OUR TOUR OF ISRAEL APRIL 2019
After an unforgettable week in Hyderabad and Rajahmundry South India, I spent 5 days in London with daughter Esther and attended her Holy Trinity Church in Brompton Rd; on Sunday April 7.The following day I watched the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace and enjoyed the magnificent display of Spring flowers and blossom trees at St. James Square.
WEDNESDAY APRIL 10 JAFFA (JOPPA)
Esther and I had decided to spend two nights near Tel Aviv before the start of the Sid Roth Tour. I am so glad we chose to book our two nights at the ancient port of Jaffa (Joppa in the Bible) South of Tel Aviv city. Our Market House hotel was in a very quaint historic part of Jaffa walking distance to the fishing port where we were fascinated to see fishermen mending their nets as in Bible times.
Breakfast at the hotel featured an abundance of many varieties of foods, nuts, and fruit and the most delicious bread I have ever tasted! Walking around ‘old Jaffa’ we photographed the actual site of Simon the Tanner’s home (not of course the original house) where the apostle Peter stayed with Simon by the seaside. Jaffa (Joppa) is significant as Peter’s call of God from Simon’s house to Caesarea brought the gospel to the Gentiles.
The cobblestoned pavements, narrow lanes and ancient brick buildings of Jaffa have great charm. I was surprised by the name ’Flea Market ‘, a title given to an area of small shops in Jaffa that overflowed onto the pavements with an abundance of handmade jewellery, rugs, and clothing items etc. Esther and I went up a few steps to look inside an interesting looking Art Shop. Two pretty young Israeli girls welcomed us with a free drink, nuts and grapes displayed on a low table. They were orthodox Jews and were keen to show us their religious art work. I was interested in a beautiful painting illustrating all the Jewish Festivals. Another most attractive poster visualised the 10 commandments. These Jewish girls conveyed to us their reverence for both the God given 10 Commandments and the inspired creativity of the art work we were admiring.
FRIDAY APRIL 12 TEL AVIV SEA COAST
The following day April 12 we checked out of our Jaffa Hotel before noon and walked along the beach past the fishing port towards Tel Aviv. We photographed a wonderful sea coast view of the tall sky scraper buildings of the big city of Tel Aviv.
UNUSUAL WIND GUSTS
This Tel Aviv coast is very exposed and popular with surfers who enjoy riding the massive surf tossed waves. It was a wild windy day but mainly sunny. The Israeli and Arab people walking the beach looked rugged individuals used to the windswept conditions. There were many dog walkers and some elite breeds of dogs wore cosy coats to combat the biting cold blasts of wind!
We discovered that this sea coast has unusual wind phenomena. Later in the day after a coffee under a canopy on the beach we began to walk back along the sea shore towards Jaffa. I had my long scarf wrapped around my head muslim style because of the cold breeze. Suddenly Esther and I were both hit by a violent gust of wind that completely caught us by surprise! We grappled with the force of this assault only just managing to stay on two feet ! Then as suddenly as the wild wind gust had come it was gone, and the weather became relatively calm.
That Friday afternoon of April 12 a taxi drove us to Tel Aviv airport where we had arranged to meet up with our Tour group. Sure enough at this busy airport we saw a number of people holding up Sid Roth notices. All the notices were different coloured posters. With 442 people booked for this Tour there were 10 Tour buses with a group of 40+ people on each bus and each group was a different colour! We soon learned we were in the Orange Tour group and needed to wear our orange badge throughout the Tour.
We were transported on a shuttle bus to Dan Hotel with many others on the same Sid Roth Tour. Dan Hotel is huge and quite luxurious. Our room featured landscape windows which opened out onto a large patio area with unobstructed views in all directions over Jerusalem! Seeing Jerusalem for the first time was exciting! However we were not in the city centre so as yet we had not seen the famous gold Dome of the Rock or the Temple Mount.
What we did see from our roof top were attractive limestone coloured buildings, dark green Fir trees and very many tall Palm trees which I later learned were Date Palms. During our stay at this hotel we never saw anyone else walking about on this lookout outside our room other than the resident Dan Hotel cat who strutted about on occasion looking important!
THE TOUR BEGINS SATURDAY APRIL 13
The wake -up call sounded at 6 am in our room and became a familiar alarm every morning except for the one free day during the Tour. At the Banqueting Hall every possible breakfast dish was available as well as a big supply of healthy nuts and fruit beautifully presented by attentive waiters.
Our Orange Tour group left at 7am for the long drive North to Haifa. Approaching Haifa we enjoyed bright blue ocean views of the Mediterranean Sea before moving inland to the city of Haifa. We were transported to a huge Convention Centre which was packed with mainly Jewish people plus the 442 people from our Tour buses who mainly sat at the back of the auditorium. We enjoyed a number of classical music items and then Sid Roth was introduced. Sid was brought up in an orthodox Jewish family but later in life he experienced a life changing event when Jesus revealed Himself to him as his Jewish Messiah. Sid began sharing his remarkable Testimony and very soon God began to give him Words of Knowledge and miraculously many people were instantly healed.
It is remarkable that most of those who were instantly healed and touched by the Holy Spirit were the Jewish people! After Sid Roth’s Testimony Esther and I were privileged to witness a great miracle when 1300 non- Christian Jewish Israelis stood to their feet to publicly confess Jesus as their Lord and Saviour ! What a momentous first day of our Tour of Israel ! !
From Haifa our Tour Bus drove us North to Tel Megiddo where we only stopped briefly as we were to spend more time here on another day. From Megiddo our short drive through the Jordan Valley brought us to an ancient place called Beit Shean. Our Jewish Tour Guide Sonya was enthusiastic about the history of this area. We learned Beit Shean once guarded the main highway that crossed Jordan South of the Sea of Galilee. Excavations continue at Beit Shean where remains of 6 Egyptian Temples have been discovered. I photographed tall columns and other ruins from Roman times.
Our final destination on this eventful day was Muhraka and Mount Carmel on the coast of Palestine. Carmel is one of the most prominent mountains in the Holy Land. (Mount Hermon is the other prominent mountain).Widespread views of forest and rich green vegetation, plantations of Olive trees and distant lush landscape was truly a spectacular sight! From our lookout platform Esther and I gazed in awe at this fertile Israeli vista.
I understand why the Bible proclaims the beauty and fertility of Mount Carmel as “the excellency of Carmel.“ Isaiah 35.2. Sonya our Tour Guide showed us the area where Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal at Kishon Stream. 1 Kings 18.40
On the flat area on top of Carmel we admired the colourful Spring flowers in the Monastery Garden. This peaceful garden retreat overlooks the Western side of the Jezreel Valley.
After a 2 hour drive back to Dan Hotel Esther and I tried to process the events of this memorable day packed full with significant Biblical sites we had seen for the first time. After our evening meal at the Banqueting Hall Sid Roth spoke briefly giving glory to God for the new Messianic Jewish believers who had responded to their Messiah at the Haifa Convention Centre.
SUNDAY APRIL 14 THE WESTERN WALL
We left at 8am for the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The day was mainly sunny and warm with periods of cloud. The Western Wall is a retention wall built by Herod the Great, part of the original wall surrounding the Temple. As prophesied by Jesus no stones from the Temple were left after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. Apparently the stones were all removed to get gold!
The Western Wall is a special holy place for both Jews and muslims. Prayer at the Wall is sacred to the Jews as it is closest to the Holy of Holies. The huge Courtyard area before the Western Wall was packed with tourists as well as orthodox Jews and muslims. We found our time at the Wall a sombre experience as many serious prayers were happening with some people weeping as they prayed. No wonder it is called the Wailing Wall ! Lines of people were standing behind those who had their hands on the Wall waiting to find a space on the Wall to put their hands! By the time I found a space to put my hands it was almost time to return to the Tour Bus!
THE SOUTHERN STEPS
From this Wailing Wall our Orange Tour group were transported to the Jerusalem Archaeological Park. We walked around the extensive ruins of the old Second Temple built by Herod the Great. All our Tour group sat on the historic Southern steps for a short teaching session. These steps were once the entrance to the beautiful Temple and it was overwhelming to be told some of these steps up to the Temple still remain from the time of Jesus!
