My name is Erin and I’m an intern at Heartland Center. Two days ago, Shelby, Tyler, Lauren and I arrived in Israel for our study tour of the Holy Land! This is the first in a series of blog posts where we’ll be sharing our experiences on this amazing, and hopefully life-changing, journey. Here we go!
Yesterday (April 11), we dragged our jet-lagged selves out of bed at 6:00 in the morning and got on the bus for what would be our first, very full day of the tour! We made our way to the Shephelah area, where we visited a Biblical Garden; Beth Shemesh, where Samson lived; and Azekah, where the battle between David and Goliath likely happened. One thing that stuck out to me that morning was learning about the different agricultural seasons in Israel and which crops they grow here—especially wheat, grapes, and olives—which are the same crops that they grew there in biblical times. This knowledge really helps me understand the many biblical passages that refer to the agriculture of ancient Israel, images that common farmers and herders back then would have understood perfectly. It also goes to show that the Bible was written for common people, like the farmers and herders in ancient times.
The rest of the day was filled with picking stones from the riverbed where David would have picked up stones to fight Goliath, getting to know our tour guides and companions from the Joshua Wilderness Institute, and exploring a few of the caves which served as basements in the area of Bet Guvrin, where Herod the Great grew up.
Today (April 12) was also super eventful! We climbed Masada, rode camels in the desert, learned how the Bedouins show hospitality according to the scriptures, and even floated in the Dead Sea.
Hiking Masada today was amazing! Masada is a mountain overlooking the Dead Sea that has a rich history of being a home and fortress for generations of Jews, including Herod the Great and the Zealots who were the last free Jews when Rome attacked the area in AD 70. The word “Masada” comes from the word for “stronghold.”
We were blessed with perfect hiking weather this morning! It was cloudy and breezy, which meant it wasn’t too hot. It wasn’t an easy hike on stairs and switchbacks up the mountainside, but everyone hiking stayed hydrated and made it to the top with a feeling of accomplishment! We enjoyed a spectacular view of the Dead Sea on our way up, and just as we reached the top, it started to sprinkle! It was nice to cool off after the hike, but it was very unusual weather, considering it only rains there an average of five days out of the year.
This afternoon, we enjoyed some time floating in the Dead Sea. I say “floating” because, as our tour guide, Ronin, explained, you don’t need to swim in the Dead Sea, you just float. In fact, the water is rather difficult to swim in! God’s creation, truly is amazing that way because there’s always something new to experience.
Speaking of experiences—riding a camel was definitely one of them! It’s like riding a horse, but farther off the ground on an animal with a hump on its back that may spit at you… I’ll just say I’m glad I don’t have to ride one through the desert for days on end!
I’m really excited for the rest of the journey—to see sites where Jesus walked, to get to know the wonderful people that we’re touring with from the Joshua Wilderness Institute, and to just let God work in me in whatever way He has planned for me while I’m here.
Written by: Erin Bjerke