Israel Familiarization Trip

January 4-15, 2016

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A tangible reminder

Today has proven to be a gorgeous first day in Israel. From the rugged mountain country, to the lush valleys and now driving toward the aired desert we’ve experienced the diverse topography of this special land.

Our Israeli guide Ronan has exposed our group to symbolically significant objects like a threshing floor, watch-tower, and even tombs. Our adventures have allowed us to explore an under ground city full of cisterns and olive presses, in addition to a mountain top walking tour of a Biblical garden. Throughout each location we are given the opportunity to open up God’s Word and see for ourselves the correlation between ancient text and present day.

We began the morning by viewing a mountain range where the Ark of The Covenant remained for two decades. Even as I type the thought of this gives me chills.


The biblical city of Kiriath Jearim is best known for the house of Abinadab which held the Ark of the Covenant from the time of Samuel until the time of David (about 120 years). Kiriath Jearim was originally a Gibeonite city that fell within the tribal territory of Judah near the borders of Benjamin and Dan. The prophet Uriah, a contemporary of Jeremiah, was from Kiriath Jearim.

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Our travels then took us to the very community, where as a child I heard the story of Samson and Delilah for the very first time. I will never view this story the same again …especially as a result of our guide Joey’s perspective.

A personal highlight for me today was sitting atop a mountain range overlooking the valley where David and the Israelites defeated Goliath and the Philistines. What literally brought the story to life for me was to trek into a creek-bed and choose five smooth stones as a tangible reminder of this epic event in history.

Tel Azekah and Elah Valley

The Brook Elah is famous for the five stones it contributed to the young slinger, David. Some surmise that David chose five stones instead of the one needed in case he needed to face Goliath’s four brothers.

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Literally at every turn our guides (Rich, Ronan, Joey and others) are pointing out the locations and events of Scripture and creating an environment for us to personally reflect on its ancient significance in our current context.

Bottom line …Day One in Israel has been amazing as we see the stories from scripture become images in our minds that we won’t soon forget.


Brent Deffenbacher
Family Life Pastor
Peoples Church
Fresno, CA

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journi|Steve Williams||Tel Machpela - huge city Herod grew up in - massive underground rooms where work was done - actually massive industry took place here. Notice the olive press - 22 of them have been excavated in this city's underground.

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journi|Steve Williams||Picking up stones from the streambed in the middle of the Vally of Elah

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journi|Steve Williams||Enjoying a lunch break - included daily in GTI Tours trips.

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journi|Steve Williams||Tel Azekah - the Philistine hillside where Goliath came out of the camp to taunt Saul's army. The valley of Elah is below, and notice a streambed runs along the highway right in the middle of the valley which is full of smooth, small stones!

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journi|Steve Williams||A cistern (54,000 gallons) at Beth Shemesh - in this area there are many caves - which fits the story of Samson who lived in a cave.

journi|Steve Williams||Ronan, our Israeli guide (white shirt to left), teaching from the Biblical garden at Yod Hoshmoneh in Judean hills. The hill in the background is Kireath Jearim - (1 Samuel 6) where the ark of the covenant rested after being returned from the Philistines.

journi|Steve Williams||Hotel Neve Elan in the Judean hills outside Jerusalem where we got about 3 hours of sleep, a hot shower and a fresh change of clothes. The balance has returned to the universe!

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