Israel Trip Highlights

 
 
There were hundreds of photos and videos from the trip and dozens of sites and visits.  The trip was filled with incredible sites, sounds, smells, tastes and experiences.   From these many adventures, these are some of the ones that stand out the most.   Just click on any of the small thumbnails to see the full-size pictures:
 
  Brad and I left Raleigh on a Monday morning.  The trip to Israel took us to Washington DC and Frankfurt Germany -- each with long layovers.  Tired, we arrived at the Ben Gurion Airport the next day.  We spent the night on the outskirts of Tel Aviv next to the Mediterranean Sea.  The next morning, we got up and walked down to the beach, looking out across the sea and wondering what this tour held in store for us.

If you like, you can follow the link below to read more about the first day (including the story of my lost luggage and the "Israeli underwear saga") or simply scroll down and continue reading the trip highlights.

 
SEE THE JOURNAL AND ALL PHOTOS AND VIDEOS FOR THIS DAY!
 
 
On the first day of actual touring, the tour bus took us up the coast of Israel along the Mediterranean.  One of the first stops was Caesarea where we saw many Roman ruins.  One of the best views was of the harbor area.  
 
  Later in the morning, we made our way to Mt. Carmel, (where Elijah hid from King Ahab).  From the top of a small church roof, we looked down on the valley Jezreal Valley, also known as the Valley of Armageddon. It was a breathtaking site!
 
From Mt. Carmel, we drove down in to the valley and visited Megiddo, and then drove into Israel (east) toward the Sea of Galilee.  We passed through Nazareth and Cana, stopping to look down into the now modern cities where Jesus grew up.  In the afternoon, we made our way to the Sea of Galilee.  We drove to Mt. Arbel and climbed to the top.  This was one of my favorite spots of the whole trip.   From that one location, we could all the way across the Sea of Galilee -- and many of the most important spots of the New Testament:  Capernaum, Tiberius, and several other places such as the Mount of Beatitudes and the feeding of the five thousand.

MT. ARBEL

 
SEE THE JOURNAL AND ALL PHOTOS AND VIDEOS FOR THIS DAY!
 
 
  The next morning, we visited the museum of the ancient boat (a boat found from 1st century).   Our group then boarded a boat and went into the Sea of Galilee

Our boat trip took us across the lake to the side of Capernaum.  In Capernaum, they've excavated large areas down to the street level during the time of Jesus and the apostles.  Capernaum was the place where Christ lived during his ministry in Galilee and the home of Peter.  The house of Peter is very well documented and the ruins of churches built over the centuries are clearly visible.  While it's certain Christ walked all over Galilee and Israel, this was the first spot I felt as if I was truly walking where He walked and lived.

We visited the the Mount of Beatitudes, where the "Sermon on the Mount" was given by Christ.  From there, we went to the traditional site of the feeding of the five thousand.  It was during these sites the folks in the group really began to enjoy the shared experience and become friends.

Around noon, we headed north toward the border of Lebanon and Syria to see the ancient sites of Dan and Caesarea Phillipi.

Our guide, Zvi Rivai, did a wonderful job throughout the trip of helping us distinguish between fact and tradition while still allowing us to experience the enjoyable and inspirational aspects of a "Holy Land Tour".  (See a video clip of Zvi's famous "Let's Go!" phrase during the tour).

SEA OF GALILEE

ON THE SHORE OF GALILEE

STREETS OF CAPERNAUM

SERMON ON THE MOUNT

 
The Tel Dan Nature Reserve was one of the most lush and beautiful areas we saw while in Israel.  This area is the main source of water for the Jordan River (and Israel).  The city/site ruins where some of the oldest we saw while in Israel -- going back to around 2500 BC and of course many Old Testament references.  The trails were filled with bubbling brooks and streams.  At the end of day, we returned to spend our final night in the Galilee.  

VIDEO OF DAN STREAMS

 
 
SEE THE JOURNAL AND ALL PHOTOS AND VIDEOS FOR THIS DAY!
 
 
  The next morning, we started south down the Jordan river.  Our group stopped at the Yardenit Baptismal site on the Jordan River.   Several people wanted to be baptized in the Jordan, and Brad had the opportunity to perform this.  It was a special time for both folks in the group and him.

JORDAN RIVER

 
We followed the Jordan south through the valley to the toward the Dead Sea.  One of our first stops was at Beit-Shean, the city near where King Saul was defeated and the bodies of he and his sons where hung on the walls.

The terrain began to change to what most of us "expected" Israel to look like.  Even so, the area was beautiful.  Israel is a country full of hills and mountains.  A stunning view (whether green and lush or barren and rocky) is never far away. 

