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Kavode Tour: Israel 2019 - Day 6


Ein-Gedi

We began our last day by leaving Jerusalem and traveling south to the Negev Desert to experience the oasis of the Ein-gedi. This desert oasis is where David would live, train, and hide from Saul. It is also the location of the famous scene in 1 Samuel 24, where David has the chance to kill Saul while he is relieving himself, but David spares Saul out of his respect for Yahweh’s anointed. In that cave, David was tempted to accelerate the timeline, but instead he shows his trust in God and allows Saul to escape with his life, but not without letting Saul know. David stealthily cut off a corner of Saul’s robe, and as Saul left David cried out to him.


Anyone who studies ancient warfare knows that water is the most important commodity needed to win a war. In the Negev where water is scarce except for the Dead Sea, the Ein-gedi is a perfect hideaway with its fresh spring and water falls, plenty of sources for food, and it has caves all throughout the hills perfect for hiding. It is no wonder why David chose this place as one of his hideouts while in exile.


As for us, we traveled up to sea the many waterfalls throughout the Ein-gedi until we reached the top of it. We weren’t able to make our way all the way to the spring as it took over four hours, but just traveling beside a spring which King David drank from was life changing. I would love to one day take a group of men and do a retreat in the Ein-gedi and teach them how to be warriors after God’s own heart.


From the Ein-gedi, we traveled up the road to the AHAVA factory, and learned how they came to be and about their products. From AHAVA, we went and floated in the Dead Sea and caked ourselves in the mud. It always an interesting experience floating in water unassisted, but it is definitely one that’s always enjoyable (that is unless you stay in too long and it starts to burn your skin).


After leaving the Dead Sea, we traveled back to Jerusalem to the Praetorium where Jesus would’ve been delivered to Pontius Pilot, put on trail, beaten, and condemned to death. We traveled down underneath the existing structure to a first century street in which Jesus would’ve walked on. We also so the King’s Game, in which guards cast lots to see who will be lucky enough to place the crown of thorns on the prisoner’s head.


From the Praetorium, we walked down to the Pools of Bethesda and the Church of Saint Anne’s. In John 5, Jesus comes to a public pool where people go to be healed. “Bethesda” means “house of mercy,” a fitting term given the desperate state of the people lying there in the hope of a miracle cure.  There remains a strong reason to identify this pool with a single large two-pool complex near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem and adjacent to the modern Church of St. Anne. The two pools are separated from each other by a partition. The remains of columns found around this site help confirm that the partition between the pools, along with each of the four sides surrounding the pool complex, likely contained the five roofed colonnades (i.e., five stoas, which are covered walkways; a “colonnade” is a row of columns). A fifth-century Byzantine basilica was built over this site. While overlooking this site, I couldn’t help but think of the healing that Jesus had performed here. There was this man laying there for 38 years along with numerous other people waiting to be healed and here comes Jesus, and he heals this one man. We must look at it from two perspectives. First, all those who are laying beside the pool hoping for healing. Here comes Jesus, and he heals this one man. You have to be thinking to yourself what about me? And secondly, this man who was special enough to Jesus that Jesus would heal him on the Sabbath and no one else. There are so many things about this story that are miraculous and mysterious.


Positioned catty-cornered to the Pools of Bethesda, we entered the Church of Saint Anne’s. St. Anne’s is a Romanesque Church built in 1138 by the crusaders. The Church was built like a fortress and had thick stone walls with very little decor. I thought the Church had a very simplistic beautiful look to it. The best part of the thick stone walls was the acoustics it created. So as a group we sat and sang numerous songs. The reverberation from the walls would last as long as 8 seconds, and it sounded incredible.


We ended the night by traveling through the Arab markets in the old city bartering and buying souvenirs. Afterwards, I led a small group to see Holy Church of the Sepulchre, which is a massive basilica that is now only one-third of its original size. I must say that I have been to the Vatican, and it pales in comparison to the Holy Church of the Sepulchre. I really wish time travel was a possibility to see this church in its prime. The Sepulchre contains the last 4-5 stations of the cross depending on how you count them.


The interesting thing about the Holy Church of the Sepulchre is that the more research you do, the more probable it is that this was the sight of Christ crucifixion, tomb, and resurrection.

In these hollow places where so many have traveled, I too was now a pilgrim to these sacred places. One of the most beautiful things were these crosses carved into the side of the wall by thousands of pilgrims from hundreds of years ago. While I did not carve a cross into the wall, I became a part of the group of pilgrims who did.


Thus ends my second trip to Israel, and we begin the long trip home to a snow storm from what I hear. I'm already looking forward to coming back.


Blessings!

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