by Joel James, Vice President of Global Client Services
If there is one place in the world I have to get to at least once a year, it is Israel.
There are so many things I love about Israel; one thing I love the most is taking Christian travelers there for the first time. I get to introduce them to this amazing land that they have dreamed about visiting all their lives. They’ve heard about it in Sunday school or on their grandmother’s lap while reading about it in their Bible, but nothing compares to when they get to see it for themselves.
The thought of Israel elicits a variety of feelings for people—and it should. There is no place on earth talked about in the Bible more than Israel. There is no city other than Jerusalem where God said, “I will set my name” (2 Kings 21:4 and elsewhere). There is only one corner in the entire world where God chose to play out His love story for mankind, and we get to go there!
For believers, Israel is more than just an exotic country or a place of storied history. It is more than a place of cultural and global importance—it is all of these things, but most of all, it is our spiritual birthplace! It is my work and ministry to bring Christian travelers to this remarkable country.
When travelers see Israel for the first time, the Bible comes to life in a way that only being there can provide. They begin to understand and see the Bible in living color. Not only do they get to walk where Jesus walked but to hear His words read in the places He said them. They get to see the same landscapes and ancient structures as He saw them.
We travel to Israel, not just to look at archaeological sites and rocks, but to touch and be touched by the Living Stone Himself (1 Peter 2:4–5). What special revelation does God have in store for you in Israel?
Imagine being able to ride in a wooden boat on the Sea of Galilee and read how Jesus calmed the storm while you contemplate how He continues to still the storms of our lives today. Or, standing in front of the site of pagan worship known as the “Gates of Hell,” a cave in Caesarea Philippi, where Peter declared that Jesus was the Christ promised to the world and Jesus said that not even the gates of hell could change that fact (Matthew 16:18).
It’s incredible to watch travelers touch the actual stones of the Synagogue of Magdala—recently discovered and excavated in the town of Mary Magdalene—the same stones where Jesus sat and read from the Scriptures.
Israel provides all these experiences and so many more!
Sometimes I cannot hold back my own emotion as I witness the life-changing impact that encountering the Lord in the Holy Land provides. The thrill travelers feel as they ascend the hill of the Lord (Psalm 24:3) on the road up to Jerusalem and see the Old City come into view for the first time is always so rewarding, even though I have been to Israel over 31 times.
I continue to experience deep moments of awe and reverence when travelers pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus suffered as He faced His agony, and moments of true joy as they visit the Garden Tomb and read those powerful words, “He is not here, for He is risen.”
This is what it means to visit Israel for the believer, and I have barely scratched the surface. I am missing ALL these things and I can’t wait to return. When you come to Israel, you will be changed. And when you are changed, like I was on my first trip, you will already be thinking about when you can return!