July 23, 2014 - Editor's note: This story was written prior to the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas. The Citizen would like to speak with local residents who have family or friends in Israel or the Gaza Strip.Contact us at 248-627-4332 or firstname.lastname@example.org
By Susan Bromley
Dave Pratt traveled to the holy land three years ago, but the trip was not as memorable as it could have been had he not had issues with his sleep apnea machine.
In February, the pastor of the Ortonville United Methodist Church will return to Israel and he hopes some pilgrims will join him.
"I want to make people aware of the opportunity to hitch a ride through this travel agency," said Pratt of EO Travel, which is offering the 2015 Holy Land Classic. "Most of the trip is in Israel and Palestine, but there are options for people to go into Jordan and down to Egypt."
The trip, planned for Feb. 4-13, 2015, offers all inclusive prices and is billed as 10 breathtaking days of Biblical understanding led by Dr. William Dobbs. The trip is open to all, not just church members.
Pratt, who took what is essentially the same trip in February 2011, said it really brings the Bible to life, but is a destination with wide appeal.
"This could be for someone with a strong spiritual desire to go to that area, but could also be for someone who is a historian or just someone who likes to travel," he said. "We traveled with teenagers to those in their 80s."
The itinerary includes the Sea of Galilee, the Mount of Beatitudes; the Jordan River (site of Jesus' baptism); Nazareth (boyhood home of Jesus); Jericho; Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947); Mt. of Olives; Bethlehem; Jerusalem; the Western (Wailing) Wall; and Via Dolorosa. Travelers can also opt for a Masada/Dead Sea day and trip extensions include Jordan, Egypt and a cruise of the Nile.
Pratt notes that travelers can be baptized in the Jordan River as Jesus was and see an olive tree that is over 2,000 years-old. On his last trip to the holy land, he went underneath the streets of Jerusalem and touched stones that Jesus is believed to have walked on.
The history the trip seeks to bring to life is more than 2,000-years-old and Pratt said much of it is in a rural area that remains mostly unchanged.
"The northern areas by Galilee are very rich farmland, it's a beautiful agricultural area," he said. "As you go south, you go into a very desolate area... You go to the place where they believe Jesus was born— it was an actual cave where they dug out for animals to sleep in. One really cool thing that I enjoyed is the stone in shrine area where they feel Jesus went just before the night he was crucified, where he asked Peter, Paul and John to wait for him while he prayed and he cried tears that were like blood."
Pratt enjoyed seeing the diversity of people who make the pilgrimage from all over the world— Africans, Japanese, Arabs, Christians, Jews and Muslims.
"All spiritual roads lead to Jerusalem of the three main religions that believe in a single deity," said Pratt. "Different people are touched by different aspects...It's a trip that can renew and invigorate a person's faith, bring history to life...It reenergized me. I can picture it in my mind now, it's not just what I read, I have walked where Jesus walked."
For more information, call Pratt at OUMC, 248-627-3125 or visit www.EO.Travel.
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville