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December 12, 2013
In May I wrote a column about the lighter side of Israel. This month I will give more detail and comment on my inner feelings regarding our trip there. Since Mr. Roy and I were there in February, we’ve had over three months to reflect on the holy sites that the Bible describes. We’ve discussed and retraced our journey by studying photographs and our journals.
Most people make mental pictures of places they read about, and the Bible is no exception. What would impress and touch one person might not affect another the same way. Mr. Roy and I tried to decide what we liked best but soon realized that wasn’t the approach to take. The Holy Land trip was not like a vacation. This was the actual birthplace of Christ, where His ministry took place and where He died for our sins.
In the midst of Christianity in Israel, we rubbed shoulders with Judaism and Islam religions. We saw where people lived and watched diverse factions coexist. I finally comprehended that some of the Christian holy sites were also Jewish and Muslim holy sites.
For example, on the high ground called Mt. Mariah in Jerusalem where the two Jewish temples were destroyed, one by the Babylonians and one by the Romans, the Muslims built a temple called Dome of the Rock. Only Muslims are allowed inside. They think Mohammad ascended into Heaven from that spot. Our tour group told us to leave our Bibles in the bus and hide our crosses as we entered this area.
Mt. Mariah is the area where Abraham was told by God to sacrifice Isaac. But the Muslims believe it was Ishmael he was to sacrifice.
If we had to choose an area that touched us the most spiritually and emotionally, it was around the Sea of Galilee, where our Lord spent most of his life on earth. Eighty percent of his ministry took place there. Dr. Britt, our guide, said that the Galilee area had not changed as radically as Jerusalem.
Churches were built over most holy areas to protect the sites. We visited the Church of the Nativity that marks the place of Jesus’ birth. Also, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher marks one of the places where most scholars think He was crucified and buried. We also saw the Garden Tomb, the other location where some believe He was crucified and buried.
The churches were decorated with huge ornate columns and statues of marble, art work and chandeliers that were awesome, though it took away my ability to visualize Jesus on the cross. I understand the need to protect and mark important places.
I had a feeling of contentment in Jerusalem as we strolled around the Garden of Gethsemane and walked up the Mount of Olives. We stood in the courtyard of the Palace of the High Priest where Peter denied knowing Jesus three times.
We looked down the hill from the courtyard toward the Kidron Valley at the stone walkway that dated back to Christ’s time. He would have walked on those very stones going to and from the Temple. Here we walked, and my tears fell.
In Jerusalem, Constantine’s mother made certain that the holy sites were marked and creditable. The city has been in constant habitation for 5,000 years. No other city has been the cause of so many armed conflicts. It was totally destroyed two times, besieged 23 times and captured and recaptured 44 times. In Jerusalem we walked the Via Dolor-Rosa, the narrow road where Jesus carried the cross.
Several in our tour group floated in the Dead Sea. I waded and picked up salt crystals.
A few of us climbed to the summit of Masada; others took a tram. Herod’s excavated palace was on Masada. The
Zealot Jews were trapped there. They held out for three years before the Romans completed a ramp and entered, but the Jews committed suicide rather than be captured.
From Masada we visited Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.
The places our Lord ministered near Galilee gave me a peaceful feeling I’d never felt before. When I was standing above the Sea of Galilee, my eyes roamed over water, hills and valleys that looked much like they did 2,000 years ago.
I pictured Christ teaching the Sermon on the Mount to thousands. We stood on the shore where He told his disciples to put their net on the other side of the boat. This was His third appearance to the disciples after he arose. The large rock he used as a table was imbedded in the earth next to where he cooked the fish for them. Mr. Roy and I said a prayer and laid our hands on the rock.
I enjoyed wading in the Sea of Galilee and floating in a boat on the beautiful blue water. The sea is actually a large lake, 13 miles long and 7.5 miles wide.
There’s so much more to tell, but I must close.
The Holy Land trip was a life-changing experience for Mr. Roy and me.
Note: Thank you, American Business Women’s Association, for your invitation to speak in Hattiesburg.
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