My trip to the Holy Land, Israel

WOW!! It has been awhile since I have blogged, but I have a great reason. I went to ISRAEL!! It was amazing to say the very least. I saw, experienced so much in such little time that it was very overwhelming.

When I got home, of course, everyone saw my facebook posts and would say something like “Looks like you had a great time” or “How was your trip?” I knew I couldn’t express my adventure in just a 3 min conversation. To be honest, I have not sat down with anyone to really TALK about my trip. No one has the time to sit and listen, so this is my chance to “talk” about my trip, write down my experiences and then I can look back on this blog post and be reminded of everything I saw.

I took close to 3,000 photos and saw 40 different sites.

I went on this trip with 21 other people. A great group from my church. My mom and husband went as well as the pastor, his mom and Jim that is in the church band. I didn’t know anyone else. After the trip was over, I knew everyone and gladly call each one friend 🙂

Our days started every morning at waking up at 5:30am (10:30pm my time back home) we would go eat breakfast at the hotel then be on the bus most days by 7:00am. I have to say I never had a hard time waking up. I was always excited for the day to come. I roomed with my mom and Ryan stayed with Jim. I love LOVE LOVE experiencing this with my mom and Ryan.

***WARNING LONG POST AHEAD***

I am going to share each stop with you so if interested, please continue reading…

The land around us changed so fast, we would go from city to desert, from one religion to another, from intense culture to untouched nature…this is a land of extremes all packed into a very small space.

And in order to experience this country, you need to be prepared to process every one of those extremes, and to then rest and recover before you move on to the next. I learned this quickly during my recent trip to Israel, a trip that was far too short to get a full understanding of what a traveler can experience here, but that offered an eye-opening glimpse nonetheless.

DAY 1

Caesarea

We went to the Roman Ampitheater.

Caesarea is the place where Pontius Pilate governed during the time of Jesus. This was where Simon Peter converted the Roman, Cornelius, the first non-Jew to believe in Jesus. Paul was also imprisoned for two years in Caesarea. Seawater pool in King Herod’s Palace. He had a huge backyard pool!

We were overlooking the Mediterran Sea so I had to get a photo in front of it 🙂

Haifa, Mt Carmel

Pastor Brent read the story of Elijah from the top of the mountain. That was really cool.

Mt Carmel
Found in 1 Kings Chapter 16. Elijah called Fire from heaven from the prophets of Baal

Olive Trees

This was a church built below. The statue is representing Elijah.

Mt Meggido aka Armageddon

This was our tour guide Johnny. He did a great job!

Mount Megiddo, the hill overlooking the valley where the current kibbutz is located, is identified as the site of the final battle between the forces of good and evil at the end of time, known as Armageddon and mentioned in the New Testament in Revelation 16:16.

King Soloman built a war machine here which included 4,000 stalls for chariot-horses and 12,000 horsemen. 2nd Chronicles 9

On our drive to the next location, our tour guide pointed out a tomb on the side of the road with a roll away stone. This wasn’t Jesus tomb, but showing us that this was a common tomb.

Nazareth

This is where Jesus grew up. Being in this town was unreal. I have to say, I have heard and have read about Nazareth, but to know that it is a real place and to just walk down those streets and watch the people, It was one of the highlights of my trip. 

We stopped here for lunch and had a pinta bread sandwich. It was very good!

Church of Annunciation

We then went to Where the Angel told Mary she would have a child named Jesus. Keep in mind EVERYTHING has a church built on top of it. It was hard to visualize but if it wasn’t for the churches, most of the places would not exist for us to see today.

Here, it is believed, the angel Gabriel told the young Mary, aged about 14, that she would become the mother of the Son of God. And here Mary uttered her consent: “Let it be done to me according to your word.”

Ignore the table, but this was where Mary lived. Most people lived in Caves underground. Can you imagine an Angel coming to visit you?

 

This was the church built on top.

This photo was interesting. Mary is wearing a crown on her head to be higher than Jesus in the painting.

