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My Trip to The Holy Land

James A. Watkins is an entrepreneur, musician, and a writer with four non-fiction books and hundreds of magazine articles read by millions.

JORDAN RIVER

JORDAN RIVER

Our Tour Group to the Holy Land

I was recently blessed beyond belief to experience an amazing adventure in Israel. I was invited by my good friend Skip (the rock) Moen, who has been a major influence on my life. Dr. Moen publishes the outstanding daily devotional Today's Word. There were 18 souls in our group. Our leader on the trip was Messianic Rabbi Bob (famous counsel) Gorelik(accompanied by his wife, Lindy).

I owe a special thanks to the woman who helped me get added to the group at the last minute, Lisa (God's oath) Michalski. Lisa is a very serious person who is the event planner for an organization that has changed my life, the New Canaan Society. She brought along her best friend Whitney (white island) Miller, a prayer warrior and like Lisa a refined Connecticut lady.

The videographer for our trip was Roderick (famous ruler) Logan, a man from Phoenix who loves God. A DVD of the trip will become available in the future. Another member of our troop was Matthew (gift of God) Woodward, a man who abandoned a life of comfort in Phoenix to live in St. Bernard Parish in New Orleans—with his wife and two children—to help the people there rebuild their lives after Hurricane Katrina.

We were very fortunate to have as our tour guide the inimitable Ariel Inbar. And we were blessed with a great driver named Moshe.

PASTOR SKIP MOEN PhD Phil.

PASTOR SKIP MOEN PhD Phil.

RABBI BOB PREPARES OUR LESSON ON MOUNT CARMEL

RABBI BOB PREPARES OUR LESSON ON MOUNT CARMEL

OUR TOUR GROUP

OUR TOUR GROUP

JFK to Tel Aviv

After a ten-hour flight from JFK to Tel Aviv, we drove north to spend our first night in Netanya, a city of nearly 200,000 that was settled in 1929 on the Mediterranean Sea. It was there I first met my roommates, David (beloved) Lawrence and John (God is gracious) Schnabl. David, a teacher and cross country coach from Indianapolis, was the secondary photographer for our trip and a very quiet man. He spent quite a bit of time each evening on Skype with his wife. John, a compassionate Christian church counselor from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, became very homesick and missed his wife immensely the last few days of our trip.

There was a fascinating episode on the flight. As the sun rose, dozens of Orthodox Jews stood in the aisles to pray wearing prayer shawls, or Tallits. I was offered one by a kindly gentleman but declined, at which point he said, "You are Jewish?" I replied, "I'm with Jesus," with one eye closed.

VIEW OF NETANYA FROM OUR HOTEL BALCONY

VIEW OF NETANYA FROM OUR HOTEL BALCONY

Caesarea Maritima, Mount Carmel, Tel Megiddo, Valley of Armageddon, Nazareth, Cana, Tiberias, Sea of Galilee

The first morning in Israel we visited Caesarea Maritima, the magnificent ruins of a city and harbor built by Herod the Great in 19 B.C. (Before Christ). Herod built the city to facilitate trade and it was the largest seaport on the eastern Mediterranean during the time of Yeshua (Jesus) with 125,000 inhabitants. It was here that Herod Agrippa was eaten by worms after blaspheming God.

The Apostle Peter established the first Christian church in Caesarea Maritima and it was there that the Apostle Paul was imprisoned for two years under the Roman governors Felix and Festus before going to Rome. Origen and Eusebius lived in this city. It boasted a tremendous library and therefore Gregory of Nazianzus, Basil the Great, and St Jerome came to study there. Muslims massacred the populace and destroyed the great library in 638.

Caesarea Maritima was taken by the Crusaders in 1101, conquered by Saladin in 1187, retaken by the Crusaders in 1191, before they lost it to the Egyptian Mamluks in 1265, who razed the city. Since the 1950s, archaeologists have been uncovering what we were privileged to see.

Our next stop was Mount Carmel (God's Vineyard), where the prophet Elijah (My God is YHWH) held the contest with 450 prophets of Baal around 900 B.C. and fire rained from the sky. Elijah never died, being taken up to heaven in a Chariot of Fire. Archaeologists discovered the altar of Elijah in 1958.

We had a commanding view of the Jezreel Valley from atop the mountain ridge. From here we traveled to Daliat El-Carmel, a Druze city of 15,000; for a traditional lunch of Falafel, fried balls of spiced chickpeas in a pita bread pocket.

