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Archive for the ‘Israel’ Category

Hebron

One of the places that I was able to visit on my recent trip to Israel was Hebron. Hebron, considered the first Hebrew City, is located in the Judean mountains south of Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). The location is important to the Jews because it is the burial place of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their wives. (See Genesis 23)

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The building at Hebron was built by Herod the Great, one of his many building projects across the land. He also built a palace in Jerusalem, a palace in Jericho, a palace on Masada, an entire harbor at Caesarea Maritima and Herodium, where he was buried. However, the building at Hebron is the only structure built by Herod the Great that is still in tact.

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The graves of the patriarchs are believed to be in caves below the structure. Because the Jews must share the building with the Muslims, with each occupying one half of the building, it is difficult to do further exploration or excavation to find out what is below the building.

As we were leaving the building, an afternoon prayer service was beginning. The Jews living in Hebron are mostly Modern Orthodox, but Orthodox Jews from other parts of the country visit Hebron and spend time there in prayer and study.

Not unlike the Temple Mount and Western Wall, police are stationed at the entrance for security.

The tombs are a short distance from the actual Tel of the ancient city of Hebron. One of the upcoming posts will be dedicated to the Tel itself.

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In the tall cliffs above the Salt Sea (aka the Dead Sea) there are openings in the cliffs barely visible from the road passing below. The openings lead to caves. In the caves, the members of an ancient Jewish community, hid scrolls on which were written portions of the Hebrew Bible as well as extensive writings about the life in the religious community.

The scrolls, the earliest copies of the Hebrew Bible, were discovered in the 1940’s right around the time Israel was being established and Jews were returning to Israel from all over the world. The discovery of the scrolls at this time was more than mere coincidence. The writings reinforce the claims of legitimacy of the Jewish people in the land. The writings further confirm the authenticity of scripture for Christians as well as Jews.

The photos above give you an idea of the geography of Qumran. These photos are taken in the wetter part of the year, and yet there is little greenery. The only fresh water in this area comes from the ravines which bring water from the north of Israel after the rains. The openings in the rocks evident in some of the photos are caves similar to and in which the scrolls were found.

The photos above are from the excavations of the Jewish community near the base of the cliffs where the Dead Sea scrolls were found. They appear to have been a religious group. This conclusion is based on the finding of several Mikva’ot (plural of Mikveh). The Mikva’ot are used for bathing, part of the Jewish practice of ritual purification. The occurrence of several in a community speaks of the important of ritual purity to the group. In addition to the Mikva’ot, remains of very large cisterns, used to collect and store water for the long periods without rain-water run off, have been excavated.

In the photos above, you can also see part of the water system which has been discovered which provides further support for the importance of water to their religious practices as well as their experience with collecting and storing water because of the geography and lack of nearby fresh water sources.

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Lake Kinneret

Some things in Israel never change, but also continue to amaze and instruct. One such place is Lake Kinneret. You may know it as the Sea of Galilee or Lake Tiberias.

The lake is the lowest fresh water lake in the world. It is 13 miles long and 8 and ½ miles wide at the widest point. Though small when compared to many lakes around the world, Lake Kinneret is at no loss for visitors.

Lake Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) was the hub around which Jesus of Nazareth taught during his ministry. Many of the stories found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John took place on or near the lake.

While I was originally drawn to the lake for the usual reasons pilgrims are, I am drawn back now by the beauty and mystery of the lake. It is a joy to photograph because the views are rarely the same. The lake changes with the rising and setting of the sun and with the fog and mist that lay across its surface through parts of the day as well.

I offer you, the lake . . .

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As I head home from Yerushalayim (Jerusalem), I amazed that once again, it could speak to me and tell me so much of my God and my heritage as a God-lover.  It seems I can never exhaust the secrets this city holds for those who will come and open their hearts to the God who set His name on this hill.

Here are a few random moments from this year’s trip. Look for future posts discussing sites visited on our trip.

 

 

 

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Why go to Israel?

Every time I go back to Israel, I get comments and questions, e.g. Is it safe? Aren’t you afraid? Why would you want to go to Israel? The questions are legitimate. Israel is situated in an area of the world in which there always seems to be a conflict occurring or at least one brewing. It has been that way since the Israelites came into the land more than 3,000 years ago. But I digress.

