Israel Trip – Day 9 (Jerusalem on foot)

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Day 9 on our itinerary was a “Free Day” with no scheduled tours. Our tour guide had the day off and offered anyone interested a several-hour walking tour to places in Jerusalem we had not yet visited. Hubby and I jumped at this opportunity.

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I Love Jerusalem (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Jerusalem with Mount Zion (Church) breaking the horizon. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Our guide took us first to view some tombs from the first temple period. Seven caves were found at this site. From the information plaque:

“Seven burial caves from the late First Temple period were found at the site. The caves, which were hewn into the cliff above which the Scottish Church of St. Andrew was built, were found partially destroyed by later quarrying. All the caves were hewn into hard limestone and were meticulously designed… These caves were intended for family burials over a number of generations.

“… High burial benches on which the deceased were laid were cut into the walls. Raised headrests were carved into some of the benches. Spaces were hewn under some of the benches to serve as repositories for bones that had been collected in order to make room for the newly deceased.”

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Our guide, pointing out the foot rests in the burial benches. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Vince, trying out the burial bench. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Repositories, where bones and last earthly treasures were stored. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Because valuables were often buried with the deceased, these graves were the target of robbers. Treasures they missed were two tiny rolled up silver scrolls meant to be worn as amulets. As per the information plaque:

“After the scrolls were unrolled, it emerged that they were made of pure silver, measured 27 x 97 mm and 11 x 39 mm, and had been incised with inscriptions in early Hebrew made by a sharp delicate instrument. Both plaques bore versions of the biblical priestly blessing (Numbers 5:24-26), attesting to the fact that this blessing was familiar in the First Temple period (the seventh century BCE).

“The Priestly blessing … is the oldest biblical text, dating from the late First Temple period (the seventh and early sixth centuries BCE).

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The oldest biblical text, found on silver scrolls. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

We passed a striking fountain: the Loewen Brunnen Fountain.

Montefiore’s Windmill

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Montefiore’s Windmill. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly

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Relief art honoring the contribution of Montefiore. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

The Jewish banker and philanthropist, Moses Montefiore built this windmill in 1857 to serve as a flour mill. Three years later a Jewish neighbourhood came into existence here. Today the windmill is a small museum dedicated to Montefiore’s achievements.

We walked through a picturesque Jewish neighbourhood.

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A pretty Jewish neighbourhood. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

From here we walked into the Old City where we passed through the Armenian Quarter and into the Jewish Quarter.

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A Street in the Armenian Quarter (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

The Jewish Quarter is relatively new. It was sacked by the Arabs in 1948 when Jewish homes and synagogues were destroyed. Israel retook it during the Six Day War in 1967. The map and large mosaic murals have been created since then, as a representation of the Jewish Quarter’s life and commerce from past times.

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A busker entertains us in front of an a map of ancient Jerusalem. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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This mosaic mural displays a rich variety of oil and wine vessels, bowls, amphorae, and more for any occasion and every purpose. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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This stall displays the spices that were essential for seasoning and preserving food, for medications, and more. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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This stall presents some of the domesticated livestock of the Land of Israel in the Byzantine Period as well as in earlier periods. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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The fruits and vegetables shown in this stall reflect Byzantine mosaics showing the produce of the Land of Israel. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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This mosaic shows some of the fabric patterns and weavings. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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A mural depicting a Jewish market. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Our guide took us finally to a section of the Jerusalem where a portion of the city wall built by Hezekiah has been unearthed. If only stones could talk!

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A part of the Jerusalem wall, built by Hezekiah. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

 

 

 

Israel Trip – Day 7 (Jerusalem and Bethlehem)

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Our day of exploring  the King David’s City part of Jerusalem (Sunday, June 16) began at a beautiful brass harp sculpture.

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Brass sculpture welcoming us into the City of David. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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View of the city across the valley (Valley of Hinnom, I believe). (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Our guide explained the layout of the land, the need for a water source, and the importance of Gihon Spring. He told of how at least two tunnels have been dug to bring water from the spring into the city. Then we descended stairs to walk those tunnels—dry and wet.

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Information sign, explaining the various underground constructions. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Our Jerusalem tunnel experience began with our descent of these stairs. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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In the tunnel system. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

The wet tunnel, constructed during Hezekiah’s reign, still has water flowing through it. Those prepared for a little water walked through the wet tunnel while the rest of us squeezed our way through the dry one.

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A pool of water in the Jerusalem tunnels. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Ernie emerging from the dry tunnel. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Both tunnels emerge near the Pool of Siloam. However, the nondescript puddle of water labeled Pool of Siloam was obstructed by dusty construction so we didn’t linger or take pictures.

Next we drove to the Davidson Centre to experience the Southern Wall excavations We viewed the now blocked three Huldah Gates where the crowds entered the temple. We walked up the ancient steps, imagining Jesus and His disciples at these very spots.

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Panorama view of the Southern Wall. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Panorama view looking from the Southern Wall. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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The three blocked Huldah Gates, where the crowds entered the temple. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

We were awed by the massive temple stones, marveling at how ancient builders had put them in place so precisely without using our modern devices. A display in an open area helped us understand how these massive stones were moved using simple machines.

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Rubble from the destruction of the temple. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

We were awed by the massive temple stones, marveling at how ancient builders had put them in place so precisely without using our modern devices. A display in an open area helped us understand how these massive stones were moved using simple machines.

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Large temple stones and pillars. Dome at the right is the Al-Aqsa Mosque. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Early building machines, used at the time the temple was built. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

We also drove to the Israel Museum to visit the Shrine of the Book (housing the Dead Sea Scrolls) and Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the holocaust. That was a sobering hour and a half, viewing photos and reading of how the whole world seemed to turn against Israel in concert. (Photography was not allowed in the museum.)

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Sculpture outside Yad Vashem (Israel’s Holocaust Museum). (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Finally, we boarded the bus for Bethlehem, about a 45-minute drive away. Our first stop was at a market, where our late lunch was waiting for us (ordered ahead by our guide). We also had time for some shopping. Besides the lovely wood mementos in the market, other vendors soon drove up with jewelry and scarves.

Then it was back on the bus to the Shepherd’s Fields (we decided to skip Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, wanting to avoid the crowds we had encountered at the Holy Sepulchre Church).

A boy with a lamb greeted us (I think he wanted a little coin for posing, but, sorry, I was too slow).

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Boy with a lamb. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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The Shepherd and Sheep Fountain in the plaza of the Shepherd’s Chapel. (Photos © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Down a short path, we came to some meeting alcoves, overlooking grassy fields. Here we reviewed the Christmas story and had a short devotional. Then some of our group clambered through the caves in the area that led back to the plaza and chapel. (I walked out above ground.)

I saw a lot of Jerusalem crosses in Bethlehem. I purchased a mother-of-pearl one, a wonderful memory of this day.

Here are some of the things the Jerusalem cross symbolizes.

– The five wounds of Christ (the four little crosses symbolize wounds to Jesus’ hands and feet, the large cross the wound to His side).

– The gospel (large cross) spread to the four quarters of the earth (four small crosses).

– Christ (the large cross) and the four evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (four small crosses).

Israel Trip – Day 6 (The Jerusalem of Jesus’ passion)

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We started Day 6 (Saturday, June 15th) of our “pilgrimage” at the top of the Mount of Olives From this vantage point we got a panoramic view of the Kidron Valley, with its generations of tombs directly in front of us with, above that the Dome of the Rock and the city.

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Panoramic view of the city from he Mount of Olives. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Tombs in the Kidron Valley, with the city of Jerusalem in the background. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

From here I well understood Jesus viewing the city on His ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, and weeping over the city and its fate (Luke 19:41-44).

A photographer was all set up to take group photos, so we posed for him before carrying on.

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Our group on the Mount of Olives. (Photo © 2019)

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Another photo moment for the two of us. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Then we walked downhill, along the Palm Sunday route to the Garden of Gethsemane.

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Our walk took us down, past the grave sites in the valley. Our guide told us that visitors leave stones on the graves (instead of the flowers we leave). Thus graves with many stones have received many visitors. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

 

At the Gethsemane site, we visited the Church of All Nations.

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Church of All Nations façade (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Church of All Nations interior. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

At a quiet park along the way, we had a time of group devotions and reflection. I wrote in the journal I carry with me as I thought of what we had seen and would see today:

“Heaviness—the sight of Jerusalem and His (Jesus’) love for it, He, knowing its destiny, weeping. Juxtaposed against this the sounds of dailiness—for us sirens, horns honking, traffic—beggars begging, birds singing.

“Time marching on and He, realizing that the cloud that has hung over Him His whole life is lowering, getting very close, is engulfed with the immensity of it, the dreadfulness of it, the loneliness of it. He casts Himself on the Father.

“The ripples of His obedience now lapping every continent to millions of believers over the centuries, as seen in all the holy memorial places built. I love being part of something so vast and eternal.

We walked along the Via Dolorosa, which took us to the Pools of Bethesda. Though the site is a puzzle of archeological ruins, our guide pointed out the spot thought to be the pools where Jesus healed a man (John 5:1-15).

