Israel 2012 – Day 8 and final day!

Last day in the Holy Land, Day 8.  This was a free day with no scheduled guided tour spots.  Dr Williams gave us a few options.  We could go to the Western Wall, actually go to the wall instead of seeing it far away like we did when we went to the temple mount.  Or we could do what we wanted and go to the Old City.  Since I had spent two days wondering the Old City, and was done souvenir shopping, I followed Dr. Williams.

Before getting started, some of us needed a few cups of coffee. Notice the silver pitchers, they was usually one per table.  Somehow a few more ended up in front of Pastor Joel.

I was taking some random pictures.  Here are a couple of people selling their garden grown vegies.  As I was walking with Dr. Williams, I took the picture.   The woman spat at me and talking in a not so nice tone.  The man was grabbing his cane and starting to get up.  Dr. Williams said, you normally don’t take their picture. Doh!

Always looking for interesting signs

As we were talking along the Via Dolorosa, we came across my favorite pictures.  The Via Dolorosa is the path Jesus took when carrying his cross.  When Jesus says take up your cross.  Luke 9:21-27 has the complete story.

Angels praying for Jesus, just incredible.

A young man headed to Prayers I believe.

Another interesting sign. Wasn’t expecting to see this type of thing LOL!

Here is a hole the wall for real.

Kosher certificate, this was outside us waiting to go into the Western Wall.  They scanned checked your bags and went through a metal detector.

Pictures weren’t permitted at the Western Wall, so moving on.   Some went shopping; others went on a walk of the wall.  You can pay a few bucks and walk.  We could have paid 5 dollars from a vendor, except we already went into a vendor right outside Jaffa Gate, they were selling tickets for $6.  The clerk was bickering about how the exchange rate for $1.00. I laughed, later on I found a 1 Ringgit (Malaysia dollar bill) in my backpack.  I wonder what their reaction would have given that instead of an American Dollar.  I honestly don’t know the exchange range between shekel and Ringgit.   They did give free water

So..walking the water was interesting.  Right off, there was a book we couldn’t quite reach it.  Bart Hall wanted to reach it, the scene reminded me of the Raiders of Lost Ark, where the scene they were reaching for the Cup Jesus used for the last supper, it wasn’t meant to be reached. J

Picture a street from above.

Some neat scenery

Walk way

A picture of the Notre Dame Hotel.

I wish I had gotten a better picture.  The story was there was a metal stairway leading up to the Old City wall.  The first night we went wandering, we said on Saturday that was the way we were going to get to the wall.  Turns out, there was some razor wire.


This was a spot where a person would hide out and shoot arrows out the narrow crack.

This was artificial turf they used for soccer field

Didn’t actually see the Camel or Donkey, but here is what it left behind

The first night we wandered, these posts were run over and flat.   They replaced them.

Jacob’s Pizza, we talked to Jacob the first night and told him we were coming back on Saturday.  Jacob’s was different place, they let you get your food and drink, they said come back when you were done and pay.  There was like 4 tables, a couple display cases, a pizza oven, two coolers for drinks.  There was a lot of pizza.  I had cheese and olive pizza, and a drink that is from Los Angeles

A real MAN truck

Yes, that is a chickens feet.  Give me a free day and I find all kinds of interesting things.

The last place we went to was Garden Tomb.

Saturday was real good for interesting signs.  See anything wrong.  Seriously, I didn’t make this stuff up!

Garden Tomb.  This is another believed location where Jesus was buried.

Interesting signs everywhere

And with that, we found Pastor Joel his smart pills.  My wife sent a bunch of candy along with Austin, so the entire trip, M&M’s, Hot Tamales, and other stuff, Pastor Joel FINALLY got his smart pills.  With that, this was the final thing we did as a tourist.  Here is my summary.

1)                Why did you go on the trip?

To see the old Jerusalem before I see the new one

2)                What moved you most during the trip (1 or 2 examples)

Garden of Gethsemane

3)                What shocked you the most? (1 or 2 examples)

The Church of Holy Sepulcher and Jericho poverty

4)                What were some of the ways you took away from the trip?

God’s finger prints are all over Israel, I felt at home in so many places there

5)                Most Favorite location?  Why?

Garden of Gethsemane, Sea of Galilee.
   Sense of Peace and feeling of God’s presence.  Also, it hit home how Jesus suffered mentally and physically for us when he prayed in the Garden.  Both spots brought me to tears feeling really humble.

6)                Leave Favorite location? Why?

The Church of Holy Sepulcher, all the Gold and attempt to make it shine.  The place itself and what happened was enough.

7)                Famous quotes you remember?

Worship the person who was at the place and what he did, not the place itself.  Also, our tour guide mentioned we are not to hold the experience we had to ourselves, we need to share with others.  Not everyone has an opportunity to travel to the Holy Land.  These last few blog posts has been my best attempt to share my experiences

God Bless

Steve Schofield

Israel 2012 – Day 7

Day 7 begins with us visiting my favorite spot in Jerusalem and the most gawdy spot.   We first stopped by and visited probably one of the most scenic spots we visited in Jerusalem.  I got this awesome panoramic shot.

While we were at the scenic outlook.  There was a couple unique vendors.  A camel ride, several people did it.  I think it was 1 rider for $5 or 2 for $7.  The donkey ride was $1 or $2.  The camel ride was way more popular.



As we were talking down the road next to the cemetery, we saw a Chevy Suburban.   There was a street vendor selling his products.  Guess, things aren’t too bad as a street vendor (seriously I don’t know if it was his or not)

Here are the graves.   Notice the stones, that is the same as what we do in the US, putting flowers.  Also, the person is buried underground, but the thing on-top so the family can bring candles.

Even Michigan and Michigan State fans get a long in the Holy Land!  This is my new little brother in Christ Bart Hall! 

