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?

Israel Trip -Day 4 (Capernaum, Caesarea Philippi)

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Capernaum

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 Welcome to Capernaum (Capharnaum).  (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Capernaum (“Capharnaum, The Town of Jesus”) was our next stop. It was to Capernaum Jesus went after his native Nazareth rejected Him (Matthew 4:13). Capernaum was the centre of Jesus’ Galilean ministry and the site of many of His miracles.

Again, there were many ruins.

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Capital from the synagogue in Capernaum (note the Jewish menorah middle top). (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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The synagogue where Jesus read scriptures and taught. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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The layout of the town in stone foundations. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Remains of Peter’s house, where his mother-in-law was healed (Matthew 8:14,15) are preserved under glass skylights. The information sign says:

“The traditional house of Peter was close to the lake shore and was flanked to the east by the main north-south road (cardo maximus) of the village. Spacious courtyards with a staircase and terra refractaria fireplaces were shared by several roofed homes.”

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Phyllis, excited to see Peter’s house. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

Altar-St Peters Church-Capernaum

St. Peter’s Church (in the same complex as Peter’s house) features a beautiful mosaic altar. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Outside, a statue of St. Peter attracts many visitors and camera moments. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly

Caesarea Philippi

From Capernaum we drove north to the Golan Heights for a stop at Banias, the site of ancient Caesarea Philippi.

This spot, at the foot of Mount Hermon, is one of the sources of the Jordan River. The waterfall was a rare and welcome sight.

A grotto to the god Pan was located here. Mike Mason describes the beliefs about this site:

“In ancient times, it was called Panaes, after Pan, the goat-footed Greek god associated with nature, fertility, and carnal excess. The dark opening in the cliff… was the Cave of Pan, believed to be the doorway to the underworld (Gates of Hades) where fertility gods lived in winter, returning to earth each spring on the subterranean stream that formerly gushed from the cave mouth. To the right of the cave are several niches where pagan statues would have stood. Today this is an archaeological site, but in Jesus’ time it was an active center of pagan worship with a temple, courtyards, and shrines—the focal point of the Romanesque city of Caesarea Philippi” – Mike Mason, Jesus: His Story in Stone (2017), p. 53.

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The cave of Pan, believed to be the Gates of Hades. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Ernie, standing in a section of the ancient worship site honoring Pan. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Niches where pagan idols would have stood. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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More ruins from the Caesarea Philippi worship site. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

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Artist’s rendering of the sanctuary of Pan. (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

It was to this site that Jesus brought His disciples and asked them “’Who do men say that I am… Who do you say that I am?’” – Matthew 16:13.

When Peter replied, “’You are the Christ (Messiah) Son of the living God,’” Jesus answered, “’Blessed are you, Simon, Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build My church and the Gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:17,18)

A huge rock at the site is a wonderful visual, reminding us of Jesus’ words.

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Rock at the site of Pan, reminding us of Jesus’ words to Peter.  (Photo © 2019 by V. Nesdoly)

 

Fix your eyes on Jesus #BibleJournaling

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On these last days of Lent, our thoughts go to the subject and central character of the Good Friday and Easter celebrations just ahead. There is no One more beautiful to contemplate!

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” – Hebrews 12:2.

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Bible Journal entry for Hebrews 12:2 (Photo © 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

This journal entry is one I did in my original NIV Journaling Bible last Easter. (The drawing of Jesus on the cross at the bottom was inspired by an illustration of Annie Vallotton’s – scroll down….)

Receptive Soil #BibleJournaling

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Jesus’ parables are full of artsy drawables. Yet, when I contemplated journaling the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:11-15), illustrations of the old fashioned process of sowing grain and it falling into the literal destinations named in the parable seemed like avoiding the issue somehow. And so I asked myself, what would examples of unfruitful and fruitful soil be in my life?

That’s what I tried to portray on this page. The gold oval-shaped image in the middle is a grain of wheat. Where will it find receptive soil? Social media; preoccupation with news; involvement in sports; focus on money; interaction with friends; attending church; the whirlwind of mental stress, worry, fear and anxiety; clothes and all they imply of absorption with personal appearance and image; Bible study?

