On Monday morning, January 21, I departed with 50 travelers to visit Israel, the land where Jesus lived, walked, taught, healed, lived, died, and was resurrected. (And it happens to be the location where He will come again!) After a bus ride to DFW, a 3 hour flight to Newark, and a 10 hour flight to Tel Aviv, we were greeted on Tuesday afternoon by my friend, Reuven Solomon who will be our tour guide for the sixth or seventh time. We arrived at the lovely Renaissance Hotel time in time to check in and eat a delicious buffet – then everyone was ready to do battle with the pesky little foe named “jet lag.” I was in bed by 10pm last night and slept until 5 which is a pretty normal night for me, so we’ll see how I make it today! Jet lag is that insidious fatigue that makes your eyelids heavy when you’ve just traversed several time zones. Some of our travelers often succumb to naps on the bus between sights and become members of the “I slept today where Jesus walked” club!
I think this is my fifteenth trip to Israel, so in a way I always feel as if I’m coming home. I first visited Israel in 1974 when I was a student at Samford University. I was a part of about 12 students and one Archeology Professor who came to study and practice archaeology and see the Biblical sites. Our accomodations were in Christ Church Hospice in the old city of Jerusalem. We stayed for several weeks in cold, bare dorm rooms with bunk beds and meals consisted primarily of a large pot of thin potato soup with all the chunks of homemade bread you could eat. After spending all day sifting through dirt in a 4ft by 4ft square using nothing but a kitchen spoon and a toothbrush, that soup and bread tasted heavenly!!
Actually, we were there while the Yom Kippur War was going on, but, hey, when you’re a college kid, you’re used to a lot noise. Jets streaked over the sky constantly, tanks were in the streets at night, and we could hear distant rumblings that weren’t thunder. In other words, we had a blast!
Since that original trip, I’ve been bringing many groups to visit Israel, and I’m happy to say we utilize somewhat better accommodations (although I still can’t pass up potato soup if it’s on the buffet!). My greatest joy is watching the faces of the friends I bring when they realize for the first time that they really are looking at the same scenes Jesus viewed. The ride across the same Sea of Galilee where Jesus sailed (and walked). They really are walking in places where we know He walked. For the first time, these people who love the Bible are able to form a mental image of events in the Bible. They come away with a visual frame of reference of Biblical events that they could never have by simply reading books or even watching a movie about the Holy Land.
So, we’re off today to visit the Western Wall, the only remaining part of the Temple Mount during the time of Jesus (often called the “Wailing wall). Check out this 24/7 video feed of the Western Wall – http://www.aish.com/wallcam/ if you‘re watching it, we’ll wave.
We’ll walk through the narrow streets of Jerusalem which look much like they did when Jesus carried His cross through there 2,000 years ago. We’ll visit the Rock of Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus fell on His face and prayed “not my will but yours be done.” We’ll have our own private worship experience among the Olive Trees in the Garden of Gethesemane where Jesus was arrested. We’ll end our day at the Garden Tomb – and I’ll be able to report to you again – IT’S EMPTY! He is not here, He has risen from the dead!
If you’re reading the blog and have specific questions about the sites, I’ll try to answer some of them if you leave a comment.