Notice the glass, they put at the top of the wall so people would have bad cuts…

This saying really hit me hard…

As you can guess, we were headed to the Garden of Gethsemane.  It hit home what happened here after seeing the place.  Here are some pictures of Olive trees (They said the oldest on the planet).  Some of these could have been seedlings when Jesus was on earth.   What really, really hit home when Jesus prayed and stated, “…not my will, but your will be done..”  Jesus was 100% God and 100% human (I believe that), he felt scared knowing exactly what was coming.  Just imagine, part of punishment was to bare the sin of all past, present and future (of all time, of all people) in the 6 hours hanging on the Cross.  That is more than any human can understand.  It brought me to tears when I was praying in the Church of All Nations.  I was very humbled realizing once and for all the sacrifice Jesus did for all of us.  Jesus knew what it felt like to be a liar, cheat, murder and every other kind of sin as he had it put on his shoulders.  I write this just one week before Easter, it’s moving to me.   When I read the bible, hear stuff, I’m quickly taken back to the Garden.  Besides Mt of Beatitudes, this was the most moving, this is why.  Here are some pics of the church and Garden.

Garden wide view

This is the biggest and oldest tree I could see

The church of All Nations is the church with the large picture on the front.  I have a good picture on Day 6.  It was amazing up close.  We spent a bit of time at the Church of All Nations praying and just lingering about.  We went to the “Grotto” next.  Ever heard the statement “a stone’s throw away”.   What this meant the Disciples where down in the Grotto, and Jesus was a “stones throw” away over the wall “per se” away from everyone.  There is a wall. 

There’s the wall

This is the entry to a location where Mary’s family is buried.

We hopped on the bus and headed to more locations.  We were taking a break, it was Friday and a lot more people were out and bout.   Notice the costumes, this is more Purim.

They told me this wall and all the dents were created by bullets, that is definitely worth a pic

Lunch.  This is the kind of “Cardo” I like to do, pizza.  Some people were waiting in line I saw this sign and made that comment!   Olive and Cheese pizza, Yum!!

As we were sitting eating, actually got caught in my own picture.  J   Just how serious was eating you ask?  We had a wife and husband (one got pizza, one got a Falafel) when they tried to sit at the same table, a person came around and told them they couldn’t.  It’s something with mixing something…(I’ll ask Pastor Joel). Mothers Milk and blood don’t mix I believe.   This picture is Austin, Joel Heron, Christine (from Indiana) and me!

Olive Press, when they say a millstone around the neck, picture this 🙂

Even Detroit Pistons fans are in Jerusalem!

They have Steelers and Penguins fans!

What a cool dedicated painting

Entering the Jewish quarter

I joked when I saw this, I wasn’t buying this for my wife and wanted to show her LOL

From here down, I had a range of emotions different than earlier in the day.  These thoughts are my opinions alone.  It doesn’t detract from what Jesus did for me in the least!  I’m a little saddened…  These next few pictures are gawdy IMO.  You have to remember what “happened here and to whom (Jesus)”.  The actual appearance a person really has to look past, it’s a “shrine” and can easily be taken as an Idol.  We all know how God likes Idols, HE DOESN’T!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  We visited the Church of Holy Sepulchre.

Remember the Ladder Pastor Joel Talked about (for those who went to GCC), it’s been there a while (150 – 200 years).  I’m appalled Christians can’t come together over such petty things.  Don’t we worship the same Jesus??  The church is shared by a few different denominations, they can’t agree on certain things I guess, it was sad to hear such petty things.  

As excited as I was in the AM, when I visited this place, I had to remember my saying “worship the person who as this place and what he did, don’t worship the place itself!”.  Visit your favorite search engine, look up the story, ask your pastor or priest.  I’m sure it’s not as bad, but it sure did when I was there.


This is the best picture I got, Jesus was crucified here.  All the gold was almost too much.   There is a rock below people can kneel down and touch. 

This is the holiest place for Orthodox, this stone is where Jesus’s body was laid after he died.  I respect the fact people wanting to kneel here.  I didn’t personally, but just knowing Jesus’s body could have been in the particular area is moving. 

Next, we visited the “tomb” where Jesus was supposedly laid to rest.  Austin asked, if this is so special, why don’t they just have a hillside and garden vs. all the trimmings, gold and such.  Good question.

We waited about 45 minutes to see the tomb, there is 7 people at once that can see.   Big candles in front of the tomb.

Front of the tomb, this represents the 12 disciples

There was a middle room before entering the tomb.  I believe this is the internal of the tomb.

Thank you Jesus for what you did for us!  I came out shaking my head a little, I didn’t say anything, but it was a bit over the top.

Another portion of the Church

After we left the church, we went shopping…How did that young lady get in there, Oh Stacy Hall!


Fresh fish!

Nazarene Church

We spent a bit of time also shopping in the market.  What an experience, going from one quarter to the next, every quarter is unique.  This day I experienced a wide range of emotions. Knowing I visited one of the holiest places, it was surreal yet had to just remember it’s a place and not a shrine to worship.   The local citizens are awesome and patient with tourists.  There are dozens and dozens of tour groups, lots of tour buses and normal life happens for many.  

I am VERY thankful I was allowed to visit these holy places and experience them.  I had one day left in the City I came to see.   Most of all, I have a fresh perspective of what my personal savior did and got a glimpse of the general area these events happened.  The scripture came alive.  One more day to go!

Israel 2012 – Day 6

Day 6 we headed to the Temple Mount (where the Dome of the rock is located).  We arrived a little early than we have in other locations.  It took about an hour to go through security.  Here is the third most holy spot in Islam (Mosque of Omar), here is a picture as we were walking into the Temple Mount.    I appreciated our bus driver (Uni) as we had to navigate the narrow streets and lots of other tour buses.

Group of armed guards walked by while waiting in line

Entrance for Men (Jewish) and Woman separated.  Tourists could go through the entrance ways, but even if the Men entrance is empty, Jewish women out of respect wouldn’t go through the entrance.

I told Austin to enjoy being able to do this while he was young!!

Security entrance going into the temple mount, they’d do a metal detector and search your bags.

Picture of the Western Wall, this is the most sacred spot for Jewish religion.  It’s the only remaining portion of the second Temple.  When we visited this spot on Saturday morning, we couldn’t take pictures as it was their Sabbath + a holiday (Purim)  I wore head covering (Kippah) or Yarmulke? (I thought it was spelled yamaka) out of a sign of respect.   Men and woman are separated when they go to the wall and pray, the woman’s spot is a little farther down the wall.  It was quite an experience, I was grateful to the worshippers they let tourists come and mingle among them while they are worshipping.    