Simplistic, I know, but the passage and trying to illustrate it made me think again of my day to day life and how much of it may be unreceptive soil.

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I prepared this page with gesso before doing the art work, then used brush markers and pencil crayons to do the coloring. The grain of wheat is colored with an acrylic marker (gold). The gesso worked great—there was no bleed through with the brush markers that usually seriously mark the back side of paper much thicker than Bible pages.

Hospitality #BibleJournaling

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Are you the kind of person who likes surprises thrown into your day? Or are you a scheduler who prefers to have your day outlined in your planner and then proceed according to plan?

I’m definitely the latter. So, a few weeks ago when I read, in Matthew 14, about Jesus’ botched up day plans, I took notice.

His relative John, who had baptized Him, had recently been arrested and imprisoned by Herod. Then, through the trickery of Herod’s partner Herodias, John was beheaded. His disciples disposed of his body then went to tell Jesus.

On hearing of John’s death, Jesus’ plan was to get away to a “deserted place by Himself,” no doubt to process this sad news and to grieve.

When He got to that deserted place, however, it wasn’t deserted at all. Instead, throngs were waiting for Him there with their sick.

Did Jesus express disappointment or frustration at having His plans changed? Did he dismiss the crowds or get His disciples to do it with “Sorry! The healer isn’t seeing people today”?

No. Instead, He was moved with compassion over their conditions, spent all day healing, and at day’s end, when the disciples wanted to send the crowds home, challenged them to feed everyone before they set off.

You have to be hospitable to the core to react toward the crowds like Jesus did in the face of grief, disappointment, and wrecked plans. For hospitality is first an attitude before it comes out in action. Jesus’ hospitality was the focus of my art journal entry for Matthew 14.

To make the illustration I transferred an online image of cupped hands onto tracing paper, then drew, cut out, and pasted the loaves and fishes into them. I attached the hands to my Bible page with Washi tape as a tip-out. They symbolize Jesus’ heart of hospitality.

I hope the image of loaded hands stays with me next time someone’s needs come between me and what’s written in my planner!

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“But Jesus said to them, ‘They do not need t go away. You give them something to eat'” – Matthew 14:16 (© 2017 by V. Nesdoly)

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A Traveler’s Advisory (review)

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A Traveler's AdvisoryA Traveler’s Advisory by Marcia Lee Laycock
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In A Traveler’s Advisory, author Marcia Laycock takes readers from the Arctic Circle to the jungles of Papua New Guinea and home again. Each of the 52 meditations draws spiritual lessons from a travel experience (sections are titled “In the Air,” “On the Road,” “On Vacation,” and “Far Away Places”) and make practical applications to life.

Written in Marcia’s characteristic warm, easy-to-read style, they make for fascinating and uplifting reading. Some of my favorites:

– Most fun: “Sea Shells and the Process of Faith” (p. 111)—hunting for sea shells on a Papua New Guinea beach.

– Sadly relatable: “A Wrong Turn to the Right Place” (p. 34)— going in circles is not fun!

– Would make my bucket list: “Angels in the Badlands” (p. 71)—a visit to the Passion Play in the Alberta Badlands.

– Most scary: “Doubts in the Storm” (p. 41)—being stuck on a highway from the Yukon to Alaska in a snowstorm.

– Most beautiful: “Small Miracles” (p. 87)—a hike through the Sepik area of New Guinea.

– Most weird: “An Appreciation of Light” (p. 73)—a trek through some skeleton-filled caves, a relic of cannibalism, in New Guinea.

Through these devotions we discover that God’s voice, help, direction, comfort, and protection can find us wherever we are.

A Traveler’s Advisory would be a wonderful volume to read while on holiday. Or if home-bound, enjoy these travels vicariously from the safety and comfort of your reading chair. Your life will be enriched and your appreciation for the Earth, its inhabitants, and the God who made them enhanced.

I received a copy of A Traveler’s Advisory from the author for the purpose of writing a review.

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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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