Israel Trip – Day 3 (Magdala)

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Our last visit of the day was to Magdala. This is the site of an archeological dig which has unearthed an early synagogue as well as more remains of ancient life. It is also famous for being the city that Mary Magdalene was from.


The oldest synagogue on the Sea of Galilee, thought to be from the first century. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

A beautiful church (Duc In Altum: “Put out into the deep”) on the site commemorates not only Mary Magdalene but other women in Jesus’ life. Our Irish tour guide from the Magdala site (Celine Kelly) was an entertaining and passionate storyteller. She made the visit unforgettable.

She pointed out the church’s many features. The Women’s Atrium dedicated to Jesus’ women disciples has eight pillars. Seven hold inscriptions of women’s names:

Mary Magdalene (John 20:1);

Susanna and Joanna (Luke 8:3);

Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38);

Salome (Matthew 20:20, Mark 15);

Simon Peter’s mother-in-law (Matthew 8:15);

Maria Cleophas (John 19:25);

And “Aliae Multae”: “many other women” who supported Jesus – Mark 15:41.

The eighth pillar is unmarked and “stands for women of all time who love God and live by faith. Each woman can spiritually inscribe her name as a poignant reminder of her role in the history of humanity” – Magdala: Walk Where Jesus Taught booklet, p. 6,7.

The cupola includes an image of folded hands that “… signify the importance of women who accompany Jesus in the mission of extending the kingdom through prayer” – Ibid p. 7.


The church has four beautiful mosaic chapels.


The Mary Magdalene Chapel. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)


The Daughter of Jairus Chapel. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)


Walking on Water Chapel

And the Fishers of Men Chapel (which I missed photographing).

The main chapel has a boat-shaped altar and rests on beautiful marble (I think she said imported from Norway) that looks a lot like waves of water,


Boat-shaped Altar. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)


Imported marble resembles waves of water. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Down some stairs, is the “Encounter Chapel” which “makes use of original stones found in the excavation of the road and marketplaces near the port” – Ibid p. 14.

Here on display is another beautiful painting depicting the woman with the issue of blood touching Jesus’ clothes (Mark 5:25). Our guide told us stories of numerous healings having taken place in this chapel when people came to meditate and pray.


Painting depicting the woman with an issue of blood, reaching out and touching Jesus’ clothes. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Our visit to Magdala was a wonderful way to end our day of sightseeing.

From Magdala we traveled  by bus to Tiberias and the Kinar Hotel where we checked in, had a delicious buffet dinner, and spent the night.

Israel Trip – Day 3 (Mt. Carmel & Megiddo)

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After Caesarea we left the coast, turning north and ascending Mt. Carmel to Muhraka, the site where Elijah fought the 400 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:30).


Statue of Elijah at Mr. Carmel (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

At a quiet spot, Sara Lee read the story from the Bible, then we took in the vista seen from a viewing platform above the church on the site. The airspace around was buzzing with helicopters, due to a nearby army training base.

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Panorama shot of the view from the top of Mount Carmel. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)



The air space around Mr. Carmel was buzzing with helicopters. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

On our way to our next stop, Megiddo, we passed three cave-graves, one with a round stone cover that moves on a track, similar to the one Jesus is thought to have been buried in.


Cave burial spots with rock covers, similar to the tomb in which Jesus was buried. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Before we got to Megiddo, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant run by people of the Druze religion. There we dined on falafel in pita bread, dripping with tahini sauce, and all kinds of salad…so yummy!

While Caesarea didn’t have any of the characteristics needed to build an ancient city, Megiddo apparently had them all. Archeologists have uncovered over 20 civilizations at the Megiddo Tel.

We climbed around in them, realizing that the topmost ones were the most recent, the lower ones ancient.  Megiddo is mentioned in the Bible as one of Solomon’s walled fortified cities (1 Kings 9:15; 10:26). We also visited an underground spring that has supplied the generations of Megiddo residents with water.


Archeologists have uncovered layer upon layer of civilization at Megiddo. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)


A stone manger or feed trough from Megiddo. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)


This is believed to be a horse stable from around the time of Ahab. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)


A religious site at Megiddo. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)


We walked down many stairs to get to the underground spring which supplied Megiddo residents with water over centuries. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

The view from the top of Megiddo is biblically significant. We looked down on the Plains of Jezreel, also known as the site of the final Battle of Armagedddon.


