Just so everyone knows, the whole tour group is doing fine now. A couple of days of some virus going through the group, along with some lost luggage, but it seems we’re moving in the right direction now. Everyone’s feeling better at this point and the last piece of lost luggage (Sorry, Denise!) should be here today. Continue to pray for us and, again, we’ll catch up with the details of this BLOG soon. (Also, we have internet, but it’s not what it is at home, so that’s caused us some delays in the BLOG too!) Be back to you shortly…
Pastor Rom & Stan

DAY 3 – Upper Galilee

What a gorgeous day on the Sea of Galilee! Following is a picture from our balcony on the 12th floor. This is how we started the day…
Our tour today started by going around the south end of the Sea of Galilee, then heading up the steep incline to the Golan Heights-one switchback after another. We were able to look ‘over the fence’ into Jordan. We heard about a farm in that area raising alligators and crocodiles. Then, we saw them-Jewish cows! Malcolm, our guide, told us they were holsteins, but Goldsteins … and this is the only place you can see this particular breed of cattle. 🙂 On the way up to the top, we heard stories about the Six Day War in 1967 as we viewed the remains of Syrian bunkers and old tanks on the side of the mountain. (Our guide, Malcolm, was there as a very young man, so we were hearing from first-hand experience.)
After ascending the Golan, we stopped by a kibbutz to take a look over the whole of the Sea of Galilee. Here, Malcolm took out his maps and gave us an overview of the entire region of Galilee. From on top of the Golan, we were able to see everything-to get the ‘big picture’ of the geographical area of Jesus’ ministry.
As we went north across the area called the Golan Heights, we discovered that this area was responsible for Israel now being the #2 potato grower in the world (right behind Idaho). It was lush farm country, reminding those of us from the Midwest of Wisconsin, our home state. We saw the remains of bunkers, bunkers, and more bunkers-enemy bunkers still in place from the Six Day War. Along with these visuals, we heard the story of Ellie Cohen, the spy who brought Syria to its knees back in the day.
As we trekked across the Golan, we stopped in front of an Israeli early-warning base (top of a mountain) to look over into Syria. This, unfortunately, is the reality of living in a region of the world such as this one. Believe you me, when you see what we saw today-just how close Israel’s enemies really are, you begin to see things in a whole new light. Very enlightening…
One of the most amazing sights today was when a very snow-covered Mount Hermon came into view. Just take a look at what we saw…
At the base of Mount Hermon are a couple other sites we visited today. First was Banias (Panias), where worship of the god Pan took place (amongst other religions). This location is signficant for a couple reasons. It’s the headwaters of the Jordan River. It’s also the place Jesus asked his disciples “Who do you say that I am” (Matthew 16)? It was a turning point in both the ministry of Jesus, as well as the discipleship of the 12, especially Peter. Also at the base, we visited the location of Old Testament Dan, along with an Abrahamic (4,000+ years old) gateway to another nearby community. Wow! We just have a hard time comprehending these sites, as we don’t have any settlements this old where we come from.
After these stops on our tour, we paused for lunch. Most of us ate the local Falafel, while others had pizza or went to McDonalds…

Falafels for Lunch

McDonalds near Dan (Northern Israel)

Now, when we’re in Israel we’re learning about the biblical land, but we’re also learning about modern-day Israel too … and what God’s doing in their midst. One of my favorite stops is Kibbutz Naot Mordecai-also in northern Israel. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Naot shoes or not (Morgan’s Shoes, Madison, carries them if you’re in Wisconsin), but we always make a stop at the kibbutz factory where Naot’s are made. And … did I mention they have an outlet store? Let me tell you … a good time was had by all!

Shoe Factory at Kibbutz Naot Mordecai

We ended our day at the archeological dig of the New Testament Town of Magdala. This was a large Jewish town in Jesus day (we’re looking at the synagogue below) where a famous woman by the name of Mary of Magdala … or more familiar might be ‘Mary Magdalene’-a friend and disciple of Jesus. More to come tomorrow…
Pastor Rom
P.S. We had one of our travelers stay back at the hotel today due to illness. Please pray for Rita Neuberg if you would. Thanks! 

