I’ve had the opportunity to do quite a bit of traveling in my 24 years, but I just got back from a trip full of firsts: first trip to the Middle East, first trip where the day is planned based on where rockets were shot the night before, first trip to a country under terrorist attack, first trip where I rode on an armored bus, first trip where the plane took off and then made an emergency landing…just to name a few.
Before we left for Israel, people kept telling me to be safe and questioning if our trip was even happening. I didn’t even think twice about it–I was going to the Holy Land! Our journey there was long but smooth (although some of our group had some hiccups along the way!). We spent our first night in Natanya where I got to go paragliding over the Mediterranean Sea. Such an amazing experience with gorgeous views!
The next morning we went to Caesarea and then headed to the Galilee region. This is where 29 out of 36 of Jesus’ documented miracles happened. Whoa. Talk about surreal! One day, we went up to the Golan Heights where we could look into Syria. Right before we walked up, there was an explosion–we could see the smoke as we got to the top. Things we see on the news became real to us. My trip highlight was having the honor of praying on our team’s behalf for our e3 leaders and brothers and sisters in Christ in Iraq and Syria as we looked out at their countries from the Golan Heights. I was reminded how privileged I am to live in a country where I can worship Jesus freely without the threat of being crucified (as believers in Syria have been) and without persecution. Join me in remembering to pray for the believers in these nations. They are brave and bold, and their faith is strong.
The day we transitioned to the Jerusalem area, we spent time in Ariel. Ariel is located in Judea/Samaria which is the so-called “West Bank.” What a cool town! We saw their cultural and performing arts center, a Holocaust memorial and museum, and a leadership training center started and operated by JH Ranch.
Because of the road we needed to take from there, the tour company we were with required us to take a 19 ton armored bus. This is a safety precaution they always take for travelers going this way. Just before we got to our destination, the bus broke down. Since we were close, we walked the rest of the way to Shiloh (where the tabernacle was for 369 years). How ironic! We needed an armored bus but ended up walking.
Then we were off to Jerusalem! I could talk for hours about what I saw and learned here. But one thing in particular sticks out–rockets.
Before leaving, we were told not to believe all of what we see and hear about Israel in the media. Solid advice. But as you probably saw this past week, Hamas did begin shooing rockets into Israel….lots of rockets. Our leaders had people with their ears to the ground finding out where we needed to change our itinerary. We were told what to do when the sirens went off, and the hotel gave all of us one of these:
One afternoon, myself and three other girls on our trip went to the outdoor mall next to our hotel to go to a coffee shop we’d heard a lot about. It was delicious! As we sat and enjoyed our coffee, we talked about the trip so far and how at peace we felt, even in the midst of the rockets and the West’s perception of Israel. The light from the window created a rainbow across our table so we talked about Genesis 9 when the rainbow appears, symbolizing the covenant God makes with Noah (and all of us!). ME started taking some cool pictures:
As we did this, the sirens went off. Everyone calmly got up and walked to stand under an awning. I looked up an saw this followed by four loud BOOMs:
The Iron Dome in action! As we were taking pictures of the verses that tell us about God’s promise, we were reminded of some of His other promises–the Jews are God’s chosen people, Israel is indeed the Holy Land, He is a God of protection, Jesus is the peace that surpasses all understanding. What an absolute blessing to really experience the peace that surpasses all understanding in the Holy Land among God’s chosen people.
We met several people who thanked us for coming to Israel and for staying even when the rocket attacks started. Our staying and not letting the attacks scare us or make us want to leave served as an encouragement for our friends in Israel. Praise the Lord for His faithfulness and the peace He provides!
We had the opportunity to hear from Michael Zinn, a Jewish believer who works with Chosen People Ministries. I thoroughly enjoyed what he had to say and loved his testimony. One thing he said that really hit me was that people “want to see to what extent your life is responding to the Bible.” He went on to sat that in Hebrew, the works for word and deed is the same–does what we say really match what we’re doing?
Do we really believe that “to live is Christ and to die is gain,” or are they just words that sound good? Do we really believe that following Jesus closely causes us to live in peace, or are we always anxious and worried? Do we really believe that the Lord is all knowing and all powerful and that He has our best interests in mind?
You probably also saw on the news the Delta flight that took off from Tel Aviv, circled for 2 hours, and landed again due to a mechanical issue. Yup. That was our flight. The plan wasn’t exactly communicated very well so we weren’t sure what was going on. We ended up being bussed to hotels that all ran out of rooms. My roommate on the trip and I shared a fold out chair in two friends’ room.
We went to bed at 6:30 that morning and actually got some rest. That evening, we went back to the airport for our 10:30 flight.
This trip was great for so many reasons. The Lord reminded me that adventure is always out there and that He has me in the palm of His hand. I got to walk where Jesus walked and see firsthand where the foundations of my faith were laid. My worldview was expanded greatly as I realized how incredibly ignorant I am to things going on in the world.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to go to Israel and can’t wait to go back again. In the meantime, I will be praying for Israel and her peace. Governments, militaries, rockets, and cease-fire agreements won’t bring lasting peace, but One can, and He will. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus.