1. We're on our way to Israel.
2. Winging our way over the Alps, which are still beautifully snow-capped in September.
3. We go south, passing Greece.
4. And then drop into Tel Aviv, Israel, a teeming cultural center. Tel Aviv is 40 miles from Jerusalem, our destination,
5. So we'll take commercial transportation -
6. Oh, no, is this the only way? - in the form of a shared limousine. It's quite an experience to ride in a car full of people and not be able to converse, as they only spoke Hebrew. But our sign language had a workout, and we spent a pleasant hour together.
7. We were often mindful of the military influence in Israel.
8. The main mode of transportation between towns, mind you, is by foot. These people get their exercise! And have many things in common with their ancestors.
9. Along the way are pillars of stones, such as these, which are the boundary markers of properties. From ancient times until now, this has been their simple way of showing the division of land ownership.
10. Gloriously alive by day, and shining white in the moonlight by night, this is the city of the ancients - King Solomon, King David, and Jesus Christ, our Saviour and King.
11. On the streets of Jerusalem we are transported back hundreds,
12. and in the Old City, literally thousands of years. As one writer put it, it's like walking in a museum with nothing locked up.
13. Jerusalem isn't all old. It is growing by leaps and bounds as the people of God flock back to their homeland, after almost 2,000 years of dispersion.
14. These are new apartments
15. amid the old, with a Presbyterian church dominating the scene.
16. This is the Knesset, the Parliament of Israel
17. and nearby is a giant bronze Menorah, a gift from Great Britain. Pictures on it depict the history of Israel.
18. On Mount Zion, the highest point in Jerusalem,
19. the Coeneculum houses
20. the traditional King David's tomb,
21. where there is also an empty chair awaiting the next King of Israel. According to Bible prophecy, it is from Mount Zion that Christ will rule the world during the millennium.
22. There also nearby, a moving, but depressing
23. memorial to the Jews who were annihilated by Hitler during the Second World War.
24. The Plaques in the background are in memoriam of whole towns slain under his rule. The form in the foreground symbolized Rachel weeping for her children.
25. Dawn in Jerusalem is awe-inspiring, as it is anywhere, but the aura that is present here as the day is unlike any other I had sensed before. I stood there, reliving the past, knowing the dawn as Jesus had, with the cocks crowing, the donkeys braying, and soon the clip-clop of the donkeys' hooves was heard as their masters started on their ways.
26. Slowly the city came to life.
27. Now let's take a walk over into the Old City. Beside the wall, built and rebuilt many times over, we stroll
28. mingling with the populace. The women, as you can see, are in native as well as Western dress.
29. The wall's foundation is of limestone, as are the blocks - as are all of the dwellings in Old Jerusalem. The wall dates back to the 16th century, with some of the foundation stones being dated at Herod's time. The old quarries have been found beneath the city,
30. as have been King Solomon's stables, which have been excavated and restored.
31. Outside the city wall to the northeast is the sheep market, which convenes every Friday
32. for the bartering of goods and animals, as they have been doing for centuries. Some say this market has been active since Jesus' time. As you can see, mostly Arabs are in attendance,
33. with a few foreigners thrown in for good measure. So, since we've found a willing beast of burden,
34. we'll take a ride into the Old City, through the Damascus Gate, with its thick walls
35. and on down a narrow way which you'll find typical of the streets in Old Jerusalem. There are doorways on either side here that are entrances to homes, or apartments, and often children dart in and out in their play.
36. The suks, or shops, along the way look much the same as they did of old,
37. but are modernized now, with conveniences such as telephones and electricity.
38. Here is the entrance to the Sisters of Zion Convent,
39. which is along the Via Dolorosa, the street you see below us, and is built over the site of the fortress Antonia, where Jesus was tried.
40. From the rooftop we have a good view of Old Jerusalem, and in the far distance you can see the triangular-shaped roof of the Coeneculum on Mount Zion. The rooftops are fascinating, with their bumpy appearance. The large hump facilitates the dispersion of smoke from their indoor fires, and the smaller one contains their water supply, which is solar heated! They are way ahead of us!
41. Looking down on the rooftops gives us some insight into the way of life of these people. Her e you can see meal drying in the sun, plants growing, and clothes drying. I'm sure that they spend much time on their rooftop patios, as they have no other place to go for sun and fresh air.
42. Beneath the Convent, they have excavated to
43. the level of the Antonia Fortress. Jerusalem was completely destroyed in 70 AD, and
44. in rebuilding the city, the plan was much the same as that of the Old City, but due to the rubble of the ruins, the present buildings sit 7 to 8 feet higher than the original ones did.
45. Here we see the serrated stone flooring of the passageways on which the Roman horses and chariots raced through the fortress.
