Wheelman extraordinaire

Robert 1.jpg

The single most important relationship on a study-tour is the one between the guide and driver. That kind of chemistry doesn’t develop in a day. But when it does develop and works well, logistics are resolved and many other things fall into place.

I am fortunate to work again this year with my dear friend Robert Makhlouf. He is extraordinary driver, an Arab Christian, and a new father of a lovely baby girl. He not only knows the roads, he knows how to keep his customers happy. Working with Robert has been one of the high points of my summer. He wears that grin morning, noon, and evening!

We contract exclusively with the George Garabedian Company in Jerusalem. GGC is an Armenian Christian group that uses top-notch drivers and state of the art motor-coaches. Robert is pictured here sitting in a 2018 Volvo. It is new, expansive, comfortable, and our home away from home.


Aqua bus 1.jpg

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.

Put out into the Deep

DSC_0003.jpg

The chapel at Magdala sits on the lapping shore of the Sea of Galilee. It carries the Latin name Duc in altum, or “put into the deep.” These words are a reminder of the instruction of our Lord to the disciples as recorded in Luke 5:4. The seasoned fishermen had caught nothing after a night’s work. Joining them in the boat, Jesus gave them these directions, in essence saying “try here.” The protest of Peter is understandable; he was no fishing novice. But he listened and as a result their net caught such a load of fish they they struggled to retrieve it. It was a miraculous moment that prompted an even more miraculous response, “they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything, and followed him.”


Ladies+1.jpg

We spent most of yesterday around the Sea of Galilee. Magdala and its chapel dedicated to the women in Jesus’s ministry were one of the high points. Today we go out on water for a sailing voyage of our own!

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.



Not the soul, but the heart

DSC_0045.jpg

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.”


View 1.jpg

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.

Soaring

DSC_0002.jpg

So I’m on the ninth floor of a hotel that is on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and these dudes are jumping, swooping, and flying. Their control of these paragliders is amazing! I am mesmerized. I imagine reaching out and giving one of them a high-five as he whistles by!

Their wings have no rigid structures. They take advantage of lifts and currents where the sea and the land meet and can climb hundreds of meters into the sky. They take off and land gently with little effort. When done, the wing and control lines fold into a tidy package.

There are some nice sandstone cliffs here in Netanya, Israel. There are also a fine collection of 100+ meter skyscrapers. Given the high price of real estate here, the only direction to expand is up.

Time to get a paraglider.

Would you do it?


View 1.jpg

If you are interested in experiencing “the Israeli Riviera” and a host of other sites in 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.

Who's your papa?

DSC_0040.jpg

The double-headed eagle is a heraldic symbol of the Greek Orthodox Church. It is an ancient motif, used perhaps for the first time by the Hittites in modern day Turkey. It reemerged in the Byzantine Empire and was widely used by the 11th and 12th centuries AD.

The meaning of the two heads with one body is debated. Some suggest it presents the unity of church and state, a principle that guided the Byzantines. Others suggest it represents the dominion of the empire in the East and in the West.

In countries where Orthodoxy has a powerful presence it continue to be used today.

I found this one perched on a rope-stand in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, Palestine.


DSC_0077.jpg

Pilgrims await their turn (sortof) to enter the grotto at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Tradition suggests that this is place where Jesus was born.

If you are interested in experiencing Bethlehem and a host of other sites 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.

Somber

DSC_0009.jpg

The Barluzzi chapel known as the Church of All Nations (or the Basilica of the Agony) marks the place associated with the Garden of Gethsemane. This urban garden was visited early and often by Christian pilgrims and continues to be a place of prayer today. The present structure was built in the 1920s over older foundations.

Gethsemane is mentioned in the gospels as the place where Jesus was “pressed” on the night of his arrest (See Matt 26 or Mark 14). It was here that he famously said “I want your will to be done, not mine” (Luke 22: 42).


Climbing+Jericho.jpg

As our current group of Explorers are nearing the end of their trip another is preparing to arrive. Summer is a busy time in the biblical Heartland.

