CHLS 30 Day Digital Israel Tour
Updated: May 27
Place yourself on the most comfortable seat on our bus as you join us for a 30 Day Digital Tour of Israel!
We want you to see the sites of Biblical Israel, read the Bible with us, and engage in conversation. Whether you have been to Israel and want to share your favorite moments with us, or if you have never been to Israel and have questions ... join in on the conversation and let's explore the land of the Bible together!
This content was also published on our social media accounts, Facebook and Instagram, during the stay-at-home orders of Covid-19. Feel free to go visit these posts for ongoing conversation and engagement!
Day 1 - Beersheva
Daily Reading: Genesis 46; Leviticus 26; 1 Kings 19
Theme: Trust is Key!
Welcome to the biblical site of Beersheva, a site that plays a significant role in Israel's history! Beersheva stands at the crossroads of the ancient world as a meeting point of major north-south routes: The Way of the Patriarchs and the King's Highway. Imagine! God placed Beersheva at the crossroads, giving the best opportunity for faith in the one true God to spread! For You to Consider onDay One: Abraham obeyed the call of God! The call on your life is no different from Abraham's. Just as God placed Abraham in Beersheva to spread the message of God's Kingdom, so God has a purpose for YOUR placement in history, to bring Him glory!
Day 2 - Ein Avdat
Daily Reading: Joshua 15; Psalm 29
Theme: A Place of Testing
Ein Avdat is located in the Negev Desert in an area known as the Wilderness of Zin and the area of Israel's wilderness wanderings after they left Egypt. The Israelites and leaders found out that the desert is a place of testing with little rain, cold nights, and lacks vegetation and water. It is a place where "rubber meets the road!" The wilderness quickly reminds us that we need God, and we need each other!Are you now, or have you been in a wilderness time? God says he will LEAD YOU, justas he did the Israelites.The value of our desert times is the close relationship of obedience and trust we build with our Father. It is at this moment that the desert holds great value. What are you doing or how are you reminded daily to put your trust in God?
Day 3 - Bedouin Camp of Kefar Hanokdim
Daily Reading: Genesis 24; Luke 10:25-37
Theme: Are We Called to Be Hospitable?
Kefar Hanokdim is a recreated Bedouin village located in the Judean Desert. The intent of the location is to mimic the experience of Bedouin culture. Bedouin are desert-dwelling nomads who have historically traveled through the desert with their flocks and herds moving from feeding area to feeding area. The Bedouin should remind you ofAbraham, Moses, and the Israelites before they settled the land. Bedouin are known for their extraordinary hospitality. What Bedouin know, as well as Abraham, Moses, and any other who had to spend time in the desert, is that man cannot exist on our own in a difficult desert experience and environment; therefore, hospitality and caring for our neighbor, the foreigner, and even our enemy, has great value to God, as all people are made in HisImage. With the dangers and the hardships that the desert brings, the Bedouin culture is one to mimic, especially in terms of stepping outside of ourselves and caring for our fellow human-being. Tell us some ways you have been recently reflecting the nature of God by showing hospitality to those around you?
Day 4 - Caesarea
Daily Reading: Acts 10
Theme: Making Disciples
Caesarea is a port city built by Herod the Great between 22 and 10 BC. It was the birth place of the great Jewish Revolt against Rome. After the fall of Jerusalem, it controlled trade from Rome to its eastern territories and also the eastern and western nations of the world. Though it holds magnificent structures and finds, what happened inCaesarea is our focus. Caesarea played a prominent role in the book of Acts. It is the place where the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out on Gentiles and where Gentile's are pulled into the story of salvation in the story of Cornelius, who loved and worshiped God but was not a Jew.This tells us that both "even the Gentiles" and Jewish believers in Jesus as Messiah are both welcome into the Kingdom of God. Caesarea was also the location where Paul was imprisoned, and the home of the Church fathers Origen and Eusebius. Caesarea is also the port from where the gospel message spread to other nations, following the call of Jesus to, "go and make disciples out of all nations..." (Matthew 16:24). In what ways are you sharing the gospel and “making disciples” within your community and family?
