The Pilgrimage of a Lifetime

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Diana Scimone

Israel, Jerusalem Old City

Every year thousands of Christians go to the Holy Land to connect with God and the history of His people. We asked these travelers to share their experiences with you.

Every visitor to Israel has at least one special moment from his or her trip that stands out. Whether it’s walking on the same paths on which Jesus walked, sitting in a restaurant talking with local Israelis or planting a tree to help the desert rebloom—a visit to Israel is memorable. I asked believers from around the world to share their unique memories. From Wales to China to the United States, they responded with stories they’ve treasured in their hearts—in some cases for decades. Here are their special moments.


I went to Israel in 2005 on a tour for Christians sponsored by Archaeological Diggings. We were at a tel (archaeological site) in Mareshah that is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 11:8 and 14:9-13.

We spent our days digging in a bell-shaped underground cave. We carefully removed rubble, put it into buckets, and passed everything to the entrance of the cave where we systematically sieved through it looking for anything valuable.

Some of our finds included pottery shards, bones, beads, and pieces of plates and urns. The most exciting discoveries were an intact decorated oil lamp from Crete, estimated to be about 2,300 years old; and several ostraca, or fragments of pottery with ancient writing on them.

Each night we stayed at a kibbutz where we enjoyed good, simple food and pleasant accommodations. I treasure the experience and memories of our dig in Israel.

—Norelle Hawkins, Australia

I first read the novel Exodus when I was 19, and a desire to visit Israel grew inside me. Thirty-three years later—in 2005—I took my long-awaited trip to Israel. Earlier this year, I returned for a second wonderful visit.

Each trip was very personal and unique in its own way. The common thread—and my most special memory—was simply being among the Jewish people, talking with them, sharing a meal, on unexpected occasions praying together and simply getting to know them. On both trips I experienced the honor of sharing a Shabbat dinner with open and warm-hearted Jewish families.

I visited many biblical sites, and they were deeply moving, but my most cherished memories are just being among the Israelis. Each moment represented an encounter with life in Israel that has left me longing to return yet again, to know the people and the land even more intimately.

—Rebecca Randolph, USA

I first visited Israel in September 2005 and have been back many times since. One special memory I have is of the day I was swarmed by about 20 Arab children. I had made friends with some of them, and word must have gotten around that I was a friendly American. All of them were hugging me and greeting me by name, sharing candy with me and chattering in Arabic.

Every day the same little girls would all come out of their homes to greet me, and I would always feel the love of Christ for them. They were very special to me, and I know they are very special to God.

Going to Israel was never about the sites for me; it was always about the people, Jews and Arabs. I will always remember how Jesus “let the little children come to Him” through me, and how He also used those children in my life to show me His heart.

—Susanna Welch, USA

I went to Israel 30 years ago, and the place I remember most vividly was the Garden of Gethsemane. I cried very much there as I thought about the Lord’s prayer and His suffering. Nobody was with Him at His moment of sorrow and crisis, not even His good friends.

Sometimes when I am alone with my own pain and sorrow, I thank Jesus that He understands my pain. When we pass through the deep, dark valley, He is there with us.

I always remember my time in the garden. I love to sing the song “In the Garden” because it reminds me of that special moment there.

—Krisna Jittiwuttikarn, Thailand

My wife and I went to a prayer conference in Israel in 1988. After sessions with intercessory leaders from around the globe, we decided to see the sights. At a huge scale model of the Old City, we noticed a man who was stocking the tourist sites with Cadbury chocolate candy.

When he learned we were Americans, he immediately offered to take us to his home for lunch. We eagerly accepted.

He drove us to his beautiful home in the hills overlooking the city and served us a delicious lunch. After eating, we asked him about the difficulties of living in what was at the time a very violent city. He said that though he and his young family had thought many times of leaving Israel for a more peaceful life elsewhere, they had decided against it.

Because our host, though a Jew, did not seem to be particularly religious his reason surprised me. He said: “No matter what happens, this is God’s land. You can feel His presence everywhere. There is no place like this on earth.”

—James Kohlmann, USA

I visited Israel earlier this year. One of the moments I remember from my trip was one in which a Palestinian man shared his testimony about how he became a believer in Jesus. He told us that he asked the Lord to change his heart so he would be able to love the Israelis. He also said he gathered his Palestinian brothers to pray for peace between the two nations.

I used to look forward to the day when Palestine would be erased from the earth. Now I see a different picture: Ishmael and his little brother, Isaac, are tightly embraced when they both come to know the Lord of their father, Abraham. Now I see a peaceful and joyful picture rather than one nation’s victory over the other.

—Wang Li, China

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