There is always so much to reflect upon when returning from a pilgrimage to the Land of Israel. For me, this was my tenth trip and what I have come to enjoy is to see the impact that an adventure like this has on those who are visiting Israel for the first time.
From Tel Aviv to the Galilee
Our Berean trips begin with a night on the Mediterranean in Tel Aviv. This is an evening that is always filled with emotion as we meet together for the very first time. It is also a night for worship and preparation.
I usually give the assignment to go and put your feet in the Mediterranean and to look south, at the ancient seaport of Jaffa. Then, before going to sleep I give the assignment to read all the references to Jaffa that you can find in your Bible.
The next morning we left for Caesarea, Megiddo, Nazareth and finally to the cliffs of Mt. Arbel. What a day-beginning with the genius of Herod followed by an eschatological update from Chuck as we overlook the Valley of Armageddon from the Tel of Megiddo. We soon make our way to Arbel (below) for a glimpse of the Galilee region from high above on the cliffs. It is here that we worship.
Visiting the IDF Base
The next few days are for visiting the sites of Galilee. We usually spend at least a half a day working on the IDF base that we have adopted, but since this year our work day fell on Israel’s Memorial Day, we were invited to the base in order to hear from a father who recently lost his son, who was gunned down by a terrorist at one of the checkpoints coming out of Ramallah. This was a very moving time as we had the opportunity to dialogue and ask as many questions as we liked. The following are some quotes from our time at the base:
We asked what message this father would like us to bring home and he said … “Please let your friends know that we (Israel) are not the enemy and that all we long for is peace.”
One thing that most non-Israelis do not understand is how hungry Israel is for peace. Can you imagine the daily tension they have to live with? This father indicated that he would be willing to swap the Golan for a chance for peace-can you imagine? Giving up such a vital piece of land for a history of deceit and broken promises? This just confirms how hungry for peace Israelis are at this time in history!
Concerning the morale in regards to the last war in Lebanon; we asked how the Israeli army was. We were told, “Morale for the IDF is always high!” And to a follow-up question concerning the war: “The IDF would have gone to war for just one kidnapped soldier!” We were also assured that those soldiers who are currently under Hamas and Hezbollah control are not forgotten.
Concerning the superiority of Israeli weapons technology: “It is not the technology that gives us an edge, but it is the heart of the man behind the technology that ultimately will provide victory.”
Other Gleanings from the Base
• Israel now faces a two-front war: Hamas from Gaza and Hezbollah from Lebanon. We were advised that the Northern Front of Hezbollah is back to full strength and that Hamas isitching for a fight in the Gaza.
• There is a leadership vacuum everywhere in the world today. Israel is waiting for someone with “clean hands.” In the meantime Olmert’s Kadima party limps along.
• When asked why Israel ended the war, the response was that it was not due to pressure from the West, but it was because of the lack of preparedness of the IDF. Needless to say, intensive training is once again underway-stay tuned!
One thing for certain is that the IDF bases still need our help. KI now has two different groups that are planning on traveling to Israel on the front end of our next two trips to simply work on refurbishing the officers’ barracks in the Golan.
Experiencing the Galilee
The Galilee is and will always be a place of discipleship; did you know that eleven of the twelve disciples were from this region? There is something special about walking the dusty trails and sailing on the ancient Sea of Galilee! Our last day takes us to Caesarea Philippi, where we recount the question Christ posed to his disciples … “Who do men say that I am?” Followed by … “Who do you say that I am?” The next morning as we left the Galilee, we stopped by the Jordan for a baptism service and over fifty of our folks rededicated their lives to following Jesus.
We then split the group up, as half went for an overnight adventure in a Bedouin Camp just behind Masada, while the others went on to a Dead Sea Resort. The following day we joined back together and made our ascent up to Jerusalem. This is one of those moments that get seared into your mind-you always remember the first time you catch a glimpse of Jerusalem.
Ending in Jerusalem
While in Jerusalem, one of the highlights was our evening trip to the King of Kings Messianic Fellowship in downtown Jerusalem, where Chuck was privileged to share with this vibrant congregation a teaching on how to use prophecy as a witnessing tool.
On our last day we always walk from the Mount of Olives to Gethsemane and eventually end up at the Garden Tomb for one last time of discovery and worship. What discovery? Everyone takes the time to confirm the fact that the tomb is still empty because Christ is risen … He is risen indeed! Our last evening is reserved for a time for farewells and to exchange emails-we are now forever linked because of our pilgrimage together in His Land.
We hope to see you soon in Eretz Israel! For more information on upcoming trips, please contact Sharon Stolebarger at firstname.lastname@example.org.