Nothing in life can prepare you for a tour to the original land where your Lord and Saviour walked, preached, died, rose, and left us with God’s Holy Spirit, absolutely nothing!
27 April 2017
My brother dropped us off at the airport and it felt so surreal, and in a way sad to leave him! A dog-sniffer passed us and I wondered if he would stop to smell our suitcases. The El Al security was very strict and we felt unsure of what’s going on. We haven’t met the other members of the tour group yet, and saw Veon (our mother and care taker for the next week) for the first time.
We experienced the efficiency of the Israelis first-hand. They ask you some questions about your luggage and look you straight in the eye when surveying your passport. It was nerve-wrecking. Then they search your luggage. Everything!! They have these combs, they look like toilet-cleaners and brush your entire suitcase, bags in and out, even the smallest items. Then this comb is put into a machine that tells them what type of chemical-residue is on all your belongings! Quite cool, I thought. I had The General (I called her in my head). She had blond hair, quite small in posture, but man that attitude. I immediately thought that she must have had some combat-training, cause she was running that show with an iron-fist. She doesn’t smile and speaks to you in quick and short words, almost barking orders like a militant. Little did I know that most of the Israelis talk this way to people. It’s just their way, I think. We are gentiles after all!
Our luggage was wrapped in plastic (not by choice), and went through customs. We lost our deodorant, cause it was more than 100ml in size. Thank goodness, I begged for my 300ml Contact Lenses solution – I guess they didn’t need that (my own personal joke). Oh, well, stinky-winky we’ll be!!
It’s strange to go to a land you don’t know, cause you have no idea what’s waiting for you. So you think immediately you’re going to a desolate place where there’ll be no luxuries whatsoever.
28 April 2017
After our almost 9-hour flight, we reached Tel Aviv, Ben Gurion airport! My heart was palpitating. This beautiful city with all its beige coloured buildings greeted us. The landing was smooth. I instantaneously told myself, now you’re on holy soil!
There we met the rest of our group. We were the youngest and I asked Arno “who do you think we’ll mingle with?” But immediately I was given a job, ensuring everyone ticked off their names. We were all unfamiliar to each other, but we luckily made a friend, Ansie, before the flight already! She was on her own and she was scared of who her roommate will be.
Our tour started immediately! I was a bit disappointed because tiredness crept up on me, but I knew it was going to be great! On the bus things started out a bit awkward with Arno and I not sitting next to each other, but we sorted it out when we swopped places later. Everyone was still unsure of one another and you know how it is – everyone’s summing each other up and creating perceptions in their heads…I did, honestly. But I was in for a surprise.
As we drove through Tel Aviv, our guide Yuval (the coolest guy in the world, looks like my uncle Evert), started telling us stories and history about the area. I instantly liked him. We stopped at a petrol station restaurant and received pastries with a drink. Yummy! Mine had chocolate inside.
After this, we felt refreshed and drove to Caesarea, a once proud Roman port city dating back to the time of Pontius Pilate. This beautiful Roman theatre looks over the bluest ocean and you can see kilometres far. We learned about Roman history and how the statutes in those days were made without heads, so that each emperor can simply put their own head on the statue when they murdered that emperor. Here Veon asked Arno if he would do the baptism at the Jordan, because we would’ve done it the following day. He agreed and she said she felt the Holy Spirit lead her to ask him. The pastor that was supposed to be on the trip, couldn’t be there, so she needed someone to do it. Arno is a perfectionist, so I knew he was nervous. But this was again a witness from God wanting to use my husband in big ways.
We then drove to the Mukhraka on Mount Carmel, overlooking the Jezreel Valley and the Kishon. Mukhraka, the traditional site of the contest on mount Carmel, is today marked by a Carmelite monastery. Along the way Yuval told us about the Druzes! Now they are a very pure Jewish nation who keep to themselves. They do not marry outside of their bloodline and were one of the only groups to join the Israel army. For that they were rewarded with citizenship and their own ground to build their homes, but they only stay there! If they want to marry someone outside of their nationality, they have to move out!
Mount Carmel was most significant in ancient times as a barrier to traffic along the coastal plain. This 1500-foot-high limestone mountain delayed and obstructed armies and merchants travelling to the Jezreel valley. This beautiful little garden firstly greeted us where we all introduced ourselves and were told the story of Elijah who defeated the Baal-prophets right here on this mountain! (1 Kings 18).
