Back in the beginning of April, Eric and I took a two-week trip to Israel and Jordan. These were SO DIFFERENT than what we were expecting. To be honest, when I signed up, I knew it was something we should do at this time in our lives, but I didn’t think it would be so moving. I’ve never thought that I needed to visit Israel to confirm my faith, and I’m not sure that it really did anything in that sense, but it really does make the Bible come alive. I was reading through Isaiah for my Lent Bible Study, and suddenly I was reading about places I had just visited the day before. Isaiah mentions all these mountains and valleys by name, and there I was, driving through them on the bus.
Ok, so the first few days were spent in the Sea of Galilee region… Let’s get started!
Where we stayed:
This hotel was probably the most modern/ spacious of the ones we stayed in, but it didn’t have strong wifi in the bedrooms!! How is a blogger supposed to live like this?? They did have decent wifi in the lobby, so I went down there one night to wrap up some client posts.
For our tour schedule, we were usually on the bus by 8am and back by 4pm… Get Ready… With so many important little cities in the Galilee region, we stopped at a lot of places! I’m just going to give a super short overview of each place, a relevant verse where possible, and a photo!
We stopped at Caesarea first. We were a little jet lagged, and it started raining, but the Mediterranean was mesmerizing. Herod’s temple stood in this spot jutting out into the sea. Eric and I are standing in the theatre which seated about 3,500 people. This theater is where Herod Agrippa would have died according to Acts 12.
My blue scarf + braid uniform makes its first appearance in this photo 🙂
Next we visited Mount Carmel, most likely where the prophet Elijah challenged the priests of Baal in 1 Kings 18.
Since we were in Israel during the spring, everything was green! The land stays green for a few weeks, and then everything turns brown. I couldn’t get over this view.
And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.” 1 Kings 18:36-39
I found Megiddo super interesting. This archaeological site has 26 layers of cities built one on top of the other. As one city was destroyed, the conquerors just built their city on top. Archaeologists have uncovered four different city gates in approximately the same location.
We also walked down into the depths of the city to find the spring, which was key to the survival of any city in Israel. I don’t really like heights, so walking down this narrow staircase of almost 200 stairs was not my favorite activity.
Also, this site is a possible location of the future Battle of Armageddon (see the word Megiddo could be in there?).
I loved our visit to Nazareth. The site was originally a vineyard, and during construction, they found an original wine press and watchtower. The tour guide explained how different families would each own their own terraces in the vineyard.
The site almost reminded me of DisneyWorld with the people dressed up as villagers. We saw a shepherd and his sheep, a carpenter, and a woman making wool. This location contains the only full-size replica of a synagogue based on components of excavated synagogues (such as in Magdala and Chorazin).
Hike to Mount Arbel
Next, we climbed to the top of Mount Arbel overlooking the Sea of Galilee. I did not go very close to the edge… not enough fencing. Unfortunately, we had hazy weather this day, but you can usually see out to Mount Hermon.
Magdala is a fairly new excavation with one of the most beautiful churches I saw in Israel. The site has examples of large homes and docks for boats.
The Sea of Galilee is so pretty! It’s actually a lake, not quite big enough for a sea, and it’s been pretty low the past few years.
Peter, Andrew, James, and John (the fishermen) most likely lived in this city. The synagogue has been rebuilt many times, but portions have been dated to the time of Christ.
And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. Matthew 11:23
Sea of Galilee Boat Ride
This is our team of Australians and New Jersey-ans on our Sea of Galilee boat ride! As you can tell by our hair, it was actually too windy for riding to the middle of the lake, so we stayed near the shore.
Such a beautiful day for a boat ride!
And while we were by the Sea of Galilee, we had to have St.Peter’s Fish for lunch! I decided that fish with eyeballs are challenging to eat…
So. We visited the Golan Heights and “waved at Syria,” posted photos… and then the next day the US fired on Syria… our relatives were concerned, but we were perfectly safe. Don’t worry.
Mount Hermon straddles Lebanon and Syria, but we just viewed the mountain from the Israeli side.
The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours;
the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.
The north and the south, you have created them;
Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name. Psalm 89:11-12
A site for pagan worship since the Old Testament period, this cave later became a temple to the Greek god Pan. And since it’s at the base of Mount Hermon, it contains one of the largest springs feeding the Jordan River. We ate our typical lunch of Falafel and Pita along the water.
Dan is another location with a spring making up the headwaters of Jordan… This city has one of the oldest excavations of everything we saw. Archeologists excavated the High Place of Jeroboam, as well as this ancient gate from 1800BC. Seriously, Abraham probably walked through this gate based on the verse below.
When Abram heard that his kinsman had been taken captive, he led forth his trained men, born in his house, 318 of them, and went in pursuit as far as Dan. Genesis 14:14
Day 3 might have been one of my favorite days with all the hiking and waterfalls. Our guide joked that this was the water day because we would be heading into the desert, and then on to Jordan where there’s no water…. he was right.
Because we visited during the spring, we saw so many flowers in bloom that many tourists miss. And look at those waterfalls!!
Look at how happy Eric is looking at ancient arches 🙂
When we rode the bus around Israel, we would see mounds of rocks all through the hillside. This meant a city was once there but had been abandoned or destroyed by an earthquake. For Chorazin, while some of it had been destroyed, archaeologists rebuilt homes from the rocks they found to demonstrate the typical structures.
They also found on of the typical Galilean synagogues where Jesus would have taught.
Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. Matthew 11:21-22
On our way out of the Sea of Galilee region, we visited Beth Shaen. Because of its strategic location and water supply, the Romans only abandoned the city because of a devastating earthquake. The soldiers built markets, bathhouses, and a theater for entertainment.
Because of the continuous habitation, nothing remains from Jesus’ time or earlier.
The next day, when the Philistines came to strip the slain, they found Saul and his three sons fallen on Mount Gilboa. So they cut off his head and stripped off his armor and sent messengers throughout the land of the Philistines, to carry the good news to the house of their idols and to the people. They put his armor in the temple of Ashtaroth, and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan. But when the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul, all the valiant men arose and went all night and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. And they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh and fasted seven days. 1 Samuel 11:8-13
Apparently, every group takes this photo…. these are Roman toilets.
Jordan River Baptism Site
We traveled south to Jerusalem on day four, but stopped in a few places along the way. Some of the team chose to be baptized in the Jordan River! While this is most likely not the spot Jesus was baptized, it was a gorgeous spot.
Jericho is one of the oldest continuously inhabited city… And of course, this is where Jesus met Zacchaeus! We stopped here for lunch as well.
He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. Luke 19:1-4
St. George Monastery
We didn’t stop here for long, just across the mountain to see the aqueduct and view the monastery. This little place was just a stop for pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem!
We ended our very long day of touring in Bethlehem! The church wasn’t really my style, but here’s a photo of the spot where the manger could have been.
And now we’re in Jerusalem! More about that on Wednesday!