I made my first trip to Israel in May 2008 for TheCall. What I remember most was an event that occurred in the Old City of Jerusalem as I walked to the Western Wall. A Jewish woman stopped me and asked if I would take a few books and place them at the wall. The books were in Hebrew, and I had no idea what they were, so I refused, but she insisted it was a favor—not a scam.
Reluctantly I agreed, but when I saw an orthodox Jew I showed him the books and asked if it was all right for me to take them to the wall. He replied that it was very appropriate because the rabbis used these books to pray at the wall. He seemed so happy that an American would carry these books that he took my hands and prayed a blessing over me.
After I finished praying at the Wall, a rabbi came up to me and laid his hand on mine. He pulled me into an underground area along the old wall, leading me past other praying rabbis to a wooden alcove. There he recited a blessing over me. I don’t know if he saw me carrying the books, but his blessing me was a special honor and a memory I’ll always treasure.
—Jonathan Randolph, USA
I visited Israel last fall with a group of believers from Zimbabwe. One of the things I remember most took place at Beit She’an, a national park in northern Israel that has some of the country’s best archeological sites. We traveled with a gentleman who had spastic cerebral palsy and had difficulty with coordination.
He was not to be prevented by his disability from seeing the sites, however, and he demonstrated such determination that we all ended up taking turns carrying him on our backs. It was quite a testimony to the strength of the human spirit and brotherly love.
—Matthew Wazara, M.D., Zimbabwe
I visited Israel in 2006. The most special moment I experienced came when I was touring the Children’s Memorial at Yad Vashem, the vast complex that honors the 6 million Jews murdered during the Holocaust. The memorial was completely dark except for the light from a few photos of children that were projected on the walls.
As I made my way down a ramp holding on to the walls, I saw in the distance a tiny flickering flame—then another and another and another. The ramp opened into an octagonal room in which it seemed as if thousands of candles burned all around me. I soon realized there was only one candle, its flame reflected by countless mirrors.
As I gazed at it, a voice slowly read the names of the 1.5 million children killed during the Holocaust. I didn’t hear them all because it takes months to read the entire list, but I will always remember the emotions I experienced while visiting this memorial and thinking about the Jewish children who lost their lives.
—Diana Scimone, USA
I lived in Israel from 2005-2008. One special memory I have was going to Kiryat Luza, the Samaritan village where Jesus met the woman at the well. One night a year the Samaritans here sacrifice a sheep to atone for their sins.
The night I visited, hundreds of people were waiting for the priests to carry out the sacrifice. Suddenly, the high priest started singing, and the other Samaritans joined in with chanting. The little sheep had no idea what was about to happen to them and they were happily baa-ing away. I thought of Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed and He was afflicted. ... He was led as a lamb to the slaughter” (NKJV).
As I photographed the event, I realized that in one of my pictures the railings of the sheep enclosure blocked the view of the sheep. I started to delete the photo when I took a closer look. The railings in the picture formed a perfect cross right over the sheep waiting to be slaughtered. I’ve kept that photo because it’s a perfect symbol of the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross for us and a sign that our sins are truly forgiven.
—Anna Farrell, Wales
I went to Israel in 1999, and the tour group I was traveling with visited many settlements. Some were well-established, with permanent housing, medical facilities and schools. Others consisted of only four or five trailers housing the few families living in the settlement. As we talked with the settlers, each one passionately expressed reasons for settling in a new area of Israel, even though the conditions were less than desirable and sometimes dangerous.
I’ll never forget one of those settlements. It consisted of just one family, isolated on the top of a dry and dusty hill with little water. A husband and wife and their 2-year-old daughter lived by themselves in a trailer, with the closest neighbor miles away. They had a small grove of olive trees, which they guarded 24 hours a day. Despite the personal danger to their lives and property, they believed they were called to settle the land. We met many Israelis who had the same spirit as this courageous family.
—Deborah Yero, USA
Believers have been coming to the Holy Land for more than 2,000 years—and every one of them has taken home a special memory that captured his heart. It’s as if the God of Israel custom-designs a trip to His land for each of us.
If you’ve never visited Israel, He has a special memory reserved just for you. Don’t wait a moment longer to go. Your memory is waiting for you.
Diana Scimone is a journalist and the author of the Adventures With PawPaw children’s book series. She is president of PawPaw’s Pals, Inc., which works to stop child trafficking worldwide (pawpawspals.org).
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