For Mari Fox, a moment in Israel stands out, one when she walked through a simple opening in rock and beheld a raised rock shelf where a body once temporarily lay long ago.

"We were able to go into [Christ's] tomb," said the Stow resident. "It was just a feeling of awe and wonderment. It was very spiritual."

Fox was one of about 50 people in a group lead by the Rev. Jim Colledge, founding pastor of Christ Community Chapel in Hudson, that was in Israel for more than a week in February.

"For me, it was a life-changing trip," said Fox, "If I had a chance to go back, I would go back in a millisecond."

After visiting the tomb, the group sat on seats set up nearby.

"Our pastor led us in prayer and then we took communion. The cups are made out of olive wood and we got to keep them," said Fox.

Another memorable moment for Fox was when Colledge baptized her in the River Jordan. Fox said she was baptized as an infant, but it means more as an adult because it is something that she chose.

"It was amazing," said Fox. "To go to Israel and be baptized in a place where the first baptisms took place was an honor and a privilege."

Other sites visited include Golgotha, the traditional site of Calvary, where Christ was crucified; the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall, a structure that survived following the destruction of the Second Jerusalem Temple in the year 70 A.D.; and Masada, the remains of a mountain fortress defended by Jewish rebels until its destruction by the Romans in 73 A.D.

"It's huge, just huge. We took cable cars up to the top," said Fox.

Their guide in Israel was a woman named Gila, an American born in New England, but who now lives in Israel.

"She calls herself a Connecticut Yankee in King David's Court," said Fox. "She served in the [Israeli] army and she stayed there. She's well versed in the Bible and the history of Israel."

Fox swam in the Dead Sea, saw Herod the Great's palace, churches built by Crusaders and the town where Mary Magdalene was from.

"It's ruins that were actually discovered not long ago," said Fox. "We saw the mosaic floors of these buildings. They're very intricate and it's amazing how good of a condition they're in."

She also saw an ancient sign that had Pontius Pilate's name on it -- an important relic since it confirms the Roman governor who presided over Christ's trial actually lived.

"It was commemorating him for something," said Fox. "I don't think it had anything to do with Jesus, but it's the only sign of Pontius Pilate that they've found to date."

Fox said she knew that the Middle East can be a dangerous place, but she said she was not going to let that stop her. She said the only indication of tension was at the Dome of the Rock. The shrine in Jerusalem is controlled by Palestinians who patrol it with assault rifles.

"I said I'm going to go [to Israel] because the Lord will protect us," said Fox. "We didn't have any trouble except it is unnerving to see people walking around with AK-47s."

Fox said Colledge is scheduled to lead a trip in April 2018 to follow in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul on his mission.

"We're going to go through Italy and Greece," said Fox.

She said her trip to Israel has deepened her experience of the Bible.

"I've read the Bible and I've heard the stories all my life, but it brought the Bible to life. It's three-dimensional now," said Fox.


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