We prayed and when Yuval mentioned what God did to the prophets this wind suddenly came up and I could feel His presence and got Goosebumps! I wondered if others felt it too… cause I was waiting for this huge something to happen right there…
I wanted to shout out victory! Cause it’s only God who will listen to a righteous’ prayer and let fire come from heaven to consume a sopping wet altar and humiliate a false god and its prophets. Little did I know many such tiny moments will occur on this trip!
When we stood on top of this mountain, you could see so far and it was astonishingly beautiful. Farmlands and towns stretched as far as the eye could see. Pity is, a photo just doesn’t do it much justice. I wanted to stay there all day. Yuval told us that this would be the valley where the last war between God’s army and Satan’s army will take place! (Rev.16:15-16).
After this visit, we had lunch and we experienced our first Falafel. Strange, but tasty and new! It’s made from fried chick peas in balls, put inside a pita bread with salad and sesame sauce. The sauce was quite strange to me, but satisfying. We also get a cooldrink FREE with all our lunches. Here we met Hanan Ben, one of the owners of Heavenly International Tours (with whom we travelled).
The next morning, our travels took us to Bet She’an (Judges 1:27; Joshua 17:11; 1 Sam. 31:10-12; 2 Sam. 1:17-27) where the bodies of King Saul and his sons were displayed against the city walls! As we drove, Yuval, showed us the mount Gilboa (2 Sam. 1:6; 1 Chron. 10:1) where Saul killed himself before the Philistines could and how this mountain has not received much rain since David cursed it on that dreadful day he lost his beloved king Saul and best friend Jonathan! When Yuval said, “it probably doesn’t rain much on this mountain because David cursed it”,
I was like, WHOW!!!!!!! Bet She’an was known in the ancient times as the gate to paradise. It was a very fertile land, although there’s a lot of drought now, it still is quite fertile and beautiful.
At Bet She’an I was completely amazed by the way they excavated this ancient city! We walked through the excavations revealing a remarkable main street (called the cardo) which connected the upper city with the forum, marketplace, roman bathhouse and theatre. These people worshipped the god of wine, but I realised their intelligence. How they made a steam room was incomprehensible. I loved the rocks they used to build everything and their floors! All mosaic!
Then we went to Tel Megiddo. On our way, we passed the area where Queen Jezebel had her winter palace! They built a winter palace there, cause it’s nice and warm in this part of the country in the winter times. Yuval told us the story about Jezebel’s fate and how Elijah prophesied it before-hand. Don’t mess with the Holy of Holies! She was thrown out of a window and eaten by dogs! (1 Kings 21:23; 2 Kings 9:37).
Now a Tel is a place where they find layers of a city which proves that there once lived a certain civilization. At Megiddo, it is believed, and there is evidence of the civilizations there, that this will be the final place of war between good and evil. The Armageddon that the Bible mentions. Now Tel Megiddo has over 23 civilizations who lived there over time! The place has a long and rich history.
Here Joshua defeated the Canaanite king of Megiddo. King Solomon built a city here and it’s also the site where king Ahaziah and Joshia was killed. (Judges. 5:19; 2 Kings. 23:30; 1 Kings. 9:15; 2 Chron.35:22).
We learned that the five fruits of Israel are figs, pomegranates, grapes, olives and dates. They also grow wheat, barley, corn, sunflowers, mangos and avocados! Driving pass all the farmlands were quite beautiful.
We saw mount Precipice where an angry mob wanted to throw Jesus off a cliff (Luke 4:16-30). We passed mount Tabor (Judges 4:14) where the story of Deborah took place! Lastly, we ended our tour at Cana, the site of Jesus’ first miracle where he turned the water into wine (John 2). Three couples renewed their marriage vows inside a little church built over the site and it was quite special. What stood out for me was the scripture of this miracle tiled into the wall as you walk up to the church!
We couldn’t do the baptism that day, because the site was already closed. We moved it to the Monday. Arno was like, “why is God changing it?” and my immediate response was, “maybe you or someone else is not yet ready”… I know, God has perfect timing, and oh boy, He did!
