Monday, November 23, 2009

Ladies Holy Land Tour Nov. 28-Dec. 11/09

Monday, Dec. 7 - 10th entry

Today we got to pack our bags again after spending 4 nights in Jerusalem. All our bags were a little fuller than when we got here 4 days ago...yes, we went shopping here and there so we had lots of fun trying to reorganize our suitcases. :-) So, after a great breakfast, we packed up the bus, drove out of the city of Jerusalem, said good-bye to it once more and went on to Jericho.
In Jericho, we saw the sychamore tree that they feel Zachaeas climbed up (sorry I don't have my Bible handy and so my spelling of those two words are not correct...and I'm tired) :-) It is one huge tree and very old but like anything else around here, it may not be THE tree but we at least saw one like it and could remember the story behind it, which is the most important. In Jericho, we also saw the Mount of Temptation from a distance...the road was closed so we could not drive up to it. We saw some old ruins, an old ruined castle of one of the Kings of Jericho (a more recent king) and we went to a gift shop that had beautiful hand-painted glass..the kind I was looking for. Like Arie said, the finance minister of Israel thanks us for coming here to this land and increasing tourist sales. :-) On our way out of Jericho, a definite highlight was seeing camels out in the fields, and also a herd of sheep & goats with a shepherd and a young boy walking down the street in Jericho...that was really cool. :-)
After Jericho, we headed out to the Qumran Caves where they found the Dead Sea Scrolls. After being at the Israel museum and seeing some of these scrolls and then seeing the place where they found them, that completed the package quite uniquely.
From there we headed over to the Ahava Factory on the shores of the Dead Sea. They make quite the incredible lotions and creams with the minerals that they mine from the Dead Sea. Yes, we added to our purchases of previous days to this day as well...we're women, and when women are taken to chocolate factories, shoe factories, cosmetics factories, diamond factories.....well, some purchases are made, are they not? We are only human you know and in Israel too! :-) You just gotta make some purchases. :-)
Near this Ahava Factory, we saw some wild animals...yes, we did!! That was so cool! Auch! I forget the name of it again...its a type of wild goat called the Abix I think....a goat with 2 long straight horns that are here in Israel living near the Dead Sea. I got some really cool photos of them....and then while we were taking pictures of those goats, some wild rock rabbits came running by too...they were soooo cute! as Alysha would put it. :-) So, we saw two wild animal types in one place. That was a highlight of today too. :-)
Next stop was Masada! Yes! We had lunch and then 4 gals braved the steep climb up 1,400 feet ....nearly 1,000 steps! Way to go ladies!!!! Hats off to Jenny Funk and her daughter Chris and also Amanda and Alysha...and Arie, our tour guide - this was his 187th hike up Masada since he's been a child!! Can you imagine?? 187 times????? Only today it took him 29 minutes to hike up and usually it takes him 28 minutes! Oh my, it only took the other ladies 44 minutes to climb up...but they did so well! Way to go all of you!!
Masada is a mountaintop fortress built by King Herod..a winter getaway for himself. This was quite a feat he created for himself....quite amazing how he got water up this monster that was at sea level - the Dead Sea is 1,400 ft below sea level. It's an amazing view from up there. And can you believe it? Yes, it rained on us while we were up there.....not pouring rain like we saw it was doing in the distance but a small shower. Now it never rains at the Dead Sea..but it did today for a bit. It was however, +30 around here today but when the clouds covered the sun and the rain came, it cooled down considerably. When we got down from the mountain, God gave us a beautiful rainbow - yes we got some photos of that too. :-)
Back to Masada, the sad part about this place is that when the Romans took over and ruled the area, over 900 Jews came and sought refuge on top of Masada. 40,000 Roman soldiers camped around the mountain for 3 years and built a ramp up the side of it and broke into the fortress. They would not leave these Jews alone. But rather than surrendering to the Romans, these Jews chose to commit suicide rather than to live under Roman rule. Now, was this an act of heroism? or an act of cowardism? hmmmmm. It's a sad story but out of the 900+ Jews, a woman and her two small children chose to live and not to die. When the Romans finally broke through the wall/gate of this fortress, they were met with an eerie silence and found everyone on top here dead. Act of heroism or cowardism? A question that brings forth much discussion.
So, after taking some great photos of the rainbow once we descended down from Masada, we drove for a few minutes before coming to our final destination for the night.....Golden Tulip Resort - an all inclusive 5 * resort...nice! Our rooms overlook the pool area with palm trees and an incredible view of the Dead Sea. We already had a dip in the mineral pool...we were wanting to go into the Dead Sea today yet but it was raining when we were about we settled for the indoor heated mineral pool instead. :-) Yes, I guess that just had to do. :-)
It's been another good day. I am tired, and I am very sorry but the computer is just not allowing me to add more photos for you to enjoy. You'll have to wait until tomorrow, or until we get back home on the weekend.
Can you believe it?? Just 3 more sleeps and a long plane ride home....but so much to do first...enjoy the morning at the spa here at the Dead Sea, spend two nights in Eilat and a day trip to Petra Jordan and a cruise on the Red Sea....hmmmm, I think we'll enjoy these next couple of days veeeeeery much! :-)
Goodnight my friends. God bless!
Sunday, Dec. 6 - 9th entry - it's not working to load photos today sorry, I'll try again tomorrow.

