7 Insights From Traveling to Israel

By Sean McDowell Published on November 8, 2017

Last week I had the chance to visit the beautiful land of Israel. My wife and I went with Israel Collective, a group dedicated to peace-making in Israel. We saw remarkable sites, met unique people (Israelis, Palestinians, Druze) and heard powerful lectures. And we ate some of the best food I have ever had — period.

There are so many insights that I could share. I will probably blog on some of these themes again in the future. But for now, I just wanted to highlight seven big takeaways from my trip:

1. The Peace Process is Inordinately Complex

During our trip, we heard a lecture from a Palestinian Muslim reporter who lives in Jerusalem. He gave two reasons (as a Palestinian Muslim) why the peace process with Israel continues to fail. First, there is a massive campaign to delegitimize Israel within Palestine. The Palestinians are radicalizing their own people against the Jews. Second, there is a lack of leadership among Palestinians who are authorized to make a deal with Israel. The reporter said that he has not been able to find one Palestinian leader who has the courage to promote genuine peace and accept the right of Israel to exist. Unbelievable. Of course there is so much more than these two points, and many other perspectives. But anyone who thinks a solution between the Israelis and Palestinians should be easy simply doesn’t understand how complex the issue is.

2. Modern Israel is a Miracle

Virtually all ancient cultures have dissolved (Moabites, Canaanites, Sumerians, etc.). And yet Israel remains. A powerful argument can be made that God has miraculously preserved them to be a blessing to the world. Ezekiel 36:10 says, “And I will multiply people on you, the whole house of Israel, all of it. The cities shall be inhabited and the waste places rebuilt.” Israel is flourishing unlike any nation in the world. They have the most Ph.D. per capita, explosive tree growth, business success, are a water superpower and have developed remarkable technology (such as Waze).

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3. Israel Deeply Cares About Human Rights

Israel is consistently criticized in the Western media for human-rights violations. In fairness, Israel certainly has not been perfect. But I am not sure there is another nation that cares more about human rights than Israel. Here is one small example. We had a tour of the Israeli security wall from Danny Tirza, a former colonel in the Israel Defense Force’s Central Command. He acknowledged the wall is a barrier to peace. But it was necessary when Palestinian terrorists murdered over 1,000 Israelis in the early 2000s. At the end of the tour, he described how he would love nothing more than to see his government sign a solid peace agreement with their Palestinian neighbors and tear down the wall.

4. The Palestinian People are Profoundly Oppressed

After meeting Palestinians in Bethlehem, which is in the West Bank, my heart was broken for what they suffer. Unemployment is nearly 30 percent. Many evangelical Christians have experienced persecution from the government. The educational system is limited and extremely prejudiced. And there is a looming hopelessness, especially amongst the young. While many want to blame Israel, the reality is that the corrupt Palestinian government and the leadership of other Muslim countries are using them as a political tool against Israel. Regardless, current efforts to help the Palestinians are simply not working and need radical reform.

5. Judeo-Christianity is a Historical Religion

You too can make a difference. Pray for the people and the land. Consider visiting Israel. Support efforts towards peace.

While many people think of faith as blind, the Judeo-Christian faiths are uniquely rooted in history. It was amazing to travel throughout Israel and see some of the sites where the biblical stories took place. I saw Bethlehem, the Valley of Boaz, the altar of Jeroboam, the tomb of Jesus, the shores of Joppa, the Western Wall of Jerusalem and more. The Bible does not consist of stories “in a land far, far away.” Rather, it is based on real people, in real time and real places. While many of the biblical sites have been destroyed, many still endure. And the remains testify to historical nature of both Judaism and Christianity.

6. Food in Israel is Amazing

I have traveled to many places in the world and eaten some tasty food. But in my humble opinion, there is no place in the world with better food than Israel. The fruit and vegetables are fresh, the coffee is rich, the bread is soft and the meat is savory. The people take tremendous pride in their food.

7. You Can Make a Difference

Given the religious differences, the history of tension, and the existing suffering in Palestine and the Gaza strip, it is easy to get discouraged. And yet one of my big takeaways from the trip was seeing different people — lawyers, journalists, pastors and more — aiming to make a difference towards peace. It was humbling to see people committing their lives towards advancing the good. You too can make a difference. Pray for the people and the land. Consider visiting Israel. Support efforts towards peace. Or educate yourself by reading a good book, such as Reclaiming Israel’s History by David Brog.


Originally published at SeanMcDowell.org. Reprinted with permission.

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  • Linda

    Thanks for this prècis of your trip to the most important land in the world. I always love to hear about it and the desire of my heart is to make a pilgrimage one day, but only with others of like precious faith because I expect I will be incredibly moved and perhaps even overcome at times if I can walk where Jesus walked.

  • jgmusgrove

    I have had the honor of visiting Israel; I would like to go again. It is indeed a privilege to visit the place where Jesus conducted his ministry and to attempt to understand the life and times 2000 years ago. It is also instructive to understand the current basis of strife and animosity.

Walking in God’s Wisdom: Psalm 5:8
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