Monday, March 30, 2009

Heading Home

We're heading back home tonight and have had a wonderful trip to Israel, we've learned so much this time we can't wait to share it and use things we've learned in our teachings at Calvary! The things we've shared on this blog are just the tip of the iceberg!

We hope you'll join us on next year's trip to Israel, March 1-12, 2010. Watch the Calvary website,, for details on registration, which should start in the next couple weeks.

We have an exciting tour planned incorporating many of the new things we discovered this trip into our itineraries. We're planning two "tracks" or options for the tour. The first track is for first timers, where you'll visit the most popular sites in Israel, and the second track will be for second timers or beyond, we'll still see the major sites, but will substitute other places along the tour so you can see many new and exciting things! Watch for details at Calvary!


Sunday, March 29, 2009

City of David Return - Dead Sea Springs Enot Tzukim

Today we returned to the City of David (the oldest part of Jerusalem, where David lived). We were able to meet with Eli Shukron, an archaeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority. whose involved heavily with exploration at the City of David.

In this photo we are sitting on the 2 original stones that Eli discovered just 5 years ago that led to the discovery of the Pool of Siloam. Pictured here is Oni Amiel of Amiel Tours, myself, and Eli Shukron.

We are looking at current excavation of what is believed to be steps that went up from the Pool of Siloam to the Temple Mount (southern steps).

Here we are standing above where the Pool of Siloam stood, it was a 1 acre pool. You can see the steps from the first photo in the background on the left.

They believe that this may be the water tunnel that Joab entered through to capture Jerusalem from the Jebusites for King David in 2 Samuel 5.

Next we took another exciting trip to the Dead Sea. We witnessed prophecy coming alive. This area is called Enot Tzukim, and it's a nature reserve with hundreds of natural springs of water flowing up to the surface and into the Dead Sea. This entire area was under water (in the Dead Sea, where nothing can grow or live) just 30 years ago. Because the Dead Sea is shrinking by about 1 meter a year, this land is now on the shores of the sea and all these natural springs of fresh water have emerged. They pump this water around the area and with the super-rich soil it's a superb environment to grow crops, which is what they do. We passed acres and acres of date palms, tomatos, grapes, just to name a few. 70% of Israel's exported crops are now coming from this desert!

There's even fish living in it!

We're right between the Dead Sea and the Judean desert (near Masada and Qumron, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found).

Several springs meet here and flow right into the Dead Sea.

This is prophecy being fullfilled right before our eyes, read Ezekiel 47 and Isaiah 35, it's incredible! Here's the Dead Sea right below this nature reserve with the springs of fresh water!

Har Azazel - St. George's Monastery

This morning we visited the highest point in the Judean wilderness, Har Azazel. This is the place where they would push the scapegoat over the cliff on the Day of Atonement. You can see the Mount of Olives from here so the priests would signal to each other as the goat was moving to this point. It's quite a drop still to this day.

We saw some more sheep in the bedoin communities.

Next we went to St. George's Monastery in a large cavernous area between Jerusalem and Jericho. You have to hike down into the valley and back up to the monastery. It's been there since the 5th Century. David probably wrote Psalm 23 from this area, it looks like the "valley of the shadow of death." It's also believed that Elijah hid from Ahab in one of these caves and was fed by ravens here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

City of David - Hezekiah's Water Tunnel - Nehemiah's Wall

The group we've been tagging along with most of the tour has concluded their stay so we'll spend the next couple days seeing some sites on our own. We first stopped at a location where you can help sift through archaeological debris recovered from the Temple Mount. You sift through the rubble and look for pieces of pottery, tile, seals, glass, metal, etc. looking for significant artifacts that validate the past.

When you find something, you place it in a marked container with similar objects.

Someone found an ancient Roman coin while we were there. This is definitely going to be one of the stops on our "Track 2" tour for those who have already been to Israel and want to see some different things.

We visited the City of David, this photo is remains of David's Citadel (his fortress, palace).

These stones are actually of the original Jebusite wall that surrounded the City of Jerusalem before David conquered it. They date back about 3,500 years. They're the same walls that surrounded the city while David lived there!

We went down into King Hezekiah's water tunnel, another cool place we're seeing on "Track 2" next year. This tunnel brings water into the city from the natural spring outside the walls.

Bring shorts and water shoes because the water's about 2 feet deep!

The beginning of the tunnel, see the water flowing.

This is actually part of Nehemiah's wall, built after the Jews returned to the land after the Babylonian exile.

We're still planning the different sites we'll see on Track 2, we've been doing a lot of research on great places to include. We should have details in the next couple weeks and we'll begin registration for the trip (both tracks)!

Shabbat Shalom! It's Friday evening now here in Jerusalem and everything's shutting down for Shabbat.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Western Wall - Temple Mount - Southern Steps - Garden Tomb

We couldn't post yesterday due to Internet problems so here's a quick look at what we did. We started the day passing by the Western Wall where the Jews pray on our way up to the top of the Temple Mount.

It's pretty huge up there, lots of space and lots of trees cover part of it. We were right in front of the "Dome of the Rock."

This is the "Dome of Spirits," directly north of the golden dome, it's on top of where they believe the "Holy of Holies" was in the Temple.

We walked through the Antonia Fortress and these stones are from the time of Christ and would be the place where Jesus was scourged before His crucifixion.

A walk through the busy market in the Old City.

Teaching on the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount.

We finished the day at the Garden Tomb, where Jesus may have been buried for three days and three nights before His resurrection.

Nearby there's an area with what looks like a skull where Jesus may have been crucified (Golgotha), it's the word we translate "Calvary."

The tomb is still empty!!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Model of Jerusalem - Mount of Olives - Garden of Gethsemane - Bet Shemesh - Elah Valley

Yesterday we didn't take a lot of photos because the sites we visited didn't allow pictures to be taken. Also, it rained most of the day here in Jerusalem, however, we did get some outdoor photos during a break in the rain of the model of Jerusalem. It's a model of what the city looked like during the first century. Notice the Temple here in the middle.

A view of the southern half of the city.

The northern half of the city.

One of our favorite quick stops is at Aroma Espresso Bar. Their signature "Aroma" drink is a latte with cocoa and chunks of chocolate. It's incredible!

While we were stopped at the Mount of Olives, you could take a short ride on a camel for a few dollars. This one's name is Kojak.

A view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.

This olive tree in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed before his arrest and crucifixion is 2,000 years old. Remember, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and cut down all the trees and leveled the city. Anyone who's tried to kill an olive tree in their yard knows how difficult it is to keep them from growing back. The stump in the center is over 2,000 years old and would have been a tree in the Garden when Jesus was there praying. After the trees were cut down for wood and only the stumps were left, several shoots grew out of the stump and even the stump grew up in the center. It's a cool picture of Romans 11 and how the Church is grafted-in to Israel.

Pastor David Landry of CC Casa Grande teaching at Bet Shemesh. This is where Samson was born. Read the story of Samson and Delilah in Judges 13-16.

This is the Elah Valley, where David slew Goliath in 1 Samuel 17.

A photo of the dry creek bed (flows when it rains) in the Elah Valley where David would have picked up the 5 smooth stones before he killed Goliath. We picked up some stones here, and they're still all pretty smooth!

We've sure been having a great time on this tour. Remember, we're not on a "normal" tour because we've been able to break away from the group and do some cool things on our own. I hope you can join us next March 1-12 when Calvary takes another group to Israel. We're actually planning on 2 tracks (or 2 levels) on this upcoming tour.

We'll have a regular tour with the most common sites people visit (like last year's tour) and then a 2nd track for those who've been to Israel before and would like to see some of the less common sites where groups don't always get to go. We'll most likely still be all staying together at the same hotels and we'll have times of teaching at the bigger sites with everyone together, but the 2nd track folks will visit other sites of biblical significance instead of the most common sites that they may have seen already. The cost should be about the same for the 2nd track, we're still working out the details.

We'll probably start official registration for the tour in a couple weeks, pray about joining us!


Monday, March 23, 2009

Dead Sea - Masada - Ein Gedi - Qumron - Jerusalem

Sunrise on the Dead Sea.

Another beautiful shot of the Dead Sea.

This is the fortress of Masada, on top of this large plateau. Herod the Great built a palace here that was quite extravagant. In the first century about 1,000 Jews sought refuge here and eventually were conquered by the Romans resulting in a tragic ending.

Some of the storage rooms at Masada.

This is Ein Gedi, where David hid from Saul. There's a natural spring that creates a waterfall. Read the story in 1 Samuel 24.

Qumron is the location of the caves where the Dead Sea scrolls were found in 1947. Most of them were found in this cave pictured here. The scrolls were written between 200 B.C. and about 700 B.C. They contain the entire Old Testament with the exception of the book of Esther. The discovery of the scrolls in the last century has proven the accuracy of God's Word after thousands of years.

We left the Dead Sea area and headed for Jerusalem!

Traveling through the city, notice the gold dome in the background that sits on top of the Temple Mount.

The original walls of the Old City of Jerusalem.