Israel (Western Wall)

The Western Wall deserves it’s own entry. And yes, I know there was another long delay between my Israel posts. Deal with it. Or, maybe you just enjoy what K writes and don’t really care about my Israel posts anymore. If that’s the case, I take no offense at all, just skim the pictures on this post and you’re good.

The Western Wall was unbelievable. Also known as the Wailing Wall because it was known as the place that the Jews wailed over the destruction of the Temple and the fact that they did not own the land. Now they own the land so there isn’t a real need to wail.

On to the pictures…

Western Wall from a distance. They were doing some construction just to the south of the wall (which is what that scaffold thing is there for)
K and I at the Wall. This is as close as we could get to it together. There is a women’s section and a men’s section.

Up close picture of the women’s area.

The men’s area.

An Orthodox Jew reading and praying at the Wall.

Prayers placed in the Wall.

To the left of the outside part of the men’s area (when facing the Wall) is this enclosed area. It is called Robinson’s Arch and originally was the foundations for a ramp/steps up to the entrance to the Second Temple. It is lined with bookshelves with Torah’s and other important Jewish writings on the opposite side of the Wall. It was a really amazing place to be in. There were lots of Orthodox Jewish men praying in here. This picture is from the end of the room looking back towards the entrance.

All the men had to were Yamaka’s. I was probably deep in prayer when this picture was taken. Or I was blinking… I can’t remember which.

Funny story: We were waiting to go into a tunnel which the Jews have dug out along the entire stretch of the Western Wall when these two guys showed up. They told Krysta they wanted their picture taken, so she took it. Then they told her that they wanted her in the picture with them. I showed them my wedding ring and told them we were married. They apologized and promptly moved on to our friend Katie. She denied their advances as well. An hour later as I was leaving the Western Wall, I saw the guy on the left leaning against the Wall in prayer. I guess nominal believers isn’t just a Christian thing.

Looking at a large dug out area of the Western Wall.

Each large stone of Herod’s Wall (Solomon built the first Temple, it was destroyed and Herod built it a second time) is surrounded by a fine-chiseled border. So we were walking along the tunnel looking at a wall that was built 2,000 years ago and was looked at by Jesus. Amazing.

A view down the tunnel with the Herodian stones of the Western Wall.

For even more information you can go here (This is for my Dad and any other history buffs).

Israel (part 5… finally)

So over 4 months ago we went to Israel. We loved it. We got back and posted some pictures and stories about the first part of the trip. I was supposed to write the next post. K reminded me a few times and then gave up and started posting about her coupon savings, videos of our dog for our niece Ellie, and enjoyable little “K rants” (one of the many reasons I love her). Now, 4 months later, I’m ready to give you the final part of our trip to Israel.

After seeing all the amazing things so far on our trip, it was crazy to think that we hadn’t even made it to Jerusalem yet. The last three days of our trip were spent in and around Jerusalem. It is a city with so much history and so many religious connections.

The first day in Jerusalem we went to a lookout point on the grounds of Hebrew University.

Next we traveled to the “traditional” Upper Room – the place where the Last Supper took place. It looked much different after Crusade era improvements, but maybe it was the actual room. It was still cool to be in the room, read Scripture, and sing Amazing Grace (the disciples sang a hymn before they left to go to the Mount of Olives – Matthew 26:30; but it probably wasn’t Amazing Grace since that was 1,700 years from being written).

Underneath the place that tradition says is the Upper Room, is where tradition says David’s tomb is located… once again, all based on tradition.

From there we traveled through the Zion gate into the actual “Old City” of Jerusalem. The entrance through the gate is at a 45 degree angle so that chariots could not run full speed into the city to attack. This made it very interesting watching cars try and make it through the gate while we were there.

We entered in the Armenian quarter (there are 4 quarters – Armenian, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim) and headed towards the Jewish quarter.

Along the way we stopped at the Cardo – the ruins of the Roman era main street of the city. While trying to dig down during construction, they accidentally found this street which had some of the original Roman road still intact.

Since they couldn’t destroy this ancient road for their construction needs, they turned it into a little shopping district.