It was beautiful out this morning as we began our day touring the Old City of David. We got to watch a movie in 3D of when David took over Jerusalem from the Jebusites as it's recorded in 2 Samuel. After the movie we walked through the tunnels...actually there's 2 different tunnels you can walk through, the ones where the water is still flowing to this day, or the dry tunnels called the Canaanite Tunnels..we opted for the dry tunnels, since we hadn't brought our rubber boats or hip waders along. :-) Those tunnels are very narrow and long. The original Hezekiah Tunnel comes out at the Pool of Shilom, where Jesus stood on those steps and healed a lame man. It was quite amazing to stand at that Pool knowing that Jesus had performed a miracle in that very place.
There were three museums we took in today...the Holocaust Museum, which was very difficult to walk through, seeing the horror and the evil that had taken place under Hitler's know that one man had such power to measure a man's mustache to decide whether he was worthy of living or not, or to measure the inches from the eyebrow to the ear to see if they would live or hard to comprehend the people that was difficult to see. We had lunch here afterwards as well. Right after lunch we went to the Bible Lands Museum right after lunch and then the Israel Museum. The Bible Lands museum showed us the areas and the life around the land of Israel in the neighboring countries, while the Israel Museum showed us life in Israel. The fascinating aspect of the Israel Museum was the full scale model of the City of Jerusalem and the Temple...that was really cool.
We got to end the day with a surprise - which we all enjoyed. :-) Yes, we got to go shopping in the market in the Old City in the Muslim Quarter...and yes, we were well guarded and looked after and supervised by our bus driver. It was perfectly safe and we were at our hotel before it was completely dark out. :-) Roger would be so proud of me for bartering a lot and creating quite a scene for the ladies when I wanted to make a purchase. The salesmen just couldn't say no to me...and then with my daughter's cute face standing beside was totally priceless. :-)
We came back to another great supper at the hotel...and now we have to repack our luggage for our trip to the Dead Sea tomorrow and then Eilat for two days and then to begin our journey home. Our time in Jerusalem has come to a close. Now the 3rd portion of our tour here will begin tomorrow as we leave Jerusalem and go to Jericho, the Qumran Caves, Masada and then on to the Golden Tulip Resort on the Dead Sea.
Thank you again for praying for us. We've been well and have really been enjoying each other's company and our time here. Our brains are full and overflowing from all the information we've been taking in.

Here are some thoughts from Chris: "The Pool of Shilom was quite something as we walked through part of Hezekiah's Tunnels...just to be in a spot where we know it's recorded where one of the miracles of Jesus took place. To stand on stones that were 3,000 years old was amazing.
Taking a side trip down the streets of the Old City and bargaining for $1.00 or $5.00 or trying to get them down to 1/2 price, that was quite fun, and I got a few of them mad at me because I didn't end up buying after getting the price down."

Thoughts from Jenny: "Seeing the scale model of the City of Jerusalem and the Temple put together in Jesus' time really put Bible stories into perspective for just brought everything together so differently...I won't read my Bible the same way anymore."

Saturday, Dec. 5 - 8th entry

Kathy and Helen and Jenny & Chris standing in front of the church at the Garden of Gethsemane.

Karen & Amanda in front of the church that was at the Garden of Gethsemane.
Lisa & Alysha in front of the Garden Tomb.

Being silly eating some of the fresh bagels that we bought on street.

In front of the Lions Gate going into the Old City of Jerusalem.

Kathy enjoying some well as Helen, behind her.
Another group photo of us standing in the cemetary (plots here cost $40,000-$50,000 dollars) overlooking the old city and the Dome of the Rock behind us...this is on the Mount of Olives where we are standing.

Walking along the Via Dolorosa.
Group photo with tour guide in Bethlehem, Iman, at the restaurant we had lunch at....the paintings and the tree was beautiful along with the Christmas carols being played over lunch.
Chris enjoying some bagel here too. :-)

At the Garden Tomb.
Our other bus driver Auchmud, we surprisingly ran into him in Bethlehem...he treated our two young ladies to french fries which were completely devoured...they kind of miss the Canadian food of burgers and fries. :-) You can see here how overjoyed they are to be eating this unhealthy food. :-)

In a couple of the churches in Bethlehem where Jesus was born.

Lisa and Iman, our tour guide in Bethlehem standing in front of a beautiful fountain at Shepherds Field.
Alysha & Chris modelling the beautiful head dresses Lisa bartered for from on the bus at the Bethlehem border....Karen learned here how not to give the first price they ask for. :-) These were much cheaper than the one she got manipulated into buying when we were by the desert.

This stable scene was in the Shepherds cave in Bethlehem, it was so beautiful, hand carved out of olive wood. People around us and outside were singing Christmas carols in other was so incredible.
These lovely young ladies with some young kids were just about to walk into the church in Bethlehem and I asked if we could have a photo with them...they were more than pleased to do this...oh they were such beautiful ladies and the kids were so precious.

