So I’m still in Israel as I write this and shawarma and falafel are still working their way through my digestive tracks, but I feel like I have enough ammunition to convince you to go. Speaking of ammunition, I heard so many warn me about coming to such a dangerous and politically explosive place. I can only say that I never once felt unsafe or saw anything even slightly concerning. Obviously there were places our tour guide Arie didn’t take us, but it’s not like the news makes it out to be. You will see military personnel with weapons, but nothing crazier than what you’d see in the American South.
4) Floating in the Dead Sea
I don’t know how to explain this to you. It’s similar to what you would think it’s like floating in space. The water in the Dead Sea is denser than the liquids in your body so you just float. You just lay back, put your hands behind your head, and it’s like relaxing on an inner-tube. Even if you “stand” straight-up-and-down like a pencil you still just bob there like buoy in the water. It’s mind-blowing.
3) Seeing How God Has Preserved the Jewish People
Every place you go you will hear your tour guide tell a story about how someone tried to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth. Not only are they still around, but they were spread out throughout the continents for hundreds of years and still miraculously ended up back in their homeland. That has never happened before in the history of civilization. And the Jewish people are just so unique themselves. There’s such diverse “brands” and rich cultural distinctives everywhere you look. And story after story from their history just proclaims that a God must be protecting and preserving them. No doubt about it.
2) Looking at Places from the Bible
There’s plenty of “traditional” spots where miracles and other biblical events occurred and there’s probably a big Catholic Church sitting on top of it. But the amount of places that from biblical descriptions, archeology, or a combination of the two point us to an exact location where something amazing in the Bible occurred is just unbelievable and awe-inspiring. To stand on Mt. Carmel and read the story of how Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal there or to pray in the gardens of Gethsemene just outside the East Gate of Jerusalem, it just makes the Bible pop and come alive. But especially the archeological discoveries found deep beneath the modern roads and houses like the tunnels King David used to invade the Jebusite city near present day Jerusalem. I’m sure lots of people believe the Bible was just some rando dude writing some rando stuff, but then you find actual cut-out stone that so specifically fits the Biblical description of 2 Samuel 5 that it leaves you speechless. Following those tunnels they found ruins with relics from Tyre (p.s. the Bible says that the king of Tyre sent his masons to aid the building of King David’s city), they found a second tunnel King Hezekiah had dug to make sure they could still access fresh water during the siege from the Assyrians, and they also found the real location to the pool of Shiloah where Jesus healed the man born blind (and yes there’s a commemorative church built in the wrong spot.) The historicity of the Bible just becomes so apparent.
1) Walking Where Jesus Walked
Which brings us to the most important piece of history out there – the real Jesus. No one doubts Jesus existed. But is Jesus who He claims to be and who His followers say He is? You’ll see the Sea of Galilee where the Gospels say He walked on water. You’ll see the mountain side where He preached His sermons and fed multitudes. You can dunk yourself in the same river He was baptized in. You’ll touch stones you’re convinced He touched, walk in places He walked, and see sights He saw. If you already believe Jesus is Lord and Savior then the experience of being so close to where He was beaten, crucified, buried, and ressurrected is almost too much to handle. If you are skeptical of all that then I promise a visit to the Holy Land will mess with you. This “myth” you think you got figured-out suddenly seems a whole lot more real.
So do yourself a favor. Visit Jerusalem. There’s no other place that can invoke the type of emotions you’ll experience there. It’s an absolute must. So… next year in Jerusalem.
P.s. If you pay for Pastor Joe’s trip, he’d be happy to be a tour guide for you.