Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Arrival in Israel and Chorazin

Even though I am dying from jet lag, I want to start recording the experiences of a trip of a lifetime while they are fresh in my memory. I am still awestruck by the sights, sounds, smells, and, most of all, the spiritual experience of being in the land that the Lord loves.

We left on Tuesday, May 10th, giddy with nerves and excitement. Our plane was scheduled to leave for Tel Aviv at around 11:00 p.m. Fortunately, we were able to comfortably wait in Continental’s Presidents Club in Newark. (Thanks, Tony.)


We just thought we had been through security in Newark until we went to our gate. What awaited us was a fenced-off, secure area reserved for passengers going to Israel. We had to have our carry-on bags searched and we were patted down. We had to show our passports at least three times to different security personnel before we were allowed to board the plane. I was really ok with all of that.

Here we are settling in and getting ready for takeoff.


I believe that this was taken upon arrival in Tel Aviv. I can tell by the way I look. Ha!





The objects on the wall are from an archaeological dig.


Going through passport control… This ended up not being a big deal for those arriving who lived outside Israel. It was a bigger deal for those coming back home. Our guides met us outside this area of the airport.


Waiting for our yellow bus… These ladies were also from the Houston area. We had seen them when we checked in at the Houston airport. My pictures are all dated, but the date that they show is the date when the picture was taken according to Central Standard Time. So, although the date says May 10th, it is actually around 5:00 p.m. on May 11th.



You are looking at the backs of the Forresters from Florida. He experienced a fall while we were in Jerusalem, but everything turned out alright. She makes lovely jewelry that she would wear in the evening to dinner. She also had a really cool hat.


The view from our hotel room, the Gai Beach Resort in Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee… It was amazing to be looking out at an area that figured so prominently in Jesus’ ministry.



Needless to say, we were never hungry on the trip. Each day we had buffets for breakfast and dinner. Of course, all meals were kosher so we did miss our coffee with cream. We met this mother and daughter from South Africa on our first morning in Tiberius. They were on our bus and we enjoyed getting to know them.


We look a little more recovered, don’t you think? We had a good night’s rest. This is probably the best we’ll look on the whole trip! Ha!


You’re looking at one of our buffet tables.


The Sea of Galilee was a lot larger than I imagined it. I guess that’s why it’s called a “Sea.” It was just beautiful.


This is the back of the hotel. It included a water park kind of like Schlitterbahn on a smaller scale. We didn’t spend a lot of time in Tiberius itself because it really didn’t play a role in the life of Christ.



This was an old Jewish cemetery across the street from the hotel and a parking area. It looks like our “chariot” was waiting.


We are getting ready to start the first full day on our trip. Bob Vereen was our bus host. Every morning he checked to roll to make sure everyone was on board before we left. After the first day, we settled into a routine of sitting in the same seats by the same people.


I had to get this shot of the Israeli flag outside the bus window.


Israel became a nation on May 14, 1948, but they celebrate Independence Day according to the Jewish calendar so they had celebrated prior to our arrival. There were still many flags, banners, and bunting flying.


Each morning was begun with prayer. You can see on the clock behind Bob that it was 8:05. Israel uses the military clock, so after lunch we had to work to figure out what time it was and we were usually too tired to bother. Ha!


It was a little hazy this morning. Of course, the picture would have been much better had it not been taken out of a moving bus window. We were so exhilarated to actually be seeing the Sea of Galilee that we couldn’t resist taking pictures out the window.



We were headed to Chorazin, where we were to tour the site and have our first Bible study led by Kay Arthur.


These were tall purple flowers growing by the side of the entrance. I’m sorry that I didn’t get a close-up. (Maybe later, since I have a million minus one or two pictures!)


This is Kay teaching onsite. In this lesson, she did an overview of the Bible. If I ever go back to Israel (which I’m praying will happen one day for Dan and me), I would go with Precept. You can’t fully understand and appreciate what you’re seeing and the context unless you have Biblical teaching along the way.


Chorazin was a bustling town in the days of Jesus and is now a national park. It was famous for the wheat that it provided for the temple in Jerusalem. Along with Capernaum and Bethsaida, it was one of the cities in the “evangelistic triangle” during Jesus’ time, so it saw and heard about the miracles and ministry of Jesus.




Wild barley, which was one of the first fruits along with wheat.


All of the buildings in the town were made of black basalt. IMG_0113



This was a mikvah, or ritual bath that worshippers would use for ceremonial cleansing before entering the temple.



The following pictures are the remains of the synagogue. In its day, it was one of the finer synagogues in the land. Many come here for Bar Mitzvahs or weddings.


Here is an artist’s rendition of what a Galilean synagogue would have looked like.





There are very intricate carvings throughout the synagogue. some believe that they were brightly painted.







Our guide, Kenny, who was born in Louisiana, but has lived most of his life in Israel on a Kibbutz, was explaining some of the key features of the site.


The seat of Moses…This is a replica. The original is in the Israel Museum. It was in this seat that the priest sat and read the Torah.



These pictures were taken from the steps of the synagogue looking down at the Sea of Galilee 900 feet below. Capernaum and Bethsaida were visible from Chorazin.




You may be wondering why our tour started with Chorazin. Certainly there are impressive ruins all over Israel.

It was a fairly prosperous wheat-growing village that had an impressive synagogue. Its citizens had the opportunity to see and hear Jesus since His headquarters at Capernaum were only 2.5 miles away. Jesus says in Matthew 11:20-22:

Then He began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of Judgment than for you.”

By the third century Eusebius says that the village was in ruins. Although it tried to make a comeback down through the centuries, it was completely abandoned by the twentieth century.

Do you think that there is any application for the United States in this story? I’ll leave that as food for thought.

Next stop – lunch at a Kibbutz.

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