For the past five years friends Jan Swoboda and Donalee Josephson have taken trips together, and that tradition continued in January when the two spent several days in the nation of Israel.

For both of them this was the trip of a lifetime, as they not only experienced a new part of the world but were also able to see firsthand many of the places they had read about in the Bible over their lifetime.

Swoboda and Josephson talked about their trip as part of the travel series at the Redwood Falls Public Library.

From Jan. 1-10 they participated with a group of others through an organization known as Maranatha Tours, and each day was packed with stops throughout Israel as they visited everything from Jerusalem to the location that is believed to be Jesus’ burial place.

While the two said there were plenty of places where they saw guards and people with guns, they never felt unsafe the entire time that they visited the Middle Eastern nation.

Although the belief is that Israel is a very dry and arid nation, Swoboda and Josephson dispelled that myth, adding much of the country is very lush.

During their visit, which was during the rainy season, the two said it actually rained quite a bit – to the point that their guide even joked with the group that they were a blessing simply because so much rain was falling. Swoboda put their experience in perspective when she said they were told the Sea of Galilee rose four inches in the time they were there. 

Swoboda and Josephson visited many of the historic locations, including Caesarea (the Roman seat of government), Megiddo (the location many believe will be where the Battle of Armageddon will take place), Mount Carmel, Nazareth (where Jesus grew up) and Bethlehem (Jesus’ birthplace).

Just being in the context of Israel really offered new perspective on the words and accounts of the Bible.

As part of their visit they had a communion service near the Sea of Galilee, and while there they also visited the place where a 2,000-year-old boat now is on exhibit.

They stopped by the Dead Sea, but they did not actually go in the water. They paid a visit to the Jordan River, which is the place where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.

The tour group made its way to Masada, Capernaum and saw the cave where the Dead Sea scrolls were found.

The Greek Orthodox Church celebrated Christmas while they were there, which meant seeing Santa Claus (actually a lot of them) in a different setting.

“We did a lot of walking,” said Swoboda.

Josephson added the terrain is often unstable, which means one has to really watch their step. That, she said was a bit of a surprise, adding she anticipated it to be more tourist friendly.

Swoboda and Josephson said Israel was a great experience for them and for their faith, adding now when they read the Bible and specific locations are mentioned they can say “I’ve been there.”

- Submitted photo