It’s 9:20 pm, Tuesday April 27th and I’m dog tired, I can hardly move. But, I had an idea this would happen after getting up so early. Still suffering the effects of jet lag. Anyway, went to breakfast and it was awesome. I decided that since I love bread so much and don’t eat it much at home due to too many carbs, I’d try the bread here. Oh my God, is it good. There are so many shapes, sizes and colors and it’s all crusty on the outside and delicious on the inside. So, here’s the deal, breakfast is going to be eggs, fruit and breads. Today didn’t disappoint. A chef made omelet, diced fruit and lots of delicious bread with homemade jams, coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice.
We checked out of our luxury hotel and watched as the hotel staff loaded the luggage into the brand new Mercedes Benz busses and off we went, through the hustle and bustle of early morning traffic in Israel’s largest city and out into the countryside. It was much like taking a trip along the California coast between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara. The day was beautiful, warm, 86 degrees, sunny and awesome. We passed by the cities of Afula, Herzlia, Netanya and others enroute Caesarea.
When we arrived, the Israeli government had made many nice improvements to the area with landscaping and other tourist amenities. The guides purchased our access tickets and in we went to the amphitheatre. Here the David Kidron, our favorite Israeli guide of the past 30 years gave the history of the area and the Amphitheatre. Then Apostle Price took the mic and spoke before the crowd advising them of his intentions to lay hands on the sick in preparation for what was to be a busy week of touring. But, first, the Word had to be shared so the people would have something to put their healing faith on, so Apostle Price taught on faith. I don’t remember what exactly the title was, but it sure was good.
We then had those with Arthritis, Rheumatism and Bursitis, with which he has a tangible anointing, come forward and sit in a designated area of the amphitheater to have hands laid on them. Following them, he requested those with any other infirmity to come forward to have hands laid on them as well.
Acts 25-26 contains the account of the famous events leading to the departure of the Apostle Paul from Caesarea’s port to Rome, where he was executed a few years later. When it was all done, we left the amphitheater and toured the grounds of Herod’s palace, the Hippodrome, both the upper palace and the lower palace on the Mediterranean and saw the marble pillar with Pontius Pilate’s name chiseled into it. By then, it was time for a potty break, some minor shopping and back to the busses.
Next stop, driving past the Crusader walls of Caesarea’s Byzantine period. We stopped again for photos at the Herod’s aqueduct which provided water to Caesarea. All-in-all, Caesarea comprised over 250 acres. Nice summer home for the king.
We left the Mediterranean coast and headed inland and up into Mt. Carmel. In the bible, this mountain range is mentioned not only in its geographical sense but as a symbol of fruitfulness and loveliness. Isaiah 35:1 says "The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon." This part of Israel is lush and green, unlike the desert area surrounding Jerusalem. No wonder Jesus loved the Galilee so much. We drove through the beautiful, rural, hilly countryside to Megiddo. Here, in Joshua 12:21 lists the kings he defeated. Both Joshua and Judges relate that the Canaanite inhabited the city even after its subjugation by the tribe of Manasseh, 1 Chronicles 7:29. Solomon was one of the greatest builders at Megiddo.
Megiddo is surrounded by the Valley of Armageddon. A strategic location to be sure and as John said in Revelation, the day of the Lord is coming like dawn spreading across the mountains a large army such as never was of old, nor ever will be in times to come. This is to be the battle at the end of days occurring at Megiddo. Ironically, this is the very same location as virtually every other critical battle for control over Megiddo and this entire region.
One of the most interesting features at Megiddo is the hidden spring, dug 180 steps deep into the wall surrounding the city and down a pathway leading to the actual spring. This was used to supply water to Megiddo during the many times it was under siege by other armies. The hardiest of our group went down these stairs, through a long tunnel to the spring and up the other side, outside the walls and up 85 stairs to the waiting busses. Nice activity on a hot, afternoon.
We continued up Mt. Carmel, through the thousands year old olive trees to the Carmelite monastery to the Prophet Elijah. This brought back many fond memories of my years as a student at Mt. Carmel High School in Los Angeles. There was a Carmelite priest in the gift shop, still wearing the chocolate brown, hooded, rope belted outfits the priests wore when I was in school. I like seeing them here better.
This site is dedicated to the sacrifice of the Prophet Elijah, who was consumed by fire. Elijah said "Oh Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that thou are God in Israel." 1 Kings 18:36. This location also has a wonderful overlook over the Valley of Armageddon. Everyone took loads of pictures, but none of them can do justice to its beauty.
By now, we were starving. It had been over six hours since breakfast and we needed nourishment. We returned to a wonderful restaurant in the valley, next to a gas station and a McDonalds called Sahara. It was very Middle Eastern in decor and the food was wonderful. From here, we drove past the cities of Cana and Nazareth to Tiberias, our destination for the next three nights. Our usual hotel had changed names again, but it still has great views of the Sea of Galilee from most of the rooms and very good and plentiful food. Here we encountered other groups from Tyndale, the Inspiration Network and others, doing the same as we. It was time for a well deserved rest, some dinner and even more rest. (At least until 1am when jet lag kicks in again.) Oh well, one of these nights.
Today began as the others, way too early. Our usual routine, 6:30 am wake-up call, breakfast at 7:00 am, on the bus at 8:00 am. I’ve got to figure out a way to do a tour that starts with an 8:00 am wake-up call and so on, but for now…….. Anyway, at least we didn’t have to pack and check-out.