That evening we had a small service in the hotel where people shared their testimonies. I enjoyed the fellowship and was proud of Arno for sharing his testimony of how he does outreaches to street people and what that means to those people. He also spoke about the baptism and invited the men to baptise their wives. Veon was a bit uncomfortable with the idea beforehand, but Pastor Dieter shared Word on how the person baptising you don’t need to be a special ordained person, but is simply a vessel used by God. This is where I think God showed me why he moved the baptism date! Pastor Dieter’s words came and sealed Arno’s fears of being too young, not being a real pastor, wanting the men to baptise their wives etc. He had a lot of questions in his heart. It’s so amazing how God took that one simple moment and all fear and uncertainty in us vanished! I knew God was going to do something BIG!
The testimony that stood out to me the most was Mary’s, a new friend we made on the tour. She talked about her skin problem she had for years and how she one day decided only God can heal her. She started praying the blood of Jesus over her body, especially her hands and feet that were mostly affected, every morning and night! She said when the Devil came back (thoughts in her mind) she declared it as lies and just kept on praying and believing. Her problem went away and has been that way now for years. It touched me, because I struggle a lot with my skin acne and I realised my own little faith in believing that God can heal me! I decided there to really start making a change in the way I prayed over myself! She also mentioned how our negative thoughts can physically manifest in our flesh and that we should guard our minds. And a scripture of having the mind of Christ popped up in my head and I just felt how God was confirming through people Word he shared with me a while ago. (1 Cor. 2:16; Rom.7:25).
The next morning we drove to Gennosar where we saw an ancient boat from the times of Jesus found under the water. There we also shopped and bought anointing oils, cashmere and toys for the kids! We then walked to the Sea of Galilee (not really a sea, but a very big lake, but it does look like the ocean) where our Worship Boat awaited us.
The captain is a reborn Jew, named Daniel. He welcomed us and I immediately felt peace and calm as we moved over Galilee. He hoisted our country’s flag (there were a few Americans with us on the boat already) and we sang our Anthem. It was a powerful moment. A dear lady, Esther, had a very emotional reaction and it dawned on me how blessed our country is and how special it is that they do this. It’s like you’re proclaiming Jesus over your land! Wow!
The worship on the boat, to me, was absolutely filled with the Holy Spirit. Usually with worship, it takes time to get into that deep sense of feeling God’s spirit, but on that boat I could immediately feel Him there and I realised the amazingness of being on the same waters where He preached to His disciples, calmed the storm and walked on the waters. It was so moving!
One song we sang, was Holy are you Lord God Almighty, Worthy is the Lamb… Amen… And we sang it in Hebrew. It was healing to look over the waters and know that Jesus taught about faith here, and my own faith strengthened by seeing everyone around me worshipping and thanking Him.
Afterwards one of the American ladies, tears streaming down her cheeks, said “please pray for America, we need it”. I felt shocked, because I thought South Africa was the country that needed prayer. America is okay. All other countries are okay! We hugged her and told her that she must pray for our country as well. We informed her about the 1.7 million Christians who prayed at the It’s Time Event. She was amazed. It was precious to share a common power with another nationality – prayer in Jesus name! It touched me deeply. Once again I realised how God was using people to show me who He is! His little moments.
Then we went to Peter’s Primacy where we put our feet in the waters of the Galilee. It was special. Here Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him three times! It still stays with me how I dreamt about this as a little child! In my dream I saw Jesus sit on a rock with sheep around Him and He asked me those 3 questions! So, this place was quite special to me. (John. 21:15).
We then went to the town Capernaum which was the centre of Jesus’ activities. (Matt.4:13).
Mount Hermon is very significant, because it is the source of the Jordan river. Now the Jordan river flows into the Sea of Galilee which Israel used to pump drinking water from. At the moment Israel is experiencing a lot of drought, especially in the Jordan area. Now the war between Syria and Israel started because of this water source. Israel wanted to pump water from the Jordan water source directly to get drinking water, but the Syrians tried to stop them…
Back to Mount Hermon. Here a Roman city was built into the mountains where they had strange rituals to their god. Arno put his hands in the water and it was quite cold but clear. The significance of this place is that here Simon Peter acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, to which Jesus replied: “You are Peter (which means rock) and on this rock (Petra) I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.” Wow!! (Matt.16:18).
