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Israel Trip 2014: Day 6

Sunday began with a visit to the Biblical town of Shiloh, where the ark of the covenant was kept for 369 years.

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There are the ruins of a Byzantine church nearby, with remnants of its beautiful mosaic floor still visible.

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We drove through Samaria and the Jordan valley to arrive at the Jordan river baptismal site, where we had baptised our friends Tom and Cathy last year.

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After a lunch of St Peter’s fish in Tiberias, we drove to Capernaum, where we visited the ruins of an old synagogue and then the ruins of St Peter’s house, on which there is now built a modern church.

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We took time to stop by the Sea of Galilee where we reflected on some of the many stories in the New Testament which talk about Jesus by the Sea of Galilee.

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And so we arrived back where we had started our week – at Tel Aviv, where we said ‘Au revoir’ to our friends and to Israel –

until the next time!

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Israel Trip 2014: Day 5

Day 5 was the sabbath so it provided a very welcome rest from walking around in the heat. Some of our party chose to visit a synagogue in the morning while others chose to stay in the hotel and rest by the pool. In the afternoon, it was rest-time for everyone. By evening, we were ready for a short stroll and a good meal – not before picking up some bargains and gifts in the market, among them this beautiful shawl.

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Maybe now would be a good time to show you some of the magnificent flowers and birds which we saw in Israel.

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Israel Trip 2014: Day 4

Day 4 began with a visit to the Garden Tomb, where a volunteer guide explained to us why many Christians think that this might have been the site of the resurrection of Jesus (again, see photos from last year under ‘Travel’ on my blog).

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It was very moving to hear different groups of Christians singing about Jesus rising from the dead as they visited the empty tomb or shared communion together.

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Next we visited the Davidson Center (the 2nd temple period adjacent to the Temple Mount) – another fascinating visit with lots to learn.

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From there, we went on to the Israel Museum, which houses both the Shrine of the Book and a model of Jerusalem.

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This is the scroll

of the book of

Isaiah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The day ended with a visit to the Machane Yehuda open market – as Jews were getting ready for the sabbath which was about to start, the market was a complete sensory experience of sights, sounds and tastes.

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Israel Trip 2014: Day 3

It was off to the desert on Day 3 – to Masada, where the Essenes sect retreated and where the ancient Qumran scrolls were discovered.

I blogged about this (and most of the other sites) last year – you will find more information under Travel’ on my blog.

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You can see many caves in the rugged desert hills – and you can’t help but wonder which caves the Qumran scrolls were found in.

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This scribe spends many hours of each week writing down the words of the Torah (the first 5 books of our Old Testament).

He told us he can complete a copy in 5 months – what a painstaking task, in a tiny room out in the desert!

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Where else to go after a day in the relentless heat of the desert, than for a soak in the Dead Sea?!

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Israel trip 2014: Day 2

On Day 2, we walked….and walked….and walked! From morning till night, we walked around Jerusalem, under the guidance and direction of our guide, Josh, who (as last year) made everything come to life, pointed out things we would have missed and filled in the gaps in our knowledge of the history and geography of Israel. It was such a joy and privilege to have him with us.

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Passing this cemetery, where hundreds of people are buried, we descended from the Mount of Olives into the city, stopping for a moving and reflective visit to the Garden of Gethsemane before passing by Absalom’s sepulchre.

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Back in Jerusalem, we visited the ‘Wailing Wall’ as it is called, although Josh explained to us that it is most often called simply the Western Wall nowadays. It was moving to see the number of people who were praying, as well as the written prayers that had been left in the cracks of the wall and the place where devout Jews wash their hands before praying.

 

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Israel trip 2014: Day 1

Our first day began with a stroll down the promenade of Tel Aviv, from where we could see the city of Jaffa (ancient Joppa).

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We decided to take the train to Jerusalem, which was the cause of some mirth to local people – for them, the train is too slow and some of them even wondered if we would reach Jerusalem by nightfall. But it was a great way to see the countryside – as well as meet some local people.

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Once settled in our hotel, we spent the rest of the day getting a feel for Jerusalem, beginning with a panoramic view of the city from the top of the YMCA building.

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Pray for the peace of Jerusalem

If you have had a look at my blog recently, you will know that Alan and I had the privilege of visiting Israel for a few days earlier this month.

I wrote a short blog entry for each day and posted a few photographs too – I guess it’s a kind of travel log.

It is by no means exhaustive but it does cover some of the sites we visited.

While there, we had the immense privilege of having an excellent tour guide who was an orthodox Jew. Josh not only knows the geography, history and culture of the state of Israel, but he loves his country. His passion shows through and is almost contagious. Not only that, but he is also passionate about his religion and his God. We discussed theology all week with him as we viewed the different sites, often pausing to look up relevant Scriptures which brought it all to life – almost in three- dimensional perspective.

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It would be difficult to visit Israel without being struck by the religious nature of the country. It is not uncommon to see people reading the Scriptures in the streets, nor is it uncommon to see people praying in public. Of course there is the famous place of prayer at the Western Wall – the Jews come here to pray because it is the nearest they can get to the site where their temple used to be, and therefore the symbol of the presence of God. Whole families come to the wall together to pray – the men on one side and the women on the other. I saw some women who, when they were ready to leave, were walking backwards from the wall because they would not turn their backs to the wall, as a mark of respect.

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We stayed in a beautiful hotel in Tel Aviv for a couple of nights, one of which was sabbath-eve. It was a normal busy hotel restaurant, serving lots of delicious food. But in the midst of it all, we could see families who were eating their sabbath meal. The father/husband would stand up with a glass of wine in his hand, read the Scriptures and pray a prayer of blessing over his family, before passing the cup around. I couldn’t help but think that we as Christians often do a funny eyebrow-scratching kind of thing when we pray in public. There was none of that here. When we had lunch with our guide, he quietly excused himself before the meal to go and wash his hands in the ceremonious way they do; and after the meal he once again quietly excused himself so he could read some Scriptures before leaving the table.

All through the city of Jerusalem, the old and new go side by side, the religious and secular are normalised. It is an interesting, fascinating mix of cultures and religions.

Looking through this gate in one direction, you see the Arab quarter; in the other direction, the Jewish quarter.

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On this, the eve of the 65th birthday of this fascinating country, we could do no better than pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

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