Kyan Bridges taught us about Steps of Ascension. The children of Israel would be singing Psalms as they ascended to the Temple. These Psalms of Ascent are found in Psalms 120-134. As expressed in Psalm 120 the first step was about crying to God for His help. Then we must be willing to obey His voice. Through spiritual cleansing and the power of revelation from his living Word we are enabled to rise to a new level in God. Ascending our spiritual stairway our joy in his Presence rises as we serve the Lord with gladness and reproduce to bless the next generation.
After this inspired teaching we all stood on the Southern Steps with raised arms and prayed in the Holy Spirit to receive fresh vision and direction in our walk with God.
From the entrance to the old Temple our Tour bus took us to a modern part of Jerusalem to a Mall where we were all given vouchers to buy a lunch of our choice. This was a great idea! I love the Israeli style of bread that is cooked with fruit and nuts. They have such diversity in their cuisine so it was something different to choose a take away from the food places in this modern Mall.
Later our Orange Tour bus drove us up a steep hill where we saw a modern building with a round white Insignia entitled “Embassy of United States of America.” How wonderful this Embassy is now in Jerusalem thanks to President Trump! He does some things right. Back in the old city we walked outside the Jerusalem Archaeological Park/Davidson Centre where we admired a wall that was covered with gorgeous Lilac blossoms ! Another wall in the courtyard featured a magnificent painting of life in the Old Testament Temple.
SECOND TEMPLE RUINS
We were led underground where excavations unearthed an ancient street that goes back to the time of Christ. Standing on this street where Jesus and His disciples must have walked was so special. Back above ground again we spent time walking around the extensive remarkable ruins of the old Second Temple.
DEAD SEA SCROLLS
Later at Israel Museum Sonya our Tour Guide explained details of an intricate First Century outdoor model of old Jerusalem. Finally our last historical discovery for the day was inside a Dome shaped building at this Museum. We marvelled at our privilege of being able to view the Dead Sea Scrolls which were discovered in 1947 in caves not far from the Dead Sea.
SUNDAY EVENING WORSHIP SERVICE
This had been another eventful day with so much Biblical history to absorb in such a short space of time. The evening meals were always enjoyable and relaxing. Esther and I met many interesting people from countries all over the world, but most people were from USA where Sid Roth’s Christian TV ministry is based.
This Sunday evening we attended a Worship Service at a Function Hall in our Dan Hotel. The gathering was led by leaders from Sid Roth’s ministry team and must have been the most powerful time of worship I have ever experienced. The young women leading worship got everyone involved praising God and singing in the Spirit as they repeated words of faith and proclaimed blessings over us all. People in need of healing came forward as our leaders moved powerfully in the gifts of the Spirit including healing in the Name of Jesus.
A prophesy at the end of the meeting foretold new ministry teams would be coming forth. We were exhorted to be ready for the next move of God’s power as His creative Spirit brings forth new things born of God. This wonderful time of worship brought spiritual refreshing and joy in His Presence at the end of another most memorable day in the land of Israel.
MONDAY APRIL 15 MOUNT OF OLIVES
Up early at 5am our Orange Tour group were on the bus at 7am for the Mount of Olives. The panoramic views from this site were the familiar views of Jerusalem we had seen before on postcards and photos of Jerusalem. It was a clear day with mainly cloudless skies so we were able to take a good number of photos. In the foreground of many photos are countless cream block shaped tombstones from an ancient cemetery.
The Mount of Olives is a small range of four summits. The highest summit overlooks Jerusalem and the Temple Mount from the Eastern direction across the Kidron Valley. This Mount is holy to the Jews, muslims and Christians.
On this particular day, other groups from Sid Roth’s Tour were also with us on the Mount of Olives. Group photos of each Tour group were taken against the beautiful backdrop of the city of Jerusalem. There was also one very large group photo taken with all the Tour groups in one huge photo!
PRAYER ON THE MOUNT OF OLIVES
We were privileged to have Kevin Zadai and his wife Kathi in our Orange Tour group. Kevin was one of the ministry speakers. He got our Tour group to hold hands as we prayed Christ’s prayer of John 17 that we “all may be one in Him” in the glory of our heavenly Father. We also prayed for the peace of Jerusalem. These were holy moments of prayer in one of the most holy places on earth, the Mount of Olives!
Forty days after His Resurrection Christ ascended to heaven from this mountain and at His momentous Second Coming Jesus will return to the Mount of Olives as prophesied in Zechariah 14.4 “His feet shall stand on that day on the Mount of Olives which is before Jerusalem on the East.” At the triumph of Christ’s eternal kingdom “the kingdoms of this world become the Kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign forever and ever.” Revelation 11.15.
From the Mount of Olives the extensive views over Jerusalem all appear to be of surprisingly flat terrain. However there are many steep hills and many ups and downs in the landscape of Jerusalem. It is definitely a hilly city! I purposely took a photo of Esther and others from our Tour group walking down the steep descent from the Mount of Olives. After taking this photo I just missed getting a good photo of a camel on the roadway. ( I did photograph the rear of the camel! He was wearing an embroidered red blanket and was obviously dressed to give rides.)
THE GARDEN OF GETHSEMENE
From the Mount of Olives it was just a short distance to the Garden of Gethsemene. Countless times I have read and meditated upon Christ’s prayer and travail in the Garden of Gethsemene. It was awesome to actually BE in this Garden and to gaze in wonder at those ancient Olive trees with their heavily gnarled trunks. Some of these trees have been identified as being 2000-3000 years old! Delicate white Spring flowers and lilies adorned the garden area surrounding these cherished old trees in the Olive Grove. The se were memorable moments in this holy place of prayer where Jesus chose to obey His heavenly Father and give His life as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.
Inside the nearby Church of Gethsemene we admired the beautiful golden archways and pillars with embossed figures of angels high above us between the gold arches. Colourful paintings on the walls featured scenes from the life of Christ. Outside the Church photographers were keen to photograph the beautiful artwork on the facade high above the entrance archways and pillars of this magnificent building.
THE KIDRON VALLEY
Our next venue was the Kidron Valley (on the Eastern border of Jerusalem)for a teaching session. We walked down a bumpy grassy descent from the road to the chairs that had been set up for us under the shade of a few Olive trees. Earlier that day I had photographed bright arrays of Spring Flowers in well -kept flower beds but this area of Kidron Valley was very WILD but charming in its own way!
We were surrounded by fields of long grasses, and tall unrestrained Israeli thistles that mingled with all the wild yellow daisies and red poppies! In this peaceful country setting Sid Roth shared on the glory of God where the unified flow of the Spirit from our innermost beings is like rivers of life from the throne of God! When angels come near we tangibly feel the glory of His manifest Presence.
After lunch in the more modern part of the city at a luxurious venue called ‘Wedding Banquet’, our Tour bus took us to Jaffa Gate and some village shops. We saw Herod’s Tower which is 2000 years old and an amazing piece of history. Next we began the long historic walk called Via Dolorosa!
THE VIA DOLOROSA
In contrast to the peace and isolation of the Kidron Valley venue this walk was packed with tourists. It took some effort manoeuvring our way through the narrow lanes packed with people and not losing site of Sonya’s large Orange Tour group poster some distance ahead! It would be so easy to get lost. On either side of us were shops and stalls overflowing with interesting items to sell but on this occasion we could not stop for even a moment because of the throngs of people and because we did not want to lose contact with our Tour group!
As in Jesus day throngs of people surrounded Him, and today throngs of His followers desire to walk the path of His suffering steps to Calvary.
We stopped at the beautiful Church of the Holy Sepulchre which features the last 5 Stations of the Cross inside the Church. There is uncertainty about the site of the crucifixion but many believe the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is on the site of the Golgotha Hill where Jesus was crucified and died.
Part of the Via Dolorosa is a long narrow passageway to underground excavations. It was hard to comprehend we walked on a street where Jesus would have walked as it was 2000 years old and once a main road in the city.
Via Dolorosa means’ Way of Sorrow’, the path Jesus took from the Judgement Hall to Calvary. This route passed the ruins of the Pool of Bethesda. There are extensive excavations at this site where two large pools have been unearthed and the five Porches mentioned in John 5.2. The fragments of the columns amongst the ruins are Roman architecture. Members of our Tour group took photos of an advertised possible site of the crucifixion which historically took place on a hill. This unforgettable poignant walk ended at Saint Anne’s Catholic Church which is famous for its excellent acoustics. Inside this huge Church it’s Cathedral like pillars and exalted high arches were highlighted with pink and purple lighting. What a blessing it was to relax in this inspiring place of worship and to hear some glorious singing including an African man with a magnificent rich voice singing Amazing Grace!
Before being transported back to our Hotel we were given a generous amount of time to shop in a large Souvenir Shop where I bought some gifts and mementos for myself and family.
A BAPTISMAL TANK WITH VISIBLE FIRE
Despite the fact this had been another full day Esther and I were both divinely strengthened and motivated to attend an evening meeting at 7.30 pm. Pastor Todd White preached an anointed message on the Holy Spirit and fire! He shared his Testimony how during a time of seeking God, Todd was given an open vision of the baptismal tank at his Church with visible fire on the water! !
The scripture he was given was Matthew 3.11. “He shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost and fire.” After teaching on repentance in his Church God released healing miracles through the people’s repentance. Outstanding miracles of healing happened as people were baptised and touched by the supernatural fire of the Spirit of God upon the water!
This move of God’s Spirit still continues at his Church in a rural part of the State of Texas where one third of the total population attend his Church for Baptismal Services where healing miracles happen! This is wonderful!
We give glory to God for this outpouring of His Spirit and His healing purifying fire!
TUESDAY APRIL 16
An early start for another adventure in Israel! Our Tour Bus left at 7am for a long drive North through the West Bank and the Judaean Wilderness. I was surprised at the extent of this vast desert area with its red toned rocky precipices, barren hills and wastelands. I managed to photograph from the bus a few caves high up in the hillsides and imagined maybe King David had hidden in one of these caves?
On these long drives our bus would stop for our Tour group to visit bathroom facilities. Esther photographed me in front of a long building completely covered along one side in a gorgeous array of Spring flowers (an unknown climber with abundant blooms). This oasis of beauty in a desolate wilderness area was an unexpected sight!
THE MOUNT OF BEATITUDES
We were excited to see our first glimpse of the Jordan River which I photographed from the bus. Finally arriving at the peaceful shores of the Lake of Galilee we were transported up a hill to the Mount of Beatitudes where there is a Catholic Monastery and School. What an idyllic place for a school! I took a photo of two little girls with long dark hair happily talking together as they sat on the lush green lawn under a beautiful blossom tree.
This Mount of Beatitudes is such a delightful place to visit especially in the Spring as blossom trees were in bloom as well as a variety of flower species, even roses. Walking around the cared for gardens and lawns that overlook the Lake we appreciated seeing a plaque with the words of one of the Beatitudes “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the land.” Matthew 5 5
Misty clouds hovered over the distant Lake even though the weather was mainly sunny. Later in the day I was happy to see the fog lift and the Lake became bright blue.
Our Orange Tour group sat together in a secluded corner of the gardens as our Tour Guide Sonya shared teaching on the Beatitudes. I loved her title for the Beatitudes ‘A Divine Reversal’. She explained how these teachings of Jesus go against the flow of our natural way of thinking. Our heavenly Father’s ways are so much higher than ours! We are extremely blessed if we show mercy because we shall receive mercy. In God’s economy the measure we give will be the measure we shall receive.
Personally I found the Mount of the Beatitudes one of the most idyllic places on earth. Someone from our Tour group photographed Esther and I outside the Church of the Beatitudes. Its Octagonal shape is symbolic of the eight Beatitudes.
FISHING BOAT 2000 YEARS OLD
Leaving this lovely Mount with its gardens and sea views, our Tour bus drove us around the Lake to another venue. The Lake of Galilee is very picturesque with its tall Palm trees and flowering shrubs lining much of the road around the foreshore. In Kibbutz we visited the Galilee Museum where we admired a very antique fishing boat over 2000 years old that was found at the bottom of the Lake. A short film detailed the remarkable restoration of this historic boat.
Another short drive around the shores of the Lake brought us to Capernaum where we read on a notice ‘Capernaum the town of Jesus’. This was a true statement as Capernaum became the centre of Christ’s ministry in Galilee. Here we marvelled at the ruins of a synagogue built in the third or fourth century AD. Under this synagogue was an earlier synagogue where Jesus would have taught His followers. Not far from the synagogue excavations we were shown the ruins of an insular home where all the family (including grand-parents) lived together.
The waterfront at Capernaum is attractive and peaceful and remains unspoilt by population growth. A large white cross beside a magnificent white Magnolia tree in full bloom became an ideal setting for a photo as a memory of Capernaum.
Our Tour organisers had thoughtfully given us time to pray and reflect as we sat on seats under the trees by the water’s edge. Gazing out upon the large Lake the other side was very visible and I was reminded of a theme mentioned a few times in the gospel by Jesus “let us go over to the other side.” Mark 5.35
Leaving Capernaum we were transported to another desirable seaside resort, Tiberius. Here we enjoyed a St. Peter’s Fish Lunch at a Restaurant close to the waterfront. A large Ferry was waiting for us to board at the jetty for a sail across the Lake (or Sea ) of Galilee. Esther and I sat on the upper deck and as we sailed out of the small boat harbour at Capernaum we watched another Ferry full of passengers sailing alongside us ! They were all the other passengers on the same Sid Roth Tour.
A VOYAGE ON THE LAKE OF GALILEE
Sailing across the calm water we were eager to see the townships on the other side of the Lake. To commence our journey we were blessed by an inspiring short message from God’s Word from Kevin Zadai. He reminded us how Jesus actually walked upon the waters of this Lake! He taught us how God’s willing vessels set their sails to catch the wind of His Spirit. In the next move of God’s Spirit His sons and daughters will be revealed as He manifests Himself through His Body the Church. Jesus speaks to us and moves with us by the power of His Spirit as we rise up in His delegated authority. We will know His miracle working power to walk on water in impossible situations! This was inspiring teaching to meditate upon as we sailed across the lovely Lake of Galilee! The Tour group worship leaders led us in praise and worship songs as we neared the end of our voyage. In amongst the familiar songs of the Lord came the anthem ‘God Bless America’.
Most people on the boat were from USA or Canada and they all stood and sang with patriotic passion this heartfelt prayer ‘God Bless America’. These three words were all that Esther and I knew but we did our best to join in with this song of blessing for America! As we sailed towards the shore our worship became louder and more enthusiastic! Many were dancing and waving their arms beckoning to other worshippers on the boat beside us. A truly exhilarating sailing voyage on the Sea of Galilee blessed by the manifest joy of the glorious Kingdom of Christ! His kingdom is “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Romans 14.17
Our bus ride home was late in the day. It is a long ride from the Lake of Galilee to Jerusalem. As we left the Lake I took a photo from the window of the bus that captured the bright rays of the sinking sun sparkling upon the shoreline waters of the Lake. A beautiful memory to cherish at the end of yet another eventful day! During our journey home Sonya drew our attention to the boundary fence dividing Israel from Jordan. Clearly it is a divided country. She also pointed out the plains of Jordan where God had rained fire from heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah, a sobering truth. Sonya informed us this desolate land is full of salt.
Coming near to Jerusalem I noticed plantations of Palm trees. I learned later these were Date Palms. Our breakfast table at the Hotel displayed lush looking large dates amongst the many varieties of fresh fruit and nuts.
A rosy red sunset lit up the darkening sky as we returned to our Dan Hotel in the beautiful Golden City of Jerusalem.
WEDNESDAY APRIL 17 MASADA
This morning the Orange group coach left at 7.30 am instead of the usual 7 am. This time instead of driving North we were taken South of Jerusalem towards the Dead Sea which is the lowest place on the earth! We arrived at a remarkable place called Masada, a desolate wilderness of pink toned cliffs and barren hills and waste lands with NO signs of vegetation.