We proceeded to Tel Megiddo. A "Tel" is a mound where one city has been built on top of another. Megiddo is an incredible example of this as 21 layers of cities from 7000 years of settlements have been uncovered. Megiddo was the royal city of the Canaanites, whose king was slain by Joshua; and sat on a strategic location, guarding the ancient trade route known as the Via Maris (Way of the Sea). Many major battles in history have been fought there and the valley it overlooks, Armageddon. We stood in King Solomon's stables, excavated around 1930.

We drove through the Valley of Armageddon to Nazareth, where Yeshua spent most of his life, now a city of nearly 200,000; of which 31% are Christians. We visited the Roman Catholic Church of the Annunciation—the largest church in the Middle East. It was built on the site of the Shrine of the Home of Mary, Mother of Jesus.

The original Shrine was built about 350; destroyed by the Muslims in 650; rebuilt around 1200; destroyed again by the Mamluks in 1260; and rebuilt in the 18th Century. The current Franciscan Church dates from 1969. We drove out to Mount Precipice, where the people of Nazareth tried unsuccessfully to push Jesus off a cliff; and where we had a view of the Valley of Armageddon from its opposite side.

At sunset, we drove through the village of Cana, where Jesus performed His first miracle, turning water into wine, on our way to Tiberias, where we would lodge for three nights. Tiberias is on the Sea of Galilee, or Lake Kinneret, and considered one of Judaism's four holy cities. It reminded me of Mexico.

CAESAREA MARITIMA ROMAN AMPHITHEATER

CAESAREA MARITIMA ROMAN AMPHITHEATER

ROMAN AQUEDUCT CAESAREA MARITIMA

ROMAN AQUEDUCT CAESAREA MARITIMA

STATUE OF ELIJAH ATOP MOUNT CARMEL

STATUE OF ELIJAH ATOP MOUNT CARMEL

GROTTO OF ELIJAH ON MOUNT CARMEL

GROTTO OF ELIJAH ON MOUNT CARMEL

VALLEY OF ARMEGEDDON

VALLEY OF ARMEGEDDON

VIA MARIS IN PURPLE

VIA MARIS IN PURPLE

CHURCH OF THE ANNUNCIATION IN NAZARETH

CHURCH OF THE ANNUNCIATION IN NAZARETH

Sea of Galilee, Capernaum, Mount of Beatitudes

The next day we ventured out to spend the day where Yeshua spent most of his public ministry. We sailed on the Sea of Galilee in a replica of the wooden fishing boats that were in use in His time. The Sea of Galilee was not how I pictured it. I did not know it was surrounded by steep mountains. Here Yeshua walked on the water and calmed the stormy seas.

We went on to Capernaum, where Jesus taught in the synagogue; recruited his disciples; and a city He said would fade away and never be rebuilt—and it wasn't. The ruins have been excavated since 1838. We visited what is left of one of the oldest synagogues discovered in the world—the very one where Jesus preached. We walked on pavement where Yeshua walked.

We visited the house of St Peter. In the 5th Century an octagonal church was built over this site by the Byzantines. In 1986, an ancient fishing vessel was discovered, which some believe is the boat Yeshua and His disciples sailed on. We got to see it in a museum dedicated to it in Capernaum.

We next went to the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount. This site has been revered for at least 1600 years by Christians. We learned from our guide that Jesus did not preach on top of the mount—down at his audience—but from the bottom of the mount where his voice would have been naturally carried and amplified by wind from the Sea of Galilee, to where all those assembled could hear Him.

Our final stop for this day was , also on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee, the place where Yeshua feed the 5000. There is a German church there commemorating this miracle. A chapel has existed on this spot since at least the 4th Century. Then we turned in for the night, though most of us took a long walk into Tiberias to see what it was all about. It was stinky.

DANCING ON THE SEA OF GALILEE

DANCING ON THE SEA OF GALILEE

SAILING VESSEL FROM JESUS TIME ON DISPLAY

SAILING VESSEL FROM JESUS TIME ON DISPLAY

SYNAGOGUE AT CAPERNAUM WHERE YESHUA PREACHED

SYNAGOGUE AT CAPERNAUM WHERE YESHUA PREACHED

MAP OF ANCIENT GALILEE

MAP OF ANCIENT GALILEE

THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT WAS TAUGHT HERE

THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT WAS TAUGHT HERE

HERE YESHUA FED THE 5000

HERE YESHUA FED THE 5000

Baptized in the River Jordan

The following day featured one of the highlights of our trip: Baptism in the River Jordan. I had been baptized when I was 18 but it was wonderful to repeat the experience in the same river where Yeshua was baptized.

