a Christian leadership program in Pine Mountain, Georgia, founded by Chick-fil-A. But there were some of us who weren’t part of the group and a good mix of all ages. It was a great group of people. When we worshiped together, it was amazing singing together in Israel. There is nothing like a group of believers lifting their voices praising the Lord.
Israel was nothing like I expected. I am going to try to debrief on the past 10 days of the Israel tour, but I expect that I will still be unpacking my thoughts throughout the next year. This blog is a lot longer debrief than I expected, but this is also a reference guide to help me remember what I learned and what places we’ve been to and how it relates to the Bible. Many people may remember their Israel trip as “life changing” or recall a specific “ahh-ha moment” where they encountered the Holy Spirit. I wouldn’t recall mine as either of those.
My experience was more eye-opening to the culture, what present-day Israel looks like, and the words and stories in the Bible coming to real life. Below is the itinerary we had for our trip and description of each place. I also did a bit more research of each place to really understand the significance of the site. We couldn’t cover every little detail on the tour because there is too much information, but we covered the highlights.
Some of the sites that came to real life for me were En-Gedi Oasis, Dead Sea, Sea of Galilee, Masada, Qumran, Tel Dan, Meggido, Spring of Harod, and Hezekiah’s Tunnel. We walked in the wilderness that David once wandered in as he was running away from Saul. We saw the caves that David might have taken refuge in and maybe one of those caves was the story of where David cut a piece of Saul’s robe off as he was relieving himself in the cave but David did not kill him. We went from a dry area of desert into a valley of trees, shrubs, wildlife, running water, and waterfalls.
The Dead Sea was amazing to float in. It’s like you were levitating. We sat at the same sea, the Sea of Galilee, that Jesus was at and where he called his first disciples. Seeing where the caves of the oldest scrolls were found was unimaginable. We sat at Meggido where some people think the last great Armageddon battle of the end times will take place. We sat where Gideon called his mighty 300 men and walked in a centuries old tunnel that King Hezekiah built.
I grew up in a Christian family and was baptized when I was in 8th grade. I knew the popular stories of the Old and New Testament inside and out. But actually believing the events described in those stories was a different deal. Most of all for me, this Israel trip was absolute proof that these stories are real, and it solidified my faith even more. I can confidently say these places in the Bible were real and I have actually been there. I have seen them with my own eyes, walked in the sand and dirt, and touched the walls that existed there. When I read the Bible now, I can visualize the memory of visiting that site. My geography of Israel was pretty poor prior to this trip. But I now know where the cities, seas, deserts, and lands mentioned in the Bible are located. I am better at becoming aware where these sites are located on the map, and this matters. Why? Because it gives you better context to the story. You know how far and where the Israelites traveled to when they were wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, the route where Jesus and his disciples traveled, how tribes and cultures developed and became distinct, how they developed strategic war battle plans, and how they chose strategic outposts. Even today, it helped me understand how location is important as war tension is rising in the Middle East (Gaza strip with Egypt. West Bank with Jordan. Golan Heights with Syria.)
Jerusalem was a different story.
At first, I think I was more disappointed after experiencing Day 8 and then more so after Days 9 and 10. We are in the city of Jerusalem and it’s not what I imagined it to be. What do you think of when you think of the crucifixion cross? The tomb of Jesus Christ? The Temple? You might think the same way I did. Growing up, I imagined 3 crosses on a green hill, a dark grey cloud hanging above, a peaceful tomb, and flowers at the site where the stone was rolled away. I imagined that the mount on which the Temple once stood would still be standing with nothing on top - just a green hillside - and that someday, Jesus will return and build his Kingdom on top of that green hillside.
It never occurred to me that all of these events occurred more than 2,000 years ago, and that after Jesus died, civilization after civilization has been built on top of these sites, and that many other churches and many other religious groups want to claim these sites as their own. The Church of the Nativity, where Jesus is claimed to be born, is actually split between several different Christian denominations. The Holy Sepulchre, where Jesus’ crucifixion and tomb are, is also mainly split between 6 different church denominations, and the family that holds the key to the church is a Muslim family. It has lots of fancy ornate ornaments all around the site, and in my opinion, it is very flashy and overly decorated. Via Dolorosa, which is the road that Jesus would have taken carrying his cross to his crucifixion site, is a regular street road where cars and travelers pass by. On this road there are homes, restaurants, and shops. The Temple Mount was very eye-opening. The Jews pray outside of the Western/Wailing Wall. Jews are forbidden to enter the Temple Mount. Muslims (and tour groups) are allowed to enter the Temple Mount. There is a Muslim mosque at the southern end of the Temple Mount. The Dome of the Rock sits in the center. Currently, Israel holds control of Temple Mount and it is Israseli security forces that surround the area, but the administration of the site is still under Jerusalem Islamic Waqf control. The old city of Jerusalem has a Jewish quarter, Muslim quarter, Christian quarter, and Armeanian qurarter.
This blog isn’t meant to offend any religious groups. As Christians, we are “to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27).” We are to love God, love people. That is simply the gospel.
I am simply stating why this was an eye-opening experience for me. I didn’t realize the divisions among religious groups in Jerusalem and even among the Christian church. I never fully understood the war-tension in Israel and its surrounding countries. It was very unsettling to see how much disunity and unrest exists in this place that Jesus calls his Holy Land.
The flashy, decorated ornaments, the busy roads, the numerous crowds that were at the site were all distractions for me. Furthermore, I got caught up in the backstory of each site and how it came to be. I couldn’t “feel” the Holy Spirit, if you understand what I mean. It was hard for me to visualize that Jesus was here. It was difficult for me to understand that a Muslim mosque was standing on the Temple Mount - the same Mount where Solomon built his temple, where Jesus once prayed, sat, and taught.
But despite all these distractions and religious conflicts, the truth is that these observations are all the more reason why we need hope. Hope in the one true living God. Hope that someday Jesus will return and make all things right. Hope that there is a heavenly kingdom waiting for us for those who believe in Him. I realized I was disappointed in the earthly Jerusalem and what it is now, but at the same time, this has turned my heart to be in prayer for the people of Israel, the Jews, the Muslims, the Christians, and everyone in this world because someday Jesus will return and we will have to answer to Him. God’s Holy Land is broken. But this world is broken. There isn’t one place in this world that hasn’t been tainted with sin. Thus, I am broken. And so are you. But because of his great mercy and love, God gave up his Son, Jesus, to die on the cross to bear the sins of this world so that we don’t have to carry the burden and face death, but live with Him in the eternal Kingdom.
Israel is enriched with history, and because it is one of the oldest civilizations, there are lots of scrutiny and conflicts. Despite all the changes and challenges, it still stands today. God’s people are still here. Jews and Gentiles. Because of His Kindness, we are still here. For what reason? To continue making His Glory known. He’s not finished with us yet, meaning He still has a lot more to show us before He returns. I saw archaeological evidence in Israel. I walked in the same dirt, touched the same walls, and saw the same waters that Jesus once did and so many people before and after Him. Jesus will return, and that time will be here before we know it. As our tour guide, Dan, said it so eloquently, “As Americans, we typically have all that we need and don’t always need to hold on to the hope of Jesus returning. But God and the souls of people are eternal.” So what am I doing now in preparation for His coming Kingdom? What are you doing?
I learned that Muslims, Christians, and Jews share quite a few deep roots together, but there are also a lot of significant differences. I pray that there may be peace and that we love each other as God has called us to. I pray for hearts to be softened and that they may know the love of the Father. I pray God will reveal Himself to each of us and that we may answer obediently and have the courage to step into that leap of faith. Not just today, nor tomorrow, nor this weekend, but live by faith everyday in the daily moments even when it seems like it doesn’t matter. To God, it matters.
Jesus, thank you for all that you have done for me. Thank you for the blood that you shed for me. Thank you for this breath of life you have given me. Pastor Flowers, at Alamo Community Church, defines grace as an unmerited, underserved, unwarranted favor of God. That’s what my name means. That’s what we all live under - the grace of God.
May 31 - Day 0
Arrive in Tel Aviv
June 1 - Day 1
Yad Hashmona Biblical Garden at the hotel
Biblical village covering the northern hillside of the Moshav grounds
I expected some ruins to remain but according to Dan, our Israeli tour guide, only 3-5% of the ruins have been excavated. Crazy!
Where the Philistines returned the Ark of the Covenant to the Israelites in 1 Samuel 6 and sent the Ark to Kiriath Jearim because the people of Beth Shemesh were fearful after 70 inhabitants died because they looked into the ark. David attempted to bring the Ark back from Kiriath Jearim (2 Samuel 6) and Uzzah died because he touched the ark.
Battleground for the civil war between King Amaziah of Judah and King Jehoash of Israel
Sorek Valley (Image 1)
Story of Samson
Personal Challenge Question: What are you willing to compromise? How far are you willing to go?
