Monthly Archives: June 2013

Day 4: Israel — Military Outposts, Nimrod’s Castle, Caeserea Phillippi, Tel Hazor

Today’s tour had less to do with Biblical events but it did provide us with an interesting overview of the geo-political landscape of the country.  Our morning travels started in the Golan Heights, the northern part of the country where we saw some old decommissioned military outposts.  Our guide is not only an expert in the biblical history of the area, but he is also well versed on the military history of Israel, in part because he has been involved in a lot of it, serving in the Israeli Army.  I can’t even begin to tell you the some of the great history lessons of the military battles that were won (and rarely) lost by Israel, but in most cases, with a great number of armies against them, Israel always came out on top.  Our guide gives God the glory for every victory and for the reason that Israel has the land that it does today. 

Our second stop was Nimrod’s castle that was built during the time of the Crusaders around 1200 AD.  Although it changed hands numerous times, it was used by both Muslims and Christians until around the 15th century, when it was abandoned. 

Next we headed to Caeserea Phillippi, a town with both Christian and Pagan roots depending on who the ruler of the time was.  It was originally named just Caesarea, but to distinguish it from the port town of Caesarea, Herod’s son Phillip, added the name Phillippi when he became ruler over the region. 

Biblical references that include the region of Caesarea Phillippi include Jesus sharing with Peter and the disciples “upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:13), but for the most part the region was occupied by pagan idol worship.  The farther we move from Jerusalem, the greater the prevalence of pagan idol worship. 

Our visit here also gave us a chance to visit the headwaters of the Jordan River as it flows into the Sea of Galilee.  This included a visit to a beautiful waterfall called Banas Falls. 

Finally as we headed home we visited another Old Testament town that Joshua conquered, Hazor.  If you read Joshua 11, you learn that Joshua destroyed the city and burned it to the ground.  While today it is just an excavation site, the gates are very similar to Megiddo (which we visited on Day 1).  Our guide was even able to show us some of the ashes that they had uncovered from the burning of the city (you’ll have to check out my husband’s Instagram or Facebook photo of the ashes which he held in his hand). 

Tomorrow we will leave the shores of the Sea of Galilee and we will head to the Dead Sea.  We will float in the sea and learn even more about the interesting things about this country.  We will stay there for one night before we spend our final four days in Jerusalem.   

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Day 3: Israel — Sea of Galilee, Mount of the Beatitudes, Primacy of Peter, Capernaum, and Baptism in the Jordan River

It is hard to say exactly what my favorite part about our day was today.  We started out our morning with worship and teaching on a boat on the Sea of Galilee.  Much of the landscape around the sea has been unchanged since the time of Jesus, so it was easy to imagine that we were sitting on a boat seeing the same things he saw 2000 years ago.

As we got off the boat, we were treated to a view of the remains of a 1st century boat that was discovered on the shores of Galilee in 1986.  They have gone to great lengths to preserve this boat and display it for others to see.  This is a boat that would have been in operation around the time of Jesus’ ministry in the area.

From the Sea of Galilee we moved up the hill to what is known as the Mount of the Beatitudes, where tradition says that Jesus shared the Beatitudes with the crowds.  It was fascinating to see the natural amphitheaters that were created in the hillsides around Galilee.  These hills have been closed off in recent years, but our guide told us of times that he would take groups to these natural amphitheaters and he could speak with his own natural voice and be heard for great distances.

Our third stop was back on the shores of Galilee where there is a 4th century church commemorating the spot where it is believed that Jesus asked Peter.  “Do you love me?”  Three times Jesus asked Peter this question and in John 21:15-19, the New Testament details Peter’s response.  Steve shared a great message on how Jesus challenged Peter to love Him with Agape love, yet Peter could only respond with Phileo love, even as Jesus was preparing (relying on) Peter to be the rock on which He would build His church here on earth.  Steve asked us to challenge ourselves about how deep we are willing to go with Jesus in our lives.

Finally we headed out to Capernaum, a seaside town where Peter lived and where Jesus spent a good amount of time.  Here we saw the home that early Christians from the 3rd and 4th Centuries have preserved as the home of Peter.  We also visited the remains of the 4th century synagogue that were built on the remains of the 1st century synagogue where Jesus taught and questioned the religious leaders of the time.

One theme that seems consistent in many places that we visit is the preservation of  places of importance by the early church.  While it is impossible to know for sure where Peter and Jesus talked or where Mary and Joseph lived or even where Peter lived, the fact that the early church physically documented these places within a hundred or two hundred years of Jesus’ life gives a great amount of credibility to these sites.