If you are interested in experiencing the Garden of Gethsemane and a host of other sites 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.

Israeli Art

DSC_0019.jpg

Confession: Today was the first time I ever visited the Israel Museum and did not enter the archaeology wing. Soon after entering I fell into a group tour focused on Jewish art. While I didn’t alway appreciate every piece, I appreciated the stories and interpretive prompts. Rosalind did a wonderful job of guiding our little group through stylistic developments in paintings from the socialist realism of the early 20th century to our own day.

In case you are wondering, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem was founded in 1965 and is an important repository of cultural artifacts from the prehistoric period to the present. Their collection is enormous and needs to be on the bucket list of every Bible Land Explorer.


DSC_0025.jpg

Vincent Van Gogh’s Corn Harvest in Province (1888) is one of a number of works currently on display in the Israel Museum.

We try to include an afternoon visit to the museum on each of our trips. If you are interested in experiencing the culture of the biblical Heartland for yourself, consider joining us in the future. 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.

Secrets known and unknown

DSC_0042.jpg

Capernaum has taught us much about Galilean life in the first millennium of the Christian era. We celebrate these finds but are convinced that what remains hidden beneath rock and sod may be equally astounding. Its secrets have not yet been fully revealed.


DSC_0021.jpg

Archaeological efforts were selectively devoted to Capernaum in the 20th c. Tour talks regularly focus on the “White Synagogue” and “St Peter’s house.” But there is much more to this important place than this.

If you are interested in experiencing the biblical Heartland for yourself, consider joining us in the future. 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.

A wet walk in a dry place

20190610_175622 copy.jpg

While our group experienced the wonder of swimming in the Dead Sea, I headed in the opposite direction. The Wadi Boqeq Nature Reserve is hidden in a narrow canyon that drains the east side of the Wilderness of Judea. I waded upstream for maybe a kilometer at sunset. It was a wet hike with lots of small waterfalls, waterholes, boulders, birds, and lush vegetation.

Apart from a group of three that exited the canyon (near the ruins of a Roman/Byzantine fortress) as I entered, it was a solitary experience. The sound of splashing water and cooing doves kept me company. The shadows lengthened in the rose-colored canyon as the sun released its grip on the day.

Ironically, the modern name of the place in Hebrew is boqeq. The term refers to wasted or empty space (see Isaiah 24:1).

Flash flooding make desert wadis a dangerous place in the winter (as Job 6:15 suggests) but in the summertime they are cool havens for life in an otherwise inhospitable desert.


Boqeq.jpg

The view from our hotel window at Ein Boqeq is hardly desolate. The contrast between the swim area in the Dead Sea and the hotel spa and pool could not be stronger.

If you are interested in experiencing the desert stretches of the biblical Heartland for yourself, consider joining us in the future. 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 here.

Picnic with Pan

DSC_0015.jpg

There’s no finer place to picnic than Caesarea Philippi. Folks have been coming to the base of Mt Hermon for centuries to enjoy the wilds, sample the bubbling water, and do a little feasting.

In the Hellenistic period (early 3rd century BC) local worshippers brought dedicatory meals to the site. Archaeologists have found the broken bits of their ceramic lunch buckets!

Our current group of Bible Land Explorers from Whitewater Crossing Christian Church (Cleves, Ohio) did our best to “leave no trace.”


IMG_2757+2.jpg

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 we have openings for future Israel/Palestine trips for 2020 and 2021. We are booking new trips for 2022. Shoot me a note at markziese@gmail.com or see our full list of study-travel opportunities here.

Kfar Nahum from Afar

DSC_0055 2 2 2.jpg

Kfar Nahum in the old tongue suggests the “Village of Nahum.” This Nahum is not the prophet of the Old Testament, although evidence at this fishing village reportedly stretches back to the second millennium BC. This is an unknown Nahum whose name is associated with the place remembered by the Gospels as “Jesus’s home” (see Mark 2:1).

A friend let me borrow his 200mm lens which nicely captured both the Orthodox and Catholic sides of the site from the parking lot at the Church of the Beatitudes.

