Our day started with breakfast with Ronnie Cohen. Ronnie was our tour guide on our trip last year and will be our guide for next year’s trip as well. We also made arrangements last summer for him to come to the church and share with us about Israel. He has become a good friend and looking forward to having him lead our trip in 2011.
By far, the best part of the day, was a communion service led by Pastor Chuck Smith at the garden tomb. The garden tomb is located in the heart of an Arab neighborhood. I am fascinated by the Arab culture every visit to Israel. It is especially interesting when you consider that the people of the Arab nation are descendants of Ishmael.
Generally, there are numerous groups taking communion at various locations throughout the garden, but Pastor Chuck’s group was so large (ten tour buses) that they reserved the entire garden for Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. The picture on the above shows just a portion of the group filing into the garden tomb area. I was blown away to hear that this was Pastor Chuck’s 40th tour. As for me, four down…and thirty six to go.
Pastor Chuck gave a tremendous message speaking of what the stone covering the tomb represented: a dead concept of God, a dead desire to redeem man, a dead religion and a dead hope. He then spoke of what came about when the stone was rolled away…through Christ: a living concept of God, God’s desire to redeem man revealed, a new and living religion and a new hope was born. It was truly one of the best communion messages I have ever heard. It is a powerful thing to hear such a message, literally within a stone’s throw from the actual tomb.
Originally I thought we were heading straight to Eilat at the Southern tip of Israel, but we got an unexpected surprise with some extra time touring Jerusalem. We went to the Temple Institute, a group of very strict Jews who are convinced that they will the ones who will build the third temple. They are in the process of building, to scale and specifications, all of the elements of the Temple. Today we looked an authentic table of showbread made out of acacia wood and overlaid with gold among some other items.
Jenny and I visited the Temple Institute on our first trip to Israel, a pastor familiarization trip, in 2006. We visited a number of sights with the idea of being able to select the sights we wanted to visit when we led our own tour to the Holy Land. I opted to leave the Temple Institute out and the visit today confirmed my decision. They give an ‘unbiblical’ presentation on why and how the third temple will be built. It was sad when one tour participant asked the very young guide of the tour, “What do you say about Jesus?, to which she said he was a Jew who studied to be a Rabbi but never finished. There was nothing more she wanted to say.
Before boarding the bus to Eilat, we visited a tour site known as The Burnt House. Everywhere you turn in Israel, they are excavating another site. This particular dig, unveiled a house with some conclusive evidence that it had gone through a severe fire. Among the remnants found were some kitchen items, a spear and a woman’s severed arm. They believe that it was one of the homes destroyed when the Temple was destroyed and Jerusalem was burned in 70 AD.
By 2:30 that afternoon, we were back on the bus and off to Eilat. After a very long trip, we arrived at around 9:00 PM just in time for a very late dinner. The hotel is very nice and we are all looking forward to our journey into Jordan and visiting Petra. This will be my first trip into an Arab country and really looking forward to it.