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01 Safe Arrival! After a long day of travel, we have arrived safely in Israel!

Our connection thr ough Frankfurt was tight - with only 50 minutes between flights, we had to trave l to a seperate terminal at the airport, then go through an intense security scr eening. Luckily, we had a guide arranged for us to guide us through the airport, and they were able to hold to plane until all of us were safely on board. After landing in Tel Aviv, we quickly passed through Passport Control, collected our luggage (Praise God for no lost bags!), and climbed on a bus to take us to our first hotel in Tiberias, right on the Sea of Galilee. All of our rooms have balconies with gorgeous views of the sea, and we are spending this evening relax ing and getting to bed early. Our wake up calls are at 6 AM tomorrow morning as we prepare for a full day of sight-seeing. Be sure to check back again tomorrow for pictures and a full report! God Bless!

02 Photos from Day 1 Most of yesterday was spend travelling, but here are a few photos from along the way! Our group at BCA before heading to the airport to begin out long journey. Beautiful scenery on the road from Tel Aviv to Tiberias. The Sea of Galilee, as seen from our balcony.

03 Day 2: Mediggo, Caesarea, Akko, and Nazareth Though our 6 AM wake up call was definitely early, it was worth it in order to f it in all the amazing things we were able to see today! Pretty much everyone had a different "favorite thing" of the day. Our first stop was Meggido, also called Armaggedon. This ancient city, existing now as scattered ruins on a hilltop, was in such a politically strategic positi on that there are 20 layers of settlements on the site, dating from as far back as the 3rd millenium B.C. According to John in Revelation, this is the site will the final battle will take place at the end of the world. We walked through the chariot gates, through the remains of the walls, temple and stable, and climbed down into and through the fortress's water tunnel. Our next stop was Caesarea, right on the Mediterranean Sea. Caesarea was built b y Herod the Great around 29-22 BC, and was the home of the Roman procurators, in cluding Pontius Pilate. At Caesarea, Peter preached the gospel in Cornelius's ho use, which was followed by the Holy Spirit pouring out as at Pentecost, opening the gospel to Gentiles. Paul also visited the city several times, and spent 2 ye ars in prison there. The remarkable theater and aqueduct built by Herod still s tand to this day, and we were able to climb on and through them. When we exited the theater, turned the corner, and suddenly saw the Mediterranean, we were in a we of the gorgeous view! We also saw where Herod's palace was at one point, inc luding the pool he built right into the sea. Finally, we were able to walk alon g the beach and stick our feet into the Mediterranean, a first for me and I'm su re for many others as well. Next up was Akko, Acre, one of the northernmost ports on the Mediterranean and a

site of major contention between the Arabs and the English during the crusades. Akko was the Crusader's principle stronghold, and was the last one to fall whe n they were eventually forced to retreat. There is a pretty complete and still-s tanding old city in Acre, and the few hours we spent there were not enough to tr uly explore the dynamic area. We started out grabbing some lunch at a cafe - fal afels for some, shwarma sandwiches for others. Then we explored the Crusader Ci ty and halls of the Citadel, followed by traipsing through some of the undergrou nd passageways of the city, of which there are many. It's not exactly known what the tunnels were originally intended for - it could have been escape tunnels fo r times of war or just tunnels for sewage. Either way, it felt very adventuresom e winding our ways through the tunnels, ducking at times when they got too short . We walked through a large souk, or market, and it was hard not to stop to shop. We ended up at the city's harbor, where we walked along the pier and climbed on a large statue of a whale that you could climb into a hole through it's middle it reminded me of the story of Jonah! Our last stop of the day was up in Nazareth. Nazareth's claim to fame is, of cou rse, as the hometown of Jesus - Mary and Joseph were both from Nazareth, and it is in Nazareth that the angel Gabriel came to Mary and told her of her impending pregnancy - also called the Annunciation. Mary, Joseph, and Jesus returned to N azareth when Jesus was a boy, and he spent his childhood, youth, and young adult hood there. The main thing we were in Nazareth to see was a specially build Naza rene Village museum, with buildings built to period specifications from Jesus' t ime, and actors dressed in part to show us the tasks of everyday life, from tend ing animals and working in the field to carpentry and weaving. We saw Pastor Rob use huge wheel to pretend to squish olives in the first step of the olive-oil-m aking process and Pat attempt to use an old-fashioned drill made of sticks, stri ng, and a little bit of string. One of the most interesting parts of the tour w as our guide in the village, Daniel, who is a Messianic Jew. Today was a full day, and tomorrow will likely be no different, with another 6 A M wake up all. The trip is off to a great start, and I can't wait to see where t he Lord takes us in the days to come. You should know that everyone is safe, hap py, and doing well. You all are missed, and I'm sure the time will fly until we see you again. Be sure to check back again tomorrow for another update! God bless!

