By: Meira Weber
When Kim and Sondra invited me to join them for one of the final evenings of the CFOIC Spring 2019 tour, I hesitated. The tour was staying at a kibbutz on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and it was a long drive up from Karnei Shomron. It would be a long night, and I was already tired. But what harm could come from a few hours of missed sleep? I’m sure I’ll gain something from it, I thought. So I went.
I’m so glad that I did.
Sondra and I joined the group for a quick but delicious dinner in the kibbutz cafeteria, and then made our way along with the tour participants to a small multi-purpose room across the small path. Humid breezes off the Sea of Galilee warmed our necks and buffeted the mosquitoes, sending them twirling against the streetlamps. The warmth of the north was a surprising – but still welcome – contrast from my community of Karnei Shomron, which was still winter-coat cold and flooded with rain.
I watched the participants. Every one of them was unique, from their background to their outlook, but they had all come here for a single, unifying purpose: to experience the Holy Land of Israel. I felt such a respect for them all, and it made me feel as though we shared a bond. Because after all, that’s why I had first come to Israel, too.
Once everyone was settled around the room, Sondra stood up and gave a short summary of the work of CFOIC which they had witnessed first-hand throughout the week, and then she and Kim opened the floor to questions and comments. I leaned forward in my chair. This was what I had come for. The feedback.
What had they thought of my country? What had affected them the most?
Hands were raised, and people began to speak.
When I try to remember specifics, I can only recall a few things – the night was such a blur for me. But I can call up in an instant the rush of emotion that overcame me the longer these participants spoke and shared. Everyone wanted to stay longer, to experience more. The tour was too short, they said. Not enough time for everything we wanted to do, they said. We want to stay longer. We want to absorb the land. We want to write in our journals. We want to come back.
I remember one participant emotionally describing God’s commandment for us all to take steps in Israel. “I believe that God chose each and every one of us,” she said, “to come on this trip and to walk in the land of Israel, so we can become closer to Him. We might not have come on our own, but God brought us each here Himself.” I was so touched. I remember finding it hard to breathe then, as though I might start crying any moment.
The night concluded with smiles and hugs. With teary eyes, I watched the participants traipse back to their hotel rooms, chatting amiably, their shadows growing and shrinking on the paths under the warm glow of the streetlamps. I couldn’t keep the smile off my face.
In addition to our two full-service CFOIC Heartland tours each year, we arrange tour programs in Judea and Samaria for tour groups coming from all over the world. Nearly every week, there are Christian pilgrims passing through CFOIC Heartland, visiting our offices in Karnei Shomron, touring Shiloh, experiencing a Bible teaching with Sondra or Shmuel at the Three Seas Outlook, stepping into the world that is Biblical Hebron or learning more about Gush Etzion. They join us in the communities and we get to know each other, and it is such a special experience for me personally. I am so grateful that I get to meet such special people on these tours. Meeting and speaking with the participants of this most recent CFOIC Heartland tour truly enriched my life and my outlook, giving me a new feeling of kinship and respect for our Christian friends.
It was an honor to meet the very people who, through their support, prayers, and visits, are changing lives right here in Judea and Samaria – and I look forward to meeting each and every one of you, God willing, right here in Biblical Israel.
Joy Heylen, our Aussie representative and a veteran expert on Judea and Samaria, will be leading a CFOIC Heartland tour this coming September, together with Christian tour guide Stan Goodenough and Orthodox Jewish Judea resident tour guide Judy Aurbach. With a 14-day itinerary, this tour gives you the in-depth and off-the-beaten-track experiences that no other tour provides, in addition to visits to the classic Biblical and Christian sites in Jerusalem and the Galilee. Click here for more information and to register for this once in a lifetime visit to Israel.