Our group boarded a small sort of cable car which took us up to a very high precipice with sheer cliffs of rock below us! A short but incredible lift upwards to much higher ground! From this summit we viewed the vast excavations of King Herod’s Fortress and Palace. We loved the widespread inspiring views over the rocky landscape before us to the sunlit waters of the distant Dead Sea.
This was an exciting place to visit as we considered the remains of King Herod’s once glorious Palace and the walls of his Fortress that commanded such spectacular views in all directions.
FRIENDLY BLACK RAVENS
High up in this elevated Lookout the only signs of life were the black Ravens! ! Clearly this was their territory which we were invading. A family group of these black Ravens chose to be hospitable. They fluttered around our Tour group as we gathered with Sonya in a sheltered alcove of massive rock formations. Sonya taught us (and the inquisitive Ravens) about Herod the Great and all his building projects. She told us this mountain top Fortress of Masada was the last stronghold of the Jewish rebellion against Roman rule. I think Ravens are special. After all when God commanded them to feed Elijah by the brook Cherith they obeyed! 1 Kings 17.3,4. Jesus taught us to “Consider the Ravens” and how God feeds them. Luke 12.24
Later as I looked at the brief filming clips of this gathering with the Ravens I noticed Bob from Texas was feeding one friendly Raven. This made me smile! Esther and I saw a lot of Bob as he was often at the rear of our Tour group taking extra photos (like I did) of flowers and birds!
Happy photos of Esther and I were taken from the exalted high places of Masada Summit where beyond the barren hills and plains is the backdrop of the Dead Sea.
THE DEAD SEA
The Dead Sea was our next destination. We arrived at an attractive tourist venue beside the Dead Sea where there were showers and changing facilities. To protect my feet I wore my flat comfortable black shoes when I walked into the muddy waters of the Dead Sea. I was not prepared for one leg to disappear down a mud hole! This was an unexpected predicament but Esther was on hand to pull me out of the hole! After that I decided to hold onto a safety rope as I enjoyed the relaxing experience of lying on my back floating in the Dead Sea.
This Sea is rich in minerals as well as salt. It was entertaining to watch young children (and some adults) sitting in the mud by the shore and coating themselves with the healing properties of Dead Sea mud! After sinking into Dead Sea mud my once comfortable black shoes became stiff, salty and unwearable. I call them my Dead Sea shoes! By 2 pm we were back on the bus for a drive to a Baptismal venue on the Jordan River. Historically this is the place where John the Baptist baptised as it used to be the crossroads between Jordan and Israel. This would have been a very public place in the days of John the Baptist.
BAPTISMS IN THE RIVER JORDAN
Many from our Tour group were baptised including Esther. One of the ministry team who were baptising was Todd White who had testified about the fire of God upon the baptismal tank in his Church at an evening meeting. Many who were baptised in the Jordan River were touched by the fire of God. It was an awesome sight to see people overcome by the Presence of the Lord as they rested (floating) by the riverbank before being helped out of the water!
This particular day April 17 other groups from Sid Roth’s Tour were also baptised. An earlier group testified to seeing a white dove fly over those being baptised. There were also testimonies of miracles of healing by the fire of God’s Spirit upon the waters of baptism. This baptismal day was a holy occasion with the Spirit of peace bearing witness to His Presence by sending a white dove, a symbol of peace and divine favour.
However as I watched the baptisms I noticed something that was in direct contrast to God’s peace! Yellow markers on the other side of the narrow Jordan River showed the boundary between Israel and Jordan. Near a small building on the Jordan territory I was surprised to see a Jordan soldier carrying a long rifle!
A MESSAGE ON HOLY FRAGRANCE
That evening after dinner at the Hotel Esther and I attended a gathering that brought together most of the different groups from Sid Roth’s Tour. Again the worship time ushered us into the beautiful rest and peace of the manifest Presence of the Lord. Dianne Knutt shared her powerful Testimony. After years of pain and suffering she was miraculously healed by the Lord and now ministers the Word of God in a healing ministry. Dianne spoke a very inspiring and beautiful message from God’s Word on the fragrance of Christ’s healing Presence. Followers of Jesus are called to manifest the fragrance of His life giving Presence and the knowledge of His love wherever we go.
THURSDAY APRIL 18 THE GARDEN TOMB
Today was mainly sunny with a cooler temperature. Instead of an early 7am start the Coach left at 8 am for the famous Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. Our Orange Tour Group enjoyed the relaxing walk through the scented Spring gardens and tall shady trees on the way to this significant site.
Many steps led down to an open area of pavement stones brightened by tubs of vividly coloured Pansies. Jewish style The Garden Tomb was cut into rock on a small hill located North of Damascus Gate. The tomb is believed to have belonged to Joseph of Arimathea. Sonya believed this most likely was Joseph’s tomb where they had laid the Body of Jesus. She told us very few tombs had a wall on the left. The Bible records that the angel was on the right side of the empty grave. Guarded by iron railing the tomb has a sign with letters in red on the wall I am yet to discover their meaning!
From the wonder of visiting The Garden Tomb the bus took us to the Room of the Last Supper. This historic Catholic building built in the Middle Ages is on the site where in Christian tradition Jesus partook the Passover meal just before His crucifixion.
THE CHURCH OF SAINT PETER
We then walked down a steep hill overlooking the old City to the Church of St. Peter. This Church has beautiful architecture and is the traditional site of the Palace of Caiaphas the High Priest at the time of Jesus arrest and trial. We were surprised to see a white ornamental Rooster attached to the top of the cross on the grey dome of the Church!
After looking inside this magnificent Church we were led to underground caves under the Church building. In these caves (once a prison) near Caiaphas Palace Jesus would have been scourged and detained by the chief priests. These caves were excavated through walls of rock. From these gloomy prison rooms and tunnels we looked down into the Sacred Pit (Dungeon) where three Byzantine crosses were engraved into the rock.
Outside the Church of St Peter an attractive courtyard presented lovely views of old Jerusalem with the distinctive gold Dome of the Rock visible on the skyline. This courtyard features a number of bronze statues around a tall pillar. On top of this pillar is an ornamental large sized Rooster symbolic of Peter’s unforgettable denial of the Lord.
Peter and Roosters tell their own story of Peter’s fall from grace and Jesus loving forgiveness and restoration of his life. After the outpouring of the Spirit on the Day pf Pentecost Peter became a very powerful witness for the Lord. His witness lives on in the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles written in his name.
THE HOLOCAUST MUSEUM
So far this Thursday had been a momentous day visiting such historic sites connected with Christ’s sacrificial death as “our Passover Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” Revelation 13. 8. Following lunch at the Hotel we visited a special place also fraught with great suffering and trauma. The Holocaust Museum is in a beautiful setting on The Hill of Remembrance overlooking Jerusalem. Plantations of Pine, Fir and Cypress trees surround the magnificent hilltop Memorial building with its frontage walls of windows. 2000 trees have been planted to honour the courageous non Jewish people who risked their lives to rescue Jews at the time of the Holocaust.
We spent one hour inside the Museum where displays of photos, historic records and filming testified to the horrors of the Holocaust where 6 million innocent Jewish people were killed. Because of the vast size of the Museum we only had time to read the headings on the display posters.
It was a sad and solemn experience learning about the reality of the Holocaust. If we had spent more time reading more graphic details I am sure Esther and I would have been even more traumatised by this visit to the Holocaust Museum.
We are glad our Tour included this informative visit as the Holocaust is history we need to know about. As God’s chosen race all the Jewish people affected by the Holocaust need to be remembered and honoured.
THE CHILDREN’S TERRACE
Outside the Museum the beauty of the terraced gardens and lush green forested hillsides brought nature’s healing balm and the assurances of the Holy Spirit our Comforter that “Our God reigns”. We took photos of ‘The Children’s Terrace’ where a large memorial plaque had been placed amongst the scented Rosemary plants. Sonya had educated us about a brave soldier of the Lord Janusz Korczak who rescued Jewish children and fed and cared for them. Sadly all his rescued children were eventually found and captured and Janusz and his beloved children all died together in the gas chambers. 1.5 million children were killed during the Holocaust.
