Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Looking Back at Israel - Hezekiah's Tunnel

One of the most memorable sites was Hezekiah's tunnel. At one point, the water source for Jerusalem was outside the city walls. When Jerusalem's water supply was in danger of being cut off by invading Assyrians, King Hezekiah ordered a tunnel dug from the Spring of Gihon to a reservoir inside the city, which the people could reach through a shaft. Using simple tools, workers hewed their way through about 1,750 feet of solid limestone.

"This same Hezekiah closed the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them down to the west side of the city of David." 2 Chronicles 32:30

This tunnel has been found and you can walk through from one end to the other. As you can seen, it is very tight in some places, and of course, filled with water.

It was completely dark; there were no lights in the tunnel. People either wore headlights or brought flashlights along. It was completely amazing to think of how much work this would have taken without the technology we have today. They can tell from the shape of the tunnel, that crews must have began from each side and met in the middle.

I only had to duck in one spot, but everyone else was walking hunched over for most of the tunnel. This was definitely not a walk for the claustrophobic! Not only was this a fun thing, but it is clearly in the Bible, and for some reason, I really loved seeing and understanding this tunnel and how smart these people were.

"The rest of the deeds of Hezekiah and all his might and how he made the pool and the conduit and brought water into the city, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah?" 2 Kings 20:20

Hubs and I at the end of the tunnel.

I almost didn't walk through the tunnel. It was cold outside and I was tired, but at the last minute I knew I needed to see this. I'm so glad I did.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


I realize I haven't updated anyone on our lives in quite a while. So, if you don't communicate regularly with me, you could think that all I do is look back at old pictures and blog very irregularly.

I have been working a lot. That, and maintaining our home to the bare minimum, takes up most of my time. I am trying very hard to stay within our budget and so menu planning and strategic shopping are key. I am also running again and training for a 10k in June. After moving here, working out became non-existent and I will admit to weighing more than ever in my entire life. Doing this 10k with a friend is helping me get back into the habits that I need to have.

Hubs and I are going to a small group each week from our church. Both our church and small group meet quite a ways away from us, but it is worth it to be with fellow believers. We both are very happy with our home. A year ago, we really had no idea where our house was located in means of convenience to school/work/shopping/etc. We live in a quiet little neighborhood of very friendly faces and are close to downtown St Louis as well as the suburbs. God was directing our lives last year at this time and looking back we can give Him the praise for where we are now.

Hubs is busy at school seeing patients, studying for classes, preparing for presentations and readying his research. He gets a few breaks this year, which we are thankful for, but we both count down the months until it is all over. I have leaned on Hubs more than ever in the past 9 months and he has proved to be the godly man and leader that I knew he was. More than once he has directed my wayward mind back to Christ and the scriptures. And I have no doubts he will have to continue to do so.

We are adjusting to our new life, which looks like a mixture of our Kansas life with our Nebraska life. We have all the demands of full-time school and work mixed with the leisurely life we had come to love. I still know that we both want to be more involved in our church and we want to be able to entertain people in our home more, but we both also know that other factors come to play right now restricting us at times to do all that we want.

If you ever pray for us or think of us, thank you. We are amazed at all that has happened in the past 6 years and have no clue what is in store for the next. And I'm very thankful that people continue to read this haphazard blog of mine!

Looking Back at Israel - Caesarea Maritime & Jezreel

Caesarea Maritime - Hippodrome

Caesarea Maritime is on the coast of the Mediterranean. It is a city and harbor built by Herod. While there, we saw ruins of a theater, the hippodrome, Herod's palace, a temple to Zeus, an aquaduct and other antiquities. The question is....what does any of it matter to us?

Theatre at Caesarea (the throne would have sat right in the middle of the stadium)

Besides being historical and amazing to think they built all this without machines, this area is mentioned in Scripture twice. Acts 12:20-23 describes the death of Herod after the people called him a god. Because Herod did not give God the glory, he was eaten by worms and died. This event is placed either in the theatre or in the hippodrome; because of what the historian Josephus writes, it most likely is in the theatre.


But in Acts 10, we learn the story of Cornelius who was in Caesarea. Peter travels there after a vision and he witnesses the Holy Spirit fall onto Gentiles. This is the first time Peter sees this happen without a Gentile having to conform to the Jewish traditions. We took some time to just think over the importance of this passage and the greatness of God in bringing the gospel to the Gentiles.

* * *

We experienced the Jezreel Valley from every side: from the northwest at Mt. Carmel, from the west from Megiddo, from the south at Mr. Gilboa, and from the east at Nazareth. The Jezreel Valley is the only way anyone could travel between Egypt and Mesopotamia. Controlling this valley often meant controll of the trade routes and the regions surrounding it. At each of those spots where we viewed the beautiful Jezreel Valley, we also thought of the other historical events that occurred.

Jezreel Valley from Mt. Carmel: Mt. Carmel was also the place where Elijah contested with the prophets of Baal and Asherah (1 Kings 18).

