Israel Study Tour - Troy Thomas & Marshall Holtvluwer

Mar 18-28, 2019

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Day 2!! I think every day will begin the same way...with an amazing breakfast! I was sitting with Tony talking about the trip and our expectations at breakfast and he shared a desire; "I want to absorb what's going on." As we travel around Israel going from one location to another, sometimes slowly and sometimes swiftly, I think it can feel overwhelming especially when you are trying to retain all of the information that Troy, Marshall, and Ronen are giving to us. Tony was able to sum up our goal for each location and each teaching, to absorb everything that is going on. In our group devotion time Marshall actually addressed this very idea, namely, that this is the beginning of the process for us as students, but, what we are learning must go from our mind to our hearts so that we experience the change that only God can bring to our lives.

Today our day begins with Massada. And this very intimidating structure is one of Herod the Greats palaces he had built around 30 B.C. Massada provides 1st context for Herod and the Zealots.

Herod's building prowess is clearly seen when looking at the immensity of the structure and the height at which it was built. This location is also significant for the Jewish Zealots who attacked Massada and killed the Roman garrison that was stationed there. The Romans attempted to retake the stronghold and the Zealots committed suicide before that happened.

The trip up to Massada had two choices; a gondola or a hike up the mountain. We have 42 people on this trip and we had an even split between the two options for ascending the mountain. For those us that chose the hike I don't think we truly grasped what was ahead of us. Seriously, I had thoughts of just posting pictures of Massada and the climb and saying, “This was our day…” and leaving it at that but I couldn't do that even though I entertained the idea for more than a few seconds. The weather was hot and the sun pounded down and the twisting path switched between a gravel rock strewn path and long stone steps. I was exhausted about a quarter of the way up. We had just received a teaching from Marshall about community the day before in the caves of Adullam. Little did we know that we would need to demonstrate that today as we climbed. We had several hikers that encountered issues on the way up and they needed various different types of aid as we climbed. It was our privilege to hike together and to help one other make it up to the top. This is not a climb for the faint of heart sounds kind of like life eh?


The summit of Masada sits 190 feet (59 m) above sea level and about 1,500 feet (470 m) above the level of the Dead Sea. The mountain itself is 1950 feet (610 m) long, 650 feet (200 m) wide, 4,250 feet (1330 m) in circumference, and encompasses 23 acres. The “Snake Path” climbs 900 feet (280 m) in elevation. From the west, the difference in height is 225 feet (70 m).

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At the top we enjoyed cold water and encouragement from one another. Ronen took us to one of the Roman bath houses that Herod had built. It was amazing to see the technology and luxury that went into that creation. The journey up Massada was absolutely worth it, whether by gondola or hiking.

After Massada we got to experience some Bedouin culture (nomadic shepherds) by way of a camel ride. That was quite a bit of fun. All of us enjoyed laughing at the camels as they attempted to resist the Bedouin leading them by going after food they wanted to consume. My camel actually sat down and would not get up until the elder Bedouin came over and slapped his rump several times.
After this we went to Beersheba. And this, for me at least, was the best location of the day. Beersheba means "well of seven" or "well of the oath.". It is one of the southern most locations of the Biblical narratives in Israel. It is the place where Abraham makes the covenant with Abimelech. He also plants a tamarisk tree at the location of this well (Gen. 21:22-34). This planting of a tree is symbolic of Abraham's faith in God's fulfillment of His covenant found in Gen. 15.

God desires to have His followers live lives of faithful obedience to Him. We have the privilege of seeing the places that these promises and covenants were given and that is an amazing gift. I hope and pray that all of us will go back to wherever we come from and share with of you the amazing experiences we are having here in Israel. For those of you reading this blog, ask us questions and ask us to share what happened here and what was intentionally given to us by Ronen, Troy, and Marshall. This blog is representative of a fraction of what we are actually experiencing here.

Thank you for your continued prayers, again, pray for our guide Ronen, our driver Eli, and our teachers Marshall and Troy.
I am absolutely exhausted...I'm going to bed.

Erev tov
Good evening

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