The Bible Study Tour to Israel in February was truly an inspiring mountaintop experience for me. It is difficult to sum up the amazing sights we saw and experienced, but here are some tidbits.
On our 1st day we got to visit the ancient ruins of Caesarea Maritima. This coastal port was an engineering feat and architectural masterpiece in its time. Built by Herod the great (ruled 37 BC-4 BC) who spared no expense and, with it, gained the political and socioeconomic favour of Rome. We then made our way to Galilee and had the privilege of having have a devotional on the Sea of Galilee. This was a surreal experience, knowing that Jesus spent many hours here teaching and training his disciples.
On day 2 we visited Tel Dan and had the opportunity to walk through a beautiful natural park with cascading waterfalls and streams, where the ancient city of Dan is located. This was the same city where Jeroboam unfortunately set up a golden calf mentioned in 1 Ki 12. The following day saw us visit Nazareth and enjoy a tour of a 1st century village. We got to see what everyday life would have been like in Jesus’ home town, from the preparation of olive oil from an ancient olive press to the production of wine from a wine press. We then ascended the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. As we made our way up, Douglas read selections from the Psalms of Ascents (Ps 120-134). It was a moving experience to feel what many pilgrims have felt over the millennia as they made their way to the temple to worship.
Over the next few days we visited Gallicantu (where the high priest’s residential compound stood) and went down into in the very dungeon where Jesus was kept overnight before being taken before Pilate. We got to explore the Western Wall of the Temple Mount and were awed by the enormous dimensions of the Temple Mount. Our tour climaxed with a Sunday communion service in the Garden of Gethsemane. Being able to sing with disciples from different countries, without song sheets, reminded me of the wonderful international family I have worldwide.
I wish I had more time to elaborate on the ancient city of Beth She’an or Capernaum, sitting in the synagogue where Jesus taught. Or Caesarea Philippi, where Peter proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah, or Mt. Carmel, where Elijah defeated the 850 prophets of Ba‘al and Asherah. Our visits to Masada and Qumran were sensational. Did I mention we had the privilege of seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Israel Museum as well? This truly was a fantastic experience.
To now be able to put visual sight to events and places in the Bible has enriched my faith. The Bible has truly come alive for me! I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank Douglas for organizing this tour. His expert knowledge and devotional thoughts at various sites have fanned into flame a hunger for deeper learning and time spent in God’s word.
Paul Smith, Johannesburg, S.A.