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SJC @ The Holy Land

posted 07.12.2014

On 16th November 2014, a group of 35 of us, mostly from St James' Church, met at Changi Airport.  This was the start of our 11 day tour of Israel to learn of the life and world of Jesus - a study tour organised by CMJ (Christian Mission to the Jewish people) and led by Pastor Yee Ching Wah.  After an ardous 20 hour journey, which included a transit stop in Bangkok, security checks and a delay, we finally arrived in Tel Aviv.  Here we were met by Jehuda (Judah), a messianic jew who would be our tour guide during our sojourn in Israel, and Bishara, a born-again Arab Christian.

After a short stop at the CMJ centre in Tel Aviv we were on our way on the Via Maris (coastal road) to Caesarea Maritima.  The next few days would be filled with visits to ancient ruins where we could easily visualize the way of life of the Jewish people 2000 years ago, tels (ancient hills) and Biblical and historical sites such as Mediggo, Mount of Beatitiudes, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, Mount Hermon, Caesarea Philippi, Jericho, the Jordan river where Jesus was baptized by John, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.  We spent 3 nights in Tiberius, near the Sea of Galilee, ate the kind of fish that the fishermen like Peter, Andrew, John and James would have caught, and were treated to a boat ride too.

Leaving Galilee on day 5, we journeyed south towards the Dead Sea and the arid wilderness of Judea.  We stopped along the Jordan river, and visited Beit Sh'ean to see the excavation of this Roman-Byzantine city.  Almost all the group managed to climb up the almost 200 steps to the top of the tel for a spectacular view of the Jordan Valley.  After an overnight stay in a kibbutz near the Dead Sea, we went to Qumran, the home of the Essenes, a Jewish sect who lived in caves in the mountains and where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered.

On our way to Jerusalem, we stopped at Masada, where Herod the Great built a magnificent fortress high up on the mountains of the desert and where the Zealots, a Jewish revolutionary group made their last stand before being obliterated by the Romans after a long siege.  Before leaving the Dead Sea, many of us had the experience of floating on the Dead Sea, which has such a high content of salt that nothing lives in it.  The mud is thought to have many healing and restorative properties.

In Jerusalem we stayed in the Christ Church guesthouse right within the old city. On Sunday, we walked across the courtyard from our rooms to worship at the first Protestant church in the whole Middle East called Christ Church, Jerusalem. This Anglican Church was founded in 1849 with the belief that the gospel is from the Jews and they will one day return to the land of Israel.

The next 3 days in Jerusalem were mostly spent around the old city where we walked to the Temple on the Mount, the Western (Wailing) wall, and the Via Dolorosa.  We also went to the Mount of Olives and visited 2 possible sites of Jesus' crucifixion and burial. One day we went to Bethlehem and to Yad VaShem, the Israel Memorial Museum to the Holocaust.

The night before we left we were treated to a Jewish Passover Seder meal and experienced a part of what Jewish families would do during their Passover meal.

During the whole tour, I appreciated how the younger members of the group would look after the more senior members as we struggled along wet windy streets or climbed up steep rocky hills.  35 tired travellers flew home loaded with souvenirs and more importantly with impressions of how people in Christs' time would have lived, and in particular, with Christ's own life and death.  The memories of the places we saw, the roads we trod on and steps and hills we climbed will stay with me for years to come.