Tel Azekah (Image 2)
City ruins overlooking the Elah Valley where David killed Goliath (1 Samuel 17)
Elah Valley (Image 3)
Battlefield of David and Goliath- picked up rocks in the same brook where David would have picked up his 5 smooth stones
Personal Challenge Question: Saul was about self-preservation. Am I self-preserving like Saul? Or am I willing to trust the God of this universe, the same God who defeated Goliath with David standing as a bare man, with no armor, no helmet, no sword, but only a sling and rocks?
Tel Lachish (Image 4, Image 5)
Important city that had several significant battles
First mentioned in Joshua 10- Amorite city conquered by Joshua and assigned to Tribe of Judah in 15:39
2 Kings 14:19/2 Chron 25:27- King Amaziah of Judah instigated a civil war with King Jehoash of Israel and was defeated, captured, and imprisoned in Samaria. After the death of King Jehoash, people of judah conspired against King Amaziah, and he fled to Lachish where he was killed.
Micah 1:13 - Lachish was one of the first cities of Judah to adopt idolatry from Israel. Micah warns the people that destruction of Samaria by Assyria will happen to Judah
2 Kings 18- King Hezekiah offers tribute to King Sennacherib of Assyria in exchange for his cities as Lachish has been captured. King Sennacherib sends his chief officer and field commander from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem to deliver a warning that they should give up the city. Hezekiah prays and Lord delivers them from the Assyrians.
Jeremiah 34:7 - Lachish is last of 3 cities (Jerusalem, Azekah) holding out from Babylon’s conquest
Nehemiah 11:30- people resettle in Lachish during the Persian period
We worshiped outside the gates of Lachish and overlooked the valley where the Israelites would have wandered for 40 years
Day 1 Recap Thoughts: Can’t believe we are really here in Israel and we are really where these stories take place
June 2- Day 2
Means “well of the seven”
Southernmost city of ancient Israel, temporary Home of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and where Abraham moved his family from the region of Negev
Genesis 21- Abraham made a treaty with King Abimelech of Philistines, because the king saw that Abraham’s wife was beautiful. He told the king that she was his sister. Abraham gave the king 7 lambs as a seal of covenant because the king’s servants had overtaken the well that belonged to Abraham. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree and called on the name of the Lord.
Genesis 26- Isaac also makes an oath with Abimelech and built an altar for the Lord and found water in the well. Isaac calls the place Shibah - “oath” or “seven”
Beer = 7, Shiba = oath
Hagar and Elijah in the wilderness of Beersheba when God spoke to them
Becomes center of idolatry after Samuel’s 2 wicked sons serve there
Wilderness of Zin and Paran (Image 6, Image 7)
Part of the Negev desert, where Israelites wandered before entering the Promised Land, small water hole at the end, greenery and wildlife still today. God provided them manna!
Arad (Image 8)
Ancient desert city
Numbers 21- Canaanite king destroyed by Israelites, story of the bronze snake on the pole appears right afterwards, 2 altars seen in Arad, false worship
Personal Challenge Question: Who/What is your other God?
Dead Sea (Image 9, Image 10, Image 11)
Lowest point on the face of the earth (1412 feet below sea level)
Day 2 Recap Thoughts: Being in the desert for 40 years really sucks because it was so hot when we walked there. But there was still wildlife and water there! Floating in the Dead Sea was amazing!! The salinity is 34.2%.
June 3 - Day 3
Masada (Image 12, Image 13, Image 14, Image 15)
Not in the bible but reminds me of “Alamo" in San Antonio
Impenetrable fortress built by King Herod
Jewish zealots made the final stand against the invasion of Rome
They were destroyed when Romans brought Jews to build a ramp and break open the gates. The people of Masada decided not to kill the Jews because they were their own people.
They committed suicide and killed their women and children rather than be put to death and become slaves of Rome
WWII changed perspective of heroism in Jewish culture. Before WWII, heroism was thought of as being strong and fighting back. After WWII, heroism was survival.
Ein Gedi Oasis (Image 16, Image 17)
Hiked in the waterfalls and desert caves where David was exiled in the wilderness from persecution by King Saul (1 Samuel 24)
Personal Challenge Question: David did not kill Saul but still sinned against God by cutting a portion of his robe and showing off what he could have done. When have I disobeyed God even if it is something small? Do I trust God to provide for me as God has provided for David and given him food, water, shelter in the wilderness?
Qumran (Image 18, Image 19)
Desert caves where Dead Sea scrolls were found
Day 3 Recap Thoughts:
Masada was an impressive fortress. They had enough water to last them for years and built a cistern tunnel so that when it floods once every 3-4 years, the cistern would fill.
Ein Gedi waterfall hikes were gorgeous and the water was actually cool and refreshing. I can see why David camped out here.
Qumran- amazing that Dead Sea scrolls found after a shepherd boy was looking for his lost sheep and came across this cave and wasn’t discovered until 1946 which is like my grandma’s generation. Not that long ago. This is the original text!
June 4 - Day 4
The hotel that we stayed in was attempting to build a site for its hotel, but while digging to lay their foundation they came across ruins, which later became an excavation site. They had to move the location of the hotel
1st century synagogue
Luke 8- Jesus casted out 7 demons from Mary, she was at the cross of Jesus’s last breath, one of the first that Jesus had revealed his resurrection
Personal Challenge Question: How to be a good disciple?
Mount Arbel (Image 20, Image 21)
Overlooks the western side of te Sea of Galilee
Matthew 28:18- possible place where the Great Commission was given and many of his other miracles and where he taught the crowds, possibly a place where he “went to the mountain and prayed”
Personal Challenge Question: Am I investing in someone? Am I making disciples?
Didn’t visit but saw from afar on Mt Arbel- located in Jezreel Valley
Matthew 17- believed to be the place of transfiguration
Judges- Deborah summoned Barak to gather his army from Naphtali and Zebulun at Mt. Tabor
Judges 8: 18-21 - Gideon avenges his brother’s death on Mt Tabor
Boat Ride on Sea of Galilee (Image 22, Image 23)
Matthew 14:22- Jesus and Peter walk on water
Personal Challenge Question: “You of little faith.” Why do you doubt?
Capernaum (Image 24, Image 25)
Jesus’ hometown during his Galilean ministry
Matthew 8:14- visited Peter’s house! Jesus healed Peter’s Mother in law
many miracles happened here: Jesus healed centurion’s servant, Jarius’ daughter, 2 blind men, casts out demons, women with abnormal bleeding, lots of fish caught
Matthew 11:20- the towns (Capernaum, Chorazin, Bethsaida) missed the point. Jesus curses them because they rejected him
The community Jesus rebuked for their lack of faith
Judges 9- watch out what leader you have
Mount of Beatitudes
Traditional place where Christ delivered the Sermon the mount (Matthew 5)
Day 4 Recap Thoughts: coolest thing was probably the boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. We rode in a replica boat of what Jesus would have been on when teaching from the boat. Why do we doubt?
June 5 - Day 5
Tel Dan (Image 26, Image 27)
Northernmost city of Israel and one of the locations of King Jeroboam’s golden calves (Dan and Bethel)- 1 Kings 12
Located in the Golan Heights
Formerly called Laish before the tribe of Dan occupied it. People were thought to be Phoenicians (Sidonians were Phoenicians from the city of Sidon) and saw how plentiful the land was and isolated from everyone because it was surrounded by mountains
Judges 17& 18- Micah takes a Levite who was sojourning and Micah hired him as a priest of his household. Tribe of Dan was seeking for a place to dwell and came across Micah’s place and stole carved images, ephod, etc and offered the Levite a “better position” of being a priest over a tribe than one man and burned the city and rebuilt the city to live in it and called it Dan and set up false idols and served by a grandson of Moses.
Personal Challenge Question: What is my idol? Have I tossed it away?
Banias Waterfall (Image 28)
One of the headwaters of the Jordan River leading into Tel Dan
Caesarea Philippi (Image 29)
Temple of Pan- half human, half goat
City so wicked that it forbade Jews to enter
Matthew 16:13- Who do you say I am? Peter professes that Christ is the Son of the Living God
Located in Golan Heights
Personal Challenge Question: Who do you say I am?
Golan Heights (Image 30)
A view of Paul’s route to Damascus and overlook of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan Borders
Deut 4:43, Josh 20:8, 1 Chron 6:71- where half of the tribe of Manasseh settled and Golan is named as a city of refuge. Bashan region/Golan Heights is part of biblical territory promised to Abraham and his people in Genesis 15:18
Mount Hermon specifically mentioned in Judges 3:3 where Philistines lived, 1 Chron 5:23 where half of tribe of Manesseh lived
President Trump recognized Israel’s sovereignty over Golan in 2019
Area of power struggle between Israel Kings and Aramaeans (modern-day Damascus). Following Assyrian, Babylonian rule, Jews returned to their homeland. During Persian rule, many Arabs settled in the region in the 2nd century BC and remained until the Byzantine period. In the 16th century, Ottoman Empire conquered the land and eventually became part of the Syrian Arab Republic in 1946. After WWII, many Jews returned to Israel again and declared Israel as an Independent country in 1947. 6 Day War of 1967 and Israel has control approx ⅔ of the Golan Heights as of today
We met Dalton Thomas from Frontier Alliance International (FAI)
Closed for the day but we sat nearby the Sea of Galilee
Hometown of Peter, Andrew, Philip
John 21:15 - where Jesus would have prepared breakfast for them and asked Peter if he loved him 3 times, Peter denied him 3 times, Peter’s last denial was around the fire and last redeeming moment was around a fire, 3rd time Jesus appeared to them
Day 5 Recap Thoughts: City of Dan was real and false idols. Pray for the people of Israel as tension builds and maybe no resolution until Jesus returns.
June 6 - Day 6
Caesarea (Image 31, Image 32)
Built by King Herod
Acts 10- where Peter 1st took the message of the Gospel to the Gentiles- Peter and Cornelius- possible 1st Gentile convert?
Important port city
Acts 8:1, 40- Philip the Evangelist settled in Caesarea after a mass persecution from Saul in Jerusalem. After conversion, Paul also traveled through Caesarea several times, and in Acts 21, stayed with Philip. Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea for years before being sent to Rome for trial and shared the gospel with Roman officials Acts 23-26.
Mount Carmel (Image 33)
1 Kings 18- Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal
Megiddo (Image 34)
Strategic city that was 1st mentioned in Joshua 12:21 and was one of the Hitties, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites who were defeated by Joshua
Joshua 17:11- territory of Manasseh
Judges 5:19- mentioned in battle between Sisera, Barak, and Deborah
1 Kings 9:15- one of cities rebuilt/fortified by Solomon
2 Kings 9:27- King Ahaziah of Judah wounded in battle with King Jehu who was overthrowing Joram. King Ahaziah fled to Megiddo where he died from his wounds.
2 Kings 23:29-30- King Josiah of Judah fought against Pharaoh Necho at Megiddo and died
Zechariah 12- predicted to be the place where Armegeddon (Har Megiddo or “mount Megiddo”) is to take place and correlates with Revelation 16
Mount Precipice (Image 35)
A panoramic view overlooking Nazareth and Jezreel Valley
Aka ”leaping mountain”- Luke 4- where Jesus would have jumped when they chased him of the cliff
Personal Challenge Question: What are your expectations of the Messiah?
Day 6 Recap Thoughts: Megiddo- this is where it all could go down.
June 7 - Day 7
Beth She’an (Image 36, Image 37, Image 38)
1 Samuel 31- city where Philistines displayed the bodies of King Saul and his sons
Formerly known as Scythopolis and was the leading city of the Decapolis in Roman times
Mark 5- Jesus freed the man with demons into swines would have occurred here? At Kursi Overlook
1 John 1- do not love the world- city destroyed by earthquake
Spring of Harod (Image 39)
Judges 6-7 spring where Gideon was led by God to choose 300 men for battle
Lapping like a dog (bowing down) vs kneeling down to drink water
Spring feeds into Mount Gilboa where Saul dies
Personal Challenge Question: Would you let God take over if the odds were 1:40,000?
Jericho (Image 40, Image 41)
very brief stop at Jericho
Approx. 60 ft high x 6 ft wide - approx 2 km to walk around the walls
Approx. 1,000 people
Model of 1st Century Jerusalem (Image 42)
Large scale model of Jerusalem
Shrine of the Book- section of the Israel Museum that houses the Dead Sea Scrolls replica
Mount of Olives (Image 43, Image 44)
A hill overlooking Jerusalem from the east where Jesus ascended to heaven
Zechariah 14- mount olive splits into 2 at the end times to the east
The mount currently used as a Jewish cemetery for over 3,000 years and holds over 150,000 graves
2 Samuel 15:30- David escaped from Absalom and went up to the Mount of Olives
1 Kings 11:7-8- King Solomon built idols on top of the Mount and became a mount full of idolatry until King Josiah destroyed the high places
Many Jews want to be buried on the Mount of Olives because believes the resurrection of the dead will begin there
Jesus taught on Mount of Olives (en route to Bethany)- taught known as the Olivet Disclosure (also known as the Little Apocalypse)
5 Disclosures of Matthew (parallels in Mark and Luke)
Sermon the Mount - Matthew 5-7→ Beatitudes and Lord’s Prayer → central characteristics of Christian discipleship
Mission Discourse- Matthew 10→ Great Commission
Parabolic Discourse - Matthew 13→ parables for the Kingdom of Heaven
Discourse of the Church - Matthew 18→ themes for the future church and roles of his apostles in leading it with humility and self-sacrifice
Discourse of the End Times- Matthew 23-25→ Jesus talks about the future Kingdom, the temple destroyed, tribulation, judgment, Antichrist
Jesus wept on the Mount of Olives after his triumphal entry (Luke 19)
Jesus betrayed at the Garden of Gethsemane which is at the foot of Mount of Olives
Acts 1 - Christ ascension into Heaven
Day 7 Recap Thoughts: The spring was probably the best part. A beautiful area with river flowing, trees. At 1:40,000…the odds aren’t looking great. But odds don’t matter to God. As we get closer to the end of the trip, my brain has become more and more full and I start taking less and less notes.