Day 5 - Mount Carmel
Daily Reading: Exodus 3; 1Kings 18
Theme: You Do Not Need a Just-in-case god!
Mount Carmel is the highest peak in the small, twenty-four-mile long Carmel MountainRange. It is one of the most naturally watered areas in all the land! As the people ofIsrael made the transition from shepherding to farming, they were enticed to believe that worshipping false gods was a viable means of survival. When there were times of drought, what happened? In a desperate attempt to "cover their bases" the people prayed not only to God, but to any other gods who might hear them; two being Ba'al (the storm god), and Asherah, the fertility goddess (associated with life). Elijah confronted the prophets of Ba'al. As Mt. Carmel acted as the border between theNorthern Kingdom and Phoenicia, it was "ground zero" for the followers of Ba'al! Elijah proposed they meet in an area where they would have, "home field advantage." If Ba'al was going to show his power anywhere, it would be on Mt. Carmel!Elijah prayed, built an altar, recalled an united Israel, and with a simple and humbler prayer, fire fell beyond imagination on the prophets of Ba'al. Ba'al did not show up. We know they one true God is not limited or manipulated by people's actions and ideas. He knows our hearts and prayers long before we pray, and when we do pray, He hears.
Day 6 - Nazareth
Daily Reading: Matthew 2; Luke 1, 4
Theme: There is a Plan for Your Life
In the Gospels, Jesus' family relocated to Nazareth, his mother's hometown, after Bethlehem was no longer safe for them. Although we often forget this in our readings of the life of Jesus, for Mary, Joseph, and Jesus–relocating back to Nazareth is nothing short of God's plan for Jesus' life. It was part of his preparation for the ministry that he would carry out as an adult.Nazareth plays part of the location where Jesus began to develop his own faith, his relationship with God, his decisions as to how he would live, and deciding those things that were most important to him. From there, he would go and make disciples, do miracles, and sacrifice himself for the world.God has placed you in your location for a purpose, to build a relationship with Him, and to spread His message to those within your reach. Regardless of job or location, we all have an opportunity to impact, negatively or positively, those around us.
Day 7 - Arbel Synagogue
Daily Reading: Matthew 6:25-34; Luke 17
Theme: Do You Know the Size of a Mustard Seed?!
The Arbel synagogue is a 4th century AD synagogue located on Mount Arbel, overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Jesus would have passed near Arbel on his route to and from Jerusalem. Of particular notice are the fields of yellow that flourish in season. The yellow color is that of the mustard seed flower. If you take a pod or two, you can break it open in your hand and uncover the smallest of seeds, that of the mustard seed. This is a reminder of the verse in Luke 17, "If you had faith like a grain of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.'" Jesus used everyday images to convey his message of faith and trust in God. I imagine his outstretched hand unfolding several seeds, just to make his point. Today, ask the same as the apostles when they said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" (Luke 17:5). Today, make the choice to increase your faith! A seed is so small and minimal, yet our God is so big!
Day 8 - Jordan River Baptism
Daily Reading: Mathew 3
Theme: "You My Boy!"
The Jordan River is a special place that served as the location of the baptism of Jesus, as well as the baptism of many other believers and pilgrims. The Jordan River runs into the Lake of Galilee in the north, and exits the Lake of Galilee in the south, making its way to the Dead Sea. We can discuss the location of the baptism of Jesus in the comments below, as there are many theories. However, for this post, I want to focus on one of the sites around the Jordan River and the scriptures written on its walls. At one location on the Jordan River, at the southern end of the Lake of Galilee, (mostly set up for tourists), the celebration of baptism is surrounded by verses from Matthew 3 written on its walls in many languages. I especially LOVE the Hawaiian Pigeon translation of Matthew 3, where it reads, "You My Boy!" Our translation in English reads, "This is my beloved son" (3:17).
God thinks of us in this way – You my boy! You my girl! God views us as a parent of beloved children in whom he wants to be and is pleased. His love for us is personal, relational, discipline building, and burden releasing. Think of the person that has loved you most in your life, and know God supersedes that above and beyond your thoughts can imagine.
