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Published: January 18th 2020
Wake up call at 6:30 this morning and bus pullout was at 8:oo am. We were spending the day around the city of Jerusalem so there were no long drive times. Every day our breakfast is buffet style with all sorts of fruits and vegetables, breads, sweet breads, cereal (both hot and cold), eggs and egg dishes, cheeses, and of course coffee, tea and juices. Each group has a section served by the color of their group…ours is brown this year. So we often see the other members of our group.
Our bus has 32 people with most of them from the Tyler/Ritchie County area. There are other people from Virginia Beach, North Carolina, and Tennessee. They range in age from 12 to 90 with most being in the 60-70-year-old range. We have a local bus driver and a guide, and I will tell you I would NOT like to be the driver! Jerusalem is a very old city and the roads were former paths, so you can imagine how narrow, twisty, and turny they are, plus its up and down some very steep hills. Once we leave the hotel in the morning we don’t usually return until late evening
just in time for a late dinner. We start each day with prayer and an overview of our schedule for the day. It was going to be cool and rainy, so coats and rain gear was necessary. Today we were going to focus on the gospel of the Luke, the conception and birth of John the Baptist, the immaculate conception of Jesus, Mary’s visit with Elizabeth, and ending with the birth of Christ.
Our first stop was the village of Ein Karem, the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zechariah and Elizabeth had two homes, one down in the valley and a summer home on the hilltop (for cooler weather). It was about 80 miles that Mary traveled from Nazareth to Ein Karem and she stayed for about three months. Zechariah and Elizabeth were staying in their summer home at the time. There is a church built on that site.
The Church of Visitation sits high on a hill and was a very difficult climb (see the pictures of the steps). Some of our party didn’t make the climb. It had a beautiful statue of Mary greeting Elizabeth and you could actually see the other church (that houses the
cave where John the Baptist was born) from high on the hill.
Our guide (who is Christian) told us to think about Mary. The angel appeared to her and in a split second she replied: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Mary had so much faith that she didn’t question the angel much as Jesus said, “Thy will be done.” Mary should be adored for this decision and for raising the Son of God. Think of the role she played even through the Passion. Imagine the pain she suffered.
We left the Visitation Church and went to the second home of Zechariah and Elizabeth where John the Baptist was born three months later. It is actually a cave which is also housed within a church. I have visited this church on previous visits, but this time is was being restored. We could go inside, but there was scaffolding in place which inhibited your view. One thing I loved about this church was the tile on the wall. It was beautiful. There were also large tiles outside with the Song of Zechariah (Luke 1: 80-79) written in many languages.
next stop was Herodion, the palace fortress of Herod. Herod wanted to be on the tallest mountain so he could look down on all the people so he had dirt moved so he could make the mountain taller. As he neared the end of his life he had his tomb built on the site of the theater. He was buried there with all his riches but it is believed thieves game and stole it all.
Once we left Ein Karem, we traveled to Shepherds Field. This is where the angel proclaimed the birth of Christ to the “Shepherds abiding in the fields”. Now shepherds during that tie were usually uneducated, dirty, and lowly. They stayed our in the fields with the sheep for days and weeks at a time, but the angel of the Lord appeared to tell the to go to Bethlehem and worship the King, and they did! Shepherds Field is also Boaz’s Field. Read the story of Ruth, Naomi, and Boaz in the Old Testament. It is also the place where Samuel anointed Daivd. What do all of these have in common? Ruth and Boaz’s son was Obed father of Jesse, and grandfather of David in
the lineage of Jesus.
While in Shepherds/Boaz Field we had free time to look around, explore the caves, visit the church on the site and buy souvenirs. We have a friend who resides in Bethlehem, Ghassan Ghattass, who sells Olive wood products and souvenirs at Boaz’s Field. Dawson first met him and then those of us who have made these trips have become friends with him also. He and his brother come to the US between Thanksgiving and Christmas to sell Olive Wood products to support their families. He has meet us on every trip here, has walked us about Bethlehem, spent time telling us what it is like to live in this country. He met us at Boaz Field today!
By the time we were finished exploring it was time for lunch. Lunch on this day was at Nissan Brothers Restaurant which is next to their Olive Wood Shop. This is a regular stop on most Educational Opportunities tours. We eat, shop, and view a presentation on how the olive wood products are made. I included a picture of “The Blessed Tree” telling of the importance of the Olive Tree.
Our final stop of the day
was The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. It is the site of the birthplace of Jesus and is one of the oldest churches in Israel. The reason it is one of the oldest is because when the Persians invaded Israel and entered this church, they saw a mosaic of the three kings on the wall and felt this was their countrymen and wouldn’t story the church. I learned this trip that the reason the mosaic is no longer there is because the Muslims took over the church and used it for a mosque. The Muslims removed the mosaic as it was on the south wall (the direction they pray), and there are no pictures permitted in a mosque.
We had to wait in a very long line to view the actual spot considered the birthplace of Jesus. It is in a grotto and is marked with a 14-pointed star. (Fourteen is an important number to Christians. Read Matthew Chapter 1 verse 1 to find out why). Also, in the grotto is a stone manger to depict the one in which Christ was born.
Once outside we were pleasantly surprised that is was dark and there were Christmas
lights all around. We learned that this was the Armenian Christmas Eve and the celebrations were beginning.
We made our way back to our bus and back to the hotel. Following dinner, we headed to our rooms in order to begin preparations for the next day. By not we are all suffering from some jet lag, lack of sleep, and time change, plus the weather is turning cold and rainy. Temps tomorrow will be in the upper 40’s and rain.
Hope you are enjoying my ramblings as I try to share this adventure with all of you! NIte!
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