Carved brass statues of a group of sad faced starving children form a poignant Memorial of these heroes of faith (Hebrews 11) in ‘The Children’s Terrace.’ Their much loved Janusz Korczak is in the centre of the children with his comforting arm around them. “Our God reigns.“ He gives beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning…. that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He might be glorified.” Isaiah 61.3. Every tree planted in the extensive grounds surrounding the Museum is a memorial to all those killed in the Holocaust.
Isaiah 55.13 illustrates the symbolism of God replacing ashes of grief, destruction and death for the beauty and glory of His righteous eternal kingdom. “Instead of the thorn shall come up the Fir tree and instead of the brier shall come up the Myrtle tree and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Despite the onslaught of Satanic works of darkness and the atrocities of the Holocaust the multitude of evergreen trees at the Holocaust Museum become an everlasting sign of the growth and glory of the Kingdom of Christ. “Death is swallowed up in VICTORY.” 1 Corinthians 15. 54-57
PASSOVER SEDER MEAL
Back at the Hotel late afternoon we prepared for a Passover Seder meal at 6.30 pm. Candles at all the tables enhanced the significance of this special occasion held in the Banqueting Hall in our Dan Hotel. This Seder Passover was the most memorable Communion Service I had ever attended! Sid Roth’s insight and understanding of the New Testament Memorial we call Communion was very beautiful and enlightening.
Sid Roth spent his childhood in a Jewish home and had experienced how the yearly Passover was such a momentous event, a Remembrance Feast of Israel’s deliverance out of slavery in Egypt. Sid explained with such simplicity how the Jewish Exodus from Egypt related to Jesus our Passover Lamb and our deliverance from the power of sin and Satan through faith in His blood.
The four cups of a Messianic Passover stand for each of the four promises the Lord made to His people in Exodus 6. 6,7. Under the New Covenant Messianic Jews consider the third cup of redemption celebrates Christ’s redeeming sacrifice. The third cup is also the cup of blessing or Communion cup as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10.16. “The cup of blessing which we bless is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?” The fourth cup is symbolic of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb when Jesus returns for His Bride. Matthew 26.29.
Following Sid’s message, powerful prophetic Words and prayers came forth which included prayers for Israel. During and after we had finished our Seder meal the holy Presence of Jesus was with us in a tangible way. During worship I was given revelation of His “Highway of Holiness” a truth relating to the Preparations of the Bride of Christ. Along with all our Tour guests we stood in worship by our tables and reached out to the Lord to receive healing and spiritual refreshing.
After such a dramatic day visiting heart rending Biblical places plus the Holocaust Museum this was an awesome and unforgettable evening! I was reminded of Psalm 23.5 ‘You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil. My cup runs over.” At our Lord’s Passover meal we experienced the superabundance of God’s grace and goodness and the overflowing mercies of the oil of the Spirit of Christ – His overload of spiritual blessings!
FRIDAY APRIL 19 THE OLD CITY OF DAVID
Today was a free day so Esther and I decided to explore the old City of David. The Arab taxi driver took some time trying to understand where the City of David was located, his English was not very good. Reached via hilly terrain the entrance area of the old City of David featured an attractive courtyard with limestone walls. Bright displays of flowers flourished all along the tops of these quite high walls. I also enjoyed seeing tubs of lilac coloured Pansies and a row of tall Cypress trees (shaped into narrow tubes of green foliage) that reached high into the bright blue sky!
Steep steps led us down to remarkable excavations where posters with scriptures gave details about historic remains from the time of King Zedekiah. One area of excavation uncovered items that have been identified as from the House of Cedar – King David’s House (Palace). 2 Samuel 5.11
We looked at a large Poster which records a verse from Jeremiah 30.18 “The city shall be rebuilt on its mound and the Fortress in its proper place”. This scripture seems to refer to the inhabitants of ancient Jerusalem (the old City of David) building their homes on this hillside. Part of a huge stepped stone structure is in this area of excavations and this structure supported King David’s Palace.
On our walk down this steep hillside we read another poster with an appropriate scripture from Isaiah 22.16. The prophet Isaiah spoke about Shebna carving his tomb out of the cliffs in Jerusalem. “O you who have hollowed out an abode for yourself in the cliff…” Isaiah 22.15,16
Personally seeing and walking down this hillside in the ancient part of Jerusalem bears witness to the above verses on cliffs! Esther and I were surprised by this steep terrain leading down to the Kidron Valley. The next poster we saw was entitled ‘ Ancient Tomb Lookout – Ancient Cemetery of Jerusalem.’ It explained how ‘The Kidron Valley is the boundary between the living in the City of David and the dead buried on the Mount of Olives across the way.’
It is amazing that 50 burial caves (part of the cemetery during the first Temple period) have been surveyed. This Ancient Cemetery poster has an illustration showing the Tomb entrance ways below the present homes on the Mount of Olives hillside. These old limestone coloured buildings are square shaped and stacked one on top of the other, most are several stories high and some look derelict.
Our descent came to a notice pointing to Hezekiah’s Tunnel, a place we were both interested to explore. The Gihon Spring was once Jerusalem’s main water system. A protected passageway led to this water source. Because this spring was near the bottom of the Eastern slope it was left outside the city walls.
Gihon spring water was first drawn from an ancient water system, Warren’s Shaft. Later King Hezekiah diverted water from the Gihon Spring through an underground tunnel to the Pool of Siloam on the West side of the City of David, 2 Chronicles 32.30, 2 kings 20.20. I gleaned this information from notices in Hezekiah’s Tunnel.
Esther and I were completely on our own when we entered Hezekiah’s Tunnel. The route through sheer rock walls had many steps and safety rails and was dark except for lights here and there beside informative posters.
We came to a cave where I sat on a rock for a photo. The cave was pleasantly lit up by a yellow glow of lamp light. Further on through the tunnel we were interested to read a large illustrated Poster showing this exact place was where all the Kings of Judah were anointed at the Gihon Spring. This was so interesting and amazing!
THE GIHON SPRING
Highlighted by soft blue light an area of huge rocks next to this Notice indicated the foundations of a large stone Tower built to protect the Gihon Spring that issued beneath it. This spring water once flowed through a hewn channel at the base of the Tower to a large fortified pool nearby. This Poster also informed us that the remnants of walls seen at this place were actually from walls constructed to protect a secret path to access water from the pool in time of war. David captured Zion from the Jebusites and apparently stood opposite this Fortress. The Notice quotes 2 Samuel 5.6
Walking through this long dark tunnel it was exciting to suddenly hear the sound of water! Unlike the bustle of other days on Tour with a very knowledgeable and helpful Guide we were totally on our own for this Tunnel adventure. The noise of gushing water was a welcome sound! We took several photos of ourselves on a narrow bridge in almost total darkness except for the sight of a soft blue light highlighting the torrents of water below us.
We soon arrived at an area of the Tunnel called the Wet Route. Its narrow low entrance looked forbidding. One would have to bend over double and crawl which would be O.K. if you were only a few metres tall! By the forceful sound of the rushing water there must have been quite a volume and intensity of water flowing towards its destination, the Pool of Siloam.
Later we talked with a brave strong looking pastor (from our Tour) who went on this Wet Route of Hezekiah’s Tunnel. He admitted it was scary as he had to wade through waist deep water !
We found an exit in the Tunnel and it was a relief to be out of the rocky hillside to a quiet part of the old city where no tourists, not one person was in sight! This was so unusual. Later several people passed us on the path up from the Kidron Valley but they were the only people we saw apart from a small Arab boy.
THE POOL OF SILOAM
My first question to Esther when we emerged into daylight was ‘Where is the Pool of Siloam?’ Scriptures about the Pool of Siloam were of significance to me so it was important for me to know the site of this ancient pool where Jesus healed the blind man.
