If you have never had a chance to visit Israel, it can truly be the trip of a lifetime. Here, Medi-Share member Yvette Outler shares with us pictures and a retelling of her recent experience on this pilgrimage.
I just got back from a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. To say the experience was amazing would be an understatement. For a very long time, I have been a student of the Bible. I’ve read, studied, and learned fascinating things about my Lord. While on this trip, it was a gift to feel like I was walking around in the Bible, but in modern day. Everywhere I looked was something brand new but very familiar.
There were 48 of us from my Yulee, Florida church who went on the trip. When asked by the Israeli airline El Al, “Why are you going to Israel?” we were briefed to say, “We are going to the Holy Land on pilgrimage with our church.”
Wow! What a pilgrimage it was! We had very full days from sun up to sun down. Our tour guide, Munsor, was a walking dictionary, encyclopedia, and source of non-stop information. It was as though we were drinking from a fire hydrant of terrific history every day, so much so that I am still processing the trip.
On the first day, we arrived very late, in the dark, at our hotel (The Caesar Hotel) in Tiberias. When I woke up, my heart leaped as I drew back the curtains to find that we were staying on the Sea of Galilee. The view was exquisite.
On our first day we enjoyed a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. We sang and worshipped after a brief sermon was given about how Jesus walked on the water (Matthew 14:22-33). The pastor explained how Peter got out of the boat and joined him but sank when he took his eyes off of the Lord. Jesus spoke to the storm and it became calm. As I sat there in the boat, I imagined what that must have been like. It was surreal knowing I was on the same sea where my Lord conducted miracles.
We visited Capernaum, the center of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, and we visited the synagogue built on the site where Jesus taught on the Beatitudes, and we contemplated the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7). We explored the Church of The Fish and the Loaves at Tabgha, the site where Jesus fed the 5,000 (Luke 9:10-17). We visited the Chapel of the Primacy where Peter professed his devotion three times to the risen Christ.
In Magdala, once home to Mary Magdalene, we visited a recent archeology-discovered first-century synagogue. There was a cistern there that Jesus could have actually washed his hands on the site just outside of the synagogue. We visited the Jordan River, and several from our group were baptized there as we reflected on how John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ there.
We visited the Franciscan Wedding Chapel in Cana, the site of Jesus’ first miracle, where he turned water into wine. History states the best wine was always served first at weddings but the host ran out of wine and Jesus’ mother, Mary, requested this miracle to keep the host from any undue embarrassment. Of course, the latter wine was the best!
Next on the tour was Nazareth, where Jesus grew up (Matthew 2:23). We had the opportunity to view Tel Megiddo (Jezreel Valley) where the final battle, “Armageddon,” will take place. We visited Caesarea, where an angel visited Cornelius, the first Gentile believer (Acts 10), and where Paul was imprisoned for two years before appealing to Caesar.
Our group then visited Beit She’an, a city continuously inhabited for over 5,000 years. The archeologist dug all the way down to the bedrock and found layer upon layer of civilizations. The uncovered ruins date back to the Greek/Roman city that was part of the Decapolis of Jesus’ day. We walked down the colonnaded streets with marble sidewalks, viewed the Roman public baths, and a large outdoor theater that was architecturally amazing!
In Jericho, noted as the oldest city in the world, we viewed the ruins of the city conquered by Joshua (Joshua 6), and we could see in the distance the “Mount of Temptation" where Jesus was tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:1-11). I was reminded that He was fully God and fully man. He was tempted in every way but did not sin. We continued to Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947. It was amazing to see the caves where they were found.
Our group visited the Mount of Olives where Jesus ascended into heaven (Acts 1:9-11). We walked down the Palm Sunday Road where Jesus rode in on a donkey. We saw the Garden of Gethsemane and talked about the scenes the night before Jesus’ crucifixion (Matthew 26:36-44). We went to Mount Zion and visited the house of the High Priest Caiaphas, where Jesus was questioned on the night of his betrayal (Matthew 26:57). We visited the upper room where Jesus had his last meal with his disciples (Mark 14:12-26).
We wandered through the City of David and explored Hezekiah’s tunnel, a remarkable engineering feat that was dug from either end and met in the middle. Some of our team went through the ”wet” side, and some of us went through the “dry” side. We visited the Pool of Siloam, recently uncovered at the foot of the City. This spot was where Jesus helped restore the sight of a blind man by making clay with his spit and spreading it on the man’s eyes. Jesus told him, “Go and wash in the pool of Siloam,” and he did and his eyesight was restored (John 9:7).
We visited Masada, the legendary fortress built by King Herod on a mountaintop. This particular mountain does not touch any other mountains. We took a skyway lift to get to the top of the mountain. Once there, I was amazed at how the entire city was built. It was the last desperate stronghold of the Jewish zealots against the Romans. The entire city of Jews committed suicide when they realized they were going to be captured by the Romans, abused, and used as slaves for the rest of their lives. The last 10 warriors (men) cast lots to see who the last surviving person would be. That entire story gripped my heart. Archeologists found the 10 pieces of stone with their names engraved on them.
The Dead Sea was very interesting. It’s located on the lowest spot on the earth. The Dead Sea is fed by the Jordan River but doesn’t have an outlet, thus calling it the Dead Sea because there are no living creatures in it. However, there are a host of minerals and salt there that are used for healing properties. Some of our group got in and floated around in it.
Bethlehem was remarkable. We visited Jesus’ birthplace, where the Church of the Nativity was constructed over (Matthew 1:18-25). We spent a couple of hours in Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial Museum. My bones ached as I looked at footage from survivors and footage of Jews being marched into the railway cars to their execution.
If you have never had the opportunity to travel to this land, I would encourage everyone to go! It was life-transforming and centered my thoughts on our Savior.
You can know Him and have an eternal home with Him:
- Do you realize that you need a savior? “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
- Do you realize that you can’t make things right on your own? “For the wages of sin is death…” Romans 6:23
- Do you realize that you were and are loved so much that God had his one and only Son leave a perfect place to be your sin offering? “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
- Do you realize that you have a choice? God offers us a free gift. We can receive Him or reject Him. “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
- Do you realize that it is simple enough for a child to understand, yet profound enough for any human being to take hold of? “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:9&13
- What are you being “saved from?” An eternity in the lake of fire also known as hell. “Anyone whose name was not found written in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20:15