Rand Paul Just Spent A Week In Israel, And There's A Reason He Nicknamed His Trip 'THE PLAGUE TOUR'

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Photo: Grace Wyler/Business Insider

JERUSALEM — It was hour seven of what was supposed to be a two-hour trip, and things were starting to get a little punchy on board the Rand Paul bus tour through Israel. The luxury coach, which was carrying the Kentucky Senator and his entourage of family, staffers, and evangelical leaders from Jerusalem to a kibbutz in the Sea of Galilee, had been derailed by flash floods and rock slides in the West Bank. The group was hungry, tired, and cold, but everyone was doing their best to make the most of it. 

‘How about a gospel tune?’ the tour guide suggested, trying to keep spirits up.

“Do we have ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’? The Guns N’ Roses version!” Paul called out. “C’mon! ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’!” 

It took a few minutes for anyone to realise Paul was serious. Finally, the tour guide fiddled around with the sound system, and Paul’s request came blaring through the speakers. 

“There we go!” Paul shouted to the rest of the bus, singing along. A few beats later, he called out again: “We need to change the name of this bus!”

“It’s not the David Lane tour anymore!” he laughed, referring to the California-based evangelical activist who organised Paul’s trip to Israel. “It’s the Plague Tour! We’ve got hail, we’ve got darkness — all we need now are the frogs!” 

It was a surprisingly laid back, undiva-like attitude for a politician whose star is rapidly rising in the Republican Party. With the retirement of his father Ron Paul, Rand Paul has taken over the mantle of the GOP’s libertarian wing, fusing it with his growing coalition of Tea Partiers and social conservatives.

His trip to Israel — which included meetings with top Middle Eastern political leaders and a tour of Christian holy sites with 40 evangelical activists — has fuelled growing speculation that the younger Paul is seriously considering a presidential bid of his own in 2016. 

To find out more about the potential Republican White House hopeful, I joined Paul in Israel last week. Here are some of the best photos from our trip. 

Paul starts his trip with a rainy late-night visit to Jerusalem's Western Wall.

Israeli reporters crowd around Paul as he meets with Western Wall Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch.

Despite the rain and late hour, pilgrims gather to pray at the Wall, one of the most sacred sites of the Jewish faith.

Paul and his youngest son Robert, 13, take a moment at the Wall.

Paul spent his first full day in Jerusalem meeting with dignitaries. Here, he talks with rising Israeli political star Naftali Bennett, leader of the right-wing Jewish Home party.

And here he is with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Paul wouldn't characterise their conversation, but he did say that Netanyahu drew one of his famous Iranian nuclear bomb diagrams.

Another stormy day in Jerusalem. A wet view of the city from the Mount of Olives.

Paul's bus arrives at the Allenby, or King Hussein Bridge, to cross from the West Bank into Jordan.

Paul meets with the U.S. Ambassador to Jordan and members of the Jordanian Senate.

Storm clouds gather over the border crossing.

Ominous signs of future flooding in the West Bank.

The group stops for camel rides at a gas station in the West Bank.

Paul's wife Kelley is game for a camel ride.

The Senator is not.

The Jordan River starts to overflow as Paul's bus heads north to the Sea of Galilee.

The group finally makes it to the Sea of Galilee.

Paul bundles up for a tour of the ruins at Capernaum. The town, on the northern shore of Galilee, is thought to have been the centre of Jesus' public ministry and the home of the Apostle Peter.

The ruins of Capernaum after the storm.

A nun from South Korea arrives at Capernaum well-prepared.

Taking cover from the rain at Capernaum, Pastor Robert McCoy, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., delivers an impromptu spiritual message.

Kim Bengard, a prominent social conservative activist, shields herself from the cold.

But David Lane doesn't seem bothered.

Paul and his group set sail on the Sea of Galilee.

Paul and South Carolina GOP Chair Chad Connelly brave the cold on the boat deck.

Waves crash along the ruins of a Roman aqueduct in Caesarea, an ancient Mediterranean town where Jesus' Apostles first preached to the Gentiles.

The view of the Valley of Armageddon. According to the Book of Revelation, the valley will be the site of a bloody battle during end times.

The Rand Paul tour bus winds its way up to the Golan Heights, the disputed territory along Israel's Syrian border.

The view into Syria from the Golan Heights.

The Pauls cozy up to take in the view.

Temperatures finally start to heat up as Paul's tour heads into the Judaean Desert to visit Masada, an ancient fortress overlooking the Dead Sea.

Paul and his security guard look out from the top of Masada.

Iowa GOP Chair A.J. Spiker smiles for the camera.

Paul takes a moment to bask in the desert heat.

Paul's tour heads down to the Dead Sea.

Washington Times political reporter Ralph Hallow gets in the spirit in a Dead Sea gift shop.

Paul waits for his wife Kelley to take a float in the Dead Sea.

Paul covers himself in the mineral-rich Dead Sea mud before floating in the salty waters.

Paul poses for a more dignified shot before heading back to Jerusalem.

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