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Petra, Jordan, Travel

Petra 2005

May 2005 was my first trip to Israel. I had only 14 students but we did just about everything on that trip. We stayed several days longer than any other trip and made day trips to Petra and St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt. Tourism was at a low point in 2005, so we were able to book nicer hotels for very competitive rates. We used an Israeli guide for the whole trip and I learned a great deal from him about how to design a tour.

There was no wifi in 2005, the only internet available was in internet cafes or a computer in the hotel lobby. It did not matter much since no one had wifi enabled devices yet (it was two years before the first iPhone and I was not blogging until 2007).

People ask me which trip was my favorite, but I avoid the question since I do not want to play favorites. Secretly, it was this first trip, when everything was new to me and we had an adventure together.

 

Arad, Israel, Travel

Tel Arad, 2005

 

Israel, Timna, Travel

At Timna, 2005

 

 

On the Temple Mount

May 2007 was only the second time I visited Israel. I only had a handful of students, so Dale DeWitt joined with three people from his church in South Dakota and one student brought a friend and another brought her brother. This was my first time guiding some sites myself, although in Jerusalem I used an Israeli guide. I was still learning about how to design the tour well, and there were some serious bumps on this one.

I was not blogging regularly yet and there was little access to the internet at the time. One of the students put this slideshow together from his own photographs.

Travel, Israel, Tel Dan

At Tel Dan 2007

The May 2009 Grace Bible College Israel trip (May 12-22) was my third trip and for the first time I was able to “live blog” several times from Israel. Free wireless internet was still a rarity in the hotels at that time, so I only made three posts on the trip. I guided most of the trip myself, with the exception of a single day in in Jerusalem for the Temple Tunnel tour. We skipped Jordan on this tour to save some money for the students and I have always regretted that.

Heading to Israel!

Israel Update #1 – Jerusalem

Israel Update #2 – We are in Galilee!

Israel Update #3 — with Picture Goodness!

Israel, Masada, Travel

Masada, 2009

Tel Arad, 2009

In May 2011 sixteen Grace Bible College students  traveled to Israel and Jordan. Unlike other Israel trips, this time we flew Royal Jordanian Airlines to Amman and spent a few days in Jordan before crossing into Israel. This trip was special because my thirteen year old daughter Amy went on the trip along with Ken and Diana Johnson, longtime friends from California. This was Professor Scott Shaw’s first of many trips to Israel with the Grace Bible College group.

This trip was unique because we spent a morning doing an archaeological project at Tamar. We had a nice cool morning (only 90 degrees) and we found nothing but two buckets of pottery fragments (no coins or Dead Sea Scrolls). This was a good experience and more or less cured everyone of any interest in being an archaeologist.

Heading to Israel! (2011 Version)

Day 1: Travel to Jordan

Day 2: Amman, Madaba, Mt. Nebo

Day 3: Petra (in the rain)

Day 4: Jeresh, Welcome to Israel!

Day 5: The Golan Heights

Day 6: The Jesus Sites

Day 7: Qumran, En-Gedi

Day 7 (part 2): Evening Devotional

Day 8: Arad, Masada, and “Do not lick the Dead Sea”

Day 9: Quick update – archaeology is happening

Day 10: Archaeology at tel Tamar

Day 11: Walking in Jerusalem

Day 12: Southern Temple and the City of David

Day 13: Rainy Days and Demonstrations Really Get Me Down

Days 14-15: Back in the USA

Petra, Jordan, Travel

Petra 2011

Mount Arbel Carob Tree Lookout, January 2012

In January 2012 I traveled with 22 adults and students to Israel and Jordan. This trip was a little different than a student trip since we had a wide range of ages (one in high school, two college students, and several older retired adults). I tried to plan the trip with a little less walking (and more frequent bathroom breaks).

Heading to Israel (2012 Version)

Day 1 – Travel and More Travel!

Day 2 – Rainy Days (and Mondays) in Jerusalem

Day 3 – Into the Wilderness

Day 4 – Ibex, Rock Badgers, and Crabs, Oh My!

