Visit to Israel feels like trip home |

Visit to Israel feels like trip home

by Linda Hiller, Staff Writer

This Christmas, Donna Roberts will probably be reflecting on her visit to Israel earlier this month.

“Israel is the most amazing, spiritual place,” she said. “It’s hard to describe how wonderful it is. “

Roberts, a Realtor with Century-21 Clark Properties, Inc., went to Israel Nov. 28 for 10 days with Carson Valley residents Susan Wornow and Vince Vernaza – all members of the Baptist Church in Minden.

Roberts has been a Christian all her life and said that even on her first trip to Israel in 1994, just the smell of the place makes her feel deeply touched.

“When we arrived in Tel Aviv and got off the plane, it smelled so sweet and fresh,” she said. “I remembered that smell from the first time I was there. It was wonderful.”

n It’s safe. While in Israel, it was apparent that much of the negative information about potential dangers of traveling there were exaggerated, Roberts said. Even more apparent, as they traveled and talked to residents and business owners there, was the fact that this misinformation has had a huge impact on the tourist industry there.

“It makes you want to cry. People are not going to Israel because of all the bad press, but we found it to be very safe and extremely pleasant,” she said. “It is their way of life to have soldiers on street corners to protect the people, but it isn’t scary at all – it makes you feel protected.”

Roberts said the 10-day trip she and her 26 companions from all over the United States took was truly a spiritual journey.

“They actually call us pilgrims when we’re there, and when you leave they give you a document saying ‘You are now a pilgrim of Israel.'” she said. “When we arrived by bus in Jerusalem on the third day of the trip, it was right at sunset. The sky was a beautiful, brilliant pink and there were these twinkling lights of the city as we came in. Everyone on the bus was saying how beautiful it was and soon there wasn’t dry eye on the bus. It’s hard to explain, but it feels like your second home there.”

There were several locations that were off limits to travelers, unless they chose to go at their own risk. Among them were the Temple Mount, the hilltop site of the original Jewish temple; Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus Christ and Jericho, one of the earliest known sites of continuous settlement dating from 9000 BC.

Those sites were awarded to the Arab people, Roberts said, and though they are not closed to tourists, most stay away.

“But the problems in Israel are isolated,” she said. “Everywhere we went, it was very safe and pleasant.”

n Sacred souvenirs. Roberts is a widow with three grown children and three grandchildren. She brought back metal mezuzahs with rolled up prayers inside for her friends and family to hang on the doors to their homes.

Roberts said being among the Jewish people who are predominant in Israel was an honor.

“We really love the Jewish people and we pray for them,” she said. “After all, they’re God’s chosen people.”

Roberts and her two travel companions presented information on their trip to members of the Baptist Church last week. She said many of them are already talking about a trip back to Israel in two years.

“Israel is so special,” she said. “I recommend that everyone make the trip. People are never the same after they’ve gone there.”

If you would like information on traveling to Israel, call Roberts at Century 21, 782-7111.

cutline: Donna Roberts, Vince Vernaza and Susan Wornow stand before the sign for Capharnaum, where Jesus spent much of his time.

cutline: Vince Vernaza videotapes a scene over Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee.