I (Kari) took the night off blogging yesterday, so today's post is a combined post of Saturday and Sunday here in Israel. Thanks so much for your continued prayers and following us here.
Yesterday we started out our day with a chance to sleep in at our hotel at the Dead Sea. After 4 days of touring and getting up early, it was a welcome relief to not have to set an alarm. After breakfast, we had morning devotions in David’s hotel room (no luck on the phone, he cancelled the service). We packed up our bags and got on the bus for a our first stop, Masada.
Masada is an ancient palace and fortress in the Israeli desert that sits atop a rock plateau in the Israeli desert. 10 of us decided to hike up, while the remainder of the group took the cable car up to the top of the mountain. Here's a picture of those of us who hiked started at the bottom looking very fresh (and not sweaty!):
So we started our way up, and took many breaks for water and pictures. Here are a few pictures:
We rejoined the group at the top, and explored with the remaining time we had. We saw the beautiful palaces on the Northern side of the mountain that King Herod had built. We also saw the various parts of the plateau that served as reserves for food, olive oil, and wine. These reserves were then used when the Jews used it as a last remaining fortress under Roman siege. We could see the Dead Sea, many Roman encampments around the fortress, and the ramp that the Romans built up the side of the mountain. It was a fascinating piece of history!
After lunch at the bottom of the mountain, we next set off for Ein Gedi, meaning "Goat Spring," and so-named for the ibex or wild mountain goats that live in the area. We all walked to the first waterfall, seeing many of the local flora and fauna along the way. A crowd favorite was the hyrax or "rock rabbit." They're very adorable:
Then, most of us continued on to the large waterfall at the top of the mountain, while others hung back at the base. We enjoyed the beautiful scenery and a short teaching about David, who hid in the wilderness in this region where there was a spring, much like the one at Ein Gedi.
After Ein Gedi, we made a detour into Bethany to see the traditional site (meaning we don't know if it was here or not) of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. We got to go down into the tomb. One of the fascinating parts of this was just being in an Arab Muslim town for an extended period of time (caught in traffic) and being able to just observe and absorb the culture of the town.
After we went to Bethany, we were just a few minutes away from Jerusalem. We all immediately noticed a sharp temperature difference when we got off the bus in Jerusalem, compared to in the desert of the Dead Sea and Ein Gedi. While we were chilly, nothing could stop the warmth of coming inside the Old City walls to stay for the next 5 days. After a quick dinner, we met Yoel Seton, director of Shoresh Study Tours, for a rooftop night tour of Jerusalem. It was great to get to see Jerusalem at night and from such a great height. Yoel also shared with us his testimony of how he came to faith in Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah. It was a very powerful testimony to God's faithfulness to His people. We came back to Christ Church Guest House for our evening de-brief and then went to bed!
Sunday, we were able to sleep in (again) and have breakfast just before worshipping at Christ Church, the Anglican Church where we're staying. Christ Church is the Oldest Protestant church in the Middle East. The rector, Rev. David Pileggi specifically asked at the beginning of the service to not take any pictures, so you'll just have to use your imagination! It was a packed house in the small stone chapel. Many commented today that this service was their "highlight" of the day, worshipping with a full and diverse body of believers from around the world all together in Jerusalem was just overwhelming.
After church, we had a quick lunch on our own and then met to go across the street to the Tower of David Museum. The museum essentially traces Jerusalem's history from the Canaanite period through modern day, showing the changes in ownership, building construction, topography and more throughout thousands of years. It helped us all get a better understanding of our "Jerusalem World History." In the museum, there was also a large model of Jerusalem built in the 1860s that depicted the city at that time. Many found this very helpful as most of the major landmarks are still intact today, and easily recognizable.
After Sahar finished guiding us through the main part of the museum, we were free to continue to explore the museum or go off on our own throughout the city. Some chose to stay near the hotel and relax, while others went to sites in the city that they wanted extra time to explore. We gathered again for dinner and a quick debrief before calling it a night.
Tomorrow is a heavy walking day, seeing many of the sites in and around the Temple Mount. It looks like we'll probably have rain throughout most of the day, so please pray that it's not too too soggy for us.
Prayer requests: Monday, February 16 – Seventh Day of Touring: Temple Mount, Western Wall and Tunnels, Southern Steps – Pray for stamina today, as it’s largely on foot. We will be exploring many aspects of the Old City today, pray that God would show Himself to us in the city in which he dwelled. Simon, from the Palestinian Bible Society will come and speak with us in the evening.