Here is a couple pictures of the Temple Mount, the area around is quite open and people are “playing tourist”, “worshipping”.  The area is controlled by the Muslims, so there is no digging or archeology happening here.  It would be curious to see what is buried here J since this is where the original temple was located.  I’m not sure all the story why Muslims control this area. 

Dome of the Rock.

Group of soldiers

Dome of the Rock, it wasn’t as shiny as pictures portrayed.  It’s pretty big though.

This became my new favorite place to try to take pictures, it’s the church honoring Mary Magdalene, it was done by the Russians.  I probably took more pictures of this one trying to get a great shot than anything in Jerusalem.  Here are the two best pictures of it.   Directly behind me was the Dome of the Rock, the Garden of Gethsemane is in the general area as the Church.  I think of all things, this was my favorite “building”. J



Always on the lookout for interesting signs, I’ve never seen a sign that had Emergency Entrance, usually it’s Emergency Exit J

This is a game from a place where people would play games, notice the circle with the lines.  The area we were in was a place where they’d question people.  There wasn’t too many spots to take good pictures. 

Here was a group carrying a cross.

I’m sorry, forgot what this was about…There was a couple churches I missed the meaning and explanation.  I could go to Jerusalem again on a guided tour and spend several days revisiting these sites. J

That is an actual street and how they collected garbage

This was the coolest “church” we visited.  It’s called Saint Anne’s church (’s_Church,_Jerusalem) This was to celebrate the birth of Mary (Jesus’s mother).  The reason I liked this we sang “Amazing Grace”, after he “chorus”, we’d pause and the sound would continue to echo.  Have you ever been someplace where you yell and it continues to echo.  Imagine 47 people singing.  It was amazing!

Right outside the church was the Bethesda pools, the place where Jesus healed.  Read John 5:1-8.  The ironic thing, my oldest son Marcus is stationed in Bethesda Maryland for the US Navy! 

Notice the clothes drying in the background?  People live that close to these holy spots. J

This was Stephens gate.  The “first marter” for Christ  Read Acts 6 – 7 for the complete story.  The gate was under construction, so I couldn’t get a good pic with me in it.  My name is spelled Steven, although it’s “close”.  And yes, notice the two cars trying to leave and come into the Old City.  There were more cars than I realized. 

Put picture of the Kidron Valley panoramic

Here is a picture of the Church of All Nations.  Next to it, the left is Garden of Gethsemane.  Notice in the upper right hand corner, the Mary Magdalene church.

This is the cemetery that people believe when Jesus comes back, they’ll be the first to rise. They are buried such that when they “sit up” in their grave they’ll be looking at Jesus.   I recall its 20k per plot!  They have openings.  Remember when I said I appreciated our bus drivers, notice all the buses in the background. 

Kidron Valley panoranmic.  Pretty cool I think J

The next place we headed was some ‘caves’. 

My picture doesn’t show too well, but notice the two holes.  It’s believed to hold people’s hands while they were questions (probably tortured).  It was a surreal spot knowing this could have been a place Jesus was kept.

Remember my comments on churches, there is one dedicated to Peter, when he denied Jesus three times as predicted.

Notice the Crow on top

Here is actual road Jesus did travel while dragging his cross.   They don’t let people walk on it anymore

The Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu

The next place we visited was the “upper room”.  I didn’t realize two significant things happened here, 1) was the last supper and 2) Jesus appeared in the room after he had came back.   Luke 22:7-23 and Luke 24:36-45

Dr Williams reading scripture


The last place we visited after lunch was the Israel Museum.  It has a Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit and a BUNCH of really old stuff.  Dr Williams was in his element.  They didn’t let us take pictures.  The coolest thing was the replica of Jerusalem (1/50th) size.    By this time of the day, my brain was pretty full listening to all the great information.   (I don’t think I slept much the night before either).  I got lost from the group at the museum, I went on my own little expedition until I ran into the group.  I could just hear our Israel tour guide yelling at me going STEVE!  It would have been done with lots of love!

This picture is from Kim Sutton.  Great pic Kim  The neat thing about this picture, if you have it local, you can really zoom in for a close-up.  I can’t believe the pictures, I wish I knew more how to do stuff in photoshop or Gimp.

Of course, looking out for individual pictures.  I joked, there are tour sizes of all kinds.  The Green bus is the normal size, the moped is the personal tour transportation! 

This ends Day 6, not sure if I have evening pics.  The ancient history lesson by Dr. Williams stories was awesome.  It is one thing to go to Jerusalem, the other is to hear someone with his knowledge.   If you ever plan a trip, I definitely suggest a guided tour with a person who has a lot of background and experience.    When we got back to the hotel, I left the camera and went wandering with a larger group to the old city.  We went shopping, I think I bought seven t-shirts and one sweatshirt.  I bought a 2 XL (XXL) hoping it wouldn’t shrink, it did.  My youngest son got all my shirts.   My wife’s sweatshirt fits (so it wasn’t a total bust)>  I’d love to take them back and say “Hey your Jerusalem cotton shrinks A LOT!”.   Thanks everyone for waiting the 30 minute while I got the shirts printed…

Israel 2012 – Evening of Day 5

The first evening in Jerusalem and at the end of Day 5 (what I labeled the travel day) brought the first opportunity to do what I call “wander”.  When you get in a big city, instead of staying at the hotel, a person needs to get with some of his friends and wander.  No agenda, no structure, just go find cool stuff.  I recall after we had dinner at the hotel, I insisted we go wander about (or “walk about” for Crocodile Dundee fans).  There was some hesitation at first, it took about an hour of me nagging Phil, Bart and Clinton.  I think I nagged Phil the most (as he was my roommate).  He gave in and we went wandering.   We had no agenda, didn’t know where we were going, just looking for something cool.  Off in the distance we say some shiny lights, so that was our first destination. 

As we were walking along, we joked about being mugged (seriously, some people back home would have wondered?!)  About the time we said something, we came across an interesting piece of art. It was a figure standing face first in the wall.  Clinton joked, if we get mugged, we’ll end up like him.   Here is a good shot.