The day started today with walking through the narrow streets of Jerusalem and stopping at a number of sights. We went to the Mount of Olives and overlooked the city once again. There was a huge graveyard in front of the gate where they believe Jesus will walking through when he returns - the Muslims had put this graveyard there thinking that will stop him because it is an unclean place....well, I don't think that's going to stop him. :-) The churches at these places can be quite beautiful but at the same time, it's so sad that some of these sights have been made into such a shrine and a place to be worshipped, rather than worshipping God.
The Church of the Holy Sepluchre was such a place, the shrines and the people kissing the places where many different denominations were claiming all these locations as their own from where Jesus was on the cross, to where they laid him on a rock to be wrapped for burial to where he was buried...and on and on. I know all these things happened in this city, somewhere in the area, but there were times when we had to work on picturing the place without all these extra additions to distract us from the real meaning of it all.
Being in the Garden of Gethsemane, where a couple of the Olive Trees were over 2,000 years old, knowing that Jesus prayed here, or near, how can one explain what goes through your soul as you walk through these places. You have to be here to experience the full affect of it all.
We walked through the Muslim Quarter in the Old City again was their shopping day and it was packed. We really had to stick together and watch where the other one was. Walking this way also took us down the Via Dolorosa, the route where they believe Jesus walked with his cross on the way to Golgotha to be crucified.
The Garden Tomb was the most quiet, serene and peaceful place of the whole day. This was definitely a favorite place for each of us to be. We read through the scriptures from when Jesus had the last supper in the upper room to when he rose from the grave....this was so powerful to be reading this here. We ended our time here with prayer and singing. It was so special.
Speaking of singing, we were in this one church and another group came in and they sang "How Great is our God" and "Amazing Grace" - oh wow, the acoustics in that church were out of this world..I think we were all in awe of the beauty of the words and the singing.
We enjoyed a great snack mid morning sampling some lovely bagels with hyssop....mmmmm, good. We had a great time taking some goofy pictures...rather Arie, our tour guide, enjoyed taking some goofy photos here of us. :-)

Being in Bethlehem today was such an incredible experience while we sang those Christmas carols in the church that covers the place where they feel Jesus was born and also at the Shepherds Field where they feel that the angels brought the great news to the shepherds in the fields. Reading these stories anew from the Scriptures just brought it all together so wonderfully. Where we were having lunch in Bethlehem, there was Christmas carols being played and in the corner was a Christmas tree and on the wall was a beautiful painting of the 3 wise men and also the shepherds in the fields. We just had to have a group photo here, with our tour guide.
We had a great tour guide in Bethlehem, a woman by the name of Iman, who was Christian and she made us women feel so comfortable....she really made our time in Bethlehem really special.
It was so funny at the border crossing, we were in line for quite some time and of course these guys were by the bus trying to sell us women all sorts of things. One guy just wouldn't leave us alone and wanted to sell me a head cover for $5 but I kept telling him $3...finally he gave in..I know Roger will be so proud of me cause I stood my ground and didn't get suckered in. :-) So Chris bought one too and so her and Alysha tried them on and had a photo. :-) Aren't they looking great?? :-)

Well, tomorrow will conclude our last day in Jerusalem as we visit the Old City of David, another museum which will show us a replica of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem, and then we will also be going through the holocaust memorial - that will not be an easy place to be. Hello to all of you back home.....we send you our hugs. Good night. Love you all. God bless you! Shalom from Jerusalem.

Friday Dec. 4 - 7th entry

Watching the throngs of people coming in for the prayers at the beginning of the Sabbath. Here also is a group of youth, in a circle, sharing the teaching of the week before standing up and singing and dancing because the Sabbath was beginning. They loved coming together at this time of the week, each and every week. It was very moving to watch this.

The area in front of the Western Wall beginning to fill up as the celebrations began. The children were so very precious and a delight to watch as they sang and danced and walked along with their parents and siblings.

Watching the many different sects of Jews coming into the city to celebrate the beginning of the Sabbath. Many large groups of military youth, both men and women, coming in to participate in the celebrations as well. I asked Alysha & Amanda, our two young women of this ladies group, if they could imagine knowing from kindergarten that when they graduated from Grade 12, they would be going through 3 years of military school as well....they couldn't imagine that.

Walking up the hill toward the Zion Gate to journey through the old city.
The Byzantine Church with beautiful painting and artwork on the walls and the ceiling.

Standing in the dungeon in a Byzantine Church which some believe is the place where Jesus spent the night before he was crucified.
Also above is the place which is believed to have been the Upper Room where Jesus had the Last Supper with his disciples.

The Olive Tree park...there are 3 olive trees growing on top of these pillars.
A lovely group of ladies just inside the Zion Gate, having just gone over the archeology and history of Jerusalem and the Temple area.

Walking up the Southern Steps that would have led us straight up into the inner court of the Temple.

Walking through the Muslim Quarter in the Old City after we had finished our tour of the western wall beneath where we were now walking. It tore my heart to see some Muslim women, begging on the side, who were not allowed to show their faces in public...I wanted to let them know how beautiful God had made them and how much He loves them.

Walking through the tunnels along the western wall...the photo just doesn't give the size of the huge stones justice...the bottom stone just above our heads was over twice the size in length as what you can see in this photo...amazing!

At the Western Wall, hearing the many prayers of many Jews and other peoples was quite a beautiful sound really.

It was such an interesting day today. We walked around the city of Jerusalem all day....yes we were tired by the end but so full of incredible much that we learned about the Temple era and the Jews and the history of was all so good.
We were on the bus by 8 am, just like every morning, and our driver drove us to the Zion Gate where we walked into the city of Jerusalem. We began at the Western Wall where we had the opportunity to walk into the women's side and experience hearing the many prayers that others were praying out loud in different languages. So many papers were stuck into the wall that were prayers to God. It made me sad to think that so many of these people feel that this is the only place that they can speak to God. I am thankful that no matter where I am, I can talk to God, I can pray and He will hear me and answer my prayers....maybe not always in ways that I want or expect, but He will answer. When we returned to the wall at the end of the day to watch the Jews coming from all over the place to begin the celebration of the Sabbath, I was moved to tears. They came in by the throngs, young and old alike...youth were singing and dancing and laughing with each other as they formed circles with each other and celebrated the beginning of the Sabbath. What really struck me at this point is how do we in Canada celebrate the Sabbath, a day of rest that God blessed us with each week. It's a gift that we don't readily accept...we see the Sabbath as just another day of shopping or working or a regular day like no other of the week. We miss out by not taking this blessing of rest that God has given to us. It was very moving to see these celebrations. Back at the hotel, a great feast had been prepared in the dining room...a feast is made each Friday to bring in the celebration of the Sabbath...we ate like queens. But what struck me and moved me the most here as well was that each Jewish family would stand at their table and sing together the song of the beginning of the Sabbath. This young family of 6 beside us, a young father went and stood by each of his children, including the baby in the stroller, and put his hands on their head and said a blessing over each one and then ended by laying his hands on the head of his wife and blessed her as well. I began to weep as I witnessed this action of the love of a father for his children and do this in public and at the Friday meal each, it was so beautiful.
It was great to go through the Archeological Park of Israel to learn the history of the Temple and the Walls of Jerusalem. The movies, the history lesson, the teaching from Arie, our tour guide and then seeing the actual places here just wrapped everything up into a tremendous package of teaching us.
As Arie was sharing with us the history from his own children while we were sitting on the Southern Steps which would have led straight up to the inner court of the Temple itself, a song just wouldn't leave my mind. "Take me in to the Holy of Holies, take me in by the blood of the lamb, take me in to the Holy of Holies, take and coal, cleanse my lips Lord, here I am." These very steps that we were sitting on, Jesus' mother and father ascended with Jesus as a child to bring him to the priest for blessing...these very steps. It was another moving moment, as we ourselves, ascended these steps, which were purposefully made uneven so that one would think and contemplate the condition of their heart while ascending to the Temple to bring their sacrifices to the priest. By the time I reached the wall while singing the song that I mentioned above, and put my hand on it, my heart was full of prayers to my God and my eyes were full of tears at my own uncleanliness before Him. Thank you God for giving us your gift of salvation, that we no longer need to go to the Temple to offer our sacrifices but all you desire is for our own body to be a living sacrifice for you, a temple for your Holy Spirit to dwell within us, to make us more like You, like Your Son Jesus....thank you God for never leaving us nor forsaking us and for always giving us the strength to carry on and to become the chosen ones of yours to one day live eternally with You. Thank You Father.

Here are some thoughts from Alysha and Kathy:
"I really enjoyed going to the Tel Dan Reserve, it was so cool to walk through all the bushes and see the different places! It was cool to see the stone throne where the King sat at the entrance to the city by the gate. I love all the old places here in Israel. They are all very beautiful! Just think, where we're walking, Jesus walked! It is just marvelous!" Alysha

"Yesterday we left Tiberias and the Sea of Galilee. As I sat reflecting our last mourning there looking over the sea, choppy because of the wind, I tried to imagine Jesus walking on the Sea and speaking peace to still the waves. Our ride on the sea two mornings before was simply awesome, the sea was so calm.
Today we walked in Jerusalem. We walked under the Muslim Temple in tunnels and at one point we could see the depth of a few layers down - perhaps 30 feet and to think that that is where the people of Jerusalem had walked a few thousand years before.
The most moving for me so far is when we drove into Jerusalem to the song of "The Holy City" and then "We are standing on Holy Ground" as we left the first lookout point. It was very moving." Kathy

Thank you again for continuing to pray for us as we journey through this incredible tour and learn so much. We're enjoying having you follow along with us through this blog. Talk to you again tomorrow.

Thursday, Dec. 3 - 6th entry

Welcoming Jerusalem with juice & bread and blessings by Arie...Dome of the Rock was beautiful at sunset.
Karen got manipulated into wearing a head dress...yep, they knew they could get to the blond one of the group. :-) The sunrise at Sea of Galilee was breathtaking.

