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ISRAEL 2019 - Updates

The long-awaited Israel trip is finally underway! We are so excited to be in this amazing country and see Biblical history come to life before our eyes! Keep checking back here for daily updates and photos that will give you a peek into what we are experiencing here in the Holy Land...join us!

DAY 1:

Our group of travelers arrived at Newark airport on Wednesday morning eager to board their flight to Tel Aviv. "El Al", the airline that would take us to that destination, is known for being one of the most secure airlines in the world. There were lots of questions to answer and long lines to wait in, but after several hours, they were finally ready for the 10 hour flight. No pictures today...just tired travelers!

DAY 2:

We arrived at 6:00AM this morning in Tel Aviv. Israel is 6 hours ahead of Eastern time in the US, so although it was only 12:00AM for most of us, there was a whole day of things to see! After retrieving our luggage, we moved to the outside of the airport and met up with a few more travelers who had flown in separately from other parts of the world (Fun fact: we have travelers from the USA, Canada, South Africa and Germany with us!). We also met up with our tour guide, Amos, who introduced himself and pointed us to the bus that will be our main transportation for the remainder of the trip.

Our first stop was Caesarea Maritime, a set of ruins along the coast that was once under the control of King Herod. We experienced the natural acoustics as we sang in the grand amphitheater and stood in awe of the foundation and mosaic floor that has been uncovered where the palace once stood. It is believed that Pontious Pilate would have spent much of his time as governor here and that the disciples would have come to this spot at times when they were summoned to answer for their actions in preaching the Gospel. A quick stop for lunch and then on to our final stop for the day!

Our last sight-seeing activity for today was Mt. Carmel. Today, many of the "Holy spots" like this in Israel are privately owned by religious groups and have grand churches built on them. Thankfully, most are welcoming to tourists and have also built beautiful gardens on the grounds that make for a very peaceful setting. We listened as Bro. Barry read the story of Elijah challenging the prophets of Baal and God sending fire from Heaven to consume his sacrifice. (I Kings 18). Perhaps the most amazing sight of all today was the view from this very spot: the Valley of Armageddon. As our guide Amos explained the historical significance and the many Biblical events that have taken place here, we stood in awe thinking about how the last battle on earth would take place here and that God had preserved it down through history for this purpose.

Finally, we checked into our hotel for dinner, then headed to bed for a good night's rest. We have much to see tomorrow!

Day 3:

Our day began with a quick breakfast, then back on the bus to our first stop, Mt. Precipice. As we stood at the top of the mountain that overlooks Nazareth, we learned that this was the spot where they brought Jesus to throw him off in (Luke 4), after he read the scriptures that prophesied of himself in the temple. Nazareth in the times of Jesus was a very small town, maybe about 30 or 40 families, which helps us to understand why Nathanael would have said “Could anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). It was amazing to be reminded of how humbly Jesus came to Earth and how the people who lived so very close to him could not recognize that he was God in their midst.

We also visited the spot where the Beatitudes were given, then traveled on to the Sea of Galilee. We began our 2 day stay here with a very special lunch at a waterfront restaurant where we ate St. Peter’s fish and what our group agreed to be the best pita bread and hummus ever! We had the opportunity to walk down to the Sea of Galilee and dip our feet in the water before heading to the Jordan river for some very special Baptisms.

Our last 2 stops for the day were the ruins of Capurnum and Magdala, the hometown of Mary Magdalene. The temple in this city is one that we know Jesus spoke in.

Back to the hotel in the evening for dinner and as much sleep as we can get!

DAY 4:

This morning we took a boat ride out on the Sea of Galilee. Our hotel is right on the edge of the water, so we were actually able to walk to our boat! It’s almost impossible to describe the feeling of peace that surrounded us as we looked out over the same still waters that Jesus sailed on. We sang, worshipped and listened to a portion of “Testimony on the Sea” where Bro. Branham describes the very scene where Jesus and his Disciples were out on these waters.

From there we visited Tabgha. This is the mountain where Jesus fed the 5,000 with multiplied loaves and fish. A church sits on the site today, with an stone slab in the center of the sanctuary believed to be the stone where Jesus laid the loaves and fishes.

Perhaps the most amazing stop of the day was Caesarea Philippi. The source of a natural spring, this was a life-sustaining site for the people who lived close by in Biblical times. Because of this, a pagan temple was built there and served as a place to sacrifice to multiple gods. The worshippers believed these gods controlled the water source and sacrifices would keep it flowing steadily. Amazingly, it was here, at one of the most pagan of spots, where Jesus asked Peter “whom do you say that I am?” And revealed the foundation upon which He would build His church (Matthew 16).

We are blessed beyond measure to understand that the “rock” that Jesus spoke of was truly the Revelation of who He was. I cannot even being to describe to you the feeling of standing in this spot and hearing these scriptures read out loud. To know that we as the Bride, through no merit of our own, are a part of the fulfillment of these scriptures is nothing short of overwhelming. Standing here, you could not help but experience the deepest feeling of grace and mercy.

Next stop, the City of Dan. One of the most extensive excavations we have seen so far, this city included the main gate, inner gate, and Bethel, the spot King Jeraboam created for the Israelites to offer sacrifices as he tried to keep them from going to Jerusalem (I Kings 11). Another highlight at this spot was a city gate that Abraham is certain to have walked through.

Our last adventure for the day was a Land Rover ride up through the Golan heights and up to the Syrian border. There, we walked through an bunker and listened to fascinating historical explanation of the history between the two countries from a former Israili soldier who served in the counter-terrorism unit.

Whew! We made it back to the hotel for some much needed rest.

Day 5:

We started our morning with a Bible study led by Bro. Paul, then on to the ruins of Bet She'an (also called Scythopolis).