Rabbi Bob explained to us something that astonished me: Before Christ, Jews also performed ritual baptism, called Mikveh. It is a cleansing or purification rite—a starting over. The immersion in water represents the death of your old self—your sins—and rising up out of immersion represents a new birth, clean from previous transgressions.

I felt a rush of forgiveness when I rose up out of that water. The topper was that there were little fish continually nibbling at my feet. The way I look at it, I got a free pedicure!

The River Jordan is puny by American standards, 60 feet across at its widest spot with a maximum depth of 17 feet. But I learned from our guide why it is so important: It is the one and only river in Israel! This is a land starved for precious fresh water. The River Jordan forms the boundary with the country of Jordan. It flows through the Sea of Galilee and farther south terminates at the Dead Sea.

We then traveled to the northernmost parts of Israel, to the foot of Mount Hermon, where Jesus was transfigured. From there we visited Banias, or Caesarea Philippi, another place Jesus said would become uninhabited—and it is. Banias was dedicated to the Greek god Pan during the times of Alexander the Great. It was known in Yeshua's time as the Mouth of Hell because to this day the bottom has not been found to the cave there.

Our last stop was the incredibly beautiful Dan Nature Reserve, near the Golan Heights. One can see Syria from here. We learned from our guide, Ariel, that "Jordan" means from the Dan. The Dan is one of three streams that form the River Jordan.

From here we gazed upon Lebanese villages and saw foxholes and trenches used by Israeli soldiers during recent conflicts.

We then came upon the excavation of the Altar of Jeroboam, constructed to worship idols nearly 3000 years ago. But the highlight of this adventure for me was the recently found ruins of a Canaanite City Gate where we are reasonably certain Abraham once walked. A city gate is not what we westerners imagine as a gate. It is instead a mini-fortress with watchtowers that served as an entrance to a city.

AFTER BAPTISM IN THE RIVER JORDAN

AFTER BAPTISM IN THE RIVER JORDAN

CAESAREA PHILIPPI

CAESAREA PHILIPPI

TIME FOR A LESSON AT CAESAREA PHILIPPI

TIME FOR A LESSON AT CAESAREA PHILIPPI

OUR TOUR GUIDE ARIEL

OUR TOUR GUIDE ARIEL

THE DAN RIVER

THE DAN RIVER

ANCIENT GATE AT DAN USED BY ABRAHAM

ANCIENT GATE AT DAN USED BY ABRAHAM

LEBANON

LEBANON

I PASSED ON THIS SCRUMPTIOUS LUNCH

I PASSED ON THIS SCRUMPTIOUS LUNCH

Gideon's Cave, Beit She'an, Jericho, Judean Desert, Mount Scopus

The next day we left Galilee and headed toward Jerusalem. As we meandered southward, we drove past Mount Gilboah, where the first king of Israel, Saul, fell on his sword. We stopped at the Spring of Harod (and Gideon's Cave), the site where Gideon (Mighty Warrior) and God formed his fighting force of 300 to battle against 120,000 Midianites, which he defeated by attacking at night—a tactic Israeli Defense Forces utilize to this day.

We also visited Beit She'an. This ancient Tel sits at the confluence of the Jordan River Valley and the Jezreel Valley, making it one of the most important gateways to the land of Israel since ancient times. Settlements here date to at least 1500 B.C. It had been a major city for Canaanites and for Egyptians before it was conquered by the Jews.

Beit She'an was later known as Scythopolis during the Hellenistic period and became the Roman capital of the Decapolis, a group of Ten Greek Cities, during the days of Jesus. It was a Christian city under the Byzantines for hundreds of years before it was conquered by Muslims in the 7th Century. Excavations have been ongoing since the 1920s and have uncovered what we see today: the remains of a beautiful Roman city.

We continued down the Jordan River Valley - a great rift between continents - through Jericho, the oldest city on Earth, before crossing the Judean Desert to enter Jerusalem. We stood on Mount Scopus and viewed the Holy City. This was an incredibly moving event for me. All my life I had dreamed of visiting the Jerusalem and now I beheld it with my own eyes for the first time.