We’re still in the Galilee, the land of Jesus. The weather report for the day was 91 degrees and sunny. Instead, it was around 80, slightly windy, but very nice. 91 would’ve been out of character for spring in Israel. Yesterday, Angie and I were on the Purple bus with Peach the Guide. (His real name is Abraham) and driver Assad. That always fascinates us tourists to Israel, the Guides are always Israeli and the bus drivers are always Arabs, go figure. Back in 1978, this combination came in handy. We were at the Dead Sea and a bus load of Arab teenagers from Ramalla were on holiday and asked me where we were from. I told them America and a political debate ensued. Since I was outnumbered, it was pretty one sided and our Arab driver was able to diffuse the situation. Today, Apostle Price and Dr. Betty are on the Purple bus and Angie and I are on the Aqua bus. Our guide is my favorite for the past 22 yrs., David Kidron with driver, Halil. He was our driver two years ago. Then, his wife and 1 year old daughter met us at the Garden Tomb. This year he showed us his now three year old daughter. She was even more beautiful than before.
Our first stop today was the Mount of Beatitudes. Our drive took us partially around the Sea of Galilee. That’s another reason for loving this area, everywhere you go, you’re practically within sight of this beautiful body of water. The traditional location for the Mount of Beatitudes is on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee
, between Capernaum
). The actual location of the Sermon on the Mount is not certain, but the present site (also known as Mount Eremos) has been commemorated for more than 1600 years. The site is very near Tabgha
While here, the Guides remind us of the bible history of the area although a church has been built to commemorate the site. This is a fairly common procedure throughout the Holy Land. Most “religious” sites have churches from one denomination or another over them and their local rules and traditions are the order of the day. Each day, we need to know whether or not we’re going to a religious site because some don’t allow shorts to be worn, others, women must have their heads covered, most want us to be silent in the area, etc.
church was erected near the current site in the 4th century, and it was used until the 7th century. Remains of a cistern
and a monastery
are still visible. The current Roman Catholic Franciscan
chapel was built in 1938. Pope John Paul II
celebrated a Mass
at this site in March 2000. The Jesus Trail
pilgrimage route connects the Mount to other sites from the life of Jesus.
We’re given about 40 minutes of personal reflection time to enjoy the significance of the area and its beauty. Being on a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee gives this location a special peacefulness. And, it does give rise to reflection to where we are in the world and whom we worship. But, it’s soon time for the gift shop, rest rooms and back on the busses. Our group was admonished yesterday about being late, but to no avail. We had a multitude of ladies missing almost after almost an hour. When I rounded up the last one, I whispered to David our guide, ask our passengers if we’re on CP time. He didn’t know what it was, but sure enough, when the last lady got onboard, he got on the microphone and he asked, are you people on CP time. The whole bus broke-up in laughter. Then they thought about it and said, oh no he didn’t. Oh, yes he did and he proceeded to tell them for real what being this late can do to the plans for the day. As it stood, we were to join the other bus for a service at the next site, but we were late.
The next location was called, Peter’s Primacy. The grounds here are just as beautiful as those of the Church of the Beatitudes, but are
instead at Sea of Galilee level. I don’t say sea level because the Sea of Galilee itself is 600 feet below sea level. On these grounds stand the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter
, a Franciscan
church located in Tabgha
. It commemorates Jesus
' reinstatement of Peter
as chief among the Apostles
We toured the grounds and walked to the shore of the Sea of Galilee for photos, playing in the water, gathering souvenirs and just enjoying physically, walking in the footsteps of Jesus and the Apostles.
From here we went to Jesus city, Capernaum. If you know anything about the bible, you must know this was the headquarters of Jesus ministry in the Galilee. He had both a love hate relationship with this famous, large city. Simon's house in Capernaum was Jesus' home during much of his public ministry. Undoubtedly, Jesus loved it there. One of his first miracles was worked in the little cluster of houses where Peter's family lived. He cured Simon's mother-in-law of a high fever simply by his touch.
On the other hand, some of the inhabitants of Capernaum turned their noses up at Jesus and his miracles. Because of their attitudes, Jesus cursed the city with these words: "And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you."
We spent a lot of time here, touring the ruins, the Synagogue, the new church over the ruins of Peter’s Mother-In-Law’s house, again for our own personal reflection. Can you imagine how we felt actually walking these grounds? There is so much to be said about this city, I could go on ad nauseum, so you’ll just have to study it for yourselves or plan to go with us the next time to the Holy Land in spring of 2012.
We’ve been traveling to the Holy Land since 1978. That’s over 32 years. In that much time, we’ve never been to our next stop, Kursi. That’s because the ruins of the monastery were first unearthed by road construction crews, and the major excavation took place between 1971 and 1974 run by Vassilios Tzaferis
for the Israel Antiquities Authority
. Here are the ruins of a Byzantine Christian
monastery and now an Israeli
The site is located east of the Sea of Galilee
on the bank of a river bed descending from the Golan Heights
. It is significant to many Christians and Jews
because it has been identified by tradition as the site where Jesus
healed two men possessed by demons (Matthew 8: 28-33)
. The monastery is surrounded by a rectangular stone wall measuring 120 X 140. The entrance facing the Sea of Galilee was guarded by a watchtower, and a paved road led down to a harbor where Christian boats could berth. Inside the wall the 45 X 25m church is made of a mosaic floor courtyard
surrounded by pillars with pictures of animals (chickens
, and fish
), parts of which were vandalized, as well as pictures of plants such as citrons
, and grapes
. The monastery was occupied during the Mishnaic
periods. In the 8th century the site was damaged by an earthquake and abandoned. After so many years, seeing the same sites over and over again, Apostle Price doesn’t always get off the bus to see them all again, but Kursi got his attention.
