Stones would cry out: Kanye praises Jesus

31 10 2019

I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out!” Confound me if I am wrong, but are not these prophetic words of Jesus being fulfilled before our eyes. When so many Christians have denied their love for Jesus and embraced adulterous paganism; when christian celebrities shriek with horror when someone tries to associate them with Jesus in public for the sake of the worldly glamour, stones, men you least to expect are praising Jesus, in public and at the top of their voices. A lesson for all to see. Watch notorious Kanye West, rapper and songwriter and Chicago bad boy praising Jesus





In God’s Land: The Temple of Jerusalem

26 09 2019
Second Temple of Jerusalem built by Herod

The Temple is located in Mount Moriah, over the rock on which God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac (Genesis 22). Though he eventually sacrificed a ram instead of his son, that sacrifice created a blood bound between the Jews and God.

Solomon built the first Temple on that rock to commemorate the blood-bond, and since then, every Jew from all around the world would come here three times a year to renew that sacrifice. The Jews also believe that the rock of Moriah is the foundation of the world because God specifically wanted Isaac sacrificed on it.

There are three covenants feast days in Israel; first is the covenant on Mt. Sinai when God revealed to them the Torah; they keep this day a feast in all Israel, and they call it the Shavuot or the Feast of Pentecost.
The second is Yom Kippur, a day of atonement, and the holiest day of the year in which they recite the “Shema” (Hear oh Israel) as a way of remembering the promises and the third is the feast of Hanukkah or “the miracle of light” a remembrance of the time when the bottle of oil was refilling itself, as Judas Macabee rededicated the Temple profaned by Antiochus Epiphanies.

All the sacrifices in the Temple were done over the rock of Moriah just like Abraham did. The rock was enclosed in the chamber just before the room called Holy of Holies where the Arc of the Covenant rested

In the year 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, defeated Israel, ransacked and destroyed the first Temple and stole the Ark of the Covenant and it was lost forever.

When Herod came to power, there was already another temple, the second Temple built by Zerubabel, 520 BC. He didn’t like the fact that access to the Temple was narrow, so he began the expansion of the Temple. He used rocks from the mountain to build temple and it took him 46 years! So you could understand why people where angry when Jesus said he will rebuild the temple in 3 days.
In the Temple, the room called the Holy of Holies was oriented towards the west, which is towards sunset, while the rest of the building was oriented towards the east.

Jesus and his mother came to this Temple re-built by Herod, and it was in this Temple that Jesus went missing for three days while his mother and his father was looking for him.

Roman Emperor Vespasian and his son, Titus, to suppress the Jewish rebellion, destroyed the second Temple in 70AD, fulfilling the prophesy in Matthew 24:1-2 where Jesus prophesied that the Temple of Jerusalem would be destroyed and that its destruction would be so complete that not one stone would left on another.

Herod’s Temple wall was so big and so compact that to destroy it, the Roman soldeirs had to use explosives and the explosions were heard as far away as in Jericho 25km from Jerusalem. The Roman soldier expected to find gold when they broke into the holy of holies, but there was nothing. They left the ruins for centuries, without building anything on it, perhaps to rob salt into the wounds of the Jewish people and make it clear that they were totally defeated.

65 years after the destruction of the Temple, some remnant Jews regrouped and came back to rebuild the Temple. Led by Rabbi Simon bar Kokhba, they attacked and wiped out the 22nd legion of the Romans army stationed in Jerusalem. This is known as the Bar Kokhba revolt. They established an independent Jewish state which they ruled for three years.
In 135 AD, Roman Emperor Hadrian left Rome with a huge army to crush the revolt. He destroyed 700 villages, and killed one million Jews and sold the rest to slavery at the port city of Caesarea Maritime. It was said that there were so many Jewish slaves that the slave market collapsed. You could buy a healthy Jewish girl for a pair of sandals.

Hadrian emptied Jerusalem of the Jews and brought in all the enemies of the Jewish people to live in Jerusalem. He was the one that brought the Philistines, Palestinian, Syrians and the Edomites. That’s why you have a grand conflict here.

