Steve and I recently returned from an incredible trip to Israel. It was amazing! I’ve had a fascination with the Holy Land for many years, but never imagined I’d ever have the opportunity to go. What a blessing to be able to spend several days exploring parts of this historic, fascinating country. Since we’ve returned, a lot of people have asked about our trip, wondering what stood out the most or what places we most enjoyed. It’s hard to single out any one place or any specific activity, but there are a few highlights I know I’ll always treasure deeply, and I wanted to share some of them here.
First, I loved the privilege of walking in the very places Jesus lived his earthly life. It was as if our Abba Father took us on a road trip to show us the places His Son lived, loved, ministered and healed during his 33 years on earth. What fun to visit these places firsthand!
Another beautiful gift this trip provided is the way it brought Scripture to life. Whether we were visiting historical sites, walking where Jesus did, or simply driving along the highway, time and again a passage of Scripture would come to mind. The leaders of our trip, Pastor Marty and Jenny Schmidt from the Bridge Church in Ottumwa, IA, taught at several of the sites. Marty read Scripture passages that were pertinent to where we were visiting, and also shared some of his own thoughts and “wonderings.” We were also blessed by the knowledge of our Israeli tour guide, Ari, who gave us deeper insights into the history (past and more recent) of the Promised Land. It was wonderful to be in the actual location (or close to the actual location) of where these events took place thousands of years ago. An added bonus is that now, when we read Scripture, it seems to be in 3D and living color!
Steve and I were also fascinated to simply be in this unique place, to witness firsthand the restoration of this tiny nation. As we read about Israel and its intriguing history — especially of its rebirth as a nation in 1948 — and then toured and explored it in person, we were amazed at how ancient prophecies have been fulfilled in recent history and are continuing to unfold to this day.
We were also intrigued by the reality that three of the world’s major religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — revere Jerusalem as a holy city. This was very evident as we walked through the Old City, which is divided into four quarters: the Jewish Quarter, the Muslim Quarter, the Christian Quarter and the Armenian Quarter. I’ll share more about that in a future blog post.
I took 500+ pictures over the course of our ten-day trip (we 7 days spent touring), but I promise I won’t bore you with all of them! I do, however, want to share a few from each place or site we visited. I’ll include a brief explanation under each one.
We spent the next two nights in Tiberias, a city on the western shore of the beautiful Sea of Galilee. This “sea,” which is actually Israel’s largest freshwater lake, divides the Golan Heights from the district of Galilee in the northern part of Israel. This relatively small body of water is known by a lot of other names: the Lake of Galilee, Lake of Gennesaret, Lake of Gennesar, Sea of Chinnereth, Sea of Chinneroth, and the Sea of Tiberias.
I found it interesting that even though this city is located in the region where Jesus lived and ministered, there is no record in Scripture of Jesus ever visiting Tiberias.
Our final stop that day was the Jordan River, specifically to a place know as the Yardinet. This spot, located on the banks of the Jordan River just south of the Sea of Galilee, is where many tourists and pilgrims go to be baptized in the same water that Jesus was baptized in by John the Baptist. We were given the option of being baptized, and both Steve and I chose to participate as a symbol of our love and commitment to Jesus. What a beautiful experience to be immersed in these ancient waters! “Buried with Christ in His death; raised to new life!”
Thanks for reading! I’ll continue with the show-and-tell on future blogs — I can’t wait to share the rest!
Note: Several of the historical facts I shared were gleaned from a few books I read before going to Israel. If you’re interested in learning more about this amazing country, I’d recommend these books as a start.
The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi, by Kathie Lee Gifford.
Jesus, a Pilgrimage, by James Martin, SJ
The Holy Land, by George W. Knight
The Christian Traveler’s Guide to the Holy Land, by Charles H Dyer and Gregory A. Hatteberg.