One of the highlights of any tour to the Holy Land is having a St. Peter’s fish lunch on the Sea of Galilee. Every trip we look forward to our stop at the Kibbutz that supports Israel’s largest dairy as well as a huge fish restaurant on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
Here’s what Frommers has to say about Ein Gev Fish Restaurant:
For great, freshly caught Saint Peter's fish served indoors or on porches and terraces overlooking the lake, this is the place to come. The fame of the fish here has spread around the world, and even though the restaurant is the largest in Israel, it is often filled to the brim. But if you avoid the midday tour groups, this can be a pleasant place for a meal. You can order your fish in two sizes: medium and slightly larger (the larger size is the better deal) -- it will come with French fries or oven-baked potatoes and a side salad, as well as a choice of good side sauces. The best time to come here is early
evening; reserve a table on the terrace by the waterfront in good weather and watch the sunset and soft twilight over the Sea of Galilee as you dine. Tip:
Stick to the local Saint Peter's fish -- the other choices are not why you dine here.
Whatever Frommers. We enjoyed ourselves as usual. Dr. Betty requested hot sauce and with a group of mostly African Americans, it got passed around a lot.
Next stop, the gift shop, where else, rest rooms and board the boat for our ride across the Sea of Galilee. Now, I was questioning the wisdom of doing so because the winds of earlier in the day had picked up, significantly. We could see white caps all across the Sea of Galilee and Jesus wasn’t around to stop the wind. But, we boarded anyway. What a ride. We ended up having the longest boat ride ever. The winds continued to gain strength and the waves got even bigger. It was all we could do to just hang on and try to avoid the sea spray. Forget the 91 degrees, it was cold and windy.
The Captain had to slow us down to a crawl to keep us dry and to avoid as much potential motion sickness as possible. The winds by now were howling so loud, we could hardly hear. The goal was to get out in the middle of the Sea, stop the engines and for Apostle Price to teach for about 30 minutes. As far as I was concerned, all we needed to do was get to the other side and get off this boat.
After over an hour of water abuse, we slowed down near the opposite shore. The Captain positioned the boat so as to allow Apostle Price to be heard above the wind, but barely. He asked how many wanted to hear a teaching and how many wanted to go ashore. It was 50/50, so he taught. Darn. I mean, I wanted to hear him teach, but I also wanted to get off that boat.
He taught a different message than the traditional Jesus walked on the water, Luke 5:1-7. It was almost as well received as getting off the boat was shortly thereafter. This time we disembarked at a new location, a pier near Capernaum.
From here we boarded our busses and headed back to Tabgha, this time to see the sight of the teaching of the loaves and fishes. Here is a Byzantine mosaic preserved under a modern church but it was once part of a church which commemorated Jesus' feeding of the 5000.
Our first stop today was quite a drive from the hotel. All around the Sea of Galilee, across the Jordan River and up the back side of the Golan Heights, within sight of Jordanian military outposts to what is called the Peace Overlook. This location has a complete view of the entire Sea of Galilee, North, South, East and West and all the Huleh Valley around it. The view is breathtaking. Then again, so is the drive up the mountain to get here. Watching the bus drivers negotiate the huge Mercedes Benz OC 500 busses up what appear to be goat trails with shear drops down way too far, will certainly get your blood pumping. The secret is, don’t look down.
We first were introduced to the Peace Overlook on our last tour to the Holy Land in 2008. It was just as spectacular now as it was then. As expected, the area around the overlook has modernized somewhat. Last time it appeared to be just an outpost in the middle of nowhere. Today, it boasts a very modern Gallery gift shop. It used to be we had a few locations to spend our money, now everywhere we go, no matter the religious or historic significance, there’s an element of commercialism.
The guides tell us of the strategic importance to the overlook to the state of Israel. How the Syrians used to use the height advantage to bombard the Jewish settlers below at will, prior to 1967 the war. Needless to say, Syria wants it back; Israel says no way and in spite of its name, there is no real peace. We use the location as an opportunity for awesome photos of the Galilee and move on to the next stop, the ancient Talmudic or Byzantine Village and Synagogue of Qasrin or Katzrin. Here the ruins are so well preserved, we can experience actually entering an ancient stone home, going room to room, getting a feel for what it may have been like back in the day. It actually was fairly comfortable.
This ancient Jewish farming village and synagogue were built around a spring, which still flows. Although there were standing ruins on the site, archaeological excavations have increased the number of accessible ancient buildings. An ancient synagogue was discovered in 1967 and excavated between 1971 and 1984. Other parts of the village were excavated beginning in 1983. Some of the buildings have been reconstructed on their ancient foundations and furnished with replicas of household goods and tools. An ancient wine press and olive press have also been made functional with new ropes and beams.
The next stop isn’t a true location, but is more of a lookout. You know those turnouts along the highway that allow you to take advantage of a scenic overlook. So, we’ll call this place Kinetra. Reason being, it overlooks the Kinetra Valley and Syria. Here we can see a lush, green farming valley, a huge United Nations Peacekeeping outpost and a very large Syrian flag. A great spot for photos. Some of the local entrepreneurs have taken advantage of the many tourists like us who stop here to sell a myriad of tasty goodies. I bought some fresh pistachios and had a drink that was a concoction of milk, coconut, nuts and other stuff, all heated and served in an espresso cup. Since it was fairly cold outside, the drink was sweet and interesting.
From here we traversed almost the entire Golan, past Druze villages, farms, terraced hillsides and down the northern Golan to the valley and lunch. Today it was a fish farm turned restaurant. Apparently fish farming is quite big in Israel, so why not open a restaurant along the highway for hungry tourists. The name is Dafna Fish Restaurant near Kiriat Shimona. The restaurant is located in a country setting and inviting atmosphere, with the backdrop of flowing water and a unique variety of culinary options. The fish is fresh & arrives directly from the trout’s farm close by. We ate here our last trip and it was very good. On the menu, trout, chicken or shish kabob. I had the shish kabob and found it very good, but way too much. All meals are served Middle Eastern style with a variety of small salads before the main course, pita bread and both small, boiled potatoes and French fries.
After lunch we backtrack a little, past Tel Dan, one of the sources of the Jordan River to Caesarea Philipi, another source of the Jordan River. I love it here, lush, beautiful, lots of running water, peaceful and tranquil. I could’ve hung out here in Jesus’ day. Caesarea Philippi
was an ancient Roman city located at the southwestern base of Mount Hermon
. The city is mentioned in the gospels of Matthew
and was located within the region known as the "Panion" (the region of the Greek god Pan
). Named after the deity associated with the grotto and shrines close to the spring called "Paneas
" or Banias. Today, the city, now no longer inhabited, is an archaeological site located within the Golan Heights
. We walked around, took photos, bought stuff and prepared for our next location almost an hours’ drive away, meaning a must restroom stop.
We drive past Kiriat Shimona which we stayed in back in 1978. It’s been bombarded recently by the Lebanese Hezbollah, which led to Israel’s most recent war. Our next and last stop of the day, Chorazim which, along with Bethsaida
and Capernaum, was named in the New Testament gospels
as "cities" (more likely just villages) in which Jesus
performed "mighty works". However, because these towns rejected his work ("they had not changed their ways," they were subsequently cursed (Matthew 11:20-24
; Luke 10:13-15
Today it’s an Israeli National park featuring ruins of a ritual bath, dwelling houses with paved courtyards, a huge synagogue with a real Moses chair and an oil press for pressing olives. From here we travel past the Sea of Galilee to Tiberias and home for one last evening. Tomorrow we’ve got to get up at 6:00 am, luggage out at 6:30 am, breakfast and on the busses by 8:00 am. We’ve got a big day ahead, driving all the way, bag and baggage to Jerusalem, touring all the way.
What’s the worst thing a traveler can do while in a foreign country? Aside from murdering someone, it’s losing your passport. Guess what I did? I’ll tell you about that later. For now, we begin our last day in the Galilee as all the others, except a little earlier, 6:00 am. Yucch!, But, we have a lot of ground to cover, wanna make sure everyone gets their money’s worthJ First stop, the Jordan River. In all the past 32 years we’ve been coming to the Holy Land, Apostle Price has made it a point to inform the people that he’s not Baptising anyone in the Jordan River. Mainly because people want to do it as a novelty, even though they’ve already been Baptised. Well, this time we did have a Baptism in the Jordan and it wasn’t performed by Apostle Price.
Little 6 yr. old Gabriel Bostic, had never been baptized before and his parents decided to have him Baptized in the Jordan River. We were blessed to have a number of FICWFM Pastors accompany the Apostle on this trip so the Baptismal was performed by Pastor Ken Friendly of Anchorage Alaska. We all gathered at the Baptismal location, Gabriel, his Father, Dr. Bostic and Pastor Friendly donned their Baptismal robes and entered the cold Jordan. Gabriel was a trooper because unlike Pastor Friendly and his Father, he was up to his chest in the Jordan and as I said, it was uncharistically cold. Pastor Friendly prayed and immersed little Gabriel and the crowd shouted. This child will be forever memorialized in the hearts and minds of everyone who traveled with us and many others from around the world who also observed this momentous occasion.
While the batizee and baptizer changed, the rest of the group shot once in a lifetime photos of themselves in and around the Jordan River. Then it was time to board the busses and head for Gideon’s Spring. The Gideon’s Spring flows from Gideon's Cave. This is the place where he gathered his men before fighting the Midianites. Judges 7:1 describes the scene, "Then Jerubbaal, who is Gideon, and all the people that were with him, rose up early, and pitched beside the well of Harod: so that the host of the Midianites were on the north side of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley." It was here that Gideon administered the 'water test' as a way of choosing the warriors for the coming battle (Judges 7:4-7).
Today it is a nature reserve with the second largest swimming pool in Israel, sprawling lawns, a picnic area and great looming eucalyptus trees. Aside from Gideon's Cave we were able to see some remains of an ancient aqueduct and a memorial to soldiers who died fighting on Mt. Gilboa. Mrs. Angela Evans read the passage in Judges to place us all in remembrance while we took photos and absorbed the surrounding beauty of this location.
Next stop, Beit Shean, located 17 miles south of the Sea of Galilee. Beth Shean is situated at the strategic junction of the Harod and Jordan Valleys. The fertility of the land and the abundance of water led the Jewish sages to say, "If the Garden of Eden is in the land of Israel, then its gate is Beth Shean." It is no surprise then that the site has been almost continuously settled from the Chalcolithic period to the present.