Day 2 – Israel Dead Sea

Once we all arrived and got a little rest after the travel adventure (Do you want to build a snowman … in Istanbul?), it was back to our regular Holy Land Touring program.
On Tuesday, we woke up with the sun rising over the Dead Sea. We had breakfast (including chocolate pudding and cheesecake … seriously!), put our bags on the bus and headed north to Masada, Herod the Great’s fortress on the shore of the Dead Sea. Not long after Jesus’ death and resurrection, this mountaintop stronghold became the fortress used by a band of Zealots as part of the 66AD revolution against Roman oppression. These 900+ Jews (including women and children) held off the Roman army for almost 3 years (70-73AD) before finally losing to the Romans. But, rather than surrender and give over their women and children to the wishes of the Romans, they committed mass suicide so the Romans gained no satisfaction with their victory.
After we left Masada, we went north to Ein Gedi – A water oasis with caves where David would have hidden from Saul. What an incredible stopping point near the Dead Sea shores in the Negev Desert. After some photo opportunities at one of the waterfalls and hearing our tour guide, Malcolm reading some Psalms that were possibly written by David with Ein Gedi as the backdrop, we boarded our chariot and continued north along the western shores of the Dead Sea.
Next stop was Qumran. This was an Essenes settlement. And, less than a century ago, scrolls of the full Old Testament of the Bible found there … minus the Book of Esther. The big takeaway = The Word of God written by the Essenes in the 1st Century BC, is still the unchanging Word of God in 2017! We had lunch at the Qumran stop and some of our group got to try Shwarma for the first time! I’ll let them tell you about it later…
Our last tour stop for the day was at Jericho. Jericho is the city where Joshua let the Hebrew people to walk around the city 13 times in 7 days and the walls came down. This was the first city that the Hebrew people defeated as they came into the land promised by God through Moses.
Jericho is also that city that Jesus passed through on his final trip to Jerusalem. He met a short man there and invited him to come down out of a sycamore tree. Do you remember his name? Are you already singing the song?
It is also believed that near Jericho is where Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days after being baptized in the Jordan river by John the Baptist.
Spending the night in Tiberius on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. More soon…

 Pastor Stan

Next Up: Night in Tiberius on the shores of the Sea of Galilee…

DAY 1 – Israel

There are those times in our lives when, even though we’ve planned carefully for significant events, nothing really goes as planned. When that happens, there are at least two different ways you can handle these situations–poorly or with some wisdom and love. I believe on our first days of travel, we did the latter. I am so proud of both factions of our tour group–from both Wisconsin and Maryland. Here’s the story I’m sticking to…
My brother Stan and I took the Wisconsin part of our group & Dave Walker took the Maryland part of our group and we were to meet up briefly in Istanbul, Turkey, prior to flying on into Tel Aviv, Israel to begin our tour. It was there that we would become ‘one group’ for the duration of our Holy Land tour. But that’s not how it went.
When checking in for our flight from Chicago to Istanbul, unlike other times I’ve gone to Israel, they wouldn’t ticket us all the way through to 
Tel Aviv-only as far as Istanbul. (I should have known something was up at this point!) Well, apparently not booking us all the way through to Tel Aviv, Israel was due to bad weather in Turkey. Then, before we left, I also received a call from Mike Reilly, the owner of Maranatha Tours-our tour agency. He asked me if we were having problems and if our flight was on time. I kept checking the Chicago to Istanbul flight and it said it was just fine, so that’s what I passed on to Maranatha. Mike told me we should watch out because there’d been some bad weather (snow storm) in Istanbul-bad enough to make the world news. O.K., but our flight was on time. We thought we’d be O.K.
The flight to Istanbul went just fine, but that’s when the unexpected took place. When we got off our flight  in Turkey and were shuttled to the terminal, the place looked like Chicago when we left-piles of snow everywhere! And apparently, Istanbul was not used to that much snow. We were told immediately that all flights to Tel Aviv had been cancelled for the day. The place seemed to be in chaos…

My brother Stan, myself, and nine other travelers had to pray and see what happened next. After several minutes (maybe hours) of run-arounds, we finally figured out what we had to do to move our group ahead. We all had to buy temporary VISAs ($30/cash/each) so that we could go out of the secure side of the airport, crossing that line over into (actual) Turkey, then get in line to get re-ticketed to Tel Aviv as soon as possible. Once we got to the other side of the airport, we stood in line for about an hour and a half, then a very nice Turkish Air employee pulled us out of line (we still had at least another hour to hour and a half to wait if we would’ve stayed in that line), took us to an available agent, and got us re-ticketed for a flight leaving at 2 AM Monday morning. Great. Now things were moving…
Almost immediately, after we’d gotten something to eat and worked our way through passport control and security … again, back into the gated/secure area of the airport, we noticed on the flight boards that … our new 2 AM flight had been delayed by 1 1/2 hours. Now we were leaving at 3:30 AM on Monday. (The airlines had offered us a hotel room, since we probably wouldn’t be leaving until 7 AM or so the next morning, originally. We declined, since we thought we’d be out at 2 AM. Who would’ve known!)
Well, let me make a very long story somewhat short. We spent the night in the airport, now waiting for our 3:30 AM delayed flight. It was delayed once, then more later on. Once we finally got on the plane, it was somewhere around 6:30 AM. The plane we’d boarded then had a mechanical and could not take off. They de-boarded us … and moved us to another plane. (I am serious, folks! We couldn’t have planned this comedy if we’d tried! Oh, and this is where Jeanenne Richardson commented to Stan, “I’m getting too old for this!”) We finally took off around 8 AM or so. After spending 14 1/2 hours in Istanbul, we were finally headed toward Israel. Again, ‘so proud to be travelling with the group we are travelling with. ‘So proud of how they were supportive of each other … and us, as hosts!
We got into the Tel Aviv airport, a few hours behind the Maryland part of our group. We were shuttled over to our hotel at the Dead Sea and got settled in our rooms about 11:30 AM on Monday. (The Maryland part of our group, under the excellent leadership of Mr. David Bill Walker has their own story to tell, so you’ll have to ask them about their trip over at a later date.)
Once we finally got together as a whole group–and so thankful we did, we had lunch together, and still got out to one site on the first day-the Fountain of Tears sculpture over in Arad, near the Dead Sea. (This is the famous sculpture by artist Rick Wienecke. Check it out by Googling ‘Fountain of Tears Arad.’)
We are just so thankful that God watched over all of us and we had safe flights here-though not what any of us expected time-wise. It still all worked out and now we’re on our tour. So… international travel. It’s always an adventure … and you just never know. With all of this in mind, please continue to pray for us now as we tour the Holy Land together. And please pray for three of our travelers that are still waiting for their luggage, would you? I know God’s going to help work that out too… 🙂 Much more tomorrow…
Pastor Rom

And here we go … on the 2017 Holy Land Tour!

Folks, in about 48 hours from now, we fly both out of Chicago-O’Hare and Dulles International Airports on our way to the Holy Land. We are flying via Turkish Air (rated the #1 airline in Europe for the past few years) through Istanbul (and we stay in the secure area of the airport, so no worries), then transfer down to Tel Aviv for our land tour from there. When we arrive, it will be approximately 9 PM in Israel, then we take about a 2 hour bus trip to the Dead Sea area, arriving late the first night–about 11 PM…
There, we’ll get settled and spend 2 nights at the Dead Sea while we look at areas pertaining mostly to the Old Testament story. Tune back in by next Monday, the 9th, and my brother Stan and I should be doing daily posts by then. We’re going to do our very best to take you to the Holy Land with us–at least virtually. Pray for us as we travel, and know that we’re praying for you back home. May we all be blessed by this incredible experience… Pastor Rom

2017 Holy Land Tour Introduction

Hosted by Rev. Dr. Rom A Pegram,
Co-Hosts Rev. Stan Pegram and Mr. Dave Walker
Greetings and welcome to our 2017 Holy Land Tour BLOG! Myself, my brother Stan, and the Mr. Dave Walker are all excited to get our tour underway come January 7. About 2/3 of our group will be flying out of Dulles on the east coast, while 1/3 of our group will be flying out of O’Hare, meeting up in Istanbul (via Turkish Airlines), then transferring on down to Tel Aviv where we meet our guide–Malcolm David Cartier–and get our ground tour underway.
Between the three of us hosts, we’ll be blogging each day so those loved ones we’ve left back home can keep up with the group, what we’ve done during the day, and what select members of the tour have been up to. We want all involved, and that includes our loved ones, to be enriched by this tour–whether on the tour itself, or keeping an eye on us from back home.
Please pass on the website address: so that your friends & relatives can follow us as we tour the Holy Land of Israel in January 2017.