I have been to Israel twice on two completely different types of trips. The first time I was as a volunteer on a Moshav and the second time I was on a Christian pilgrimage. Both were spectacular and I hope to go back to Israel one day.
My Moshav was 20 minutes north of Tel Aviv called Moshav Rishpon. What a place and what an amazing experience! We were near the most beautiful beach, so spent a lot of time there, when not working. I was a potato farmer!! I worked for a farmer who contracted out his volunteers and his combine harvesters to other farmers to pick potatoes. I enjoyed that because I got to see other parts of the country whilst working. In some places we slept under the stars at night. I was there for 4 months in the summer and it was hot and it didn’t rain once. We worked about 12 hours a day. It was hard work but loads of fun. I learnt alot about people and myself while I was there. I travelled to Tel Aviv, Massada, Ein Gedi, Jerusalem, Eilat and the Dead Sea. Unfortunately my trip was cut short due to an accident with one of the machines. I was in hospital for 2 weeks and can say, without hesitation; those doctors in Israel are amazing.
My second trip was about 2 years later. Visiting on a religious tour is a very different experience. There is absolutely no way to explain just how fantastic the guides are who conduct the religious tours. We had a Jewish guide who was so knowledgeable on the bible and Christianity as well as on Judaism. At each site he would go into great detail about the places according to the Bible. The only place he stayed in the bus was at Yad Vashem (the Holocast Museum). He explained all about it before we got out and then with tears in his eyes told us he couldn’t go in. When I was there I realised why. It is an amazing place but very sad to see how the Jews were treated. That has left a great impression on me.
We started our tour in Jerusalem where we visited the Knesset (Israel’s Parliament), then on to the Israel Museum to visit the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed. We then went to Yad Vashem (the Memorial of the Holocast) then on to Beit Vagan to view the model of Jerusalem as it was during the time of Jesus then to Tantur to visit the Bible Resource Centre with it scriptural garden. We then continued to Bethlehem to view the Church of the Nativity and Manger Square, stopping at Rachel’s Tomb on the way.
The following day we drove to the Mount of Olives to view the breathtaking panorama of the Old City, then a short walk down into the Kidron Valley, stopping to view the Tombs of the Prophets before visiting the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations. We visited St Stephens Gate, the Pool of Bethesda and St Annes Church before walking the Via Dolorosa from Ecce Homo Arch to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The next day we drove to the Judean Desert and to the Dead Sea. On the way we visited Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered) and Massada (we went to the top by cable car to tour the Herodian Fortress). The view of the wilderness from the top of Massada is simply breathtaking.
The following day we took the scenic route to Jericho via Wadi Kelt and St Georges Monastery. We also visited Jericho Tell and drank water from Elisha’s Spring before continuing up the Jordan Valley to Bet Shean. We visited the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth before continuing to Cana, Capernaum, house of St Peter, ancient Synagogue and the Sea of Galilee. We also visited Tabgha and the Mount of Beatitudes.
On the last day we travelled via Acre to visit the Old Crusader Fortress and the Crypt of St John before proceeding to Mount Carmel for a panoramic view of Haifa and down to Caesarea. the last stop was Jaffa where we spent time looking over the ancient port from which Jona set sail and visiting Simon the Tanners House. Jaffa is very pretty with quaint streets and an Artists’ Colony.
Israel has a very special place in my heart. Shalom!