Twenty years ago, I read a scripture that I’ve carried with me in all of my travels. In the scripture, Nathaniel asks a simple question- “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” I spent years pondering the Disciple’s question. I wanted to know, see, hear, smell, taste and touch for myself. Nathaniel got his answer and it was now time for me to get mine.
I set out on a journey with 18 beautiful women to celebrate, self-educate, navigate and investigate this land known as Israel. I had to know if everything that I had learned since childhood was true.
Our rally point was Dulles International Airport. One by one, we arrived wearing purple t-shirts exclaiming that we were heading to Israel to celebrate Stephanie’s 50th Birthday. After a series of group selfies, we boarded our plane and settled in for a smooth flight into Tel Aviv.
After about 12 hours in the sky, we were greeted by a Pilgrims Tours representative at the airport in Tel Aviv. We then prepared to be shuttled to the West Lagoon Resort also located in Tel Aviv. After boarding the shuttle, we were introduced to our tour guide, Michael and our driver, Rafi. The night did not prevent me from noticing the illuminated signage along the highway- Toshiba, Toyota and IBM. We had left the United States however, we were still in a city and I secretly appreciated that.
I woke up to the wonder of the Mediterranean Sea welcoming me from the 9th floor balcony. I was in a real place and this was a real experience unfolding with each breath that I took in. I wanted to see, taste and touch more. Our tour guide, Michael, did not disappoint. From Bethlehem to the Wailing Wall, Stephanie’s 50th Birthday celebration offered a spiritual journey of a lifetime.
In a few short days we relived millenniums of history, visiting areas of historical and biblical significance throughout Israel, walking where Jesus walked, praying where so many souls had prayed before us. We visited Cana of Galilee where Jesus performed his first miracle– turning water into wine during a wedding ceremony; the Mount of Beatitudes where Jesus ministered to the masses; we visited Peter’s home in Capernaum and toured Ein Gedi, where King David hid himself from King Saul.
I bore witness as Stephanie baptized members of our group in the River Jordan where Jesus was once baptized by his cousin, John the Baptist. We walked the streets of Bethlehem which led us to the Church of Nativity which now protects the manger where Mary labored; I placed my right hand upon the star that marked the spot where our Lord and Savior entered into this earth. I smelled the fragrance of the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus prayed while his disciples slept. We comforted one another during Stephanie’s sermon outside the Garden Tomb, where Jesus was laid after his crucifixion. I wept at the Wailing Wall as I prayed for my husband and our children.
My trip to Israel was a life changing, mind altering, soul shifting experience. My body enjoyed the lamb, the beef and the rice. My spirit appreciated the peace and quiet that the resorts offered however, it was my soul that rejoiced in the journey. Stephanie’s 50th Birthday celebration was a celebration and recognition of life; not just her life or even our lives but, the life of the one through which all life flows. if you must know if anything good can come from Nazareth, I say to you without reservation…absolutely.