To start new life in a country, far from where you were born, is never easy but I praise God that as a new immigrant to Israel in April 1962 I was relatively quickly able to stand on my own feet. To find a place of work it was important to learn the Hebrew language and I was accepted to work and study the language in a kibbutz on Mt. Carmel, Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet, which had an Ulpan for new immigrants.
The other people in my class were mostly Jews from Rumania, a Jewish couple from Brazil and a few odd Jews from European countries. The members of the Kibbutz and my fellow classmates soon found out that I was a believer in Jesus as the Messiah and there were some who found it very difficult accept me but on the whole it was a very good experience and I finished my time on the Kibbutz with a quite a good knowledge of Hebrew and very good relationships.
My wedding to my Norwegian wife, Berit, was a great event which we celebrated on November 17, 1962, and we set up our home in Haifa. Today we look back on 57 years of married life together and have 2 children, the first is Susan who was born on September 29, 1963, and the second is David who was born on 04. September, 1965. In addition we have 7 grandchildren the oldest of whom is 29 years old and the youngest just 1 year and 7 months old
I was enabled to get a job in the communications department of a large shipping company in Haifa for which I also worked for a period in Paris. It was during the 6 years of our life in Haifa that my career in Tourism started. Tourism was just then becoming a good source of income for the Jewish State and I was able to take a 2-year course in tourism under the auspices of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism. In the year 1966 an opening came for me in a tourist company which was in the stages of being established and I became the first employee of that company which was first based in Tel Aviv and later moved to a neighboring city.
The company was owned by the Mennonite Church, which owned and operated several travel and tourist agencies both in the United States and in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. The aftermath of the Six Day War in 1967 brought with it an increase in the number of tourists and pilgrims to the Holy Land of Israel and I was put in charge of the promotion and operation of tourist groups from Europe. After 10 years of service in that company I was offered and accepted the position of Managing Director of a company which I helped set up in Tel Aviv and which was owned by a large Norwegian Travel and Tourist company called Globus.
The name chosen for the company in Israel was “King David Tours” and I held the position of Managing Director there, quite successfully, for 6 years until the parent company in Norway went into bankruptcy and King David Tours was sold to another Israeli tourist agency and I did not accept their offer to stay on in their employment. The result was that I was unemployed for a few months until November 1983 when by the grace of God I was able, to set up my own tourist agency in the town of Nes Ziona, where we live until this day. This happened in spite of the fact that I had no capital of my own with which to work with but God gave His blessing and we gave our company the name of “IMMANUEL TOURS”.
The start was not easy but together with my daughter, Susan, whose invaluable assistance has accompanied me during all the 35 years since the establishment of our agency, we gradually gathered a clientele together, one of whom has continued to work with us all those years and must be mentioned here. His name is Harry Wiig Andersen, who until the year 2000 was the Rector of Nordhordland Folkehoyskole in Frekhaug near Bergen in Norway and has brought groups of young people from the school, very often numbering over 150 persons, to Israel each year making the tour an integral part of the curriculum of the school year. In addition he brought us numerous groups of Norwegian Christians and all this he has done to show them what God has done for the people of Israel since the establishment of the State in 1948 and to teach them about God’s plan for the Jews. In October 2014 we had the joy of hosting a party for him and his wife in the Dan Jerusalem Hotel to celebrate his 100th tour group to the Holy Land.
Already during my time in King David Tours I received an invitation from the Methodist Church in Nigeria to visit them and to organize pilgrimage tours to Israel for Nigerian Christian pilgrims and during the month of January 1980 I travelled to Nigeria spending almost a month there traveling from state to state and church to church to promote pilgrimage tours to Israel. Thus began our many years of work handling the thousands of Nigerian Christian pilgrims who have visited the Holy Land since the year of 1980. During the times of the Intifadas tourism to Israel almost came to a standstill but our Nigerian pilgrim groups continued to arrive in large numbers and many hotels came to us in Immanuel Tours asking us to send our pilgrims to fill their empty rooms. Our company became a registered company in Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria, and we had our own offices and Nigerian staff there.
For 2 consecutive years we handled not only the land-arrangements but also chartered an aircraft for the flights of the Rivers State of Nigeria delegations from Port Harcourt via Antalya in Turkey to Tel Aviv and return. One of the very large churches in Nigeria, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, a Pentecostal church under the leadership of its General Overseer, Pastor E.A. Adeboye, popularly known as “Daddy GO, undertake a bi-annual tour to Israel which beginning in the year 1994 Immanuel Tours has had the privilege of handling for the past 25 years. During the years since 1980 I travelled at least once a year to Nigeria to visit our clientele in many of the 36 states of the Federation. On November 3, 2011, I was honored by the conferment of a distinguished chieftaincy title by the King of the large Bajju Tribe of the Kaduna State of Nigeria. The ceremony which was under the auspices of the Governor of the State and was broadcast by the Nigerian television news, took place in the town of Zonkwa in Southern Kaduna. Our engagement with handling the movement of Christian pilgrimage from Nigeria lasted for more than 35 years and Immanuel Tours became a household name in Nigeria.
At a rough estimate we handled more than 250,000 Nigerian Christian pilgrims during that period most of whom were funded by the Nigerian government. This large movement,of course, took up most of our time but at the same time we were able to bring pilgrims from other countries as far apart as Norway, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Australia and the United States.
Now as I write this short account of my career for more than 50 years, as a travel/tourist agent in Israel I have to acknowledge the part which my wife and family have played in ensuring the success of our family enterprise. My daughter Susan has worked with me for most of the years since Immanuel Tours was established and is now the Operation Manager. My son David, who is a resident with his family in San Diego, California has again gone all out to promote Immanuel Tours and the result is that about 70 % of our work has shifted to the United States.
In everything we do we endeavor to do so by giving a very personal and special service so that the people we look after during their stay in the Holy Land depart Israel as friends and lovers of the Land and the Jewish people and I think that it is because of the service we have rendered, and continue to render, God has richly blessed us and enabled us to acquire a reputation and a name which is unequaled by any other tourist agency in Israel.
We invite you, as we have for so many years now, to come and see what God has done!