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. https://www.keshetisrael.co.il
Thank you for following our journey!
Blessings and Shalom,
Days 4 -6 below
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Day 4 - Sea of Galilee and fishing boat from time of a Jesus and his disciples
Today was a day of Christian pilgrimage along the Sea of Galilee. It began by visiting a museum that discovered an ancient Jewish fishing boat from 2,000 years ago. This well-preserved vessel provides a great backdrop to the stories of Jesus calling his first disciples, Peter’s miraculous catch of fish, when Jesus calmed the storm from the boat, and when he walked out on the water to his disciples in the boat. Much of his ministry and stories involved fishing boats, as that was the primary industry in the Galilee region.
“As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.”
From there we traveled to a site along the hillside that the Catholic Church purchased to remember Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount. Though we cannot know for sure the exact location where Jesus sat and delivered this famous teaching, we certainly know it was along that hillside looking out onto the Sea of Galilee. Fr. Rick and I read portions from Jesus’s sermon, which include the Beatitudes to the group, and then shared brief reflections on its importance in the Christian tradition and our own faith.
“Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them.
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Just north alongside the seashore are the ruins of the ancient town of Capernaum, where Jesus lived for a time and based much of his ministry from. In that town, Jesus healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law as well as others. The ruins of the first-century synagogue have been discovered, along with what is believed to be the actual house of Simon Peter and the synagogue leaders named Jarius.
I encourage you to read the following passages:
Mark 1: 16-34
In the afternoon we traveled to Tzfat, the city of the Jewish mystics, and met Kabalistic artist Avraham Lowenthal in his studio. Through his story and artwork, we learned about Kabalah (Jewish Mysticism) and then did a walking tour through the historic medieval streets and synagogues of Tzfat.
After dinner, our Stowe Community Church members gathered for a team reflection about our impressions, experiences, highlights, and questions. It was a very emotional and powerful time together and clearly, God’s Spirit is moving in hearts. While this can be disorienting and even challenging, we are on this journey together and I am so grateful for each member’s presence and what she or he has already contributed. Our tour guide, Danny remarked to me how remarkable our team is..and I fully agree!
Day 5 - River Jordan, Masada and the Dead Sea
Today was a day I will personally and professionally remember for the rest of my life. I had the privilege of baptizing members of our Stowe Community Church family in the Jordan River, at the traditional spot where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. This spot also had Jewish biblical association with Joshua and the tribes crossing over into the Promised Land and the prophet Elijah being taken up to heaven in a fiery chariot.
Each person came with her or his own intention and prayer for what this moment would mean for them. My prayer for each was that upon coming out of the waters, they too would see the heavens open, the Spirit of God descend upon them, and hear the words of God “This is my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”
At Jesus’s baptism, he was affirmed by God’s love and equipped by the Spirit to live out his life of faith and follow God’s will for his life. May that be the same for all those who were baptized today. What made this even more special was having Fr. Rick offer a special baptism prayer and blessing from his Episcopalian tradition over each person and have Rabbi David offer a traditional Jewish prayer associated with their ritual washing. The support of St. Johns and JCOGS community whom all witnessed, prayed, cried, and celebrated with us is something deeply profound and beautiful that I will never forget.
After this very emotional and spiritual experience, we did some fascinating sightseeing at the ancient Roman fortress of Masada, where the last Jewish freedom fighters faced the mighty Roman Empire 2,000 years ago. For more information, you can visit:https://www.touristisrael.com/masada-dead-sea/848/
Our group then had one of the most unique experiences (and sensations) in the world when we floated on the Dead Sea. The salt level of this body of water is 30% and it is hard to explain in words what it feels like to be sitting in the water or floating on your back effortlessly. The Dead Sea is approximately 1,200 feet below sea level and is actually the lowest point on Earth. We got into our bus to ascent up to Jerusalem which sits around 2,600 feet above sea level (and is much cooler :)
In the evening, we were inspired by the story of Yochi Rappeport, Executive Director of Women of The Wall, and learned about the struggle for religious pluralism and freedom in Israel’s Jewish community. I highly encourage you to learn more about their work:https://womenofthewall.org.il
Our team is happy to be in Jerusalem where we will explore over the next few days. Your continued emails, texts, prayers, and support are moving and meaningful. Thank you all for being on this journey with us!
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I will start with where our day ended…the Western Wall. Rabbi David led a special candle lighting ceremony and service for us as we welcomed in Shabbat (the Sabbath) together in the egalitarian section of the Western Wall. This specific area of the wall allows women, men, and children to worship together. Afterward, we headed to the main section of the Kotel (Western Wall) to observe and participate in the welcoming of Shabbat by a diverse and massive group of Jews. This was fun, joyous, and festive and I even found myself in the middle of a circle of singing and dancing worshippers. It was quite the experience for everyone. At dinner, we celebrated the gift of the Sabbath with a blessing of wine and bread and a delicious meal and fellowship that lasted for hours. Our Jewish family eagerly anticipates the Sabbath each week as an opportunity to slow down, unplug, refrain from all work, enjoy quality family time, and celebrate the gifts and blessings of God…including good food and good wine! I believe we have much to learn from them regarding the Christian experience of Sunday as our Sabbath.
That was how our day ended.
It began by exploring some incredible Christian pilgrimage sites. First, we visited the Mount of Olives and retraced the steps that Jesus and his disciples took when they made their way into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Christians remember this trek as Palm Sunday.
Luke 19: 28-38
After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ” So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” They said, “The Lord needs it.” Then they brought it to Jesus, and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. Now as he was approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, saying,
“Blessed is the king
who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
and glory in the highest heaven!”
Also on the Mount of Olives is the Garden of Gethsemane, the location where Jesus experienced great agony, was betrayed by his disciple Judas, and was arrested by Roman soldiers. A newer olive grove exists there now and a beautiful church is over the grounds where Jesus wept and prayed. We remember these events each year during our Maundy Thursday service.
Matthew 26: 36-46
Jesus Prays in Gethsemane
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee and began to be grieved and agitated. Then he said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me, yet not what I want but what you want.” Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again he went away for the second time and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” Again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Now the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. Look, my betrayer is at hand.”
For lunch, we got to explore and experience a Shuk outdoor market and were treated to the vibrancy and a vast array of colors, foods, smells, tastes, and live music. Then, a real adventure began as we left the State of Israel and traveled through security checkpoints and past a massive concrete wall, and entered the Palestinian territory. The area of Bethlehem is under full control of the Palestinian Authority and is forbidden entry for Israeli Jews. On a personal note, I was able to reconnect with my dear friend Rami Fellemon, whom I have not seen in five years. Rami owns and operates a fantastic travel company that specializes in custom-made trips to the Holy Land. My prior two trips to the Holy Land were with Rami, and I highly recommend his company and companionship.
He also runs a Christian ministry throughout the West Bank. JEO Ministry seeks to reach young Arabs in the Holy Land with the love of Christ. Their projects include media production and distribution, relief work, educational field trips, and community development. To learn more about this important work, please visit: https://www.jeoministry.org
I was honored to introduce Rami to our entire group and he shared what life is like as an Arab Christian living in Jerusalem and working in Bethlehem.
Once again, thank you all for following our Holy Land trip and our current journey in Jerusalem.