Travelogue by Herbert Fischer
Israel Experience 2017
When Daniel Kolenda was invited to speak at the “Jerusalem Encounter” Conference, it gave the CfaN team the idea of inviting mission partners and organizing a “CfaN Israel Tour”.
In January 2017, our first newsletter with information for the mission partners was sent out and within a few weeks, the contingent from our European office was sold out and our group was fully booked. Through conversations and emails with the participants, it was clear that there was a tremendous sense of anticipation and expectation building for the trip.
Eventually, the tour group grew to 500 participants from all over the world; from Brazil to New Zealand, from Canada to Cape Town. It was to be an unforgettable experience for all those involved.
8th June 2017 – Arrival
We landed punctually at 14h55 in Tel Aviv, and were greeted by the Israeli summer. After passport control, while we waited for our luggage, we got to know some of the participants. To my surprise, my suitcase had not made the trip with me. At the friendly Lost and Found counter, my details were taken and I was told that my luggage had probably stayed behind in Vienna.
After customs, we were greeted by staff from our Israeli travel partners, Sar-El, and met our tour guide, Tanya, who would be accompanying us in the coming days. More and more of the international participants arrived, and after waiting a short while, it was time to take our buses to the first hotel, Leonardo Plaza in Netanya.
9th June – The first tour
The tour buses were organized by color, and ours was the “Light Green Bus”. At 7h20, early in the morning, we stood ready with our suitcases to head out for Caesarea. This town on the Mediterranean was chosen by Herod the Great as his capital. He had a town built in the Roman style with harbors and a walled palace. Our entire group met in the amphitheater for the first devotions, led by Evangelist Michael Dow. After that, we visited the excavations and the Hippodrome.
After a quick tour, it was onwards to Mount Carmel. Here, we read the story of Elijah’s confrontation with the priests of Baal. From this height, we had a fantastic view over the Galilean plains.
The tour then continued to Megiddo. Egyptian sources tell us that, in 1457 B.C., this is where Thutmosis III had his first battle with princes from Canaan, to close the land route to Syria. According to Revelation 16:16, this is also where humanity’s final battle will take place.
After lunch, and in brutal heat of just over 100 °F, Evangelist Eric Gilmour led devotions. For me personally, sightseeing at the excavations afterwards gave me a hectic sunburn.
Our bus then took us further through Nazareth and Canaan to Tiberias, where we were introduced to the history of Galilee in the messianic center, and could buy souvenirs. After that, we had our evening meal in the Hotel Leonardo, where we stayed for two nights. Tanya suggested that we give our bus a name. “Abba Bus” won the vote.
10th June – Galilee
We had to rearrange the program on this day because of the tremendous heat. We met at 7h20 and walked down to the jetty. Together with another group, we got into our boats and set sail on the Sea of Galilee. In the middle of the lake, another four boats joined us, and we all tied up together. After a magnificent time of worship, Todd White preached and gave an altar call for new salvations. Many visitors and even some of the tour group staff accepted Jesus as their Lord.
The boats were then untied, and we headed to the museum with the “Jesus boat”. Our bus driver, Moti, was already waiting for us there to drive us to Capernaum, where we visited the ancient ruins of the town where Jesus spent so much time and performed so many miracles. A new synagogue was built on the ruins of the old one, but the town itself was never rebuilt.
At the Mount of Beatitudes, Daniel Kolenda’s father led the devotions. Thereafter, we drove over the Golan Heights to the excavations at Banias. Alongside the Greek temple for the god Pan, Herod built a temple town here in honor of the Roman emperor, and named the town Caesar Philippi. It’s interesting that right here in this heathen town is where Jesus once asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” This is where Peter declared, “You are the Messiah!”
During the bus drive, Rosi Studer (one of our group) came to the front and presented an “Abba” song that she had written the previous day. This song became our communal Abba Bus Song. Then the bus microphone was made available for all who wanted to sing, pray or share their thoughts, which really blessed us all and bonded us together during the drive.
Moti drove us to Yardenit, the famous baptismal place, where the Jordan exits the Sea of Galilee. Earlier in the day, almost 200 people had put their names forward to be baptized – or to renew their baptisms – in this place. An impressive experience.
11th June – Through the Jordan valley
In the morning, we went to the Roman excavations at Beth Shean. There, we all met in the amphitheater for devotions, led this time by Harvey Katz, who spoke again about the meaning of Peter’s declaration in Caesarea Philippa. During the tour, Tanya explained the architecture and the purpose of various buildings.
Then we drove through the Jordan valley to Jerusalem. We went directly to the Mount of Olives, where Paul Maurer led devotions. That was followed by the obligatory group photo with the Dome of the Rock in the background. From there, we walked to the Church of Dominus Flevit, then the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of all Nations. We had a short break before Moti collected us again and took us to our new hotel in Jerusalem.
12th June – The Judaic desert
At 7h30, we were joined by Daniel and Rebekah Kolenda and Jenny Kutz, who came to spend a few hours with us in our “Light Green Bus”. We drove from Jerusalem to Masada. On the way, Jenny ministered to us with a devotion. She’s the leader of the orphanage “Abba House” in Greece. Since that fitted perfectly with the name of our bus, we and Rosi sang our “Abba” song for Jenny.
We “crested” the fortress of Masada with the funicular train, and were very impressed by the extent of the facilities. This is where the Jewish revolt of 70 A.D. was finally conquered, and its heroic story is still fresh to the young nation of Israel to this very day. We traveled further to En Gedi, where David hid from King Saul. After a brief walk through the desert, we came to a waterfall that could well have refreshed David himself.
We took our midday break at the Dead Sea, where we had the opportunity to swim. Further on were the excavations at Qumran. In the information center, we learnt about this sect, their customs and their love of writing. Our bus then headed back to Jerusalem. When we got back to the hotel, my suitcase had finally caught up with us.
That evening, we found ourselves in the TBN studios (one of the biggest Christian television broadcasters in America) for the Impartation Meeting, an intensive time of meeting God. From the studios, we had a glorious nighttime view of Jerusalem. Paul Wilbur, an internationally-renowned worship leader, led us in praise and Daniel Kolenda preached. Afterwards, the team of speakers prayed extensively for the needs and requests of the participants.
13th June – Jerusalem
We started the day with devotions led by Brian Guerin at the Southern Wall of the Temple Mount. This is also where we took the group photo for the entire tour group.
In the information center of the historical City of David, we learnt about the history of Jerusalem and visited the excavations. We ended up in the Siloam Tunnel (commissioned by King Hezekiah to secure the water supply during the Babylonian siege), and then at the Pool of Siloam.
After that, Tanya led us to Mount Zion and into the Jewish Quarter of the old city for a midday break. We visited the Cardo (a Roman market street) and ruins from the time of Herod. Finally, we reached the Western Wall of the Temple Mount, known as the “Wailing Wall”. After half an hour, we had to go and find our bus already, because that evening was the start of the “Jerusalem Encounter” conference.
At 19h00, after supper, we made our way to the venue, King of Kings Community’s “Jerusalem Pavilion”. The conference began with an extended time of praise and worship, and the introduction of three messianic ministries who care for widows and orphans. Daniel Kolenda then gave the plenary sermon.
14th June – The conference
In the morning, we attended the conference. On this day, we were joined by the Hillsong London worship team. Calev Myers preached in the first session, and there were two further seminars.
The next destination was Yad Vashem, the largest Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. Here, we visited the museum and entered the pyramid which is dedicated to the 1.5 million children who died in the Holocaust. Finally, we visited the Avenue of the Righteous, where a tree has been planted for each person known to have protected Jews.
At 16h30, we were back at the conference, after which we had some personal free time, which some of the group used for a time of blessing and prayer in the hotel.
15th June – The Garden Tomb
At the conference in the morning, we heard from Dr. Michael Brown. At 10h30, we went by bus to the Lion’s Gate, and from there to the Church of St. Anne, with its wonderful acoustics. Right next to that were the excavations of the Pool of Bethesda.
After our midday break, we walked down the Via Dolorosa, through the Damascus Gate to the Garden Tomb. Here, we met up with many of the other international visitors, and celebrated communion together, led by Jenny Kutz. We had some time for our tour guides to teach us more of the history and meaning of these places, and to visit the empty tomb.
At 19h30, it was the closing service of the conference. The worship team was made up of a mixture of Jewish and Arabic musicians and singers. That enabled us to praise Jesus in English, Hebrew and Arabic – a really special experience.
16th June – Going home
Somehow, the time just flew by. Our bus left the hotel for the airport at 11h00, and Austrian Airlines delivered us safely to Frankfurt via Vienna… and this time, my suitcase came with me.
Although we were only together for a week, our European team developed a lovely bond of fellowship, and we took the “banner” of the light green bus back with us to the CfaN office in Frankfurt.
It was a very intense time, and the program filled every day to the brim, but we didn’t want to miss anything. It was a time for Jesus – Yeshua – to draw us nearer to His word and His people, Israel.