Pompey and the Romans rebuilt Beth Shean in 63 B.C. and it was renamed Scythopolis ("city of the Scythians;" Col 3:11). It became the capital city of the Decapolis and was the only one on the west side of the Jordan. The city continued to grow and prosper in the Roman and Byzantine periods until it was destroyed on January 18, 749 A.D. by an earthquake. Evidence of this earthquake includes dozens of massive columns that toppled over in the same direction. The ruins are awesome and we could really see how people lived in this time.
Now it’s a huge site with a very high Tel above the city. I’ve never walked up it as it’s a strenuous climb and a lot of work. The majority of the group went walking through the ruins while Apostle Price, Dr. Betty, Angie and I sat in the outdoor waiting area enjoying ice cream and the wonderful view. While we ate, Apostle Price said he had always wanted to climb to the top of the hill, but for whatever reason, never did. Angie said if you go, I’ll go. I said they were both just talking and to eat their ice cream. Next thing I know they’re both up, followed by Quincy Watts, who must have been thinking, what are these two up to now.
They walked the entire distance of the Roman colonnade and got to the foot of the hill. Facing a steep climb of some 185 steps, they began one step at a time. Next thing we know, they’re at the top and waving back at us. Now, you’ve got to picture this, they’re so far away, with my 12x zoom lens, I can barely make them out. Bottom line, they did it. But, they still had to climb down and a long walk back.
By the time they got back, the rest of the group had been back for quite a while and everyone cheered while Apostle Price smiled and headed for some refreshment. It’s a good thing I’m not a gambling man, because I would’ve lost a fortune, betting Apostle Price would ever make such a trek at 78 yrs. Old. You go Doc.
By this time, we were getting hungry and we still had a long way to go. We drove along the Israel, Jordan border, past military outposts, farms, barbed wire and small settlements, both Israeli and Palestinian. We drove through the West Bank and past Jericho, which was blocked off. That was a shame, because when Jericho was open, it boasted some of the best lamb chops in Israel. Hopefully peace will return and so will the lamb chops. For now, we continue to the Dead Sea and the caves at Qumran.
10 miles south of Jericho, Qumran was on a "dead-end street" and provided a perfect location for the isolationist sect of the Essenes to live. The Dead Sea scrolls from Qumran have had a profound impact on our understanding of the development and transmission of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, manuscripts of the Hebrew Old Testament as old as the third century B.C. were among them—more than a millennium older than the best textual data known at the time.
For that reason, we stop and tour the caves that also boast a beautiful view of the Dead Sea. The people, especially the ladies love this stop because the gift shop specializes in Dead Sea skin care products. Needless to say, we spent an inordinate amount of time here, not to mention this is also where we ate lunch.
From here it was up to Jerusalem. We started at the Dead Sea, 1,300 ft. below sea level and proceeded to Jerusalem, 2,600 ft. above sea level. As we approached the city, our driver, Halil played Oh Jerusalem and it brought Angie and others to tears. Jerusalem is the crown jewel in this tour and we’re finally here.
Busy day, worn out from touring and early wake-ups. No time for real breakfast, grabbed some bread, cup of coffee to go & a bottle of juice and onto the bus. Today’s going to be even busier, first stop the Mount of Olives. Can you imagine, we are going to be on the Mount of Olives, if not exactly in the same footsteps of Jesus and the Apostles, very close. The terrain is the same, the view is the same and the distance from it to Jerusalem is the same. We can really imagine what it must have been to actually be here, with Jesus as he made His way down the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane.
While on the mount, we take in the awesome, almost 180 degree view of new and old Jerusalem and take a bunch of photos as well as our group photo with Jerusalem in the background. The Guides explain the significance of the site to us, as if we didn’t know, but what they say only adds to our knowledge of not only the biblical, but historical significance of where we are and what took place here over 2,000 years ago.
From here we actually walk down the Mount of Olives as Jesus did, to the Garden of Gethsemane. This is better known as the Palm Sunday walk. It is a tricky, steep walk downhill that would have been better made from the back of a colt of a donkey. Once at the Garden of Gethsemane, the guides once again speak of what it is we’re seeing and experiencing. The quiet manicured grounds, the ancient olive trees, the noise and hustle and bustle of life and traffic outside the garden in modern day Jerusalem. Then Apostle Price teaches a short message on the fact that Jesus had to die spiritually, here in the Garden of Gethsemane in preparation for Him to die physically later on, due to His virgin birth.
Afterwards, we are given precious moments to remain in the garden on our own and reflect on where we are and to commune with the Lord ourselves. It’s an emotional and very personal moment for many. Then we cross the street we walked down from the Mount of Olives into the portion of the garden adjacent to the Church of All Nations, officially named the Basilica of the Agony
. The Catholic Church enshrines a section of stone in the Garden of Gethsemane that where Jesus prayed
on the night of his arrest (Matthew 26:36).
It appears that the state of the world economy hasn’t affected the Holy Land. Everywhere we’ve gone; there have been hundreds if not thousands of pilgrims just like us touring these holy sites. The Guides tell us they’ve worked weeks, away from home and family to take care of the demand. We can see the effects; huge tourist busses lined up as far as you can see, each carrying 40 – 50 passengers each, the traffic, both vehicular and on foot are amazing. This being said, after we complete this portion of our tour, we wait for our busses and head to Caiaphas’ house.
