“When people ask about our trip to Israel, I jokingly describe it as an “Indiana Jones hit the ground running type of experience!” This trip was so packed with seeing Biblical history come alive right before my eyes! As a tour group, we spent all of our time exploring, listening, walking, hiking, playing, and of course, enjoying delicious food in the beautiful Holy Land.
After approximately 17 hours of flight we stepped off the plane and entered the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. After quickly gathering our luggage, we headed with passports in hand to Customs. While waiting in line, it was evident that we were not in America. Here, we observed many Orthodox Jewish families, men dressed in traditional black and white suits complete with top hats and the payot, the long curled locks in front of their ears.
Felix, our personal chauffeur, picked us up at the airport and shuttled us north to Haifa, and the following day we met Elena, our tour coordinator, and Maria, our knowledgeable tour guide personally escorted us around the Holy Land for the next seven days.
The Crazy Fun (tired) Bunch–Pastor Vlad, where are you?
The first three days were spent touring Northern Israel followed by one day at the Dead Sea and the three remaining days were spent in the City of Jerusalem.
Each morning we had a beautiful breakfast buffet with lots of delicious options, eat up! Then quickly headed to our rooms and gathered our things for the day as this would be it until dinner. Ready for a full day of exploring, we started each day with a prayer for God’s blessing and protection.
In the evenings we returned to our hotel exhausted from our adventures with a healthy appetite from a busy day filled with learning, exploring, lots of walking–an average of five miles a day.
Every evening we were treated to a beautiful dinner buffet, again we quickly headed back to our hotels for a good night of rest! This was a snapshot of how we started and ended each day, and how we were transported from place to place, and how we were educated about the history of these places.
Mount Carmel: One of my favorite Bible stories ever, where God showed Himself to be the one and only true God by sending supernatural, fire power‚ from heaven above, destroying all the prophets of Ba’al in the Kidron Valley.
Mount Gilboa: A beautiful overview of the Jezreel Valley where we learned of many battles, where Saul and his three sons were beheaded, and their heads were carried to the Roman City of Beit Shem where they were displayed and hung on the city gate to be displayed as trophies. King David cursed this place where King Saul and his sons were killed, and to this day nothing grows there. Also, Revelation 16 tells us that Armaggedon will take place in the vast expanse of the Jezreel Valley.
Mount Gilead: We viewed Mount Gilead and learned that this is where the Bible account of Jacob and Esau took place.
Jezreel Valley: As we stood above this valley we learned of many Bible accounts that took place there where troops have gathered together for battle.
This Valley is also the place where the book of Judges tells us that “Gideon’s Amy” of 300 men were selected because they chose to lap water like a dog.
Beit Schem: At night we enjoyed a walking tour throughout this ancient Roman City with a spectacular choreographed light show that brought this ancient Roman city to life right before our eyes as our host explained how the Romans lived in this city. This is the place where King Saul and his sons heads were hung on the city wall, displayed for all who entered to see.
Mountains of Nazareth and the Old city of Nazareth:This was a guided tour in which we learned that this place was thought to be where Jesus’ family farm probably was.
We saw where and how they pressed grapes and discovered that they did this barefoot so as not to crush the grape seeds to release the bitter grape seed oil. The olive press was where the olives were pressed three times and the oil from the first pressing was for Temple use, the second press was for cooking oil and personal use and the third press was for making soap.
Tel Dan Nature preserve: Until the 1967 Six Day War the Dan River was the only source of the Jordan in Israeli hands. This was such a fun historical walk, we all enjoyed the shade of the beauty in the nature that God has created with a shallow wading pool to cool off in the heat of the day.
The High Place: A shrine from the time of the ancient Kingdom of Israel, that is a part of a complex built by King Jeroboam.
The Cannanite Gate: A gate with an arched entry from the 18th century BCE completely intact, and one of the oldest complete arches in the world.
The Israelite Gate: An impressive gate built of three pairs of pilasters, that could have been preserved from the First Temple period.
The command post lookout: Trenches served the Israel Defense Forces until the Six Day War (1967). They reveal a fine view of an old patrol road, the slopes of Mount Hermon, and abandoned Syrian outpost
Mount Precipice: This is also referred to as “Leaping Mountain” just outside of Nazareth where Luke 4:29 relates the story of Jesus whose preaching in the synagogue the people loved. But something possessed them and they rose up and turned on Him, and we’re going to stone Him and throw Him off a cliff; at this, Jesus walked through the crowd and disappeared from their midst.
Golan Heights: We drove the full length of the Golan Heights and viewed an IMAX presentation which explained more about the significance of what took place there, and this was followed by the experience of viewing a miniature model of this area which explained the sad battle of the Yom Kippur War in which thousands of lives were lost and this is why it is called the “Valley of Tears”. This is where the man filled with a legion, which is ten-thousand demons that lived in the mountains and tombs who was crying and screaming until He saw Jesus, ran to Him and that is when Jesus cast the demons out of him and sent them into a group of pigs. They ran themselves off of the cliff and they drowned in the Sea of Galilee. We drove along the Jordanian border and visited a military observation point called Ben Benaugh which was fortified with underground bunkers that were built by the Syrian army. These were later captured by the Israelite army in the “Yom Kippur War” of 1973. This observation point was the northernmost part of Israel across a great valley.
Sea of Galilee: We climbed aboard a boat reminiscent of boats in the time of Jesus, and there we met Daniel, a Messianic Jewish man who shared his music and his testimony about how he came to faith in Christ.
Capernaum – The “City of Jesus”: We walked this old city and viewed the ancient remains to be found there. In the time of Jesus, Capernaum had a population of 5,000, in comparison with the population of Nazareth at only 500.
Jordan River: This is where Jesus was baptized by John and also where the Holy Spirit descended from Heaven in the form of a dove to rest on Jesus and the Father’s voice was heard to say: “This is my son in whom I am well pleased.” It was fun to go down to the water and stand; just being in the water that Jesus was baptized in was an awesome and unforgettable experience.
Dead Sea: In a word this place is amazing! This should be one of the Seven Wonders of the World for so many reasons. We all loved this and it was definitely one of our favorite sites– super fun and relaxing! At this location, I found what looked like a snowball on the shore that was actually a solid ball of crystallized salt. With the name, Dead Sea, I had pictured the water to be cold, dark and uninviting, but nothing could be further from the truth. The Dead Sea is absolutely beautiful, boasting delightfully warm waters. I reached my hand down onto the sea bottom & scooped up a handful of soft salt. Here are some fun facts about the Dead Sea:
- We drove down south on Hwy 90, the longest road in Israel, and the lowest point on planet earth at 1300, below sea level
- The water at the Dead Sea is 33.9% salt, so you can literally reach down onto the sea bed and scoop up handfuls of salt!
- The minerals found in the Dead Sea are known for their healing properties to treat all kinds of health and skin conditions
Massada National Park: This overlooks the Dead Sea in southern Israel. This area is very hot, rugged and desert-like region of Israel with its amazingly beautiful views of the Dead Sea. There is lots of hiking and exploring here.
Western Wall: Praying here was a powerfully intense experience, a privilege that I will never forget about this special place.
Golgatha the “Place of the Skull“: after touring and learning about this area, we were treated to a powerful communion service on the site which was led by Maria, our Messianic Jewish tour guide was one of the most profound blessings and powerful communion experiences I’ve had.
Temple Mount: The Temple Mount is located within the gated walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount as the Holiest Site in Israel and to the Jewish people. The Temple Mount is also referred to as Mount Moriah where God had asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. The Jewish people gather to have special celebrations such as Bar mitzvoth, which is a celebration in honor of a 13-year-old boy’s rite of coming of age. This is quite a celebration in which the procession starts inside the gate of the Old City of Jerusalem, and eventually proceeding upward to the entrance of the Temple Mount. One of my favorite things from our entire trip happened here within the city gate as Lilly Savchuk and I walked downward and stood alongside the celebration of a family and when they saw us, they came and brought us into their circle as we all shouted with joy!
