Tired but happy, we just returned from a tour of Israel and Jordan. We went with friends from Solid Ground Church in Alta Loma and with Pastor Darrell Ward and folks we have known for many years from our former church in Orange County. It wasn’t a great surprise for hostilities to break out while we were there because tensions have been building for months on all of Israel’s borders.
Our first dramatic moment came before we boarded our El Al flight from Los Angeles Airport. After we had gone through their extensive security screening and were waiting to board, we were told to immediately evacuate the gate area. Evidently they had found something that had been stored near their computers, so they did a complete search of the area. We were finally allowed to board the plane for our 14-hour flight to Tel Aviv.
The tour itself was exceptionally good. We had a sensitive, seasoned Jewish guide, Naphtali Cohen, who helped us visit and understand more biblical sites than we had even listed on our itinerary. The weather was comfortable. We did have a little rain – usually while we were riding the bus. We will post some of the pictures on Facebook and on Prophecy Central in the next few days.
On the second day of our tour we drove through the Golan Heights to visit the site of Caesarea Philippi at the northern-most part of the country – just a few miles from the borders with Syria and Lebanon. We saw several military bases along the way. That night we heard that Syrians, fighting their long civil war had “mistakenly” fired a rocket-propelled mortar into an Israeli base there in the Golan Heights. No one was injured, but Israel returned fire with a larger missile, deliberately missing their target, but sending a stern warning. The next day the same thing happened, and Israel used a missile to destroy the source of the fire.
While these things were going on at the Syrian border, Scores of rockets were being fired at Israel, presumably from Hamas in the Gaza Strip. We had been very close to that area when we were in Tel Aviv and Joppa, but we didn’t actually see or hear the rockets or the Israeli interceptions from their Iron Dome system.
While we were in Jerusalem, and right after walking the shopping area of Ben Yehuda Street, we heard the first air-raid siren sounded in the Holy City in about 40 years!. From the window of our hotel room I could see flashes of light that must have been anti-ballistic defensive fire. The group gathered about an hour later for dinner and shared stories of the peace that we all experienced from our relationships with the Lord.
Most of our group stayed a couple of extra days to experience a visit to the rose-red city of Petra in Jordan. We spent the night in the Israeli Red-Sea port city of Eilat. From our hotel we could see the borders of Jordan and Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. We were also close to the border of Saudi Arabia.
Early the next morning we crossed the border into Jordan. We drove to the entrance of the ancient Nabatean city of Petra and then walked in to see some of the most amazing and beautiful structures in the world carved from the cliffs of this hidden valley. We pondered the possibility that this will be the place where Jewish people will flee from the Antichrist during the Tribulation period in the future.
On the way back from Petra we drove through a huge freak storm with lightning, strong rain, hail, and even snow! I took a picture of the desert road in front of us covered with snow. We found out later that this was a “hundred-year” storm in the area. We arrived at the crossing point to return to Israel, and had already cleared the Jordanian checkpoint. We then walked across the “no-man’s land” toward the Israeli entrance. Just before we reached it an Israeli soldier walked toward us, carrying an UZI. He told us to return to Jordan because they had just closed the checkpoint. We tried to get them to let us through, but to no avail, because they were expecting a flash flood from the big storm at that very spot within minutes.
We returned to the Jordanian side, but Jordan was shutting down also. We had difficulty calling our contacts from there, but finally managed to reach them and arrangements were quickly made to put us up in a very nice hotel in the Jordanian city of Aqaba. The next day the crossing-point was still closed, but arrangements were made for us to drive through about half the length Jordan and finally re-enter Israel a different way. A team of experienced tour operators in six cities of Israel and Jordan worked to get us back to our home-bound flight in Tel Aviv.
It was an incredible trip, and the unexpected drama just taught us that we can trust the Lord to protect and direct us. All of this has also reminded us to pray more than ever for the peace of Jerusalem!