In 2010, I made my first tour to the country of Israel. As a Bible student and as one who loves geography, this tour helped me to better understand many parts of the Bible. Until this tour, I understood WHAT the writers were saying, but in many ways I didn't understand WHY they said it the way that they did. The tour caused me to go back and restudy many passages that I had taken for granted. That tour was one led by Ferrell Jenkins. Mr. Jenkins has been leading tours to Israel since 1967. (For those of you who are familiar with history, his first tour was just a couple of weeks before the Six-Days War.) Soon after this tour, I decided that I wanted to try to lead tours to Israel as well. I spoke with Ferrell many times about it. He offered me guidance and patiently answered all of my tedious questions. I returned to Israel with him in 2012 to learn more about the land as well as leading tours.
Since that time, I have successfully led two tours in June 2014 and October 2015. There is an unspoken thrill in helping people to understand the geography of the Bible and watching it all "click" in their minds.
Next year, Mr. Jenkins will be leading another tour in which he will be celebrating 50 years of leading tours. If you have ever had an interest in going, I encourage you to contact him and let him know of your interest.
Recently, he published a short article answering many questions that he (and others that lead tours over there) receive concerning the safety of travel in Israel. In that article, he references myself and my recent tour. To that end, I wanted to lend my words in confirmation of what he states in the article.
My most recent tour was last month. If you paid any attention during that time, there were items in the news concerning physical confrontations between the Palestinians and the Israelis. Many of these confrontations resulted in injuries and deaths. Sadly, these reports are true. But, they were very isolated and failed to tell the complete story.
One morning that we were in Jerusalem, I was watching FOXNews and there was a headline on the bottom of the screen stating "Israel in Chaos". I immediately turned and looked out my window. I could see cars on the streets, people riding bikes to work and children (with their Superman and Barbie backpacks) walking to school. The situation on the ground was nothing like what was being portrayed on the television.
While there were problems, this was limited to an extremely small minority of the population. While we were over there, we never saw any problems. We were greeted by warm, loving people who were glad to see us and welcomed us with open arms.
Each day, my tour group rested comfortably in the hotels, ate delicious food in the restaurants and visited dozens of Biblical sites. We shopped in the Old City. We spoke with the shop owners. And we experienced the culture of the people. On nearly every day, someone from my tour group mentioned to me how safe they felt in Israel. Since we have returned, many have privately mentioned to me that "they never had a single concern as we traveled".
Our world is a world who does not look to God. For the most part, the people of this world seek their own self interests over the interest of God. When that happens, bad things occur. They always have and they always will. Occasionally, bad things happen in Israel. I will not deny that. But, you know what? Bad things happen in your hometown as well. Do you need proof? Watch your local news tonight. I don't care where you live, within the first ten minutes of the news, you will hear a story of someone being assaulted or perhaps even killed. It is sad, but it is true.
Yet, without thinking about it, you will head into your local hometown where those bad things happened. Do not let your perception of the situation in Israel keep you from enjoying the thrill of a lifetime and growing as a student of the Bible.
Next spring, Ferrell Jenkins will lead a tour to Israel. If you are a student of the Bible, I encourage you to consider going and celebrate 50 years of touring with him. You will be able to watch the sun rise over the Sea of Galilee. You will see the Valley of Elah where David defeated Goliath. And you will be able to stand on the Mount of Olives and look over Jerusalem. It is a great opportunity. Don't miss it.
(NOTE: If you have any specific questions about security, please feel free to contact me. I'll be more than happy to answer any question that you may have.)