Rick and Deb at the Western Wall in Jerusalem

Deb and Rick Johnson in the Holy Land

Deb and I have always wanted to visit the Holy Land. Especially, for me, after teaching Bible classes at Zion since 2011. People have asked me why I wanted to go. My answer was simple, as the song goes,

“To walk where Jesus walked, and feel His presence there.”

We worked with the Israeli Tourism Department and we completed our tour in May of 2018.

This was a wonderful tour. Our Israeli guide was very well versed in biblical history whether it be Old Testament or New Testament. The major places we traveled began in Tel Aviv (Old city of Joppa) and then to Caesarea, to Mount Carmel to Megiddo, to Nazareth, to the Sea of Galilee, to Caesarea Philippi, to Capernaum, to the Jordan River, to Jericho, to the Dead Sea, to Masada, Qumran and to Jerusalem.

We took many pictures during our trip. The picture of us in the February 2021 newsletter (and above) shows us at the Western Wall in Jerusalem where we each got to go to the wall to pray.

The following are five of our favorite places we visited.

Sea of Galilee

On this day, we visited Caesarea Philippi where Jesus told the disciples who He was. We then visited where Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount at the Sea of Galilee. There was a Catholic Church built at this location. We then went to the place where Jesus and the disciples fed the 5000 followed by the place where Jesus told Peter he would be the rock of the church. We then walked down to the Sea of Galilee. It was the first place where I truly felt Jesus’s presence as I looked out. The picture shows a man preaching to the people. This was a truly memorable time.

Baptizing in the Jordan River

One of the things we definitely wanted to do if at all possible was to be baptized in the Jordan River. We arrived at a place in the river called Yardenit. There were lots of people as I am sure there are every day. We had to pay $10.00 to rent a robe or $25.00 if we wanted to take it home. We rented. We were lucky enough that in our group were 3 ministers of different faiths. That was very meaningful. I did go into the water and was dunked by the ministers. Deb stepped in and was blessed by the ministers. What a meaningful experience.

Masada

Rebellion against the Romans had existed for many years in Israel. The Romans were constantly having to put down uprisings. Rebels fought against the Romans as well as against other Jews who did not want to risk more persecution from the Romans. A major Jewish revolt began in the late first century. One rebel group of about 1000 escaped Jerusalem and fled to one of Herod’s vacation locations on a high mountain called Masada. There they fought off the Romans as long as they could. The Romans built a ramp up the hill to finally attack the Jews- only to find Jews had poisoned themselves. Here is a view of our group looking over the cliff where the Romans climbed up.

Mount of Olives

We had been to the Dead Sea where we actually swam- and floated. We then traveled to Masada and to Qumran. We then traveled to Jerusalem. We climbed upward on the highway and past Bedouin encampments. We arrived above Jerusalem by entering the Mount of Olives. I could picture Jesus being there and looking down over the city of Jerusalem. As we stood there, we could see the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus walked and prayed. We could also see the Dome of the Rock, the Muslim Holy Place. This was a breathtaking site.

Walking the Via Dolorosa

Inside Jerusalem we went to the place where Jesus was questioned by Pilate. When he chose to let the Jewish religious leaders crucify Jesus, Jesus was led through Jerusalem down the street referred to as the Via Dolorosa. There are what are called 14 Stations of the Cross. We stopped at each one and our guide explained the significance of each. This walk was uphill and I could not imagine Jesus carrying a cross. Interestingly, we ended at 2 places where Jesus was supposedly crucified. The Catholic Church has built the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where we could see the place where Jesus was crucified and then buried. We also toured a place where Protestants say Jesus was crucified and buried (referred to as “The Skull).”

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