After our first laugh, it was kind of refreshing doing stuff spontaneously.  Dr Williams tour was very well structured and planned out.  Seriously, being on a trip with a tour guide that has been doing it for over 50 years and been to Israel 152 times, there wasn’t too much he didn’t know.   It was the most amazing time just sitting back and listening to him tell story after story.  I don’t recall many of the details in-depth, seriously someone would have to tape them and broadcast them. Stacy Hall had a recorder and I believe captured most of Dr Williams formal presentations when we got to a sight.  That footage is priceless if you are going into ministry. 

Anywho, we wandered about a mile and came upon this really cool place.  Later we learned it was the Notre Dame Hotel, it’s where people from the Vatican stay when they come to Jerusalem, or so they say.  I asked our tour guide from Israel if that was Jewish!?  She laughed, wanted to strangle me for asking her a silly question, its Catholic you silly boy she answered. 

After visiting our first destination, we headed to the Old City and Jaffa Gate.  This was also known as the “Hebron” gate, which lead to Hebron (an ancient city mentioned in the in the bible).  As we walked into the gate, we noticed a map split into 4 quarters, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Armenian.  I didn’t have any expectations about Jerusalem.  It’s surreal realizing you are in a modern city that really is the capital of the world.  The city has so much history and how things have come about, you have to just take it in. 

View of the old city from Jaffa Gate

It was interesting to see a map labeled, Christian Quarter.  Just thinking for a second, in the states we try to break down barriers (or so we think) stating everyone is equal.  Here I was standing, based on religion a person would live or do business.  I don’t know all the particulars, I learned the 6 day war in 1967 helped shape the modern layout of the Old City.  I’d suggest visiting your favorite search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo) and doing some research on the 6 day war.   It helps a person understand more about certain things about modern day Jerusalem

While standing at the map looking, a guy came up and introduced himself.  His name was Gideon, he was in Israel for 10 days visiting his mother.  His father had passed away 6 months prior and he was over helping out.  It was fun to sit and talk with Gideon.  Some fun facts he shared, he has been a cab driver in New York for 41 years.  Did you know there are 6 million or so Jews in New York?   I asked him who his most interesting person he ever gave a ride to, his answer was Jaclyn Kennedy Onassis.  He gave a ride to her in the 70’s.  He also gave a ride to Muhammad Ali.  Gideon shared he was in the 6 day war and was part of the artillery unit.   We talked for probably about 20 minutes (it seemed longer).  At this point, we headed back to the hotel and got some rest.   

I’m going to split up the blogging for Jerusalem a little bit, there is SO much to see and I took a fair amount of pictures, I’m going to do my best to show and explain the different areas we went.  The first evening in Jerusalem was an interesting one to say the least.  After the first nights success of “wandering”.  I didn’t have to convince others what to do after we got back from the normal guided tour.  We had a crowd of 10 – 12 people the second day, the third night, I stayed at the hotel because I was real tired.   Some liked the lack of structure, some weren’t so comfortable with it.  It was fun to just go wander, it’s not like we could get lost, the city is like 3 miles in diameter.  J  More to come about Jerusalem!

Israel 2012 – Day 5

Today was travel day, I even became a little grumpy after being in the bus for a while.   After spending 3 days in Tiberias, it was time to head home to Jerusalem.   Our final picture before heading out together.

One interesting thing we saw was some people hitch hiking.   Here is a good description of seeing Israel “By Thumb”  (Search for Thumb). It’s rather interesting, I was discouraged to not try this while in Israel. J

More beautiful scenery.

Our first stop was Mt Carmel.  It was where Elijah and Baal prophets met.  1 Kings 18:20-39 has the complete story. J

Elijah statue

As always, looking for interesting pics

Jesus hand carved into a cross.

I learned what the Druze was.   Not that you can trust Wikipedia, but here is more information.

This is thorns, just image these were similar potentially to the crown of thorns Jesus had put on his head. Ouch!  They are about 2 inches long.

The next place we headed was Caesarea, along the Mediterranean.   The city was built as a gift to Rome.  There was an Aqua Duct from the mountains that brought water to the city, which was very large.  It was impressive they built a 30,000 person amphitheater.   The Aqua Duct was made from what looked like petrified sand.


Yup, that is oil.

Actual figurines


After we left, we had a 2+ our drive on a divided highway, which was a toll road.   What you see is an electric fence.  You hear about “settlements” being built, it’s them. 

Hmm, wonder if they are doing some top secret here, no idea.

This is us coming into Jerusalem.  It was quite different than being in the country side of Tiberias, Megiddo and others in the north east.

These are sound ducts.

Soccer stadium being built

More scenery

Going through the checkpoint headed into Bethlehem.  It’s controlled by the Palastini Authority.  As the sign indicates, they don’t like the locals.  One thing I did learn no matter where you went, what type of religion, the one language that is universal is, “Money”.     

We had lunch here.

After 4 days of resisting buying any souvenirs, we stopped by the Bethlehem Souvenir shop.  Their stuff was very cool and VERY expensive! J    I purchased a nativity scene from Bethlehem, how often does a person from Michigan make it to Bethlehem!  It’s made out of olive wood. 


They had many extraordinary pieces, if you are looking for good stuff, I’d recommend checking out their website, if you make it there, definitely go and see their merchandise.   Here are some of my favorite pieces.  The pieces are hand carved.  It’s probably the neatest piece we saw.  They quoted me 25k, someone else I heard 20k, either way, it’s a bit pricey. It is darn cool though!  I’ll leave the negotiation up to you. J

Have a few spare thousand?!

I bought a Jerusalem cross, a cross for my desk and a couple of coffee mugs for my parents.    Here is their sign.

I liked this, they have more pics on their website. 

The Inn that didn’t have more room for Jesus! J  Just kidding….


Church of the Nativity.   We knew after visiting this place, people were more common and lines to see stuff became more obvious.

You had to bend down to enter the church.

These things hanging became common, I learned they were common among orthodox ( I think, I would ask an expert to confirm)  There was a long line to go see the place where Jesus could have been born, we passed on it. 


This room was a place a ‘famous person Jerome?!’ who translated the bible to Latin, or it’s believed to. 

