Saturday, May 21, 2005

Israel - Final Days

Bishop led a short explanation of speaking in tongues.

Bishop preached about the end times where a river will flow from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea and bring life there.

Supper with a lady from Virginia.

Saturday we walked the Via De La Rosa. The road Jesus carried his cross along. We visited each station and ended in the Church that is the alternate tomb site to the Garden Tomb. The Garden Tomb the day before where Bishop gave a sermon and we sang. A young choir was also there and they sang beautifully. We visited the tomb with the roll away stone.

After the group went on to Rome, I spent the afternoon exploring old Jerusalem. I bartered with a local merchant and bought some old Jerish coins.

Two nights before we took a stroll around with a group and each of us got a nickname. Smokie, Sweetness and Light, Fig Leafa, and me D Cup and Up.

The trip from Jerusalem back to Tel Aviv is surprisingly short. Seeing the countryside was a pleasure and our trip home was cool. We flew over the Black Sea, Eastern Europe, Germany, England and on along the North Atlantic route.

Definitely a trip everyone should take. I was sad that we did not go to Rome, but it just makes it a higher priority for next time!

Friday, May 20, 2005

Israel - Day 7

On day seven we visited a scale model of the entire old city. It is an amazing replica of the second temple period. The second temple was enormous compared to the present day Dome of the Rock. It consisted of three areas. The outer area was open to all Jews and gentiles. The middle area was a Holy area reserved for Jews. The inner area called the Holy of the Holies was restricted to all but one high priest. The High Priest was often old so they would tie bells to his leg and a golden chain to his body in case he died in the Holy of Holies and nobody could get him out.

We then visited the Museum of the Dead Sea Scrolls. The scrolls are written in Aramaic and Hebrew and can still be read by modern Jews. Seeing such old documents gives a sense of culture one does not feel so deeply in Colorado (with it's 200 year anglo history.) Apologies to the Anasazi of course.

A tour of the Holocaust Museum was my second most memorable event. Such a sense of loss and evil in this place. The round room that contains hundreds of books containing the names of the 6 million Jews who were killed was overwhelming.

I made the bus late waiting for Michelle outside the bathroom. The bishop was not too pleased with me ;-) But we made it to lunch at Kibbutz Raja Rahel. This is the site of the tomb of Rachel who died in child birth.

After lunch we travelled to the Garden of Gatsemeny which was designed by Antonio Bertuzi. 12 countries donated money to build the church. Each country has a dome with their own design. The olive trees here are older than the time of Jesus.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Israel - Day 6

Our Jerusalem experience started on day six. First we visited the site of the jewish priests house where Jesus was chained in the dungeon. It is also the site of the oldest road in Jerusalem. The church on this site has many rooster pictures and sculptures in remembrance of Jesus' quote that he would be denied 3 times before the cock crowed. In Psalm 88 David predicts this scene.

We journeyed to the Dome of the Rock and got special passage from our tour guide. It is a very beautiful mosque and very inspiring. Inside is the rock that Abraham almost sacrificed Isaac on. The Muslems believe it is the place where Mohammad ascended to heaven. We were not allowed to take bibles into the square or for anyone to preach. An old muslim lady stroked Michelle's hair for good luck. To there credit the Muslims offered the Jews a chance to build a third temple on the rock, but the Jews believe that the final temple will descend from heaven.

At the Western Wall I witnessed my first Bar Mitsvahs. The Jews have large and elaborate Torah scrolls as well as boxes of prayers on their heads and shoulders. Men and women are separated at the wall and men have to wear a yamika. Michelle and I each put a prayer in the wall.

We took a tour of an archeological excavation under the Northern portion of the wall that the jews have explored. Under it is a scale model of the inner city. At one point you are closest a Jew can get to the holy of the holies. Michelle felt especially spiritual here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Israel - Day 5

On day five we travelled to the Dead Sea. First we stopped at the Ahava plant where they make and sell cosmetics from the Dead Sea. Michelle stayed inside and shopped while I took a short hike into the desert canyon. I spotted a jackal on the hill side which was a special thrill for me. Then we passed Wadi David where David hid from King Saul.

Masada was my favorite site of the entire trip. It is a natural fortress high above the Dead Sea. On top is constructed a city which was occupied by Jews and Romans at various points in history. King Herod built it as a southern stronghold. He was "mashugane" or crazy-paranoid of the Jews since he was the Roman ruler. Later a group of jews took refuge here as one of the last holdouts of another Roman conquering of Israel. This group committed mass suicide rather than be slaves for Rome.

Finally we went swimming in the Dead Sea. It reminded me of swimming in the Great Salt Lake, only with more bouyancy. You can only stay in for about a half-hour, but it was awesome. Michelle had a good time too.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Israel - Day 4

First we had service at the Sermon on the Mount. The service was way too long with too much praise and worship, and no sermon! We then visited the site where Jesus turned the water to wine. We then drove thru Nazereth, stopped at an overlook, but did not visit any churches. That night we met our guide's son, who is a commercial pilot with El Alal.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Israel Day Three - Baptism

After leaving Ceasarea Philippi we traveled to the spot where Jesus was baptised (probably) just below the Sea of Galilee at Yardenit. At first I wasn't going to be baptised, but Michelle convinced me. I did not want to do it because of my doubts, but decided to try with an open heart. Michelle and I went together and we were baptised by Garrett Leonard and Jerion Hamm. I felt a bit nervous before, but was quite peaceful afterwards. I must admit I did not feel filled with the holy spirit.