Day 9 - Mount of Beatitudes
Daily Reading: Matthew 5
Theme: You Can Do It!
Though the exact Mount of Beatitudes location is unknown, we do know that it likely existed somewhere on the north-western shores of the Lake of Galilee, possibly close to an area known as the evangelical triangle. Many consider it to be in a certain location because of the natural bowl shape of the hillside, allowing the speakers voice to carry up to those sitting on the hillside. Near this location is a beautiful area where one can sit and contemplate the message Jesus spoke on the beatitudes while viewing the locations of 95% of Jesus' ministry.
The beatitudes give us 8 character traits, that when applied and followed give the hearer hope, healing, an inheritance, satisfaction, mercy, the ability to be in the presence of God and called one of his children, and the Kingdom of Heaven. Some reflect an immediate hope, and others a future blessing. The beatitudes require an action on our part as well as on the part of our Creator. When the beatitudes are lived out they give a promised hope that though in this life there may be trials and tribulation, we can know that wherever the will of God is done His Kingdom has already come. Live well, you can do it! This life is mixed with blessing and difficulty, and filled with hope and uncertainty. Follow Jesus and His teachings, and you'll surely live a fulfilled, God-honoring life!
Day 10 – Capernaum
Daily Reading: Mark 1-3; Luke 4
Theme: He Did What?
Capernaum is a beautiful first century fishing village on the northwestern shore of the Lake of Galilee. It is one of sixteen fishing villages scattered around the lake. If you visit Capernaum, you will see a structure known as the house of Peter, which includes many insula homes and a 4th century Synagogue, as well as many other structures and archaeological finds.
Though the structures are amazing, what Jesus DID in the location is even more-so! The healing ministry of Jesus that took place in Capernaum is one of the strongest evidences of Jesus' messiahship. He spoke with great authority, shocking the locals, and then began to heal! He commanded and removed sickness and "unclean spirits" with “great authority”, to the point that his name grew in notoriety around the area and many were coming to Jesus for healing. IT DID NOT END THERE! Jesus is also our example of how we are to walk with God and with others. We are permitted to, by His authority, ask for healing in His name. Healing did not end when Jesus ascended into back heaven. I invite you to pray. Though we do not know why some are healed and others not, I want you to know that you ARE heard by your Father. We do not have all the answers now, but we do have a good Father who walks alongside us.
Day 11 - Magdala
Daily Reading: Matthew 4; Mark 1
Theme: Are You a Good Fisherman?
Magdala, like Capernaum, was a fishing town on the shores of the Lake of Galilee. A special find in Magdala is the excavated first-century synagogue – one that Jesus likely visited and spoke in. In addition to the synagogue, Magdala's excavations produced first-century docks where fishermen could tie up their boat while unloading their fish into fresh water pools and then into salting basins for preservation. The fish were sent to fish markets inside and outside of the land of Israel.
The presence of the fishing implements reminds me of the call Jesus placed on a few fishermen – to leave their craft and follow him and learn from him as his disciples. The disciples were young men (today we may still call them boys, or teenagers), practicing their craft, that of fishing. It was their livelihood. The call of Jesus must have been that much more powerful, that they would leave their craft for an amount of time to go and learn from the Master. Even James and John immediately left their father, Zebedee, in the boat, to go and follow Jesus, and Zebedee did not object. You too are a disciple of Jesus, if you learn from Him, have relationship with your Father in Heaven, and submit and obey his call on your life. The call is an invitation to the best relationship you will ever have – one that will last for eternity.
Day 12 - A Boat ride on the Sea of Galilee
Daily Reading: Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25
Theme: Not Much Has Changed!
We know in antiquity, on the Lake of Galilee, fishermen fished at night, casting their nets into the water in hopes of hauling in a large amount of fish to deliver to the docks early the following morning. They worked hard together. They became close friends, and some were called to be disciples of Jesus.
