Bill and I have wanted to visit the Holy Land for a long time, so when our pastor announced he was going to take a group to Israel, we jumped at the chance. We knew this was going to be a Bible based itinerary since our pastor had made nine previous trips to the area and knew the best guides and important places to visit.
We had been on a previous bus tour of Europe and knew all too well how tiring it could be; getting up very early, packing and unpacking when changing hotels, becoming accustomed to different food, and most importantly the seven hour time difference. So to help with the adjustment, several weeks before the trip we began to slowly adjust our schedule to Israel time. By the day of the trip, we were getting up at 2:00 A.M. with breakfast at 2:30 A.M., lunch at 8:00 A.M., dinner at 12:00 P.M. and bedtime at 5:00 P.M. I think it really helped us adjust when we got to Israel.
On March 20th we left the church parking lot by bus for the trip to the Orlando airport. We had 100 people, along with our pastor, so two buses were needed. We flew from Orlando to Frankfurt, Germany (9 hour flight) where we had a 4 hour layover before our 4 hour flight from Frankfurt to Tel Aviv, Israel.
We arrived in Tel Aviv at 7:15 P.M. on March 21st. We had lost a day due to the time difference and long flight. After collecting our luggage and going through passport control, we were divided into two groups and met our guides for the week. Our guide, Mike, led us through the airport to a waiting bus for the trip to Netanya where we stayed for one night. We arrived at the hotel at 10:00 P.M. and the hotel staff had thoughtfully kept the dining room open for us with an impressive buffet. Everyone was really hungry since the food we had received on our two flights was, everyone agreed, beyond terrible.
We had a 6:00 A.M. wakeup call (we were really glad we had prepared ahead for the time change) followed by breakfast at 6:30 and all aboard the bus at 7:15 with our luggage. People were dragging after the long flights and seven hour time change. Our guide, Mike, would often say each morning during the trip, “Wake Up America!!! You can sleep when you get home!” Mike is from Israel, a Christian, has done many of these trips for our pastor and has visited our church in The Village with his family. We were absolutely amazed at the amount of knowledge Mike has about the Bible, the history of Christianity and lots of Israel history.
Mike’s brother Mick was the guide for the other bus (50 people on each bus). Along with our pastor, Harold Hendren, we also had pastor Don Piper, author of the New York Times bestselling book “Ninety Minutes in Heaven“. I highly recommend you read his book. Our pastor is a very good friend of Don Piper and they have done this trip together many times. The two pastors took turns sitting on the buses each day so we always had a pastor to do devotions and read scriptures.
By the way, since Israel is 73% Jewish, 18% Muslim and only 2% Christian, it became painfully obvious to some people at breakfast that there would be no bacon, sausage or ham at breakfast or any meal for the duration of the trip. Also, according to kosher tradition, any food categorized as meat may never be served or eaten at the same meal as a dairy product. This was evident at various meals as people looked for butter and milk.
We left our hotel, on the Mediterranean Sea, in Netanya, noticing that roundabouts are popular in Israel just like in The Villages.
Our first stop was Caesarea National Park located right off the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and considered one of Israel’s great archeological treasures.
Caesarea was a gift to Herod the Great from Augustus Caesar in 30 B.C. Herod constructed a new city here from 22-10 B.C. The Roman amphitheater seated 4,000 people and is where the Caesarea citizens (estimated at 40,000) were entertained. Except for the original first row, most of the seats have been restored. Today the theater is used for concerts.
Pontius Pilate resided here and his name was found inscribed on excavated stones of the theater. The inscription is one of the few physical pieces of evidence of Pilate’s existence other than the Bible.
It was here in Caesarea that Apostle Peter became convinced of the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah that God would make of them a nation, give them land, and through them the Gentiles would be blessed by coming to know the world’s only true God (Genesis 12:1-3). Christianity as a religion of Jews and Gentiles, the God of Abraham and Sarah, started in Caesarea.
Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea is the remains of a large oval amphitheater where Herod held celebratory games and chariot races.
We were surprised that we were allowed to walk on the remains of the beautiful mosaic tiled floors.
I thought they would have been roped off to preservation.
Located here is the prison of Caesarea where it is believed Paul was tried and imprisoned for two years according to the New Testament.
Nearby are aqueducts that provided water to the expanding city of Caesarea. The aqueducts originally reached five miles with 3 water channels on top of it and were later extended.
Next up: Tel Megiddo National Park, Mount of Precipice and our baptism/re-dedication