Despite the high winds and freezing temperatures, about 15 people came to the Nevada Public Library last Thursday evening to hear Bruce Dittmer talk about his September 2018 trip to the Holy Land in Israel.
Dittmer first told the Journal about his trip when we interviewed him in April of last year about his retirement from the Nevada School District. Dittmer had been a maintenance worker with the schools since October of 2010, and had reached the rule of 88, due to previous positions in the public sector.
He was excited then about going to Israel, saying, “I want to walk where Jesus walked, where all the prophets were.”
Last week, Dittmer had the chance to share how incredible that trip was for him.
It took 30 hours, he said, to get from Nevada to Tiberias, Israel, where his Footprints of God tour group began. They said during the seven-hour flight that everyone would get some sleep, Dittmer said. “I was too pumped up for that,” he said, noting he had about one hour of sleep in a 30-hour spell. He was running on pure adrenalin for a while.
Dittmer said they took part in a church service every day of the seven-day tour. He noted that most of the area looks much different than it did in Jesus’ day. “Whenever anything major happened in Jesus’ life…they built a multi-million-dollar church right where it happened,” he said.
Among the places he mentioned seeing were Mount Tabor, where Jesus was transfigured; Nazareth, the childhood home of Jesus; the site of the Sermon on the Mount along the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee and Bethlehem, Jesus’ birthplace, which Dittmer said is now surrounded by a 30-foot wall. “You could see the armed guards in the towers,” he said.
At Jesus’ birth site, Dittmer told of long lines. “If you want to see Jesus’ birthplace, you have to get there early and be patient.” In fact, he said, as he finally got to go in, there was a three-hour line of people waiting behind him.
It was Calvary, the place where Jesus was crucified, that really touched Dittmer the most. Knowing the magnitude of that site, he said, “my heart just pounded.” In fact, if he could re-visit only one place from his tour of Israel, he said, it would be Calvary. “I’ve been on top of the Rocky Mountains … and seen enough of the world … but when I got to Calvary, that just took my breath away… If Jesus Christ hadn’t died for my sins, I wouldn’t be here today,” he said. He noted that Calvary was a tranquil, easy going, quiet place and not as heavily built up as many of the other sites.
Another place Dittmer mentioned was seeing the cave where Jesus was buried. The Garden Tomb is found outside Jerusalem’s city walls. Due to the long lines, “they give you about five minutes to take pictures, look around and say a prayer real quick,” he said. Even at 5 a.m., which is how early Dittmer was up to see the tomb, a Muslim guard was posted outside its entrance.
Seeing guards and a lot of military presence was common on the tour, but he said he always felt safe there. He said it was at the River Jordan, where there was so much of a military presence, “you could feel the tension.” During the week-long pilgrimage, he said, he only heard shots fired once.
For those who would like to see the Holy Lands, Dittmer said he’s heard from those who have made the trip for as little as $3,500. His trip, with Footprints of God, cost $7,986. The cost was worth it to Dittmer, because he preferred to travel with a reputable tour company and be in a group. The hotels they stayed in were top of the line, he reported, and all the places he really wanted to see were included in his tour.
“I was very happy with the money I spent and what I saw.”