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Plains of Jezreel, panoramic view; top to bottom = left to right. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

On our bus ride to the last site of the day, Magdala, we caught sight, for the first time, of the beautiful Sea of Galilee.


Our first view of the Sea of Galilee. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)


Israel Trip – Day 3 (Caesarea Maritima)


On day three (June 12) we hit the ground running. After an early breakfast, we boarded the bus with all our luggage and were on the road by 8:00 a.m.

Our first stop was Caesarea Maritima (or Caesarea by the Sea—a port built by Herod). As our itinerary explained:

“Here Pontius Pilate had his base, Cornelius lived and was baptized (Acts 10), from where Paul embarked to Tarsus (Acts 9:30) and where Philip preached (Acts 8:40).

Our guide began by schooling us in the art of choosing a city site. A good ancient city site needed four things: 1] water; 2] protection from enemies (e.g. elevation so enemies could be seen); 3] access to transportation (near the road system); 4] nearness to arable land to provide food.

Caesarea ticked none of these boxes yet Herod built a thriving city at this site on the Mediterranean.

We saw many ruins. There was a theatre, which has been revamped for current-day use.


Ruins of Caesarea (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)


More Caesarea excavations. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)


Theatre ruins which have been incorporated into a modern outdoor theatre. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

There were capitals and pillars, and a stone on which Pontius Pilate’s name was engraved.


A Caesarea arch. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)


Capitals from Caesarea. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)


Beautiful marble pillars. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)



A stone on which Pontius Pilate’s name is engraved. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

There were hippodrome ruins (site of sports like chariot races) with its arched areas of exit (vomitoria).


Caesarea Hippodrome. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)


Arches of the lower level of the Hippodrome, from which people exited the venue. They were called vomitoria. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

We walked to the port site, where informational signs explained a bit about the harbour.


I snapped a Caesarea Nymphaeum.


We walked through some of the ruins of the Crusader City (a section rebuilt centuries after Caesarea Port was first built) and saw the moat that apparently never held any water.


An arch of the Crusader City. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)


The castle’s dry moat. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

On the drive away from Caesarea by the Sea, we stopped briefly at the aqueduct—a raised structure which carried water from springs 10 Km. distant to the city of Caesarea when city wells could no longer supply the city’s water needs.


Caesarea Aqueduct. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)


The Aqueduct with sand piling up on the right. Archeologists had to dig through that much and more sand to uncover this ancient structure. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Israel Trip – 1

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A bucket-list trip

Earlier this year, I went on a trip of a lifetime. Visiting Israel has been on my bucket list for decades. My husband and I finally got there with a group from our church earlier this month. We left Vancouver June 10, toured June 11-18 and finished with a conference (Jerusalem Encounter) at the King of Kings Church, June 19-20, flying home on June 21.

I took many photos. Now that I’m home again I’ve been reviewing them with pleasure. But I’m all too aware that I’ll quickly forget what I’ve seen, done, and learned unless I do more to solidify this experience. These blog entries are my attempt to put the icing on the cake of this trip, so to speak, by reliving it and how it impacted me.

Day 1-2

Day 1 (Monday, June 10) began very early. We set out before 4:00 a.m. when it was still dark, to catch our 8:00 a.m. flight. We left our car at Jet Set Parking and caught the shuttle to the airport without incident. Ernie and I were the first ones to arrive at our flight lounge after clearing security.

I had a window seat on the 5+ hour flight to Toronto and used part of that time to do my daily sketch journal entry—a drawing of the wing of our Air Canada plane.


In Toronto our brief layover time was quickly consumed by the long walk to the terminal from which our Tel Aviv flight was to leave. That was a lengthy flight (10+ hours) with two meals and in between attempts to sleep. Awkward! It didn’t help that our seat was right in front of the washroom. The sound of the toilet flushing punctuated my dreams.

We landed in sunny, warm, humid Tel Aviv shortly before 11:00 a.m. Tuesday (gaining 10 hours from Vancouver time). After a confusing entry-to-the-country system (where they gave each of us a tiny blue passport photo card in lieu of a passport stamp, to be shown again when we left the country) we claimed our luggage and met our guide Aharon and driver David.

The bus was a roomy air-conditioned beauty, complete with USB plugins. Since there were only 22 of us, we had lots of room to spread out.


