Christians worldwide have a deep desire to go on a pilgrimage to Israel. This could be in keeping with the Biblical call to the Jewish People to gather in Jerusalem to celebrate God’s feasts, or a profound yearning to discover the Land of the Bible. Al Gibson shares the wonder of visiting the Holy Land and experiencing God’s presence in a powerful way in the very place where so much of the Biblical narrative unfolded.
The Western Wall, Jerusalem, the base of the Jewish Temple, the holiest site in Judaism
You may think the description ‘Pilgrimage to Israel’ sounds religious or full of tradition but for me, it is anything but. I found my four trips to Israel to be deeply personal spiritual experiences that have given my faith fresh impetus. I also feel that they have been a prophetic act, in line with God’s future plans and purposes.
As Micah 4:1-2 says: “In the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and He will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem’.”
So it is not just in the past that devout believers were expected to gather in Jerusalem to celebrate feasts such as Passover, it is something that the Lord will require of us in future. Many believers today visit Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles hosted by the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. I have done this twice and it is an amazing experience filled with joy and celebration, colourful pageantry, flags, music, song and dance.
Of course, during a pilgrimage to Israel, one wants to see as many of the legendary Bible sites as possible. So I recommend going on a bus tour with a group of people and a professional guide as this will enable you to see most of the important landmark sites as well as learn about their significance. However, some pilgrims may find that too structured and they may want to go at their own pace and spend more time at the places that are most important to them. Whatever way you do it, it will be much more than the holiday of a lifetime, it will be a life-changing experience.
The Golden Gate in Jerusalem which is currently blocked up. The Messiah is said to come through it.
My pilgrimage to Israel
If you have ever been to Israel you will know what I mean, when I say that somehow the Lord touches your life in a profound way each time you visit this country. I can remember how emotional I was as we drove up to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv – and I saw the Holy City for the first time – there were tears in my eyes – but my heart was overflowing with joy.
The words of an old chorus started welling up deep within me… “Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion and everlasting joy shall be upon their head…” Later I found it was based on Isaiah 51:11 and the words continued… “they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.”
I know that this refers primarily to the New Jerusalem which the Lord will establish when He comes, but I had this overwhelming feeling that I was coming home! This was the city where my Lord and Saviour was hailed with palm leaves; where He was scourged and died on the Cross for me and where His tomb lies empty!
One is overawed by all these events that took place in this land more than 2,000 years ago, and yet the Sea of Galilee, the Judean hills and the desert plains of Masada seem almost unchanged. When we visited the Mount of Beatitudes we could sit on the mountainside and listen to Scriptures being shared, the Word of God as old as the rocks we had perched upon.
Al Gibson on a boat tour of the Sea of Galilee and at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.
It is hard to believe that just 75 years ago there was no State of Israel and yet today millions of Jewish people have returned to their Land. What an incredible fulfilment of Bible prophecy. I am reminded of another scripture about Zion… Psalm 102:16 “When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory.” In my pilgrimage to Israel, I experienced the glory of the Lord daily, so if you have never been I encourage you to save up and go!
For many tour groups, visiting the Jordan River is a memorable experience where people are given the opportunity to get baptised Others are more impacted by visiting the Sea of Galilee and the timeless, unchanged beauty of the lake where Jesus walked on the water. Some feel the Holy Spirit move most in the place they call ‘The Upper Room’, others feel His presence more strongly amongst the ancient Olive trees of the Garden of Gethsemane or during a communion service in the tranquil surroundings of ‘The Garden Tomb’.
Wherever our tour group went, we were so conscious of all the Lord had done for us, each shrine backing up scripture as our tour guides shared their Biblical significance. Plus if you go on a church tour or with a Christian organisation, you are likely to have the most wonderful times of fellowship together.
I went on an international Christian tour which attracted people from all over the world. So one of the most precious things about my pilgrimage to Israel was that we were such a colourful group of people from many different nations, ethnic backgrounds and cultures and I thought of how blessed the Lord must be to see His people from across the world come together in such unity.
Finally, no pilgrimage to Israel could be complete without a visit to the Holocaust Museum, Yad Vashem. This gives you an understanding of the suffering God’s Chosen People have endured throughout the ages and how, out of the ashes of this tragic genocide of 6-million people, the Modern-day State of Israel was born. There you will see trees representing The Righteous Among the Nations. These are people like Oscar Schindler and Corrie Ten Boom who saved so many Jewish lives and who still inspire us today to make a stand against anti-Semitism in all its forms.
Now that I have been on a pilgrimage to Israel, four times in fact, I see the significance of the way the dear Jewish people say. “Next Year in Jerusalem, my friend!” Don’t let this just be an empty greeting. Put your faith out to go on a pilgrimage to Israel and see how the Lord miraculously provides.
Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, and the beautiful city of Zion, Jerusalem.