Monthly Archives: January 2017

Day 5 – On the Mend

So far this vacation has sucked! But I think it’s going to change now. After two long days of travel I was with our group for one day of site seeing. The next two days were spent in my hotel room. Yesterday we left Bethlehem/Jersusalem and traveled north to Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee where we are staying for two days. On the way we stopped at Caesaria Maritima (Herod the Great’s city called Caesar’s City on the Sea), Mt. Carmel where Elijah hid from Jezebel after defeating the Baal prophets, Nazareth and the Church of the Annunciation, Cana and the Church claiming to be the place Jesus turned water into wine, and finally to our hotel in Tiberius where we look out over the Sea of Galilee with Mt Hermon on the horizon – it’s beautiful. 

I didn’t get to enjoy yesterday’s sites as I spent the time in bathrooms at every stop. Last night they took me to a sketchy walk-in clinic where I saw a doctor that spoke Arabic and wrote me a prescription in Hebrew. I have no idea what I have or what I’m taking, but he said I would be fine in a day by taking these meds for two days. So I’m going to brave it today and try to pilgrimage with the group around the Sea of Galilee on this Day of Our Lord. Blessings to all as you gather to worship Him wherever you are.

Day 2 – Sick!

Today our group went to Jericho, the Jordan River, the Dead Sea (to float in it), and Qumran (the caves of the Dead Sea Scrolls). I was not able to attend with them. I became violently ill last night with a stomach bug or food poisoning. I haven’t been that sick in 25 years! Since I stayed at Lori’s family’s home when I met them the first time. Lori and I had been to the State Fair and I got food poinsoning. I spent the night on their bathroom floor – a great first impression! I’m feeling better, but I haven’t braved eating again – yet. I should be able to join them tomorrow. At least I’ve been here before and have seen those wonderful sites and had the experience of floating in the Dead Sea (which, once is enough).

Day 1 – Jerusalem

Wednesday, January 25. Downloading the pictures didn’t turn out in order – geographically or chronologically  – to represent the day, so the explanations may be scattered as well.

The top picture is of a room where Hasidic (Orthodox) Jews meet to pray in front of what is called: King David’s Tomb. Located on what would be called Mt. Zion, even they recognize that this isn’t actually his tomb, but it is a place to commemorate him and so they gather to pray. The video of it didn’t download either, but it shows them chanting, rocking, while praying.

The 2nd & 3rd pictures are taken from the Mt. of Olives, across the Kidron Valley, looking at Old Jerusalem, Mt. Moriah, and the Temple Mount where today the Dome of the Rock sits – once the place where Herod’s, and before that, Solomon’s Temple sat. Taken from the Church commemorating Jesus weeping over Jerusalem – the most picturesque place around.

Below that church is the Garden of Gesthemane, at the bottom of the Mount of Olives, down in the Kidron Valley. There is a church here too, commemorating the place where Jesus prayed before being betrayed. Here there are a few olive trees left that date back at least 2000 years! Those trees would have witnessed that fateful night.

The next picture is of some Orthodox Jews at the wailing wall who were gracious enought to talk with some of our group – men from our group, for the women’s section is separated by a wall.

The next picture is the front of our hotel. Evidently it’s always Christmas in Bethlehem! We are staying in Bethlehem, about a 20 minute drive into the Old City of Jerusalem. We are staying here, not only because of costs (much cheaper than staying by the Old City), but to help support the Palestinians as well. 

The next picture is of an ancient stairway from the Kidron Valley up to Mt Zion. If Jesus had his last supper on Mt. Zion in an upper room of a house there (which is likely, but not certain), then he would have walked these steps. 

The next picture is from the Wailing Wall, or more commonly referred to here as the Western Wall. It’s actually on the east side of the Old City, but it’s the Western side of the Temple Mount. People put prayers, folded up, into the cracks of the rocks.

The second to the last picture is a view from Mt. Zion looking out over the Valley of Gehenna. The Kidron Valley, on the East side of Jerusalem, and the Henon Valley, on the West and South side of Jerusalem meet south of the city to form the Valley of Gehenna, which goes all of the way out to the Dead Sea. In Jesus’ day it was a garbage pit where they burned the garbage. There were always flames seen from Jerusalem above – “the fires of Hell.” It was nice of the neighbors below to actually be burning some garbage so we could get the sense involved in our viewing. Besides sight and smell, we also engaged our hearing. On Mt. Zion, next to each other, there is not only a place commemorating Jesus’ last supper (upper room), but also Caiaphas’ house, where Jesus was first taken before being brought to Pontius Pilate. This is supposedly where Peter betrayed Jesus after the cock crowed. The neighbors also had a rooster that kept crowing! Oh, and they had a colt tied up too – just like Jesus telling his disciples they’d find that to celebrate the Last Supper! And no, this wasn’t set up – just coinincidence.

The last picture is of the Eastern Gate. This is supposedly where the Messiah will enter Jerusalem when he comes. On the other side of that is a large chair – the throng for the Messiah, built by the Crusaders. When the Muslims took over they cemented in that entrance and put graves in front of it (for an observant Jew wouldn’t walk on graves).

The one thing that sticks out as you first see this land is how many rocks there are – everywhere! My first reaction is: “And why do so many people fight over this land?” Of course it’s because of the history, not the beauty of the landscape. Rocks, rocks, everywhere! What does it mean that Jesus named Simon “Rock” or “Peter?” Was it because he was a nuisance that Jesus wanted to kick out of his way (“get behind me Satan…” or “you of little faith!”)? Or is it because Peter will be foundational to the Christian movement – like the rocks supporting the Temple, the presence of God? One certainly gets a new perspective of Luke 19:40 – when the Pharisees tell Jesus to stop his followers from yelling Hosana, Jesus replied: “I tell you, if these were silent the stones would shout out!”  We are his living stones.

Two Days of Travel

I left my brother’s house for the Seattle Airport at 5:30am on Monday morning, January 23rd and arrived at our hotel in Bethlehem, West Bank (Israel) just before midnight Tuesday night, January 24th. Two long days of travel to finally arrive! 

I’m on a one week familiarization tour with Good Shepherd Travel out of Texas. Elias, who visited our church last October selling olive wood ornaments, crosses, nativities, etc. to support Christians in Bethlehem, invited me on this trip. He works for this travel company that his relatives run out of Bethlehem. They sponsored 50 people on this trip – mostly pastors and some spouses, mostly Lutheran but not all, and mostly from the eastern parts of the US with a few of us westerners. It is their hope that if/when we decide to take groups from our congregations to the Holy Land we will consider using their services. They’ve been great.

Elias is a native of Bethlehem. He is a Palestinian Christian. He grew up in the Lutheran church in Bethlehem. He met his wife Katie when she visited the Holy Land with her dad and a group from their congregation. He dad is a Lutheran pastor in Polson, MT, which is where Elias and Katie now reside. They came to St Luke last October to sell their olive wood pieces – that’s when Elias invited me on this trip. Elias also has a volunteer ministry of taking supplies (blankets, toiletries, etc) to Christian refugees from Syria who are in Jordan. Since he is not paid for that, 100% of donations go directly to purchasing supplies he takes to refugee families.

Though I’ve been to Israel once before in 2009, it is not a place I would tire of visiting. I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity, and to get to know sisters and brothers in Christ – fellow pilgrims.