Rome attorney Joel Thornton hopes a pilgrimage to Israel this month will help people find a new, deeper meaning to their Christian faith. Thornton and his cousin, Floyd County Sheriff’s Department Chaplain David Thornton, are leading a group of 31 people to the Holy Land from Jan. 8-18.

“When you hit the ground over there it’s the strangest thing,” Joel said. “You’re walking in places you’ve heard of all your life.”

David, named after the Biblical David so don’t call him Dave, said that memories created by previous trips to Israel have established benchmark memories like a wedding day or the birth of a child.

“This is like a heritage moment, something you will always remember,” David said.

Many of those on the trip are members of the Pleasant Valley North and Pleasant Valley South Baptist Churches in Floyd County. A few others hail from Knoxville, Tennessee and Florence, Alabama.

Joel said it doesn’t take long for a visitor to Israel to understand that the land is one God still has an active role in.

“This is a great way to get people revitalized in their faith,” Joel said. “It makes the Bible feel more real.”

On this particular tour, the group will start in Tel Aviv then tour Caesarea, Mt. Carmel, Megiddo and Nazareth Village before moving on to Tiberias, the Mount of Beatitudes followed by a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. At one point the group will experience a baptism in the Jordan River near the place where it meets the Sea of Galilee.

From there, the trek includes a Bedouin Experience with camel ride prior to a stop in Jerusalem. There, the group will visit the Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.

The final day in Jerusalem will include a visit to the Tomb of David, Hezekiah’s Tunnel, the Western Wall and Garden Tomb.

Joel said the trip, which he has made, is very safe — even while visiting the Muslim section of Jerusalem.

“You see all these merchants selling crucifixes and stuff, you just don’t feel threatened at all,” said Joel. “They are very pro-American just about everywhere you go.”

The Thornton cousins are planning other trips to Israel in June and again in December. A trip to Greece, called Steps of Paul, is being planned for 2021.

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