I carried the cross in Israel. Carried the cross in the Golan Heights and Palestine from January to March 1977.
The following is taken from my diary.
Well, glory to God! At last we have arrived in the Bible lands. After years of carrying the cross around the world, I finally stood in Bethlehem, prayed and then lifted the cross to my shoulder. Bethlehem , the birthplace of Jesus!
I had just visited the Church of the Nativity and was standing outside its doors. Right here, in this area, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords was born from the womb of the Virgin Mary, the hope of the world, the Word had become flesh! From here went forth a light that the darkness of all times has never been able to put out. The babe born in Bethlehem was destined to die on the cross. Bethlehem is here, and here is the cross!
We all prayed together. My sons, Joel and Joshua walked by my side through the streets of Bethlehem to go through the wilderness toward Jericho.
As I left the city, a group of school children saw us and ran over. We began to share the word of Christ. Through the hills toward Bethany we encountered no problems. Several jeeps filled with soldiers stopped and took Jesus stickers and gospel material and we told them about Christ. What a glorious first day of carrying the cross in the land of Christ. It was a glorious privilege to carry the cross through the land of the Bible and land of Christ.
My five children, Gina, Joel, Joy, Joshua and Joseph were with me on this trip. They spent most of the time in Jerusalem. I would carry the cross all week and then come back to Jerusalem on Saturday and to worship at a church. Then on Sunday I would go back to the place I’d left off carrying the cross.
I began in Bethlehem and carried the cross to Bethany, where Jesus had been so many times, and where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived, and where He often spent the night. Then I walked the Jericho Road, the old Roman road that leads to Jericho, which some claim to be the oldest city in the world. It is the wilderness area of Judea where David grew up, where John the Baptist preached, and where Jesus walked many times coming to and from Jerusalem. It was also in this area that Jesus fasted for 40 days, here in the Jordan Valley that contains the Dead Sea, which is 1,200 feet below sea level. From here, the river Jordan flows into the Dead Sea from the Sea of Galilee. It was glorious to be in Jericho. The people were so welcoming and friendly. Going out of Jericho I met a blind man. I prayed for him but he was not healed however he came to see the light of Jesus. I had a very good interpreter and we explained the message of Jesus in Arabic and this man prayed to receive Jesus as his Savior. How glorious!
The oranges here I do believe are the best in the world.
It was a wonderful experience to study the Bible here. My family stayed in Jerusalem and from time to time, they would come out and walk with me. But most of the time they remained in Jerusalem.
I carried the cross along the highway near the Jordan River to Beit Shean and then to the Sea of Galilee, where Christ performed so many miracles, and then up to Capernaum, the area where Jesus spent most of His ministry time. I then carried the cross around Capernaum and the surrounding areas where He preached the Sermon on the Mount and multiplied the loaves and the fishes.
Then I went up into the northern area, upper Galilee, into the beautiful farmland, all the way up to what is now Qirat Shemona. From there I went into the Golan Heights. This is an occupied area of Syria that is at the foot of Mount Hermon, the wonderful, beautiful snow-capped mountain.
I came back through the area of the Golan Heights of occupied Syria almost to Qunaitra. Then down again to the Sea of Galilee and from there onto Nazareth, where Christ grew up as a carpenter’s son.
From Nazareth I went on to Haifa, to the elegant beautiful Mount Carmel, where Elijah called down fire from heaven. The cross was wonderfully received in Haifa and on to Mt. Carmel.
I carried the cross along the sea with fabulous beaches and so many historic places along that seacoast to what is now Tel Aviv. From Tel Aviv I went to Jerusalem!
Now I will share some of the stories:
I was carrying the cross on the East side of the Sea of Galilee. I had spent a wonderful night at the Kibbutz Ein Gev. Oh, I do love the Peter fish. I think it is the best tasting fish in the world. The next day I was carrying the cross and came to a place where there was a cliff and barbed wire all around the area to the sea. There was a sign warning to stay out of this area, as it was not cleared of land mines from the war. This was once the border of Israel and Syria.
