I thought I was ready for it. I had no clue.
Reading the Bible and other books about Israel could not prepare me for what I saw when I got there. The emotional impact of the land, the sites, and the people was like walking through the pages of a captivating book. Every day and each site I toured in Israel brought me unexpected joy! Even seemingly ordinary events, such as the sun rising on the Sea of Galilee and the full moon setting on the Dead Sea, felt extra special.
That leads me to contemplate the idea that "nothing but direct experience will ever ultimately convince anybody that the Bible's words are the authentic and authoritative words of God."1 Since I have been to Israel, that thought has expanded.
From the moment I arrived, I experienced friendliness along with the people's passion for the country.
- Our port of entry, Tel Aviv, is a growing city along the beautiful Mediterranean, but nearby is ancient Joppa (present-day Jaffa) where it was easy to imagine Jonah hopping aboard a boat to run away from God.
- From the height of Tel Megiddo, I was impressed by the extensive Jezreel Valley, and I contemplated biblical events that happened there as well as events yet to come.
- In Nazareth, I tried to visualize Jesus as a child running up and down hills and as a young man in a woodworking shop.
- The excavations at Masada surprisingly revealed much more than my preconceived idea of a wilderness plateau where a community of Jewish freedom fighters took a stand against the Romans.
- And the delightful botanical garden kibbutz at Ein Gedi is an oasis of beauty and life beside the Dead Sea.
The land is rich with thousands of years of history and a multitude of biblical sites—none more important than Jerusalem, the city of our God, the joy of the whole world (Psalm 48). How I wished I could have stayed there so much longer!
Many people say a trip to Israel is life-changing. Before going there, I wondered, How is it life-changing? Of course, one way is that now I can better relate to maps and the places of historical events named in the Bible. Geographically, Jordan (think: Edom, Moab, Aram) shares Israel's border nearly the length of Israel's eastern side.
But there's more.
For me, the answer to my question on life change comes through perspective, humility, and greater faith. Literally, I comprehend the words in the Bible differently—as if reading a biography of my loved one. Call it a powerfully affirming experience—to believe and trust with all my heart that God's Word is truth and life; to better understand the apostles' struggles in spreading the gospel; and to deeply sympathize with Paul's self-sacrifice in service for the Lord—giving me greater desire to live for Christ.
A trip to Israel did all that? Yes, and much more.
Of course, to have a vivid understanding of God's truth doesn't require a trip to Israel. But what a magnificent difference it makes when you experience Israel personally! I had no clue beforehand. My own spiritual journey has taken a giant leap forward.
I pray that you will see for yourself that the value of a trip to Israel truly is inestimable. Go see for yourself.