In the 7th century with the first Islamic expansion, the Muslims came and built a mosque over the rock of Moriah, which is today called the Dome of the Rock.

Pictures of Muslim Mosque called the Dome of the rock standing where Herod Temple once stood

We saw the quarry Herod used and the water system that the harmonium 200BC used to bring water to the temple

We went down the tunnel from the western wall all the way to the Antonio fortress viewing the original wall built by Herod. We saw the rituals bathrooms. It was custom that everyone coming into the temple had to take a rituals bath, coming from far. Then they will buy a rituals bathrobe, they would put on a white robe, change their money

Before the six days war, Israel was divided into east and west Jerusalem, with East Jerusalem belonging to Jordan. After Israel won the six day war, they unified Jerusalem under Israeli control and the walls dividing the city were torn down, they gained control and access to the Temple and made it possible for archeologist to begin excavations below the temple to discover the remains of their ancient past.
Each time the archeologists worked, though, there was a trouble with the Muslim who now occupy the temple mount are afraid that the Israelis are doing something under there that will make them fall down.

Despite the Muslim Mosque, “ Dome of the Rock” now standing where the Temple once stood, the children of Israel still believe that the presence of God is still on this mountain, on the Western wall. So they go there to pray , though they can no longer sacrifice the customary ram, the still pray and put pieces of paper .The custom of putting papers on the wall is because in those days not everyone could come to temple, they would give a prayer request to a friend to put in the wall

Pictures of Western Wall or Wailing Wall

We stood in front of where the holy of Holy temple

We saw the base of mount Moriah and we stood on a street paved by the Hasmonean Dynasty when there was no wall.

Standing at the entrance of the tunnel

Pictures under the tunnel of the Temple

We saw the system of tunnels to bring water from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. These tunnels were rebuilt by Herod to channel water to the temple. The waters are collected in cisterns. The temple needs water because of all the animals killed there. We came out directly one the Fortress of Antonio, also called Ecce homo, which is in the Muslims quarters

Lectures on Antonia Fortress

Herod built the Antonia Fortress to help the Romans keep an eye on the Temple because the Jews asked them not to enter into the temple area. Though the Roman agreed, because of fear of the huge crowd, they requested that Herod build a Fortress Antonia next to the Temple, from where they could house legions to deploy incase trouble broke out in the temple, like a rapid reaction squad. Even Pilate didn’t live in Jerusalem, but in Caesarea Maritime, yet, he would come to Jerusalem, to the Fortress, for the feast and keep an eye out for trouble.

Ecce Homo

In 1857, Marie-Alphonse Ratisbonne, a French Jew and former atheist who converted to Catholicism and became a priest, decided to purchase the site and start a convent The sisters of Zion whose mission is to build bridges between Jews and Muslims.

The sister of Zion, found on the pavement to an etching of a game by Roman soldiers discovered in 1864 involving the execution of a “monk king”, the flagstones of Gabbatha, which John 19:13 describes as the location where Pontius Pilate adjudged Jesus’ trial

Lithostrotos: Roman pavement, the site of Jesus’ trial at the Antonia Fortress. An etching of the game of the Kings, a game played by Roman soldiers which they throw dice until one loses is the called king; this was what they did to Jesus. According to Bill Slot, “The Kings Game:” an actual board game etched into the stones, on which the Roman soldiers played to pass the time in between guard shifts or patrol duty, tossing dice carved from sheep knuckles and moving tokens around a crown-shaped board. This game, known to historians as Basileus, has been found throughout the Roman Empire, wherever soldiers were fighting off boredom. Many Christian scholars have considered the irony of “The King’s Game” in the very place where, a century earlier, Roman soldiers had mocked Jesus, “King of the Jews,” crowning him with thorns, dressing him in royal purple and taunting him.

We celebrated Mass at the Church of Ecce Homo.

