Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Holy Land

Traveling to Israel has been a dream of mine for the last several years.  Matthew and I were only supposed to have five days there before heading to Egypt to meet our friends from Colorado.  Their plans ended up changing so we met them in Israel for a few days and then traveled to Jordan together (another late addition to the itinerary).  The change in plans ended up extending our time in Israel to 10 days total, which was an answer to prayer as I was really wanting to have more time there.

Matthew and I decided to rent a car for the first week so that we could explore the country without being constrained by public transport, before meeting our friends in Jerusalem for the last few days.

The arrival into Israel proved to be quite the experience in itself!  Although everyone around us was going to the booths in Passport Control together (as families and couples), the woman at the booth sternly said, "One at a time!" and did not allow us to go together.  I went up to the booth first but Matthew keeps all our travel info in his book so I did not have much information by myself.  The woman asked many questions (including "Who is that man with you?") and told me I was making things difficult.  When I asked why, she just looked at me and said, "Haven't you seen the news?"  No, we had not seen the news because we have been traveling for two months (I didn't say that, but I thought it!).

We realized that every single person on our flight had cleared through Immigration before they finally allowed Matthew to approach the booth with me.  The woman told him that it was suspicious that his wife doesn't know anything (boy did I feel stupid!) but finally agreed to stamp our passports.  Whew!  We made it!  (We later learned that some pro-Palestinian protestors had been trying to get into Israel and some of them had come from Greece which is why they were suspicious of us.)  It was a crazy experience, especially because it was 4am!

During our 10 days in Israel, we couch surfed with 4 different couples through the country and had a great time with all of them.  I also loved floating in the Dead Sea! It is so salty that you literally float on top of the water and can't push yourself down!  The water is full of minerals and the rocks are covered with salt.  The Dead Sea is 1,350 feet below sea level and is the lowest point on earth.  It is fed by the fresh water of the Jordan River but has no outlet so it is 30% salt and minerals which keeps you afloat.

With the help of our good friend Dave's recommendations and some tour books we found, we began to explore the country to learn more about the history behind our faith.  It was amazing to walk where Jesus walked and understand more about the country, the culture, the history behind the scriptures that we have studied for years.

The rest of this blog post will be a photographic tour of what we saw...

CaesareaActs 25 Roman port in Israel which Herod built, where Paul stood before King Agrippa and was imprisoned for 2 years before being sent to Rome

CapernaumMatthew 4:13 Jesus’ base when ministering around the Sea of Galilee 
Mount of BeatitudesMatthew 5-7 Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount.  There is a church on the hill, right above Capernaum

Sea of Galilee

Matthew 14 - Multiplication of five loaves and two fish where Jesus fed 5,000. 
John 6:17 Jesus walks on the water, when he entered the boat it immediately reached shore
John 6:59 Jesus taught on the bread of life
Matthew 4:18 The calling of the disciples

Matthew 4:23 Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching and preaching
Luke 1:26-28 Church of Enunciation where Mary was told she would have Jesus.  There are beautiful portraits from several countries around the world that portray Jesus and Mary

Luke 2:39-40 Nazareth is also Jesus’ hometown where he grew up
John 2:1-11 Jesus’ first public miracle of turning water into wine

Mount Tabor – the Mount of Transfiguration, sits above Jezreel Valley
Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36 Jesus seen with Moses and Elijah, a voice from heaven proclaimed, “This is my Son whom I have chosen, listen to Him.”

Yardineet Baptismal Site – A baptismal site on the Jordan River (not exactly where Jesus was baptized)
Luke 3:21-22, Mark 1:9-11 Jesus’ baptism

Beit She’an – amazing ruins
1 Samuel 31 (Old Testament) Where King Saul’s body was hung after his defeat by the Philistines

En Gedi
1 Samuel 23, 24 Where David hid from Saul, also referenced in the Song of Solomon 1:14-17 (both Old Testament)

Massada – City Herod built in case he needed a refuge, 900 Jewish people in rebellion against Roman Rule fled there and lived for 3 years until the Romans surrounded it, built up a ramp and overtook it.  The zealots committed suicide in freedom.

Israel Museum – Dead Sea Scrolls over 2,600 years old which prove the reliability of the Old Testament, as they are the oldest copies of the Old Testament ever found (by 1,000 years).  The scrolls show us that the Bible we know today is virtually identical to the one studied around the time of Jesus. 

Luke 2:1-7 Jesus’ birth

Mount of Olives
Luke 21:37, Luke 22:39 He abode in the Mount of Olives, He prayed at the Mount of Olives

Gethsemane – Garden where Jesus went to pray before being crucified
Matthew 26:36-39

Temple Mount – Built on the hill where in the book of Genesis, Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice, marked by Dome of the Rock
Mount Zion
John 13 The Last Supper
John 18 Church of St Peter (where Peter denied Jesus
Via Dolorosa
John 19,20 Stations of the Cross ending at the “Church of Holy Sepulchre” which is the ancient (Catholic) site of crucifixion and burial

Garden Tomb
John 19, 20 Site that Protestants believe Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected, known as "Golgotha" or the Place of the Skull

In Jerusalem we saw much emphasis placed on the physical location where each event occurred.  We were struck to see the ornate churches and altars established in each place that somehow detracted from the actual message of what happened there.  We were glad to experience the Garden Tomb, a site where many Protestants believe Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected.  It is a beautifully peaceful place and we appreciated the message spoken by the people there that the most critical point is not finding the exact location in Jerusalem where it happened, but the most important thing was that it happened.  And for that, I am eternally grateful.