Mediterranean Sea

Not the soul, but the heart

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If Jerusalem is the soul of Israel-Palestine, Tel-Aviv is the beating heart. It beats to a techno rhythm, pulsing, electronic, and fast. There is nothing ancient about this place except the sandstone beneath its feet.

I captured this view from the overlook on the north end of the tell at Yafo (Jaffa, Joppa). The steel and glass highrises of Tel Aviv mount in the distance. One-third of the entire population of Israel-Palestine lives in this congested place.

The abundance of new digital companies give Tel Aviv its nickname: “startup city.”


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This morning we pack our bags and leave the Mediterranean behind. We’ll exchange the view of this salty sea for a freshwater one: the Sea of Galilee.

If you are interested in experiencing the biblical Heartland for yourself, consider joining us next year. We have open seats for several trips in 2020 and 2021. We are booking new groups for 2022. Shoot me a note at markziese@gmail.com or see our full list of study-travel opportunities at the link here.

Rain sweeps by Mt Carmel

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Standing on the summit of Mt Carmel I watch the rain sweep through the region. It pushes in from the Mediterranean and moves east, washing the central hills.

I shiver in the wind.

It is the perfect moment to reflect upon the story told in 1 Kings 18. There, we read of the contest between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal. The story has many points of entry but one of significance is the question: who controls the rain? Is is Baʿal, Rider of the Clouds or YHWH Adonai, the Creator of all things?

Find a dry place and consider the story for yourself (find it here).

Don’t miss the big finish. It is initiated by a cloud the size of a man’s hand and spotted from Carmel’s furrowed brow.

“Meanwhile, the sky grew black with clouds, the wind rose, a heavy rain started falling and Ahab rode off to Jezreel. The power of YHWH came on Elijah and, tucking his cloak into his belt, he ran ahead of Ahab all the way to Jezreel (1 Kings 18:45-46).

It was the first mud run.

Photograph by Bible Land Explorer Seth Tinkler.


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St Jerome (AD 347-420) once called the Land of the Bible the “fifth gospel. “Read the fifth,” he wrote, “and the world of the four will open to you.”

If you’d like to “read the fifth,” be aware that there are openings for Israel/Palestine trips departing this summer. Shoot me a note at markziese@gmail.com or see our full list of study-travel opportunities here.

Rock concert

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Justin Sutherland strikes a pose in the rain.

The striking architecture of Caesarea-by-the-Sea was erected between 22-10 BC by Herod the Great. At the time, structures such as this theater were foreign in the Heartland. Herod accelerated the import of technology and the culture of the West and put his Eastern domain on the map. This opulence in stonework is nowhere as visible as in the Roman theater pictured here, the first of many built in the region.

The featured stone of the Caesarea is kurkar, a local sandstone.

Photo taken by Bible Land Explorer Jess Poettker.


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Jess (left) and Justin (above) are a part of the residency program of Johnson University. This program leads to a Master of Strategic Ministry degree. It involves a collaborative relationship between JU and local churches and is designed to equip students for effective, strategic Christian leadership. It includes a study-tour to Israel/Palestine.

To learn more about JU’s residencies, see the link here.

Taking a pounding

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There was a break in the heavy weather yesterday. The sun broke through to illuminate waves crashing against the breakwater at Caesarea.

It is hard to imagine that the artificial harbor engineered in the time of King Herod went out another quarter of a mile.

Read about Herod’s magnificent Mediterranean harbor in the Jewish War of Josephus. Find a starting point here.


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Consider this your invitation to participate in a trip of adventure and renewal to the Lands of the Bible in 2019. For a complete list of travel opportunities, see our schedule here. You may also contact me at markziese@gmail.com for more details. We make learning fun, eat good food, sleep in some respectable places, and send you home with memories for a lifetime!

It's what you can't see

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This is hardly an impressive photograph. I snapped it from an upper deck of the Celebrity Reflection. Rising to meet the eye is the roiling wake of this enormous cruise ship.

But somewhere below the Mediterranean foam is the Hellenic Trench. It represents a lively seam in the earth’s crust. The African Plate is slamming against the Hellenic Plate. The seafloor deforms and hundreds of kilometers of seafloor have already disappeared, slipping under the Greek lip. Earthquakes are common throughout the region.

The deepest part of the Hellenic Trench is the Calypso Deep. At 17,280 feet, it is also the deepest point in the Mediterranean Sea. They say the water is toasty way down there at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Biologists recognize this as the only warm-water abyss on the planet. Looking for a Mediterranean grenadier (Coryphaenoides mediterraneusor) or a deep-diving sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus)? This is where you find ‘em gamboling about.

Now look again.


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We have several travel experiences planned for 2019 (see list here). These are organized on behalf of educational institutions or church groups. If you are a leader who is interested in crafting a unique travel opportunity for your organization or if you are an individual who would like to join a group, shoot me an email at markziese@gmail.com.

Acts by the sea

A Franciscan church dedicated to St Peter overlooks the Mediterranean Sea in Jaffa (Yafo), Israel. Its stepped bell tower rises from the shoulder of a tell (ruin-mound) evincing maritime life on the spot going back to the eighth-millennium BC.

The church is, by such standards, brand new. The footprint dates to the time of the crusader King Louis IX (13th century), while the structure seen today was largely constructed in the late 19th century. Curiously, the old citadel of St. Louis served as a temporary home for Napoleon during his Eastern Campaign with the the Armée d'Orient in 1799. The fingerprints of empire are everywhere!

Jaffa's association with St Peter is drawn from two stories found in the book of Acts. In the first (read it here) Peter raises a disciple of Jesus to life. In the second, Peter has a dream that eventually leads him up the coast to Caesarea Maritima (read it here).