Although this was not the family’s first trip to Israel, Jerry and Evelyn said they were very emotionally and spiritually inspired by their previous trip in 2001 and decided they would love to take their children to Israel before Jerry retired. The family started planning the trip more than three years ago and were finally able to go June 17-29 of this year.
Initially, the plans did not include the grandchildren, Evelyn explained. “In January while attending a Sunday evening church service, I was praying about our grandchildren’s spiritual life,” she began, “I asked God what we could to do to invest in their spiritual life — to help them to better understand that there is nothing more important than the gospel of Jesus Christ.” She said she was suddenly impressed to “take them to Israel with you.”
At home that night, she talked to her husband about it and they continued to pray about it for another week or two. “After we both felt good about the decision,” Evelyn continued, “we contacted Christian Study Tours to make sure there was room to add the grandchildren.” They talked to both sets of parents, who also prayed and considered what would be best for them and the children. In March the grandchildren were added to the trip. Jerry said: “We decided that we wanted to spend their inheritance with them and leave them memories and experiences instead of monetary means.”
“It takes a lot of planning to get seven adults’ and three teenagers’ and two children’s schedules synchronized to spend 12 days doing the same thing,” agreed the Adamses.
But on June 17, the Adams family met Dr. Wayne House, the tour director — and 10 others who were part of the tour — in Newark, N.J. From there, they flew approximately 10 hours to Tel Aviv arriving at 4:30 p.m. on June 18. Their hotel, The Herod, was located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, so they had time after dinner to walk on the beach and wade in the Sea.
The next morning at 8, the group left Tel Aviv on a tour bus, drove up the coast and viewed the excavated ruins of the ancient city of Caesarea with its Roman aqueduct, large theater and hippodrome built by Herod the Great. They viewed the port from which Paul sailed different times on missionary journeys and his trip to Rome. Philip, the Evangelist, Cornelius, Agrippa, and Festus all left their marks in Caesarea. Their 12-day tour was off to a grand start.
The tour guide, Hal Ronning, the Adamses agreed, was a walking encyclopedia on Israel. He is an American but has lived in Jerusalem for more than 40 years and has raised his family there. He and his wife, Mirja, are the directors of Home for Bible Translators. They bring students to Jerusalem and teach them the Hebrew language of the Bible in the land of the Bible, so their students can translate the Bible into their native language. (Website: BibleTranslators@JerusalemSchool.org.)
The next site visited was Mount Carmel where Elijah had his contest with the prophets of Baal as recorded in 1 Kings 18:19. Since this was a study tour, typically they have a Bible lesson about the site while traveling in the bus or upon arrival at the site. They then viewed Megiddo, the site of Solomon’s fortress city (1 Kings 9:15) — a majestic view of the Plains of Armageddon, the last great field of assembly of the armies (Revelation 16:12-16). It is a huge 15- to 20-mile triangular plain — a vast amount of land — where millions could gather.
The tour made a stop in Nazareth, the family home of Jesus, (Matthew 2:23, Luke 1:26-28, 3:39-40) on a hill overlooking the city, before going on to Mount Arbel (Hosea 10:14) with its panoramic view of the Sea of Galilee and the Plains of Ginosar. It was very windy, and Evelyn said she was reminded about erratic storms that would suddenly blow upon the boats on the Sea of Galilee, as recorded in the Bible. The disciples walked the Plains of Ginosar many times traveling from the villages below. From Mount Arbel, they drove to Tiberius, a Roman city built by Herod Antipas in 20 AD, and checked into the Leonardo Hotel on the Sea of Galilee.
Daughter Melissa said that second day was the most memorable for her. “We began the day sailing on the Sea of Galilee. It was such a beautiful day and the waters were so peaceful. Yet on that very sea the disciples experienced storms and rough waters. It was so surreal to be there and think this was the actual place where Jesus calmed the storm and also where He and Peter walked on the waters. We ended the day at the River Jordan. It was such an unforgettable experience as my husband baptized myself and our three children.”
Son-in-law David said the boat ride on the Sea of Galilee was the most impactful part of the trip. “As we rode the boat, it struck me how this is where Jesus talked to his disciples and invited Peter to step out and trust him in a way like never before. Although, like Peter, I am going to miss it in my life, but I will never have that chance if I stay sitting in my seat on the boat — help me to have the faith to step over the side of the boat.”
Michelle said the Sea of Galilee moved her more that she thought it would. “When they talked about Peter seeing Jesus fixing breakfast for them after the resurrection, and he jumped out of the boat and swam to him,” she said, I could almost see it.” She said the first time she saw Jerusalem would always stay with her as well. “My heart leapt in my chest and joy filed my heart. The Garden of Gethsemene truly felt like you were walking on sacred ground. The emotions were overwhelming.”
At the seasport Capernaum, the group viewed the excavated ruins of a synagogue and a house believed to be Peter’s home. Capernaum was often visited by Jesus, and some feel that it was His headquarters. (Matt 4:12-13; Luke 4:23). It was the home, also, of the prophet Nahum and the ancient fishing village of Peter and Andrew (Mark 1:20). The traditional site of the Mount of Beatitudes brought the reliving of Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount to the group. Evelyn said a person could easily see how Jesus could have gotten in a boat and pushed out a little into the Sea to be heard by many sitting and standing on the mountain side (Matt 5-7).
The next day, the group went to the Galilee Museum where they viewed a 2,000-year-old “Jesus Boat” and talked with Yuval Lufan, one of the brothers who found the boat. Leaving that location, the bus drove by many lush fertile fruits fields and other vegetation on the way to Tel Dan and Golan Heights.
Son-in-law Joshua said it was amazing to see a boat dated during Biblical times. “It brings to life the many writings in the Bible referring to the disciples and their adventures on the Sea of Galilee.”
Ancient Jericho was also on the tour (the oldest city on the whole earth; it dates back to 8,000 B.C. It is also the lowest city on earth at 1300 ft below sea level). As they viewed the city, the grandchildren entertained the group by singing a Veggie Tale’s song : “You silly pickle, you silly little pea, you think marching around these walls will bring this city to its knees.”
Ten-year-old Katelyn Dasher, the youngest member of the tour, said, “My favorite events were getting baptizing in the Jordan River, because that was where Jesus was baptized, and walking through Hezekiah’s water tunnel. (which is approximately ½ mile long). We had to use flash lights to see because it was very dark inside. The water came up to my waist when we first got in it, and it was cold but lots of fun. And I also liked walking on the beach (the Mediterranean Sea) the night we first got to Israel.” When asked if she liked the food, she said, “I liked their bread — they had a lot of different kinds — their pizza and desserts.” And, she added, “I liked helping Dr Wayne write Scriptures in the sand.”
This was at Caesarea Philippi where Jesus asked Peter, “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15) — “One of the most important questions we will ever answer,” interjected Evelyn, who said Katelyn also liked, “singing on the big stage at Beth-Shean for my Pawpaw after all the other people had left.”
Connor told about an unique experience that occurred right after the tour group exited Hezekiah’s Tunnel (also one of his favorite events) by the Pool of Siloam. “I was sitting on the steps leading down to the pool when my Nana starting falling into the pool. I grabbed her hand and held on as she stumbled all the way down three or four steps. She was still standing when she got to the bottom, and I was still seated up above her. I think God helped us both that day because my Nana could have been hurt very badly. It was cool to see the Pool of Siloam where Jesus told the blind man to go wash his eyes after he had rubbed mud made out of his spit onto the man’s eyes.” He continued, “While we were on the trip, we met the Mr. George, the lawyer (georgethelawyer.com) from Charleston, S.C. He was funny, a good Christian, and me and my brother hung out with him a lot. When we were in “the sacred pit” (a prison below the home of the first century High Priest Caiaphis) Mr. George told us that this area is called the ‘sacred pit’ because it is believed that Jesus was imprisoned here the night he was arrested.”
When 14-year-old Seaton was asked if he was glad that he went on the trip, he replied emphatically, “Yes! I really liked hiking to the top of Mount Arbel which overlooked the Sea of Galilee. I liked looking over the sides which scared my Nana. It was very windy and I almost lost my hat. I like being in Beth-Shean which was a Philistine city in the days of King Saul. This is the place with King Saul and his son Jonathan died and the bodies were hung on wall which was located at the top of the mountain. I raced my new friend, George, to the top of the mountain.”
He said his favorite part of the trip was the nature trail at Tel Dan. “We saw beautiful waterfalls and Mr. Hal said that ‘this is the sweetest water in all of Israel.’ The water was safe to drink, so we filled up our water bottles in the running streams. It was better than the water we have here in America. The water was from snow melting on the top of Mt Hermon.”
Andi Beth said the Tel Dan hike was amazing because of the views. “It was a lot of fun,” she said. “Jordan River was another of my favorites, because I always dreamed of going there. It was a wonderful experience to get baptized there. I wish to go back someday.”
In order to preserve many of the Holy Sights in and around Jerusalem, Emperor Constantine’s mother, Queen Helena, identified and build shires or basilica over the sites; therefore, many of the sights look very different today from their natural setting when the events occurred, such as Jesus’ birthplace in Bethlehem, the crucifixion and burial sites. All three of these places have churches build over them.
