I didn’t have the opportunity to visit Jerusalem or Rome until after all three novels in the Mark of the Lion trilogy (A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness and As Sure As the Dawn) had been released. Rick had spent time in Jerusalem and Rome as a child. His family had lived in Aman, Jordan where Dad ran an airline. Hence, they were able to visit cities all over Europe and the Middle East. (Rick played golf in Tehran! “No grass on either fairways or greens. All dirt and rocks.”)
My first visit to Jerusalem came in 1995. Rick and I went with our pastor and his wife on a scouting expedition. We had an Arab guide. When we went back with a group from our church in 1997, we had a Jewish guide. Two views on everything, actually several more when you include the differences of opinion and claims of religious site locations from Catholic and Protestant sides.
Everywhere we went, we saw layers of history. There is a feeling of antiquity everywhere you walk, from cobbled streets and the suq, to Wailing Wall and Temple Mount. We followed the narrow path down across the Valley of Kidron and up to the Garden of Gethsemane. We visited the Herodium, Herod’s Palace overlooking the caves of Bethlehem where Jesus was born.
Frankly, we thought few of the religious sites were authentic. The entire city was razed by Vespasian and Titus in 70 A.D. How could the upper room still exist? Bits and pieces are still there beneath the city built on top of the old city. It is Israel itself that calls to us; the land, the air, the roots of those ancient olive trees, the rocks and dust, the wadis, the Sea of Galilee, the River Jordan – those places are real.
Rome was equally fascinating. We have been back several times and walked the Forum and streets of Rome. It is a magnificent city that echoes thousands of years of history, from the tiny village on the banks of Tiber through the time of the Caesars and the destruction by the Vandals (455 AD) and Visigoths (410 AD) to the cosmopolitan city of today.
What have I learned from my travels? The cycles of history haven’t changed. The past is filled with valuable lessons. Every nation has failed to read the yellow caution signs. God moves nations as He wills and He has had His hand upon one specific nation since the times of Abraham: Israel. There is no other nation like it in the world, a people chosen by God, brought out of Egyptian slavery, settled in the Promised Land of Canaan, scattered because of apostasy and then gathered and brought back to their homeland. Man plans, but God prevails. One day Israel will recognize the Messiah, Jesus. And one day Jesus will return. When He does, He will do it in a way no person on earth will be able to deny He is God. What a day that will be!