46. And here, in the same area, Jesus was tortured and humiliated, and we see an engraving in the stone, which has been identified as the 'Game of the Kings,' a game which the Roman soldiers actually played. When the scourged and mocked Jesus, they are said to have played this game, crowning Him 'King of the Jews.'
47. Not far from the fortress, on Mount Moriah, stood the temple - first Solomon's, then Herod's, and now, since 691 AD, the Moslem Mosque, 'Dome of the Rock,' has been standing on the temple grounds. It's a beautiful building. Notice the mosaic inlay. Mount Moriah is where Abraham brought Isaac to sacrifice him to God.
48. Within the mosque is the hallowed rock. It is also the place from which the Moslems say Mohammed ascended into Heaven.
49. At the back of the temple grounds is the most hallowed place of all Judaism - the Wailing Wall. Many of the huge foundation stones date back to Solomon's time, and the masonry is of such excellent quality that no mortar was needed in the construction. It, as well as the rest of the Old City, had been closed to the Jews prior to the war of 1967. But now Jews from all nations gather here to pray, and weep, and many little written prayers can be found slipped between the rocks.
50. The Jews are called to worship by the blowing of the ram's horn, as this old patriarch is doing.
51. And the Moslems are called to prayer 5 times daily by a voice chanting in Arabic from minarets like this one near the temple. I had the rare and beautiful experience of seeing an old Arabic woman on her knees in private prayer in response to this call - it's also a beautiful experience to see the full moon come up over the Mount of Olives. On the Mount of Olives
52. in Gethsemane are some 2,000 year old olive trees and some are still bearing fruit! Now let's head south, to Bethlehem, a scant 5 miles from Jerusalem.
53. The hills are mostly planted along the way, some are terraced.
54. Could this be a 'Joseph and Mary,' on their way to Bethlehem?
55. In the fields below Bethlehem, the shepherds still guard their flocks, as they did the night Jesus was born.
56. We are welcomed to Bethlehem in 3 languages - English, Hebrew, and Arabic.
57. Down this street, then left, is the Church of the Nativity
58. and beneath it lies a stable, hewn out of rock, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus,
59. where Mary wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger.
60. From here we get a good view of Bethlehem, the name meaning 'House of Bread.'
61. The town faces the shepherds' fields,
62. where on the night of Jesus' birth they saw the heavens open and heard the glorious song of the angels!
63. Traveling farther south, we pass through Arab towns,
64. must be mid-afternoon,
65. and see some modern Arab homes along the way.
66. Bedouin Arabs are nomads, who still live in tents like these
67. and farm in this primitive way -
68. but are very hospitable!
69. We come now to Hebron, viewing it from Abraham's plot of ground. This is where Abraham and Sarah lived, and David was first crowned King of Israel.
70. The well, still in use, is over 4,000 years old.
71. Abraham and Sarah and their children are buried nearby in the tomb of Machpelah. You read about this right at the last of Genesis.
72. Nearby are the vineyards spoken of in Joshua's time, when 12 men went out to scout the new country, and came back with clusters of grapes so large that one man couldn't carry them. The grapes aren't as large now,
73. but they are just as luscious. Back to Jerusalem and on to
74. Bethany. Bethany means 'House of the Poor.'
75. This is where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived.
76. It is situated just over the hill from Jerusalem, by way of the Mount of Olives, which was Jesus' pathway to either town.
77. This church was built over the traditional site of Lazarus' grave.
78. Pictures of Mary and Martha's life in mosaic are all around the dome of the church.
79. Here is a picture of the altar.
80. Down in the area of the grave is this oil press. The millstone is turned by the threaded shaft shown in the background.
81. Heading out east of Bethany we see the wilderness area, spoken of many times in the Bible. 12 miles from Jerusalem, a day's walking journey, is the Samaritan Inn.
82. The manger and well are still there. Since this is the only source of water in the area, we know that this must be the place of the Inn - a real place, mentioned by Jesus in the story of the good Samaritan.
83. 12 miles further, another day's journey, is Jericho.
84. It's hard to believe that a town is out there somewhere. Going straight would take us to the Dead Sea, but
85. turning left, we come to Jericho, a lush land of fruit and honey.
86. It was here that Zacchaeus called to Jesus from a tree to come home and sup with him.
87. The town sits 800 feet below sea level, with natural springs 25 to 30 feet below the surface of the ground.
88. So many of the fresh fruits and vegetables of Israel are grown here today, as in Biblical times.
89. These are partially ripened dates.
90. Much excavation has been done here, as in Jerusalem, with some digs dating back to 7,000 BC. This mound, for instance, has revealed the remains of 18 distinct cities, though the Jericho of Joshua's time has gone back to dust as the structures of that time were made of mud.
91. After 40 days in this wilderness, between Jericho and the Jordan River,
92. Satan drove Jesus into this mountain outside of Jericho, where He was again temped, and came out victorious.
93. Heading for the Dead Sea,
94. we are now at sea level.
95. And now we have dropped to 1,291 feet below sea level, the lowest point of the earth. Death Valley is only 282 feet below sea level.
96. The Dead Sea is beautiful to behold
97. and fun to experience. Composed of 27% salt, 6 times as salty as the ocean, one floats like a cork.
98. Looking southwest towards Qumran, we see the area where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947.
99. The story of our guide, Elisha, was of someone who knew the boy, Mohammed Dee, and he told us the story.
100. An Arab boy, Mohammed Dee, discovered the Scrolls. He had taken his flock to the Dead Sea for their semi-yearly dip to cure skin ailments, which you can be sure this water does! And when the shepherd boy, while looking for a lost goat,
101. threw some stones into these caves, they hit something -
102. these jars, wrapped in skins -
103. which contained scrolls aged 2,000 years old.
104. The scrolls passed from the hands of the Bedouins
105. to those of a Syrian merchant,
106. and then into the hands of a monastery priest named Samuel. It took much time for the value of the scrolls to be realized, as they were written in the ancient Hebrew language, Aramaic, and no one understood them until Samuel recognized the language.
107. Eventually 10 to 12 caves were excavated,
108. yielding parts of all the books of the Old Testament, except Esther. The complete book of Isaiah has been pieced together, and it's amazing how close the text is to our King James Version. These scrolls have proved the authenticity of our Bible.
109. This example is from the book of Habakkuk.
110. The scrolls are now housed in a museum on the Hebrew University Campus in Jerusalem.
111. Farther south of Qumran on the Dead Sea shore is Masada, which has been much talked about for several years. In fact, the story about it is on TV. These ruins were a palace of Herod's and the fortress of the last survivors of the Jewish-Roman war of 70 AD. They held out for 3 years against the Romans. 7 lived to tell the story by hiding in the dungeon. The rest committed suicide, rather than be captures. This story is very interesting reading, especially if you like intrigue.
112. Coming back through Bethany,
113. we now head north to Samaria. The valley of Ephraim is before us. Do you see the two doves in the foreground? To me they symbolize the Israelis and Arabs, peoples living side by side, each wanting peace, but not willing to compromise. Only God can bring peace about and in His time, He will.
114. A bit to the north we come to ancient Shiloh. A lot of Bible history took place here,
115. including the life of Hannah, who gave her son Samuel to the Lord at an early age. 'Hannah' is dressed in the traditional garment of the women of this town, or section, of Israel.
116. This ribbon of road carries us on up the country through Samaria,
117. one of the prettiest parts of Israel.
118. Mount Gerizim is the place of Samaritan worship. The approximate 230 remaining Samaritans live in the town of Nablus at its base.
119. These people use only the Pentateuch, the first 5 books of the Old Testament, in their worship. Their high priest claims to be the 146th descendant of Aaron, Moses' brother. We had the privilege of slipping into a worship service, which only the men and boys from 12 years up, attend. We found them standing on their prayer mats, praying, much like the Muslims do.
120. Near Nablus is Jacob's well, covered by a partially built Greek Orthodox Church.
121. To this day, one can be refreshed by a drink of pure water, as was Jesus 2,000 years ago, when He spoke to the woman at the well, telling her of the living water that only He could give. Abraham, 4,000 years ago, also drank from this well. The well is 150 feet deep now, and the water is still pulled up in a bucket, as you can see from this pictures. It was a wonderful experience to reach back into history with a drink from this well.
122. Overlooking the beautiful hills of Samaria, you can see how Israel is coming alive again, with orchards and forests, after hundreds of years of barrenness and hopelessness. Truly, the fig tree is blooming.
123. The most significant place in all Israel to me is Megiddo, a mound of earth on which 20 civilizations have been built over the past 6,000 years.
124. This archeological cut shows the strata.
125. King Solomon established his chariot city here. These are some of the rebuilt findings.
126. This is a diagram of the hill's water system, a fantastic engineering feat, since it was accomplished in the 12th century before Christ. In this diagram you can see that steps take one down a spiral stairway 169 feet into the earth to a water supply at the bottom. In this way, with an inner secret water supply, defenders could exist indefinitely when besieged by an enemy. If you've read the book, "The Source," you've read about this tell (mound of ruins).
127. This tell, or hill, commands a view of the ancient super-highway, the Via Maris, connecting Syria with Egypt. The Roman crusaders fought in this valley, as well as tribesmen of many other nations. There is also a future event to take place in the Valley of Jezreel, the Battle of Armageddon, which we read about in the book of Revelation - soon to take place in reality. From here we look north towards Nazareth, and beyond, to the Sea of Galilee.
128. So, on we go to Nazareth, Jesus' boyhood home.
129. It is built on the hills, as are most of the towns.
130. Mary's Well is still in operation, as the only source of water in Nazareth.
131. Jesus' home is depicted as a cave, as is His birthplace in Bethlehem. It was explained to us that caves were often used because they are warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Israel does get cold enough to have snow occasionally. The carpenter shop was built over the sunken home, they say.
132. A bit north of Nazareth is Cana, where Jesus performed His first miracle. In the red domed church in the background, the site of the wedding celebration,
133. is an ancient jar, dating back to the 3rd century. It's like the ones which held the water that was miraculously turned into wine.
134. The streets of Cana are narrow. Can you imagine a limousine making its way down this street? It was a tight squeeze!
135. These friendly Israeli children asked us our names, and then, making up a son using them, went skipping down the street, singing merrily.
136. And now we come to Galilee, the most beautiful spot in Israel. This area is 680 feet below sea level.
137. The sweeping view of the Jordan Valley is something to behold, with its fisheries and fertile lands growing figs, dates, olives and pomegranates. Far below, the Jordan River flows south, heading for the wilderness area of the Dead Sea.
138. Up here it is beautiful.
139. In fact, we couldn't resist a swim.
140. Near Jericho, the place where Jesus was baptized, is a far different setting.
141. The Sea of Galilee is 8 miles wide and 14 miles long. The Golan Heights are across the lake to the left.
142. Tiberias, the city built by the second Roman governor, is located on the lake.
143. On the north shore of the lake lies Capernaum, where Jesus began His ministry and spent much of His time as He ministered to the crowds.
144. Dawn must have been Jesus' favorite time. It is so beautiful as the sun comes up over the Sea of Galilee.
145. It was here that Jesus chose His disciples,
146. some of them fishermen, like these young men.
147. He taught the crowds, and fed the 5,000 on these hills, always flower-laden in the spring. Across the lake from us He healed the demoniac,
148. and on the lake He walked, and saved Peter, when his faith faltered.
149. Our faith faltered, too, and instead of walking, we took the boat across the beautiful waters.
150. We had an unrivaled feeling of exhilaration, when we realized that our Lord had walked these waters and calmed these seas. And being baptized in the Sea of Galilee outshines any other experience of this kind. We really felt born anew into His life.
151. In Capernaum are the remains of a 2nd century synagogue, in the very place of the one in which Jesus preached.
152. Here is a uniquely Jewish symbol engraved in stone, the Star of David, which, of course, is also found on the Israeli flag.
153. From here we overlook Galilee to the south, and see the place where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount. What a marvelous place in which to reflect on great truths.
154. And now, we sadly say farewell to the beautiful Sea of Galilee
155. and motor on across the plains
156. to the coast, the Mediterranean Sea, and Haifa, the major seaport and industrial city of Israel.
157. To the north is the seaport of Accho, an ancient and well-preserved town. Paul sometimes sailed from this port.
158. Then on down the coast along the Roman aqueduct, still intact in many places,
159. to Caesarea, the seaport that Paul often used as his point of departure for other lands.
160. Caesarea was the 'City of the Caesars' the seat of Roman government.
161. And here you see 2 headless Romans! As a new governor would come into power, a likeness of his head would replace that of the former governor on the statue.
Before we close,
162. let us return to Jerusalem and try to recapture some of the last climactic events of Jesus' life.
163. In the final week of His earthly existence, He came from Bethany, riding on a donkey,
164. down the Mount of Olives, where multitudes paid Him homage, throwing palm branches at His feet, and saying 'Hail Jesus, King of the Jews!'
'Blessed is He who cometh in the name of the Lord!'
165. From here, as He viewed Jerusalem, He wept, 'Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children, even as a hen gathereth her chicks under her wings, and you would not (receive me).
166. The Last Supper was prepared in an upper room, far from the crowds, where Jesus made a covenant of salvation and life with His disciples, and with all those who would believe in Him thereafter.
167. With His heart breaking with grief, He prayed in the Garden, 'Not my will, Father, but Thine be done.' From there,
168. He was taken through the gates of Jerusalem, to stand trial, for nothing He had done, but for OUR sins, the sins of the whole world.
169. He was beaten, scourged, and spit upon by the Romans while those standing by taunted Him.
170. He was weighed down with a heavy cross which He carried up a long and inclining path.
171. It all ended at Golgotha, the Place of the Skull.
172. People looked on, wondering about it all.
173. It ended in death - but, did it? Jesus knew, and God, His Father knew how it would really end.
174. 'Why seek ye the living among the dead?'
175. 'He is not here, for He is risen, as He said.'