I’ve had about a week to process my trip to Israel this month and there are a number of thoughts I’m left with. Since this is something I think everyone should do at least once in their lifetime I hope this list will prove helpful for future travelers. The video above shows someone saying the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic. This is one of the languages that Jesus spoke and likely the language He would have used to say this prayer. This allows you to hear the way it might have originally sounded.
1. Everything is smaller than you imagine.
In America, and especially where I live in Arizona, things are far away. Most places you’d want to see in California are at least six hours away. We get used to how spread out things are in our country. In Israel, the entire country is very small. While the names of cities you are visiting are huge in significance, they are very close in proximity. This also applies to many of the sites themselves. You imagine them to be huge in your mind and then you are often shocked by the small size you see in reality. Here is a map of the US if you put Israel inside of it. It really helps to give perspective.
2. This is the real Bible Belt.
We have a “Bible Belt” region in the United States where the numbers for evangelical Christianity are higher than normal for our country (essentially the bottom right part of the U.S.). When you travel around Israel you get a sense for a region that deserves this title much more. It is amazing to see Biblical significance almost everywhere you go and every city you visit. Despite the small size, a LOT has happened here over the years.
3. It’s complicated to live in Israel.
We only understand a small fraction of this. I’m currently reading my sixth book about Israel and I’m still working to put the pieces together in my head. We watch the news and we hear about all of the conflicts happening and we think we understand. The media hypes up Israel for its own gains (like it does with everything else). The real issues are much more complex and often different than we’d imagine. Each citizen is issued a gas mask from the government itself. In homes that are built after 1991 there is a private bomb shelter built inside. The country is designed for conflict and it is a normal way of life for them. The irony is that oftentimes the things that make American news aren’t even big enough to make news for the people in Israel. We saw a great example of this when we got home from our trip and read about an airstrike that Israel made against Syria. We hadn’t heard anything about it when we were there (when it happened).
4. Israelis have a respect for history that we don’t.
While so much of ancient times has been uncovered, there is also so much left. Money plays into this in some regards, but there is also a thought that they should leave some to be excavated for future generations. You see this time and time again as many areas are left untouched for the next generation to uncover. Because the history of this land is so vast it is easier for them to appreciate it as such. This is one of the biggest weaknesses for Americans in my opinion. Our history is so short that it is easy for us to become short minded in how we live. Israel is better able to appreciate history.
5. It is traditionally a trip for old people.
Even though we had a good mix of ages on our trip it was still primarily older people. I noticed this even more with other groups that we saw while we were there. I’m sure this has to do with a few things: older people usually have more discretionary money, this is a “bucket-list” item for many people, and this is very tricky to do with young kids. I’m still amazed that my father-in-law watched our three kids for all ten days and the fact that our house was cleaner and our kids were better behaved when we got home! Despite this, I would love to see more younger people experience this type of trip as it is truly life changing from this point on. You’ll never read the Bible the same way.
6. Israel teaches you about diversity.
You see this in a number of ways. It is incredible to see the old and new together. Modern houses are built on top of thousands of year old foundations. Looking from the ancient City of David in Jerusalem you literally see Arab houses on top of bedrock that has ancient tombs cut into it. Not only this, but there are multiple cultures and multiple religions all sharing the sameâ€”and very smallâ€”space. They are forced to live together and to share this space. This causes them to adapt in a number of ways that are foreign to us. Our guide was Jewish and had to leave us while we went into Bethlehem since it is an area for Palestinians (even though it is still considered Israel).
7. You are only as good as your guide/organization.
I cannot even imagine what it would be like to try and tour Israel on your own (Mark Twain’s book The Innocents Abroad gives you a taste). There is so much to process that you need an “insider” that you can rely on to show you and explain it to you. We went with an organization called Jerusalem Tours and I cannot recommend them enough. They made the entire experience phenomenal from start to finish. We also had a guide named Kobi who was unbelievable. His wealth of knowledge and personal demeanor made this trip what it was for us.
8. Dr. pepper is a sweet commodity.
This may seem trivial to you if you don’t share my affinity for this sweet nectar, but a trip like this forces you to live without many of the comforts you are used to. As soon as we got home (actually before we even made it home) we made a stop for a double double at In-N-Out with a large Dr. Pepper. The benefit of leaving these types of comforts behind for a bit is that it allows you to see the world anew, and this is a very good thing when you are exposed to the type of places you’ll see in Israel. Your eyes have a way of seeing more clearly when you are out of your comfort zone.
9. This is a drinking from the fire-hose experience.
We were up at 6am each morning and back to the hotel around 6:30pm at night for dinner. Between the walking, the information, the locations, and everything else, we were quite tired at night. Your mind is racing the entire time and you are doing your best to keep up and make sense of everything. That is why blogging each night was so important for me both to collect my thoughts and have a reference to remember. Despite this, I’m reminded how many things I wasn’t able to talk about.
For example, I remembered a few days ago one of the things I took a picture of yet totally forgot to mention. Below is a picture of one of the corners of the Temple Mount which would have been the highest place. This would have likely been the site that Satan led Jesus to while He was being tempted.
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. â€œIf you are the Son of God,â€ he said, â€œthrow yourself down. For it is written: â€œâ€˜He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.â€™â€ Jesus answered him, â€œIt is also written: â€˜Do not put the Lord your God to the test.â€™â€ (Matthew 4:5-7)
You are literally seeing this significance of a place time and time again and it is all you can do to keep up.
10. This is a trip you need to take!
Click here to read a day-by-day breakdown of our trip to Israel.