Our final stop may have been my favorite of the day.  It was an optional opportunity to be baptized in the Jordan River.  Most of us took the chance to do this and we were really glad that we did.  While almost all of us had been baptized by immersion at an earlier time in our lives, this was a wonderful opportunity to be baptized where Jesus was baptized and to recommit our lives to Him.

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Day 2: Israel — Caeserea, Megiddo, Nazerth and Mt. Arbel

Before I start my post I need to give you a sense of our schedule.  We are up at 6 AM, we have an amazing, but intense schedule. We return exhausted, have dinner at 7 PM and then it is time to blog. 

My intention for these next 9 days or so is to share as much as I can of our trip, but if I miss a day or two, please forgive me. 

Our first stop this morning was the seaside port of Caesarea (not Caesarea Phillippi, an inland city we will see later in the week). In my research I had really written this stop off as pretty unimportant, but it turned out to be my favorite stop of the day. 

Herod the Great was the creator of this deep water port on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea.  It’s worth a good research project to understand how it affected the trade routes at the time, because it was pretty important.  In addition to creating a major deep water port where one did not previously exist, Herod built a massive palace for himself and had the Roman army (in their down time) construct over ten miles of aqua ducts to funnel fresh water from the western part of Israel into this port town for his palace.  The remnants of his swimming pool and palace floors can still be seen at the site. 

For Christians, Caeserea was important because Paul was held prisoner here.  His prison experience here and his ultimate release to Rome (Acts 23-27) played a pivotal role in the spread of Christianity to the Gentiles. 

Our second stop was Megiddo, the Greek word for Armageddon.  In Revelation, John prophecies that the “gathering” will happen here in the end times. (Rev. 16:16).  But Megiddo – a “tell” (look that one up), has been in existence since the 6th century BC.  According to our guide, the city (tell) was destroyed and rebuilt 26 times.  Rebuild #15 involved a rebuilding by King Solomon (to give you a real sense of how old this place is).  Because of the strategic position of Megiddo between Europe and Africa and Asia, Solomon (and many other world leaders) have used this place as a vital position to control trade.  It was also positioned high on the hill above the Valley of Jezreel which made it a great spot to defend.  There are some great layers of amazing ruins that went down thousands of years.  The oldest church in Israel has also been found on this site.  See that one here.  I also found it interesting that the Israeli Air Force had a base quite close to Megiddo.  Quite a smart move on their part, in my humble opinion. 

Our last two sites — Nazareth and Mt. Arbel, were great sites, but quick views.  Nazareth was a quick stop at the Church of the Annunciation which was built on the site where 3rd century leaders believed the home of Mary and Joesph existed.  We got a small view of what their grotto looked like as well as some other 3rd century ruins. 

Mt. Arbel offered beautiful views over the entire Galilee region.  My husband got much better pictures than I did! Hopefully we can share some of those soon.  I hope you can see the pics that correspond with this blog on Instagram and Facebook.

Until tomorrow….


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Good morning from Tel Aviv!

Today is a bit of a rest and relax day in our vacation.  We arrived in Tel Aviv late yesterday afternoon and we will meet our travel team this afternoon around 4 PM when they arrive from Dallas.  It will be so good to see everyone.  In the meantime, I finally found a way to upload our itinerary to my blog so you can follow us day by day and see where we will be traveling! Have a wonderful day!  Janet


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Rome: Day 2

Our second day in Rome was our only full day here. We had tickets for a tour of the Vatican museums including the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica. Sydney was especially looking forward to this morning because it was a chance for her to see first hand a lot of the art that she had studied in AP Art History this year.

We gave ourselves a full hour to get to the Vatican from the hotel via metro, not realizing there was a public transportation strike. The trains were packed, so much so that we had to split up as a family onto two separate trains to get where we were going. Thank goodness our tour guide was understanding when we arrived almost ten minutes late for our tour! The Vatican complex is huge (second largest museum in the world behind the Louvre) and there were about 20,000 folks there to see the museums that day. So while I was able to capture a few pictures, most of the day was spent trying to navigate through the crowds to see some amazing works of art. My favorite was the first sculpture that Michelangelo completed when he was only in his twenties. It is a portrait of Mary holding the crucified body of Jesus. Considering it was one of his first pieces, it was stunning and it was the only piece of art that he ever signed.

We finished up at the Vatican slightly after 1 pm and headed for the Spanish Steps and the shopping district. Some of the best designers in Italy have boutiques in this area and while we enjoyed looking at what Valentino was offering this year, we did not go home with any of his new clothes. The girls did find some cute things in the one off stores that were more affordable and my husband did enjoy looking for a new watch in some very nice stores, our afternoon of shopping around the Spanish Steps would probably have been better spent elsewhere.

Our final adventure out was to the Trevi Fountain at night. We had heard this was beautiful, especially in the evening when it was well lit. After dinner in the surrounding neighborhood with Caprese Salad and Lobster with Alfredo Sauce, the girls gathered their coins to make there love wishes into the fountain. When I messed up the picture and asked for a reshoot, I was informed by them that they were only allowed one love wish and a reshoot would mess things up. So alas, I don’t have a real good picture of this moment.

I will be the first to admit that 2 days in Rome is far too short, but the time was well invested and we saw many wonderful things. On our next trip, I would like to spend an entire day at the Vatican. They estimate that to see everything in the Vatican complex, it will take 5 full days.

Tomorrow morning we fly to Tel Aviv where we meet up with our friends for a two week tour of Israel. Looking forward to more amazing vacation time!

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Rome: Day 1

Our first day in Rome started as our 12-hour flight from the US landed at 8:15 in the morning.  We had all tried our best to get a good night sleep on the flight but the best we could hope for was about 3-5 hours each.  Regardless, we marched on….

After taking the train from the airport into center city and then a taxi to our hotel, we checked in, stored our luggage and headed out for the two venues we had mapped out that we wanted to see on Day 1:  The Coliseum and the Basilica San Clemente. 

The Coliseum was a no brainer, it was a massive piece of history that stood about 4 blocks from our hotel.  We were blown away by its size and grandeur (not to mention the crazy men dressed as gladiators standing in front of it).  We took some great pics of the outside, but the multiple hour long lines to get into the Coliseum and our lack of sleep for the last 24 hours, lead us to move on to lunch.  Our hotel rooms wouldn’t be ready until 2 PM, so we had no choice, but to keep moving. 

It was time for venue #2, the Basilica San Clemente

I first read about this Basilica when I was reading Mark Batterson’s book, Primal.  In the opening chapter of this book, he describes a historic basilica with catacombs that has layers of history underneath it.  Essentially, three buildings one on top of another.  

In the late 1800s, archeologists discovered remains of an older basilica underneath the present building.  They started digging and kept digging until they also discovered the ruins of a 1st century home underneath that.  Today for 5 euros, you can see (and practically touch) ancient frescoes and columns that were once a part of that old church as well and pagan worship altars and an active spring that were once a part of the first century home.  It was amazing to see such ancient history up close. 

 Our evening ended with dinner at Pasquale’s restaurant and with the girls returning home to rest while the adults watched the sun set and the full moon rise at the Coliseum and later on the rooftop of our hotel. 

The internet connections here in Rome are not great, but I hope to update you on Rome: Day 2 as we fly to Tel Aviv tomorrow.

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Summer Vacation 2013

I got a call from my mom last night.  Even though I am in my mid-forties, she never fails to check up on me when I am traveling, even to the point of asking me to call her when I get there.  Since this trip is an international trip, she just asked that I post a blog….so here goes!

The beginning of this year seems like a bit of a blur.  It started out with my husband being contacted by a potential new employer that was interested in interviewing him for a CTO position.  In his line of work, he gets a fair share of these requests and while he was not looking for a new job, he often views such requests as great networking opportunities.  The organization that called was Southwest Airlines and the “networking” that took place early in the year, turned into a job offer and acceptance by late April. He started commuting to Texas in early May and the girls and I followed once school was out in early June. Our house sold quickly in Florida and we were blessed to close on our house the last day we were in Florida.  Our Texas house won’t close until mid-July, so we are homeless and debt free until mid-July.

Last fall, before any of this occurred, we had planned a summer vacation to Rome and Israel.  We realize that we have only a few summers left with our girls who are in their late teens and we really want to expose them to as much of the world as possible.  Last year it was London, Paris and Scotland and this year, when friends of ours who are missionaries to Costa Rica organized a trip to Israel, we decided to take them up on it. One lesson we learned from our travels last summer was that jetlag on the first day is a killer, so we decided to start our trip with a few days in Rome to transition to the time difference and because our oldest is very interested in majoring in Art History.  After finishing her AP Art History class, she is excited about seeing all of the treasures of art that Rome has to offer.  We will spend the first three days of our vacation there and then we will meet up with our tour group in Israel.  If you want to follow our itinerary while we are there, I will try to post it when I have a better internet connection.

I always like to try to blog through our trips for several reasons:  1)I like sharing what I learn and see with others; and 2) I never got to travel across the ocean until I was an adult, so if for any reason, you won’t have the chance to travel this summer, I hope that you can travel along with me via blog, Facebook and Instagram.  My instagram name is @janetmacc, but even more interesting is my husband’s photography.  You can follow him on Instagram @ambassador_pancakes.  He will also post his pictures to Facebook as well, if you are lucky enough to be his Facebook friend. Hopefully, you will enjoy this vacation as much as we do.

Wherever you are, may you have a wonderful summer!

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