Jezreel Valley from Megiddo. Megiddo is an important spot in past history and future. There are 18 layers of civilizations here and Solomon fortified this city when he was king (1 Kings 9:15-16).  We saw excavated stables and even a manger (which would have been made of stone, not wood). Of course, Megiddo is where the armies will gather for the battle of Armegeddon (Revelation 16:12-16).

Jezreel Valley from Mt. Gilboa. Mt Gilboa is where Saul took his life (1 Samuel 31). The spring of Harod is on Mt. Gilboa and is where Gideon chose 300 men to fight against the Midianites (Judges 7).

Jezreel Valley from Nazareth. Nazareth is behind Hubs, who is taking the picture and we actually did not go into Nazareth besides driving through. Obviously, it is Jesus' boyhood home and where he was rejected twice during his ministry (Luke 4:16-30; Mark 6:1-6, Matthew 13:53-58). However, besides churches and monuments, there didn't seem to be much that would interest us.

We saw all of these sites (and more) in one day. Hopefully that gives perspective on how small Israel is compared to most countries and also how much we accomplished in our days. I also hope that you see how diverse the landscape is. Sometimes I know we think that it is dry, dusty and dessert-ish. However, it is a very fertile area, green and rocky.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Looking Back at Israel - The Dead Sea

We saw very little of the Dead Sea. We drove by it and then some of us got up very early the next morning for a quick dip. It was an experience, though, that is very strange.

Some background, though. The Dead Sea is 1,300 feet below sea level and its shores are the lowest dry-land on earth. It's deepest spot is over 1,000 feet deep  and its salt content is 10 times greater than the content of the ocean. Animals and plants cannot live in it and it is evaporating very quickly and has shrunk a great deal. 

Water flows into the Dead Sea from the Jordan River, however it never leaves the Dead Sea - there is no exit. The minerals found in the Dead Sea are said to be great for your skin and there are spa's dedicated to using the minerals in their treatment.

As you can see, the Dead Sea is in the wilderness. There is nothing naturally growing around it. It is thought that it was not always like this, however and people smarter than I have placed Sodom & Gomorrah at the southern edge of the sea. It would seem that this area would have thrived in those days with life and vegetation as Lot was greatly impressed and chose the land to dwell in. When Sodom & Gomorrah were destroyed, it could be that the destruction blocked the flow of water. With nowhere to go, the water became saturated with minerals and it could no longer provide for the vegetation. I am no scholar on this, however, and am merely speculating.

The water did not feel any different than regular water. It is completely clear, though. Once we were in the water, it was hard to stand. If you don't sit down into the water on your own accord, it will just happen because you cannot stay upright any longer. And then, you just float. It's so strange.

It is good to keep your mouth closed, create minimal splashing to keep water out of the eyes, and not to have any open wounds. Our quick float of 5-10 minutes was plenty for me and when we got out, our skin was covered in salt that you could visibly see. 

Speaking of getting out...that is quite difficult to get yourself out of the float. Not very graceful at all.

It was an experience that most people will never have, however, and one of those things I could never picture until I was actually doing it. Something we will never forget.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Looking Back at Israel - Preparedness, Companions & Accomodations

I promise to get to the sites, but first I want to describe the trip.

Our flights were nice. We were able to fly directly from Newark to Tel Aviv. Although it was a long plane ride, I preferred it to stopping in Europe and having another layover. Hubs and I are moderately well-traveled and knew to wear comfy clothes, dress in layers and bring along toiletries. It is nice to take a break on the flight to brush teeth, remove/replace contacts and refresh. For, when arriving in the morning, after flying all night, the fun starts immediately.

Our trip was fast paced; we fit a lot of things into a little amount of time. It was designed that way to keep costs & time-away down. To prepare, most of the group got together 4 times before the trip. We were briefed on the places we would visit and why, on what to expect and on what to pack. This was an extreme benefit in all ways. We could read over our notes each morning and know what the day would entail and I think we packed extremely well.

The group sitting on all that is left of the Temple.

We were a large group of mostly familiar faces from our church. We also had some new faces and were able to get to know each other well. For spending all day together, we got along very well. Hubs and I were among the youngest travelers and were very happy to have our cousins along to bring the median age lower.

Cousins headed home

We stayed at a variety of hotels. Our first night was at a Jewish hotel on the coast of the Mediterranean in Netanya. It was a very nice, clean hotel where it seemed many people would come for the weekend to get away.

Outside of the Blue Bay Hotel, Netanya

The next two nights were spent at a Jewish Kibbutz, or collective community, on the southern shore of the Sea of Galilee.

The front of the Kibbutz Kenneret hotel with our bus driver, Joel.

Our fourth night was in a youth hostel at the foot of Masada. This was my least favorite spot and fortunately we spent very little time there. The rooms left much to be desired, but it was in a very convenient location to hike Masada the next morning.

Looking down at the Masada Hostel as we begin the trek up Masada.

Our last nights were spent at a hotel inside the old walls of Jerusalem. This hotel had a medieval feel and was a favorite of mine. We were situated on the wall of Old Jerusalem and could peep out of the slits in the wall to see the rest of the city. Once we arrived in Jerusalem, we walked everywhere. Our location was very situated for that, and for visiting the local shops.