Day 5 – Crossing the Red Sea

Day 6 – Everything Floats in the Dead Sea

Day 7 – Appealing Caeserea

Day 8 – Following Jesus in Galilee

Day 9 – On The Road to Petra

Day 10 – Hiking in Petra

Day 11 – The Final Day in Jerusalem

Petra, Jordan, Travel

Petra, 2012

Mount Arbel Carob Tree Lookout

In May 2013 I traveled with 15 students and friends to Israel and Jordan.

Thanks to Ben Rolff for this video!

GBC – Israel Tour 2013

Day 1 – We Have Left, On a Jet Plane

Day 2 – Walking around Jerusalem

Day 3 – The Garden Tomb vs. The Holy Sepulchre

Day 4 (Part 1) – Down The Mount of Olives and Up the Kidron

Day 4 (Part 2) – Around the Zion Gate

Day 5 – Heading to Galilee

Day 6 – The Jesus Sites

Day 7 – Crossing into Jordan

Day 8 – Hiking in Petra

Day 9 – Swimming in the Red Sea

Day 10 – The Negev

Day 11 – En Gedi, Qumran, and then Homeward Bound

In May 2015 I traveled with 24 students and friends to Israel and Jordan. Professor Scott Shaw was a co-leader, without his help it would have been very difficult. I wrote these posts while in Israel or Jordan on my iPad, so think of them as “live reports from the field.” I revisited them once I was home to add additional photographs when internet was bad and correct some typos.

Thanks to Aaron Wienss for this video!

Day 1 and 2 – Traveling to Jerusalem

Day 3 – Seven Miles in Jerusalem

Day 4 – Museum Day in Jerusalem

Day 5 – From the East of Jerusalem

Day 6 – Heading to Galilee

Day 7 – The Jesus Sites

Day 8 – Visiting Jordan

Day 9 – Petra

Day 10 – Crossing the Red Sea

Day 11 – Mamshit, Arad and Masada

Day 12 – En Gedi and Qumran

Day 13 – Back Home Again

In May 2017 I traveled with 34 students, parents and friends to Israel and Jordan. This was my eighth trip to Israel and by far my largest group. Professor Scott Shaw was a co-leader (this was his fourth trip), without his help it would have been impossible to manage a group of this size. The students were remarkable – very attentive and inquisitive and (almost) always on time. I wrote these posts while in Israel or Jordan on my iPad, so think of them as “live reports from the field.” I revisited them once I was home to add additional photographs when internet was bad and correct some typos.

Day 1 – Reading Acts is Going to Israel

Day 2 – Arrival as Planned…Almost

Day 3 – Beginning from Jerusalem

Day 4 – A Day at the Museums

Day 5 – From the Mount of Olives and across the Kidron

Day 6 – Caesarea, Bet She’an and The Sea of Galilee

Day 7 – Following Jesus in Galilee

Day 8 – Crossing the Jordan to Visit Jordan

Day 9 – Hiking at Petra

Day 10 – Swimming in the Red Sea

Day 11 – Mamshit, Arad and Masada

Day 12 – Hiking at En-Gedi

Day 13 – Slouching towards Bethlehem

Day 14 – The Long Road Home

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last day of our Israel trip began with a 5:00 AM wake-up call in order to catch our 10:00 AM Turkish Airlines flight. We were to land in Chicago at 5:40 PM, losing the eight hours, but of course we were delayed in Istanbul slightly. With favorable winds we arrived by 6:00 PM. Luggage was excruciatingly slow (our group was the last set of bags off the plane) and one girl lost her bag. One of the group headed home from Chicago (bye Kaitlynn). Even though our bus was on time to pick us up at O’Hare, it was nearly 8:00 by the time we finally hit the road. It was nearly midnight before we arrived at GBC, so something like 27 hours of travel.

Since all electronics larger than a cell phone are now banned on flights from Turkey to the US, I needed to buy a book to read on the plane. The Steimatzky bookstore in the Ben Gurion airport has a very nice selection (better than any US airport I have seen). I ended up selecting Tom Bissell’s Apostle: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve. This book is part travelogue, part “lives of the saints” and part New Testament introduction. I read about half of the book on the plane; even if he is not right on some of the New Testament material he is an excellent writer. Since Bissell is not a religious person he is able to report some of the more legendary aspects of the lives of the apostles more objectively than these sorts of books often do.

Now that I am back in the office, I will edit the previous posts and add some pictures. I plan on moving the posts to the “Israel Trips.” Thanks for following this trip, I heard many positive comments from people who vicariously traveled to Israel and Jordan with the Grace Bible College group.

Maybe you can join me for a Pauline Missions trip in 2018 (students) or 2019 (Alumni), or the Grace Bible College student trip in 2019.

 

Today is our last full day in Israel, tomorrow we fly out at 10am and arrive back at Grace Bible College around 10pm. The flight times are longer than that since there is a seven hour time difference. 

We left Tamar at 9am, allowing for a little more rest before a long drive to Beit Guvrin, also known as the Bell Caves. There is not much biblical significance to the site. There are some Roman era remains (when the town was called Eleutheropolis), but the real treat is climbing down into the caverns carved by the residents of Maresha. From the top, they do not look like much, there is a narrow entrance into what looks like a basement, but it is actually a large cistern carved from the soft rock. I told the group of thirty five to go on down, and they wondered if we would all fit. I told them it was “bigger on the inside,” and so it was. The series of connected halls could fit many more people than our group! In fact, in the second cave house we walked through there many Israeli families with small children enjoying Shabbat at this national park. 

Walking back down the hill we visited the Sidonian tomb of Apollophanes. The large family tomb is decorated with wild animals and a few mythical beasts, including Cerubus. This three- headed dog guards the underworld, but if you play him a bit of music he just goes to sleep. The paintings have been restored but the tomb remains a fine example of a painted Sidonian tomb. 

After we managed to pry everyone away from the ice cream vendor, my intention was to drop everyone off at the Jaffa Gate for final shopping before heading to our hotel in Tel Aviv. My driver suggested we go instead to Bethlehem and shop there. He was persistent so I spoke to the group and the concensus was to visit Bethlehem and do our final shopping there. The group was extremely tired but this point in the trip and we were really “slouching towards Bethlehem” (and I know that is not quite the way Yeats wrote it, but I am mixing high-brow literature and Harry Potter references here…) 

The original idea was to shop in a very nice shop with great security, then walk up to the old city of Bethlehem and do more touristy shopping. The nice shop had items ranging from inexpensive trinkets to massive olive wood carvings the Vatican might be able to afford, but out of the price range of college students on their last day of a Long tour. Some of the gifts were really embarrassing. One student bought a set of Jesus-icon air fresheners for her boyfriend (I will not use the name so it is a surprise). 

After the nice shop, a guide walked us up into the market area. We had a few overlooks of the shepherd fields and key churches, even if the walk was punctuated with cars squeezing through the narrow streets locals slowing down to look at the tourists. The guide led us too far into the regular shopping district, which is not what we wanted, but ended up being a good cultural visit for the students. This was a busy Palestinian market with all the sounds and smells you might expect. We eventually found the tourist area, and everyone finished out thier gift shopping. We found a sign for Starbucks, which was clearly not legit. The first clue was the 13 year old kid running the shop. I did buy a Starbucks Bethlehem mug with a Palestinian flag on it for my international Starbucks collection. 

We had more than an hour drive to Tel Aviv. The hotel we originally had was overbooked, so we were upgraded to a very nice hotel a few blocks from the Mediterranean. This is the second excellent upgrade on the trip, I am not always so lucky. Maybe tomorrow I can get a bump to first class? 

Probably not.

I will post a final reflection on the trip after I get back home. I plan on editing all the posts (sorry for any errors. iPad typing is not always easy). I will also insert more pictures and eventually videos produced by some of the students.

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