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Walking along the streets of Old Jerusalem. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Bethesday site–a puzzle of archeological finds to the untrained eye. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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The area thought to formerly house the Pools of Bethesda. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

The church on that site, St. Anne’s, is known for its acoustics. We sang “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow” as a group inside, and enjoyed the beautiful sound.

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St. Anne’s Church facade (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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We sang inside the old St. Anne’s church and enjoyed the excellent acoustics. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Continuing on the Via Dolorosa, along narrow streets, walkways and busy Arab market stalls, we came at last to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre—the traditional site of Jesus’ death and burial.

The plaza was crowded with people and our guide cautioned us not to get stuck in any long lineups

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Walking along the streets of the Old City. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Church of the Holy Sepulchre, courtyard crowded with visitors. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Once inside, though, the mass of people made it difficult to even move. I made it up some stairs but quickly realized that this press of people was not for me, though I did manage to snap one photo. I soon found a fellow tour-mate and together we managed to make as quick an exit as possible, alas without encountering the historic things people came to see and venerate.

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Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

We continued walking through the Old City alleyways till we came to Jaffa Gate where we caught the bus.

It took us to the grounds of the Israel Museum. There we bought lunch, ate it in a shady alcove on the grounds, then joined our guide as he explained the city of Jerusalem,  a miniature Second Temple Period city on display (from the time of Herod’s Temple and Jesus).

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Mini display of Jerusalem from the Second Temple period. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

From there we boarded the bus again for a trip outside the city walls to the Garden Tomb and Gordon’s Calvary. This alternate site suggested for Jesus’ death and burial does have a “skull hill” and an ancient tomb, making it a good candidate.

“Skull Hill” at the Garden Tomb site. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Pastor leading us in a communion service in the Garden Tomb. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Scenes from the Garden Tomb. The bottom one is of the tomb thought to be Jesus’ burial spot. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Finally, we drove into the city again to visit the site thought to be the Upper Room, where Jesus and His disciples ate the Last Supper and the early Christians gathered on the Day of Pentecost. A church building occupies that space now.

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*The stained-glass window from the Upper Room Church (or Cenacle). (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Altogether, this day was beautifully designed to help us visualize and understand Jesus’ final days, death and resurrection.

 

 

Israel Trip – Day 5 (Galilee, Jordan Valley, Jerusalem)

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We began Day 5 (Friday, June 14, three weeks ago today) boarding our bus with all our luggage for a day of sightseeing and a move to Jerusalem.

Yardenit

Our first stop, a very short one, was at Yardenit, a baptismal site on the Jordan River. No one from our group had requested to be baptized so, after a few photos, we carried on.

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Yardenit baptismal site on the Jordan River. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Posing by the Jordan River in Yardenite. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Nazareth

Our first major stop of the day was Nazareth. Here we went first to the land form just outside the city. The story of Jesus rejected by the religious leaders of the Nazareth synagogue, then taken outside the city where they threatened to push him off the cliff to His death came to life for me (Luke 4:16-30). This is where that would have happened.

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View from the cliff cliff from which the Nazareth townspeople wanted to push Jesus to His death. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Then we drove into town where we toured the Nazareth Village, a sprawled-out village with buildings, animals, and people in costume, similar to what Jesus would have experienced.

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Phyllis and Theo (our children’s ministry puppets) got a moment of attention from two of the locals. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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A vineyard watchtower. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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The sheep-pen. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Phyllis and Theo, eager to see the sheep. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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A donkey, grabbing some lunch. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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The olive press. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Woven basket, used to help strain the olive oil. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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A Nazareth Village vendor (food truck?). (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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They ate vegetables similar to ours, along with herbs like Hyssop. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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The woodworking shop; he might also have been a stone mason, as most of the houses were constructed of wood and stone. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Oven, for baking bread. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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The dining room. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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The spinner and weaver. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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The synagogue. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Beit Shean

Next we drove to Beit Shean. It is the city where the body of King Saul and his sons were nailed to the wall by the Philistines (1 Samuel 31:10).

Our itinerary informed us that curently Beit Shean is “…the largest ongoing archeological dig in the land of Israel.” The dig has unearthed a Roman theatre, colonnaded Roman streets, mosaics, Roman bathhouses, and even a public latrine.

Judean Wilderness

Finally, we made our ascent to Jerusalem through the Judean wilderness.

A Bedouin encampment and settlements along the West Bank. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Jerusalem!

