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Israel, Sweet Israel

Sitting here staring at the keyboard. Where do I even begin? Everyone keeps asking, “How was your trip??” Ummm….life changing? The single best experience of my life? It feels almost impossible to put it into words. My usual blog posts about decorating or design are so automatic. I can sit down, and just write. But this. This experience that was so personal. So emotional. Yet I have this pressing feeling that I need to share it. I HAVE to share it. Before anything else. So here goes. Thank you for letting me share this with you.

About a year ago, my hubby and I attended an informational meeting at our church about this trip to Israel. Once we heard more about it, we knew we wanted to take our kids as well. It sounded amazing. But wait. Israel? Isn’t it dangerous to travel over there right now? We were assured it’s very safe, and we both felt like this was something we wanted to do. And so the preparations began. Saving money. Dreaming about walking where Jesus walked. Blocking out 2 weeks of our lives for the most amazing adventure.

I was not blessed with a great head of hair. It takes quite a bit of effort to coax these lifeless locks into some sort of style. A good hairdryer, a curling iron, a straightener…lots of product. It’s a whole thing. Yes, it’s vanity. This little piece of information will make more sense in a minute.

Day 1 in Israel. We arrive after almost 2 days of traveling…long flights, no sleep, new country. We check into our hotel, and find that our kids are staying 2 floors away from us. Not ideal. We stopped at their room first to help them get settled. While attempting to show our daughter how to use the converter to plug in her hairdryer, etc., we blew it. The converter. Fried. (Oh, and we blew the power for the entire floor for a few minutes. Oops.) There may have been some tears from these girls…Ummm, no curling iron/straightener/hair dryer for 2 weeks? WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO??? It’s silly. I know. But this hair. My pride. Why am I telling you about this? Well. It’s actually integral to the story. For me, it was important to make the decision to lay this down. My vanity. To move on, and focus on the important things. It’s just hair. But God was waiting to draw us closer to him through this amazing trip through the Holy Land. And to remind us that it’s COMPLETELY about HIM. Not us.

Just for fun, let me just share with you my one and only hair tool for these 2 weeks…this little beauty. (The power of this bad boy was equivalent to me blowing warm air on my own head. Not. So. Efficient. HaHaHa)

The next morning, the sun was shining, and it was a brand new day. We were ready. (This is the view of the beautiful Mediterranean Sea from our hotel room in Tel Aviv.)

This first stop at Caesarea Maritima was just beautiful! This whole compound, build by King Herod, was amazing.

And just LOOK at the water of the Mediterranean here! Gorgeous!

This aquaduct, built by Herod, was a brilliant feat of engineering. Amazing!

Lunch was our first taste of Falafel. Ummm, YUM. If you’ve never tried it, it’s basically deep fried garbanzo beans in a warm pita.

We then visited Mt. Carmel, and took in these stunning views of the Jezreel Valley.

From there, we ascended to Nazareth. The town where Jesus grew up. I must say, this was one of my favorite stops. Hearing how Nazareth was such a small town. How no one ever dreamed anything or anyone important would come out of it. Wow.

There were so many colorful sights on the streets…but there was no time to shop. We had great things to see!

This small synagogue is where they believe Jesus read from the scrolls for the first time. Sitting there, in that humble place, was powerful. Jesus, our savior, KING OF KINGS, chose to come to earth and live in the most unexpected, unimportant place. This was my view as we sat there and took it all in…the beautiful late afternoon sunshine, streaming in that high window.

A quick stop at Precipice Mountain, overlooking the Jezreel Valley. Everything is so green here this time of year!

Β So beautiful on the top of that mountain, but oh so cold and windy! We thankfully got back on our warm tour bus, and headed to our next lodging, on a local Kibbutz (a collective community in Israel). Staying on the Kibbutz was a highlight. What a wonderful community of people. We felt so welcomed and the food was AMAZING.

The next day took us to the Mt. of Beatitudes. As our pastor, John Fehlen, taught us in a sunny little amphitheater, the birds were singing as we looked out over the Sea of Galilee. What a moment. We could almost feel how it must have been that day, when Jesus taught the famous “Sermon on the Mount.” The crowds gathered. The peaceful feeling in the air. The beautiful yellow flowers blooming as far as the eye can see (couldn’t help but notice these pretty yellow flowers all over Israel…a yellow prairie!)

We then visited Caesarea Phillipi.

Next stop, lunch at the Sea of Galilee. A WHOLE FISH! πŸ™‚

The views from the restaurant were just…well, the most beautiful thing ever. Did you know the Sea of Galilee isn’t really a sea at all? It’s a lake! And the most gorgeous lake at that.

After lunch we visited Capernaum. This was one of my very favorite stops of the entire trip. The beautiful temple, that still stands, is where Jesus taught for about 3 years during the time he lived in Galilee.

I mean look at this. It still gives me chills. To stand in that very place, with the warm sunshine on my face…I closed my eyes and listened to the birds singing, and heard the crunch of gravel under foot as people passed by. The same sounds that have occurred here for thousands of years. The same sounds that filled the ears of people during the time of Jesus. Goosebumps.