We had lunch in Tiberias at a restaurant by the sea. We ate Peter's fish for lunch. It is named after Peter found a gold coin in one that he caught. There were many Peter's fish in the sea. There were many stray cats hanging around waiting for scraps. The Sea of Galilee is really just a mid sized lake.

From Tiberias we travelled to Capernaum, Jesus choice for home town. We saw the remains of Peter's house and the church build above it. The church is designed to resemble a boat. The synagogue near by was probably not build by Jews because the alter causes worshipers to face away from Jerusalem. Men and women pray separately so the men are not tempted. Pray for women is optional because they have so many other duties.

Israel Day Three - Ceasarea Philippi

We spent the night as Kfar Blum located north of the Sea of Galilee. Kfar Blum is a kibbutz which means a community that shares everything. You may be the president one year and a dish washer the next. Traditionally the kibbutz were farming communities that shared equally the fruits of their labor. To supplement this income some have built hotels on their land and that is where we stayed. Kfar Blum is nice... many birds.

The first stop for the day was in Banias-Caesarea Philippi. Here Peter identified Jesus as the Messiah (Matt. 16:17-18) The Greeks built a temple to Pan and 5 other gods here. The place where water, rock cliffs, and vegetation meet evokes the feeling that Pan would have enjoyed this place. There is a natural spring in Pan's cave-temple. Greeks would throw animal sacrifices into the cave and if the animal disappeared, they believed Pan accepted their sacrifice. If they seen blood, the sacrifice was rejected. The spring is the scientific explanation on why some animals disappeared!

There was still a bit of snow on the top of Mount Herman. This is the highest point in Israel, but not that impressive to a Colorado kid. I wanted to climb the mountain, but the Syrian border crosses there! It is weird to see a place that you cannot go for fear of being shot. Israeli helicopters were in constant patrol of the Syrian and Lebonese borders. We have military manuevers close to our house at Buckley, but it is a different feeling when you know these guys are doing real patrols.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Israel Day Two

Day two we boarded the bus and headed north from Tel Aviv. Our first stop was Ceasaria by the Mediterranean Sea. This elaborate city was constructed by King Herod. It boasts a coliseum, an ampitheater, and an impressive palace complete with a swimming pool fed by the sea.

I was impressed by the sycophigus and the Roman sculptures. We had church service in the ampitheater and Michelle sang on the stage. Another church group joined us in service from Canada. This place is also where Peter converted the centurion and where Paul was imprisoned. The crusaders also used this as their main port.

From Ceasaria we travelled on the main trade route to Megiddo. This fort has over 25 layers of civilization. It was perfectly situated on the intersection of two major trade routes. One coming from Persia and the other from Egypt headed north to Turkey. The fort sits on a hill that provides a strategic view of the Armeggedon valley. Within the fort they could house thousands of horses, and would rotate thousands more into the fort from the green valleys surrounding the hill. Their water supply was vulnerable, because it was outside the walls so the ancients tunnelled hundreds of feet through rock to provide a protected way to get access to water.

Across the Armegeddon valley from Megiddo lies the city of Nazereth beacons from a hill side. Tomorrow we head to the Northern most point of Jesus ministry!

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Israel Day One

We departed early on May 13th from Denver for our trip to Israel sponsored by the Heritage Christian Center. We had a lay over in Newark where I got my first glimpse of the Empire State Building.

After the long flight from Newark to Tel Aviv we checked in to the Carlton which is right on the beach of the Mediterranean Sea. On the way to the hotel we stopped in Jaffa to see the House of Simon the Tanner. The sea port here is the oldest in the world. It is next to a hill which provided great protection and has a natural break water. Legend has it that a mermaid died here to create the rocks which sit just below sea level.

Michelle was jet lagged so I spent the afternoon checking out the beach. It was Saturday (sabbath) so there were plenty of people enjoying the beach. Being American I naturally enjoyed the topless girls tanning here and there. I also noticed one of the popular past times is playing paddle tennis. The board game of choice on the beach was backgammon.

One of my first cultural experiences was (of all things) when ordering a beer. I went up to the bar and dutifully waited in line. After quite a few people crowded in front of me, I got the message that you must press the issue in this country. They accept US dollars, but the bar tender did check that my bill was authentic by holding it up and looking for the "stripe".

A walk along the break water revealed 3 gay boys skinny dipping. Fun. The fishermen were using poles with no reels, just a string attached to the end.

There was also a restricted beach... I guess for the orthodox Jews who cannot be in mixed company on the beach.

A great start to the trip! I'll post more "scripture later.