Pictures as we walked to the Church of Ecce Home after exiting the tunnels

Basilica of Ecce Homo, named for Pontius Pilate’s Ecce homo speech which is traditionally thought to have taken place on the pavement below the church.

Mass at Ecce Homo

Between 1858 and 1862, he built a basilica (the Church of Ecce Homo), which overlaps part of the gateway arch called Ecce homo. Though, the arch itself is not from the time of Pilate, still it is in this very place, in the Antonia Fortress, that that Jesus was mocked.

Jewish quarters

After destroying Jerusalem, Hadrian built a new city on the ruins and called it Aelia Capitolina and built the Cardo Maximus generally lined with shops and vendors, and served as a hub of economic life. Cardo Maximus is still visible on the Jewish Quarter Street, though the original pavement lies several meters below the modern street level. In the 7th century, when Jerusalem fell under Muslim rule, the Cardo became an Arab-style marketplace. Remains of the Byzantine Cardo were found in the Jewish Quarter excavations

Walking through the Jewish Quarter and Cardo Maximus

The Jewish Quarter is one of the four traditional quarters of the Old City of Jerusalem
The quarter is inhabited by around 2,000 residents Jews and is home to numerous yeshivas and synagogues, most notably the Hurva Synagogue, destroyed numerous times and rededicated in 2010.(source Wikipedia)

Visit to the Hurva Synagogue





In God’s Land: Nazareth and Mount of Transfiguration

21 09 2019

20th September 2019

We had early breakfast, by 6.30am to be precise, and departed for Nazareth by 7.20 am prompt. Nazareth has about 70,000 inhabitants today, but in the time of Jesus, it had just about 100 people. It is a two hour drive from the city of Jerusalem.

We took the shortest way; high way 6, because we needed to get there on time to see Nazareth and celebrate Mass is at 11 am at the Church of Annunciation.

Our mission is to visit Mary’s well; a well that ancient tradition says was frequently used by the Blessed Virgin Mary and the boy, Jesus. We also hope see the workshop of St. Joseph, and the cliff from which the people of Nazareth wanted to push Jesus down in an act that is best described as an attempted murder. After Mass we intend to visit the ancient village of Cana where Jesus turned water into wine at the insistence of his mother and finally we will end our tour with a visit to mount Tabor, the mountain where Jesus transfigured and his clothes became dazzling white, in the presence of his apostles and with apparition of Moses and Elijah. (Mark 9:3)

As you can see it’s a tight schedule for one day thus the early rising.

Nazareth

350m above sea level, Nazareth was where everything started. God took flesh in the womb of a woman, the most pure womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Lk 1:26-38). On the way, we saw the Chapel of our Lady of the freight, to commemorate Mary seeing the people of Nazareth trying to cast Jesus into the cliff. (Lk 4:29)

In the time of our Jesus, there were just about 30 families living in Nazareth. Today, Nazareth is the biggest Arab town owned by Israel. Most of the inhabitants are Muslims.

We entered Nazareth using the Via Maris (the way of the see), a high way that begins in Memphis in the delta of the Nile towards the lake of Galilee. We passed through the valley of the “seed of God” also called Jezreel, very fertile plain with abundance of agriculture. From the bus we saw rows and rows of cultivated fields. Agriculture is the highest export of Israel and a huge source of income. We passed through the land of Gideon
Finally we left the plains of Jezreel up to Nazareth.

Story of two Churches and Mary’s well

In Nazareth, there are two Churches of the annunciation. One belongs to the Greek Orthodox, who claims that the first apparition of Arc Angel Gabriel to Mary took place at the well whilst she was fetching water; she took fright and ran to her house. It was at the second apparition that she was finally calm enough to listen to the Angel and thus the orthodox built a Church near the well, and to give tourist something to see, they diverted the spring that fed the original Mary’s well to the Church, so Mary’s well is no longer flowing because this.

Pictures of Mary’s well

Mary’s well
Our guide, Oliver explains why Mary’s well is dry

Sad and unfortunately, this the only spring of fresh water in Nazareth, and they are using it up all for themselves.
We stopped to look the dry well of Mary, before proceeding to the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, at least to have a look at the original water of the well.

Pictures of the Visit to the Greek Orthodox Church of Annunciation

Pictures ate the courtyard of the Greek Orthodox church of the annuciation
Seated inside the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation
Roof of the Church

The grievance between the Catholics and the Greek Orthodox goes back many century and many versions of the conflicts bear the bias of who is telling the story. Some say that the bone of contention was that the fourth crusaders sacked Byzantium, stole the true cross, crown of thorns, which led to the mutual excommunications between the two branches.

The synagogue that almost murdered Jesus

Next, we visited the 1st century synagogue where the boy Jesus and his father and mother often went to pray. It was a stone throw from Mary’s house. It was here that they wanted to throw him off the cliff after he had read the scroll. The story is told in Luke

It reads:
“Jesus returned to his hometown Nazareth, from Capernaum, and he went to the synagogue. The synagogue official gave him the scroll to read, they didn’t like his interpretation and they tried to cast him of a cliff.” Luke (4:16-29)

The Jews had a custom they called Bar mitzvah in which every boy who comes of age is given the scroll of the book of the prophet Isaiah to read and afterwards asked to explain or interpret the verse he had read for all in the synagogue. If he passes, he is included as one of the ten that can start a synagogue. Jesus was given the scroll and the people didn’t like how he interpreted it and wanted to kill him.

Church of the Annunciation


When we left the synagogue, we went straight the authentic Church of the Annunciation, which is next to the synagogue. According to an ancient tradition passed on by some Fathers of the Church, some relations of Jesus were still living in Nazareth in the 2nd century had preserved both the room in which the Angel Gabriel visited Mary, and the house of the Holy Family. There are written testimonies of pilgrims who visited the house in Nazareth in the 4th century when it was already a place venerated by Christians, complete with an altar.

Pictures of the Church of the Annunciation

Catholic Church of the Annunciation
Introduction from Saxum
Walls surrounding the Church is covered with beautiful paintings of Mary from all corner of the world
Entrance
Different depictions of Mary inside the Church
Side view of the Church
Sculptor of Mary as a young girl over the entrance

The Catholic Church of Annunciation the biggest, most magnificent church in the Middle East. It was built over the site of an earlier Byzantine-era and then Crusader-era church. Inside, the lower level contains the Grotto of the Annunciation, the remains of the original childhood home of Mary. Scientific tests on the house in Loreto matches the one here, in Nazareth, likewise the graffito written on the walls and traces of oil found on the wall dating back to the time of Jesus are identical in both places.

On the front door of the Church, there is a depiction of the major events in Jesus’ life.

Pictures of the Front door of the Church

Inscriptions at the door
Designs on the wall
Pilgrims visiting the Church
Magnificent Image of our lady at the Annunciation from Philipines
magnificent depictions at the door ” the life of Mary”
Inside the upper floor
Church of the Annunciations is the biggest church in the middle east

We recited the Salve Regina inscribed on the wall on both sides of the main door. Above the door, there is a bronze sculptor of Mary as a young girl, looking towards Calvary, Jerusalem

Then on the arcades of the Church, there are paintings of Mary from different countries of the world; Germany, Japan, Philippines and so on.
In 1964, when the Church was being built, the Pope Paul VI wondered if it was necessary to have such a big Church, in such a small town, but today Christians of Nazareth are grateful because they didn’t know that they would become a minority

The Church consists of two floors. The ground floor is at the level of the grotto of the 1st century house where Mary lived, and the upper floor of the Church has many stained glass windows and paintings of Mary donated from every country in the world.

The altar piece is a magnificent painting of heaven with all the saints and martyrs walking towards eternal happiness with Mary depicted in an amazing representation as giving birth to the Church.

Pictures of the upper floor

Preparing for Mass at the Upper floor
dome of the Church

On the ground floor is original room that Mary was in when the Angel visited her. Its white stone wall blackened with age and behind a small stair case going to an upper floor

Pictures of ground floor and grotto of Mary’s house

Loswer floor, house of Mary 1st Century
Reaching up to take a shot
Standing in front of Mary’s house
Panoramic view of Mary’s house
Shot at the circle from which Mary’s house can be seen from upper floor

Nazareth means the of spring water. It is amazing how insignificant this little town had been before the birth of Jesus, for instance, the Old Testament never mentioned Nazareth, neither does Josephus, the Jewish historian, who is reputed to record anything important to the Jews. It is marvelous that God has chooses such a lowly place to come down to meet us. This should encourage everyone one who feels left behind, that God chooses the lowly and enfeebled things of this world to confound the rich and the powerful.

We attended Mass at the upper floor of the Church of Annunciation by 11 am

Pictures of the Mass

At exactly 12 noon, the bells of the Church of the Annunciation started ringing out melodies and the scene of the annunciation was reenacted as the Franciscans gave a benediction from inside the house of Nazareth while we stood aside and watched.

Pictures of Noon Benediction

Like we said earlier, this Church is the biggest Church in the Middle East, and it therefore the envy of all. In 2002, Muslims raised money to build a big mosque directly in front of the Church of the annunciation. The intended that mosque would be bigger and over shadow her glory.

The day the foundation, the fundamentalist Muslims were gleefully shouting in unison “Today Nazareth, tomorrow the world!”
But things quickly went out of control, and riots broke out, many Christian shops were burnt and looted causing the Israeli government intervene and cancel the project, forcing the Muslim to stop the constructions and uprooted the foundation already begun.

The city of Nazareth is run by Muslim families, thus sanitation is poor, laws are not enforced, and the town is badly run. In the ottoman where here for 400 yrs and they really didn’t care about the local population, so no hospitals where built. Thanks to foreign countries that mercifully came and built and built hospitals, there might not have been any hospitals in Nazareth today.

There’s a minaret and a mosque on the highest point in Nazareth. How it happened was that 23 yrs ago, a family asked if they could hire this highest point, and the owner said yes, the family lived there for a few months and then gradually built a mosque on top of the peak. The problem is that once a mosque is built, it’s impossible to remove it. That place becomes holy ground. That’s why the foundation of the one that they attempted to build over the Church of annunciation had to be removed. So they built the mosque by stealth.

After spending time in the Church of the annunciation, we walked over to another Church, called the Church of St. Joseph. It is said that the workshop in which Joseph the carpenter and the foster father of Jesus was located here. What we saw were ritual baths and what looked like a place for baptism. The workshop must have been converted into a church during the first century and hence the ritual baths.

Pictures of the Church of St Joseph

Ritual births in the Church of St. Joseph

Cana

We finally left Nazareth about 1 pm to go to Cana. We passed by the ancient Roman town of Sephoris. This town is not mentioned in bible but was very rich and close to Nazareth. Perhaps, some of Joseph’s clients lived there since it was just 3km from Nazareth and perhaps Jesus used to accompany his father there to make deliveries. Sephoris was rich Roman city, and Jesus must have seen luxurious life, huge balcony and opulence, in contrast to his cave like home in Nazareth.

Pictures on the road to Cana

Pilgrims who came to renew there marriage vows

When we entered the city of Cana, we saw that all the shops here advertise “the Wine of Cana,” the Miracle of Jesus in Cana. Archeologically, there is no certainty of the authenticity of this Cana and as it where, many other Canas have cropped up, with competing claims of being the authentic Cana of scriptures. Still, it was good to be here.

Pictures of Church of Cana

Underneath the Church at Cana

As we were at Church of Cana, a group of people came to renew their marriage vows.
Cana is about the superabundance of the grace of sacraments. We bought the wine of Cana, sweet wine

Mt. Tabor


When we left the Church of Cana, our next destination was Mount Tabor.
Tabor is on the outskirts of Cana and before we could leave Cana and get to the outskirts, we encountered lots of traffic because the Muslims were coming from the mosque and school children closing from school.

Pictures of the road to Mt. Tabor

Mt Tabor
Tabor and surrounding district
On the bus up Tabor
Church of Transfiguration at the back ground

We passed by the Bedouin town of Shibli is set at the foot of Mount Tabor. It consists of a single clan, and everyone has the same surname and they intermarry between themselves. This is not only a health hazard but a logistic nightmare for a postman who has to deliver parcels to them.

We had a quick lunch at the base of Mt. Tabor before boarding taxis that took us up to the peak of Mt Tabor. Tabor is 640m above sea level and this is where Jesus transfigured before three of his apostles, Peter James and John. Moses and Elijah appear during the transfiguration. This is also where in the Old Testament, Deborah fought and killed the Canaanites.

Church of Mt. Tabor

Nowhere in the gospel is the Tabor mentioned, yet Jesus chose this mount to display his glory to the apostles to strengthen them for his coming passion and death. The Byzantines have originally built a church at this peak. The crusaders also built a church here. They were all knocked down by the Muslims until the Franciscans came and bought the property and gave the contract to the same architect that built Shepherd fields, and many others churches

Pictures of Inside the Church of Mt. Tabor

Entering the Church of Transfiguration
A group of south African pilgrims having Mass
Painting of Moses on the Roof of the Church
Views from the hieght of Tabor
Church of transfiguration

On the left inside the church, is the Chapel of Moses with Ray of light.
Then the Chapel of Elijah, with his animals.
At the bottom of the Church, a beautiful image of Jesus transfiguration. On the longest day, the light shines in on this image and it shimmering and beautiful. The roof is made of alabaster, because the architecture wanted people to be transfigured.

It is said that every year, a batch of young drug addicts come here from Italy, working and praying to be transformed.

Why did the Lord choose to transfigure himself in a place that was so far from where he lived and required a strenuous physical effort over a long trail?” Blessed Alvaro gives the answer himself, saying “that it was probably so that we could see with our own eyes that to reach God, we also have to put in a human effort that is physical sometimes.”





In God’s Land: Lazarus’ Tomb, Mount of Temptation and Masada

8 09 2019

Bethany

We had early breakfast, by 6.30am to be precise, so we can leave on time for Bethany. Bethany is in the Palestinian territory. So we had to take our passports again. As we left the great city of Jerusalem, we began descending into the rift valley towards Bethany, soon on both sides huge expanse of desert and Sand Mountains, the mere sight of which is sufficient to make you thirsty. We could see Bedouins living in tents and very primitive conditions. Soon we caught sight of the Dead Sea

Dead Sea is 80km long and 400 meters, it is considered concentrated salt. What this means is that if you take a cupful of Dead Sea water and put a spoon of salt in and stir, the salt cannot dissolve, because water is already saturated.

 Sodom and Gomorrah is on South end of the Dead Sea. Along the coast of the Dead Sea, we could see Israeli Kibbutz (farming communities) with stretches of green house farms and miles and miles of date palms, a testament to the industrious people who can make even the desert fertile.

Bethany: Church of St. Lazarus

We arrived at the West bank town of al-Eizariya, and drove to the St. Lazarus Catholic Church, built on the home of Maria, Lazarus and Martha. The Lord Jesus Christ came here many times, friends of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.

Luke 10:38-42 Jesus Visits Martha and Mary

“Now, as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.  She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying.  But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.”  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing.[a] Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Entering Church of St. Lazarus in Bethany

During Mass at side chapel beside the St. Lazarus Catholic Church: Bethany

After Mass we entered the main Church to view the interior

Tomb of Lazarus

The Tomb of Lazarus

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have … to Jesus, “Lord, if you would have been here, my brother wouldn’t have died…John 11:21

Climbing a little hill from the St. Lazarus Church is the tomb of Lazarus

And Jesus Wept

Jesus wept where when heard that his friend was dead. Jesus gave life to Lazarus to foreshadow our resurrection. We ask him to give us the love he gave to Lazarus and Mary and Martha

Masada

Fortress of Masada

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling!  Behold, your house will be abandoned, desolate.” Matthew 23

Jesus left the Temple, and as he was going away his disciples came up to draw his attention to the Temple buildings. He said to them in reply, ‘You see all these? In truth I tell you, not a single stone here will be left on another: everything will be pulled down.’