GIDEON'S CAVE AT THE SPRING OF HAROD

GIDEON'S CAVE AT THE SPRING OF HAROD

BEIT SHE'AN

BEIT SHE'AN

BEIT SHE'AN

BEIT SHE'AN

TAKING A DUMP OLD SCHOOL

TAKING A DUMP OLD SCHOOL

ROMAN BATHS AT BEIT SHE'AN

ROMAN BATHS AT BEIT SHE'AN

WHAT A LOVELY CREATURE

WHAT A LOVELY CREATURE

THE DECAPOLIS AND SURROUNDING AREA

THE DECAPOLIS AND SURROUNDING AREA

JUDEAN DESERT BETWEEN JERICHO AND JERUSALEM

JUDEAN DESERT BETWEEN JERICHO AND JERUSALEM

YOUR AUTHOR

YOUR AUTHOR

Israel Pictures

Most of these photos were taken by David Lawrence.

I will finish this story on my Hub, My Visit to Jerusalem, coming soon to a theatre near you.

Comments

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 25, 2010:

Thank you for providing those fascinating links! It looks as if the people are enjoying themselves and it is quite colorful. I had no idea parts of Gaza looked like this.

Truly Different from Israel. on October 23, 2010:

Bob0 wrote 11 months ago: It wouldn't hurt if you checked Gaza Strip out too, would it?

Bob0, there is not much to see there. Just undeveloped land with dust and gray buildings, very little trees. Arabs don't care about their land, they are more busy plotting destruction to a blooming land of their neighbors. Also,if you are a Jew and you somehow enter there, most likely you'll be lynched by Arabs. If you are doing business with them, it's another story, you might be all right.

Otherwise, people just live there. Check this:

http://www.paltoday.ps/arabic/News-49213.html

http://www.paltoday.ps/arabic/News-64161.html

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on September 21, 2010:

HolyLandGifts— Thank you. Welcome to the Hub Pages Community. There is no place on earth I would recommend more highly to visit than Israel.

HolyLandGifts from Vancouver on September 20, 2010:

Lovely pictures Looking forward to visit israel soon :)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on July 24, 2010:

Hotels in Carmel CA— Thank you! And you are welcome.

Hotels in Carmel CA on July 20, 2010:

Really a nice hub with great photos. Thanks

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on May 17, 2010:

Ictodd1947— It was wonderful and amazing to walk where Jesus walked. It is hard to put into words. I did the best I could. Thank you for visiting and commenting. :-)

Linda Todd from Charleston on May 16, 2010:

Just read this...this is wonderful and amazing. I am sure it was a wonderful feeling to be where Jesus traveled and the other Bible saints.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 06, 2010:

Dolores Monet--- Indeed it was an amazing trip. We had so much packed in that writing this helped me unpack it all and appreciate what I had experienced all the more. There were some tears.

You are welcome, dear. Thank you for your fine comments.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on February 05, 2010:

Wow, that was some trip. I would love to visit the Sea of Galilee and Copernaum. It looks so beautiful. I can't imagine walking in the footsteps of Jesus and seeing the places where He preached. I think I'd cry my eyeballs out. It must have been an amazingly emotional trip. Thanks so much for sharing it.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on February 01, 2010:

Michael Shane--- Thank you! There is no place I could recommend more highly in my travels. It is an awesome experience.

Michael Shane from Gadsden, Alabama on January 31, 2010:

Great pictures! This is a place I hope to visit one day. Great article!!!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on January 30, 2010:

stars439--- This was the trip of a lifetime. I am glad you came by to read my report. Always great to hear from you, my friend.

stars439 from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State. on January 29, 2010:

Wonderful hub and fantastic photos. God Bless You

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 17, 2009:

His daughter— Thank you! You are welcome. That lunch did not look appetizing to me. It was an amazing adventure.

His daughter on November 17, 2009:

These are such GREAT pictures! Thanks for sharing them. I sure can see why you passed on that lunch. Loved the dancing on the Sea of Galilee and the picture of the camel is just great! What a wonderful experience you must have had!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 15, 2009:

prettydarkhouse— Thank you so much for coming to visit and for your kind comments. The Jordan River was a big highlight for me. Those Roman baths—those round things are supports that held up the floor, which is gone. So, hot water would flow in under the floor, and steam would go up ducts to where the people were. It is amazing what technologies the Romans had. I was surely lucky to fulfill this dream.

prettydarkhorse from US on November 15, 2009:

hi, the pics are awesome, and of course the place too, what an experience, Breathtaking actually, I like the river, Jordan river, and the Roman baths too, like the way the old structures come into place, like looking at that! and the SYNAGOGUE AT CAPERNAUM too is nice structure, you are lucky you were able to go there,

have a good day always!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 13, 2009:

Seafarer Mama— You are most welcome! That camel is . . . cute. PLease come back and finish the journey. My hope is that it is worth your time. Welcome to HubPages!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 13, 2009:

GRivers— Thank you! You are welcome. I am glad you enjoyed it.

