Miracles and Mountains

Miracles and Mountains

Today began with an Israeli buffet breakfast, with salads, rolls, yogurt, strong coffee and fruit.  We were on the road at 8 am, starting with a drive by Magdala – the city of Mary Magdalene.  We traveled further north around the Sea of Galilee to Taghba, to the Church of the Multiplication – where Jesus fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fish.  An old Byzantine Church from the 5th Century was discovered some 80 years ago, with lovely mosaics in the floor depicting the fish and loaves.  A lovely church, organ music playing, and a beautiful site.

We then traveled southeast to Tel Megiddo (“tel” meaning mount or mound) where some 25 civilizations have inhabited over the past 7000 years.  Each layer (20 layers) were built on top of another, and the rich history from the Egyptians to the Israelis to the current day are wrapped up in this wonderful location.  For history buffs, this is a great place to visit.  To envision the people who lived there, the fortresses they built and the inventions that they created are wonderful to see.  One of the most incredible is an aqueduct system built so the water could be attained from inside the fortress by going down a tunnel to a pool built to gather the water from the springs.  We traveled down a couple hundred steps to get to the base, and were amazed at how this system was created some 3000 years ago!

Tel Megiddo is the location mentioned in Revelation 16 where the last great battle on earth will occur – the great battle where all soldiers will be killed and the valley will be filled with their blood – Armageddon comes from the Hebrew word for Tel Megiddo (Har Megiddo).  The valley is HUGE – and to envision this area from the Tel was quite moving.

On the road we passed by Mount Tabor where Jesus was transfigured on the mountaintop before Peter, James and John, and was joined by Moses and Elijah.  The mountain is quite tall – I imagine the other disciples said, “Too high of a climb for us, we’ll stay down here and wait for you!”  There is a monastery on the top of the mountain that looks out over the valley.

We then headed to Mount Carmel, where the prophet Elijah faced off against the prophets of Baal (450 of them) and won!  Read 1 Kings 19 for that story (how do you like that, PC ordering us around from Israel).  The site from Mount Carmel was incredible – from the Mediterranean Sea to the Sea of Galilee, even to the land of Jordan.  The weather was perfect for that!

We then stopped for lunch and had our first Falafel – pita bread with (yes I admit that I ate it) ground chick peas, deep fried, with vegetables and sauce on top – delicious!  What a great lunch.  We sat outside on a patio and enjoyed the warm breezes.

Our final stop of the day was Nazareth – the little town where Jesus was raised.  A town of some 400 in Jesus’ day, it has now become a bustling city – we spent a good amount of time on the streets of the town during rush hour!  The YMCA in Nazareth has taken over about 6 acres in the middle of town and created a 1st Century village as it was in Jesus’ day.  They had found some remnants in that area of a wine press and fields that could be from that time.  There were actors and animals, a synagogue they figure to be the size of one in Jesus’ day (remember how the people listened to Jesus in the synagogue and were so moved by his words, they were ready to pitch him off a cliff?), a watchtower, a house, a carpenters shop and other things.  I had to laugh (remember we were at the YMCA) when the guide said, “Let’s go see the Village People.”  I was expecting men in a police outfit, Indian headgear, a construction worker, etc. – wrong village people!  Our guide, Rani, married a girl from Texas – he was a great guide and did a wonderful job!

Speaking of guides, our guide, Micah, is wonderful.  He has been leading tours for 25 years, and is very knowledgeable, but not speaking over our heads.  Just as wonderful is our driver, Elijah (Eli) – who has taken that bus in places I would be scared to take a Smart Car.  They have led us to see wonderful things the past couple of days, and we look forward to more to come.

On the way back home to our hotel, we passed the city of Cana, where Jesus turned water into wine.  We could visualize where Jesus walked from Nazareth to Cana to the Sea of Galilee.   We came back to the hotel to another good meal, and a time of sharing and prayer to end our day.

Tomorrow we leave the northern part of Israel and head to Bethlehem, then on the Jerusalem, which will be home base for the rest of our trip.  We miss you all, and we lift you all in our prayers.  More pictures will be posted later – I have over 700 to choose from, so give me time!





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Happy St. Patty’s Day!


Whether it be the luck of the Irish, or more likely God’s Divine blessing that we have ARRIVED in Israel, safe and sound.

We left Columbus on time Tuesday Morning at 8:35 am, and arrived in Newark by 10:30.  We got on a shuttle bus to our concourse, found our gate, and settled in.  After lunch and a lot of people watching, we were herded out of one area of the concourse so they could set up additional screening.  Thorough bag checks and everyone being “wanded” with a metal detector, we waited for our flight to finally board.

We knew at this point we were heading to something different – at 3 pm, several of the Hasidic Jewish men, with leather straps on their arms, prayer boxes on their heads, prayer shawls over their shoulders,  faced East and said their prayers.  Such devotion is wonderful to see.  We even saw it a couple times while on the plane as well.  The cutest thing to see at the airport was a little girl with a pacifier standing on the seat next to the men with a book in her hand bowing like her Dad.

We got on the plane on schedule and were set to leave, but one passenger (no one we knew and not from our group) missed the flight, but his bag made it.  The airline baggage handlers had to find that one suitcase out of 300 or so in the belly of the plane.  That set us back about 1 hour.

None of us slept well on the plane, but that is to be expected.  We arrived in Tel Aviv at 9:10 am local time (that is 3:10 am Eastern Daylight Time) , made it through customs and baggage check with no problem.  The touring company arranged for our welcome and ride to Tiberias.  Our driver is a Russian Jew who moved here 20 years ago.  His wife just had a baby three days ago.  Our conversation was limited as his English was not too strong.  He got us to Tiberias (even though his driving was about as good as his English) by noon.  Once again, we had some language issues checking in, but got to our rooms, called our tour guide, and we FINALLY met up with the rest of the group at 2 pm on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.  Our guide did his best to fill in where they had already gone, and we were bummed that we missed some neat sites.

BUT, meeting up with our fellow travelers, and the final stop of the day (our ONE stop) was a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.  A beautiful, sunny warm day on the Sea and you could just imagine Jesus and His Disciples joining along with us.  The boat ride began with, believe it or not, The Star Spangled Banner, being that we were all Americans.  Then we had a devotion and prayer led by a pastor from one of our tour group.  We then got to meet Daniel, who sails the only Christian tour boat on the sea.  He showed us how they would cast nets into the water in Jesus’s day, but his catch was not so good.  The nets they used were so the scales of the fish would get caught in the net and be pulled in – reason being that in Leviticus, we are told that fish without scales are unclean.

Then, Daniel led us in a few songs – “Revelation Song,” “Agnus Dei,” “How Great Thou Art.”  They sang the songs in English and Hebrew.  What a beautiful setting.  One down side was the selling of CDs and trinkets along with the ride – kind of made it too commercial.  But that is the reality of the sites we are visiting.  To finalize the visit, we saw a 1st Century boat that was excavated about 30 years ago.  It was found in the mud along the shores of the Sea of Galilee during a year of severe drought.  It was pretty cool to see a boat from Jesus’ day.

We drove past the town of Mary Magdalene (Magdala), the location where Jesus cast the demons into the swine, the home town of Peter (Capernaum) and other places.  All of these are around the shore of the sea, as is our hotel.

Back to the hotel, and exhausted – dinner and bed are in order.   More to come soon!

More pictures from our trip will be updated along with this blog and can be found at the following web site:





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Beware the Ides of March

Ah yes, the storms on the East Coast have lashed their fury on the lands of York and Jersey, and the modes of transportation have felt the ill will of the tempestuous winds.

… in other words, canceled and delayed flights.  When your scheduled flight is to leave before the plane actually arrives at your airport, you know you are doomed.  It was one delay and cancellation after another.

Not much we could do about it.  My heart went out to the men and women behind the counter and on the phones who did their best to get us to where we wanted to go. My Dad worked for Eastern Airlines for over 30 years, and had to deal with these issues with passangers over and over agian.  They did their best, but to no avail!

Six boarding passes, three changes in flights, one trip to the airport and many hours later, we are still at home.  I was going to post a picture of our house, as that was the site we saw the most today.  But alas, tomorrow is another day!  (I believe Scarlet O’Hara’s exact words were, “After all, tomorrow is another day!”  (Bit of trivia – THAT is the last line of Gone With The Wind, not Rhett Butler’s famous line.  THAT line may be appropriate after today, too!)

