It wasn't your everyday sight at the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism: Dozens of motorcyclists in black leather vests, tattoos and army-green bandanas gathered at the plaza in a culmination of their journey across the country, broke bread together and honored the Israeli army with a prayer and a moment of silence.
The gathering on Sunday was the culmination of a motorbike tour of Israel organized by Mission:M25, a group of evangelical Christians and military veterans whose mission is to honor the armed forces, fallen soldiers and those missing in action. This is the first time the organization has taken one of these honoring rides, called Run for the Wall, outside of the U.S.
“We came to be a blessing,” Gary Burd, director of Mission:M25, told Travelujah. “Our whole emphasis was to honor the IDF and all of the armed forces in Israel. As Christians we can come here and freely walk where our Lord walked. We know it takes the sacrifice of men and women to keep a country free.”
The group had 71 American participants, including 31 bikers who shipped their motorcycles to Israel. The tour began at the port in Ashdod, where the bikes were shipped, and continued up the coast to Tel Aviv, Mount Carmel and Megiddo and then inland to Nazareth. Most of the bikes were fitted with American and Israeli flags.
On Sunday afternoon, the American bikers were joined by more than 100 Israelis on motorbikes and the entire entourage rode with a police escort from the military memorial at Latrun to the Western Wall. It was an impressive, if not shocking, sight as dozens of Harley-Davidsons motored through the cobblestone streets of the ancient city and parked outside the Temple Mount.
“The Bible says that there will be a time when the nations will worship together at Zion,” said one of the bikers, Paul, leading the bread-breaking ceremony. “That is happening at this moment.”
Along their journey, the bikers gave to soldiers that they met army-green bandanas with Psalm 91 printed in Hebrew and English.
Mission:M25 also brought $620,000 worth of medical supplies to be distributed by an Israeli NGO.
The ministry sponsors a ride every year from California to Washington, D.C. called Run to the Wall to honor the United States military. The ride ends at the war memorials in the nation's capital. This event was an extension of sorts of that trip. As to why the ministry chose Israel as its first foray outside of the U.S., Burd said: “We believe its God's favored nation. It's his chosen people.”
But aside from the logistics of the trip and their mission to bless Israel, the sights were awe-inspiring to the bikers as well.
“As we were riding down the Megiddo Valley, I thought of all the history and the future prophecies regarding this land – and there I am riding through on a motorcycle,” Burd said. “I teared up riding into the Old City. This is where King David and all the greats – the prophets and kings – walked.”
The group came to Israel with Coral Tours as part of the efforts by the Israel Government Tourism Office in North America to encourage tourism to Israel particularly from the Evangelical Christian community. Haim Gutin, Israel's tourism commissioner for North and South America, said he didn't know the tour would end up being as meaningful as it was. “To stay here to pray for Israel, to honor the military – its something amazing.”
Before praying individually at the Wall, the bikers – both Americans and Israelis – prayed together for the safety of Israel, the Jewish people and Israeli soldiers.
The youngest member of the trip was Kyler, 11, from Phoenix. He rode with his father, Ron Arieli, who runs a motorcyclist training center in Arizona. Kyler enjoyed seeing the country from a windowless view on a bike and take in the ancient sites. Ron lived in Israel for 30 years, and as a Jew, it was important for him to allow his sons to connect to the land and culture.
“Here he's living it, he's seeing it, he's breathing it,” he said. “He is immersed in thousands of years of history.”
Bobby Goodman, an American who was in Israel for the first time, came to ride his motorcycle in Israel, but it broke down within the first 40 miles of the tour. Goodman said the malfunction turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“I don't need to ride – I'm here for Israel, not the ride,” he told Travelujah. “Its not the ride, its the journey.”
Since he's been in the Holy Land, Goodman, a hardened biker, said he's done “nothing but feel” the presence of Christ.
“When I'm where he was, yeah, I've done nothing but feel,” he said.
Nicole Jansezian writes for Travelujah, the leading Christian social network focused on connecting Christians to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.
Photo: Yossi Zamir, Ministry of Tourism
Publication date: November 8, 2011