IBEX Campus is located on a Moshav- a small community built by immigrants coming to Israel after the establishment of the state in 1948. The moshav is named “Yad HaShmona”, “In remembrance of the eight”. Built by Finnish believers, the moshav is named to remember the eight Jews that Finland handed over to the Nazis during WWII. Thousands of Jews were harbored by Finland, but in order to keep peace, they handed over the eight. Seven of the Jews died in concentration camps while one survived; these men are honored in the name of the moshav.
Located on a hill, the moshav overlooks the Nahal Yitle Valley which borders the nearby cities of Abu Gosh and Kiriat Ye’arim. Nearby is the Elvis Inn, a spectacular restaurant that houses the most Elvis memorabilia in the world outside of the United States. This is a wonderful place to grab a burger. At $11 it is expensive, but well worth it after a few weeks without any American cuisine.
The Campus is beautiful. Built on the southern ridge of the Nahal Yitle valley, it is a naturally forested area. The Moshav has a Biblical Garden with olive trees and grape vines and a reconstructed synagogue modeled after the synagogues of the New Testament. While the campus is a wonder to behold, our weekly hikes and tours through the land is the gem of IBEX.
History- Israel’s uniqueness is found in her special relationship with God. From the beginning in Genesis 15 God sets Abraham apart from the world and promises him a nation of people would descend from him. He also promises him the land of Israel.
Beauty- Israel’s colors strikes wonder into the eyes of the beholder. From the palettes of green found in the forested valleys to the brushstrokes of sandstone and brown that paint the cities and plateaus, the canvas of the land is a picturesque representation to the very real locations in the Bible. The Mount of Olives is seen across the Kidron Valley and the Temple Mount today is the very location of Solomon’s temple in ancient times.
Worship- Israel’s purpose was to show God’s mercy and grace to the world. Ultimately, through her, God brought forth His Son, Jesus Christ, to save mankind from sin and form a new everlasting covenant with them. Today Israel is in a state of spiritual blindness as the Gentiles come to the Lord through Jesus Christ. One day the nation of Israel will be restored to the Father and the Lord will return! In the very city of Jerusalem Christ will descend and He will rule forever and ever. Amen
Our first few outings are focused on the Old City of Jerusalem. We visited many places including: the seven walls of the Old City, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Pool of Bethseda, the four quarters of the Old City, the traditional site for David’s tomb, various cemeteries, the city of David, the graves in the Kidron Valley, and Hezekiah’s tunnel.
The City of Jerusalem is divided into four distinct quarters: the Christian Quarter, Moslem Quarter, Armenian Quarter, and the Jewish quarter. Lastly the Temple mount is sectioned off into its own location as well. Surrounding the Old City of Jerusalem is a continuous wall with seven gates. The gates are (going clockwise from the east): Jaffa Gate, New Gate, Damascus Gate, Herod’s Gate, Lions Gate, Dung Gate, and Zion Gate.
The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the traditional site for Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. The church built in 326 BC, by the Byzantines, was overseen by King Constantine’s mother, Helena. The church was built on the traditional site for Christ’s crucifixion and burial. Based on the evidence, this tradition is probably true and we can, to the best of our knowledge, affirm that this is the place where Jesus died and rose again. Although it is within the city walls of today, the walls of Jerusalem did not extend out to the Western Hill of Jerusalem until many years after Christ’s resurrection. This allows us to consider it as the location and fit with Scripture and the laws of the Pharisees that prevented these acts within the city walls. Another supporting evidence is the types of tombs found under the church. The tombs fit the types typically used in the 1st century AD. While bench tombs and archasoleums are found under the church, it was most likely an acrchasoleum where Jesus was buried. Archasoleums are arches and a bed carved into the walls of the tomb to create a resting spot for the body. While a bench tomb also fits, the archasoleum better fits the passage found in John 20 when Mary Magdalene found two angels sitting at the head and the foot of where Christ’s body was lain. The last evidence is the tradition itself. Because the church was built in 326 BC, roughly 300 years after Christ’s resurrection, the tradition can be most likely trusted. Because Christians had never left Jerusalem between this time period, the tradition could have easily been kept by believers.
Visiting the church and knowing with almost full certainty that this was the location where my Lord and Savior was crucified and buried and ultimately rose again brought a feeling of wonder and humility to my heart. “This is so surreal!” came out of my mouth in whispers as I pondered the thought.
The Pool of Bathseda was an interesting location as well. John 5 recounts Christ’s healing of the lame man on the Sabbath. As we gazed upon the ruins of a Byzantian church built on the pools, John 5 was read aloud for all to hear. Immediately we noticed the absence of verse 4 in our Bibles. Verse 4 was added in many years after the writing of New Testament. It reads (continuing from verse 3), “In these lay a multitude of invalids- blind, lame, and paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water, for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool, and stirred the water; whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had.” This verse was added to give context to the reason the man was there at the pool. This was a Jewish superstition that the people believed instead of trusting in God. The lame man most likely believed as well for he says in verse 7, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool, when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” But Jesus did not need the power of the superstition, He is God incarnate. Jesus healed the man with His voice alone. His power and authority is absolute! To think that in this very location, the God of creation and our salvation healed the lame and expressed His divinity.
Surround the Old City of Jerusalem are various cemeteries. We visited multiple including the protestant cemetery. Within we found the grave of Horatio Spafford. This godly man lost his four daughters at sea in a shipwreck, yet he praised his Lord still. While sailing to his wife, he passed over the location of his daughter’s death. It was here that he penned the moving hymn “It Is Well With My Soul”. Here at his grave we sang the hymn in entirety and had a moment of silence and reflection.
“When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.”
Throughout the New Testament, we are reminded that trials are meant to shape us and draw us closer to God. We are to have joy amidst our trials, knowing that He is our comfort and our salvation. He does all things for our good and His glory.
The Eastern Wall of the Old City over looks the Kidron valley which separates the Eastern Hill from the Mount of Olives. Within the Kidron Valley are thousands of tombs dating from the 1st century BC. It was surreal to realize that Christ saw these tombs in His day. Perhaps he used the graves in the Kidron Valley as a backdrop for his famous sermon in Matthew 23.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
Some of the harshest words Jesus spoke were to the Pharisees and Sadducees. These men appeared to be religious and holy, but within they rotted with sin. Their hearts were far from the Lord. Let this be a lesson to to you O heart! Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. God desires our hearts
“’Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mournings; and rend your heart and not your garments.’ Return to the Lord your God…” Joel 2:12-13a
Lastly we waded through Hezekiah’s tunnel. Built in the reign of Hezekiah, King of Judah, it was a water way built to prepare Jerusalem against sieges. Wading through Hezekiah’s tunnel was a surreal experience. As we walked through the narrow tunnel, we could see the pick-axe marks of the men digging the tunnel. This is the very tunnel that King Hezekiah built as described in 2 Chronicles 32 “… Hezekiah closed the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed down to the west side of the city of David…” Just over 1700 feet long, it is a fun excursion.
At the end of Hezekiah’s tunnel is the pool of Siloam. These are the pools of Siloam mentioned in John 9. Here is the place where Jesus healed the physically blind. A great picture is created here: Jesus heals the physically blind man and heals him of his spiritual blindness as well. The Pharisees on the other hand were physically whole, but their hearts were spiritually blind. Because of their hypocrisy and pride, Jesus left them to their blindness. Also, Jesus tells his disciples the reason for this man’s infirmities: to give glory to God. This is true today as well. Things may happen in our lives, but we can rest assured that God has planned it all for His glory and our good.
It is amazing to view the city of Jerusalem through a Biblical Worldview. Walking around the city for hours is physically tiring, but it is rest for the weary soul. Jesus Christ walked these very streets and began his ministry in this very land. It is surreal and encouraging to view it from this perspective.
This sounds incredulous, but this all happened within my first 10 days of living in Israel! I will keep you posted on my tours, classes, and reflections on my time in Israel.
Grace to you and Peace from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Gage Harold Garcia