My Journey to Israel
by Ruth Allison
In October/November of 2015, I went to Israel with a Bridges For Peace Tour. BFP has a ministry of reconciliation and hope between Jews and Christians, and to give Christians worldwide the opportunity to express our Biblical responsibility before God to support Israel - the land and people who gave us the Bible.
Our days started with prayer, and at various times we had a devotional message at pivotal sites. (Before I left, a friend from my Church, had a picture of angels over our bus, so we travelled without fear and in safety, Thanks, God!)
On the first day, we visited Independence Hall, the former home of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, where he proclaimed the State of Israel on 14 May 1948. We saw a video of the actually ceremony. I was in awe of how God orchestrated the event. Both Britain and the UN had agreed that Israel should have its own land. Those writing the Declaration did soon 14th, and had to finish before Shabbat ( Sabbath) began at dusk. WE sat in the room where this had happened - it was very moving, and I gave thanks to God. Isaiah prophesied 66:8,'Who has ever seen anything strange as this? Has a nation ever been born in a single day?'Well, this was fulfilled on 14.5.1948! How amazing our God is!
The next day, Arabs attacked to destroy the new State. Israel wasn't prepared for war. It was a miracle that they won, with God's help also in the 2 subsequent wars.
Later we visited Yad Vashem - the Holocaust Museum. It was beautifully curated, just like all the places we visited. And just SO SAD! I was almost in tears at the suffering of the Jewish people, often at the hands of so-called Christians. We have a lot to repent for, and need to show Israelis that present day Christians do indeed love and support them, and long for Messiah to return to Jerusalem.
We stayed in Kibbutz-hotel on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. We were to have a boat ride next day. That night was extremely windy, and branches were torn from trees. We prayed, and the wind dropped (thanks, God) so that although there was a breeze on the water, it was smooth sailing. We were the only group on the boat, and they played an old Hillsong CD, so we worshipped as we sailed.
I knew from the Bible that Israel has hills, but I didn't realise that it is so hilly. The hills of Judea adn Samaria are mistakenly called 'the West Bank' - just on the western side of Jordan. Biblical heartland - of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
There are many more hills, though, and very stony. Every valley and piece of available land is used, with irrigation systems in place, for maximum use of the land, which is fertile -many olive trees, citrus, mangoes, pomegranates, wheat, date palms. I didn't know that 'the land flowing with milk and honey' actually means date honey. It has a different favour to bee honey.
We went to Nazareth Village - recreated the way it would have been in Jesus' day. Very interesting. There were olives, growing, being picked and we saw the crush, a donkey moving a huge stone over them, then they are pressed in the traditional way. "Gethsemane" comes from the root for olive press - olives are pressed 3 times, and Jesus was crushed 3 times in Gethsemane for us. God is so amazing.
We met Kelvin Crombie, an Australian Historian, who talked about the Australian Light Horse Brigade at the Negev Memorials ( Israelis are very grateful still to Aussies and New Zealanders who paved the way for liberation Jerusalem.) Then to a very moving, very respectful Ceremony at the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Beer Sheva.
We visited Masada, originally one of Herod's palaces, then the refuge of Jewish zealots fleeing the Romans in 72 AD, who committed suicide rather than surrender. Also to Qumran, where the Essenes established a more pure form of religion, but were later killed by Romans.
Two other ladies and I re-affirmed our baptismal vows in the Jordan River, near where John baptised Jesus. It has been up-graded since then! It was a moving ceremony.
We saw the BFP warehouses at Karmiel, in the north, and in Jerusalem, where food and supplies bought in Israel with donated money, is given to recent immigrants, and their children and families are supported with help for the first year, and with the Feed a Child program, for those in need in schools. These supplies are there for if/when war is declared, to give to locals.
Megiddo is on the eastern slope of the Carmel range, south of Haifa, which is where the final battle will take place on the plains of Megiddo.
We went to the Mount of Olives, and the Garden of Gethsemane. This was smaller than I expected. We had communion service in the little prayer house there, adn saw what may have been Jesus' tomb. Our lovely Irish hued, who volunteers there for 8 weeks each year, asked us to sing 'When I Survey the Wondrous Cross' when the Muslim call rang out. We sang lustily!
With others, I walked on the walls of old Jerusalem, and made it a prayer walk. there was heavy rain as we walked back to the hotel, but that stopped for the Sound and Light Show of Jerusalem's history that night at the Tower of David.
Hezekiah's tunnel was great fun. (see 2 Chronicles 32:2). There was a strong current, as there had been rain (thanks, God!) so is was up to our thighs, but the level lowered as we walked through the 550 metres in the dark. Quite an engineering feat. Workers started at both ends and met in the middle, using picks through limestone.
Israelis are very good at fulfilling God's command to care for the 'widows and orphans' in there care for the disadvantaged and those with special needs.
The last 3 days we were hosted by Israeli families, and the mornings were at the Beit Shemesh school where the children attend. They made us most welcome, and it was so good to see the children being hugged, as the school knows they need love and to have a Bible story taught – Abraham – after all it is their history!
We had a good family feeling on the bus – 14 of us, and I’m so thankful it was possible for me to see God’s own special possession – Israel.