Today, when you first step into the "ancient" looking wooden boat to have your first sail on the Lake of Galilee, with a trail of inspirational music playing over the speakers, you cannot help but feel the presence of God. It is a powerful moment for most people, where they realize that they are on the same lake, with the same view, under the same sky, as Jesus was 2000 years ago. From the boat, you have a different feel of the area. You can feel the rocking of the waves, the wind in your face, and hear bits of conversation from the people around you.
If you close your eyes or turn them outward toward the lake, you can imagine those conversations that Jesus would have had with his disciples. You may recall the story of Jesus walking on water, calming the storm, or perhaps pointing to a light in the distance and saying, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father, who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16). You see, you can be anywhere on the shore, or on the Lake of Galilee and still see the smallest glimmer of light.
The "things" Jesus said and did, like walking on water, healing the sick, calming the storm, always brought glory to God. This is the same that he asks of you! YOU are the light of the world! YOU let your light shine before others! Remember, YOU have a call to live well before those created in the image of God, so to bring glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Take this message from Jesus, from the Galilee, from the boat, and know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE, but a bright shining light, giving glory to God!
Day 13 - Shiloh
Daily Reading: 1 Samuel 1-2
Theme: GOD HAS HEARD!
Shiloh served as the central location for the first unified nation of Israel after Joshua divided the land into 12 tribes. We know from biblical history that the tabernacle stood in Shiloh – the tabernacle that Israel used throughout their entire journey from Egypt to the promised land. Shiloh is also the place where the Ark of the Covenant rested. People arrived from all regions of the country, three times a year, to worship God in Shiloh.
Do you recall a story from the Bible when thinking of the tabernacle that rested in Shiloh? Yes! Recall the story of Hannah and her son Samuel. Hannah appeared in Shiloh before the Lord greatly downcast as she was unable to have children. She was mocked by another wife, refused to eat, and wept continually. Though consoled by her husband Elkanah, she remained deeply distressed, as the Bible says, she "wept bitterly." She made a vow to God. If God would grant her a son, she would "lend" him back to God all the days of his life. Notice WHAT HAPPENED to Hannah! God told her he would give her a son, and her demeanor IMMEDIATELY changed. She went from being "anxious and vexed" to NO LONGER SAD! She stopped weeping. She was heard and moved on with hope. Samuel was born, his name meaning, "God has heard."
Hannah then prayed and praised God in 1 Samuel 2. She began her prayer with personal gratitude and moved to how God would lift-up and glorify an oppressed nation. She knew that God had/has the power and is willing to intrude and intervene in our situations!
Day 14 - Masada
Daily Reading: Psalm 18, Psalm 27
Masada is a massive, isolated rock fortress that marks the last stand of some of the Jewish rebels at the end of the First Jewish Revolt (73AD). It is located at the southeast end of the Dead Sea. These were not Zealots, but members of the Sicarii, a group of assassins who were known for massacring fellow Jews at Ein Gedi. Their rebellion came to an end when General Flavius Silva and his Roman legions constructed an earthen ramp on the eastern side of Masada to gain access to the mountaintop. When the Romans reached the top, the Jewish rebels had committed suicide to avoid Roman slavery or worse. While this is the common story, it has not been confirmed and is questioned by some archaeologists and scholars, as a second siege ramp is believed to have been found. In 1 Samuel 24, David hides from Saul in the “Stronghold/Fortress of Ein Gedi”, an oasis approximately 10 miles north of Masada. The natural defenses and fortress of this region allow us to read these Psalms in their fullness, gaining a visualization of what David likened our God to in his times of peril. One of the most well-known descriptions of God in Psalms likens him to a “Stronghold” or a “Fortress”, literally the word “Masada” in the Hebrew. As Psalm 18 expresses, "The Lord is our rock our fortress and our deliverer." We CAN take refuge in Him. He is our shield. In your distress, CALL UPON THE LORD!
Day 15 - Ein Gedi
Daily Reading: 1 Samuel 23; 24, Psalm 23
Theme: God is Our Hiding Place
Ein Gedi is a large spring and oasis in the Judea desert located on the western shore of the Dead Sea just twelve miles north of Masada. Ein Gedi was in the hands of Israel after Joshua's conquest. The oasis is noted through the Old Testament as a place of peace, tranquility, and beauty.
We read in 1 Samuel 23-24 the details of how David eluded Saul in the desert surrounding Ein Gedi. It served as a place of sanctuary for the Lord's servants, David and Elijah. It is also possible both geographically and contextually that Ein Gedi was the backdrop for David's Psalm 23. This psalm focuses on the serenity of the surrounding nature and uses it to explain our relationship with God when we suffer and walk through dark times. Psalm 23 teaches that we MUST rely on the Lord and His peace to endure adversity. We can have peace regardless of our circumstances when we believe that He is with us and WILL NOT leave us.
Day 16 - Qumran
Daily Reading: 2 Timothy 3:16, Matthew 5:18
Theme: All Scripture is God Breathed
Qumran was a small Essene community located on the northwest corner of the Dead Sea during the Second Temple Period. The Qumran community was a strict Jewish community that adopted a legalistic and separatist way of life. They saw themselves as the "Sons of Light" and everyone else a "Son of Darkness." Qumran is where researchers found most of the Dead Sea scrolls in the late 1940's and early '50s. Qumran holds the earliest manuscript of biblical Hebrew in the form of the great Isaiah scroll of 200 BC. Also found were apocryphal and pseudepigraphical works and biblical texts covering the entirety of the Hebrew Bible, except the Book of Esther.
One gift the community gave is their intent to keep the scriptures intact. They were very careful regarding their work, making every attempt to be exact in their copies. Qumran is an amazing and unique place. It is surrounded by caves and secrets that are still to be searched. Though we may not agree with all the beliefs of the Qumran community, they did provide us with an amazing, and almost full and multiple sets of biblical books.
Have a blessed day!
Day 17 - Wadi Qilt (The Jericho Road)
Daily Reading: Luke 10:29-37 Theme: Who is My Neighbor?
The Wadi Qilt is a much love place by the staff of the Center for Holy Lands Studies, and to all who visit the area. Tucked off the road leading up to Jerusalem is an overlook of a Wadi that expands into the larger Jordan Rift Valley system by the biblical city of Jericho. The Wadi holds the Jericho Road, and during the time of Jesus was full of bandits and violent thieves. This is the setting for the Parable of the Good Samaritan and Jesus' entrance into Jerusalem, specifically His final entrance (as we remember today on Palm Sunday)!
In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus placed a Jewish antagonist, the Samaritan, as the hero of the story. Jesus is reminding His first-century listeners, and us, that even today it is possible for people who are "considered" outside the Kingdom of God to be more in tune with His priorities than those who consider themselves to be on the inside.
Jesus makes it clear that loving one's neighbor through actions is of utmost importance; furthermore, showing love toward another human being created in the image of God and having mercy on those in need is the foundation for all the commandments.
Day 18 - Wohl Museum
Scriptures: Luke 19:45; Matthew 21:12-32
Theme: Who killed Jesus, and Why?
Located under current houses in the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem are the remains of six homes of wealthy families from the Second Temple Period (the time of Jesus).
These houses were found destroyed and partially burned under a layer of ashes, providing insight into the great fire that burned through Jerusalem at the time of the destruction of the Temple. Though partially destroyed, these homes tell us a great deal about who lived in them during the time of the Second Temple. Mosaic floors, beautiful tables, imported pottery, decorated glass, and fresco walls covered several story homes. The homes also housed mikvahs. Mikvahs are ritual immersion baths meant for purification. Their location in the home attested to purification for the residents of the house, leading to the thought that these homes may have belonged to the wealthy priests who controlled the Temple.
The wealth and magnificence of these homes that would have overlooked the Temple spoke of the inequality that plagued the population. The priests corrupted the Temple, taking from the common people to gain wealth for themselves. To this point, Jesus entered the Temple and turned over the tables of the money changers. He spoke out against greed and corruption. It is at this point that the ruling Sadducees and the chief priests sought to kill Jesus. He was threatening their power and their wealth, and they wanted to be rid of him. Only a few days after, we find Jesus on a cross at the hands of these few conspirators and the Romans.