The above photos were taken at Gilboa Springs at the foot of Mount Gilboa. A great group photo which Arie took of us at the desert lookout near Jerusalem. Walking down the main street of Beit Shean which was lined with tall ancient columns. The beautiful sunset as we stood at the Mount of Olives basking in the sight of Jerusalem at dusk. Incredible day we had.

We got a new driver today...his name is Salim. Achmad was our faithful driver for our first 4 days but had to go home to attend to family business. Both these men are Palestinians living in Jerusalem..proof that the Jews and Palestinians can work and live together in peace. Not all of them want to divide the country and live in constant conflict. The reason we have a Palestinian driver is so that we can move around the country, and through the West sounds like we may be going into Bethlehem and Jericho. :-) That is exciting to us.
As usual, this morning, our last on the Sea of Galilee, was the last one we will be seeing here, was another absolutely beautiful sunrise. After eating a hearty breakfast, having our bags packed and at our doors by 7 am, and on the bus by 8 am, we were on our way to travel to Jerusalem. We made some stops along the way though.
Our first stop was at Mount Arbel and after a 15 minute hike up to the tip of the cliffs, we saw an astounding view of the Sea of Galilee and the valley. Amazing to view the beauty from up here. We also drove by many olive groves as we drove to and from this place.
We also went to an ancient town called Zippori - located on a mountaintop and had incredible mosaic floors. But the sad part was seeing the pagan symbols of the zodiac mixed in with the Jewish symbols of faith on these mosaic floors located in the synagogues. How does that working mixing these two together?? It doesn't, and there were a number of mosaics that include both of these mixtures...the Jews were bringing the pagan practices and symbols into their lives and their worship centres.
Another place we stopped at was Gilboa Springs - the spring where Gideon and his soldiers stopped and God chose 300 soldiers who lapped water with their hands and the others were sent home. God delivered their enemies into the hands of these soldiers simply by displaying his glory through the obedience of his humble servant Gideon. At this place, Arie, our tour guide, also shared a personal story of how he to had read this story of Gideon to his soldiers under his command when they went to war on Yom Kippur - the 6 day war where the Israelites miraculously pushed the Egyptians back to Cairo when they were outnumbered 9 to 1. God had gone before them in this battle and brought victory to Israel....Arie had told his soldiers after reading this story in Judges 7 that God was going before them. Isn't that amazing? What a testimony.
Beit Shean was the next place we stopped at where we walked through an ancient city with a huge theatre and large pillars outlining the main street. When you came up to the entrance, you had an astounding view of the whole city beneath you.....the words from the women were "WOW, WOW, and WOW!" 4 of the ladies were ambitious enough to walk up the 180 stairs to have an even more incredible view from a large tel (hill) on the other side of the main site.
As we drove to Jerusalem, we saw many sheep with their shepherds and bedouins with their camels. Our driver took us up to a dessert lookout where we were bombarded with our first experience of bedouins zooming in and trying to get us to buy all their wares. Guess who got captured first?? Yep, the blond in our group...Karen....they knew who would be the first to be manipulated into buying something that they wanted to sell you. She looked quite beautiful in a white head covering ...yes, which she ended up buying because she just could not say no. :-)
Then came we ascended into Jerusalem, Arie had our driver play a couple of songs on the CD player for us as we drove up to the Mount of Olives. It was an emotional and meaningful time as we stood on this mount, taking in the breathtaking view of the city with the Dome of the Rock and the sun setting in the orange glow basking this city in a beautiful light. As we stood here, Arie shared some passages with us and we welcomed the city by sharing bread and juice with each other. A very spiritually impacting moment. We thanked God for bringing us here.

"Our feet are standing at your gates, O Jerusalem. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore." Psalm 122:2, 125:2

We are staying at the Prima Royale Hotel downtown Jerusalem, not too far from the old city walls. Tonight, we walked a couple of blocks to a park that overlooked the city walls..beautiful! No I didn't get any photos myself as I had left my camera back at the hotel room....I was not impressed with myself. :-} But, Chris got some great shots with her camera and I was glad to encourage her to get good shots..which she got, but I didn't. :-)
We will have a full day tomorrow walking around the old city and taking in the many sights. Thank you again for praying for us - for our health, safety and protection as we continue to experience this holy place.
God bless you all!

Wednesday, Dec. 2 - 5th entry

Bumpy jeep ride and having our picnic lunch....yum yum

At the Naot Shoe factory, trying out shoes and standing in the Syrian bunker.

What an incredible day we had. The morning started with another incredible sunrise on the Sea of Galilee. Last evening, the winds began and the sea has been very rocky and windy all night and all day today. I have never seen it this way. I've heard that the wind can come up just like that and the waves can be quite I've seen it. The waves are still crashing onto land and I got some neat photos of it this morning with the sunrise.
While I am typing this, it is 9:10 pm here and it is 1 pm for you in, by the time we have completed much of our day, you are just beginning yours. :-)
We toured Tel Hazor - stood in the gateway of an old Biblical city and stood in the palace of a king and also walked down 85 stairs to an incredible old water shaft the city used...but what goes down must also come up, so we were tired after climbing back up those stairs. :-)
A surprise stop at a Naot Shoe Factory was next....yes, we walked out having bought some shoes. And yes, this is a Biblical tour, but for women, mixing in some chocolate, diamonds and shoes...well, no those things are not always a must but they can be a treat, yes?? So, it is enjoyable to have those mixed into this tour as well. :-)
We travelled to Tel Dan, an ancient city from the Bible times in the northern part of Israel. From there we drove to Caesarea Philippi and had a picnic lunch and hiked the area. After that we drove up with the bus to hike up to the Syrian/Israeli bunkers that were used in the war...we walked through the underground tunnels and bunkers the soldiers used...168 soldiers, I believe it was, had been killed in the area during the war. It was quite something to see all these bunkers and Eucalyptus trees all around us. From here we had quite the jeep ride around the Golan Heights...yes a definite highlight of the day as well. Our driver took us up to the Lebanon border and passed by many soldiers in the bullet proof hummers, and on foot in the fields near the military bases as they were going through their drills and practices...sobering to see these soldiers at work.
On our drive back to Tiberias, the sunset was beautiful over the Galilee hills. We stopped at an Olive Factory and enjoyed some facial creams and watching as they were harvesting the olives. Another treat to see.
Thank you to so many of you who have been praying for the continuing safety, protection, and health of our group. Today I took a little slip in the leaves and acorns and landed on my was rather humourous but not as I saw my small digital camera go tumbling down the hill in front of damage done other than a few scratches to the surface, thank you God. :-)
Keep in touch please, keep praying and thanks for joining us on our journey. God bless you all and we'll talk to you again tomorrow. Thus will begin the journey away from the Galilee area and on to Jerusalem. Looking forward to it. :-)

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the most humourous part of the day...not my slip on my tusch but while we were on the jeep ride. Driving down the highway, we were behind another bus, and the bus had to stop in the middle of the highway, so did we...why? There were two dogs in the smack dab middle of the highway enjoying some extra curricular activities and they stopped and both turned in opposite directions and were literally stuck together and could not get unstuck! We were watching in shock...I didn't even take a photo while watching these two..just literally stunned! Alysha pipes up "How are they stuck together??" Well, this just threw all of us into a fit of laughter and we could not stop. We slowly drove past those poor dogs, still stuck, trying to get off the road.....oh boy, it was so funny!! Our driver was just as stunned as we were and we just could not stop laughing. :-) It's good to have those laughing moments, is it not? even on a Bible tour?? :-)

Highlight of the day for Karen & Amanda was the jeep ride: "today it wasn't just seeing the antiquities of days gone by but to see actual history of the present wars that have happened in our always hear about it but now we were right there...walking through the bunkers and seeing the ruins and the guards at the border and on the highway........and yes of course, the dogs on the highway....too funny."

"the picnic lunch was fun, the dogs were funny, it was really cool going down into the water shaft..and the bed and shower feel really good at the end of the day."

Thanks again for praying for us. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, Dec. 1 - 4th entry

We had such a lovely and serene boatride on the Sea of Galilee...definitely one of the most meaningful moments of our trip today...along with some individual time up on the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. So beautiful up on that hillside knowing that Jesus taught to large crowds of people the truth that he hopes we will follow. On the boatride we read the scripture passages of Jesus walking on water, of him teaching the crowd from the boat....we looked around the Judean Hills picturing Jesus walking from place to place and going up into the hills to pray. We sang some songs with tears in our eyes basking in the holiness of this place. Wow. It was so incredible. We also got to walk in the village of Capernaum, where Jesus lived and taught and saw the house of St. Peter, the synagogue where he read from the scroll. The white marble pillars against the black of the stones of the town...beautiful.
Absolutely breathtaking sunrises on the Sea of Galilee and more than enough food for our breakfast and supper buffets in the hotel dining room....this meal we had St. Peter's Fish, it is served on the plate whole with both the tail and the head still intact...kinda felt like his eye was on us as we ate him. :-)

At Kursi, a church after the time of the synogogues and we also took a short hike up this hillside to view another ruin of one of the first churches. This is also the site where they believe Jesus sent the demons into the herd of swine who came off this cliff and dove into the sea and drowned.

Hilik's Place in Migdal where we had lunch today...the groups first official falafel and schwarma...yummy!

Here are some thoughts by Helen, one of the ladies on our tour:
"Today is a significant anniversary for me. While we were singing "Hallelujah" on the boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, my thoughts also went back to these days one year ago, when we laid my husband to rest. He is walking WITH Jesus now while I am walking WHERE Jesus walked, lived, taught and did so many miracles.
Being on the Mount of Beatitudes had a special impact when I was reading Matthew 5:4 "Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted" as well as the others, and I had a time for personal prayer.
The visit to Nazareth certainly became alive when we walked into a place showing where Jesus might have lived as a child.
We went to a village where the disciples came from. Things appear so real when you go to the places where Jesus taught his followers and fed so many people.
Every location is so special."

Memories and comments such as these make this tour so very special to all involved. I'm so glad we came even though the group was smaller than usual. It has made it so intimate and so meaningful to be able to go to more locations and travel a bit quicker than you could with a larger group. I thank God that we have been able to come at such a time as this.

