|My third trip to Israel|
|Written by Chris Perver|
|Thursday, 26 May 2011 15:38|
Arrived in Heathrow this afternoon around 3.30pm. So far everything has went very well on the journey. Have been with Ronnie, his wife and Martin and Ruth Wensley from Belfast International. Hotel Travelodge is very basic, but we are staying here for only one night, so it is not too bad. Meeting up for dinner later. Early start tomorrow. Have brought some Hebrew Bibles in case I get to speak to anyone. Meal tonight was nice. Went for a walk down the road with martin and Ruth. Amazed by the number of foreigners living here. Our hotel was right in the flight path, so every couple of minutes there would be a great whooshing sound and a plane would swoop over our building. It was an amazing sight. But managed to get a good sleep despite the noise. Got the bus this morning at around 6 o'clock for Heathrow. The bus driver managed to squeeze everybody in our group onto the bus plus a few others. At least fifty people including suitcases. Was a tight squeeze, but we survived. The flight was scheduled for lunchtime, and after the long walk through the terminal, we boarded the plane. The flight took around 4 hours, and was very smooth. We touched down in Tel Aviv at 3:30pm and got the bus to our hotel. Ronnie told us that Ben Gurion was built on the plain of Ono where Nehemiah once lived, who helped to rebuild the city of Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity. We passed Abu Gosh, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where the lord told Jeremiah to bury the deeds to the plot of ground he asked him to buy, as a sign that the Jewish people would one day return to their ancient homeland. The hotel we are staying in is the Inbal hotel in Jerusalem. It seems to be very nice. I am rooming with a man from Bulgaria called Stanislav. He his a minister in his own country. At 7 o'clock we are to go down and have our dinner. Meal was very nice. I had the schnitzel, beef, salted beef, onions, carrots, and chocolate cake for desert. I tried speaking a little Hebrew to some of the staff, but a few of them didn't really seem too impressed. Ronnie said later that the men were Arab workers. I should have known, as Jews would not be working on Shabbat.
Today is what is referred to as Nackba day, or the 'great catastrophe', which is marked by the Arabs following the Israeli day of independence. There were a lot of police around Jerusalem today, and most of the roads were closed at around 12 o'clock to prevent trouble. Still, we managed to visit the Western Wall in the morning. We were not able to get on the the Temple Mount itself today, but were able to see the stones that were thrown down by the Romans when the Temple was destroyed in 70AD. We were also shown a virtual model of the Temple of Herod's time by a Jewish guide, who despite not being a believer, seemed to know much about the New Testament and the return of the Messiah. She knew Jesus' Jewish name, Yeshua, and she said that she had an open mind concerning the identity of the Messiah. Pray for her. We then headed up to the Ramat Rachel for lunch. In the afternoon we went to visit Hezekiah's tunnel, which was constructed by the king during the siege of Jerusalem. It was also the tunnel used by David to conquer the Jebusite fortress which stood on top of the mountain, close to where the Temple would later be built. After we came out of the tunnel, we saw the remains of the pool of Siloam, where the blind man was healed. After this we witnessed some Palestinian youths rioting in Silwan, which is the Arab name for Siloam. They were throwing stones at the police jeep. Thankfully the police were able to move them on. We also heard loud explosions and gunshots earlier in the day. After dinner we crossed over to Bethlehem. It was a bit nerve racking after today's events, but everything seemed to go well. We went to visit the shepherds' fields. Bethlehem is quite hilly and we passed by three towns before we arrived at our destination. It appears quite run-down compared to the Israeli side of the border. We lit candles and sang Christmas carols in the shepherds' cave, where they would have sheltered their flocks. The Palestinian guide then took us to a shop to buy olive wood products. Unfortunately much of the merchandise was orthodox or catholic orientated, so there wasn't much we were comfortable with buying. But we did purchase a few gifts, and were glad when we were back safe in our hotel.
