Dispatch from Jerusalem

After a very early start today, and a long drive southwards, we went to the top of the spectacular fortress of Masada and toured most of the remnants of the ancient buildings on its summit.  En route, I asked Reid Neilson to talk about his work as managing director of the Church History Department.From Masada, we headed back up north to the ruins of Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.After eating lunch there, we drove just a bit further north to a place where many … [Read more...]

“Next Day in Jerusalem”

We spent much of the morning walking through the extensive ruins of Beit She‘an, the only city of the New Testament "Decapolis" that is located on the western side of the Jordan River -- and the place where the bodies of Saul and his son Jonathan were displayed by the Philistines after the men of the Israelite ruling family were wiped out at the foot of nearby Mount Gilboa.  Fortunately, the weather was overcast today, and we even felt a few drops of rain once or twice; Beit She‘an can som … [Read more...]

In the Galilee and the Golan

We began the day setting sail from Tiberias, with a devotional service in a boat out on the Sea of Galilee.  I spoke, as did Jack Welch, who is leading the other bus that is accompanying mine.We landed at Capernaum, and then proceeded just a few minutes south to the traditional Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus may have delivered his Sermon on the Mount.  (It can't have been far from here.)From there, we drove northward through the Huleh Basin to the waterfalls at Banias. … [Read more...]

Up and Over

Today, beginning our actual tour, we drove northward up the coast to Caesarea Maritima, the spectacular Herodian construction that, for a few centuries, supplanted Jaffa as the chief port of Palestine.  It was the home of Pontius Pilate, the Roman procurators Festus and Felix, Phillip the Evangelist, the "God-fearing" Roman centurion Cornelius (the first Gentile convert to Christianity), and, much later, the great Greek Christian father Origen and, after him, "the father of Christian … [Read more...]

Strolling Back 3480 Years or So

Yesterday, while waiting for the rest of our group to arrive, some of us walked about two kilometers down the beach from our hotel to the ancient city of Jaffa (KJV Joppa; modern Hebrew Yafo).It's a wonderful contrast to modern Tel Aviv, which was only founded in 1909 and which is therefore, to my taste, relatively uninteresting.The earliest recorded mention of Jaffa dates back to 1468 BC, when Pharaoh Thutmose III besieged the then-Canaanite city.  The siege wasn't successful, so his … [Read more...]

The Reality of Modern Israel

Today is Yom Ha’atzmaut or "Independence Day" in Israel.  Yesterday was Yom Hazikaron, or "Memorial Day."Yom Ha’atzmaut falls on the fifth of Iyar in the Hebrew calendar, which moves a bit through the year as its organized by the Western calendar.  This year, Israeli Independence Day falls on 26 April.There was a flyover of fighter jets earlier today, and the beach here in Tel Aviv is absolutely packed with people doing barbecues, flying kites, and roller skating.  At mid … [Read more...]

Beyond Book Learning

Tel Aviv, from Joppa (or Jaffa, or Yafo)The main reason I like to go on these tours is that they give me a chance to visit (or revisit) interesting places without burdening my university department's travel budget or my own.  A Middle Eastern specialist needs to get to the Middle East somewhat the way a chemist needs to go to his laboratory, and, over the past five or six years, I've been able to spend considerable time in Israel, as well as in Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Greece, and a number of … [Read more...]

Eretz Yisrael, Marratan Ukhra

The Dan Panorama Hotel in Tel Aviv, where we've stayed annually for the past five or six years.  Yesterday (or whenever it was), I was sitting out in my backyard with my son and daughter-in-law, taking simple pleasure in the blue Utah sky and the cool dry Utah evening air, and regretting that I had to leave soon.  Why do I travel so much? This is the view out my window today: The Dan Panorama is, plainly, aptly named.  Something tells me we're not … [Read more...]