You remember him don’t you? Caiaphas’s house in Jerusalem, located not far from the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives. Matthew 26:57 says, “Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled.”
From here we travel to Bethlehem. Due to the situation in the Middle East, it is off limits to our Israeli guides, but not our Palestinian drivers. The guides disembark at the checkpoint and we continue on our own to our first stop, the Three Arches, http://www.holylandshopping.com
for some long awaited, serious shopping. This is always a highlight experience for our people. They buy some terrific items here—olive wood carvings, jewelry set with ancient coins and glass, etc. You can trust this shopping experience. Mike Canawati, son of Nicola Canawati and his team are wonderful to work with and have been doing business with us for several decades. Nicola now lives in Southern California, but the experience is still as memorable as ever, and the prices are great, too! Additionally, there is no VAT or value added tax because you’re in Palestinian territory, not Israel.
But there is much more to see and do in Bethlehem as you can imagine. Unfortunately, some tourists don’t do as we and travel into Bethlehem without their Israeli guides. To not go to Bethlehem would be a shame. The Palestinian Christians of Bethlehem, the Church of the Nativity, the Shepherds Field, you would be missing so much. We’ve gone every trip and have loved every bit of it, including our first opportunity in Israel to eat something other than kosher food and it’s delicious.
After we’ve shopped until we dropped (dropped lots of money) we head to the Canawati’s restaurant for lunch. It is a first class operation that can handle hundreds of tourists at a single sitting and do so in clean, air conditioned comfort. The fare for the day is a myriad of Middle Eastern delights including olives, hummus, egg plant, freshly made pita bread, salads and the main course, kabob chicken, lamb and beef with French fries no less.
After lunch, it’s off to the Shepherds Field, approximately 2 km to the east of Bethlehem
near the village of Beit Sahour, where one of the most sacred places to us Christians; is found. The Shepherds Field is identified as the scene where the Angel of the Lord visited the shepherds and informed them of Jesus' birth; "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And the Angel said to them, Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people" (Luke 2:8-10).
We tour the grounds and the cave where the shepherds tended their flock and view the church that was built over these holy grounds. Then we’re off to the Church of the Nativity. The birth of Jesus is narrated in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Matthew
gives the impression that Mary and Joseph were from Bethlehem and later moved to Nazareth
because of Herod's decree, while Luke
indicates that Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth, and Jesus was born in Bethlehem while they were in town for a special census. Either way, there is a church in Bethlehem celebrating the location of the birth of Christ. The surrounding area is known as Manger Square.
Inside the Catholic Church, there is a grotto below and behind the alter where Jesus was born. Again, due to huge throngs of Christians visiting the Holy Land, the wait is 1 ½ hrs. to see it. Apostle Price and I have seen it 10 times or more, but if it’s your first time, you’ve got to go. Believe me; from the response of everyone who went this time, it was well worth it.
When we first arrived in Manger Square, those of us on our bus took a photo with Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity in the background. Upon leaving, we picked up our photos and made our way, through the streets of Bethlehem on foot to the bus and headed for the hotel for dinner and a well deserved good night’s sleep. Everyone that is except me, I’ve got to chronicle all this for you. I hope you like it. Good night.
Today takes us to a location that has no biblical significance, but is nevertheless spectacular, Masada. We get there by descending Jerusalem by bus, back to the road we took to Qumran, past Qumran, along the Dead Sea almost to Eilat. Here we find a modern day oasis in the middle of nowhere that is now a national park.
You may remember seeing or hearing of the 1981 movie starring Peter O’Toole and Barbara Carerra, well it’s based on a true story written by the Jewish traitor/historian, Josephus. It goes like this: After Rome
and the Second Temple
in 70, the Great Revolt
ended-except for the surviving Zealots, who fled Jerusalem
to the fortress of Masada, near the Dead Sea. There, they held out for three years. Anyone who has climbed the famous "snake path" to Masada can understand why the surrounding Roman troops had to content themselves with a siege. Masada is situated on top of an enormous, isolated rock: Anyone climbing it to attack the fortress would be an easy target. Yet the Jews, encamped in the fortress, could never feel secure; every morning, they awoke to see the Roman Tenth Legion hard at work, constructing battering rams and other weapons. If the 960 defenders of Masada hoped that the Romans eventually would consider this last Jewish beachhead too insignificant to bother conquering, they were to be disappointed. The Romans were well aware that the Zealots at Masada were the group that had started the Great Revolt
; in fact, the Zealots had been in revolt against the Romans since the year 6. More than anything else, the length and bitterness of their uprising probably account for Rome's unwillingness to let Masada and its small group of defiant Jews alone.
Once it became apparent that the Tenth Legion's battering rams and catapults would soon succeed in breaching Masada's walls, Elazar ben Yair, the Zealots’ leader, decided that all the Jewish defenders should commit suicide. Because Jewish law strictly forbids suicide, this decision sounds more shocking today than it probably did to his compatriots. There was nothing of Jonestown in the suicide pact carried out at Masada. The alternative facing the fortress’s defenders were hardly more attractive than death. Once the Romans defeated them, the men could expect to be sold off as slaves, the women as slaves and prostitutes. The men killed their wives and children and then each other.
It’s a moving story and one that’s told over and over again as a point of Jewish motivation like Americans tell the story of the Alamo. Fortunately, although Masada is in the middle of the desert, today the weather is cooperating and is spring like with a slight breeze.
