A trip to Israel will change your life! This past May my wife Valo and I were blessed to make the trip with our son Scott, his wife Nancy and their boys Sam and Ben, along with Nancy’s dad John Hannah, professor of Old Testament History at Dallas Theological Seminary, and our friend Robbie Vokoun.
After a long flight, we landed at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv, and once through customs, we boarded a Mercedes bus for Be’er Sheba in the Negev desert, accompanied by the best tour guide in Israel. It was amazing to be standing beside Abraham’s well that he quarreled over with Abimelech, and which was 260 feet deep! We were surrounded by camels, and gazed southward into the desert into which Ishmail and Hagar were sent.
We traveled to the Dead Sea where we floated without effort – it was impossible to sink! High above that we visited Massada where Herod built one of his palaces. The Roman siege wall is still there!
We toured Qumran, home of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and stopped at En Gedi, where David was chased by King Saul.
We journeyed up to the Sea of Galilee, took a boat ride across to see a restored first century fishing boat. We toured the gorgeous Mount of Beatitudes, saw where the 5,000 were fed, and saw where Peter was restored. We visited Jesus’ home town of Capernaum where we saw the remains of Peter’s house and a synagogue where Jesus preached. We went to Chorazin and walked on pavement where Jesus walked and healed people, and to Bethsaida, home of some disciples who were fishermen by trade.
At the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee we stopped at the area where the Gadarene demoniac lived, and saw the cliffs where the possessed pigs ran down into the water. Many of us, including Valo and me, were later baptized in the Jordan River south of the Sea of Galilee.
We visited Bethlehem where Jesus was born, and Nazareth where he grew up, both of which are large cities today. Just west of Nazareth we ascended Mount Precipice where a crowd tried to push Jesus over the edge, and which looks out over the vast Valley of Armageddon, site of that great final battle to come.
In that area we stopped at Megiddo, site of a chief city of the day, and we went to Gideon’s spring, and were able to kneel down as his soldiers did and lap water, though we did not actually drink it. It was a site of great beauty.
We saw Mt. Gilboa where King Saul and son Jonathan were killed, and we stopped at Bet She’an, the old Roman city where their bodies were hung on the wall. We visited the Valley of Elah where David slew Goliath, and I even picked up fives stones from the same brook where David did.
We went to the Mediterranean coast to Cesarea Phillipi Maritime where Herod had a palace, swimming pool, chariot race track and other remains, including the very amphitheater where Paul made his defense to King Agrippa.
We also went to the other Cesarea Phillipi, previously known as Panias where the false god Pan was worshiped, at the foot of Mount Hermon. Sacrifices were carried out at the “Gates of Hell“, a huge cavern. Babies were tossed down into the chasm and it was determined if the sacrifice was accepted by Pan by whether or not blood was seen in the spring flowing out below.
We stopped up on Mount Carmel where Elijah drove the 400 prophets of Baal down and had them killed. It was the place where the prophet outran Ahab in his chariot! We traveled up to Tel Dan, a northern worship center, and saw the location for one of Jeroboam’s golden calves, along with an arch that was built in the time of Abraham.
We stayed in Jerusalem at the same time as President Trump, and prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. We were thrilled to be there for Jerusalem Day, especially since it was the 50th anniversary of the liberation of that city in 1967 – lots of singing, dancing, and flag-waving in the streets! We toured the Israel Museum there as well as the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum. (all who enter the military, young women for 2 years and men for 3, visit the Yad Vashem and are inducted at the Western wall)
We visited the Temple Mount, walked around the Dome of the Rock, and stopped at the Western Wall, encountering several gaily-celebrated bar mitzvahs. We visited the Upper Room, the house of the high priest Caiphas, the dungeon below where Jesus spent His last night on earth before the crucifixion, and the Antonia Fortress where He was tried before Pilate. We stopped at the Pool of Bethesda and the Pool of Siloam, and visited the site of King David’s palace, from which he gazed down on Bathsheba (she was no where in sight).
We stopped at Golgotha, the “Place of the Skull”, which has a busy bus station just below it, and then the Garden Tomb where Jesus’ body was placed (it was empty!) About half way between these two sites is the location of the crucifixion, below which, in a chamber, is the Ark of the Covenant found by Ron Wyatt, though sadly we did not know this until we had left the country!
There were many other places that we visited, but these come to mind quickly. It was a place where Bible history comes to life, and Bible reading prompts many pleasant memories.