Five Reasons Christians Should Visit the Holy Land
With tourism to Israel at an all time high, Christians are visiting Israel from literally around the world.
It is common to see large groups from various countries of Asia, Africa, South America, Europe, and, of course, North America. In talking to a staff member recently at the Garden Tomb, I was informed this site alone has experienced unprecedented growth since 2017, going from approximately 250,000 annual visitors to 450,000 in 2019.
But this is not surprising since Christians over the centuries have expressed the desire to visit the Holy Land, and have testified to the great benefit of having done so. Millions of Christians are in agreement on this point. In my experience, I have never met a Christian who regretted going to Israel. Most, in fact, can’t wait to return. While there may be more reasons than listed here, I will focus on at least five good reasons to visit the Holy Land.
1) Enlarging Your Biblical Understanding
There are few things that will develop one’s understanding of the Bible more than traveling throughout the Holy Land, and visiting the very places where the narratives of much of the Bible played out. Literally walking in the footsteps of Jesus in Bethlehem, Nazareth, Capernaum, around the Sea of Galilee, Jericho, Samaria, and Jerusalem is not only exhilarating, but very enlightening.
It is a great privilege to go to the Valley of Elah and climb the hill where Saul and the Israelites looked across the valley to the ridge on the other side where the Philistines were encamped. There is something special about gazing down on the brook where David picked up the five smooth stones, and the valley floor where he then took down the giant, Goliath. Following this with a time of personal reflection and prayer for God’s help in dealing with one’s own giants is a great way to end the visit to Elah.
When you hear someone say, after visiting Israel, they will never read their Bible the same again, it is absolutely the truth. Seeing the actual places, after hearing about them most of your life, brings the Bible alive in a very dynamic way.
2) Experiencing the Presence of Christ
I am often asked, “Do you feel a certain mystical Presence or special feeling when you are in Israel?” I can honestly answer, “Yes.” At times that Presence has been powerful!
God and His people are not restricted to certain geographical places for His Presence to be revealed. God is present everywhere, and His Presence can be felt wherever the heart turns to Him. Nevertheless, many God-hungry people do in fact feel a special presence of Christ while in the Holy Land. For example, while preaching on the top of Skull Hill in Jerusalem in 1892, the American Evangelist Dwight Moody began his sermon with these words: “I have preached for thirty years, but have never felt the awe of God as I do at this moment.”1
My wife and I have had several wonderful encounters with the Presence of Christ on numerous occasions when we were in Israel for a month together in 2013: Once in the Garden Tomb, and at several places in the mountains of Galilee. They were sacred moments we will always remember, but don’t talk much about to others.
3) Strengthening Your Faith
While a trip to Israel is more than just an intellectual quest, discovering the huge amount of geographical and archeological evidence supporting the historicity of the Bible is amazing. The account of Scripture is so accurate when describing cities and towns, mountains, valleys, and bodies of water. Archeological artifacts like the “House of David” inscription and the Pontius Pilate stone testify to the accuracy of the biblical narrative. Findings like the Caiaphas Ossuary, the Assyrian Lachish reliefs, and Hezekiah’s Tunnel verify the biblical record as well.
When areas of the capital city of the northern Kingdom, Samaria (modern Sabastia), were unearthed, archeologists found numerous pieces of ivory at the location of Ahab’s palace. In I Kings 22:39 we read “As for the other events of Ahab’s reign, including all he did, the palace he built and adorned with ivory, and the cities he fortified, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?”(NIV) So the Bible records that ivory was used in the building of this palace, and of course it was found right there. To top it off, it was Phoenician ivory, apparently imported by the Phoenician princess, Jezebel, Ahab’s wife. Today, pieces of this ivory are are on display in the British Museum in London, the Louvre in Paris, and the Israeli Museum in Jerusalem.
A trip to Israel has the powerful effect of reinforcing one’s faith in the Bible. Many people who have toured with me return home possessing greater arguments against the doubts that have assailed their minds.
4) Supporting the Modern State of Israel
Since becoming a state in 1948, Israel has been birthed into a powerful middle-eastern democracy that has become a haven for returning Jews from all over the world. These Jews have a great appreciation for the support of tourists who come from across the globe.
Tourism also bolsters Israeli businesses and the State of Israel at incredible levels. In fact, tourism is one of Israel’s major sources of income, with a record 3.6 million tourist arrivals in 2017, a 25 percent growth from the previous year. The income from this boom contributed 20 billion New Israeli Shekels to the Israeli economy in 2017 alone, an all-time record. This level of income, in turn, reinforces the military defense budget of Israel, a military that is desperately needed to protect Israelis from the many enemies that surround them.
5) Witnessing to Jews and Muslims
When Christians go to Israel, they have the opportunity to show the spirit of Christ in how they conduct themselves. American’s have a not-so-good reputation as tourists, but this should never be the case with American Christians. When interacting with Jews and Muslims, both groups can have a sad understanding of how Christian nations have treated both groups historically, i.e. the Crusades and the Holocaust. It is a great opportunity when in Israel to give a much different face to the term, Christian.
I have been told repeatedly by the staff at the hotels where I keep my groups that they marvel at how kind, polite, and gracious the Christians in my groups are. Both Muslims and Jews have asked me where I find these people. These people, they say, are not like the average Americans.
This is definitely the way things should be. If you’re on a trip to the Holy Land, be holy. One Muslim in Israel told me that this is the Holy Land, but not many people who are here are holy. So be very conscious that your behavior is being observed, and that your testimony can have a powerful effect on the citizens of Israel.
I want to encourage those who have a desire to go to Israel. This desire is definitely a commendable one. I have often seen God provide financially for people (particularly pastors and students) when they lacked the resources, especially when they prayed God would make a way. It is not inexpensive to visit Israel. Prices are high, particularly hotels, food, and gasoline.
I have heard individuals say they will visit a mission field instead of going to Israel, implying that such a trip is a waste of finances that could better be spent elsewhere. This reminds me of what Jesus said to Judas when he complained about the perfume that was used to anoint the body of Jesus. The perfume, he said, should be sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus brushed this objection aside, affirming a both/and, not either/or position.
Perhaps a person doesn’t have to decide between a trip to Israel and supporting missions. Of course you could use those funds for missions, but you could also choose not to eat out this year, not take a vacation, not do a lot of things, and instead use those resources for missions.
No one should feel compelled to visit Israel, but neither should one feel they are doing something wrong if they do. God’s people through the centuries have had the desire to visit this land, and many millions have done so with great benefit.
I have often told people, “When God came to earth, even He went to Israel”.
1) Peter Walker, The Weekend that Changed the World, Westminster John Knox Press, 2000, 119
Dr. Dan Glick
I have served as a college professor for over 25 years, teaching Old and New Testament history, and have traveled overseas more than 45 times, leading many college students and adults to inspiring places.
After making several personal trips to Israel, I realized the profound influence a biblical and historical tour can have in the life of a Christian and founded Tribe of Dan Tours to make trips affordable, enjoyable, and faith-building. I view my tours as pilgrimages that are intended to deepen one’s walk with God and to enrich one’s knowledge of the Bible.
Because I provide travelers with 12 weeks of study materials prior to departure (students can even earn college credit), as well as guidance in pre-trip planning, the benefits of your trip will be maximized.
I am looking forward to guiding you on the pilgrimage of a lifetime!