June 8- Day 8
Temple Mount (Image 45, Image 46)
Also known as Mount Moriah/ Mount Zion and for Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary
Originally inhabited by Canaanites, otherwise known as Jebusites in 1850 BC and David conquered it in 2 Samuel 5:6 and moves his capital to Jerusalem and calls it the City of David
Genesis 22- Abraham binded Issac on Mount Moriah
Genesis 28:10- Jacob’s dream of the ladder when traveling from Beer-Sheba to Haran to escape his brother. Dreamed he saw a ladder that stretched from earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending
Genesis 25:11- Issac prayed for his wife Rebekah to bear children
2 Samuel 24- David was tempted by Satan and counted a census. Gad, the prophet, came to David and gave him 3 options between 3 years of famine, 3 months of fleeing from his enemies, or 3 days of plague. The Lord sent 3 days of plague and 70,000 people died. The angel that stretched out his hand to destroy Jerusalem was at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. Gad told David to build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Aranuah and paid 50 shekels of silver for the threshing floor. And the plague stopped.
1 Kings 6- Solomon builds 1st temple (no archeological artifacts have been discovered yet) and where the Ark stood- the Holy of Holies
1st temple destroyed by King Nebby in 586 BC
Jews allowed to travel back to Jerusalem during 1st year of Cyrus the Great in 538 BC
Zerubbabel (leader of the Judah tribe) who, governor appointed by King Darius I of Persia, led efforts to build the 2nd temple with Joshua ,the high priest (Ezra 3:2-8, Haggai and Zechariah, and finished in 516 BC and enlarged by Herod the Great in 12 BC
2nd temple destroyed in 70 AD by Romans, commander Titus and Emperor Vespasian
In Judaism, the Foundation Stone which sits below the Dome of the Rock was the spot where the world was first created
After Roman empire, Byzantine empire rose and Constantine’s nephew Emperor Julian granted permission in 363 AD for Jews to rebuild the Temple but plans thwarted after 1st great earthquake
Persian empire took over and the site was turned into a dumpyard. Arabs conquered the land in 637 and Caliph Umar inquired a Jew where the temple was and said it was on this hill. They cleaned the area and found a sacred Rock, and the Jew advised advised him to build a mosque north of the rock but build a mosque south of the rock at the “farthest edge”.
Muslims build the Dome of the Rock in 691AD corresponding to the Muslim belief that Muhammad’s Night Journey of when he received the 5 pillars also occured here in 621 AD
No mosque in Jerusalem yet so Caliph Umar built the Al-Aqsa Mosque “farthest edge” in 705 AD to commemorate the prophet’s night visit
Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099 and turned Dome of the Rock into a church
Arabs took back control and returned it back to a mosque
Ottoman period in 1516 prohibited non-Muslims from setting foot on Temple Mount until 19th century. Jews not allowed to visit for approx. 1,000 years
Under Jordan control 1948-1967, no Israeli Arabs or Israeli Jews could visit
Israel took control of Temple Mount during 6 day War of 1967
Currently Israeli security control but administration of the site under Jerusalem Islamic Waqf control
Jews banned to enter the Temple Mount and ban on non-Muslim prayer on site
Holy spechulure, Temple Mount, East Gate, Kidron Valley, Mount Olive, Jordan River, Mount Nebo, Elijah taken up?
Hanukkah- feast to celebrate Jews victory over the Greeks
Western Wall Tunnel (Image 47, Image 48)
Did a tour of the underground excavation exposing the full length of the Western Wall- the original Western Wall!!
