As I begin to process and share all that we saw and experienced on our pilgrimage to Israel, I am reminded that there is a fine line between worshipping at a place and worshipping the place itself. There is no holy magic to any of the sites that we visited, but I have no doubt that being there and seeing them with our own eyes will give greater context to scripture as we continue to read and study it; to make it come alive or, as Richard says, to help us see it in 3D. As we traveled the length and breadth of this small country, I think everyone in our group gained a greater appreciation for the land that our Saviour traversed and for the ways in which He used His environment in His teachings.
We arrived in Israel on January 22nd via a direct ten hour flight from Toronto to Tel Aviv. The ultra modern Ben Gurion International Airport, named after the country’s first prime minister, is the world’s gateway to Israel.
Tel Aviv is a vibrant, modern and very liberal city located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Its next door neighbour is the ancient port city of Jaffa (Joppa). The two cities have grown together to form one metropolitan area with no line of distinction between them.
Jaffa is of both Old and New Testament significance. It was here that Jonah boarded a ship headed for Tarshish in an attempt to flee from the mission that the Lord had given him. (Jonah 1:3) Much later, in the book of Acts, we are told that Peter was staying in Joppa with a tanner named Simon when he was summoned by Cornelius, a Roman centurion in Caesarea, to come and share the good news of Christ with him and those who had gathered in his home. (Acts 9:43-10:48) We were reminded that we can choose to be like Jonah and stand in God’s way or like Peter who cooperated with God. (Acts 11:17)
Walking through the narrow stone alleyways of historical Jaffa, we came to the purported house of Simon the Tanner. There we were reminded that there are, in Israel, two types of Biblical sites; those that may be/might be/ are traditionally thought to be the original sites and those that definitely are. Simon’s house clearly falls into the first category. The present house simply doesn’t date back to the first century AD, but it is in the approximate location of the original home.
Returning to Tel Aviv proper, we spent about an hour exploring the colourful Friday market which reminded Richard and I of similar marketplaces in Korea and Cambodia.
After checking into the lovely Dan Tel Aviv Hotel where every room has a view of the Mediterranean Sea, Richard and I went for a stroll along the promenade overlooking the rocky shore to a sandy beach where, in spite of the coolness of the day, I shed my shoes and socks, rolled up my pant legs and fulfilled my dream of wading in the Mediterranean Sea!