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Six days in a Holy Land

The Christian Chronicle's Erik Tryggestad shares his Road Notes from a press tour of Israel.

TEL AVIV, Israel — Modernity meets antiquity in the State of Israel, where I spent a week on a tour for Christian media, hosted by the country’s Ministry of Tourism. 

Here is a quick summary. 

DAY 1, TEL AVIV: Beachfront hotels line the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in this modern Israeli city, complete with high-end shops and eateries along its boardwalk. (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)
DAY 1: I arrived in Tel Aviv ahead of my tour group, so I took a long, lazy walk along the boardwalk by the Mediterranean Sea. 

This was not how I pictured the Middle East — full of joggers, folks on Segway scooters and gelato. Dining on plates of hummus and skewers of chicken at Dr. Shakshuka Restaurant, I got into a conversation with our tour guide about Abraham and kosher eating.


DAY 2, JOPPA: Tour guide Michal Neuman shows off her timeline of Israel’s history, beginning in 5800 B.C. and ending with the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948.  (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)

DAY 2: Starting in the ancient city of Joppa, we traced the steps of the apostle Peter, who had a vision here of a sheet lowered from heaven (Acts 10). His path took him up the coast to Caesarea, a massive port and fortress built by Herod the Great. Stationed here was Cornelius, a centurion who, along with his family, was baptized by Peter. 

It was incredible to think of Peter standing here and saying “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism, but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”

Not long after, Caesarea served as the apostle Paul’s prison, where he faced trial before Felix (Acts 24).
DAY 3, GALILEE: Images of fish are carved into a rock at the shore of the Sea of Galilee at Kibbutz Ginosar, which houses the remains of an ancient boat from the first century. (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)
DAY 3: High winds kept us from sailing on the Sea of Galilee. (Something similar happened to the disciples once, but someone calmed the waters somehow.) We toured the ruins of Capernaum and a baptismal site of the Jordan River. It was amazing to see how much of Jesus’ ministry took place around Galilee (which is really more of a lake than a sea, by the way).

One highlight was a tour of the recently unearthed synagogue in Magdala, thought to be the home of Mary Magdalene. The structure dates back to the time of Christ and might have been visited by Jesus. 

DAY 4, THE DEAD SEA: Clear sky and clouds are reflected in the Dead Sea, a lake bordering Israel and Jordan. The surface of the sea is 1,300 feet below sea level. With no outlets, the water, through evaporation, is up to 10 times as salty as most oceans at certain depths. No fish can live in the water, which has a greasy feel and makes floating easy. Spas and hotels line parts of the shore. (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)

DAY 4: Starting at the Dead Sea, we visited Masada, a mountaintop palace of Herod the Great and site of a terrible siege in 73-74 A.D. We visited the caves of Qumran, where a Jewish sect called the Essenes lived like hermits and made meticulous copies of Old Testament books — discovered centuries later and now called the Dead Sea Scrolls

DAY 4, QUMRAN: These caves, overlooking the Dead Sea on the edge of the Judean Wilderness, were used by the Essenes, an ancient Jewish sect. Their writings, the Dead Sea Scrolls, were discovered in the 1940s. The scrolls contain parts of the Hebrew Old Testament — among the oldest-known manuscripts — and the Essenes’ writings about their lives and beliefs. (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)

DAY 5: In Jerusalem, we visited the ruins of the City of David and the Pool of Siloam (mentioned in John 9). After a rainy stop at Temple Mount, we dried off over plates of fantastic falafel in the Muslim Quarter of the ancient city.  
DAY 5, JERUSALEM: Members of the Orthodox Jewish community offer prayers at the Western Wall, the remains of a retaining wall for the temple built by Herod the Great (see related story). (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)

We spent the afternoon at Yad Vashem, the Holocaust History Museum. I didn’t expect to find glimmers of hope in such a place, but I was inspired to learn about the Jews who became self-styled journalists during World War II, documenting daily life in the ghettos under the Nazis. Their notebooks and cameras are historical artifacts. I should never underestimate the importance of what journalists do.

DAY 6, GARDEN TOMB: The evangelical Christians who oversee this ancient tomb in Jerusalem provide unleavened bread and grape juice for visitors who wish to take communion here. (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)

DAY 6: At the Garden Tomb, the site of an ancient tomb near what some scholars believe was the hill of Golgotha, we listened as visiting Christian groups sang soulful hymns a cappella — a real treat. 

“This is the Day That the Lord Has Made”

During a visit to the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, Erik Tryggestad was blessed to hear the sweet sounds of a cappella singing from a group of pilgrims from the U.S. Here’s “This is the Day That the Lord Has Made” overset with photos from Tryggestad’s recent press tour of Israel. See more: http://www.christianchronicle.org/article/six-days-in-a-holy-land #VisitIsrael

Posted by The Christian Chronicle on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

We shared a brief communion service, and I offered a devotional, comparing Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son, Isaac, on Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount) to God’s sacrifice of his only Son for our sins. 

DAY 6, MAHANE YEHUDA MARKET: Middle Eastern spices and smoothies are for sale at the open-air and partially covered market, which dates back to the 1880s. (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)

DAY 7: Rest, as the folks at El Al Airlines flew me home.

MAP VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

RELATED:


A road sign in the West Bank. (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)

Capernaum, a town on the Sea of Galilee mentioned in all four gospels. (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)

Waiting for smoothies in the Mahane Yehuda Market. (PHOTO BY ERIK TRYGGESTAD)

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