We then drove to a Kibbutz where Hanan grew up. I was struck by a lady walking passed with a baby in a cot on wheels! It was a funny sight. Both Hanan and Yuval grew up in traditional Kibbutz’s where they lived in children’s homes. One parent would tuck them in by night before leaving them at the children’s home. They would therefore sleep and go to school in these homes with all the other children. They see their parents for tea certain times per day. Their parents would work on the kibbutz and receive free food, medical treatment and housing. The kibbutz-members live like a collective family, they eat together and have meetings or feasts at a centre point, like a dining room area.
I thought in my heart that it must’ve been hard for the moms and the children not to be together much. Yuval said for example that his mom would breastfeed him every four hours by coming to the children’s home. Life in the kibbutz moves like a circle, you start as a baby in the children’s home, grow up and end as an old person in the old age home, which is right next to the children’s home. Apparently, they take really good care of their old people. Yuval said that he went away from the kibbutz, cause your life is not very private and he wanted to lead a more private life, plus he worked for a year in the kitchen and didn’t like that experience much (I’d rather not want to know why). But today, most Kibbutz are not that traditional anymore, people live in bigger homes, and work for a salary. But I think it must be great as a child to grow up in a place where you have one big play ground. Their swimming pool area was quite impressive. Hanan still has contacts with the Kibbutz he grew up in, the hotel there is a five-star hotel!
It dawned on me that you could never really forget such a lifestyle, it must stay in your heart forever.
This morning we had to put our luggage on the bus, and an argument ensued. You have to point to the bell boy which suitcase is yours, otherwise they refuse to put it on the bus. Lots of people just put their suitcases down and climbed in. I was lucky! (the bell boy winked at me and took my two suitcases, ha ha). But it was interesting to see how Israeli’s argue with each other, they can get quite loud.
The baptism in the Jordan! On the bus, Arno spoke over the mike and read scriptures on the baptism, its significance and meaning. He spoke quite well and I was proud of him.
As we arrived at the Yardenit Baptismal site, a peaceful atmosphere greeted us. We all got dressed in white robes and was given a white towel. There are many people. I had the camera ready and started to pray in tongues (1 Cor.12:10;1 Cor.14:5; Acts.2:3) as I knew Arno was going to baptise quite a few people, so I wanted to pray for him in support. Pastor Dieter did a short explanation and he baptised two couples who renewed their vows at Cana. After that, he baptised Arno, what a moment! Then Arno baptised me and then I helped Arno to baptise Albe. It happened quickly, but I felt a peace come over me, cause in my first baptism I was only baptised in the name of Jesus and this felt not just like a rededication but like making a real commitment to give everything fully over to Jesus.
Then Arno baptised the rest of the group and Albe helped. Everyone’s baptism was special, but Ansie’s moment stood out to me. She’s such a spontaneous person and when she came up she started singing. It touched my heart strings. Then when Uncle Halli (Hallifax) went, emotions ran high. He’s the oldest in our group and his wife died a while ago. He came to Israel for her and when he said the words “I want to get baptised, because I want to give my life to Jesus…” there was not a dry eye there! At his age to make that commitment was inspirational. (Matt.3:11; John.4:2; Luke.3:16).
Jesus’ said himself (Matt.28:19) – Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Our journey started with a drive through Jericho to view the Sycamore tree (Luk.19:4). We drove all along the Jordan river and the border to Jordania. Here we passed Tel Rehov, which was captured by Joshua. They found remanence. We also passed the Bedwing villages (spelling sorry) where the Moabites and Ammonites, children of Lot, lived (Deut.2). As we entered Jericho (Jos.16), there is no border gate, here we learned that Jericho has full autonomy, as it is under Palestinian rule. Palestinian cars have white number plates and Israeli’s have yellow number plates.
We drove passed interesting places such as the mount of temptation (Matt.4:1) where Jesus was tempted by Satan and the spring of Elisha where the town’s people told him the water got bitter (2 Kings 2). We reached the Sycamore tree where Saggeus climbed up to see Jesus (Luke 19). We quickly stopped to take a picture and some people bought dates. It’s apparently the best in the world. What struck me about Jericho was that it was quite dirty there. Between houses, rubbish lied in the streets and in gutters.
We also learned that the dead sea is dying. Every year the water recedes 1 meter. Ahava is the biggest company in the area that makes skin products from the many minerals found in the dead sea. They believe that one day there will be no dead sea, I was shocked.
The Qumran caves were quite interesting, but it was excessively hot!
Masada means fortress or stronghold (1 Sam 22:3-5; 1 Chron.12:1-16; 1 Sam 24:22). King Herod looked for a place to protect himself. So, he built a fortress on top of Masada, and I have to say that fortress is amazing!! I cannot believe the intelligence of the people of those times. In order to ensure he had water and food on the mountain, he built cisterns and interesting pathways for rain water to be gathered. And obviously, I felt really sad for the donkeys they used to carry the water up and down every single day! They must’ve worked themselves to death. King Herod used the place later on as a resort and hotel. I imagined people having big parties in this place with the stars so close.
In 66 AD a big revolt against the Roman empire started in Caesarea and Tiberias and other places. The Romans sent their troops and destroyed the temple, end of the revolt. A Small group of Jews, called the Zealots, came to Masada, and they knew here they would be safe. They prepared themselves and stored food and water over a long period of time. In 72 AD Titus sent fresh troops to take Masada. It took them 10 months to build a ramp. Off course, they used Jewish slaves.
The view from Masada over the desert was breath-taking. I imagined the 960 Jews on top of this high place and how scared they must’ve been, knowing they have nowhere to go. When they realised the Romans would come for them soon, they organised a mass suicide. 10 Men were chosen and they had to kill everyone! The last man had to kill himself. When the Romans broke down one of the walls through a battering ram, they found everyone dead! The legend says that two women and five children survived to tell the tale. The amazing thing about the excavations is that they found the names of men on little pieces of tile, which was probably when they had their last meeting and chose who would be the ten to do the deed.
A poem was written, saying Masada will never fall again!
As we drove to experience the Dead Sea we passed Kibbutz Engedi (Ein Gedi), here David ran away from Saul and hid from him. It is somewhere here that David cut off a piece of King Saul’s garment to show him how easily he could’ve killed him but didn’t!
Then our ascension to Jerusalem started. They played the song of Jerusalem in the bus and the sunset was marvellous as the rays pushed through misty clouds. This intense moment came into the bus and everyone was excited to see the eternal city of God! Yuval told us that the Jews want to rebuild the temple but that right now, two holy buildings of the Arabs are built on the exact site. (Gen.22; 2 Sam.6:1-12; 1 Kings.2:10; Luk.2:22; Acts.2, 7, 9 and 15). As Jerusalem laid open before me, its beauty was tremendous. A Jewish rabbi once said that when God made the earth, he had 10 measures of beauty, 9 he gave to Jerusalem and 1 to the rest of the world. Yes, it is a really beautiful city.
Our hotel was in the government court, where all the important buildings are. We had a stunning view over the city and saw great fireworks. It was the Independence Day celebrations.
The next morning, we went to the Mount of Olives where Jesus ascended to Heaven and where He’s going to come back. Here lies a graveyard far for the eye to see. People are dying to get here (Yuval’s joke), cause they believe when Jesus comes back, they want to be the first to experience it! (2 Sam.15:30-37; Luk.19:41-44; Acts.3:1-10; 1 Kings. 11:7-8; Zechariah. 14:4; Matt. 26:30). In front of you is the old city, what a view. All buildings must be built by limestone according to law. It’s quite pretty, with greenery in between and colourful flowers to brighten up the dullness of the buildings.
Israel police are around every corner and it made you remember the conflict within this city. But I strangely felt safe. We visited Gethsemane (John.18:1-4; Luk.22:39-53; Mark.14:32), a place I was really excited to visit. It was a bit of a let-down, since you can’t walk inside the garden but around it. There were a lot of people, so the peacefulness that I expected wasn’t there.
We then went to the Wailing Wall where the Jews go to pray against a wall which is the only remaining remnant of the Temple Mount destroyed by the Romans. The reasons for its holiness is that the temple was the centre of the spiritual world, the main conduit for the flow of Godliness. At the wailing wall, you find mount Moriah, which is the place Abraham sacrificed Isaac and where Jacob dreamed of the ladder ascending to heaven! The wailing wall, or western wall is the most significant, because it’s the spot closest to the Holy of Holies, the central focus of the Temple!
I walked towards the Wailing Wall, men and women are separated by a wall, with Veon and Constance, the pastor’s wife. Constance took both our hands and her prayer will stay with me forever. She prayed that God would bless these people and that the true Messiah, Jesus, will enter their hearts. I then felt compelled to go pray as well. I could only put my one hand on the wall, cause there were many women praying. A woman next to me was wailing in agony. Her pain reverberated through me and I started to cry with her. I prayed that God would hear these crying women’s prayers as I saw the little prayers stuck into the cracks of the walls.