From there, we visited St. Peter’s Primacy. This rock is said to be where Jesus fed the 5,000.

After seeing the rock, we walked down along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. This was a pinnacle moment for me…the greatest peace I’ve ever felt.

There were several large heart-shaped rocks along the shore…so appropriate as we considered God’s love for us!

After this powerful afternoon, we returned for our Kibbutz for a special Shabbat dinner. What an honor to participate in this tradition.

The next morning, our entire group of 53 got to attend synagogue (our first time!), and then we broke up into small groups and were invited into local Kibbutz member’s homes for brunch. Our family of 4 went home with a sweet woman named Sippy. We were a little nervous, and weren’t sure what to expect, but her warm hospitality quickly put us at ease. We enjoyed the most delightful brunch with her husband, twin sons, and another family from the Kibbutz. They graciously answered all of our questions about Israel, and it was so interesting learning a little more about their day-to-day lives. They in turn asked us about America, and we enjoyed the most delicious meal. What an experience! We will treasure that forever. My only regret is that we don’t have a picture with that dear family, as it was Shabbat, and it was important to honor their custom of no technology.

After brunch, our whole crew loaded onto the bus, and we headed for the Sea of Galilee. This entire day was for sure my FAVORITE. It was a warm, sunny afternoon, and we all hopped on a boat on the Sea of Galilee. Ummm, ya. Bucket list moment.

We cut the engine for a few minutes, and just drifted quietly. It. Was. Amazing. And so peaceful.

Next up, we drove to the Jordan River for a baptism service. Ohhhh I was nervous. I’ve loved Jesus all my life, but somehow I’ve never been baptized. When this trip came up, I thought, “wouldn’t it be awesome to be baptized in the Jordan River, where John the Baptist baptized Jesus?” But as the time approached, I almost chickened out. I don’t know why. I mentioned it to my Bible study group before leaving for the trip, and that group of sweet women held me accountable. They knew this would be an incredible experience. Oh man. Was it ever.

Our whole family was baptized (although my hubby and kids have been baptized before). What an unforgettable experience to share. And yes, that water was C-O-L-D. πŸ™‚

With our pastor’s wife, Denise, right afterward. Denise, you are the best. Thank you for encouraging me.

A new day dawned, and it was time to leave the Kibbutz. I was a little sad to go, as we had become quite accustomed to our routine there. We packed up, loaded the bus, and headed toward the Dead Sea! This day was much anticipated, and also my hubby’s birthday. What a way to spend your special day, huh??

The drive out toward the Dead Sea was so pretty…rolling hills, lush green farm land, leading to a beautiful desert.

Our first glimpse of the Dead Sea!

We stopped to tour Masada, the desert fortress built by King Herod. So incredible.

Just look at these beautiful mosaic floors…still intact after all this time!

After Masada, we made our way to our hotel on the beaches of the Dead Sea, quickly changed into our swimsuits, and couldn’t wait to experience floating in the water! So effortless!

The next morning we made our way to En Gedi, the oasis where David hid from King Saul. This was one of our very favorite stops, and absolutely stunningly beautiful.

Look at those caves in the rock!

We then headed to Qumran, site of the Dead Sea Scroll discovery.

And now, it was finally time to drive up to Jerusalem. We were so excited!

The “Old City” is just so beautiful. I feel like I’m saying that a lot, but there just aren’t enough adjectives to describe what we saw! Everything in Jerusalem is built with this beautiful light-colored Jerusalem stone. When the sun is out, the city literally glows. So. Gorgeous.

Here we are inside the Western Wall tunnel…so fun!

It was breathtaking to see the Temple steps, dating back to the time of Jesus. Pinch. Me.

We had so much fun exploring the Old City.

The Wailing Wall

On one of our “free days” we enjoyed walking the ramparts (the tops of the walls of Jerusalem). It was raining that day, but hey…a little rain doesn’t stop Oregonians! πŸ™‚

We also ventured into Hezekiah’s Tunnel that day…through knee-deep water. An experience we’ll never forget! It’s completely dark in there…thank goodness for the mini flashlights we brought along!

We spent the rest of the day shopping in the Old City…definitely a highlight!

Β Temple Mount

Pools of Bethesda (remember the story in the Bible when the angels would stir the water, and the first person in after that would be healed? This is it!)

This crew. So much fun.

Next we got to do something SO COOL. It wasn’t even on our itinerary. See that path behind Ryan and me? This path in the Kidron valley is a path Jesus would have taken many times. JUST WOW.

Here’s the path again…you can see it along the bottom of this pic.

Here we are with our dear friends, the Barry family (their daughter, Ashleigh, is dating our son, Hayden, top row).

Next we were off to Bethlehem, birth place of Jesus. This church stands over the cave/stable where they believe Jesus was born.

And under this glass (in the middle of the gold star) is the actual cave.

The next day was another free day, so…can you guess what we did? SHOPPING, of course!