Today we visited the Mount of Olives, where we walked down the hillside the lord Jesus would have travelled on His final entry into Jerusalem. We visited the Church of All Nations, where a monk permitted us to enter the garden for a brief time of singing and praying. Some of the olive trees are believed to be over 2000 years old. Then we visited St. Peter in Gallicantu, where it is believed Ciaphas' house was once located. Ronnie described how the Lord Jesus would have been held here by the Jewish religious leaders prior to His trial and crucifixion. After this we went to an Israeli-Arab shop to spend some shekels and eat some falafel. Then on to Yad Vashem, the holocaust memorial. Some of the ones with us on the holiday Are not believers, and Ronnie has been making every effort to present the gospel as we tour the different sights. Martin was also able to speak with a man about salvation after visiting the museum. We travelled on to the Western Wall again, where many IDF soldiers were being sworn in. This time we were able to visit the Temple Mount tunnels, which run the length of the western temple wall. It was fascinating to see the size of some of the stones, which the disciples marvelled about, and which Christ said would be cast down. Some of them weigh in excess of 500 tonnes and measure dozens of feet. The guide was very nice and Martin asked him questions concerning the cessation of the Jewish sacrifices and atonement for sin, but the man seemed to be trusting in his own efforts to please God. As we waited for the other group to finish their tour, we got speaking to a Jewish lady. Martin told her I spoke a little Hebrew, and we were talking about that. Martin asked her about her belief in God, and the Messiah, and although she said she was not a believer I was able to give her a little Hebrew gospel of Matthew just before we had to leave.
This morning we travelled south-east towards Jericho and the Dead Sea. Ronnie showed us the place where he believes David got his inspiration for writing the 23rd psalm regarding the valley of the shadow of death. It turns out I had been here before, and our previous guide had told us it was the brook Cherith, where Elijah had hid from Jezebel. But Ronnie thought that this was not the same place. Ronnie talked about the Israeli project to build a canal from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea in order to stop the water level dropping any further. But I believe that the Bible says the waters of the Dead Sea shall be healed when the Lord returns and the living water comes down from Jerusalem. After this we went to the Ahava factory and then for our swim in the Dead Sea. The water was quite warm. After some lunch at En Gedi we travelled on to Masada, the ancient fortress where the Jewish rebellion held out against the Roman armies. And then on to the En Gedi nature reserve, near the place where David hid from Saul in the wilderness. We saw the waterfall that flows down from the cave of Adullam, where David and his band of discontents hid from Saul. Unfortunately we did not have time to see the cave itself, although we were able to see a few of the animals, such as the conies and ibex.
This morning we went to visit the Gordon's Calvary and the garden tomb, which some believe may have been the location where Christ was crucified and where his body was placed prior to his resurrection. After this we travelled past Jericho and up through Judea and Samaria, the region the world now calls the West Bank. Ronnie took us to Gideon's spring, the river at which Gideon made his army stop to drink, and where the Lord made choice of the 300 men through which He would save Israel. After stopping for some lunch, we visited the tomb of Yehoshua ben Hankin, the man who bought much of the Jordan valley, Hula valley and other places from the Arab landlords for the Jewish people long before the state of Israel was born. We then travelled on to the Sea of Galilee, and to our hotel in Tiberias. Our room here is very large, containing three single beds and a double bed, so it should make for a pleasant stay. We went for a late night walk through Tiberias with a few others. It was very warm. At night there are quite a few market stalls set up along the promenade, full of souvenirs and clothes and food. It is quite safe to walk around, although we did bump into some Orthodox Jews who I think were going around trying to get people to convert. The man I was with would not speak to them, so I didn't find out exactly what they were wanting. That made me feel sad, as I felt it may have been a missed opportunity to talk to them about their Messiah.
On Friday we went to the Jesus Boat museum, a kibbutz which houses the remains of a boat that was buried at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee around 2000 years ago. Here they also have an excellent bookshop with many messianic books and gifts. From here we took a boat across the Kinneret to Capernaum. The boat we took was piloted by Danny Carmel, a Jewish believer in Yeshua, who now runs his own worship ministry. He was saved through Christian groups coming to preach on his boat while he was an employee of the kibbutz. After this we visited the ruins at Capernaum, where Peter's house is believed to have been located, and the synagogue that Jesus would have spoken in. We had some lunch at a kibbutz on the shore of the lake. After this we moved on to Tagba where it is thought the 5000 were fed, and Mensa Christi where the lord preached the sermon on the mount. Then Ronnie took us to Kibbutz En Gev, where we had lunch last year. He told us the story how this kibbutz, on the far shore of Galilee, was spared occupation during the Syrian invasion in 1948, but suffered continual hardship from the Syrian armies who fired shells at it on a daily basis. We heard the moving story of Rachel the poet, who sacrificed her own life in order to save the lives of others after discovering that Syrian soldiers had infiltrated the kibbutz. We then travelled on to the river Jordan, but unfortunately by this time the baptismal site was now closed, and we could not gain access.
This morning we travelled up north to the Golan Heights. We went to Banias, where the temple of Pan once stood amid various temples to other gods, and where the Lord asked his disciples whom men said that He was. It was here that Peter made his confession that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. We then travelled further north, to the Lebanese border, and to the Syrian border, to the Damascus road on which Paul had his conversion experience. Here we met an IDF jeep patrolling the border not far from the place where many Syrians attempted to cross last week to invade Israel. In the background we could hear gun shots. After some lunch in a Druze village, we travelled on through the Golan Heights, stopping on occasion to admire the view, before returning to our hotel.
Today we travelled north of Galilee to the Hula valley. This land was once a malaria ridden swamp, but was drained by Jewish pioneers during the late 1800s and transformed into a fertile valley which now exports fruit all over the world. It was amazing to see all the different wildlife that now inhabits the valley. Part of this region was flooded again in order to preserve the habitat of these animals. We saw turtles, huge catfish, water buffalo, along with many minds of birds and insects. The Hula valley nature reserve also has an amazing video you can watch about the park, with some fantastic special effects using 3D polarised glasses. After this we travelled to the Dubrovin Farm, which is a kibbutz run by the descendants of the men and women that helped to transform the valley into the fertile farmland that it is today. After a bite to eat in Migdal, the town where Mary Magdalene would have come from, we returned back to the hotel for some needed rest.
This morning we journeyed up Mount Arbel for a view of the Galilee, before travelling on to Kibbutz Lavi, a religious kibbutz which has a spectacular rose garden. The tour of the kibbutz was conducted by C.B., a Jewish Irish man who made aliyah to Israel after the second world war. Then on to Exspress for some lunch. We visited this place last year with Norrie Emerson, but there have been big changes since then and the place is not so nice now. After this we ascended Mount Tabor by minibus, which was an experience to say the least. The Arab driver sped up the steep twisting mountain road that had just a small stone wall separating us from the cliff edge. Accelerating around hairpin bends, one hand on the steering wheel and another holding a mobile phone, we were glad when we finally reach the summit. It is thought that Mount Tabor may have been the place where the lord Jesus was transfigured before His disciples. After this we travelled on to Nazareth, where we visited Nazareth Village, a living museum showing what life may have been like in Jesus' time. Martin, a Jewish believer, gave his testimony in the reconstructed synagogue that has been built there. We later discovered that there were a few Jewish people in the audience who had joined our group for the tour, so that was exciting. We then travelled to the site where it is believed the synagogue of Nazareth in Jesus' time may have been located, before going on to the village of Cana, where Jesus performed the miracle of turning the water into wine.
On the final day of our trip, we travelled once again to the Jordan river, where some of our group were baptised. We stopped briefly to take photographs of a Second World War memorial, before travelling on to the Atlit detention camp, that was used by the British to incarcerate Jews who were trying to seek a better life in Palestine. It was very sad to hear of those Jews, who after escaping the gas chambers of Hitler and arriving in the promised land, were subsequently interned and later sent back to Germany to their deaths. Our final visit was to Ceasarea by the sea. Here we saw two videos on the history of the sea port, beginning from its initial construction by King Herod right through to its present day reconstruction by archaeologists. After this we transferred to our last hotel, the Dan Panorama in Tel Aviv, for the early morning rise to catch the next flight home to the UK.
It was wonderful to be in Israel once again, to see the sights and speak to the people of that land, both Jew and Arab alike. What a privilege to live in the very land where the Lord Jesus Christ once walked. And what a responsibility too. As Paul once said, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved (Romans 10:1). I pray that they will recognize their Messiah, Yeshua, Jesus, and put their trust in Him for salvation.