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The first sight of Jerusalem was a thrill. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

We visited the Western Wall late Friday afternoon, just hours before the start of Shabbat (during which we would not have been allowed to take photos). I was especially fascinated by the many Orthodox Jews, men dressed in black suits wearing black hats, yarmulkes, even black fur hats, little boys with yarmulkes and side curls, little girls in their pretty dresses, women all dressed up with turban-type hats pushing babies in strollers, as families made their Friday night visits of the wall together, along with us informally dressed tourists.

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Prayer at the wall is segregated. In the women’s section I witnessed women in fervent petition, many reading from prayer books in Hebrew (and the odd one in English). These were sitting for anyone to use on podium-type tables and on a bookshelf at the back of the prayer area.

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Women sat and prayed, or went up to the wall, to touch it as they prayed fervently, often in tears. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Many tucked folded prayers into the cracks of the wall. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Prayer books were available for anyone to use. Most were in Hebrew.  (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Poster on the wall enclosure, opposite the wall. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Western Wall poster. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

 

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Another poster from the wall enclosure area. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

It was a moving, and slightly unsettling experience as I thought about the prayer fervency I was witnessing and asked myself—what did this fascination with praying at the Western Wall really signify?

Appointment in Jerusalem (review)

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Appointment In JerusalemAppointment In Jerusalem by Lydia Prince

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In December of 1926 Lydia Christensen was a successful 36-year-old Domestic Arts teacher in the city of Korsor Denmark. However, just before Christmas when her longtime friend and colleague Soren asked her to marry him, she couldn’t answer “yes.” She was fond of him alright. But was the settled life in Denmark “it”? Somehow she wanted more.

Back in Korsor after spending Christmas her family in Bonderslev, she decided to spend her vacation reading. Ignoring the literary choices on her bookshelf, she pulled out the Bible. She began to read in Matthew and soon found herself transfixed as the book came alive to her.

When she got to the beatitudes she read Jesus’ words: “Ask and it shall be given you.” Could she ask about the unnamed longing she had been feeling? How did one do that? Should she kneel” Pray aloud? Then:

“And now in the familiar room, with the sound of the clock ticking in my ears, something took place for which my whole background and education left me totally unprepared. … No longer was I looking into the back of the chair. In its place a Person was standing over me. A long white garment covered the Person’s feet. Slowly I raised my eyes upward. Above my head I saw two arms outstretched in the attitude of one bestowing a blessing. … Involuntarily a word rose to my lips: ‘Jesus!’ But even as I uttered it, He was gone” – Kindle Location 450.

Everything changed for Lydia after that. She began to study her Bible seriously and spend lots of time in prayer. She asked for believer’s baptism—a scandalous thing to do in Denmark’s staunch Lutheran culture. She attended meetings with the suspect Pentecostals. And she had more visions.

Appointment in Jerusalem is the account of the several years in Lydia’s life when she went from a secure job as a Danish teacher to doing whatever she sensed God was telling her to do in Jerusalem. There she had a remarkable ministry, especially to abandoned girls, many of whom she adopted.

She later met and married Derek Prince, author and Bible teacher. He wrote Lydia’s story with her input. Written in creative non-fiction style this fascinating biography is sure to encourage and challenge readers of any age. Its clear message of love for Jerusalem and the Jewish people is a welcome one in these days Middle East conflict.

(I read the Kindle edition of this book, which is part of my own collection.)

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Return to Me (review)

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Return to Me (The Restoration Chronicles #1)Return to Me by Lynn Austin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Return to Me Lynn Austin returns to writing in the genre–biblical fiction–where I first met her. This story is set in the time of the exile and follows the priest Iddo and his son Zacharias as their family returns to a ravished Jersualem with the intention of rebuilding the temple.

The book is peopled by believable characters who go through the kinds of things you’d expect returning exiles to go through. Iddo’s wife, Dinah, pines for her children and grandchildren that never made the trek back and struggles to be content in her primitive Jerusalem home.

Zachariah’s best friend Yael feels the strong pull of astrology as she seeks to discover whether her sick mother will live. The star charts she gets from the Babylonian seer Parthia become a snare to her as she befriends a Samaritan family.

Main character Zacharias often misses his parents but believes that God has him in Jerusalem for a reason–if only He would make it clear.

It’s a story that takes place over a generation and gives life to an interesting and dramatic era of Israel’s history. However I found it slow-moving in parts, and a tad long. Perhaps this is because the author attempts to stay close to the Bible’s story line where there are years without too much happening.

Lovers of Bible fiction and students of Jewish history will want to add this book to their collections.

I received Return to Me as a gift from the publisher, Bethany House. As usual, my Kindle edition from NetGalley was full of weird spacing and missing ‘ff’s.

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