 

BEIT-SHEAN
DESERT AREAS
 
  At the Dead Sea, we stayed in a resort where we took advantage of the opportunity to "float" on the Dead Sea and take advantage of the world class spa facilities of the resort. 

After an evening of swimming, soaking, steaming and saunas most of the group was ready to stay another day.  However, we had to continue the tour and see several great sites along the Dead Sea. 

Another day to relax at the Dead Sea resort would have been nice.  One evening simply wasn't enough time to enjoy the facilities.

THE DEAD SEA

OUR DIP IN THE DEAD SEA!

 
SEE THE JOURNAL AND ALL PHOTOS AND VIDEOS FOR THIS DAY!
 
 
The next day held in store some of the best sites of the trip.  The first stop of the day was at Masada.  Fortunately, they have a full cable car system to get to the top.  I don't think our group (myself included) could have made the hike to the top!  Both the story and view were inspiring.

Next, we followed the road north along the Dead Sea to the En Gedi National Park.   Somewhere in this park are the caves where David hid from Saul.  The park is full of unusual wildlife and wonderful views. 

Our final stop of the day was at the Qumran Caves.  While the site itself was terrific, the site's restaurant had some of the most expensive and worst prepared food on the trip.  (We stopped to eat lunch there the day before on our way to the resort).   At the group's request, the tour guide found an alternate site for lunch on this day.   Overwhelmingly, the food on the trip was good and reasonably priced (although meals did get progressively more expensive the closer we came to Jerusalem).

There are many caves and ruins (of the Essenes) at the site.  We were able to get a good look at the most famous cave "Number Four" where the greatest number of scrolls and fragments where found.

 

MASADA BELOW

ON MASADA

EN GEDI

CAVE NUMBER FOUR

 
SEE THE JOURNAL AND ALL PHOTOS AND VIDEOS FOR THIS DAY!
 
 
  Jerusalem was filled with activities and sites during our three days in the city.  The timing of the trip coincided with Israel's Independence Day celebrations, so a few planned sites were closed. 

On the other hand, we did get to experience some of the Independence Day celebrations (including getting "foamed" -- a recent tradition where people spray each other from large cans of a substance resembling shaving cream).  It's also likely the celebrations resulted in increased security and vigilance, which of course is good for the traveling group.

Jerusalem was packed with walking and sites.  Of these, the most special were the view from the Mount of Olives, the Temple area visits, and especially the Western (Wailing) wall visit.

There were so many great sites in Jerusalem, it's hard not to list them all.  We also missed a few desirable places because of the holiday.  I guess that means I'll have to go back again to "catch up"!

FOAMY!
THE GROUP
TEMPLE AREA
MEN PRAYING AT
WESTERN WALL
 
 
JERUSALEM: MT OF OLIVES, GETHSEMANE, AND CHURCH OF THE HOLY SEPLECHRE
JERUSALEM: THE GARDEN TOMB
JERUSALEM: THE OLD CITY, JAFFA GATE, LION'S GATE, POOL OF BETHESDA
JERUSALEM: WESTERN WALL, OLD CITY, KING DAVID'S TOMB, UPPER ROOM
JERUSALEM: GENESIS LAND, BETHLEHEM VIEW, GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS
JERUSALEM: THE TEMPLE MOUNT, BIBLICAL GARDENS
JERUSALEM: OLD CITY SCALE MODEL
JERUSALEM: MEETING FRIENDS AND INDEPENDENCE DAY CELEBRATIONS
 
 
Israel is more than one expects.  Many of us have an image of nothing but a barren and dusty land.  It is that, but it is also much more.  There are large areas of rehabilitated land and gardens of unparalleled beauty.  The variety of flowers, trees and other plants that grow well in this climate is astonishing... 
 
 
MORE FLOWERS FROM ISRAEL
 
 
Jordan Highlights

Some of our group also took a three-day extension to Jordan which included visits to magnificent Roman ruins, Mt. Nebo, and the incredible Petra.  If you'd like peek at the highlights of those three days (including video of us riding camels) feel free to hop on and check it out!

 
Lessons learned

My expectations from a Holy Land Tour ranged from being refreshed and invigorated to experiencing some particularly inspirational event.  While some of this happened, the strongest lessons came in the form of a more realistic understanding of historical and current events.  I understand better than before the perspective of the Israeli and Arab world, and see why in both worlds the term Christian invokes a very non-Christ like image.

I certainly have no solutions or answers except to present a different face for Christianity than that perception.  In a region where much of the world's view of God is centered, we're left with looking to Him to solve the problems and bring peace.  Human efforts fall short and problems run deep.

The greatest spiritual lesson reinforced from this trip can be summed up in Romans:

 
"If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you."
 


 

 

 

Copyright (c) 2004, Keith Turbyfill.  All Rights Reserved.