Panoramas from Israel

On our trip to Israel I took around 2000 photos. Most all of them are available to view and download from Flickr. I also took different series of photos that I would later stich into panoramic pictures. I have been working on this project for the past couple of days and you can see 10 different panoramic shots from the Holy Land.

You can click on the pictures below to see larger versions or follow this link to the whole set on Flickr with the original sized images.

See the rest of the panoramas here.


After being back for awhile I thought I would post some non "jet-lag-induced" thoughts on the trip. It's an interesting phenomena that one tends to go through after a mountain top experience. There is this weird feeling of sadness, joy, relief, longing, and unexplained feelings all wrapped into one. I am so glad to be home and to see my family. (I think Mia doubled her vocabulary and now I'm trying to catch up...) But I also have an ache for the land that we were just in. It reminds me a lot of when I was younger and I would spend the night at a friends house. We would stay up late having a ball, laughing our heads off, doing things we didn't normally do, and having the time of our life. And when I had to go home the next day I always was a bit cranky, and really sad that my fun time was over. I wouldn't say I'm cranky but I am sad that our trip is over. I will probably never see most of the people on the trip again. (Until we meet at the East Gate.) So, we will wait until then. Good thing there's this newfangled thang called email and the internet...

In church Sunday morning we were singing the song "Lord I Lift Your Name on High" and during the chorus I had all of these images coming to my mind. "You came from heaven to earth", I could picture the Valley of the Shepherds, "From the cross to the grave" I could clearly see Golgatha and the Garden Tomb, "From the grave to the sky" The Mt. of Olives was burned into my mind.

I've been reading through the book of Hebrews for my devotions and never has chapter 10 been so clear. Those of you who were on the trip, read through it and remember all the emphasis put on being ceremonialy clean. All throughout the Bible there is verse after verse which talks about being, "clean","washed","pure","holy","sanctified", and so on. And until I saw for myself the hundreds of ritual baths at the temple, the mitkvah in Korazim, and all the other things the Israelites would do to be "ceremonially clean" I would have never had the experiential understanding of what it was Christ came to do.

Our youth group watched a video on Wednesday night that featured Louis Giglio at the Passion 05 conference. His main area of emphasis was that we who have trusted Christ are not "sinners" anymore. We're not "sinners saved by grace" (emphasis on "sinners.") We are "holy ones" who choose to sin. When God sees us, He sees us as holy because of Christ. There is no longer any reason to perform ceremonial cleansing rituals.

That is just one example of how this trip will impact my reading and teaching of the Bible.

Thanks Dad.

The Ride Home

Whew! We made it. The posts have not been as consistent due to a sketchy internet connection. The past 2 days were spent in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. By this point everything is starting to blend together and I am dreaming of rocks, rocks, and more rocks. Oh, and olive trees too... The shepherds field in Bethlehem was very neat because it gave an overview of the hills and valleys. It was very easy to imagine the shepherds watching the sheep on that dark still night and being freaked out of their minds when the angel shows up. But how awesome of a sight it must have been to see the hills around be filled with the light and sound of the heavenly host. Like everything else it was a surreal experience to be there and to imagine what it must have been like.

Josh on the Temple MountThe days we have spent in Jerusalem have been incredible. Yesterday we actually got to go onto the Temple Mount. I never thought we would get that close to the Temple Mount let alone actually be on it. You have to have a good imagination to go on a trip like this and I like to think that I have one. It was very cool to think that the Dome of the Rock will be replaced by another Temple someday - maybe soon...

We also visited the Temple Institute where they are preparing the items that will be used in the next Temple. This place had a very cool yet erie feeling about it. It was cool because we got to see the future right in front of our eyes yet erie because the Anti-Christ will be using this stuff as well. Very weird and exciting all at the same time.

We are headed home today and we ended the tour at the Garden Tomb. Our guide for the tomb was an English chap and was very good at his job. The Garden Tomb was a beautiful place and from the evidence that was presented could very well be the place of the crucifixion and burial of Christ. We'll never know for know, but I would like to believe that it was there. How many surreal and exciting experiences can I have on this trip? Chalk up one more.

What an experience. I need to go back, and all of you that have not been there need to go. It was a life and ministry changing trip. My reading and teaching of the Bible will be forever impacted.

The Days are Running Together

Normally when I go on trips I can't wait to get back to my own bed. The hotel beds are not that comfortable. I can't really say that this trip. The beds have been awesome! But its not that the beds are different, I am just so tired that I probably could sleep on top of a wall covered in broken glass. This is all a good thing because it means we are staying busy during the day and not lounging around the pool. We were in Jerusalem yesterday and in the desert today. There are some that would find this tour incredibly boring, but I can't get enough. We were in so many exciting places yesterday it was completely overwhelming. We saw the temple mount for the first time and took in the view of the city of Jerusalem. It is so much more mountainous than I ever thought. Those people had to be in pretty good shape back then...We then walked down the Mt. of Olives and visited the Garden of Gethsemane. It doesn't look at all like what it did in Jesus' day, but there were other olive groves around that would have.