In the middle of the Cardo there were these road block structures that thankfully turned out to be something much more exciting. These little stone structures were actually covering openings in the road that went down even deeper to show the walls built by Hezekiah (600 BC) and the Macabeen’s (150 BC). This was far below the Cardo, which was only found when builders were digging below the modern day Old City of Jerusalem.

We then headed towards the Western Wall, but this is long enough already. I’ll cover the Western Wall and the City of David in my next post. If I stick with how long it took me to write this thing, that one should be posted in about 2 to 3 months.

Israel (Part 4)

After a wonderful evening at the Dead Sea, we set out the next morning for Masada. I had no idea what Masada was but D kept telling me prior to the trip, “Mrs. Berthel said that we have to hike Masada.” I enjoy hiking so it sounded fun to me. We told Isaac, our guide, of our intentions to hike up Masada and it took a little convincing for him to let us. There is a cable car that takes people up and down the 1300 foot mountain. Eventually, Isaac gave in and seven of us from our group decided to make the hike up and take the cable car down.

It was really fun (and at times challenging) to hike up Masada. Something that I noticed very quickly is that there were only a few other people going up but most others were coming down. The groups coming down were from all over the world and included some Israeli soldiers. In Israel, even when off duty, soldiers are required to carry their guns with them. It was sort of strange to see young men and women hiking down Masada with rifles strapped to their backs. However, everyone was very encouraging and as we got closer to the top, those coming down were encouraging us and said stuff like, “You are almost there!”


It took us about forty-five minutes and we got to the top of Masada. We caught up with our group to listen to Isaac’s explanations. I probably could not do the story of Masada justice by trying to explain so check it out here. It is really interesting and is the second most visited spot (next to Jerusalem) by tourist.

After spending the first half of our day at Masada, we headed to Jerusalem where we would spend the remainder of our trip. Up until this point, we had not really experienced anything having to do with the turmoil in Gaza that was happening (and is still happening) while we were there. It is hard to understand how the rest of the country goes on while a war is happening not far away. It was on our way to Jerusalem, that we saw some tanks traveling north (as a preventative measure to protect those borders, we assume). We were also able to see Gaza way in the distance where we saw smoke rising. Regardless, we felt safe and knew that Isaac would not take us anywhere he felt would put us at risk.

We made a stop in the Valley of Elah on our way to Jerusalem where David fought Goliath. Dan was able to pick five stones from the same stream as David.

We then traveled into the West Bank briefly to go up to the top of a tower where we could overlook Jerusalem. The tower was used by the military in the 1940s and they have left some old tanks and jeeps there for kids to play. These girls had a good time giggling at the tourists. And, of course, Dan had to join in the fun.

We arrived at our hotel in Jerusalem and said goodbye to Isaac (who I’ve come to think of as the Israeli George Clooney). It was sad to say goodbye as we had come to appreciate his dry sense of humor and vast knowledge of the land.

Israel (Part 3)

The third day of the trip was one of my favorite days so I thought I’d go ahead and write this one. We arrived at Kibbutz Ginasor the night of second day and had a bonfire on the beach at the Sea of Galilee with a group from Ireland. Kibbutz were originally sort of like a commune and many of them are now hotels throughout Israel.

We woke up the next day and went to see “The Jesus Boat.” That is what they call it but they do not really know if Jesus actually road in this boat but it is from the first century. After this, we took our own little boat ride onto the Sea of Galilee. We stopped right in the middle of the sea (which is really about the size of a lake) and our tour guide, Isaac, pointed out Tiberias on one end of the sea and Bethsaida on the other. He said that between these two points, we were looking at where Jesus spent the majority of His ministry. We saw the Mount of the Beatitudes and the likely spot where He multiplied the fish and loaves. All this while we were in a boat on the water on which He walked. It was overwhelming and suddenly the stories I have heard all my life had a setting.

We got off the boat in Capernaum and saw Peter’s house there, where Jesus likely stayed, as well as a synagogue from the fourth century built on top of a first century synagogue in which Jesus taught. There were a lot of ruins uncovered in Capernaum; it was easy to imagine what it must have been like 2000 years ago.