Capernaum is located on the northern edge of the Sea of Galilee. The shoreline of the eastern edge of the lake is visible in the distance.


20190608_120606.jpg

The art of pilgrimage is not easily learned. It involves a journey, most certainly, but not the journey of a tourist who seeks to appease the obvious senses only. The pilgrim seeks to satisfy a deeper longing, the need to find his/her place in the world.

If you are interested in exploring your own place in the land of the Bible email me at markziese@gmail.com or consider joining an excursion listed at the link here.


Friends new and old

DSC_0022.jpg

Walking through the Old City of Nazareth today with travelers from Whitewater Crossing Christian Church in Cleves, Ohio. We met many friends, both new and old. It is always a delight to travel in good company!


spices.jpg

The art of pilgrimage is not easily learned. It involves a journey, most certainly, but not the journey of a tourist who seeks to appease the gross senses only. The pilgrim seeks to satisfy a deeper longing, the need to find his/her place in the world.

If you are interested in exploring past, present, and future in the land of the Bible email me at markziese@gmail.com or consider joining an excursion listed at the link here.




Not exactly what Vitruvius intended

Caesarea theater 2.jpg

Roman theaters, like this reconstructed example at Caesarea-by-the-Sea, had elaborate backsets on the rear of the stage. These sets were decorative but had practical functions too: they were used by the actors, they served as storage spaces, and they also helped “control” the sound inside the room. These backsets were called the scaenae frons or the “facade of the tent” (from the Greek skene for “tent” or “hut.” It is likely that early backsets were simple structures used by the actors to hide themselves from the spectators and to create dramatic mystery.). In later times, they were made of carved stone.

The electronic set pictured here converts ancient space for modern use. I’m sure it offers “control” for the sound, but it just seems out of place in such a setting (sigh).

Oh, by the way, Vitruvius was a Roman architect who described how things were built two thousand years ago. Imagine his response to this! Do you think he would have been pleased?


DSC_0001.jpg

We just picked up our first group of the summer in Tel Aviv. We are now headed inland to the Sea of Galilee.

Sorry for the delay in posting. I should be getting back to business this week. Thanks for following.

Passover Seder, 2019

passover.001.jpg

The passover seder is one way to rehearse the great story of liberation. It is celebratory and sensory: sight, sound, touch, smell, taste are exercised. Through it all, memories of what God has done in the past are retold. These prompt contemplation about what God is doing now and what God will do in the future.

Thanks to all our friends from the faith community at Crossings Knoxville who participated last night. Thanks especially to Vicki who prepared and served a splendid table. The salad, lamb, veggies, potatoes, and brownies were just perfect.

"You shall tell your child on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt’” (Exodus 13:8).

The photos above were taken by Bible Land Explorer Chris Battle.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame, details

P1170325.JPG

20150317_184556.jpg

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s words are widely quoted, “A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” 

If you are interested in exploring music, poetry, and pictures in the lands of the Bible email me at markziese@gmail.com or consider joining one of our excursions listed here.

What is big, white, ornate and late?

222.jpg

The “white synagogue” at Capernaum (Kfar Nahum or “house of Nahum”), Israel, is an oddity.

It is constructed of imported limestone blocks that contrast brightly with the dark basalt stone used everywhere else.

Its scale is monumental. It stands apart in a village dominated by small single-story residential homes. Several rooms in the synagogue are noted: a pillared hall, a patio, a balustrade, a small room, and possibly a balcony (?).

The rooms were graced with ornate decorations on cornices, walls, and columns. These include geometric designs, stars, palm trees, and dedicatory inscriptions in Aramaic and Greek (as seen above).

The synagogue was excavated and reconstructed at the beginning of the 20th century. It was dated by the excavators to the Byzantine period (4th or 5th century). At this time the little fishing village, famous from the Gospels, demonstrates social stratification and visible weath.

This demonstration is a new thing; there is nothing like it from the known village of Jesus’s day. The synagogue of the 1st century remains hidden, perhaps beneath this big, white, late and ornate structure.

