“So what makes the Promised Land so promising?!”

That was the question our energetic American Israeli guide, Yoni, challenged us with after our study group assembled on the bus leaving Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv (“hill of the springtime) yesterday afternoon.

We will spenYond the next 12 days answering that question.

Internet access permitting, Mike and I hope to post brief reflections so that family and friends can learn alongside us on this journey. More significantly, we keep turning to each other and commenting, “That will preach!” when we note a new insight to share with our church family after we return on June 1.

So where have we been so far?

Day One – Sunday, May 18 – Departure from Chicago

Day Two – Monday, May 19 – Arrival in Tel Aviv

Did you know that with a population of nearly a half million, “The City That Never Sleeps” is Israel’s second largest city behind Jerusalem? Jonah would never recognize the place. (Tel Aviv and Jaffa – Joppa in ancient times – merged into a single municipality in 1950, two years after the founding of the state of Israel.)

Day Three – Tuesday, May 29 – Into the Wilderness!

After an overnight in Be’er Sheva, we began our tour of the Northern Negev. We passed shepherds (small children, usually) in the southern Judean hill country on our way to ancient Beersheba to study aspects of desert life during Abraham’s day. The most amazing part of the day? A hike through the dramatic Zin Canyon at high noon (check out Numbers 20), capped by a vertical ascent (hand over hand in places) nearly 1000 feet up to return to our tour bus.

Our best take-aways from today?

  • Did you know that 3500 year old grains of barley can actually germinate? Yoni was part of an AIDFRP group (Ancient Israel Desert Farm Restoration Project) that took barley removed from King Tut’s tomb and replanted it in the desert. It sprouted! (And we think we’re too old for new beginnings?!)
  • Be careful of the work you leave behind. At Tel Be’er Sheva, we descended into a deep cistern with plaster work dating back to the 10th century BC, and the fingerprints of the plasterer were still evident!

We’ll add pictures later, but we’re excited to share with you some of what we’re learning on our study tour.

Next stop: The Dead Sea!