Tomorrow we try again.  This will set us back a day, which is not so bad, because our first day there was to get acclimated – no touring, just getting settled.  With being a day behind, that will mean that when we get to Israel, we start touring that day.  We hope we can go right from the airport to join the tour group.

Prayers for good weather and made connections are requested.


Pastor Charlie


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Not so fast!

Up at 4 am this morning, ready to get out the door for an early Bob Evans breakfast and a trip to the airport, but first, let’s check our flights on line.

Columbus to Newark – CANCELLED

Ugh!  What to do?  Calls to Continental Airlines (not a very productive call) and to our tour company, and then…. wait.

Finally, at 11 am, we get verification – a later flight – 8 pm to Newark, 11 pm to Tel Aviv.

The GOOD News is that Tuesday is a down day, so we will not miss out on any touring.  A LITTLE concerned about making connections, but our tour group is confident we will make it just fine.

More to come!


Charlie Woodward

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And Away We Go!

Less than 16 hours – actually 58000 seconds, but who is counting?

This is a SHORT post today to let you know that the next 36 hours are air and ground travel.  I am not likely to have access to the internet to update this blog until March 16th, so BE PATIENT!

Israel is 6 hours ahead of us – so while it is 7 pm here on Sunday, it is already 1 am Monday.  

Keep us in your prayers, as we will pray for all our family and friends each day.

God Bless You!


Charlie Woodward

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What to Pack?

What does one pack for Israel?  The weather has been dry, but temperatures have been anywhere from 50 degrees to 90 degrees!  It has been suggested that we dress modestly for entering religious sites – knees and shoulders covered, and possibly head cover as well.  No fancy clothes are needed – comfortable is key!  A hat, sunglasses, sunscreen.  Comfortable shoes, yes, all on the list!

A camera?  Yes, the camera is packed, along with three memory cards (overkill, I know, but I live with the fear of not having enough memory for all the pix I want to take).  Maps, tour books, Bible and a timeline to try to put it all together.  I have told my group that my ideal trip would be to tour Israel chronologically – start with Abraham (Genesis) and work through John of Patmos (book of Revelation).  Instead, we will be places that were significant in many different historical periods of the Scriptures.   I also know that the exact locations of certain events are not possible to know for sure, so a bit of skepticism is in order.  But I am getting off subject here…

What to pack?  Water Bottle.  Adapter for electric items (battery charger for camera, ipod, etc).  My laptop.  I wasn’t so sure about taking it along – a hassle to get through security, a pain to know where to store it along the way.  But I am excited about the opportunity to share the experience through this web blog.  So it is coming along.  I will also be able to start working on a slideshow on the flight home.

What to pack?  A neck safe.  My Mother-In-Law insists on it.  So much so, I have received one for Christmas each of the past two years!  Passport, plane tickets, money, credit card.  A couple decks of cards, ipod, earplugs. 

Yes, all the regular necessities, but I want to leave to bring home gifts and treasures.  What that will be?  I am not sure yet.  My secretary wants a rock from Jesus’ tomb (even though the church of the Holy Sepulchre has no rock around, I will see what I can do).    Some olive wood carvings?  Pottery?  We will see.

One suitcase – less than 50 pounds.  Wish me luck. 

We leave in 44 hours!

Charlie Woodward

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Last Minute Details

Three days to go, and I am checking things off my list: 

I have done the last minute banking. 

I have left phone numbers and itinerary with work and friends. 

I have started to pack (I have a ways to go before I catch up with my wife there). 

 I have been watching the status of our flights the past few days to see how close to being on time they usually are.  I have been watching the news from Jerusalem, and I am a bit concerned about the police blockades and skirmishes (although I am confident we will be kept out of harms way). 

I have watched the weather on weather.com for updates on Tiberias, Jerusalem and Newark.

I still have a sermon to finish, and some chores around the house to complete.   

I have read a lot of materials on the places we will be going.

I have bugged our travel guide company with endless questions, and have been blessed by quick and informative answers.

I have requested and received materials for our whole group through the Israel Tourism Bureau, who sent along maps and booklets for each person in our group.

I am anxious to get going.  I pray for our group, and those who will be traveling with us, that we might together experience the wonder of the Holy Lands.  I pray for safe travels, warm weather, good photo opportunities, good health, good food and good memories.  I ask for your prayers as well. 


Charlie Woodward

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