HAD to see if the Israel McDonald’s Diet Coke was on-point…sigh. Their machine was on the fritz and they poured our cokes from a 2-liter. πŸ˜‰

Really wanted a pic with the Israeli police…these two looked friendly, so I asked! πŸ˜‰

Bought some pretty scarves for my sisters from this shop keeper.

Aaaaand just like that it was our LAST day in Israel. And what a day it was…saved some of the best sights for last! Ready?

We started the day with some quiet time in the Garden of Gethsemane…some of these olive tree roots date back 3,000 years!

The steps in the pic below were probably used often by Jesus as he entered the city. No words. We just stood in awe.

This is believed to be Golgatha, the place where Jesus died on the cross.

And then, we got to see the tomb (or at least where they believe it to be).

Here we are standing INSIDE the tomb…the best part? It’s EMPTY! Praise the Lord!

The Mount of Olives…gorgeous.

We enjoyed a delicious dinner with our amazing group, and then headed to the airport for our flight home.

I feel like the biggest surprise of the entire trip was how “at home” we felt there. As if we belonged. We felt so safe (unfortunately the media leads us to believe it’s unsafe there), and the experience of seeing the Bible come to life before our very eyes was MORE than incredible. We couldn’t help but fall in love with Israel and I SO hope we get to return someday. If you’re considering a similar trip, I’d highly recommend the Israel Tour Company and our guide, Abraham Hillel (the VERY BEST!!!). Thank you for allowing me to share this entire experience with you. If you follow along on Instagram, thank you for allowing me to step away from home decor for a few weeks, and post about this instead. The home decor posts will return, but this trip will live on in our hearts forever! Blessings!

  • March 9, 2017 - 9:47 am

    Sandi - Thank you for sharing your story and experiences. The photos are gorgeous. Welcome home.ReplyCancel

    • March 9, 2017 - 2:34 pm

      yellowprairieint - Thank you Sandi! πŸ™‚ReplyCancel

  • March 10, 2017 - 6:57 am

    Beth Clark - How exciting Janna! Thanks for sharing your photos and your trip.ReplyCancel

  • March 10, 2017 - 12:16 pm

    Wendy Ward - Thank you for taking the time to document and share your experience with us!
    I actually shed some tears as I looked at your pictures and thought about how amazing Jesus is. He loves us so personally and the yellow flowers were just another reminder that He truly cares about our details! I hope to go to Israel one day too, so thank you for the tour guide tip. What an amazing experience and with Easter coming, I am sure it will mean even more this year. Thx again!ReplyCancel

    • March 10, 2017 - 3:54 pm

      yellowprairieint - Awww! Thank you Wendy!ReplyCancel

  • March 13, 2017 - 1:58 pm

    Lisa Mueller - What a cool trip!! Would love to go sometime.

    And, if that is what your hair looks like without any tools, you DO have good hair! πŸ™‚ReplyCancel

    • March 14, 2017 - 5:20 pm

      yellowprairieint - ha ha…thanks Lisa! πŸ™‚ReplyCancel

  • March 14, 2017 - 4:40 am

    Linda - Thank you for sharing. What beautiful pictures and what a trip that must have been.ReplyCancel

  • March 15, 2017 - 1:27 am

    Pamela - Thank you ever so much for sharing. I am feeling blessed.

  • March 15, 2017 - 6:01 pm

    Angelita - Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us. It looks incredible! I’ve always thought it would be amazing to visit Israel but now I really want to go! I felt the peace coming through my screen at the Sea of Galilee where Jesus spent so much time with his disciples. I can’t wait to go! I’m so glad you were brave enough to be baptized in the Jordan River with your family! What an incredible experience!ReplyCancel

  • March 18, 2017 - 3:48 pm

    Roberta - Just wanted to say Thank you for sharing, We have been considering a trip with our local church and your blog spoke to me on so many levels, you covered many of my same worries including vanity, on that I had not considered!
    Your so right it is not about us at all.

    • March 18, 2017 - 4:13 pm

      yellowprairieint - Oh, Roberta! You must go!! It will be the trip of a lifetime, and probably one of the greatest experiences of your life! We are already trying to figure out when we can go back. πŸ™‚ReplyCancel

  • March 20, 2017 - 9:43 pm

    Cindy - Thank you so much for sharing your trip! My hubby and I have always talked of going to Israel and seeing the sights of our Savior. You have convinced me this is possible πŸ˜€ πŸ˜‡ReplyCancel

    • March 20, 2017 - 11:26 pm

      yellowprairieint - Oh, Cindy! I hope you go!! It will definitely be the trip of a lifetime! πŸ™‚ReplyCancel

  • April 1, 2017 - 5:56 pm

    Shauna Neuenswander - That looks like an amazing trip and I really appreciated all the pictures – it makes me want to experience Israel for myself. Thanks for sharing.ReplyCancel

  • April 13, 2017 - 5:14 pm

    Pam Foster - Thank you Janna! It was wonderful to see all these pictures of your trip to Israel and read about it! I loved seeing them on my pc screen – nice and clear and big!
    Loved it.
    God bless you honey!