Looking back at this time we can truly see the hand of God watching over us, as well as opening some amazing doors in Israel for future ministry.
Consider the following: The Issachar Tour started with the advent of Hurricane Sandy (the hand of God) and ended with Operation Pillar of Cloud (the hand of man)! We knew something very special was in store for us, and we were not disappointed.
Needless to say our tour was timely, informative, and definitely ordained by God! When Sandy hit, the airlines cancelled all flights from the East Coast. That put the majority of Israel tours in jeopardy; in fact, I heard of a group of 50 ending up with only eight because of the travel mess! We were fortunate (due to the diligence of Sharon) to have over 90% of our group there for Day 1 and by the end of Day 3 we had 100% of our group with us! What a start!
Highlights of our stay in the North included visiting Ramat David Airbase, which is located in the Valley of Jezreel (Armageddon). Our group was briefed by one of the navigators and we were shown original videos of actual missions by the IAF (Israel Air Force).
Remember the tag line for our Issachar Tour is: “The Israel of the Bible as well as the Israel of Today!” While in the North we received an insightful briefing by Amir Tsarfati, a longtime friend and renowned speaker who lives in this area. We also happened upon the Syrian turmoil while we were atop of Mt. Bental, which is located on the Golan overlooking the Syrian border. We could hear explosions as well as see far-distant smoke plumes as the unrest in Syria continued to boil over.
We worked on an IDF tank base, which we later learned was relocated down to Gaza in preparation for a possible ground invasion. Our group was so blessed by this experience that they collectively went together and provided winter fleece jackets for each and every soldier–380 total! I will bless those who bless thee and curse those who curse thee (Gen 12:3). This group was most certainly blessed.
For us there is a spiritual richness to the Galilee area. Our folks love the time spent on the Sea of Galilee, as well as the stops along the northern shore as we remember so much of Jesus ministry! If you think about it, Jesus spent much more time ministering in the North than in Jerusalem, which is one of the reasons we put such a focus on this region.
The day we left the Galilee we stopped around the area of Gilgal in the Jordan River, a place no doubt close to the spot where John baptized. After baptizing and rededicating many in these waters, we left for En Gedi and Qumran before heading up to Jerusalem.
While in Jerusalem we were briefed by Daniel Seaman, a former chief of staff for Benjamin Netanyahu, and Mark Regev, who currently serves as the spokesman for the Prime Minister. Another unique opportunity with the Issachar Tour was a guided tour of the Knesset.
On the Biblical side, we walked the Old City of Jerusalem, spending time on the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Western Wall, the Jewish Quarter, David’s City, Pool of Siloam and Bethesda, Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Museum) and, of course, we walked from the Pavement to Golgotha and ended in the Garden Tomb (yes, it is most definitely empty)!
Words cannot describe what happens as you walk the Land and see with your own eyes what you have been reading in the black and white pages of your Bible! I would venture to say that not only do these words turn from black and white into color, but also 3D—one only has to ask God for the ability for this to happen.
From here we said goodbye to over half our group and prepared for our extension, which took us to Petra, Jordan and a few days in Eilat. On the last day of our tour we headed out to an IDF base located on the border between the Sinai and Egypt and then headed off toward the Valley of Elah.
On our way to Elah, we stopped at Mizpe Ramon and noticed F16s overhead; little did we realize that they were on their mission to take out Jabari and, by the time we got to Elah, Operation Pillar of Cloud was underway! Needless to say, we were relieved when we dropped our group off at Ben Gurion Airport and got word that they were in the air heading home… safe and sound!
A Personal Witness
Sharon and I then headed to Jerusalem as the Gaza situation escalated, and we were able to keep our KI family informed as to what was really going on. After a few days we left Jerusalem and headed up to the Galilee. As we left, we received word of the first missiles that were launched towards Jerusalem! It was shocking to think of missiles landing in the Golden City with blaring air sirens. As it turned out, the missiles hit near Hebron with no damage and no injuries.
As we arrived on the shores of the Galilee, we received word that Tel Aviv (the White City) was now under attack by the larger Grad missiles from Gaza. Both of these events began to shake Israelis to the core. It was one thing to have missiles falling in the South but now … Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were being targeted! The roads became jammed as the tanks and heavy-armored vehicles were transported to the Gaza border.
Again, being in the Land at such a time as this gave us the ability to report back home what was really going on. We were distressed to hear the reports from CNN, BBC, SkyNews etc. but thankfully we have friends in Israel who would let us know what the local stations were reporting, as well as the Israeli Internet news sites we trust to report accurate and unbiased news.
Many of the photos that were being posted were absolutely false. For example, a picture was posted of a young Palestinian infant who was injured—the infant was actually Israeli! Another photo showed an apartment building that had been destroyed. It was proven that this photo was actually from 2009, Operation Cast Lead, and not at all from recent activity.
Our next and final stop was Netanya, which is only 15 miles north of Tel Aviv and was still being targeted by Hamas. As we were driving there we received word of the bus explosion in central Tel Aviv. As tensions mounted we were sure that there would be a ground invasion, so you can imagine our shock when we arrived at Ben Gurion for our flight home to hear about a cease fire that was brokered by Egypt!
Interesting times to say the least! Looking back at this time we can truly see the hand of God watching over us, as well as opening some amazing doors in Israel for future ministry. Stay tuned!
[For a unique perspective from a tour member, see http://younglionsclub.wordpress.com/2012/12/04/issachar-reflections-jeff-edwards/]