Back to Jerusalem and Beyond
Dr. Janelle Christine Simmons is a practicing religious Messianic Jewish Christian who has built a love for Israel over the past 10 plus years. Her connection to the land comes from a deep belief in her religion, and Israel as the chosen land of God, and the birthplace of Jesus. Dr. Simmons is an iKonnect enthusiast and we are grateful for her support!
It was 2006, I was excited because I was about to graduate from Torch Trinity Graduate School of Theology in Seoul, South Korea. I had applied for and had been accepted to a Pastoral Conference that was being held in Jerusalem by my home church at the time, (Times Square Church, New York City, New York), and that was being led by Pastor David Wilkerson.
It was to be my first trip to Israel – a land I had loved for some time. As a church, we constantly studied about our spiritual homeland and prayed for her. I was not sure what to expect. I had just come back from a mountain climbing trip in North Korea, and after living in South Korea for some time, I knew Israel would be quite different. But once I arrived in Israel, I fell in love with the most beautiful country in the world. Thus, a fourteen-year love affair began (which I have no intention of ever ending!).
Psalm 125:2 states the following: “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even forever.”
And after I flew into Tel Aviv and journeyed to Jerusalem with the like-minded people of my Christian faith, I knew why King David was inspired to write such beautiful words. For truly, Jerusalem was a sight to behold. I walked through the streets and spoke to Hassidic Jews, hugged children, greeted Arab sisters in Arabic, chatted with ex-pats, and sang and danced through the streets. No matter where I went – I saw beauty. No matter what I heard – I could hear God’s heartbeat for a land that had been through too many wars and too much strife.
I spent a week at my Church’s conference, and with thousands of others, had the opportunity to worship in the Land of Israel, a land special to my people, as Jesus of Nazareth lived here. During this trip, I was able to see many of the beautiful sites of Israel. One of my favorite places was and still is the Sea of Galilee. After the conference ended, I moved up to Haifa to stay with a fellow Arab Israeli from my seminary and my same denomination at the time (i.e., Assemblies of God) for three weeks! During those weeks, I worshipped with Arab believers, I was taken on tours, I visited the Bahai Gardens, which were stunning, and I was able to learn more about the Bahai religion, a religion that has always interested me. I was determined to not make it my last trip.
I came back for my birthday and spent over a week traveling and touring Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. I went to museums, swam in the Dead Sea, took a camel ride, and visited the Google Headquarters! I learned more about Hassidic Judaism from a friend I made at my hostel and taught her about the Messianic Jewish beliefs.
By that time, I had discovered a secret after taking a few DNA tests. I was Jewish along several bloodlines. I had already started to attend Messianic Synagogues at that point and remembered how my grandmother had always kept the Old Testament law- even when it came to observing Shabbat! To this day, her children still maintain the dietary laws of the Bible - they kept kosher! I felt even closer to Israel.
Sometime later, in November 2018, I flew back to Israel. Yay! And my adventures began again. When I arrived, I had forgotten about Shabbat, and realized the busses had stopped running! I was walking across the road, trying to figure out my next move, when Officer Shlomo and I met. He was an Airport Police Officer who graciously drove me to a safe spot and ordered me a taxi to get to my hostel! There is so much kindness in this country!
My time in Israel has given me so many different experiences. I was able to travel all over and spend time in places of different cultures. I toured Nazareth, the birthplace of Jesus, volunteered at a guest hostel in the Old City, and had the opportunity to worship and chat with the locals. I made it to Jenin, Nablus, Bethlehem, and many more cities! I even made it down to Eilat to get some beach and sun, even in the winter!
It has been some time since I have been back to Israel, but don’t worry I plan on coming back! (I already booked a ballooning and jeep tour in Northern Israel!) I absolutely love the land of Israel.
It may be a country of complexity, but it is also a country of adventures, possibilities, surprises, and new bits of knowledge to seek out. It is a promised land of wonder and it is the homeland of my faith. I intend on walking the streets of Jerusalem again very soon!
Dr. Simmons and iKonnect
Once I signed up to iKonnect, my life was changed for the good! I was excited to begin to learn the history of Israel and to learn Modern Hebrew words, as I had only known Biblical Hebrew from studying in seminary. iKonnect has been a blessing and I am thankful for the connection to Israel even when I cannot always be there!