The next place we headed was Shepherds field, it was where it’s believed the shepherds were at when the angel of the Lord told them about the birth.  Read Luke 2:8

Here is a cave, Jesus would have taught in (or so I recall)

As we were leaving, we saw a little boy and his mom “thumbing it”

Pretty clouds

The last place we visited was special to Dr Williams and was pretty cool to.   He mentioned while visiting Israel his first time (I think), he received a call from God to have tours to Israel.  This was in 1958 and received it at this very location.    Here is also a great picture Kim Sutton took, which I missed, thanks Kim!

Doesn’t this look like Times Square in New York?

Notice there is no one lined up to visit these places. 

And we made it to Jerusalem.  I was a bit grumpy, Stacy Hall, Clinton and Bart Hall got to listen to me whine a bit, I was just ready to be in Jerusalem (Are we there yet!)  Then another person in the group mentioned they were on a tour in Europe visiting things with Dr. Williams in the spring, a ride between places was 6 hours, so I figured 2+ hours wasn’t bad.  What I didn’t realize the next 3 days, we’d be walking a tad more.


Israel 2012 – Day 4

Day four, we headed to Nazareth.  We spent a little more time on the bus today.  The landscape is still amazing no matter where we traveled.  This is truly God’s country.

They are even Spartan fans! (Michigan State!!)

We visited “yet another church” called the “Church of Annunciation”.   This was a pretty neat site.  I believe this is the biggest church we visited.  The interesting thing Nazareth is a majority Muslim.  Here is a story describing some tension in the past regarding a sign hanging in Nazareth.  

We were dropped off and were able to wonder in the streets walking to the church.  It was interesting that is for sure.


Here is the inside of the church.  I’m not sure if I’ve used this saying before.  We visited a few holy sites and each time a church was constructed.  I quickly learned to “not worship the place, worship the person who was in the general area 2000 years ago”.   It’s easy to get caught up in the trimmings, yes they are neat, but you have to remember not to idolize it.   Here is part of the inside of the church.

The sanctuary had some really neat murals

Here is the next location.  Read Luke 4:16 ( a passage Jesus read boldly). 

Kim Sutton has a great picture of this where no one is in the church.

After we left, we were walking back to the bus to head to our next location, Church of the Synagogue.   We walked through a small street market and low and behold, a fresh meat market, yum!!   It was unusual to see fresh meat hanging and knowing people purchase it for that day’s consumption.

Our next stop Megiddo (aka Armageddon) was a bit of a ride, here is more scenery on our way.   The country side is absolutely beautiful; this is a snapshot of leaving Nazareth.

Here is a good sign explaining, the bottom words explain that in book of Revelation, Megiddo is also known as Armageddon.   The final battle will take place here. 

The entrance.

Ancient rocks!

Here is the wide angle view of the country side.  What’s amazing, if this is the place where the final battle will occur, we know the result. J

Here is a deep hole (probably 30 to 40 ft deep and p10 – 15 ft wide).  It stored grain.  Notice the steps going down, can you imagine being the person who had to bring up the grain?!

Another cool thing they did was the way they brought water to everyone.

They built a spring to feed water to the location.  I apologize I didn’t get a better picture, it was about 30 or 40 ft down, I was giving our tour guide a hard time, and say it was a ‘good well’, and not a ‘bad well’.  She said it was a spring. 

Overall, Megiddo was pretty cool.  The history and biblical significance is well documented.   It remains to be seen if this is the place of the final battle, I do know if that is the case I want to be on the side of Jesus and his heavenly army J   Any who, one final story when we first got to  Megiddo, I was thirty and needed a snack .  I wondered off and found a place we’d later eat.  I got a bottle of water and a snickers bar.  I handed the guy a 50 shekel paper bill.  He handed me some coins back and fidgeted and bit, and handed me a 10.  I thought for a second, waved my hand and said ummm, he handed me a 20 shekel bill, and I handed him the 10 he originally handed me.  I think he was trying to made a few shekels off me, not 100% sure.  Was a bit odd.   The tour guide lectured me nicely J, you need to buy water on the bus (which was $1.00 per bottle).     

The next place we headed was places that where our tour guide spent time digging.    It was an absolute awesome place; they had cattle grazing along with cactus in the same pasture.   The Jezerrl Valley was awesome.

Jezreel Valley. 

After spending time hearing from Dr Williams about his time digging at this location, we headed to our last location, Gideon spring.     (Read Judges 7:6-7, 16-17)

Interesting plant, wonder if it’s “New Coke” J  Those from the 80’s would laugh at that.

Balloon fish

One of my few pictures that could be used for a post card!

Watched the sunset, today was pretty laid back and the last evening we spent in Tiberias. 

Israel 2012 – Day 3

Day three started by staying one of three nights in Tiberias, located in the north east corner of Israel and next to Jordan.  After arriving in Tiberias the first evening, we met at the main lobby and chatted about the day.  My roommate had the only key and I hadn’t memorized the room number.  He headed back to the room and I came a few minutes later (I think I was uploading pictures to Facebook).  When going back to my room, I went to 258, knocked once and then pounded on the door.  I thought, hmm I might be at the wrong room.  I went to room 259.  My roommate had left the door unlocked and slightly open.  Of course, a few minutes later, our phone rang.  It happened to be our next door neighbors.  They were pretty scared, anyone seen the movie “Taken”.  They thought this was happening.  I felt bad, really I did. LOL!

Here is the panoramic view of my view outside my window. I took this the first day.  Here is a picture of Sea of Galilee first morning.  I was so excited knowing I was staying literally a few steps from where Jesus walked on water, it was pretty cool.

Pastor Joel was telling us about when Jesus started his ministry, he came down a mountain and a city.  I’m not 100%, but this I believe is the city.  I’d want to confirm, but the picture was awesome!  If not, it still represents a city in Galilee area, which the bible states Jesus started his ministry at. 

In the morning while taking pictures, there was a bird, not sure the type.  It would “hover” and wait, if it didn’t see the fish, it would move a bit and hover again.  I witnessed this bird hovering, waiting and diving literally straight into the water.  Here is the fish it caught.  God inspired me to write a story called “The Hovering Bird

Yum…Pizza, Pancakes, Eggs and syrup…

The first day in Tiberias, we had perfect weather.  The rest of our trip had weather where it was nearly 100% sun and temps in the 70’s / 80’s.  The scenery in Tiberias is awesome. This is a fertile area and lots of growing of a variety of crops (olives, bananas are a couple that we saw, there are more trust me). 

