Holy Land Day 5
We departed from the Galilee area and headed south. It was REALLY sad to think this might be the last time I see the Sea of Galilee.
We stopped at an amazing excavation of a Roman city. Complete with bath house and public toilets, Roman road thru middle of town, a large amphitheater and columns galore, we were able to explore on our own for an hour.
From there it was a two hour ride south. We drove through the stark baroness of Samaria and then through Jerusalem on the way to Bethlehem. There we changed guides (they use Christian guides in Bethlehem). We visited the Shepherds Field where the shepherds heard the news of the birth of Christ. We saw a replica of a house in a cave just like Bethlehem has in Jesus time (and actually up to as recently as 120 years ago). The visual helped us at our last stop, the Church of the Nativity.
We had some shopping time in a huge Olive wood factory/store before we headed to THE PLACE, the Church of the Nativity which sits on top of the site of Jesus’ birth. The place was wall to wall people and we knew we had a long wait ahead. It was worth it of course. Despite some jostling in line we made it to the stairs
in about 90 minutes. You descend stairs behind the altar to a grotto. On one side is a star imbedded in the stone floor marking the place of the birth. On the other side is the reputed place of the manger. Unlike my first visit we had the opportunity to touch the star and kneel to pray. After our entire group had a moment we stayed in the grotto and sang Silent Night. A beautiful time. I am so blessed to be able to come back to these holy places with the wonderful group we have. Better pics to come and you can also see LOTS On Jennifer’s Facebook page.
The day began with a praise and worship service for all the tourists who are using the same travel agency we are (Journeys Unlimited). About 800 people with a praise band and several (too many actually IMHO) pastors speaking. I will let others in the group give you their opinions when you see them.
The venue was next to the museum of the boat where they have a 2000 year old fishing boat found in the mud of the Sea of Galilee when the water level was low. It is believed to be the type and size boat Jesus and the fishing disciples would have used on the lake. Pretty cool story of how they dug it out.
Next we went to Yardenit, a site on the Jordan River where you can get into the river, fill up water bottles to take home (I add a little bit to the font when I am doing baptisms), and they have places setup for groups who want to do baptisms. After I led renewal of baptismal bows with the whole group and prayed over the water, about 15 of us “Waded in the Water” for a renewal of our baptism by being submerged in the Jordan. It was absolutely AMAZING! You can see a lot of pics on Jennifer’s Facebook as I was a little busy baptizing people IN THE JORDAN RIVER and couldn’t take any pics. I did purchase a video of the whole thing so stay tuned! This was truly a holy experience. Here are some pics.
We then traveled to a Carmelite monastery on Mt. Carmel, built on the site of Elijah’s victory over the Baal prophets (1 King’s 18).
Last stop of the day was Nazareth and the breathtaking Church of the Annunciation. This is where Gabriel appeared to Mary and she said yes to God’s plan of salvation for us all! The church is so beautiful. We also visited the Orthodox Church built over Mary’s well, where, according to the proto gospel of James, Mary was when Gabriel first spoke to her, causing her to race home where Gabriel appeared again to driver the message.
Next to the Church of the Annunciation is St. Joseph’s church, dedicated to Jesus’ earthly father of course. Underneath is a grotto where they have excavated what was a home during Jesus’ time. The Holy Family is especially honored there. So grateful we had time to spend in both of these holy spaces.
We are off to a good start. Although I am sad that one of our group was unable to make it (she’s ok), 35 of us managed to arrive at the Miami airport and go through the truly amazing Israeli security for El Al flights.
We are on a 787 Dreamliner and this plane is fancy! As I type this we have about 9 hours to go to Tel Aviv. Everyone is very excited and ready to begin our journey.
Jennifer and I had a few days ahead of the trip for a little RandR in Miami (including spaghetti and pizza for Thanksgiving dinner! If you know me, you know it made me happy!). We are refreshed and ready for a holy adventure.
Stay tuned for updates. Israel is 8 hours ahead of FWB so my posts may arrive at awkward times for you. Just keep checking! Also if you follow me on Twitter or you have “liked” the St. Simon’s on the Sound Facebook page, notifications for new posts will show up there.