In answer to my second question ‘I wonder where is the Pool of Siloam?’ suddenly God answered my request and a young Arab boy appeared before me very keen to help us. He was excited to show us where the Pool of Siloam was as he told us he lives just above it! We heard his father calling for him from the hillside above us, (maybe concerned his son was with strangers).
A very short distance from our exit out of the Tunnel, the boy led us down some steps at the rear of a nearby building. At the bottom of these steps we saw a heavily barred gate in a stone wall. Only pitch darkness was visible through the bars of this ancient entrance to the Pool of Siloam. This was obviously not a place tourists visit as there was no notice to indicate this gate led to the Pool of Siloam. However I was happy to personally see its location. I thanked God for sending us an Arab boy, the only person around at the time in this unique part of Kidron Valley.
As evidenced by scripture the Pool of Siloam was once in king David’s garden. We had emerged out of the tunnel under the steep hillside where King David had built his Palace and other houses on the cliffs. We found ourselves on a narrow path between two steep hillsides – a landscape that was like being at the bottom of a big letter V !
KING DAVID’S WILD GARDEN
I learned later that the path we were on was once the Kidron Stream! I imagined King David’s garden must have extended across the Kidron Stream to the slopes of one side of the Mount of Olives ( a scripture I recently found confirms this). This walk along a narrow path in between hillsides (whose lower slopes were clothed with long rampant grass) was surprisingly wild!! Above the banks (where the Arab boy lived) we noticed a settlement of homes extending along the tops of the hills and thought this must be an Arab area.
Walking up the gradual incline of this path towards the City of David the grassy banks each side of us became a delightful sea of colourful wild flowers flowing as gentle waves in the breeze. I photographed dramatic displays of rich red Israeli poppies and clusters of sunlit yellow daisies that mingled with the long decorative floating grasses. Splashes of white daisies and the occasional purple flower of thistles added their buoyant waves of colour to this sea of wild flowers.
This relaxing walk ministered nature’s balm and beauty to us during this eventful day exploring the City of David. The solitude of this part of the Kidron Valley was a big contrast to the heavily populated tourist places we had visited on previous days of our Tour. This historic area with its mementos of King David’s Palace and garden has its own unforgettable charm.
Each side of a path that was once a stream in King David’s garden, now hosts ancient wild flowers that have been left to multiply and reproduce over many centuries leaving a floral memorial of former times.
Our path gradually became steeper as old limestone buildings came into view on our left. To our surprise on the slopes of the Mount of Olives (on our right) we saw a large tomb like structure hewn from stone. The notice identified it as Zechariah’s tomb even though it was never used for burial but as a monument for a burial complex attributed to Zechariah the prophet. This monument dates to the end of the second Temple period (first century BC). The columns and capitals are Greek architectural style. Its facade has inscriptions carved by Jewish pilgrims in various periods.
The banks below this antique stone structure featured a colourful display of yellow flowers mingling with the distinctive vivid red of Israel’s wild Poppies.
A SURPRISE AROUND A CORNER
By now our path began to take a turn and what a surprise greeted us as we turned this corner in the direction of the old city of Jerusalem! Tucked into the hillside on our left were two large camels! They were contentedly chewing on the long grass and were not far from our path.
As I took a few photos I talked to the front camel and must have expressed my joy at finding these camels so unexpectedly! I am only used to seeing them in a Zoo. The camel nearest to us responded to my attention by entertaining us the best way he could! He moved his jaw from right to left in a comical fashion and then opened his mouth to display his very jagged looking teeth!
I believe this was his ‘ camel way’ of laughing because we were laughing! His teeth were an amazing sight as they were so large!!
From laughter with the camels we turned our attention to the other side of the path where there was a tall monument and other ancient stone structures. We read on the nearest notice ‘Absalom’s Tomb’ dates back to the end of the second Temple period. The style is typical of Jewish art at the end of the Second Temple period. The interior of the Monument is hollow and contains a staircase and a burial niche.’ In many commentaries Absalom’s Tomb is called Absalom’s Pillar.
2 Samuel 18.18 records this pillar “Now Absalom in his lifetime had reared up for himself a pillar which is in the King’s dale (valley)”. My old Thomson’s reference Bible has a photo of Absalom’s pillar in the Kidron Valley. They record ‘This monument may have been carved by Absalom and his men …outer adornments were probably added at a later date.’
2 Samuel 18.18 confirms King David’s garden extended across the Kidron Stream to the slopes of the Mount of Olives where his beloved son constructed this pillar seen by both Esther and myself. King David must be my favourite Bible character and his Psalms continue to be a huge source of inspiration and blessing. Seeing such a relic of history (Absalom’s Tomb) was both exciting and almost overwhelming!
Next to Absalom’s Pillar we saw some other very ancient limestone structures. Another notice was headed ‘Jehoshaphat’s Cave. A burial complex from the second Temple period….This part of the Kidron Valley is the Biblical Valley of Jehoshaphat’.
Just recently I discovered an end time prophecy in Joel 3.2 will take place in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. 2 Chronicles 20 describes how Jehoshaphat King of Judah sought the Lord and how God Himself fought against the enemies of Israel .Verse 15 is a well known phrase, ‘the battle belongs to the Lord’.
These incredible monuments from Biblical history brought us to the end of our path and up onto steps leading back to the entrance area of the City of David. While finding a taxi stand I photographed the old Jerusalem City wall next to the dominant grey Dome of a Muslim mosque.
This free day exploring the old City of David has many happy memories and many photos to record our adventures. That evening during our hotel meal back at the Banqueting Hall, Esther and I enjoyed having fellowship with two ladies (one was Polish) from other groups on the same Sid Roth Tour. We met so many interesting people at the meal tables during our Tour. We enjoyed talking to one lady from Tauranga, New Zealand and also met a couple from Adelaide Australia.
SATURDAY APRIL 20 TEL MEGIDDO
Our hotel alarm got us up at 5 am keen to participate in our last organised day trip on Tour. We left at 7am on our Orange Tour Bus for Tel Megiddo. It was a long drive North on a route not far from the coast. Tel Megiddo was one of the key entrances to the Jezreel Valley and is steeped in history.
Our group stopped on a rise amongst excavations and massive walls of rock beside a Notice entitled ‘The City Gate.’ Our Tour Guide Sonya explained how this ancient City Gate is being restored to its former condition. This Gate was from the time of the Kings of Israel, a very long time ago!
We then walked along a path where many stately Palm trees were a picturesque feature in an extensive flat area of excavations. We marvelled that these historic remains were of the Northern Palace and Fortress dated to the days of King Solomon in the tenth century BC.
A short walk brought us to a hilltop lookout in Megiddo with widespread views of the Jezreel Valley. Sonya pointed out the direction of Nazareth which overlooks the Jezreel Valley. 1 kings 9.15 records how Megiddo was fortified by King Solomon. “King Solomon raised a levy…to build the wall of Jerusalem and Hazer and Megiddo.”
From Megiddo the panorama of the Jezreel Valley before us was a magnificent sight. When we visited, this valley looked lush and predominantly green with its Olive tree plantations and fields of crops and grain. These vast plains are rich in their wealth of agricultural produce. I recall a prophecy in Isaiah 27.6. “Israel shall blossom and bud and fill the face of the world with fruit”. Megiddo’s Valley of Jezreel has been called the battlefield of nations. History records it has been the centre of many conflicts and battles mentioned in the Bible. Judges 5.19 records how ”the kings of Canaan fought by the waters of Megiddo.” Josiah fought in the valley-plain of Megiddo (2 Chronicles 35.22). Megiddo is called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon and will be where nations will gather for the final battle of the ages at the Second Coming of Christ. Revelation 16.14-21
The Battle of Armageddon is called “the Battle of that great Day of God Almighty…And He gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.” Revelation 16. 14, 16.
As we surveyed Megiddo’s vast landscape we sensed these were historic moments standing in the very location of what scripture records as the place for the final end time Battle. At Armageddon on the great Day of the Coming of Christ to judge the earth, He will bring the fall of ante Christ and all evil powers of darkness. After the downfall of spiritual wickedness will be heard the Alleluia chorus in heaven!
