Now that I have been home for a few days, I’ve had some time to reflect on my trip to Israel.

It was the second time that I have been, and both times they have been “working tours” with a heavy emphasis on “working.” It’s impossible to go to the Holy Land, even when you have the responsibilities that I have had and not be affected by the trip. Still, it’s not as if I had every second of my time there to let the enormity of it all sink in. Both times, that has come after I have returned home.

First let me say that every trip of this sort is unique and this time was certainly different than than my first one. Some of it was obvious — cooler weather, different hotels, new sites. But there was this feeling that I couldn’t put my finger on for a while but finally came to me at about the halfway point — it felt like I was home.

Even though it was only the second time in my life I had ever been there, the feeling of familiarity was almost overwhelming. It was if I had spent years around the Sea of Galilee, Tel Dan,  Ein Geddi, Jerusalem. Virtually every place we went, every smell I took in, every taste I savored felt like reliving old times. It was extraordinary, and I am anxious to see if the feeling is even stronger in the future.

I covered most of what we did on each day in previous posts, but there are a few observations about the trip that I wasn’t able to get in that I want to share here.

First of all, it’s remarkable to me how Americanized Israel has become. Convenience stores, malls, cell phones and vehicles are everywhere. Even small towns like Nazareth are very modern, as evidenced below:

One of my favorite parts of the trip is the fishing boat excursion on the Sea of Galilee. We get to spend over an hour on the water, and both times I have been able to get what I need to do done quickly enough to spend some time meditation and prayer. This is one of my favorite spots on the boat, watching the water as the boat parts the waves. Very peaceful.

One of the most beautiful spots in Israel is the waterfall at Banias. It’s a hike to get to it. All downhill along what can only be described as a goat path at best. But it’s worth it to get to see a sight like this:

I find the Muslim faith very interesting. By that, I mean that there are aspects of it, obviously, that I don’t understand. One of them is the defensiveness they feel toward both Judaism and Christianity. Much younger by hundreds of years than either one, Islam seems to feel a need sometimes to justify itself. Case in point is the shot below. My Arabic is a bit rusty :), so I am not sure this is the right face of the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Regardless, there is one of the faces that amongst the Arabic writings has a very interesting phrase: “God has no Son.” It just strikes me as interesting that on one of its most holy sites, Islam wants to repudiate Christianity.

I stood where Jesus stood. I stood where Elijah stood. I stood where Gideon stood. I have read about these great men all my life. But getting to actually be in the same places that they were, to walk on the same ground they did, to see the same buildings and mountains they did is just amazing. To think that the dry river bed below in the Valley of Elah is where David gathered the five smooth stones before slaying Goliath is almost more than I can comprehend.

The story of Masada and the tragic end of the Jewish rebels against the Romans is fascinating. But before it was a last stand, it was a fortress and palace during the time of Herod the Great. One of the most interesting parts of the palace was the Waiting Room. Herod, if you don’t know, was a bit of an egomaniac (to put it mildly), and didn’t think twice about making even the most important of visitors cool their heels for a while before granting them an audience. Archeologists have uncovered this ancient Waiting Room, and Pastor Mark McKeehan is playing the part of a foreign dignitary who has an appointment with Herod.

One of the stops on our last day was a church built on the ruins of the House of Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest during the time of Jesus. It was here that Jesus probably spent a lot of his final night and it was here that Peter denied the Lord. This is another of my favorite spots because Peter is one of biblical heroes. Brash and prone to saying the wrong thing when a disciple, Peter ultimately became one of the mightiest apostles. If there was hope for him, there’s hope for all of us. Somewhere among these ruins is where the transformation for Peter began.

Well, that’s it. Eight full days of touring and 11 days of travel. I hope that those of you who have taken this journey with me have gotten something out of my ramblings. I’ve enjoyed sharing it with you. All I have left to say is that if you have ever considered taking a trip to Israel, just do it. It’s an amazing place and it will change your entire outlook on the Bible and Christianity.

It has for me.