Tour Day 5: Masada, En Gedi, St. George’s Monastery, Jerusalem (Old Cemetery, Garden of Gethsemane, Garden Tomb)

The next morning, we packed our bags and got them on the bus since we were going to Jerusalem David Citadel that evening. Tito, our guide, told us to wear comfortable clothing since we were going to do some walking and be outside in the heat. Oh my gosh, we were going to Jerusalem today. I am so excited.

Stop 1: Masada National Park

This morning, we went north on Hwy 90 20.7 km (13 mi) north towards Masada, Israel. We followed the Dead Sea for some time and then went west a couple of miles into the desert and we started seeing a large mountain. We were told this was Masada. As I looked more closely, I realized there were structures in tiers on the mountain. I have never seen anything like this.

Masada is located on a cliff isolated in the heart of the desert, a cliff overlooking the Dead Sea and the wild landscapes of the Judean Desert, once a magnificent palace build by Herod (quite the innovator).

During the Great Revolt, the last of the Roman rebels barricaded themselves, turning their desperate war into a symbol of struggle for freedom. Realizing that they wouldn’t survive, the soldiers and their families refused to be held as slaves and so decided to take their own lives and the lives of their families before captured. Each solider killed their own family members, and the ones that were left cast lots on who would be the last one to kill himself with the sword. The lucky one fell on his sword and no one remained in Masada. Such a tragic story and the last strongholds of the Roman Empire.

Stop 2: Ein Gedi Reserve

After Masada and a sunburn from being in the desert, we went north on Hwy 90 21.2 km (13 mi) to Ein Gedi to the reserve there. This is the area with a cave and waterfall, possibly the place where David hid from King Saul in the cave as it is the only source of fresh water near the Dead Sea.

Pastor Allen talked to the entire tour group talking about how we should invite the Holy Spirit in our lives, to experience life with us. Wow. Absolutely!

And David went up from there and lived in the strongholds of En Gedi. After Saul returned from pursuing the Philistines, he was told, “David is in the Desert of En Gedi.”
1 Samuel 23:29-24:1 (NIV)

Some people came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom,[a] from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi).
2 Chronicles 20:2 (NIV)

Stop 3: St. George’s Monastery

After seeing Ein Gedi, we made a stop at Saint George’s Monastery on the route to Jerusalem. We went north, passed by Jericho, and went on a winding road towards Wadi Kelt, Israel. We pulled up at an interesting Catholic-like gate. As we got off the bus, we were met up by Bedouins trying to sell us scarves and necklaces. After this we walked down a path in the desert where the views were spectacular. There were rolling hills and deep valleys. All of a sudden, we saw structures built into the rock on the side of the mountains. I was awe struck.

St. George’s Monastery was originally started in the fourth century by a few monks who were looking to immerse themselves in the lifestyles and desert stories of  John the Baptist and Jesus. The monks, and perhaps most notably the hermit John of Thebes, eventually settled on the spot around a cave where it is believed the prophet Elijah was fed by ravens. The upper part of the monastery hosts the cave that Elijah the Prophet sought shelter in, while in the lower part of the monastery, a tomb of a Romanian monk that lived there in the 1960s still holds his well-preserved body.

Arrival in Jerusalem

After seeing St. George’s Monastery (from a distance), we got back onto the bus and headed a short distance west to Jerusalem. On the way, the desert started to disappear and gradually we would see houses on hills. I think these were the suburbs of Jerusalem? We then went into a tunnel and coming out in front of us was Jerusalem. The whole bus was quiet. We just stared. It was a beautiful sight with the golden dome in front of us surrounded by tons of buildings and houses. Hello Jerusalem! I got chills.

David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. 5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years. The king and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites, who lived there. The Jebusites said to David, “You will not get in here; even the blind and the lame can ward you off.” They thought, “David cannot get in here.” 7 Nevertheless, David captured the fortress of Zion—which is the City of David. 8 On that day David had said, “Anyone who conquers the Jebusites will have to use the water shaft to reach those ‘lame and blind’ who are David’s enemies.[a]” That is why they say, “The ‘blind and lame’ will not enter the palace.”
2 Samuel 5:4-8 (NIV)

After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want[a] to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. 2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do.
John 7:1-3 (NIV)

Stop 4: Vohlin Kollel – The Jewish Cemetery (Mount of Olives)

One of the first things that caught my eye is the enormous amount of stone boxes that lined the hills around us. The buses stopped on the side of the road and we got out and walked around this enormous cemetery. It was explained to us by Tito that the oldest graves were toward the bottom of the hill and the newer ones were near the top. These graves were located on the Mount of Olives. Talk about being close to Jesus.