Day 19 - Western Wall
Bible Reading: Matthew 6:9-15; Luke 11:1-13 Theme: How do you pray?
The Western Wall is an ancient wall of carved limestone blocks located in the Old City of Jerusalem. It is a small portion of a much larger segment that runs along the western part of the Temple Mount. The wall was originally erected by Herod the Great (speculated by some) and built as a retaining wall to support the structure of the Second Temple. The wall is part of a larger structure that surrounded the Temple Mount, almost like placing a rectangular shoebox upside down on top of a mountain to create a level area on which to build the Temple.
In Judaism, the Western Wall is special place due to its proximity to the Temple Mount and where the Temple once stood. Though the closest place to pray would be on the mound near where the Holy of Holies stood, the Western Wall is the closest spot where the Jews today are able to pray.
PRAYER! We are reminded in Matthew and Luke of the FAITH OF JESUS through his prayer. In his prayer, he explains our relationship to God and our relationship to others. We are reminded of the holiness of God as the Father over every person, the establishment of His Kingdom by our submission to His rule, forgiveness of others then followed by forgiving us, and that we can continually trust, each day, in the provision of God. Let’s continue to be people of prayer, seeing God move in and around us!
Day 20 - Southern Temple Steps
Bible Reading: Luke 19:45-Luke 20:26; Acts 2.
Theme: Love God, and Those Made in His Image
The Southern Steps are the steps leading up to the entrance and exit of the Second Temple in the time of Jesus. Many of the steps in view today are original to the time of Jesus. If completely uncovered (in process) a portion of the steps would lead down all the way to the pool of Siloam, deep in the valley. It is to this note that pilgrims, ancient and present, would always ascend to Jerusalem and to the House of God.
Jesus, as well as others who had disciples, would have taught on these steps, though Jesus mastered them all. You can recall several stories when certain rulers tried to catch Jesus in a bind, yet, in his wisdom he had them walking away astonished with his responses. The steps hold the location where Jesus overthrew the tables of the money changers. Also, these steps, or in the nearby Temple area, are the likely location of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2 refers to the "house" where they were sitting, as the Temple is most often referred to as the "house". This along with several other facts, lay the foundation for this area as the outpouring - what better place, as it held the presence of our Holy God!
All these stories, along with the teachings of Jesus, reflect the love God has for us, and others. We show our love to God by loving those made in his image.
Jesus is our BEST example to follow.
Day 21 - Kfar Kedem Theme: Touch the Biblical Past
For today’s Journey, we are focusing on a place in the lush hill country of the Galilee, in view of Nazareth and a stone’s throw from Sepphoris. Our friend Menachem Goldberg (who sends Passover greetings in the video) created Kfar Kedem to recreate the day-to-day life of the ancient land of Israel. A hands-on experience, Kfar Kedem transports you back to the roots of your heritage. Ride the rolling hills as Abraham rode them. Take in the scents that Jacob smelled tending Laban’s flocks. Hear the words of the prophets as you thresh grain, make cheese, spin wool, press oil from fresh olives and wine from fresh grapes. You’ll even dress like them!
At Kfar Kedem the Galilee comes to life. Located at Hoshaya, a community of Orthodox Jewish families, Kfar Kedem creates an experience using all your senses, involving you in the actual production of household staples such as milk, wool, and bread, and connecting these tangible experiences with the values and spirit of the ages from the time of the Bible and the Mishnah, that are still part of our lives today. Your experience is enriched with historical and spiritual content.
Visit their website: https://www.k-k.co.il/en/?lang=en
Day 22 - The Israel Museum and Second Temple Model
The Israel Museum holds many treasures that have been uncovered in excavations throughout Israel. The museum was established in 1965 and is located in Jerusalem. Some of its collections include Jewish art and fine art, but most important to the CHLS audience, it holds ancient artifacts that teach us about the biblical past.