From there, we went to the top of the Mount of the Beatitudes which now hosts a Catholic church. A little old nun came and shooed us away as their mass was beginning. We were able to see the hill on which Jesus taught and how he likely stood at the bottom and people sat on the incline of the hill. We were not able to do this but we are told that if someone stands at the bottom and talks in a normal tone, those all the way up the hill would be able to hear them easily.

Later that day, we went to Caesarea Philippi and Mt. Hermon (both quite near Syria and Lebanon). We closed our day with baptisms in the Jordan River. D, being the only “official” pastor on the trip, had the honor of baptizing some of our group members in the Jordan River.

The next day we headed to the ruins at Bet She’an. Of all the ruins we saw, this was the one where you were really able to see the most. So much had been uncovered. It was overwhelming as we walked up to see the large pillars, amphitheater and the main walkway through the middle of town. The shop floors and walkways were covered in intricate mosaics and marble. There was enough uncovered to let your mind fill in the missing pieces and Bet She’an must have been a pretty amazing place in its day before it was ruined by an earthquake.

On our way to Qumran, we stopped to look out over Jericho. Qumran is the location where many of the Dead Sea scrolls were found and it was home to the Essenes. The Essenes were a Jewish sect comprised of only men. Dan and I had a good time exploring Qumran:

After Qumran, we headed to the Dead Sea which D was greatly anticipating. It was not quite warm enough for me to be convinced to go for a “float” but Dan took full advantage of the experience. I served as the group photographer and ventured in up to my knees. I am quite glad I did not go any further because the water burned my (very sensitive) skin. We were told that German doctors write prescriptions for their patients with skin disorders to go to the Dead Sea. Not only is the water supposed to be great for your skin but because you so far below sea level, the ultraviolet rays cannot harm to you. No sunscreen necessary.

More to come….

Israel (Part 2)

Our second day touring Israel was the busiest. So here we go:


We started off in Tel Aviv looking at a tel (a mound of dirt that has ruins buried in it) of a Philistine village.

We saw an “industrial” wheat press and then a normal home style wheat press that the women would use to make wheat every day. An interesting fact to note: the skeletons that they found of women in those days had pretty much no knee caps because they spent their life on their knees making wheat. K was kind enough to demonstrate how it would work for a woman in those days even though she’s allergic to the stuff (not hard work, wheat).

We also saw the ruins of a Philistine temple. This is the same style of temple that Samson destroyed (Judges 16:29-30). You can see in the picture, the two central pillars are right next to each other, exactly as is recorded. However, Samson did this at a temple in Gaza and we decided not to go there this trip.

We traveled from Tel Aviv up north to Caesarea Maritima (by the Sea). This was a city built as a the major port along the Mediterranean Sea by Herod the Great (he was great because he built a lot and he killed a lot – including his own wife and some of his sons) This is where Peter ended up after his vision at Joppa. He met Cornelius, a centurion, who was the first Gentile Christian (Acts 10). A few other highlights:

Amphitheater overlooking Mediterranean Sea

Herod’s palace (where Paul was held and taught before being sent to Rome, Acts 23-25)

There are not many places where Pontius Pilate’s name is recorded in history. Therefore, many scholars argued that he never existed and helped prove the Bible is faulty. That is until they found the cornerstone of Herod’s palace and saw the engraving of Pontius Pilate’s name.

Herod built a massive dock that was an architectural masterpiece for its time. He had an outer dock and then an inner dock. This is a picture of the inner dock which is now dry land. This is where ships would have come to load and unload and where Paul most likely boarded a ship to head to Rome.

Finally, this this the aqueduct built by Herod to bring water 8 miles from a spring at the foot of Mt. Carmel to the port city.

We stopped for lunch at a village lived in by the Druze. They are an arab religious community that lives in Israel that believe in reincarnation and serve in the Israeli army. Our guide told us that, because of their belief in reincarnation, they are very good soldiers. I ate falafel for lunch and enjoyed it. In fact, I did not eat one cheeseburger the entire trip. Very impressive for me.