04 Day 3: Sea of Galilee, Mount of Beatitudes, Caesarea Philippi, Capernaum, and the Jordan River As great as yesterday was, today was even better! We woke up just as early, and had almost as long of a day, but it was so filled with memorable and special th ings, that we were all still up for exploring even after dinner. Our first stop of the day was Kinnutz Ginosar, where we viewed an amazing 2,000 year old fishing boat that was found in the area and carefully reconstructed. Fr om the kinnutz, we boarded a boat - the Christian Worship Boat "Faith" - and set sail on the Sea of Galilee. While floating on the sea, we listened to a message from Pastor Rob, heard Britt, Quinn and Nick read some scripture, and sang wors hip songs before heading back to shore. It was so beautiful, we could have staye d out there all day. But we had more stops to make, so off we went! Next we headed up to the nearby Mount of Beatitudes, the site were Jesus gave hi s famous Sermon on the Mound, which begins, of course, with the beatitudes. We h ad another special time of prayer and worship, as well as a message from Pastor Rob, then peeked inside the Catholic Church of the Beatitudes on the site before

heading on our way. We headed up north next to our northern-most Israeli spot on the tour, Caesarea Philippi. Known today as Banias, this is the spot where Jesus originally said of Peter's confession of faith, "On this rock I will build my church. The springs at Caesarea Philippi are also one of the major sources of the Jordan River, and at one point seemed to spring directly from the rock caverns, which prompted Pan -worshipers to build their temples at the spot, parts of which still stand today . The caverns are quite impressive, and this spot is a particular favorite of Pa stor Rob's. Next stop was Capernaum, and time for lunch! Our guide took us to a special rest aurant where they serve what they call "St. Peter's Fish", which is a white fish similar to Talapia. What is so special about this fish? Well, they serve it to you fried up with it's head and tail still attached! It's quite an experience to pick one of those apart. After lunch, we headed over to the old synagogue in Ca pernaum, which is famous for being Peter's hometown, and the spot where Jesus' s tayed when he was in the Galilee region for ministry. Our last and most special stop of the day was at the Jordan River. Near the spot where John the Baptist baptized Jesus, 11 of our group dressed in robes, and on e by one, stood in the river, confessed our faith, and were baptized by Pastor R ob. It was an important and touching life event for all of us who were baptized, and a special thing to witness as a group of friends and believers. We arrived back at the hotel at about the same time as yesterday, but somehow fe lt more energized and ready to see and do more. Many had already explored Tiberi as, but Bernita and I hadn't, so we took a walk down to the lake and climbed acr oss the rocks. We tried walking on water, but it didn't really work, so we settl ed for wading in the river. After dinner, a group of us walked to the center of the city and wandered a bit getting some frozen yogurt and sorbet before heading back to the hotel. What a fun end to a fantastic day! Tonight is our last night at the hotel in Tiberias - tomorrow, we head to the De ad Sea! Check back again tomorrow for another update, and we pray God is blessin g you as much as we feel blessed.

05 Day 4: Beth Shean, Qumran, and the Dead Sea It is hard to believe it, but it seems as though each day keeps getting even mor e wonderful. Already it feels as though we've been here forever and seen so much , but there is still so much more left to still discover! Today almost felt like a vacation day from our vacation, because we were able to slow down a little an d relax more. My day started by miraculously waking up right before sunrise beg an, so I was able to see the sun rise over the Sea of Galilee from my balcony, a nd had my own little worship service right there. I know some of the others also saw the sunrise this morning, and possibly some of those others mornings when I was sleeping, and will testify to it's beauty. It was sad to say goodbye to the Sea of Galilee, but we said our farewells by reading some scripture and singing a few hymns as we took our final drive south along the shore. Our first stop of the morning <b>Beth Shean</b>, the best-preserved Roman/Byzant ine city in Israel, which was continually occupied by various groups of people f or nearly 4,000 years until an earthquake in 749 AD demolished the city. The vas t complex gives you an interesting and informative view of Roman life, particula rly in the 1st century BC, because both the layout of the city and the bases of structures like streets, shops, the temple, cafe, pool, and restrooms remain. In

addition, the 7,000-seat theater still remains most intact, and it is easy to i magine sitting there, enjoying a show. Also in the complex is the city's ampithe ater, which was used for gladitor fights. It was fun climbing around the ampithe ater, and the boys enjoyed climbing into the little chambers under the seats whe re they would keep the lions. Next up was <b>Qumran</b>, the site of the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. Many of us were already familar with the story of these scrolls as an exhibit of them came to the Pacific Science Center in Seattle a few years ago. A Bedouin shepherd happened to find a cave full of jars, and in the end, th ey found in multiple caves along the cliffside jars containing 190 linen-wrapped scrolls that had been preserved by the desert for 2,000 years. Contained in the se scrolls were books of the Bible, proving that the Bible existed back then in the same form we have it in today, as well as rules for what is likely a Jewish sect called the Essenes, who wrote the scrolls, inhabited the caves in the cliff side, and worked in a complex like a commune at the base of the cliffs. The rema ins of this complex have been excavated, and give us clues as to how these men l ived their lives. It was fascinating to walk through the old stone rooms and see how they lived. The cliffside is beautiful, and it is amazingly miraculous that these caves were ever found at all. This location was particularly special to m e because I studied the Dead Sea Scrolls in college, and could hardly believe my luck to be standing in the place where they were actually written, hidden and e ventually found. The scrolls themselves are not kept at the Qumran site, but at a museum in Jerusalem, and we should see them later this week. I also have to me ntion that the introductory video we were shown began with sweeping panoramic vi ews of different sites around Israel, and it felt very much like we were on the ride "Soarin'" at Disneyland/Disney World. Very cool and fun! Our final stop of the day was our hotel at Ein Bokek on the <b>Dead Sea</b>. We were lucky to make it to the hotel in the early afternoon so we had the rest of the day free to relax as we wanted. A few of us had bought the local black miner al-rich mud, so we went down to the Dead Sea, slathered up in the mud, and then waded out to float in the sea. The Dead Sea is lowest body of water in the world , and it's high salt content makes it impossible to sink. Essentially, all you h ave to do is wade out, then lean back a bit into a sitting position, then there you are, floating with no effort. You just have to be carefully not to tip on to you side, because from there it is easy to flounder and end up on you stomach, trying to force your legs underwater to stand up. I think almost everyone made i t down to the beach, even if they didn't cover themselves in mud, so they could enjoy the experience of floating along in the Dead Sea. Big thanks to Bernita fo r being our official Dead Sea Photographer as most of us floated in the water. A fter being in the salty water of the sea, many of us headed back up to the hotel and straight to the pool, where we enjoyed some non-salty swimming time and rel axing by the side of the pool. Today was a great day, and if past experience is any indication, tomorrow will b e even better, yet again. Thank you for all of your prayers and support, and we can't wait to tell you even more about it when we see you!

