Journalist Carston Saelzler shares memories and stories of recent journey to the Holy Land
This is the introduction article to an opinion series about Carston Saelzler’s, ’21, 12-day trip to Israel, Nov. 26-Dec. 6, 2018. In this article he shares memories and experiences from different days the trip. To read the more articles about Saelzler’s trip, click Thoughts from Israel No. 1-The Christian prayer life.
No one could ever tell me what it was going to be like. I mean, how could they? To visit a place where religion, nature, and people collide into a beautiful scene of perfection called Israel. 288 hours. That’s all I got on this trip but in that time I visited over 50 biblical sites with my church group. The 57 of us all walked away with a better understanding of the Bible theologically and geographically.
The trip started on November 25, 2018. A drive to LAX prepared me for the fifteen-hour flight to Istanbul, Turkey. From Istanbul to Tel Aviv the journey continued. I was ready to dive into the pool of wisdom that was found in the Biblical teaching through sites like Azekah, Capernaum, and Jerusalem.
In reality it was a long trip, though in my mind it seemed to pass so fast. The information was so overwhelming I would compare it to drinking from a fire hose. Some of my favorite parts of the trip were sitting at sites like Capernaum and listening from the teaching of Well Community Church pastors such as Brad Bell and Mike Slayden.
One of my favorite memories of the first part of the trip was day two in the Negev, or desert area of Israel. It was day 2. I had only been there 48 hours yet it felt like a whole week. I woke up in a hotel on the beaches of the Dead Sea, or as it is called in Israel, the Salt Sea. The sun peaking over the mountains of Moab reflected off the water and seemed to sit right on my hotel room.
That day we traveled to the Negev and ventured to the Wilderness of Zin. There I hiked through some desert and canyon structures. We traveled along a stream and talked about conquering the land, just as Abram called by God also did in his time. We discussed Israelite traditions when it comes to claiming land and why they would do such things.
My favorite part of the wilderness hike was stopping by a giant tree next to a creek and talking about Psalms 1. We sank our roots deep into the living water of Christ, and talked about how blessed we are when doing so. The blessed person does not walk, stand, or sit in the company of wicked and scoffers. Instead, he delights in the presence of God. The blessed life is not the life that listens to the world but rather the inspired word of God.
In the following podcast Carston Saelzler interviews Cooper Saelzler on his recent Israel trip.
After that we continued our hike up to the top of the canyon. It smelled like salt herbs and limestone. When we got up to the top we could see down into the whole canyon and had time to take pictures.
From there we continued to a once-in-a-lifetime experience – a camel ride. I was anticipating this moment for weeks. The camels were in a Bedouin camp with tents and some small buildings. Our group had lunch while we waited for the camels. It was two people to a camel so I went with Cooper, my brother. We kept laughing at all the funny noises the camels made.
After the camel ride, our group went into a Bedouin tent where our tour guide explained the town of Beersheba and what Bedouin hospitality is. This is the same hospitality Abraham showed the three angels who came to his tent. We had some really strong coffee and baklava while we were in there. From there we traveled back to our hotel for a Salt Sea swim. Our whole group got in our bathing suits, put on our bathrobes, and trucked out to the beach where were able to float. The water was kind of cold but nothing compared to a California ocean. I got used to it.
On Saturday, also the Sabbath in Israel, more memories were made. Though it was the Sabbath we did not take the day off of exploring the Galilee region. We explored seven sites on day five, more than the previous days.
The first experience was a boat ride across the Sea of Galilee. The ride included a message from The Well pastor Mike Cirricione on the story of Jesus walking on water and Peter following him. The rest of the ride included a group dance party and a time of listening to worship songs while crossing the Sea of Galilee.
The first archeological site of the day was the ancient city of Chorazin, part of the triangle of cities that Jesus focused on in the first phase of ministry. Here I saw a synagogue from ancient times and learned about Jewish worship customs. The Well pastor Brad Bell shared details on synagogues in ancient times and foreshadowed the soon to come Synagogue of Capernaum.
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The 2018 Israel Tour is underway! Find photos, videos and reflections on the teachings from our pastors on their blog. Go to our website (thewell.cc) or Facebook page (facebook.com/thewellcommunity) for the link. ・・・ #Repost @mikecirricione (@get_repost) ・・・ Day 6 – We spent a lot of time hiking mountains. Qumran and Masada were incredible!
Capernaum was the second site of the day. The second city in the religious triangle of cities, this place was the ministry home of Jesus Christ. Here most of the miracles performed by Jesus occurred. Pastor Slayden brought some context Capernaum. There I stood in the synagogue where Jesus delivered messages to the people of Capernaum. At Capernaum there also was the site of Peter the Apostle’s home.
We then traveled to Tabgha where The Well pastor Mark Snee spoke on the story of the resurrected Jesus returning to his disciples. Here at this site the group enjoyed a wonderful view of the Sea of Galilee.
The last site visited on day five was Mount Arbel. The most beautiful view of Galilee lay at our feet. Pastor Brad Bell brought a message on what it looks like to pray with a wholly devoted heart to God. Time was given to the group to find a spot on the cliff area and have a time of separate prayer.
These were just some of the stories from the twelve days that I was in Israel. To learn more about Saelzler’s trip click Thoughts from Israel No. 1-The Christian prayer life.
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