Courtesy photo
Randy Samson steps out of The Garden Tomb on his birthday, celebrated in Israel.

A phone call came in to local resident, Randy Samson, asking that he and his wife travel to Israel with the “Ambassadors and Embassies” for a humanitarian outreach to young Israeli soldiers serving their country throughout the region. Another couple declined going but had wanted to “pay-it-forward” by giving the paid trip to another that could go and contribute their efforts. The trip was to happen from LAX with just a ten-day notice.

“Being a Russian-Jew in nationality on my father’s side and a minister for over 34 years, I had always wanted to go to Israel to see it with my own eyes. But it had never been within my grasp, with either conflicts of travel time or with the costs involved,” Samson explained. “Now it was handed to me at absolutely no cost, plus I could go outreach their soldiers. It seemed like a miracle for sure.”

Spending ten days throughout the broad regions of Israel proved to build a different understanding of the Bible, while providing a firsthand perspective of the old and the new, as it played out for centuries. Following a 15-hour flight, the first evening was spent in a historic hotel in the ancient walls of Old Jerusalem, next to the Jaffa Gate.

“First off, all the luggage arrived safely for our 13-member group, then traveling in rental cars from the metropolitan views of Tel Aviv along the Mediterranean coast into the legendary streets of Jerusalem was mind-blowing. The crowds, the various languages and the differences in their apparel, plus the continuous hills and valleys of bland buildings built with beige stone, were a lot to take in all at once.”

Learning that building codes put in place under British law in the early 1900’s still remain, it had been decided long ago that the limestone, aged-rock tones must prevail in all building structures and could never be painted. There were also centuries of art and contributing features, created by various religions and sects of people that were manifested throughout Israel. This was done so that featured remains could be financed by archaeological discoveries and run as tourist locations today. Old Jerusalem itself was divided into four distinct sections: the Christian Quarter, the Moslem Quarter, the Jewish Quarter and the Armenian Quarter.

Samson shared that three monumental places would stay with him forever. One was “walking where Jesus walked” in the areas of Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee and the towns surrounding this region where his exact history remains.

“It was peaceful and educational, while bringing all the New Testament stories and parables to life. The Village of Nazareth was a walk-through version of Jesus, with people from all over the world volunteering a portion of their lives to work and contribute there, under a three-month Visa. It was inspiring.”

The second was the Holocaust Museum, which “left a physical pain within my stomach and my soul” as the largest and most complete portrayal of Jewish torture in the world. Samson visually saw how his own family lineage escaped death by crossing into the Soviet Union. Israeli soldiers are mandated to walk this museum, with male and female soldiers automatically enrolled into three-years of military service once they leave high school.

The third was entering and exiting the heavily, militarily protected walls of Israel into Palestine, known as “The West Bank”, on several occasions. “At a Sunday service, we were in Bethlehem – The City of David – at a Christian church, singing Christian songs about Jesus, in a community run by conflict of war, dissension over borders and unrest among the Muslim, Arabs and Jews. It felt crazy and unreal, but we always felt safe somehow,” Samson admitted.

Lastly, Samson shared that a visit to the Western Wall, also historically referred to as “the wailing wall”, yielded a respect and focus of prayer, which had been set aside by millions for over 2,000 years. As one of the most sacred structures in the world and the only fragment of the original Great Temple to survive destruction, Samson admitted to placing a prayer for Mineral County and other entities, into the awe-inspiring rock structure. “It was a moment in a highly reverent place, to pay respect and enter into a longstanding tradition of placing my heartfelt petition to God.”