Karen A Szklany from New England on November 13, 2009:

Hi James,

Wow! Thank you for sharing this trip! I'd love to travel to the Holy Land someday. I will show this hub to my Mom, since she was there over 20 years ago with a Paulist priest from Boston (where I now attend the Paulist Center). This'll bring back some great memories for her. I have enjoyed reading the first few paragraphs and looking at the photos. Love that camel photo! I look forward to revisiting this hub and reading more!

GRivers on November 13, 2009:

Great trip! Thanks for sharing it, now I feel as though I have been there too!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 11, 2009:

Mitch King— You're welcome! I am glad to be of service. It looks like you're pretty busy with the stocks, too. You could take a trip with the kids, maybe? Unless they're babies. Thanks for tuning in.

Mitch King from Wilsoville, OR, USA on November 11, 2009:

Thanks for sharing your trip! I have such little time to travel on my own because of my kids. So I have to live vicariously through others.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 11, 2009:

skye2day— You're welcome. Technology has come a long way. If you look closely, there is a separate slab for each cheek. You look pretty thin-hipped. You might have fallen in! :(

skye2day from Rocky Mountains on November 11, 2009:

James, Thank You for the awesome comment. All in his name and Glory.

OMGosh, Good thing I was not living in that time. I would have to go find a bush. Too Funny. Love ya James, you are too funny. The picture is something. I am laughing again. Thank you for clearing the air on that for me.

Make my day. Technology has come a long way. Whew. Hugs

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 11, 2009:

skye2day— I hope you make it over there, too. It is the most amazing place on Earth. This journey surely changed my life. I can't even put it into words. It was glorious. I hope the journey you were on was edifying for you. Thank you so much for your gracious words here.

That is indeed a Roman public toilet—unisex, too, as they have only found one! Going potty was a public event! Then they had a sponge on a little stick which you would rinse off after using in that little trough of running water by your feet. So the next person could use it.

skye2day from Rocky Mountains on November 11, 2009:

Hi James, Way very cool. You are a blessing for sharing your wonderful journey. I hope one day I will make it to the Holy Land. I got very inspired to pray for that to happen soon while reading. I have seen tour pictures and read of other adventures this sounds like a 'top list' tour. I think this journey changed your life? Walking on the ground of the messiah has got to be 'glorious' to say the least. I wrote new hub 'Redeemer' I took a break from hub pages not on purpose. I was on a journey myself, called 'Growing'.

I realize why we are called children of God and not adults of God. With Love James. The author is not to difficult to look at as well. Cheers to you from a 4ever fan. Hugs.

PS The dumping ground for reals? I laughed so hard are you serious? I need an answer. I am still laughing great picture.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 09, 2009:

dara— Thank you! Gosh, it has been years since I've seen you. 35 years perhaps? A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then, eh kid? Your lovely compliments have made me blush! You are the sweetest girl I ever knew.

When I answered his question I closed one eye and looked deep into his eye with my open eye. Picture it. You never gave anybody the "one-eyed" look?

Thanks so much for letting me know you were here.

dara on November 09, 2009:

Welcome home James! I love your photos of this trip... especially the “Jordon River” and the “Valley of Armageddon” .

Also, I am very happy that you fulfilled your dream to explore Israel. I am always amazed of the power of intention and how directing positive thought alone can make things happen...Ya think?

You are someone I knew a long time ago but lost touch with. Nevertheless, my memory of you, after many years of not seeing or knowing you, is the same as how I see you now( without seeing you literally). I find you Passionate,Incredibly deep and possessed of a rare non judgmental kindness. But,of course as a good wine we often get better with age.

Also, I was wondering what you meant by “:one eye closed”. Please pontificate.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 08, 2009:

Allan McGregor— Whooops! I may have been caught with my pants down!

Allan McGregor from South Lanarkshire on November 08, 2009:

What's with the 'white horse' SirDent? Revelation mentions two guys on white horses. One is the glorified Christ Jesus (19:11) and the other is the First Horseman, who brings false doctrine (6:2). I'm glad to say you don't qualify as either. (;D)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 07, 2009:

gusripper— Thank you very much. There certainly is. I had wonderful days there. Thank you for reading and commenting.

gusripper on November 07, 2009:

Perfect photo's.There is a beautiful side of ISRAEL.I hope you had nice days there.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 07, 2009:

SirDent— Indeed you will, my Brother!

