Why You Should Visit Israel

I think every follower of Christ should visit Israel at least once in his or her lifetime. I am convinced it will change your life and you will never read the Bible the same way again. Why am I so confident? Find someone who has been on a biblical tour of Israel and ask them. They will tell you the same thing.

Going to Israel doesn’t make you a better Christian. But going to Israel will make the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as well as the entire Bible, more real to you, and that is what will make you a better follower of Christ.

Here are some of the reasons you should get to Israel sooner rather than later:

You will never read the Bible the same way again.

After your trip to Israel, the narrative stories will come to life as never before. For example, you’ve read or heard the story of the Good Samaritan more times than you can count. But until you see the Jericho Road (the geographic context of Jesus’ story), you will never fully understand what “pass on the other side” means or why it was an ideal place for robbery. Ask those who’ve walked the Jericho Road if they now read that story differently and more meaningfully.

It will make the Bible come alive in a way you can’t imagine.

Once you visit Israel, you will begin to more accurately visualize the Bible’s stories as you read them. I went to Israel for the first time ten years ago. I had read the Bible through almost every year for about twenty years. I know the content of the Bible. I know the stories in it. I would read about Capernaum (Jesus’ home base), or the legion of demons entering the pigs and running over the cliff, or the story of King Hezekiah having a water tunnel built to bring water into the city of Jerusalem, and I had a mental picture in my mind of what each of those stories must have been like in real life. After visiting Israel, I came to discover my mental pictures weren’t accurate. Or, many times, I wouldn’t have imagined anything at all because I didn’t even have a starting point to form those pictures.

Now that I’ve visited those locations, when I read my Bible, it is rare when a mental image of the location where the story occurred doesn’t come into my mind’s eye. First-hand observations like these are a great aid to one’s understanding and remembering of the Bible.

For example, I have always been interested in stories of the Holocaust. However, once I visited the Holocaust museum in Washington DC for the first time, I became fascinated with it. I wanted to know more. I could accurately picture parts of the Holocaust because in those museums they had actual, tangible pieces of history: the gate of Auschwitz, shoes from victims of the gas chambers, train cars used to transport Jews to camps, bunk beds used in the camps, and countless other artifacts. I’m not ashamed to admit I teared up multiple times during that and subsequent visits to various Holocaust museums. Why? Those visual pieces of history made the stories real to me, and I began to, with more accuracy, understand the stories of the Holocaust in ways I never had before. Those stories came alive to me a way they hadn’t before visiting the museum.

I’ve been told visiting Auschwitz or another camp has even a greater impact because you are standing where it all actually happened rather than just seeing some of the artifacts. I believe this is true, and I know it is true when visiting biblical sites.

If you’re married, and I were to ask you about when you got engaged, what would come to your mind, likely, is a mental picture. You would remember where it happened. When you tell the story, you put yourself back there again. “Being there” becomes the context by which you remember, feel and tell the story. Physically being in the locations where the Bible stories happened will make those stories come alive in indescribable ways.

You will be moved even more strongly when considering the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

On a trip to Jerusalem, you will visit the two common sites believed to be the location of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. The location of the most important event in history – the one that changed your life and eternity – is an airplane ride away. Visiting that location will have a profound impact on your emotions, your thinking, and even your response to the sacrifice Christ made for you.

There is something powerful about crawling into a first-century tomb (did you know the openings were so small you had to crouch down to get into them?). For years I imagined what the burial tomb of Jesus may have looked like. When visiting Israel, we have everyone in our group – on at a time – get inside a first-century tomb (not a commercialized one that was enlarged for tourism purposes or a larger one from a later century). There is somberness in that moment that you will relive and consider for years to come.

You have the opportunity to visit the places where the only one who ever died for your sins lived his life on earth. Who wouldn’t want to see those places?

This trip isn’t just about the location of his death, burial and resurrection. Visiting the four main cities of the life of Jesus will help you understand the Gospels better than ever.

When we were dating, I took my wife to my hometown of Des Moines, Iowa. While we were visiting my parents she wanted me to take her to the home I grew up in, the playgrounds I would go to, the school I attended, and even my favorite restaurants.

When you love someone, you want to know what their life was like before you were a part of it. There is something irresistible about learning about these things first-hand. Going on a biblical tour of Israel gives you a chance to visit the towns in which Jesus was born (Bethlehem), grew up (Nazareth), spent his ministry years (Capernaum), and where he visited a few times a year as all good Jews would (Jerusalem). Who wouldn’t want to see the cities our Lord lived in?

And it isn’t just about Jesus! You see the locations of hundreds of Old Testament stories and locations from the book of Acts.

This trip isn’t just about Jesus (wow, that sounds heretical). Travelling through Israel, you are able to see many places in addition to the locations of the life of Jesus.

You can visit the palace Paul stayed in Caesarea before sailing to Rome for his imprisonment. You can stand at the location of Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit came down and the disciples spoke in various tongues so people could hear the Gospel in their own language. You will get to see many Old Testament stories from the books of Kings and Chronicles, and those books will come alive in a fresh way. You will stand on Mount Carmel and read the story of Elijah battling the prophets. You will see the valley where too many kings from the Old Testament sacrificed children to appease gods who do not exist. You will look down on the Valley of Megiddo where many OT battles were waged. It is also the location of Armageddon mentioned in Revelation.

You will visit the place where David hid from Saul, where Saul and Jonathan were hung on the city wall after being killed, and where David built his palace. The list could go on for pages. When in Israel, we will read some of the stories together and you will see them in a new light and with greater interest and impact than ever before.

My encouragement to you

Sometime in your lifetime, get to Israel. Don’t wait until you are older when you think you will be able to afford it. Ask anyone who has gone and they will tell you they wish they had done it years before. I’ve found it is similar to those who take the Financial Peace University class. Everyone always says, “I wish I had taken this class decades ago.”

Start planning now and go as soon as you can. You will thank me for pushing you to go – and you’ll probably do so during your first few hours in Israel.

I’m taking a trip this coming January and into February. Would you consider coming along?

By the way, there is a two-day extension trip into Jordan, where we will visit Petra (the beautiful city cut out of red rocks), Mt. Nebo (where Moses looked over to the Promised Land), and Machaerus (where John the Baptist was beheaded – one of my favorite places to visit in the world).

Here is where you can get information on the trip to Israel (each one is a link):

Sign up soon. There are three weeks to get the guaranteed, current prices. You simply have to make a deposit to take your spot. We have about 14 spots left.

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