06 Day 5: Eilat If yesterday was relaxing, today was a day of true vacation! After getting up ea rly again, we set off on a 3-hour drive through the Judean Desert to Eilat, a re sort town on the coast of the Red Sea. Eilat is Israel's only town on it's 7 mil e stretch of coastline, and what has made it so popular as a touist destination is the beautifully clear waters of the Red Sea, especially it's coral reefs. Aft er arriving in Eilat at about 11 AM, we had the rest of the day free to do as we liked. Some of the group stayed at the hotel, relaxing by the pool or in their

rooms, others went to the large aquarium, which boasts a unique underwater obser vatory. A group of us also headed to Coral Beach, where some of us rented masks and snorkels so we could snorkel above the coral reef. Not only was it refreshin g to float along on in the cool water, but both the coral reef itself as well as all the fish we saw were amazing! We had to have seen at least 30 different kin ds of fish, of all different colors and sizes. So many beatiful colors together are inspiring, and it was fun trying to spot fish hiding amongst the coral. We f ound one fish that was darting around by one of the rope bouys, and if you held your fingers or toes still by him, eventually he would dart forward and nip at t hem. After a great afternoon, we all met up for dinner. There's not much to say about today other than it was a wonderfully fun day, and somehow still exhausting. Tomorrow is going to be another long day as we head o ver into Jordan to visit Petra. Check back tomorrow for another update! God bles s!

07 Day 6: Petra

Today was the day for our side trip over into Jordan to visit the city of Petra, capital to the Nabataeans around the 3rd - 1st centuries BC, and one of the mos t impressive archeological sites. Petra is also well-known for it's part in Indi ana Jones, and of course, we couldn't help singing the theme song while walking through the Siq. Lisa even bought an Indiana Jones-style hat to commemorate the occasion! We walked through the mile long Siq (cleft in the cliff wall), stoppin g to admire the stones and hear some history of the site. One of the most specta tular moments came when we rounded a corner in the Siq and suddenly saw the Trea sury through the small opening. It is truly surprising and amazing.

Then, we walked further into the canyon towards the city, stopping when we reach ed the towering cliffs of the Royal Tombs, cut into the rock wall. At this point , we had some time we could spend as we like before we needed to head up the hil l towards the bus. Some of us walked further down into the actual city, others c limbed up the cliffs to explore in the tombs, and a few rested before heading ba ck up the hill in one of the horse-drawn carriages that run through the Siq. It truly is an amazing site, and one that is almost impossible to fully take in at the time. The hike into the city of Petra is a bit tiring, especially in the hot mid-day sun, but the true test comes when it is time to climb back up out to th e visitor's center. What was a rather nice down-hill 2 mile stroll becomes a 2 m ile test of endurance and strength. There are horses you can ride up the last 1/ 2 mile of the way, from the entrance of the Siq to the visitor's center, but mos t of it is by foot, unless you want to hire a carriage. After leaving Petra, we stopped for a quick lunch, and then headed back to the border to cross back into Israel. Overall, it was another memorable day, and about 5 more stamps in each of our passports!

Day 7: Masada, En Gedi & Jerusalem We said goodbye to Eilat and the Red Sea today, and headed back north to Jerusal em. On our way we made a few stops. First up was Masada. Masada, a mountain-top fortress near the Dead Sea, was built originally around the 1st-2nd century BC, then expanded and strengthened by Herod. It's not specifically mentioned in the

Bible, though many believe when a "stronghold" to which David flees is mentione d, they are referring to Masada. Masada is most famous in history for being the site of the last stand of the Zealot Jewish Patriots in 73 AD. One of the most m emorable parts of this trip is hearing this story told at this site. When the Ro mans finally broke through the Jewish defenses, they found over 900 people dead inside, with only a few women and children surviving. The leaders had decided th at they would rather die honorably than live in slavery, and so they killed thei r wives and children, then each other. Such a sad story, and what a hard decisio n to make. It was a hot day today, and very hot up on the cliff top, but luckily there was a nice breeze going around, and we were able to take a cable car from the base to the top, so no hiking at this spot! The views from the top were bea utiful, and the fortress with it's palaces have foundations that remain to tell the story of what a majestic place this was. Our next stop was in En Gedi, an oasis in the Judean Wilderness that was close t o Masada and the Dead Sea. It was in one of the caves at En Gedi that David hid from Saul. Because of the springs, En Gedi has beautiful waterfalls and vegetati on coming out of the rocks. Aftering climbing up to the first waterfall, a few d ecided to head back down to the Visitor's Center to get out of the head and rest up. After the next leg of the rocky hike, to the second waterfall, a few of us decided to stay at the waterfall and wade in the water a little (and a little mo re than wade for some), while to rest finished the hiking loop. It was a beautif ul place. After our two stops in the desert, we headed straight up to Jerusalem. Our first view of Temple Mount through the city was breathtaking, and we stopped up at a viewpoint to take in the city before headed to our hotel to relax for the rest o f the evening. Tomorrow is going to be a busy day as we explore Jerusalem!

