We are so super thankful God gave us an opportunity to visit the Holy Land this summer 🙂 We are back, resting and our bodies are getting used to the time difference (and the heat!). We got to visit UAE (stopover, nothing to do with Bible), Jordan, and Israel.
Firstly, we didn’t go because:
- We thought that because of visiting all these ‘holy sites’ that we might become more blessed or something. It’s not like muslim’s going to Mecca or something.
- That we wanted some sort of spiritual boost or something like that
- It was some kind of ‘spiritual pilgrimage’
I guess what I’m trying to say is, you don’t need a trip like this to make a difference in your spiritual life. Basically its somewhere we had liked to go at some point in our lifetime, with Christians and have a tour conducted in English. The opportunity arose and so we went – that simple.
At the same time, of course we saw and learnt many things, and God used lots of things to challenge and encourage us. Even though we got to experience it, it’s still head knowledge. The challenge is to convert that head knowledge to something useful. I’d like to share with you some of my experiences but I’m sure someone else might have different thoughts.
- Make sure you are fit and healthy: I intentionally changed up my workout at the gym to include more impactful cardio (I don’t know what you’d call it – but you know what I mean?) and boy was I thankful! They are relatively easy hikes for a moderately fit person. We hiked into a lot of the ruins. You have to walk the Via Dolorosa. If you go and see the Treasury at Petra (the super famous building) was at least 1km – one way. Somedays, to keep our schedule, we walked in pouring rain. The other factor is weather – Jerusalem was snowing. My friend who went in Summer says its stinking hot and packed. By the middle of the trip, most of our tour (mainly 40s – 60s, some older) were pretty wasted, the older ones had to stay back in hotels and get wheelchairs, some had falls. The younger ones (in 30s) were sick. It was a miracle that I did not get sick although I had cold sore and headache issues.
- Toilet breaks! Omgoodness I had so many close calls it wasn’t funny. My poor bladder. In the desert and wilderness there aren’t many bushes to hide behind.
- Sleep: my regular readers will know that I have sleep issues. It is a pretty long flight. On the way back, we travelled almost non-stop for 1.5 days…for about 2 days I lived on half an hour of sleep. Thankfully I had really good sleep while on tour.
Now some more positive experiences haha…so many good places, but here are my most memorable:
- Mt Nebo (Deut 34:1-4): It was pretty cool to look down from the mountain to see the Promised Land like what Moses would have saw…well, due to fog we couldn’t see all of it. Also, God opened Moses eyes so there was no way we could’ve seen all the way to the ‘Western Sea’ and the entirety of Israel. But it was very cool, also sad remembering how Moses wasn’t able to enter it.
- En Gedi (1 Sam 23:29- 24): the place David took refuge from Saul. It’s pretty cool. In the wilderness, there’s waterfalls and springs. It really illustrates the deer panting for water as well. Also the waterfall is pretty loud so I’m not surprised Saul didn’t know that David and his army was hiding in there!
- Galilee and surrounds: just understanding where Nazareth is in relation to Capernaum, Mount of Beautitudes, in relation to the Jordan River etc really helped. There were actually non-Jews living around Galilee too but Jesus didn’t go to them first.
- Meeting Messianic Jews (Jewish ‘Christians’): We were able to go to our tour guide’s community – they also run a guesthouse. They stick together since Messianic Jews are persecuted. They are a minority. I really enjoyed singing praises to God with Messianic Jews together on our boat in Galilee as well as in their community hall.
Geography! wilderness, mountains….the ‘sea’ of Galilee, Mt Hermon, the Jordan River…so much more clearer now. I don’t have an imagination at all and a rather concrete/visual person so in the past when I read place names and things, I found it very difficult to imagine what it was like. But now I get it…you really have to ‘go up’ to Jerusalem, the ‘sea’ of Galilee is a lake, but because of all the surrounding mountains, it doesn’t stay peaceful. The wilderness…its rocky, not deserty…and yeah you really wouldn’t want to be stuck out here.
- Life in the old times: walking into the Tabernacle Replica and visiting the Nazareth Biblical Village: really helped me to see what life would have been like in Biblical times.
You get to see some of the more ‘boring’ details come to life 🙂 It makes me want to read OT and the gospels again afresh.
It also got me thinking about various views on the Israeli state and whether the land belongs to the present day Jews or not (and whether they should actively return to the land) since most people I met there seemed to have the view I didn’t share. There’s an interesting dialogue between John Piper and the Jews for Jesus head David Brickner here on this issue.
Visiting these places, I was encouraged to think that the Jesus who walked in some of these amazing places already lives in me. Can’t wait to use what I’ve learnt in teaching ministry for the many years to come. We were really encouraged and propelled to read the scriptures again in a fresh way.