If you had told me 6 months ago that I was going to Israel for Sukkot, I would have laughed and said, “I wish that were possible.” Yet, by the mercy and grace of our King and according to His riches, He provided a way for me to go. It was a very last minute decision (bought the plane tickets 3 weeks before I left) yet I was excited. Although I had never been to Israel and never flown overseas, the joy and overwhelming excitement was beaming. My previous fear of flying over the ocean was non-existent as I knew in my heart that I was going to make it to Israel safely. I had a “schedule” in my mind what I wanted to do however, that was thrown out the window when I got to Israel. It was the trip and adventure of a lifetime and one that will be done again and again (Abba willing). Following are the details of my experience in Israel.
I arrived in Israel on October 6th just after 6 p.m. As I was walking down the ramp from the airplane to the airport, I noticed pictures and Hebrew with English translation on the walls. One of the sayings on the wall said, “Welcome to Israel. Your life will never be the same.” When I saw that, in my heart I wanted that. I wanted to be changed and be different. I wanted to meet with Yah in His land and have both His land and Yah place a strong imprint on my life. And, Abba Yah did not disappoint! He came through in amazing ways while I was there!
After going through the airport, I got to the exit where a friend of mine picked me up. We went to the location where I was staying in downtown Jerusalem on Jaffa Street just a mere 15 minute casual walk from the Western Wall! My friend asked me if I was up for a small adventure. At this point, it’s approaching 9 p.m. but I didn’t care. I was exhausted but knew I wouldn’t sleep because I was running on adrenaline at that point. I said, “Sure!” We took the 15 minutes walk down to the Jaffa Gate and went to the Western Wall. What I saw there was absolutely breathtaking!
While I know there is much controversy around what the wall is/was, there is still something very powerful about that location. Everyone has different and unique experiences while visiting the Western Wall. For me, when I walked up to the wall and closed my eyes to pray, I felt like I was in an elevator without walls and was being lifted up into the sky. I don’t know how to properly describe it but it was a very peaceful and powerful moment for me. As I was praying, I felt like every word that was on my lips was immediately sent before the throne room of YHWH without hesitation. It was like I was talking to Him face-to-face and not international calling Him from America. The Psalm from David came roaring to my mind as I was standing there praying, “Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, YHWH, You know it all. (139:4)” The next day when I went to pray at the wall, it was a slightly different experience. Rather than being lifted into the air, I felt like I was being drawn into the wall and that the wall was alive (inhaling and exhaling). Every time I prayed there and left, there was this peace that I have never experienced before and pure bliss. It was an intimacy with YHWH that I had never had and I couldn’t get enough of. In addition, it was very humbling praying next to brother Judah. Although they don’t recognize me as a brother, I see them as a long lost brother and was in awe to be surrounded by “family!”
On Friday, I went and got some coffee from a local shop (which was delicious!). It was really neat to visit a restaurant and see the “Kosher” certification and know that there isn’t anything unclean within the premises and I could eat without worry. The food there was incredible and amazing! Falafel and shwarma were definitely my favorite! As the day progressed, I went to the Open Market to get some food in preparation for Shabbat. Since it was preparation day, the Market was overflowing with people. The sights, sounds, and smells were amazing as I was walking through the Shuk (market). There were all kinds of foods and delicacies that were being prepared. By the time 3-4 p.m. came, ALL the shops closed down and the streets became empty. It was an almost eerie and “rapture” feeling because what was busy (almost New York City streets type of busy) streets earlier in the morning and noon turned into a ghost town because everyone was indoors getting ready for the Sabbath (Shabbat). They take it so seriously and it was humbling to be a part of that and preparing for the Sabbath. Around 5 p.m. as sunset was approaching, a shofar was played over loud speakers placed throughout Jerusalem and it played for about 2 minutes to announce the Shabbat. That was really AWESOME to hear! The Shabbat experience really gave me something to look forward to when Messiah Yeshua returns and we return to a Torah centric society and culture.
Friday night, I went with a group to a Jewish woman’s house who hosted us for Shabbat dinner. It was incredible! The liturgy of bringing in the Shabbat and all the food was fantastic! The challah bread, olives, fish, salad, and everything was delicious! I ended up overeating and needing some essential oils to help offset the discomfort. It was a humbling and truly awesome experience to bring in the Shabbat in Israel.
On Shabbat, I got to go to a Messianic Jewish Synagogue. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. At Synagogue, they went through the liturgy (which I loved and almost everything was directly from Scripture) and then started reading from the Torah portion. After reading the Torah portion, they said the Lord’s Prayer and then started reading from the book of Matthew! I was shocked, amazed, and in awe of Yeshua being preached in a Synagogue in Israel! I was so excited to see my brothers awakening to the truth of Yeshua. After reading Matthew, we went through the book of Romans and read from chapters 10 and part of 11! As I (a grafted member of Israel) am sitting in the land of Israel and hearing them read about those who can be grafted into the covenant of Israel, it was humbling to witness hearing these verses being read! The brief teaching followed all the reading regarding the “Rock” or “Tzur” in Hebrew and who the Rock is today and was in the Torah and asking the question, “Are we standing on the Rock?” At one point during the service, the Torah scroll was taken out and marched around the room. It has been a long time since I saw a real Torah scroll and being able to touch the covering of the Torah (not the Torah itself) was really beautiful!
The other thing that was really neat to see and experience is the amount of diversity within the Synagogue. There were people of ALL ethnicities and different continents that were present and represented in the room! There was no racial superiority or “I’m Jewish and you’re second class citizens” nonsense. Rather, it was brothers and sisters of Messiah coming together to celebrate and keep the Shabbat! Later that day, we went to Independence Park where we met some other brothers and sisters in Messiah and fellowshipped. It was a grand time and like a family reunion. I met some old friends and made lots of new friends! Afterwards, we went to Peace Park just outside of Jerusalem where Chris Gunter had arranged a Sukkot gathering and we fellowshipped there and worshipped the King with James Block. See one of the songs we sang below:
On Sunday, I went with a very good friend who showed me around Jerusalem and he took me to some very important and powerful Biblical sites. We walked to the Damascus Gate and he showed me the area that Yeshua likely walked out carrying His cross (or stake). He then showed me Zechariah’s cave where Jeremiah the prophet hid the Ark of the Covenant and then the best part of all: Golgotha, the place where our Messiah died. It legitimately looks like a skull! It was very surreal to stand a few yards from the hill where the King of the world and the Firstborn of Creation bled and died. Unfortunately, we were unable to go on top of Golgotha as the place that occupied that territory was closed and wouldn’t open back up until after I left. However, I was okay with this as I felt in my spirit that I will be returning to Israel very soon and would be able to visit that site then. Afterwards, I was taken to the Mount of Olives and got a fantastic view of Jerusalem!
On Monday, it was a very sad day as I was going to be leaving later that evening. However, that didn’t stop me from enjoying fellowship as a group and I walked out to Peace Park once more and we spent the whole day with the Sukkot group there. It was wonderful to invest my final day in Israel with family that had an earnest desire to keep Torah and love Messiah Yeshua! We did some Torah reading in Deuteronomy and then spent some time in prayer. Afterwards, we fellowshipped and I got to meet some more new friends and soaked up my final time in Israel.
From there, I went to the airport where I got all checked in and waited to board the plane. While I was waiting for my plane, I got to talk with a missionary who lived solely on faith alone to provide for her trips and she was extremely familiar with the Feasts and Torah. We had some excellent and refreshing conversation about Scripture and our Messiah. It was great to see Abba orchestrate encounters with other believers.
Overall, it was truly a life changing trip! The previous chapter in my life has closed for good and this trip has been the start of a new chapter in my walk with YHWH and a more serious pursuit of His Torah and relationship with Messiah Yeshua. This trip also opened my eyes and taught me numerous lessons. Here are a couple:
- There are way more Jews that believe in Messiah Yeshua that what we think! There is a revival of Yeshua sweeping through the people of Judah and Israel. One humbling revelation that I had while in Israel is that just because someone dresses like an Orthodox Jew does NOT mean that they don’t believe in Yeshua. Judging Yehuda (Hebrew for Judah) by what they wear and automatically assuming that they don’t believe in Yeshua is equivalent to assuming someone isn’t a believer in Yeshua here in America because they have tattoos or piercings. Going off appearance is wrong, on both sides of the aisle. This was a very humbling realization that I had while walking in the midst of Brother Yehuda.
- We need to be CRYING out to YHWH to save us from these Yah-forsaken countries. Coming back from the Land of Israel, I recognize now that the Land is my home. I am a temporary alien in the US but Israel is HOME! I didn’t truly recognize this or come to a full understanding of this until I went there myself. Confession time: Prior to this trip, I loved America too much to want to leave and go to Israel. I realize that all the prior opportunities I had to go to Israel, I made excuses to not go because deep down, I was too scared and lacked understanding. After this trip, I am totally different. America is NOT my home. My soul found rest in Israel and my heart fell in love with the Land! While the political state is corrupt and there is much that needs to be fixed in Israel (Tel Aviv being starters…), the Land itself and the glimpse of a Torah centric culture is what I fell in love with! Although I didn’t know any Israeli residents there and I knew very little Hebrew, I felt a greater sense of community and bonding because of the Torah. Walking around Jerusalem and seeing tzi-tzits along with kippas and hearing the Hebrew language was so fulfilling! Being able to say “Shalom!” and “Chag Sameach” to those around me and them respond back brought so much joy to my heart! I have never experienced such a close sense of community and it was amazing! Following Torah and knowing very basic Hebrew helped to create a greater closeness with those around me and bridge the gap and barrier that was between Judah and myself.
These are just some basic but powerful (at least to me) revelations that Yah gave me while I was there. I firmly believe that ALL believers (whether Jewish, Christian, or Messianic) should visit the Land of Israel at least once in their life! Lives will never be the same because YHWH’s eyes are always on that Land. He will meet with His people in a beautiful way if they come before Him (particularly at the Feasts) at the place where He has placed His name! Once you go, you will want to go back again and again. In addition, I think ALL believers need to have some basic level of Hebrew, both classical and modern. This will better help understand the Torah and also connect with Yehuda while in the Land.
For those who have doubts or are uncertain about the Land, I would challenge you to save up finances and ask Abba with a sincere heart to take you there. He WILL meet you there and you will fall in love with the Land. The Land will change your spiritual walk and eating part of the food of the land will also change your DNA and physical being.
I will leave everyone with one final song. Pray that He will bring us back soon and in our day that we might see the restoration of Kol Israel!
Well said, ABBA bless you with many more journey’s to the Promised land as His beloved!
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Thank you so much for sharing this! Was so wonderful to read of a visit to our land through your eyes. Makes us long for HOME even more!
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Shalom Gunnar….very well said….brings tears to my eyes… even tho your story is slightly different than mine its still led by the same Spirit and its exciting but humbling at the same time….oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem how He wanted to gather His children under His wings as a mother hen gathers her chicks…I long to lock arms with my brother Yehudah and walk together, in the Land, and gather together under the King of the universes wings…may He come quickly
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