A Tangible Life-Changing Tour to Israel
By: Liesl Maas, ICEJ USA Co-Director of Tours
With great anticipation, a group of Americans from across the United States boarded a plane to Israel on October 6, 2022, to fly across the ocean together. After almost three years of being unable to travel to Israel, the excitement was tangible to return to an in-person celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles.
After gathering in the airport’s arrival hall, the group made its way first to the Dead Sea. Waking up that first morning and looking over the still body of water and surrounding mountains set the tone for touring for the next few days. We then took in the ancient sights of Ein Gedi, where David hid from Saul; Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found; and Masada, famous for where the last Jewish revolt against Rome occurred after Jesus’ death. Soon Scripture and biblical history began to come alive for every person on the tour.
After a much-needed relaxing swim in the Dead Sea, the group headed to the Sea of Galilee for the next part of their adventure. Settled at Magdala, a hotel nestled on the Galilee shores, we began walking and experiencing the places where Jesus did most of His ministry. The days around the peaceful waters of the Galilee included morning devotions at the Mount of Beatitudes, exploring ancient Capernaum and meditating on all Jesus did there, and trekking through Tel Dan, which included drinking from natural spring water and learning about Abraham’s journey through that area. Water baptisms in the Jordan river were a highlight for many who chose to publicly declare their faith in Jesus near where He Himself was baptized.
One tour participant commented how the sites “helped me spiritually—in that when reading the Bible, I can picture places that are talked about. The stories come alive more because I’ve seen the places.”
The two evenings in the Galilee included the opening night events of the ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles celebration, where the ICEJ American group, along with other groups from around the world, worshiped the Lord on the shores of the Sea of Galilee. A golden moon hung large in the sky as flags and banners rose to meet it. Almost a thousand voices floated across the water as people from every nation sang out in unison and listened to the Word of God preached. People from our group felt the palpable excitement matched by every other group there, which would follow the rest of the Feast of Tabernacles celebration.
Saving the best until last, we made our way up to the glorious city of Jerusalem, where the remainder of the tour and Feast celebration took place. We prayed for Jerusalem as “watchmen on the walls,” explored the City of David, and walked from the Mount of Olives down to the Garden of Gethsemane. We experienced a special time at the Garden Tomb as we viewed the open tomb and took communion together, followed by a powerful time of prayer and worship. Participants also visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum, where the ICEJ USA group adopted a tree in memory of a righteous person for a year. It was a challenging and emotional but significant visit.
A highlight of the tour was the Jerusalem March, where we joined thousands of other Christians from the Feast of Tabernacles and marched down the streets of Jerusalem to show the Jewish people their continued love and support for Israel. Israeli families lined the sides of the roads with their hands stretched out to thank the groups for their love and support. The entire group felt the warmth and welcome from every Israeli. James Lissner, a USA tour participant, said: “The joy in being with fellow believers from around the world on the march to Jerusalem will be a memory treasured in my heart.”
We also attended the evening celebrations and morning seminars of the ICEJ Feast of Tabernacles, where we had the opportunity to listen to a wealth of internationally renowned speakers and worship leaders, adding to the depth and understanding of the theme for this year, “The Land of Promise.”
The USA tour concluded at the ancient city of Caesarea Maritima. From there, participants received a final commission to go out, just like the first apostles, to fulfill the call of God on their lives and continue to bless God’s people Israel. One participant deeply impacted by the journey, Karen Bettencourt, commented: “[The tour] just deepened my love for Israel.”
There was no better way to end this remarkable tour to Israel for the Feast of Tabernacles! The group took up the prophetic call to come up to Jerusalem to worship the Lord during the Feast and, in so doing, felt the tangible presence of the Lord every step of the way—from the Dead Sea to the Sea of Galilee and finally, up to God’s holy city, Jerusalem. Everyone returned home changed, renewed in their callings, and with a deeper understanding of God’s Word in their hearts.
There is only one place God carved out for Himself—Zion.
Join the ICEJ on our next trip to Israel for the Feast of Tabernacles and see for yourself what God has in store for you there .