As part of a tour group, we were given a few minutes in many churches for our tour guide (professor Victor Ludlow) to give an explanation. We often sang a hymn together after his explanations. Singing in the churches was one of my favorite parts of this trip, as music has such a special way of inviting the spirit. We often sang "I am a Child of God" with the chorus changing from: know, do, be on each verse.
I loved the feeling here at the Garden Tomb! Because the site looks similar to what it would have in Jesus' day (instead of a cathedral on the spot), it was easier to picture the resurrection and crucifixion. The garden surrounding the site was also beautiful.
It was special that we were able to visit Joseph's tomb, as it is in Palestinian territory and tourists aren't often allowed here. Even for us it came down to a successful negotiation between our guide and the local soldiers.
It was fascinating to hear the Samaritans side of history. They believe Mt Gerizim is the sacred mount instead of the the temple mount in Jerusalem. They have their own version of the Torah. They create these beautiful fruit decorations on their ceiling for one of their celebrations.
Shiloh is were the Ark of the Covenant was kept before the Israelites conquered Jerusalem and built the temple there. Also the story of Hannah giving her son Samuel to God occurred here.
Beersheba is the site of one of Abraham's wells, where he, Isaac, Jacob (Israel), and their family's lived (in tents, and moved around to Abraham's various wells in the area) until they moved to Egypt. Then a Canaanite city was built here. When the Israelites returned from Egypt with Moses, they conquered the city.
The Israelites built this amazing cistern water system, to catch rain water and access the underground spring from within the city walls, around the time of King David.
Machpelah is the cave Abraham purchased as the family tomb. In this cave are the tombs of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob (Israel), & Leah. Rachel's tomb is in Bethlehem since she died giving birth to Benjamin. The church above the cave has a cenotaph (memorial) to each of these people. The church is divided in half (wall down the middle) with one side for Muslims and the other side for Jews. One side of the cenotaphs for Abraham and Sarah can be seen from the Muslim side, and the other side of their cenotaphs is seen from the Jewish side. The cenotaphs for Isaac and Rebekah are on the Muslim side, and the cenotaphs for Jacob (Israel) and Leah are on the Jewish side. As Christians we could visit both sides of this church. On the Muslim side all female visitors are asked to wear an abaya and head scarf, and on the Jewish side all male visitors are asked to wear a head covering.
There is a church in Shepherd's Field to commemorate the shepherds visit to baby Jesus. There is also a shepherd's cave (stable) there. People would keep their sheep and animals in the natural caves in the area (like barns or stables) and build a gate/fence in the cave entrance. The manger, where the animals food was placed, would have been made of stone. The stable where Jesus was born was likely a cave similar to this one. Our group was able to spend a few minutes together in this cave reflecting on Christ's birth and singing some Christmas songs. This cave was one of my favorite sites to visit, as it helped me visualize Jesus' birth.
The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is built over top of the cave (stable) claimed to be the birth place of Jesus Christ. There are stairs inside the church that lead into this cave which is lavishly decorated.
Masada is a fortress/ palace/ vacation home built by Herod on top of a mountain with a flat top and cliffs on all sides. This palace was very elaborate. Herod wanted a waterfall in the gardens even though its a dessert, so he had slaves pour buckets of water at the top of the waterfall continuously. There was also a fancy roman bath house and a lot of food storage in case of emergency/invasion.
Masada later became a refuge for Jewish Zealots fleeing the Romans after Jerusalem fell. The Roman army surrounded the base of Masada and used Jewish slaves to build a ramp to the top of the mountain to capture these Jewish Zealots. When it was clear the Romans were about to conquer them, and thus they would all be either killed or become slaves, they decided to commit suicide. Nearly 1,000 people- men, women, and children- died that day.
Ein Gedi is a gorgeous series of waterfalls. This was a fun hike! David hid from King Saul here- maybe in a cave.
Qumran is where the Dead Sea Scrolls (including nearly all the old testament) were found. The Essenes (an offset of Judaism) wrote these scrolls and hid them in jars in the caves above their settlement.
This is a very old city which was inhabited by a variety of groups of people (most of them not Jews or Christian) starting in the 15th century BC until it was destroyed in an earthquake in 747 AD. Most of the ruins are Roman. It was interesting to learn about the Roman amphitheater and bath house construction.
The last battle before the millenium begins (Armageddon) is foretold to occur in the valley of Meggido. The city of Meggido is extremely old with ruins from 22 different civilizations.
This is a beautiful church on the Mount of Transfiguration, where Jesus was transfigured. This is also the location of the battle that the biblical prophetess Deborah foretold. There is also the remains of a 4th century AD baptismal font.
This is the where the branch in Tiberias meets and the missionary couple live. It was moving to here the stories of the members there and the challenge it is to be a member there. There was also a beautiful view of the sea of Galilee from the balcony.
This church and the gardens surrounding it on the site of the Sermon on the Mount was beautiful.
Capernaum is on the Sea of Galilee and was the home base for 18 months of Jesus' 3 year ministry. Part of the ruins of Capernaum (supposedly Peters house) are located underneath a church.
We took a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee (the sea that plays a large role in Jesus' teachings) in a replica of an ancient fishing boat. This was one of the highlights of the trip.
This village (located adjacent to original village) is a full size functioning replica of Nazareth in Jesus' time. Everything is done as it would have been done then. We saw shepherds with their sheep, a carpenter, a weaver, an olive press, a rabbi and synagogue, and more. It does a great job of showing what life was like then! This was one of my favorite places to visit!
Herod built this large city on the coast of the Meditertanean Sea.
This church is to commemorate Peter's revelation of taking the gospel to the gentiles. This city is also where the boat Jonah got on left from (instead of going to Ninevah as God asked)
Saturday was the Sabbath again, we got to the Jerusalem Center early to see the gardens (including functioning grape and wine presses) and then attended stake conference.
That afternoon we got our first (guided) tour of the old city itself, visiting the four quarters, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and one of my favorite's: the Cathedral of Saint Anne (which overlooks the Pool of Bethesda partially excavated 50 feet below ground).
The Holy Mount, site of the original Jewish temples, is now under Islamic control. However, as Christians we were allowed to visit (though couldn't enter the Dome of the Rock itself).
We also (re)visited the western wall and spent some time in the excavations along the south.
Later that day we went to see the actual Dead Sea Scrolls in the Israeli museum (no photos of course...) and the Holocaust museum (which was well done, but we both liked the DC one better).
That afternoon we had some free time to visit old Jerusalem.
Jacob's favorite wife, Rachel, died during childbirth in Bethlehem. Though not on the original itinerary, we were able to squeeze in a visit here. The majority of Bethlehem is under Palestinian control, but the wall intrudes into their territory just enough to give Jews (heavily guarded) access to this Synagogue.
Access to water was (and still is) of strategic importance in this land. The inhabitants of Jerusalem dug a tunnel over half a kilometer through the bedrock to route water from the outside-the-city spring into the walls. They started at both ends, and after a few zigs and zags and false ends managed to meet. Nearly three thousand years later the water is still flowing, and is open for those who have no fear of tight spaces, absolute darkness, and cold running water nearly to the waist to walk through. It empties into the pool of Siloam, where Jesus sent the blind man to wash and be healed.
We cast some stones where David slew Goliath.
Rather than spend the free afternoon resting or shopping, Robert and his Dad decided to see some more sites in Hebron. Deep in Palestinian territory, they had quite the adventure finding locations (Abraham's spring, Jesse and Ruth's tomb and Synagogue (complete with armed guard on top), the Oak of Mamre (both sites)) so obscure taxi drivers didn't know where they were. Good things we had our excellent guide Joseph to do the shouting at security towers, leading over barbed wire, and otherwise keeping us safe. My favorite was the ancient Tel Hebron, dating back to Abraham's day (and before), half-excavated under an apartment complex next to a modern playground.
We spent our last day in Jerusalem visiting sites pertaining to the last 24 hours of Jesus' ministry: the traditional site of the last supper (also housing King David's Cenotaph), St. Peter's Gallicantu (possible site of the palace of Caiaphas where Peter denied the Christ) including the prison (cave) where Jesus was likely held, back in through Lion's gate and through the fortress of Pontius Pilate, along the Via Dolorosa, and finishing up at the Garden Tomb where we had a chance to meet and ponder the atonement and resurrection.
We left Jerusalem and headed over to Jordan, crossing the Jordan river and catching the view Moses and the hosts of Israel would have had of their new land from Mount Nebo. On our way to Petra we stopped and saw the famous Byzantine mosaic map of the holy land in Madaba and stopped by a more modern (but still all by hand) mosaic factory that had beautiful artwork. That night we stayed in a very unique hotel modeled after ancient near-east villages.
Petra, one of the new 7 wonders of the world, is an ancient city carved into the sandstone by the Nabataeans. The geography (and climate) was reminiscent of southern Utah, though the rocks decidedly more colorful (I've never seen such deep purple hues like that before). And, of course, the monuments themselves were quite impressive. To give an idea of the scale, see if you can see us sitting/standing in the entrance of the last monument.