SirDent on November 07, 2009:

I thinK I will no doubt go there one day riding on a white horse :p

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 07, 2009:

Allan McGregor— Not that I know of. He is a high school Physics teacher and Cross Country coach. He used an interesting gadget that looks like a big steering wheel. I've never seen anything like it but after viewing his photos, I must say: it works!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 07, 2009:

SirDent— I did have a great time. Mr. Lawrence is a fine photographer. Please do go if you get the opportunity. Thank you for reading and commenting.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 07, 2009:

Bob0— I don't believe tourists are allowed in there. Or if it is safe. If the answer is yes on both counts, I'm game.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 07, 2009:

Moonchild60— Thank you! I would surely go and I think a month would be a perfect period of time. There is so much to see in a compact area. Truly amazing.

That fish was not calling my name. :-)

Thanks for your comments. Truly a pleasure to see your remarks.

Allan McGregor from South Lanarkshire on November 07, 2009:

Is David Lawrence a professional photographer? The clarity of his work is outstanding.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 07, 2009:

dusanotes— You are welcome, Don. I am well pleased that you enjoyed this Hub. I agree that a trip to the Holy Land surely increases one's understanding of the Bible by providing a visual context to the stories. It was just wonderful. Thank you for the visit and the comments.

SirDent on November 07, 2009:

Sure reads like you had a great time. I love all the photos. One day I will also be able to go there.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 07, 2009:

muley84— What nice words you have left for me, Mike. Thank you. :-)

Shalom

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 07, 2009:

Allan McGregor— Thank you for complimenting the photos. I accept on behalf of David Lawrence, the man who shot them. I agree that he did a great job.

To you and me the ladies are dancing on the deck of a vessel; to them they were dancing on the Sea of Galilee. :D

Your story about the stones found on Mt. Carmel is fascinating. I believe they have found more burnt stones since then.

Thanks for reading my article and leaving your fine comments. Always great to hear from you, my learned friend.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 07, 2009:

itakins— It is gratifying to know you enjoyed this Hub. Thank you for letting me know. You have warmed my heart.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 07, 2009:

Alana— Referring to our saintly prophetess grandmother yes, she would have been proud. There seems to be different opinions about whether she ever made this trip during her earthly life.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 07, 2009:

Alana— Is this my cousin from Michigan!? What a pleasure to receive you here. Thank you for your compliments. I love you!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 07, 2009:

Kebennett1— Thank you so much for expressing your appreciation and approval. I hope your dream comes true. I agree with you: I have been richly blessed.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 07, 2009:

"Quill"— If you and Mrs. Quill can make it, I highly recommend that you do. I still cannot quite wrap my arms around the whole experience. It is a life-changing journey. Thank you for your gracious compliments. I am grateful to read them.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 07, 2009:

lindagoffigan— How pleased am I that you took the time to come by and review my article. I know how busy you are with your own very popular Hubs. Thank you much for your kind comments.

Bob0 on November 07, 2009:

It wouldn't hurt if you checked Gaza Strip out too, would it?

Moonchild60 on November 07, 2009:

Hi James - Wonderful and informative Hub!! Three things - My husband is dying to go back to Israel to visit family and friends and wants me to go with him this Winter. I wasn't so sure, but now that I read your Hub, I just might go after all (just not for an entire month as he suggests).

2) Can not BELIEVE you turned down that Fish and Chips...LOL...

3) Growing the hair long...love it!!

dusanotes from Windermere, FL on November 07, 2009:

Thanks, James, the Cub fan. I really enjoyed this Hub. Our family reads scriptures nightly. We just got through with the New Testament. But the light of our understanding was scant compared to yours following such a fantastic trip. Your photos were wonderful and I was glad to see your image in the final one. Don White

Michael A Muehleisen from Miami,FL on November 07, 2009:

A remarkable story, and I am sure an unforgettable trip. We missed you while you were away. Peace mike

Allan McGregor from South Lanarkshire on November 06, 2009:

Best piccies I've seen of many of these locations. They fairly whetted my appetite. Although the ladies captioned as 'Dancing on the Sea of Galilee', were actually dancing on the deck of a vessel. It was Jesus who danced, or at least walked, on the water, although Peter had a stab at it, too.

The photo of Elijah's statue reminded me of a true story told by either Derek Prince or David Pawson. I forget which, because both men served in the British military out there. Whichever one it was, had a British friend in the police serving there, who found a remarkable fragment of stone which he took to the university in Jerusalem for analysis. A professor there examined it and asked him where he had found it, because he said, it definitely didn't come from Israel. The policeman asked him why, and the professor explained it was because the stone was glazed on one side, indicating exposure to volcanic heat and there were no active volcanoes in Israel that could have been responsible for such a melting.

The policeman told of how the professor went visibly pale and was clearly shaken when he revealed how he had found the rock on Mount Carmel, right where the Bible tells us that Elijah prayed and Yahweh sent down fire which not only consumed the whole offering but the water in the trench and the very stones of the altar.

Suddenly, with what he held in his hand, the academic didn't find the Bible story quite as fanciful as he had previously imagined.

itakins from Irl on November 06, 2009:

James,

I thoroughly enjoyed this hub-what a fantastic experience;and I must say beautifully told too.Love the photos also.

I very much look forward to more.

Alana on November 06, 2009:

Mamaw would have been proud!

Alana on November 06, 2009:

Simply breathtaking pictures and awesome writing. Feel as if I were there myself.

Kebennett1 from San Bernardino County, California on November 06, 2009:

Absolutely wonderful James. The pictures are terrific and I can only say how much I wish I could have been there! It has always been a prayer of mine to walk in the foot steps of Jesus and visit the places he visited and lived! You have been given a great blessing!

"Quill" on November 06, 2009:

Drolling over the photos and the wealth of information James...very well put together. Mrs. Quill and I are thinking of taking a trip soon and why not to a place with true beliefs and history of our faith. Lets just call this a "Wow" hub...

Blessings

lindagoffigan from Phoenix, Arizona on November 06, 2009:

James A. Watkins, I am honored that you shared such a trip as this to the hubpage community. The photos were magnificent especially the photo of the author who made all hope for the same experience. Quite a different take I dare say from the article on interracial couples. You can see where your interest is and in the right place. Good to see you made it home again.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 06, 2009:

Artemus Gordon— The conflicts in the Middle East are tragic. I hear that Syria and Jordan are also interesting places to go but few Westerners venture there for fear of getting their heads cut off on the internet. The trip was grande. Thank you for reading and commenting. I do appreciate it.

Artemus Gordon on November 06, 2009:

This would be such an amazing trip, there is so much history in this area. It is a shame just how much of it we are losing to the conflicts which plague the whole region.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 06, 2009:

ethel smith— You are so right! It was perfect for me. Very astute observation.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 06, 2009:

Katee— Hey! I know you! :-)

I appreciate you reading my article. I hope all is well with you and your loved ones. Thank you for letting me know you were here.

Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on November 06, 2009:

Sounds like your trip was perfect for you.

Katee on November 06, 2009:

What an inspiring trip, can't wait to see your Jerusalem blog! Sailing on the Sea of Galilee? That is just awe-inspiring!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 06, 2009:

upal19— Thank you! I am so pleased that you enjoyed my article about the journey. It was quite a trip. You are welcome.

Ashraf Mir from Dhaka on November 06, 2009:

What a nice hub! I ate it up. My country doesn't permit us to go there. Your nicely described hub has informed me so much about those holy sites. Thanks James.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 06, 2009:

susansisk— Welcome to the Hub Pages Community!

I am very fortunate. Thank you and you are welcome.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 06, 2009:

Tom Whitworth— Hello, brother Tom. You are most welcome. I enjoyed putting this together for my friends. God Bless You!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 06, 2009:

UP Star— Black and white to color. I like that! Very Apropos. Very true. It's amazing how small the country is. And yet, how big it is in terms of significance and wonders. I hope you do go someday. It has changed me. I appreciate your comments.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 06, 2009:

Lily Rose— The trip was an amazing adventure. Part Two shall come forthwith. It was my pleasure to share. Thank you for your remarks.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 06, 2009:

50 Caliber— Hey! I will add that I saw a lot of caves there! :D

I have been greatly blessed. Thank you for the visitation and comments.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 06, 2009:

Nemingha— Isn't that camel photo great!? David Lawrence in the camera there. Thank you for visiting and leaving word that you did.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 06, 2009:

Shalini Kagal— Thank you and you are surely welcome. I appreciate that link. It is beautiful and I bookmarked it.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 06, 2009:

febriedethan— You are welcome, and yes: I am lucky and blessed beyond belief. I hope you do get to visit the Holy Land someday—and stand in the Upper Room. God Bless!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 06, 2009:

creativeone59— You are welcome. Being baptized in the Jordan was what I looked forward to the most. Thank you for your comments.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 06, 2009:

ReuVera— Welcome back. Thank you. Your comments are awesome! Thanks so much for making them here. Great to hear from you.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 06, 2009:

ReuVera— I finally made it, after a lifetime of wanting to walk in the Holy Land. It was like a dream. I would enjoy going back and if I do I will take you up on that offer. Thank you.

