Monthly Archives: July 2013

Our last day in Israel

Our final day in Israel focused on places where Christ spent the last 72 hours of his life. 

We walked through the Rabbinical Tunnels, a system of tunnels that Rabbi’s or other influential people still used to travel in the ancient City.  Here we saw some massive foundation stones that King Herod put in place to support the wall around the ancient city, some of them weighing in excess of 200 tons. 

At the end of these tunnels we saw where the Antonia Fortress would have been located.  It was here that Pontius Pilate condemned Jesus to die.  While walking through these tunnels, we were able to see what remained of the temple walls that existed during the time of Jesus, but also we were able to walk on the same stones that would have been on the streets in 1st Century Jerusalem when Jesus left Pontius Pilate and was led away to be crucified.

Next we moved on to view two different places where scholars/church leaders believe that Jesus might have been crucified and buried.  The first was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which was acknowledge by the early church (in the 4th century) as the place they believe that He was crucified and buried. 

The second was called the Garden Tomb. This tomb is located near a rock that looks like a skull as well as another traditional crucifixion site of the Romans.  In more recent times, a family tomb, which would have been owned by a wealthy family, was discovered near this site. In this tomb is a cross over one of the burial areas that references Jesus Christ. 

Finally, before we left the Garden Tomb, our whole group celebrated communion together and talked about what this week had meant to each of us. 

We all then drove to the airport where, after goodbyes, the larger tour group headed back home and the Maccubbins spent one more night in Tel Aviv.


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Israel Day 9: Archeological Dig, Bet Shemesh, and where David killed Goliath

We spent the entire morning digging through archeological sites. It was pretty amazing! We started in a “tell” where inhabitants in the 3rd century BC had built their homes.  When the Romans came to invade the “tell” dwellers destroyed everything and buried it under the earth, so today, we spent the day digging up pottery and other 3rd century BC items in the archeological dig.  When we were done with that really cool project, we went crawling through partial excavated ruins that were lit by candlelight. 

The best way to share this day with you is via pictures, so please check out Facebook and Instagram.

Our final stop of the day was Bet Shemesh.  Several things happened here:  It was the hometown of Samson and it was the place where the Philistines chose to return the Ark of the Covenant to the Israelites via oxen driven cart after it was causing them some significant problems (2 Samuel 6)

We also stopped at the riverbed where the Israelites fought the Philistines and David used small stones and a slingshot to defeat Goliath. 

Tomorrow is our last day in Israel, and then we fly home.

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Israel Day 8: — Dome of the Rock, the Temple Mount, the Wailing Wall, the Southern Steps and Hezekiah’s Tunnel.

Our morning started out at the Dome of the Rock.  This is a Muslim shrine that has been built on top of the Temple Mount (the place in Jerusalem where both Temples were built and later destroyed).  While we were unable to enter the Dome of the Rock, because we are not Muslim, we were able to walk the Temple Mount and share the history of the temples being built there. 

From the Temple Mount we descended through the Arab Market and then to the Wailing (or Western) Wall.  Since Jews are not allowed to pray on the Temple Mount (we were not even allowed to bring scripture there).  The Wailing Wall, or the Western Wall was the closest place to the Temple Mount that Jews today can pray today.  We joined them and placed our prayers on the wall.

From the Wall we moved through the old town market and also to the Southern Steps.  Some of these steps are still the original steps that were in place from the time of Jesus.  They would have been the same steps that were used to enter the Temple Mount, but also the same steps where Jesus would have taught his followers. 

We had a great meeting in the middle of the day with an Orthodox Jew who did a great job explaining the ideas and relationships challenges that Jews and Christians struggle with.  His name was Moshe Kempenski and he owns a shop in Old City Jerusalem.  You can find that here:

Our final stop for the day was Hezekiah’s Tunnel.  You can learn much more about this one here:

Tomorrow we are heading out on an Archeological Dig….


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Israel Day 7: Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane, Israeli Holocaust Museum, and Bethlehem

Today was interesting because while we spent time in Jerusalem, we also had to cross the border into Palestinian territory in order to visit Bethlehem.  Our guide, who was a Jewish citizen, was not allowed to travel into Bethlehem with us, so we left him at the border and a new tour guide met us inside the city walls. 