Even though we had the opportunity to wade through the water in Hezekiah's tunnel visit the Wailing Wall and explore under the Western Wall though the secret passages, none of them compared to the location many believe was the residence of Caiaphas the High Priest. We saw a prison that Jesus may have spent his last night before going to the cross which was incredibly sobering, but then we also saw the place where he might have been tried and where Peter denied him. We don't normally have time to mediate by ourselves at the different sites but this time we did, and I was overcome by the reality of what happened there and was incredibly challenged to stand up for my faith.

Me in the Dead SeaToday we traveled to the fortress of Masada, a place I really didn't know much about. I do know that there was a mini-series made back in 1981 about it that I would now like to see. The place was amazing. The day was capped of by floating in the Dead Sea, experiencing the Dead Sea in my eyes, and cutting my leg on a rock in the Dead Sea. By the way the Dead Sea is 30% salt...salt stings...

But the Dead Sea and it's mud is very good for your skin. So right now mine is as smooth as a baby's bum. I'll leave you with that thought.

Back to the Future

It is an interesting thing to look on a valley where there has been so much history yet the greatest history has yet to happen. We visited the Jezreel Valley today where the battle of Armageddon will be fought. Looking down upon it, it is easy to see why so many battles have been fought here. A major highway has run through that valley for thousands of years. And whoever controls the valley controls the trade. if you look on a world map east, west, north and south collide right in that particular spot. Like so many other things this trip it was a very surreal feeling to know that one day we will be here again, but with Christ. Before that we had an awesome sunrise service on the Sea of Galilee. How cool would it be to have church there every week? I think the lake needs a church plant

We also visited Mt. Carmel and were reminded about the glorious victory Elijah had over the prophets of Baal.

Aquaduct at Caesarea Maritima IsraelThe day ended with a trip to Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast. I can't even begin to imagine how beautiful of a city this must have been. Even in its ruins it is still beautiful. This was accentuated by two couples having wedding photos taken there. We were fortunate enough to catch the sun setting so I got some pretty good shots.

Tonight we will be in our final stop for the trip - Jerusalem.

Walking in His Steps

It seems like each day keeps getting better. And today was no exception. I have made a lot of new friends on this trip. There are 46 of us in our tour group and we are growing closer each day which is a really cool thing. One of the people I have become friends with had a great observation about our trip. We've seen the most incredible things that man has made in the Pyramids of Giza and the Rose City in Petra, yet they don't compare with some crumbled down walls and the ruins of a simple town synagogue. The answer lies in the Person of Jesus Christ. These ruins we are visiting wouldn't mean anything without Him and they force us to think about Him and His glory. It has been such a fantastic spiritual high to be in this land. From the minute we crossed the border I had a very warm and comforting feeling of welcome. This is as much my spiritual birthplace as it is for the citizens of Israel. There is a bond that can't be explained in words only experienced.

Capernaum, IsraelWe were in several sites today but the best by far was the vist to Capernaum. This was the base of Jesus' earthly ministry. Since he wasn't welcome in his own home town he set up his base of operations in this small seaside village. Peter lived here with his mother in law. We were able to see Peter's house and it was easy to see why Jesus would pick this spot. It was on a major highway, Peter's house was the perfect size for a hostel and it was close to nearby towns where Jesus could minister to. Being in the synagogue where Jesus taught the people was an incredible experience to say the least. I stayed back outside around the corner of the wall where I could hear people talking and just imagined that it was Christ teaching his disciples. Unbelievable.

Tomorrow we are having a sunrise service on a boat on the Sea of Galilee and then heading for Jerusalem. More great things are to come - I am sure.

The View of the Promise Land

We left Jordan today en route to the Sea of Galilee. We stopped at a Greek Orthodox church to see the oldest existing map of the Holy Land. It was a mosaic laid into the floor around 600 a.d. I wore sandals today and ending up taking them off as the walk was mostly uphill. Mt. Nebo, JordanThe next stop took us to Mt. Nebo where Moses saw the Promise Land that he could not enter and died. It was a spectacular view and would have been even more so except for the haze. From the top of the mountain we could clearly see the Jordan river valley, the city of Jericho, and the Jordan river flowing into the Dead Sea.

We are in the city of Tiberius tonight. We will be staying in the same hotel for 3 straight nights! It will be nice not to have to repack everything after just one night.

I am coming to you live from McDonalds! All the hotels in the downtown area either didn't have a wireless connection or you had to pay for it. So I finally found some free wifi at McDonalds...I'm lovin' it.

Highlight of the day: Seeing what Moses saw from Mt. Nebo. Lowlight of the day: Spewing chocolate on myself while attempting to talk. Wacky item of the day: Having luggage cart races around the parking lot of the Jordan Israel border while waiting for our passports to be processed. We tried to get Dr. John and Dr. Schmidt to participate but they declined. Quote of the day: "We like to put the 'fun' back in fundamentalism."