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Going to Israel is essential, in my opinion, to knowing God better and more experientially. It is not a substitute for daily study of the scriptures, but rather it enhances and enriches the devotional life of the student of the Word. This is true whether you are a Jew or a Christian–Evangelical or Catholic. Coming to the land where most of the events in your Bible took place changes how you see God, how you experience Him. For the Christian it is also important in coming to a better understanding of the Jews, their customs, their culture and their faith.

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In Israel, it is possible to stand where Jesus stood–on the Southern Steps of the Temple mount or perhaps in the synagogue in Magdala. One can see where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel or over look the valley where David took on Goliath or visit the Pool of Bethesda where Jesus healed the lame man. So much of the history of God’s people can be anchored to physical geography of the land of Israel, i.e. the feasts, the worship, the battles, the births, and even the deaths.

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But the most significant thing about the land of Israel of me is the close presence of God. God hovers over Jerusalem. Despite the religious diversity, the tension, the rituals, the shrines, and all manner of religiosity, God set His name upon and made promises about Jerusalem. He cannot lie, and so the land emanates the fragrance of God. That is what draws me back–and the chance to learn even more about Him and His people, and the chance to draw ever closer to Him.

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For future tours to Israel, check out the Rooted in His Word at RootedinHisWord.org.

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On a hill overlooking the Dead Sea, Herod the Great built a palace. It is not really a site of any religious significance for Christians, but it is an important site to Jews, especially Israeli Jews. The story of Masada as the final stand for a band of zealots became a focal point for later generations.

For the student of history and culture, the ruins of Masada are a wellspring of information about Herod the Great, both his engineering genius and his paranoia. He built several palaces across the Holy Land, but Masada offers some very special things such as the extensive system for catching and keeping water, as well as the 3 tiered palace structure. Masada is also a site of interest to those fascinated by battle strategies and/or the Roman war machine.

The stories of Masada make for great drama. It is definitely worth visiting the site if you are in the south of Israel. Luckily, it is no longer necessary to hike to get to the top. A tram will take you in a matter of minutes from the bottom to the summit.

The following is a slide show from Masada:

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Capernaum

The ministry of Jesus was centered in the Galilee – the region in the north of Israel surrounding the Sea of Galilee. The town of Capernaum is thought to have been the hub of His ministry. It is believed that in the 1st Century, a synagogue was located in the town. On the sight believed to have been the site of the 1st Century synagogue, today sits a synagogue from the 4th Century.

Much of what can be seen in Capernaum today is not necessarily from the time of Jesus. Visiting Capernaum; however, one can imagine how fresh it would have been given its location close to the lake (Sea of Galilee). One can almost smell the fish cooking on the fires. Jesus most certainly walked the streets of Capernaum and the roads and paths leading to it. Below are some photos from the site.

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Bet She’an (Decapolis)

Bet She’an is a must see when you visit Israel, not so much for the Jewish history it represents but rather for the Roman architecture and history that can be found among the ruins which have been excavated. The Tel at Bet She’an is famous for being the place where Saul’s body was hung. It was done by the Philistines to humiliate the Jews.

According to 1 Samuel 31:10, “they put Saul’s weapons and armor in the temple of the Ashtaroth (female goddesses), and they fastened his body to the wall of Beth-shan.”

Bet She’an, one of the cities of the Decapolis, does preserve some interesting aspects of Roman culture and architecture.

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Jerusalem – The People

Jerusalem and its people defy definition. These, just a few images, hint of the people, their diversity, their zeal and their humanity.

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Since 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed the 2nd Temple, the Jews have not had a sanctuary, a place where God has said they could sacrifice. The holiest place for Jews today is the Western Wall (Kotel), sometimes called the Wailing Wall by those who would mock the Jews for their zeal in worship of God.

Jews and other worshipers come to the wall to pray. Many important Jewish events are held at the wall. Many Bar Mitzvahs are held at the wall. Religious holidays are celebrated there. Recently, with Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the priestly blessing was given at the Western Wall. Sometimes national holidays can bring Jews to the Western Wall in celebration as well.

A visit to the Western Wall will not only allow you to see the zeal of the serious Jews for God, but also it will allow you to observe the variety of ways Jews express their zeal for God through their dress.

Kotel, Jerusalem
Women’s side of Kotel, Jerusalem
Kotel, divider between men and women
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the future

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