We ended the day by going to the traditional baptism site, Yardenit, on the Jordan River and a couple of the ladies dipped their feet into the river....also taking in a "sweet" time at a chocolate factory and viewing some beautiful diamonds at a diamond factory in Tiberias....before we headed back to the hotel at the end of 10 hours of travelling all around the Sea of Galilee..literally....we drove all the way around it today stopping at all these sites. It was another full, but very enjoyable day.

Monday Nov. 30 - 3rd entry

YAY! We made it and we have our first official group photo in Israel...notice the sign behind us here in the airport says Welcome to Israel. Then we have our ladies on our bus, very comfortable 16 passenger deluxe bus we get to travel around in. :-)

Here we are at the Mediterranean Sea at the aquaduct along the coast at was amazing. Alysha loved the sand, she took some and put it in a plastic ziploc bag to bring home. :-) It was such a lovely day. The photo to the right, we are standing on Mount Precepice overlooking the town of Nazareth - it has about 250,000 people living there today.

Here is Arie, our Israeli tour guide, teaching us about many, many things....he is such a wonderful tour guide and looking after us so well. We thank God for Arie.
The photo to the right is another of one of the archways of the aquaduct at Caesarea on the Mediterranean Sea.

Our couple of young gals on the tour, Amanda & Alysha, standing in front of the Church located on top of Mount Tabor.
Local Israeli people in the old Nazareth Village, the shepherd & his son, and "Joseph" the carpenter.

Today was a full day. We hardly slept last night because our bodies just were not used to going to sleep at noon for a full nights sleep. So we napped a lot on the bus between stops.
We headed first to Joppa (Jaffa) where Peter raised Dorcas from the dead and we saw St. Peter's Cathedral which faces to the west...the only one in Israel that faces west. They really do have some gorgeous cathedrals here. Then we went on to Caesarrea..the huge ships port that King Herod had built. He was a very cruel, mean, paranoid man but he had a brilliant mind for building was amazing how he built that wharf out into the sea. We travelled to Tel Jezreel which overlooks the Jezreel Valley..also known as the Valley of Armegedon where the last battle on earth will take place....amazing to stand up there overlooking that huge valley knowing that one day the blood will flow "up to the horses bridal" as told in the Book of Revelation when the armies of the world will come together for one last battle here on earth.
We had lunch at a Kibbutz in was very good. After lunch we went to the Mount where it is believed that the angry crowd tried to push Jesus off this cliff but he disappeared into the crowd and escaped. This mount has a spectacular view of Nazareth and the Jezreel Valley as well. We toured through a the village of Nazareth as it would have been in Jesus' day...that was a definite highlight of the day....we saw "Joseph" the carpenter at work in his workshop and "Hannah" at work weaving her wool, we also saw a young man with his donkey walking around the millstone crushing the olives, and the shepherd with his son and their sheep. Oh, it was all so real and so interesting. We all enjoyed that time. We ended the day driving up to Mount Tabor, which had a church on top and it was also the area where Judge Deborah was. What another spectacular view of the valley while the sun was setting.
Tonight, we hope and pray that we will all be able to sleep well. Our bodies are not quite used to the time change and are suffering some jetlag...but it was a very good day none the less. The hotel we are staying at here in Tiberias is the Ron Beach Hotel..the same hotel we stayed at last year and where the famous "nun invasion" took place....what an unforgettable memory. :-) It is good to be back here.
Thank you for praying for us and travelling along with us through this blog. I was hoping to post a photo or two for you again but that was not working for me tonight...possibly tomorrow. :-)

Sunday, Nov. 29 - 3rd entry

YAY! We made it. After a few hours in the airport, we looked a little frazzled as you can tell by the above photograph...we had tons of fun on Amanda's computer making some very goofy looking photos and laughing at ourselves as we passed the time in Toronto. As I am writing this, it is 10 pm Israel time and 2 pm SK time. The photo below shows us looking more our best. :-) The names of the women on this tour are: Karen & Amanda Byers, Jenny & Chris Funk, Lisa & Alysha Braun, Kathy Penner and Helen Janzen. So far we are all having a wonderful time together. Toronto was a long wait but we found ways to pass the time.
We got into Tel Aviv Israel at 6 pm, and got picked up by Arie, our tour guide and taken to our hotel. It is on the Meditarranean Sea right by the is beautiful. We had a buffet supper after we checked into our rooms and then took a walk along the boardwalk by the was so warm out..about 19 degrees. We all walked in the sand felt like we were walking in icing sugar it was so smooth and soft. I can't wait to go down there and watch the sunrise at 6:15 am.
Tel Aviv has about 3 million people living in it. Do you know that Israel could fit into SK many times? Israel is 110 km across by about 500's the smallest country and so incredibly diverse. Amazing.
It's good to finally be here. We'll be up by around 6 am to start our day..we'll be heading to the Galilee area for 3 nights. We appreciate your prayers for us and look forward to sharing our days with you. God bless.

Saturday, Nov. 28
- 2nd entry
Well, no more sleeps left. I woke up at 5:30 am and couldn't sleep anymore. :-) I finally got out of bed at 6:30 and came down to send a couple more emails that I still needed to send. Besides, I had a bad dream that I lost Alysha in Jordan.....pray that I won't lose my daughter. :-) Uhhhh, I don't like those kind of dreams.

Kyrstin turned 13 yesterday and I had picked her up at lunch and let her skip school for the afternoon so we could have some time alone together on her special day. She had her birthday party last weekend...but today she got out of school and we went to see the movie "Cloudy, with a chance of meatballs." She enjoyed it. :-) Then she also got to join her friends on Facebook...oh, she was happy...she's been "waiting for soooo long!" But she had to wait until she was 13. :-)
We also took a new family photo that we'll be using for our Christmas cards this year...I'll be sending some out once I get back from Israel. It was so funny, Copper would not sit still or keep his head straight so I got some food and laid it on the counter in
front of the camera...well his nose kept his head straight lookin at that food!! It was so hilarious! He is definitely a dog who has stretched our boundaries that's for sure....and I'm not sure if I'm really gonna miss him when I'm gone...ok, maybe a little.

Yesterday, oh my.....this week, there were 3 people that we knew who passed away...Brandon was at work at the grocery store on Tuesday night and the store had to call 911 because there was a woman in the parking lot who was not well and she passed away..that was quite sobering for him. Then, the next day I got a call from a dear friend at a native reserve near Shell Lake who told me of a young father, Daniel Dee, age 28, passed away in his sleep....his heart was not good all summer, only functioning on 10%. I visited with them on the beach this summer on a good week that he was out of the hospital and their cute kids were having a swim. I had also taken Daniel & Ashley's family photos 2 years ago...they have 4 young children under the age of 7...pray for them...he loved the Lord and they lived for Jesus so that is a blessing...but Ashley will be so lonely for her hubby...pray for them. BUT, the death that spoke the most to me was this: A woman by the name of Voleda Kliewer, originally from the Hepburn area, was now living at Big Shell the past few years....we knew her from the Mont Nebo Evangelical Free Church - we attend there when we are at the lake. She had really wanted to come along on this ladies Israel trip but in the end, decided that God just didn't want her going to Israel at this time...she passed away this week. Can you imagine? No, she won't be walking where Jesus walked in the Holy Land of Israel where us ladies will be walking, but she is literally, NOW, walking WITH Jesus...amazing. You know, there was many reasons why women who originally signed up for the tour but for unseen circumstances, were not able to come with us just don't think that one of those reasons would be death. I will miss Voleda..she loved God with all her heart...but she is now with her husband who passed away a few years ago. Roger & his dad farmed their land years ago. Again, it just makes one think how fleeting and quick life really is....we must always be ready to meet with God...always.

Well, time to go get ready for the day...we leave for the airport in an hour and a half. So many of you are praying for us and that just means soooo much to me, to be covered in prayer for protection, wisdom, discernment and a life-changing spiritual experience. What a spiritual investment this journey is for all who come. God be with you and with us. God bless you all!

Monday, Nov. 23
- 1st entry
Well, the excitement is rising....we leave in just 5 more sleeps. Oh boy, oh boy. We are all excited and can't wait to see what form of transportation we will be touring around in...will it be a bus, a van, a limousine??? We will find out on the 28th when we arrive in Tel Aviv, Israel. We are all busy getting packed and preparing our hearts for this exciting on and continue to scroll on down to find more journal entries each day or so while we're on tour. Below, once you scroll to the bottom of this entry, you may also find comments from the other women on the tour, or from other friends and families who are following along with us and praying for us. Please leave us a comment.

Tonight, some of us watched the movie Massada together, to give us some more history on one of the places we will be visiting on our tour. It was very interesting to see some of the background of what took place on top of that mountaintop fortress. We'll be sure to fill you in on more of it once we've been there. The above photo was taken last November from on top of that fortress when I was there.
We will be spending the first night in Tel Aviv, 4 nights in Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee - also pictured above, 4 nights in Jerusalem and 1 night at the Dead Sea - pictured in the far distance in the photo taken from on top of Massada and then the last night in Eilat. Two days to travel there, and two days to travel home....those will be long days, especially the flight from Toronto to Tel Aviv and from Tel Aviv to Toronto...but we will make it. :-)
There won't be updated photos on here that will be posted during our trip but once we arrive back home, photos will be uploaded then. For now, these that are already on here will have to do. :-) If you'd like to see other photos and a brief description of the tour, scroll down to another entry of the Israel Ladies tour and read up on there if you'd like. The photo below is the front cover of a 2010 Holy Land Inspirational Calendar that I've put together from photos that I took on a tour I went on in November 2008. The view of the Meditarranean Sea is spectacular from on top of Mount the sun was setting, it gave the perfect shot. :-)

Thanks for many of you who have been praying for us already and who will continue to pray for us as we go on this journey that will enrich our lives and change/enhance our spiritual walk with our Savior. Talk to you again soon.

Other places we'll soon be visiting:

Caesarea, on the Meditarranean Sea, and the River Jordan

overlooking the Judean desert, and Capernaum

Jerusalem and the empty tomb