In November 2018, I had the opportunity to accompany my grandmother on the trip of a lifetime. My grandmother is a devout Christian, and following my grandfather’s passing in March 2018, she asked me if I would go to Israel with her. 2018 was one of the most heartbreaking and emotionally trying years of my life, and this would be an opportunity to live and let God, to put my trust and my faith in our Lord, after months of feeling as if I betrayed Him. To briefly summarize why: I was caught up in radical social justice organizing in Canada, fighting for Indigenous rights, and in doing so, I lost every sense of individuality, from my identity, to my familial relationships, and my faith. My spirit was broken, and prior to this trip, I thought that it was beyond repair. In Canada, there has been a persistent wave of secularization, especially as it pertains to dredging up painful historical accounts of how Christianity has been used as a “tool” or as a “force” of colonization, genocide, and assimilation. There are countless stories that have arose in media in recent years about the impact of the Residential School system, the impact of removing Indigenous children from their communities, and the residual implications upon the cultural and linguistic survival of Indigenous communities in the West. I say this, recognizing that I am a white person, and that according to the doctrine of radical social justice organizing, feeling guilty about any of these issues would be problematic. To make a long story short, I would begin to see my faith as problematic; I would see my faith as immoral, as I would begin to believe what I was being indoctrinated to believe about Christianity. Initially, I stopped praying, and I would stop referring to myself as a Christian. I eventually adopted Indigenous practices of worship, which involved tobacco, fire, and ceremony. I thought that I was doing my due diligence, to understand and to empower, but in doing so, I would fall into an abyss. I felt as if I was living in a void, and in my heart, I knew that something (rather someone) was missing. I had locked God out of my heart and this is an action that I regret to this day. I would eventually escape from the radical liberal cult mentality, and embarked on a journey of self-rediscovery. I would learn that I need to unlock my heart and trust in Jesus to help find my way back, and Israel would help me do so.
My grandmother had wanted to visit Israel for the better part of thirty years, and because she is currently in the early stages of dementia, this was our opportunity. When it became a reality that we would be embarking on our own pilgrimage to the Holy Land, she was ecstatic. Initially, I was uneasy about visiting the Holy Land, as I believed that I did not deserve to go. I felt unworthy because of my broken relationship with my faith, but there was another part of me that knew this is where I would find exactly what I was looking for. My grandmother and I went on a ten-day tour, and we had the opportunity to see, live, and breathe in the Holy Land.
It would probably take a novel to write about this journey, but a brief synopsis of our travels is as follows: Our first official day of the tour was to Caesarea and Megiddo. On our next day, we went to Dan, Caesarea Philippi, Capernaum, Magdala, and the Sea of Galilee. The following day, we were blessed to visit the Jordan River (where I was baptized with my grandmother); we also visited Bet She’an, and the Dead Sea. Our four day, we went to Masada, Ein Gedi, Qumran, and Abraham’s Trent. The next day we ventured to Jerusalem, and upon entering this Holy city, I was unable to contain my tears. We took a gander to see the US Embassy (which was remarkable to see in Jerusalem, and I pray that if our Conservative Party is elected in October 2019, that Canada will not only move our embassy to Jerusalem, but also recognize this Holy City as the Capital of Israel, too!). We went to Bethlehem, the Mount of Olives, the Upper Room, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Pool of Bethesda, the Southern Wall Excavations, and the infamous Wailing Wall (the Western Wall). We had the opportunity to visit the Israel Museum (where the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered at Qumran are currently housed), as well as the House of Caiaphas, and we visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum, and the Friends of Zion Museum. Throughout the trip, and at various locations, we were a mere 30 miles from the Syrian border, 20 feet from the Lebanese border, and 40 feet from the Jordanian border at many times.
On this journey, I was on an internal mission to repair my relationship with God and to try to rewire and deprogram my radicalized mindset. I felt a greater sense of purpose on this trip, and the most powerful moments that I had, in reconnecting with my faith was on the Sea of Galilee (where Jesus first walked on water) and when I was baptized. As a side note, I was baptized when I was a child, but at that point, I had no idea what I was doing or why I was doing it. In Israel, we were baptized in the Jordan River, and being able to understand that I am giving my life to Christ was powerful beyond words. The water was freezing, but as soon as I went under, the physical sensation of the cold water was replaced with a rekindled fire within my heart and my devotion to God was reignited. My corrupted heart was on the path of healing, and this is when I truly recognized that blessed are those who believe without seeing. The people that I met on this journey have helped me to recognize that I am on the right path and that I need to keep going. At the beginning of this tour, they were all strangers, but by the end, they became family. We are bound by our faith, especially to one another, and to be surrounded by devout people was healing beyond words. We had the privilege of travelling with three ministers on our tour, and they would offer testimonials on our longer bus rides, we had the most incredible and knowledgable tour guide, who truly made biblical history come to life, and I would leave feeling inspired to continue God’s work.
Now, I will be the first to admit that I was scared to travel to Israel, especially after having studied this region throughout my entire history and politics degree. I was terrified that something would happen to my grandmother or I, as Canada does have travel advisories when it comes to being near the West Bank or Gaza or near the Syrian border. Knowing that we were going to travel past the West Bank, through Jericho, and through the Golan Heights, my anxiety was immeasurable. I would truly discover the power of prayer on this pilgrimage, as we were blessed with safety. It is important to note that we are often fed a shameful amount of fake news when it comes to liberal biases that plague Western media, especially as it pertains to the portrayal of Israel on the world stage. We typically only hear about the contentious land disputes, surrounding the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights, etc., but what the Western media does not tell you (or show you) is the beauty of this state. They do not show you the spectacular Mediterranean sunsets; they do not show you the fascinating agricultural processes; the remarkable self-sufficiency of this nation; or the natural beauty of the Mediterranean, the Dead Sea, or the Sea of Galilee. They do not show you the resilience, the strength, and the determination of the Israeli people, of the youth, who are eager to serve and protect their nation. When was the last time Israel was praised for something when it comes to their fight for existence? It is an indisputable fact that Israel is encircled by nations that would like to see this nation cease to exist, and I believe that is a message that we need to talk about. The people of Israel have been through unspeakable events (historically and contemporarily), but despite it all, how about we talk about how welcoming, caring, and humble Israelis are? How about we focus on what the other nations surrounding are doing to Israel? How about we halt the smear campaigns against Israel in the West, and actually stand to help protect and ensure the longevity this nation? We had the opportunity to travel with almost exclusively Americans (we were the only two Canadians), and to see the pride that they have in their President and his ability to stand with conviction and to stand with Israel is inspiring. I pray that Canada will stand to do the same.
A powerful experience at the end of our pilgrimage was to the Friends of Zion (FOZ) Museum (https://www.fozmuseum.com/). This is a museum that is dedicated to honouring non-Jewish Zionists throughout history and contemporarily, to those who stand with the people of Israel to ensure that the promise is kept and the lands of Israel are returned to the Jewish people. This is a high-tech and modern museum, and I would learn that there are lights in the darkness. The FOZ Museum would serve as a reminder that there are people who can be these beams of light, representing hope, faith, and strength, even in the darkest moments. Additionally, a powerful reminder that we were told was that we must surrender complacency to be involved in the Zionist movement; we must relinquish the control of the Western media and the fake news in our minds in order to be able to take a step back and see the greater picture of what is going on in and around Israel. Furthermore, it is the conviction of the heart and our duty to the people of Israel, as Christians to stand up and speak out. This would serve as a powerful call to action, and I left this museum inspired and determined to make a difference. When our journey came to a close, I was praying for a blizzard or anything that could potentially cancel our flight back to Toronto. I found a piece of myself in the Holy Land that I thought was lost forever, and I did not want to leave. Israel, you will forever be in my heart, and a large piece of myself remains overseas. I learned more than I could have possibly imagined, and I am grateful for the opportunities and the experiences in being able to visit the Holy Land. These are lessons that I will carry for the rest of my days. I ask you to please continue to pray for Israel and the people of Israel. The power of prayer can move mountains. To close, I learned that I need to trust that God is going to take care of everything, and I found an inner peace on this journey that I have never had before. God found me, and here I am, standing to tell you that I am a proud Christian Zionist, and I would not want it any other way. God Bless!
1: Baptism at the Jordan River
4. Ein Gedi
5. At the Wailing Wall
6. Israeli flag
7. Abraham’s Tent (Genesis Land)
8. Sea of Galilee panoramic
9. Ancient olive trees in Jerusalem
10. Ein Gedi