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Greater Stowe Interfaith Holy Land Trip
April 16-27, 2023

Dan's Daily Diary

Each day, I intend to take photos and notes and write a description of what our team has experienced and learned together.  When applicable, I will also include Scriptural references that correspond with the Biblical sites we are exploring.  Our host guide, Keshet Education Journeys has provided additional resources that I will include as well.

Thank you for following our journey!

Blessings and Shalom,

Pastor Dan 

Days 1 - 3 below

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Day 1


These were days of travel for our team members from Vermont to various airports with everyone arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv by Sunday night.

Our host travel guide, Keshet Educational Journeys provided a wonderful Jewish Traveler’s Prayer that guide our way:

May it be Your will, LORD, our God and the God of our ancestors, that You lead us toward peace, guide our footsteps toward peace, and make us reach our desired destination for life, gladness, and peace. May You rescue us from the hand of every foe, ambush along the way, and from all manner of punishments that assemble to come to earth. May You send blessing in our handiwork, and grant us grace, kindness, and mercy in Your eyes and in the eyes of all who see us. May You hear the sound of our humble request because You are God Who hears prayer requests. Blessed are You, Adonai, Who hears prayer. 


I arrived with a few members from SCC early Sunday morning having left from Boston, MA. After a relatively easy transition through passport control and immigration, we took a taxi service for approximately 30 minutes to arrive in the city of Tel Aviv.  It was Sunday, which of course here in Israel is a regular work and school day so the traffic was fairly heavy.  I had the opportunity to walk and explore the beaches and city streets of Tel Aviv (“the first Hebrew city”). This is also where Israel’s Declaration of Independence took place n May 1948, fulfilling a 2,000-year-old dream of the Jewish People “to be a free nation in our land” which some see as a fulfillment of Biblical prophecy.  


The skyline is quite impressive as are the freeways and byways. There are ample hotels of all varieties, fine dining, and plenty of shopping.  Our hotel is one block from the beach and as I type these notes, I have an uninhibited view of the Mediterranean Sea from the rooftop terrace. Tel Aviv is the largest city in Isreal and the economic capital.  With the exception of religious pilgrims, it is the #1 tourist destination in Israel. Case in point, I have already met visitors from over ten different countries!  In April the weather begins to get sunnier and hotter and though the water is still cold, there are plenty of sunbathers and beachgoers. Since the actual city is relatively new there is not much to see in terms of Biblical significance but its adjacent town, Joppa (Joffa) is the backdrop for some wonderful stories and will be explored on Monday. 


Considering its size and importance today, it comes as a surprise that Tel Aviv was nothing but a sand dune 100 years ago. Tel Aviv actually began as a suburb of Jaffa, the adjoining city with which it melded in 1950. Jaffa became so crowded that a group of Jews decided to leave Jaffa's lively, noisy, and dirty environs to create a garden suburb that would become Tel Aviv. They bought uninhabited sand dunes north of Jaffa, formed an association called "AchuzatBayit" and divided the property into parcels of land by drawing lots. The romantic name Tel Aviv ("Hill of Spring") was chosen for the new community in 1910 partly because of its associations with rebirth and revitalization, and partly because it recalled the vision of Ezekiel. In the biblical Tel Aviv of Babylon, the exiled prophet saw the vision of animated dry bones, which drew him back to Israel. 


It is amusing today to think that Tel Aviv's founders once banned commercial enterprise in the city. That ban, of course, did not last long; after the First World War (during which the settlers of Tel Aviv were dispersed), the town took enormous commercial strides. In 1921 it became a separate township and the first modern Jewish city in the world. By 1924 Tel Aviv had a respectable population of 35,000 which was to grow to over 200,000 by 1948 and currently has a population of just under 500,000.


Day 2


*Read the Book of Acts chapters 10 and 23 and the Book of Jonah


This morning we traveled north along the Mediterranean to the ancient Roman capital city of Caesarea and explore the remains of a theater, hippodrome, and palace of the Roman Procurators. One interesting artifact discovered in these ruins is the only non-Biblical reference to Pontius Pilate, the man who presided over the trial of Jesus, and our church recently remembered that story during Good Friday. (Matthew 27: 11-26)

It was here that the apostle Paul was arraigned before being sent to Rome for trial according to the Book of Acts. 


When they came to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. On reading the letter, he asked what province he belonged to, and when he learned that he was from Cilicia, he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” Then he ordered that he be kept under guard in Herod’s headquarters.” - Acts 23: 33-35


Also, Caesarea was the outpost where a Roman captain named Cornelius had a vision from God that led him to meet the apostle Peter.


There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, who was a captain in the Roman regiment called “The Italian Regiment”. He was a religious man; he and his whole family worshipped God. He also did much to help the Jewish poor people and was constantly praying to God. It was about three o'clock one afternoon when he had a vision, in which he clearly saw an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius!” He stared at the angel in fear and said, “What is it, sir?” The angel answered, “God is pleased with your prayers and works of charity, and is ready to answer you. And now send some men to Joppa for a certain man whose full name is Simon Peter. He is a guest in the home of a tanner of leather named Simon, who lives by the sea.”  - Acts 10: 1-6


This story brings us to our next visit to the town of Old Jaffa or Joppa the ancient port city mentioned in the Bible as the location from which Jonah attempted to flee from God’s mission. If time allows, I encourage the reading of this fascinating tale from the Book of Jonah.


Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai, saying,  “Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it, for their wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah set out to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid his fare and went on board, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord.” - Jonah 1: 1-3

Escalating above the seaside port is the old town of Joffa.  It was here, at the house of Simon the Tanner that the apostle Peter had an incredible vision from God concerning kosher and non-kosher food that ultimately led him to believe that gentiles did not have to first become Jewish in order to follow Jesus as disciples.  Acts 10 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible as the Holy Spirit fundamentally changes Peter’s mind on the issue of who’s “in” and “out”.  To me, this is an essential lesson on inclusivity and proves that when God’s Spirit is speaking and at work doing something new, it leads to greater inclusivity and embrace and not exclusion.  Peter takes this message eventually back to Jerusalem and begins preaching to Gentiles and paving the way for Paul’s ministry and missionary travels. 


I would be remiss to neglect to mention our unique lunchtime culinary experience in the open-air Camel marketplace in downtown Tel Aviv.  Israel’s diverse population hails from over 100 different countries and regions, creating a vibrant and creative culinary environment.

The evening concluded with Rabbi David leading a group reflection time where everyone shared their “Kavanah” or intentions for our trip.  It was extremely moving and powerful to hear all forty team members share why they decided to participate in this trip and what they hoped to learn and experience from our time and travels together. 

Day 3 Nazareth


Day 3 Ahmadiyyan Muslim Mosque and Bahai Gardens in Haifa

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