I’ve just returned from another Holy Land tour. It was great! After a tour to the Holy Land, it’s easy to forget the many lessons you’ve learned and the sites you’ve seen. The Holy Land can soon seem a distant land again. But it doesn’t have to.
One of my recommendations for making your holy land tour stay with you for years includes getting some great resources that will last you a lifetime.
In this post, I’ve highlighted the best of what I suggest you pick up after your Holy Land tour. I include videos, pictures, devotionals, and atlases.
I’m headed home from the Holy Land . . .
What a great tour to Israel we just enjoyed with Insight for Living!
I hope you were able to follow along during the tour. Be sure and check out my daily posts from our tour, as well as my photos below.
Thanks and God bless!
Our Israel tour has come to an end. Hard to believe! It’s been a fabulous tour connecting the Bible and its lands to life.
Yesterday while the 800 pilgrims on our tour scattered across Jerusalem in search of the perfect souvenir, our Insight for Living staff enjoyed lunch at the American Colony Hotel.
(Picture: We had lunch at the American Colony Hotel)
The best part of this hotel is that the lobby has framed the original manuscript to one of my two favorite hymns: “It is Well with My Soul.”
I’ve posted a picture of it here. Can you make out the words?
We spent the morning at the Garden Tomb, where hundreds of us gathered in the beautiful gardens that surround the ancient tomb. Chuck Swindoll led us in a communion service.
The tomb itself is not the tomb of Jesus, but the location gives the best place in Jerusalem to contemplate the resurrection of Jesus.
(Photo: The Garden Tomb)
In my many visits to the Garden Tomb through the years, I have only had one guide tell me the tomb was the tomb of Jesus—and that visit was back in 2000. Since then, each guide has expressed that the Association makes no official claim that the tomb represents that of the resurrection of Jesus.
“The important thing is,” they always point out, “the tomb is empty.”
There is no better oasis in Jerusalem than the Garden Tomb to contemplate the central truth of Christianity’s faith—the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.
We spent the morning in Jerusalem at two magnificent museums. Both reflect a history of the chosen people that we must never forget.
We toured the Israel Museum, which houses the original Dead Sea Scrolls at the Shrine of the Book. We also saw a number of wonderful archaeological finds we saw that connect directly with Jesus and the Bible.
But the most moving museum was Jerusalem’s Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem, which remembers the more than six million Jews who were murdered during WWII simply because they were Jews.
The museum’s path led our group before disturbing scenes suspended on pale walls. Life-sized murals of living skeletons stared at us. Corpses lay piled after mass-executions in photo after photo. Hundreds of discarded shoes lay under a glass floor. In another area, a recording read aloud the names of children and their ages at death. Chilling . . . and so very sad.
The Hebrew phrase Yad Vashem means, “a hand and a name,” an idiom from Isaiah 56:5 that refers to a memorial. How could anyone forget such horrific events?
But the museum has its rays of light as well.
Today we descended from Jerusalem into the warmer Jordan Valley. In fact, it’s the lowest elevation on the planet!
We began with a worship service beside the Jordan River, the very site where tradition says Jesus was baptized.
(Photo: Jordan River baptism site, where Jesus was baptized)
On the west shore of the Dead Sea, we toured several places:
- Masada—where first-century Jewish patriots committed suicide rather than surrender to Rome.
- Ein Gedi—where a young David hid from a jealous King Saul (1 Sam. 23:29; 24:1).
- Several brave souls chose to float in the Dead Sea, but once was enough for me!
And we toured Qumran—by far the most “boring” site of the three . . . and yet its significance for the Bible stands far above the others.
When people picture the city of Jerusalem, they usually think of the historic Western Wall, or the Old City, or the Temple Mount crowned with the Golden Dome of the Rock.
But people on our tour were surprised to learn that the original city of Jerusalem lay just south of the Temple Mount on a small spur of land that encompassed about only ten acres.
(Photo: City of David at right, and Kidron Valley)
Crammed with houses and punctured with archaeological digs, the original area of Jerusalem looks much different today than it did three thousand years ago when King David conquered it.
Today, this part of Jerusalem retains the name, “The City of David,” and offers a number of archeological interests that relate to the monarch. The best way to view the area is to ascend the stairs just inside the entrance to the Visitor’s Center and stand atop the observation platform.
Check it out from Google Street View. Go ahead and click around:
No matter how many times I come to the Holy City of Jerusalem, the first view never gets old. I’ve never lived here, but it still feels like home.
That’s probably because Jerusalem repesents so much of what we Christians love about the Bible. And we saw a LOT of Jerusalem today.
(Photo: Jerusalem’s Southern Steps Excavations)
Our Sunday morning began with a worship service on the steps of Jerusalem’s Temple Mount! How great is that?
Fewer places give the sense of the time of Jesus like the Southern Steps excavations. In fact, because it is forbidden to dig on the Temple Mount itself, this area immediately south of the mount offers important archaeology to help unpack the history of the Temple Mount during the first century.
We sat on the 200-foot wide flight of stairs that represent both original and restored steps from the Second Temple period—the time of Jesus.
Today we toured the sites of Beth-shean and Jericho before we made our way through the Judean Wilderness up to Jerusalem. Read about these sites below.
Also, Purim begins tonight in Israel. How interesting to be here! Purim represents more than costume parties for kids and eating triangular cookies filled with fruit. The holiday remembers the historical event in the book of Esther where the Jews survived a plot to exterminate them.
(Photo: Hand-written scroll of the Book of Esther in Hebrew. By Chefallen. Own work. CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia)
My favorite part of Purim includes the reading of the book of Esther.
- It’s the only book in the Bible that never mentions God.
- It never speaks of prayer.
- It has no miracle.
- And yet it’s Scripture.
The story of Esther is built on a growing series of seeming coincidences, all of which play essential to the story.
God is never seen or spoken of—yet He works quietly behind the scenes, orchestrating His sovereign will.
Just like in our lives.
Today we pointed our buses north towards the Golan Heights and several significant biblical sites. On our way north, we passed Tel Hazor and I thought of when Joshua conquered the city in his day.
Our time in the Golan Heights included a visit to Caesarea Philippi.
(Photo: Caesarea Philippi)
The site has been identified in Scripture with the names Baal-gad (Joshua 11:17; 12:7; 13:5), Baal-hermon (Judges 3:3), and Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13).
Jesus brought His twelve disciples all the way up to the pagan region of Banias/Caesarea Philippi and asked them the question:
Who do people say that the Son of Man is? —Matthew 16:13
We also toured the amazing site of Tel Dan and saw the beautiful panorama of the Golan Heights. (Read more about these sites below.)