Evelyn said, “I think that is why the Sea of Galilee and the Garden of Gethsemane were so meaningful and emotionally — they are still in their natural setting. When we had our group devotional and sang ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ and then a time of private prayer in The Garden, we knew that we were very close to the area where Jesus ‘being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground’ (Luke 22: 42). We knew that it was here that He decided that He would rather go to the cross for us than to leave us hopeless.”
Jerry’s favorite place was the Garden of Gethsemane and getting to observe his family members spending time in prayer somewhere near to the spot that Jesus prayed the night before his crucifixion. He hopes the impact of the prayer will follow them for the rest of their lives.
David said, “As we stood in the garden and prayed, I had to ask myself if my prayers were truly like Jesus. As he faced being beaten, mocked, crucified and having ALL of our sins upon Him, He prayed, ‘nevertheless not my will but yours bedone.’ Help me to pray that way in the good times but more importantly the hard times.”
House said in restrospect, “The trip with Jerry and Evelyn Adams and family, was very special to me. I have been leading tours to israel for 15 years, with approximately 20 trips. As a professor of biblical studies, I have enjoyed opening up the Bible in the lands of the Bible. Jerry and Evelyn went with me many years ago and to have them come again and bring their children and grandchildren made this a special trip. When I was told of their commitment to take their children and grandchildren I was amazed at their financial sacrifice. Then they told me that they wanted to invest in their children with a knowledge of the Bible that only a trip to Israel can bring caused me to greatly admire them.
“They truly made this a time of family fellowship, spiritual and inspirational growth, and increase in biblical knowledge.” Another matter must be said, he continued. “I have taken children on tours before, but the grandchildren of Jerry and Evelyn were very special. They participated in the learning and fun of the tour, and I never encountered one difficulty in their being on the tour. They are a wonderful sample of how children can benefit from a tour to Israel as much as adults.”
The Adamses were asked, “Did you feel safe?” They said they felt very safe. They said their tour guide would check every morning with the military to see if the sites scheduled that day were relatively safe. “We felt very safe in the Golan Heights where we were able to look into Syria. We went into four Arab controlled areas — Bethlehem, Jericho, the Temple Mount and Herodion — and also felt very safe. The Israeli guide was able to go with them into these areas which he had not been able to do in 2001. The Arab communities also like tourist dollars and most were very friendly and accommodating to us as Americans.”
Another question was, “Was language a barrier?” The Adamses said, “No. Most of the people in the shopping areas spoke English, or could understand it well enough to do business with English speaking people; therefore, language was not a problem in dealing with the merchants or communicating with the native people of Israel.” (Currency is in shekels, but the merchants liked American dollars. The exchange rate varied from day to day, but was typically $1 equaled approximately 3.6 shekels.)
The Adams have lived in Cleveland since 1971 when they moved here for Jerry to teach at Tomlinson College. In 1989, he was hired to teach mathematics at Lee University, where he continues to teach. Evelyn is now retired after having taught science labs at Lee University, her alma mater, for 19 years. They celebrated their 48th anniversary Aug. 14. The Adamses’ three children all graduated from Cleveland High School and Lee University.
They were accompanied on the Israel trip by their children and grandchildren: daughter Michelle Adams Corley and her husband, the Rev. David Corley, of Monterey, with their two daughters, Christy and Andi Beth; their son Jason, who works for Comcast in Knoxville; and daughter Melissa Adams Dasher and her husband, the Rev. Joshua Dasher, of Cleveland, along with their three children, Seaton, Connor and Katelyn.
David is an associate pastor at Cookeville Life Church and Michelle is the receptionist at Occupational Health Center in Cookeville. Christy has completed one year at Tennessee Tech, and Andi Beth is a freshman at Cookeville High School.
Joshua has served as minister of music and church administrator of Keith Street Ministries for 12 years and Melissa does volunteer work with music, drama, and small groups at the church. Seaton, 14, is a freshman at Cleveland High School, Connor, 11, is a sixth-grader at Cleveland Middle School, and Katelyn, 10, is a fifth-grader at E.L. Ross Elementary School.
Besides the experiences, the memories and the fun time, the Adamses also hope the pilgrimage will help with theirs and their family’s understanding of the Scriptures. When they read in the Bible about Jesus’ Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, or His crying over the city of Jerusalem from the Mount, they can picture that in their minds more easily because they have been on the Mount of Olives and viewed the old city with its walls. They have walked the narrow streets of the Old City, shopped in its markets, eaten bread and fruit purchased there. They had their own private prayer time at the Western Wall, and in the Garden of Gethsemane. They have walked on the Temple Mount where the Jewish Temples use to stand and overlooked a shepherd’s field from Bethlehem.
Christy summed up the families’ feelings about the Israel trip. “Basically for me the trip was something I'll never forget. Ever since I was a little girl, I would read the stories and picture what I thought it looked like but when I actually saw it, it made it more real to me.”