 

The photo below was where they took a ritual bath.

This is the old part of Nazareth, it was under buildings preserved.

There was a big shopping mall in Nazareth, I remember seeing an H&M as well as an American Eagle store.. WHAT?!

We then drove to Tiberius to end our day. We saw McDonalds but it was Kosher. I am sure it wasn’t the same but the looks of it were.

This was just Day 1. Like I said, We did so much in a day.

DAY 2- The Church of multiplication.

The miraculous feeding of five thousand people is described in Mark 6:30-44, just before Jesus walks on water. The Gospel account of the loaves and fishes does not specify where it took place; only that it was in a “remote place” (6:32,35) on the shores of Galilee.

According to Mark’s account, Jesus and his disciples had gone out in a boat to this remote place for some peace and quiet, but the crowds ran ahead “from all the towns” and met him when he landed. By then it was dinnertime and they were not in a village where food could easily be bought, so Jesus fed them all by miraculously multiplying his disciples’ five loaves and two fishes.

Walking distance from the church of Multiplication we got to a place called Peter’s Primacy

In John 21, Jesus appears to his disciples for the third time after his resurrection on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The night before, Peter and several other disciples had sailed out on the lake to fish but caught nothing. In the morning, a man appeared on the shore and called out to them to throw their net on the right side of the boat. Doing so, they caught so many fish they couldn’t drag the net back into the boat.

At this point, Peter recognizes Jesus and promptly jumps out of the boat to wade to shore to meet him. The other disciples follow in the boat, dragging the net behind them. When they land, Jesus has prepared a charcoal fire for the fish and provided bread, and they have breakfast together (John 21:9). This is believed to have taken place on the mensa Christi, a large rock incorporated in the chapel.

After breakfast, Jesus reinstated Peter (after his three-time denial of Jesus at the crucifixion) with the words “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-19).

This was also the first time we saw the Sea of Galilee. To think that Jesus walked this shoreline and picked his disciples.

CAPHARNUM

• Jesus worshiped and taught in the synagogue — where his teaching made a deep impression on the local people because, unlike the scribes, he taught with authority. (Mark 1:21-22)

• In the same synagogue, Jesus promised the Eucharist in his “I am the bread of life” discourse: “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:22-59)

Near the church, a partly reconstructed synagogue is believed to have been built on the foundations of the synagogue in which Jesus taught.

This would have been the site of Peter’s house, where Jesus would have lodged.

One of the funniest things I ever saw was every where you had to pay to use the toilets.

3 people could go for $1 or 1 person can go for 1 Shekel (Israel money)

Boat Ride on The Sea of Galilee

One of my favorite stops was a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. It was nice to just sit and relax. At the beginning of the boat ride, they would raise our flag and play our national anthem. Then our pastor talked and we sang the song ” I have decided to follow Jesus” It was very moving and just to imagine Jesus walked on these waters and walked the shoreline to choose his disciples was overwhelming.

We had lunch at Tanureen. It was really good! We had more Pita Bread with all kinds of ways to dip it and then we had a choice of chicken or fish.

Mt of Beatitudes- Sermon on the Mount

The Mount of Beatitudes, believed to be the setting for Jesus’ most famous sermon.

Cana- Jesus Turns water into wine

Jesus and his first disciples turned up at a wedding feast, possibly that of a close relative of his mother Mary. The wine ran out — perhaps because those additional guests had not been catered for — and Mary turned to her Son to overcome the embarrassment (John 2: 1-11).

Baptized in the Jordan River.

Our last stop was getting baptized in the Jordan River. It again was another highlight of the trip. The water was soo so so COLD! I have been baptized before when I was younger but you can’t pass up getting baptized in the Jordan River!!

Day 3

The Actual Place Jesus was baptized

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him…” (Matthew 3:16-17)

I thought it was very interesting to see Doves all over the place when we got off the bus.

This was the first time I saw the IDF (Israel Defence Force) I didn’t know this, but both men and women are required to serve for 2 years once they are 18.  They smiled for photos. It was a little intimidating knowing they have machine guns.

Our next stop was…

Bethlehem – The Church of The Nativity

Again, this was another place that hit me hard. I couldn’t believe I was in Bethlehem. I was surprised by all the familiar restaurants, which I am sure didn’t taste American, but humorous to see.

We parked in a parking garage, flooded with people trying to sell us souvenirs. We then walked a good distance to the church.

Visiting the church of the Nativity was different. This was the first spot we had to stand in line for. The place was filled with people. Once we got in, we had just a few mins to get our photos otherwise you were getting pushed out.

It isn’t a barn like the story is told to us. Jesus was actually born in a cave.

Our next stop was Church of St Peter 

The Church of St Peter in Gallicantu is built on four different levels — upper church, middle church, guardroom and dungeon.

The lower levels of the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu contain what are believed to have been a guardroom and a prisoner’s cell.

The guardroom contains wall fixtures to attach prisoners’ chains. Holes in the stone pillars would have been used to fasten a prisoner’s hands and feet when he was flogged. Bowls carved in the floor are believed to have contained salt and vinegar, either to aggravate the pain or to disinfect the wounds.

Jesus, of course, was not flogged by the Jews but by the Romans. But some of his disciples, probably including Peter, were flogged by order of the Jewish council after the Resurrection for teaching in the name of Jesus in the Temple (Acts 5:40).

The prisoner’s cell offers an insight into where Christ might have spent the night before he was crucified. It has become known as “Christ’s Prison”.

The only access to the bottle-necked cell was through a hole from above, so the prisoner would have been lowered and raised by means of a rope harness.

A small window from the guardroom served as a peephole for a guard standing on a stone block.

Steps that Jesus walked…

These stone steps were certainly in use at the time of Christ. On the evening of his arrest, he probably descended them with his disciples on their way from the Last Supper to Gethsemane.

And, even if the House of Caiphas was situated further up Mount Zion than the present church, it would have been by this route that Jesus was brought under guard to the high priest’s house.

View of Jerusalem

This was a great view of the city!

Dome of the Ascension

The shrine marking the place where Jesus is believed to have ascended to heaven was disappointing to experience.

All that remains of the several churches built to celebrate the Ascension is a small octagonal structure on a property that is now part of a mosque. All that is left is a footprint stone.

Church of Pater Noster

At the Church of Pater Noster on the Mount of Olives, we recall Christ’s teaching of the Lord’s Prayer to his disciples.

On walls around the church, translations of the Lord’s Prayer in 140 languages are inscribed on colorful ceramic plaques.

Lazarus Tomb in Bethany

This was a fun stop with the group.

The little village of Bethany, on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives, was a favorite place of rest and refuge for Jesus.

Here he knew the intimacy and friendship of his friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus. And here, in the cemetery just below the village, he raised Lazarus from the dead.

When Lazarus was dying, as John’s Gospel (11:1-44) recounts, his sisters sent for Jesus. But Jesus delayed his arrival until four days after Lazarus had been buried, “so that the Son of God may be glorified”.

Day 4

Masada

Masada is an ancient fortress in the Judean Desert. It’s on a massive plateau overlooking the Dead Sea. You can take a cable car or walk the long, winding path climb up to the fortifications. Among the ruins are King Herod’s Palace, which sprawls over 3 rock terraces, and a Roman-style bathhouse with mosaic floors.  

This place was absolutely beautiful! It reminded me of the Grand Canyon

We then had more sandwiches. It was very good. We stopped for lunch at Quram National Park before we went on our tour.

Qumran National Park

Qumran is famous as the hiding place of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Eventually, fragments of about 850 scrolls were found in 11 of the hard-to-reach caves.

One of the caves they found the book of Isaiah. Most of the scrolls were written in Hebrew, some in Aramaic and a few in Greek. After our tour we watched avideoo about the area.

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea is one of the most unusual bodies of water in the world.

It is set in the lowest dry land on earth, so it has no outlet. It is so loaded with minerals that no fish can live in it. It is so dense that bathers can lie back on its surface

The Dead Sea is located along the border between Israel and Jordan. About half of it is actually in Jordanian territory.

This was definitely a bucket list thing to do. It was hard to get in the water due to the mud, my mom wore water shoes and kept sinking. I scrapped my hands and feet due to sharp rocks around.

It was very relaxing, but I was ready to get out after 20 mins.  The beach was surrounded by rock, no sand to lay on.

Mout of Temptations- Jericho

The Mount of Temptation is the mountain on which Christ was tempted by the devil during his 40-day fast.

We were only at this stop for 30 mins. They offered Camel rides, a gift shop and a man came out to dress you up, of course, you had to pay him for it.

Day 5

The Mount of Olives

We had the opportunity to ride a camel on the mount of Olives and of course for $3 a person, I wasn’t going to pass that up.

Mount of Olives Cemetery

The cemetery contains about 70,000 tombs from various periods. This graveyard is the holiest place for those in the Jewish faith to be laid to rest.

Many Jews believe that when the Messiah comes to Earth, the dead will rise from their graves and walk to the holy Temple Mount in Jerusalem’s Old City.

From the Mount of Olives cemetery, that’s very close.

Everyone in that cemetery is buried with their feet facing the Temple Mount so they come straight up and don’t even have to turn around. No one is going to get confused on the walk.”

The price to get buried there was around $20,000

Church of Dominus Flevit- Where Jesus Wept

The church is built as if it is a tear drop. It is located halfway down the slope of the Mount of Olives, recalls the incident in which Jesus wept over the future fate of Jerusalem.

Palm Sunday Road

I actually didn’t realize we were walking this road until later when the group talked about it later. It was a very narrow road. A car went down it and we all had to get over because it was that narrow.

This was the road Jesus made a triumphant entry into Jerusalem, exactly a week before his resurrection

Garden of Getheseme

The garden of Gethsemane, near the foot of the Mount of Olives, is the place where Jesus went with his disciples to pray the night before he was crucified.

This was a very special time. We were the only ones there. Our Pastor read the story then we took communion, sang and had some quiet time around the garden.

The Upper Room

The Last Supper was the meal Jesus shared with his apostles the night before he died. This was a very cool place. Our tour guide Johnny showed us how and where everyone would have sat that night and why.

King David’s Tomb

The Old Testament clearly indicates that David was buried somewhere else. However, the site — directly underneath the room of the last supper — remains a place of pilgrimage for Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Shepard’s Fields

As we were traveling, I got so excited when I saw shepherds watching sheep. I didn’t know they still did that.

Caves where shepherds “kept watch over their flock” still happen in the area of Bethlehem.

Luke tells us, an angel announced the birth of Jesus.

The angel’s good news was not given to the noble, but to workers with a low reputation.  “shepherds” as among the most despised occupations of the time — but Christ was to identify himself with this occupation when he called himself “the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11).

We got to explore one of the caves that shepherds would have lived in.

We then ate lunch at the Shepherd’s Table. It was very good. More Pita Brea 🙂

Damascus Gate- Entrance to the Old City of Jerusalem

This was the main entrance into the old city. Our hotel was walking distance to the Old City so a bunch of us walked to it.

There were tons of shops piled on top of one another. Selling bread, candies, spices, souvenirs, clothing, shoes, jewelry, you name it! It was a long road that broke off to many other roads full of the same shops.

DAY 6

SKULL HEAD

The Garden Tomb was first proposed in 1842. The skull-faced cliff was the hill of Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified. John 19:17 describes the place of crucifixion as “The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha.

This was a wine press and was discovered in the garden.

A Byzantine cross inside the Garden Tomb

We were the first group there that morning so had some time to be alone in the garden. We then had communion and worship.

Church of St Anne

This is where Mary mother of Jesus was born.

Inside the church it is simple and strong  and has wonderful acoustics. The space calls forth song from visitors. We are encouraged to sing, and groups take turns offering hymns in all different languages throughout the day. We sang a couple of songs and it was BEAUTIFUL. 

Down below the church is where Mary was born.

Pool of Bethseda

This was right beside St Anne’s church. The scene of one of Jesus’ miracles. This was the healing of the paralysed man who had waited for 38 years for someone to help him into the pool “when the water is stirred” — an event believed to have curative powers.

Jesus told the man, “Stand up, take your mat and walk”, and immediately he was made well (John 5:2-18).

   

We now are starting the walk Jesus took to be crusified.

This was A LOT to take in. Here is the layout of the church..

This was where Jesus received his crown of thorns and cross.

Here is the Via Delorosa. It was a very long road

Jesus’ Trial before Pilate Mark 15

After the flogging, the victim would carry his own cross bar from the flogging area inside the city to the crucifixion area outside of the city walls. The crucifixion area was always outside the city, because the process was horrible and disturbing to citizens.
The upright part of the cross was permanently mounted in the crucifixion area. The part that the victim carried was the cross bar, weighing in at 75 to 125 pounds. The cross bar would be balanced on the victims shoulders, and their arms would be tied to the crossbar. In this position, if the victim tripped or fell, they could not use their arms to break their fall, and they would likely fall face first into the ground.

The victim was escorted by a Roman guard who were responsible for guarding the victim until his death. One of the soldiers would display a sign with the crime written on it.

shops and people on the Dolorosa

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Ownership of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is shared between the Greek Orthodox, Catholics and Armenian Orthodox.

Climbing steps to Calvary. Ascend a steep and curving flight of stairs. You are now ascending the “hill” of Calvary or Golgotha. The stairs open onto a floor that is level with the top of the rocky outcrop on which Christ was crucified.

A silver disc beneath the Greek altar marks the place where it is believed the cross stood. The limestone rock of Calvary may be touched through a round hole in the disc. On the right, under glass, can be seen a fissure in the rock. Some believe this was caused by the earthquake at the time Christ died. Others suggest that the rock of Calvary was left standing by quarrymen because it was cracked.

A Slab of rock believed Jesus laid on in the tomb. 

 

Western Wall

Judaism’s holiest place is the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem. Part of the retaining wall erected by Herod the Great to support the vast plaza on which he rebuilt the Temple, it is venerated as the sole remnant of the Temple.

The wall and the plaza in front of it form a permanent place of worship, a site of pilgrimage for Jews and a focus of prayer — often petitions written down and placed between the huge stones.

Orthodox Jewish men, fully bearded and garbed in black, bowing their heads as they read and pray are a common sight.

It is also the place where Jews down the ages have expressed their grief over the destruction of the Temple, their anguish giving the wall another name — the Wailing Wall.

The men and women are separate. There was a wall separating the genders.

Our guide Johnny was so sweet. He lives in the Old City of Jerusalem and took us to his home to show us where he lived and gave us something to drink.

Things I learned or realized on my trip

  1. There were tons of rocks everywhere in Israel. When they say Jesus was a carpenter, we think of building shelves, tables and such, but Jesus was a stonemason, not a carpenter. I think the idea of Him being a stonemason makes a whole lot more sense in the light of scriptures like Mark 12:10 (Christ is the stone the builders rejected), 1 Cor 10:4 (the Rock was Christ), Matt 7:24 (wise man building his house upon a rock), Rom 9:33 (a rock of offense to those who don’t want to believe)
  2. There are still shepards out in the fields. That really surprised me! I saw several men with their dogs watching over a herd of sheep.
  3. I learned a lot of things. We all had so much information overload that it became hard to remember things. The great thing about this trip is you appreciate it more when you got home. When we read the bible now, we can recall a real person and a real place.