When I was 16 years old, I climbed onto an airplane for a twelve hour flight to Israel. Even just before boarding the plane, I really had no idea what I was getting into. During the flight, my mom handed me an “Israel 101” type magazine. I can’t remember who the publisher was, but the short magazine gave me my first glimpse into the history of the nation to which I was en route. By the time we landed, I knew a little bit of Israel’s story, but still had no idea of what we were about to step into. 

luke hilton protestant christian on an Israel trip
Luke Hilton working in the vineyards of Israel

Fast forward eleven years. I now find myself traveling to Israel multiple times a year, and defending Israel’s heartland in online videos, articles, podcasts, and in congregations and events around the world. 

The Wild West Bank

When I was 16, I thought going to Israel would be an adventure. Like it would be for most 16 year olds, the idea of flying halfway around the world to visit another land, people and culture was exciting to me. Up until that point, I had never even been out of the USA. 

The night before our Israel trip, we found out that we would be spending time in the “West Bank.” 

The West Bank? Wasn’t that a dangerous place? Trusting our hosts, we landed in Israel and were picked up and driven to Ariel. From there, we proceeded to drive to the Mount of Blessing, and my personal transformation began.

christians visit israel for west bank israel trip
Christian volunteers walk through one of the beautiful valleys of Samaria (also known as the West Bank)

That first trip to Israel, we harvested grapes, spent time with local people, stood in places that I’d only previously read about in the Bible, and were immersed in Israel’s rich culture and heritage. I loved it. Three and a half weeks later, we returned to the United States with our skin a shade or two darker and our eyes opened to the world of Middle Eastern culture. Going to Israel for the first time was definitely a highlight and lifetime memory, and something I counted as a one-time experience—or was it? 

More Than One Israel Trip?

One year later, my sister approached me and asked if I wanted to go back to Israel with her, this time for two months (she had also been the previous year). At first, I was surprised. Go back? I thought that we had done the “Israel thing” last year? After thinking and praying about it, however, I agreed and began to get excited. 

Learning About My Faith

Our second Israel trip, we spent two months there, and something in my heart clicked. This trip, I spent enough time to really become intertwined with Israel’s story of covenant, promise, hardship, struggle, victory, and a deep connection between a people and a land. I listened to stories of pioneers who had lost lands, homes, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, all because of a strong tie to a promise that God had made 4,000 years prior. I learned that Christianity had blatantly rejected Israel’s promise and tried to recast themselves as its recipients. Atrocities too numerous and horrible to name here were committed over a period of 2,000 years—all in the name of Christianity. 

Up until 1948, the lie of Replacement Theology was very believable. After all, the Jewish people had been scattered, without a home, and wandering for thousands of years. Over the course of one war in the Middle East in 1948, all of that changed. After this clear move of God’s miraculous hand, the world could no longer believe that lie. The Jewish people had come home to stay. 

Ever since Israel’s founding 71 years ago, the new question for Christianity has been: “What part are we to play?” Up until a few years ago, as a whole, neither Jews nor Christians were ready for any kind of partnership. In recent years, however, all of that is changing.

christian and jewish relations
Nate Waller, a protestant Christian, shakes hands with Rabbi Eliezer Melamed, an Orthodox Jew

A Call for Christians Around the World

My story is not unusual. Thousands of Christians from all corners of the earth are flocking to Israel as they awaken to the fact that God is weaving a masterful story of restoration there. They are choosing to stand on age-old promises that are still true today. They are choosing to go back to their communities with the true story of what God is doing there. They are choosing to no longer stay silent. 

Israel is not without its struggles. Terrorism still happens. Israel is still blamed in the media with lies disguised as truth. The numbers of those who stand against Israel’s right to exist are still far greater than those standing with Israel. With terrorism still happening in Israel, a question that has been circulating in the media lately is, “What can we do to stop it?” Memorials, public outcries, and more social media posts don’t seem to be enough. 

Every year, HaYovel brings about 300-400 Christian volunteers on Israel trips. They come to Judea and Samaria to help farmers and Jewish communities with projects. What if this number were an annual 3,000-4000? What if it were 10,000? Would the world be able to turn a blind eye? If there were thousands of Christians standing in solidarity with their Jewish brothers and sisters in the biblical heartland, the world would notice. This is a very practical need that we can fill. And it does make a difference! 

When Are You Planning Your Next Israel Trip?

The challenge is out to you. Come to Judea and Samaria this year, and make a difference for Israel’s heartland. At the same time, experience your own transformation as you have your eyes opened to the reality of God’s restoration work that is happening in Israel. If you have been once already, come again. God has spoken on the mountains of Israel before, and He can do it again. The rocks have a story to tell. 

Just like my life was changed on my first and second trips to Israel, your life can also be changed. Through serving the land and people of Israel, you will be brought into the blessing of Abraham. So bring a friend and come. Your hands and feet will make a difference. 

About the author

Originally from Virginia Beach, VA, Luke discovered his passion for Israel at age of 16. Since then, he's shared the story of Israel's restoration across the globe through speaking tours, films, and articles, inspiring Christian Zionists to stand in support of Israel. Luke is based out of Israel, serves as Director of Marketing for HaYovel and is an author and show host for The Israel Guys.

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