Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Israel Trip, Part 8 (Final)

Day 8 dawned sunny and hot, and I was so exhausted from all our traipsing around Jerusalem the day before that I was seriously tempted to stay back at the hotel and sleep all day!  Despite dragging myself through the day and having no energy whatsoever, I am glad in the long run that I went on the tour as the last stop of the day made it all worth it! 

But before we get there, here are some pictures of our first stop of the day: a scale model of Jerusalem the way it looked in the days of Jesus.

 As you can see, the Temple Mount was at the highest point in the city and the focal point for miles around.

 A view of the Temple from the front.

 Next, we visited the Mount of Olives.  This is the view looking from the mount back toward the Old City.

 The Eastern Gate, which is part of the Muslim quarter, has been sealed shut and hundreds of graves placed out front because even Muslims know about the prophecy that Jesus will return and come into the city through the Eastern Gate.  They somehow think that if the gates are sealed and graves are out front, it will stop Him from coming in!  Um...not quite.

 The oldest olive tree in the world located in the Garden of Gethsemane.

 This tree is 2,000 years old!

 It was likely here when Jesus was.

 The rest of the Garden.

 We followed some of the stations of the Villa Dolorosa and saw this archway leftover from the Roman era.  This is only half of the arch and the width of the road that existed when Jesus followed it carrying His cross.

 Our last stop of the day was at the Garden Tomb which was a tremendous highlight for me out of the whole trip.  Unlike many other famous sites that we toured throughout our eight days in Israel, the Garden Tomb is run by evangelical Christians whose goal is to share the true Gospel of Jesus Christ with every guest who passes through their gates.  It was an incredibly refreshing, peaceful environment full of the light of Christ instead of the darkness of false religion as we observed in many other places.

 Each group is led by a missionary tour guide who volunteers his/her time at this organization.  The first place our tour guide took us was the location where they believe Jesus was crucified.  Unfortunately, over time, the bottom of this "place of the skull" was covered by cement and roads and a bus station that now exists nearby, but you can still make out the "eyes" and part of the "nose" of the skull.

And here is a photo of the original "face" that really does look like a skull, before construction took place around it.  Due to its location right outside the old city and the fact that it matches the description of a skull and the fact that it was located off a main road leads many historians to believe that Jesus was crucified at its base where those passing by could mock Him.

 Very nearby was a private garden containing an olive press...

and the tomb of a rich man that had never been used.
It is here that Jesus most likely was buried.

Even the Crusaders thought this place made the most sense as the tomb in which Jesus was buried, as evidenced by their symbol on the wall.  Notice the hollowed out nook to the far left where a body would have been laid.

 The Crusader symbol uses letters to represent Jesus Christ, the Alpha and Omega.

The best news!
 Praying for our missionary tour guide as he continues to share the Gospel with thousands of people from all over the world.

 The beauty of the Garden.

The foundation of our faith.

In summary, touring Israel was an incredible experience, and I'm so grateful the Lord made it possible for Nathan and I to go together!  We made wonderful memories as a couple seeing so many amazing places, learning history, and experiencing the Bible come alive in rich ways.  I will always remember our time in this special land and look forward to our return when our Messiah King is there reigning!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Israel Trip, Part 7

 Day 7 of our tour was one of the longest, most enjoyable, and most exhausting days of our time in Israel.  We spent the whole day in Jerusalem and covered so many miles on foot, my feet felt like they were going to fall off by nightfall!

The first place we visited I didn't actually get pictures of because, as a pregnant lady, I was not permitted to participate due to liability issues.  But the rest of the group was able to journey underground into Hezekiah's tunnels, taking their pick of either the wet tunnels or the dry ones and ending at a famous Biblical "pool," the name of which now escapes me.  I sat up in the gift shop area and read.

After that excursion, we made our way to the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount.  This location was significant on several accounts.  Unlike many other destinations in Israel where much guessing takes place as to whether or not Jesus "really walked there," we know without doubt that He would have traversed these steps on numerous occasions and probably even preached/taught from them.

Another reason these steps are significant is because many believe that Peter likely gave his famous message on the day of Pentecost from these steps.  The sectioned-off pools in the above picture were used by the Jews to ceremonially bath before entering the Temple.  If Peter had preached from these steps, when the 3,000 Jews were added to the Church that day, it would have been an ideal place to baptize them immediately.

A massive stone in the city wall.

The old city gates - look how huge they were!

Standing in front of the old city gates.

Loving the architecture of the old city.

Lunch time at the park!  These would be the two youngest of our tour group -- can you tell? ;)

After lunch, our group split up.  Some went to see the Church of the Holy Sepulcher while some wanted to do some shopping in the markets of Jerusalem.  Since Nathan and I had already done our shopping, we set off to explore and see what we could see for the next three hours.  We had so much fun! 

More city gates that are still in use.

Making our way to an Abbey, near which is what is believed to be the original "Upper Room" where the disciples of Jesus congregated after His ascension.

Stopping for a refreshing drink of pomegranate juice.  They literally juiced it right in front of us.

And it was so delicious!  I could get used to that drink on a regular basis!

A beautiful fountain in the Christian quarter.

More street vendors.

The only protestant church in the Old City.

We really enjoyed exploring the Jewish quarter.  It was immaculate, peaceful, family-oriented, and lovely to see.  Here is the synagogue right in the center of the quarter.

This was like a plaza where people congregated.

The residential section.

A view from the Jewish quarter.

The wall that Nehemiah and his crew helped to build.

Heading back toward the Wailing Wall to start our tour of the underground tunnels in Jerusalem.

There is quite a labyrinth of walkways, hallways, passageways, and more under the city.  Many Jews use these passageways to travel where they need to go since they are not permitted to walk through the Muslim quarter above ground.  There is also a special place where they like to pray, as at the Wailing Wall, since it is the closest they can get to the old Temple location.  It was most interesting to see the underground life that exists in this bustling city.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Israel, Part 6 continued

Our next stop in the Jerusalem area was at the ruins of Herodium, the structure King Herod built and lived in when he was in Jerusalem.  This was also the location where he chose to be buried.  After converting it into a massive grave/memorial, it was no longer used as a palace.

 A re-creation of the original Herodium structure.

 A view of the surrounding area.

Vineyards nearby.
One of the most interesting aspects of the Herodium was seeing all the tunnels underground and throughout the structure that had been used for transporting water and then later by outlaws for hide-out spots.

Since the Herodium is a fairly recent archeological project, further excavation is continually ongoing.

We ate lunch in Bethlehem. 

 Then, we viewed a variety of cave-type structures where Jesus could have been born.

A nativity scene in one cave.
Notice the black ceiling?  This was due to the fires the shepherds built in the caves for keeping warm.

Beautiful flowers in Bethlehem.

Besides caves, the main tourist attraction in Bethlehem is the Church of the Nativity, built to commemorate the location where Emperor Constantine's mother of long ago declared Jesus had been born.  The actual spot dedicated in the church to the supposed place of Jesus' birth was not nearly as authentic looking as the caves we had already seen.  I thought it was much more interesting to see the room (pictured above) where Jerome translated the Latin Vulgate.

After a big day of touring, a few of us ventured back to the Old City to do some shopping at the souvenir markets.  I will show more pictures of the markets from the daytime pictures I took on another day.  This is one of a shop where the owner claimed to know one of the professors at Dallas Theological Seminary where Nathan went.  It was quite strange to see a DTS banner hanging in a shop in Jerusalem!

After shopping, we stopped for super yummy pizza!  This is about as close to pepperoni as one will find in Israel! ;)