Earlier this year, some friends of ours took us on a trip to Israel. I have had this trip on my bucket list for year. I wanted to go and see the places Jesus walked. I didn’t expect it to be a particularly “spiritual” experience but I believed it would help satisfy my curiosity. It did that and gave me a better perspective on the geography of the places I’d read about since I was a kid and some idea of how far it is between places. We drive there but the people of the bible mostly walked and some places involved a very long walk.
Corona Virus nearly scuttled our trip. We turned up at the airport at 7am ready to catch our flight to Seoul in Korea where we would overnight before flying the next day to Tel Aviv. On the way to the checkin desk we were met by a Korean man who asked us where we were going and when he discovered we were headed to Israel, he told us to find another airline! Their flight into Israel the day before had been turned back so it would be unlikely we would make it to Israel if we flew with Korean Air.
Thankfully there was a travel agent at the airport who was able to arrange for us to fly via Zurich later that day and thus meet our friends a day or two later in Israel. And we got to buy some Swiss chocolate to take with us.
Tel Aviv was a bit of a shock to the senses. There were big buildings and lots of activity going on. But the whole place had an Asia feel to it. The traffic was very slow going with too many cars for the narrow roads so they had ambulance officers riding bikes to get through the traffic. There were electrical wires hanging everywhere – not as bad as Hong Kong but not as organised as Brisbane. There were air conditioners that looked as if they had been dumped on the roof and wired up where they landed complete with pipes that were too long and so looped to make them fit. There were signs that once said something but now had been removed leaving an empty light box on the wall.
But we had not come to be building inspectors or traffic police so we settled into our hotel. The welcome there was fantastic. We had expected troubles since the reviews on Trip Advisor (which we discovered after we booked) were terrible. But we were given a fruit platter and a bottle of win and to make up for our late arrival were given a dinner voucher for that night.
Our first memories of Israel was the view late in the day from the beach in Tel Aviv up toward Jaffa (or Joppa). That’s the place Jonah left from on his ill fated attempt to get out of what God wanted him to do and runaway to sea. Today there are whales all over the place – even on the fish and chip shop which maybe is the way we modern people take revenge.
Joppa is also the place St. Peter was visiting when, at the house of Simon the tanner, he was waiting for lunch and fell asleep and saw a vision. He was woken up by some blokes knocking on his door who asked him to come with them to Caesarea (50Km to the north) to visit Cornelius. You can read about that in the biblical book of Acts in chapter 9. We did pretty much the same thing though we stayed an extra day.
Not surprisingly, most of the buildings from the time of Jesus are simply piles of rocks that have been excavated. Caesarea was also the main sea port for the Romans empire in Jesus time as well so there are piles of rocks out in the water as well. But you can be sure they are the rocks that were there when Jesus walked the earth because there is a sign there saying so!
Probably the only thing that you can be reasonably certain about is that the sea of Galilee hasn’t moved far. Though the water has changed a few thousand times in the last 2000 years and the shore line goes up and down with the seasons, the lake of His time is still a lake. So we had a boat trip on the lake, watched the sun rise over the hills in the morning and got our feet wet in the water. My friend was also baptised in the river a little south of the lake itself. So it was great time.
All in all, the trip to the Holy Land was well worth the trouble of getting there and then getting back just before the borders closed. I suppose, having a Palestinian guide helped us understand the political issues (from a Palestinian perspective, and a visit to the Golan Heights where we were told that “it’s been quiet for a few days – there has not been any shelling in a week now” was quite eye opening if not a little scary.