After lunch we headed to Mt. Carmel. This is where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to a competition between their gods and God. God won (1 Kings 18).

This is me being Elijah and mocking the prophets of Baal.

K and I on top of Mt. Carmel

After that we traveled to Megiddo. It was one of the 3 strong chariot towns built by King Solomon. It is located at a strategic location for travel. On one side are the hills of Samaria and on the other is Mt. Carmel. Megiddo is the passage way through. Also, this looks out over the Jezreel Valley, otherwise knowns as the valley of Armageddon. Standing on the hill of Megiddo looking over the Armageddon Valley our guide pointed out the location of about 10 biblical stories in a minute to us. It was unbelievable and happened so fast that I didn’t get a chance to write any of them down.

Here is a manger located at Megiddo near where the stables would have been for horses and chariots. This is actually the type of manger Jesus would have been laid in when born, not some nice looking wood structure.

King Ahab had this tunnel built to get to a spring for water. To get to a water source at Megiddo you had to go down a hill to the spring. If you were under attack, walking down an exposed hill is not very safe. So King Ahab had this tunnel built and blocked up the other entrance at the foot of the hill so they could safely go and get water.

After driving through the Armageddon Valley we stopped by the city of Nazareth, Jesus hometown. It’s a big city now, but it was a tiny non-important town when Jesus was growing up.

This is Mount Precipice at the edge of Nazareth. There are two interesting things about this place. One, tradition says that this is where the crowd took Jesus when they wanted to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:16-30). Don’t worry, they didn’t throw him off. You can see the steepness of the cliff in the picture. Two, it’s amazing to think about the fact that Jesus grows up in a city overlooking the Armageddon Valley and all the Old Testament stories that happened right around there.

After this we drove through Cana (the place of Jesus first miracle – water to wine – in John 2) and ended up at Kibutz Ginosar, where our hotel was located, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was an unbelievably overwhelming day. I had a few minutes to reflect on everything standing on top of Mount Precipice and the main feeling I had was one of wonder. This day alone was worth the price of the trip. It took the black and white of reading my Bible and added color to every aspect of it.

Israel (Part 1)

We’ve been back for almost a week now and I think K has finally stopped waking up at four in the morning. For some reason, both in Israel and then back here, I never had a problem sleeping. It’s a gift.

Anyways, both K and I were completely blown away by our trip to Israel. Not by the war going on there, but by how amazing of a place Israel is. In reality, we felt completely safe almost the entire time we were there. A few moments left us feeling a bit nervous, but that makes it more fun.

We left on New Years Day and took an eight hour flight to Frankfurt and then a four hour flight from there to Tel Aviv. K, who does not particularly enjoy flying, did great. We landed in Tel Aviv in the evening of January 2nd and immediately checked out Joppa.

Two important things about Joppa:

1) Jonah leaves from Joppa in his disobedience to God. It doesn’t go well.

2) Peter is staying in Joppa (at Simon the Tanner’s house) when he has his vision in Acts 10. Tradition has it that Simon the Tanner’s house is located down that little alley. Tradition said a lot of things about specific locations on this trip. However, Simon the Tanner’s house was located somewhere close to this location. This is true with every other “tradition location.” It may not be the exact spot, but it is close to where a biblical event went down.

That night we spent some time walking on the beach of the Mediterranean Sea. I stuck my hand in just so I could say that on this trip I was in the Mediterranean, Sea of Galilee, Jordan River, and Dead Sea.

The next day was the busiest day we had all trip. It deserves its own post.

We’re Back!

We arrived home on Saturday night from Israel. It was a long, long day of traveling and we are still adjusting to the time zone (well, at least I am…D seems to be able to sleep anywhere). We took over 1,200 pictures but I will just leave you with this one for now.

More thoughts and pictures to come…

Happy New Year!!!

We are celebrating the new year by taking off to Israel. We’ll be leaving today and will be back on the 10th. The trip should be amazing and we’ll definitely have pictures when we get back. Right now, K is not looking forward to the 12 hours of flying we have ahead of us. But after we survive that, it’s going to be great.

Happy New Year to everyone!!!