But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up.
2 Samuel 15:30 (NIV)

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.
Luke 19:41-42 (NIV)

On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molek the detestable god of the Ammonites. He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.
1 Kings 11:7-8 (NIV)

The glory of the Lord went up from within the city and stopped above the mountain east of it.
Ezekiel 11:23 (NIV)

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. 10 They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them. “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the hill called the Mount of Olives, a Sabbath day’s walk from the city.
Acts 1:9-12 (NIV)

As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.

A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.
Matthew 21:1-2, 8-12 (NIV)

Stop 5: Dominus Flevit Church

After this we walked a little bit east to a nearby church called Dominus Flevit. It was built in 1955 to commemorate the Lord’s weeping over Jerusalem, Dominus Flevit features a beautiful view of the city through its distinct chapel window.  Excavations during construction of the church uncovered a number of ossuaries (bone boxes) from the time of Jesus with numerous inscriptions.

Stop 6: Garden of Gethsemane

After this we then walked a short distance NE to the Garden of Gethsemane.

The Garden of Gethsemane is at the bottom of the slope of the Mount of Olives opposite the Temple Mount.  Byzantine, Crusader and a modern church were built successively on the site where it is believed that Jesus prayed to the Father hours before his crucifixion.  The modern Church of All Nations has a beautiful mosaic on its facade (see photo below).

Adjacent to the Church of All Nations is an ancient olive garden. Olive trees do not have rings and so their age can not be precisely determined, but scholars estimate their age to anywhere between one and two thousand years old.  It is unlikely that these trees were here in the time of Christ because of the report that the Romans cut down all the trees in the area in their siege of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Stop 7: The Garden Tomb and Place of the Skull (Golgotha)

For our last stop of the day, we climbed back onto the bus and headed NW a few minutes to the Garden Tomb. Tito stepped aside and had a guide there give us more detail about the Garden Tomb and Place of the Skull. He showed us an old photo of the Place of the Skull and then we compared to what we saw today. Apparently the nose had fallen off back in the 50’s-60’s.

At this point, Pastor Allen took over and read some scripture from the Bible. We had communion at the Garden Tomb with olive wood cups and crackers.

While officially the Garden Tomb Association only maintains this as a possible site for Christ’s burial, our tour guide that took over for Tito was convinced it’s the real thing due to the large cistern nearby, which proves the area must have been a garden in Jesus’ day.  Also, the guide claimed that marks of Christian respect at the tomb also prove its sanctity.

The David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem

After we visited the Garden Tomb, we got back on the bus and headed SW to the David Citadel hotel where we would stay for the remainder of our trip. Tito told us to be prepared to wear appropriate clothing tomorrow, as we would be visiting some holy places.At the hotel, when we walked in, the air smelled of fragrances and everything was super fancy. The food at dinner was amazing! That evening around bed time, I noticed that Dewayne wasn’t feeling well. He was clearing his throat and complaining how sore his throat was.

I also noticed something else odd. Where did all these flies come from? There wasn’t a way to open our windows and this was the first night we were to stay in this room. I must have counted at least 8 or 9 flies. Weird! How did they get in here?

Spiritual Attack in the Night

In the middle of the night, I suddenly woke up in a panic when Dewayne threw a pillow at my face. What the heck!?

“Would you stop snoring?!” he yelled at me. I haven’t seen Dewayne this furious! I won’t go on to tell the rest (my feelings were hurt), but it ended up with Dewayne sleeping in tub in the bathroom. Something was wrong. Stupid flies were flying all around me. What it the world?!

While Dewayne was trying the sleep in the tub, I started to cry. I may cry a couple times a year, but this wasn’t just any kind of crying, it was a ‘can’t catch my breath’, ugly, gross crying. I couldn’t stop. The crying came in intense waves. I felt something in the room with me. I thought it was Dewayne, but I didn’t see him. No, there was something else in the room. It felt dark, menacing, evil. I immediately fell flat on my face and started praying to Jesus. I prayed for protection, prayed for healing for both Dewayne and me, and prayed for the evil presence to leave.

I yelled out loud, “You are not invited here! You don’t belong here! Leave and never bother us again!! Jesus has got this!”

I then continued to pray to Jesus again but more quietly. At this point, Dewayne came in room. I guess he heard me yelling (I am sure everyone else on the our floor did too). He let me know he was there by dripping cold water on my neck as I was burning up. Dewayne then went to the window and prayed silently. After what seemed like forever, he came back to bed with me.

Before drifting off to sleep, Dewayne said, “The weirdest thing… I just killed several flies in the bathroom. I’m not sure where they came from.”