I stopped to look over the cliff that was just beside the road where I was walking. I opened my Bible and read the story of how Jesus cast the demons out of a wild man. Jesus commanded the demons to be sent into the hogs that were nearby. When the demons entered the pigs they ran and leaped over the cliff and drowned in the sea. There is only one cliff in this entire area and so this just had to be the spot where this happened. I leaned the cross against a post and started to look over the cliff. Suddenly the ground under me moved and I began to slide down it into the mine fields and barbed wire! I cried out, “Jesus, Jesus!’ and I stopped. I could feel evil everywhere! It seemed the demons were still hanging around this area after 2,000 years! Wow! I grabbed the cross and continued walking on.
There are churches located almost every place where Jesus did anything in the Bible land. However, there are two places that do not have a church. Here where the demons were cast out and in Nazareth where Jesus was taken to be thrown off a cliff and killed. Two cliffs where the locations are very clear but there are no markers.
It was cold, windy and rainy while carrying the cross today,
but it was a very beautiful stretch of road that leads up to Mount
Hermon in the Golan Heights of Syria, which is now Israeli
occupied territory. As I walked along the road, some Army jeeps
stopped. A man who seemed to be the Commander got out. He
began to talk to me about my journey, and he asked me why and
what I was doing. One of the other officers said, “Do you realize
who you are speaking to?”
“No,” I said.
“He is the famed General Rafael Eitan, the Commander of the
northern Army of Israel.”
(General Eitan, a few years later, became Commander-in-Chief of the entire Israeli Army, and was the Commander during the invasion of Lebanon.)
The Commander was smiling and happy. He asked if he could carry the cross for a while, so he put the cross on his shoulder and took a few steps. His eyes were sparkling, and he had a very pleasant and pleased expression. He asked, “Would you like to join the Israeli Army? Anyone that can walk like you around the world, we’d be happy to have.”
I laughed and said, “I’m already in the Lord’s Army.”
I shared with him about Jesus Christ and what Christ means to me and how one could have peace with God through who, though He lived and died here years ago, is still alive and we can know Him.
Commander Eitan asked if I would say a prayer. I put my arm around him, bowed my head and we prayed together. All the soldiers also bowed their heads, and when I finished praying, the Commander looked deep into my eyes and said, “You’re welcome to the Golan Heights and to all of the Northern Army area. You can stay in any of our camps. You can speak, talk to our troops, anything you want. We love you. You are welcome.”
Today as I am walking along the road, it is wet and cold. Several cars stopped and a whole group from the Israeli television got out. Many Israeli newspaper and magazine people were here. They took pictures and did interviews with me. They said, “Tomorrow you will be very famous in Israel. We welcome you to Israel, and are happy you are here. You’ve come as a messenger of God and as a man of peace. You are welcome to our land.”
Late this afternoon I got lost along the road. It got dark and I didn’t know where I was going, so I just kept trying to walk and feel my way through the darkness. I was in the Golan Heights, and it had all been blown up. Tanks and troops were all over the area. Finally, I came to an Israeli Army roadblock and they said the Syrians were just across the way and that I couldn’t pass.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t know where I was.”
The soldiers told me to try to find a place and to stay there. It is very dangerous. I saw a bus stop and it had only one bench with a small, narrow board laying across it, so I lay down on the bench in my sleeping bag. It was cold and windy. Every 15 to 30 minutes an Army jeep or armored car would come by, and once during the night, several tanks passed me. The soldiers would all stop. They would bring me coffee and food. I shared with the Israeli soldiers all night. I didn’t sleep at all. Just had a night of prayer. And on that very bench in the cold and uncomfortable position in the Golan Heights, God used me as a mighty witness to hundreds of troops, because they all wanted to see the man with the cross. The soldiers would say, “You are very famous. Tonight you were on Israeli television.” They had seen me on TV or heard of me on the radio. God was pouring out his spirit on an old bus stop bench as I lay on the cold, narrow board. Glory to God!