A quick stop for lunch (that included some camel rides!) and the on to Qumran archeological park, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. From Qumran, we could look across the Jordan river and see Mount Nebo, the spot where Moses was allowed by God to look over the Promised land, but not to enter.

Finally, we ended our day by checking into our hotel at the Dead Sea. As beautiful as it may look, photos still do not do these vibrant blue waters justice! We will have a "rest day" tomorrow with only one sight-seeing stop and we will have the opportunity to float in the Sea!

Day 6:

Today was a day of rest for our travelers. We have been running full-speed since arriving in Israel and we have seen so much at this halfway point in the trip. A day to sleep in and recharge was welcomed by all! After a late breakfast, those who wished to took a float in the Dead Sea. We were surprised to see that the floor of the sea was made up of a thick layer of sharp salt. You definitely needed your water shoes for this adventure!

Our only sight-seeing event for today was Masada National Park. Masada was the location of one of King Herod's great fortresses. a Jewish settlement also existed there shortly after the time of Jesus. It was eventually taken over by the Romans and there are many fascinating stories that make up it's rich history. We finished up the evening with an informal Bible study from Bro. Barry and turned in for the night. Tomorrow we enter the last and most exciting phase of the trip...Jerusalem!

Day 7:

This morning, we finished up our time in the Dead Sea area with a visit to En Gedi. Home to a settlement in early Biblical times, it hosts one of only two natural springs on the western shoreline, making it a true "oasis in the desert". This spot was also a refuge for David when he was being pursued by King Saul (I Samuel 23:29).

Next, we made our way to Bethlehem, and caught our first glimpse of the old city of Jerusalem along the way! In Bethlehem, we visited the fields where the Angels appeared to the Shepherds, sounding the message of Christ's arrival on Earth. Bro. Barry read us this portion of the Scripture in Matthew, and Bro. Paul led us in song.

After lunch, we visited Yad Vashem, the holocaust history museum. This was planned as our last stop for the day because it is such a sobering and thought-provoking reminder of all that the jewish people suffered in WWII. the final room in the museum is surrounded with bookshelves holding volumes upon volumes of the recorded names of the victims. We were not allowed to take photographs in the museum.

Day 8:

Today our tour through Jerusalem is in full swing! We spent the morning on the Mount of Olives, which overlooks the old Jerusalem city and the Temple Mount. From there, we walked to the bottom of the mountain to find the Garden of Gethsemane. A private area of the garden had been reserved just for our group, and we had a special time of prayer and reflection there. It was amazing to know we were praying in the very same spot that Jesus prayed and ultimately yielded to the Father's will.

Inside the old city walls, we walked on the southern stairs, originals steps that historians know Jesus walked on to go up to the Temple.

We saw the City of David, a small portion of modern-day Jerusalem that included the foundation of a structure thought to be a palace that David built.

The last stop for the day was Hezzekiah's tunnel, where everyone had the opportunity to wade through.

Day 9:

Our last day in Israel is today, and we certainly have a full schedule! We began our day at the Western Wall or the "Wailing Wall". A sacred spot for the Jewish people, they gather here daily to touch the wall and pray to God. We were given time to do the same, and some even placed written prayers in the cracks of the rocks. While it looked like just another busy and overcrowded site from a distance, there was a special presence and atmosphere that could be felt when you were near it.

From there, we walked up to the Temple Mount, where the Dome of the Rock covers the Holy of Holies. The site is currently under Palestinian control, but is a very sensitive area spiritually for both the Jews and Muslims. Tourists are not always welcome here, so we were thankful to be allowed in to see this site up close.

Walking further through the old city, we came across the remains of the pool of Bethesda, where Jesus healed a man who was unable to step into the troubled waters (John 5). We walked a portion of the Via Dolorosa (the "Way of Suffering"), believed to be the path that Jesus walked on his way out of the city to be crucified. We walked out of the city through the Damascus gate and headed to our bus for our next stop.

Our next-to-last stop was the Israel museum, where we saw a scale model of what the city of Jerusalem looked like at the time of Jesus. It was fascinating to watch as our guide pointed out many of the places we have visited over the last two days and gave us a clear picture of how the places we have traveled all connect. Inside, we also saw portions of the Dead Sea Scrolls on display (no photographs allowed).

And now, the final stop for our entire trip: Gordon's Calvary and the Garden Tomb. While historians do not have an absolute answer as to where Jesus was crucified, this hill, recognized by general Charles Gordon, is believed to be the spot where it took place for many very convincing reasons. Next, we walked to a private area in the garden outside the tomb and had a time of communion and worship.

Finally, we were each given the opportunity to walk through the door of the tomb. In case you're wondering...it's empty. :)

Now we travel back to our hotel to have dinner, pack up and say some bittersweet goodbyes. The bus will take us to the airport at 8:30pm tonight and we will spend Day 10 traveling back to our homes.

We have seen SO many amazing things in our 10 days of traveling. There is so much to say and still it is nearly impossible to describe the experience with words alone. I will only say this: watching your Bible come alive before your eyes is something you can never forget. The folks who journeyed with us all made substantial sacrifices to be here, both financially and with their time. I think they would all agree that it was worth it. The Word of God becomes new when you can place your hands and feet on the very places where it was spoken, where miracles were performed, where Heaven and Earth touched.

Being here has given me my own kind of revival. Every day, I put my faith in a God whom I have never seen with my eyes, but one day, He will be as present and as clear before me as He was in this land 2,000 years ago. I have seen where He was, but I know where He is...and I know who I am.

Many thanks to Bro. Barry and Sis. Becky for hosting this trip and to our whole group of 37 travelers for making it so special. We love you all! Shalom, til we meet again!