This place has fascinated me for years. It’s something of a mystery that was still covered up in the 1920’s with only a few excavations done around then and in the 1930’s. It is currently in the Arab village of Beisan, at the junction of the Jordan River Valley and the Jezreel Valley.
In the Biblical account of the battle of the Israelites against the Philistines in 1 Samuel 31:8-12, the bodies of King Saul and three of his sons were hung on the walls of Beit She’an. In the Roman times this was the leading city of the Decapolis, a league of pagan cities.*
It remained buried for so many centuries, and yet when you see the vastness of it, you are quite shocked! Those Roman columns are extraordinarily tall, and it blows my mind to think that only a few stuck out of the ground, and yet the Arab nomads just farmed their herds here, with no digging or wanting to know what these things were sticking out of the ground! My archaeological mind would have going into overdrive 🙂
When you first enter the Regional Park of Beit She’an, you’re first shown a very large model of how it would have been set out.
If you are lucky enough to have the place to yourself, as we were, then you can all spread out and go where you like. Interestingly, it was the only time that it rained for us: we didn’t mind, even though it was October, it was still mighty warm! After allowing us to take off, our tour guide Hilik, reigned us all back in and started to guide us through this ginormous complex. The vanity sets, the large red columns which seemed almost white until the rain bought out their beauty, the rooms where there would have been steam like saunas, even alcoves carved out so you could go and do your business! This is such a phenominal place.
There also is a very large Roman ampitheatre on which I did burst out in song at the behest of my girlfriend! I just didn’t get good enough shots of the entirety of the theatre, but there are plenty online.
My advice is to not rush through here. The beautiful craftmanship is still abundant here, the detail, the tiles and mosiacs. There is plenty to wonder at here, and I cannot wait to go back and show my children!
Can you believe it’s been nearly a year since we were all in Israel 🇮🇱?
When we arrived in Israel last year, I was so unprepared for the massive amount of blessings that would unfold and be bestowed upon us. From being greeted by Avi and Rachel Lipkin at the airport and chatting with them, to being introduced as the ‘Crazy Kiwis’ on the bus by the Gilberts. Meeting Zev Porat and hearing his unique teaching on what he thinks is the ‘real’ place of the Cross. Sitting and having a meal with Carl Gallups just prior to leaving and being able to share that it was watching him and the Skywatch folk on the Jim Bakker Show that lead to our return. Being able to meet Jim Barfield briefly of the Copper Scroll. And of course having a few moments here and there with Derek and Sharon, being able to share some good stories with them. Yes we are blessed indeed.
However, it was the attendees that really blew our minds 😉🙃! People that we formed bonds with and have stayed in touch with for nigh on a year. People, seemingly just like us, who wanted to see this extraordinary land, meet like minded people and experience for themselves, the wonder that is the Holy Land.
Many of you may know that I was deeply impacted by the Dead Sea Region, for more reasons than one. I often spoke about how Masada, Qumran and being at the Dead Sea, I felt so incredibly different. I had thought that it was because of learning that we descend from the tribe of Benjamin, of which some of these areas are a part of, but there was something else. I had felt so full of vitality, so full of joy and verve and I couldn’t really understand why? Upon reading about the Dead Sea, we have since found out that there is a very specific reason. Given the higher atmospheric pressure and being at the lowest point of the earth, it turns out you’re getting more oxygen and therefore are feeling alot better, your brain functions at a higher capacity and exercise is easier! Who knew 🙂
Neil and I have been reading alot lately on the Jewish roots of our faith, and have even joined 250,000 other people worldwide with Rabbi Jonathan Cahn doing our first Passover Seder. It was a wonderfully rich experience, learning what each utensil, cup, bowl of food and piece of bread meant. The symbolism and understanding point to our Messiah, Yeshua. Unbelievable to think that all those years ago Abba Father instigated all of this!
In conclusion, I will be starting some new blogs about our time in Israel prior to the Skywatch Tour 2019, as there are some amazing sites that we have been to that the Skywatch people missed out on.
So come with me, and take this journey back in time and back to the land that is so Beloved by so many!
Neil and I had a deal: if there were camels to ride, we’d do it together. Back in 2013 when we had the option, I was recovering from getting food poisoning at Masada. Me+Camels=No! I was dead keen to get on the camels at Genesis Land until I saw Taylor being bucked from here to kingdom come and back again. Nope! No camel for me thank you very much. How rude! So instead, Neil shared the camel with Paula, and I walked along dodging all the camel poo. Screeches of laughter were heard, birthday songs to a camel, you could feel the excitement in the air.
I’m such a plonker. I should have gone on the darn thing….
We spent the better part of the afternoon being entertained by the Genesis Land crew, who were fabulous. Very entertaining, very knowledgeable, all round great time had by all. The food, the history, the setting, the costumes and that million dollar view – it’s definitely worth going and partaking of it all. I can’t wait to go again next time and share all this with my family.
Next we were off in our bulletproof bus to Shiloh.
I didn’t stand and listen to the narrative – too much to see and photograph! There’d been so much more dug up and uncovered since last year, so I was very keen to get moving and have my own expedition. It was a pity that we didn’t get to go into the Museum this year, they have amazing artifacts and findings in there. The movie, I find enjoyable and informative, and to some was deeply moving. Leaving the theatre and going on the gangplank to see the unearthed urns with the large bowls of burnt raisins was rather spectacular! Imagine bringing those back to life, lol 🙂 Shiloh, is steeped in deep Spiritual and archaeological history – a must for those of us who have faith.
Next stop – the recently crowned Capital of Israel, Jerusalem. Such a hoshposh and eclectic array of history, religion, new, old, politics, archaeology and wonder. The smells, the sounds, the amazing views, the old buildings, the ruins, the bulletholes from the reformation of the Land, the pavingstones, the tales this city could tell of it’s own life. Jerusalem is not for the faint hearted. It’s stark, it’s beautiful, it’s bustling and it’s dangerous. The different religions all squeezed into such a small area. The narrow roads which double as walkways – hmm, not the best idea there! And yet this is the very place Our Lord is going to land one day. My mind boggles at the thought. Kind of hilarious the Muslims walled up the gate and stuck a graveyard infront of it. That’s supposed to stop the Lion of Judah??
Back on the road, we encountered Mt Gerizim and Samaria. Nothing to worry about, just because we are heading to what is called on the news the Westbank, and it’s apparently incredibly dangerous….hey, we’ll be fine!
I was proposed to at the Samaritan’s Museum. The guy didn’t really measure up to my current husband, mainly due to the fact that he WASN’T my husband!! What a dick. Seriously, if they have to import women into the community, maybe submissive (good luck with that) and UNmarried would be a good start? To be honest, I was quite shaken by the experience. But it was actually my own fault. I foolishly though the dude was a guide in the Museum, and because the Cohen and his utter ‘menstruation fascination’ was driving me insane, I found myself having a nosey around down the back by the models. Said dude took me around the corner to show me some tiny baby coffins that had been excavated. Good ploy? Not so much. Neil had come looking for me, he knows what I’m like – oooh, pretty shiny and she’s off! So after a quick prayer, and hand held firmly in grasp, I was good.
Mt Ebal – Joshua’s Altar. Never shall I forget the image of Phil running downhill past us, chasing after a bunch of schoolboys! I’d dare say it was the Carlton Beer he bought at the Samaritan Village for eight shekels that kicked in 🙂 His face ruddied red, mischievious grin, loose metal flying everywhere, and us ripping with snorts of laughter. Oh bless him, he’s a good sort! It seemed amazing to me all the ruins that lay below the altar, and a Shepherd riding his donkey, herding his goats. All very normal of course. Sitting there declaring, ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ This place is beyond time. It’s of such importance, I dare not write any more here.
