Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Day 14


Well this is the last day (except for travel home) of our journey. We struggled our way back through the downtown Cairo traffic to the Museum. The guides have it down to a system though and even though we were once again stuck traffic, we were only 8 minutes late. Bob (our guide) walked us through the museum explaining the difference in the old, middle and new kingdoms as well as the transitions. The one point he kept stressing was how logical the ancient Egyptian was. When he got through explaining the reasons behind their activities and the meanings of some of the hieroglyphics it started to become clear. For example, that civilization paid more attention to their preparations for the after life than they did in their activities in this life. Why? Because you spend much more time there.

After the museum we were taken to a papyrus factory and showroom. The manager gave us a good explanation of how papyrus was and is made and some of the inherent properties of the finished product. The rest of our time there was spent shopping. Ann and I bought a picture of the Day of Judgment. The short version of the story is that when the person died they were taken to the god Anubis and they had their heart put on a scale with a feather on the other side. If your heart was lighter than a feather you got into the afterlife If not you got lost. Obvious question, how was anyone’s heart lighter than a feather.

Our next stop was the pyramids. Again, Bob (the guide) gave us great explanations of the differences in the pyramids. He also discouraged us from actually going into the pyramids. However, Ann and I ventured into the second pyramid, [Khafre’s]. The tunnel was even lower than Hezekiah’s tunnel, but thankfully shorter. The air started to get a bit stuffy and, basically the guide was right there wasn’t really anything to see. But, how often to you get to go into a pyramid? We stopped for a Kodak moment on an overlook and gave some of our trip a chance to ride camels. Then we moved on for a tour of the Sphinx area, which included Khafre’s mortuary.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Day 13

Sinai Peninsula

Well, today did in fact begin at 1 AM. Nine of us were up and ready to go. 7 rode camels and 2 walked. (Ann & I walked) All the way up, in total darkness, there were guides that kept calling out camel mister. I think they saw in me a good candidate to not make so they tried extra hard. One even followed us for about ½ mile. The trek was fairly steep in paces but there were rest stops – with vendors – strategically placed. We met the others where their camel ride ended at the foot of the final 750 steps. After a bit of a rest we got to the summit at around 5 with sunrise at 5:30, perfect timing. No wonder Moses stayed up there for 40 days, it would have been a tough commute.

After we walked down and went back to the motel to change and eat, the entire group toured St. Catherine’s Monestary. A very old and very typical Greek Orthodox Church.

After the monastery we got back I the bus and headed for Cairo, again the Exodus in reverse. We stopped at Rephidim and acted out Moses having Hur and Aaron hold his hands up for victory over the Amalekites, Exodus 17. Next came the traditional sight where the Lord gave them Manna at the oasis of Elim, Exodus 16, and finally the oasis of Marah with the bitter waters, Exodus 15. Lessons in all about trusting the Lord.

We finally got to our hotel in Cairo at about 8 p.m. after going under the Suez canal on the way. Tomorrow the pyramids, the Cairo museum and another short night leaving for the airport early the following morning. And as for now this day has already been too long.

Day 12


Well it wasn’t really the exodus as in the book of the Bible but it was the day of the exodus for us as we traveled from Jordan to Egypt. We started the day with a brief look back at Amman. This was the city where David had Joab arrange to have Uriah the Hittite killed. During the Exodus, the Lord had told the Israelites that they were not to conquer Moab or Ammon because they had been given to Lot. So, if David had not been involved in that war, which would have been more obedient to scripture, Uriah would have been home and David probably would not have seen Bathsheba. Simple lesson, obedience to God’s word keeps us from sin. Not a bad lesson as we travel through the same wilderness that the Israelites spent 40 years in due to disobedience.

We drove down to Aqaba and boarded the ferry for an hour and a half trip to Egypt. There was a little confusion during the border crossing but not serious and all went pretty smoothly. We picked our new guide (Bob) and began the drive to St. Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai. This is some of the most desolate land I have ever seen. It is hard to imagine living here for 40 years although we do pass some Bedouin camps, so some live here all the time.

During the drive, the guide did all he could to discourage us from doing the climb tomorrow but 7 or 8 are still going. Even though it includes a 1 AM wake up call.

The hotel is like an oasis complete with an enormous pool – very cold. So, for tonight we are blogging from the foot of Mt. Sinai, even though it won’t get posted until tomorrow.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Day 11

We were in Amman overnight. Amman, one of the ancient Philadelphias was also called Rabbah. This was the city that Joab was attacking when Uriah was killed (2 Sam 11). Here's aninteesting twist - in Deu. 2:19 the Lord says the land of the Ammonites was given to Lot not to Israel. If David had been followng that command Joab and Uriah would never have been there to begin with. Maybe they would have been home and David wouldn't have sinned?

As we left Ammon, we took a detour to Mt. Nebo. It had rained that morning (very unusual) and the result was form Mt. Nebo we could see Jericho, the Mount of Olives, the Dead Sea and parts of the southern Galilee. (Deut. 32:49-52) Another lesson in obedience.