The Knight's Palace in Old Jerusalem.

Our accommodations all had a western feel. There was nothing more unusual than dealing with the electrical outlets. It was all excellently planned and we never had to worry about our trip arrangements.

Now that I have the particulars out of the way, I can focus on the sites in the upcoming posts!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Looking Back at Israel - Food

Again, I am finding it very hard to write about Israel. There is so much. So, let me begin with something incredibly simple. The food.

When you are a picky particular eater, traveling to a foreign country is bound to introduce you to new, unknown foods. One might need to be daring, but even then, there is no guarantee the food will be good. The mediterranean diet is full of great food, however there are two essential things you need to like: olives & chickpeas. Neither does Hubs like.

So, our suitcases were filled with snacks. The breakfasts and dinners were buffets at our hotels and always had a large enough variety for us to fill up on. Picture giant bowls of fruits and veggies, pasta salads and cheeses. All except the final hotel were certified Kosher. So, meat and dairy could not be served together. There was no butter for your rolls in the evening. There was no meat in the morning to go with your eggs. Not really a huge deal for me, but others found it rough. The last hotel we stayed in was by far everyone's favorite, mainly because it was a great mixture of the foods we liked of Israel and the foods we were used to in the States.

Lunches were an entirely different matter. We ate local, which means we ate falafel or schwarma. I happen to like both, but Hubs suffered through the loads of hummus inside the pita bread. In one Arab town, we got to have schnitzel - chicken breaded in sesame seeds and wrapped in a pita. And one day we ate at the most expensive McDonald's ever.

One amazing opportunity we had was to be invited to our bus driver's home for lunch. He is a beduin Arab by descent, as well as a Christian. His wife and family cooked an amazing meal and invited us into their home. We at in stages:

Stage 1: Coffee. Not normal coffee, but coffee brewed with cardamon. And they believed Americans to prefer coffee with sugar (gag), so they also brewed it with sugar. It was very hard, but we all chugged it down.

Stage 2: Pastry. A pastry pocket filled with fruit and nuts - dates, apples, spices and nuts. It was very good.

Stage 3: The main course. Fall-off-the-bone chicken in delicious seasonings, pita bread (more like naan) covered in olive oil and onions, a very sour cheese and tomatoes. I loved the pita and I loved the chicken and tomatoes. And I am one of those people who usually insists on swallowing anything somebody makes for you, however I could not. Our poor pita was drenched in oil and after eating 1/4 of my plate, I started to have the gag reflex. Maybe my body wasn't used to the spices and oil, maybe it was because I had been awake for over 24 hours, but this food was not going down my throat.

Stage 4: Fruit. We got to pick a piece a fresh fruit. This was delightful. Israel grows much produce and much of what is eaten there is grown there

Stage 5: Tea. A nice cup of sweetened tea with mint. It was a refreshing end the meal.

In Old Jerusalem, we were free to eat wherever we chose. Hubs & I chose pizza quite frequently and at one pizzeria had this frozen lemonade with mint leaves that was delicious. [And I'm pretty sure I can duplicate it.]

I think we could have had a lot worse to deal with than Kosher standards and chickpeas!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Looking Back One Year

One year ago today, Hubs and I woke up before any human should after a mere 4 hours of sleep. We were running behind and our ride showed up promptly as we threw everything together, triple-checked that we had our passports, and ran out the door. Eleven hours later, we landed in one of the most coveted pieces of land in the world. Israel.

When people told us that we needed to see Israel, I believed them, but I didn’t really understand why. Now I agree wholeheartedly, but I can’t completely explain to you why. It is more than being able to put landscapes with the stories and it is more than knowing the distances between towns and the different terrains. But if given the opportunity, you should make sacrifices in order to go. I would, to go again.

And, I dare say that the experience Hubs and I had was completely different than what a person would get if you just signed up for any ol’ tour of Israel. Don’t do that. Hubs and I went on a study trip. We didn’t just carry around our cameras; we had notebooks and maps and Bibles and booklets of information. We didn’t just sleep on the bus rides; we were being taught and were taking notes. It was as if I was in college again, except this time learning things that really matter and trying to absorb and meditate on the abundance of truth imparted to us each day.

So, if you are going to spend all that money to get there, do it only if you have a teacher who can delve into the truths of the gospel. Sure, you can be impressed with a church structure that was built to commemorate a possible location in the Bible. Or, you can be interested in learning about the history of the current nation of Israel. And you can even be entranced in the different cultures. But, you won’t be nearly as edified as going with someone who has made it his life’s aim to know Jesus deeply and intimately and who has studied and knows and loves Israel because of the love that God has for Israel.

When we returned from Israel, I hardly blogged about it at all. It was so overwhelming and life was a bit chaotic. So, each day of the trip, one year later, I am going to share some of my favorite times there. I have no doubts that this will do no justice to the trip itself, but hopefully will give you a glimpse into why Israel is a place you should go.