From My Diary – February 10, 1977: If I had only one day to live in my lifetime. I would have chosen today! Some may be rich, but none so rich as I. My walk started at 6:30 a.m. in the Golan Heights. After being on the road 13 hours, I witnessed to thousands of troops. Car after car stopped alongside me. Army jeeps, trucks, tanks, armored cars, tractors, and United Nations people… it was just incredible. I’m in all the Israeli newspapers, on their television and radio stations, in order that the nation of Israel can see the cross as it is being raised up at this time.
The news stated that I was showing the love of God and praying for peace in the world. All the troops were trying to get my autograph. “You’re famous in Israel,” they would say. Hundreds of people would stand by the cross getting their pictures taken, or would want to hold the cross. The Commander of this area came by and carried the cross a few steps and asked why I was doing that. I told him. I prayed with several Israeli soldiers today to receive Jesus Christ. Several times they had me stand on a tank or on the hood of a jeep, or on an armored car, and speak to several hundred troops at a time.
At one point I came over a hill and heard clapping and cheers. I looked down the hill, and there was an Army base. The troops were lining the road to greet me. They led me into the camp and lifted the cross as high as they could and had me speak to them for 45 minutes about nothing but Jesus. They gave me coffee and food. As I was leaving, one man said, “You are accomplishing your purpose. You are getting us to believe. ”
Another said, “I only pray that there can be more in this world like you.”
At another camp, a lady soldier said, “After interpreting for about 50 men you give us hope.”
As I was, coming along the road, many people would stop and say. “Maybe you have brought peace to Israel. We pray for peace.”
One lady stopped her car and told me her husband was in the Army, and he had called home and told her to bring their two children to meet me and hear about the Lord. When she got out of the car with her two children, she asked, “How do you hear the voice of God?” I explained and then we prayed together and they cried.
A tour bus stopped and the guide said, “You are history happening now! This is the best stop on the tour.”
People kept giving me so much food I had it tied all over the cross. It was weighing me down. I was also flooded with drinks.
All this area is a battlefield. It has been fought over again and again in the last 20 years. Buildings are blown up everywhere. The devastated city of Qunaitra was destroyed during the war in 1973 and is now occupied by the United Nations. Just before dark a huge tank rolled up and stopped. The troops got out and greeted me. The Commander said, “Can we give you a ride? We heard you were in the area and we’d like to help you down the road. You can put the cross an our tank.”
I thanked them, but told them God had called me to walk.
At one place all the young soldiers posed with the cross and said, “Some day, when we have a family and children, we will show these them pictures and tell them about the cross.”
Today was just incredible. Can you believe a man with a cross is so accepted in Jewish Israel? Unbelievable! Today God has been glorified! I have lived. I am ready to live, I am ready to die, this is glory! It is a fabulous day. Unspeakable. Crowds of people gathered and car after car stopped on the road. Glory to God! All I can say is that I can’t describe it. The people are so hungry to hear about the cross and about the Messiah Jesus!
Today a car stopped and a soldier got out and some other people stopped their car, also. I talked to all of them for a while, and the soldier just kept waiting. Finally, the other people left, and the soldier said, “I ‘m a messianic believer. I believe Jesus is my savior and in my kibbutz there are about ten of us who believe and pray together. Would you come and visit us tonight, but without your cross? We will come to get you. We want to pray with you. ”
It is literally amazing that all through my journeys in Israel, day after day, Israelis would stop and would tell me they knew Jesus as their Savior and believed in Him, and they would invite me to their house that night, or to a kibbutz, or Moshav, and there would be friends who would gather and we would sing and pray and worship Jesus together, and I would teach them more. They would give me their addresses and say, “Don’t give this to anyone, because we are not connected to any church or any group, but we are committed to Jesus Christ.”
I have the names and addresses of hundreds of believers in Israel, and have written to many of these people over the years, and have seen them growing and expanding.
Well, believe it or not, I finally made it to bed. I was weary and exhausted, practically asleep on my feet. I know why Jesus had to leave the crowds and go off alone at night. He wanted time to be alone with the Father. It has been great all day, just glorious! Great crowds were everywhere. Even when I tried to eat breakfast! I finally got out of the house where I was staying. Sweet, beautiful people fed me breakfast. People on the road were so wonderful. Car after car stopped.
I arrived in Nazareth and was invited into an Arab house in an Arab village to spend the night. The people fed me good food and strong Turkish coffee and tea. The whole village gathered around to welcome me. It was unbelievable.
Today I preached in Nazareth at the Church of the Annunciation. It was an incredible experience. Outside, crowds of people gathered. The school was turned out and mostly Arabs gathered in the heart of the city, blocking the street. The owner of a restaurant had me stand on one of his tables. The name of the restaurant was Abunassar’s. He gave me dinner and we had great fellowship together. The
Vice-Mayor of Nazareth served as my interpreter. He is a Muslim. I stood on the table and preached to crowds of people who gathered to hear the good news of Jesus in the city where Christ had grown up.
It was just glorious! Then, the national Israeli- Arab television came and filmed me for the Arabic language television.
Haifa: If there can be a better day than today, I want to live it. This day has been simply fantastic, and glorious. Like a chapter from the Bible.
As I arrived in Haifa, crowds of people gathered around me in the central part of the city. Most of them were Jewish. The crowd was so large it blocked the street. The police came and directed the traffic around the block, allowing me to share about my experiences and about Jesus. So many of the people would say, “We love you in Israel, you are welcome. We love you!”
It is now almost impossible to walk with the cross. It is like a slow crawl. How can I describe it? People are waving to me from cars, horns are honking, cars are stopping and families are getting out. People are standing by the cross for their pictures to be taken. “We love you. Everyone is talking about you.” I keep pointing to the cross and Jesus.
Later in the afternoon I arrived in time for a special gathering that had been planned by the Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Episcopal Church and by the Mennonites. They wanted to walk behind me as I carried the cross up Mount Carmel. We walked to the Sisters of Nazareth School from the Roman Catholic Church. When we arrived at the school the crowd gathered below and I stood to speak on the stairway. The fire of the Holy Ghost fell in power and glory. I spoke with great boldness and authority. The crowd broke out in applause. Everything was for the Lord. For the victory of the Lord. God had brought young and old. I stood on the balcony, which was about 20 feet high with the cross behind me, and the crowd below on the edge of Mount Carmel. The Mediterranean Sea is in front of me and Haifa is below. Several thousand years ago Elijah had prayed on top of the mountain just above me and fire had come down. Again, the fire had fallen on the sides of Mount Carmel! I led the people in prayer. When I finished, the priest said my face was glowing, and they could see the Lord Jesus in it. It was one of those awesome moments. I was so exhausted after preaching, having walked and talked all day. They brought a chair and I sat down. Some sick Catholic sisters were brought to me and asked me to pray for them. I prayed and each of them was healed. They began to bring more sick. I was sitting in the chair and I would lay hands on them and they were healed. It was one of those rare moments when I saw God healing people, but He healed everybody that they brought, for about three hours everyone was being healed. I became so exhausted I couldn’t even sit up. I was leaning over a chair and still everyone was healed. Finally, they helped me to a place and I lay down and went to sleep.
This was the only time I saw people healed during my cross walk in the Bible Land.
I was carrying the cross along the road approaching Jerusalem. It was getting dark and I needed a place to leave the cross overnight, as I was going to hitchhike to Jerusalem to see my family. I asked if there was any place I could leave the cross. A small group of Israelis had gathered along the roadside to hear me sharing about Jesus, and this one woman spoke up and said, “Yes, you can bring it to my house.”
I carried the cross over to her house with everybody in the village following along. We stopped at her front door. She got a little nervous, and I asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Well,” she said. “I’m just trying to figure out how you’re going to get the cross through that small doorway.”
I asked, “Why through the door?”
“Didn’t you say you wanted to leave the cross in my house overnight?”
“Oh, no,” I said. “Not necessarily in the house, in the yard will be just fine.” Tears were running down my cheeks as I looked at this wonderful Jewish lady who had not accepted Jesus as her Savior, but was willing to care for the cross in her home.
February 26, 1977: I arrived in Jerusalem with the cross and I was filled with excitement. When I arrived at the top of the Mount of Olives, a young Israeli soldier and his girlfriend were waiting for me. I had spoken to them yesterday and told them I would he here. They had brought three apples. We sat down overlooking the city of Jerusalem and ate the apples. They came to believe that Jesus had died for them, and accepted Him as their Lord. It was so beautiful.
About 200 people gathered to walk into the city with us, including Arabs and Jews and foreigners from many nations. We said a prayer and started off. I deeply enjoyed the walk down the old stone road and then through the Mount of Olives, then to the Lion’s Gate. I t seemed as if I was almost covered and surrounded by the glory of God.
What an honor to bring the cross that had been carried around the world into Jerusalem. Many times it has been traditional to walk from the Mount of Olives at Easter time, then along the Via del a Rosa, with people carrying crosses. But this cross had been around the world, and I carried it along the Via del a Rosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where most believe Calvary was located and where Christ was crucified. On the other side of the church is the tomb where Jesus was said by many to have been buried. When we arrived in the patio area outside the church, the guards came up with the priest looking on. One of the guards said, “You can’t stay here. You have to leave.
“Can’t we just have a prayer in the courtyard outside,” I asked.
We couldn’t even stay on the outside to pray. I was stunned. I had walked around all the land of the Bible, places where Jesus had been. I had eaten and slept in Arab villages with Muslims and Christians. I had walked all through Israel. General Rafael Eitan had carried my cross. The Israeli soldiers had mobbed me and asked me to preach, and I had preached to thousands of troops. The Israelis had surrounded me in the streets, blocking the sidewalk and the police had directed the traffic around us. And here I was, at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where Christ had been crucified and resurrected. It was the only place I had been turned away from or treated unkindly in all the land of Israel. The place of Calvary! After walking 14,296 miles, there was no room for the cross at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher! There are no words to explain how I felt. I remember how Jesus had overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the temple.
Some of the other priests went across the way to a Lutheran Church. They moved some chairs out into the street and I preached, standing on the chairs just a few hundred feet from where Christ had died on the cross.
I then carried the cross to the Garden Tomb, where some believe is the place where Christ was buried and where Calvary is located. The cross was welcome there! Glory!
A television news reporter had been with me all day. He said, “l don’t understand, you seem a very intelligent man, yet how could you have walked around the world and seen so much hate, tragedy and suffering and still be smiling? You were smiling all day.”
“Because the God I work for is still in control.” I said. “Jesus is Lord.”
It was wonderful to have arrived home in Jerusalem after walking around the world. The city I had dreamed of, I had now actually preached in and I would sleep in tonight.
We stayed in Jerusalem for a few more days. Then I made a trip with Gina and Joel to Elat on the Gulf of Aqaba. We then drove to Sharm ash Shaykh in occupied Egypt. We took a sand road all the way to Mt. Sinai and parked at St. Catherine’s Monastery. I wanted to climb Mt. Sinai and pray and ask Jesus what I should do now that I had carried the cross much of the way around the world and now to Jerusalem. We started to climb the mountain. I had only climbed part of the way when Jesus spoke to me and said; “Go back to America and carry the cross from Mexico to South America. Keep walking the cross to all the nations. Your mission is not over. Go, I will be with you.’
We drove back to Jerusalem and I returned to the United States
and in a few months I was heading south o Mexico with the cross.
All glory to God.
Pilgrim followers of Jesus,
Arthur and Denise Blessitt