First Full Day
Today after an early breakfast at the hotel we boarded the bus and headed to Joppa (modern day Jaffa). There we saw the home of Simon the Tanner where Peter received the vision of previous unclean animals being clean to eat. This was the start of taking the Gospel to the Gentiles. Thank you Lord!
Joppa was also where King Solomon brought the cedars of Lebanon for the Temple. And where Jonah left on the boat to avoid obeying God who told him to go to Nineveh. We were also able to see where they have unearthed a fortress of Pharaoh’s. It is so great to see Israel trying to find all the history its land has beneath the surface.
From there we headed to Independence Hall where we were able to learn how Israel became a nation again after 2,000 years. This was a great way that we as Christians can learn about the Jewish people while showing that we love and support them, which is exactly what The Friends of Israel is about.
Our last stop was Caesarea Maritime. Each new location we went to today I declared, “This has been my favorite place!” but Caesarea really was. We entered the ancient amphitheater and learned how the actors on stage were very crude people that often made fun of religion and the government in their day. They wore masks and were called, “hypocrites.” It was fascinating to see that Jesus used the term “hypocrite” with the religious people with hard hearts. It gave a look into how this name would have given the people a clear picture of what Jesus thought of them. It also makes me better understand why the religious people hated Him.
The city and harbor were built under Herod the Great during c. 22–10 BC near the site of a former Phoenician naval station known as Stratonos pyrgos (Στράτωνος πύργος). It later became the provincial capital of Roman Judea, Roman Syria Palaestina and Byzantine Palaestina Prima provinces. The city was populated throughout the 1st to 6th centuries CE and became an important early center of Christianity during the Byzantine period, but was mostly abandoned following the Muslim conquest of 640. It was re-fortified by the Crusaders, and finally slighted by the Mamluks in 1265.
We then walked over to Herod’s palace remains. There we saw Herod’s pool that was down in the Mediterranean Sea and what would have been his elaborate home. Not far from the palace remains is what is thought to be the office in which the Romans brought prisoners. This is where it is believed Paul was taken and jailed. We were standing where Paul probably stood, what an amazing feeling.
Beside the palace is another theatre for the chariot races and also where the prisoners, many who were Christians, had to fight animals to the death. I wish there was a way that pictures could capture the area. Standing where brothers and sisters in Christ were killed as a sport because of their faith humbled me. As I get to go home to my safe home and family and worship where I choose, there are people all over the world being persecuted for their faith. May I be as bold as many of them but not in my own strength but in Christ alone.
We ended the day with Shiri and Leigh, two young adults from Cherry Hill, New Jersey who both serve and served in the Israeli Defense Force (Air Force and Army). Please pray for them and other soldiers in Israel. They are being targeted by terrorists for simply being soldiers.
Another big day tomorrow which means another early morning! If you are following along and have a family member or friend here, I am going to work hard to get pictures of everyone this week! There’s a full bus (44 of us).
Israel Fact of the Day
The Independence for Israel ceremony only lasted 32 minutes because Shabbat was soon to begin at sundown.