Their group of 29 visited historic Biblical sights from the Old and New Testament, namely in Israel, Jordan and Palestinian territories, from Feb. 26 through March 6.
Though it was Peach’s third visit to the Holy Land — his first since 1980 — “This was much better,” he said. “I was very pleasantly surprised. ... It was unbelievable the amount of change that has happened in the last 38 years. I didn’t anticipate that because I felt like (the sights) still would be antiquated and back in the original condition.
“But what they’ve done is, they’ve made everything user friendly,” he added. “We went to the Qumram Community, that’s where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, which when I went there before it was simply a matter of ruins.
“And now they’ve got a full restaurant there; they’ve got a gift shop and all kinds of things.”
Starting things out, “We went up to Caesarea, then we went over to Mount Carmel ... and we went on to Nazareth, Canaan, and we spent the night there in Tiberias, which is right along the Sea of Galilee,” Peach said. “And then we went on ... to where Mary Magdalene was; Capernaum and the Mount of Beatitudes, Bethsaida; and we went all the way up to the Golan Heights.
“And then we went on down to the Jordan River the next day. We had baptisms there — baptized nine people there in the Jordan River,” he added. “It was a recommitment of their (original church) baptism.”
Along the Dead Sea, “They’ve got all kids of facilities there ... restaurants and gift shops,” he said. “When we went to the Garden of Gethsemane ... they’ve got various areas there, sectioned off, where people can have worship services,” he added. “So we had a one-hour worship service all to ourselves.”
“At ‘The Mount of Temptation’ where they claim Christ was tempted (by Satan) for 40 days above Jericho, they now have a tram that takes you up to the Mount,” Peach said.
Away from the main tourist area was “the town of Bethsaida, which was the home of Peter and Phillip and Andrew, that is all ruins because Jesus cursed it. And consequently, nobody goes there,” he said.
However, “I said, ‘we want to go there’ because I want to see the ruins. … And that is the place the Book of Luke says Jesus fed the 5,000,” Peach said.
“That was a very monumental event” in the trip, he added.
Moreover, “Most of the tour groups don’t go to Jericho. But we wanted to go to Jericho to see where the walls fell,” Peach said.
However, “We had to have a special guide and we had to have special permits because it was Palestinian territory,” he said. “… We went on up to the Temple Mount where The Dome of the Rock is.
“… When you go on the Temple Mount, the Jordanian Police are in charge, and they make all kinds of restrictions: no one is allowed to pray other than Muslims; we weren’t allowed to have a Bible; we weren’t allowed to talk about Jesus; we weren’t allowed to sing [Christian] songs,” Peach added.
Trouble was brewing.
“I took the people aside on one part of The Mount to make a presentation about the rebuilding of the Temple. And our guide came over and he said, ‘I’m watching the Jordanian Police,’ and he said ‘they’re gathering together and they’re getting ready to kick us out, so we’ve got to go,’” he said.
“… We knew we were not welcomed there,” Peach added. “We went to Bethlehem … now under Palestinian rule, and so we had to have special permission to go through there; we had to have a Palestinian who went with us.”
However, “You felt totally safe,” Peach said. “We were never threatened.”
“We got to see the (new) U.S. Embassy (in Jerusalem),” Peach said. “That was exciting because the U.S. Embassy is going to be moved according to (President) Donald Trump on May 14.”
“It was so much better than I expected,” Maria Peach said. “It was just wonderful walking through the area where Jesus walked. ... “It was a real spiritual journey.
“You felt closer to God.”