OCEAN PARK - Steve and Linda Holmes decided to take their family to visit daughter Katie at college during spring break. The fact that Katie, a 2004 graduate of Ilwaco, was taking an extension course through Corbin Bible College in Israel made the trip very special.
"It was amazing to go half way around the world in less than a day," Steve said. The couple, who operate the Dunes Bible Camp near Ocean Park and their grown children and Corbin graduates Rachel and Kyle went from Seattle to Atlanta and then on to Paris before landing in Tel Aviv. "We decided to land in Paris in case there was trouble in Israel. That way we could have spent our vacation in France," Steve explained.
Ironically they missed by only a couple of days the labor riots in Paris.
"We traveled by bus to the moshav (an economic community) where Katie was staying just outside Jerusalem," Linda said. "When we got there she was sitting on a rock waiting for us." The family spent several days touring Jerusalem.
"Old Jerusalem is surrounded by a wall you can walk all the way around, which is between two and three miles," Steve said. "Standing before the East Gate is amazing," Linda added. "It is about 50 feet high and there are rooms where they conducted business thousands of years ago." The wall is three stories high and the bottom section was for keeping livestock, the middle section was the soldiers' quarters, and the top was for guard positions.
Old Jerusalem is surrounded by thousands of tombs with white stone markers. "We saw children playing among the tombs, rolling a tire down through them and laughing," Steve said. The Holmes' marveled at how they were able to walk across ancient archways or go down to the healing Pool of Bethesda without restrictions of any kind. They touched where thousands of men on different crusades carved crosses on stone walls.
"The area is overwhelming with all the Bible history," Steve said. "It did seem commercialized, though. The places were honored and not Jesus and who he was." The Mount of Olives was across from Jerusalem and reminded the Holmes' of the hills surrounding Yakima and the valley was lush and similar to the Mount Vernon area they said. They looked down where excavators were doing an archeological dig of King David's Palace and could easily imagine David walking on the rooftop and seeing Bathsheba in a home nearby.
"I was surprised by how advanced the people were in Bible times," Linda said. "The Church of Nazareth for example had paved roads, cisterns for running water, plumbing, and amazing architecture." The Holmes' took a tour to the Dead Sea where they floated in the 30 percent salt sea. "I tried to sit down and I floated like a cork," Steve said. "You couldn't help but float, but the water was kind of cold," Linda added. They brought home a few stones from where David killed Goliath with his sling.
They saw people being baptized in the Jordan River, which in the northern part resembles the upper Naselle River. "I saw fish all over and there was a beaver-like animal swimming right near where the baptisms were taking place." At the Sea of Galilee Steve was reminded of a 2000-year-old boat he had read about that was salvaged and that this was the water that Jesus walked upon. The Mount of Beatitudes where the 5,000 men were fed the loaves and fishes and Jesus gave the sermon of the Beatitudes "was very peaceful," Linda said.
But modern Israel is anything but peaceful. "On the bus from Jericho to Tel Aviv I sat next to a young soldier who carried a machine gun," Linda said. "He told me he was from Brooklyn. He said he had to always keep his finger on the trigger of his weapon when on duty. He told of another soldier who had his finger taped to the trigger for a week for being caught with it off."
"Israeli soldiers used a wand to check us often, especially when we entered American businesses," Linda said. "There were McDonalds there, but they were kosher. You had to go in one entrance and order your hamburger then go out and through a second entrance to get cheese or a milk shake. They didn't mix meat and dairy." The road signs were in English, Hebrew, and Arabic so Steve had little trouble driving 70 miles per hour on the freeways in his rental car; however in the towns the signs were in Hebrew only. "Hebrew is all squiggles and we had no clue what they meant," Steve said.
"The only time we really felt unsafe was on the way to Bethlehem," Steve related. "There was a picture of Arafat in the front of the bus and several taxi drivers were getting agitated while we waited to go to the Church of the Nativity." Eventually the couple went to the church that sits on the site many believe was the birthplace of Jesus. The area is now under Palestinian occupation. "There were soldiers everywhere with machine guns," Linda said.
On the day the Holmes family exchanged their shekels for dollars and flew back to Seattle, Katie went on a tour to see the Dead Sea Scrolls. Steve said, "Katie told us she misses bacon for breakfast and ham sandwiches."
Katie spent Easter Sunday watching the sun come up from an ancient rooftop and then went to the Garden Tomb for a worship service. She'll have to wait another three weeks before she enjoys her favorite breakfast back home in Ocean Park, but for a Bible college student it doesn't get any better than Easter in Jerusalem this side of heaven.
Linda concluded by saying, "We traveled half way around the world so I could crack my daughter's back and give her a hug every morning and it was worth the trip."