Another famous aspect of the Israel Museum is the building that houses the Dead Sea Scrolls found in Israel in 1946. The museum is also home to a famous model of Jerusalem. The model is a 1:50 scale model of the city of Jerusalem in the late Second Temple Period. It measures 22,000 square feet. The model was designed based on the writings of Flavius Josephus and other historical writers and holds a replica of the Second Temple.
Day 23 - Bethlehem and Shepherds’ Field
Daily Reading: Luke 2
Theme: Glory, Peace, and Goodwill to All!
Jewish literature describes Bethlehem as the "house of Bread." Today, Bethlehem is one of the largest Palestinian cities in Israel. It lies just south of Jerusalem on the major north-south route known as the Way of the Patriarchs.
Shepherds field is the traditional place where shepherds from the area herded their flocks. We know from Scripture that angels visited shepherds in the fields nearby to proclaim the birth of Jesus. During the mundane event of shepherding sheep, heavenly angels appeared singing: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" (Luke 2) This verse profoundly describes three things foundational to Jesus' ministry: 1) Glory to God, 2) Peace on Earth, and 3) Goodwill to all people.
God receives the glory when there is peace and goodwill to those created in His image!
Find intentional ways to glorify the name of God today!
Day 24 - Bethlehem and Church of the Nativity
Theme: The Messiah is Born!
Bethlehem has continued to function as an inhabited city from antiquity; therefore, we have little archaeological knowledge of the city. Some evidence has been found from the time of David, connecting David and the city of Bethlehem.
Located in Bethlehem rests the Church of the Nativity, the oldest continuously operated church in the world. According to church historian Eusebius, Constantine's mother, Queen Helena, commissioned the church in AD 327. Helena followed the local tradition and visited a specific cave grotto as the place where Jesus was born. The church is built over this cave system, commonly used as family homes during the time of Jesus.
Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem for the purposes of a census and taxation. While living there, the time came for Jesus to be born. The Prince of peace came into the world to show us what faith is, how to live it out to the best of our ability, and conquered death so we could have eternity with God. Focus on this great gift as you go throughout your day!
Day 25 - Mount of Olives
Daily Reading: Luke 22
Theme: Do You Know He Had a Choice?
Named for its several hundred olive groves, the Mount of Olives borders Jerusalem's most eastern mountain range. The mountain ridge spreads two miles from north to south, forming a boundary between Jerusalem and the Judean Desert. It provides a fantastic view of both ancient and modern-day Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, the City of David, and the Old City of Jerusalem. The view allows for an exceptional visual perspective of sites and how close they are in relation to one another.
Jesus would have traveled on the Jericho Road and into Jerusalem by way of the Mount of Olives. It is where he would have looked over the city. It is also the location of the Garden of Gethsemane. Knowing the geography, it is easy to see that Jesus had a choice when facing the cross. He could either face the suffering, or escape. In less than a half hour Jesus could have walked away, over the Mount of Olives, and into hiding in the wilderness, never to be found. Instead, he chose to stay. It was then that the Chief Priests and helpers came to take Jesus, at night. Why at night? There were too many that loved Jesus, they could not take him during the day! They used Judas to find him (as there were many camping out on the Mount due to the Jewish Holiday). From there, Jesus made his way to the cross. He chose this for us.
Day 26 - Dominus Flevit
Daily Reading: Luke 19:37-42
Theme: The Things That Make for Peace
Dominus Flevit (meaning "the Lord Wept") is a small church located halfway down the Mount of Olives that commemorates the place where Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem. Dominus Flevit was designed by Antonio Barluzzi who built many of the churches in the land of Israel. He designed Dominus Flevit to resemble a teardrop. While being built, workers uncovered many artifacts, most importantly tombs from the Second Temple Period (time of Jesus) full of ossuaries (burial bone boxes).
Today, do you know the "things that make for peace?" When reviewing the life of Jesus, those "things" that he held dear was his love for his Father in Heaven and his love for those created in the Image of God. In caring for your "neighbor" he taught us that this act shows our love for God.
What would our world be like if we all chose to follow the example of Jesus?
