Shabbat Shalom from Israel! Today is Shabbat (sabbath), a day of rest for observant Jewish people. According to Jewish religious laws, they are forbidden to do work of any kind on Saturday. We notice the difference because Jewish businesses are closed, there are elevators that stop on each floor automatically (because pushing buttons counts as work), and all of the food for breakfast was prepared ahead and not hot. More than half of the people of Israel do not keep the Jewish religious laws but much of the city still shuts down.
As we headed to our first stop in Bethlehem, Scott Marsh shared a message from Ezekiel 6. We were reminded that we should not try to do things in our own strength. God will give us the power to do things according to His will, and He will stay with us all of the time.
As we looked out over a shepherd’s field in Bethlehem, Jim Showers shared the biblical account of when the angels appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus. Jim painted the picture for us, and being there helped with visualizing the event. When we hear Christmas carols, such as “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and “O Little Town of Bethlehem” in the future, they will have a more personal meaning for each of us. We all sang “Silent Night” while looking out over the field.
Our guide for this area gave us information about the geography and history of Bethlehem. After the presentation we took a short drive into the city of Bethlehem and stopped at a gift shop. The olive wood carvings were beautiful. It was an opportunity for many of us to purchase something made of the wood that is so meaningful for Israel. (See yesterday’s blog) https://www.bibleplaces.com/bethlehem/
After lunch we made a quick stop at the US Embassy in Jerusalem. Even though we were only allowed to take pictures of the emblem and wall plaque, it was a privilege to see it. What a proud moment!
Our next stop was the Garden Tomb. This location is British owned and operates by donations and volunteers. Our guide in the garden gave a very clear gospel message.
Here we were able to view the possible location of Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified. There is a lot of street noise coming from the outside of the walls where the garden is located. We were reminded that when Jesus was crucified, the location was probably along the street with a lot of noise. We had the privilege of viewing an empty tomb. Our guide pointed out that Jesus is here, with us, because He is not there, in the tomb, He has risen!
We had a time of singing hymns and reading of Scripture. We were then able to participate in a communion service. This was a really special place to remember the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It was at Passover that Jesus died. Passover (Exodus 12) teaches us that God judges sin (death), but God also provides the means for forgiveness (a sacrificial lamb). Blood was required for forgiveness. Jesus sacrificed himself for us. We closed by singing the chorus, “He is Lord.” https://www.bibleplaces.com/gardentomb/
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at the Israel Museum. We saw a large model of Jerusalem. It is an accurate representation of the entire city. Every 1 foot represents 50 feet. As we looked down on the model, our guide walked us through everywhere we had visited over the previous days. It helped to be able to view Jerusalem this way. We walked over to the Shrine of the Book museum and viewed copies of the Dead Sea Scrolls dating back to the 10th century. https://www.imj.org.il/en/wings/shrine-book
After dinner many from our group enjoyed shopping on the famous Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem.
Blog author: Debbie Helbig
Administrative Assistant for Ministry Advancement
The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry
Photos: Brett Helbig