A Travel Agent’s Trip to Israel with Ya’lla Tours, Part 3

Another installment of a travel diary by Kelly Hyatt, who traveled to Israel in February of 2018 with a group of American travel agents. Thank you Kelly!

Read Part 1 here.
Read Part 2 here.

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

We had now made it to the most holy city in the entire world, Jerusalem. The first day we visited Bethlehem, just 6 miles to the south. We visited the oldest church in the holy land, the Church of the Nativity. Based on the local tradition that Jesus was born in a cave at the edge of the village, the church was built over the site of the cave. We saw the Shepherd’s Fields, where Boaz met Ruth.

the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem

the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem

Then, after a yummy Arabic lunch in Bethlehem, we returned to Jerusalem, to the Mount of Olives, where we had our first view of the Old City walls and the Dome of the Rock. We proceeded to walk down the Palm Sunday road to the Church of Gethsemane, in the Garden of Gethsemane, the site of the agony of Jesus.
The old city called but that day was ended and we returned to the hotel for dinner and reflection.

The next day, it was raining and we first visited the Church of Peter Galicantus also called Caiaphas Palace, which held a cistern where Jesus was held before being taken to Pilate for his trial. Then we proceeded to the City of David where you can see the excavations revealing the earliest days of Jerusalem.

We entered into the amazing Hezekiah’s Tunnel and learned how the water from the only spring in Jerusalem was protected and got into the city. Here we joined Israeli school children who were on their own field trip, learning about their own history.

Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

At the Zion Gate, you can still see bullet holes from the six days war. We walked the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to see the place where some traditions hold to be where Jesus was crucified and buried. It was Ash Wednesday and the place was full of people from every religion.

the Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

the Garden Tomb, Jerusalem

We then went thru the Muslim Quarter and out of the city walls to the Garden Tomb, near the place of the skull (Golgotha), another place where some traditions hold to be the place of crucifixion and burial.

the Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum, Jerusalem

the Shrine of the Book, Israel Museum, Jerusalem

scale model of Jerusalem, Israel Museum, Jerusalem

scale model of Jerusalem, Israel Museum, Jerusalem

The next day we went to the Israel Museum to see the Shrine of the Book, where the Dead Sea scrolls are kept, and a full scale-model of Jerusalem during the time of Jesus. The model really put in perspective the way it was, compared to the way it is now. And we were each able to reconcile our own belief and faith in which of the two places of crucifixion and burial we felt was right from our hearts Thene visited Mt Zion and saw King David’s Tomb and the Last Supper Room

Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Jerusalem

Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial, Jerusalem

Next was a very special moment that I wish every person in the world could experience. We visited Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust Museum. Before we went into the grounds we visited a place called the Valley of the Communities. Here Ya’lla Tours had arranged for a Jewish cantor to come and pray the Lord’s Prayer and sing a Hebrew song. The song of the Holocaust was perhaps the most moving thing I have ever heard in my life. Then having the opportunity to visit the museum, brought it all to a reality that I had never experienced and likely will never again.

the Western Wall, Jerusalem

the Western Wall, Jerusalem

Later that day, several of us went back to the old city on our own and we made time to go to the Western Wall and pray. We all put our paper prayers into the cracks of the wall and then went shopping!!!!

Masada

Masada

On the last day of our tour we went back out of Jerusalem and down to the Dead Sea. We drove to the massive fortress of Masada. A place that defies reality. The Dead Sea is the lowest place on earth and the mountain fortress of Masada towers over the area and even though it rises to a height of about 450 meters it is only 58 meters above sea level. This is a magical place. Herod the Great built a massive fortress there and in 72AD, the 10th Roman legion, during a monumental siege, used an astounding ramp to conquer the fortress and end the revolt of the Jewish Zealots. The attack ramp, the Roman camps and fortifications that encircle the mesa have survived to this day.

From here we stopped at Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found and then on to the beach for a float in the Dead Sea!!!!

As we made our way back to Jerusalem, we saw Bedouin sheep herders moving their sheep in for the night and the sun was setting in a most beautiful way. We all felt that we were blessed beyond measure to have been on such a tour with such a fun group of people and the best guides you could ever wish for.

I want to thank my tour guide Zvika for making me want to be a better Christian and to Jane V and Ronen of Ya’lla tours for putting together such a great trip and for teaching me so much about the destination of Israel. The one place on earth that every person should visit at least once in their life.

NAME THAT COUNTRY Episode 110

This 1:50 scale model depicts the capital city of our mystery country as it was 2,000 years ago. In the 1960s, archaeologists, historians and architects used ancient texts and archaeological records to recreate a mini version of the city as it may have looked just prior to its destruction by the Romans in 70CE. In the foreground is the oldest part of the city, founded by David, the country’s 2nd king. The model is on display at the national museum.

Can you name that county? 
See below for answers.

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City of David

The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, “You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.” They thought, “David cannot get in here.” Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David. (2 Samuel 5:6-7)

Today, the City of David referred to in the biblical text is an archaeological site and national park that is a must-see for any visitor to Jerusalem. It lies along the spine of a narrow ridge just south of the Temple Mount, a short walk from the Western Wall through the Dung Gate.

The City of David (circled) in a scale model of ancient Jerusalem. It stood alone on that ridge during David's time. His palace, yet to be excavated, is at the north end of the city. Solomon extended the walls north of the palace and built the First Temple atop Mount Moriah, known since as the Temple Mount.

The City of David (circled) in a scale model of ancient Jerusalem. It stood alone on that ridge during David’s time. His palace, yet to be excavated, is at the north end of the city. Solomon extended the walls north of the palace and built the First Temple atop Mount Moriah, known since as the Temple Mount.

The site appears to have been permanently settled by Canaanites as early as the 3rd millennium BCE. The 3,800 year old Spring Citadel is a Canaanite fortress built outside the eastern wall to protect the Gihon Spring, the city’s main source of water. This is the largest known Canaanite fortress in Israel, with walls 23 feet thick surrounding the spring. It is believed to be the “fortress of Zion” taken by David to conquer the city in 1004 BCE. It was only discovered in 1995 and opened to the public in 2014 after 17 years of excavation.

King David made the city his capital and proceeded to unite the people of Israel for the first time. David’s son King Solomon extended the city to include the Temple Mount and built the First Temple there.

City of David archaeological park, Jerusalem - This is how it looks today, more or less, excavations are on-going.

City of David archaeological park, Jerusalem – This is how it looks today, more or less, excavations are on-going.

Begin the tour of the City of David at the visitor center, where you can view a 16-minute, 3-D film showing the city as it looked in its prime. Then, if you’re not claustrophobic, explore the tunnels of the city.

There’s the Canaanite tunnel, which most archaeologists date to the 18th century BCE, around the same time the Spring Fortress and other fortifications were built.

Warren’s Shaft, discovered in the 19th century by Sir Charles Warren, is a 40-foot vertical piece of the Canaanite water system that may have been used by David’s army to enter the city.

Hezekiah’s tunnel, also known as the Tunnel of Siloam or Shiloh, is a later addition
built in the early 8th century BCE on the orders of King Hezekiah. Its purpose was to join the Gihon Spring to the city, so it would have an internal water source during the Assyrian siege.

Water still runs through this tunnel today, about 2 feet deep. If you don’t mind wading, it’s a fascinating walk. So sophisticated were their calculations, diggers started on either end and met within millimeters of each other in the middle. You can still see in the tunnel where they marked the meeting point. The tunnel connects the Gihon Spring, which lies outside the city walls, to the Siloam Pool inside the walls. In the winter, we usually bypass this tunnel because the water is quite cold and can be too deep.

wading through Hezekiah's Tunnel - cityofdavid.org.il

wading through Hezekiah’s Tunnel – cityofdavid.org.il

Yet another tunnel, newly opened, the Pilgrim’s Tunnel leads from the City of David to the Davidson Center, which is just south of the Western Wall Plaza. This tunnel was dug during the Herodian Period in the 1st century BCE as a drainage channel to capture water flowing off the surrounding mountains. Water was directed away from the grand Herodian Road, which formed the ceiling of the tunnel, and into the Siloam Pool. Pilgrims from all over Israel would stop at the pool to cleanse themselves before walking the Herodian Road up to the Temple (by now, the 2nd Temple). The Herodian Road is under excavation but visitors today can walk the same route under ground through the tunnel.

The City of David is not a large area but touring the site involves quite a lot of stairs up and down and tunnels require some ducking in places.

There is a parking lot on-site.