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The Holy Land: Sixteen members of Trinity Lutheran Church travel to Israel

The group of Trinity Lutheran Church members who ventured to Israel and the Holy Land in February includes, from left, Char Skoviera, George Skoviera, Sharon Hendrickson, Barb Danner, Dale Danner, Connie Booth, Tim Booth, Bill Shirley, Dawn Sauceman, Marlice Shirley, Carol Smith, Cody Smith, Shelly Weyers, Mike Weyers, Sandra Luedke and Gayland Luedke. They are pictured with the Temple Mount in Jerusalem in the background. Submitted photo

There is nothing quite like a trip to the Holy Land to boost the spiritual awakening of Christians as Easter approaches.

And so it was for 16 members of Trinity Lutheran Church in Hudson who traveled to Israel in February and visited a number of places mentioned in the Bible.

Pastor Tim Booth and Dawn Sauceman, ministry associate, took time last week to recall the experience.

"It completely brought the Bible to life. It was a life-changing experience," said Sauceman who made her first journey to the area.

It was the second visit for Booth, but it still offered a fresh perspective on the main subject of his vocation.

"Just to walk were Jesus walked helps you visualize, helps you understand when reading the Bible," he said.

The group left on Feb. 7 and returned Feb. 18. The return trip included a 12-hour flight from Tel Aviv to Philadelphia and another three hours back to the Twin Cities.

Sauceman admitted, however, that she wasn't really fatigued on the return because the trip was so exhilarating.

When asked what the most interesting stop was among many, Sauceman said "The Sea of Galilee."

She enjoyed a boat trip and just floating on the famous body of water. "It was a beautiful day, 70 degrees with a breeze," Sauceman said.

The Sea of Galilee wasn't her only water experience related to Biblical times. "I swam in the Dead Sea," she said and confirmed that the body of water with the highest salt content in the world made floating no problem. "But your skin tingles a bit from the salt," she said.

Other stops for the group included a dinner and overnight stay at a Kibbutz on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, the Mount of Beatitudes, site of the Sermon on the Mount, Nazareth and synagogue where Jesus first learned, prayed and preached, Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity built over the site where Jesus is believed to have been born.

The group also spent a day of exploration in Jerusalem's Old City with its many Biblical connotations including the temple mount were the Dome of the Rock is located, following the Way of the Cross and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher over the site of crucifixion.

In the nearly two decades since Booth last made the trip to the Holy Land, he said the biggest change was the amount of archeological digs under way.

Booth was quick to point out that despite the ancient and historic areas Israel is a modern state and Jerusalem a modern city with a cosmopolitan mix of people. "Much like it was in Jesus' time," he said.

Political unrest has plagued the Holy Land off and on since Israel was established but both Booth and Sauceman said there was no threat of problems during their visit.

The tour included a trip to a refugee camp established in 1949 for displace Palestinians.

"We had a Jewish tour guide and an Israeli Arab bus driver who were friendly with each other," said Booth.

Sauceman said the bus driver invited the group to his home to meet the family. "The people want peace," she said. "Hostile activity hurts tourism, an important part of their economy."

"The advantage of having a small group is we were able to get in and out of places and had time to visit additional sites," said Booth. "It was a good time to visit the Holy Land."

"I think a trip to the Holy Land is something that everybody should put on their bucket list," said Sauceman.