S: Israel Our Pilgrimage 2012
FC: ISRAEL OUR PILGRIMAGE
1: Israel was not high on our bucket list but when a trip was planned through our church, we decided to do it. If we were going to visit The Holy Land, we might as well do it with like-minded people, our church family. Thirty six current or former members of Fellowship Lutheran Church, Tulsa, Oklahoma traveled together for 10 days. We value the religious educations we had as children but neither of us considered a trip to Israel necessary to our spiritual journeys. St. Matthew's Episcopal Church in Pampa, Texas was a stabilizing influence through Chris' childhood and teen years. Les was raised Lutheran. His mother kept her family in church during her children's impressionable years in California and Oklahoma. Going to church is one way Les honors the memory of his mother. We didn't discover until we were well into it that our trip to Israel was a pilgrimage. Our tour guide, Nola, explained it beautifully. She said, "A trip is when you see sites. A pilgrimage is when you see sites and have insights." | Our Pilgrimage February 7 - 17, 2012 | As we pondered the difference between a pilgrimage and a trip, we realized that most of the trips we take are pilgrimages. We travel to surprise ourselves, to understand the past and to shape our futures a little differently. At the end of every trip, aka pilgrimage, we learn that endings are always new beginnings. We did not expect to like Israel as much as we did. This trip exceeded all our expectations and will live in our hearts and memories as one of the best trips we have ever taken. We've selected our favorite pictures that best illustrate some of the highlights and insights of our trip to Israel. We hope they convey just how special this country is. Les and Chris
2: Israel - Perspectives and Comparisons The World * 6,800 miles from Tulsa * on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean or the western border of Asia * 32 degree latitude (about the same latitude as San Diego or slightly south of Dallas) Political Boundaries * Israel's neighborhood is unstable! * Israel is surrounded by dictatorships, monarchies and democracies Climate and Topography * coast of Mediterranean Sea - west * mountainous - center * Jordan Rift Valley - east * Negev Desert - arid south * Mt. Herman - north ^ source of Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River ^ located in Israel, Lebanon and Syria ^ 9,230 ft ^ highest peak in Israel is 7,295 ft. / ski resort
3: OUR ROUTE Tel Aviv Caesara Megiddo Jezreel Valley Tiberias / Sea of Galilee Dead Sea Jerusalem Tel Aviv
4: Negev Desert | Mediterranean Coast | Northern Shore of Sea of Galilee | Sea of Galilee
5: Les was enthralled with the landscape of Israel, it's geographical diversity and the agricultural economy.
6: Olive Trees | Almond Trees | Local Produce | Wildflowers
7: THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL | The Bedouin Traditionally nomadic desert dwellers, the Bedouins are organized in tribes headed by sheikhs. Most still live in tents and other make-shift housing structures. The camel is used for transportation and milk from which cheese is made. Camel hair is used for shelter and clothing. Bedouin men work in the tourist trades; Bedouin women produce ethnic arts and crafts to sell to tourists.
9: Orthodox Jews
10: Sights and Insights
11: The Sea of Galilee ...where Jesus spent most of his three year ministry. He recruited the first disciples here and made them "fishers of men."
12: The Sea of Galilee is fed by the melting snows of Mount Herman to the north. It's a freshwater lake, 13 miles long, 7.5 miles wide and occupies an area of 63.7 square miles. At 693 feet below sea level, it is the lowest freshwater lake on earth.
14: The Sea of Galilee was one of our favorite sites. It is reputed to have changed very little since the time of Jesus so it was easy to visualize the followers of Jesus in this setting. We experienced wind, rain, sun and rainbows in the same morning we sailed on the Sea. The captain of our ship sang Christian hymns in Hebrew. We prayed, listened to scripture and meditated. | The morning was so moving that Pastor Alan suggested a day of silence and reflection. He asked that we approach our fellow travelers with care for the next few hours, in case they were practicing a day of silence.
16: The Mount of Beatitudes
17: This site is said to be where Jesus delivered the Beatitudes sermon from a boat on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. The multitudes had gathered on the shore to listen to him. One could picture the crowd who heard: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
18: Nola, our guide, explained that many of the sites cannot be authenticated by archaeologists and are considered traditional sites. That is, generations of people have identified by oral tradition, accessibility or geographical "fit", the sites where Jesus spoke or performed miracles. | This is the rock upon which Jesus blessed and divided the 5 loaves and 2 fishes, feeding the crowd of 5,000. "Yeah, right," Chris thought.
19: After seeing so many traditional sites in Israel, we wondered why we so readily questioned their legitimacy. Jesus' followers would have revered the sites He visited. Is it such a stretch to believe that this is the rock from which Jesus fed the multitudes? Our skepticism might have had something to do with the fact that churches, many of them ostentatious, were built over almost all the traditional sites, obscuring what the setting looked like in Jesus' time. | The rock emerging from the center of this chapel floor is known as the Table of Christ. After Jesus' resurrection, he appeared to the disciples who had returned to their jobs as fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus prepared a meal from their catch on this rock. Jesus appointed Peter to the office of Primacy at this spot and told him, "Feed my sheep."
