Jerusalem | Travel + Faith

The Zealous Israel Project participants

We have come to Mount Zion, city of the living God.
Heavenly Jerusalem, by His blood we have come.

“Mt. Zion,” Jonathan David + Melissa Helser

It’s been six months since my last blog. Honestly, I’ve been trying to figure out how exactly to put into words my experience living in Jerusalem since I moved here in July. Words fail me when I think about how to describe it.

My roommates

Of course, I could simply share some of the incredible things I’ve done and seen. Pruning pomegranate trees, hiking the desert wilderness of Timna, snorkeling in the Red Sea, riding camels, taking Krav Maga lessons, planting olive trees in the Judaean wilderness, leading our monthly worship team, leading worship weekly at Sukkat Hallel (Jerusalem’s 24/7 house of prayer), writing and performing my first original song, becoming a published graphic designer, developing relationships in the Jewish community, getting stung by a jellyfish in the Mediterranean Sea, touring the Knesset, going to a night of worship in the desert of En Gedi with thousands of people from around the world.

Sitting on a tank used in the Six Day War at Radio Hill

We’ve done and seen so much I’m having a hard time remembering everything. It’s been incredible. I often have to make myself stop and stare at the Old City walls or Temple Mount (only a short walk from where I work) and say, “I live in Jerusalem.” Because this place feels so much like home that I often forget exactly where I’m living. It’s so surreal.

Planting olive trees in the Judaean wilderness

Honestly, even though I’ve had the most incredible experiences over the past 3 months, some of my favorite moments are found in the everyday mundane activities. Watching young people stand and give their seat away to the elderly on the bus. Waving to Roni the coffee guy every morning on the walk to work. Watching Muslims and Jews engage with each other and love each other. Celebrating the Biblical holidays like Sukkot and Yom Kippur. Eating onion rings at First Station, the outdoor mall/hangout near our apartment. Deep conversations late at night with fellow Zealous Israel Project (Z3) members. Hammocking in the park. Working out on Saturday mornings. Baking cakes for birthdays. Buying fresh challah and flowers for Shabbat every Friday afternoon. Going to Krav Maga on Sunday nights. Hebrew lessons on Wednesday nights. Coffee at my 2 favorite coffee shops, Tmol Shilshom and Power CoffeeWorks. Everyday life is wonderful.

Hiking Solomon’s Pillars at Timna Park

Although I love life here, these 3 months have really challenged me more than I care to admit. As a natural introvert, I’ve been struggling to re-adjust to living with 4 other roommates and all the different personalities and preferences. I think because of this I’ve become a little more distant with people than I am at home in Ohio. I’ve really connected well with a few people, though, and find myself developing deep friendships I hope will last a lifetime.

Leading worship in the desert at Timna Park

I also have been struggling with feeling really unqualified for my role as the worship team leader. I am confident that growing in worship and as a worship leader is one of God’s major focuses for me this year. And with that in mind, I’ve kept saying yes to various things being asked of me. I’ve grown SO MUCH as a worship leader in the past few months, it’s insane. I’m so thankful for the opportunity. But all I can say is I’m thankful for my team and the way they push me, encourage me, and have grace with me. There is no group of people I’ve enjoyed playing music with more than the three others on my team, and we flow so well together, knowing without speaking when to play the same song for 10 minutes because the Spirit is moving or when to add songs not originally in the line-up. Nozomu, Eilir-Wyn, Eliza – I love you guys. May God set a fire in our souls.

Playing my first finished original song, Abundantly More.

All that being said – Jerusalem is home. No, it’s not dangerous or scary living here. I feel safer living here than I do in America, and the Middle East is nothing like it’s portrayed in the American media. The entire country is community focused, and everyone helps each other out without asking. Parents let their kids roam free because of the fact that the country is so safe and people trust one another.

Hammocking at the Promenade

This is the City of Gold – the city of God’s people. God’s presence is thick here. The history is so rich – it’s amazing to think that I am walking the same streets walked by Jesus and His disciples. That the stars I stare at in the middle of desert are the same stars Abraham and Sarah would have seen. That the roots of the some of the olive trees could have been the same roots from the time of Jesus. That I can visit and touch places where miracles occurred. The places of the Bible are real and still present today.

Hiking the Timna Arches

God has called me here for at least a year. As for what’s next after that, I honestly cannot say. I’ll be home in July for a friend’s wedding (yay for being a bridesmaid!), and that’s the only concrete plan I have right now. I’ve been praying that God will show me what’s next soon. Until then, I will wait and try to soak up every moment here. Leaving everything behind to follow the call has been so worth it.

A photo shoot for this article for Bridges for Peace’s Dispatch from Jerusalem magazine

I love you all. Thank you so much to those who have been supporting me financially. Every single dollar is so appreciated. If you are able to help support me financially, please click here to donate.

My Krav Maga class

Hoping to write again soon. Until then, shalom from Jerusalem.



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