In May of this year, my husband and I had the privilege of traveling to Israel with a small group of friends from our church. Even though this was a bucket list trip for us, it developed into much more as the allure of the Holy Land captivated us.
Some of our highlights were:
- Caesarea by the Sea: Situated on the stunning Mediterranean Sea, this is the ancient Roman-style city that Herod built complete with a man-made harbor and system of aqueducts. Viewing the sapphire blue sea, it’s easy to understand why he selected this spot. Even more enlightening is the realization that many New Testament heroes resided or spent time here, including Cornelius the Centurion and the Apostle Paul. As a side note, Herod was struck dead in the stadium here (Acts 12:19b-23).
- Jezreel Valley: From Mount Carmel, we observed this immense flat valley and comprehended this is where Armageddon will take place. There is an Israeli Air Force Base located there and we heard multiple planes taking off.
- Mount of Beatitudes: Located next to the Sea of Galilee this hillside area is a natural theatre providing perfect amplification. As Jesus delivered his Sermon on the Mount, everyone in the crowd, including the rear portion, would have been able to hear him.
- Boat Ride on the Sea of Galilee: It was a beautiful day for a boat ride, but we heard tales of how suddenly storms pop up over this body of water. While his disciples were in a boat, Jesus walked toward them during one of these storms and they almost didn’t recognize him. The question, “Do we miss Jesus in the storms of our own lives?” challenged each of us.
- Baptism in the Jordan River at Kinneret: Despite being a commercialized site and the fact that I was baptized by immersion almost 40 years ago, this experience touched me deeply as I renewed my commitment to Jesus Christ. Fish even nibbled on my legs!
- Masada: Expecting to see just an oversized “Alamo,” we were overwhelmed with the enormity of this fortress masterminded by Herod. The story of the 1000 Jewish men, women, and children who defended it from the Romans, eventually choosing mass suicide over enslavement, was awe-inspiring.
- Camel Ride: Well, what can I say … something I always wanted to do, even if it was through a parking lot.
- Wadi Qelt in the Judean Desert: Also known as the Valley of the Shadow of Death (Psalm 23) and where we saw the steep and tortuous path portrayed in the parable of the Good Samaritan. There is a monastery built into the cave-laden cliff, inhabited by Eastern Orthodox monks, with a history of offering hospitality to pilgrims.
- Jerusalem: Despite the gold-hued Muslim Dome of the Rock being the most recognizable feature of the city, the panoramic view was breathtaking.
- Mount of Olives: The sight of the holy cemetery and the immense number of tombs astonished us. The Jewish people believe that when their Messiah comes, the dead will rise and walk to the Temple Mount. They believe this close proximity will allow them to be first; but, not to be disrespectful, I chuckled when I thought of the scripture, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16, NIV).
- House of Caiaphas (High Priest during Jesus’ ministry and trial): Built over the spot of what historians and archeologists believe to be Caiaphas’ home is the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu. As you make your way down below it you will find yourself in a dungeon where they believe the soldiers contained Jesus in advance of his crucifixion. It was sobering viewing the grooves in the walls where guards would have secured our Savior’s arms.
- Garden Tomb: Located just outside of the walls of the Old City next to a rocky hill resembling a human skull (Golgotha—where Jesus’ crucifixion occurred) is a tomb that may have been the location of where Jesus’ body was laid to rest preceding His resurrection. Although there are differences of opinion among scholars as to the actual site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection, we experienced intense emotions when we entered the tomb.
These are just a dozen highlights from our trip, and yet there were so many other memorable spots. Venues such as Mount Carmel, Caesarea Philippi, Capernaum, the Golan Heights, Harod or Gideon Springs, the Dead Sea, the view of Mount Moriah, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Western or Wailing Wall, and the Via Dolorosa are among those places. Several people told us Scripture would transform from black and white into color after spending time in Israel. We agree that yes, the trip definitely added another dimension to our study of God’s Word. If you get the opportunity to visit Israel, the Holy Land, go!
And remember, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6, NIV).
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