From Mt. Nebo, after a brief stop in a mosaic factory in Medeba (I bought a reproduction of the Jerusalem portion of the Medaba map, an ancient mosaic that shows the ancient Israel from the 6th-7th century.) we drove straight through to Petra.

Petra called Sela in the Bible aka the invisible city, the lost city, the red city, the pink city, the city of the dea, etc. It was a city carved into the sandstone hills and is truly amazing. Built by the Nabateans it was conquered by Rome, along with everything else. The city is probably most famous today for the Indiana Jones movie The Last Crusade. However, it was also the home town of Herod, may have been the stoppong point for the Magi where they bought some of their gifts, may have been the place where Paul studied in the wilderness. The city is located alng Wadi Musa and at the head of the valley is a rock that a srpng copes out of, naturally ascribed to Moses hitting the rock.

Tomorrow we drive to Aqaba board a ferry to cross the Red Sea and drive on to Mt. Sinai. The Exodus in reverse.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Day 10

It is always sad to leave Jerusalem. So, one of the traditional things to say when you leave is “next year I Jerusalem.” The Bauers led our devotions and singing today as we left the city and made our way to the border. We crossed at Bet Shean so it was about an hour and a half to get there. But the crossing was very quick and totally uneventful. Our new guide name is Aladden (really).

Our first and only stop for the day was Jerash, another one of the cities of the Decapolis. The ruins area amazing. This city had several large temples in the earlier days, one of Zeus and another of Artemis. The lower part of the city was distinctively Greek while the upper portions were Roman. I kept wondering if 2000 years from now tourists will be walking through the ruins of some of our cities.

Tomorrow we go to Petra and then to Sinai. I do not believe we will have internet access until we reach Cairo on Tuesday.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Day 9


Sean led in bus devotions shairing about Hezekiah's tunnel. Fitting since we were heading there first. Actually, we started in David's city with a brief explanation of where his palace was and some insights to the current excavations. Then we saw a 3-D presentation explaining how Jerusalem got started on the Southern HIll - then Mt. Zion. It was a very helpful presentation. Our new guide, Itey, walked us through Warrens Shaft, part of the water system of the city andn then down to Hezekiah's tunnel. 6 of us opted to wade through the tunnel - 1,200 yards of space narrower than I am and usually not quite as tall. My legs and back still hurt. The tunnel makes many bends but somehow, in Hezekiah's day they actually did meet in the middle. We came out in (or near) the Pool of Siloam, where Jesus healed the blind man. When David attacked the city it was said that the blind and lame could not enter. So there seems to be something behind the miracles that Jesus did in the city - healing both the blind here and the lame at the Pool of Bethesda our next stop.

While at the sight of the Pool of Bethesda, we entered the St. Anne's church, commemorating Mary's mother. The church, built by the Crusaders is acoustically amazing. We sang to prove it and the echoes took about 6 seconds to stop. Right out side the church complex the Via Dolorosa starts near what is called the Ecce Homo (behold the man) Arch. We saw the paving stones which may havebeenint he Fortress Atonia and had remains of a Roman game carved into them. Along the Via Dolorosa we had lunch and made our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchure. I think we must have done this church is record time - about minutes. We were in a hurry but all of us saw their version of the sight of the crucifixion and the tomb.

We were in a hurry because we had a chance to go to Herodian. This was in the news lately when the finding of the Tomb complex of King Herod was found. Since this is in Palestinian territroy we were not sure we would get in but it all went without a hitch. In the middle of desert, this complex was a palace complete with bathhouses and swimming pools. For all of his building Herod is gone but his structures, built in the shadow of Bethlehem meannothingcomapred to the King of Kings.

We finished the day with a tour of the Garden Tomb, much more realistic than the previous church. Wayne and I led in a communion service which was certainly meaningful to us. Wayne and Sean leave tonight and as they leave another couple from Carl's church arrived for the second half.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Day 8

Day 8

Kay Graham led our devotional time this morning on the bus, reading from Colossians 3 encouraging and perhaps congratulating us on the great sense of unity and togetherness we are experiencing as a group. Her husband Barry then led in some songs and prayer for the day.
First stop the Temple Mount. We got on with no trouble, although they do not allow non-Muslims into the Mosques. Mickey guided us around the various areas explaining some of the history and the politics. It was particularly interesting at the golden gate or eastern gate. Since there is a prophecy that Messiah will enter through that gate the Muslim blocked it up sometime around 1500. However, in shutting that gate they also fulfilled a prophecy of Ezekiel 44 that says the gate is be shut until the Lord comes.

We left the temple mount via a street that sits on the ancient supports and wound our way around to the archeological Park outside the southern wall. I taught from the area of the steps leading not the temple area. This is one of those areas where Jesus would have walked. From the steps to the left there are the tombs of the Mount of Olives, which Jesus was probably pointing to when He called the Pharisees white washed tombs. This may also have been the place where Peter spoke at Pentecost. Many different nationalities were present but each heard in their own language. 3000 came to faith and were baptized. That always seemed like a lot of folks getting baptized. But in this area there are at least 50 Mikvahs, ceremonial baths used by Jewish worshippers before they went to the temple. More than enough to baptize 3000.

