Ever since I received the invitation to participate in the Year of Faith Press Trip as guests of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, I have been wondering what to expect.
This is my first time ever visiting Israel, and the opportunity to visit those sites that are so significant for the three Abrahamic religions is really something I have been looking forward to. In a way I have already seen quite a bit of the Holy Land, but always on one of the many video screens in the control room of Salt and Light Television where I work. Now being able to actually see those places ‘live’ is a unique opportunity I’m very grateful for!
When I received the invitation to join this trip it sounded to me almost like a personal invitation from Jesus in which he says; "we have known each other for quite some years now, it’s about time I show you where I come from, where I met my friends, where I lived, worked and preached, where I suffered and where I eventually gave my life for you”.
So here we are, after an 11-hour flight we met with our guide at the international Airport in Tel Aviv. After a short drive, during which we passed by a little town called Emmaus, we could see Jerusalem! I can almost feel the weight of history in this ancient city, and passages of the Gospels are flashing through my mind. I only wish we had more time to let it all sink in.
The Promised Land
Our first stop is at a spot with a beautiful view to the east, over the dessert where we see on the horizon the mountains from where, according to tradition, Moses saw the Promised Land. We continue to the Mount of Olives where we visit the tear-shaped church of Dominus Flevit (“the Lord wept”) where Jesus wept over the future destruction of the city.
We proceed to Gethsemane; the garden of olives where Jesus was betrayed and arrested. Here we enter the Basilica of the Agony. The church enshrines a section of stone in the garden of Gethsemane that is believed to be where Jesus prayed on the night of his arrest.
At first I take some pictures, but then I sit down to just pray and contemplate what went down here 2000 years ago. Before leaving I kneel in front of the stone and while I touch it I remember all the people that have asked me to pray for them, and I have the impression that I can offer everything and unite all sufferings with the sufferings of Jesus.
I feel overwhelmed by his Love and I sense inside a deep desire to return that immense love that was consumed in this place by accepting God's Will for me in every instant of my life.
I know there's much more to come, but I almost feel like Jesus didn’t want to waste time with us today!
I’m looking forward to the rest of the week, and I'll do my best to keep you posted.
Photos by Jeroen Van Der Biezen