From our accommodation at hotel Hofit on the Med we were blessed to be able to attend the Lebanese congregation at nearby Naharia. What a blessing indeed this bunch of Lebanese Christians were rescued by Israel in the 2001 war with Lebanon when they had a window of 4 hours to flee their centuries old lands because their lives were in danger from Muslim advancement . The Congregation has grown and is an on fire Holy Spirit led group. I got the chance to speak a word of encouragement over them and pray for them. Amazing privilege.
After breakfast at the hotel next day we set out for the border at Rosh hanikra. The border crossing between Lebanon & Israel blocked since 1948. The original tunnels & bridges for a rail line were constructed by NZ & South African Engineers in WW2. There is a plaque erected in honour of the NZ 10th Engineers 1943. We prayed at the border for Israel & Lebanon. Talked to soldiers and went on the cable car down to the caves right on the border.
From Rosh HaNikra we headed to Akko an ancient city on the Med with an interesting history. At one time it was the crusader capital in the Holy lands and the ships carrying the Knights berthed here. Napoleon had a go at the city in around 1797 but failed. The old city is mostly an Arab town and the new parts of the city are Jewish. The buildings in the old city including the wall are between 1500 & 1000 years old and still standing strong. In NZ we just don’t have anything to compare. Except for the odd Kauri tree. We had lunch in Akko in what was once the Turkish Bazar. Then we headed off to the upper Galilee and Lake Kinneret or better known as the sea of Galilee.
The Galilee region will be our home for the next four nights, as we stay at one of my favourite hotels. Hotel Ron Beach in Tiberius. (Highly recommended) Our first night in the hotel we were treated to the Ron Beach banquet meal..yum… then we had some of Israel’s finest worship whose name escapes me right now. Everyone was touched by the power of his sound.
After a leisurely Breakfast at Hotel Armon Yam in Tel Aviv right on the Mediterranean coast we made our way to Joppa which is just down the road so to speak from where we stayed at Bat Yam.
Joppa is an ancient city dating back many centuries and also the biblical port where Jonah left on his journey that ended in the belly of a fish. Also the place where Peter had his vision of the clean and unclean animals coming down in a sheet. This vision in the book of Acts opened the way for the Gentiles to receive the promise of Messiah. Joppa today is the oldest part of greater Tel Aviv a city that has sprawled and grown over the past 100 years as Jews have returned home to the land. The seaside walks and the ancient streets make this a wonderful collection of pictures and sounds.
We left Joppa and headed North on the “Way of the Sea” a highway people and traders have been moving along for 1000’s of years, Traders, Conquerors and Kings.
Our next stop was Ceasarea a city built by Herod the great in 22BC the Roman ruins in this area are amazing, The Theater is in a well preserved state and you can imagine the ships of the Roman empire coming and going from this important port. The Port at which the Roman Soldier Cornelius was part of the Roman garrison. This Cornelius according to the book of Acts received the gospel message as a result of Peters vison in Joppa, a two day walk away. Paul was taken here and appealed to the ruler Felix to be taken to Rome and tried there.
We had lunch along the way at a busy little highway coffee shop before heading over the Carmel saddle to our accommodation at a Moshave hotel called Hotel Hofit in Shevet Tsi’son which means returning unto Zion. A good place to lay our head for the night.
After two 12 hour flights our group of 22 has arrived in the land of Israel. Our flight from NZ to Seoul and also from Seoul to Tel Aviv were good flights and we were well looked after by Korean Air. In Seoul we stayed at the Hyatt Incheon airport hotel as part of the ticket. This is always a pleasant stopover where we were able to rest and recharge our batteries for the second flight last night.
Our group is made up of 16 woman and 6 men and from what I can see so far they are a great unch of people. Although this morning I am sure they will be a little tired as the flight was delayed last night and we didnt get to our hotel until midnight.
Our journey begins a little later this morning as we head north along the way of the sea.
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The Tour leaves NZ 2nd April on KE130 at 08:45am
We overnight in Seoul Korea arriving in Tel Aviv around 9:45pm on the 3rd April.
From Bethseba we traveled north again through the greener lands of the Ashdod plains. Its such an amazing thing to see the land bloom.
Just on sunset we arrived in Jerusalem and to our accomidation at The Olive tree hotel and a fine buffett dinner. we stayed here for three nights
Over the three days we saw much of the old city. - Pools of Bethseda - Street level in the time of Jesus - Western wall - Garden of Gethsemene - Garden Tomb - Bethlehem - Upper room - Davids Tomb- Mt of Olives - Jewish cardo - Arab Markets - Temple tunnles - Jaffe Gate - Damascus Gate Zion Gate - Christchurch -
What can one say about Jerusalem - I call her my cruel mistress sometimes you love her sometimes you hate her.
Thus says the Lord God; This is Jerusalem: I have set in the midst of the nations and countries that are around about her EZK 5:5
The Lord said: "My name shall remain in Jerusalem forever" 2 Chron 12:13
On the 2nd April the team left Jerusalem for the last time on this tour and headed back to Tel Aviv where we had an amazing farewell dinner at our faviourite place right by the Med Sea.
Our thanks to all who came on the tour - To our Tour guide Yaron & our Driver Uri.... Most of the team flew out for NZ at 11:30pm.
Today we started with a swim in the dead sea and it was nice and refreshing. A great experiance for all.
Our departure from the desert took us first to Bethsheba today a larger city in the desert but in 1917 it was only a small town but an important one since ancient times because there is plentiful water there. It was in Bethsheba that Abraham dug a well and it given to the tribe of Judah (Jos 15:28) Throughout its history it was recognised as a southern gateway into Israel. Bethsheba means Well of Oath because it was here Abraham & Abimelech made an oath Abraham lived at Bethsheba (Gen 22:19) Isaac built an altar and dug more wells here (Gen 26:23-25) it was here that God told Jacob to go to Israel (Gen 46:1-5) it was here Elijah took refuge from Jezebel (1 Kings 19:1-3) But for us it was the place the ANZAC mounted brigades took off the Otoman empire in the battle of Bethsheba on 31st October 1917. Yes Australian & New Zealand Mounted expeditionary forces took Bethsheba and it was this victory that five weeks later led to the taking of Jerusalem.
We prayed and worshiped at Tel El Sheba the ancient site of the city and the Tel that NZ & Aust won. While we prayed we had amazing breakthroughs in the spirit. The power of God came down heavy and we knew we had gotten a victory again but this time in the spirit. Some saw lightning fall and crack open sopmething new and fresh over Israel.
After the Tel at El Shaba we went to find the commonwealth war graves where many young ANZACs are buried. we took Aust & NZ flags and had a bit of a ceremony there at the war memorial and grave site. We left poppies and prayed for the families who,lost loved ones. Its worth thinking through these things sometimes because imgine if these young men had of returned home and had children.. but alas they didnt all return and they lie in the land of Israel to this day as a witness to that fact that our nations (Aust & NZ) blessed Israel and in blessing them will recieve a blessing from God (Gen 12:12)
After Bethsheba we headed back to Jerusalem where our accommidation in the Jewish quarter of the old city was waiting for us.
Today we went deep into the wildeness of Zin where the Children of Israel wandered for 40 years and also the place the ANZAC forces moved up into from Egypt in order to take Beersheba in 1917
The experiance of standing silent in the desert is amazing.. theres no sound except your ineer thoughts and communication with God. And as we climbed up an ancient road mentioned in the bible in Exodus therefore over 4000 years old we stopped to look into the area of Zin and to listen for the intimate voice of the living God. It was very good for me personally I was struggling a little this morning and needed the fresh touch of His voice.
I was asked by a young Israeli a couple of days ago on Masada why we would want to come into the desert? the truth is I dont think there is any where on earth save perhaps Antartica where there is total silence away from all the distractions of the world and its constant noise. This is the beauty of the Negev. Perhaps this is why the Lord had Israel spend so much time there. And various prophets & kings also.
We went deeper into the wilderness in a 4x4 truck fitted especially for people moving in rough areas. A bit bumpy but worth it to get into the Wadis and springs of the desert. A couple braved the cold and went swiming in the waterholes. We stopped in a deserted and barren place for lunch which was prepared by the driver. IN the 15 minutes that lunch was being prepared I went over the hill and sat. even that short distance from the bus there was no noise the rocks & stones absorbed it all. While I was over the other side I found a fold out picnic table in a case that someone had abandoned or forgotten to pack and it reminded me that even in the midst of turmoil and the words of men that cut.. he prepares a table for two in the wilderness. For me it was a powerful sign from God bringing focus back to whats important.. and that is fellowship with him at the table for two in the wilderness.
It was a full day in the desert and I think every one was tired and bounced arounf enough by the time the day ended. today we head up to Beershebe and to be inspired of our destiny.
I awoke this morning at Kibbutz Hatzeva to the sound of doves outside my window and was reminided of the Song of Solomon and the love of the Lord for his bride.Many birds singing and the sounds of early morning on a farm made my heart glad.
We drove through the desert to King Solomons mines where Solomon mined fro copper and in more recent times where they have mined the Elait stone for making fine jewelery. There at this place is a model of the tabernacle of Moses. We saw an exact replica and saw with our own eyes how the taernacle is an exact picture of how Yeshua has redemed us. The Lord brings the word alive both old and new testiment make so much sence when viewed through the dealings of the Lord with Israel. To dismiss all of this is to miss an opportunity to worship the Lord for the freedom he has won for us. The lady showing us around Alison Marshall is originally from Wanganui in the north Island of NZ but has been in Israel for the past 20 years.
We then headed for Eliat the south gate of Israel on the dead sea and the ministry prayer tower of Kadesh MAP ministries and Dominique Bierman who ministered to us for a couple of hours. We were really blessed by her ministery as always and she had some really encouraging words over me and others in the team.
We were late leaving Eliat and so also late returning to Hatzeva but we were full of the blessings of the Lord.
We set out from Jerusalem nice and early this morning only to be held up by traffic on the motorway out of town for nearly an hour & a half. The problem was another suspicious package left on the side of the road a long way from where we were but all the roads had to be closed which caused a grid lock. When the traffic did start to move it only took minutes to clear, which made me think that Auckland roads must have a design problem.
Our first stop was the Qumrun site of the dead sea scrolls and the essecenes, a community who set themselves apart to seek truth and God away from the religion of Jerusalem in the En Gedi area. Very interesting place and community they were. The dead sea scrolls consisted of copies of most of the books of the bible plus teaching from the Essecenes. In some of the footnotes in the New Living translation of the bible I like to use it quotes the dead sea scrolls as a reference.
Our next stop was EN Gedi the place in the desert where David and his men hid in the caves of Adulum from King Saul. Its a beautiful place with fresh flowing streams coming out of the caves and hills around. The area teams with wild life including the IBEX and the Coney or rock badger seen every where around En Gedi. At night there are lots of other Animals like foxes & wolves. En Gedi is mentioned often in the bible and is a place in the desert I really love.
Next stop was the Aharva factory where they make Dead Sea cosmetics.. interesting place and of course lots to buy for some. From the Aharva shop we went to Masada the mountain fortress build by King Herod and taken over by the Zelots who fled Jerusalem in 70AD after Jerusalem was ransacked by the Romans. They managed to hold Masada for nearly three years in defiance of the ROman oppresors. The ROmans through an amazing engerneering feat built a ramp up the side of the fortress and overcame the Jewish Zelots. The Modern day Israeli defence forces take their people up there when they graduate and they say Masada shall never fall again.
All our activities today were along the shores of the dead sea in the Arava Desert areas of the Negev. Tonight we are staying in a Kibbutz in Hatzeva an Agricultural community making the desert bloom and produce amazing crops of almost everything that men grow. Its a nice place a little rustic but really comfortable and friendly.