Day 8: Jerusalem & Bethleham Today was our first full day in Jerusalem, and already we are overcome with the magnitude of actually walking where Jesus walked, climbing the steps where he cl imbed, and sitting where he sat. We started out at the Southern Wall of the Temp le Mount at the Jerusalem Archaeological Park. Excavations in this area, which have been ongoing since 1968, have uncovered remains dating back to the 1st and 2nd Temple periods. You can see the original large stones of the Herodian wall, a shoping street from Herodian times, and the remains of an arched stairway tha t would have led up to the money-lenders' hall. Just past the archeological site are the southern steps that would have led up into the Temple. Many of these st eps are original from the time of Jesus, and this is the entrance he used to ent er the Temple when approaching from Bethany, where he most frequently stayed whi le in the area. It is an impressive sight, and it is unfortunate that the entran ces to the Temple Mount from this site have been closed off since Roman times. I t was fun to sit on the steps, though, talking together where Jesus would have s at and talked with his friends and disciples. Next, we walked across the street to the original City of David, the site David seized from the Canaanites to make his capital, which lies just south of the Tem ple Mount. Our main reason for visiting this area was to walk through Hezekiah's Tunnel, build by King Hezekiah around 700 BC to bring water into the city from Gihon Spring during the Assyrian invansion. This 1,750 feet long tunnel flows wi th spring water to this day, and is completely dark, so we had fun wading throug h the calf-to-thigh-high water in a long single-file line, with only our flashli ghts to guide us! What an experience! When we exited, we immediately came to the Pool of Siloam, where the spring water would pool out in Jesus' time. The Pool of Siloam was the site where Jesus healed the man blind from birth, and the corr ect location of the pool has only recently been discovered and excavation begun.

We hopped on the bus next and headed over to Mount Zion, to see what remains of Caiaphas' house, the home of the high priest who insisted Jesus be crucified and the place where Jesus likely spent most of the night before his execution. Toda y, all that remains of the house are the ancient caves that were it's basement, and the likely spot of Jesus' imprisonment. These caves have been preserved, and in 1931, the church St. Peter in Gallicantu was built on top of them, in commem oration of the tradition site of Peter's denial of Christ. You can also still se e the remains of the Hasmonean stairway, which was in use in Christ's time as th e main pathway that connected the Kidron Valley and Mount of Olives with the cit y and Mount Zion, and was the path Jesus' was likely taken up when arrested and brought to Caiaphas. In the afternoon, we left Jerusalem and headed south to Bethleham, the birthplac e of Jesus and the hometown of King David. The most important site to visit in t own is the Church of the Nativity, built in the 4th century AD over the supposed spot of Jesus' birth and now shared by the Roman Catholic, Armenian and Greek O rthodox Churches. Beneath the church is the Grotto of the Nativity, where a silv er star marks to spot where Jesus was born. Nestled next to the Church of the Na tivity is St. Catherine's Church, beneath which is the front part of the cave of Jesus' birth, and the spot on which Joseph was supposedly sleeping when he rece ived his dream that they should move into exile in Egypt. Regardless of whether these exact spots are the places these events happened, or whether it was a hund red feet to the north or south, the important thing we felt here was the certain ty that this was it. In this spot, around 2,000 years ago, Jesus was born, God b ecame man, and all to save us. This is it. It's really a special place to visit. After leaving Bethleham, we headed over to the Garden Tomb. While some people be lieve this is the site of Golgatha and Jesus' tomb, there really is very little evidence for that fact - in the late 1800s, a British general visiting Jerusalem noticed a face appearing in a natural rock formation and posited that this was in fact the location of Golgatha. While excavation has shown this unlikely, the Garden Tomb is still a wonderful place to visit to see what the tomb was like in it's natural setting, and to remember Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and his res urrection. After viewing the "face" in the rocks of the cliff and climbing into the tomb, we took time to have a small service, with Pastor Rob speaking, commun ion, and worship. It was truly an unforgettable experience. Oh, and in Bethleham, we found our first Israeli Starbucks. :) After getting back to the hotel, a few of us walked into the city to the Western Wall to see the excitement and festivities at the Western Wall as Shabbat began . It was quite an experience, with the men in the men's section singing, dancing , and chanting, and prayers being made everywhere. Join us tomorrow as we take a 5 mile walk through the city, following Jesus' ste ps from the Mount of Olives to Mount Zion.

Day 9: Jerusalem & Herodion We began today a little later than normal today and ended a little earlier as we ll, but we still managed to fit a full day's worth of sight-seeing as we spent m ost of the day walking around the city. Our starting point was the top of the M ount of Olives, where we had a panoramic view of the Temple Mount and Jerusalem. This is the site of Jesus' agony and betrayal, and also of his Ascension into H eaven. This hill has been used as a cemetery since 2400 BC and during Jesus' ti me, was also covered with olive trees, for which it was named.

From the top of the hill, we walked down the path of Jesus' Triumphal Entry on P alm Sunday and paused at a few stops along the way to the city. First, we popped in to the garden surrounding the Dominus Flevit Chapel, which literally means " The Lord Wept" and commemorates Jesus' tears over Jerusalem. The view from this garden is also great, and you can easily imagine what Jesus saw as he looked out and wept for the future of Jerusalem. Our next stop down the hill was at the Garden of Gethsemane, the site where Jesu s' prayed with his disciples, where he was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, and where he was arrested by the Romans on the night before his crucifixion. The garden i s much smaller than it was it Jesus' time, but it is still beautiful to walk in, and there still remain some centuries-old olive trees, including one that is 2, 000 years old. In the garden is also the Church of All Nations, built in 1924 wi th donations from 12 countries over the site of multiple churches from as early as the 4th century BC. The beautiful mosaics, domes, and stained-glass windows m ake this a great place to sit and reflect on the beginning of Jesus' journey of sacrifice. We also spent some time each by ourselves in the garden across the pa th, praying and reflecting. After reaching the bottom of the hill, we passed through the Kidron Valley and h eaded up to the Temple Mount. We crossed into the Old City through St. Stephen's Gate, also known as Lions' Gate, named for Stephen, the first Christian Martyr, who was stoned to death supposedly near this site. Our first stop right inside the gate was at St. Anne's Church. On the site of the church are 2 large cistern s that were built in the 8th and 3rd centuries BC and under Herod turned into cu rative baths. This is the site of the Pool of Bethesda, where Jesus cured the pa ralysed man who could not make his way to the waters. Remains of the steps into the pool can still be seen to this day. After viewing the pool, we went into the church, a Crusader church built in the 1130s AD on the supposed spot where Anne and Joachim, the parents of Mary, lived. The church is well-known for it's wond erful acoustics, which we tested out by singing a few hymns. Luckily, good acous tics can fix a lot of issues, and though we might not be the best group of singe rs, we sounded wonderful! From St. Anne's, we headed down the street a little, and then down underground t o see the moat from Antonia Fort that was later turned into a cistern so they co uld build above it, and some of the original street and paving stones from Jesus ' time. When we came back on top, we started walking along the Via Dolorosa, the path that Jesus walked with the cross, which took him from Antonia Fort, where Pontius Pilate was, to Golgatha, where he was crucified. Much of the Via Doloros a winds through the Muslim Quarter and the Souk, or market. It was crowded in th ere both with tourists and vendors trying to get you to buy anything from jewelr y to stuffed animals to funny t-shirts to antique coins. Pretty much anything yo u could possibly want, you could find in the Souk. It was tough to stay together , but we managed, and we even noted the special markings for the "stations of th e cross" along the route, commemorating the different events of Jesus' journey w ith the cross. Eventually, we made our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the likely site of Golgotha and Jesus' tomb. The first chuch was built here arou nd 326 AD by Constantine, and it has been rebuilt, enlarged, and revamped throug h the years. A tiny fraction of the original site remains, and what you can see is almost overshadowed by the massive and ornate cathedral that surrounds it. In side, you can go up and see the Golgotha, the rock that Jesus' cross was placed in to. On the opposite side of the church, you can go into Jesus' tomb, which wa s built around the cave where Jesus' body laid until his Resurrection. We can't know if these sites are 100% accurate, but excations and evidence support this s ite as the most likely one for both the crucifixion and burial. As we reflected on Jesus' sacrifice and his death and resurrection, although it is amazing to be in the site it all took place, I think most of us found it more special to do s o at the Garden Tomb. Though that site is probably not accurate as the actual lo

cation, in spirit and feeling, it reflects more of Jesus' time period and how ev ents really unfolded back then. After leaving the church, we headed to the Jewish Quarter, where we saw the rema ins of the Cardo, Jersalem's main road in the Byzantium era, originally built by the Romans. By the placement of the columns, we can see that Jerusalem was orgi nally laid out with wide streets like we saw in Beth Shean. We also saw the foun dations of a 22-feet thick wall thought to be built by King Hezekiah in the 8th Century BC to fortify the city before the Assyrian invation, as well as the ream ins of houses from that time period that were demolished to make way for the wal l, which was described by Isaiah. We walked through Hurva Square, on which sits the recently reconstructed Hurva Synagogue, which was destroyed in 1948 during t he fighting between the Arab and Jewish armies. Walking through the streets of t he Jewish Quarter is much more relaxing than walking through the Muslim Quarter - you can tell they value their peace and quiet. After leaving the Jewish Quarter, we walked alongside the Armenian Quarter and h eaded to the top of Mount Zion, and the site of the Last Supper. No one really k nows where exactly on Mount Zion the Last Supper took place, but since the Crusa des, this site has been traditionally know as the place where Jesus' held his la st Passover meal with his disciples, gave them the first communion, and washed t heir feet. Today, the room is crusader in style, and rather unadorned. While we visited, we read from the gospels the story of the Last Supper, then prayed, rem embering the honoring the event. Below this upper hall, and perhaps the reason w hy this particular upper room was chosen, is the supposed site of King David's t omb. Though no evidence has been found to either support or refute this claim, t his site has been considered so since the 11th century AD. Mount Zion was the la st stop on our 5-mile and 5-hour walking tour. Once we boarded our bus again, we headed south of the city to visit Herodion, th e circular city and fort Herod the Great had built in 24-15 BC and named for him self. The fort was built upon a man-made hill that is volcano-like in appearanc e and can be seen from miles around. This is also the site of Herod's tomb, whic h has been found only in the past year and is still not open for visitors. Durin g the second Jewish revolt in 132 AD, Herodion became the Jewish headquarters, a nd the rebels turned the cisterns inside the hill into a series of escape tunnel s. After climbing the hill and walking around the top, taking in the view of the surrounding countryside, we were able to climb down the winding steps and passa geways through the cisterns. It felt like a maze that you could easily get lost in if you weren't paying attention. Today was a long day packed full of interesting and significant places, and tomo rrow promises to be no different, as we leave at 6:30 to explore the Western Wal l Tunnels. Check back to see how we did tomorrow!

