SPECIAL REPORT: Journey to the Holy Land part 2 - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

SPECIAL REPORT: Journey to the Holy Land part 2

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Reporting from Israel (WTVM) - As America and the U.S. Army keeping a close eye on Iran's nuclear threats, especially on its neighbor in the Middle East, Israel, I took a recent journey to the Holy Land to see first-hand the dangers there, amidst criticism that the Obama administration is not doing enough to protect Israel.

Seeing was also believing for more than 30 pastors from Georgia, also on this trip - many going to Israel for the fist time, like Pastor Dave Devine from Douglasville, GA.

"Never really understood until I saw it this week, the different challenges they face," Devine said. "We were able to see the guards on the Lebanon border."

We started our journey in Northern Israel - near a treacherous spot, an Israeli man pointing out to us the fence that serves as the border between Israel and Lebanon.

Well-known military and political analyst Elliot Chodoff says the dangers are real. "Here, we're talking about people putting on a bomb in order to blow up a bunch of people with it."

Our American group visited soldiers with the Israel Defense Forces or IDF, young men who have the tough job of securing the border - across from deadly terrorists.

"Here, we see our enemies every single day...there, it's an ocean away," IDF soldier Eric Meadrin told us.

Meadrin -- a 4-year Marine from Syracuse, NY -- is Jewish and came back to his homeland to serve 20 months with the Army in Israel.

"rockets are like a normal thing in this country. In Syracuse, you have snow days. In Bearsheba, they have rocket days, 2 days off from school because of rockets," Meadrin said.

Zebulan, GA pastor Billy Smith said, "You see those borders and people are actually there! It's not like something you're seeing on the news, it comes alive for you."

Hoping to bring them a morale boost, the pastors brought gifts from the U.S. and thousands of letters written in support of these soldiers in Israel, who say it's a "dangerous job" but they enjoy it. We passed by mine fields in parts of the Holy Land, still operational as security.

"And there are some very pressing, existential threats Israel is facing on a daily basis," said Jay Bailey, pastor of Solid Rock Church in Midland, GA.

The internationally renowned Israeli Colonel Ben Tzion Gruber says it was a privilege to speak to these Christian pastors.

"And try to bring them the truth, that the Israeli army is making so much effort to avoid collateral damage," said Colonel Gruber, still part of the IDF Reserves.

Damage has been massive in the past, like the Holocaust that left 6 million of Jews tortured and dead nearly 75 years ago. One of our stops was the Holocaust Museum in Israel.

And still today, leaders with Christians United for Israel, the organization that helped organize the pastors' trip, say the Jewish nation is surrounded by 22 Muslim nations that don't recognize Israel's right to exist, some wanting to wipe them off the map.

"That anti-Jewish hatred is at the same level of 1938," CUFI Eastern Regional coordinator Victor Styrsky said.

In our travels in the Jewish nation, we ran into a former Israeli prisoner, whose wife is a Palestinian.

"We are very far from the peace," said Ibrahim, an Israeli Arab Muslim. "Hope always exists...but if it continues like this, then there will be an explosion and everybody will pay the price."

CUFI associate director Shari Dollinger added, "If Israel is not in control of this land, you're no longer going to have access to these intrinsically Christian, holy sites."

Those sites include the Garden of Gethsemane, Garden Tomb, and many more. Another is a place overlooking the Israeli valley where, as it's written in the Bible, millions of people will die in the Valley of Armageddon, also known as the Valley of Megiddo.

"That (Megiddo) is where the Bible predicts, in Revelation, where the final battle will be fought," Vidalia, GA pastor David Knight said.

"I was struck by the land and the strategic nature of where we're at, the battles that have been fought here," said Pastor Tommy White from Atworth, GA

Next, we went to the top of the Golan Heights, 1200 meters above sea level and the highest point in Israel, overlooking the border with Syria -- military and political analyst Chodoff showed how Israel is surrounded by enemies.

"Coming up here is important first just to see ideas of distance, proximity," Chodoff told the GA pastors' group.

A journalist for the Jerusalem Post also gave us a new perspective, saying "Israel pays a very high price for being a democracy"

A shop owner from Bethleham had one final message for the pastors as they headed home to Georgia...

"Tell their people not to have any kind of fear not to come to Israel," Israeli Christian George Nissan said.

Many of the Georgia pastors on this trip hope to go back to the Holy Land soon and bring church members with them.

In less than a month, there will be an event in Columbus called "A Night to Honor Israel" -- June 10th at the Columbus Rivercenter, featuring Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and keynote speaker, Pastor John Hagee.

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News Leader 9's Jason Dennis took a recent trip to the Holy Land,  along with more than 30 pastors from Georgia. See photos of where Jesus walked. M More>>

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