20: On the shore of the Galilee just outside the chapel housing the Table of Christ. This is Les, not St. Peter. I know, it's hard to tell difference.
21: This is one of several authentic Roman-era tombs carved into the mountain adjacent to a major highway. We were surprised to see many of these tombs throughout Israel. Chris had always visualized a boulder, not a flat round stone, covering the entrance to Jesus' tomb ... an aha moment for her.
23: Several of our fellow parishioners requested a baptism in the River Jordan where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Jesus' baptism likely took place a little farther south, near the Judean desert. The commercial site for river baptisms is managed by a kibbutz. Pastor Alan agreed to do the honors and the candidates donned white robes for entry into the river. Pastor Alan reminded his flock that Lutherans believe that, once baptized, you are good to go. He called it a re-dedication of baptism and considered it ceremonial only. The water was freezing. It took an enormous amount of faith and courage to wade into the River Jordan. Pastor Alan and his helper were downright numb when it was all over. | This setting on the River Jordan is idyllic and peaceful, lush with foliage.
24: Our meals in Israel were amazing. These pictures depict just one buffet - breakfast. We ate similar meals at lunch and dinner. This was a typical breakfast in Israel for Les. He loved the varieties of fish and olives served at each meal. Hummus and pita were also offered at almost every meal.
27: Bet She'an
28: The Bet She'an excavation had an excellent example and explanation of a public bath house. The steam room was heated by a furnace located outside the walls of the bath house and the heated air moved into the space beneath a suspended floor. Columns under the floor radiated heat.
29: THE DEAD SEA SCROLLS
31: The discovery of the first seven scrolls was followed over the next decade, from 1947 - 1957, of another 200 scrolls and thousands of fragments. The scrolls contain the texts of the oldest Hebrew bible ever discovered, predating by nearly 1,000 years the next known oldest Hebrew biblical manuscript. Scrolls were found in 11 caves throughout the barren, desert landscape. The scrolls are arguably one of the world's most important archaeological finds.
32: THE DEAD SEA The percentage of salts in the Dead Sea is over 10 times of that in ocean water. It is 1388 feet below sea level, the lowest place on earth. The Dead Sea exists in almost the same form and area as in the time of Abraham although the water line has retreated significantly due to drought and over-exploitation by Israel and Jordan. Chris waded into the Sea only as far as her ankles. The water was freezing and she was not willing to venture any deeper. Les will never let her forget that she didn't float in the Dead Sea!
34: Masada is the site of one of many palaces built by Herod the Great in ancient Israel. The palace, really a small city, was built on top of what we would call a mesa or plateau. It is thought that Herod built the palace here in case of protracted war. Masada is most famous not for Herod but for the Jewish Zealots, a community of Jews who escaped the destruction of Jerusalem and the 2nd Jewish temple by Roman armies in 70 AD. A group of 960 men, women and children barricaded themselves on Masada and held it for 3 years.
36: Approach to the top of the mesa was incredibly difficult in ancient times, the only access by way of a path tortuously winding up the eastern slope of the mountain. Today, tourists arrive at the plateau by cable car.
37: Once the Romans eliminated any more threats of Jewish uprising in the rest of the country, they concentrated on Masada and the Jewish holdouts. This picture, taken from the top of the mesa, shows the footprint of one of the Roman encampments which encircled the base of the mountain.
38: The excavations expose storehouses, bath houses, servant and guest quarters, synagogues and ritual baths. The Zealots found the cisterns full of water and the storehouses full of grain and other food stuffs. They were able to sustain themselves using Herod's stored supplies. | The Dovecot | The Zealots kept doves or pigeons in the Dovecot and used them for food, communication to the outside world, and fertilizer for crops which were grown on the plateau.
39: The Breaching Point | Jewish slaves built a dirt ramp to reach the top of the mountain. A battering ram destroyed the fortifying walls. Once the Jews knew the Romans would breach the fortress, they collectively decided to commit suicide rather than submit to the Roman soldiers. The story was told by the few women and children who chose not to participate in the group suicide.
41: This was our first view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives overlooking the city. In the background is the Dome of the Rock, a Muslim mosque built on the same site as the former Jewish Temple. The Temple was first built by King Solomon, re-built by Herod the Great, and destroyed by the Romans during the Jewish uprising in 70 AD. Jesus spent a great deal of time on the Mount of Olives during His visits to Jerusalem. He taught the disciples here and, as He viewed the city from the Mount, He wept for the destruction of Jerusalem, about which He prophesized. In antiquity the Mount was covered by olive trees. Jewish legend says the Messiah will enter the Temple Courts opposite the Mount of Olives. Pious Jews have chosen to be buried here so they can be among the first to follow the Messiah on the day of redemption
42: ByJewish tradition, stones are placed on caskets or tombstones by visitors to show their respect and to indicate they have visited. These are tombs on the Mount of Olives.
43: Pilgrims from Fellowship Lutheran Church - Tulsa, Oklahoma Nola explained the tradition of referring to the trip to Jerusalem as "going up to Jerusalem." One never goes to Jerusalem or into Jerusalem, instead one goes UP to Jerusalem. (Isn't the camel a nice touch?)
45: Pastor Alan stands in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus came to pray as His disciples protected Him. The Roman soldiers arrested Jesus in the Garden following Judas' betrayal. The Garden was one of Chris' favorite sites. It is not corrupted by an ostentatious church or religious artifacts. It is still a garden of olive trees and it's not unlikely that these trees were present during Jesus' time. Chris was moved to tears when she realized where she was standing, what she was seeing and what had taken place here 2000 years ago. Scripture was read at many of the sites we visited. Most historians believe the Bible to be one of the most important sources of the history of the people, politics and geography of this land in antiquity. Hearing scripture read in the exact or closely approximate spot to which the words refer is a staggering experience. We will never read the Bible again in quite the same way.
46: Roman soldiers escorted Jesus from the Garden of Gethsemane to the House of Caiaphas, a high priest. Jesus was imprisoned here until he was brought before Pontius Pilate. These steps lead from the base of the Mount of Olives at the Garden of Gethsemane to the House of Caiaphas. Excavations of these stairs reveal inscriptions, weights and measurements of the 2nd Temple era; archaeologists generally agree that this is an actual site, authenticated scientifically.
48: The Church of St. Peter stands on the same site as the House of Caiaphas. It is said that Peter stood in this spot when he denied Jesus, one of three denials he made before the cock crowed. We heard a rooster crow as we were leaving the area ... a recording for the Christian tourists, perhaps? No matter, the experience was inspiring.
49: VIA DOLOROSA The Way of Sorrow The Way of the Cross The Via Dolorosa is Christiandom's most sacred route, the path followed by Jesus to the Crucifixion. The stations of the cross are marked along the route. The path travels through a busy area of commerce and we did not sense a spirit of sacredness. Some historians and archaelogists dispute this as the actual route taken by Jesus.
50: THE WESTERN WALL THE WAILING WALL
51: Even though the Western Wall is not part of the destroyed 2nd Temple, it is the closest structure above ground to the ancient site of the Temple. It is a retaining wall built by Herod in 20 BC. The cracks in the wall are filled with written prayers of the visitors. It is said that your prayer will be answered if the prayer stays in the crack. It is incredibly difficult to find an accessible crack deep enough to secure a folded piece of paper .
53: Excavations of the Temple Mount exposed a stairway which Jesus and his disciples used each time they entered the Temple. Archaeologists generally agree this is the "real deal", an actual site. We lingered here and prayed or meditated or simply touched the stone.
54: THE DOME OF THE ROCK
55: Built on the Temple Mount, in the same area as the 2nd Temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, The Dome of the Rock covers the traditional site of the Mohammed's ascent to heaven on his winged steed. In the center of the building, beneath the Dome, is the rock from where Mohammed ascended; next to the rock is an urn said to contain two hairs from the beard of Mohammed. The Dome of the Rock is a Muslim structure and non-Muslim believers are not allowed inside. Muslim soldiers patrolled the area outside the Dome and approached tourists who were behaving improperly. A couple in our group was told, "No touching, no hugging." Because of Muslim control, excavations of the Temple Mount have not been allowed for decades.
56: The Model of Jerusalem, on the grounds of the Israel Museum, is a replica of the city at the time of Jesus. Changes are made to the model whenever excavations reveal new information. | The Israel Museum was worthy of a couple of days; we had only a few hours. It houses a room dedicated to an impressive exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
57: The model gives perspective to the sites of the historical and religious events we know from our Christian heritage. It depicts the grandeur and size of the city and the prominence of the 2nd Temple in the time of Jesus.
58: Pastor Alan renewed our marriage vows on Valentine's Day in the sanctuary of a beautiful Lutheran Church in the Old City of Jerusalem.
59: HOW TO RIDE A CAMEL
60: Meet Nola, tour guide extraordinaire. Her commentary, skillful leadership and vast knowledge of Israel's history enriched our experience of Israel. Thank you, Nola!
61: def. pil - grim - age, n. 1. journey of a pilgrim, especially to a shrine or a sacred place 2. the course of life on earth Synonyms: journey, tour, trek, trip, voyage ... Merriam-Webster Dictionary 3. a trip designed to shape our future a little differently ... Les and Chris | Photograph by Roy Brockmeier