Unpacking My Trip to Israel, Suitcase #2

In case you missed it in the previous post, I supplied a few hyperlinks to videos I made on the trip. You might enjoy watching those – who knows. The guy making them is a bit cheesy, but who’s judging?

Third, my biggest surprises

I suppose I could blame it on flannelgraphs and A Beka flashcards, but I had no idea how rugged the terrain would be in Israel.  Galilee sits deep in a valley surrounded on all sides by mountains that rise a thousand feet or more above it.  But nothing could have prepared me for the steep climb into Bethlehem, or the mountain where Jerusalem sits.  For whatever reason, I always pictured Bethlehem as a rolling meadow with a little hill outside of town.  In fact, Bethlehem sits on a mountaintop, with steep climbs on all sides of the city. 

From the City of David, which is the location of David’s palace, sitting on the southern side of the Temple Mount, our guide referenced the 125th Psalm, where David said,

As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the LORD is round about his people from henceforth even for ever.

He then pointed out the mountains that surrounded the City of David from all sides – the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives, the Mount of Offense, the Mount of Evil Counsel, Mount Zion (which has changed names a few times).  Between Jerusalem and each of these mountains is a deep valley, which shows just how strategic Jerusalem was for defense and how difficult it would be to conquer. 

I was surprised by several of the Old Testament ruins, particularly at Bethsaida, Dan, Beth She’an, the two Caesareas, and Hazor.  I had read about each of them, but still was unprepared for what I saw.  Bethsaida was probably the biggest surprise.  As you know, Bethsaida in Galilee was the hometown of at least three and possibly four of the disciples.  We visited Bethsaida Julias, where Jesus performed several of His greatest miracles, and which He condemned for their unbelief.  In this Bethsaida, we saw ruins dating back to the kingdom of Geshur.  King David married the daughter of the King of Geshur, and their son Absalom fled to this town when he murdered Amnon.  The ruins here are well preserved, including the fisherman’s house and the wine maker’s house, along with the ancient gates of the city.  I confess, I was amazed to think of Jesus walking among these ruins – probably not ruins in his day, and working His miracles.

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Unpacking My Trip to Israel, Suitcase #1

Our church decided that it was high time we visited the land of the Bible.  They didn’t exactly ask if we wanted to go, but informed us that they had bought us a trip and told us we were going.  Then, they asked if that was okay. 

And we consented. 

I thought you might enjoy hearing a little about our trip, thus this miniature travelogue.  Let me say from the start that a trip to Israel looks more like a work trip than a vacation.  I wonder if you can write it off on your taxes. 

Don’t get me wrong – we did get to stay in some nice hotels and eat some really fine meals in those hotels, desert tables groaning beneath the weight of some pretty amazing sweets.  We were with a group of friends, and two of my very close friends were on the trip.  We had a riot with them – except when our tour guide was cracking his whip.  But the daily schedule is rigorous and exhausting.  We were up at 6:00 every morning and on the bus by 7:30. A couple of the early days of the trip, we were back to our hotel around 4:30, but as we neared the end of the trip, the days stretched closer to 6:00 in the evening. 

But it was worth it.  Thank you to my church (and to Jeff Voegtlin) for “making” us go!

Continue reading “Unpacking My Trip to Israel, Suitcase #1”