”Western/Wailing” Wall (Image 49, Image 50)
A section of the Temple Mount built by Herod the Great- one of the holiest sites in Judaism because symbolizes what is left from Jesus time
Men and women have different sections. Jews come and pray here 3x per day. We prayed at the wall
City of David Excavations (Image 51, Image 52)
Original site of the capital of Israel during King David’s reign- no proof that David existed to this day but found a signet ring from one of the Kings (King Hezekiah?)
Tyropoeon/Central Valley is on its west, Hinnom Valley to south, Kidron Valley on East, and Temple Mount to its north
Today located in the Arab Palestinian neighborhood called Silwan
Hezekiah’s Tunnel (Image 53, Image 54)
Dug to survive the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem and to prevent enemies from having access to waters
Tunnel leads from Gihon Spring to Pool of Siloam
Excavated by 2 teams one starting at each end of the tunnel and then meeting in the middle
Gihon means “gushing” - Solomon anointed at Gihon Spring- 1 Kings 1
Tunnel is 530 meters long
Pool of Siloam (Image 55, Image 56)
“Siloam” means “Sent”
John 9 - pool where Jesus sent the man born blind to be healed
Built during the reign of Hezekiah in 715-687 BC to leave besieging armies without access to the spring’s waters particularly when Assyrian King Sennascherib was a threat. King Hezekiah built the Siloam/Hezekiah’s tunnel fed by Gihon Spring in replace of the older Canaanite tunnel that led to the Upper Pool (2 Kings 18:17, Isaiah 7:3)
Also known as the Lower Pool (Isaiah 22:9)
The pool was the starting point for the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem and where they ascended by foot to the inner court of the Temple Mount
Pool was used perhaps for ritual purification before visiting the Temple Mount but ritual baths are typically smaller in size. Others say it was used for swimming.
Pool was destroyed and covered after the 1st Jewish-Roman War in 70 AD
Only source of fresh water within the walls of ancient Jerusalem
Pool was used during the Feast of Tabernacles where the priest would draw water with a golden vessel and pour water on the altar while saying Psalms 113-118 illustrating Isaiah 12:3 “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” On the 8th and final day of the Feast, this is when Jesus made his announcement of “let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them” (John 7:37-38).
Significance of this Pool was that Jesus was showing He is the one “Sent” by God to be Light of the World and to offer the only living water.
Day 8 Recap Thoughts: My thoughts on Day 8-10 are pretty much summarized in my thoughts at the beginning
June 9- Day 9
Herodian fortress (Image 57)
Matthew 2:1-16- King Herod kills all children in Bethlehem in that region under the age of 2
Fortress was 8 miles from Jerusalem and 3 miles SE of Bethlehem
Built in 40 BC and destroyed by Romans in 71 AD
King Herod appointed by Roman Empire to rule Judea on behalf of Rome from 37 to 4 BC
Built many great things in his time- Caesarea Maritime, Masada, enlarged Temple Mount, Herodian fortress, Caves of Patriarchs in Hebron
Herod was born in Idumea, South of Judea, to a high ranking official Antipater and Cypros, an Arab princess from the city of Petra
Herod’s father was an Edomite descent but ancestors converted to Judaism so Herod was raised as a Jew but he has Arab descents on both sides of his family. His father was given Roman citizenship by Julius Caesar.
Herod first rose to power when he was appointed provincial governor of Galilee in 47 BC due to his father’s good relations with Julius Caesar and later appointed King of the Jews by the Roman Senate
Herod’s throne was always under threat. He became paranoid and killed 3 sons, some in-laws and wife
Church of Nativity (Image 58, Image 59, Image 60, Image 61)
Located in Bethlehem
Oldest church built in 330-333 AD
Church originally commissioned by Constantine in 327 AD
Comprises of 3 different monasteries- Roman Catholic, Armenian Apostolic, Greek Orthodox
Where Jesus was born
Saw hillsides overlooking Bethlehem where shepherds would have tended to their flock
Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum (Image 63, Image 64)
I remember hearing the story of a boy who was blindfolded but could see just enough what was below him and lined up in a straight line with his dad and his dad starts reciting the morning prayer “Hear, O Israel” and the boy fell on the ground before the gunshot. He laid still and soon, bodies were lying on top of him. The boy managed to escape with another young boy but he remembers his father’s last words- “Hear, O Israel.”
