January 11, 2018
Greetings from Jerusalem! Soon, we will be back in the States, sharing stories and testimonies about how Jesus Christ has been moving in our lives as we learn throughout this trip. Consequently, this will be the last blog post that you will have the pleasure of enjoying. May it bring you blessing and encouragement.
Today, I would like to take you on a spiritual journey through the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (https://churchoftheholysepulchre.net/). The Church of the Holy Sepulchre includes both the place of the crucifixion and the tomb of Jesus Christ. Imagine with me, if you will, so that you may vicariously experience the awe and healing that I have been overwhelmed with today.
January 10, 2018
Today we visited one of the sites I’ve been most anxious to see: The Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Located on Mount Moriah, where Abraham offered his son, Isaac, the Temple Mount was the center of Jewish worship and was the platform on which rested the very presence of the living God. The second temple was originally built in the 6th Century bce and was enlarged by King Herod the Great before Christ was born to a truly magnificent architectural behemoth. The Temple Mount itself was large enough to hold 26 soccer fields and more than 100,000 people. The stones used to make the walls beneath the temple mount ranged from 2.5 tons all the way to 580 tons. That one stone weighs more than a million pounds and was carried and placed 2000 years ago. Everything I read about the vastness of the temple mount was surpassed by walking up onto it myself. It once held the Temple itself which was visible for miles outside of the city.
January 9, 2018
Today our first stop was Herodium, a magnificent palace/fortress built by Herod the Great between 23 and 15 BC. This magnificent site was named after its author and is situated on the highest peak of the Judean desert just south of Bethlehem. The main purpose of this complex was for governmental and administrative purposes. However, like other palace/fortresses built by Herod the Great, this one too had an area for entertaining inhabitants and guests. Just before his death in 4 BC, King Herod had an artificial mountain built to commemorate himself to safeguard his name and his legacy. It is at this site that archeologists found three sarcophagi and in one of them were the bones of a man who had died at about 68 to 70 years old. Although one cannot say with absolute certainty, it is highly probable that these are indeed the remains of this once great king.
January 8, 2018
Beth Shean was a breathtaking experience and possibly my favorite archaeological site. It is a massive, well preserved site with an expansive history stretching beyond both Old and New Testaments. It offers multicultural artifacts from before, during, and after biblical times. From the Egyptian anthropoid coffins predating the united Israelite monarchy to the remains of Zeus’s temple from the Roman period, Beth Shean offers a rich and holistic example of how God blesses us through biblical archaeology.
January 7, 2018
For the past few days we have been exploring the Shephelah and the areas around the Dead Sea, the arenas for many of the most well-known events of the Old Testament. But today we got the chance to explore what one of our professors affectionately dubbed “Jesus Country!” We got to travel across Sea of Galilee and the land surrounding it, the place where Jesus spent the majority of his life and ministry. Though things have certainly changed a little in the last 2,000 years, it’s still mind boggling that today I was looking up at the same mountains Jesus would have, I crossed the sea He crossed many times and I walked in areas that our Savior would have likely trod.
January 6, 2018
In the desert, more obviously than perhaps anywhere else, water means life. Particularly in the southern region of Israel where rain seldom falls and middle easterners are at the mercy of extreme heat and drought, it is imperative to secure the basic, precious resource of water. Our Israeli guide Yehuda keeps reminding us that the abundance of rain we have received in the past two days is highly unusual. In fact, as my friend Scott mentioned in his earlier post, this region is so unused to what seems like a small amount of precipitation that our trip to Masada yesterday (Friday) was quickly spoiled by the rain. Today we journeyed back to this infamous mountain fortress of Herod the Great, which has a strategic vantage point high above the Dead Sea.
January 5, 2018
Today’s Journey took our group mostly around the lower part of the Dead Sea and into the Negev. These regions in particular tend to be dry receiving about 2-4 inches of rain per year. It so happens that today was the day in which those inches decided to fall. Our first stop of the day was to the site of Masada, which is an ancient fortress built on top of a mountain with only one narrow and winding pathway up to it. In order to conquer this site the Romans had to build their own pathway up to the fortress on the backside of the mountain. Many of us were very excited to hike up the path, however, upon arriving at the site we discovered we would not be able to go up due to the rain. This was very disappointing on the one hand, but it was also a very unique experience to see rain come to this part of the land that seems to never have it.
January 4, 2018
Our day began before the sunrise. Many of us spent the night tossing, trying to adjust from the jetlag from yesterday’s travels. However early it was, it was beautiful to watch the sun rise over the hill country of Israel. Our hotel was near Kiriath Jearim, in the central hill country of Israel. We began the tour in an open air chapel overlooking the hills of the Shephelah, and the flat coastal plains. Here we began the tour with the reading of Psalm 121, and then we dove into a geography lesson.