Garden of Gethesamane: I can easily say that this was the most powerful, and spiritually moving place I’ve been in my entire life. It was all I could do to keep from sobbing just being there. There was such a powerfully deep sense of intercession in this place that made this the most special place ever, so permeated with prayer that it was palpable! I know that I had left a part of myself in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Old City of Jerusalem: Walking around the old city of Jerusalem we learned about the history within the city walls and gates, and we explored the historic sections of the city, and the Temple Mount.
What the people in our group thought about trip to Israel?
Olga Moroz: One of my favorite places in Israel was the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed to His Father before He was betrayed. When we saw the rock that Jesus cried on, after touching this spot, I had this overwhelming sense of Jesus’ anguish, and I started crying. In this place where His sweat turned to blood, where He cried out to the Father asking that the cup would pass from Him when He knew that He was about to die a very painful death for my sins the cross, and still he said: “Not My will be done but Your will be done.“
Deana Fisenko: The old city of Jerusalem was one of my favorites of the trip. The difference between the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and Armenian Quarter was most interesting. The marketplaces were very bright and busy. It was eye-opening to see how the contrast of how people live so differently from us in America. I also really liked the Garden of Gethsemane. It was much smaller than I imagined but more beautiful. I can’t describe the feeling I was experiencing when we stepped into the church where the rock that Jesus wept on is located. I felt like I could feel the smallest piece of the sorrow and pain that Jesus felt when He was there; very spiritually eye opening!
Serge Kirishko: My favorite part of the trip was Jerusalem. I love walking through the city and seeing the culture and all the different things going on within these ancient places. I also really enjoyed the outskirts and the northern part of Israel. I love to see where certain Old Testament events happened throughout the land. I love the mountains that we visited that held significance towards certain events.
Nick Kislyanka: One of my favorite things about Israel was how much the Bible came alive. You can literally picture what happened as you take the tour across this beautiful country. All the biblical history and the journey of our Savior becomes more real to you when you actually see where it happened. All the names of mountains, valleys, cities, seas, etc. make more sense as you visit these places. Overall a new perspective comes to you when you make this once in a lifetime trip!
Lana Savchuk: The Western Wall- the fact that people take prayer serious there. And the atmosphere there is special and historical.
Larissa Parkhotyuk: My favorite place was a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee; the boat was fashioned in a manner that resembled a boat from ancient times. When I stepped onto the boat the song ‚”Oceans” by Hillsong was playing, I felt I was taken back to the time when Jesus walked on water and commanded the waves to be still; reminding me that He will speak His peace in the middle of our storm. We also loved Jerusalem, the Western Wall, Masada, Dead Sea, markets, food, the diversity of beliefs and cultures, yet Israel is God’s chosen nation. We encourage anyone to go and visit the Holy Land, especially if you’re a Bible reader- it’s a must!
Leo Parkhotyuk: I loved the Old City of Nazareth where we visited a Nazarite village believed to be the location where Jesus was raised as a boy (thought so because of articles that have been found there). We were treated to a lunch of the authentic food of the time; in an atmosphere and same manner as in the time of Jesus. The food was delicious, and the company was awesome!
Lilly Savchuk: My most favorite part of our trip was visiting the Old City of Jerusalem; home to sites of key religious significance, including the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock. It was wonderful to see these two famous sites in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Serge Savchuk: My two most favorite parts of our trip were to walk the streets of Jerusalem where Jesus once walked and to float on the Dead Sea.
Tim Small: I enjoyed exploring Masada and appreciated the great feat of engineering that this place really is. Also, learning about all the history that took place there. I also enjoyed being in and walking around the City of David and Hezekiah’s Tunnel.
We hope you enjoyed a snap shot of our trip to Israel! We would encourage you to join us on our next trip to Israel so you too can experience the Holy land! This is an unforgettable and life changing trip and you will never be the same after visiting the place where Jesus walked and ministered! The Holy Land is where the Bible comes alive right before your eyes!