Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Day one of the tour, we head south from Tel Aviv, to reach the south of Israel. On the way, we visit a couple of very interesting sites. These are new to the tour, so the excitement starts immediately. 

Beit Shemesh

You may recall the story of the how the Israelites have the bright idea of bringing the Ark of the Covenant to battle with them against the Philistines. Other armies bring their gods with them, so Israel thought it might give them a boost over their relentless enemy to bring the ark with them. Their idea turns into a nightmare when the ark is stolen by the Philistines.

This ends up being one of the most comical stories in the Bible to my way of thinking. The Philistines take the ark to Ashdod and put it in the temple with their god, Dagon. The next morning, they find Dagon face down before the ark of the covenant. They set Dagon back in his place, but the next day when they came to check, Dagon’s arms and head were missing and he was face down again before the ark of the Lord. This just led to more problems and the ark was sent from one Philistine town to another and at each stop, the people in the city suffered because of the ark or so they believed. Finally, they are so tired of people dying, being tormented by hemorrhoids and rats eating their crops that they decide to send the ark back to the Israelites. You can read the story in 1 Samuel chapters 5 and 6. 

When they send the ark back to the Israelites, the Philistines send it from Ekron, a Philistine city at the west end of the Sorek Valley, to Beit Shemesh, an Israelite city further east in the Israel-dominated end of the Sorek. 

The Tel of Beit Shemesh sits as it did in antiquity, overlooking the Sorek Valley, a complex system of ravines that protects Jerusalem on the west side from attack because of the difficulty of traveling through it. We stood on the tel and looked into the valley, rich with agriculture today and could almost hear the mooing of the milk cows drawing the wagon with the ark from Ekron.


Tel Beit Shemesh
Tel Beit Shemesh (ruins)
Looking east toward Jerusalem

Looking west toward Philistine territory


One of the things you come to look for at ancient sites in Israel are the cisterns. Because of the lack of water in the land, in order to survive the hot, dry spring and summers, occupants of the land carved cisterns out of the rock. The water would be captured and routed to these underground storage places. This is our first cistern of the trip, but it will certainly not be our last. 

Steps into the cistern – Beit Shemesh
Cistern – Beit Shemesh
Plaster on walls of cistern to help keep water from leaching into the Limestone
Inside the cistern

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Israel 2022

We just returned from our second tour to Israel with Rooted in His Word. The tour, Dan to Beersheva, was a success despite the hurdles that we had to overcome to get to Israel. First of all, there was the two-year wait. The immediate hurdles included insurance for Covid, the entry form and then the PCR test before leaving the United States and then the PCR test upon entry into Israel. I can say that I had more Covid tests in the two weeks surrounding my trip to Israel than I ever had before. But looking past all of that, I can tell  you that it was worth it. It will always be worth whatever the cost to get to the Holy Land and be inspired in your walk of faith with the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 

Before getting started on our journey across, through and over the land of the Bible, we spent our first night in Tel Aviv. After a fourteen-plus hour direct flight (which is the only way to fly there), the Mediterranean offers just the balm for the soul that you need. We had dinner at one of many restaurants along the water front. It happened to be a kosher restaurant, but there were other options. Overnight we stayed a cute little boutique hotel a couple blocks from the port of Tel Aviv.


Port of Tel Aviv, Israel
Fresh meal right on the water
Sunset over the Mediterranean

Sunset over Tel Aviv, Israel

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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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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It may not be the most exciting region of Israel to the average Bible scholar, it is no Sea of Galilee or Capernaum or Jerusalem, but the North of Israel, the region of Dan, is a beautiful place to visit in the Spring when the foliage is lush and green and the mustard plant flowers are blooming, blanketing open meadows and hillsides with their bright yellow.

The area  reminds the visitor that Israel is diverse in its landscapes and geography.


Head waters of the Jordan River, Israel

The head waters of the Jordan rush down into the land from the mountains above.


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Touring the Holy Land

In addition to reading the blog on this site, you can check out the Rooted in His Word facebook page for additional photos and slide shows of the various sites we are visiting.

Shalom from Israel!

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Bethlehem is a city with well-documented Biblical history. It is not only the birthplace of Jesus Christ, but it was also the home town of King David and the hometown of Naomi, who returned with her daughter-in-love, Ruth, who later married Boaz, another Bethlehem native.

Bethlehem and the surrounding areas were also very strategically located. Given its location and proximity to Jerusalem and Jericho, Bethlehem attracted the attention of master builder, Herod the Great.

In another post we’ll take a look at the magnificent palace he built nearby and which bore his name, but for now, we will consider the Pools of Solomon, another building project likely initiated or completed by Herod the Great.

This series of 3 pools has nothing to do with King Solomon but everything to do with moving water from the generous springs of Bethlehem via aqueduct to fill the pools of Herod’s palaces around the area including the palace in Jerusalem.

Solomon’s Pools (upper), Bethlehem
Solomon’s Poos (lower), Bethlehem
Solomon’s Pools (lower), Bethlehem

As a testament to his architectural prowess, the pools are largely intact today.

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On the road from Jerusalem eastward to Jericho is a great expanse of Judean desert or what is often called the Judean wilderness. It is to such a place as this that Jesus may have gone when he fasted for 40 days before being tempted by Satan. See Luke 4:1-13 for a reminder of the story.


It may also be the place of which David spoke in the Psalms 63:1, O God, You are my God; with deepest longing I will seek You;  my soul [my life, my very self] thirsts for You, my flesh longs and sighs for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.


It is a place which, at first glance, appears to be devoid of life, with no obvious plant or animal life and no observable source of water. But when one peers over the edge of the cliff and looks below, one sees green in the valley. Small trees, bushes and grasses grow  in the valley, fed by the water that gathers.


Like our circumstances which can loom like a great desert or wilderness before us – overwhelming us with their apparent impregnability – there are valleys which can only be seen as we near the edge of the cliff and peer over into the crevices below. Life exists in the valleys – verdant, prospering life.

So when faced with a wilderness or desert of impregnable, unnavigable circumstances, go to the edge, look down and see the truth that life is continuing, even prospering in the valley of those circumstances. Know the truth that God would never leave you nor forsake you. God is in the valley.


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