I woke up last Monday to an email from a friend that said, "Come to Jerusalem today. Your trip will be paid for!".. it was from a close girlfriend that I have known for over 30 years. Amazing even myself, I was packed and on a plane within hours of the email... then it hit me, I am heading to Israel for the first time!
I have always wanted to go but it had never panned out before because of schedule or kids or something else that kept me from going. This time, when I was asked, I was ready and unencumbered; no young kids, no set schedule yet a free spirit ready to embrace new things!
I left Newark at 4:40pm that same day and landed the next morning at 10:30 to the start of Yom Kippur..within a couple of hours of my arrival, the airport and streets were shut down to all cars.
I got to the King David hotel with no problems. The hotel itself is quite famous with numerous signatures of famous people along the main floor of the lobby. Politicians, movie stars and rock stars have stayed there.
I quickly found the people I would be hanging with for the next week. We were there to pray and worship. The whole week would be magical with praise and prayer and meeting new people while exploring all that the old city of Jerusalem had to offer. I walked down to the wailing wall that very night of Yom Kippur to see the activity and it was a very special site to behold.
A couple of days later I went with my girlfriend, Barbara to some of the major sites that most tourists who love Jesus want to see. We had an Arab guide who had become our friend and was part of our praise and worship. He volunteered to take us around for 3-4 hours, getting us into many things for the "local" price that I would not have known about. He and his family go back 700 years in Jerusalem! How special it was to feel taken care of and protected by this wonderful young man. Vendors would leave us alone even though we were obvious tourists because we were with Jacob. Never in a million years did I think that I would get to see these amazing site with an Arab who loved Jesus but it was a special time.
We started by walking part of the old wall from Jaffa gate and walked around the the Damascus gate.. we then walked up the street and found the Garden Tomb, the tomb where they put Jesus’ dead body. It was one of my first sites and so powerful and special that I am still absorbing how amazing it was. It was also so peaceful there more than any other location I would visit. Next we hopped on an Arab bus to the Mount of Olives, took a camel ride, then walked down the steep path into the Kidron Valley to go to the Garden of Gethesame where Jesus wept.
We then found the via Delarosa with the stations of the cross. I was amazed at how commercial it was with the loudspeaker going with Muslim prayers being blasted out in the air. It took some of the specialness away. We went into a couple of Catholic Churches along the way, each claiming something different about Jesus. It was a great experience though.
Other part of the trip held surprises also. I got to go under ground to the newly excavated City of David museum. Then had dinner with the archeologist who discovered some of the city, Eli Shukron. I was brave and went through Hezekiah’s tunnel which was a trip in itself. I was totally under ground. It was dark with water up to our knees or higher with areas where I had to duck in order to get through. We brought a 10 string harp and sang the whole journey! Magical again!
I will never forget the amazing people I met and talked to on this trip. I now have 7-10 people I would call friends that live there and I plan on visiting again very soon.