In the Presence of History
I’m happy to report we arrived safely on Saturday! After a smooth flight from Newark, New Jersey, our plane landed in Tel Aviv where we were greeted by our Israeli tour guides and bus drivers. And while there were varying reports of success sleeping on the 10-hour flight, we all agreed that it was worth whatever lengths it took to get to the Holy Land.
As one might expect, not a minute is wasted on the Up To Jerusalem tour. We jumped onto the two buses that hold our 75 travelers and headed immediately to the ancient port of Jaffa, where Jonah fled from God and Peter received a vision to take the gospel to the Gentiles.
After taking in this gorgeous site, we checked into our hotel rooms and had a lovely dinner. Then, with the Mediterranean sea breeze outside our windows, we said good night to Tel Aviv and fell into a deep sleep.
In fact, I fell into the deepest sleep because I was awakened by an abrupt phone call from the front desk at 8 a.m. “Karen,” our executive director, Jim Showers, said, “It’s 8:00, and we are about to leave.”
Not the call you want to hear when you’ve slept through all your alarms! Thankfully, when I hopped on the bus 10 minutes later, everyone showed me grace; and Jim, with a smile, used it as an opportunity to explain to everybody what not to do!
I’m glad I didn’t sleep through today, though, because it was too good to miss.
We started the morning at the ancient Roman city of Caesarea Maritima. Here we sat in an ancient amphitheater where we remembered men like Cornelius, Peter, Paul, and Pilate.
Jim Showers gave a beautiful devotional on the seats of the amphitheater where he reminded us that it was from this city that the gospel went out into the whole Roman Empire—that Peter’s salvation was not just for the Jewish people; it was for the whole world.
We then went to take a quick look at the famous Roman aqueducts.
From there, we continued north to Mount Carmel where Elijah confronted the prophets of Baal. Overlooking the Jezreel Valley, we enjoyed a wonderful devotional from our assistant director of International Ministries, Dan Price.
We then enjoyed a delicious meal of falafel, hummus, and the freshest of salads at a Druze restaurant. The Druze people are a unique group of people who left Islam 1,000 years ago and fled to the land that is now modern Israel. Today, they are mostly found in Lebanon and Syria, with some in Israel. They fly a flag with five colors in memory of the Druze who died in the wars of Israel.
If standing on the ancient biblical sites of Israel wasn’t enough, I can assure you that traveling from location to location is almost as interesting. En route we passed more than just billboards, goats, and cows—growing in endless rows of fertile soil alongside the roads were luscious and thriving mango, avocado, banana, olive, pomegranate, and almond trees!
And while even that would be enough for my fresh-food-loving heart, we pulled over to see a Second Period tomb with a rolling stone—simply located on the side of the road. As a mom of four, I usually point out an occasional deer as the most exciting thing we see on a drive. But in Israel, exciting things are all around you. Israel is full of the richest of history that doesn’t limit itself to one place. It’s everywhere and it’s incredible.
Tel Megiddo is the site of biblical Armageddon where from its summit we saw the plain where the armies of the world will assemble for the last great battle of the Tribulation. Here, Jim Showers gave a pertinent reminder that, in the end-times, God is going to restore the nation of Israel in the way it was intended. God is coming to right all the wrongs committed against the Jewish people. And in the meantime, as believers, we can be witnesses to His truth as we interact with our Jewish friends today.
Mount of Beatitudes
Our final stop today was at the Mount of Beatitudes, where a beautiful chapel sits perched at the top of the mountain overlooking the Sea of Galilee.
Whether you’re well-versed in Scripture or not, I would imagine most of us are familiar with the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus gave a message that, in my opinion, should bring great relief to all of us who are seeking to understand what God values most.
We listened to Diane Showers read the Scripture while we took in the incredible view with the sun setting next to us. Yes, it was as beautiful as it sounds.
Very rarely do I understand the adage to be fully present. But I was fully present amidst my fellow travelers, as we all knew we were experiencing something special.
To fully grasp that God promises the exact opposite of what the world counts as success is almost impossible.
In a culture where we seek to be first, have the most, mourn, feel pain, and wonder if there is any reward when we feel forgotten, Matthew 5–7 reminds us that God’s plan was not made with earthly incentives in mind but only that which can be found in heaven.
As our first full day comes to an end, I can’t help but express what an honor it is to be on this trip with people from all over the United States (and one from Canada!). I have heard some of their stories already from their lives at home—some of triumph and some of heartache. And yet, here we all are, standing in the Holy Land together. I’m positive there is a reason each and every one of us are here.
And for you, at home, can I encourage you to open your Bibles tonight to read Matthew 5—7? You’ll gain the same greatness from Scripture from where you sit as we are gaining here in Israel. The incredible thing about God’s Word is that it knows no bounds or limits. But if you ever want to see the Bible come to life, we'd love for you to come next time.
Until tomorrow! Good night from the Sea of Galilee.
Blog author: Karen Katulka
Director of Marketing & Communication
The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry
Photos: Dan Price
Assistant Director of International Ministries
The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry