Retirement plans for the Kjesbos included lots of travel. In 2015 our travel plans took a sharp right turn to Israel. Our daughter Molly married a young man who holds a dual citizenship in both the United States and Israel. His family held a reception for them in their home city of Haifa, which is a coastal city in northern Israel. Making this trip even more special was celebrating with Molly, Omry and three of our four children. While all travel is exhilarating, we were not ready for the emotional impact the land of Jesus would have on us.
Beginning our ‘Journey to the Cross.’ we landed in Tel-Aviv, a very modern city on the Mediterranean. Our hotel was across the street from the American Embassy, just a block from the sea. Down the coastline was the ancient city of Jaffa. It is a city in direct contrast to TelAviv and we began to experience ancient Israel, especially the market. While in Tel-Aviv I met Emily Bischoff, a former music student from BHS. She and her family are active members of Zion. I knew she was doing graduate work in archeology there. We were on the shore of the Mediterranean, each of us wearing our Minnesota shirts, while we watched, in real time, the Vikings get beat by the Packers. It was a most memorable moment.
Our travel coach and guide were a gift from Molly and Omry. Leaving Tel-Aviv on a very modern highway, we detoured into the desert. Several miles of dusty, winding roads brought us to a group of Bedouins and their sheep, goats, and a donkey. After a short walk on a mountain trail, we viewed an ancient monastery carved into a cliff. We were officially in the land of Jesus.
It was chilling to stand at the top of Masada and hear the history of so many Jews who perished at the hands of the Romans. (picture) Not far away was the Dead Sea. While swimming in the Dead Sea, one could look across the sea to the eastern shore, which is the country of Jordan. We drove past the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered by a Bedouin shepherd in 1947. It was difficult to comprehend. Were we really experiencing the land of Jesus?
We are Christians, raised in the Lutheran church. Jerusalem was where our visit really turned emotional. We entered Old Jerusalem through the Jaffa Gate. This is where major religions of the world come together, including Jewish, Muslim, and Christian. Walking through the narrow ancient streets lined with shops, one could feel the tension. We were traveling down the same streets that Jesus walked, carrying his cross! The stations of the cross were marked along the way. Then we stood at the wall that surrounded the city where we each wrote a prayer and placed it in the Western Wall. We prayed for our family and for peace in the world. We entered the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where there was a service occurring. This church is shared by many religious sects. Before entering Jesus’ tomb, we stood at the slab of rock where Jesus’ body was laid and the women prepared it for the tomb. On the wall was a huge mural depicting scenes from Jesus’ life. As Carol stopped to view the mural, she quietly sang an old familiar solo she had sung many times in her life: ‘I walked today where Jesus walked, in days of long ago’. As I joined her, we both shed tears and experienced one of the emotional highs of our lives. Later, we toured the Upper Room of David’s temple where Jesus gave the Last Supper. Looking across the valley to the Mount of Olives, another line from that same song came to mind: ‘I climbed the hill to Calvary’. We truly were on our Journey to the Cross.
After three days in Haifa, celebrating with Omry’s family and friends, and attending the reception, we drove east to the Sea of Galilee. Much of Jesus’ teaching, and preaching took place in this region. Jesus gathered his disciples here and performed many of his miracles here. This was his home country. We waded in the famous Jordan River, while our daughter’s stomach was christened. She was 7 months pregnant with her first born. We brought back water from the Jordan, using it to baptize three of our grandchildren here in Minnesota.
This was literally a Journey to the Cross for the Kjesbo family. It strengthened our faith more than we can express.
Have you traveled to the locations in the Holy Land that we will hear about during our “Journey to the Cross” Lenten season? We’d love to post a picture of you or hear about a memorable time during your trip. It doesn’t matter whether your travels were a few years ago or long ago, we’d love to share your stories! Contact Angela or Sherilyn for more information.