Subsequently, we leave Masada and continue even further south towards the Red Sea for lunch. We stop at a small resort called the International Beach and have lunch in their small restaurant. The nice thing about this location is its closeness to its Dead Sea beach. We’ve never been this close before. While we’re eating, we see people enjoying the Dead Sea, laughing, playing, sunning themselves and just having a great time in a resort setting with all the amenities.The Dead Sea
is a natural wonder which is situated in the center of the great Syrian-African rift valley fault between Israel and the Kingdom of Jordan. The Dead Sea
is actually a big inland lake 76 KM long, up to 18 KM wide and it is 400 meters deep at the deepest point. It is the lowest point on dry land in the world (417 under sea level).
After lunch, about half of our group change in the separate men’s and women’s changing rooms, which by the way also have sauna and hot mineral water spas in them, and head to the water. The rest of us sit in the shade with cool drinks and eating ice cream. In all the years I’ve been to the Dead Sea, I’ve never actually been in the water. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan to be in it this year either, so I just use the occasion to document the spot, taking photos and video. But, next time, all bets are off, I’m getting in.
Those who got in the water reported their skin to feel immediately softer after showering. That’s incredible, considering they were only in the water for an hour. Can you imagine how you would feel if you spent a weekend or a week vacation here. You’d be a new person, literally.
Afterwards, the shoppers buy out the Dead Sea products store and we head back to the busses and our next stop, Ein Gedi. The history of Ein Gedi starts in the Bible, where it is mentioned several times. The Song of Songs extols its vineyards in "a cluster of henna in the vineyards of Ein Gedi (1:14)" King David hid in the "strongholds of Ein Gedi" after he fled from King Saul (Samuel I, 24:1).
Ein Gedi is a water-resonant oasis on the Dead Sea and around the early summer is still comfortable to a visit. The Dead Sea area is interesting for the study of the history of Judaism, as its rock caves gave refuge to heroes and ascetics. Ein Gedi means the spring of the Kid. This refers to the ibexes, which we spotted during a quiet walk at the end of the afternoon when they descended the mountain to drink in the wadi
.(valley) Here Angie read from the book of Samuel and we took photos and went back to the bus.
By now, we’ve had a full day and lots of traveling in the sun. Our next destination is our last guaranteed shopping spot of the tour. Guaranteed means if you purchase something from here, you can be assured your credit card information won’t be compromised and if for any reason you need to return your item, although halfway around the world, you can do so without a problem. This particular store is one in which you purchase high end items in confidence such as silk carpets, mother or pearl sculptures and ancient antiquities.
Afterwards, we head for our hotel and dinner. Tomorrow is our free day in Jerusalem and we’ve got to get a good nights sleep so we can explore this wonderful city on our own.
In the early years when we toured the Holy Land we always had an opportunity to spend some quality time in the Old City of Jerusalem. The sights and sounds, the hustle & bustle, the small corridors full of people, all add to the ambience of this unique place. The Old City
is 0.35 square mile walled area within the modern city of Jerusalem
; it lies within East Jerusalem
. Until the 1860s this area constituted the entire city of Jerusalem. The Old City is home to several sites of key religious importance: the Temple Mount
and its Western Wall
, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
, and the Dome of the Rock
and al-Aqsa Mosque
Traditionally, the Old City has been divided into four quarters, although the current designations were introduced only in the 19th century. Today, the Old City is roughly divided into the Muslim Quarter
, the Christian Quarter
, the Jewish Quarter
and the Armenian Quarter
. Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War
the Old City found itself located entirely on the Jordanian side of the demarcation line. During the Six Day War
in 1967 which saw hand to hand fighting on the Temple Mount
, the Old City transferred to Israeli control.
It’s a fascinating place, one in which we recently have been rushing through to get to the Holy sites but missing the experience of interacting with the shopkeepers and others as we pass through. This year, I planned a rest day for everyone in Jerusalem which allowed us to get some much needed rest and also go to the old city if one wanted to. Fortunately, our hotel, the King David Citadel is within walking distance of the Jaffa Gate to the Old City. A new mall has been built between the hotel and the Jaffa Gate allowing for a nice mix of old and new.
I met with Quincy Watts and Pastor Ron Frierson of Detroit, Michigan. We exchanged a few dollars for the local NIS or Israeli Shekels and headed out. First we stopped for coffee in one of the many outdoor cafes in the new mall, had a little fellowship and did some people watching. This is a fascinating activity, especially in a new country.
Then it was time to enter the Old City. We entered the Jaffa Gate, passing a bread vendor with exposed bread on a wooden cart at the very entrance. We then proceeded down the main drag until we found a Falafel vendor and I ordered a freshly squeezed orange juice. We decided to get a Falafel on the way back.
As we continued down one of the many narrow, hilly streets, we encountered others in our group who were having a ball haggling with the local merchants. Many thanked me for sharing this most important tip, don’t pay the asking price. We all purchased a few items after a few hours and headed back to the Felafel joint. We sat down, tired but satisfied with our purchases. For Pastor Ron and Quincy, this was their first Felafel and they loved it. I ordered extra of the fried chickpea center as a snack, some freshly squeezed orange juice and we dined sufficiently. We headed out of the Old City, back through the new mall and to our hotel to reunite with our wives. What a wonderful, relaxing time we had, exploring the Old City of Jerusalem.
It was time for a little rest before our big evening. Tonight is our farewell banquet. Everyone got dressed up and we met in a private ballroom of the hotel to thank everyone responsible for such a wonderful trip. It was a night of food fellowship and thanksgiving. But, it’s not over yet; we’ve got an early getup in the morning for our last day in this wonderful land of the bible.
This is it, the final day the grand finale of the tour. Today we do a little packing before breakfast and hit the busses. Our first stop is just steps away from hour hotel, the Jaffa Gate to the Old City of Jerusalem. Yes, this is somewhat of a retracing of our footsteps from yesterday, but everyone didn’t visit the Old City on their day off. I even heard of a couple that made arrangements from the hotel Concierge for a day trip back to the Dead Sea. We must have made quite an impression on them. They told of spending a full 5 hours relaxing in the sun and fun of the therapeutic waters of the Dead Sea.
This day, we received information on the Old City from the tour guides, much beyond the self guided, shopping/walking tour of the day before. It’s early and most of the shops aren’t even open. Our destination is the Via Dolorosa to retrace a portion of the stations of the cross of Jesus Christ as He made His way through the city to Calvary. It’s explained to us that the city was much more crowded in Jesus day, which is hard to imagine. There were still the small streets with a bazaar like atmosphere, vendors of every imaginable kind, shoppers, believers, non believers, families, etc. everyone going about their business.
One of the purposes of traipsing criminals’ through the city streets was to add to their humiliation. We can imagine how it must have been, with the Roman guards leading the way, clearing the hustling population to the side so Jesus could pass by carrying his cross through the hilly, slippery stone streets. Some seeing Him cared, others carried on as if nothing unusual was happening.
While we make our way, we observe a number of other groups of pilgrims who are actually retracing every station of the cross, actually carrying a huge cross themselves for more realism. Seeing it really gives rise to how it must have been. No one of the people we see can carry their cross for any length of time. When they get tired, they pass it on to another person in the group. Jesus didn’t have this as an option. Being weak from loss of blood, lack of food, the pain of the bloody flogging, the crown of thorns, the weight of the rugged cross, the slippery, hilly streets, the taunts and chants of the people, the pushing by the Roman guards, we can understand why Jesus fell along the way. He did this for us.
We reach the center of town which separates the four quarters of the city. From here, we pass by the church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Catholics believe Jesus was buried. We continue to the church of St. Anne and the Pool of Bethesda before exiting the Old City at the Lion’s Gate and back to our waiting busses.
Next stop, the Pool of Siloam. We arrive in what appears to be Arab East Jerusalem, a densely populated, urban area where the ruins of the pool are located. It is in the process of being excavated so we don’t tour the area as we did the last time we visited Israel, but we do have a service. Earlier, we were trying to change things up a little and have Apostle Price teach on the steps to the temple, but we informed him too late as he had already prepared a special message to be taught at the Pool of Bethesda.
We have our service, take our pictures and head to lunch. Ironically, we pass right by our hotel on the way to our restaurant. Its ok, right in the middle of Jerusalem. It gives us a sense of the city and some shopkeepers even thank us for visiting Israel, with all the negative press they’re sure we receive. Food wise, we would’ve been better off eating at the hotel, which we will do next time.
After lunch we proceed to the Garden Tomb. Here we gather for an explanation of the significance of the area to Christians all over the world. We see the site of the skull, Golgotha, which is believed to be the place where Jesus was crucified. We then pass through the garden to the empty tomb. Naturally, this area is crowded with tourists, but we’ve got to wait our turn and experience actually going in the tomb. It’ a moving experience for many.
We relocate to a secluded spot in the garden for our Communion service. Another group in an adjoining area is singing worship and praise songs just before Apostle Price begins his message, so we use this as an opportunity for accompanying worship and praise of our own. He enlists the assistance of Pastor’s Ron Frierson and Joseph Mills to help distribute the elements to the people. The bread is unleavened, broken crackers and the juice is in metal lined, olive wood cups.
Once everyone has them, Apostle Price shares his communion message and we partake of Communion. It’s a very special occasion for little Gabriel Bostic. Earlier in the tour, he was Baptized in the Jordan River, now he’s receiving his first Communion in the Garden Tomb. It doesn’t get any better than this. Afterwards, we are given the Communion cups as souvenirs and we leave the garden knowing we’ve just experienced the best of the Holy Land, culminating with a visit to Calvary and receiving Holy Communion in the Garden Tomb. What a fitting end to a marvelous tour. We head back to our busses and to the hotel to finish packing, have our final dinner in the hotel and to the busses for our trip to the airport and home.
This was the 11th Holy Land tour for Ever Increasing Faith Ministries and as far as I’m concerned, the best. Visiting the Holy Land doesn’t get old, it is new every morning. Yes, the flight from Los Angeles was 14 hours and there was a lot of walking, but the time in the air and the walking was for a spiritual purpose that is difficult to measure in mere time and distance. I for one can’t wait to return.
Until then, plan to join us on our next adventure, a cruise on the largest, most luxurious cruise ship in the world, Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis of the Seas, August 13th, 2011. This ship is so massive and with 7 separate and distinct neighborhoods, it’s a destination in and of itself. If this ship never left its home port of Ft. Lauderdale, that would be ok. It’s going to take at least 7 days to see and experience all this ship has to offer.
For more information, visit www.oasisoftheseas.com
A. Michael Evans, Jr.