Patricia Paddey: a Christian’s view of Israel

Toronto-area journalist Patricia Paddey, who writes for several Christian magazines and newspapers in Canada, says that a recent trip to Israel (2005) reinforced her faith in ways she couldn’t have anticipated.

“It’s almost as though I was reading my bible in black and white before and now I’m reading it in colour,” she said of her week-long visit to the Holy Land as a guest of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

The 44-year-old wife, mother and former broadcast journalism visited many Christian-related sites in Jerusalem, including the Mount of Olives, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Via Dolorosa, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Garden Tomb.

She also toured the Galilee, visiting Capernaum, Tiberias, Nazareth, the Sea of Galilee and other spots of immense significance to the life and legend of Jesus and the rise of early Christianity. “These names and places will never be mere names again,” she said.

Riding a boat on the Sea of Galilee was a major highlight for her, she said. “Israel is a country that is filled with shrines and monuments and places of historic significance, virtually at every turn. But what was most meaningful for me were those times spent in nature, such as being on the Sea of Galilee and knowing that my Saviour and Lord also rode on a boat on the Sea of Galilee.”

She also cited a visit to Nazareth Village as another extraordinary experience. Built on a 20-acre patch of farmland, the facility is an accurate re-creation of the small first-century village that Jesus and his family would have known. Situated less than 500 metres from where scholars believe Jesus spent his childhood in Nazareth, the reconstructed village bears little resemblance to modern Nazareth, whose 70,000 residents are 70% Muslim and 30% Christian.

Paddey kept a journal of her trip and, after seeing Nazareth Village, wrote: “I have stepped into the world that Jesus knew! I learn about terraced farming, handle a carpenter’s tools, stroke a donkey’s shaggy fur and eat a typical first-century lunch. Galilee’s sun warms my face and its breezes ruffle my hair. I feel a previously unknown level of understanding of the life and experiences of Jesus, as I imagine him delighting in many of the things that brought such delight to me today.”

At Caesarea, on the Mediterranean coast south of Haifa, she saw ruins of the first-century town established by Herod the Great and the place where Peter led the first gentile to Christ. At Kibbutz Ginosar, she saw a 2,000-year-old boat discovered along the Sea of Galilee in 1986 and later preserved in a museum. At Tiberius, she experienced the thrill of rising early and watching the sun climb over the famous tranquil sea upon whose waters Jesus once walked.

For Paddey, experiencing these and other sites revitalized her conception of Jesus as both a man and a Divinity. “It made His parables and many of His teachings come alive to me in a way that I’d never experienced before,” she said.

“It was feeling the sun on my face and the breeze on my hair, petting a donkey’s fur and tasting olives plucked from trees grown in Nazareth. It was all of these things that for me, gave me a different perspective on the God that I serve . . . . Being in Israel impressed me with the truth that there are historic realities to my faith, and seeing many of these realities just made my faith come to life.”

As her group’s passenger van climbed the rolling hills back to Jerusalem, Paddey’s ears popped because of the rising altitude and she realized that all of the allusions in the Psalms and elsewhere in scripture about “ascending” to Jerusalem were true. Someone had told her that even the air in Jerusalem is different and lo, she came to realize that this was also true.

A visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial museum in Tel Aviv, was meaningful for her “not so much as a religious experience but as a human experience,” she said. The group’s last stop was Neot Kedumim, the biblical landscape preserve that features the plants and agricultural methods of the Old and New Testaments, which she also found intensely absorbing. “I love that place,” she said.

From there, a short drive brought her to Ben Gurion International Airport for the return flight home. “Sitting aboard El Al flight LY105 awaiting take-off,” she recorded in her journal. “I am exhausted from my week and look forward to seeing my family once again. I have so much to tell them! But I leave this country a different person than I arrived.”

All in all, her impressions of the Holy Land were vastly different than those she had acquired on a previous visit in the ’70s. As a teenager of 16, she recalled seeing “a very dusty, barren, brown country” and “a lot of people walking around with machine-guns.”

“This time,” she said, “all I can say is that it was a totally different experience for me, almost from the moment that we touched down.” ♦

© 2005