The first thing we did was take a boat ride on something representing a wooden boat of the day.    The boat ride was good at “mood setting”, they played Christian music and raised the American flag.


One funny thing, mentioned by one of the members on the trip as we were pushing away from the dock, Dr. Williams and Pastor Joel were left on shore.  The person mentioned, don’t worry, Dr Williams will walk out to us.  Did I mention this was his 152nd trip to Israel.

Mt Hermon (9000 ft).  Dr. Williams mentioned he had never seen this much snow and as clear as this. 

Raising the flag

Panoramic view while on the boat

Here is Tiberias

The group from GCC

Another interesting sign

We went to a museum to see a 2000 year old boat.  It was discovered and brought up using foam.

After the boat was discovered, they needed to save the boat before it turned to dust.  They ended up using foam. 

 Interesting sign. J

After visiting the museum we headed off to the tour of churches, really, where something happened, there is a Catholic church (it seems).  I found this picture similar to most locations, no pets, talking, shorts, food, weapons and smoking.   Kind of different I must say, not in a bad way just not something I wasn’t used to at first, it was a place of worship and should be respected.

Dr Williams read the Sermon on the Mount scripture, (Matthew 5 – 7), it was a cool setting, after reading the passages, we performed a group prayer, while praying people started singing in the church.  It was one of the first moments of the trip that was moving.   It’s something I won’t forget.  

On a funny note, as I was leaving, I needed to use the W.C (aka restroom).  I walked in and there was an older lady (grandma age) cleaning the bathroom. She didn’t speak English, however when I looked at her wondering if she was going to step out, she went “Ahh” and pointed where the stalls were at, then went back to cleaning the wash area (sinks).  I believe she stepped out and her reaction was priceless.  And, I paid one US dollar instead of 1 NIS (New Israeli Shekel) for using the restroom.  Yes, many places you pay a nominal fee for using public restrooms, some places have attendants collecting money.

Here is the location we were praying.  The backside of the church.

The second church was called (Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha).  It’s where Jesus multiplied Fish and Bread to feed 5000.  (Matthew 14:13-21).  Here is a picture of an olive press. 

Here is the main sanctuary

The third church we visited was The Church of the Primacy of Peter ( John 21 ).  We weren’t here too long and some people put their feel in the Sea of Galilee.  I didn’t have that urge, but it’s awesome to visit such a holy place.

Another cool thing I learned while in being in Israel was something called Jerusalem cross.  I’ve heard various meanings of the smaller crosses, but nothing stands out.  I think it’s pretty neat as a symbol, not  your everyday cross seen in the US and other churches.  This cross was displayed as I was leaving the third church.

We headed to Capernaum next and seen this interesting signs.

On a serious note, there some cools things, this one shows the Ark of the Covenant, it was showed on the original Synagogue.  Here is some external pictures showing  this area more.

As I was taking pictures, I found the word “Internat”, that sounds a lot like “Internet”.    Sorry Al Gore, the Internet apparently was started in the 4th century BC, not when you said so. J

After visiting a few churches and significant other places, we headed to a place to get either 1) baptized or 2) recommitted.   Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River and is a popular spot.  I “took the plunge” in the 50+ degree water.  They gave us a white robe to wear.  The one they gave me was a bit snug. 

Attractive eh?!

There was over 50 different languages that have this saying shown, I recall someone saying there could be even more..

After several from GCC and others in the group, we headed to Golan Heights.  This is about 1000 or so foot above Sea of Galilee.  Here is a panoramic view.  Funny and yes, true story.  I was tired after going in the Jordan and getting warm.  The bus ride to the top of Golan Heights took about 45 minutes.   I don’t remember much of it as I took a nap.  When I got there, I was groggy, I asked our tour guide what body of water that was. She said, “Hungry, Czech, and a few other Europe countries”.  Somehow, I asked a few too many questions.  It was in all good fun.

When we left Golan Heights, we took an alternative road back that felt like a roller coaster.  It had a few hairpin turns, in a full tour bus.  There was one time we bottomed the bus out.   The bus driver (Uni I hope that is how you spell it), has been Dr. Williams bus driver for 30 years. 

Israel 2012 – Day 2

We headed out to “Tel Arad” park.  Tel Arad was mentioned in (Numbers 21:1-3).   The one fact is the only discovered “holy of holies” and it was interesting to see an actual sacrificial alter. 

Here is a picture of the temple and view showing the mountain range.

The view was pretty amazing, the weather was overcast, windy.   You are starting to see the terrain starting to change.  Yes, even a mirage.  I did mention things were changing correct?!  

Our next stop was the Dead Sea.   The pictures I have of the Dead Sea do not even come close to describe how awesome the scenery is.   I took more pictures (over 700 on the second day in Israel).    Of all the things “I did” in Israel, the ride to the Dead Sea, swimming was the coolest.

Here are a few examples of the scenery to the Dead Sea.   It’s amazing the first day we see the “land of milk and honey”, the next day we see the total opposite.


The ride from Arad to the Dead Sea wasn’t too long, an hour or less.   Here is a panoramic view of the Dead Sea as we first got to see it..  God’s finger prints are all over this area of Israel especially, there are some unique things, lowest place on earth, and the richest in minerals.   They said if Dead Sea dried up, there is enough fertilizer to stock the earth for 1000 years (or something like that it was a long time).

Here is some more scenery

We headed to Masada, a place built by Herod the Great.   Of all the stories that really came to life in the Old Testament, it was at Masada.  Masada was not only the place Herod built, it was used by the Jews as the last stand in 66 AD.   Orthodox Jews, who live in Israel, do not come to this place, because they don’t recognize what happened here. I learned the name  Josephus Flavius when visiting Masada and how important his writings are. 

His writings are some of the primary materials used for history besides the Bible.   Here is a view of the Dead Sea from Masada

More scenery…Amazing!

There is a cable car that takes you up to Masada.  The incline is approximately 1500 ft.

