Our Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

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Our Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

Barb and I just returned from a stunning 10-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land. After long flights there (10 hours from Denver to Frankfurt and 4 hours to Tel Aviv), we were off and running during 14- to 15-hour days. Below are just a few highlights that may be of interest to those who have not yet taken this life-altering trip. Suffice it to say, we’ll never read Bible passages about the Holy Land or the life of Christ the same way again.

A market in Jerusalem.

We had a beautiful and spiritually uplifting 10-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Barb and I traveled as part of a group led by our teaching pastor, Dave Erickson. The goal: to learn, yes, but even more importantly to deepen our discipleship and our personal relationship with Jesus.

Pastor Dave started us out 40 days before we left, with a 40-day period of study, prayer, and intermittent fasting. We all inductively studied the Gospel of Luke. It was fabulous.
As to some brief thoughts about our time there (after almost 20 hours of total transit time):
  • On the Sea of Galilee

    Galilee was a surprise. The hilly region around the “Sea” of Galilee is still just undeveloped enough that you can literally feel and imagine the stories from the time of Jesus. It was green and lush. And, it was one of the few places you knew you were walking where Jesus once walked (Nazareth, Caesarea Philippi, Capernaum, etc.), and sailed (the Sea of Galilee), as well as where Paul walked and was imprisoned (Caesarea Marina).

  • Magada, the Dead Sea, and the Oasis of En Gedi unexpectedly held deep spiritual surprises and meaning for Barb and me. Barb, who loves the Psalms of David, was deeply touched by visiting the oasis of En Gedi where David and his men were forced to hide from Saul. The fortress of Magada was a surprisingly meaningful experience for me as I contemplated giving up my life for my faith and to follow Jesus more closely.

    Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter


  • As Barb and I are transitioning between major life chapters, the timing of this pilgrimage was perfect. We visited the beach where Jesus (possibly) met the disciples after his resurrection, charging them — especially Peter — “I will send you out to fish for people!” I couldn’t help but feel personally recommissioned there.
  • Every pilgrim needs a guide. In addition to Pastor Dave, we were blessed by a wonderful Jewish guide with extensive archeological and historical knowledge. In addition, his experience in the military and with security work training helped guide our steps into safe areas. He opened our hearts and minds to the Jewish people, the Jewish State, the Scripture (Old and New), and the heart of God for His people in ways I’ll never forget.

    At the Wailing Wall



  • Jerusalem — especially the “Old City” — is both, as my friend Morgan Wills says, “a ‘thick’ and a ‘thin’ place. So thick with history, tradition, and a sense of community (even a tattoo business we passed has been in continuous operation by the same family since 1300!) that an American like me just feels small and peripheral by comparison. Which is a good thing! And ‘thin’ in the Celtic sense: palpably close to the world of the spirit for anyone willing to lean in it.”


  • Time at the traditional site of the Garden of Gethsemane, praying and meditating at the Western Wall, and walking the Via Doloroso, were all deeply impactful to us both.

    Garden of Gethsemane


  • A day at Yad Vashem: The World Holocaust Remembrance Center will be one we’ll never forget. Of myriad poignant moments, arriving in front of, viewing, and contemplating the meaning of the actual Schindler’s list, was a personal highlight for us both.


  • Our band of about 60 pilgrims was a beautiful, motley bunch, and mostly strangers to one another prior to the trip. But what a delight to get to know them—and God better through them! We are all deeply bonded together and continue to meet frequently

    Some of our dearest friends were on our pilgrimage.

And after we arrived home, Pastor Dave had us in another 40-day time of the continuing study, prayer, reflection, and discipleship as we inductively studied through the Book of Acts.
The bottom line: If you are at all intrigued and have never been, we’d encourage you to go! As they say, “Next year … in Jerusalem!”
  • Day 1 – DENVER – Depart from Denver to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. Dinner and breakfast are served on board.
  • DAY 2 – TEL AVIV – Upon our evening arrival at the Tel Aviv airport, we transfer to our hotel in Tel Aviv for dinner and overnight. Already we begin to feel the spirit of this land enchanting us. Today, we will be visiting sites from the Bible and sharing the experience of walking in the footsteps of Jesus.
  • DAY 3 – GALILEE – Today we take a scenic drive to Caesarea Marina, built by Herod the Great in 22 B.C. Visit the Roman Theater, the Aqueduct, and Herodian Port. It was here that Cornelius was baptized by Peter (Acts 10:24-28) and Paul was brought to trial (Acts 25). We then proceed to Mucharka, the location of Elijah’s altar during his confrontation with the false prophets of Baal. Continue through the Valley of Armageddon to the excavation site at Tel Megiddo. To our hotel in Tiberius for dinner and overnight.
  • DAY 4 – GALILEE – We start our day with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. Visit Ginnosar to view the fishermen’s boat, found on these shores, dating back to Jesus’ time. We continue to the Mount of Beatitudes, site of the Sermon on the Mount to reflect on the serene beauty and the event that took place here. On to Tabgha, the site of the Miracle of the Fishes and Loaves and the Feeding of Five Thousand, to see the chapel built over the rock commemorating the primacy of Peter. We then visit Capernaum, the city of Jesus and Peter to see the house of Peter and an ancient synagogue, where Jesus preached and gathered his disciples. We then drive across the Jordan River via the land of Gaderenes. In the afternoon we drive north to Caesarea Phillipi, now called Banias, where Peter made his confession of faith, and identified Jesus as the Messiah. And Jesus said, “Thou art Peter. Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt.16:17-18). Then through the Golan Heights and across the Jordan River to return to our hotel for dinner and overnight.
  • DAY 5 – GALILEE – This morning our first stop is in the ancient city of Magdala, the hometown of Mary Magdalene, Here we find a complete first-century town and synagogue where it is believed that Jesus himself visited, taught, and preached at this synagogue. The church is called Duc in Altum in Latin “Launch into the deep” (words of Jesus in Luke 5:4, fishers of men) and it honors the women of the Gospels. Continue to Yardenit, the Baptismal Site on the Jordan River.  We continue to the old Roman city of Beit Shean to visit the impressive Roman ruins. Then to our Jerusalem hotel for dinner and overnight.
  • DAY 6 – JERUSALEM – This morning we enter the Old City through St. Stephen’s Gate visiting the Pool of Bethesda, the Chapel of the Flagellation, and the Ecce Homo Arch. Continue through the Bazaar to the last stations of the Cross Via Dolorosa, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Gabbatha pavement. Continue to the Jewish Quarter visiting the Cardo, the “Wide” wall built by King Hezekiah, and the Herodian mansion. We continue to the Temple area and Mt. Moriah, to see the Dome of Rock, visit the Western Wall, the Ophel Archaeological Park, and Museum. Return to our hotel for dinner and overnight.
  • DAY 7 – MASADA – This morning we drive past the Inn of the “Good Samaritan” to arrive at the shores of the Dead Sea – the lowest point on earth. We drive along the Dead Sea to Masada, the fortress where the Jewish Zealots held off the armies of the Roman Empire before choosing suicide over surrender. Continue to Ein Gedi, where King David found shelter from the wrath of King Saul. After lunch (on your own), we will have the opportunity to enjoy a short “float” in the Dead Sea. On to Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 in a cave and then return to Jerusalem for dinner and overnight.
  • DAY 8 – JERUSALEM – Full day of leisure to pursue personal interests, or to shop. For us it was Yad Vashem. The World Holocaust Remembrance Center and walking on the walls of the Old City.
  • DAY 9 – JERUSALEM – Drive by the Knesset to the Israel Museum, visit the Shrine of the Book where the Dead Sea Scrolls are housed, and see the model of Jerusalem at the time of the Second Temple. Drive to Mount Scopus to view the impressive home of the Hebrew University and to the Mount of Olives for an outstanding view of Jerusalem. Visit the Chapel of the Ascension, Garden of Gethsemane, and Church of All Nations before driving along the Kidron Valley and seeing the Tombs of Absalom, Zechariah, and James. We continued to Mount Zion to visit the Room of the Last Supper and King David’s Tomb. We end our day with a visit to the Garden Tomb where we have an orientation beside Calvary and also where our Communion service will be held. (Mark 15 42:47) Enjoy a farewell dinner at the hotel and overnight.
  • DAY 10 – DENVER – Today our journey ends with good memories as we head home.  Arrival home the same day.


  1. Fern WIlcox says:

    One of the best trips we ever made. Glad you got to go.

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