Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Israel Experience (Day 1)

I just got back from a 7 day pilgrimage to sites in Israel. It was a wonderful experience and I am so glad I was able to do it. I gave a presentation of my experience at church this past Sunday, however, I thought I would blog about where we went and what we did each day to give more detail and more insight. So here it goes.

After a long overnight flight from Newark we arrived in Tel-Aviv, Israel on Wednesday January 30th at about 4pm. We arrived safely to the hotel in Bethlehem and had time to freshen up before dinner. I didn't sleep much that first night.

We were on the bus by 8am ready to start the day. It was a cold, windy and rainy day. Our first stop was the Herodion. We didn't spend much time on top of the Herodion because it was so cold and wet and rainy.

This was a fortress built by Herod a few years before Jesus was born. Herod actually took ground from a neighboring mountain to build the mountain the Herodion is on. He built it as a monument to his own greatness and as a reminder to those living in Judea that he ruled over them.

From there we went to the Shepherd's field. This is traditionally where the Shepherds were visited by angels.  It's also possible that Mary may have used a cave such as the one we saw to give birth to Jesus. I quickly learned that wherever a significant biblical event took place, a church was built on that site. I was a little disappointed that the cave we went in had been "modernized" with lights and figurines. I would have much rather seen it in it's original natural state. While being in the cave we reflected on the story of the visit and sang Hark the Herald Angels Sing.

Our next stop of day was the Nissan Brothers Olive Wood factory and store.  The owner said the Lord's prayer in Aramaic for us which would have been the language Jesus spoke when he taught it to his disciples. The Olive Wood Carvings were just beautiful. The more detailed the carving the more expensive it was. I couldn't afford the one's I really wanted.

Our last stop was at the Church of the Nativity. This is where some people think Mary gave birth to Jesus. The church is old and beautiful and huge and amazing. You walk into it and it just takes your breath away.  To the right of the altar there are steps leading down into the grotto where it is said the birth took place.

Below are pics of Saint Catherine's church. A more modern church built next to the Church of the nativity. Underneath the church, near the place of the nativity is where Jerome translated the bible into Latin. The last pic is a statue of Jerome.

It was an awesome day even though it was cold, wet and windy. Looking back I wish I would have purchased something a little nicer for us as a family from the olive wood store.

Here's a pic at part of the dinner we came too each night at the Angel hotel in Bethlehem.

Lots of fresh veggies and delicious hummus.  At the end of this table was a hot bar with a couple of different meats and hot sides.  Also, to the side of this was a place for pita bread, coffee and soup.  The food in Israel was delicious.

Stay tuned for day 2!


Disciple Dojo said...

Some people think Jesus' words about having faith enough to "move a mountain" was an intentional jab at authoritarian power such as that which built the Herodian. I'm not 100% convinced of it, but it is an interesting piece of potential background information.

And yes, I'm jealous of your trip. :)

Rich Tuttle said...

Yeah, the Bishop talked about that. How Herod actually did move a mountain. Was Jesus saying faith takes more than just believing? It took a whole lot of effort to move that mountain. If so I like it and it will preach...when I use it I will just have to say this is a "possible" cultural connection to Jesus' day. One thing is for sure, there's a lot of mountains in Israel!

I actually took a picture of the mountain Herod moved from the bus on the way out. You can tell it was moved...it looked shaved down...like a partially eaten snow cone. It was rainy so it didn't come out great but I will still use it when I preach that text...maybe for the rest of my ministry!