“I know that when I stand before God on Judgment Day, I shall not be asked the question posed to Cain- where were you when your brother's blood was crying out to God?” -Imre Bathory
Image 63. When you are done with the museum, it leads you to an exit outside and the view is this. As you walk throughout the museum, the walkways seem twisted and confusing. Also, as you walk through the museum, it feels as if a tunnel is caving in. It feels like the 2 sides of the walls are enclosing in on you, but then it opens out to this great view and it’s open space. It gives an overwhelming sense of hope and peace.
The girls got tattoos at the oldest family tradition tattoo parlor in Jerusalem. I was their photographer :) their tattoo says “Daughter of God” in Hebrew (Image 65, Image 66)
Day 9 Recap Thoughts:
June 10- Day 10
Garden of Gethsemane - “Church of All Nations” (Image 67, Image 68)
Gethsemane in Hebrew means “olive press.” To produce olive oil, increasing loads of pressure are added on top of the wooden beam that is pressing the olives until they are completely exhausted and drained. 1st pressure produced the purest virgin oil which was used for anointing in Temple courts and at services. The 2nd stage of pressure of oil was used for cooking. The 3rd stage was for lighting and 4th for cleaning.
At the foot of the Mount of Olives
Mark 14, Luke 22, John 18
After the Passover meal, Jesus led Peter, James and John to Gethsemane and prayed before his arrest in the garden. Jesus was in such deep agony and deep sorrow during his prayer he was sweating drops of blood. You can think of the weight that he carried as if it were an olive press.
When they came to arrest him, he willingingly surrendered. Greatest display of surrender and obedience to the Father as he said “not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).
Trees in the garden today are not the same trees at the time of Christ but some of the oldest trees date back to 12 AD
Pool of Bethesda/St. Anne’s Church
John 5- you don’t need to be stuck where you are
Jesus heals a man on Sabbath who has been bedridden for 38 years and could not make his way into the pool. Many people believed that if they were the 1st one to enter the pool when the waters were stirred up, they would be healed. The bubbles came from an underground spring and ppl thought the bubbles were caused by the dipping of an angels’ wings. Jesus tells him to pick up his mat and go.
Near the Lion’s gate or St. Stephen’s Gate
Currently located in the Muslim quarter
We sang at St. Anne’s church which had a large dome and a nice echo as we sang. St. Anne’s is right next to the pool
Lion’s Gate (Image 69)
Traditional site of stoning of St. Stephen
Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Image 70, Image 71, Image 72, Image 73)
Also called the Church of Resurrection
Many scholars believe Jesus was crucified and buried here
Key to the church is given to a Muslim family in a way of maintaining a netural stance since the church is split between 6 Christian denominations, called the Status Quo: Roman Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Egyptian Copts Orthodox, Syrian-Jacobites orthodox, Ethiopian orthodox. The Status Quo was established in 1757 during Ottoman rule to help maintain the peace and understanding between religious communities. The Status Quo is applied to 9 sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem including Tomb of Virgin Mary, Church of Nativity, Western Wall, Chapel of Ascension, etc.
Tomb is enclosed by a 19th century shrine called Aedicula
After Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 AD, in 130 AD, Roman emperor Hadrian ordered a cave containing the rock-cut tomb to be filled with a flat foundation and a temple dedicated to Jupiter and Venus. Constantine’s mother, Helena, looked for Christ’s tomb and believed to found the True cross in 312 and Constantinie replaced the temple to Jupiter/Venus to be replaced by a church. As they were tearing down the temple, they found a rock-cut tomb and believed it was the burial site of Jesus. A shrine was then built to enclose the rock tomb walls.
Via Dolorosa (Image 74, Image 75)
The path that Jesus walked while carrying his cross on his way to crucifixion
Starts from Antonia Fortress and goes to the Church of Holy Sepulchre - approx. 600 meters
Garden Tomb (Image 76, Image 77, Image 78, Image 79, Image 80)
Founded in 1867
Some people (particularly Protestant church) believe this is the actual site of burial and resurrection of Jesus as it holds a more ancient and natural outlook than the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Garden tomb dates back to 5-8th century BC which means it was not a “new tomb” in the time of Jesus
There’s a rocky escarpment that looks like a skull- aka the Skull of Golgotha
Jesus was crucified outside the city walls which explains Garden Tomb but not Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Also believed that the crucifixion would have occurred on the road as it was common during Roman period to have crucifixions as people were traveling into and out of town so people can look at the power of the Romans
Day 10 Recap Thoughts: My brain is so full of information. I need to spend some time reflecting on everything that happened during this trip.