The view was AMAZING!  Moving on, I could have stayed at Masada a few days.  The size of the actual complex was big.  There were several structures at Masada

The bathing houses were in amazing condition, here are a few pics showing the bathing houses.  The tiles you see are original.  I hope my bathroom last this long and looks this good.

Another location that was unique was the Synagogue.  The places where people are setting are original.  You might see the ‘blue’ line, that is the original building, everything above is rebuilt to as close as possible.  It’s amazing!


Some of the terms I learned here was “lots”, the Jews “cast Lots” to see which order the Jews would commit suicide.  Ever heard the term “Your Lot in life”, it originated here.


Mineral rich eh?

Can you imagine if this was your view out your back yard!

After spending an hour or two at Masada, we headed to Qumran, the location where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.   The Essenes were the people who copied the ancient scriptures; they believed one of their purposes was to be “keepers” of the Holy writings.   I hadn’t heard of the Essenes before visiting Qumran.    Here are some representations of the pots they found the Scrolls in.

Here is an example of the caves around Qumran  I don’t recall them showing us the exact cave, but this shows a good example.

 The weather was overcast when visiting Qumran.  God was shining some rays down.

We ate lunch at Qumran.  They had a decent variety of food, the people running the café had a great price $10.00 for food / drink.  People were lined up, they were making some serious cash! 

In my normal adventure, I’m always looking for interesting signs.   So is it an exit or not?

Before heading to Jericho, we headed to the Dead Sea to take a quick swim.  I felt like a human fishing bobber.  I walked out so far where I couldn’t feel the bottom.  As I mentioned, of all the things I “did”, swimming in the Dead Sea was the coolest!   I didn’t get any pictures of me swimming; I took my pocket camera and captured a couple pictures.  That is 418 below sea level.  There is rumor there even might be some video of me swimming, I’ll never tell……

After visiting Arad, Dead Sea, Masada, Qumran, we headed to Tiberias.    After two days, you wouldn’t think things could get any better, we were just getting started.

While heading north to Tiberias, we headed to Jericho, the oldest City on earth.  We had to cross a security checkpoint, Jericho is controlled by the Palestine Authority. 

Jericho had a different feel to it, some poverty (which shocked me a little), make shift homes and here is a guard shack.  It was a change after being in other areas of Israel. 

As we headed north, we had to go through the checkpoint back into Israel controlled territory.  There was a picture opportunity to show the checkpoint, but there was a sign that said “no photos”.  There was a guy about 6’4” with an automatic weapon.  I took the safe approach and didn’t get the picture.  While we were at the checkpoint, two Israel security guides boarded our bus just to make sure things were safe.   We also saw I believe 4 or 5 tanks as we headed north to Tiberias. 

As we headed north, the terrain started to green back up. 

We arrived in kibbutz ma’agan in Tiberias.  Here is a picture of the Sea of Galilee. 

The lighted city is Tiberias

Second day in Israel in the books, I couldn’t believe I had six more days at this point.  The term “God’s country” had a new meaning, I didn’t think of that until I was writing this story.  Pictures can only do so much, but the peace I felt from seeing the Sea of Galilee and what happened here, was indescribable.  I couldn’t believe it.

Israel 2012 – Day 1

“I want to see the current Jerusalem before I see the new one”

A group of eleven from GCC went from March 2nd to March 11th 2012 to the Holy Land.   The group from GCC (Greenville Community Church) was part of a larger group of forty-seven led by Dr. Wilbur Williams.   This was the 152nd trip for Dr. Williams, who has been doing trips to the Holy Land since 1958.  Since being back, I’ve had several people ask me “How was the trip?”  Words can’t describe the experience; here are some of my responses:

1)      Beyond awesome!

2)      You know the high you get from being on a mission trip?  It’s that feeling x 100

3)      Incredible, a trip of a lifetime

I won’t read the bible the same after visiting Israel.   As of typing this story, I experienced my first corporate worship at GCC.  It was very moving and brought a perspective that I’ve not had before.    While Pastor Joel was preaching, “famous last words”, he used a couple references to his trip to Israel in his sermon, my mind immediately went back to the holy land.  Here is a summary my trip day by day.

From the very beginning, the trip started out as special.  I got to spend Thursday evening 3/1 in Chicago with my wife.   It was nice to have a special evening in such a vibrate city with her.   We stayed at the Renaissance hotel, which is a 3 or 4 star hotel.   The hotel offers “park, sleep, and fly”.  It’s a program where a person can drive down, park and leave their car for up to two weeks using the hotel’s parking.  The cost of the room was $99/night, nothing additional for parking.   Kim Sutton got this idea from a person she worked with.  Parking at the airport was around $30 per night.  

On Friday, the hotel shuttle, which runs every 30 minutes, took us to the airport.   We had a 3 hour layover in Chicago; we hooked up with Dar and Brad Kelly, who came down on Friday morning.   There were a few others from the larger group.   God was already working on building relationships; I got to know this guy named Bart Hall.

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The three hours waiting to fly to Philadelphia went fast.    The plane left about 1:30 PM local time and took about 1 hour 30 minutes to get to Philadelphia.    We had a 4 hour layover in Philadelphia; we hooked up with the rest of the group.  Some decided to get a bite to eat, after walking down to the gate, we headed back to the food court area, which was a bit of a hike.  I was having the craving for seafood.   There was a local seafood place although the prices were a bit expensive, some headed down to another area to get food.  Myself, Matt and Carol Dewys decided to have some seafood.


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The good news we found they offered a bowl of clam chowder for $8.50/per bowl.  It was good and filling!   I also tried my first glass of ‘white’ wine I believe, had a couple of ice cubes.  I’m not normally a wine drinker, but it was good (thanks Carol).  We talked for what felt like an hour or two.  I enjoyed getting to know Matt and Carol on a more personal level, which got better as the trip went on.   

I was on the lookout for some interesting things that are picture worthy.  The Philadelphia airport didn’t disappoint.  We discovered the Israel Gate was secured, both with a smoked cover wall so you couldn’t see inside the waiting area and metal detectors when going into the waiting area.  I’ve not done a lot of traveling, but I’ve never seen a gate secured quite like this. J 

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Normally, I dread a 4 hour layover, the time slipped by getting know Matt, Carol and others.   The flight from Philadelphia was scheduled for 10 hours, 50 minutes.  My only other time flying that long was when I went to Malaysia, which was 12 ½ hours to Seoul, South Korea, then 7 hours to KL.   When I got on the plane, Gerry Wilcox and I traded seats.  I had the pleasure of sitting next to Dr. Wilbur Williams for the flight to Tel Aviv. 

