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From Galilee to Jerusalem

Wow...we have had a busy few days. So busy, in fact, that I have been unable to write a blog post. But, our group has made it safely to Jerusalem and we are enjoying our time together.

On Thursday, we travelled north up the Hula Valley and visited the sites of Hazor, Abel Beth Maacah, Dan, and Caesarea Philippi. After lunch, we traveled through the Golan Heights and were able to enjoy the view into Syria from Mount Bental. We ended our day by seeing the first 

Friday's stops included Capernaum, a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, Nof Ginnosar, and an opportunity to step into the sea. We were able to have lunch at a local restaurant to have "St. Peter's Fish". We ended our day by climbing to the top of Mount Arbel and viewing the entire Sea of Galilee. It was a wonderful day.

This morning, we left the serenity of the area of Galilee and headed toward Jerusalem. On the way we made stops at Jezreel, Spring of Harod, Bet She'an, Jericho, and the baptismal site. Our arrival in Jerusalem was met with much cooler temperatures than what we experienced to our north. It was a welcome relief. 

Not only is the group doing great, but they are an absolute joy to be around. Tomorrow, we head towards the Dead Sea.

Down The Rift Valley

Down The Rift Valley


This evening, we arrived in the beautiful city of Jerusalem. Unlike what is being reported on the news right now, it is exactly as I remember it from my last visit. In fact, when we arrived at Jericho today, it was more crowded with tourists than I have ever seen it. So, whatever is being reported back home isn't exactly what is happening here on the ground. In other words, as much as we all appreciate your care and concern, we are doing just fine. I always hate leaving Galilee, but that is what we were required to do to keep on our schedule. Very soon, we found ourselves at Tel Jezreel, the site of the palace so Ahab and Jezebel. From the hillside, you can see the locations of many Biblical stories.

Shortly thereafter, we arrived at the Spring of Harod. Gideon narrowed his army to 300 men by giving them a test here. The water was actually flowing a little bit. Since we are at the end of the dry season, I had not expected this.

A visit to Bet She'an was next on the agenda. The amount of ruins that are visible here is overwhelming. By claiming to the top of the tel, you get a good appreciation for the strategic importance of this location.

By driving down the Jordan Rift Valley, we found ourselves at Jericho. Whenever we stop there, I want to talk to the group for an hour discussing all that happened here. But, it was very hot when we arrived. So, I abbreviated my comments and then finished them up when we were all back in our touring coach.

After a quick visit to the traditional baptismal site, we made our way "up to Jerusalem". We will spend the next five nights here and enjoy all of the sites in this wonderful city.

We are all having a great time and the sarcasm is getting more and more intense. I can't wait to spend time with all of them again tomorrow.

Until then, shalom.

One Year Ago - Up To Jerusalem

bethshan NOTE: I am continuing my series of retrospective posts on the our tour one year ago. I invite you to start at the beginning and read through all of them.

A year ago today, we went "up to Jerusalem". I have read that phrase a hundred times in the Scriptures. But until you actually go up those mountains and find Jerusalem on the ridge, you don't quite understand it.

We left our hotel in Tiberias and traveled south, stopping on Beit-shan. The excavations at this city are amazing and from the top of the tel, you can see the strategic importance of this city. Any traffic traveling east-to-west through the Harod Valley or north-to-south through the Jordan Rift Valley could be closely monitored by this city.

We followed this stop with visits to the Spring of Harod (where Gideon gathered his army of 300 men), Jezreel (where Ahab and Jezebel had a palace) and Samaria (which was one of the capitals of the Northern Kingdom of Israel).

Traveling through this area allows you to see multiple examples of terraced farming, which demonstrates how the early inhabitants of the land adopted this hilly countryside into useable farmland.

Our journey for today ended at one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Jerusalem.

Tomorrow: From the heights of Jerusalem, to the lowest place on earth.

