Sunday, June 24, 2012


All in all this was an amazing trip.  I can't express in this blog everything we experienced, but all I can say is I can't wait to go back!  It was well planned, researched, and we were blessed with an awesome tour guide.  Most importantly we had an amazing group of students and professor who made this trip especially special.  We covered a lot of area and saw pretty much all the sites we wanted to see.  I learned a lot on this trip and would recommend it to everyone of all religions.  Additionally, it was important to my Christian faith to see the sites mentioned in The Bible and to think I was walking in the land Jesus walked.  I hope my readers enjoy my posts!
Side note: YOGIO = a term we coined, which means You Only Go To Israel Once!  It was our saying throughout the trip!


Our last few days we spent touring the Old City of Jerusalem.  When we first drove into the new part of Jerusalem where our hotel was, I was impressed by how beautiful the city was.  It was very modern as opposed to the Old City.  When we first arrived in the Old City of Jerusalem we went to the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, which is a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage.  The wall is the last remaining wall of the second temple that was destroyed in the year 70 by the Romans and is at the foot of the Temple Mount on the west side.  This wall was present during Jesus's time.  It is one of the most scared sites for the Jewish religion.  I was able to go up to the wall and put a prayer in between the stones.  There was a wall separating the males from the females.
Background on Judaism 
Judaism is one of the oldest monotheistic religions in the world. Followers of Judaism are often referred to as Jews (or Jewish), Hebrews, or Israelites. Judaism traces its origins back to Abraham and his son Isaac. Jews believe themselves to have a special relationship with God, being with Abraham. After revealing Himself to Abraham, God would rescue them from slavery in Egypt and reveal to them the Ten Commandments as well as other laws and guidelines (the Tanakh) that comprise the Jewish faith. There are several movements within Judaism: Orthodox Judaism, Conservative Judaism, and Reform Judaism. Orthodox Judaism is characterized by a strict adherence to the Jewish Law, while Reform Judaism regard the Law as more of a guideline than an obligation, with Conservative Judaism occupying the space in between the two movements. Regardless of movement,  the most important aspect of Judaism is the recognition of the oneness and singularity of God. Judaism counts about 13 million people among its followers, with most living in the nation of Israel, the United States, and Europe.

Next, we went to the Temple Mount, one of the most important religious sites in the Old City.  This wasn't a for sure place to visit on our agenda, but I am so glad we were able to go.  It was a beautiful site to see, as well as it having a good view of the Mount of Olives.  The Temple Mount is the site of the Al Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.  The Al Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam.  Muslims believe that Muhammad traveled from a mosque in Mecca to Al Aqsa.  The Dome of the Rock is a shrine and the importance is because of the Foundation Stone, which is believed to be the location of the Holy of Holies and where the inside of the temple was.  
Background on Islam
Islam is a monotheistic faith in the same Abrahamic tradition as Judaism and Christianity. Whereas Jews and Christians trace their faith back through Abrahams son Isaac, Islam is believed to follow a lineage back to Abraham’s son Ishmael. Individual adherents of this faith are known as Muslims. In Arabic, the word Islam means ”surrender” while Muslim can be translated as “one who surrenders or submits”, this reflects the followers recognition of the perfection of God (Allah in Arabic) and their love for Him. The holy book of Islam is the Quran, which Muslims believe to be the literal word of God, verbally revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel. In Islam, Muhammad is considered to be the last in the line of Prophets of God that includes Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus among others. Keeping with this idea, Muslims believe Islam to be the restoration of the original monotheistic faith of the Prophets discussed above. In practice, Muslims adhere to the Five Pillars of Islam which are: Testimony of faith (Shahada), Daily prayer(Salah), almsgiving(zakat), Fasting during Ramadan(sawm) and the pilgrimage to Mecca(hajj). Much like the other Abrahamic Religions, Islam can be partitioned into different denominations. The two largest of these sects are the Sunni and Shia, with the majority of Muslims following the Sunni traditions. With over one billion followers, Islam is the second largest religion in the world and is also one of the fastest growing faiths. 

Pictures by Chloe Cooper 

Saturday, June 23, 2012


After a fun filled day riding camels, visiting Masada, and floating in The Dead Sea, we had a relaxing, slow day and visited Bethlehem.  More specifically, we went to the Church of the Shepherd's Field and the Church of the Nativity.  Both places were very important places to me and my faith and I was excited to visit them.  The Shepherd's Field is the field where the shepherds watched their flock and the angel proclaimed the birth of Jesus, according to the Gospel of Luke.  The exact location is unclear because of the multiple locations archaeologists have pinpointed as the Shepherd's Field.  There are three possible locations, all of which have a church placed on the location.  The modern town of the angel's visit is believed to be  Beit Sahur, a Palestinian town.  Nearby, is a field known as the Field of Ruth, in which belonged to Boaz. The book of Ruth is in the Old Testament and shows an example of  the Godly woman that Ruth was.  The Church of the Nativity, in Bethlehem, is where they believed Jesus Christ was born according to Matthew and Luke.  Evidence for this comes from the scholar Justin Martyr in 160 AD who wrote about Jesus being born in Bethlehem in a cave, as well as, Origen and Eusebius in the 3rd century.  This site was busy because of it being a major holy site for Christians.  Additionally, it is one of the oldest surviving Christian churches from the time of Byzantine rule.