Susan Sisk from Georgia, USA on November 06, 2009:

Beautiful pictures! Thank you for writing this. You are fortunate to have been able to go there.

Tom Whitworth from Moundsville, WV on November 06, 2009:

James,

Thank you for sharing your journey and for the beautiful pictures. It is truly awe inspiring. I almost felt like I was trekking with you. God bless you brother.

UPStar on November 06, 2009:

I have heard that visiting the Holy Land takes the Bible from being black and white to being in color. I hope to go someday! You are blessed indeed to have visited!!

Lily Rose from A Coast on November 06, 2009:

Wow, looks like you had a wonderful trip. I love the pictures! Our neighbors are from Israel (just moved to the US about 2 years ago) and have told us a lot about it. I look forward to Part 2...

50 Caliber from Arizona on November 06, 2009:

James,

a nice summation to start the day. It is a trip I have often thought of. You have been blessed. I look forward to the rest of the story.

Nemingha on November 05, 2009:

Now I'm jealous, you have been to one of the few places I haven't! Love that camel!

Shalini Kagal from India on November 05, 2009:

Very informative hub - thanks - and the pictures are great too! There's a wonderful video on the 'net of the Holy Sepulchre:

http://www.360tr.com/kudus/kiyamet_eng/index.html

febriedethan from Indonesia on November 05, 2009:

Thank you for sharing this, you were so lucky! I always dream about the Holy Land for years, hope I could manage to go there someday :) I always want to visit the Upper Room. wonderful hub!

Benny Faye Ashton Douglass from Gold Canyon, Arizona on November 05, 2009:

Thanks for a very interesting and informative hub, I always wanted to go the Jordan river. I'm glad you made the trip. Thank you for sharing it. Godspeed. creativeone59

ReuVera from USA on November 05, 2009:

Great description, great pictures. I agree with Vladimir- one is never the same after breathing air of Israel. Now I am waiting to read about your impression of Jerusalem.

P.S. Even not Orthodox Jews pray on a sun rise…. I think you look pretty Jewish, that’s why a gentlemen offered you to pray. I hope you realize that Jesus in his time was praying exactly the same prayers the man on a plane was....

ReuVera from USA on November 05, 2009:

Wow, James, you made it! I mean your going to Israel. I am very happy for you. I didn't read the hub yet, I've seen it and hurried to congratulate you! Now I am going back to read your report.

P.S. When you go there next time, let me know, my friends can take you there places where groups don't go. There are so many Biblical places there out of the common route...

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 05, 2009:

advisor4qb— I know and it's still there! Thank you, dear, for your encouragement.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 05, 2009:

drcrischasse— I'm glad you came by. I had a note somewhere to take some time to read some of your Hubs because I like your titles. Then I lost the note and forgot. Now I am reminded. Thanks!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 05, 2009:

GPAGE— I did get the memo. Thanks! I was simply following your example.

I forgot to add an important aspect to that story. When I told him I was with Jesus I closed one eye tight. That gave it a bit more effect. :-) He didn't know what to think a few seconds. Then, he simply seemed to accept it and moved on. I had a dozen people during the trip assume I was Jewish and one stranger added that I "looked" Jewish. This is even besides the first day when I wore my Orthodox black hat. :D

The water in the Jordan was warm and wonderful. But there are little fish that continually nibble at your feet. That was kind of weird. I figured I was getting a pedicure.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 05, 2009:

DeBorrah K. Ogans— I don't know what happened but I just noticed my author score is up to 100! That is a first as far as I know. Wow! What a surprise. The Lord works in mysterious ways. :D

You are welcome. God definitely opened doors for me that had been closed. I'm not sure my feet are even back on the ground yet. In Jerusalem an author spoke to us in his bookstore and said, "No one comes to the Holy Land by accident. If you are here it is because God invited you. And you accepted His invitation."

advisor4qb from On New Footing on November 05, 2009:

What an awesome hub! And 100 score to boot! You Rock!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 05, 2009:

SheriSapp— You are surely welcome. I appreciate you sharing the Hub with others. That's nice of you. Thank you coming and leaving your warm words here for me.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 05, 2009:

DGMischSr— Let's do get together Dan. I'm only three hours away! :-)

Thanks for coming Broham. I always enjoy hearing your voice.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 05, 2009:

eovery— It was one of the greatest blessings for me ever. Thank you for tuning in and commenting.

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