By Noam Matas ~
Every year, thousands upon thousands of worshipers make the spiritual and captivating journey to the Holy Land. Often, many travelers who fulfill this journey have waited their whole lives to visit Israel and walk where Jesus walked. But when they finally make it, they come away with so much more.
A group of travelers from the Gateway Christian Church in St. Petersburg, Florida, recently returned from a tour to the Holy Land. Here is what their leader Candy Hammond had to say on their return.
“My name is Candy Hammond and I have been blessed with the role of leading my Church to the land of Israel. Our Church members wanted to learn all about the land, the people and the biblical sights, and they ended up experiencing so much more than they ever imagined.
When we began our trip, some folks were apprehensive about safety. I always assured them that Israel takes good care of tourists and it’s unlikely that they would experience anything unpleasant. Once we had been traveling through the land for a few days, I asked if anyone had felt unsafe. All our group members said that not for one minute did they feel unsafe.
Our Church group members gained insight and a love for the land that you can only gain by visiting. Being baptized in the Jordan River was a moving experience for our entire group. Their Bibles came alive as they walked the same roads as the Patriarchs. Having visiting all the traditional sites together (such as the Garden Tomb and the Mt of Olives), we fostered new bonds- not just with our beliefs, but also with each other.”
Whilst it is always the places and the moments you least expect that leave the biggest impression on your heart, we take a quick look at some of the experiences that can be shared in the Holy Land.
7 Top Holy Land Experiences
- Emerge from the water of the Jordan River as Jesus did in the sacrament of baptism.
- Read the Sermon on the Mount while standing atop the Mount of Beatitudes.
- Visit Jesus’ boyhood home of Nazareth and imagine what it must have been like to watch him grow from childhood. Here you can also visit Mary’s Well.
- Sail on the Sea of Galilee in a fishing boat similar to that used by Jesus’ disciples, while you gaze across the sea and try to visualize Jesus walking toward you on the water’s surface.
- Break bread and enjoy communion in a Lord’s Last Supper Service at the Garden Tomb, one of many potential sites of Jesus’ burial.
- Follow the path of the Via Dolorosa (“Way of Sorrows”), the path Jesus once took from his sentencing, to his crucifixion, to his burial. Whilst on the path, you can also visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
- Complete your spiritual journey with a visit to Bethlehem, Jesus’ birthplace and the home of the Church of the Nativity.
As well as these spiritual experiences, a visit to the Holy Land is also a wonderful way to further cultivate the relationships between a congregation’s members and leaders- by creating memories that will be shared and remembered for a lifetime.
Noam Matas is the general manager at the America Israel Travel and agency that provides customized tour packages to Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey and Greece.