Day 10: Jerusalem Sadly, today was our last day in Jerusalem and in Israel as well. There were sti ll a few important sites to see, though! Our wake up calls this morning came at 5 AM, so we could leave for the Western Wall Tunnel at 6:30 AM. Accessed through the Western Wall Plaza, archaeologists have excavated this tunnel along the out side of the Western Wall of the Temple Mount to explore it's foundations. The tu nnel runs beneath what is now the Muslim Quarter. In the tunnel, you can see the arches of the bridge built by Herod the Great to access the city directly from his palace. You can also walk for a long stretch right along the Western Wall. M ostly women come to pray in this area, especially in front of the part of the wa ll closest to where the Holy of Holies was in the Temple. It is fascinating to s ee such an ancient part of the city, and excavations progress each day, so hopef

ully they will continue to find more and more. After exploring the tunnel, we went out to visit the Western Wall Plaza, Judaism 's most holy site. This section of the wall, which was built by Herod the Great as part of the retaining wall surrounding the Temple Mount, is significant to Ju daism because it is the closest Jews can get to the site of the Temple to pray. Both Jews and Non-Jews are welcome to pray at the wall, in separate sections for men and women, and many that come believe that prayers written and shoved into the cracks in the wall are especially effective, so you can see many all over th e wall. You can see a wide range of Jews worshiping at the wall, as well, from t hose that come just wearing their kipkahs, to the orthodox who come dressed in t heir prayer shawls, and other elements for prayer. It's a fascinating place to visit, if only to watch the diverse groups of people that come through. From the Western Wall, we walked up the ramp through security to the actual Temp le Mount to view the grounds and the Dome of the Rock, the mosque built on top o f where the Temple lay in Jesus' time. This site, also called Mount Moriah, is a lso the mountain on which Abraham was willing to sacrifice his soon Isaac to God , so it is a significant site not only to Jews and Christians, but also to Musli ms, who currently control the grounds. Because of this, non-Muslim access to bot h the Dome of the Rock and the El-Aqsa Mosque is restricted, and we weren't allo wed inside to view them closer. Instead, we walked through the grounds, viewed t he Dome and the Mosque from the outside, and then exited the Old City through St . Stephen's Gate. After leaving the Temple Mount, we headed over to the Israel Museum. Though much of the museum is closed at the moment for renovation, there were a few main att ractions open. The first thing we viewed was a giant model of Jerusalem from abo ut 70 AD, built to scale (1:50) and with the same materials as used during the o riginal construction - mostly limestone. It was fascinating to see the city in t his way, and it really gives you a sense of how massive the Temple complex was i n comparison to the rest of Jerusalem. Then, we headed over the the Shrine of th e Book, which was built specifically to house the Dead Sea Scrolls found at Qumr an, which we visited earlier in the week. This uniquely shaped building was desi gned to echo the shape of the top of a clay jar, like the ones in which the scro lls were found. It was really exciting to see some of the Dead Sea Scrolls and o ther artifacts in person after viewing the site in which they were found and fol lowing their whole journey from discovery to national treasure. Our last stop of the day was at Yad Vashem, the museum and monument built to mem orialize those who died during the Holocaust. The museum, which consists of one long, winding corridor carved into the mountain, is engaging and informative, fi lled with artifacts, first-person stories, and the history and context off the w hole, horrible affair. Also on the grounds is the Hall of Remembrance, which act s as a cemetary as it contains the names of the main concentration camps, a cask et of ashes from the cremation ovens, and an eternal flame. As well put together as it is, this is a tough place to visit because of the unbelievable and overwh elming atrocities. We finished with our touring by mid-afternoon, and headed back to the hotel to s wim, rest, or pack, before having one final dinner together in the hotel's dinin g room. We all received special Pilgrim Certificates to commemorate our visit to Jerusalem. It is hard to believe our journey through Israel is at an end, but a re excited to head on to Turkey and visit the 7 Churches of Revelation. The only sad part of this journey is that not all of us are continuing on to Turkey - we will miss Lorie, Lanny, Ruth and Debbie a lot, and we pray they will arrive hom e safely. Our bus leaves for the airport tonight at 1 AM (or tomorrow morning, a ctually), so I will let you go for now! Check back tomorrow for news on our arri val in Turkey, which will hopefully have more consistent internet than Israel ha s had. God bless!

Day 11: Safe arrival in Turkey, Sardis, and Izmir (Smyrta) We left Jerusalem at 1 AM this morning to head to Tel Aviv to make our 5 AM flig ht to Istanbul and then on to Izmir. It was a long morning, with not much time f or sleeping, but eventually, we all made it off the plane and collected our bags safely! We met up with our Turkish guide, Gigi, and immediately headed to visit Sardis, one of the seven churches of Revelation and a 90-minute drive from Izmi r. Sardis was the capital of the Kingdom of Lydia, whose last king, Croesus, was so rich it gave rise to the expression "as rich as Croesus. Eventually, the acr opolis at Sardis, despite being practically impregnable, was infultrated by the Persians and taken over and used as their capital in the 6th and 5th centuries B C. Sardis was then conquered by Alexander the Great and by the 2nd century BC it was under Roman control. Sardis is mentioned in Revelation as being a church wi th a reputation for being alive, but Jesus said it was in fact dead spiritually. The majority of the site of Sardis is not open to visitors because major excava tion is still taking place, especially up at the acropolis, or high city. In add ition, the modern-day village of Sart sits on the site, so anything the village covers will remain hidden for now. What we were able to see from the lower city was quite impressive! Dominating the skyline is the ancient Gymnasium and Bath house, a large complex that was built in the center of the city in the 2nd centu ry AD. Right next door to the bathhouse was a large Synagogue, one of the large st ancient synagogues excavated. It's location in the center of the city plus it 's size are evidence of the strength and wealth of the Jewish community in Sardi s at the time, around the 3rd Century AD. Also on the site you can see the remai ns of the shopping district, which signs on them noting what each was for back i n the Roman time, which we know based on carvings and artifacts found on-site. T hough much of these ruins had been scattered through earthquake, war, and time, what was left has been rebuilt and fortified so we can see what the city might h ave looked like at the time. The ruins of Sardis are certainly impressive, and from what we were told, this is just the tip of the iceberg of what we will see here in Turkey! After leaving Sardis, we headed back to Izmir, Turkey's 3rd largest city and the site of the ancient city of Smyrta. We will have time to visit sites throughout Izmir over the next few days as our hotel is located here, so today the only si te in town we visited was the St. Polycarp Church, built in the early 1600s to h onor Polycarp, the patron saint of Izmir who was the bishop of Smyrta from 115-1 56 AD. Polycarp was martyred for his faith in 156 AD by being burned at the stak e with a group of 11 others from Philadelphia. This ornate and beautiful church is no longer used for regular services, and special arrangements have to be made to view the interior, so we feel lucky that we were able to walk around inside. Tomorrow should be another busy day, so we are making tonight an early night so everyone can catch up on their rest. We pray that Lorie, Lanny, Debbie and Ruth made it home safely, and they are greatly missed already! God bless!

Day 12: Thyatira (Akhisar), Pergamum (Bergama) & Smyrna (Izmir) Today we visited 3 more of the 7 churches of Revelation, and saw lots of Roman r uins!

This morning, we started out by heading to the ancient city of Thyatira. There i s little to see of the ancient city as the current-day city of Akhisar rests on the exact site, and so little excavation can be done, but there is a square of l

and in the center of the city with some ruins on it we were able to see, and any time something is found in the city, it is brought there to display. Thyatira wa s founded by the Lydians and eventually passed to the hands of one of Alexander the Great's generals in the 3rd century BC, to the king of Pergamum in 190 BC, a nd then on to the Romans in 133 BC. Thyatira was well known for it's trade and m anufacturing guilds, but membership in these guilds had a price - to belong, one usually had to participate in immoral religious practices, which was a problem for early Christians. Thyatira was cautioned in Revelation not to tolerate the i mmoral or idolatrous teachings. The main set of ruins visible in Akhisar today i s a basilica from the 5th century AD, which was not in fact a church, but simply a public building, used for state gatherings. Though the space was small, we ha d fun wandering around the buildings, and playing with a group of turtles that w as also wandering around the grounds. They were so cute!

Our next stop of the day was the ancient city of Pergamum, which today is home t o the city of Bergama. Pergamum was originally settled by Greeks in the 8th cent ury BC, was ruled for a time by one of Alexander the Great's generals, who broug ht most of Alexander's wealth to the city, and was the capital of the Pergamene empire until passing to Roman control in 133 BC. The city was a great center of learning, and had the second largest library in the world at one point, until Ma rc Antony took many of its 200,000 scrolls to Alexandria as part of his wedding gift to Cleopatra in 41 BC. In Revelation, Pergamum is commendated for holding f ast to Christ, despite living where "Satan has his throne", but were warned not to compromise their faith. The first place we visited in Pergamum was the Red Ha ll, which is nestled at the base of the hill in the modern city of Bergama, whic h to this day covers most of the courtyard's ruins. You can still see, however, the large red brick temple that was built in the 2nd century AD and originally d edicated to the Egyptian god Isis, and was later converted into a church in the 4th century AD. Passages and cisterns run beneath the building, but it is unfort unately closed to public, so we couldn't climb through them. It was too bad, bec ause that would have fit in with our tunnels and cisterns theme this trip! Flank ing the Red Hall on either side are large round towers with circular skylights t o let in the sun. The resulting sunbeam seems like it is coming directly from he aven. After grabbing some lunch, we headed up to the Acropolis of Pergamum, which sits perched on a hillside above Bergama. The ruins of the acropolis are more than i mpressive - it seems every corner we turned, there was more to see. We walked pa st the ruins of the great library, and stopped in front of the massive columns o f the Temple or Trajan, built in 125 AD. From there, we climbed down and walked through the long corridor of arches built to hold up temple courtyard. One of th e most fantastic sights was the theater, which was built in the 3rd century BC a nd has a capacity of 10,000. Aftering climbing down all 80 rows of seats, we wou nd around the hill and climbed back up past the site of the Temple of Zeus. This temple, which is thought to be the throne of Satan referred to in Revelation, w as excavated in the 1870s and moved to a specialty museum in Berlin, who had fun ded the project. The whole time while walking around the site, we had a spectacu lar view of the surrounding city and region. Our last stop of the day was back in Smyrna, or modern day Izmir. The city's ori gins date back to 3000 BC, and has always been an important port city on the Aeg ean Sea. The Lydians conquered the city in 600 BC and it fell into decline until the Roman period in the 1st century BC. Smyrna was mentioned in Revelation as t he church that was poor and persecuted, but was rich in spirit. The most signifi cant remains in the city are those of the Agora, or central market, of the Roman city, which date to about the 2nd century AD. This particular Agora was surroun ded by a basilica that housed government buildings such as a courthouse. This si te is currently still under excavation - currently, you can see the columns of t

