We spent 5 days in Israel, from March 1st to 5th, in 2017. We went with our friends the Hendersons, because vacations are always more fun with company! We visited Tel Aviv, Ceasarea, Nazareth, Galilee, Jerusalem and Jericho, seeing many tourist destinations and biblical sites in between.
#1 - Hezekiah’s tunnel
#2 - Dinner at Waseem’s house
#3 - Jacob’s baptism in the Jordan River
#4 - Multiple churches in Nazareth
#1 - Hezekiah’s tunnel - Also known as the Siloam tunnel, this is an aqueduct that still functions, built in the 8th century BC. We went there at night with our guide, Wasseem, with the intent to walk through the tunnel. My Dad was skeptical to know if the tunnel would still be open for visitors to walk through, given that it was already very late. Wasseem responded; “I got the key, man!” We still laugh about that moment to this day. Wasseem indeed did own a key, and we were able to get in and walk through a few hundred meters of the tunnel, wading through about ankle deep water.
#2 - Dinner at Wasseem’s house - Wasseem treated us to dinner at his parent’s house, where his mother had cooked and prepared a fabulous meal. We also met up with some more friends from Holland, the Aitkens, who were also visiting Israel.
#3 - Jacob’s baptism - On Wednesday (March 2nd), as we were getting ready to leave for our activities for the day, we discussed what we were doing on Thursday. We had planned to visit Jesus’ baptism site in the Jordan River. Anna suggested, what if we baptized Jacob there? Jacob had just turned 8, and had not yet been baptized. We were surprised that we hadn’t thought of that before, and quickly called our bishop for approval. He interviewed Jacob over the phone, and on Thursday, we rented white clothes and Nathan baptized Jacob. We had a makeshift baptism ceremony, and Anna improvised a talk, and we sang some songs. We had to kind of fight for a spot in the river though, since there were lots of people of all different faiths getting baptized and baptizing themselves there as well. Great experience.
#4 - Multiple churches in Nazareth - Churches in Nazareth - As we travelled to some of the towns where significant events occurred in Jesus’ life, such as Bethlehem, where Jesus was born, and especially Nazareth, where Jesus lived, there were dozens and dozens of different churches all claiming to be built “on the spot” where Jesus was said to have healed a man, or have been born, etc. Because of this, it was often very difficult to find the churches we had planned on visiting, since all had very similar names. For example, in the vicinity of the spot where the angel Gabriel was said to have appeared to Mary, there was the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciantion, the Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciantion, the Basilica of the Annunciantion, the Maronite Church of the Annunciantion, and the Coptic Orthodox Church of the Annunciantion. This was common throughout Israel, and sometimes very cool, and other times frustrating.