2015 Israel Poster B

Have you been enjoying these posts on last year's tour? Are you interested in traveling with me this year? Then, I would love to have you join me. Our 12-day tour is scheduled for October 12-23. We will stay one night on the Mediterranean Sea, three nights on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and five nights in beautiful Jerusalem. During the day, we will visit dozens of sites that will enhance your understanding of the land and of the Biblical stories that take place in them. Reservations are coming in, but we still have some availability! This is a first-class tour with many extras thrown in that many Israel tours overlook. If you are interested, I encourage you to read the itinerary and contact me personally for more details.

Mount Gilboa West

3_MtGilboa_West_2 Mount Gilboa, along with the Hill of Moreh form the narrow passage that separates the Jezreel and Harod Valleys just west of Beit She’an.  It was on this mountain that Saul and his sons fell to the Philistine army.  Tradition claims this is the reason the eastern face of the mountain remains bare even to this day.

We’ll began posting again next week, after the Thanksgiving Holiday.

Bethshean and the Jezreel Jordan Junction

1_BeitSean_Jezreel-Jordan_Junction_1 From atop Mount Gilboa, one is afforded a stunning view of the Jezreel Valley as it intersects with the Jordan Valley.  At the center of this major junction is the ancient city of Beit She’an (Bethshean), where it guarded the crossing point from Pella in Jordan to the Jezreel—which would then lead on past Megiddo to the trade opportunities of International Trunk Route (sometimes called the Via Maris).  This bottleneck of commerce underscores the value of Bethshean, beginning with Egyptians, Israelites, Philistines, and eventually even the empires of Alexander and Rome.

Mt. Tabor

3_Mt_Tabor_4_2 Few mountains are more striking on the landscape in Israel than Mt. Tabor, which sits isolated in the Jezreel Valley.  It was on this mountain that the Lord sent Barak and Deborah to camp before meeting Sisera at the nearby the Kishon River.

Up To Jerusalem

Up To Jerusalem


Today’s goal was to travel from the Sea of Galilee to the city of Jerusalem. As in Biblical times, there are a variety of paths you can take to accomplish this. From the Sea of Galilee, we travelled south to the city of Beit-shan. This site is a beautiful place to visit. You could easily spend a full day here and only then get started good. Our group split into two parts with some of the tour members climbing to the top of the tel and the remaining members touring the Roman site on the floor. Overall, it was a great stop.

Our next stop was the Spring of Harod. This site is very simple, but provides gives the visitors a wonderful visual of the battle between the army of Gideon and the Midianites.

Our last stop before heading into Samaria was the site of Jezreel. This was such an important city in the history of the northern kingdom of Israel. The view was a little hazy, but it was still breathtaking. We were able to see the workers down at the Jezreel Expedition archaeological dig as they were breaking for lunch.

samariaTraveling through the West Bank took us to the city of Samaria. Kings Omri and Ahab purchased this hill and built their palace here to rule the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The views from this site allows you to see the mountains all around and helps you appreciate how difficult it was to travel through this region.

Our final stop for the day was at Jacob's Well in the modern city of Nablus (ancient Sychar). This well, which now sits in the basement of a Greek Orthodox church building, is the same well that Jacob dug so many years ago. Jesus later had a discussion with a Samaritan woman while she was drawing water at this well.

Late this afternoon, we arrived in the beautiful city of Jerusalem. We’ve checked into the hotel and had a good dinner. After a good night’s sleep, we’ll be ready to tackle everything this city has to offer.

Until tomorrow...

The Importance of Jezreel

The Importance of Jezreel


Even a casual reading of the period of the Divided Kingdom in the Old Testament reveals the importance of a particular city in the Northern Kingdom...Jezreel. The city of Jezreel is located on a small bluff on the western edge of Mount Gilboa. The city overlooks the beautiful Jezreel Valley to its north. The panoramic view stretches from Mount Carmel to the west, across the Nazareth ridge to the north, past Mount Tabor and the Hill of Moreh to the Harod Valley in the east. It is one of my favorite sites in Israel as you can visualize so many Biblical stories taking place within its view. This morning, I read an interesting article by Norma Franklin from the University of Haifa. She talks about the importance of the city of Jezreel throughout history, but in particular, the period of the Divided Kingdom. I invite you to read it.