Tomorrow we walk where Christ walked! Awesome!

Petra Rocks

We crossed the border into Jordan today. We are only a couple hundred miles from Iraq. That is a Petra, Jordansobering thought, and as Dr. John said "I have never felt so far from home." In spite of that, I had the best experience of the tour yet. We had the opportunity to tour the ancient city of Petra. I wasn't sure what to expect. All I knew is that there was one incredible sculpture carved into the rock that was featured as the resting place of the Holy Grail in the last Indiana Jones movie. What I didn't realize is that is was an entire city carved into the rock. I think I was more in awe of Petra than I was at the pyramids. The sheerness of the cliffs and the fine detail of the stone work was absolutely stunning. I would have never imagined something like this existed. Words and still photos will never do it justice. You have to walk down the canyon under the arching ancient rocks, see the Byzantine columns carved in perfect detail stretching over 50 ft high. You need to run up the stairs of the 3000 person amphitheater carved into the side of the mountain. It is really unexplainable and one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

Short story of the day: It actually happened last night, but Joe was buying a pair of sunglasses from a street vendor, and the vendor remarked "I have only one pair that fit your big head. It looks like an orange on a toothpick..." Okay I made that last phrase up, but he did say he had a big head.

Highlight of the day: Walking through the canyon and seeing the temple carved in the rock.

Lowlight of the day: Paying $4 for an 8oz can of Pepsi.

Tip of the day: Always ask how much something is before you order it.

You've been great, I'm outa here.

Wandering in the Wilderness

Today began with an early wake up call at 4 am... I'm not sure if I woke up or ever went to sleep. Cairo and Egypt was a whirlwind or should I say a sandstorm? Something you don't think about or at least I never have was how to clean a building after a sandstorm. I noticed that the buildings and the streets and pretty much everything was very dirty and dusty. I guess when you live in the desert, it's kind of hard to keep all the sand out. And when it doesn't rain, it's kind of hard to clean it out. So they do the best they can. Driving out of Cairo this morning was a breeze however. I didn't expect a city of that size (18 million) to have a real down time, but there were very few people and cars on the street early in the morning.

We rode the bus for most of the day until we got to Israel. The desert of Sinai is over 27,000 square km so it's not hard to see how the Children of Israel could wander for 40 years. It was pretty boring until we got close to the coast when the mountains just shot up and were very sheer and rocky. They are very comparable to the Rocky Mountains but without all the green stuff. There were no trees or plants and very few shrubs. Just a lot of rocks and sand.

We crossed the border without any major problems. Single guys tended to get selected for more security screening. There were also mostly women at the border patrol - even the guards on top of the hill were women. Since all people are required to serve in the Israeli army border checkpoints tend to be a place where women serve due to low risk of fighting.

The Red SeaOnce we crossed into Israel we were in the resort town of Elat. We were able to go to the Underwater Observatory where there is an incredible coral reef and thousands of fish and other sea creatures. The observatory has a lot of windows underwater right on the reef so there are some really cool shots.

We have tonight free. Not sure what we're doing but I'm sure I'll be relaxing.

Todays fun fact: Hitting a camel is a lot bigger deal than hitting a car. The highlight of the day: Nearly losing my lunch on the moving/shaking/jerking IMAX underwater experience The lowlight of the day: Saying goodbye to Arab Lucas Bair. Tip of the day: Don't mention the word bomb at an Israeli checkpoint. (not that anyone did - just a good thing to remember...)


2.5 Million and Counting

The first full day of sightseeing was a wonder to behold-literally. Of the seven wonders of the ancient world, only one is still surviving - The Pyramids of Giza. They are a lot closer to the city then I expected. We had maybe driven 15 minutes from our hotel and I happened to look out the window and bam-there they were. It was very surreal at first. I had seen pictures of these things countless times in books and movies yet there they were larger than life. Dad and Sphinx in EgyptThe biggest one has over 2.5 million stones and each stone weighs between 1-2 tons. That's a big enchilada. We were also able to climb on the pyramids - something I would have never imagined possible. You can also go inside. We did and for about 300 yards you walk up and down ramps bending almost completely over. If you have any type of claustrophobia this would not be for you. The tunnel finally opened into a large room approximately 50 feet long by 20 feet wide by 30 feet high. Not a big deal until you realize it was carved from a single stone. There was a sarcophagus near the end that I had to lay down in of course. It was a perfect fit. Now I just have to worry about The Rock or some other mummy coming after me for sleeping in his bed...

Today's fun fact You could fill your car with a tank of gas for around $5... Who wants a stuffed camel for a souvenir when you could bring home some cheap gas?

The highlight of the day: Seeing the pyramids in person and riding a camel (careful they spit...)

The lowlight of the day: Paying a dollar for a warm Coke.

Tip of the day: Watch your step, camels don't wear those fancy bags on their behinds like horses do...

What tomorrow brings: A trip under the Suez Canal, across the Sinai and into the resort town of Elat (the Las Vegas of Israel). Shalom!