Saturday, May 31, 2008

The Temple Mount

Yesterday we went to the archeological park in Jerusalem, which contains the Temple Mount of Jesus' time. It was unearthed as recently as the 1970's. The Temple was constructed by Herod, who was half Jewish by heritage. The building is a monumental structure, massive even by todays standards. The majority of the stones used to construct the Temple are believed to be even larger than those that were used to construct the pyramids. When the Roman's destroyed Jerusalem around 70 A.D. to eradicate the Jewish rebellion, they actually left a portion(the portion we see today) standing to show the rest of the world what a mighty civilization they had destroyed. The rest of the Temple complex and the city was demolished, fulfilling Jesus' prophecy in Matthew 24:2.
Vern preparing to teach our lesson on the steps of the Temple Mount.
Jesus is believed to have taught his sermon in Matthew 23 from these steps. There is also speculation that the Pentecost sermon, and some of Paul's teaching took place here.
Note the view from the Temple Mount. It was located at one of the highest points within Jerusalem, a common practice at the time for a place of worship. It looks directly down to the City of David. In verse 4 of Matthew 23, Jesus refers to people being crushed with impossible burdens while the pharisee's do not lift a finger to help them. This was probably a reference to the people who would have been carrying water up to the Temple Mount from the City of David(because the pharisee's declared that the only water they could use to purify themselves had to come from the Pool of Siloam in the City of David.). This would have been a very difficult task(I can attest to the steepness and difficulty of the climb from the City of David to the Temple Mount). Later in Chapter 23, in verse 25, Jesus makes reference to the bowl shape of Jerusalem, which is easily distinguishable from the Temple Mount.Road the Jesus likely took en route to the Temple. Note that even the stones in the road were destroyed by the Romans, again fulfilling Jesus prophecy in Matthew 24:2. Interesting to note: The Romans were meticulous when it came to destroying a civilization. The city of Jerusalem consisted of many limestone structures. The Romans set fire to the city(more difficult than you would think, considering that the city was made of stone), by stuffing the cracks in the stone with wood and piling wood around the structures. When they set fire to the wood, it heated up the water inside of the limestone, causing it to explode. Ingenius.
Biblical geography is fun!
We will be traveling for the next four days to Cesearea, Nazereth, The Sea of Galilee, Mt. Carmel, the Meggido Valley, and a couple other sites that I can not remember off the top of my head. We won't have internet access, so I won't be posting until we return.

Leave comments for us to come back too!


Friday, May 30, 2008

A few pictures...

View of Jerusalem from the South. It may not come through very well in the picture, but try to note the geography of the city that you can see in this picture. The mountains and valleys surrounding the city create a bowl shaped valley in which the city rests.
The New City Walls, built in the 1400's.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of Jesus crucifixion and burial.
Hanging out on a rooftop, in all likelihood getting a lesson on something or the other.
Studying notes from the earlier days Bible history/geography lesson.
Barrier that divides seperates Jerusalem from the West Bank. The City of David, which sits in the very center of the valley in the middle of Jerusalem. Wading through Hezekiah's Tunnel. It was built by Hezekiah during the invasion of the Assyrian's to keep the city supplied with water. The tunnel funneled water from a spring outside the city into a pool, which would become known as the Pool of Siloam(note the name of the pool for later). Biblical accounts of Hezekiah's Tunnel can be found in 2 Chronicles 32, Nehemiah 3:8 and Isaiah 22:9-11.
Zion Gate. Note the bullet marks.I will try to post some more pictures and another musing on some of the things we are learning tomorrow.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Hello all!

We arrived in Israel in the evening, day before yesterday. Fortunately, we have had a fairly easy time adjusting to the time difference here (we are 8 hours ahead of you all back in the Central Time Zone). We were able to wake up the morning after arriving feeling, for the most part, refreshed and ready to go. We jumped right into our first day with an hour long lesson (taught by our host and learned scholar, Vernon Alexander) on the geography of the city of Jerusalem and how that informs the way we read the scriptures. Among the highlights of our lesson:

The city of Jerusalem is comprised of a bowl shape, surrounded by three valleys. These are surrounded by mountains, which protect Jerusalem from the desert winds and allow it to be inhabitable. See 2 Kings 21:13 for a poetic description of how God would punish the inhabitants of Jerusalem by "wiping the dish". Picture turning a bowl upside down and wiping it clean while reading the passage. Also see Psalm 125. In verse 2, David speaks of how God protects His people by surrounding them "Just as the mountains surround Israel". While viewing Jerusalem nestled in the center of the valleys and mountains, it is easy to invoke the imagery of God surrounding His people with a protective embrace. David ends the psalm by saying "Pray for peace in Jerusalem." Still a timely prayer!

Ancient maps were written facing East i.e. the Orient. Hence the term "to get oriented".

Much more was covered, but for the sake of the length of this post I will leave off there. Let it suffice to say that being able to picture the imagery of scripture while reading can entirely change the meaning of some passages.

Other sites visited yesterday:

Jerusalem University College (The university that our hosts attend and work at. It used to be an Israeli outpost in Jordan until the area around was annexed following one of the wars.)
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Oral tradition and archeology actually substantiate that this was the site of Jesus crucifixion and burial. An amazing and powerful site to visit.)
Some of the Old City of Jerusalem
The Upper Room (Also fairly substantiated)
David's Tomb (Not substantiated at all)
The Broad Wall (The wall built under the rule of Hezekiah to protect the people of Israel from the impending invasion of Assyria. For scriptural reference see 2 Chronicles 32 and Nehemiah 3.)

Of course, this is just the broad overview. We will probably go back and spend some more time at some of the sites. The apartment we are staying in for the next month is roughly a 20 minute walk from the Old City :)

I apologize for the absence of any pictures. We were unable to get internet at the apartment this morning and this post is being written from a computer at the JUC. I will try to post some later.

Alexander and Katie

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

We have arrived...

We are in Jerusalem. It has been a long couple of days and is night time here (3 in the afternoon for you folks back home), so we are crashing. Will type again soon.


Monday, May 26, 2008


We have arrived in long flight down, one to go. Katie and Jennifer are craving about 8 hours in a real horizontal bed right now, but that aside we are all in one piece. Leaving in about 3 hours on flight number 2.

Hasta la vista!



The quick photo tour of Chicago:
Naturally, the first thing you do upon arriving in Chicago is to get some classic Chicago pizza.

The Sears Tower
The Art Institute of Chicago...simply amazing.
Beach on Michigan Lake
The Navy Pier
The Blue Man Group.  We were able to get half price student rush tickets.  It is a phenomenal show.

Katie got autographed.
The Billy Goat Tavern.
The old water tower in downtown Chicago
View of Lake Michigan

We leave for Israel this Afternoon!  We should be arriving in Tel Aviv tomorrow evening. Please pray for our safe travel.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

My bad...

Sorry for the incomplete post yesterday...I have edited it up to date.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Windy City

Fortunately, we have arrived in Chicago.  We've driven approximately 900 miles from Morden, Manitoba to Chicago, Illinois over the past two days.
Arriving in Chicago more or less concludes the driving portion of our trip, which means that there is no more of this to look forward to:
Some of the stops along the way of our road trip include:
Bemidji, Minnesota, the "Hometown of Paul Bunyan"
The pinnacle of American Capitalism, The Mall of America in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  This is the largest mall in the U.S. at 4.2 million square feet.  It currently contains 520 stores, with future expansions planned that will increase it to 900 stores.  Over 20,000 parking spaces allow for plenty of guests to fill the stores and the amusement park located in the middle of the mall.
And of course, no road trip through the midwest would be complete without a stop in the cheese country that is Wisconsin.  Quick Fact: Wisconsin leads the U.S. in cheese production, and is second only to California in the production of milk and butter.

Cheese Grommit!
Thats all for from Chicago coming soon.  Our time in the U.S. is limited now, so you want to call/text any of us, do it before Monday afternoon.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Last Day in Canada

Today we drove to Lower Fort Garry, the first European fur trading post in North America.
It was a fun day, saw a few sights and spent some time just hanging with the kids.  It was a good relaxing day.
Heading out for Chicago tomorrow morning!


To travel is hopefully a better thing than to arrive. - Robert Louis Stevenson

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Good Times in Manitoba, Eh?

So we've been in Manitoba for several days now.  Our activities so far have included a road trip to Winnipeg, a baseball game, long sunset strolls on the beach of lake Minnewasta, the construction and firing off of a vinegar fueled rocket, and cooking and consuming of lots of good food.

Without further ado...

Approximately one and one half hours of cooking plus some Egyptian expertise in the kitchen equals kushary, an Egyptian staple.  Layers of lentils, rice, macaroni, a tomato sauce and fried onions.  Delicious.  Tomorrow we're making kufta. Woohoo!

Preparing to launch our rocket at the park...constructed of a plastic bottle and some balsa wood fins and fueled by vinegar and baking soda.
(We did get a couple good flights out of it, I promise)
Hangin' with the family.
This post brought to you compliments of the internet and coffee of:
This coffee shop has it all: Good coffee, ice cream, pastries, hot food, free wireless internet, the NBA playoffs on the bigscreen LCD, comfy furniture, and a hot tub.  I love Canada!


Monday, May 19, 2008

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Snapshot of Canada

Pictures of our time in Canada thus far:

Canadian Border Control
Driving through a dust storm en route to Winnipeg

From Left to Right: Badie (my father), Hany, Nancy (my mother), and Mona. Hany and Mona are my cousins from Egypt. We are staying with them in Morden, which is southeast of Winnipeg.

Freddy and Jasmine, Hany and Mona's kids.

The Girls

Morden Alliance Church, where we went to Sunday services this morning. The sermon was based on the life of Queen Victoria (in honor of Victoria Day tomorrow), and the scriptural lessons we can take from her life.

Minnewasta Lake, near the town of Morden

That's all for now!