I Thought I Understood the Bible, Then I Went to Israel!

Touring Israel was never on my bucket list. However, it has always been on my husband’s! Which is why, a year ago, we packed our suitcases, left the kiddos with grandparents, endured a twelve hour flight (with little to no sleep), and spent eight, amazing, life-changing days in the nation of Israel.

I don’t know why I was never interested in going to Israel. Maybe it’s because the tour info packets make it seem so mystical. Or because they say corny things like, “Walk in the footsteps of Jesus” or “Have your life changed in the Holy Land”. Perhaps it’s because I thought as an American, Evangelical, Bible schooled Christian, that I was plenty familiar with the Bible. Everyone tells you that Israel will change your life and that you will never read the Bible the same again. I’m the first to admit I was a skeptic. It’s just a place, right?

It IS just a place. But it was also a place that continues to change me and continues to bring the Bible to Life! Go figure! I discovered how much I don’t know, and how much I had wrong!

I didn’t know I would see prophecies being fulfilled before my eyes.

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A sunrise over the Mediterranean Sea from our 11th floor balcony. Natenya, Israel

Do you see the skycranes in the top left corner of this picture? They are everywhere in Tel Aviv, and Natenya, and in-between. Why? Because people are building, building, building. They can hardly keep up with the amount of housing needed by Jews who are coming back to Israel from all over the world! We sat on our balcony enjoying the sunrise and our strong instant coffee, and I read my husband Isaiah 54.

“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor! For the children of the desolate one will be more that the children of her who is married, says the LORD. Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen our stakes.” Isaiah 54:1-2

This was just the first day! Our Israeli tour guide pointed out prophesies coming true almost every day of our trip!

I didn’t know that Jesus wasn’t a “carpenter” and didn’t get laid in a wooden manger.

As Americans, we hear the word “carpenter” and think wood. Problem is, there really isn’t much wood or trees in Israel. (Which would explain why they got their cedar from Lebanon all the time in the Old Testament.) There are a lot of rocks! Both ancient and modern homes are often made of rock.  Most likely, Jesus was actually a stone mason. And that manger you picture in your head or have seen in a Nativity; it was probably also made out of stone. It didn’t take too long before I started feeling like an outsider looking in! Why have we put so much of our own culture in our version of Bible stories?

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A stone manger and bowl. Tel Megido

I didn’t know the Sea of Galilee was so SMALL!

The first time we saw the Sea of Galilee was at night. Our hotel was next to the water. It was dark, but we could see lights from the other side. Both my husband and I were shocked at how small it seemed. We are from Michigan and are used to the Great Lakes. The Sea of Galilee seemed so tiny in comparison!

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The Sea of Galiee from the top of Mt. Arbel.

 

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Getting ready to ride a “Jesus boat”!

This is the lake that Jesus calmed when He said, “Peace, be still!” What??!!

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Sunrise with some fishermen over the Sea of Galilee.

I didn’t know I would fall in love with Jerusalem.

Israel is not a mystical, magical place. It’s not going to magically make anything happen in your life. It’s just a country, an awesome country, a special country, but just an ordinary place. Jerusalem, the Old City, and the Western Wall, they might be magical. 🙂

I enjoyed being in Galilee. Floating in the Dead Sea was pretty incredible, but Jerusalem… Jerusalem stole my heart! If my children hadn’t been home in the U.S.A., I might have stayed forever. We arrived in Jerusalem in time for dinner at our hotel. Then our guide invited us on a walk through the Old City to the Western Wall. It was the Sabbath. We walked along the city wall, over cobble stones, and down dimly lit streets. Music, singing, and soft Hebrew words filled my ears. Our guide led us to an over look, and there it was.

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The Western Wall (Wailing Wall) on a Sabbath night.

We spent three days soaking up Jerusalem culture. It was incredible! Here are some highlights.

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Mt. of Olives, overlooking a cemetery, the temple mount, and the dome of the rock.

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The Old City wall with me showing the scale.

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Religious Jewish women praying in the Western Wall tunnels.

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Camel ride!

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The Old City of Jerusalem

I didn’t know that I would LONG to go back!

I, the one who didn’t want to go in the first place, want so badly to go back to Israel and learn even more about the culture and land of the Bible. I love being able to read God’s Word and think, “I’ve been there” and have a mental image of what it looks like. I love having a better understanding of who Jesus was as a Jewish rabbi. I love what has happened to my heart regarding the Jewish people…I found myself identifying with the religious Jews because of my legalistic, ritualistic past. God poured His love into my heart as I walked through the Jewish Quarter of the city. I want to go back!

Guess what? We ARE going back! And you can come with us!! My husband (who is a pastor) and I are leading a trip to Israel next year, February 18-28, 2017. It will be an 11 day trip through Galilee, down to the Dead Sea, and finally ending in Jerusalem. We will stuff ourselves with information and Israeli food and it will be amazing!

The trip costs $4173 and includes all airfare (from Grand Rapids, MI, but that can be changed), hotels, breakfasts and dinners, taxes, tips, etc. The only things you will have to pay for once you are in Israel is your lunches and souvenirs. We will be traveling with Imagine Tours & Travel. You can check them out at www.ittworld.com. For more information, please contact me. We would love to send you a brochure!

 

One thought on “I Thought I Understood the Bible, Then I Went to Israel!

  1. It really is an experience. I did expect, at least longed for, the life-changing experience, that every ad promised. I did not get that. But as my pastor is preaching through Mark, I can say, “Oh, yes, I remember being there.” It does give you more understanding. And while faith does not require facts, it is very interesting to see and be in the very locations that are “facts” in the Bible.

    The “Gates of Hell” was one of the most interesting changes from our interpretation (like Jesus being a carpenter of wood) to Jewish reality. The Gates of Hell is a place, a place next to a temple to worship Pan. Jesus was saying that false religion would not prevail against His truth.

    Going to Israel won’t make you any more a Christian than you are now, but if you can manage to find a way to go, I recommend it highly!

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