“Alleluia, salvation and glory, and honour and power unto the Lord our God for true and righteous are His judgements.” Revelation 19. 1, 2.
Our next destination was Caesarea’s National Park which was South of Megiddo and towards the Coast. One amazing feature of this Park by the sea is the remarkable excavation of the Quesaria Amphitheatre.
Esther and I took photos of each other in this huge Amphitheatre with the backdrop of tiered rows of seats extending upwards to the sky. I counted about 24 rows of seats in a semicircle. Built by the Romans these seats were 2000 years old.
Our Tour group sat on these historic seats while hearing an anointed message from Kevin Zadai that included Paul’s Holy Spirit revelation received from God’s Word while in chains in Caesarea. It is mind blowing to contemplate that the apostle Paul had preached in this Amphitheatre as well as Peter and other disciples.
This Amphitheatre was built by Herod the Great between 22 and 10 BC. As the Romans had embraced Greek culture, music performances and Greek tragedies in plays were hosted here. Politics was taught and here the people worshipped Herod as King .When Herod was living in Caesarea he was on his throne receiving adulation as deity. The angel of the Lord smote him because he did not give God the glory and as recorded in Acts 12.22,23 “he was eaten of worms”.
While in Caesarea Sonya gave us some interesting facts from history about this city by the sea. Herod the Great desired Caesarea to be a bigger city than Alexandria in Egypt. Before Caesarea Jaffa was the most important port. I am so glad we visited Jaffa (Joppa in the Bible!)
Acts 10 describes how Cornelius a Roman centurion in Caesarea received vision from God to send for Peter who was living by the sea in Joppa. As a result of Peter’s message the Holy Spirit first fell upon the Gentiles in Caesarea. During the first century, history records how Caesarea (a pagan city) turned to the Lord.
RUINS OF KING HEROD’S PALACE
As our Tour group moved towards the seashore I photographed a colourful display of pink and yellow rock daisies. With the bright blue splendour of the Mediterranean Sea before us, it is an unforgettable memory to recall the circular limestone pillars that rise up amongst the ruins of Herod’s Palace. We walked in wonder amongst these excavated ruins of King Herod’s once glorious Palace. Surprisingly close to the white foamed line of the sea shore and rock pools, we saw an interesting area of floor covering from the Palace. The mosaic design of one corner of this floor is remarkably well preserved!
Near to these remains of flooring from the Palace, a Notice informed us how the sand had helped preserve the Eastern wing of the Palace which once had a swimming Pool. We photographed an upright slab of rock a distance from the seashore. This truly is an amazing relic from the era of Pontius Pilate!
Inscribed into the rock are the words’ tiberie’ with ‘ius Pilate’. A few more letters or numbers are not very visible. Pontius Pilate presided over the trial of Jesus (Matthew 27.11-26).The inscription is in Latin because of the Romanization of Caesarea at the time. History records Pilate making a memorial to Tiberius.
During this walk close to the shores of the Mediterranean we came to an area believed to be King Herod’s Court. Here we saw the remains of the Court room where Paul was tried and sent to Rome. He had been imprisoned in Caesarea for 2 years (Acts 14).While in chains he wrote his inspired letters to the Churches.
Near this Court room area is a white marble plaque headed’ I appeal unto Caesar’. Portions of scripture are under this heading about Paul’s defence before Festus. Acts 25. 11,12,23. Underneath the scriptures is recorded ‘In 58 AD the apostle Paul was sent to Caesarea to be tried by the governor… and heard at the Emperor’s Court…’ This Court must be ” the place of hearing (court room)” mentioned in Acts 25.23.
THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA
Our walk near the seashore was exhilarating finding historic treasures, but also invigorating facing the salty gusts of the bracing wind from the Mediterranean Sea! A member of our Tour group took a happy photo of Esther and I with the backdrop of mounds of yellow rock daisies and the blue sea. This photo shows our hair being blown about by the strong wind of this exposed coastline. The day was sunny with blue skies and large white cumulous clouds that seemed to harmonise with the snow white foam that tipped the strong waves surging to the shore.
What made this visit to places of significance in Caesarea so special was the fact so many remarkable sites have been excavated beside such a mighty and famous ocean!
This Mediterranean Sea coastline is spectacular in its strength and beauty and bears witness to the majestic works of our great God and Creator. I think of Psalm 96.11 “Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad. Let the sea roar and the fullness thereof.”
Further along the Beach we walked to another astonishing site uncovered by archaeologists. Many tiers of seating form a massive semicircle before a vast arena once used for chariot races. Caesarea was a chariot city. 2 Chronicles 9.25 records 4010 stalls for horses and chariots in a chariot city.
I photographed the length of the seafront in front of the arena and excavated tiers of seating. A long line of white flags billowed in the wind close to the shoreline. I could imagine the excitement of the crowds in this Hippodrome watching the horses and chariots race along the expansive length of this seafront of golden sand! The thunderous sound of the horse’s hooves and whirling chariot wheels must have been awe inspiring!
Before we left this site by the magnificent Mediterranean Sea, Sonya suggested we might like to put our feet or at least our hands into the foam tossed waters of this famous ocean. With cold wet Mediterranean hands we took our last longing look back at this great spectacular ocean as we walked past the Hippodrome and other excavations to our Tour Bus.
This visit to Caesarea was certainly a highlight of our Tour of Israel. From the bus we caught glimpses of the high rise buildings and sky scrapers of the City of Caesarea.
A LAUGHING WALL
A short distance inland from Caesarea we stopped at a Restaurant for a late lunch. Providentially the table where Esther and I were seated was alongside a low wall that looked onto a lawn with small tables and chairs, an outdoor part of the restaurant. Jerusalem has many walls. I was not in the city long enough to be able to name all the walls correctly and their location.
However this Restaurant wall that separated part of the indoor Restaurant from its outdoor lawn area was significantly different. For all cat lovers this wall became a wall of light entertainment during our delicious lunch!
I saw very few dogs and cats in Jerusalem, the cats I did see seemed to be suffering a life of hardship as they were lean and deprived looking. To my surprise as we began our meal two cute cat faces appeared above the wall beside us ! They looked expectantly at our food table. The man across the table tossed a piece of chicken over the wall and the cats disappeared for a short time.
Soon a smart black and white cat face appeared above the wall followed by its grey and white companion. These two cats presented their faces above the wall off and on during the meal as’ the cat lover’ man at our table forfeited his chicken to feed them. I must admit I also tossed a piece of chicken over the wall! Unlike Jerusalem’s Wailing Wall there was much hilarity at our ‘cat faces wall’ lunch table. “A merry heart does good like a medicine”. Proverbs 17.22
This memorable day had been packed with almost an overload of incredible historical sites and so much information to absorb.
FINAL RIDE OF OUR TOUR
This was the last day of our unforgettable Tour of Israel so our bus ride from Caesarea to Jerusalem was our final ride.
One beautiful aspect of our bus journeys was our morning devotions. Every morning as we set off from our Dan hotel on another adventure, Kevin Zadai shared an inspiring message from God’s Word. He would then pray God’s blessings and divine protection over us all during each day’s activities.
At the end of this day April 20 on our final trip back to Jerusalem, Kevin Zadai invited people to share Testimonies by using the microphone at the front of the bus. This was a wonderful opportunity for everyone to hear some outstanding Testimonies for the glory of God. Many people from our Tour expressed gratitude to Sonya our gifted Jewish Tour Guide who excelled in communicating her knowledge of God’s Word and Biblical history.
By the end of this last ride on our Orange Tour Bus thanksgiving and laughter filled the bus as we arrived back at our Dan Hotel. Some from our group left the hotel early evening but most were present for our last dinner meal at the Banqueting Hall. Esther and I farewelled some of the wonderful Christian people we had met at previous meal tables.
Esther and I had booked our last two nights in Israel at a Christian hostel in the old part of the city. However as we were double booked at Dan Hotel (and paid for) we were happy to spend one final night there and just one night at our Christian hostel .