Going down and seeing the uncovered City of David. Wow. I took a video basically of me squealing and sent it to some friends and family right then and there. Some moments you have to catch, otherwise they just fade into the memory bank. But sometimes you need to record the smells, the sights, the colours, the feeling – praise God for senses. My favourite Psalm is Psalm 51. I should imagine that David was somewhere in these uncovered ruins, lamenting of his sin to God. Begging God not to take the Holy Spirit from him. Begging for a clean heart. Yes David and I have much in common….
I cried mercilessly during our visit to the Friends of Zion Museum. I couldn’t control nor contain myself. I’ve wondered was it the memory of my Uncle & Grandpa that fought in World War II. Was it their capture and subsequent incarceration in not only a POW camp, but also a Concentration Camp? Was it too personal, too real? Was it having read so many books, based on fact and actual people who lived through it all? I don’t have the answers. I know the Zionist movement is huge and not all together based on true scripture, but something of this place moved me. Make of it what you will.
The itinerary said we’d have free time. We grabbed a taxi, went back to the hotel and freshened up, and then thinking we had plenty of time, found our way back. We actually were a little early, but no, everyone was there! I must say, the people who plan these itineraries cram far too much in one day. I think that’s why so many of us crash when we get home, or get sick upon our return home. Our bodies and minds have been exposed to such great extremes, and rest doesn’t really happen. The farewell dinner was a supreme disappointment. The food was undercooked and most of us at our table couldn’t finish the meat. I felt ill after dinner, so again we prayed, and I took some probiotics too. Some individuals took off and didn’t say goodbye, so I found their bus, yelled at them and hugged them big! Like you can leave and not say goodbye. No.
To finish off our last evening, Neil and I spent time with an effervescent young man. Or should I say, we ripped through the hotel trying to find a business card so we could call someone who left their purse on the bus. Or the lady who was worried beyond belief that she didn’t have enough money for tipping so we escorted her up to the ATM machine a few minutes up from the hotel. She hadn’t PIN numbered her credit card (who doesn’t do that?) so she couldn’t withdraw cash. We then crashed in the lounge bar and indulged in the Divine Israeli wine, before heading back to our room one last time.
The morning saw us saying goodbye and farewelling everyone off on the Jordan part of the tour. Most people thought we were going as well, but alas that will suffice for next time. Our time in Jordan five years ago we’ll keep in our hearts until we go back and have a good look, minus the food poisoning or the Jordanian guards trying to make a pass at me!
Well here ends my blog on the Tour of Israel. I have some more personal thoughts and photos that I will share at some stage, but for now, that’s all folks!
Content and photos copyrighted by Sandi Wilson 2019
We found our seats on the back of the bus and off we went. The roads in Nazareth are interesting to say the least: not at all designed for large wide buses, but cheers to the bus driver, he did well, I never did catch his name!!
Neil settled himself in and looked up some articles online, then proceeded to start teaching different ones some Kiwi speech and much to my horror, Kiwi Slang….oh man, I didn’t know if that would go down well on a Christian Tour. I shouldn’t have worried 🙂 From the getgo, some of us were laughing and having a great time. Yishay was doing his best to narrate through his microphone, but I do believe a number of us were far too busy chatting and getting to know one another to hear his narration.
Listening to Americans trying to do Kiwi accents always brings a smile to my face!
El-Ahawat. What the hell was this place? It’s a line in the old testament, that seemingly had some relevance to Sardinian architecture. Someone really should have gotten a machete (I would have!) and chopped some grass down. People were tripping over alot, and it was difficult to figure out where we were and what we’d come to see. Neil picked up a stone and underneath it was a piece of handle from an old jug. That came home with us. Yishay had been talking about finding the hole where one of the gates hung – Michael found the other one! It was interesting hearing and learning the context of this archaeological site, we’re very glad we got to go there.
Meal times in Nazareth were wonderful. Sitting and sharing stories and learning from others like Carol & Jerry, Anne, Val, Phil, Charlotte & Michael were amazing. Neil and I always asked how and why people came on the Skywatch tour, and every answer was different. Being in the presence of someone such as Jerry, was amazing. Though quiet and unassuming, what he did have to say, at times had me in tears…..
For Neil and I, one of the absolute highlights was the four wheel driving to Gilgal Refaim. We absolutely loved the crazy roads and bumping along – and keep in mind Neil once had broken his back and is not supposed to be walking – so no complaining thank you! Part of the adventure is being able to go with the flow and expect the unexpected. As an ex farmgirl, I relished having the wind blowing through my hair, being thrown around and reconnecting with a part of myself that had laid dormant – the Adventurous Sandi 😉 I sat opposite Pat in the jeep, and she commented that perhaps today she shouldn’t have used any hairspray…. 😉
Again, to look eye level, Gilgal Rephaim was just a jumbled up bunch of stones with long grass that needed said machete! I didn’t want to go down into the Death Chamber, so Neil did and videoed it. For me, it was just lovely looking around and seeing all the archaeology that hasn’t been touched. There was another mound in the distance that seemed to be relevant, but we didn’t go there. Maybe we should?
I’m super glad that we’ve been to Banias Springs before, because we only got fifteen minutes this time. I’ve written about this in my book, it was a place that impacted me deeply back in 2013 on our first tour. There is so much to see, but we hardly saw anything this time. I look forward to going back and climbing the rocks up into some of the other sites up there. I’m told that the whole of Mt Hermon has many archaeological sites that only get visited by hikers. I also know that some people don’t like Banias Springs, and that’s fair enough. However, I take the view that Yeshua redeemed everything. Hearing Derek (again) speak on the importance of Peter, the rock and his revelation of who Yeshua is, right there in the very place that it was spoken and revealed, is important. As Carl Gallups says, context is key!
One place that I don’t particularly like, as you have to pay to pee, and it’s so utterly trite and commercial, is Yardenit. I didn’t like being hearded into the dining hall and all that business, but I got a chance to spend time outside quietly with Anne. She and I got a chance to share and that for me was Heaven. Thank you Anne for holding my hand and allowing my tears to fall <3 Being present to watch a few people be baptized was lovely, and kind of odd when they all stayed in the water and swam around! Great times 🙂
I witnessed something that didn’t happen on the first tour – people caring for one another. I am an unusual creature in that dry heat makes me come alive. However there were a number of individuals where the intense heat impacted them greatly. I loved watching some of the younger ones walking with some of the slower ones and showing care, that really blessed me. Having Deborah with her nursing background, and Michael with his military background, was invaluable and such a blessing. I didn’t hear people whining, whinging or complaining, and for that I am super grateful – that happened alot last year. What did shock me was an elderly couple (from our tour) in Jerusalem, were having trouble walking on the old cobblestones down a steep road. When I offered to help them, the man yelled at me, repeatedly. That gutted me, and it took Neil praying over that for me to let it go. The man never apologised, so I would just glare at him for the duration of the tour.
My kids tell me my glare is killer – that’s the point 🙁
For me, the Dead Sea Region is the place where I came alive – big time 🙂 The place where I would stand on the balcony and marvel that across the Dead Sea, was the Abarim Range – Jordan. Part of the land that originally was given to Abraham. Part of the land that one day will be restored to Israel. I had learnt after having our DNA tested, and developing a Family Tree, that we descend from the Tribe of Benjamin, and here I was smack bang in the middle of it all! Spiritually speaking, this is part of my heritage. No wonder I felt so ALIVE there!!
It was at the Dead Sea that my silent prayers came true – just to dance, and enjoy ourselves – and so we did! My husband has never danced in public with me – well he now has 😉 Spending time with Charlotte, Michael and Taylor, letting our hair down and enjoying Shabbat evening – that was Heaven on Earth to me 🙂 It was at the Dead Sea we got to spend some time with Val, one of our Brits from the Motherland, and hear some of her story.
And then of course, going back to Qumran. I thought at this point I was going to self combust…….oh my Gosh!!
How ridiculous for a sink hole to open in the road in which we were going to drive, and cut off any opportunity to go to Qumran. How about NO! And yet after prayer, miraculously, we were off to this magical and mysterious place.
The place has changed dramatically from when we visited there in 2013. Back then we were given the sanitised version of what this was all about, and taken into the building where alot of artifacts and scrolls are on display. There is so much untold and untouched history here. You can feel it. Meeting Jim Barfield, albeit so short, was incredible. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to walk all around, and it seems to be fenced off where we walked in 2013, but I think that will inevitably change.
This here, is the very reason we came back to the Skywatch tour.
God still hasn’t finished writing that chapter on our scrolls yet.
Photos and content copyrighted by Sandi Wilson 2019.
It’s been five and a half years since my first ever trip to Israel. I have wanted to write about my journey for the longest time, but up until recently, anything I wrote just seemed to fall completely short of what I really wanted to convey.
Let me take you back on a little bit of my journey.
There are a couple who are authors, Brock & Bodie Thoene. They have a series that I read back in 2003, called The Zion Chronicles. Within the pages of these fantastic Historical Faction (my play on words) was a sentence that caught me completely by surprise, ‘Have we made Jesus a Gentile?’
I had NO idea what that meant at all! In fact, I had been taught that Jesus negated the need for there to be a physical Israel now, and we the Church were the new Israel. The Jews were stubborn and had been blinded, and they were after all responsible for Our Saviour’s death. Isn’t it amazing the rubbish one will believe?!
I prayed. Because I knew that God was on my case. Then I found out something utterly astounding – Jesus was and IS Jewish! And then I found out something utterly shocking: Jesus WASN’T a Christian. What the heck? He’s not? Well then, what the heck am I? And there in was the biggest question of all I guess – I didn’t know.
I didn’t go and enrol in Torah school, I didn’t study Judaism, I didn’t DO anything except for keep on reading everything I could find by the Thoenes. Most of their work was about the Second World War, the Reformation of Israel and fictional stories within. But there were teachings within the storylines that grabbed me. Stories of Nephilim – Neph-a-what? Stories about layers and meanings within the Hebrew letters. Stories about strong, brave and courageous people who only wanted to live, and refused to give up and die. Stories that highlighted Isaiah 53 and it’s amazing meanings hidden in plain sight. Within the pages of their stories, I found something I wasn’t bargaining on; I found life with the Jewish Jesus.
Slowly but surely God lead me on a journey, that to be honest, is still slow and steady, but as each revelation sinks in, it then becomes a part of me deep within. When I met my now husband, he devoured every book on Israel, history, archaeology and everything else that had to do with the Holy Land. He wasn’t yet a believer, when we made the decision alongside a friend of ours, to go on a Holy Land Tour. I would read to him certain scriptures as we moved through different sites, to put into context all we were seeing. Unlike other pre-Christians, he was being shown everything until he finally had to make his own decision to get off the fence! How so very loving and kind of our God to do that 🙂
Next thing you know, it’s October 2013 and we were off with a hiss and a roar. Having never been around Jewish people, not really knowing anything remotely Kosher, we got a wild education before we hit Israel, thanks to El Al Airlines! I was sitting on the edge of the seat (close to the toilets) and I was being hit on every surface. As soon as we were in the air, everyone got up and walked around, chatting to everyone – very loudly, the Orthodox Jews were wrapping phylacteries around their head and wrists, praying loudly, nodding back and forth. Large Middle Eastern men were locating things in the overhead locker and I had big tummies in my face, bums in my face, legs and arms hit by the passing traffic, the trolleys hitting my legs, and alot of loud gesticulating people who seemed to be partying down by the toilets! I watched men being asked to move so the Flight Attendants could get through; they wouldn’t. I was being yelled at by said Flight Attendants in Hebrew until I said ‘English?’ I wasn’t entirely sure I had made the right decision at this point…..
I have never travelled El Al Airlines again 🙁
We landed at night and were taken to our hotel. I awoke at 4am, and watched the sunrise over Tel Aviv. I watched as kids were walked to school, all singing and seemingly happy. This was Israel. Wow.
And then we met our Tour Guide and headed off to Caesarea. Just the three of us in a little bus, this was awesome! We had the morning with the Guide then drove over to another part of Caerarea to pick up the rest of the tour group – oh my life.
There standing in Velour Tracksuits, were a bunch of African American Queens, complete with walking sticks, a walker, wigs, cornrows, false nails and attitudes to match! God had a sense of humour and he was letting me know….
To be honest, it was fine, apart from one individual who constantly held up the bus due to her shopping habit and lack of time management, the tour itself was great. One of the greatest highlights for me was being at Capernaum and Nazareth. I had encounters there that were completely unexpected, which I detail in my novel Mirabelle. Suffice to say, God has this beautiful way of surprising and arresting us IF we remain open to Holy Spirit and His guidance.
I didn’t particularly feel the need or notion to all of a sudden up sticks and move over there, but one place that fascinated me for reasons I couldn’t understand, was Masada. It wouldn’t be until our next trip and a whole lot of revelation in between, that I would come to know some very key things about this amazing and powerful place.
Through having our DNA done and then building a family tree through My Heritage, my daughter connected our lineage through to the Tribe of Benjamin. Going through the family tree, we also discovered that we are directly connected to certain Roman Emperors (I wish this wasn’t the case) and we had relatives that were born in Qumran around the time of the Siege of Masada. I cannot say that I can prove it all with facts, figures and certificates, but this resounded in my heart so loudly, I knew we’d finally found an answer to my weird fascination with Masada. Little did I know that God had an assignment for me the next time that I would go there….
It would be quite a while before we got to go back to this magical land. In between visits, Neil and I got married (Yahoo!), Neil accepted Jesus into his life (Yay!) our eldest daughter moved to London, our second eldest daughter graduated Make Up Artistry School, our son became a Wilson, my Father needed to be admitted to a Dementia Ward, my mother and her new partner became Travelling Gypsies, and my first manuscript got accepted by a Publisher!
And then there was Skywatch. Prophecy Watchers. L.A Marzulli. Timothy Alberino. Steve Quayle. Jim Bakker. Nehpilim. Giants. Extra Biblical books. Ancient Aliens. Documentaries galore. I wasn’t ok with any of this. As a Believer for over 20 years, I’d wanted to focus on the love of God. Bill Johnson. John & Carol Arnott. John Eldredge. Worship. Scripture. Soaking. Prayer. Confession of God’s Word. And more worship!
But alas God had other plans indeedipoos!
We were learning all these weird and wonderful things and both Neil and I were seeing unusual things occur. Suffice to say, Ephesians 6 got very real very quickly! But then a couple came into our lives who were new Believers, just like Neil, and what we were studying they had just been experiencing before their Salvation a few months before.
Fast forward a few years and Skywatch announced along with Aaron Lipkin that they were going to Israel. Well, those of you who know me and have chatted with me know that explosions within my stomach are God’s way of saying HELLO and this happened during the broadcast. That was on a Friday that I watched that, but I didn’t say anything to Neil until the Sunday – which was very unlike me. I wanted God to speak to him, and God sure did!
We prayed as we walked our beloved beach, and Neil asked for a sign, something that I don’t do. Incredibly, we got one within ten minutes, we cried and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving, and so long as children and schedules could fit in easily, we were off to Israel again……
Unfortunately, because of long standing issues with ‘guilt’ I felt we should ask this said couple to join us on the trip. Immediately red flags were raised, but I went into overdrive coming up with crazy ways to get funds for this – oh that I would listen to the Holy Spirit and not ‘good ideas!’
Part Two coming soon…..
Photos and content copyrighted by Sandi Wilson 2019