A few years ago, my family traveled
with me to Israel when I was on a photographic assignment from an Israeli tour
agency. Our three children, Deborah, Don, and Mary, discovered feelings for the
Savior that changed our lives. We saw the places where Jesus lived and taught.
We sat on the rocky hillsides where his disciples listened to him. And we
experienced the parables in the settings where they were given. But most of all,
we realized that it isn’t where you are, but how you feel, that brings the
Savior into your heart.
We took a shortcut down the steep hill to get to the fields
below Bethlehem. We sat and watched in the fields where the shepherds watched
their flocks and angels sang hosannas. Deborah shook her head in wonder. "I
wish I could have been there that night." We talked about the possibility
that we all may have been there with the heavenly hosts that sang to the
shepherds. Then Deborah said, "I wish I could remember that night."
Small clay lamps
are the type referred to in the story of
the ten virgins. The reservoir holds enough oil to last only a few hours.
To burn their lamps all night, the women would have to take extra oil. To be
ready to meet the Lord, we need to always have a reserve of faith and testimony
to last us through the dark times of our lives.
As Jesus watched rich men giving a lot of money, often called
talents, in donation to the church, he noticed a poor widow who gave just two
small coins. He told the disciples that she had given more than all the rich
men. They had given of their abundance, and she had given all she had.
Jesus wasn’t talking only of money. He is pleased when we give of our time and
Pool of Siloam
We stepped down the stone staircase to the Pool of Siloam.
There was an odor of old stone and cement. Jesus came here often, and there are
accounts of healings that took place here. "It’s hard to imagine,"
Don said, "that Jesus could have stood here and healed someone. Right here—right
where I’m standing. I wonder what they felt like when they were healed?"
asking the question almost to himself.
Tomb of Lazarus
"Come out, Lazarus!" our tour guide called. The tour
guide thought that this reenactment of the Bible story of the Savior raising
Lazarus would make a visit to the tomb more dramatic and memorable. He had asked
Mary to play the part of Lazarus. Wrapped in a white sheet, Mary crouched low
and stepped out of the tomb.
Mary remembers her thoughts as she waited in the dark of the
tomb. "I touched the walls and wondered what it would be like to be dead
and hear the Savior call your name and to be alive again. But that’s what will
happen to all of us someday, isn’t it?"
Shepherd and His Flock
Sheep and shepherds have been associated with the Savior from
Old Testament times. And we saw sheep everywhere in Israel, in the fields, in
the marketplace, and being driven or led down the roads and highways. It wasn’t
unusual that the sight of sheep would trigger a conversation about Jesus. The
Savior said that a shepherd doesn’t want even one of his sheep to be lost.
Fish and Loaves
The miracle of the loaves and fishes didn’t stop when 5,000
people had eaten. More than their bodies were fed. They had a spiritual feast
while being taught by the Savior. Jesus said if we come unto him we will never
hunger or thirst.
The Garden of Gethsemane, where Christ suffered so greatly,
was a grove of olive trees. Christ’s atonement was made for the whole world,
including those in the New World who are compared to scattered olive branches
broken from the main tree.
Olive Tree in Gethsemane
The wrought-iron fence kept us from getting close to the huge,
old olive trees, but we could feel their age. It is said that these trees grew
from the roots of those that stood here at the time of the Savior.
"It’s hard to imagine something still alive that was
alive when Jesus was here," Don said. We talked about the suffering the
Savior experienced in the Garden of Gethsemane and how we are all blessed
because of the love Christ had for us in this place.
Deborah asked, "Why did his friends run away from
him?" We couldn’t answer, but suddenly, standing in the garden, we didn’t
ever want to do anything that would separate us from our Savior.
The light streamed in through an opening in the hand-hewn rock
of the Garden Tomb and dazzled our eyes. The Garden Tomb is surrounded by high
walls in the center of a large protected area near the outer wall of the old
city of Jerusalem. It is one of the few quiet places we visited. We stood
reverently and didn’t speak for a few minutes. "It seemed like the air
was very still there," Mary remembers. "It’s strange to think that
Jesus, who was really the King of Kings, was buried in someone else’s
The rocky face of the hill Golgotha overlooks a busy bus
station outside the walls of old Jerusalem. It is a noisy place, and there is
always a bustle of people hurrying to catch the constant flow of buses. It is
not a place for quiet reflection, but the stark rocks made us imagine the Savior’s
crucifixion. It was difficult to speak over the clamor of the station, but the
looks on our children’s faces told us much more than any words they might have
said. We all felt the tragedy and triumph of the cross for a moment. Then we
turned away and walked back through the noise and commotion of the city street
to our hotel.