Want to see Jezreel? I'll be going over there next June, and I'm leading a tour. I would be honored for you to join me on this exciting trip as we study the Bible while traveling through Israel.

The View from King Ahab's Front Porch

The View from King Ahab's Front Porch


The above picture was taken from the tel at Jezreel, looking north toward the Hill of Moreh across the Jezreel Valley. How many Biblical events can you name that took place within the area of this picture? Here is a partial list:

  • King Ahab, and his wife Jezebel, built a palace in Jezreel. This view is what they would have seen when they looked across the valley.
  • Gideon defeated the mighty Midianite army with only 300 men by surrounding their camp which was located at the base of the Hill of Moreh.
  • The prophet Elisha often stayed with a couple from Shunam. Shunam was a small city on the western edge of the Hill of Moreh.
  • King Saul once visited a medium who lived at En-Dor. That small town was located on the other side of the Hill of Moreh.
  • Jesus raised a widow's son at Nain, which was located on the other side of the Hill of Moreh.

And, here is one more item of interest...

  • In 1 Samuel 29:1, we are told that in preparation to battle the Philistines, the Israelites encamped at the spring of Jezreel. Do you see the group of trees to the right in the picture? That's the location of the spring.

There is so much history in such a small area. Isn't that interesting?


The Jezreel Valley from the top of Mount Carmel.In our Bible class at church, we have been studying the period of time that we commonly refer to as The Divided Kingdom. It is the time in which the people of Israel had divided itself into two, separate nations. Last week, our study focused on the prophet Elijah and the work that he did in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. One of the most memorable stories is of Elijah's contest against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Mount Carmel is actually a range of mountains that run from the northwest to the southeast and compromise the southwestern edge of the Jezreel Valley. The traditional location of this event is at Muhraqa, which is located about 500 meters (about 1600 feet) above the valley floor.

I don't hike as much as I used to. But, when I do, I really enjoy it. However, if there is one thing that I have learned in hiking, it is to never underestimate the height of the mountain you are climbing. In this case, 500 meters may not sound like a lot of elevation to climb, but it can be. Especially if you have to do it twice!

In 1 Kings 18, it mentions that Elijah and all of the people gathered on top of Mount Carmel.

So Ahab sent for all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together on Mount Carmel. - 1 Kings 18:20.

Then, after God showed his power to the people, Elijah gathered the 450 prophets of Baal and slew them at the Kishon Brook. The Kishon Brook is located in the floor of the Jezreel Valley.

And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal! Do not let one of them escape!” So they seized them; and Elijah brought them down to the Brook Kishon and executed them there. - 1 Kings 18:40

A close up of the Kishon Brook from the top of Mount Carmel.(The picture at the top of the this post shows the view from Mount Carmel looking east. The Kishon Brook is in the foreground on the valley floor. The second picture shows you a closeup of the brook, located along the line of shrubs just above the modern road.)

Then, after Elijah warns Ahab about the rain and then reclimbs Mount Carmel.

Then Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of abundance of rain.” So Ahab went up to eat and drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; then he bowed down on the ground, and put his face between his knees, and said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” - 1 Kings 18:41-43a

After Elijah sees that his prediction of rain was about to come true, he heads towards the city of Jezreel, which is about 25 kilometers (16 miles) away.

Honestly, the exact timeframe of all of these events is uncertain. But regardless, this is a lot of ground for one man to cover in a short amount of time. Up a mountain, down a mountain, up a mountain and then 16 miles to Jezreel. I am tired just reading it.


