Why You Must Get to Know the Land . . . in person on the internet, somehow!
podcast: (but you gotta see the pics in this Morning Briefing)
Truthfully, I never thought I would get to the land of Israel in my lifetime. Just as the days of the Bible seem like a million years ago, the miles to the Holyland - the cost, the 'how?', even time change, fear, (mine and others) - seemed to pose an indomitable obstacle.
In this briefing, I want to make the Land come alive for you - especially places that are pertinent to an intelligent, defensible Christian faith. I am combining photos I took in November, 2016, and in February of 2018. Frankly, just a pictorial and supporting explanation alone are valuable, yet I never saw such a thing in any of my Bible classes in high school, college, seminary, church or Bible studies. You see, it is the people, it is the land, it is the language . . . the sights and sounds of the Middle East.
Upon landing at Ben Gurion Airport, I passed a 'Welcome to Israel' sign and then peered down at black-clad passengers waiting to board an airplane and thought,
"Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore."1
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As indicated in the picture, Judaism literally looks different in Israel, particularly Orthodox Judaism. From kippas2
to wigged women to black hats, we do not experience this 'separate' style of dress or thinking--unless in an ultra Orthodox neighborhood in the United States
After landing in Tel Aviv, the Christian pilgrim treks northward near the Mediterranean Ocean with the first important stop being at Herod's Caesarea Maritima.
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King Herod the Great built the city to be a major international port and named it after his patron, the Roman emperor Caesar Augustus. Completed between 22 and 10/9 B.C.E., Caesarea Maritima had all the elements of a major Roman city and more, including a palace, forum, theater, temple dedicated to Augustus and Rome, and an elaborate harbor complex.3 Been there twice now, and it is so cool to see the remnants of the ancient port city-greeted first by the huge stone architectural features and statues that once adorned the city. Huge, they are!
But another reason Caesarea Maritima is important to you and me . . . the Pilate stone excavated in 1961; important because it places Pilate on the scene in the first century. You see, scholars had debated the existence of the man, though the gospels claimed he existed and tried Jesus before the people, until this stone was unearthed. A replica is on site; the original in the Israel Museum. As in so many places in the Land, archaeology supports and corroborates the truth of Scripture.
This is the view from the Mt. of Beatitudes looking across the Sea of Galilee back toward the old town of Tiberius, which I love so much. Standing there, it is easy to imagine folks coming up the hillside to listen to Jesus' teaching ~ what we call the Sermon on the Mount. The undisturbed hillside is a very important place for those who love the teachings of Jesus!
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Wait . . . stop! This is a good time to explain the land and the setting a little more. Simply, two places serve as launching pads for this sort of pilgrimage: iberius on the Sea of Galilee (the body of water in the North) and Jerusalem.
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From these two stops, many of the places mentioned in Old and New Testaments are experienced, often seeing as many as five venues in an afternoon.
And then there is Nazareth. It was not on the itinerary for either of the journeys I made to Israel; the biggest reason is that it is a good distance off the main road and takes a while to get there, difficult for a touring bus to navigate. I caught a cab and went into the town to see where Jesus spent his growing up years, where the angel came to tell Mary she would bear the Messiah.
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The geographic setting alone impacted me greatly, picturing Jesus as a boy climbing the hills, watching caravans pass by, and I loved seeing the Church of the Annunciation.4
Personally, I HAD to see the town; it was very informative and the historic grounds excavated around this church are awe-inspiring.
But nothing is like the anticipation of going Up to Jerusalem! Psalm 120-134 capture songs that Jewish pilgrims would have sung three times a year going up to the Temple, should you like to refer to them.
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As the bus climbs the hillside, a growing anticipation within mounts--seriously, like, a flutter happens in my tummy! The day pictured in this briefing is the Western Wall on Shabbat - the square teeming with people, literally abuzz. The men on the left, davening and praying, the women on the right, praying; young IDF women circled together, dancing and singing loudly in Hebrew. Nothing like it...truly.
Then there is Solomon's Colonnade on the Temple Mount- just one of many breath-taking historic pieces on Mt. Moriah.
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Jesus taught here - John 10:23
. The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people, and all the believers used to meet together in Solomon's Colonnade, Acts 3:11; 5:12.
Temple Mount? These are the southern steps of the Temple, where Jesus often taught.
Neil Armstrong visited the Southern Steps and said, "I am more excited stepping on these stones than I was stepping on the moon." He then knelt down and kissed the slab of stone where Jesus stood and where the Church was born. Does it get any better than that? I submit to you it does not!
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Then there's the Judean Desert which boasts the Mount of Temptation, the
Qumran Caves - where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947, not far from Masada and the mysterious Dead Sea.
There is Ein Gedi - a beautiful oasis with many caves, just above the Dead Sea, and the setting of David's hiding from Saul - 1 Samuel 24. 1-7. Believed to be where David wrote many of his psalms, songs of worship to God. Could it really have been the birthplace of worship as we know it? Check out Psalm 18 and 57.
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We are a blessed generation to be able to experience the land of the Bible - in person, if possible, but certainly through terrific footage on youtube and other internet sites free of charge. Click on the links below for more. Should you like to join me in February, 2019, deposits are being made and I am capping the trip at just 40 people. Please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
2 - Israelis call yarmulkes kippas