SUNDAY APRIL 21 EASTER SUNDAY
After a final farewell to the luxury of our Dan Hotel a taxi took us to Christ Church Hostel near Jaffa Gate. This small Christian hotel was homely with comfortable accommodation overlooking the cobblestoned courtyard and gardens full of colourful Spring flowers.
OUR SHOPPING EXPERIENCES
This was our last full day in Jerusalem so Esther and I were both keen to explore the shops in this ancient part of the city. Some shops were the most amazing shops I had ever seen. One tiny sweet store was such a colourful and delightful sight. Its walls and shelves artistically displayed a huge range of sweets and dried fruits all brightly packaged.
We could have spent ages in a large jewellery shop where strings of sparkling beads were draped over antique items of furniture, vases, urns and gold embellished mirrors. All items were handmade. This incredible shop was a treasure trove of both jewellery and handcrafted vessels of brass and pottery embossed with elaborate designs.
We manoeuvred our way down many narrow lanes (tightly packed with people) with shops each side of us overflowing with items to sell! Beautifully designed carpet strips, shawls and other garments hung above us or extended out into our narrow walking space. No good to be in a hurry battling down these ‘packed with people’ lanes! We did venture into a number of shops. In one shop we were quickly presented with special ‘sale price’ items. I am not used to bargaining down the price but Esther was more used to this custom and got the price down on two delightful Jerusalem city cushion covers I liked.
We walked through an impressive archway in a wall entitled The Temple Mount which is called Mount Moriah in the Bible. This Temple Mount entrance has three arches. Near this location we found the Immanuel Christian Shop which was close to our accommodation. Sonya had recommended this shop where she said we won’t be overcharged! This beautiful shop had a huge range of souvenirs of Jerusalem as well as books and very unique scripture based gift items. I loved so many items in this shop especially the light polyester scarves with doves and Song of Solomon texts.
Thank the Lord this Sunday was the only day during the tour when there were a few downpours of rain! The temperature was also cooler. We tried to get inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre but had to give up on this idea when we saw a sea of umbrellas! Large crowds of people were squashed together outside the place of worship holding umbrellas. If one tried to move there was the danger of being poked by an umbrella!
We only had time to visit the outskirts of the newer part of Jerusalem City. This newer area of the city (where we enjoyed a toasted sandwich for lunch) resembled any other modern city. The old part of the city with its fascinating stone walls and amazing architecture is full of history. There was so much to see and absorb in such a short time! I am thankful that I took so many photos that help retain memories of all the exciting places we visited on our Tour.
A RESURRECTION EVENING SERVICE
Back at our hostel we attended the Resurrection Sunday Evening Service at Christ Church which is next to our accommodation. This magnificent historic Anglican Church has wonderful acoustics. Esther and I were very blessed by the anointed ministry of the worship team which consisted of talented singers and pianist, as well as gifted violin players and guitarists.
The Church service was only partly a traditional Anglican service and catered for the many visitors and tourists who had come to celebrate Resurrection Sunday in Jerusalem, God’s chosen holy City. Many worshipped the Lord with raised arms and joy in the Holy Spirit. I loved the Communion part of the service. Receiving the bread and wine at the altar were holy moments blessed by the harmonising voices of the music team singing “He is risen”. The minister’s message majored on the truth that the Resurrection is all about the Person of Jesus. It is the risen Jesus who changes lives by the power of the Resurrection life of the Holy Spirit. How true this is.
On the theme of the Resurrection it was the manifest Presence and resurrection life of Jesus that was with Esther and I during the entire time of this Israeli Tour. I would not normally be awake five minutes before the alarm sounded at 5 am each morning as I am not an early riser! The resurrection life of the Holy Spirit within us gave us the stamina to cope with every day’s schedule as well as attending the night meetings.
The overshadowing presence and protection of the Lord was with everyone on our Tour. We greatly appreciate the prayers and dedication of Sid Roth and his team for preparing such a well organised Spirit led, amazing Tour of the Holy Land!
Today was sadly our final evening in Jerusalem. Rows of sparkling lights enlightened the trees and greenery in the garden outside our rooms in the hostel. Esther took a few photos of myself amongst the lit up foliage in the garden.
MONDAY APRIL 22 CHRIST CHURCH HOSTEL
The large dining room at Christ Church hostel provided us with a magnificent breakfast. We could help ourselves to a wide variety of menus even deserts like Apple Strudel. Israeli restaurants also have supplementary fruits (fresh and dried) and a large assortment of nuts. Their loaves of bread cooked with fruit are unique and delicious.
Before leaving the dining room I photographed a large oil painting displayed on one of the walls. This painting is very old and depicted what looked like the walled city of Jerusalem in Bible times. Steep green hills below the city walls slope down into a deep green valley. The foreground of this very wide painting has wonderful detail of shepherds and their sheep, and even two riders on camels. A remarkable and historic piece of art work.
A TAXI DRAMA
Leaving Christ Church hostel for Tel Aviv airport was not without drama. We had ordered a taxi to pick us up on the road outside the Christ Church hostel building. The street was cobblestoned with the limestone walls and archways of the Temple Mount across the road.
Standing there with all our suitcases and bags we watched a continual stream of Jewish families walking up the gradual ascent to their Synagogue. There must have been hundreds of mainly family groups, parents pushing prams or holding their children’s hands. Most of the men wore black high crowned bowler hats and were dressed in black, the women were not limited by colour and were dressed in a variety of styles.
For orthodox Jewish men their hats define their level of authority. I could see hats are a serious and honoured accessory! I did take one photo of a family group as one of the men’s hats was quite extraordinary. It was a huge round high hat with no brim and made of fur. The shape of the top of the hat (like a bird’s nest) was hollow in the middle. The Jewish name for this unique hat is ‘shtreimel’.
I was impressed by the purpose upon the faces of all these orthodox Jewish families, a desire to get to their House of God on time! I thought of the inspiring scripture “Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord to the House of the God of Jacob.” Isaiah 2.3
A PROCESSION AND URGENT PRAYER
Esther and I became almost mesmerised watching this procession of people, so it was some time before we realised the road must be closed! Unable to contact the taxi man the only thing to do was to make our way down the hill with all our luggage.
Esther went ahead with two very heavy suitcases and I struggled behind her with more bags, one quite heavy. We realised the situation had become urgent as we needed to get to the airport on time to book in our departure flights. Esther up ahead of me shouted ‘Don’t panic. Pray’. I did pray while I hobbled down the hill behind Esther, laden with luggage and coping with a painful blister.
Manoeuvring between the Jewish people ascending the road we finally descended down many steps to a roadway. Our experience in Jerusalem had shown us taxis are not always easy to get in Jerusalem. Twice we had needed to wait for some time before a taxi was available (once the delay was because of traffic jams).
On this occasion God answered our desperate prayer for transport to the airport! As soon as Esther arrived at the busy road a taxi just ‘happened’ to be coming towards her which she hailed to stop! The Arab driver waited for me to stumble down a few more steps before walking straight into our vehicle to the airport. We had reason to thank the Lord for this prompt provision in answer to prayer!
WE FAREWELL AT TEL AVIV AIRPORT
At Tel Aviv airport it was a blessing to meet up with a couple from Adelaide Australia who were in the Yellow team of our Sid Roth Tour! They were on the same plane as I was on to Hong Kong! ! After such a God ordained unforgettable Tour of Israel, Esther and I made our fond farewells at Tel Aviv airport, Esther to London and myself to Auckland via Hong Kong.
I will close with part of a prophetic Word I recorded during worship at our final evening meeting on Tour- the Passover Seder meal. The focus of this anointed Word given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit is Jerusalem.
We visited many historic places in Israel but there is no doubt Jerusalem tugs at your heart. Rich in Biblical sites relating to Christ’s ministry, death and resurrection, end time prophecies will climax at the Second Coming of Christ in God’s Holy City Jerusalem. Prophetic Word… ‘This is an historical trip…Know My heart for Jerusalem. Be prepared to be visited by the Lord. Expect dreams from heaven…This is My heart O Jerusalem centre of the universe. . . Welcome home. Know the perfect rest of My peace.’
PRAY FOR THE PEACE OF JERUSALEM