Day 27 - David Overlook and Herod’s Palace
Daily Reading: Matthew 27
Theme: Jesus and Pilate
The road just inside Jaffa Gate curves up to Jerusalem's western hill. To the right of this road is the Tower of David Museum. The first noticeable tower was once part of Herod the Great's three towers, which guarded the western hill and his Jerusalem palace. Only portions of the tower remain.
The site is important not only because it belonged to Herod, but because it is also the beginning of the historical Via Dolorosa. According to the Gospels, Jesus went before Pilate twice. They say that Jesus was taken to the Praetorium, which is the same name used for Herod's palace in Caesarea in the Book of Acts. This was likely the location of Jesus' trial before Pilate and thus an important "station" of Jesus' path to His crucifixion. From the top of the tower you can see the roughly five hundred-step path that Jesus would have walked to Golgotha, the site of the modern-day Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Day 28 - Gennath Gate
Daily Reading: John 19:41
Theme: The Gate of the Gardens
Most people pass directly over this very important gate. It is hidden and seems obscure, but it holds great importance! The Gennath Gate is located in the area of the Cardo in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem. It derives its name ("garden") and purpose from antiquity, as it led to a garden. In antiquity, and still some today, gates were named for what lay, or the direction to a place outside of the gate. The Gennath Gate would be interpreted as a gate that led to gardens.
Due to the text in John 19, of Jesus' burial near Gardens, and passages in Josephus, credible scholars often identify it as the place where Jesus exited the city on the way to His crucifixion. Notably, this gate leads in the direction to the Holy Sepulcher, the likely place of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
Day 29 - Church of the Holy Sepulcher
Daily Reading: Matthew 27:32-66
Theme: The Tomb of Jesus
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, sometimes referred to as the Church of Resurrection, is a church whose traditions date back to the fourth century AD. The church is believed to house two of Christianity's most relevant sites: Golgotha and the Tomb of Christ. The church, as it currently stands is a patchwork of reconstructions, although evidence of first-century burials, Constantine's structure, the church from the days of the Crusades, and even Hadrian's original temple are visible in some parts of the building.
Having explored the church, there are certain caverns that have special meaning. If you can enter the church without the push of crowds, you can clear away the building, the noise, and recall the place that stood outside of the city walls, the place of the death AND the resurrection of our Savior.
Day 30 - Rolling Stone Tomb
Daily Reading: Matthew 28
Theme: HE IS RISEN!
In the middle of a beautiful park, near the center of Jerusalem, is a beautiful example of a first-century rolling stone tomb. It is a wonderful gathering place to close out a trip with song and communion, giving thanks for all we have learned and experienced on our journey through the land of the Bible. It is a reminder, and a stone throw, from the first-century tomb located in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, yet allows space to sit and talk.
The location is not the most important item of focus, the fact that the tomb IS empty! You see, Jesus, by walking out of a tomb, conquered death. This is something neither you or I could ever do. Because he did, we too will have the ability to live a life of eternity.
There is an icon in one of my favorite churches in the land, the Greek Orthodox side of Capernaum. The icon shows Jesus standing over a tomb. Below him, Satan is wrapped in chains, and next to him with either hand, Adam and Eve are being pulled out of their graves – the two who allowed sin to enter into their lives, creating a separation from God and death into the world. It is a beautiful image of what Jesus has done for us, and the salvation we are allowed to experience by believing and living out our belief in the example given to us by Jesus.
Wrap up - Digital Tour of Israel with CHLS
Thank you for joining the Center for Holy Lands Studies on our 30-day digital journey through the Land of the Bible. We enjoyed "touring" with you! We hope you enjoyed your visit. Israel is a place of learning, seeing, feeling, smelling, hearing, and experiencing. It is a place where you can walk in the footsteps of those of faith who have laid the path for us. We hope you have experienced some of this as you have walked this digital tour.
Let us know if you have any questions, as we are here to help. We cannot wait to see you on a real tour in the lands of the Bible!
For information about CHLS, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-885-700-CHLS (2457).