As many of you know, I just returned from a trip to Israel. The trip was created and conducted by Lipkin Tours. Along with Derek and Sharon Gilbert, I was a host on the tour. This allowed me to comment on certain sites and content points along the tour as we were led by our guides. Folks have asked for some thoughts on the tour and so I’ve jotted a few down here. The pictures and video below are courtesy of Mike and Debbie Sprawls, a couple I was blessed to meet on the trip and who were among the folks on our bus. I’ll post a few more pictures later when my wife and I are able to get to taking those off our phones.
To start, it’s probably no surprise to learn that I’m not an enthusiastic traveler. I’ve commented on the podcast and this site that I thrive in routine. Travel disrupts routine, so you can do the math there. The tour was pretty exhausting. The days were long and the nights were also often scheduled. There was a lot of walking (we logged 7.5 miles one day — or so my wife’s fit-bit told us). My advice is that, if you consider going on an organized Israel tour, be advised that this is the way it is. It requires a certain amount of stamina. I didn’t have an issue there, save for a stubborn sciatica / disk problem that I’m plagued with off and on (it was on during the trip). That produced two really rough days, but we powered through with the aid of Ibuprofen and some stronger meds a doctor friend (thanks, Jay!) gave me during the trip. Again, be advised. But all that said, the trip was certainly fun and a blessing.
The best part of the trip was the people I got to meet. I’m not patronizing when I say that. I mean it. It’s fun to meet people who devote their time to what I write and say via the podcast. It affirms to me that the content is useful and meaningful. Truth be told, I know that in my head and think long term about it, but it’s nice to know it has an impact now and not only later. Trey appreciated it as well. I heard a number of people thank him for his work on the podcast. He deserves it, as he puts in more hours on an episode than I do. I also enjoy meeting people who use the content in some way to do ministry or intentionally pass it on to others. If you’ve followed my work for any amount of time you know that word-of-mouth is the engine that drives the dissemination of the content. It’s indispensable. Lastly, I enjoy hearing how people first came in contact with Unseen Realm or the Naked Bible Podcast. Both have had an amazing reach. We had people on the trip from South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, and states from Alaska to Florida. Again, word-of-mouth is the key.
As far as the trip itself, my favorite time was the short excursion / worship time on the Sea of Galilee and the camel ride with my wife. There’s just something about floating on the Sea of Galilee. Not sure why, but it has more impact for me than ruins, even when the ruins are authentic. Maybe it’s a closer reproduction to something Jesus actually did. As for the camel, I don’t know why, but I like them. They’re like large pugs with long legs I guess. I rode one on my only other trip to Israel 32 years ago, so this time I was hoping we’d bump into one so I could get another ride. If someone on the trip has a picture of my wife and on the camel, please send it to me!
We hit several sites that I had not been to 32 years ago: Bethel, Yardenit (the location along the Jordan that tradition associates with John the Baptist’s activity), Shiloh, Dan, the Valley of Elah, and last but not least, Banias / Mount Hermon. All you have to do is see the massive rock outcropping at Banias to know what Jesus meant by “upon this rock” (and the theology behind the place also leaves little doubt, as I discuss in Unseen Realm). I also never got to really tour the larger Western (Wailing) Wall area 32 years ago. We spend almost two hours walking around the whole area before visiting the wall. I didn’t realize the extent of the monumental stone building. The blocks were impressive as was the vertical engineering involved (Roman era). Again, no aliens needed. I’m glad I got to see these places, as they are all meaningful in the biblical story and the theology Scripture puts forth via the events at those places.
On that last point about Banias, the same can be said for the view atop Mount Carmel, a place I’d seen before. Once you look out and see the valley adjacent to Megiddo you know it cannot be the reference point for Armageddon. That place name (har-mageddon in Greek transliteration; see Rev 16:15) requires a mountain (har) for its namesake, and so you only need ask of the valley at Megiddo, “Where’s the mountain?” to see that Megiddo has nothing to do with Armageddon (i.e., there’s no mountain at Megiddo; see Unseen Realm Chapter 41 for that discussion).
Here are some pictures (in order):
- View of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, showing the cemeteries in front of the golden gate.
- The Valley of Elah, the place where David killed Goliath
- Me at Yardenit (Jordan River)
- My wife of thirty years and I on the boat on the Sea of Galilee (What a babe! Wonder if she’ll see this post).
- Peter’s house at Capernaum with adjacent (later) church added (yes, that Peter, and yes, it’s the real deal).
- My wife and I riding a camel (thanks Jensens!)
Lastly, here’s a video of me giving the shorthand meaning of baptism (from the lengthier treatment of 1 Peter 3 in Unseen Realm) at Yardenit preceding a baptismal (Derek played the John the Baptist role).