The land of Israel should be experienced first hand by each Christian. 

Not vicariously through the media or a well-presented documentary. Trust me when I say, you need to personally visit Israel.

This is quite a bold statement isn't it! Especially coming from us - a group of 20-somethings who spent 10 days in Israel last year.

If I'm honest, we weren't rushing to visit the Holy Land. We're part of a generation that loves to travel - more so than any other! But Israel was always a future ambition and one that I didn't give much thought to. 

The obvious draw to this country so rich in history is the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and see what his eyes would have seen.

Traversing the ancient biblical sites ignited Scripture in us. The Bible came alive. Our passions for the Word of God were renewed as we began to understand the context of both the Old and New Testaments.

Being able to picture where events happened and gain understanding of the culture of the time gave us fresh context that will forever change our understanding of Scripture, enabling us to shower future ministry and evangelism efforts with real first hand sensory experiences of the places the Bible speaks of (not least Jesus' empty tomb!). 

But beyond these historic sites, breathtaking landscapes and bucket loads of hummus, we experienced not only places - from the lowest point on earth (the Dead Sea) to the mountain-top experience of Masada - but people. We enjoyed lunch in Bethlehem with a Palestinian family and shared a Shabbat (Sabbath) meal with Jewish believers in Jesus. 

We've also come to know the modern day importance of Israel and Judaism. This realisation began as we stood on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem. Each of us felt an overwhelming sense of hope and confidence that God has a plan for the world - Israel included - even in its current chaotic state. 

We've started on a journey of discovering more of God's plan and purpose in the world through our renewed relationship with Jesus. This personal relationship has been something most of us took for granted. But witnessing the intensity, regularity and even fruitlessness of the actions many others go through in an attempt to have an encounter with God made us realise just how precious our relationship with God is and the privilege it is to know Jesus and experience him each day.

As a group, we urge you to visit Israel. You will engage with a culture which is so diverse and experience a head and heart marriage of knowledge. You'll see what trusting in Jesus means, what conflict and war look like, what hope means and what perseverance looks like.

We left Israel speechless and in awe. In awe of our God who always has a plan. Who is in charge. Who loves with a love that we cannot fathom. Visiting the country didn't just result in nice photos and interesting tan lines. We learned to suspend our knowledge and trust the one who can do all things and is in control. We learned to place a fresh emphasis on the final prayer that Jesus prayed, that we would be one with him so that the world would believe and know that he was sent of the father who loves them (John 17:20-23). 

A number of Christian organisations, such as FIRM, offer tours to Israel. So why not make visiting Israel your New Year’s resolution for 2017?

Luke Hamilton works for Alpha UK. He writes here in a personal capacity. 

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