Photograph by Bible Land Explorer Mark Kitts.


dsc_0675.jpg

Interested in seeing Capernaum and the Sea of Galilee with your own eyes?

Seats are available on three different study-tours scheduled for Israel/Palestine in the coming summer. Dates of travel are May 25-June 4, June 4-15, and June 26-July 7. The window for sign-ups is closing, so move with speed.

For more information on pricing, itinerary, or other details of these educational tours, drop me a line at markziese@gmail.com. For a full list of future travel opportunities, see here.

Excavations at Dan, 1989

T-1, 1989.jpeg

Thirty years have passed since I took this picture of the excavations at Dan (Tell el-Qadi), Israel. Thirty years.

This is where we spent the bulk of that season. It is adjacent to the “high place” and affectionately remembered as T-1. Running through T-1 (from bottom to top of this scanned slide) was the wall of an enormous building that was dated by Avraham Biran to the Assyrian period. The northern face of the wall was marked by pilasters (the fella with the red shirt is leaning on one). Areas of flooring came to light, complete with smashed ceramic vessels.

One jar, as I recall, was fairly intact. There was still cereal inside and the skeleton of a Iron Age mouse on top of the cereal. I trust his last meal was a good one.


Scan 53.jpeg

Oh my. At least the Chuck Taylors are still in style.

Seats are available on three different study-tours scheduled for Israel/Palestine in the coming summer. Dates of travel are May 25-June 4, June 4-15, and June 26-July 7. The window for sign-ups is closing, so move with speed.

For more information on pricing, itinerary, or other details of these educational tours, drop me a line at markziese@gmail.com. For a full list of future travel opportunities, see here.

A spot for kings and judges

Dan gate copy.jpg

There are gates a’plenty at Dan (Tell el-Qadi), Israel.

This monumental gate complex is located on the southern edge of the ruin-mound. It is an enormous stonework construction integrated into the perimeter wall. It consists of four guardrooms flanking a central passage. Socket stones supporting swinging wooden doors are still visible in the threshold. A processional road climbs up the hill and into the city from the gate. The whole business was dated by the excavator to around the time of wicked King Ahab (9th century BC).

Pictured here is an area just outside of the gateway where a throne-sized platform was positioned. Four stones on each corner of the platform may have supported a shading canopy. It is the perfect place to imagine a judge or king meeting the people, viz

“So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. When the men were told, ‘The king is sitting in the gateway,’ they all came before him” (2 Samuel 19:8).

It also is the place to think about a great metaphor:

“Lift up your heads, you gates;
    be lifted up, you ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in” (Psalm 24:7, 9)

Photograph by Bible Land Explorer Jessica Poettker.


DSC01317 (2) copy.JPG

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.

In the mustard

IMG_1943 copy.jpg

The mustard is thick these days. I’m not talking about the tasty yellow stuff that goes on your hot dog, but the wild mustard that grows in the Heartland. In the springtime it is everywhere. Here at Tell Dan it is almost as tall as a person.

The wild mustard (Sinapis arvensis)* is prolific this year due to a wet winter in the region. It stands tall now but in short time as the temperatures rise and the rainfall diminishes, it will turn brown and brittle.

Enjoy this day my friends. It is gorgeous.

Photograph by Bible Land Explorer Jessica Poettker.


*Luke 13:18-19 reports the parable of the mustard seed. It suggests that big things come from small packages. The scientific name for the mustard sinapis is pulled into Latin from the Greek σίναπι. However, it should be noted that the Greek family of words also includes the verb, “to sting” or “hurt” causing some to believe that the sinapis of the New Testament may refer to the nettle. That casts a different angle on the text doesn’t it?


Climbing+Jericho.jpg

The residency program of Johnson University leads to a Master of Strategic Ministry degree. It involves a collaborative relationship between Johnson University and local churches. This accredited program equips students for effective, strategic Christian leadership and includes a study-tour to Israel/Palestine.

To learn more about residencies, see the link here.