After the park we had about an hour to eat lunch (pizza) and do some brief shopping before going to the Burned House. This house was discovered sometime after 1967 and has burned stones as well as relics that indicate the house was burned by the Roman destruction of 70 AD. It appears it was the house of a priest and may have even been a member of the High Priest Caiaphas’s family.
On our way out of the temple area we got stuck in a traffic jam. It seems there was an unusual parcel in the road that the bomb squad wanted to check out. No one seemed to mind waiting. In fact out bus driver, Udi got off the bus and began to hand out tracts. No one seemed to mind that either. Finally we got to the Jerusalem Model, Temple Period Museum and the Museum with Dead Sea Scrolls. The model in particular helped everyone gain a better perspective on the ancient city. Once again, prayers for safety were answered and our sense of unity continues. One sad note, today was Mickey’s last time with us, as he picks up another tour tomorrow. He has been a real blessing to each of us and a great teacher.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Day 7

Day 7 – Wednesday
As we left the hotel this morning, we left reading Psalm 122. Verse 2 reads: “we are standing in your gates O Jerusalem.” Certainly true of us today. But the Psalm goes on to exhort us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. As we travel the need for those prayers is evident everywhere. In fact, we closed the day in a Bethlehem Olive Wood shop where the owner, an Arab Christian, before trying to sell us anything, asked us to pray for the peace of this area.
We had the opportunity to visit several overlooks of the old city. At the first, there was a first century tomb, which gave Mickey the chance to explain the Jewish burial customs of the first century. From there just a few minutes to the Mount of Olives. Pastor Wayne shared from several verses pointing out that when the Lord returns this mount will separate and water form the Temple Mount will flow to the Dead Sea and to the Mediterranean. (Zech 14:4) In waiting for that day, many Jews have chosen to be buried on the Mount of Olives, their faith in their scriptures being displayed in their end of life choices.
After a stop at the Garden of Gethsemane and some more sharing by Ron Higley, we traveled on t o the Western Wall. Getting into this area is like going through airport security. There’s that peace thing again. Mickey had arranged for us to get a tour of the Rabbi’s tunnel. This is an area going along the western wall of the Temple Mount. We were able to see some of the construction methods used by Herod and half way along the wall there was an impromptu synagogue. They meet at that place because it is the close to where the Holy of Holies had been. Going through these tunnels, it makes you wonder what might be on the other side of the wall. Certainly plenty of room to store the Tabernacle of even the Ark of the Covenant.
The tunnel ended just past the Ecce Homo Arch (more on that tomorrow). We left the city via the Lions Gate aka St. Stephen’s Gate, and went to a local kibbutz for lunch. Then on to Bethlehem. That sounds easy. But to get there we had to get off the bus, go through another check point – sort of like checking into prison – then we were picked up by an Arab guide for our tour of the Church of the Nativity and shopping. The church of the Nativity is divided up between the Orthodox, Roman and Armenian Catholics. They don’t get along for all kinds of historical reasons which seems to taint the atmosphere. The Prince of Peace was born in a cave owned by three groups of his followers which constantly fight in a city which is constantly fighting with its neighbors. Somehow it looses something.

Day 6

Day 6 - Tuesday
We slept I today to get the real feel of the Dead Sea resort. Except for clouds and relative cool 19 degrees c. it was great floating on the Dead Sea. After a luxurious time in the sea and the pools at the resort, it was time to resume our studies. Today starts with Masada. Masada is a fortress high on a plateau which is reached via cable car. The cable car is taken out of service for maintenance one day a year which was – today. So, instead of riding up, we drove around to the back side and walked up the ramp built by the Romans when they conquered the site in 70 AD. This desert retreat, built by King Herod the Great included a three tiered palace hanging over the side, a swimming pool, spa/bathhouse and all the other necessities. We walked back down using the serpantine path, which sort of jumps over the edge with about 750 steps and some interesting winding paths, hence the name.
After lunch at the visitors center we drove to En Gedi. This is the oasis in the desert that David cut off the piece of King Saul’s robe when he discovered him in a cave (1 Sam 24)

God delivered David’s enemy to him but instead of taking things into his own hands, David trusted the Lord with the outcome. Living out the idea of loving your enemies I suppose!

Next stop, at closing time, was Qumran, the ruins where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. This site was probably built and inhabited by the Essenes before and after the time of Jesus. They were sort of like modern day Amish (that may be the first time modern and Amish were used in the same sentence) trying to keep traditions alive and free from contamination by the culture. In their case they were not real successful, but because of their effort we have scrolls of all the Old Testament (except Esther) dating from the early first century. In other words we have a virtual copy of the Bible Jesus used.

At sunset we were driving into Jerusalem, viewing the Dome of the Rock in the distance as the strains of “Jerusalem” played on a cd. After the evening meal, we had a sharing time. It was great to see how the trip has impacted each one in slightly different ways. The group has grown closer together and I trust closer to the Lord.