 As we were getting ready to take off, we had two issues.  The first was a student from IWU (Indiana Wesleyan University) was invited by Dr. Williams.  The student was from Venezuela attending IWU, he has a US Visa, but not a Israel visa.  I learned any US citizen has automatic visa to Israel.  Citizens from Venezuela need a visa, which somehow the travel agency overlooked.  We weren’t certain why this person couldn’t go.  Secondly, another person came up to Dr. Williams crying and mentioning they had to get off the plane.   We found out Patti was adjusting her stuff getting ready to sit down.  A bag from the overhead compartment accidentally fell and hit her in the back of the head / neck area.  She became nauseous, stating she had headache.   Matt Dewys (who is an ER doctor and part of our group) was asked to go look at her.  He cleared her although the airline staff consulted their experts, they determined with a 12 hour flight over the ocean, going to a foreign country she couldn’t stay on the plane.  She was forced to leave the plane.   I can understand their position although Patti had been waiting for 20 years to go to Israel had to wait.   Our group was holding up the plane as the two people mentioned luggage had to be removed.  This held up the plane for about 45 minutes.  After seeing Patti’s response, I knew the Holy Spirit was already starting to lay experiences on my heart.  I knew somehow this particular situation would be used for a story.  I wasn’t sure the scripture or words, but I had a sense this situation would be something I’d write about. 

After we got off the ground, the flight was mostly uneventful, or so I thought.  I got a chance to talk to Dr. Williams a little bit, nothing stands out about we talked about.  If I’d had access to the internet, we’d had more to talk about as we’d reviewed some of my writings.   The flight served dinner, then we went to sleep, we had night for most of the flight, which made sleeping easier.    The seat was VERY uncomfortable, which made sleeping not easy.  It reminded me of being at a high school game, where the benches are not usually too comfortable.   I did catch a few hours of rest here and there.

Additionally, like my flight to Malaysia, I had movies and music available, which I watched a couple movies.   One of them I remember was called “In Time”.  I also heard a song while in Chicago by Adele, “Set fire to the rain”.  I listened to that a few times, this song probably became the ‘theme’ song for the trip for me personally.  Seems like when I go on an extended trip, there is one or two songs that seem to become something I hear and remember the trip.   I later learned while on the plane, a person on the other side who was in the same row as me stood up and passed out or something.  Matt Dewys was engaged as this event happened right next to him.   The report was this person was dragged to the back of the plane, and Matt administered an IV.   I don’t have any more details on why this person needed assistance.  One last interesting thing during the flight, I was up stretching my legs, the flight attendant was resting up against someone seat, I asked her if she needed to go by me, she said no and she was watching a passenger who was acting, strangely.  That is the last thing a person wants to hear, especially going to Israel. J 

We landed in Tel Aviv after about 10 ½ hours of flying.   The captain mentioned due to the medical situation, the tech’s on the ground needed to check with the guy who Matt worked on earlier so everyone was required to stay in their seats.  The same guy who was being watched earlier just got up and started walking around, the flight attendant asked, “What are you doing?”  The guy acted weird, but the medical technicians didn’t do much, so we could un-board without incident. 

In Israel Finally!

I had my camera(s) out and looking for anything picture worthy.  Being a geek by trade, I’m looking for BSOD (blue screen of death).  Here is one of the first pictures I seen at the baggage area. 

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I got this idea from Mark Russinovich who takes pictures of blue screens (or did).    As I was walking off the plane, I was taking some random pictures with my little pocket camera.  A couple warned me nicely that I shouldn’t be taking pictures.  J  I was taking pictures of wall art, which if someone wanted me to remove, I would have.    I did see a picture of a goat, which Heather and Tim Parker would appreciate.   They had recently gotten a goat named pepe.

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Dar, Brad and myself made it through customs without any issues after collecting our bags.  While waiting for the others, I captured a picture of the airport just before going to the general area.

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The area by the smoked glass is left clear.  Brad, Dar and I were standing there for a few minutes while waiting and were asked to move to the general area.   Luckily, our luggage made it without incident and along with the rest of the group boarded the bus to Arad, our first stop.  Description: C:UsersAdministratorPicturesIsraelTrip3-2IMG_0170.JPG 

After boarding the bus, we headed to Arad. 

We saw a rainbow when leaving the airport located in Tel Aviv. 

I couldn’t believe the scenery.   The bible talks about the land of milk and honey.  The tour guide mentioned this area had more rain than normal, which was a blessing.   

We stopped at our first stop where there was the legendary battle of David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17)   Here is a panoramic view of the battle.   It was simply amazing!

As you’ll notice, the weather was overcast with some light rain and fog.  We arrived in Tel Aviv around 4:30 PM local time.   The terrain was flowing with a variety of trees, rocks, valleys and vineyards.   This was my first opportunity to see some “old rocks” as I would later classify them.   I was corrected; these are “ancient” rocks.  It is hard to believe these rocks are a couple thousand years old.

When I mentioned unique things, here is some cactus, unique eh?!

We climbed on the bus, something I would get accustomed to and enjoy.  We drove a short way and saw another location.     We stopped at Tel Lakhish. 

This was a pretty ancient location.   After visting Tel Lakhish (Are you sensing a pattern, Tel Aviv, Tel Lakhish) .  We boarded the bus and headed to Arad.  After about 1 to 2 hours, we made it to our first hotel. 


Day one in Israel was “in the books”.   The one thing I learned, the “land of milk and honey” came to life.

We stayed at the Inbar hotel.  When we arrived, several of us were sitting in the lobby surfing the web.  The lobby had a couple couches, they provided us travels the SSID and Password, us geeks were happy!  and when having breakfast, got my first picture with a local gentleman who was kind enough to allow a picture.

Here is a picture of Avi, the local security guy at the hotel.  He was a bit over 2 meters, (6’ 7”)