The first time you go to the Holy Land, you realize that some of the things you would have been just as happy not seeing – and other things that you didn’t get to see, you would have really liked to see. Jo-Anne and I had that experience years ago, and we made up our minds that if we ever got to plan a trip ourselves, we would make changes. Less emphasis on famous churches, on shopping for souvenirs, and more time on the actual spots where Jesus walked and taught, died and rose from the dead. Not the “Tomb of David” (bogus), but the places David tended, sheep and fought Goliath, and worshipped. This trip – next February 12 – 20 – is the trip that we wish we could have taken.
For example, tours often take a boat from Tiberias up the west side of Galilee to Capernaum. But Jesus and his disciples went repeatedly right across the lake, to the almost deserted East side, as the wind drove them down there in the storms. That’s the boat trip we’ve arranged this time.
Tiberias, the city situated on the south end of Galilee, existed in Jesus’ day, but so far as we know, he never went there. He lived on the Northwest corner in Capernaum, and worked on that shore, and then across on the East side, where he healed and cast out demons and taught. Today, those areas are largely undeveloped, but the land is what Jesus and his men saw. Those are the places we are going.
Same thing for the Old Testament. When the Israelites came into the Promised Land, they entered at Jericho, then went straight up to the city of Ai on the north/south spine of the land. Then they traveled South and North themselves along the ridges, conquering as they went. These areas are in Arab hands today, and thus they are not often visited. But we’ve arranged to visit all of them: Ai and Bethel (where Jacob encountered God more than once), as well as Ramah (present-day Ramallah) where Samuel worked. And of course, Jericho: we’ll be in each of these places.
In Jerusalem, we’ll get to walk through the long tunnel Hezekiah built to supply water into the city during sieges, coming out at the Pool of Siloam, where Jesus healed the blind man. We’ll visit the recently excavated Pools of Bethsaida, where Jesus healed the man who hadn’t been able to get into the water fast enough (see John 5); as well as the sheep market referred to in John, where the sacrificial animals were bought and sold. (The market still functions a couple of millennia later!) Needless to say, we’ll spend time on the Temple Mount, where Jesus went to worship (and cleanse the temple). And we’ll visit two tombs: the one where Jesus probably was buried, and one that looks “authentic”, but probably isn’t.
We plan to visit Masada and the caves of Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, swim (or at least wade) in the Dead Sea, see the caves at En Gedi where David hid from Saul (and cut the fringe off his robe). We’ll visit the Yad Vashem (Hand and Name) memorial of the Holocaust. It’s important we do, for the sake of understanding what the Jews went through under Hitler. Your Jewish friends will know you both understand, and care.
Lots of other things, too: the Roman hand-built harbor at Caesarea and the amphitheater there. The port of Joppa where Jonah tried to escape the Lord’s call, and where Peter saw the vision which opened the gospel to us Gentiles. The valley where David and Goliath went one-on-one. The cells under the High Priest’s house, where Jesus was beaten the night he was betrayed.
The trip is going to be wonderful, but sadly, we know it won’t be inexpensive. It will not be possibility for everyone. At this point, we need just about half-a-dozen more people to have enough people to confirm the trip – and we can make room for another dozen beyond that. Deposits have to be in by November 8th.
If you come along, you’ll understand the Bible, and the people of the Bible, like you never have before. It’s made a huge difference for many years for me in my Bible study and teaching. I can’t imagine preaching without that experience.
Anyway, you’re invited! Brochures are available at church, or you can call me at (510) 684-5047 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions or just to learn more.