Luke 2:8-10

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.

The Birth of Jesus

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah,the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Photos by Aaron Harrison and Chloe Cooper
Info from and 

The Dead Sea

After visiting Masada, we went to The Dead Sea., which borders Israel and Jordan.  This was a part of the trip we all had been looking forward to and it was a nice change of pace.  We spent a couple hours there and enjoyed some nice rest and relaxation.  We were able to float and give ourselves a spa treatment by covering ourselves in The Dead Sea mud.  The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth, exactly 417 meters below sea level and has the highest salt content (340 grams per liter of water).  It is called The Dead Sea because no life exists, however, recently, scientists may have found a bacteria and are further researching this possible discovery.  Our tour guide talked about how the amount of water that evaporates outweighs the amount that flows into the water, which means they believe that in approximately thirty years The Dead Sea will no longer exist.  He mentioned that the government is thinking up a plan to prevent this from happening.  

Friday, June 22, 2012


One of my favorite places we visited was the fortress,Masada,because the view was spectacular and the history behind it was interesting.  From the top of the plateau we could see for miles and miles.  In our range of view was the Dead Sea and the beautiful mountains of Jordan.  Some believe that Masada was built by Jonathan the High Priest.  Josephus,who was a first century scholar, wrote about Masada and said that Masada was King Herod's safe haven.  King Herod realized the advantages of Masada because of its location on the plateau, but eventually that wouldn't keep Masada from its fall against the Romans.   According to the brochure, written by Guy Stiebel, "The camps, fortifications, and assault ramp at its base constitute the most complete surviving ancient Roman siege system in the world."  However, the fall of Masada, because of the rebels in the first century,led to many deaths and the destruction of the Kingdom of Judea.

Photos by Aaron Harrison and Chloe Cooper
Info from the brochure from Masada, written by Guy Stiebel 

Garden of Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemane is located at the bottom of Mount Olives, across the Kidron valley..  It is the garden that Jesus prayed with his disciples before He was arrested.  The word gethsemane means "oil press" and they believe during Jesus's time an oil press was near the garden  The Garden of Gethsemane is mentioned in Matthew and Mark, however in John, it is just referred to as the garden.  Jesus was said to have frequently gone there to pray.  Our tour guide mentioned that the garden is a popular pilgrimage site because of the significance of it being the place Jesus was betrayed and arrested before He was crucified.   When we got to the garden I was amazed that it was just what I had visualized in my head while reading about it in the Bible.  Our tour guide also mentioned that the tree's may be the same ones from when Jesus came to the garden.  The nearby church, The Church of all Nations, depicts Jesus's last hours before He was crucified and is said to be the location where Jesus prayed before he was arrested.  The verse below is an extremely powerful depiction the emotion Jesus was going through before being His crucifixion.

Luke 22:39-44: Jesus Prays on the Mount of Olives

39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.[a]

Photos by Aaron Harrison
Info from

Mount of Olives

We ended our day with a trip to the Mount of Olives, east of  the Old City of Jerusalem.   This was the first time we saw Jerusalem as well.  The view was spectacular, but the idea of overlooking Jerusalem as Jesus had, was even more meaningful.  Where we stood was the same area Jesus stood when he made prophesies about Jerusalem. The Mount of Olives was one of the most emotion moving places we visited.  To think that 2,000 years before, Jesus was standing on the ground I was standing.  The site is a place of many Christian and Jewish traditions.  For instance, Jesus's prophecy that Jerusalem would be destroyed, after Passover Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane, after the arrest Jesus wept, and Jesus's ascent to Heaven after the crucifixion.  The Dome of the Ascension is where they believe the spot where Jesus ascended to be.  It was made into a mosque after it was captured by Saladin in 1187. There are four places in the Bible where the Mount of Olives were mentioned that I felt were relevant to post.  The first one being a prophesy about the day when the Lord comes and Jerusalem being destroyed and divided.  The second one mentions King David wept on the Mount of Olives and later on we see that Jesus wept there as well.  The third one is Jesus's entrance into the city of Jerusalem.  Lastly, is Jesus telling his disciples the signs of the end of the age.

Zechariah 14: The Lord Comes and Reigns

14 A day of the Lord is coming, Jerusalem, when your possessions will be plundered and divided up within your very walls.I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake[a] in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.

2 Samuel 15:30

30 But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up.

Matthew 21: Jesus Comes to Jerusalem as King

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.”This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: “Say to Daughter Zion" ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”[aThe disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloak son the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,“Hosanna[b] to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”[c“Hosanna[d] in the highest heaven!”10 When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” 11 The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”
Matthew 24:3-10

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come.Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

Photos by Aaron Harrison and Chloe Cooper
Info from