By Brianna Gleghorn
It all started in 2017. My parents left on a Christian pilgrimage with our church, Bridge of Hope, to Israel. A pilgrimage is when a person or group of people travel to a holy place, depending on the religion, for a spiritual journey.
They were gone for 10 days in the middle of June. While they were gone, they rode camels, were baptized in the Jordan River and even swam in the Dead Sea. I knew after hearing about their experience I had to go.
When I was offered the chance to go on the next trip, I was excited but also nervous because the trip was 10 days long and in the middle of the semester at Youngstown State University. After talking to my adviser, I decided this was an opportunity I could not pass up.
Our flight left on Feb. 4 and was 10 hours long. Since I had never been on an airplane before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. With the long flight and seven-hour time difference, we arrived on Feb. 5 and immediately started touring sites.
Pastor Doug Reed of Bridge of Hope Church had been to Israel two times prior to this trip. This time he was able to bring his wife and mother.
“My wife and mom being here is special,” he said. “After I came to Israel for the first time, I left knowing I had to tell others and bring others.”
Many of the sites our group saw can be found in the Bible and in the history of Israel. A lot of history in Israel can be traced in the Bible, especially in the first five books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
“I believe everyone should go to Israel at least once in their life,” Reed said. “The best reason to come to Israel and in particular Jerusalem, is by doing so you fulfill prophecy that is 2,500 years old. You can literally write your name in the book. Zachariah 8:20-22 speaks about people from ‘strong nations’ asking people to go to Jerusalem together to seek the Lord there.”
While on the trip, I heard several people say their favorite part was watching what they read in their Bible come to life right in front of them and see where certain events happened.
“When else do you have a chance to step onto the pages of the scriptures?” Reed said.
Rabbi Pesach Wolicki, associate director at Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, visited our group and spoke about the meaning of the word holy and talked to us about Israel.
“Your biblical vision expands when you visit Israel,” Wolicki said.
Evangelist Jermel Mayo has been to Israel one other time prior to this trip with his wife, and said a religious pilgrimage is important because it brings more clarity and fulfillment to someone’s faith.
“You get to go back to the beginning of how things were started. [It] helps you to learn about the origin of your faith and how it developed over the years,” he said.
When Mayo and his wife got back from their trip, they knew they had to share their experience with others. He said they were impressed two years ago on their visit, and they knew they were responsible for passing on this heritage.
“We wanted our girls and other children to have an opportunity of coming to Israel so that it can impact their faith the same way it impacted us,” he said.
Mayo and his wife were able to bring their daughters to Israel and have enjoyed every minute. He said they were called to tell the next generation, and they pass it on.
“It has been awesome seeing them walk the streets and seeing all the sites,” he said. “[I’m] hoping that they will remember this for the rest of their lives, but that they too will bring their children when they get married.”
Our tour guide, Yuval Harat, was one of the first soldiers to reach the walls of Jerusalem in 1967 during the Six Day War and also the same tour guide my parents had in 2017.
“We walked through the Lion’s Gate, ran across the Temple Mount to the far end, went down the stairs and came to the [Western Wall],” Harat said. “This was probably the most exciting moment for everybody in this war when they announced on the Israeli radio that the Temple Mount is in our hands.”
I noticed there was a large number of tourist groups. The groups were people from all around the world like South Korea, Nigeria and even Toledo, Ohio.
One of the sites we visited was Temple Mount. This is a religious site for Christians, Jews and Muslims. Only Muslims are allowed to pray on the Temple Mount, and if anyone else is seen praying they will be arrested.
I was wearing a pair of leggings when we visited Temple Mount, so I was given a skirt to put on that was to my ankles because modest attire is required there.
This experience in Israel has helped me not only grow in my faith, but in my understanding of the world. Not being able to pray on Temple Mount left me with a feeling I had never experienced in the U.S. — a lack of freedom.
It leaves me with sadness that Jews cannot go to a holy place such as Temple Mount to pray and are limited to the Western Wall.
Never having been in another country before, I hadn’t realized how different the two cultures were. My eyes have not only been opened spiritually, but in a more metaphorical sense when looking at the world.