When you read this I will be in the Holy Land. I can’t begin to tell you how excited I am about this trip!
Last year I was planning to take a bunch of folks from my church, The Ripon Free Methodist, on a trip to the Israel and a couple of places in Greece. Because of last summer’s dust up between Israel and Hezbollah/Hamas, we decided to postpone the church trip to the Holy Land to the spring of 2008.
Then in October during Pastor Appreciation Month the congregation presented me with a trip to Israel. I was flabbergasted! You see, despite the fact that it seems like I’ve traveled just about everywhere, I have never been to Israel. Part of the rationale was to have me go this year so I would be better prepared to lead the church group next year. Works for me.
So here I am on the eve of my departure writing to you about the trip of a lifetime. One of the men in the church is going with me. He has made a profession of faith in Christ in the past two years and was very anxious to make the trip with the church. Even after it was postponed, he still wanted to go, so Bob is joining me in this adventure. We’ll be hooking up with two other church groups: one from Southern California, and the other from Ohio.
The itinerary has us flying from Sacramento to Chicago where we’ll catch a connecting flight to London’s Heathrow Airport. From there we’ll fly into Tel Aviv, Israel. I still can’t believe I’m on my way to the land where Jesus walked. Somebody pinch me!
We will be visiting a vast number of historical sites, many of which are mentioned in the Bible. We’ll start off at Jaffa, the traditional port where Jonah sailed away trying to escape God’s call on his life. The next day I plan to take a walk on the beach before breakfast. Then we’re off to Caesarea, one of the most famous of ancient Mediterranean seacoast cities. This city was selected by King Herod the Great of Israel as a place that he could use to escape the crush of everyday life and troubles in Jerusalem. This fabulous port was a seafarer’s delight, providing all sorts of entertainment for the weary traveler. It is commonly believed that Herod was fully intending to shift the seat of Jewish government to this city, but was never able to quite pull it off. From an airplane you can still see the outlined remains of the port under the clear waters of the Mediterranean.
Then on to Mount Carmel which is famous for the confrontation between God’s prophet Elijah, and the prophets of Baal and the prophets of the Asherah. This all came about because Elijah spoke out against King Ahab for abandoning his faith in the one true God, and for his marriage to the evil Jezebel. Baal worship was recognized as the worship of the god of fire. Asherah worship was centered on sexuality and reproductive rites of passage. The statues of Asherah were female in design featuring multiple breasts.
We’ll be traveling through Galilee where Jesus grew up. There is also scheduled a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee in a replica of a small boat from that time period, a boat that was only recently discovered and restored in 1986.
Bob and I are both planning to be baptized in the Jordan River. Then it’s a quick stop at Jericho, the famous site where Joshua and the Israelites watched as God won the battle that long-ago day. After that we’ll head for Jerusalem, the city of God.
In Jerusalem there is just way too much to take in, but we’ll give it our best shot. I’ll be able to walk on the same stone paths taken by Jesus and the Disciples; see the Garden of Gethsemane, the Pool of Bethesda, Pontius Pilate’s Judgment Hall, the “Ecce Homo” Arch (Pilate’s words about Jesus to the crowd: “Behold, the Man!”); and the Upper Room where Jesus and the Disciples had their Last Supper.
There will also be a side trip to the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on earth, where it is impossible to sink in the water due to the enormous amount of salt it contains. We’ll also visit Masada, a fortressed hill by the Dead Sea, where the Jewish Zealots were eventually boxed in by the Roman Army. Realizing they could not hold back the Roman war machine, every Jewish man was assigned to kill his wife and children. Then each man was assigned to kill another. The last man was to commit suicide, thus depriving the Romans of slaves, or victims to mutilate, torture and kill. All the bodies were laid out in neat rows, so when the Roman soldiers breached the walls of the fortress, they found the defenders dead. Israeli soldiers today, as part of their training, are taken to Masada as a visible reminder of what they fight for.
This is going to be such a great trip! Obviously, I will have much more to share upon my return. Did I mention I would be taking my still camera and a video camera?
A rallying cry for Jews is, “Next year, Jerusalem!” In my case, it’s, “Next week, Jerusalem!”