by John Moore
I’ll admit that when I first heard about the Israel trip 2012, I was hesitant to go. Although I did have a strong interest in going, the people around me (and me speaking to me) kept saying it just wasn’t safe. How badly did I REALLY want to see Israel?
Sure, I WANTED to go, but maybe I might not visit the West Bank (and Bethlehem) with the rest of the group? These were questions I asked myself before going to Israel. With a bit of apprehension, I made the decision to go.
In retrospect, I can see it really was not a big deal. Everything was completely fine. In Israel, and even in Bethlehem, I did not experience any fear.
There was never any question of my safety. The most fear I had during the entire trip was upon my return when, at the airport in NYC, I was detained, asked to remove most of my clothing and searched. And that was back home in the USA.
The question of safety pales in comparison to the awesome experiences everywhere in Israel. First there are the ancient ruins–I got to see a Roman gladiator arena, and the ruins of a fresh water pool Herod the Great built on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea at Caesarea. How incredibly cool to be where Christianity spread to the world.
The question of safety pales in comparison to the awesome experiences everywhere in Israel.
I must admit, though, after awhile, the sheer number of ruins can start to wear on you, until finally you are like, “Yay … another ruin … and another one …” This place is simply really old.
We spent a day at the Sea of Galilee seeing the ruins of Capernaum, the headquarters of Jesus’ ministry. I tried to imagine a whole family fitting into those incredibly small houses. Then I wrestled Paul Easterday on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. Surely, beach wrestling in Galilee is what marks one as a true disciple of Jesus, right?
Beyond the many wonders we saw, what made the biggest impact on me were the people we met. Our bus driver was Palestinian; our tour guide was an Israeli. I always imagined the two groups hated each other, but they seemed very comfortable with each other and even had lunch together nearly every day.
When we visited Nazareth, we met a man named Daniel who worked at a small village that recreates first century life. While the things we saw (like a first century wine press) were amazing, this guy was off the hook about his love for Jesus. It just poured out of him.
While the things we saw (like a first century wine press) were amazing, this guy was off the hook about his love for Jesus. It just poured out of him.
Here in Nazareth, in the middle of this almost entirely Arab population, was this guy who was Jewish and passionate about Jesus. And he was on a mission to share that love to those around him.
On a side note, I learned from this trip that it makes total sense for Jesus to be dead for three days. Something in my American mind puts Jesus dying on a Friday afternoon and rising on a Sunday morning, which I count as just a bit over a 24-hour period of time. In Israel, I experienced what the Sabbath means for observant Jews.
Jewish Sabbath literally starts at sundown Friday and continues to sundown Saturday. Before sundown Friday you can do regular stuff, like order food and push elevator buttons. When the sun goes down on Friday everything stops.
You eat cold food on Saturday and either take the stairs or ride an elevator that stops at every floor because pushing an elevator button is considered work. When the sun sets on Saturday, Sunday has blessedly arrived and the world operates normally again.
Although Jerusalem was one of my least favorite places, the experience of the two tombs of Jesus bears special mention. There is disagreement over which location was the actual tomb of Jesus after His crucifixion (no one really knows).
The first is in the Byzantine Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It is opulent and crammed with people, historically sectioned off by warring denominations. It reminded me of much of what I think people criticize Christianity for.
In contrast, the second Garden Tomb is peaceful, quiet, and filled with a sense of holiness all around. We were able to secure a room and have communion together in that incredible place. We sang songs together and had what Dan Flynn would call a “moment.”
The whole trip went by as a blur in my memory, but that “moment” was one where time seemed to stand still for a bit.
We were able to secure a room and have communion together in that incredible place. We sang songs together and had what Dan Flynn would call a “moment.”
So I saw lots of inspiring ruins, met some authentic people living in the Middle East, learned a lot of geography, experienced something about Jewish culture I never understood and had a moment. Was it worth overcoming the fear? Absolutely.
If you’ve ever considered taking a trip to the Holy Land, you’re invited to an informational meeting at the Flynn home on Sunday, November 23, at 4 p.m. Contact Pastor Dan for more information.