he Agora, was well as the arches that supported the second level of the basilica that was built up so they could place the agora on a hillside. Across the court yard, pieces of arches and columns are numbered and sorted so that eventually, m ore of the site can be reconstructed. It is fascinating to be on an active archa eological site, because you know anytime you come back, more progess will have b een made! After our day of site seeing, some of the group walked the short way to see wate rfront to see the Aegean Sea. Along the way, we also found a real Starbucks, whi ch was a fun treat from home, as it feels just like any other Starbucks inside, other than the girl at the register being slightly confused by Bernita's complic ated coffee order. After some coffee and a stroll along the waterfront, we grabb ed some pizza at Domino's, and then watched the sunset on the Aegean before head ing back to the hotel. A great end to a fun day! Tomorrow promises to be a long day as we travel down to Ephesus and then back to Izmir for our flight back to Istabul. It's hard to believe our trip is soon com ing to an end, and we hope you stick with us as we finish out our last few days. God bless!

Day 13: Ephesus, Miletus, and safe arrival in Istanbul I feel like I am repeating myself when I mention how long our days are, but I re ally can't help it because we do cram so much into such a short time period. Thi s morning, we packed up our stuff and hopped on the bus and headed to Ephesus. E phesus is one of the most complete and impressive ruined cities in the western w orld. It's location on the Aegean Sea was made it a convenient location througho ut history, and the city we see there today was founded in the 4th century BC by Alexander the Great's successor, Lysinachus. Under the Romans, Ephesus because the chief port on the Aegean, and most of the surviving structures are from this period. Ephesus played an important role in the spread of Christianity - the ap ostle Paul visited this location on several occasions, as one point living there for 3 years before being driven out following a silversmith riot, who were mad that he was encouraging the Christians to stop buying the idols the silversmiths made. This riot, as well as several of his other trips, is documented in the bo ok of Acts. Due it's proximity to the coast and the excellent condition of the r uins, Ephesus is a popular tourist destination, and although we arrived first th ing in the morning, it was already moderately crowded, much more so than any of the other sites we had visited in Turkey thus far. We strolled through the city starting at the upper gate, stopping to admire the Odeon (small public meeting t heater), Temple of Domitian, Gate of Hercules, Temple of Hadrian, and the ancien t restroom. Perhaps the most spectacular view came at the end of the long, marbl e covered street - the Library of Celsus, building in 117 AD, has two stories of columns and towers above the rest of the city. Turning right after exploring th e library, we eventually came to the gigantic 25,000 seat theater, into which it is not unknown to squish 40,000 people today. This is the theater spoken of in Acts when Paul is trying to defend himself against the silversmiths, and we sat in the seats while Pastor Rob stood in perhaps the same spot as Paul and read fr om the Scriptures. It is truly an impressive sight! After leaving the ancient city, we stayed in Ephesus and headed over to see the Basilica of St. John, built on the site on John the apostle's supposed tomb in E phesus. John, who lived for the last part of his life in Ephesus, is the author on the book of Revelation, written while he was exiled on the island of Patmos. Ephesus is the first of the 7 churches of Revelation written about by John. The basilica, built in the 6th century AD, is largely in ruins, but you can still se e many of the columns standing, and the baptistry in the center section of the c hurch was recently uncovered. Near by the basilica, One lonely column is all tha

t remains from Ephesus' great Temple of Artemis, which was considered one of the seven wonders of the world. After leaving Ephesus, we stopped by a Carpet Center to have some lunch and get a demonstration on how Turkish carpets are made. These carpets are beautiful, of course, but as they are handmade, and require intensive labor, they can also be quite expensive. Our last stop in the Aegean region was down to visit Miletus, the city to which Paul retreated when it was too dangerous for his to return to Ephesus on his thi rd missionary journey. Not much remains of the ancient city, but we saw a beauti ful theater, and walked through the Baths of Faustina, which was a model for the Turkish Baths. We headed back up to Izmir after that, hopped on a plane to Istanbul, and after a drive through the city past the Sea of Marmara, we are settled in our hotel ne ar Taksim Square, the Times Square of Istanbul. We have a busy day tomorrow, as it is our only day to see Istanbul, so I will leave you here! Our trip is quickl y coming to an end, and I hope you stick with us through our last days. God ble ss!

CUT FOR POLITICAL REASONS: Bethleham is also interesting to visit because of it' s unique political situation. While it lies surrounded by Israel, the city itsel f is under control of the Palestines, and there is a wall around the city, restr ictioning travel in and out. Because of this, tourism seems to be quite down for the city, and for businesses that depend on tourism, like the shop we visited t hat specializes in carvings out of olive wood, business is not good. In comparis on to Jerusalem, the streets feel almost deserted