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Israel Highlights from the Sheltons

Our Shelton family trip to Israel was moving in so many ways. We were reminded that Jesus is still calling his disciples today, even you and me. 

Some highlights were sitting on the southern steps of the Temple Mount, where Jews in Jesus time would have entered to go to Temple, where rabbis taught and where people gathered. The original steps are still there! This means Jesus walked there and probably taught there and so did Peter and Paul!

We also visited Jacob’s Well (see below) – where Jesus met the Samaritan woman in John 4 and revealed himself to be the Messiah. The well there is the same well from the patriarch Jacob’s time and from Jesus’ time - active and working – and we drew water from it! The well is located underground – underneath the altar area of a beautiful Eastern Orthodox church, manned by a faithful priest, who has protected the well since 1979 for pilgrims like us to visit it.

We also spent a night at a Bedouin camp in the desert. Bedouins are nomadic people and told us they come from the tradition of Abraham, several thousand years ago. Jerry would like that they really practice hospitality – giving us tea and coffee on arrival and feeding us well with traditional foods. Although this camp is there for tourists like us, we still
 “roughed it” by riding camels (great fun – but uncomfortable), and sleeping in a tent with rugs on the floor and blankets for walls – an amazing experience! There were camels, goats and peacocks roaming around – strange but cool nonetheless.

We started each day on our trip reciting the Sh’ma in both Hebrew and English with our teacher and guide, Geoff Carroll. The Sh’ma is what Jesus says is the greatest commandment in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 which says “Hear O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might!” Jesus also says, “and love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18). While this commandment is familiar to us, it was more ingrained in us as we recited it each morning – as good Jews have recited it from memory for thousands of years, including Jesus, who as a Jewish rabbi would have recited the Sh’ma each day.

“Sh’ma” means “Hear” and we talked about what it means to hear. There is not a word for “obey” in Hebrew, but the word “hear” can also be loosely translated as obey. When we tell our children to “listen” we are really saying, “listen to what I’m saying and please obey.” As followers of Jesus we are to hear – or listen and obey what the teacher, or rabbi, says - to hear what Jesus calls us to do and be.

One of my favorite memories will be sitting along side the shore of Sea of Galilee at the traditional spot where Jesus reinstated Peter as a disciple by asking, “Do you love me?” and then Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21). I think Jesus is also wanting to know if we love him too – and we can show our love by listening and following him.

As we sat along the shore of the Sea of Galilee there at that same spot, our teacher Geoff, pointed up the coast and said Capernaum, the town of Jesus’ ministry and Peter’s hometown, just about a half mile up the
coast. An aside: One of the highlights of the Sea of Galilee region is many of the famous villages and locations of the gospels are very close together – most within a few miles of each other! Between where we sat and Capernaum was a spot where a warm spring fed into the Sea and a place where fisherman for centuries liked to fish and to clean their nets. Scholars think this spot, just 100-200 yards from where we sat, is where Jesus called the fisherman, Peter and Andrew, James and John, to be disciples in Matthew 4. Jesus said, “Come, follow me.” As we traveled to so many incredible sights around Israel, we felt the call to come and follow Jesus.

The trip made the Bible come alive for us. These places from the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (we visited the site of their tombs at the Machpelah in Hebron!) and then to the time of Jesus are real places – we could see them, walk them, and touch them – many of the buildings or ruins are still there! So for Claire and I, our faith is more confirmed after this trip – and our hope is that our kids’ faith is strengthened as well.

We didn’t just live in the past on the trip, we ate new foods, met Jews and Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem tending shops, working in restaurants, driving our bus and driving cabs. We played cards, laughed a lot, and got really tired. So the call to come and follow Jesus is not just a call for disciples 2000 years ago but for us today as well in the present. Being there for me was also humbling, and I am reminded that although I get tired and fall short in many ways, Jesus can reinstate me as his disciple – and I can respond by following him. May you hear Jesus’ call to come and follow him even this week, and say yes when he calls you too.

Posted by Scott Shelton with 16 Comments


Donna Bahler on June 24, 2016 1:44pm

What a touching report! I'm so glad you all could share this together. May the Lord continue to bless you all during these days of sabbatical.

Julie Boyle on June 24, 2016 1:46pm

Thank you for sharing. It brought back so many memories of our journey there in 1999 and being in so many of those same places. What a great trip and experience for all of you.

Mike Leslie on June 24, 2016 2:08pm

Scott who???

Pierre Francois on June 24, 2016 2:37pm

Thank you for sharing your experiences and reflections. Blessings brother.


Philana on June 24, 2016 3:14pm

So fun to read. What a blessing and gift you all shared together!

Chris Lanham on June 24, 2016 3:25pm

It sounds like an amazing and wonderful time. I'm so glad you were able to experience it with your kids.. It seems like you will all remember this forever.

Tracy Nasser on June 24, 2016 4:22pm

Thank you for sharing your story! So excited for you all to experience these amazing places! May God continue to lead and bless you all.

Chuck & Joyce Vogt on June 24, 2016 4:23pm

Brings back many memories for us. This is a trip you and your family will never forget. God Bless all of you for safe travel!!!

Pete Hudson on June 24, 2016 8:08pm

Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. It brings back very vivid memories of Sue and my trip there in 2006. So many things like knowing one is walking in the footsteps where Jesus delivered the vast majority of his preaching and teaching was spine tingling then and the memories of that awareness is still very real. Great to have your whole family share that life experience. What a great gift for your children.

Val Lindenschmidt on June 25, 2016 5:59am

Wonderful pictures! Thank you for sharing. We are praying for you and your family as you enjoy this much earned rest.

Jan and Butch on June 25, 2016 11:41am

Brings back amazing memories of when we did this together 20 years ago. Your children will be forever grateful as they walk their faith journey, seeing Biblical places in their minds as they study scripture. To God be the glory!

Liz Todd on June 25, 2016 9:56pm

Thank you for sharing with us. Seeing you on the camel brought back memories of the camel that tried to flip me over the edge as we climbed up Mt. Sinai.
I am so grateful that you and the family got to experience Israel together. You will have years of memories to talk about not to mention when you read certain scriptures a picture of that place will come flooding back into your memory.
God Bless

Darin Stalbaum on June 26, 2016 8:15am

Awesome! Great to hear and thanks so much for sharing this. Our faith and our God is tangible indeed!

Terry and Teresa Crockett on June 26, 2016 1:16pm

Sounds like you are having a life changing experience and so wonderful you can share these precious times together as a family. Thank you for sharing this special journey with all of us. May God continue to bless you all and keep you in his loving care.

Lisa Paul on June 26, 2016 1:20pm

What an amazing experience! So glad you could share it together as a family. Continued safe travels and God's blessings.

Steve and Pat Mundy on June 28, 2016 5:56pm

Thank you so much, Scott, for sharing this amazing journey with us. May God continue to watch over you and your family during your travels.