Matthew 24:2

This prophesy of Christ was fulfilled in the year 70 AD when the city of Jerusalem was completely destroyed and The Temple burnt by the Romans

As the story goes, in 66 Ad there was a great Jewish revolt against the Roman, resulting in the destruction of the city and the temple in 70 Ad by Roman army

After the destruction of Jerusalem, some surviving Jews (about 900 men, women and children) took shelter in Masada, a fortress built by Herod. There spent two years training and arming to defeat Roman but in 72AD, the Roman army laid siege on Masada, breached the walls and entered and found that the 900 Jewish survivors all committed suicide.

“As Judaism prohibits suicide, Josephus, a Jewish historian, who recorded the incident, reported that the defenders had drawn lots and killed each other in turn, down to the last man, who would be the only one to actually take his own life.

 Josephus says that Eleazar ordered his men to destroy everything except the foodstuffs to show that the defenders retained the ability to live, and so had chosen death over slavery.” (Source Wikipedia)

Today, Israel regards Masada as a symbol of courage.

From Bethany, it was a short bus ride to Masada. Below are pictures of us arriving at Masada

The Israelis have built cable cars that take tourist and visitors up the mountain fortress.

We rode a cable car to reach the fortress of Masada

Walking among the ruins of Masada

Qumran

When we left Masada, our next stop was at Qumran

Besides the Dead Sea, Qumran is best known as the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by a young shepherd boy who was looking for one of his sheep that got missing. Reaching one of the caves in the hill, while calling his sheep, he threw stones to check if the cave was flooded. Surprised to hear potteries shattering, he investigated and discovered plenty of clay jars, when he opened one, he saw that they contained ancient manuscripts.

He sold of it to antique dealers and after changing hands several times they reached scholars who could accurately evaluate the age and value of the parchments. Further exploration uncovered a total of 972 texts including the oldest known existing copy of the Old Testament. The texts are written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek and Nabataen. The scrolls are believed to have belonged to the Essenes sect. St. John the Baptist was an Essene

 The Dead Sea Scrolls are 1,200 years B.C. These range from small fragments to a complete scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and every book of the Hebrew Bible except Esther and Nehemiah.

Jericho

Our next stop was in the town of Jericho. It is the oldest city in the world.

The children of Israel where praising the lord and the wall of Jericho came tumbling down… Joshua 6:2-5

Joshua, crossing River Jordan, achieved his first victory at Jericho. The children of Israel blew trumpets, and the walls came down.

Jericho is also the town of Zacchaeus, the tax collector who climbed a Sycamore Tree in other to see Jesus

Jesus said to him, “Zacchaeus’, come down for I shall stay in your house today. “

Most important is that in Jericho, Jesus was tempted by the devil . a mountain approximately 366 metres (1,201 ft) high, towering from the northwest over the town of Jericho in the West Bank .

Mountain of temptation of Jesus

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘you shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”…Matthew 4:8, Luke 4:5

Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights praying and fasting, after he was tempted, and the devil came to him and said, if you are the sin of God, order these stones to turn into bread, and Jesus said to him, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God

Standing by the rock on which Jesus was tempted by Satan

Standing by The rock of Temptation( The rock on which Jesus was tempted

River Jordan

Still in Jericho, our next stop was by the river Jordan where John the Baptist Babtized Jesus

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”  But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”

Then he consented. And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am pleased, listen to him.”….Matthew 3:17

It is also at the Mount Nebo in Jordan, that Moses ascended to heaven, and Elijah ascended to heaven in a chariot of fire.

 Across the river Jordan is the border between Palestinian and Jordan with armed guards