Understanding something of the role of biblical Israel, past present and future, and having desired to visit it for years, I finally took advantage of a sudden opportunity to go there, along with many excellent African friends from a local church in October 2018.
There were various highlights: white-water rafting in a rubber dinghy with four others down the Jordan River – with me clutching my insurance policy!; a startling desert ride on a camel (before 8.30 am); a praise and worship session aboard a large, stationary boat on Lake Galilee; a walk through Jerusalem’s narrow and crowded ancient streets; an evening meal in the desert in a huge Bedouin tent, followed by a sleep-over in another large tent (men only) with the front flaps left partially open for ventilation, whilst for an accompanying lullaby, wild dogs howled distantly. (They weren’t in tune, either!)
Weather-wise, we had very warm days, with just one rainy night, plus two really hot days. One of these was at Engedi with its white stone and cooling streams, which so refreshed King David when on the run from Saul. Shilo, Magdala, Ariel, the Dead Sea, Tiberius, Galilee, Bethsaida, Capernaum and other Bible places now became more real and relevant for us having visited or passed through them. We also took a look at some of the “standard” sites: the Garden Tomb, the Mount of Olives, the location of the Sermon on the Mount, etc.
We baptised a few of our own people in the River Jordan at the official baptism site, with the Holy Spirit moving on some of them.
Tour guides regularly gave talks at the various places, whilst at Bethesda we inspected the remaining ruins (steps and pillars) of the Gospel pool where a man was healed. Fine views were to be had of the iconic Golden Dome, and we visited the Wailing Wall. I went, but didn’t wail!
One evening, we had a great talk from a man who had worked for Arafat as a sniper! He surrendered to Jesus, wrote two books, and has been wonderfully used to help with various charities and causes, including improving Arab/Israeli relations. This was a tour to remember. If you get the chance, go! Don’t delay as the prophetic clock is ticking!
- Tony Halstead