Welcome to my Holy Land Go blog page.
This page serves a dual (or tri) purpose of sharing information including itineraries of upcoming Holy Land tours I plan to lead and to blog about some of my trips in the past and present and reprint summaries of past articles I have written and published.
I am planning to lead my first trip to Israel in 2011, May to be more specific through the Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies which has an office in Jerusalem, Israel, and an office in Lakeland, FL, through Educational Opportunities, Inc, a licensed tour agency in the state of Florida.
The type of tour I will be leading is labelled "Study Tour" of the Holy Land/Israel. Do not let the "study" part scare you away if you are not a student. My tours will be open to people of all ages. I plan to be leading standard tours for Christians, about 11 days. The only difference is, I will give you some homework to do. But don't worry, if you are not registered as a student, you will not be tested or graded. But for students who do come of my tours who are wanting to get academic credit for the study tour, they will have some assignments to do and turn in for evaluation, and perhaps a test. And their institutions would have to approve the study tour in order to receive the academic credit.
So whether you are matured, in mid-life, or young adult, and a Christian, I invite you to join me on a tour of Israel. It will change your life. It will be unforgettable. My tours are for both those who have never been there before and those who have but want to learn more, even about some of the sites they visited before.
It changed my life the first time I went in 1992, after the second year of seminary. I took the three week course, Historical and Geographical Setting of the Bible at the American Institute of Holy Land Studies located on Mt. Zion, Jerusalem. This school is now called Jerusalem University College (JUC).
The Land changed my life so much that I felt the call to return for further studies. After just a year and one half in my first pastorate, I resigned to take an early sabbatical to study full-time at Jerusalem University College, working on an MA of Ancient History of the Land and Hebrew. I studied there for the academic year of 1996-'97 and stayed till July of '97 working on an archaeological excavation at Tel Rehov, its first expedition season (exciting!). During the spring of '97, I was the teaching assistant to Dr. SeJin Koh, archaeologist. His spring class, myself assisting, performed the first modern archaeological survey of the Hinnom Valley in Jerusalem, with some training provided by the Israel Antiquities Authority.
These experiences were indelibly etched in my life and memory. I have enjoyed sharing about the Holy Land, the biblical life, making it come to life, its peoples and culture, history and geography. But most important is our journey of faith. We are pilgrims on earth on the journey to eternity. Protestants are generally not taught that we gain any merits by traveling to the Holy Land. But being in the Land, seeing the places, having devotions in many of the sacred Christian sites, has been so meaningful to tens of thousands of Christians who travel from various parts of the world every year to go to Israel.
Both after my first trip in 1992 and after my second trip 1996-'97, I have shared my Holy Land Slide presentations at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO (to the students), and in Lutheran congregations in DeSoto, MO, Tipton, IN, Harlingen, TX (August 1992), Cartersville, GA, Atlanta, GA, and Marianna, FL, and Silver Springs, FL. Today, I finished teaching a six-week Holy "Land" Bible Study I prepared myself, presented at Epiphany Lutheran Tallahassee, concluding with Christian pilgrimages the last 1700 years.
In this past decade, I have wanted to return regularly to the Holy Land and have had the dream of leading tours. But having lived in Israel, I know the law that actually, normally, only those granted the Israel tour guide license can lead tours.
After a hiatus of 13 years, I took my first standard 11 day tour Oct/Nov. 2009 going with a group of 30+ Lutherans led by my good friend and colleague Rev. Nabil Nour. This tour for me re-kindled my passion for the Land and desire to lead tours. But I knew the law of the land with regard to who is and is not allowed to lead tours in Israel.
But then in February of 2010, I discovered the website of Jerusalem Center for Biblical Studies. I contacted them and got an immediate reply by the Dean, Dr. Britt. Shortly after, we had a phone interview. In this interview, I learned that the JCBS has a special agreement with the Israel Ministry of Tourism that allows their instructors to serve as guides while in the country.
JCBS I believe was the answer to the prayer I was looking for.
Why I have selected May as the tour month: May is a good month for more than one reason. It is NOT the most expensive time to go. Summer is one of the most expensive times to travel to Israel, so its just before the summer season. But its after the spring semester ends for students (college, grad school, etc.); and the weather is NICE!
Start saving today, setting aside some each month. Your life will be changed. You will be BLESSED! In a future posting, I'll address safety issues/concerns.
Rev. Paul Wheelhouse