Our morning started out at the Mount of Olives where we overlooked the old City of Jerusalem.  We traveled the path where Jesus would have made his ceremonial entry into Jerusalem on the donkey and we also visited a private garden that would have most likely been very close to place where Jesus came on that last evening to pray before his crucifixion. 

The middle of our day was spent visiting the Israeli Holocaust museum after which we traveled to Bethlehem. 

It was great to overlook the hills where the shepherds would have been on the night of Jesus’ birth and even to look up the mountain to where David was anointed King by Samuel, but our visit to the city of Jesus’ birth was a bit crazy (and not just because the Italian Prime Minister was there at the same time we were).  Bethlehem is definitely a bit overwhelmed by tourists and while we enjoyed seeing the spot where Christ is believed to have been born and even where he spent the early years of his life, the crushes of the crowds and the street vendors make seeing Bethlehem a bit crazy.

Tomorrow we spend more time in the old City of Jerusalem. Some exciting times to come.  If you aren’t following @ambassador_pancakes on Instagram (or on Facebook), you are missing some of the best pictures of our vacation!

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Israel Day 5 and 6 – Beth Shean (Sycthopolis), Harod’s Spring, Bethany by the Jordan, The Dead Sea, Masada, Qumeran, Jerusalem

Last night we did not have free internet access in our hotel, so my blog posting has been delayed.  It might have also been delayed because I spent too much time in the Dead Sea Water pool at the hotel.  Either way, I am combining days and back tracking.

Sunday morning started with a visit to Beth Shean and the roman city of Sycthopolis, here we saw some beautiful ruins from the Roman City that was the capital of the ten decapolis cities in the region.  This city was so advanced that it had indoor plumbing and a shopping mall in the 6th century AD.  It was a massive city with beautiful columns and mosaics that even in ruins it is massive.  Sycthopolis was destroyed by an earthquake that would have registered 8 or 9 on today’s scale in 749 AD.  While the region is still inhabited, the city was never rebuilt after the earthquake.

Beth Shean sits upon a hill above Sycthopolis.  It was made famous when the Philistines displayed the bodies of Saul and his sons after they were killed in battle.  You can read about that in 1 Samuel 31-2 Samuel 1 and how David rescues them and gives them a proper burial.

We then spent a bit of time visiting the cave and Harod’s spring where Gideon was told only to take 300 men into battle against the Midianites in Judges 7.  Gideon narrowed down those men by first asking those to leave who were afraid to fight.  Then God instructed him to further narrow those men by sending home those who lapped up the water like dogs. This left him with 300 men to fight the armies of Midan.

Our final stop on Sunday, before we reached the Dead Sea was Bethany by the Jordan, a place that for 1900 years has been accepted as the site where John baptized Jesus.

About mid-afternoon we checked into our hotel on the Dead Sea and soaked in the salt rich pools.  It was a fascinating experience and I’m sorry I didn’t get a family picture of everyone floating on the salt water.  Next time we need to stay for a few days to get all the medicinal benefits of this wonderful place.

Monday morning we started out early and boy was it hot.  We headed into the Judean wilderness to explore a few places there before we headed to Jerusalem where we will spend the remainder of the nights on our tour.

Our first stop on Monday was Masada.  You can read the story of Masada here or watch the mini-series on Amazon or a short video here.  What was so amazing about this palace fortress is how much is left from the days of King Herod.  There were original frescoes on the walls, mosaics in the inlaid floors of the public bathhouse and even the original plaster on some of the walls that was faux finished to look like marble.  It was amazing how much archeologists have been able to find, preserve and restore.

After leaving Masada, we headed to Qumran where they have discovered the biggest portion of the Dead Sea scrolls.  We learned about the Essenes and their ways of living in isolation and the dedication of their lives to fully studying God’s word.  When they were afraid of Roman attacks they hid their hand copied version of the scripture in the caves to keep their scrolls safe from attack.  Unfortunately, their secret died with them in the attack and their scrolls were found in the 1940s and not by the right people.  They were practically destroyed before the reached the hands of historians who wanted to make sure they were preserved.

Finally we entered Jerusalem!  Our guide Ronnie is a wealth of knowledge about everywhere that we stop and he does a great job of setting the stage for each venue.  As we entered Jerusalem, he played the song “Jerusalem, Jerusalem” over the loudspeakers.  I can’t tell you how many years it has been since I have heard that song.  But it was amazing to enter the city while hearing that song.

Until tomorrow….

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