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Israel Study Tour with The Church at Rocky Peak

March 12-23, 2023

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Day 01 - Shephelah: Yad Hashmonah, Gezer, Beth Shemesh, Azekah, Caves of Adullam

Awakening in the comfort of our tree house, the literal translation of our first hotel Neve llan in Jerusalem, our group set out to our first stop at the Biblical village of Yad Hashmonah. There Pastor Michael and our charismatic tour guide, Ronen, illustrated through scripture the key theme of the pursuit of the presence of God in the land of Kiriath-Jearim in the mountains of Judea. There we learned of the key turning point for the people of Israel with the call of Abram, the tabernacle, the 10 commandments/words of how to love God and love people, God’s glory and how he lead the Israelites,  the 7 species (blessings) of the land, the olive press, and all that is harvested in its due season. This is just a sample of the water hose of knowledge that we were poured. In this stop, we were reminded that just as in a Jewish wedding, one can not marry without fruit of the vine; we are blessed to be in covenant with our Yahweh.


Our second stop was a hike to Tel Gezer, the gateway city, as we continued to visit the 4 valleys. There we learned of the Canaanite, southern most city, where we withstood the downpour with our rain gear in hand at the Standing stones written about in Exodus 24.  We also were reminded of God’s commandment of having no other gods before him and the covenant with his people.


From there we headed to Beth Shemesh, meaning "house of the sun" in the Valley of Sorek, another Canaanite city named after their sun god. There we explored through Judges, how despite the people of Israel were in a state of disobedience and a low point, that God always sends a deliverer. With referencing Indiana Jones, the Ark of the Covenant was captured in battle during this period and later returned due to the presence of God bringing destruction to the Philistines. But there our group descended into a dry cistern, which was underground and could hold up to 50,000 gallons of water, and we invited the Holy Spirit in Worship. Just as the water means life, running water is living water as the Holy Spirit is in us. It was a beautiful thing to witness as our voices filled the cistern in praise.


Our fourth stop was at the Tel Azekah, where we ascended up a hill to a vantage point that we could see Bethlehem from afar, modern Bet Shemesh, The valley where David and Goliath fought, and the Jordan River. Here, in this place of bravery and strength, we were reminded that we serve a BIG GOD.


Our journey through the Shephelah ends at the Caves of Adullam, where David hid as Saul pursued him and where he hid in his own despair. There we got to experience what it felt like to crawl through the caves, which felt like a refuge for some. With knee pads and head lamps strapped on, Pastor Michael took us on a deep dive into the caves, not for the faint of heart. It gave new meaning to shelter.

From here we set out to our next hotel near the Dead Sea, where tomorrows adventure in the word coming to life will begin.


By Susy Santiago


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