Jezreel (center) and the surrounding area.  Picture from the Jezreel Expedition Facebook Page, taken by Todd Bolen Earlier today, the Jezreel Expedition Facebook page updated their cover photo. All I have to say is "wow". That is a fantastic aerial shot of Jezreel as it overlooks the southeastern corner of the Jezreel Valley and the Valley of Harod.

This picture is facing almost due east. Jezreel is the light brown area just below the exact center of the picture. The northern end of Mount Gilboa is off to the right and the Transjordan Plateau is in the distance. The Jordan River, which sits in the Jordan Rift Valley is not visible as it falls below the land line between Jezreel and the Transjordan Plateau.

How many Biblical events can you name that happened in this picture? Well, here is a list to get you started.

  • Gideon narrowed his army from many thousand to only 300 men at the Spring of Harod. That spring is located at the foot of Mount Gilboa in the closest shady area just beyond Jezreel. Later that night, Gideon attacked the Midianites near the Hill of Moreh, located just off of the picture to the left. (Judges 7:1-25)
  • Saul was killed on Mount Gilboa. When the Philistines found Saul's body, they took it and hung it over the walls at Beth-Shean. Beth-Shean sits about halfway between Mount Gilboa and the Jordan River (not visible from this angle). (1 Samuel 31:1-10)
  • Jehu rode "furiously" through this area. Jehu had been anointed by a prophet to be the next king of Israel at Ramoth Gilead. Ramoth Gilead was located on top of the Transjordan Plateau in the distance in this picture. A Jehu was riding back to Jezreel, the men in the tower saw him coming up the valley you see in the picture. (2 Kings 9:1-29)
  • This view is probably the last view that Jezebel saw just before she was pushed out a window to her death. (2 Kings 9:30-37)

Many other Biblical events happened within the view of this picture. In addition, anyone traveling from the Galilee area (to the upper left) to the Jerusalem area could have come through this area.

To the Jezreel Expedition: Thanks for supplying this picture! And to Todd Bolen, thanks for taking the picture! It was a great reminder of all of the things that happened here.

2012 Israel Trip - Day Six

2012 Israel Trip - Day Six


Today is Sunday, which is always a special day. However, when you wake up on a Sunday morning by the Sea of Galilee and end it in Jerusalem, it makes is an extra special day. After spending a period of time in worship, we loaded the bus and headed south and away from the Sea of Galilee. The Galilee area is a very special place and I hated to leave it. (I guess I'll just have to come back.) Our first stop was at Bet-She'an, an ancient city that guarded the southeastern end of the Jezreel Valley. The ruins at Bet-She'an are extremely impressive. It reminded me of the ruins at Jerash, Jordan, which I visited two years ago. There are ruins from several different periods including Roman and Canaanite. The view from the top of the ancient tel looking over the Roman ruins is not one that I'll ever forget. (I also won't forget how hot it was and the taste of the Magnum bar I had at the end of the tour.)

From there we traveled to the Spring of Harod. This is the location where Gideon narrowed down his army to 300 men to fight the Midianites who were camped across the valley at the base of the Hill of Moreh. This is one of my favorite places because it puts on display how accurate the Bible is with regards to geographical descriptions and locations. You can see the entire story laid out in front of you. It is incredible.

At Jezreel, we were able to see the excavations taking place and the wonderful view of the Jezreel Valley below. We were also reminded that Phil Roberts, a man who many of us admired so greatly, spent many hours at Jezreel.

From there we turned south and were able to travel across the mountains of Samaria. Since most of Samaria is in the West Bank, travel through that area is not always possible. However, at this time, the situation is peaceful which provided us a rare opportunity. I was amazed. I never realized hour mountainous Samaria was. We were able to visit the city of Samaria as well as spend time at Jacob's Well in Nabulus.

Soon thereafter, we arrived safely in Jerusalem where we checked into a wonderful hotel. Our day tomorrow starts off on top of the Mount of Olives. I can't wait.