Palm trees and flowering shrubs line the road from the airport to Tel Aviv. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

The warm, muggy climate and roads lined with palm trees and blooming bougainvillae trees underlined the fact that we were in a new and exotic land.

Our bus drove through Tel Aviv and made several stops in Jaffa (e.g. Simon the Tanner’s House). We walked the cobblestone streets to a lookout over Tel Aviv.


House of Simon the Tanner (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)


Tel Aviv seen from a viewpoint in Jaffa (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)


The Mediterranean seen from a viewpoint in Jaffa (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

After about 90 minutes of sightseeing, we drove to our hotel (Tel Aviv Grand Beach) where we checked in.

After reshening up, Ernie and I strolled down to the beach where we enjoyed the sunny afternoon walking along the Mediterranean boardwalk. Later we searched for a place to change US$ into shekels. That was unsuccessful and on top of that we got semi-lost but managed to find our way back to the hotel (after asking for directions).


The beach at Tel Aviv (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)


Ibis on the Tel Aviv waterfront (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

As we walked around Tel Aviv we were impressed by all the bikes, scooters and other mobile carriers that scooted around us with reckless speed. Walkers, beware!

Dinner was a bountiful buffet of salads, meat, fish, and meatless entrees and a variety of sweets. I loved the dining room with its mosaic mural along one wall and managed to get  a photo of it at breakfast the next morning.

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Mosaic on the dining room wall of the Grand Beach Hotel, Tel Aviv (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Views of Tel Aviv from our hotel window. Note all the solar panels and white drums (water heaters) on the rooftops. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Love Triangles (review)

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Love Triangles, Discovering Jesus the Jew in Today's IsraelLove Triangles, Discovering Jesus the Jew in Today’s Israel by Bobbie Ann Cole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In her memoir / travelogue Love Triangles, Bobbie Ann Cole writes about her love affair with Israel. When she and husband Butch move there, it is to fill a six-month time period till their rented property will again be available to them. However, after only three months they begin thinking of applying for permanent residency, called making Aliyah* when you’re Jewish (as Bobbie is).

There is one problem. Bobbie and Butch are Christians. The interpretation of the Jewish immigration policy in the last years has kept many Jews who believe Jesus is their Messiah from gaining permanent residency. This has Bobbie constantly on edge, worried that she’ll jeopardize her chances of immigrating. And so she guards what she says, avoids establishing intimate friendships with the locals, and even changes who she associates with.

Much of the book is descriptions of biblically familiar Israeli sites. In vivid and picturesque language Cole describes what she hears, sees, smells and touches. She also recalls what happened in the Bible places like Nazareth, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, Jerusalem and more. Repeatedly she mentions that in Israel she feels closer to Jesus than anywhere else in the world:

What I loved, but as someone relatively young in faith had never known before, was following Jesus all around the Land. That was a powerful incentive.

In our three months there, we had met Him in the Negev Desert, in Jerusalem’s Old City, and on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. … We had discovered that even though the country was constantly on high military alert, there was what Butch referred to as ‘that safe, spiritual feeling,’ a serenity rooted in faith, a trust that God ‘has it.’” KL 129.

I found this book informational and inspiring in several ways. First, it opened my eyes to the way Jews who believe in Jesus are singled out as ineligible to become Israeli citizens. Second, Cole’s descriptions of modern Israel juxtaposed against her sometimes whimsical and imaginative retelling of what happened there in Bible stories made me want to visit Israel more than ever. And finally, through Cole’s story I have gained a new appreciation for Israel’s story and the love of the people for the land both in the past and present.

You’re probably wondering if Bobbie and Butch made Aliyah. Were they successful in immigrating? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

*‘Aliyah’ literally means ‘going up,’ a term originally used to describe how Jews from all over the ancient world would go up to the temple at the very top of Mount Zion in Jerusalem for Jewish pilgrimage festivals” – KL 768.

I received the Kindle edition of Love Triangles as a gift from the author for the purpose of writing a review.

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The Holy Land Key (review)

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The Holy Land Key: Unlocking End-Times Prophecy Through the Lives of God's People in IsraelThe Holy Land Key: Unlocking End-Times Prophecy Through the Lives of God’s People in Israel by Ray Bentley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In The Holy Land Key Ray Bentley ties history, current events, phenomena in the skies, and Israel’s feasts and festivals with prophecy to develop a holistic view of Israel’s place in history past, present, and future. The ideas he puts forward have developed over decades of trips to Israel and relationships with individuals living there, both Jews and Gentiles.