Many such moments happened, where I saw happy Jewish families, moms, dads and their children! They seemed dedicated to each other, happy and vibrant.
We then walked to the room of the last supper (Luk.22; Mark.14;Acts.1) where Jesus broke the bread with the disciples and told them it was his body and drank the wine and told them it was his blood. Then we went to the house of Caiaphas where Jesus was taken prisoner, and interrogated. (John. 11:47-54). Here Peter also denied Jesus three times! It was a bit disturbing to see the coldness of the place and how they bound their prisoners when interrogating them.
Just before we entered Bethlehem we visited the fields of the shepherds and went into a cave where they normally lived. We also sang inside a little church that had great acoustics. Was special.
We also went to the church of Nativity where Jesus was born. It’s a super busy place with three denominations in one, namely catholic, Greek orthodox and Armenian. The church is built in the form of a cross. Because it was so so busy, we visited where Jesus was born from another side of the church. It was also inside a cave.
After our shopping in Bethlehem, a Palestinian tried selling us some souvenirs. He saw my pin of the Israel flag and pressed on it saying, “Israel not your friend”. Now look at that moment you have a thousand things to say, but you know you’re on foreign soil, so I only asked him – Why do you say that? He told me that they are the mafia. I said to him that I am from South Africa and he went on about how South Africa and Palestinians are friends. Christ’s words of love echoed in my head and maybe my eyes told him, cause he then put out his hand and said go well friend. That moment really bothered me and stayed with me for the rest of the night. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and wishing I told him about Christ’s love.
We were all feeling quite exhausted after such a busy day, and emotionally I was completely worn-out!
That next morning, still thinking about what happened, my daily scripture was Prov.21:2! "People may be right in their own eyes, but the Lord examines the heart". Little did I know God was slowly opening a big reveal to me. When we came to Israel, I thought I was going to experience these AHA moments! But that’s exactly how God is not, He’s soft, gentle and takes our layers off one by one…
And being in this place was taking off some layers just as he started with me back in South Africa at the It’s Time Event. We entered the old city via the Lion’s Gate. We firstly visited the Pools of Bethesda. It is located north of the temple mount. These pools were designed in the times of Herod the Great for the Jewish inhabitants to purify themselves and here Jesus performed the miracle of healing an infirm man.
We then started with our walk along the Via Dolorosa. I got a bit confused with all the stations. They did give us a pamphlet of all the different places where significant things happened to Jesus along his journey to be crucified. Although not all of it is in the Bible, so I naturally didn’t just take it on as hard truth.
My favourite place of the day was the Garden Tomb. Here outside the old city, was another site they believed Jesus was crucified and buried. The site also more closely resembles the explanations within the Bible. The guide told us it’s not about the location, but about the man, and it meant a lot to me what he said. I realised it’s truly about just being near the place where Jesus walked and not honouring every single place you think Jesus did something great. He rose, and that’s the fact we must run after.
Our group held communion here and sang a few worship songs. It was again a moment for me and I got quite emotional. Arno and I prayed together and it was really special. Some local youngsters heard our singing and came up to see! I think they were amazed by the emotions and worship. It meant to me the same as if our light can shine full of Jesus’ love, then imagine who we can reach and touch! I believe a lot of people’s hearts there were touched by this moment.
Our journey was coming to an end. We visited Ein Karem, the home town of John the Baptist and where Jesus’ mother stop to visit her cousin on the way to Bethlehem. (Luke.1:80). This site was very peaceful to me, the church also. We could see a part of John’s cave, at St John BaHarim. Outside, the blessing spoken by John’s father, Zechariah, is tiled onto the wall in different languages.
After that we went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum where 6 000 000 Jews died in the hands of the Nazis. In history class I have always been very interested in this part of history, since we studied the second world war, so I remembered everything we learned. But nothing prepares you to see real accounts of people who lived through it. Especially the children!
After this shocking and emotional experience, we went to the Israel museum for a bit more light-hearted information. We saw the Nano Bible, the big model of the old Jerusalem and many excavations of civilizations within Israel. Many of the things Yuval told us regarding the excavations came to life here.