I appreciated the principles of interpreting Scripture and history that Bentley presents.

He suggests that to hasten end-time events with “… God’s glory being poured out for the final and greatest harvest the world has ever seen…” we need to adhere to God’s order: “…. for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16-17). In other words, more than ever Christians need to reach out in love to the Jewish people (Kindle Location 666).

He maintains that to understand and interpret prophecy, it’s important to recognize the patterns in scripture. One pattern that he identifies is “first natural, then spiritual” as Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 10:11 (K.L. 1687).

A principle of interpreting prophetic passages that flows out of this is similar: “… look first for the natural meaning of the scripture and then for a spiritual meaning” (K.L. 1725).

He gives a lot of significance to signs in the heavens, drawing permission from Genesis 1:14, which says about the lights God created: “… let them be for signs and seasons.” His explanation of how, in the past, blood moons have correlated with dramatic developments in Israel is fascinating. The fact that two more blood moons are expected to occur in 2015 to join the two that happened in 2014 will have me watching developments in Israel more closely than ever. However, his linking of the signs of the zodiac with Israel’s feasts seemed a bit far-fetched to me.

All in, I appreciated Bentley’s ideas on how to interpret prophetic passages through the Jewish mindset. His love for the Jews is outspoken, but balanced by personal friendships with non-Jewish Christians in the Middle East. His explanation of the history of these people groups with their claims to the same small bit of land in a conflict that is more intense than ever helped me better understand current affairs in Israel and the Middle East.

I received The Holy Land Key as a gift from the publisher through Blogging for Books for the purpose of writing a review.

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Pilgrimage (review)


Pilgrimage: My Journey to a Deeper Faith in the Land Where Jesus WalkedPilgrimage: My Journey to a Deeper Faith in the Land Where Jesus Walked by Lynn Austin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A series of losses, disappointments, and unpleasant surprises have pummeled Lynn Austin. She is feeling bruised, spiritually dry, and, in plain words, depressed. And so she has high hopes for an opportunity to travel around Israel for two weeks:

“Spiritual renewal is what I long for … as I begin this pilgrimage. I want to see the bigger picture of His plan and learn to accept His will in all things. I want to revitalize my prayer life. … Maybe I’ll be able to let go of my own will and face the changes in my life with joy and faith” – Pilgrimage, Kindle Location 97.

Pilgrimage is Lynn Austin’s account of that two-week trip. But it is much more than a travelogue. For in it she gives the historical background of each stop. She reviews for us the Bible events that happened in each location. She explains Bible customs from her knowledge enriched by research for the many biblical fiction novels she’s written. And she probes those Bible events and characters for insights and lessons she can take back with her into everyday life.

Some things I really liked about this book were the lyrical descriptions of modern sites in Israel as seen through Austin’s eyes, the review of what happened at each location, and the explanations of interesting customs that add richness and depth to an understanding of the Bible. And I gained an appreciation of the humanity of this author (whose novels I’ve enjoyed) as she shared openly about her life.

One aspect of the book that disappointed me, though, was the way Austin explained her situation and feelings in the first chapter and then, throughout most of her travels, she merely named the feelings she was grappling with (anxiety, discouragement, impatience, worry, etc) without relating them to specific incidents or triggers. It seemed like a type of “telling’ versus “showing” and didn’t have the impact one would expect that kind of memoir-writing to have. Perhaps a more engaging way of relating these personal incidents would have been to leave that list out of Chapter One and tell about these events in bits and pieces throughout her travels. As it was, I had to keep reminding myself why she was feeling so negative—Oh right, that list from Chapter One. When she did include stories of her life that her travels brought to mind, my interest immediately picked up.

Pilgrimage would make a wonderful read-along guide for people touring Israel. Many locations are chapter titles and of course digital copies of the book are searchable so no worries if your itinerary differs from hers, just search the location you wish to read about: Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Joppa, Caesarea etc.

For anyone who loves Israel or hopes to tour the Holy Land, Pilgrimage is a good historical and devotional resource.

I received my copy of Pilgrimage as a gift from Bethany House (via NetGalley) for the purpose of writing a review.

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