If you go to Israel, it all depends on your own attitude. Don’t expect five-star treatment or going there for a cocktail-rest-tan session, although the hotels had nice swimming pools. You are very much confronted with God’s Word and you know how He is, He always surprises you in the way He reveals Himself 😊
We went with the expectation of just experiencing the land where Jesus and the Bible figures lived and performed many of the stories now written inside the one Book we proclaim as our faith. It was really a special tour, something that I will remember for the rest of my life. We went there to get answers to questions and really to experience Him more closely! And if someone asked me, did you? My answer is YES! Not in the way I thought He would, but in all those moments we had, in putting this story together, by sharing this with people and especially when we touched back on home soil and God put everything into perspective!
I always observe people, I have a few interesting characters that shaped my stay and it’s too much to mention them all here. But one incident I do want to share, cause it was part of one of our group members’ testimonies, is when we walked back from a site in one of the Palestinian areas, this man shouted at a women. I don’t know if that was his wife, but he was very angry and I thought he was going to hit her. He was furiously pacing up and down. When he yelled at her, his face was inches from hers and I went cold from fear. Everyone in our group quickly jumped onto the bus, it was horrible. I asked God, why would He let us see this? What did He try to teach us through this incident? In our second testimony night, He answered me. One of our group members stood up and told us about her 7 or 9 year abusive marriage and that that moment her old life flashed by her. And she was reminded of the life that God saved her from! Then it struck me, to each one in our group, God had a plan, had a story to reveal, and all these little moments happened so we could each be touched and then testify of God’s greatness. (Rev. 12:11). And they overcame him by the blood of the lamb and the words of their testimony!
God was speaking to me about all the different denominations within Christianity. I was saddened by it. Because at many of the sites, people would push and shove simply to get in front, they wouldn’t be a bit considerate and others would deliberately but into a que in fear of missing an opportunity. At a point Arno told me, “Our Christians are a bunch of hooligans!” And then I wondered, when Jesus stood on the mount of Olives and wept about the city of Jerusalem’s destruction, did He weep because of the division within the Christian-following that would come, did He weep because all over the world Christians will kill in the name of what they think is right?
And how is God looking upon us, weeping? I asked God, why is He showing me this? I wanted answers on other things, but He was continually speaking to me about there not being unity in the churches all over South Africa. Within our own Christian-groups we disagree on the Word, we become envious of others more blessed or even unsympathetic to ones who suffer.
Then God, as beautiful as His timing is, gave me the answer inside a South African NG Church, two days after we came back to our home land. As the reverent was preaching, his sermon was about “Footprints of Jesus” (footsteps of Jesus). I almost fell off my seat, cause our whole tour’s name was Walking where Jesus walked. He said how many of us search for Jesus and we love the stories of Jesus and what He did, but when it comes to living the way Jesus did, we shy away. Then we come up with excuses. I remembered many of the sites where people seemed more interested in the rocks or the church sites itself than really about the God we serve. I remembered how I myself wanted so desperately to experience this huge something, how I was desperately searching for this Jesus I read about in the Bible, and I heard Him say in my heart, “I am not inside a rock, or a wall or stuck inside a church, I am within your heart, Gerda. All this time that’s where I am. And I want a relationship with you. Just like My Spirit walked with Adam and Eve, I want you to walk with Me, to speak to Me, share your heart with Me, to trust Me and to give your all to Me. Stop searching, and start walking with Me.”
Everything I saw and learned in Israel came back to me and at that moment I realised the scripture, Prov. 21:2 “Every man is right in his own eyes, but God examines the heart”, summed up my stay in Israel. God was saying to me quite clearly: From now on, make sure that your heart is pure and sanctified before Me, that there is no corruption inside it and stop judging others, because you do not know their hearts. They might be wrong in your eyes, but love them through My eyes. See them through My eyes.
And that’s the lesson I learned from Israel. God is still sharing many things with me. I am now studying the Bible and reading it in a very different way, because the names of places are now more real to me, because I was there!
Go to Israel. Go and pray for those people. Go and allow God to reveal Himself to you, because you’re going to realise, He has been inside your heart all this time, but He wants you to see that the Bible is not just a story. It is a history book of His glory, His son who is Risen and has conquered death!
This is the amazing group of people that are now stuck in my heart forever, especially Yuval, Veon and Hanan!